The Forge in the
Forest by Charles G. D. Roberts
Part I. Marc.
Chapter I. The
Capture at the
Chapter II. The
Chapter IV. The
Chapter V. In
the Run of the
Chapter VI. Grûl
Chapter VII. The
The Black Abbé
Comes to Dinner
Chapter IX. The
Chapter X. A Bit
Chapter XI. I
Fall a Willing
Part II. Mizpah
Chapter XII. In
Chapter XIII. My
Chapter XIV. My
Chapter XVI. I
Chapter XVII. A
Night in the
The Osprey, of
Chapter XIX. The
Camp by Canseau
Chapter XX. The
Chapter XXI. The
Fight at Grand
The Black Abbé
Strikes in the
at the Forge
[Frontispiece: On a block just inside the door sat Marc.]
The Forge in the Forest
The Narrative of the Acadian Ranger, Jean
de Mer, Seigneur de Briart; and how
he crossed the Black Abbé; and of
his Adventures in a Strange
Charles G. D. Roberts
Lamson, Wolffe and Company
Boston, New York and London
William Briggs, Toronto
By Lamson, Wolffe and Company.
All rights reserved
J. S. Cushing & Co.Berwick & Smith
Norwood Mass. U.S.A.
George E. Fenety, Esq.
This Story of a Province
among whose Honoured Sons he is
not least distinguished
with esteem and affection
[Illustration: Map of Peninsula of Acadie (Nova Scotia)]
Part I. Marc.
The Forge in the Forest
Where the Five Rivers flow down to meet the swinging of the Minas
tides, and the Great Cape of Blomidon bars out the storm and the fog,
lies half a county of rich meadow-lands and long-arcaded orchards. It
is a deep-bosomed land, a land of fat cattle, of well-filled barns, of
ample cheeses and strong cider; and a well-conditioned folk inhabit it.
But behind this countenance of gladness and peace broods the memory of
a vanished people. These massive dykes, whereon twice daily the huge
tide beats in vain, were built by hands not suffered to possess the
fruits of their labour. These comfortable fields have been scorched
with the ruin of burning homes, drenched with the tears of women
hurried into exile. These orchard lanes, appropriate to the laughter of
children or the silences of lovers, have rung with battle and run deep
with blood. Though the race whose bane he was has gone, still stalks
the sinister shadow of the Black Abbé.
The low ridge running between the dykelands of the Habitants and the
dyke-lands of the Canard still carries patches of forest interspersed
among its farms, for its soil is sandy and not greatly to be coveted
for tillage. These patches are but meagre second growth, with here and
there a gnarled birch or overpeering pine, lonely survivor of the
primeval brotherhood. The undergrowth has long smoothed out all traces
of what a curious eye might fifty years ago have discerned,the
foundations of the chimney of a blacksmith's forge. It is a mould well
steeped in fateful devisings, this which lies forgotten under the
creeping roots of juniper and ragged-robin, between the diminished
stream of Canard and the yellow tide of Habitants.
The forest then was a wide-spreading solemnity of shade wherein
armies might have moved unseen. The forge stood where the trail from
Pereau ran into the more travelled road from the Canard to Grand Pré.
The branches of the ancient wood came down all about its low eaves; and
the squirrels and blue jays chattered on its roof. It was a place for
the gathering of restless spirits, the men of Acadie who hated to
accept the flag of the English king. It was the Acadian headquarters of
the noted ranger, Jean de Mer, who was still called by courtesy, and by
the grace of such of his people as adhered to his altered fortunes, the
Seigneur de Briart. His father had been lord of the whole region
between Blomidon and Grand Pré; but the English occupation had deprived
him of all open and formal lordship, for the de Briart sword was
notably conspicuous on the side of New France. Nevertheless, many of
Jean de Mer's habitants maintained to him a chivalrous allegiance, and
paid him rents for lands which in the English eye were freehold
properties. He cherished his hold upon these faithful folk, willing by
all honest means to keep their hearts to France. His one son, Marc,
grew up at Grand Pré, save for the three years of his studying at
Quebec. His faithful retainer, Babin, wielding a smith's hammer at the
Forge, had ears of wisdom and a tongue of discretion for the men who
came and went. Once or twice in the year, it was de Mer's custom to
visit the Grand Pré country, where he would set his hand to the work of
the forge after Babin's fashion, playing his part to the befooling of
English eyes, and taking, in truth, a quaint pride in his pretended
craft. At the time, however, when this narrative opens, he had been a
whole three years absent from the Acadian land, and his home-coming was
yet but three days old.
Chapter I. The Capture at the Forge
It was good to be alive that afternoon. A speckled patch of
sunshine, having pushed its way through the branches across the road,
lay spread out on the dusty floor of the forge. On a block just inside
the door sat Marc, his lean, dark face,the Belleisle face, made more
hawklike by the blood of his Penobscot grandmother,all aglow with
eagerness. The lazy youngster was not shamed at the sight of my
diligence, but talked right on, with a volubility which would have much
displeased his Penobscot grandmother. It was pleasant to be back with
the lad again, and I was aweary of the war, which of late had kept my
feet forever on the move from Louisbourg to the Richelieu. My fire gave
a cheerful roar as I heaved upon the bellows, and turned my pike-point
in the glowing charcoal. As the roar sighed down into silence there was
a merry whirr of wings, and a covey of young partridges flashed across
the road. A contented mind and a full stomach do often make a man a
fool, or I should have made shift to inquire why the partridges had so
sharply taken wing. But I never thought of it. I turned, and let the
iron grow cool, and leaned with one foot on the anvil, to hear the
boy's talk. My soul was indeed asleep, lulled by content, or I would
surely have felt the gleam of the beady eyes that watched me through a
chink in the logs beside the chimney. But I felt those eyes no more
than if I had been a log myself.
Yes, Father, said Marc, pausing in rich contemplation of the
picture in his mind's eye, you would like her hair! It is unmistakably
red,a chestnut red. But her sister's is redder still!
I smiled at his knowledge of my little weakness for hair of that
colour; but not of a woman's hair was I thinking at that moment, or I
should surely have made some question about the sister. My mind ran off
upon another trail.
And what do the English think they're going to do when de Ramezay
comes down upon them? I inquired. Do they flatter themselves their
tumble-down Annapolis is strong enough to hold us off?
The lad flushed resentfully and straightened himself up on his seat.
Do you suppose, Father, that I was in the fort, and hobnobbing with
the Governor? he asked coldly. I spoke with none of the English save
Prudence and her sister, and the child.
But why not? said I, unwilling to acknowledge that I had said
anything at which he might take offence. Every one knows your good
disposition toward the English, and I should suppose you were in favour
at Annapolis. The Governor, I know, makes much of all our people who
favour the English cause.
Marc stood up,lean, and fine, and a good half head taller than his
father,and looked at me with eyes of puzzled wrath.
And you think that I, knowing all I do of de Ramezay's plans, would
talk to the English about them! he exclaimed in a voice of keen
Now, I understood his anger well enough, and in my heart rejoiced at
it; for though I knew his honour would endure no stain, I had
nevertheless feared lest I should find his sympathies all English. He
was a lad with a way of thinking much and thinking for himself, and
even now, at twenty year, far more of a scholar than I had ever found
time to be. Therefore, I say, his indignation pleased me mightily.
Nevertheless I kept at him.
Chut! said I, all the world knows by now of de Ramezay's plans.
There had been no taint of treachery in talking of them!
Marc sat down again, and the ghost of a smile flickered over his
lean face. Though free enough of his speech betimes, he was for the
most part as unsmiling as an Indian.
I see you are mocking me, Father, he said presently, relighting
his pipe. Indeed, you know very well I am on your side, for weal or
ill. As long as there was a chance of the English being left in
peaceable possession of Acadie, I urged that we should accept their
rule fully and in good faith. No one can say they haven't ruled us
gently and generously. And I feel right sure they will continue to rule
us, for the odds are on their side in the game they play with France.
But seeing that the game has yet to be played out, there is only one
side for me, and I believe it to be the losing one. Though as a boy I
liked them well enough, I have nothing more to do with the English now
except to fight them. How could I have another flag than yours?
You are my own true lad, whatever our difference of opinion! said
I. And if my voice trembled in a manner that might show a softness
unsuited to a veteran of my training, bear in mind that, till within
the past three days, I had not seen the lad for three years, and then
but briefly. At Grand Pré, and in Quebec at school, Marc had grown up
outside my roving life, and I was just opening my eyes to find a
comrade in this tall son of my boyhood's love. His mother, a daughter
of old Baron St. Castin by his Penobscot wife, had died while he was
yet at the breast. A babe plays but a small part in the life of a
ranging bush-fighter, though I had ever a great tenderness for the
little lad. Now, however, I was looking upon him with new eyes.
Having blown the coals again into a heat, I returned to Marc's
words, certain of which had somewhat stuck in my crop.
But you speak with despondence, lad, of the chances of the war, and
of the hope of Acadie! By St. Joseph, we'll drive the English all the
way back of the Penobscot before you're a twelvemonth older. And Acadie
will see the Flag of the Lilies flapping once more over the ramparts of
Marc shook his head slowly, and seemed to be following with his eyes
the vague pattern of the shadows on the floor.
It seems to me, said he, with a conviction which caught sharply at
my heart even though I bore in mind his youth and inexperience, that
rather will the Flag of the Lilies be cast down even from the strong
walls of Quebec. But may that day be far off! As for our people here in
Acadie, during the last twelvemonth it has been made very clear to me
that evil days are ahead. The Black Abbé is preparing many sorrows for
us here in Acadie.
I suppose you mean La Garne! said I. He's a diligent servant to
France; but I hate a bad priest. He's a dangerous man to cross, Marc!
Don't go out of your way to make an enemy of the Black Abbé!
Again that ghost of a smile glimmered on Marc's lips.
I fear you speak too late, Father! said he, quietly. The reverend
Abbé has already marked me. He so far honours me as to think that I am
an obstacle in his path. There be some whose eyes I have opened to his
villany, so that he has lost much credit in certain of the parishes. I
doubt not that he will contrive some shrewd stroke for vengeance.
My face fell somewhat, for I am not ashamed to confess that I fear a
bad priest, the more so in that I yield to none in my reverence for a
good one. I turned my iron sharply in the coals, and then exclaimed:
Oh, well, we need not greatly trouble ourselves. There are others,
methinks, as strong as the Black Abbé, evil though he be! But I spoke,
as I have often found it expedient to do, with more confidence than I
Even at this moment, shrill and clear from the leafage at one end of
the forge, came the call of the big yellow-winged woodpecker. I pricked
up my ears and stiffened my muscles, expectant of I knew not what.
Marc looked at me with some surprise.
It's only a woodpecker! said he.
But it's only in the spring, I protested, that he has a cry like
He cries untimely, as an omen of the ills to come! said Marc, half
meaning it and half in jest.
Had it been anywhere on the perilous frontier,on the Richelieu or
in the West, or nigh the bloody Massachusetts line, my suspicions would
have sprung up wide awake. But in this quiet land between the Habitants
and the Canard I was off my guard,and what a relief it was, indeed,
to let myself be careless for a little! I thought no more of the
woodpecker, but remembered that sister with the red hair. I came back
to her by indirection, however.
And how did you manage, lad, to be seeing Mistress Prudence, and
her sister, and the child, and yet no others of the English? A matter
of dark nights and back windows? Eh? But come to think of it, there was
a clear moon this day four weeks back, when you were at Annapolis.
No, Father, answered Marc, it was all much more simple and less
adventurous than that. Some short way out of the town is a little
river, the Equille, and a pleasant hidden glade set high upon its bank.
It is a favoured resort of both the ladies; and there I met them as
often as I was permitted. Mizpah would sometimes choose to play apart
with the child, down by the water's edge if the tide were full, so I
had some gracious opportunity with Prudence. My time being brief, I
made the most of it! he added drily. His quaint directness amused me
mightily, and I chuckled as I shaped the red iron upon the anvil.
And who, I inquired, is this kind sister, with the even redder
hair, who goes away with such a timely discretion?
Oh, yes, said Marc, I forgot you knew nothing of her. She is
Mistress Mizpah Hanford, the widow of a Captain Hanford who was some
far connection of the Governor's. Her property is in and about
Annapolis, and she lives there to manage it, keeping Prudence with her
for companionship. Her child is four or five years old, a
yellow-haired, rosy boy called Philip. She's very tall,a head taller
than Prudence, and older, of course, by perhaps eight years; and very
fair, though not so fair as Prudence; and altogether
But at this point I interrupted him.
What's the matter with the Indian? I exclaimed, staring out across
He sprang to his feet and looked around sharply. An Indian, carrying
three shad strung upon a sapling, had just appeared on the road before
the forge door. As he came in view he was reeling heavily, and
clutching at his head. He dropped his fish; and a moment later he
himself fell headlong, and lay face downward in the middle of the road.
I remember thinking that his legs sprawled childishly. Marc strolled
over to him with slow indifference.
Have a care! I exclaimed. There may be some trap in it! It looks
What trap can there be? asked Marc, turning the body over. It's
Red Moose, a Shubenacadie Micmac. I like not the breed; but ever since
he got a hurt on the head, in a fight at Canseau last year, he has been
subject to the falling sickness. Let us carry him to a shady place, and
he'll come to himself presently!
I was at his side in a moment, and we stooped to lift the seemingly
lifeless figure. In an instant its arms were about my neck in a
strangling embrace. At the same time my own arms were seized. I heard a
fierce cry from Marc, and a groan that was not his. The next moment,
though I writhed and struggled with all my strength, I found myself
bound hand and foot, and seated on the ground with my back against the
door-post of the forge. Marc, bound like myself, lay by the roadside;
and a painted savage sat near him nursing with both hands a broken jaw.
A dozen Micmacs stood about us. Leaning against the door-post over
against me was the black-robed form of La Garne. He eyed me, for
perhaps ten seconds, with a smile of fine and penetrating sarcasm. Then
he told his followers to stand Marc up against a tree.
Chapter II. The Black Abbé
When first I saw that smile on the Black Abbé's face, and realized
what had befallen us, I came nigh to bursting with rage, and was on the
point of telling my captor some truths to make his ears tingle. But
when I heard the order to stand Marc up against a tree my veins for an
instant turned to ice. Many menand some women, too, God help me, I
then being bound and gagged,had I seen thus stood up against a tree,
and never but for one end. I could not believe that such an end was
contemplated now, and that by a priest of the Church, however unworthy
of his office! But I checked my tongue and spoke the Abbé fair.
It is quite plain to me, Monsieur, said I, quietly, that my son
and I are the victims of some serious mistake, for which you will, I am
sure, feel constrained to ask our pardon presently. I await your
La Garne, still smiling, looked me over slowly. Never before had I
seen him face to face, though he had more than once traversed my line
of vision. I had known the tireless figure, as tall, almost, as Marc
himself, stoop-shouldered, but robust, now moving swiftly as if
propelled by an energy irresistible, now languid with an affectation of
indolence. But the faceI hated the possessor of it with a personal
hate the moment my eyes fell upon that face. Strong and inflexible was
the gaunt, broad, and thin jaw, cruel and cunning the high, pinched
forehead and narrow-set, palely glinting eyes. The nose, in particular,
greatly offended me, being very long, and thick at the end. I'll tweak
it for him, one fine day, says I to myself, as I boiled under his
There is no mistake, Monsieur de Briart, believe me! he said,
There could be no more fair words, of course, after that avowal.
Then, Sir Priest, said I, coldly, you are both a madman and a
scurvy rogue, and you shall yet be on your knees to me for this
outrage. You will see then the nature of your mistake, I give you my
The priest's smile took on something of the complexion of a snarl.
Don't be alarmed, Monsieur de Briart, said he. You are quite
safe, because I know you for a good servant to France; and for your
late disrespect to Holy Church, in my person, while in talk with your
pestilent son, these bonds may be a wholesome and sufficient lesson to
You shall have a lesson sufficient rather than wholesome, I promise
you! said I.
But as for this fellow, went on the Abbé, without noticing my
interruption, he is a spy. You understand how spies fare, Monsieur!
And a malignant light made his eyes appear like two points of steel
beneath the ambush of his ragged brows.
I saw Marc's lean face flush thickly under the gross accusation.
It is a lie, you frocked hound! he cried, careless of the instant
peril in which he stood.
But the Black Abbé never looked at him.
I wish you joy of your son, a very good Englishman, Monsieur, and
now, I fear, not long for this world, said he, in a tone of high
civility. He has long been fouling with his slanders the names of
those whom he should reverence, and persuading the people to the
English. But now, after patiently waiting, I have proofs. His treachery
shall hang him!
For a moment the dear lad's peril froze my senses, so that it was
but dimly I heard his voice, ringing with indignation as he hurled back
the charge upon the lying lips that made it.
If the home of lies be anywhere out of Hell, it is in your
malignant mouth, you shame of the Church, he cried in defiance. There
can be no proof that I am a spy, even as there can be no proof that you
are other than a false-tongued assassin, defiling your sacred office.
It was the galling defiance of a savage warrior at the stake, and
even in my fear my heart felt proud of it. The priest was not galled,
however, by these penetrating insults.
As for the proofs, said he, softly, never looking at Marc, but
keeping his eyes on my face, Monsieur de Ramezay shall judge whether
they be proofs or not. If he say they are not, I am content.
At a sign, a mere turn of his head it seemed to me, the Indians
loosed Marc's feet to lead him away.
Farewell, Father, said he, in a firm voice, and turned upon me a
look of unshakable courage.
Be of good heart, son, I cried to him. I will be there, and this
devil shall be balked!
You, Monsieur, said the priest, still smiling, will remain here
for the present. To-night I will send a villager to loose your bonds.
Then, by all means, come over and see Monsieur de Ramezay at Chignecto.
I may not be there then myself, but this business of the spy will have
been settled, for the commander does not waste time in such small
He turned away to follow his painted band, and I, shaking in my
impotent rage and fear, called after him:
As God lives and is my witness, if the lad comes to any harm, these
hands will visit it upon you an hundredfold, till you scream for
But the Black Abbé moved off as if he heard no word, and left me a
twisted heap upon the turf, gnawing fiercely at the tough deer-hide of
Chapter III. Tamin's Little Stratagem
I had been gnawing, gnawing in an anguish at the thongs, for perhaps
five minutes. There had been no more than time for the Abbé's wolf-pack
to vanish by a turn of the road. Suddenly a keen blade slit the thongs
that bound my wrists. Then my feet felt themselves free. I sat up,
astonished, and saw stooping over me the droll, broad face of Tamin the
Fisher,or Tamin Violet, as he was rightly, though seldom, called. His
mouth was solemn, as always, having never been known to wear a smile;
but the little wrinkles laughed about his small bright eyes. I sprang
up and grasped his hand.
We must not lose a moment, Tamin, my friend! I panted, dragging
him into the thick shade of the wood.
I was thinking you might be in a hurry, M'sieu, said my rescuer.
But unless the mouse wants to be back in the same trap I've just let
it out of, you'd better keep still a half-minute and make up your mind.
They've a round road to go, and we'll go straight!
You saw it all? I asked, curbing myself as best I could, for I
perceived the wisdom of his counsel.
Oh, ay, M'sieu, I saw it! replied the Fisher. And I laughed in my
bones to hear the lad talk up to the good father. There was more than
one shot went home, I warrant, for all the Black Abbé seemed so deaf.
They're festering under his soutane even now, belike!
But come! said I. I've got my wind! And we darted noiselessly
through the cool of the great trees, turning a little east from the
We ran silently for a space, my companion's short but massive frame
leaping, bending, gliding even as lightly as my own, which was ever as
lithe as a weasel's. Tamin was a rare woodsman, as I marked
straightway, though I had known him of old rather as a faithful tenant,
and marvellously patient to sit in his boat all day a-fishing on the
drift of the Minas tides.
Presently he spoke, under his breath.
Very like, said he, drily, when we come up to them they will all
fall down. So, we will take the lad and walk away! eh, what, M'sieu?
Only let us come up to them, said I, and learn their plans. Then
we will make ours!
Something of theirs I know, said Tamin. Their canoes are on the
Canard maybe three furlongs to east of the road. Thence they will carry
the lad to de Ramezay, for the Black Abbé will have things in due form
when he can conveniently, and now it is plain he has a scheme well
ripe. But if this wind holds, we'll be there before them. My boat is
lying hard by.
God be praised! I muttered; for in truth I saw some light now for
the first time. Presently, drawing near the road again, I heard the
voice of La Garne. We at once went softly, and, avoiding again, made
direct for where lay the canoes. There we disposed ourselves in a
swampy thicket, with a little breadth of water lying before and all the
forest behind. The canoes lay just across the little water, and so
close that I might have tossed my cap into them. The clean smell of the
wet salt sedge came freshly into the thicket. The shadows lay long on
the water. We had time to grow quiet, till our breathing was no longer
hasty, our blood no longer thumped in our ears. A flock of sand-pipers,
with thin cries, settled to feed on the red clay between the canoes and
the edge of the tide. Suddenly they got up, and puffed away in a
flicker of white breasts and brown wings; and I laid a hand on Tamin's
shoulder. The painted band, Marc in their midst, La Garne in front,
were coming down the slope.
The lad's face was stern and scornful. To my joy I saw that there
was to be no immediate departure. The redskins flung themselves down
indolently. The Black Abbé saw his prisoner made fast to a tree, and
then, telling his followers that he had duties at Pereau which would
keep him till past sunset, strode off swiftly up the trail. Tamin and
I, creeping as silently as snakes back into the forest, followed him.
For half an hour we followed him, keeping pace for pace through the
shadow of the wood. Then said I softly to Tamin:
This is my quarrel, my friend! Do you keep back, and not bring down
his vengeance on your head.
That for his vengeance! whispered Tamin, with a derisive gesture.
I will take service with de Ramezay, as a regular soldier of France!
Even there, said I, his arm might reach and pluck you forth. Keep
back now, and let him not see your face!
Priest though he be, M'sieu, urged Tamin, anxiously, he is a
mighty man of his hands!
I turned upon him a face of scorn which he found sufficient answer.
Then, signing to him to hold off, I sped forward silently. No weapon
had I but a light stick of green ash, just cut. There was smooth, mossy
ground along the trail, and my running feet made no more sound than a
cat's. I was within a pace of springing upon his neck, when he must
have felt my coming. He turned like a flash, uttered a piercing signal
cry, and whipped out a dagger.
They'll never hear it, mocked I, and sent the dagger spinning with
a smart pass of my stick. The same stroke went nigh to breaking his
wrist. He grappled bravely, however, as I took him by the throat, and I
was astonished at his force and suppleness. Nevertheless the struggle
was but brief, and the result a matter to be sworn to beforehand; for
I, though not of great stature, am stronger than any other man, big or
little, with whom I have ever come to trial; and more than that, when I
was a prisoner among the English, I learned their shrewd fashion of
wrestling. In a little space the Black Abbé lay choked into submission,
after which I bound him in a way to endure, and seated him against a
tree. Behind him I caught view of Tamin, gesturing drolly, whereat I
laughed till I marked an amazement growing in the priest's malignant
How like you my lesson, good Father? I inquired.
But he only glared upon me. I suppose, having no speech that would
fitly express his feelings, he conceived that his silence would be most
eloquent. But I could see that my next move startled him. With my knife
I cut a piece from my shirt, and made therewith a neat gag.
Though you seem so dumb at this present, said I, I suspect that
you might find a tongue after my departure. Therefore I must beseech
you to wear this ornament, for my sake, for a little. And very civilly
prying his teeth open, I adjusted the gag.
Do not be afraid! I continued. I will leave you in this
discomfort no longer than you thought it necessary to leave me so. You
shall be free after to-morrow's sunrise, if not before. Farewell, good
Father, and may you rest well! Let me borrow this ring as a pledge for
the safe return of the fragment of my good shirt which you hold so
obstinately between your teeth! And drawing his ring from his finger I
turned away and plunged into the forest, where Tamin presently joined
Tamin chuckled, deep in his stomach.
My turn now! said he. Give me the ring, M'sieu, and I'll give you
I see you take me! said I, highly pleased at his quick
We now made way at leisure back to the canoes, and our plans ripened
as we went.
Before we came within hearing of the Indians I gave over the ring
with final directions, to Tamin, and then hastened toward the point of
land which runs far out beyond the mouth of the Habitants. Around this
point, as I knew, lay the little creek-mouth wherein Tamin kept his
boat. Beyond the point, perchance a furlong, was a narrow sand-spit
covered deep at every flood tide. In a thicket of fir bushes on the
bluff over against this sand-spit I lay down to wait for what Tamin
should bring to pass. I had some little time to wait; and here let me
unfold, as I learned it after, what Tamin did whilst I waited.
About sunset, the tide being far out, and the Indians beginning to
expect their Abbé's return, came Tamin to them running in haste along
the trail from Pereau, as one who carried orders of importance. Going
straight to the chief, he pointed derisively at Marc, whose back was
towards him, and cried:
The good father commands that you take this dog of a spy
straightway to the sand-spit that lies off the point yonder. There you
will drive a strong stake into the sand, and bind the fellow to it, and
leave him there, and return here to await the Abbé's coming. You shall
do no hurt to the spy, and set no mark upon him. When the tide next
ebbs you will go again to the sand-spit and bring his body back; and if
the Abbé finds any mark upon him, you will get no pay for this venture.
You will make your camp here to-night, and if the good father be not
returned to you by sunrise to-morrow, you will go to meet him along the
Pereau trail, for he will be in need of you.
The tall chief grunted, and eyed him doubtfully. After a brief
contemplation he inquired, in broken French:
How know you no lie to me?
Here is the holy father's ring, in warranty; and you shall give it
back to him when he comes.
It is well, said the chief, taking the ring, and turning to give
some commands in his own guttural tongue. Tamin repeated his message
word by word, then strode away; and before he got out of sight he saw
two canoes put off for the sand-spit. Then he made all haste to join me
on the point.
Long before he arrived the canoes had come stealing around the point
and were drawn up on the treacherous isle of sand. My heart bled for
the horror of death which, as I knew, must now be clutching at Marc's
soul; but I kept telling myself how soon I would make him glad. It
wanted yet three hours or more till the tide should cover the
sand-spit. I lay very still among the young fir trees, so that a
wood-mouse ran within an arm's length of my face, till it caught the
moving of my eyes and scurried off with a frightened squeak. I heard
the low change in the note of the tide as the first of the flood began
to creep in upon the weeds and pebbles. Then with some farewell taunts,
to which Marc answered not a word, the savages went again to their
canoes and paddled off swiftly.
[Illustration: Marc tied to post]
When they had become but specks on the dim water, I doffed my
clothes, took my knife between my teeth, and swam across to the
sand-spit. There was a low moon, obscured by thin and slowly drifting
clouds, and as I swam through the faint trail of it, Marc must have
seen me coming. Nevertheless he gave no sign, and I could see that his
head drooped forward upon his breast. An awful fear came down upon me,
and for a second or two I was like to sink, so numb I turned at the
thought that perchance the savages had put the knife to him before
quitting. I recovered, however, as I called to mind the orders which
Tamin had rehearsed to me ere starting on his venture; for I knew how
sorely the Black Abbé was feared by his savage flock. What they deemed
him to have commanded, that would they do.
Drawing closer now, I felt the ground beneath my feet.
Marc, I called softly, I'm coming, lad!
The drooped head was lifted.
Father! he exclaimed. And there was something like a sob in that
cry of joy. It caught my heart strangely, telling me he was still a boy
for all he had borne himself so manfully in the face of sudden and
appalling peril. Now the long tension was loosed. He was alone with me.
As I sprang to him and cut the thongs that held him, one arm went about
my neck and I was held very close for the space of some few
heart-beats. Then he fetched a deep breath, stretched his cramped limbs
this way and that, and said simply, I knew you would come, Father! I
knew you would find a way!
Chapter IV. The Governor's Signature
The clouds slipped clear of the moon's face, and we threeMarc, I,
and the stakecast sudden long black shadows which led all the way
down to the edge of the increeping tide. I looked at the shadows, and a
shudder passed through me as if a cold hand had been laid upon my back.
Marc stood off a little,never have I seen such quick control, such
composure, in one so inexperienced,and remarked to me:
What a figure of a man you are, Father, to be sure!
I fell into his pretence of lightness at once, a high relief after
the long and deadly strain; and I laughed with some pleasure at the
praise. In very truth, I cherished a secret pride in my body.
'Tis well enough, no doubt, in a dim light, said I, though by now
surely somewhat battered!
