Part 1 out of 7
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To M. PLACIDE VALCOUR
M. D., Ph D., LL. D.
MY DEAR DR. VALCOUR: You gave me the Inspiration which made this
story haunt me until I wrote it. Gaspard Roussillon's letter, a
mildewed relic of the year 1788, which you so kindly permitted me
to copy, as far as it remained legible, was the point from which
my imagination, accompanied by my curiosity, set out upon a long
and delightful quest. You laughed at me when I became enthusiastic
regarding the possible historical importance at that ancient find,
alas! fragmentary epistle; but the old saying about the beatitude
of him whose cachinations are latest comes handy to me just now,
and I must remind you that "I told you so." True enough, it was
history pure and simple that I had in mind while enjoying the
large hospitality of your gulf-side home. Gaspard Roussillon's
letter then appealed to my greed for materials which would help
along the making of my little book "The Story of Louisiana."
Later, however, as my frequent calls upon you for both documents
and suggestions have informed you, I fell to strumming a different
guitar. And now to you I dedicate this historical romance of old
Vincennes, as a very appropriate, however slight, recognition of
your scholarly attainments, your distinguished career in a noble
profession, and your descent from one of the earliest French
families (if not the very earliest) long resident at that strange
little post on the Wabash, now one of the most beautiful cities
between the greet river and the ocean.
Following, with ever tantalized expectancy, the broken and breezy
hints in the Roussillon letter, I pursued a will-o'-the-wisp,
here, there, yonder, until by slowly arriving increments I
gathered up a large amount of valuable facts, which when I came to
compare them with the history of Clark's conquest of the Wabash
Valley, fitted amazingly well into certain spaces heretofore left
open in that important yet sadly imperfect record.
You will find that I was not so wrong in suspecting that Emile
Jazon, mentioned in the Roussillon letter, was a brother of Jean
Jazon and a famous scout in the time of Boone and Clark. He was,
therefore, a kinsman of yours on the maternal side, and I
congratulate you. Another thing may please you, the success which
attended my long and patient research with a view to clearing up
the connection between Alice Roussillon's romantic life, as
brokenly sketched in M. Roussillon's letter, and the capture of
Vincennes by Colonel George Rogers Clark.
Accept, then, this book, which to those who care only for history
will seem but an idle romance, while to the lovers of romance it
may look strangely like the mustiest history. In my mind, and in
yours I hope, it will always be connected with a breezy summer-
house on a headland of the Louisiana gulf coast, the rustling of
palmetto leaves, the fine flash of roses, a tumult of mocking-bird
voices, the soft lilt of Creole patois, and the endless dash and
roar of a fragrant sea over which the gulls and pelicans never
ceased their flight, and beside which you smoked while I dreamed.
I. Under the Cherry Tree
II. A Letter from Afar
III. The Rape of the Demijohn
IV. The First Mayor of Vincennes
V. Father Gibault
VI. A Fencing Bout
VII. The Mayor's Party
VIII. The Dilemma of Captain Helm
IX. The Honors of War
X. M. Roussillon Entertains Colonel Hamilton
XI. A Sword and a Horse Pistol
XII. Manon Lescaut, and a Rapier-Thrust
XIII. A Meeting in the Wilderness
XIV. A Prisoner of Love
XV. Virtue in a Locket
XVI. Father Beret's Old Battle
XVII. A March through Cold Water
XVIII. A Duel by Moonlight
XIX. The Attack
XX. Alice's Flag
XXI. Some Transactions in Scalps
XXII. Clark Advises Alice
XXIII. And So It Ended
Alice of Old Vincennes
UNDER THE CHERRY TREE
Up to the days of Indiana's early statehood, probably as late as
1825, there stood, in what is now the beautiful little city of
Vincennes on the Wabash, the decaying remnant of an old and
curiously gnarled cherry tree, known as the Roussillon tree, le
cerisier de Monsieur Roussillon, as the French inhabitants called
it, which as long as it lived bore fruit remarkable for richness
of flavor and peculiar dark ruby depth of color. The exact spot
where this noble old seedling from la belle France flourished,
declined, and died cannot be certainly pointed out; for in the
rapid and happy growth of Vincennes many land-marks once notable,
among them le cerisier de Monsieur Roussillon, have been destroyed
and the spots where they stood, once familiar to every eye in old
Vincennes, are now lost in the pleasant confusion of the new town.