Marc was already taking off his clothes. As he knotted them into a
convenient bundle, there came from the woods, a little way back of the
point, the hollow Too-hoo-hoo-whoo-oo! of the small gray owl.
There's Tamin! said I, and was on the point of answering in like
fashion, when the cry was reiterated twice.
That means danger, and much need of haste for us, I growled.
Together we ran down into the tide, striking out with long strokes for
the fine white line that seethed softly along the dark base of the
point. I commended the lad mightily for his swimming, as we scrambled
upon the beach and slipped swiftly into our clothes. Though carrying
his bundle on his head, he had given me all I could do to keep abreast
We climbed the bluff, and ran through the wet, keen-scented bushes
toward the creek where lay the boat. Ere we had gone half-way Tamin met
What danger? I asked.
I think they're coming back to tuck the lad in for the night, and
see that he's comfortable! replied Tamin, panting heavily. I heard
paddles when they should have been long out of earshot.
Something has put them in doubt! said Marc.
Sure, said I, and not strange, if one but think of it!
Yet I told them a fair tale, panted Tamin, as he went on swiftly
toward his boat.
The boat lay yet some yards above the edge of tide, having been run
aground near high water. The three of us were not long in dragging her
down and getting her afloat. Then came the question that was uppermost.
Which way? asked Tamin, laconically, taking the tiller, while Marc
stood by to hoist the dark and well-patched sail.
I considered the wind for some moments.
For Chignecto! said I, with emphasis. We must see de Ramezay and
settle this hound La Garne. Otherwise Marc stands in hourly peril.
As the broad sail drew, and the good boat, leaning well over,
gathered way, and the small waves swished and gurgled merrily under her
quarter, I could hardly withhold from laughing for sheer gladness. Marc
was already smoking with great composure beside the mast, his lean face
thoughtful, but untroubled. He looked, I thought, almost as old as his
war-battered sire who now watched him with so proud an eye. Presently I
heard Tamin fetch a succession of mighty breaths, as he emptied and
filled the ample bellows of his lungs. He snatched the green and yellow
cap of knitted wool from his head, and let the wind cool the sweating
black tangle that coarsely thatched his broad skull.
Hein! he exclaimed, with a droll glance at Marc, that's better
than that! And he made an expressive gesture as of setting a
knife to his scalp. To me this seemed much out of place and time; but
Tamin was ever privileged in the eyes of a de Mer, so I grumbled not.
As for Marc, that phantom of a smile, which I had already learned to
watch for, just touched his lips, as he remarked calmly:
Vraiment, much better. That, as you call it, my Tamin, came so near
to-night that my scalp needs no cooling since!
But whither steering? I inquired; for the boat was speeding
south-eastward, straight toward Grand Pré.
Tamin's face told plainly that he had his reasons, and I doubted not
that they were good. For some moments that wide, grave mouth opened not
to make reply, while the little, twinkling, contradictory eyes were
fixed intently on some far-off landmark, to me invisible. This point
being made apparently to his satisfaction, he relaxed and explained.
You see, M'sieu, said he, we must get under the loom o' the
shore, so's we'll be out of sight when the canoes come round the point.
If they see a sail, at this time o' night, they'll suspicion the whole
thing and be after us. Better let 'em amuse themselves for a spell
hunting for the lad on dry land, so's we won't be rushed. Been enough
Yes! Yes! assented I, scanning eagerly the point behind us. And
Very great is your sagacity, my Tamin. The Black Abbé fooled
himself when he forgot to take you into his reckoning!
At this speech the little wrinkles gathered thicker about Tamin's
eyes. At length, deeming us to have gone far enough to catch the loom
of the land, as it lay for one watching from the sand-spit, Tamin
altered our course, and we ran up the basin. Just then we marked two
canoes rounding the point. They were plainly visible to us, and I made
sure we should be seen at once; but a glance at Tamin's face reassured
me. The Fisher understood, as few even among old woodsmen understand
it, the lay of the shadow-belts on a wide water at night.
Noiselessly we lowered our sail and lay drifting, solicitous to mark
what the savages might do. The sand-spit was by this so small that from
where we lay it was not to be discerned; but we observed the Indians
run their canoes upon it, disembark, and stoop to examine the
footprints in the sand. In a moment or two they embarked again, and
paddled straight to the point.
Shrewd enough! said Marc.
Yes, said I, and now they'll track us straight to Tamin's creek,
and understand that we've taken the boat. But they won't know what
direction we've taken!
No, M'sieu, muttered Tamin, but no use loafing round here till
they find out!
Which being undoubted wisdom of Tamin's, we again hoisted sail and
continued our voyage.
Having run some miles up the Basin, we altered our course and stood
straight across for the northern shore. We now felt secure from
pursuit, holding it highly improbable that the savages would guess our
purpose and destination. As we sat contenting our eyes with the great
bellying of the sail, and the fine flurries of spray that ever and
again flashed up from our speeding prow, and the silver-blue creaming
of our wake, Marc gave us a surprise. Thrusting his hand into the bosom
of his shirt he drew out a packet and handed it to me.
Here, perhaps, are the proofs on which the gentle Abbé relied!
Taking the packet mechanically, I stared at the lad in astonishment.
But there was no information to be gathered from that inscrutable
countenance, so I presently recollected myself, and unfolded the
papers. There were two of them. The moon was partly clear at the
moment, and I made out the first to be an order, written in English, on
one Master Nathaniel Apthorp, merchant, of Boston, directing him to pay
Master Marc de Mer, of Grand Pré in Nova Scotia, the sum of two hundred
and fifty pounds. It was signed Paul Mascarene, Gov^r of Nova Scotia.
The other paper was written in finer and more hasty characters, and I
could not decipher it in the uncertain light. But the signature was the
same as that appended to the order on Mr. Apthorp.
I cannot decipher this one, in this bad light, said I; but what
does it all mean, Marc? How comes the English Governor to be owing you
two hundred and fifty pounds?
Does he owe me two hundred and fifty pounds? That's surely news of
interest! said Marc.
I looked at him, amazed.
Do you mean to say that you don't know what is in these papers? I
inquired, handing them back.
How should I know that? said Marc, with a calmness which was not a
little irritating. They were placed in my pocket by the good Abbé; and
since then my opportunities of reading have been but scant!
Tamin ejaculated a huge grunt of indignant comprehension; and I,
beholding all at once the whole wicked device, threw up my hands and
fell to whistling an idle air. It seemed to me a case for which curses
would seem but tame and pale.
This other, then, said I, presently, must be a letter that would
seem to have been written to you by the Governor, and worded in such a
fashion as to compromise you plainly!
'Tis altogether probable, Father, replied Marc, musingly, as he
scanned the page. He was trying to prove his own eyesight better than
mine, but found the enterprise beyond him,as I knew he would.
I can make out nothing of this other, save the signature, he
continued. We must even wait for daylight. And in the meanwhile I
think you had better keep the packet, Father, for I feel my wits and my
experience something lacking in this snarl.
I took the papers and hid them in a deep pocket which I wore within
the bosom of my shirt.
The trap was well set, and deadly, lad, said I, highly pleased at
his confidence in my wisdom to conduct the affair. But trust me to
spring it. Whatever this other paper may contain, de Ramezay shall see
them both and understand the whole plot.
'Twill be hard to explain away, said Marc, doubtfully, if it be
forged with any fair degree of skill!
Trust my credit with de Ramezay for that. It is something the Black
Abbé has not reckoned upon! said I, with assurance, stuffing my pipe
contentedly with the right Virginia leaf. Marc, being well tired with
all that he had undergone that day, laid his head on the cuddy and was
presently sound asleep. In a low voice, not to disturb the slumberer, I
talked with Tamin, and learned how he had chanced to come so pat upon
me in my bonds. He had been on the way up to the Forge, coming not by
the trail, but straight through the forest, when he caught a view of
the Indians, and took alarm at the stealth of their approach. He had
tracked them with a cunning beyond their own, and so achieved to outdo
them with their own weapons.
The moon now swam clear in the naked sky, the clouds lying far
below. By the broad light I could see very well to read the letter. It
was but brief, and ran thus:
To my good Friend and trusted Helper Monsieur Marc de Mer:
DEAR SIR,As touching the affair which you have so prudently
carried through, and my gratitude for your so good help, permit the
enclosed order on Master Apthorp to speak for me. If I might hope that
you would find it in your heart and within your convenience to put me
under yet weightier obligations, I would be so bold as to desire an
exact account of the forces at Chignecto, and of the enterprize upon
which Monsieur de Ramezay is purposing to employ them.
Believe me to be, my dear Sir, yours with high esteem and
With a wonder of indignation I read it through, and then again aloud
to Tamin, who cursed the author with such ingenious Acadian oaths as
made me presently smile.
It is right shrewdly devised, said I, but the deviser knew little
of the blunt English Governor, or never would he have made him write
with such courtly circumlocutions. De Ramezay, very like, will have
seen communications of Mascarene's before now, and will scarce fail to
note the disagreement.
The fox has been known to file his tongue too smooth, said Tamin,
By this we were come over against the huge black front of Blomidon,
but our course lay far outside the shadow of his frown, in the silvery
run of the seas. The moon floated high over the great Cape, yellow as
gold, and the bare sky was like an unruffled lake. Far behind us opened
the mouth of the Piziquid stream, a bright gap in the dark but vague
shore-line. On our right the waters unrolled without obstruction till
they mixed pallidly with the sky in the mouth of Cobequid Bay. Five
miles ahead rose the lofty shore which formed the northern wall of
Minas Channel,grim and forbidding enough by day; but now, in such
fashion did the moonlight fall along it, wearing a face of fairyland,
and hinting of fountained palaces in its glens and high hollows. After
I had filled my heart with the fairness and the wonder of it, I lay
down upon a thwart and fell asleep.
Chapter V. In the Run of the Seas
It seemed as if I had but fairly got my eyes shut, when I was
awakened by a violent pitching of the boat. I sat up, grasping the
gunwale, and saw Marc just catching my knee to rouse me. The boat,
heeling far over, and hauled close to the wind, was heading a little up
the channel and straight for a narrow inlet which I knew to be the
joint mouth of two small rivers.
Where are you going? Why is our course changed? I asked sharply,
being nettled by a sudden notion that they had made some change of plan
without my counsel.
Look yonder, Father! said Marc, pointing.
I looked, and my heart shook with mingled wrath and apprehension.
Behind us followed three canoes, urged on by sail and paddle.
They outsail us? I inquired.
Ay, before the wind, they do, M'sieu! said Tamin. On this tack,
maybe not. We'll soon see!
But what's this but a mere trap we are running our heads into? I
I fear there's nothing else but to quit the boat and make through
the woods, Father, explained Marc; that is, if we're so fortunate as
to keep ahead till we reach land.
In the woods, I suppose, we can outwit them or outfoot them, said
I; but those Micmacs are untiring on the trail.
I know a good man with a good boat over by Shulie on the Fundy
shore, interposed Tamin. And I know the way over the hills. We'll
cheat the rogue of a priest yet! And he shrewdly measured the distance
that parted us from our pursuers.
It galls me to be running from these dogs! I growled.
Our turn will come, said Marc, glowering darkly at the canoes. Do
you guess the Black Abbé is with them?
Not he! grunted Tamin.
Things may happen this time, said I, and the good father may wish
to keep his soutane clear of them. It's all plain enough to me now. The
Indians, finding themselves tricked, have gone back on the Pereau trail
and most inopportunely have released the gentle Abbé from his bonds. He
has seen through our game, and has sent his pack to look to it that we
never get to de Ramezay. But he will have no hand in it. Oh,
What's plain to me now, interrupted Tamin, with some anxiety in
his voice, is that they're gaining on us fast. They've put down
leeboards; an' with leeboards down a Micmac canoe's hard to beat.
Oh! I exclaimed bitterly, if we had but our muskets! Fool that I
was, thus to think to save time and not go back for our weapons! Trust
me, lad, it's the first time that Jean de Mer has had that particular
kind of folly to repent of!
But there was nought else for it, Father, said Marc. And if, as
seems most possible, we come to close quarters presently, we are not so
naked as we might be. Here's your two pistols, my good whinger, and
Tamin's fishy dirk. And Tamin's gaff here will make a pretty lance. It
is borne in upon me that some of the good Abbé's lambs will bleat for
their shepherd before this night's work be done!
There was a steady light in his eyes that rejoiced me much, and his
voice rose and fell as if fain to break into a war song; and I said to
myself, The boy is a fighter, and the fire is in his blood, for all
his scholar's prating of peace! Yet he straightway turned his back
upon the enemy and with great indifference went to filling his pipe.
Ay, an' there be a right good gun in the cuddy! grunted Tamin,
after a second or two of silence.
The saints be praised! said I. And Marc's long arm reached in to
capture it. It was a huge weapon, and my heart beat high at sight of
it. Marc caressed it for an instant, then reluctantly passed it to me,
with the powder-horn.
I can shoot, a little, myself, said he, but I would be
presumptuous to boast when you were by, Father!
Ay, vraiment, said Tamin, sharply; don't think you can shoot with
the Sieur de Briart yet!
I don't, replied Marc, simply, as he handed me out a pouch of
bullets and a pouch of slugs.
The pursuing canoes were by this come within fair range. There came
a strident hail from the foremost:
Lay to, or we shoot!
Shoot, dogs! I shouted, ramming home the good measure of powder
which I had poured into my hand. I followed it with a fair charge of
slugs, and was wadding it loosely, when
Duck! cries Tamin, bobbing his head lower than the tiller.
Neither Marc nor I moved a hair. But we gazed at the canoes. On the
instant two red flames blazed out, with a redoubled bang; and one
bullet went through the sail a little above my head.
Not bad! said Marc, glancing tranquilly at the bullet hole.
But for my own part, I was angry. To be fired upon thus, at a
priest's orders, by a pack of scurvy savages in the pay of our own
party,never before had Jean de Briart been put to such indignity. I
kneeled, and took a very cautious aim,not, however, at the savages,
but at the bow of the nearest canoe.
Tamin's big gun clapped like a cannon, and kicked my shoulder very
vilely. But the result of the shot was all that we could desire. As I
made haste to load again I noticed that the savage in the bow had
fallen backward in his place, hit by a stray slug. The bulk of the
charge, however, had torn a great hole in the bark, close to the
[Illustration: Tamin's big gun clapped like a cannon, and kicked my
shoulder very vilely.]
You've done it, Father! said Marc, in a tone of quiet exultation.
Hein! grunted Tamin. They don't like the wet!
The canoe was going down by the bow. The other two craft ranged
hurriedly alongside, and took in the gesticulating crew,all but one,
whom they left in the stern to paddle the damaged canoe to land, being
loth to lose a serviceable craft. With broken bow high in air the canoe
spun around, and sped off up the Basin before the wind. The remaining
two resumed the chase of us. We had gained a great space during the
confusion, yet they came up upon us fast.
But now, ere I judged them to be within gunshot, they slackened
They think better of it! said I, raising the gun again to my
shoulder. As I did so they sheered off in haste to a safer distance.
They are not such fools as I had hoped! said Marc.
I so far flatter myself as to think, said I, with some
complacency, that they won't trust themselves willingly again within
range of this good barker.
By this we were come well within the wide mouth of the estuary, and
a steep, wooded point thrust out upon our right. All at once I muttered
a curse upon my dulness.
What fools we are, to be sure! I cried. No reason that we should
toil across the mountains to your good man's good boat at Shulie, my
Tamin. Put her about, and we'll sail in comfort around to Chignecto;
and let these fellows come in range again at their peril!
To be sure, indeed! grunted Tamin; and with a lurch and great
flapping we went about.
The canoes, indeed, now fled before us with excellent discretion.
Our new course carried us under the gloom of the promontory, whence, in
a few minutes, we shot out again into the moonlight. It was pleasant to
see our antagonists making such courteous haste to give us room. I
could not forbear to chuckle over it, and wished mightily that the
Black Abbé were in one of the canoes.
I fear me there's to be no work for Tamin's fishy dirk or my good
whinger, sighed Marc, with a nice air of melancholy; and Tamin, with
the little wrinkles thicker than ever about his eyes, yelled droll
taunts after our late pursuers. In fact, we were all three in immense
high feather,when on a sudden there came a crashing bump that tumbled
us headlong, the mast went overboard, and there we were stuck fast upon
a sharp rock. The boat was crushed in like an egg-shell, and lay over
on her side. The short, chopping seas huddled upon us in a smother. As
I rose up, sputtering, I took note of Tamin's woollen cap washing away
debonairly, snatched off, belike, by a taut rope as the mast fell.
Then, clinging all three to the topmost gunwale, the waves jumping and
sousing us derisively, we stared at each other in speechless dismay.
But a chorus of triumphant screeches from the canoes, as they noted our
mishap and made to turn, brought us to our senses.
Nothing for it but to swim! said I, thrusting down the now useless
musket into the cuddy, where I hoped it might stay in case the wrecked
boat should drift ashore. It was drenched, of course, and something too
heavy to swim with. I emptied the slugs from my pocket. Tamin ducked
his head under water and fumbled in the cuddy till I was on the point
of plucking him forth, fearing he would drown,Marc, meanwhile,
looking on tranquilly and silently, with that fleeting remembrance of a
smile. But now Tamin arose, gasping, with a small sack and a salted
hake in his hands. The fish he passed over to me.
Bread, M'sieu! said he, holding up the drenched sack in triumph.
Now for the woods!
'Twas but the toss of a biscuit to shore, and we had gained it ere
our enemies were come within gunshot. Running swiftly along the strip
of beach that skirted the steep, we put the shoulder of the cape
between, and were safe from observation for a few minutes.
To the woods, M'sieu! cried Tamin, in a suppressed voice.
No! said I, sternly. Straight along the beach, till I give the
word to turn in! Follow me!
'Tis the one chance, to get out of sight now! grumbled Tamin,
running beside me, and clutching at his wet sack of bread.
Don't you suppose he knows what he is doing, my Tamin? interrupted
Marc. 'Tis for you and me to obey orders!
Tamin growled, but said no more.
Now in with you to cover, I commanded, waving my salt fish as it
had been a marshal's baton. At the same moment I turned, ran up the wet
slope where a spring bubbled out of the wood's edge and spread itself
over the stones, and sprang behind a thick screen of viburnums. My
companions were beside me on the instant,but it was not an instant
too soon. As we paused to look back, there were the canoes coming
furiously around the point.
Staying not long to observe them, I led the way straight into the
darkness of the woods, aiming for the seashore at the other side of the
point. But Tamin was not satisfied.
Our road lies straight up yon river, said he.
My friend, said I, we must e'en find another road to Shulie.
Those fellows will be sure to agree that we have gone that way. Knowing
that I am a cunning woodsman, they will say, 'He will make them to run
in the water, and so leave no trail.' And they will give hot chase up
But there be two rivers, objected Tamin.
Bien, said I, they will divide their party, and give hot chase up
And in the meanwhile? inquired Marc.
I'll find the way to Shulie, said I. The stars and the sun are
guide enough! I know the main lay of all these coasts.
Chapter VI. Grûl
The undergrowth into which we had now come was thick and hindering,
so there was no further chance of speech. A few minutes more and we
came out upon the seaward slope of the point. We pushed straight down
to the water, here sheltered from the wind and little troubled. That
our footprints might be hidden, at least for a time, we ran, one behind
the other, along the lip of the tide, where the water was about ankle
deep. In the stillness our splashing sounded dangerously loud, and
Tamin, yet in a grumbling humour, spoke of it.
But you forget, my friend, said I, gently, that there is noise
and to spare where our enemies are,across there in the wind!
In a moment Tamin spoke again, pointing some little way ahead.
The land drops away yonder, M'sieu, 'twixt the point and the main
shore! he growled, with conspicuous anxiety in his voice. He was no
trembler; but it fretted him to be taking what he deemed the weaker
course. Nothing, he added, but a bit of bare beach that the waves go
over at spring tides when the wind's down the Basin!
I paused in some dismay. But my mind was made up.
We must go on, said I. But we will stoop low, and lose no time in
the passage. They'll scarce be landed yet.
And now, as I came to see how low indeed that strip of perilous
beach was, I somewhat misdoubted of success in getting by unseen. But
we went a little deeper in the tide, and bowed our bodies with great
humbleness, and so passed over with painful effort but not a little
speed. Being come again under shelter, we straightened ourselves, well
pleased, fetched a deep breath or two, and ran on with fresh celerity.
But if a redskin should think to step over the beach, there'd be
our goose cooked! muttered Tamin.
Well said! I answered. Therefore let us strike inland at once!
And I led the way again into the darkness of the forest.
Dark as it was, there was yet light enough from the moon to enable
me to direct my course as I wished. I struck well west of the course
which would have taken us most speedily to Shulie, being determined to
avoid the valley of the stream which I considered our pursuers were
most likely to ascend. To satisfy Tamin's doubts I explained my
purpose, which was to aim straight for Shulie as soon as we were over
the water-shed. And I must do him the justice to say he was content,
beginning now to come more graciously to my view. We went but slowly,
climbing, ever climbing. At times we would be groping through a great
blackness of hemlocks. Again the forest would be more open, a mingling
of fir trees, and birches, and maples. Coming at last to more level
ground, we were still much hindered by innumerable rocks, amid which
the underbrush and wild vines prepared pitfalls for our weary feet. But
I was not yet willing to call a halt for breath. On, on we stumbled,
the wet branches buffeting our faces, but a cool and pleasant savour of
the wild herbs which we trod upon ever exhaling upwards to refresh our
senses. As we crossed a little grassy glade, I observed that Marc had
come to Tamin's help, and was carrying the sack of bread. I observed,
also, that Tamin's face was drawn with fatigue, and that he went with a
kind of dogged heaviness. I took pity upon him. We had put, I guessed,
good miles between ourselves and our pursuers, and I felt that we were,
in all reason, safe for the time. At the further limit of the glade
there chattered a shallow brook, whose sweet noise reminded me that I
was parched with thirst. The pallor of first dawn was now coming into
the sky, and the tree tops began to lift and float in an aerial
grayness. I glanced at Marc, and his eyes met mine with a keen
brightness that told me he was yet unwearied. Nevertheless I cried:
Halt, and fall out for breakfast. And with the words I flung
myself down by the brook, thrust my burning face into the babbling
chill of it, and drank luxuriously. Tamin was beside me in an instant;
but Marc slaked his thirst at more leisure, when he had well enjoyed
watching our satisfaction.
We lay for a little, till the sky was touched here and there with
saffron and flying wisps of pink, and we began to see the colour of
grass and leaves. Then we made our meal,a morsel each of the salt
hake which I had clung to through our flight, and some bits of Tamin's
black bread. This bread was wholesome, as I well knew, and to our
hunger it was not unsavoury; but it was of a hardness which the
sea-water had scarce availed to mitigate.
As we ground hastily upon the meagre fare, I felt, rather than
heard, a presence come behind me. I turned my head with a start, and at
the same instant heard a high, plangent voice, close beside us, crying
Woe, woe to Acadie the Fair, for the day of her desolation cometh.
It was an astonishing figure upon which my eyes fell,a figure
which might have been grotesque, but was not. Instead of laughing, my
heart thrilled with a kind of awe. The man was not old,his frame was
erect and strong with manhood; but the long hair hanging about his neck
was white, the long beard streaming upon his half-naked breast was
white. He wore leathern breeches, and the upper portion of his body was
covered only by a cloak of coarse woollen stuff, woven in a staring
pattern of black and yellow. On his head was a rimless cap of plaited
straw, with a high, pointed crown; and this was stuck full of gaudy
flowers and feathers. From the point of the crown rose the stump of
what had been, belike, a spray of goldenrod, broken by a hasty
journeying through the obstructions of the forest. The man's eyes, of a
wild and flaming blue, fixed themselves on mine. In one hand he carried
a white stick, with a grotesque carven head, dyed scarlet, which he
pointed straight at me.
Do you lie down, like cows that chew the cud, when the wolves are
on the trail? demanded that plangent voice.
It's Grûl! cried Tamin, springing to his feet and thrusting a
piece of black bread into the stranger's hand.
But the offering was thrust aside, while those wide eyes flamed yet
more wildly upon me.
They are on the trail, I tell you! he repeated. I hear their feet
even now! Go! Run! Fly! and he stooped, with an ear toward the ground.
But which way should we fly? I asked, half in doubt whether his
warning should be heeded or derided. I could see that neither Marc nor
Tamin had any such doubts. They were on the strain to be off, and only
awaited my word.
Go up the brook, said he, in a lower voice. The first small
stream on your left hand, turn up that a little way, and sofor the
wolves shall this time be balked. But the black wolf's teeth bite deep.
They shall bite upon the throats of the people! he continued, his
voice rising keenly, his white staff, with its grinning scarlet head,
waving in strange, intricate curves. We were already off, making at
almost full speed up the brook. Glancing back, I saw the fantastic form
running to and fro over the ground where we had lain; and when the
trees hid him we heard those ominous words wailed slowly over and over
with the reiterance of a tolling bell:
Woe, woe for Acadie the Fair, for the day of her desolation
He'll throw them off the trail! said Tamin, confidently.
But how did they ever get on it? queried Marc.
'Tis plain that they have seen or heard us as we passed the strip
of beach! said I, in deep vexation, for I hated to be overreached by
any one in woodcraft. If we outwit them now, it's no thanks to my
tactics, but only to that generous and astonishing madman. You both
seemed to know him. Who, in the name of all the saints, might he be?
What was it you called him, Tamin?
Grûl! replied Tamin; and said no more, discreetly husbanding his
wind. But Marc spoke for him.
I have heard him called no other name but Grûl! Madman he is, at
times, I think. But sane for the most part, and with some touches of a
wisdom beyond the wisdom of men. The guise of madness he wears always;
and the Indians, as well as our own people, reverence him mightily. It
is nigh upon three years since he first appeared in Acadie. He hates
the Black Abbé,who, they say, once did him some great mischief in
some other land than this,and his strange ravings, his prodigious
prophesyings, do something here and there to weaken the Abbé's
influence with our people.
Then how does he evade the good father's wrath? I questioned, in
Oh, said Marc, the good father hates him cordially enough. But
the Indians could not be persuaded, or bullied, or bribed, to lift a
hand against him. They say a Manitou dwells in him.
Maybe they're not far wrong! grunted Tamin.
And now I, like Tamin, found it prudent to spare my wind. But Marc,
whose lungs seemed untiring, spoke from time to time as he went, and
told me certain incidents, now of Grûl's acuteness, now of his gift of
prophecy, now of his fantastic madness. We came at length, after
passing two small rivulets on the right, to the stream on the left
which Grûl had indicated. It had a firm bed, wherein our footsteps left
no trace, and we ascended it for perhaps a mile, by many windings.
Then, with crafty care, we crept up from the stream, in such a fashion
as to leave no mark of our divergence if, as I thought not likely, our
pursuers should come that way. After that we fetched a great circuit,
crossed the parent brook, and shortly before noon judged that we might
account ourselves secure. Where a tiny spring bubbled beneath a granite
boulder and trickled away north toward the Fundy shore, we stopped to
munch black bread and the remnant of the fish. We rested for an
hour,Tamin and I sleeping, while Marc, who protested that he felt no
motion toward slumber, kept watch. When he roused us, we set off
pleasantly refreshed, our faces toward Shulie.
Till late that night we journeyed, having a clear moon to guide us.
Coming at length to the edge of a small lake set with islands, Here,
said I, is the place where we may sleep secure!
We stripped, took our bundles on our heads, and swam out into the
shining stillness. We swam past two islets, and landed upon one which
caught my fancy. There we lay down in a bed of sweet-smelling fern, and
were well content. As we supped on Tamin's good black bread, two loons
laughed to each other out on the silver surface. We saw their black,
watchful heads, moving slowly. Then we slept. It was high day when we
awoke. The bread was now scarce, so we husbanded it, and made such good
speed all day that while it wanted yet some hours of sunset we came out
upon a bluff's edge and saw below us the wash and roll of Fundy. We
were some way west of Shulie, but not far, Tamin said, from the house
of his good friend with the good boat.
To this house we came within the hour. It was a small, home-like
cabin, among apple trees, in a slant clearing that overhung a narrow
creek. There, by a little jetty, I rejoiced to see the boat. The man of
the house, one Beaudry, was in the woods looking for his cow, but the
goodwife made us welcome. When Beaudry came in he and Tamin fell on
each other's necks. And I found, too, that the name of Jean de Briart,
with something of his poor exploits, was not all unknown in the cabin.