The security of certain land titles may have largely depended upon
the disappearance of old, fixed objects here and there. Early
records were loosely kept, indeed, scarcely kept at all; many were
destroyed by designing land speculators, while those most
carefully preserved often failed to give even a shadowy trace of
the actual boundaries of the estates held thereby; so that the
position of a house or tree not infrequently settled an important
question of property rights left open by a primitive deed. At all
events the Roussillon cherry tree disappeared long ago, nobody
living knows how, and with it also vanished, quite as
mysteriously, all traces of the once important Roussillon estate.
Not a record of the name even can be found, it is said, in church
or county books.
The old, twisted, gum-embossed cherry tree survived every other
distinguishing feature of what was once the most picturesque and
romantic place in Vincennes. Just north of it stood, in the early
French days, a low, rambling cabin surrounded by rude verandas
overgrown with grapevines. This was the Roussillon place, the most
pretentious home in all the Wabash country. Its owner was Gaspard
Roussillon, a successful trader with the Indians. He was rich, for
the time and the place, influential to a degree, a man of some
education, who had brought with him to the wilderness a bundle of
books and a taste for reading.
From faded letters and dimly remembered talk of those who once
clung fondly to the legends and traditions of old Vincennes, it is
drawn that the Roussillon cherry tree stood not very far away from
the present site of the Catholic church, on a slight swell of
ground overlooking a wide marshy flat and the silver current of
the Wabash. If the tree grew there, then there too stood the
Roussillon house with its cosy log rooms, its clay-daubed chimneys
and its grapevine-mantled verandas, while some distance away and
nearer the river the rude fort with its huddled officers' quarters
seemed to fling out over the wild landscape, through its squinting
and lopsided port-holes, a gaze of stubborn defiance.
Not far off was the little log church, where one good Father
Beret, or as named by the Indians, who all loved him, Father
Blackrobe, performed the services of his sacred calling; and
scattered all around were the cabins of traders, soldiers and
woodsmen forming a queer little town, the like of which cannot now
be seen anywhere on the earth.
It is not known just when Vincennes was first founded; but most
historians make the probable date very early in the eighteenth
century, somewhere between 1710 and 1730. In 1810 the Roussillon
cherry tree was thought by a distinguished botanical letter-
writer to be at least fifty years old, which would make the date
of its planting about 1760. Certainly as shown by the time-stained
family records upon which this story of ours is based, it was a
flourishing and wide-topped tree in early summer of 1778, its
branches loaded to drooping with luscious fruit. So low did the
dark red clusters hang at one point that a tall young girl
standing on the ground easily reached the best ones and made her
lips purple with their juice while she ate them.
That was long ago, measured by what has come to pass on the gentle
swell of rich country from which Vincennes overlooks the Wabash.
The new town flourishes notably and its appearance marks the
latest limit of progress. Electric cars in its streets, electric
lights in its beautiful homes, the roar of railway trains coming
and going in all directions, bicycles whirling hither and thither,
the most fashionable styles of equipages, from brougham to pony-
phaeton, make the days of flint-lock guns and buckskin trousers
seem ages down the past; and yet we are looking back over but a
little more than a hundred and twenty years to see Alice
Roussillon standing under the cherry tree and holding high a
tempting cluster of fruit, while a very short, hump-backed youth
looks up with longing eyes and vainly reaches for it. The tableau
is not merely rustic, it is primitive. "Jump!" the girl is saying
in French, "jump, Jean; jump high!"
Yes, that was very long ago, in the days when women lightly braved
what the strongest men would shrink from now.
Alice Roussillon was tall, lithe, strongly knit, with an almost
perfect figure, judging by what the master sculptors carved for
the form of Venus, and her face was comely and winning, if not
absolutely beautiful; but the time and the place were vigorously
indicated by her dress, which was of coarse stuff and simply
designed. Plainly she was a child of the American wilderness, a
daughter of old Vincennes on the Wabash in the time that tried
"Jump, Jean!" she cried, her face laughing with a show of cheek-
dimples, an arching of finely sketched brows and the twinkling of
large blue-gray eyes.
"Jump high and get them!"
While she waved her sun-browned hand holding the cherries aloft,
the breeze blowing fresh from the southwest tossed her hair so
that some loose strands shone like rimpled flames. The sturdy
little hunchback did leap with surprising activity; but the
treacherous brown hand went higher, so high that the combined
altitude of his jump and the reach of his unnaturally long arms
was overcome. Again and again he sprang vainly into the air
comically, like a long-legged, squat-bodied frog.