How well we supped that night, on fresh shad well broiled, and fresh
sweet barley bread, and thin brown buckwheat cakes! It was settled at
once that Beaudry should put us over to de Ramezay's camp with the
first of the morrow's tide. Then, over our pipes, sitting under the
apple tree by the porch, we told our late adventures. I say we, but
Tamin told them, and gave them a droll colouring which delighted me. It
must have tickled Marc's fancy, too, for I took note that he let his
pipe out many times during the story. Beaudry kept crying Hein! and
Bien! and Tiens! in an ecstasy of admiration. The goodwife,
however, was seemingly most touched by the loss of Tamin's knitted cap.
With a face of great concern, as who should say Poor soul! she jumped
up, ran into the house, was gone a few moments, and returned beaming
V'la! she cried; and stuck upon Tamin's wiry black head a bran-new
cap of red wool.
Chapter VII. The Commander is
Next day we set out at a good hour, and came without further
adventure to Chignecto. Having landed, amid a little swarm of
fishing-boats, we then went straight to de Ramezay's headquarters,
leaving Beaudry at the wharf among his cronies. We crossed a strip of
dyked marsh, whereon were many sleek Acadian cattle cropping the rich
aftermath, and ascended the gentle slope of the uplands. Amid a few
scattered cabins were ranged the tents of the soldiers. Camp fires and
sheaves of stacked muskets gave the bright scene a warlike countenance.
Higher up the hill stood a white cottage, larger than the rest, its
door painted red, with green panels; and from a staff on its gable,
blown out bravely by the wind which ever sweeps those Fundy marshlands,
flapped the white banner with the Lilies of France.
The sentry who challenged us at the foot of the slope knew me,had
once fought under me in a border skirmish,and, saluting with great
respect, summoned a guard to conduct us to headquarters. As we climbed
the last dusty rise and turned in, past the long well-sweep and two
gaunt, steeple-like Lombardy poplars, to the yard before the cottage,
the door opened and the commander himself stood before us. His face lit
up gladly as I stepped forward to greet him, and with great warmth he
sprang to embrace me.
My dear Briart! he cried. I have long expected you!
I am but just returned to Acadie, my dear friend, said I, with no
less warmth than he had evinced, or you would surely have seen me here
to greet you on your coming. But the King's service kept me on the
And even your restless activity, my Jean, cannot put you in two
places at once, said he, as he turned with an air of courteous inquiry
to my companions. Perceiving at once by his dress that Tamin was a
habitant, his eyes rested upon Marc.
My son Marc, Monsieur de Ramezay, said I.
The two bowed, Marc very respectfully, as became a young man on
presentation to a distinguished officer, but de Ramezay with a sudden
and most noticeable coldness. At this I flushed with anger, but the
moment was not one for explanations. I restrained myself; and turning
to Tamin, I said in an altered tone:
And this, de Ramezay, is my good friend and faithful follower,
Tamin Violet, of Canard parish, who desires to enlist for service under
you. More of him, and all to his credit, I will tell you by and by. I
merely commend him to you now as brave, capable, and a good shot!
I have ever need of such! said de Ramezay, quickly. As you
recommend him, he shall serve in Monsieur de Ville d'Avray's company,
which forms my own guard.
Summoning an orderly, he gave directions to this effect. As Tamin
turned to depart with the orderly, both Marc and I stepped up to him
and wrung his hands, and thanked him many times for the courage and
craft which had saved Marc's life as well as the honour of our family.
We'll see you again to-night or in the morning, my Tamin, said
And tell you how goes my talk with the commander, added I,
And for the boat we wrecked, continued Marc, why, of course, we
won't remain in your debt for a small thing like that; though for the
great matter, and for your love, we are always your debtors gladly!
And in the King's uniform, said I, cutting short Tamin's attempted
protestations, even the Black Abbé will not try to molest you.
I turned again to de Ramezay, who was waiting a few paces aside, and
said, with a courtesy that was something formal after the warmth of our
Your pardon, de Ramezay! But Tamin has gone through much with us
and for us. And now, my son and I would crave an undisturbed
conversation with you.
At once, and without a word, he conducted us into his private room,
where he invited us to be seated. As we complied, he himself remained
standing, with every sign of embarrassment in his frank and fearless
countenance. I had ever liked him well. Good cause to like him, indeed,
I had in my heart, for I had once stood over his body in a frontier
skirmish, and saved his scalp from the knives of the Onondagas. But now
my anger was hot against him, for it was plain to me that he had lent
ear to some slanders against Marc. For a second or two there was a
silence, then Marc sprang to his feet.
Perhaps if I stand, said he, coldly, Monsieur de Ramezay will do
us the honour of sitting.
De Ramezay's erect figurea very soldierly and imposing figure it
was in its uniform of white and goldstraightened itself haughtily for
an instant. Then he began, but with a stammering tongue:
I bitterly regretit grieves me,it pains me to even hint it,
and he kept his eyes upon the floor as he spoke,but your son, my
dear friend, is accused
Here I broke in upon him, springing to my feet.
Stop! said I, sternly.
He looked at me with a face of sorrowful inquiry, into which a tinge
of anger rose slowly.
Remember, I continued, that whatever accusation or imputation you
make now, I shall require you to prove beyond a peradventure,or to
make good with your sword against mine! My son is the victim of a vile
conspiracy. He is
Then he is loyal, you say, to France? interrupted de
I say, said I, in a voice of steel, that he has done nothing that
his father, a soldier of France, should blush to tell,nothing that an
honest gentleman should not do. My voice softened a little as I
noticed the change in his countenance. And oh, Ramezay, I continued,
had any man an hour ago told me that you would condemn a son of
mine unheard,that you, on the mere word of a false priest or his
wretched tools, would have believed that a son of Jean de Mer could be
a traitor, I would have driven the words down his throat for a black
lie, a slander on my friend!
De Ramezay was silent for a moment, his eyes fixed upon the floor.
Then he lifted his head.
I was wrong. Forgive me, my friend! said he, very simply. I see
clearly that I ought to have held the teller of those tales in
suspicion, knowing of him what I do know. And now, since you give me
your word the tales are false, they are false. Pardon me, I beg of you,
Monsieur! he added, turning to Marc and holding out his hand.
Marc bowed very low, but appeared not to see the hand.
If you have heard, Monsieur de Ramezay, said he, that, before it
was made plain that France would seek to recover Acadie out of English
hands, I, a mere boy, urged my fellow Acadians to accept the rule in
good faith;if you have heard that I then urged them not to be misled
to their own undoing by an unscrupulous and merciless intriguer who
disgraces his priestly office;if you have heard that, since then, I
have cursed bitterly the corruption at Quebec which is threatening New
France with instant ruin,you have heard but truly!
De Ramezay bit his lips and flushed slightly. Marc was not making
the situation easier; but I could scarce blame him. Our host, however,
motioned us to our seats, taking his own chair immediately that he saw
us seated. For my own part, my anger was quite assuaged. I hastened to
clear the atmosphere.
Let me tell you the whole story, Ramezay, said I, and you will
understand. But first let me say that my son is wholly devoted to the
cause of France. His former friendly intercourse with the English, a
boyish matter, he brought to an utter end when the war came this way.
And let me say, interrupted de Ramezay, manfully striving to amend
his error, that when one whom I need not name was filling my ear with
matter not creditable to a young man named Marc de Mer, it did not come
at all to my mindand can you wonder?that the person so spoken of
was a son of my Briart, of the man who had so perilled his own life to
save mine! I thought your son was but a child. It was thus that the
accusations were allowed to stick in my mind,which I do most heartily
repent of! And for which I again crave pardon!
I beg of you, Monsieur, that you will think no more of it! said
Marc, heartily, being by this quite appeased.
Then with some particularity I told our story,not omitting Marc's
visit to his little Puritan at Annapolis, whereat de Ramezay smiled,
and seemed to understand something which had before been dark to him.
When the Black Abbé came upon the scene (I had none of our host's
reluctance to mention the Abbé's name!) de Ramezay's brows gathered
gloomily. But he heard the tale through with breathless attention up to
the point of our landing at Chignecto.
And now, right glad am I that you are here, he exclaimed,
stretching out a hand to each of us. The frank welcome that illuminated
the strong lines of his face left no more shadow of anger in our
And here are the Abbé's precious documents! said I, fetching forth
De Ramezay examined both letters with the utmost care.
The reward, he said presently, with a dry smile, is on a scale
that savours of Quebec rather more than of thrifty New England. When
Boston holds the purse-strings, information is bought cheaper than
that! As for the signature, it is passable. But I fear it would scarce
satisfy Master Apthorp!
I thought as much, said I, though I have seen Mascarene's
signature but once.
De Ramezay fingered the paper, and held it up to the light.
But a point which will interest you particularly, Monsieur, he
continued, addressing Marc, is the fact that this paper was made in
It is gratifying to know that, Monsieur! replied Marc, with his
It would be embarrassing to some people, said de Ramezay, if they
knew we were aware of it. But I may say here frankly that they must not
know it. You will readily understand that my hands are something less
than free. As things go now at Quebec, there are methods used which I
cannot look upon with favour, and which I must therefore seem not to
see. I am forced to use the tools which are placed in my hands. This
priest of whom you speak is a power in Acadie. He is thought to be
indispensable to our cause. He will do the things that, alas, have to
be done, but which no one else will do. And I believe he does love
France,he is surely sincere in that. But he rests very heavily,
methinks, on the conscience of his good bishop at Quebec, who, but for
the powers that interfere, would call him to a sharp account. I tell
you all this so that you will see why I must not charge the Abbé with
this villany of his. I am compelled to seem ignorant of it.
I assured him that I apprehended the straits in which he found
himself, and would be content if he would merely give the Abbé to
understand that Marc was not to be meddled with.
Of course, said Marc, at this point, I wish to enter active
service, with Father; and I shall therefore be, for the most part,
beyond the good Abbé's reach. But we have business at Grand Pré and
Canard that will hold us there a week or thereabouts; and it is
annoying to walk in the hourly peril of being tomahawked and scalped
for a spy!
I'll undertake to secure you in this regard, laughed de Ramezay;
and in return, perchance I may count on your support when I move
against Annapolis, as my purpose is to do ere many weeks!
Assuredly! said Marc, if my father have made for me no other
plans! And he turned to me for my word in the matter.
As it chanced, this was exactly as I had purposed, which I made at
once to appear. It was presently agreed, therefore, that we should
tarry some days at Chignecto, returning thereafter to despatch our
affairs at home and await de Ramezay's summons. As the Commander's
guests we were lodged in his own quarters, and Tamin was detailed to
act as our orderly. The good Beaudry, with his good boat, was sent home
not empty-handed to his goodwife near Shulie, with instructions to come
again for us in five days. And Tamin, having now no more need of it,
sent back to Madame Beaudry, with best compliments, her knitted cap of
Chapter VIII. The Black Abbé Comes to
Of the pleasant but something irrelevant matter of how merrily we
supped that night with de Ramezay and his officers,many of whom I
knew, all of whom knew me or my adventurous repute,I will not linger
to discourse. Nor of the costly dainties from France which enriched the
board, side by side with fair salmon from the Tantramar and
bursting-fat plover from the Joli-Coeur marshes. Nor of the good red
wine of Burgundy which so enhanced the relish of those delectable
birds,and of which I might perhaps have drunk more sparingly had good
Providence but made me more abstemious. Let it suffice to say, there
was wit enough to spice plainer fare, and courtesy that had shone at
Versailles. The long bare room, with its low, black-raftered ceiling
and polished floor, its dark walls patterned with shelves, was lit by
the smoky flames of two-score tallow candles.
By and by chairs were pushed back, the company sat with less
ceremony, the air grew clouded with the blue vapours of the Virginia
weed, and tongues wagged something more loosely than before. There were
songs,catches from the banks of Rhone, rolling ballads of our own
voyageurs. A young captain quite lately from Versailles, the Sieur de
Ville d'Avray, had an excellent gift of singing.
But now, just when the Sieur de Ville d'Avray was rendering, with
most commendable taste and spirit, the ballade of Frère Lubin, there
came an interruption.
Il presche en theologien,
Mais pour boire de belle eau claire,
Faictes la boire a vostre chien,
Frère Lubin ne le peult faire,
sang the gay voice,we all nodding our heads in intent approval, or
even, maybe, seeing that the wine was generous, tapping the measure
openly with our fingers. But suddenly, though there was no noise to
draw them, all eyes turned to the doorway, and the singer paused in his
song. I tipped my chair back into the shadow of a shelf, as did Marc,
who sat a little beyond me. For the visitor, who thus boldly entered
unannounced, was none other than the Black Abbé himself.
[Illustration: For the visitor was none other than the Black Abbé
I flung de Ramezay a swift glance of anticipation, which he caught
as he arose in his place to greet the new-comer. On the faces around
the table I took note of an ill-disguised annoyance. The Abbé, it was
plain, found small favour in that company. But to do him justice, he
seemed but little careful to court favour. He stood in the doorway,
frowning, a piercing and bitter light in his close-set eyes. He waited
for de Ramezay to come forward and give him welcome,which de Ramezay
presently did, and would have led him to a seat at the table.
But No! said the grim intruder. With all thanks for your
courtesy, Monsieur, I have no time, nor am I in the temper, for
revellings. When I have said my word to you I will get me to the house
of one of my flock, and sup plainly, and take what rest I may, for at
dawn I must set out for the Shubenacadie. There is much to be done, and
few to do it, and the time grows short! and he swept a look of
reprimand about the circle.
Would you speak with me in private, Father? asked de Ramezay, with
It is not necessary, Monsieur! replied the Abbé. I have but to
say that I arrested the pestilent young traitor, Marc de Mer, on his
father's estate at Canard, and left him under guard while I went to
attend to other business. I found upon his person clear proofs of his
treachery, which would have justified his hanging on the instant. But I
preferred that you should be the judge!
You did well! said de Ramezay, gravely. I must ask even you,
Monsieur l'Abbé, to remember on all occasions that I, and I only, am
the judge, so long as I remain in Acadie!
To this rebuke, courteous though it was, the priest vouchsafed no
reply but a slight smile, which uncovered his strong yellow teeth on
one side, like a snarl. He continued his report as if there had been no
In my brief absence his father, with some disaffected habitants,
deceived my faithful followers by a trick, and carried off the
prisoner. But I have despatched a strong party on the trail of the
fugitives. They will certainly be captured, and brought at once
But at this point his voice failed him. His face worked violently
with mingled rage and amazement, and following his gaze I saw Marc
standing and bowing with elaborate courtesy.
They are already here, Sir Abbé, said he, having made haste that
they might give you welcome!
A ripple of laughter went around the table, as the company,
recovering from some moments of astonishment, began to understand the
situation. I, too, rose to my feet, smiling expectantly. The priest's
narrow eyes met mine for a second, with a light that was akin to
madness. Then they shifted. But he found his voice again.
I denounce that man as a proved spy and traitor! he shouted,
striding forward, and pointing a yellow finger of denunciation across
the table at Marc, while the revellers over whom he leaned made way for
him resentfully. I demand his instant arrest.
Gently, Monsieur l'Abbé, said de Ramezay. These are serious
charges to bring against French gentlemen, and friends of the
Commander; have you proofssuch as will convince me after the closest
scrutiny? he added, with unmistakable significance.
I have myself seen the proofs, I tell you, snarled the Abbé,
beginning to exert more self-control, but still far unlike the cool,
inexorable, smiling cynic who had so galled my soul with his
imperturbability when I lay in his bonds beside the Forge.
I would fain see them, too, insisted de Ramezay.
The priest glared at me, and then at Marc, baffled.
I have them not, said he, in his slow and biting tones; but if
you would do your duty as the King's servant, Monsieur de Ramezay, and
arrest yonder spy, you would doubtless find the proofs upon his person,
if he has not taken the pains to dispose of them. Upon this insolent
speech, de Ramezay took his seat, and left the priest standing alone.
When, after a pause, he spoke, his voice was stern and masterful, as if
he were addressing a contumacious servant, though he retained the forms
of courtesy in his phrases.
Monsieur, said he, when I wish to learn my duty, it will not be
the somewhat well-known Abbé la Garne whom I will ask to teach me. I
must require you not to presume further upon the sacredness of your
office. Your soutane saves you from being called to account by the
gentleman whose honour you have aspersed. Monsieur Marc de Mer is the
son of my friend. He is also one of my aides-de-camp. I beg that you
will understand me without more words when I say that I have examined
the whole matter to which you refer. For your own credit, press it no
further. I trust you catch my meaning!
On the contrary, said the Abbé, coolly, being by this time quite
himself again, and seemingly indifferent to the derisive faces
confronting himon the contrary, your meaning altogether escapes me,
Monsieur. All that I understand of your singular behaviour is what the
Governor and the Intendant, not I their unworthy instrument, will be
called to pass judgment upon.
I will trouble you to understand also, Sir Priest, said de
Ramezay, thoroughly aroused, his tones biting like acid, that if this
young man is further troubled by any of your faithful Shubenacadie
flock, I will hold you responsible; and the fact that you are useful,
having fewer scruples than trouble a mere layman, shall not save you.
Be not disturbed for your spy, Monsieur, sneered the Abbé, now
finely tranquil. I wash my hands of all responsibility in regard to
him; look you to that.
For the space of some seconds there was silence all about that table
of feasting, while the Abbé swept a smiling, bitter glance around the
room. Last, his eyes rested upon mine and leaped with a sudden light of
triumph, so that one might have thought not he but I had been worsted
in the present encounter. Then he turned on his heel and went out,
scornful of courtesy.
A clamour of talk arose upon this most cherished departure; but I
heard it as in a dream, being wrapped up in wonder as to the meaning of
that look of triumph.
Has the Black Abbé cast a spell upon you, Father? I heard Marc
inquiring presently. Whereupon I came to myself with a kind of start,
and made merry with the rest of them.
It was late when Marc and I went to the little chamber where our
pallets were stretched. There we found Tamin awaiting us. He was in a
sweat of fear.
What is it, my Tamin? asked Marc.
The Black Abbé, he grunted, the drollness all chased out of the
little wrinkles about his eyes.
Well, said I, impatiently. The Black Abbé; and what of him? He is
repenting to-night that he ever tried conclusions with me, I'll wager.
I spoke the more confidently because in my heart I was still
troubled to know the meaning of the Abbé's glance.
Hein, said Tamin. He lookedhis eyes would lift a scalp! I was
standing in the light just under the window, when of a sudden the door
closed; and there he stood beside me, with no sound, and still as a
heron. He looked at me with those two narrow eyes, as if he would eat
my heart out: and I stood there, and shook. Then, of a sudden, his face
changed. It became like a good priest's face when he says the prayer
for the soul that is passing; and he looked at me with solemn eyes. And
I was yet more afraid. 'It is not for me to rebuke you,' he said,
speaking so that each word seemed an hour long; 'red runs your blood on
the deep snow beneath the apple tree.' And before I could steady my
teeth to ask him what he meant, he was gone. 'Red runs your blood
beneath the apple tree.' What did he mean by that?
Oh, said I, speaking lightly to encourage him, though in truth the
words fell on me with a chill, he said it to spoil your sleep and
poison your content. It was a cunning revenge, seeing that he dare not
lift a hand to punish you otherwise.
To be sure, my Tamin, that is all of it, added Marc. Who has ever
heard that the Black Abbé was a prophet? Faith, 'tis as Father says, a
cunning and a devilish revenge. But you can balk it finely by paying no
heed to it.
Tamin's face had brightened mightily, but he still looked serious.
Do you think so? he exclaimed with eagerness. 'Tis as you say
indeed,the Black Abbé is no prophet. Had it been Grûl, now, that said
it, there were something to lie awake for, eh?
Yes, indeed, if Grûl had said it, muttered Marc, contemplating him
But for me, I was something impatient now to be asleep.
Think no more of it, my friend, said I, and dismissed him. Yet
sleepy as I was, I thought of it, and even I must have begun to dream
of it. The white sheet of moonlight that lay across my couch became a
drift of snow with blood upon it, and the patterned shadow upon the
wall an apparition leaning over,when out of an immense distance, as
it were, I heard Marc's voice.
Father, he cried softly, are you awake?
Yes, dear lad, said I. What is it?
I have been wondering, said he, why the Black Abbé looked at you,
not me, in his going. He had such a countenance as warns me that he
purposes some cunning stroke. But I fear his enmity has turned from me
Well, lad, it was surely I that balked him. What would you have? I
Oh, said he, heavily, that I should have turned that bloodhound
onto your trail!
Marc, if it will comfort you to know it, carry this in your
memory, said I, with a cheerful lightness, like froth upon the strong
emotion that flooded my heart. When the Black Abbé strikes at me, it
will be through you. He knows where I am like to prove most
'Tis all right, then, so as we sink or swim together, Father, said
That's the way of it now, dear lad! Sweet sleep to you, and dreams
of red hair! said I. And I turned my face drowsily to the wall.
Chapter IX. The Abbé Strikes Again
The few days of our stay at Chignecto were gay and busy ones; and
all through them hummed the wind steadily across the pale green
marshes, and buffeted the golden-rod on our high shoulder of upland. De
Ramezay gratified me by making much of Marc. The three of us rode daily
abroad among the surrounding settlements. And I spent many hours
planning with de Ramezay a fort which should be built on the site of
this camp, in case the coming campaign should fail to drive the English
out of Acadie. De Ramezay, as was ever his wont, was full of confidence
in the event. But of the sorry doings at Quebec, of the plundering
hands upon the public purse, of the shamelessness in high places, he
hinted to me so broadly that I began to see much ground for Marc's
misgivings. And my heart cried out for my fair country of New France.
On the fifth day of our stay,it was a Wednesday, and very early in
the morning,the good Beaudry with his good boat came for us. The tide
serving at about two hours after sunrise, we set out then for Grand
Pré, well content with the jade Fortune whose whims had so far favoured
us. De Ramezay and his officers were at the wharf-end to bid us
God-speed; and as I muse upon it now they may have thought curiously of
it to see the loving fashion in which both Marc and I made a point to
embrace our faithful Tamin. But that is neither here nor there, so long
as we let him plainly understand how our hearts were towards him.
The voyage home was uneventful, save that we met contrary winds,
whereby it fell that not until evening of the second day did we come
into the Gaspereau mouth and mark the maids of Grand Pré carrying water
from the village well.
The good Beaudry we paid to his satisfaction, and left to find
lodging in one of the small houses by the water side; while Marc and I
took our way up the long street with its white houses standing amid
their apple trees. Having gone perhaps four or five furlongs, returning
many a respectful salutation from the doorways as we passed, we then
turned up the hill by a little lane which was bordered stiffly with the
poplar trees of Lombardy, and in short space we came to a pleasant
cottage in a garden, under shadow of the tall white church which stood
sentinel over the Grand Pré roofs. The cottage had some apple trees
behind it, and many late roses blooming in the garden. It was the home
of the good Curé, Father Fafard, most faithful and most gentle of
With Father Fafard we lodged that night, and for some days
thereafter. The Curé's round face grew unwontedly stern and anxious as
we told him our adventures, and rehearsed the doings of the Black Abbé.
He got up from time to time and paced the room, muttering onceAlas
that such a man should discredit our holy office! What wrath may he not
bring down upon this land!and more to a like purport.
My own house in Grand Pré, where Marc had inhabited of late, and
where I was wont to pay my flitting visits, I judged well to put off my
hands for the present, foreseeing that troublous times were nigh. I
transferred it in Father Fafard's presence to a trusty villager by name
Marquette, whom I could count upon to transfer it back to me as soon as
the skies should clear again. I knew that if, by any fortune of war,
English troops should come to be quartered in Grand Pré, they would be
careful for the property of the villagers; but the house and goods of
an enemy under arms, such would belike fare ill. I collected, also,
certain moneys due me in the village, for I knew that the people were
prosperous, and I did not know how long their prosperity might
continue. This done, Marc and I set out for my own estate beside the
yellow Canard. There I had rents to gather in, but no house to put off
my hands. At the time when Acadie was ceded to England, a generation
back, the house of the de Mers had been handed over to one of the most
prosperous of our habitants, and with that same family it had ever
since remained, yielding indeed a preposterously scant rental, but
untroubled by the patient conqueror.
My immediate destination was the Forge, where I expected to find
Babin awaiting me with news and messages. At the Forge, too, I would
receive payment from my tenants, and settle certain points which, as I
had heard, were at dispute amongst them.
As we drew near the Forge, through the pleasant autumn woods, it
wanted about an hour of noon. I heard, far off, the muffled thunder of
a cock-partridge drumming. But there was no sound of hammer on clanging
anvil, no smoke rising from the wide Forge chimney; and when we
entered, the ashes were dead cold. It was plain there had been no fire
in the forge that day.
Where can Babin be? I muttered in vexation. If he got my message,
there can be no excuse for his absence.
I'll wager, Father, said Marc, that if he is not off on some
errand of yours, then he is sick abed, or dead. Nought besides would
keep Babin when you called him.
I went to a corner and pulled a square of bark from a seemingly
hollow log up under the rafters. In the secret niche thus revealed was
a scrap of birch bark scrawled with some rude characters of Babin's,
whence I learned that my trusty smith was sick of a sharp inflammation.
I passed the scrap over to Marc, and felt again in the hollow.
What, in the name of all the saints, is this? I exclaimed, drawing
out a short piece of peeled stick. A portion of the stick was cut down
to a flat surface, and on this was drawn with charcoal a straight line,
having another straight line perpendicular to it, and bisecting it. At
the top of the perpendicular was a figure of the sun, thus:
It's a message from Grûl, said Marc, the instant that his eyes
fell upon it.
H'm; and how do you know that? said I, turning it over curiously
in my fingers.
Well, replied Marc, the peeled stick is Grill's sign manual. What
does he say?
He seems to say that he is going to build a windmill, said I, with
great seriousness; but doubtless you will give this hieroglyphic quite
a different interpretation.
Marc laughed,yes, laughed audibly. And it is possible that his
Penobscot grandmother turned in her grave. It was good to know that the
lad could laugh, which I had begun to doubt; but it was puzzling
to me to hear him laugh at the mere absurdity which I had just uttered,
when my most polished witticisms, of which I had shot off many of late
at Chignecto, and in conversation with good Father Fafard, had never
availed to bring more than a phantom smile to his lips. However, I made
no comment, but handed him Grûl's sign manual, as he chose to call
Why, Father, said he, you understand it well enough, I know. This
is plainly the sun at high noon. At high noon, therefore, we may surely
expect to see Grûl. He has been here but a short time back; for see,
the wood is not yet dry.
Sapristi! said I, do you call that the sun, lad? It is very much
like a windmill.
How Marc might have retorted upon me, I know not; for at the moment,
though it yet wanted much of noon, the fantastic figure of the
madmanif he were a madmansped into the Forge. He stopped abruptly
before us and scrutinized us for some few seconds in utter silence, his
eyes glittering and piercing like sword points. His long white hair and
beard were disordered with haste, the flowers and feathers in his
pointed cap were for the most part broken, even as when we had last
seen him, and his gaudy mantle was somewhat befouled with river mud.
Yet such power was there in his look and in his gesture, that when he
stretched out his little white staff toward me and said Come, I had
much ado to keep from obeying him without question. Yet this I would
not permit myself, as was natural.
Whither? I questioned. And for what purpose?
By this time he was out at the door, but he stopped. Giving me a
glance of scorn he turned to Marc, and stretched out his staff.
Come, he said. And in a breath he was gone, springing with
incredible swiftness and smoothness through the underbrush.
We must follow, Father! cried Marc; and in the same instant was
For my own part, it was sorely against me to be led by the nose, and
thus blindly, by the madmanwhom I now declared certainly to be mad.
But Marc had gone, so I had no choice, as I conceived it, but to stand
by the lad. I went too. And seeing that I had to do it, I did it well,
and presently overtook them.
What is this folly? I asked angrily, panting a little, I confess.
But Marc signed to me to be silent. I obeyed, though with ill enough
grace, and ran on till my mouth was like a board, my tongue like wool.
Then the grim light of the forest whitened suddenly before us, and our
guide stopped. Instinctively we imitated his motions, as he stole
forward and peered through a screen of leafage. We were on a bank
overlooking the Canard. A little below, and paddling swiftly towards
the river-mouth, were two canoes manned with the Abbé's Micmacs. In the
bottom of one canoe lay a little fair-haired boy, bound.