"And you brag of your agility and strength, Jean," she laughingly
remarked; "but you can't take cherries when they are offered to
you. What a clumsy bungler you are."
"I can climb and get some," he said with a hideously happy grin,
and immediately embraced the bole of the tree, up which he began
scrambling almost as fast as a squirrel.
When he had mounted high enough to be extending a hand for a hold
on a crotch, Alice grasped his leg near the foot and pulled him
down, despite his clinging and struggling, until his hands clawed
in the soft earth at the tree's root, while she held his captive
leg almost vertically erect.
It was a show of great strength; but Alice looked quite
unconscious of it, laughing merrily, the dimples deepening in her
plump cheeks, her forearm, now bared to the elbow, gleaming white
and shapely while its muscles rippled on account of the jerking
and kicking of Jean.
All the time she was holding the cherries high in her other hand,
shaking them by the twig to which their slender stems attached
them, and saying in a sweetly tantalizing tone:
"What makes you climb downward after cherries. Jean? What a
foolish fellow you are, indeed, trying to grabble cherries out of
the ground, as you do potatoes! I'm sure I didn't suppose that you
knew so little as that."
Her French was colloquial, but quite good, showing here and there
what we often notice in the speech of those who have been educated
in isolated places far from that babel of polite energies which we
call the world; something that may be described as a bookish cast
appearing oddly in the midst of phrasing distinctly rustic and
local,--a peculiarity not easy to transfer from one language to
Jean the hunchback was a muscular little deformity and a wonder of
good nature. His head looked unnaturally large, nestling
grotesquely between the points of his lifted and distorted
shoulders, like a shaggy black animal in the fork of a broken
tree. He was bellicose in his amiable way and never knew just when
to acknowledge defeat. How long he might have kept up the hopeless
struggle with the girl's invincible grip would be hard to guess.
His release was caused by the approach of a third person, who wore
the robe of a Catholic priest and the countenance of a man who had
lived and suffered a long time without much loss of physical
strength and endurance.
This was Pere Beret, grizzly, short, compact, his face deeply
lined, his mouth decidedly aslant on account of some lost teeth,
and his eyes set deep under gray, shaggy brows. Looking at him
when his features were in repose a first impression might not have
been favorable; but seeing him smile or hearing him speak changed
everything. His voice was sweetness itself and his smile won you
on the instant. Something like a pervading sorrow always seemed to
be close behind his eyes and under his speech; yet he was a
genial, sometimes almost jolly, man, very prone to join in the
lighter amusements of his people.
"Children, children, my children," he called out as he approached
along a little pathway leading up from the direction of the
church, "what are you doing now? Bah there, Alice, will you pull
Jean's leg off?"
At first they did not hear him, they were so nearly deafened by
their own vocal discords.
"Why are you standing on your head with your feet so high in air,
Jean?" he added. "It's not a polite attitude in the presence of a
young lady. Are you a pig, that you poke your nose in the dirt?"
Alice now turned her bright head and gave Pere Beret a look of
frank welcome, which at the same time shot a beam of willful self-
"My daughter, are you trying to help Jean up the tree feet
foremost?" the priest added, standing where he had halted just
outside of the straggling yard fence.
He had his hands on his hips and was quietly chuckling at the
scene before him, as one who, although old, sympathized with the
natural and harmless sportiveness of young people and would as
lief as not join in a prank or two.
"You see what I'm doing, Father Beret," said Alice, "I am
preventing a great damage to you. You will maybe lose a good many
cherry pies and dumplings if I let Jean go. He was climbing the
tree to pilfer the fruit; so I pulled him down, you understand."
"Ta, ta!" exclaimed the good man, shaking his gray head; "we must
reason with the child. Let go his leg, daughter, I will vouch for
him; eh, Jean?"
Alice released the hunchback, then laughed gayly and tossed the
cluster of cherries into his hand, whereupon he began munching
them voraciously and talking at the same time.
"I knew I could get them," he boasted; "and see, I have them now."
He hopped around, looking like a species of ill-formed monkey.
Pere Beret came and leaned on the low fence close to Alice. She
was almost as tall as he.
"The sun scorches to-day," he said, beginning to mop his furrowed
face with a red-flowered cotton handkerchief; "and from the look
of the sky yonder," pointing southward, "it is going to bring on a
storm. How is Madame Roussillon to-day?"
"She is complaining as she usually does when she feels extremely
well," said Alice; "that's why I had to take her place at the oven
and bake pies. I got hot and came out to catch a bit of this
breeze. Oh, but you needn't smile and look greedy, Pere Beret, the
pies are not for your teeth!"
"My daughter, I am not a glutton, I hope; I had meat not two hours
since--some broiled young squirrels with cress, sent me by Rene de
Ronville. He never forgets his old father."
"Oh, I never forget you either, mon pere; I thought of you to-day
every time I spread a crust and filled it with cherries; and when
I took out a pie all brown and hot, the red juice bubbling out of
it so good smelling and tempting, do you know what I said to
"How could I know, my child?"
"Well, I thought this: 'Not a single bite of that pie does Father
"Why so, daughter?"
"Because you said it was bad of me to read novels and told Mother
Roussillon to hide them from me. I've had any amount of trouble
"Ta, ta! read the good books that I gave you. They will soon kill
the taste for these silly romances."
"I tried," said Alice; "I tried very hard, and it's no use; your
books are dull and stupidly heavy. What do I care about something
that a queer lot of saints did hundreds of years ago in times of
plague and famine? Saints must have been poky people, and it is
poky people who care to read about them, I think. I like reading
about brave, heroic men and beautiful women, and war and love."
Pere Beret looked away with a curious expression in his face, his
eyes half closed.
"And I'll tell you now, Father Beret," Alice went on after a
pause, "no more claret and pies do you get until I can have my own
sort of books back again to read as I please." She stamped her
moccasin-shod foot with decided energy.
The good priest broke into a hearty laugh, and taking off his cap
of grass-straw mechanically scratched his bald head. He looked at
the tall, strong girl before him for a moment or two, and it would
have been hard for the best physiognomist to decide just how much
of approval and how much of disapproval that look really
Although, as Father Beret had said, the sun's heat was violent,
causing that gentle soul to pass his bundled handkerchief with a
wiping circular motion over his bald and bedewed pate, the wind
was momently freshening, while up from behind the trees on the
horizon beyond the river, a cloud was rising blue-black, tumbled,
and grim against the sky.
"Well," said the priest, evidently trying hard to exchange his
laugh for a look of regretful resignation, "you will have your own
way, my child, and--"
"Then you will have pies galore and no end of claret!" she
interrupted, at the same time stepping to the withe-tied and peg-
latched gate of the yard and opening it. "Come in, you dear, good
Father, before the rain shall begin, and sit with me on the
gallery" (the creole word for veranda) "till the storm is over."
Father Beret seemed not loath to enter, albeit he offered a weak
protest against delaying some task he had in hand. Alice reached
forth and pulled him in, then reclosed the queer little gate and
pegged it. She caressingly passed her arm through his and looked
into his weather-stained old face with childlike affection.
There was not a photographer's camera to be had in those days; but
what if a tourist with one in hand could have been there to take a
snapshot at the priest and the maiden as they walked arm in arm to
that squat little veranda! The picture to-day would be worth its
weight in a first-water diamond. It would include the cabin, the
cherry-tree, a glimpse of the raw, wild background and a sharp
portrait-group of Pere Beret, Alice, and Jean the hunchback. To
compare it with a photograph of the same spot now would give a
perfect impression of the historic atmosphere, color and
conditions which cannot be set in words. But we must not belittle
the power of verbal description. What if a thoroughly trained
newspaper reporter had been given the freedom of old Vincennes on
the Wabash during the first week of June, 1778, and we now had his
printed story! What a supplement to the photographer's pictures!
Well, we have neither photographs nor graphic report; yet there
they are before us, the gowned and straw-capped priest, the fresh-
faced, coarsely-clad and vigorous girl, the grotesque little
hunchback, all just as real as life itself. Each of us can see
them, even with closed eyes. Led by that wonderful guide,
Imagination, we step back a century and more to look over a scene
at once strangely attractive and unspeakably forlorn.
What was it that drew people away from the old countries, from the
cities, the villages and the vineyards of beautiful France, for
example, to dwell in the wilderness, amid wild beasts and wilder
savage Indians, with a rude cabin for a home and the exposures and
hardships of pioneer life for their daily experience?
Men like Gaspard Roussillon are of a distinct stamp. Take him as
he was. Born in France, on the banks of the Rhone near Avignon, he
came as a youth to Canada, whence he drifted on the tide of
adventure this way and that, until at last he found himself, with
a wife, at Post Vincennes, that lonely picket of religion and
trade, which was to become the center of civilizing energy for the
great Northwestern Territory. M. Roussillon had no children of his
own; so his kind heart opened freely to two fatherless and
motherless waifs. These were Alice, now called Alice Roussillon,
and the hunchback, Jean. The former was twelve years old, when he
adopted her, a child of Protestant parents, while Jean had been
taken, when a mere babe, after his parents had been killed and
scalped by Indians. Madame Roussillon, a professed invalid, whose
appetite never failed and whose motherly kindness expressed itself
most often through strains of monotonous falsetto scolding, was a
woman of little education and no refinement; while her husband
clung tenaciously to his love of books, especially to the romances
most in vogue when he took leave of France.