My God! cried Marc, under his breath, 'tis the child! 'tis little
Grûl turned his wild eyes upon us.
The power of the dog! he muttered, the power of the dog!
We must get a canoe and follow them! exclaimed Marc, in great
agitation, turning to go, and looking at me with passionate appeal. But
before I could speak, to assure him of my aid and support, Grûl
Wait! he said, with meaning emphasis, thrusting his little staff
almost in the lad's face. Come! and he started up along the river
bank, going swiftly but with noiseless caution. I expected Marc to
demur, but not so. He evidently had a childlike faith in this fantastic
being. He followed without a protest. Needless to say, I followed also.
But all this mystery, and this blind obedience, and this lordly lack of
explanation, were little to my liking.
We had not gone above half a mile when Grûl stopped, and bent his
mad head to listen. Such an attitude of listening I had never seen
before. The feathers and stalks in his cap seemed to lean forward like
a horse's ears; his hair and beard took on a like inclination of
intentness; even the grim little scarlet head upon his staff seemed to
listen with its master. And Marc did as Grûl did. Then came a sound as
of a woman weeping, very close at hand. Grûl motioned us to pass him,
and creep forward. We did so, lying down and moving as softly as
lizards. But I turned to see what our mysterious guide was doingand
lo, he was gone. He might have faded into a summer exhalation, so
complete and silent was his exit.
This was too much. Only my experience as a woods-fighter, my
instinctive caution, kept me from springing to my feet and calling him.
But my suspicions were all on fire. I laid a firm hand of detention on
Marc's arm, and whispered:
He's gone; 'tis a trap.
Marc looked at me in some wonder, and more impatience.
No trap, Father; that's Grûl's way,
Well, I whispered, we had better go another way, I'm thinking.
As I spoke, the woman's weeping came to us more distinctly.
Something in the sound seemed to catch Marc's heart, and his face
'Tis all right, I tell you, Father! came from between his teeth.
Come! come! Oh, I know the voice! And he crept forward resolutely.
And, of course, I followed.
Chapter X. A Bit of White Petticoat
We had not advanced above a score of paces when, peering stealthily
between the stems of herbs and underbrush, we saw what Grûl had desired
us to see. Two more canoes were drawn up at the water's edge. Four
savages were in sight, sprawling in indolent attitudes under the shade
of a wide water-maple. In their midst, at the foot of the tree, lay a
woman bound securely. She was huddled together in a posture of hopeless
despair; and a dishevelled glory of gold-red tresses fell over her face
to hide it. She lay in a moveless silence. Yet the sound of weeping
continued, and Marc, gripping my hand fiercely, set his mouth to my ear
'Tis my own maid! 'Tis Prudence!
Then I saw where she sat, a little apart, a slender maid with a lily
face, and hair glowing dark red in the full sun that streamed upon her.
She was so tied to another tree that she might have no comfort or
companionship of her sister,for I needed now no telling to convey it
to me that the lady with the hidden face and the unweeping anguish was
Mistress Mizpah Hanford, mother of the child whom I had just seen
I grieved for Marc, whose eyes stared out upon the weeping maid from
a face that had fallen to the hue of ashes. But I praised the saints
for sending to our aid this madman Grûl,whom, in my heart, I now
graciously absolved from the charge of madness. Seeing the Black Abbé's
hand in the ravishment of these tender victims, I made no doubt to
cross him yet again, and my heart rose exultantly to the enterprise.
Cheer up, lad, I whispered to Marc. Come away a little till we
I showed my confidence in my face, and I could see that he
straightway took heart thereat. Falling back softly for a space of
several rods, we paused in a thicket to take counsel. As soon as we
could speak freely, Marc exclaimed, They may go at any moment, Father.
We must haste.
No, said I, they'll not go till the cool of the day. The others
went because they have plainly been ordered to part the child from his
mother. It is a most cunning and most cruel malice that could so order
It is my enemy's thrust at me, said Marc. How did he know that I
loved the maid?
His eyes are in every corner of Acadie, said I; but we will foil
him in this as in other matters. Marc, my heart is stirred mightily by
that poor mother's pain. I tell you, lad,and I looked diligently to
the priming of my pistols as I spoke,I tell you I will not rest till
I give the little one back into her arms.
But Marc, as was not unnatural, thought now rather of his lily maid
sobbing under the tree.
Yes, Father, said he, but what is to be done now, to save
Prudence and Mizpah?
Of course, dear lad, I answered, smilingly, that is just what we
are here for. But let me consider. And sitting down upon a fallen
tree, I buried my face in my hands. Marc, the while, waited with what
patience he could muster, relying wholly upon my conduct of the
business, but fretting for instant action.
We were well armed (each with a brace of pistols and a broadsword,
the forest being no place for rapiers), and I accounted that we were an
overmatch for the four redskins. But there was much at stake, with
always the chance of accident. And, moreover, these Indians were allies
of France, wherefore I was most unwilling to attack them from the
advantage of an ambush. These various considerations decided me.
Marc, we'll fight them if needful, said I, lifting up my head.
But I'm going to try first the conclusions of peace. I will endeavour
to ransom the prisoners. These Micmacs are mightily avaricious, and may
yield. It goes against me to attack them from an ambush, seeing that
they are of our party and servants of King Louis.
At this speech Marc looked very ill content.
But, Father, he objected, shall we forego the advantage of a
surprise? We are but two to their four, and we put the whole issue at
hazard. And as for their being of our party, they bring shame upon our
party, and greatly dishonour the service of King Louis.
Nevertheless, dear lad, said I, they have their claim upon
us,not lightly to be overlooked, in my view of it. But hear my plan.
You will go back to where we lay a moment ago, and there be ready with
your pistols. I will approach openly by the water side and enter into
parley with them. If I can buy the captives, well and good. If they
deny me, we quarrel. You will know when to play your part. I am
satisfied of that. I shall feel safe under cover of your pistols, and
shall depend upon you to account for two of the four. Only, do not be
Oh, I'm cool as steel now, Father, said Marc. But I like not this
plan. The danger is all yours. And the quarrel is mine. Let us go into
it side by side!
Chut, lad! said I. Your quarrel's my quarrel, and the danger is
not more for me than for you, as you won't be long away from me when
the fight begins,if it comes to a fight. And further, my plan is both
an honest one and like to succeed. Come, let us be doing!
Marc seized my hand, and gave me a look of pride and love which put
a glow at my heart. You know best, Father, said he. And turning away,
he crept toward his post. For me, I made a circuit, in leisurely
fashion, and came out upon the shore behind a point some rods below the
spot where the savages lay. Then I walked boldly up along the water's
The Indians heard me before I came in view, and were on their feet
when I appeared around the point. They regarded me with black
suspicion, but no hostile movement, as I strode straight up to them and
greeted, fairly enough but coldly, a tall warrior, whom I knew to be
one of the Black Abbé's lieutenants. He grunted, and asked me who I
You know well enough who I am, said I, seating myself carelessly
upon a rock, seeing that you had a chief hand in the outrages put upon
me the other day by that rascally priest of yours!
At this the chief stepped up to me with an air of menace, his
high-cheeked, coppery face scowling with wrath. But I eyed him
steadily, and raised my hand with a little gesture of authority.
Wait! said I; and he paused doubtfully. I have no grudge against you
for that, I went on. You but obeyed your master's orders faithfully,
as you will doubtless obey mine a few weeks hence, when I take command
of your rabble and try to make you of some real service to the King. I
am one of the King's captains.
At this the savage looked puzzled, while his fellows grunted in
What you want? he asked bluntly.
I looked at him for some moments without replying. Then I glanced at
the form of Mizpah Hanford, still unmoving, the face still hidden under
that pathetic splendour of loosened hair. Prudence I could not catch
view of, by reason of another tree which intervened. But the sound of
her weeping had ceased.
I am ready to ransom these prisoners of yours, said I.
The savages glanced furtively at each other, but the coppery masks
of their features betrayed nothing.
Not for ransom, said the chief, with a dogged emphasis.
I opened my eyes wide. You astonish me! said I. Then how will
they profit you? If you wanted their scalps, those you might have taken
At that word, revealing that I knew whence they came, I took note of
a stir in the silent figure beneath the maple. I felt that her eyes
were watching me from behind that sumptuous veil which her bound hands
could not put aside. I went on, with a sudden sense of exaltation.
Give me these prisoners, I urged, half pleading, half commanding.
They are useless to you except for ransom. I will give you more than
any one else will give you. Tell me your price.
But the savage was obstinate.
Not for ransom, he repeated, shaking his head.
You are afraid of your priest, said I, with slow scorn. He has
told you to bring them to him. And what will you get? A pistole or two
for each! But I will give you gold, good French crowns, ten times as
much as you ever got before!
As I spoke, one of the listening savages got up, his eyes a-sparkle
with eagerness, and muttered something in Micmac, which I could not
understand. But the chief turned upon him so angrily that he slunk
Agree with me now, I said earnestly. Then wait here till I fetch
the gold, and I will deliver it into your hands before you deliver the
But the chief merely turned aside with an air of settling the
question, and repeated angrily:
I say white girls not for ransom.
I rose to my feet.
Fools, you are, said I, and no men, but sick women, afraid of
your rascal priest. I offered to buy when I might have taken! Now I
will take, and you will get no ransom! Unloose their bonds!
And I pointed with my sword, while my left hand rested upon a pistol
in my belt. I am a very pretty shot with my left hand.
Before the words were fairly out of my lips the four sprang at me.
Stepping lightly aside, I fired the pistol full at the chief's breast,
and he plunged headlong. In the next instant came a report from the
edge of the underbrush, and a second savage staggered, groaned, and
fell upon his knees, while Marc leaped down and rushed upon a third.
The remaining one snatched up his musket (the muskets were forgotten at
the first, when I seemed to be alone), and took a hasty aim at me; but
before he could pull the trigger my second pistol blazed in his face,
and he dropped, while his weapon, exploding harmlessly, knocked up some
mud and grass. I saw Marc chase his antagonist to the canoes at the
point of his sword, and prick him lightly for the more speed. But at
the same instant, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the savage whom
Marc's shot had brought down struggle again to his feet and swing his
hatchet. With a yell I was upon him, and my sword point (the point is
swifter than the edge in an emergency) went through his throat with a
sobbing click. But I was just too late. The hatchet had left his hand;
and the flying blade caught Marc in the shoulder. The sword dropped
from his grasp, he reeled, and sat down with a shudder before I could
get to his side. I paid no further heed to the remaining Indian, but
was dimly conscious of him launching a canoe and paddling away in wild
I lifted the dear lad into the shade, and anxiously examined the
'Tis but a flesh wound, said he, faintly; but I found that the
blow had not only grievously gashed the flesh, but split the shoulder
Flesh wound! I muttered. You'll do no more fighting in this
campaign, dear lad, unless they put it off till next spring. This
shoulder will be months in mending.
When it does mend, will my arm be the same as ever? he asked,
somewhat tremulously. 'Tis my sword arm.
Yes, lad, yes; you need not trouble about that, said I. But it is
a case for care.
In the meantime, I was cleansing the wound with salt water which I
had brought from the river in my cap. Now, I cast about in my mind for
a bandage; and I looked at the prisoner beneath the maple. Marc first,
courtesy afterwards, I thought in my heart; for I durst not leave the
wound exposed with so many flies in the air.
The lady's little feet, bound cruelly, were drawn up in part beneath
her dark skirt, but so that a strip of linen petticoat shone under
them. I hesitated, but only for a second. Lifting the poor little feet
softly to one side, with a stammered, Your pardon, Madame, but the
need is instant! I slit off a breadth of the soft white stuff with my
sword. And I was astonished to feel my face flush hotly as I did it.
With strangely thrilling fingers, and the help of my sword edge, I then
set free her feet, and with no more words turned hastily back to Marc,
abashed as a boy.
In a few moments I had Marc's wound softly dressed, for I had some
skill in this rough and ready surgery. I could see by his contracting
pupils that the hurt was beginning to agonize, but the dear lad never
winced under my fingers, and I commended him heartily as a brave
patient. Then placing a bundle of cool ferns under his head for a
pillow, I turned to the captives, from whom there had been never a word
Chapter XI. I Fall a Willing Captive
The lady whose feet I had freed had risen so far as to rest
crouching against the gnarled trunk of the maple tree. The glorious
abundance of her hair she had shaken back, revealing a white face
chiselled like a Madonna's, a mouth somewhat large, with lips curved
passionately, and great sea-coloured eyes which gazed upon me from dark
circles of pain. But the face was drawn now with that wordless and
tearless anguish which makes all utterance seem futile,the anguish of
a mother whose child has been torn from her arms and carried she knows
not whither. Her hands lay in her lap, tight bound; and I noted their
long, white slenderness. I felt as if I should go on my knees to serve
herI who had but just now served her with such scant courtesy as it
shamed my soul to think on. As I bent low to loose her hands, I sought
in my mind for phrases of apology that might show at the same time my
necessity and my contrition. But lifting my eyes for an instant to
hers, I was pierced with a sense of the anguish which was rending her
heart, and straightway I forgot all nice phrases.
What I saidthe words coming from my lips abruptlywas this: I
will find him! I will save him! Be comforted, Madame! He shall be
restored to you!
In great, simple matters, how little explanation seems needed. She
asked not who I was, how I knew, whom I would save, how it was to be
done; and I thrill proudly even now to think how my mere word convinced
her. The tense lines of her face yielded suddenly, and she broke into a
shaking storm of tears, moaning faintly over and overPhilip!Oh, my
Philip!Oh, my boy! I watched her with a great compassion. Then, ere
I could prevent, she amazed me by snatching my hand and pressing it to
her lips. But she spoke no word of thanks. Drawing my hand gently away,
in great embarrassment, I repeated: Believe me, oh, believe me,
Madame; I will save the little one. Then I went to release the
other captive, whom I had well-nigh forgotten the while.
This lily maid of Marc's, this Prudence, I found in a white tremour
of amazement and inquiry. From where she sat in her bonds, made fast to
her tree, she could see nothing of what went on, but she could hear
everything, and knew she had been rescued. It was a fair, frank,
childlike face she raised to mine as I smiled down upon her, swiftly
and gently severing her bonds; and I laid a hand softly on that rich
hair which Marc had praised, being right glad he loved so sweet a maid
as this. I forgot that I must have seemed to her in this act a shade
familiar, my fatherly forty years not showing in my face. So, indeed,
it was for an instant, I think; for she coloured maidenly. But seeing
the great kindness in my eyes, the thought was gone. Her own eyes
filled with tears, and she sprang up and clung to me, sobbing, like a
child just awakened in the night from a bad dream.
Oh, she panted, are they gone? did you kill them? how good you
are! Oh, God will reward you for being so good to us! And she trembled
so she would certainly have fallen if I had not held her close.
You are safe now, dear, said I, soothing her, quite forgetting
that she knew me not as I knew her, and that, if she gave the matter
any heed at all, my speech must have puzzled her sorely. But come with
me! And I led her to where Marc lay in the shade.
The dear lad's face had gone even whiter than when I left him, and I
saw that he had swooned.
The pain and shock have overcome him! I exclaimed, dropping on my
knees to remove the pillow of ferns from under his head. As I did so, I
heard the girl catch her breath sharply, with a sort of moan, and
glancing up, I saw her face all drawn with misery. While I looked in
some surprise, she suddenly threw herself down, and crushed his face in
her bosom, quite shutting off the air, which he, being in a faint,
greatly needed. I was about to protest, when her words stopped me.
Marc, Marc, she moaned, why did you betray us? Oh, why did you
betray us so cruelly? But oh, I love you even if you were a
traitor. Now you are dead (she had not heard me, evidently, saying he
had swooned), now you are dead I may love you, no matter what you did.
Oh, my love, why did you, why did you? And while I listened in
bewilderment, she sprang to her feet, and her blue eyes blazed upon me
You killed him! she hissed at me across his body.
This I remembered afterwards. At the moment I only knew that she was
calling the lad a traitor. That I was well tired of.
Madame! said I, sternly. Do not presume so far as to touch him
It was her turn to look astonished now. Her eyes faltered from my
angry face to Marc's, and back again in a kind of helplessness.
Oh, you do well to accuse him, I went on, bitterly,perhaps not
very relevantly. You shall not dishonour him by touching him, you, who
can believe vile lies of the loyal gentleman who loves you, and has, it
may be, given his life for the girl who now insults him.
The girl's face was now in such a confusion of distress that I
almost, but not quite, pitied her. Ere she could find words to reply,
however, her sister was at her side, catching her hands, murmuring at
Why, Prudence, child, she said, don't you see it all? Didn't you
see it all? How splendidly Marc saved us (I blessed the tact which led
her to put the first credit on Marc)Marc and this most brave and
gallant gentleman? It was one of the savages who struck Marc down,
before my eyes, as he was fighting to save us. That dreadful story was
a lie, Prudence; don't you see?
The maid saw clearly enough, and with a mighty gladness. She was for
throwing herself down again beside the lad to cover his face with
kissesand shut off the air which he so needed. But I thrust her
aside. She had believed Marc a traitor. Marc might forgive her when he
could think for himself. I was in no mind to.
She looked at me with unutterable reproach, her eyes filling and
running over, but she drew back submissively.
I know, she said, I don't deserve that you should let me go near
him. ButI thinkI think he would want me to, sir! See, he wants me!
Oh, let me! And I perceived that Marc's eyes had opened. They saw no
one but the maid, and his left hand reached out to her.
Oh, well! said I, grimly. And thereafter it seemed to me that the
lad got on with less air than men are accustomed to need when they
would make recovery from a swoon.
I turned to Mizpah Hanford; and I wondered what sort of eyes were in
Marc's head, that he should see Prudence when Mizpah was by. Before I
could speak, Mizpah began to make excuses for her sister. With heroic
fortitude she choked back her own grief, and controlled her voice with
a brave simplicity. Coming from her lips, these broken excuses seemed
sufficientthough to this day I question whether I ought to have
relented so readily. She pleaded, and I listened, and was content to
listen so long as she would continue to plead. But there was little I
clearly remember. At last, however, these words, with which she
concluded, aroused me:
How could we any longer refuse to believe, she urged, when the
good priest confessed to us plainly, after much questioning, that it
was Monsieur Marc de Mer who had sent the savages to steal us, and had
told them just the place to find us, and the hour? The savages had told
us the same thing at first, taunting us with it when we threatened them
with Marc's vengeance. You see, Monsieur, they had plainly been
informed by some one of our little retreat at the riverside, and of the
hour at which we were wont to frequent it. Yet we repudiated the tale
with horror. Then yesterday, when the good priest told us the same
thing, with a reluctance which showed his horror of it, what could
we do but believe? Though it did seem to us that if Marc were false
there could be no one true. The priest believed it. He was kind and
pitiful, and tried to get the savages to set us free. He talked most
earnestly, most vehemently to them; but it was in their own barbarous
language, and of course we could not understand. He told us at last
that he could do nothing at the time, but that he would exert himself
to the utmost to get us out of their hands by and by. Then he went
away. And then
And then, Madame, said I, your little one was taken from you at
Why, what do you mean, Monsieur? she gasped, her great
sea-coloured eyes opening wide with fresh terror. At his orders? By
the orders of that kind priest?
Of what appearance was he? I inquired, in return.
Oh, she cried breathlessly, he was square yet spare of figure,
dark-skinned almost as Marc, with a very wide lower face, thin, thin
lips, and remarkably light eyes set close together,a strange, strong
face that might look very cruel if he were angry. He looked angry once
when he was arguing with the Indians.
You have excellently described our bitterest foe, and yours,
Madame, said I, smiling. The wicked Abbé La Garne, the pastor and
master of these poor tools of his whom I would fain have spared, but
could not. And I pointed to the bodies of the three dead savages,
where they lay sprawling in various pathetic awkwardnesses of posture.
She looked, seemed to think of them for the first time, shivered,
and turned away her pitiful eyes.
Those poor wretches, I continued, were sent by this kind priest
to capture you. He knew when and where to find you, because he had
played the eavesdropper when Marc and I were talking of you.
Oh, she cried, clenching her white hands desperately, can there
be a priest so vile?
Ay, and this which you have heard is but a part of his villany. We
have but lately baulked him in a plot whereby he had nearly got Marc
hanged. This, Madame, I promise myself the honour of relating to you by
and by; but now we must get the poor lad removed to some sort of house
And, oh, cried this poor mother, in a voice of piercing anguish
and amazement, as if she could not yet wholly realize it,my boy, my
boy! He is in the power of such a monster!
Be of good heart, I beseech you, said I, with a kind of passion in
my voice. I will find him, I swear I will bring him back to you. I
will wait only so long as to see my own boy in safe hands!
Again that look of trust was turned upon me, thrilling me with
Oh, I trust you, Monsieur! she cried. Then pressing both hands to
her eyes with a pathetic gesture, and thrusting back her hairI knew
you, somehow, for the Seigneur de Briart, she went on, as soon as I
heard you demanding our release. And I immediately felt a great hope
that you would set us free and save Philip. I suppose it is from Marc
that I have learned such confidence, Monsieur!
I bowed, awkward and glad, and without a pretty word to repay her
with,I who have some name in Quebec for well-turned compliment. But
before this woman, who was young enough to be my daughter, I was like a
You are too kind, I stammered. It will be my great ambition to
justify your good opinion of me.
Then I turned away to launch a canoe.
While I busied myself getting the canoe ready, and spreading ferns
in the bottom of it for Marc to lie on, Mizpah walked up and down in a
kind of violent speechlessness, as it were, twisting her long white
hands, but no more giving voice to her grief and her anxiety. Once she
sat down abruptly under the maple tree, and buried her face in her
hands. Her shoulders shook, but not a sound of sob or moan came to my
ears. My heart ached at the sight. I determined that I would give her
work to do, such as would compel some attention on her part.
As soon as the canoe was ready I asked:
Can you paddle, Madame?
She nodded an affirmative, her voice seeming to have gone from her.
Very well, said I, then you will take the bow paddle, will you
Yes, indeed! she found voice to cry, with an eagerness which I
took to signify that she thought by paddling hard to find her child the
sooner. But the manner in which she picked up the paddle, and took her
place, and held the canoe, showed me she was no novice in the art of
canoeing. I now went to lift Marc and carry him to the canoe.
Let me help you, pleaded Prudence, springing up from beside him.
He must be so heavy! Whereat I laughed.
I can walk, I am sure, Father, said Marc, faintly, if you put me
on my feet and steady me.
I doubt it, lad, said I, and 'tis hardly worth while wasting your
little strength in the attempt. Now, Prudence, I went on, turning to
the girl, I want you to get in there in front of the middle bar, and
make a comfortable place for this man's head,if you don't mind taking
a live traitor's head in your lap!
At this the poor girl's face flushed scarlet, as she quickly seated
herself in the canoe; and her lips trembled so that my heart smote me
for the jest.
Forgive me, child. I meant it not as a taunt, but merely as a poor
jest, I hastened to explain. Your sister has told me all, and you
were scarce to blame. Now, take the lad and make him as comfortable as
a man with a shattered shoulder can hope to be. And I laid Marc gently
down so that he could slip his long legs under the bar. He straightway
closed his eyes from sheer weakness; but he could feel his maid bend
her blushing face over his, and his expression was a strangely mingled
one of suffering and content.
Taking my place in the stern of the canoe, I pushed out. The tide
was just beginning to ebb. There was no wind. The shores were green and
fair on either hand. My dear lad, though sore hurt, was happy in the
sweet tenderness of his lily maid. As for me, I looked perhaps overmuch
at the radiant head of Mizpah, at the lithe vigorous swaying of her
long arms, the play of her gracious shoulders as she paddled
strenuously. I felt that it was good to be in this canoe, all of us
together, floating softly down to the little village beside the
Part II. Mizpah
Chapter XII. In a Strange Fellowship
I took Marc and the ladies to the house of one Giraud, a well-tried
and trusted retainer, to whom I told the whole affair. Then I sent a
speedy messenger to Father Fafard, begging him to come at once. The
Curé of Grand Pré was a skilled physician, and I looked to him to treat
Marc's wound better than I could hope to do. My purpose, as I unfolded
it to Marc and to the ladies that same evening, sitting by Marc's
pallet at the open cottage door, was to start the very next day in
quest of the stolen child. I would take but one follower, to help me
paddle, for I would rely not on force but on cunning in this venture. I
would warn some good men among my tenants, and certain others who were
in the counsels of the Forge, to keep an unobtrusive guard about the
place, till Marc's wound should be so far healed that he might go to
Grand Pré. And further, I would put them all in the hands of Father
Fafard, with whom even the Black Abbé would scarce dare to meddle
The Curé, said I, turning to Mizpah, you may trust both for his
wisdom and his goodness. With him you will all be secure till my
Mizpah bowed her head in acknowledgment, and looked at me
gratefully, but could not trust herself to speak. She sat a little
apart, by the door, and was making a mighty effort to maintain her
Then I turned to where Marc's face, pallid but glad, shone dimly on
his pillow. I took his hand, I felt his pulsefor the hundredth time,
perhaps. There was no more fever, no more prostration, than was to be
accounted inevitable from such a wound. So I said:
Does the plan commend itself to you, dear lad? It troubles me sore
to leave you in this plight; but Father Fafard is skilful, and I think
you will not fret for lack of tender nursing. You will not need
me, lad; but there is a little lad with yellow hair who needs me now,
and I must go to him.
The moment I had spoken these last words I wished them back, for
Mizpah broke down all at once in a terrible passion of tears. But I was
ever a bungler where women are concerned, ever saying the wrong thing,
ever slow to understand their strange, swift shiftings of mood. This
time, however, I understood; for with my words a black realization of
the little one's lonely fear came down upon my own soul, till my heart
cried out with pity for him; and Prudence fell a-weeping by Marc's
head. But she stopped on the instant, fearing to excite Marc hurtfully,
and Marc said:
Indeed, Father, think not a moment more of me. 'Tis the poor little
lad that needs you. Oh that I too could go with you on the quest!
To-morrow I go, said I, positively, just as soon as I have seen
As I spoke, Mizpah went out suddenly, and walked with rapid strides
down the road, passing Giraud on the way as he came from mending the
little canoe which I was to take. I had chosen a small and light craft,
not knowing what streams I might have to ascend, what long carries I
might have to make. As Mizpah passed him, going on to lean her arms
upon the fence and stare out across the water, Giraud turned to watch
her for a moment. Then, as he came up to the door where we sat, he took
off his woollen cap, and said simply, Poor lady! it goes hard with
My friend, said I, will these, while I am gone, be safe here from
their enemies,even should the Black Abbé come in person?
Master, he replied, with a certain proud nobility, which had ever
impressed me in the man, if any hurt comes to them, it will be not
over my dead body alone, but over those of a dozen more stout fellows
who would die to serve you.
I believe you, said I, reaching out my hand. He kissed it, and
went off quickly about his affairs.
Hardly was he gone when Mizpah came back. She was very pale and
calm, and her eyes shone with the fire of some intense purpose. Had I
known woman's heart as do some of my friends whom I could mention, I
should have fathomed that purpose at her first words. But as I have
said, I am slow to understand a woman's hints and objects, though men I
can read ere their thoughts find speech. There was a faint glory of the
last of sunset on Mizpah's face and hair as she stood facing me, her
lips parted to speak. Behind her lay the little garden, with its
sunflowers and lupines, and its thicket of pole beans in one corner.
Then, beyond the gray fence, the smooth tide of the expanding river,
violet-hued, the copper and olive wood, the marshes all greenish amber,
and the dusky purple of the hills. It was all stamped upon my memory in
delectable and imperishable colours, though I know that at the moment I
saw only Mizpah's tall grace, her red-gold hair, the eyes that seemed
to bring my spirit to her feet. I was thinking, Was there ever such
another woman's face, or a presence so gracious? when I realized that
she was speaking.
Do I paddle well, Monsieur? she asked, with the air of one who
repeats a question.
Pardon, a thousand pardons, Madame! I exclaimed. Yes, you use
your paddle excellently well.
And I can shoot, I can shoot very skilfully, she went on, with
strong emphasis. I can handle both pistol and musket.
Indeed, Madame! said I, considerably astonished.
Ask Marc if I am not a cunning shot, she persisted, while her eyes
seemed to burn through me in their eager intentness.
Yes, Father, came Marc's whispered response out of the shadow,
where I saw only the bended head of the maid Prudence. Yes, Father,
she is a more cunning marksman than I.
I turned again to her, and saw that she expected, that she thirsted
for, an answer. But what answer?
Madame, said I, bowing profoundly, and hoping to cover my
bewilderment with a courtly speech, may I hope that you will fire a
good shot for me some day; I should account it an honour above all
others if I might be indebted to such a hand for such succour.
She clasped her hands in a great gladness, crying, Then I may
go with you?
Go with me! I cried, looking at her in huge amazement.
She wants to help you find the child, whispered Marc.
The thought of this white girl among the perils which I saw before
me pierced my heart with a strange pang, and in my haste I cried
Nonsense! Impossible! Why, it would be mere madness!
So bitter was the pain of disappointment which wrung her face that I
put out both hands towards her in passionate deprecation.
Forgive me; oh, forgive me, Madame! I pleaded. But how could
I bring you into such perils?
But she caught my hands and would have gone on her knees to me if I
had not stayed her roughly.
Take me with you, she implored. I can paddle, I can serve you as
well as any man whom you can get. And I am brave, believe me. And how
can I wait here when my boy, my darling, my Philip, is alone among
those beasts? I would die every hour.
How could I refuse her? Yet refuse her I would, I must. To take her
would be to lessen my own powers, I thought, and to add tenfold to the
peril of the venture. Nevertheless my heart did now so leap at the
thought of this strange, close fellowship which she demanded, that I
came near to silencing my better judgment, and saying she might go. But
I shut my teeth obstinately on the words.
At this moment, while she waited trembling, Marc once more
You might do far worse than take her, Father. No one else will
serve you more bravely or more skilfully, I think.
So Marc actually approved of this incredible proposal? Then was it,
after all, so preposterous? My wavering must have shown itself in my
face, for her own began to lighten rarely.
Butthose clothes! said I.
At this she flushed to her ears. But she answered bravely.
I will wear others; did you think I would so hamper you with this
guise? No, she added with a little nervous laugh, I will play the
man; be sure.
And so, though I could scarce believe it, it was settled that Mizpah
Hanford should go with me.
That night I found little sleep. My thoughts were a chaos of
astonishment and apprehension. Marc, moreover, kept tossing, for his
wound fretted him sorely, and I was continually at his side to give him
drink. At about two in the morning there came a horseman to the garden
gate, riding swiftly. Hurrying out I met him in the path. It was Father
Fafard, come straight upon my word. He turned his horse into Giraud's
pasture, put saddle and bridle in the porchway, and then followed me in
to Marc's bedside.
When he had dressed the wound anew, and administered a soothing
draught, Marc fell into a quiet sleep.
He will do well, but it is a matter for long patience, said the
Then we went out of the house and down to the garden corner by the
thicket of beans, where we might talk freely and jar no slumberers.
Father Fafard fell in with my plans most heartily, and accepted my
charges. To hold the Black Abbé in check at any point, would, he felt,
be counted unto him for righteousness.
My mind being thus set at ease, I resolved to start as soon as might
be after daybreak.
Before it was yet full day, I was again astir, and goodwife Giraud
was getting ready, in bags, our provision of bacon and black bread. I
had many small things to do,gathering ammunition for two muskets and
four pistols, selecting my paddles with care from Giraud's stock, and
loading the canoe to the utmost advantage for ease of running and
economy of space. Then, as I went in to the goodwife's breakfast, I was
met at the door by a slim youth in leathern coat and leggins, with two
pistols and Marc's whinger. I recognized the carven hilt stuck bravely
in his belt, and Marc's knitted cap of gray wool on his head, well
pulled down. The boy blushed, but met my eye with a sweet firmness, and
I bowed with great courtesy. Even in this attire I thought she could
not look aught but womanlyfor it was Mistress Mizpah. Yet I could not
but confess that to the stranger she would appear but as a singularly
handsome stripling. The glory of her hair was hidden within her cap.
These are the times, said I, seriously, that breed brave women.
Breakfast done, messages and orders repeated, and farewells all
spoken, the sun was perhaps an hour high when we paddled away from the
little landing under Giraud's garden fence. I waved my cap backwards to
Prudence and the Curé, where they stood side by side at the landing. My
comrade in the bow waved her hand once, then fell to paddling
diligently. I was still in a maze of wonderment, ready at any time to
wake and find it a dream. But the little seas that slapped us as we
cleared the river mouth, these were plainly real. I headed for the
eastern point of the island, intending to land at the mouth of the
Piziquid and make some inquiries. The morning air was like wine in my
veins. There was a gay dancing of ripples over toward Blomidon, and the
sky was a clear blue. A dash of cool drops wet me. It was no dream.
And so in a strange fellowship I set out to find the child.
Chapter XIII. My Comrade
I could not sufficiently commend the ease and aptness with which my
beautiful comrade wielded her paddle. But in a while the day grew hot,
and I bade her lie back in her place and rest. At first she would not,
till I was compelled to remind her in a tone of railing that I was the
captain in this enterprise, and that good soldiers must obey.
Whereupon, though her back was toward me, I saw a flush creep around to
her little ears, and she laid the paddle down something abruptly. I
feared that I had vexed her, and I made haste to attempt an
explanation, although it seemed to me that she should have understood a
matter so obvious.
I beg you to pardon me, Madame, if I seem to insist too much, said
I, with hesitation. But you must know that, if you exhaust yourself at
the beginning of the journey, before you are hardened to the long
continuance of such work, you will be unable to do anything to-morrow,
and our quest will be much hindered.
Forgive me! she cried; you are right, of course. Oh, I fear I
have done wrong in hampering you! But I am strong, truly, and enduring
as most men, Monsieur.
Yes, I answered, but to do one thing strenuously all day long,
and for days thereafter, that is hard. I believe you can do it, or I
should have been mad indeed to bring you. But you must let me advise
you at the beginning. For this first day, rest often and save yourself
as much as possible. By this means you will be able to do better
to-morrow, and better still the day after. By the other means, you will
be able to do little to-morrow most likely, and perhaps nothing the day
Well, she said, turning her head partly around, so that I could
see the gracious profile, tell me, Monsieur, when to work and when to
rest. I will obey. It is a lucky soldier, I know, who has the Seigneur
de Briart to command him.
[Illustration: Turning her head partly around, so that I could see
the gracious profile]
But I fear, Madame, said I, that discipline would sadly suffer if
he had often such soldiers to command.
To this she made no reply. I saw that she leaned back in her place
and changed her posture, so as to fulfil my wish and rest herself to
the best advantage. I thought my words over. To me they seemed to have
that savour of compliment which I would now avoid. I felt that here,
under these strange circumstances, in an intimacy which might by and by
be remembered by her with some little confusion, but which now, while
she had no thought but for the rescue of the little one, contained no
shadow of awkwardness for her clear and earnest soul,I felt that here
I must hold myself under bonds. The play of graceful compliment, such
as I would have practised in her drawing-room to show her the
courtliness of my breeding, must be forsworn. The admiration, the
devotion, the worship, that burned in my eyes whensoever they dwelt
upon her, must be strictly veiled. I must seem to forget that I am a
man and my companion the fairest of women. Yes, I kept telling myself,
I must regard her as a comrade only, and a follower, and a boy. I must
be frank and careless in my manner toward her; kind, but blunt and
positive. She will think nothing of it now, and will blush the less for
it by and by, when the child is in her arms again, and she can once
more give her mind to little matters.
And so I schooled myself; and as I watched her I began to realize
more and more, with a delicious warming of my heart, what instant need
I had of such schooling if I would not have her see how I was not at
all her captain, but her bondsman.
At the mouth of the Piziquid stream there clustered a few cottages,
not enough to call a village; and here we stopped about noon. A meal of
milk and eggs and freshly baked rye cakes refreshed us, and eager as
was our haste, I judged it wise to rest an hour stretched out in the
shade of an apple tree. To this halt, Mizpah, after one glance of eager
question at my face, made no demur, and I replied to the glance by
That is a good soldier! We will gain by this pause, now. We will
travel late to-night.
The cottagers of whom we had our meal were folk unknown to me; and
being informed that the Black Abbé had some followers in the
neighbourhood, I durst give no hint of our purpose. By and by I asked
carelessly if two canoes, with Indians of the Shubenacadie, had gone by
this way. I thought that the man looked at me with some suspicion. He
hesitated. But before he could reply his goodwife answered for him,
with the freedom of a clear conscience.
Yes, M'sieu, she chattered, two canoes, and four Indians. They
went by yesterday, toward sundown, stopping here for water from our
well,the finest water hereabouts, if I do say it!
They went up the river, I suppose, said I.
Oh, but no, M'sieu, clattered on the worthy dame. They went
straight up the bay. Yes, goodman, she continued, changing her tone
sharply, whenever I open my mouth you glare at me as if I was talking
nonsense. What have I said wrong now, I'd like to know. Yes, I'd like
very much to know that, goodman. Why should not the gentleman know that
But here the man interrupted her roughly. Will you never be done
your prating? he cried. Can't you see that you worry the gentlemen?
How should they care to know that the red rascals made a good catch of
shad off the island? Now, do go and get some of your fresh buttermilk
for the gentlemen to drink before they go. Don't you see they are
And, indeed, Mizpah's impatience to be gone was plainly evident, and
we had rested long enough. I durst not look at her face, lest our host
should perceive that I had heard what I wanted to hear. I spoke
casually of the weather, and inquired how his apples and his flax were
faring, and so filled the minutes safely until the goodwife came with
the butter-milk. Having both drunk gratefully of the cool, delicately
acid, nourishing liquor, we gave the man a piece of silver, and set out
in good heart.
We are on the right track, comrade, said I, lightly, steering my
course along the shore toward Cobequid.
Her only answer was to fall a-paddling with such an eagerness that I
had to check her.
Now, now, I said, more haste, less speed.
But I feel so strong now, and so rested, she cried passionately.
Might we not overtake them to-night?
Hardly so soon as that, I fear, Madame, I answered. This is a
stern chase, and it is like to be a long one; you must make up your
mind to that, if you would not have a fresh disappointment every hour.
Oh, she broke out, if it were your child you were trying to find
and save, you would not be so cool about it.
Believe me, Madame, said I, in a low voice, I am not perhaps as
cool as I appear.
Oh, what a weak and silly creature I must seem to you! she cried.
But I will not be weak and silly when it comes to trial, Monsieur, I
promise you. I will prove worthy of your confidence. But make
allowance for me now, and do not judge me harshly. Every moment I seem
to hear him crying for me, Monsieur. And her head drooped forward in
I could think of nothing, absolutely nothing, to say. I could only
mutter hoarsely, I do not think you either weak or silly, Madame.
This answer, feeble as it appeared to myself, seemed in a sense to
relieve her. She put down her paddle, leaned forward upon the front
bar, with her face in her hands, and sobbed gently for a few minutes.
Then, while I gazed upon her in rapt commiseration, she all at once
resumed the paddle briskly.
For my own part, being just lately returned from a long expedition,
my muscles were like steel; I felt that I should never weary. Steadily
onward we pressed, past the mouths of several small streams whose names
I did not know, past headland after headland of red clay or pallid
plaster rock. As the tide fell, we were driven far out into the bay,
till sometimes there was a mile of oozy red flats parting us from the
edge of the green. But as the tide rose again, we accompanied its
seething vanguard, till at last we were again close in shore. A breeze
soon after mid-day springing up behind us, we made excellent progress.
But soon after sunset a mist arose, which made our journey too perilous
to be continued. I turned into a narrow cove between high banks, where
the brawling of a shallow brook promised us fresh water. And there, in
a thicket of young fir trees growing at the foot of a steep bank, I set
up the canoe on edge, laid some poles and branches against it, and had
a secluded shelter for my lady. She looked at it with a gratified
admiration and could never be done with thanking me.
Being now near the Shubenacadie mouth, I durst not light a fire, but
we uncomplainingly ate our black bread; and then I said:
We will start at first gray, comrade. You will need all the sleep
you can win. Good night, and kindly dreams.
Good night, Monsieur, she said softly, and disappeared. Then going
down to the water's side, I threw off my clothes, and took a swift
plunge which steadied and refreshed me mightily. Swimming in the misty
and murmurous darkness, my venture and my strange fellowship seemed
more like a dream to me than ever, and I could scarce believe myself
awake. But I was awake enough to feel it when, in stumbling ashore, I
scraped my foot painfully on a jagged shell. However, that hurt was
soon eased and staunched by holding it for a little under the chill
gushing of the brook; after which I dressed myself, gathered a handful
of ferns for a pillow, and laid myself down across the opening which
led into the thicket.
Chapter XIV. My Comrade Shoots
From a medley of dreams, in which I saw Mizpah binding the Black
Abbé with cords of her own hairtight, tighter, till they ate into his
flesh, and I trembled at the look of shaking horror in his face; in
which then I saw the child chasing butterflies before the door of the
Forge in the Forest, and heard Babin's hammer beating musically on his
anvil, till the sound became the chiming of the Angelus over the roofs
and walls of Quebec, where Mizpah and I walked hand fast together on
the topmost bastion,from such a fleeting and blending confusion as
this, I woke to feel a hand laid softly on my face in the dark. I
needed no seeing to tell me whose was the hand, so slim, so cool, so
softly firm; and I had much ado to keep my lips from reverently kissing
Monsieur, Monsieur, came the whisper, what is that noise, that
Pardon me, comrade, for sleeping so soundly, I murmured, sitting
up, and taking her hand in mine with a rough freedom of goodwill, as
merely to reassure her. What is it you hear?
But before she could reply, I heard it myself, a strange, chanting
cry, slow and plangent, from far out upon the water. Presently I caught
the words, and knew the voice.
Woe, woe to Acadie the fair, it came solemnly, for the day of her
desolation draws nigh!
It is Grûl, said I, passing in his canoe, on some strange errand
Grûl? Who is Grûl? she questioned, clinging a little to my hand,
and then dropping it suddenly.
A quaint madman of these parts, said I; and yet I think his
madness is in some degree a feigning. He has twice done me inestimable
serviceonce warning us of an immediate peril, and again yesterday, in
leading us to the spot where you were held captive. For some reason
unknown to me, he has a marvellous kindness for me and mine. But the
Black Abbé he hates in deadly fashionfor some ancient and
ineffaceable wrong, if the tale tell true.
And he brought you to us? she murmured, with a sort of stillness
in her voice, which caught me strangely.
Yes, Grûl did! said I.
And then there was silence between us, and we heard the mysterious
and solemn voice passing, and dying away in the distance. My ears at
last being released from the tension of listening, my eyes began to
serve me, and through the branches I marked a grayness spreading in the
We must be stirring, Madame, said I, rising abruptly to my feet.
Let us take our bread down to the brook and eat it there.
But she was already gone, snatching up the sack of bread; and in a
few minutes, having righted the canoe and carried it down to a
convenient landing-place, I joined her. She was stretched flat beside a
little basin of the brook, her cap off, her hair in a tight coil high
upon her head, her sleeves pulled up, while she splashed her face and
arms in the running coolness. Without pulling down her sleeves or
resuming her cap, she seated herself on a stone and held out to me a
piece of bread. In the coldly growing dawn her hair and lips were
colourless, the whiteness of her arms shadowy and spectral. Then as we
slowly made our meal, I bringing water for her in my drinking-horn, the
rose and fire and violet of sunrise began to sift down into our valley
and show me again the hues of life in Mizpah's face. I sprang up,
handed her the woollen cap, and tried hard to keep my eyes from
dwelling upon the sweet and gracious curves of her arms.
Aboard! Aboard! I cried, and moved off in a bustling fashion to
get the paddles. In a few minutes we were under way, thrusting out from
the shore, and pushing through myriad little curling wisps of vapour,
which rose in pale hues of violet and pink all over the oil-smooth
surface of the tide.
For some time we paddled in silence. Then, when the sun's first rays
fell fairly upon us, I exclaimed lightly:
You must pull down your sleeves, comrade.
Why? she asked quickly, turning her head and pausing in her
For two excellent reasons besides the captain's orders, said I.
In the first place, your arms will get so sore with sunburn, that you
won't be able to do your fair share of the work. In the second place,
if we should meet any strangers, it would be difficult to persuade them
that those arms were manly enough for a wood-ranger.
Oh, she said quickly, and pulled down the sleeves in some
All that morning we made excellent progress, with the help of a
light following wind. When the sun was perhaps two hours high, the
mouth of the Shubenacadie opened before us; and because this river was
the great highway of the Black Abbé's red people, I ran the canoe in
shore and concealed it till I had climbed a bluff near by and scanned
the lower reaches of the stream. Finding all clear, we put out again,
and with the utmost haste paddled past the mouth. Not till we were
behind the further point, and running along under the shelter of a high
bank, did I breathe freely. Then I praised Mizpah, for in that burst of
speed her skill and force had amazed me.
But she turned upon me with the question which I had looked for.
If that is the Black Abbé's river, said she, with great eyes
fixing mine, and the Indians have gone that way, why do we pass by?
I owe you an explanation, comrade, said I. I think in all
likelihood, that way leads straight to your child; but if we went that
way, we would be the Abbé's prisoners within the next hour,and how
would we help the child then? Oh, no; I am bound for the Black Abbé's
back door. A few leagues beyond this lies the River des Saumons, and on
its banks is a settlement of our Acadian folk. Many of them are of the
Abbé's following, and all fear him; but I have there two faithful men
who are in the counsels of the Forge. One of these dwells some two
miles back from the river, half a league this side of the village. I
will go to him secretly, and send him on to the Shubenacadie for
information. Then we will act not blindly.
To this of course she acquiesced at once, as being the only wise
way; but for all that, with each canoe-length that we left the
Shubenacadie behind, the more did her paddle lag. The impulse seemed
all gone out of her. Soon therefore I bade her lay down the blade and
rest. In a little, when she had lain a while with her face upon her
arms,whether waking or not I could not tell, for she kept her face
turned away from me,she became herself again.
No long while after noon, we ran into the mouth of the des Saumons.
I was highly elated with the success that had so far attended us,the
speed we had made, our immunity from hindrance and question. We landed
to eat our hasty meal, but paused not long to rest, being urged now by
the keen spur of imagined nearness to our goal. Some two hours more of
brisk paddling brought us to a narrow and winding creek, up which I
turned. For some furlongs it ran through a wide marsh, but at length
one bank grew high and copsy. Here I put the canoe to land, and stepped
ashore, bidding Mizpah keep her place.
Finding the spot to my liking, I pulled the canoe further up on the
soft mud, and astonished Mizpah by telling her that I must carry her up
But why? she cried. I can walk, Monsieur, as well as I could this
morningthough I am a little stiff, she added naïvely.
The good soldier asks not why, said I, with affected severity.
But I will tell you. In case any one should come in my absence,
there must be but one track visible, and that track mine, leading up
and away toward the settlement. You must lie hidden in that thicket,
and keep guard. Do you understand, Madame?
Yes, said she,but how can you?I am awfully heavy.
I laughed softly, picked her up as I would a child, and carried her
to the edge of the woods, where I let her down on one end of a fallen
Now, comrade, said I, if you will go circumspectly along this log
you will leave no trace. Hide yourself in the thicket there close to
the canoe, keep your pistols primed, and watch till I come back,and
the blessed Virgin guard you! I added, with a sudden fervour.
Then, having lifted the canoe altogether clear of the water, I set
forth at a swinging trot for Martin's farm.
I found my trusty habitant at home, and ready to do any errand of
mine ere I could speak it. But when I told him what I wanted of him he
started in some excitement.
Why, Monsieur, he cried, I have the very tidings you seek. I
myself saw a canoe with two Indians pass up the river this morning; and
they had a little child with them,a child with long yellow hair.
Up this river! I exclaimed. Then whither can they be
They did not leave him in the village, answered Martin,
positively, for the word goes that they passed on up in great haste.
By the route they have taken, they are clearly bound for the Straits
Ay, they'll cross to the head of the Pictook, and descend that
stream, said I. But which way will they turn then?For I was
surprised and confused at the information.
Well, Monsieur, said Martin, when they get to the Straits, who
knows? They may be going across to Ile St. Jean. They may turn south to
Ile Royale; for the English, I hear, have no hold there, save at
Louisburg and Canseau. Or they may turn north toward Miramichi. Who
knowssave the Black Abbé?
I must overtake them, said I, resolutely. Good-bye, my friend and
thank you. If all goes well, you will get a summons from the Forge ere
the moon is again at the full; and I made haste back to the spot where
As I swung along, I congratulated myself on the good fortune which
had so held me to the trail. Then I fell to thinking of my comrade, and
the wonder of the situation, and the greater wonder of her eyes and
hair,which thoughts sped the time so sweetly that ere I could believe
it I saw before me the overhanging willows, and the thicket by the
stream. Then I stopped as if I had been struck in the face, and shook
with a sudden fear.
At my very feet, fallen across the dead tree which I have already
mentioned, lay the body of an Indian. Every line of the loose, sprawled
body told me that he had met an instant death,and a bullet hole in
his back showed me the manner of it. Only for a second did I pause.
Then I sprang into the thicket, with a horror catching at my heart.
There was Mizpah lying on her face,and a hoarse cry broke from my
lips. But even as I flung myself down beside her I saw that she was not
dead. No, she was shaking with sobs,and the naturalness of it,
strange to say, reassured me on the instant. I made to lift her, when
she sprang at once to her feet, and looked at me wildly. I took her
hand, to comfort her; but she drew it away, and gazed upon it with a
kind of shrinking horror.
I understood now what had happened. Nevertheless, knowing not just
the best thing to say, I asked her what was the matter.
Oh, she cried, covering her eyes, I killed him. He threw up his
hands, and groaned, and fell like a log. How could I do it? How could I
I tried to assure her that she had done well; but finding that she
would pay me no heed, I went to look at her victim. I turned him over,
and muttered a thanksgiving to Heaven as I recognized him for one of
the worst of the Black Abbé's flock. I found his tracks all about the
canoe. Then I went back to Mizpah.
Good soldier! Good comrade! said I, earnestly. You have killed
Little Fox, the blackest and cruelest rogue on the whole Shubenacadie.
Oh, I tell you you have done a good deed this day!
The knowledge of this appeared to ease her somewhat, and in a few
moments I gathered the details. The Indian had come suddenly to the
bank, and seeing a canoe there had examined it curiously,she, the
while, waiting in great fear, for she had at once recognized him as one
of her former captors, and one of whom she stood in special dread.
While looking at our things in the canoe, he had appeared all at once
to understand. He had picked up my coat, and examined it
carefully,and the grin that disclosed his long teeth disclosed also
that he recognized it. Looking to the priming of his musket, he started
cautiously up the bank upon my trail.
As soon as he left the canoe, said Mizpah, still shaken with sobs,
I knew that something must be done. If he went away, it would be just
to give the alarm, and then we could not escape, and Philip would be
lost forever. But I saw that, instead of going away, he was going to
track you and shoot you down. I didn't know what to do, or how I could
ever shoot a man in cold blood,but something made me do it.
Just as he reached the end of the log, I seemed to see him already
shooting you, away in the woods over there,and then I fired. And oh,
oh, oh, I shall never forget how he groaned and fell over! And she
stared at her right hand.
Comrade, said I, I owe my life to you. He would have shot
me down; for, as I think of it, I went carelessly, and seldom looked
behind when I got into the woods. To be so incautious is not my way,
believe me. I know not how it was, unless I so trusted the comrade whom
I had left behind to guard my trail. And now, here are news! They have
brought the child this way, up this very river! The saints have surely
led us thus far, for we are hot upon their track!
And this made her forget to weep for the excellence of her shooting.
Chapter XV. Grûl's Hour
Though we were in a hot haste to get away, it was absolutely
necessary first to bury the dead Indian, lest a hue and cry should be
raised that might involve and delay us. With my paddle, therefore, I
dug him a shallow grave in the soft mud at the edge of the tide, which
was then on the ebb. This meagre inhumation completed, I smoothed the
surface as best I could with my paddle; and then we set off, resting
easy in the knowledge that the next tide would smooth down all traces
of the work.
It was by this close upon sunset, and I felt a little hesitation as
to what we had best do. I had no wish to run through the settlement
till after dark, nor was I anxious to push on against the furious ebb
of the des Saumons, against which the strongest paddlers could make
slow headway. But it was necessary to get out of the creek before the
water should quite forsake us; and, moreover, Mizpah was in a fever of
haste to be gone. She kept gazing about as if she expected the savage
to rise from his muddy grave and point at her. We ran out of the creek,
therefore, and were instantly caught in the great current of the river.
I suffered it to sweep us down for half a mile, having noted on the way
up a cluster of haystacks in an angle of the dyke. Coming to these, I
pushed ashore at once, carried the canoe up, and found that the place
was one where we might rest secure. Here we ate our black bread and
drank new milk, for there were many cattle pasturing on the aftermath,
and some of the cows had not yet gone home to milking. Then, hiding the
canoe behind the dyke, and ourselves between the stacks, in great
weariness we sought our sleep.
There was no hint of dawn in the sky when I awoke with a start; but
the constellations had swung so wide an arc that I knew morning was
close at hand. There was a hissing clamour in the river-bed which told
me the tide was coming in. That, doubtless, was the change which had so
swiftly aroused me. I went to the other side of the stack, where Mizpah
lay with her cheek upon her arm, her hair fallen adorably about her
neck. Touching her forehead softly with my hand, I whispered:
Come, comrade, the tide has turned! Whereupon she sat up quietly,
as if this were for her the most usual of awakenings, and began to
arrange her hair. I went out upon the shadowy marsh and soon
accomplished a second theft of new milk, driving the tranquil cow which
furnished it into the corner behind the stacks, that our dairy might be
the more conveniently at hand. Our fast broken (and though I hinted
nought of it to Mizpah, I found black bread growing monotonous), I
carried the canoe down to the edge of the tide. But Mistress Mizpah's
daintiness revolted at the mud, whereupon she took off her moccasins
and stockings before she came to it, and I caught a gleam of slim white
feet at the dewy edge of the grass. When I had carried down the
paddles, pole, and baggage, I found her standing in a quandary. She
could not get into the canoe with that sticky clay clinging to her
feet, and there was no place where she could sit down to wash them.
Carelessly enough (though my heart the while trembled within me), I
stretched out my hand to her, saying:
Lean on me, comrade, and then you can manage it all right.
And so it was that she managed it; and so indifferently did I cast
my eyes about, now at the breaking dawn, now at the swelling tide, that
I am sure she must have deemed that I saw not or cared not at all how
white and slender and shapely were her feet!
In few minutes we were afloat, going swiftly on the tide. The sky
was all saffron as we slipped through the settlement, and a fairy glow
lay upon the white cottages. The banks on either hand took on the
ineffable hues of polished nacre. To the door of one cottage, close by
the water, came a man yawning, and hailed us. But I flung back a mere
Bon jour, and sped on. Not till the settlement was out of sight
behind us, not till the cross on the spire of the village was quite cut
off from view, did I drop to the even pace of our day-long journeying.
When at length we got beyond the influence of the tide, des Saumons was
a shallow, sparkling, singing stream, its bed aglow with ruddy-coloured
rocks. Here I laid aside my paddle and thrust the canoe onwards by
means of my long pole of white spruce, while Mizpah had nought to do
but lean back and watch the shores creep by.
At the head of tide we had stopped to drink and to breathe a little.
And there, seeing an old man working in front of a solitary cabin, I
had deemed it safe to approach him and purchase a few eggs. After this
we kept on till an hour past noon, when I stopped in a bend of the
river, at the foot of a perpendicular cliff of red rock some seventy or
eighty feet in height. Here was a thicket wherein we might hide both
the canoe and ourselves if necessary. The canoe I hid at once,
thatbeing a matter of the more time. Then we both set ourselves to
gathering dry sticks, for it seemed to me we might here risk the luxury
of a fire, with a dinner of roasted eggs.
We had gathered but a handful or two, when I heard a crashing in the
underbrush at the top of the cliff; and in a second, catching Mizpah by
the hand, I had dragged her into hiding. Through a screen of dark and
drooping hemlock boughs we gazed intently at the top of the cliff,and
I noted, without thinking worth while to remedy my oversight, that I
had forgotten to release Mizpah's hand.
The crashing noise, mingled with some sharp outcries of rage and
fear, continued for several minutes. Then there was silence; and I saw
at the brink a pointed cap stuck full of feathers, and the glare of a
black and yellow cloak.
Grûl! I whispered, in astonishment; and I felt an answering
surprise in the tightened clasp of Mizpah's hand.