M. Roussillon had been, in a way, Alice's teacher, though not
greatly inclined to abet Father Beret in his kindly efforts to
make a Catholic of the girl, and most treacherously disposed
toward the good priest in the matter of his well-meant attempts to
prevent her from reading and re-reading the aforesaid romances.
But for many weeks past Gaspard Roussillon had been absent from
home, looking after his trading schemes with the Indians; and Pere
Beret acting on the suggestion of the proverb about the absent cat
and the playing mouse, had formed an alliance offensive and
defensive with Madame Roussillon, in which it was strictly
stipulated that all novels and romances were to be forcibly taken
and securely hidden away from Mademoiselle Alice; which, to the
best of Madame Roussillon's ability, had accordingly been done.
Now, while the wind strengthened and the softly booming summer
shower came on apace, the heavy cloud lifting as it advanced and
showing under it the dark gray sheet of the rain, Pere Beret and
Alice sat under the clapboard roof behind the vines of the veranda
and discussed, what was generally uppermost in the priest's mind
upon such occasions, the good of Alice's immortal soul,--a subject
not absorbingly interesting to her at any time.
It was a standing grief to the good old priest, this strange
perversity of the girl in the matter of religious duty, as he saw
it. True she had a faithful guardian in Gaspard Roussillon; but,
much as he had done to aid the church's work in general, for he
was always vigorous and liberal, he could not be looked upon as a
very good Catholic; and of course his influence was not effective
in the right direction. But then Pere Beret saw no reason why, in
due time and with patient work, aided by Madame Roussillon and
notwithstanding Gaspard's treachery, he might not safely lead
Alice, whom he loved as a dear child, into the arms of the Holy
Church, to serve which faithfully, at all hazards and in all
places, was his highest aim.
"Ah, my child," he was saying, "you are a sweet, good girl, after
all, much better than you make yourself out to be. Your duty will
control you; you do it nobly at last, my child."
"True enough, Father Beret, true enough!" she responded, laughing,
"your perception is most excellent, which I will prove to you
She rose while speaking and went into the house.
"I'll return in a minute or two," she called back from a region
which Pere Beret well knew was that of the pantry; "don't get
impatient and go away!"
Pere Beret laughed softly at the preposterous suggestion that he
would even dream of going out in the rain, which was now roaring
heavily on the loose board roof, and miss a cut of cherry pie--a
cherry pie of Alice's making! And the Roussillon claret, too, was
always excellent. "Ah, child," he thought, "your old Father is not
She presently returned, bearing on a wooden tray a ruby-stained
pie and a short, stout bottle flanked by two glasses.
"Of course I'm better than I sometimes appear to be," she said,
almost humbly, but with mischief still in her voice and eyes, "and
I shall get to be very good when I have grown old. The sweetness
of my present nature is in this pie."
She set the tray on a three-legged stool which she pushed close to
"There now," she said, "let the rain come, you'll be happy, rain
or shine, while the pie and wine last, I'll be bound."
Pere Beret fell to eating right heartily, meantime handing Jean a
liberal piece of the luscious pie.
"It is good, my daughter, very good, indeed," the priest remarked
with his mouth full. "Madame Roussillon has not neglected your
culinary education." Alice filled a glass for him. It was Bordeaux
and very fragrant. The bouquet reminded him of his sunny boyhood
in France, of his journey up to Paris and of his careless, joy-
brimmed youth in the gay city. How far away, how misty, yet how
thrillingly sweet it all was! He sat with half closed eyes awhile,
sipping and dreaming.
The rain lasted nearly two hours; but the sun was out again when
Pere Beret took leave of his young friend. They had been having
another good-natured quarrel over the novels, and Madame
Roussillon had come out on the veranda to join in.
"I've hidden every book of them," said Madame, a stout and swarthy
woman whose pearl-white teeth were her only mark of beauty. Her
voice indicated great stubbornness.
"Good, good, you have done your very duty, Madame," said Pere
Beret, with immense approval in his charming voice.
"But, Father, you said awhile ago that I should have my own way
about this," Alice spoke up with spirit; "and on the strength of
that remark of yours I gave you the pie and wine. You've eaten my
pie and swigged the wine, and now--"
Pere Beret put on his straw cap, adjusting it carefully over the
shining dome out of which had come so many thoughts of wisdom,
kindness and human sympathy. This done, he gently laid a hand on
Alice's bright crown of hair and said:
"Bless you, my child. I will pray to the Prince of Peace for you
as long as I live, and I will never cease to beg the Holy Virgin
to intercede for you and lead you to the Holy Church."
He turned and went away; but when he was no farther than the gate,
Alice called out:
"O Father Beret, I forgot to show you something!"
She ran forth to him and added in a low tone:
"You know that Madame Roussillon has hidden all the novels from
She was fumbling to get something out of the loose front of her
"Well, just take a glance at this, will you?" and she showed him a
little leather bound volume, much cracked along the hinges of the
It was Manon Lescaut, that dreadful romance by the famous Abbe
Pere Beret frowned and went his way shaking his head; but before
he reached his little hut near the church he was laughing in spite
"She's not so bad, not so bad," he thought aloud, "it's only her
young, independent spirit taking the bit for a wild run. In her
sweet soul she is as good as she is pure."
A LETTER FROM AFAR
Although Father Beret was for many years a missionary on the
Wabash, most of the time at Vincennes, the fact that no mention of
him can be found in the records is not stranger than many other
things connected with the old town's history. He was, like nearly
all the men of his calling in that day, a self-effacing and modest
hero, apparently quite unaware that he deserved attention. He and
Father Gibault, whose name is so beautifully and nobly connected
with the stirring achievements of Colonel George Rogers Clark,
were close friends and often companions. Probably Father Gibault
himself, whose fame will never fade, would have been to-day as
obscure as Father Beret, but for the opportunity given him by
Clark to fix his name in the list of heroic patriots who assisted
in winning the great Northwest from the English.
Vincennes, even in the earliest days of its history, somehow kept
up communication and, considering the circumstances, close
relations with New Orleans. It was much nearer Detroit; but the
Louisiana colony stood next to France in the imagination and
longing of priests, voyageurs, coureurs de bois and reckless
adventurers who had Latin blood in their veins. Father Beret first
came to Vincennes from New Orleans, the voyage up the Mississippi,
Ohio, and Wabash, in a pirogue, lasting through a whole summer and
far into the autumn. Since his arrival the post had experienced
many vicissitudes, and at the time in which our story opens the
British government claimed right of dominion over the great
territory drained by the Wabash, and, indeed, over a large,
indefinitely outlined part of the North American continent lying
above Mexico; a claim just then being vigorously questioned,
flintlock in hand, by the Anglo-American colonies.
Of course the handful of French people at Vincennes, so far away
from every center of information, and wholly occupied with their
trading, trapping and missionary work, were late finding out that
war existed between England and her colonies. Nor did it really
matter much with them, one way or another. They felt secure in
their lonely situation, and so went on selling their trinkets,
weapons, domestic implements, blankets and intoxicating liquors to
the Indians, whom they held bound to them with a power never
possessed by any other white dwellers in the wilderness. Father
Beret was probably subordinate to Father Gibault. At all events
the latter appears to have had nominal charge of Vincennes, and it
can scarcely be doubted that he left Father Beret on the Wabash,
while he went to live and labor for a time at Kaskaskia beyond the
plains of Illinois.
It is a curious fact that religion and the power of rum and brandy
worked together successfully for a long time in giving the French
posts almost absolute influence over the wild and savage men by
whom they were always surrounded. The good priests deprecated the
traffic in liquors and tried hard to control it, but soldiers of
fortune and reckless traders were in the majority, their interests
taking precedence of all spiritual demands and carrying everything
along. What could the brave missionaries do but make the very best
of a perilous situation?
In those days wine was drunk by almost everybody, its use at table
and as an article of incidental refreshment and social pleasure
being practically universal; wherefore the steps of reform in the
matter of intemperance were but rudimentary and in all places
beset by well-nigh insurmountable difficulties. In fact the
exigencies of frontier life demanded, perhaps, the very stimulus
which, when over indulged in, caused so much evil. Malaria loaded
the air, and the most efficacious drugs now at command were then
undiscovered or could not be had. Intoxicants were the only
popular specific. Men drank to prevent contracting ague, drank
again, between rigors, to cure it, and yet again to brace
themselves during convalescence.