A moment more and Grûl peered over the brink, scrutinizing the upper
and lower reaches of the river. He held a coil of rope, one end of
which he had made fast to a stout birch tree which leaned well out over
What is he going to do? murmured Mizpah, with wide eyes.
We'll soon see! said I, marvelling mightily.
The apparition vanished for some minutes, then suddenly reappeared
close to the brink. He carried, as lightly as if it had been a bundle
of straw, the body of a man, so bound about with many cords as to
remind me of nothing so much as a fly in the death wrappings of some
black and yellow spider. To add to the semblance, the victim was
dressed in black,and a closer scrutiny showed that he was a priest.
It is the Black Abbé, none other, I murmured, in a kind of awe;
while Mizpah shrank closer to my side with a sense of impending
tragedies. Grûl has come to his revenge! I added.
In a business fashion Grûl knotted the end of his coil of rope about
the prisoner's body, the feathers and flowers in his cap, meanwhile,
nodding with a kind of satisfied rhythm. Then he lowered the swathed
and helpless but silently writhing figure a little way from the brink,
governing the rope with ease by means of a half-twist about a jutting
stump. There was something indescribably terrifying in the sight of the
fettered form swinging over the deep, with shudderings and twistings,
and the safe edge not a yard length above him. I pitied him in spite of
myself; and I put a hand over Mizpah's eyes that she might not see what
was coming. But she pushed my hand away, and stared in a fascination.
For some moments Grûl gazed down in silence upon his victim.
I fancied I caught the soul-piercing flame of his mad eyes; but this
was doubtless due to my imagination rather than to the excellence of my
vision. Suddenly the victim, his fortitude giving way with the sense of
the deadly gulf beneath him, and with the pitiless inquisition of that
gaze bent down upon him, broke out into wild pleadings, desperate
entreaties, screams of anguished fear, till I myself trembled at it,
and Mizpah covered her ears.
Oh, stop it! save him! she whispered to me, with white lips. But I
shook my head. I could not reach the top of the cliff. And moreover, I
had small doubt that Grûl's vengeance was just. Nevertheless, had I
been at the top of the cliff instead of the bottom, I had certainly put
a stop to it.
After listening for some moments, with a sort of pleasant attention,
to the victim's ravings, Grûl lay flat, thrust his head and shoulders
far out over the brink, and reached down a long arm. I saw the gleam of
a knife in his darting hand; and I drew a quick breath of relief.
[Illustration: Grûl lay flat, thrust his head and shoulders far out
over the brink, and reached down a long arm.]
That ends it, said I; and I shifted my position, which I had not
done, as it seemed to me, for an eternity. The victim's screaming had
ceased before the knife touched him.
But I was vastly mistaken in thinking it the end.
He has not killed him, muttered Mizpah.
And then I saw that Grûl had merely cut the cord which bound his
captive's hands. The Abbé was swiftly freeing himself; and Grûl,
meanwhile, was lowering him down the face of the cliff. When the
unhappy captive had descended perhaps twenty feet, his tormentor
secured the rope, and again lay down with his head and shoulders
leaning over the brink, his hands playing carelessly with the knife.
The Abbé, with many awkward gestures, presently got his limbs free,
and the cord which had enwound him fell trailing like a snake to the
cliff foot. Then, with clawing hands and sprawling feet, he clutched at
the smooth, inexorable rock, in the vain hope of getting a foothold. It
was pitiful to see his mad struggles, and the quiet of the face above
looking down upon them with unimpassioned interest; till at last,
exhausted, the poor wretch ceased to struggle, and looked up at his
persecutor with the silence of despair.
Presently Grûl spoke,for the first time, as far as we knew.
You know me, Monsieur l'Abbé, I suppose, he remarked, in tone of
I know you, François de Grûl, came the reply, gasped from a dry
Then further explanation, I think you will allow, is not needed. I
will bid you farewell, and a pleasant journey, went on the same civil
modulations of Grûl's voice. At the same moment he reached down with
his shining blade as if to sever the rope.
I did not do it! I did not do it! screamed the Abbé, once more
clutching convulsively at the smooth rock. I swear to you by all the
Grûl examined the edge of his knife. He tested it with his thumb. I
saw him glance along it critically. Then he touched it, ever so
lightly, to the rope, so that a single strand parted.
Swear to me, he said, in the mildest voice, swear to me, Monsieur
l'Abbé, that you had no part in it. Swear by the Holy Ghost, Monsieur
But the Abbé was silent.
Swear me that oath now, good Abbé, repeated the voice, with a kind
of courteous insistence.
I will not swear! came the ghastly whisper in reply.
At this an astonishing change passed over the face that peered down
from the brink. Its sane tranquillity became a very paroxysm of rage.
The grotesque cap was dashed aside, and Grûl sprang to his feet, waving
his arms, stamping and leaping, his gaudy cloak a-flutter, his long
white hair and beard twisting as if with a sentient fury of their own.
He was so close upon the brink that I held my breath, expecting him to
be plunged headlong. But all at once the paroxysm died out as suddenly
as it had begun; and throwing himself down in his former position, Grûl
once more touched the knife edge to the rope, severing fibre by fibre,
With the first touch upon the rope rose the Abbé's voice again, but
no longer in vain entreaty and coward wailings. I listened with a great
awe, and a sob broke from Mizpah's lips. It was the prayer for the
passing soul. We heard it poured forth in steady tones but swift,
against the blank face of the cliff. And we waited to see the rope
divided at a stroke.
But to our astonishment, Grûl sprang to his feet again, in another
fury, and flung aside his knife. With twitching hands he loosened the
rope and began lowering his victim rapidly, till, within some twenty
feet of the bottom, the Abbé found a footing, and stopped. Then Grûl
tossed the whole rope down upon him.
Go! he cried in his chanting, bell-like tones. The cup of your
iniquity is not yet full. You shall not die till your soul is so black
in every part that you will go down straight into hell! And turning
abruptly, he vanished.
The Black Abbé, as if seized with a faintness, leaned against the
rock for some minutes. Then, freeing himself from the rope, he climbed
down to the foot of the cliff, and moved off slowly by the water's edge
toward Cobequid. We trembled lest he should see us, or the canoe,I
having no stomach for an attack upon one who had just gone through so
dreadful a torment. But his face, neck, ears, were like a sweating
candle; and his contracted eyes seemed scarce to see the ground before
Seemed, I say. Yet even in this supreme moment, he tricked me.
Chapter XVI. I Cool My Adversaries'
We now, having been so long delayed, gave up our purpose of a fire,
and contented ourselves with the eggs raw. I also cut some very thin
slices of the smoked and salted bacon, to eat with our black bread, for
I knew that, working as we did, we needed strong food. But Mizpah would
not touch the uncooked bacon, though its savour, I assured her, was
excellent. We had but well begun our meal, and I was stooping over the
hard loaf, when a startled exclamation from Mizpah made me look up.
Close behind us stood Grûl, impatiently twisting his little white rod
with the scarlet head. His eyes were somewhat more piercing, more like
blue flame, than ordinarily, but otherwise he looked as usual. So
little mark remained upon him of the scene just enacted. Both wise and
mad! I thought.
It struck me that he was pleased with the impression he so plainly
made on us both, and for a moment he looked upon us in silence. Then
swiftly pointing his stick at us, he said sharply:
Fools! Do you wait here? But the hound is on the trail. Do you
dream he did not see you?
Then he turned to go. But Mizpah was at his side instantly, catching
him by the wrist, and imploring him to tell us which way her child had
Grûl stopped and looked down upon her with austere dignity, but
without replying. Passionately Mizpah entreated him, not to be denied;
and at last, lightly but swiftly removing her fingers from his wrist,
he muttered oracularly:
They will take him to the sea that is within the heart of the land!
But go! he repeated with energy, or you will not go far! and with
steps so smooth that they seemed not to touch the ground, he went past
the cliff foot. His gaudy mantle shone for a moment, and he was gone.
The ominous urgency of his warning rang in our ears, and we were not
slow in making our own departure.
What does he mean by 'the sea that is within the heart of the
land'? asked Mizpah, as we hurriedly launched the canoe.
He means the Bras d'Or lakes, I said, those wonderful reaches of
land-locked sea that traverse the heart of He Royale. It is a likely
enough way for the savages to go. There are villages both of Acadians
and of Indians on the island.
As we were to learn afterwards, however, Grûl had told us falsely.
The child was not destined for Ile Royale. Whether the strange being
really thought he was directing us aright, or, his vanity not
permitting him to confess that he did not know, trusted to a guess with
the hope that it might prove a prophecy, I have never been able to
determine. As a matter of fact, Fate did presently so take our affairs
into her own hands, that Grûl's misinformation affected the end not at
all. But his warning and his exhortation to speed we had to thank for
our escape from the perils that soon came upon us. Had we not been thus
warned, without doubt we should have been taken unawares and perished
On the incidents of our journey for the rest of that day, and up to
something past noon of the day following, I need not particularly
dwell. Suffice to say that we accomplished prodigious things, and that
Mizpah showed incredible endurance. It was as if she saw her child ever
a little way before her, and hoped to come up with him the next minute.
When the stream became hopelessly shallow, we got out and waded,
dragging the canoe. The long portage to the head of the Pictook waters
we made in the night, the trail being a clear one, and not overly
rough. At the further end of the carry, when I set down the canoe at
the stream's edge, I could have dropped for weariness, yet from Mizpah
I heard no complaint; and her silent heroism stirred my soul to a
deepening passion of worship. Over and over I told myself that night
that I would never rest or count the cost till I had given the child
back to her arms.
Not till we had gone perhaps a mile down the Pictook did I order a
halt, thrusting the canoe into a secure hiding-place. We snatched an
hour of sleep, lying where we stepped ashore. Then, rising in the
redness of daybreak, we hurried on, eating as we journeyed. And now,
conceiving that it was necessary to keep up her strength, Mizpah ate of
the uncooked bacon; though she wore a face of great aversion as she did
When, after hours of unmitigated toil, we reached the head of tide
and the spacious open reaches of the lower river, I insisted on an hour
of rest. Mizpah vowed that she was not exhausted,but she slept
instantly, falling by the side of the canoe as she stepped out. For
myself I durst not sleep, but I rested, and watched, and sucked an egg,
and chewed strips of bacon. When we pushed off again I felt that we
must have put a good space between us and our pursuers; and as the ebb
tide was helping me I made Mizpah go on sleeping, in her place in the
I will need your help more by and by, said I when she protested,
and then you must have all your strength to give me!
The river soon became a wide estuary, with arms and indentations,a
harbour fit to hold a hundred fleets. Straight down mid-channel I
steered, the shortest course to the mouth. But by and by there sprang
up a light head-wind, delaying me.
Wake up, comrade, I cried. I need your good arm now, against this
She had slept there an hour, and she woke now with a childlike flush
in her cheeks.
How good of you to let me sleep so, she exclaimed, turning to give
me a grateful glance. But the expression upon her face changed
instantly to one of fear, and the colour all went out.
Oh, look behind us! she gasped. I had not indeed waited for her
words. Glancing over my shoulder, I caught sight of a large canoe, with
four savages paddling furiously. The one glimpse was enough.
Now, comrade, work! said I. But steady! not too hard! This is a
long chase, remember! and I bent mightily to the paddle.
Our pursuers were a good half-mile behind; and had we not been
already wearied, I believe we could have held our own with them all
day. Our canoe was light and swift, Mizpah paddled rarely, and for
myself, I have never yet been beaten, by red man or white, in a fair
canoe-race. But as it was, I felt that we must win by stratagem, if the
saints should so favour us as to let us win at all. Half a mile ahead,
on our right, was a high point. Behind it, as I knew, was a winding
estuary of several branches, each the debouchement of a small stream.
It was an excellent place in which to evade pursuers. I steered for the
As we darted behind its shelter, a backward glance told me that our
enemies had not gained upon us. The moment we were hidden from their
view I put across to the other side of the channel, ran the canoe
behind a jutting boulder, and leapt out. Not till we were concealed,
canoe and all, behind a safe screen of rocks and underbrush, did Mizpah
ask my purpose, though she plainly marvelled that I should hide so
close to the entrance.
A poor and something public hiding-place is often the most secret,
said I. The Indians know that up this water there are a score of
turns, and backwaters, and brook-mouths, wherein we might long evade
them. As soon as they saw us turn in here, they doubtless concluded
that the water was well known to me, and that I would hope to baffle
them in the inner labyrinths and escape up one of the streams. They
will never dream of us stopping here.
I see! she exclaimed eagerly. When they have passed in to look
for us, we will slip out, and push on. It was haste she thought of
rather than escape. No moment passed, I think, when her whole will, her
whole being, were not focussed upon the finding of the child. And the
more I realized the intensity of her love and her pain, the more I
marvelled at the heroic self-control which forbade her to waste her
strength in tears and wailings. The conclusion at which she had now
arrived, as to my plan, was one I had not thought of, and I considered
it before replying.
No, said I, presently; that is not quite my purpose, though I
confess it is a good one. But, comrade, this is a safe ambush! They
must pass within close gunshot of us!
Oh, she cried, paling, and clasping her hands, must there
be more blood? But yes, they bring it on themselves, she went on with
a sudden fierceness, flushing again, and her mouth growing cruel. They
would keep us from finding him. Their blood be on their own heads!
I am glad you think of that, said I. They would have no mercy for
us if they should take us now. But indeed, if it will please you to
have it so, we need not shoot them down. We can treat them to such a
medicine as they had before of me, sink their canoe, and leave them
like drowned rats on the other shore.
Yes, said Mizpah, quietly; if that will do as well, it will
please me much better.
And so it was agreed. A very few minutes later the canoe appeared,
rounding into the estuary. The savages scanned both shores minutely,
but rather from the habit of caution than from any thought that we
might have gone to land. If, however, I had not taken care to make my
landing behind a boulder, those keen eyes would have marked some
splashed spots on the shingle, and we would have been discovered.
But no such evil fortune came about. The four paddles flashed onward
swiftly. The four fierce, painted and feathered heads thrust forward
angrily, expecting to overtake us in one of the inner reaches. I took
up Mizpah's musket (which was loaded with slugs, while my own carried a
bullet, in case I should be called upon for a long and delicate shot),
and waited until the canoe was just a little more than abreast of us.
Then, aiming at the waterline, just in front of the bow paddle, I
The effect was instant and complete. The savage in the bow threw up
his paddle with a scream and sprang overboard. He was doubtless
wounded, and feared a second shot. We saw him swimming lustily toward
the opposite shore. The others paddled desperately in the same
direction, but before they had gone half-way the canoe was so deep in
the water that she moved like a log. Then they, too, seized with the
fear of a second shot, sprang overboard. By this time I had the musket
If they get the canoe ashore, with their weapons aboard her, said
I, they will soon get her patched up, and we will have it all to do
over again. Here goes for another try, whatever heads may be in the
Mizpah averted her face, but made no protest, and I fired at the
stern of the canoe, which was directly toward me. A swimmer's head,
close by, went down; and in a minute more the canoe did likewise. Three
feathered heads remained in sight; and presently three dark figures
dragged themselves ashoreone of them limping badlyand plunged into
Without canoe or guns, said I, they are fairly harmless for a
while. But Mizpah, as we re-embarked and headed again for the sea,
said nothing. I think that in her bosom, at this time, womanly
compassion was striving, and at some disadvantage, with the
vindictiveness of outraged motherhood. I thinkand I loved her the
better for itshe was glad I had killed one more of her child's
enemies; but I think, too, she was filled with shame at her gladness.
Chapter XVII. A Night in the Deep
Once fairly out again into the harbour, I saw two things that were
but little to my satisfaction. Far away up the river were three more
canoes. I understood at once that the savages whom we had just worsted
were the mere vanguard of the Black Abbé's attack. The new-comers,
however, were so far behind that I had excellent hopes of eluding them.
The second matter that gave me concern was the strong head-wind that
had suddenly arisen. The look of the sky seemed to promise, moreover,
that what was now a mere blow might soon become a gale. It was already
kicking up a sea that hindered us. Most women would have been terrified
at it, but Mizpah seemed to have no thought of fear. We pressed on
doggedly. There was danger ahead, I knew,a very serious danger, which
would tax all my skill to overcome. But the danger behind us was the
more menacing. I felt that there was nothing for it but to face the
storm and force a passage around the cape. This accomplished,if we
could accomplish it,I knew our pursuers would not dare to follow.
About sundown, though the enemy had drawn perceptibly nearer, I
concluded that we must rest and gather our strength. I therefore ran in
behind a little headland, the last shelter we could hope for until we
should get around the cape. There we ate a hearty meal, drank from a
tiny spring, and lay stretched flat on the shore for a quarter of an
hour. Then, after an apprehensive look at the angry sea, and a prayer
that was earnest enough to make up for some scantness in length, I
Come now, comrade, and be brave.
I am not afraid, Monsieur, she answered quietly. If anything
happens, I know it will not be because you have failed in anything that
the bravest and truest of men could hope to do.
I think that God will help us, said I. That some one greater than
ourselves does sometimes help us in such perils, I know, whatever
certain hasty men who speak out of a plentiful lack of experience may
declare to the contrary. But whether this help be a direct intervention
of God himself, or the succour of the blessed saints, or the watchful
care of one's guardian spirit, I have never been able to conclude to my
own satisfaction. And very much thought have I given to the matter by
times, lying out much under the stars night after night, and carrying
day by day my life in my hands. However it might be, I felt sustained
and comforted as we put out that night. The storm was now so wild that
it would have been perilous to face in broad daylight and with a strong
man at the bow paddle. Yet I believed that we should win through. I
felt that my strength, my skill, my sureness of judgment, were of a
sudden made greater than I could commonly account them.
But whatever strength may have been graciously vouchsafed to me that
night, I found that I needed it all. The night fell not darkly, but
with a clear sky, and the light of stars, and a diffused glimmer from
the white crests of the waves. The gale blew right on shore, and the
huge roar of the surf thundering in our ears seemed presently to blunt
our sense of peril. The great waves now hung above us, white-crested
and hissing, till one would have said we were in the very pit of doom.
A moment more, and the light craft would seem to soar upward as the
wave slipped under it, a wrenching turn of my wrist would drive her on
a slant through the curling top of foam, and then we would slide
swiftly into the pit again, down a steep slope of purplish blackness
all alive with fleeting eyes of white light. The strain upon my wrist,
the mighty effort required at each wave lest we should broach to and be
rolled over, were something that I had never dreamed to endure. Yet I
did endure it. And as for the brave woman in the bow, she simply
paddled on, steadily, strongly, without violence, so that I learned to
depend on her for just so much force at each swift following crisis.
For there was a new crisis every moment,with a moment's grace as we
slipped into each succeeding pit. At last we found ourselves off the
cape,and then well out into the open Strait, yet not engulfed. A
little,just as much as I durst, and that was very little,I shifted
our course toward south. This brought a yet heavier strain upon my
wrist, but there was no help for it if we would hope to get beyond the
cape. How long we were I know not. I lost the sense of time. I had no
faculty left save those that were in service now to battle back
destruction. But at last I came to realize that we were well clear of
the cape, that the sound of the breakers had dwindled, and that the
time had come to turn. To turn? Ay, but could it be done?
It could but be tried. To go on thus much longer was, I knew,
impossible. My strength would certainly fail by and by.
Comrade, said I,and my voice sounded strange, as if long
unused,keep paddling steadily as you are, but the moment I say
'change,' paddle hard on the other side.
Yes, Monsieur! she answered as quietly as if we had been walking
in a garden.
I watched the approach of one of those great waves which would, as I
knew, have as vast a fellow to follow upon it. As soon as we were well
over the crest I began to turn.
Change! I shouted. And Mizpah's paddle flashed to the other side.
Down we slanted into the pit. We lay at the bottom for a second,
broadside on,then we got the little craft fairly about as she rose. A
second more, and the wind caught us, and completed the turn,and the
next crest was fairly at my back. I drew a huge breath, praising God
and St. Joseph; and we ran in toward the hollow of the land before us.
That part of the coast was strange to me, save as seen when passing by
ship; but I trusted there would be some estuary or some winding, within
which we might safely come to land.
The strain was now different, and therefore my nerves and muscles
felt a temporary relief; but it was still tremendous. There was still
the imminent danger of broaching to as each wave-crest seized and
twisted the frail craft. But having the wind behind me, I had of course
more steerage way, and therefore a more instant and effective control.
We ran on straight before the wind, but a few points off; and with
desperate anxiety I peered ahead for some hint of shelter on that wild
lee shore. Mizpah, of course, knew the unspeakable strain of wielding
the stern paddle in such a sea.
Are you made of steel, Monsieur? she presently asked. I can
hardly believe it possible that the strength of human sinews should
endure so long.
Mine, alas, will not endure much longer, comrade, said I.
And what then? she asked, in a steady voice.
I do not know, said I; but there is hope. I think we have not
been brought through all this for nothing.
The roar of the breakers grew louder and louder again, as we
gradually neared the high coast which seemed to slip swiftly past on
our right hand. It was black and appalling, serried along the crest
with tops of fir trees, white along the base with the great gnashing of
the breakers. As we ran into the head of the bay, with yet no sign of a
shelter, the seas got more perilous, being crowded together and broken
so that I could not calculate upon them. Soon they became a mad
smother; and I knew my strength for this bout had but little longer to
The end! said I; but we may win through! I will catch you when
the crash comes. And some blind prayer, I know not what, kept
repeating and repeating in the inward silence of my soul. New strength
seemed then to flow upon nerve and sinew,and I descried, almost ahead
of us, a space of smooth and sloping beach up which the seas rushed
without rock to shatter them.
This is our chance, I shouted. A wave came, smoother and more
whole than most, and paddling desperately I kept awhile upon the crest
of it. Then like a flash it curled thinly, rolled the canoe over, and
hurled us far up on the beach. Half blinded, half stunned, and
altogether choking, I yet kept my wits; and catching Mizpah by the arm,
I dragged her violently forward beyond reach of the next wave. Dropping
her without a word, I turned back, and was just in time to catch the
rolling canoe. It, too, I succeeded in dragging to a place of safety;
but it was so shattered and crushed as to be useless. The muskets,
however, were in it; for I had taken care to lash them under the bars
before leaving the shelter of the inlet.
The remnants of the canoe I hauled far up on the beach, and then I
returned to Mizpah, who lay in utter exhaustion just where I had
dropped her, so close to the water's edge that she was splashed by the
spray of every wave.
Come, comrade, I said, lifting her gently. The saints have indeed
been kind to us. But she made no reply. Leaning heavily upon me, and
moving as if in a dream, she let me lead her to the edge of the wood,
where the herbage began behind a sort of windrow of rocks. There,
seeing that the rocks shut off the wind, I released her, and dropping
on the spot, she went at once to sleep. Then I felt myself suddenly as
weak as a baby. I had no more care for anything save to sleep. I tried
to pluck a bunch of herbage to put under Mizpah's head for a pillow;
but even as I stooped to gather it, I forgot where I was, and the tide
of dreams flowed over me.
Chapter XVIII. The Osprey, of
It must have been a good two hours that I slept. I woke with a
start, with a sense of some duty left undone. I was in an awkward
position, half on my side amid stones and underbrush, my arms clasping
the bundle of herbage which I had meant for Mizpah's pillow. The
daylight was fairly established, blue and cold, though the sun was not
yet visible. The gale hummed shrilly as ever, the huge waves thundered
on the trembling beach, and all seaward was such a white and purple
hell of raving waters that I shuddered at the sight of it. Mizpah was
still sleeping. As I looked at her the desire for sleep came over me
again with deadly strength, but I resisted it, rushing down to the edge
of the surf, and facing a chill buffet of driven spume. I took another
glance at the canoe. It was past mending. The two muskets were there,
but everything else was gone, washed away, or ground upon the rocks.
After much searching, however, to my delight I found a battered roll of
bacon wedged into a cleft. Pouncing upon this, I bore it in triumph to
Wake up, comrade, I cried, shaking her softly. We must be getting
The poor girl roused herself with difficulty, and sat up. When she
tried to stand, she toppled over, and would have fallen if I had not
caught her by the arms. It was some minutes before she could control
the stiffness of her limbs. At last the whipping of the wind somewhat
revived her, and sitting down upon a rock she looked about with a face
of hopeless misery.
Eat a little, said I, gently, for we must get away from here at
once, lest our enemies come over the hills to look for us.
But she pushed aside the untempting, sodden food which I held out to
Whither shall we go? she asked heavily. The canoe is wrecked. How
can we find my boy? Oh, I wish I could die!
Poor girl! my heart ached for her. I knew how her utter and terrible
exhaustion had at last sapped that marvellous courage of hers; but I
felt that roughness would be her best tonic, though it was far indeed
from my heart to speak to her roughly.
Shame! said I, in a voice of stern rebuke. Have you struggled and
endured so long, to give up now? Will you leave Philip to the savages
because a canoe is broken? Where is your boasted courage? Why, we will
walk, instead of paddling. Come at once.
Even this rebuke but half aroused her. I'm so thirsty, she said,
looking around with heavy eyes. By good Providence, there was a slender
stream trickling in at this point, and I led her to it. While she drank
and bathed her face, I grubbed in the long grasses growing beside the
stream, and found a handful of those tuberous roots which the Indians
call ground-nuts. These I made her eat, after which she was able to
endure a little of the salt bacon. Presently, she became more like
herself, and began to grieve at the weakness which she had just shown.
Her humiliation was so deep that I had much ado to comfort her, telling
her again and again that she was not responsible for what she had said
when she was yet but half awake, and in the bonds of a weariness which
would have killed most women. I told her, which was nothing less than
true, that I held her for the bravest of women, and that no man could
have supported me better than she had done.
We pushed our way straight over the height of land which runs
seaward and ends in Cape Merigomish. Our way lay through a steep but
pleasant woodland, and by the time the sun was an hour high we had
walked off much of our fatigue. The tree tops rocked and creaked high
above us, but where we walked the wind troubled us not.
Where are we going? asked Mizpah, by and bysomewhat tremulously
for she still had in mind my censure.
Why, comrade, said I, in a cheerful, careless manner of speech, a
thousand miles away from the devotion in my heart,my purpose is to
push straight along the coast to Canseau. There we will find a few of
your country-folk, fishermen mostly, and from them we will get a boat
to carry us up the Bras d'Or.
But what will become of Philip, all this time? she questioned,
with haggard eyes.
As a matter of fact, I answered, I don't think we will lose much
time, after all. If we still had the canoe, we would be storm-bound in
the bay back there till the wind changes or subsidesand it may be
days before it does the one or the other. As it is, the worst that has
befallen us is the loss of our ammunition and our bread. But we will
make shift to live, belike, till we reach Canseau.
Oh, Monsieur, she cried, in answer, with a great emotion in her
voice, you give me hope when my despair is blackest. You seem to me
more generous, more brave, more strong, than I had dreamed the greatest
could be. What makes you so good to an unhappy mother, so faithfully
devoted to a poor baby whom you have never seen?
Tut, tut! said I, roughly; I but do as any proper minded man
would do that had the right skill and the fitting opportunity. Thank
Marc! But I might have told her more if I had let my heart speak
I know whom to thank, and all my life long will I pray Heaven to
bless that one! said Mizpah.
Thus talking by the way, but most of the way silent, we came at
length over Merigomish and down to the sea again, fetching the shore at
the head of a second bay. This was all in a smother and a roar, like
that we had just left behind. As we rounded the head of it, we came
upon a little sheltered creek, and there, safe out of the gale, lay a
small New England fishing schooner. I knew her by the build for a New
Englander, before I saw the words OSPREY, PLYMOUTH, painted in red
letters on her stern.
Here is fortune indeed! said I, while a cry of gladness sprang to
Mizpah's lips. I'll charter the craft to take us up the Bras d'Or.
The little ship lay in a very pleasant idleness. The small haven was
full of sun, the green, wooded hills sloping softly down about it and
shutting off all winds. The water heaved and rocked; but smoothly,
stirred by the yeasty tumult that roared past the narrow entrance. The
clamour of the surf outside made the calm within the more excellent.
Several gray figures of the crew lay sprawling about the deck, which
we could see very well, by reason of the steepness of the shore on
which we stood. In the waist was a gaunt, brown-faced man, with a
scant, reddish beard, a nose astonishingly long and sharp, and a blue
woollen cap on the back of his head. He stood leaning upon the rail
watching us, and spitting contemplatively into the water from time to
We climbed down to the beach beside the schooner, and I spoke to the
man in English.
Are you the captain? I asked civilly.