But if the effect of rum as a beverage had strong allurement for
the white man, it made an absolute slave of the Indian, who never
hesitated for a moment to undertake any task, no matter how hard,
bear any privation, even the most terrible, or brave any danger,
although it might demand reckless desperation, if in in the end a
well filled bottle or jug appeared as his reward.
Of course the traders did not overlook such a source of power.
Alcoholic liquor became their implement of almost magical work in
controlling the lives, labors, and resources of the Indians. The
priests with their captivating story of the Cross had a large
influence in softening savage natures and averting many an awful
danger; but when everything else failed, rum always came to the
rescue of a threatened French post.
We need not wonder, then, when we are told that Father Beret made
no sign of distress or disapproval upon being informed of the
arrival of a boat loaded with rum, brandy or gin. It was Rene de
Ronville who brought the news, the same Rene already mentioned as
having given the priest a plate of squirrels. He was sitting on
the doorsill of Father Beret's hut, when the old man reached it
after his visit at the Roussillon home, and held in his hand a
letter which he appeared proud to deliver.
"A batteau and seven men, with a cargo of liquor, came during the
rain," he said, rising and taking off his curious cap, which, made
of an animal's skin, had a tail jauntily dangling from its crown-
tip; "and here is a letter for you, Father. The batteau is from
New Orleans. Eight men started with it; but one went ashore to
hunt and was killed by an Indian."
Father Beret took the letter without apparent interest and said:
"Thank you, my son, sit down again; the door-log is not wetter
than the stools inside; I will sit by you."
The wind had driven a flood of rain into the cabin through the
open door, and water twinkled in puddles here and there on the
floor's puncheons. They sat down side by side, Father Beret
fingering the letter in an absent-minded way.
"There'll be a jolly time of it to-night," Rene de Ronville
remarked, "a roaring time."
"Why do you say that, my son?" the priest demanded.
"The wine and the liquor," was the reply; "much drinking will be
done. The men have all been dry here for some time, you know, and
are as thirsty as sand. They are making ready to enjoy themselves
down at the river house."
"Ah, the poor souls!" sighed Father Beret, speaking as one whose
thoughts were wandering far away.
"Why don't you read your letter, Father?" Rene added.
The priest started, turned the soiled square of paper over in his
hand, then thrust it inside his robe.
"It can wait," he said. Then, changing his voice; "the squirrels
you gave me were excellent, my son. It was good of you to think of
me," he added, laying his hand on Rene's arm.
"Oh, I'm glad if I have pleased you, Father Beret, for you are so
kind to me always, and to everybody. When I killed the squirrels I
said to myself: 'These are young, juicy and tender, Father Beret
must have these,' so I brought them along."
The young man rose to go; for he was somehow impressed that Father
Beret must wish opportunity to read his letter, and would prefer
to be left alone with it. But the priest pulled him down again.
"Stay a while," he said, "I have not had a talk with you for some
Rene looked a trifle uneasy.
"You will not drink any to-night, my son," Father Beret added.
"You must not; do you hear?"
The young man's eyes and mouth at once began to have a sullen
expression; evidently he was not pleased and felt rebellious; but
it was hard for him to resist Father Beret, whom he loved, as did
every soul in the post. The priest's voice was sweet and gentle,
yet positive to a degree. Rene did not say a word.
"Promise me that you will not taste liquor this night," Father
Beret went on, grasping the young man's arm more firmly; "promise
me, my son, promise me."
Still Rene was silent. The men did not look at each other, but
gazed away across the country beyond the Wabash to where a glory
from the western sun flamed on the upper rim of a great cloud
fragment creeping along the horizon. Warm as the day had been, a
delicious coolness now began to temper the air; for the wind had
shifted into the northwest. A meadowlark sang dreamingly in the
wild grass of the low lands hard by, over which two or three
prairie hawks hovered with wings that beat rapidly.
"Eh bien, I must go," said Rene presently, getting to his feet
nimbly and evading Father Beret's hand which would have held him.
"Not to the river house, my son?" said the priest appealingly.
"No, not there; I have another letter; one for M'sieu' Roussillon;
it came by the boat too. I go to give it to Madame Roussillon."
Rene de Ronville was a dark, weather-stained young fellow, neither
tall nor short, wearing buckskin moccasins, trousers and tunic.