They do say I be, he answered in a thin, high, sing-song of a
voice. Captain Ezra Bean, Schooner Osprey, of Plymouth, at your
sarvice. And he waved his hand with a spacious air.
I bowed with ceremony. And I am your very humble servant, said I,
the Sieur de Briart, of Canard by Grand Pré. We were on our way to
Canseau, but have lost our canoe and stores in the gale. We are bold to
hope, Captain, that you will sell us some bread, as also some powder
and bullets. We did not lose our little money, Heaven be praised!
Knowing these New Englanders to be greedy of gain, but highly
honest, I made no scruple of admitting that we had money about us.
Come right aboard, good sirs! said the captain; and in half a
minute the gig, which floated at the stern, was thrust around to us,
and we clambered to the deck of the Osprey, where crew and
captain, five in all, gathered about us without ceremony. The captain,
I could see at once, was just one of themselves, obeyed when he gave
orders, but standing in no sort of formal aloofness. Cold salt beef,
and biscuit and cheese, and tea, were soon set before us, and as we
made a hasty meal they all hung about us and talked, as if we had been
in one of their home kitchens on Massachusetts Bay. As for Mizpah, who
felt little at ease in playing her man's part, she spoke only in
French, and made as if she knew no word of English. Captain Ezra Bean
had some French, but no facility in it, and a pronunciation that was
beyond measure execrable.
But at last, being convinced that they were honest fellows, I spoke
of chartering the Osprey, and in explanation told the main part
of our story, representing Mizpah as a youth of Canard. But, alas, I
had not read my men aright. Honest they were, and exceeding eager to
turn an honest penny,but they had not the stomach for fighting. When
they found that a war party of Micmacs was in chase of us, they fell
into a great consternation, and insisted on our instant departure.
At this I was all taken aback, for I had ever found the men of New
England as diligent in war as in trade. But these fellows were in a
shaking terror for their lives and for their ship.
Why, gentlemen, I said, in a heat, here are seven of us, well
armed! We will make short work of the red rascals, if they are so
foolhardy as to attack us.
But no! They would hear none of it.
It's no quarrel of mine! cried Captain Ezra Bean, in his high
sing-song, but in a great hurry. My dooty's to my ship. There's been
many of our craft fell afoul of these here savages, and come to grief.
We're fast right here till the wind changes, and we'll just speak the
redskins fair if they come nigh us, an' there ain't goin' to be no
trouble. But you must go your ways, gentlemen, begging your pardon; and
no ill will, I hope! And the boat being hauled around for us, they all
made haste to bid us farewell.
Mizpah, with a flushed face, stepped in at once; but I hung back a
little, sick with their cowardly folly.
At least, said I, angrily, you must sell me a sack of bread, and
some powder and ball. Till I get them I swear I will not go.
Sartinly! sing-songed the captain; and in a twinkling the supplies
were in the boat. Now go, and God speed ye!
I slipped a piece of gold into his hand, and was off. But frightened
as he was, he was honest, and in half a minute he called me back.
Here is your silver, came the queer, high voice over the rail.
You have overpaid me three times, and I saw his long arm reaching out
Keep it, I snapped. We are in more haste to be gone than you to
get rid of us.
In five minutes more the woods enfolded us, and the little Osprey
was hid from our view. I walked violently in my wrathful
disappointment, till at last Mizpah checked me. If the good soldier,
said she, might advise his captain, which would be, of course,
intolerable, I would dare to remind you of what you have said to me
more than once lately. Is not this pace too hot to last, Monsieur? And
stopping, she leaned heavily on her musket.
Forgive me, I exclaimed, flinging myself down on the moss. And
what a fool I am to be angry, too, just because those poor bumpkins
wouldn't take up our quarrel.
The look of gratitude which Mizpah gave me for that little phrase,
our quarrel, made my heart on a sudden strong and light. Presently we
resumed our journey, going moderately, and keeping enough inland to
avoid the windings of the coast. The little Osprey we never saw
again; but months later, when it came to my ears that a fishing vessel
of Plymouth had been taken by the Indians that autumn while
storm-stayed at Merigomish, and her crew all slain, I felt a qualm of
pity for the poor lads whose selfish fears had so misguided them.
Chapter XIX. The Camp by Canseau
It was perhaps to their encounter with the Osprey we owed it
that we saw no more of our pursuers. At any rate we were no further
persecuted. After two days of marching we felt safe to light fires.
We shot partridges, and a deer; and the fresh meat put new vigour
into our veins. We came to the beginning of the narrow strait which
severs Ile Royale from the main peninsula of Acadie; and with longing
eyes Mizpah gazed across, as if hoping to discern the child amid the
trees of the opposite shore. At last, I could but say to her:
We are a long, long way from Philip yet, my comrade; were we across
this narrow strait, we would be no nearer to him, for the island is so
cut up with inland waters, many, deep, and winding, that it would take
us months to traverse its length afoot. We must push on to Canseau, for
a boat is needful to us.
And all these days, in the quiet of the great woods, in the
stillness of the wilderness nights when often I watched her sleeping,
in the hours while she walked patiently by my side, her brave, sweet
face wan with grief suppressed, her eyes heavy with longing, my love
grew. It took possession of my whole being till this doubtful, perilous
journey seemed all that I could desire, and the world we had left
behind us became but a blur with only Marc's white face in the midst to
give it consequence. Nevertheless, though my eyes and my spirit waited
upon all her movements, I suffered no least suggestion of my worship to
appear, but ever with rough kindliness played the part of
One morning,it was our fifth day from the Osprey, but since
reaching the Strait we had become involved in swamps, and made a very
pitifully small advance,one morning, I say, when it wanted perhaps an
hour of noon, we were both startled by a sound of groaning. Mizpah came
closer to me, and put her hand upon my arm. We stood listening
It is some one hurt, said I, in a moment, and he is in that gully
Cautiously, lest there should be some trap, we followed the sound;
and we discovered, at the bottom of a narrow cleft, an Indian lad lying
wedged between sharp rocks, with the carcass of a fat buck fallen
across his body. It was plain to me at once that the young savage had
slipped while staggering under his load of venison. I hesitated; for
what more likely than that there should be other Indians in the
neighbourhood; but Mizpah cried at once:
Oh, we must help him! Quick! Come, Monsieur!
And in truth the lad's face appealed to me, for he was but a
stripling, little younger than Marc. Very gently we released him from
his agonizing position; and when we had laid him on a patch of smooth
moss, his groaning ceased. His lips were parched, and when I brought
him water he swallowed it desperately. Then Mizpah bathed his face.
Presently his eyes opened, rested upon her with a look of unutterable
gratitude, and closed again. Mizpah's own eyes were brimming with
tears, and she turned to me in a sort of appeal, as if she would say:
How can we leave him?
Let him be for a half hour now, said I, answering her look. Then
perhaps he will be able to talk to us.
We ate our meal without daring to light a fire. Then we sat in
silence by the sleeping lad, till at last he opened his eyes, and
murmured in the Micmac tongue, water. When he had taken a drink, I
offered him biscuit, of which he ate a morsel. Then, speaking in
French, I asked him whence he came; and how he came to be in such a
He answered faintly in the same tongue. I go from Malpic, said he,
to the Shubenacadie, with messages. I shot a buck, on the rock there,
and he fell into the gully. As I was getting him out I fell in myself,
and the carcass on top of me. I know no more till I open my eyes, and
my mouth is hard, and kind friends are giving me water. Then I sleep
again, for I feel all safe, and with a grateful smile his eyes closed
wearily. He was fast asleep again, before I could ask any more
Come away, I whispered to Mizpah, till we talk about this. She
came, but first, with a tender thoughtfulness, she leaned her musket
against a tree, with his own beside it, so that if he should wake while
we were gone he should at once see the two weapons, and know that he
was not deserted.
When we were out of earshot, I turned and looked into her eyes.
What is to be done with him? I asked.
We must stay and take care of him, said she, steadily, till he
can take care of himself.
And Philip? I questioned.
She burst into tears, flung herself down, and buried her face in her
hands. After sobbing violently for some minutes she grew calm, dashed
her tears away, and looked at me in a kind of despair.
The poor boy cannot be left to die here alone, she said, in a
shaken voice. It is perfectly plain what we must do. Oh, God, take
care of my poor lonely little one. And again she covered her eyes. I
took one of her hands in mine, and pressed it firmly.
If there is justice in Heaven, he will, I cried passionately. And
he will; I know he will. I think there never was a nobler woman than
you, my comrade.
You do not know me, she answered, in a low voice; and rising, she
returned to the sick boy's side.
Seeing that we were here for some days, or perchance a week, I
raised two hasty shelters of brush and poles. That night the patient
wandered in his mind, but in the morning the fever had left him, and
thenceforward he mended swiftly. His gratitude and his docility were
touching, and his eyes followed Mizpah as would the eyes of a faithful
dog. I think his insight penetrated her disguise, so that from the
first he knew her for a woman; but his native delicacy kept him from
betraying his knowledge. As far as I could see, there were no bones
broken, and I guessed that in a week at furthest he would be able to
resume his journey without risk.
For three days I troubled him not with further questions, Mizpah
having so decreed. She said that questioning would hinder his recovery;
but I think she feared what questioning might disclose. At last, as we
finished supper, of which he had well partaken, he rose feebly but with
determination, took a few tottering paces, and then came back to his
couch, where he lay with gleaming eyes of satisfaction.
I walk now pretty soon, said he. Not keep kind friends here much
longer. Which way you going when you stopped to take care of Indian
I looked across at Mizpah, then made up my mind to speak plainly. If
I knew anything at all of human nature, this boy was to be trusted.
We are going to Ile Royale, said I, to look for a little boy whom
some of your tribe have cruelly carried off.
His face became the very picture of shame and grief. He looked first
at one of us, then the other; and presently dropped his head upon his
Why, what is the matter, Xavier? I asked. He had said his name was
I know, he answered, in a low voice. It was some of my own people
What do you know? Tell us, oh, tell us everything! Oh, we
helped you! You will surely help us find him! pleaded Mizpah,
By all the blessed saints, he cried, with an earnestness that I
felt to be sincere, I will try to help you. I will risk anything. I
will disobey the Abbé. I will
Where is the child? Do you know that? I interrupted.
Yes, truly, he replied. They have taken him north to Gaspé, and
to the St. Lawrence. My uncle, Etienne le Batard, was in canoe that
brought him to mouth of the Pictook. Then other canoe took him north,
where a French family will keep him. The Abbé says he shall grow up a
monk. But he is not starved or beaten, I swear truly.
How do you know all this? I asked, looking at him piercingly. But
his eye was clear and met mine right honestly.
My uncle came to Malpic straight, said he, where the warriors had
a council. Then I was sent with word to my father, Big Etienne, who is
on the Shubenacadie.
What word? I asked.
But the boy shook his head. It does not touch the little boy. It
does not touch my kind friends. I may not tell it, he said, with a
brave dignity. I loved him for this, and trusted him the more.
This lad's tongue and heart are true, said I, looking at Mizpah.
We may trust him.
I know it! said she. Whereupon he reached out, grasped a hand of
each, and kissed them with a freedom of emotion which I have seldom
seen in the full blood Indian.
You may trust me, he said, in a low voice, being by this something
wearied. You give me my life. And I will help you find your child.
And the manner of his speech, as if he considered the child our
child, though it was but accident, stirred me sweetly at the
heart,and I durst not trust myself to meet Mizpah's eyes.
Thus it came about that, after all, we crossed not the narrow
strait, nor set foot in Ile Royale. But when, three days later, I
judged our patient sufficiently recovered, we set our faces again
toward the Shubenacadie.
The journey was exceeding slow, but to me very far from tedious, for
in rain or shine, or dark or bright, the light shone on me of my
And at last, after many days of toilsome wandering, we struck the
head waters of the Shubenacadie.
From this point forward we went with more caution. When we were come
within an hour of the Indian village, Xavier parted company with us.
The river here making a long loop, so to speak, we were to cross behind
the village at a safe distance, strike the tide again, and hide at a
certain point covered with willows till Xavier should bring us a canoe.
We reached the point, hid ourselves among the willows, and waited
close upon two hours. The shadows were falling long across the river,
and our anxieties rising with more than proportioned speed, when, at
last, a canoe shot around a bend of the river, and made swiftly for the
point. We saw Xavier in the bow, but there was a tall, powerful warrior
in the stern. As the canoe drew near, Mizpah caught me anxiously by the
That man was one of the band that captured us at Annapolis, she
whispered. What does it mean? Could Xavier mean to?
No, I interrupted; of course not, comrade. These Indians are
never treacherous to those who have earned their gratitude. Savages
though they be, they set civilization a shining example in that. There
is nothing to fear here.
Landing just below us, the two Indians came straight toward our
hiding-place. At the edge of the wood the tall warrior, whom I now knew
for a certainty to be Big Etienne himself, stopped, and held out both
his hands, palm upwards. I at once stepped forth to meet him, leaving
my musket behind me. But Mizpah who followed me closely, clung to
hers,which might have convinced me, had I needed conviction, that
hero though she was she was yet all woman.
You my brother and my sister! said the tall warrior at once,
speaking with dignity, but with little of Xavier's fluency. He knew
I am glad my brother's heart is turned towards us at last, said I.
My brother knows what injury has been done to us, and what we suffer
at the hands of his people.
Listen, said he, solemnly. You give me back my son, my only son,
my young brave, and he looked at Xavier with loving pride; for that I
can never pay you; but I give you back your son, too, see? And, now,
always, I am your brother. But now, you go home. I find the child away
north, by the Great River. I put him in your arms, safe,
laughing,so; and he made as if to place a little one in Mizpah's
arms. Then you believe I love you, and Xavier love you. But now, come;
not good to stay here more. And, turning abruptly, he led the way to
the canoe, and himself taking the stern paddle, while Xavier took the
bow, motioned us to get in. I hesitated; whereupon he cried:
Many of our people out this way. River not safe for you now. We
take you to Grand Pré, Canard, Pereau,where you want. Then go north.
Seeing the strong reason in his words, I accepted his offer
thankfully, but insisted upon taking the bow myself, because Xavier was
not yet well enough to paddle strongly.
Thus we set out, going swiftly with the tide. As we journeyed, Big
Etienne was at great pains to make us understand that it would take him
many weeks to find Philip and bring him back to us, because the way was
long and difficult. He said we must not look to see the lad before the
snow lay deep; but he bound himself to bring him back in safety,
barring visitation of God. I saw that Mizpah now trusted the tall
warrior even as I did. I felt that he would make good his pledge at any
hazard. I urged, however, that he should take me with him; but on this
point he was obstinate, saying that my presence would only make his
task the more difficult, for reasons which occurred to me very readily.
It cost me a struggle to give up my purpose of being myself the child's
rescuer, and so winning the more credit in Mizpah's eyes. But this
selfish prompting of my heart I speedily crushed (for which I thank
Heaven) when I saw that Big Etienne's plan was the best that could be
devised for Philip.
Some miles below the point where the river was already widening, we
passed a group of Indians with their canoes drawn up on the shore,
waiting to ascend with the returning tide. Recognizing Big Etienne in
the stern, they paid us no attention beyond a friendly hail. Late in
the evening we camped, well beyond the river mouth. Once on the
following morning, when far out upon the bosom of the bay, we passed a
canoe that was bound for the Shubenacadie, and again the presence and
parting hail of our protector saved us from question. Our halts for
meals were brief and far apart, but light headwinds baffled us much on
the journey, so that it was not till toward evening of the second day
out from the Shubenacadie mouth that we paddled into the Canard, and
drew up at Giraud's little landing under the bank.
Chapter XX. The Fellowship Dissolved
In Giraud's cabin during our absence things had gone tranquilly. We
found Marc mending,pale and weak indeed, but happy; Prudence no
longer pale, and with a content in her eyes which told us that her time
had not been all passed in grieving for our absence. Father Fafard was
in charge, of course; and of the Black Abbé there had been nothing seen
or heard since our departure.
Nevertheless there was great news, and a word that deeply concerned
me. De Ramezay had led his little army against Annapolis. Just ten days
before had he passed up the Valley; and for me he had left an urgent
message, begging me to join him immediately on my return. This was a
black disappointment; for just now my soul desired nothing so much as a
few days of quiet converse with Mizpah, and the chance to show her a
courtesy something different from the rough comradeship of our
wilderness travels. But this was not to be. It was incumbent upon me to
go in the morning.
That evening was a busy one; but I snatched leisure to sit by Marc's
bedside and give the dear lad a hasty outline of our adventure. The
tale called a flush to his face, and breathless exclamations from
Prudence; but Mizpah sat in silence, save for a faint protest once or
twice when I told of her heroism, and of her noble self-sacrifice on
behalf of the Indian lad. She was weighed down with a sadness which she
could make no pretence to hide,doubtless feeling the more little
Philip's absence and loneliness as she contemplated Marc's joy on my
return. My hands and lips ached with a longing to comfort her, but I
firmly forbade myself to intrude upon her sorrow. By and by, when I
spoke of my positive determination to set out for Annapolis in the
early morning, both Marc and Prudence strove hard to dissuade me,
crying out fervently against my going; but Mizpah said nothing more
Why not take one day, at least, to rest?
And I was somewhat hurt at the quiet way she said it. Said I to
myself within, She might spare me a little thought, now that she knows
Philip is safe, and sure to be brought back to her.
In the morning I saw Big Etienne and Xavier set forth upon their
quest,and Mizpah stood beside me to wish them a grateful God-speed.
Pale and sad as was the exquisite Madonna face, her lips were
marvellously red, and wore an unwonted tenderness. Her eyes evaded
mine,which hurt me sorely, but I was comforted a little by her word
as the canoe slipped silently away.
I wish we were going with them, said she, in a wistful voice.
It was that we that stirred my heart.
Would to God we were! said I.
Half an hour later I hung over my dear lad's pallet, pressing his
hands, and bidding him adieu, and kissing his gaunt cheeks. When at
last I turned away, dashing some unexpected drops from my eyes (for I
had eagerly desired his comradeship in this venture, and had dreamed of
him fighting at my side), I found that Prudence and the Curé had gone
down to the landing to see me off, and that Mizpah stood alone just
outside the door, looking pale and tired. I think I was aggrieved that
she should not take the trouble to walk down as far as the
landing,and this may have lent my voice a touch of reserve.
Good-bye, Madame, said I, holding out my hand. May God keep you!
In truth it lay heavily upon my soul that she should not have one
thought to spare from the child, for me. Yet I was not prepared for the
way she took my farewell.
It was 'comrade' but yesterday, she murmured, flushing, and
withdrawing her hand ere I could give it an instant's pressure. But
growing straightway pale again, she added with the stateliness so
native to her:
Farewell, Monsieur. May God keep you also! My gratitude to the most
gallant of gentlemen, to the bravest and truest succourer of those in
need, I must ask you to believe in without words; for truly I have no
words to express it. And with that she turned away, leaving me most
sore at heart for something more than gratitude.
A few minutes later, when I had made my adieux to Father Fafard, and
kissed Marc's lily maid, as was my right and duty, I had a surprise
which sent me on my way something more happily. As our canoe (I had
Giraud with me now) slipped round a little bluff below the settlement,
I caught the flutter of a gown among the trees; and the next instant
Mizpah appeared, waving her handkerchief. She had gone a good half-mile
to wave me a last God-speed.
For an instant, as I bared my head, I had a vision of her hair all
down about her, a glory that I can never think of without a trembling
in my throat. I saw a speaking tenderness in her Madonna face,and I
seemed to hear in my heart a call which assuredly her lips did not
utter; then my eyes blurred, so hard was it to keep from turning back.
I leaned my head forward for a moment on my arms, as if I had been a
soft boy, but feeling the canoe swerve instantly from its course, I
rose at once and resumed my paddling.
Nevertheless I turned my head ever and anon toward the shore behind,
till I could catch no more the flutter of her gown among the trees.
I have wondered many times since, how Mizpah's hair chanced then to
be down about her in that fashion. Did some wanton branch undo it as
she came hastily through the trees? Or did her own long fingers loosen
it for me?
Of de Ramezay's vain march against Annapolis I need not speak with
any fulness here. The September weather was propitious, wherefore the
expedition was an agreeable jaunt for the troops. But my good friend
the Commander found the fort too strong and too well garrisoned for the
force he had brought against it; and the great fleet from France which
was to have supported him came never to drop anchor in the basin of
secure Port Royal. It is an ill tale for French ears to hear, for
French lips to relate, that which tells of the thronged and mighty
ships which sailed from France so proudly to restore the Flag of the
Lilies to her ancient strongholds. Oh, my Country, what hadst thou
done, that the stars in their courses should fight against thee? For,
indeed, the hand of fate upon the ships was heavy from the first. Great
gales scattered them. By twos and threes they met the English foe, and
were destroyed; or disease broke out amongst their crews, till they
were forced to flee back into port with their dying; or they struggled
on through infinite toil and pain, to be hurled to wreck on our iron
capes of Acadie. The few that came in safety fled back again when they
knew the fate of their fellows. And our grim-visaged adversaries of New
England, rejoicing in their great deliverance, set themselves to
singing psalms of praise with great lustihood through their noses.
And for my own part, when I reached de Ramezay's camp, the
enterprise was already as good as abandoned. For a week longer, less to
annoy the enemy, than to spy out the land and commune with the
inhabitants, we lay before Annapolis. Then de Ramezay struck camp, and
bade his grumbling companions march back to Chignecto.
But of me he asked a service. And, though I had hoped to go at once
to Canard, I could not, in honour, deny him. I saw him and his little
army marching back whither my heart was fain to drag me also; but my
face was set seaward, whither I had no desire to go.
For the matter was, that de Ramezay had affairs with the Abenaqui
chiefs of the Penobscot, which affairs he was now unable to tend in
person, and which he durst hardly entrust to a subordinate, or to one
unused to dealing with our savage allies. He knew my credit among the
Penobscot tribes,and indeed, he would have been sorely put to it, had
I denied him in the matter. The affair carried me from the Penobscot
country on to the St. Lawrence, and then to Montreal. The story of it
is not pertinent to this narrative, and moreover, which is more to the
purpose, the affair was no less private in its nature than public in
its import. Suffice to say of it, therefore, that with my utmost
despatch it engaged me up to the closing of the year. It was not till
January was well advanced that I found myself again in de Ramezay's
camp at Chignecto, and looked out across the snow-glittering marshes to
the dear hills of Acadie.
I found that during my absence things had happened. The English
governor at Annapolis, conceiving that the Acadians were restless to
throw off the English yoke, had called upon New England for
reinforcements. In answer, Boston had sent five hundred of her gaunt
and silent soldiery, bitter fighters, drinkers of strong rum, quaintly
sanctimonious in their cups. Their leader was one Colonel Noble, a man
of excellent courage, but small discretion, and with a foolish contempt
for his enemies. These men, as de Ramezay told me, were now quartered
in Grand Pré village, and lying carelessly. It was his purpose to
attack them at once. But being himself weak from a recent sickness, he
was obliged to place the conduct of the enterprise in the hands of his
second in command. This, as I rejoiced to learn, was a very capable and
experienced officer, Monsieur de Villiers,the same who, some years
later, was to capture the young Virginian captain, Mr. Washington, at
Fort Necessity. Though our force was less than that of the New
Englanders, de Ramezay and de Villiers both trusted to the advantages
of a surprise and a night attack.
For my own part I liked little this plan of a night attack; for I
love a fair defiance and an open field, and all my years of bush
fighting have not taught me another sentiment. But I was well inclined
toward any action that would take me speedily to Canard. Moreover, I
knew that de Ramezay's plan was justified by the smallness of the force
which he could place at de Villiers' command. I had further a shrewd
suspicion that there were enough of the villagers on the English side
to keep the New Englanders fairly warned of our movements. In this, as
I learned afterwards, I suspected rightly, but the blind
over-confidence of Colonel Noble made the warning of no effect. The
preparations for our march went on briskly, and with an eager
excitement. The bay being now impassable by reason of the drifting ice,
the journey was to be made on snow-shoes, by the long, circuitous land
route, through Beaubassin, Cobequid, Piziquid, and so to the Gaspereau
mouth. Every one was in high spirits with the prospect of action after
a long and inglorious delay. But for me the days passed leadenly. I was
consumed with impatience, and anxiety, and passionate desire for a face
that was never an hour absent from my thoughts. My first act on
arriving at Chignecto had been to ask for Tamin, trusting that he might
have tidings from Canard. But de Ramezay told me that he had sent the
shrewd fisherman-soldier to Grand Pré for information.
In a fever I awaited his return.
At last, but three days before the time set for our departure, he
arrived. From him I learned that Marc was so far recovered as to walk
abroad for a short airing whenever the weather was fine. He, as well as
the ladies, was lying very close in Giraud's cottage, and their
presence was not known to the New Englanders at Grand Pré, at which
information I was highly gratified.
And are the ladies in good health? I asked.
The little Miss looks rugged, and her eyes are like stars, said
Tamin; but Madame Ah, she is pale, and her eyes are heavy. Tamin's
own eyes almost hid themselves in a network of little wrinkles as he
spoke, scrutinizing my face. She weeps for the child. She said perhaps
you, Monsieur, would find him in your travels, and bring him back
My heart sank at the word. I could not go to Canard,I could not
face Mizpah again, till I could go to her with Philip in my arms. I had
hoped that he was restored to her ere this. What had happened? Had Big
Etienne deceived me? And Xavier, too? I could not think it. Yet what
else could I think?
Ah, my friend, said I, with bitterness, she will be grievously
disappointed in me. She will say I promise much, and perform little.
And alas, it seems even so. I have not seen or heard of the child. But
has Big Etienne come back? Surely he has not come back without
Tamin, it was plain, had heard the whole story from Marc, for he
asked no questions, and showed no surprise.
No, said he, they're both away, Big Etienne and Xavier, gone nigh
onto four months. Some says to Gaspé; some says to Saguenay. Who knows?
They're Injuns! And Tamin shrugged his shoulders, while his honest
little eyes grew beady with distrust.
But I no more distrusted, and my heart lightened mightily. They had
been checked, baffled perhaps, for weeks; but I felt that they were
faithful and would succeed. I resolved that the moment this enterprise
of de Villiers' was accomplished I would go to help them. But I had yet
more questions for Tamin.
And the Black Abbé? I asked. Where is he?
At Baie Verte, minding his store, or at Cobequid with his red
lambs, replied Tamin, puckering his wide mouth drolly. He is little
at Chignecto since he met you there, Monsieur. And he has not been seen
at Canard since Giraud's cabin grew so hospitable. But Grûl is much in
the neighbourhood. I think the Black Abbé fears him.
Remembering the awful scene on the cliffs of the des Saumons, I felt
that Tamin's surmise was fairly founded; and I blessed the strange
being who thus kept watch over those whom I loved. But I said nothing
to Tamin of what was in my mind, thinking it became me to keep Grûl's
Chapter XXI. The Fight at Grand Pré
On the 23d day of January, 1747, we set out from Chignecto, four
hundred tried bush fighters, white and red,some three score of our
men being Indians. We went on snow-shoes, for the world was buried in
drifts. There was much snow that winter, with steady cold and no
January thaw. On the marsh the snow lay in mighty windrows; but in the
woods it was deep, deep, and smotheringly soft. The branches of fir and
spruce and hemlock bent to the earth beneath the white burden of it,
forming solemn aisles and noiseless fanes within. We marched in column.
The leaders, who had the laborious task of tramping the unbroken snow,
would keep their place for an hour, then fall to the rear, and enjoy
the grateful ease of marching in the footsteps of their fellows.
Sometimes, as our column wound along like a huge dark snake, some great
branch, awakened by our laughter, would let slip its burden upon us in
a sudden avalanche. Sometimes, in crossing a hidden watercourse, the
leading files would disappear, to be dragged forth drenched and cursing
But there were as yet no enemies to beware of; so we marched
merrily, and cheered our nights with unstinted blaze of camp fires.
On our fourth evening out from Chignecto, when we had halted about
an hour, there came visitors to the camp. My ear was caught by the
sentry's challenge. I went indifferently to see what the stir was all
Monsieur, we are come! cried a glad voice which I keenly
remembered; and Xavier, his face aglow in the firelight, sprang forward
to grasp my hand. Behind him, standing in moveless dignity, was Big
Etienne, and at his feet a light sledge, with a bundle wrapped in furs.
My heart gave a great bound of thankful joy; and I stepped forward
to seize the tall warrior's hand in both of mine.
He is well! He sleeps! said Big Etienne, gravely. In dealing with
men, I pride myself on knowing what to say and how to say it. But at
this moment I was filled with so many emotions that words were not at
my command. Some sort of thanks I stammered to express,but the Indian
understood and interrupted me.
You thank me moons ago, brother, he said, in an earnest voice.
You give me my boy. Now I give you yours. And we will not forget.
We will never forget, indeed, my brother, said I, fervently, and
again I clasped hands with him, thus pledging a comradeship which in
many a strait since then has stood me in good stead.
During the rest of that long mid-winter march, Philip remained in
the care of young Xavier, to whom, as well as to Big Etienne, he was
altogether devoted; and I saw a new side of the red man's character in
the tenderness of the stern chief toward the child. For my own part I
lost no time in bidding for my share in Philip's affections. My love
went out to the brave-eyed little fellow as if he had been the child of
my own flesh. And moreover I was fain to win an ally who would help me
to besiege his mother's heart.
Big Etienne had spoken within the mark in saying the child was well.
His cheeks were dark with smoke and with forgetfulness of soap and
water; but the red blood tinged them wholesomely. His long yellow hair
was tangled, but it had the burnished resilience of health. His mouth,
a bow of strength and sweetness,his mother's mouth,wore the scarlet
of clean veins; and the great sea-green eyes with which he stirred my
soul were unclouded by fear or sickness. Before our march brought us to
the hills of Gaspereau, Philip had admitted me to his favour, ranking
me, I think, almost as he did Xavier and Big Etienne. More than that I
could not have dared to hope.
At sundown of the ninth of February, the seventeenth day of our
march from Chignecto, we halted in a fir wood only three miles from the
Gaspereau mouth. We lit no camp fires now, but supped cold, though
heartily. We had been met the day before by messengers from Grand Pré,
who told de Villiers the disposition of the English troops. With
incredible carelessness they were scattered throughout the settlement.
About one hundred and fifty, under Colonel Noble himself, were
quartered along a narrow lane, which, running at right angles to the
main street, climbed the hillside at the extreme west of the village.
For my own part, though de Villiers' senior in military rank, I was but
a volunteer in this expedition, and served the chief as a kind of
informal aide-de-camp and counsellor.
Together we formed the plan of attack. It was resolved that one half
our company, under de Villiers himself, should fall upon the isolated
party in the lane and cut them to pieces. That left us but two hundred
men with whom to engage the remaining three hundred and fifty of the
New Englanders,a daring venture, but I undertook to lead it. I
undertook by no means to defeat them, however. I knew the fine mettle
of these vinegar-faced New Englanders, but I swore (and kept my oath)
that I would occupy them pleasantly till de Villiers, making an end of
the other detachment, should come to my aid and clinch the victory.
The plan of attack thus settled, I turned my attention to Philip.
Nigh at hand was a cottage where I was known,where I believed the
folk to be very kindly and honest. I told Big Etienne that we would put
the child there to sleep, and after the battle take him to his mother
And, my brother, said I, laying my hand on his arm, and looking
into his eyes with meaning, let Xavier stay with him, for he will be
afraid among strangers.
Xavier must fight, replied the tall warrior. But his eyes shifted
from mine, and there was indecision in his voice.
Xavier is but a boy yet, my brother, I insisted. And this is a
night attack. It is no place for an untried boy. No glory, but great
peril, for one who has not experience! For my sake bid Xavier stay with
You are right, brother. He shall stay, said the Indian.
And Xavier was not consulted. He stayed. But his was a face of sore
disappointment when we left him with Philip at the cottage,to guard
with your life, if need be! said I, in going. And thus gave him a
sense of responsibility and peril to cheer his bitter inaction.
It had been snowing all day, but lightly. After nightfall there blew
up a fitful wind, now fierce, now breathless. At one moment the air
would be thick with drift, and the great blasts would buffet us in the
teeth. At another, there would seem to be in all the dim-glimmering
world no movement and no breathing but our own. It was far past
midnight when we came upon the hill-slope overlooking Grand Pré
village; and the village was asleep. Not a light was visible save in
one long row of cottages at the extreme east end, close by the water
side. Thither, at our orders, the villagers had quietly withdrawn
before midnight. The rash New England men lay sleeping, with apparently
no guards set. If there were sentries, then the storm had driven them
The great gusts swirled and roared past their windows, piling the
drift more deeply about their thresholds. If any woke, they turned
perchance luxuriously in their beds and listened to the blasts, and
praised God that the Acadian peasants builded their houses warm. They
had no thought of the ruin that drew near through the drifts and the
whirling darkness. I have never heard that one of them was kept awake
with strange terrors, or had any prevision, or made special searching
of his soul before sleep.
It would seem as if Heaven must have forgotten them for a little. Or
perhaps the saints remembered that the English were not a people to
take advice kindly, or to change their plans for any sort of warning
that might seem to them irregular. But among us French, that night,
there was one at least who was granted some prevision.
Just before the two columns separated, Tamin came to me and wrung my
hand. He was with de Villiers' detachment. There was a certain awe, a
something of farewell, in his manner, and it moved my heart mightily.
But I clapped him on the back. No forebodings, now, my friend, said
I; keep a good heart and your eyes wide open.
The snow is deep to-night, Monsieur! said he gravely, as he turned
True, I answered; but the apple trees are at the other end of the
village; and who ever heard that the Black Abbé was a prophet?
Even as I spoke my heart smote me, and I would have given much to
wring the loyal fellow's hand once more. But I feared to add to his
My men all knew their parts before I led them from the camp. Once in
the village, only a few whispered orders were necessary. Squad by
squad, dim forms like phantoms in the drift, filed off stealthily to
I, with two dozen others, Big Etienne at my elbow, took post about
the centre of the village, where three large houses, joined together,
seemed to promise a rough bout. Then we waited. Saints, how long we
waited, as it seemed! The snow invaded us. But the apple trees were
many, and we leaned against them, gnawing our fingers, and protecting
our primings with the long flaps of our coats. At last there came a
musket-shot from the far-off lane, and straightway thereupon a crashing
volley, followed by a dreadful outcryshouts and screams, and the
yelling of the Indians.
Our waiting was done. We sprang forward to dash in the nearest
windows, to batter down the nearest doors. Lights gleamed. Then came
crashes of musketry from the points where I had placed my several
parties, and I knew they had found their posts. The fight once begun,
there was little room for generalship in that driven and shrieking
dark. I could see but what was before me. In those three houses there
were brave men, that I knew. Springing from sleep in their shirts, they
seemed to wake full armed, and were already firing upon us as we tried
to force our way in through the windows. The main door of the biggest
house we strove to carry with a rush, but that, too, belched lead and
fire in our faces, and we came upon a barrier of household stuff just
inside. By the light of a musket flash, I saw a huge, sour-faced fellow
in his shirt, standing on the barrier, with his gun-stock swung back. I
made at him nimbly with my sword. I reached him, and the uplifted
weapon fell somewhere harmless in the dark. The next moment I felt a
sword point, thrusting blindly, furrow across my temple, tearing as if
it were both hot and dull, and at the same instant I was dragged out
again into the snow. Three of us, however, as I learned afterwards,
stayed on the floor within.
It was Big Etienne who had saved me. I was dizzy for a moment with
my wound, the blood throbbing down in a flood; but I ordered all to
fall back under the shelter of the apple trees, and keep up a steady
firing upon the doors and windows. The order was passed along, and in a
few minutes the firing was steady. Then winding my kerchief tightly
about my temples, I bade Big Etienne knot it for me, and for the time I
thought no more of that sword-scratch.
Though my men were heavily outnumbered, the enemy could not guess
how few we were. Moreover, we had the shelter of the trees, and our
fire had their windows to converge upon. We held them, therefore, with
no great loss, except for those that fell in the first onslaught, which
was bloody for both sides. Presently a tongue of flame shot up, and I
knew that they had set fire to one of the houses on the lane. The
shouting there, and the yelling, died away, but a scattering crackle of
musketry continued. Then another building burst into flame. The night
grew all one red, wavering glare. As the smoke clouds blew this way and
that, the shadows rose and fell. The squalls of drift blurred
everything; but in the lulls men stood out suddenly as simple targets,
and were shot with great precision. Yet we had shelter enough, too; for
every house, every barn and shed, cast a block of thick darkness on its
northern side. Then men began to gather in upon the centre. Here a
squad of my own fellowsyelling and cheering with triumph, if they
were Indians, quietly exultant if they were veteranswould come from
the conquest of a cottage. There a knot of half-clad English, fleeing
reluctantly and firing over their shoulders as they fled, would arrive,
beat at the doors before us, and be let in hastily under our fire,
leaving always some of their number on the threshold. It was like no
other fight I had ever fought, for the strange confusion of it; or
perhaps my wound confused me yet a little. At length a louder yelling,
a sharper firing, a wilder and mightier clamour, arose in the direction
of the lane. Our own firing slackened. All eyes turned to watch a
little band which, fighting furiously, was forcing its way hither
through a swarm of assailants. The vinegar-faces can fight! I cried,
but we must stop them. Come on, lads! And with a score at my back I
rushed to meet the new-comers. Rushed, did I say? But I should have
said struggled and floundered. For, the moment we were clear of the
trampled area, and found ourselves in the open fields, the snow went
nearly to our middles. Yet we met the gallant little band, which having
shaken off its assailants, now fell upon us with a welcome of most
earnest curses. Men speak of the bloody ferocity of a duel in a dark
room. It is nothing to the blind, blundering, reckless, snarling rage
of that struggle in the deep snow, and under that swimming delusive
light. Having emptied my musket and my pistols, I threw them all away,
and fell to playing nimbly with my sword. Big Etienne I saw close
beside me, swinging his musket by the barrel. Suddenly its deadly sweep
missed its object. The tall warrior fell headforemost, carried off his
uneasy balance by the force of the blow. Ere he could flounder up again
a foeman was upon him with uplifted sword. But with a mighty lunge,
hurling myself forward from the drift that held my feet, I reached the
man's neck with my own point, and fell at his feet. He came down in a
heap on top of me. His knee, as I suppose it was, struck me violently
on the head. Perhaps I was already weakened by that cut upon the
temple. The noise all died suddenly away. I remember thinking how warm
the snow felt against my face. And the rest of the fight was no concern
Chapter XXII. The Black Abbé Strikes
in the Dark
I was awakened to consciousness by some one gently lifting me. I
struggled at once to my feet, leaning upon him. It was Big Etienne.
You much hurt? he queried, in great concern.
Why, no! said I, presently. Head feels sore. I think I'll be all
right in a minute.
It was in the red and saffron of dawn. The snow had stopped falling.
The muskets had stopped clattering. The battle was apparently at an
end. All around lay bodies, or rather parts of bodies; for they were
more or less hidden in the snow. Close by me just a pair of knees was
visible, thrust up through a drift into which the man had plunged in
The snow was all mottled with blood and powder, a very hideous
colour to look upon. I stood erect and stretched myself.
Why, brother, I exclaimed, in great relief, I am as good as new.
Where is the commander?
Big Etienne pointed in silence to the street before the three
houses. There I saw our men drawn up in menacing array. In and behind
the houses were crowded the dark masses of the New Englanders,
punctuated here and there with the scarlet of an officer's coat.
De Villiers greeted me as one recovered from the grave. I asked
eagerly how he had sped, and how the matter now rested.
Success, everywhere success, Briart! he answered, with a sort of
controlled elation. You held these fellows, while we wiped out those
yonder. But it was a cruel and bloody affair, and I would the times,
and the straits of New France, required not such killing in the dark.
But they set fire to a house and barn that they might fight in the
light, and so a band of them escaped us and cut their way through
here,what was left of them, at least, after they got done with you!
And now their remnant is hemmed in yonder.
We've got them, then, said I.
Surely, he answered. But it will cost our best blood to end it.
They have fought like heroes, though they kept guard like fools. And
they will battle it out, I think, while a man of them stands.
Yes, 'tis the breed of them! said I, looking across with
admiration at the silent and dangerous ranks. But they have done all
that brave men could do. They will accept honourable terms, I think;
and such we may offer them without any touch of discredit. What do you
This was, indeed what de Villiers had in his heart. He withdrew his
troops some little distance, that negotiations might be the less
embarrassed; and I myself, feeling a fresh dizziness, retired to a
cottage where I might have my wound properly tended. But barely had I
got the bandage loosened,a black-eyed Acadian maid standing by, with
face of deep commiseration and holding a basin of hot water for
me,when there broke out a sudden firing. I clapped the bloody bandage
to my head, and ran forth; but I saw there was no need of me. The
English had sallied with a fierce heat, hoping to retrieve their
fortunes. But the deep snow was like an army to shut them in. Before
they could come at us they were exhausted, and our muskets dropped them
swiftly in the drifts. Sullenly they fell back again upon their houses.
I turned to my basin and my bandaging.
That settles that! said I to the damsel.
Settles what, Monsieur? she asked. But as she spoke I saw a look
of sudden concern cross her face, a faintness came over me, and I lay
down, feeling her arm support me as I sank.
Sleep is the best of medicines for me. I woke late in the afternoon
to find my head neatly bandaged, and the dizziness all gone. Men came
and went softly. I found that de Villiers was lying in the same house,
having got a serious wound just after I left him. La Corne, a brave
Canadian, was in command. The English had capitulated toward noon, and
had pledged themselves to depart for Annapolis within forty-eight
hours, not to bear arms again in Acadie within six months. We had
redeemed at Grand Pré our late failure at Annapolis.
My first act was to send a runner, on snow-shoes, to Canard, with a
scrawled note to Mizpah. Explaining nothing, I merely begged that she
and Prudence, with Marc and Father Fafard, should meet me at the Forge
about noon of the following day. In the case of Marc not being yet
strong enough to journey so far, I prayed Mizpah herself, in any event,
to come without fail. My next was to send a messenger for Xavier and
Philip. My heart had fallen to aching curiously for the
child,insomuch that I marvelled at it, till at length I set it down
as a mere whimsical counterfeit of my longing for his mother.
Being now refreshed and altogether myself again, I went to visit the
lane wherein the fight had opened. The very first house, whose
shattered door and windows, blood-smeared threshold, and dripping
window-sills, showed that the fight had there raged long and madly, had
one great apple tree beside its garden gate. A chill of foreboding
smote me as I marked it. I approached with a curious and painful
expectancy, the words of the Black Abbé ringing again in my ears. At
the foot of the apple tree the snow was drifted deep. It half covered a
pitifully huddled body.
I lifted the body. It was Tamin.
He had been shot through the lungs, and his blood, melting the snow,
had gathered in a crimson pool beneath him. Here was one grim prophecy
fulfilled. Carrying him into the house, I laid him gently on a bed.
Then I turned away with a very sorrowful heart; for there was much to
do, and the dead are not urgent.
Even as I turned, my heart jumped with a new and sickening dread.
Xavier stood before meXavier, with wild eyes, and face darkly clotted
with blood. The next instant he threw himself at my feet.
The child! he muttered, covering his face. They have carried him
away. They have carried Philip away!
What do you mean? I cried, in a voice which my fear made harsh,
while at the same time I dragged him to his feet. Who have carried him
But I knew the answer ere he could speak it,I knew my enemy had
seized the chances of the battle and the night.
The Black Abbé, wailed the lad, in a voice of poignant sorrow. He
came in the night, with two Chepody Acadians dressed up like Indians,
and seized me asleep, and bound me.
But Philip! I cried. Where have they taken him? And even as I
spoke I was planning swiftly.
The Abbé started westward with him, answered Xavier. From what I
heard say, he would go to Pereau; but which way after, I could not find
Come! I ordered roughly, we must follow them! But as I spoke I
saw the lad totter. I caught him by the arm and held him up, perceiving
now for the first time how he was both wounded and utterly spent.
Let us go first to your father, I said more gently, leading him,
and putting what curb I could upon the fierceness of my haste.
How did you get here? I asked him presently.
A gleam came into the lad's faint eyes.
The Chepody men stayed till morning, said he, and then set out on
the road toward Piziquid, taking me with them. They thought I was
nothing but a boy. As we went, I got my hands loose, so,and waited.
At noon one man went into a house,andso!I was free, and had the
other dog by the throat. He make no noise; but he fight hard, and hurt
me. I got away, and left him in the snow, and ran back all the way to
tell you the Black Abbé
But here the poor lad's voice failed, and he hung upon me with all
his weight. He had fainted, indeed; and now that I thought of his
wound, his hunger, his grief, and his prodigious exertions, I wondered
not at his swooning. Picking him up in my arms, I carried him to the
cottage where the kind damsel had so compassionately tended my own
As I entered the thronged cottage with my burden, men came about me
with many questions; but I kept my own counsel, not knowing whom I
could trust, or where the Black Abbé might not have his spies posted.
Moreover, I was so distracted with anxiety about the child, that I had
small patience wherewith to take questioning civilly. Every bed and
every settle being occupied with our wounded, I laid Xavier on the
floor, with his head upon a blue petticoat which the kind damselwho
came to me as soon as she saw me enterfetched from a cupboard and
rolled up deftly for me. After a careful examination I found no wound
upon the lad save two shallow flesh cuts, one across his forehead and
one down his chest. I thereupon concluded that exhaustion, together
with the loss of blood, had brought him to this pass, and that with a
few days' care he would be altogether restored. Having put some brandy
between his lips, and seen his eyelids tremble with recovering
consciousness, I turned to the maiden and said:
Take care of him for me, Chérie. He deserves your best care; and I
trust him to your good heart. Give him something to eat now,soup, hot
milk, at first. And I will come back in two days from now, at
But Monsieur must rest!
No rest for me to-night! I interrupted, in a low voice, as I
straightened myself up. Do you know where I may find the lad's father,
the chief, Big
But there was no need for me to finish the question. There, close
behind me, stood the tall Indian, looking down at Xavier, with trouble
in his eyes. He had just entered, in his silent fashion.
There is no danger! He is worn out! I whispered. He has done all
a brave man could do; but the child is stolen! Come outside with me.
Big Etienne stooped quickly and laid his hand upon the lad's breast,
and then, most gently, upon his lips. A second later he had followed me
out into the deepening twilight.
In few words I told him what had happened, and my purpose of going
instantly in pursuit. Without a word he strode off toward a small cabin
about a stone's throw from the cottage which we had just left.
Where are you going? I asked, astonished at this abruptness.
My snow-shoes! he replied. And bread. I go with you, my brother!
This, in very truth, was just what I had hoped for. But, in my
haste, I had forgotten the need of eating; and, as for my snow-shoes,
usually strapped at my back, they had been left at the outskirts of the
village the night before in order that my sword arm might have the
freer play. It was no time now to go back for them. I slipped into the
cottage, borrowed a pair, and was presently forth again to meet Big
Etienne. The Indian, instead of bread, had brought a goodly lump of
dried beef. Side by side, and in silence, we set out for the cabin on
the Gaspereau where Philip and Xavier had been captured.
We found the place deserted. Either the man of the house had been a
tool of La Garne, or he feared that I would hold him responsible. Which
it was, I know not to this day; and, at the time, we gave small thought
to the question, merely commending the fellow's wisdom in removing
himself from our indignation. What engaged our concern was a single
snow-shoe track making westward, followed by the trail of a little
Yes, said I; Xavier is surely right. The Abbé has gone to cross
the Habitants and the Canard where they are little, and will then,
belike, turn down the valley to Pereau!
Very like! grunted my companion; and, at a long lope, we started
up the trail.
This pace, however, soon told upon me, and brought it into my mind
that I had, that day, eaten nothing but a bowl of broth. We halted,
therefore, and rested half an hour in the warmth of a dense spruce
coppice, and ate abundantly of that very savoury beef. Then, much
revived, we set out again. Treading one behind the other, we marched,
in silence, through the glimmering dark; for Big Etienne was no talker,
while I, for my part, was gnawing my heart with rage, and hope
frustrated, and the picture of Mizpah's anguish. We never stayed our
pace till we came, at the edge of dawn, to the spot where the trail
went over the dwindled upper current of the Habitants.
Here, to our astonishment, the trail turned eastward, following down
the course of the river.
I looked at the Indian in wondering consternation. What can it
mean? I cried. Can there be any new plot of his hatching at Canard?
Maybe! said Big Etienne.
At thought of further perils threatening Mizpah and Marc, the
weariness which had been growing upon me vanished, and I sprang forward
as briskly as if we had but just set out. Even Big Etienne, though he
had no such incentive as mine, seemed to win new vigour with the
contemplation of this new coil of the enemy's. If, indeed, he appeared
somewhat fresher than I throughout the latter half of this hard march,
it is but justice to myself to say that he bore no wound from the late
At last, when it was well past ten of the morning, the trail led us
out upon the main Canard track, and turned toward the settlement.
Yes, said I, with bitter conviction; he has gone to Canard. He
would never go there had he not some deep scheme of mischief afoot. God
grant we be in time!
In less than half an hour we came within sight of the Forge in the
Forest. To my astonishment, the smoke was pouring in furious volume
from the forge chimney.
What can Babin be about? Or can Mizpah and Marc be there already?
I wondered aloud; but got no answer from my companion. A moment later,
a turn of the track brought us to a post of vantage whence we could see
straight into the forge. The sight which met our eyes brought us to an
instant stop from sheer amazement.
Chapter XXIII. The Rendezvous at the
Beside the forge-fire stood Grûl. On his left arm was perched
Philip, half wrapped in the black-and-yellow cloak, and playing with
Grûl's white wand. At the back of the forge, fettered to the wall, and
with his hands bound behind him, stood the black form of our adversary.
Grûl was heaving upon the bellows, and in the fierce white glow of the
coal stuck a number of irons heating. These he turned and twisted with
fantastic energy, now and then drawing one forth and brandishing it
with a kind of mad glee, so as best to show the intensity of its
colour; and whenever he did so little Philip shouted with delight.
The joy that surged through my breast as I took in all this
astonishing turn of affairs, was something which I have no words to
Mary, Mother of Heaven, be praised for this! I cried fervently.
What will he do with irons? queried Big Etienne, with a curiously
startled note in his voice.
Indeed, what now followed was sufficiently startling. Grûl had
caught sight of us. Immediately he set the child down, heaved twice or
thrice mightily upon the bellows, and then drew from the fire two
white-hot rods of iron. With these, one in each hand, he approached the
Black Abbé, treading swiftly and sinuously like a panther. I darted
forward, chilled with sudden horror. A short scream of mortal fear came
from the wretched captive's lips.
Stop! stop! I shouted, as those terrible brands went circling
hither and thither about the cringing form. The next instant, and ere I
could reach the scene to interfere, the Abbé gave a huge bound, reached
the door, and plunged out into the snow, pursued by a peal of wild
laughter from Grûl's lips. This most whimsical of madmen had befooled
his captive, in much the same fashion as once before on the cliff
beside the des Saumons. He had used the deadly iron merely to free him
from his bonds, and again held in reserve his full vengeance.
Fetching a huge breath of relief, I joined in Grûl's mocking
laughter; while Big Etienne gave a grunt of manifest dissatisfaction.
As for the Black Abbé, though the sweat of his terror stood in beads
upon his forehead, he recovered his composure marvellously. Having run
some dozen paces he stopped, turned, and gazed steadily upon Grûl for
perhaps the space of a full minute. Then, sweeping a scornful glance
across the child, the Indian, and myself, he half opened his lips to
speak. But if he judged himself not then best ready to speak with
dignity,let no one marvel at that. He changed his purpose, folded his
arms across his breast, and strode off slowly and in silence along the
track toward Grand Pré.
I thought his shadow, as it fell long and sinister across the snow,
lay blacker than was the common wont of shadows.
Big Etienne was already within, and Philip in his arms. As I entered
the forge door Grûl cried solemnly, as if to extenuate his act in
freeing the prisoner:
His cup is not yet full.
Seizing both his hands in mine, I tried with stammering lips to
thank him; but, something to my chagrin, he cut me short most
ungraciously. Snatching his hands away, he stepped outside the door,
and raised his thrilling, bell-like chant:
Woe, woe to Acadie the Fair, for the day of her desolation cometh.
Beyond all words though my gratitude was, I could not refrain from
shrugging my shoulders at this fantastic mummery, as I turned to
embrace little Philip. My heart was rioting with joy and hope, and I
could not trouble my wits with these mad whimsies of Grûl's. When he
had quit prophesying and come again within the forge, I tried to draw
from him some account of how he had so achieved the child's rescue and
the Black Abbé's utter discomfiture. But he wandered from the matter,
whether wilfully or not I could by no means decide; and presently,
catching a ghost of a smile on the face of Big Etienne, I gave up and
rested thankful for what I had got. As for Philip, he was amiably
gracious to both Big Etienne and myself, but it was manifest that all
his little heart had gone out to Grûl; and the two were presently
playing together in a corner of the forge, at some game which none but
themselves could understand.
It wanted yet an hour of noon, when, as I stood in the door
consuming my heart with impatience, yet unwilling to go and meet Mizpah
and so mar the climax which I had plotted for, I caught sight of two
figures approaching. I needed not eyes to tell me one was Mizpah, for
the blood shook in all my veins at sight of her. The other was Father
Marc, said I to myself, is not yet strong enough to venture so
far; and the maid Prudence has stayed with him. But Mizpah is
hereMizpah is here!
With eyes of delight I dwelt upon her tall, slim form, in its gown
of blue woollen cloth which set off so rarely the red-gold enchantment
of her hair. But when she was come near enough for me to mark the eager
welcome in her eyes and on her lips, I waved at her, clumsily enough,
and turned within to catch at a little self-possession. Not having my
snow-shoes on, I could not be expected to go and meet her; and that
waiting in the doorway was too much for me to endure.
Keep Philip behind the chimney, out of sight, I whispered eagerly
to Grûl; and somewhat to my wonder he obeyed.
On the next instant Mizpah stood in the door, smiling upon me, her
face all aglow with expectation and greeting; and I found myself
clasping both of her white hands. But my tongue refused to
speak,deeming, perchance, that my eyes were usurping its office.
Finding at length a word of welcome for the good priest, I wrung his
hand fervently, then turned again to Mizpah.
But my first speech was stupid,so stupid that I wished most
heartily that I had held my tongue.
Comrade, said I, this is a glad day for me.
Her face fell, and her eyes reproached me.
Because you have defeated and slain my people? she asked.
My face grew hot for the flat ineptitude of my words.
No! no! Not for that! I cried passionately, but for this!
And I turned to snatch Philip from his corner behind the chimney.
But Grûl was too quick for me. He could play no second part at any
time, he. Evading my hands, he slipped past me, and himself placed the
child in Mizpah's arms.
I cursed inwardly at his abruptness, though in truth he had done
just what I was intending to do myself. As Mizpah, with a gasping cry,
crushed the little one to her bosom, she went white as a ghost and
tottered against the anvil. I sprang to support her, but withheld my
arm ere it touched her waist, for even on the instant she had recovered
herself. With wordless mother-cries she kissed Philip's lips and hair,
and buried her face in his neck, he the while clinging to her as if
never again for a moment could he let her go.
Presently, while I waited in great hunger for a word, she turned to
Big Etienne and Grûl.
My friends! she cried, in a shaken voice which faithfully uttered
her heart, my true and loyal friends! Whereupon she wrung their
hands, and wrung them, and would have spoken further but that her voice
Then, after a moment or two, she turned to me,yet not wholly.
The paleness had by this well vanished, and her eyes, those great
sea-coloured eyes, which she would not lift to mine, were running over
with tears. Philip took one sturdy little arm from her neck, and
stretched out his hand to me; but I ignored the invitation.
And whatwhat have you got for me, Mizpah? I asked, in a very low
voice, indeeda voice perhaps not just as steady as that of a noted
bush-fighter is supposed to be at a crisis.
The flush grew, deepening down along the clear whiteness of her
neck, and she half put out one hand to me.
Do you want thanks? she asked softly.
You know what I want,what I have wanted above all else in
life from the moment my eyes fell upon you! I cried with a great
passion, grown suddenly forgetful of Grûl and Big Etienne, who
doubtless found my emotion more or less interesting.
For a second or two Mizpah made no answer. Then she lifted her face,
gave me one swift look straight in the eyes,a look that told me all I
longed to know,and suddenly, with a little laugh that was mostly a
sob, put Philip into my arms.
[Illustration: Suddenly, with a little laugh that was mostly a sob,
put Philip into my arms.]
There! she whispered, dropping her eyes.
And by some means it so came about that, as I took the child, my
arms held Mizpah also.