His eyes were dark brown, keen, quick-moving, set well under heavy
brows. A razor had probably never touched his face, and his thin,
curly beard crinkled over his strongly turned cheeks and chin,
while his moustaches sprang out quite fiercely above his full-
lipped, almost sensual mouth. He looked wiry and active, a man not
to be lightly reckoned with in a trial of bodily strength and will
Father Beret's face and voice changed on the instant. He laughed
dryly and said, with a sly gleam in his eyes:
"You could spend the evening pleasantly with Madame Roussillon and
Jean. Jean, you know, is a very amusing fellow."
Rene brought forth the letter of which he had spoken and held it
up before Father Beret's face.
"Maybe you think I haven't any letter for M'sieu' Roussillon," he
blurted; "and maybe you are quite certain that I am not going to
the house to take the letter."
"Monsieur Roussillon is absent, you know," Father Beret suggested.
"But cherry pies are just as good while he's gone as when he's at
home, and I happen to know that there are some particularly
delicious ones in the pantry of Madame Roussillon. Mademoiselle
Alice gave me a juicy sample; but then I dare say you do not care
to have your pie served by her hand. It would interfere with your
appetite; eh, my son?"
Rene turned short about wagging his head and laughing, and so with
his back to the priest he strode away along the wet path leading
to the Roussillon place.
Father Beret gazed after him, his face relaxing to a serious
expression in which a trace of sadness and gloom spread like an
elusive twilight. He took out his letter, but did not glance at
it, simply holding it tightly gripped in his sinewy right hand.
Then his old eyes stared vacantly, as eyes do when their sight is
cast back many, many years into the past. The missive was from
beyond the sea--he knew the handwriting--a waft of the flowers of
Avignon seemed to rise out of it, as if by the pressure of his
A stoop-shouldered, burly man went by, leading a pair of goats, a
kid following. He was making haste excitedly, keeping the goats at
a lively trot.
"Bon jour, Pere Beret," he flung out breezily, and walked rapidly
"Ah, ah; his mind is busy with the newly arrived cargo," thought
the old priest, returning the salutation; "his throat aches for
the liquor,--the poor man."
Then he read again the letter's superscription and made a
faltering move, as if to break the seal. His hands trembled
violently, his face looked gray and drawn.
"Come on, you brutes," cried the receding man, jerking the thongs
of skin by which he led the goats.
Father Beret rose and turned into his damp little hut, where the
light was dim on the crucifix hanging opposite the door against
the clay-daubed wall. It was a bare, unsightly, clammy room; a
rude bed on one side, a shelf for table and two or three wooden
stools constituting the furniture, while the uneven puncheons of
the floor wabbled and clattered under the priest's feet.
An unopened letter is always a mysterious thing. We who receive
three or four mails every day, scan each little paper square with
a speculative eye. Most of us know what sweet uncertainty hangs on
the opening of envelopes whose contents may be almost anything
except something important, and what a vague yet delicious thrill
comes with the snip of the paper knife; but if we be in a foreign
land and long years absent from home, then is a letter subtly
powerful to move us, even more before it is opened than after it
It had been many years since a letter from home had come to Father
Beret. The last, before the one now in his hand, had made him ill
of nostalgia, fairly shaking his iron determination never to quit
for a moment his life work as a missionary. Ever since that day he
had found it harder to meet the many and stern demands of a most
difficult and exacting duty. Now the mere touch of the paper in
his hand gave him a sense of returning weakness, dissatisfaction,
and longing. The home of his boyhood, the rushing of the Rhone, a
seat in a shady nook of the garden, Madeline, his sister,
prattling beside him, and his mother singing somewhere about the
house--it all came back and went over him and through him, making
his heart sink strangely, while another voice, the sweetest ever
heard--but she was ineffable and her memory a forbidden fragrance.
Father Beret tottered across the forlorn little room and knelt
before the crucifix holding his clasped hands high, the letter
pressed between than. His lips moved in prayer, but made no sound;
his whole frame shook violently.
It would be unpardonable desecration to enter the chamber of
Father Beret's soul and look upon his sacred and secret trouble;
nor must we even speculate as to its particulars. The good old man
writhed and wrestled before the cross for a long time, until at
last he seemed to receive the calmness and strength he prayed for
so fervently; then he rose, tore the letter into pieces so small
that not a word remained whole, and squeezed them so firmly
together that they were compressed into a tiny, solid ball, which
he let fall through a crack between the floor puncheons. After
waiting twenty years for that letter, hungry as his heart was, he
did not even open it when at last it arrived. He would never know
what message it bore. The link between him and the old sweet days
was broken forever. Now with God's help he could do his work to
He went and stood in his doorway, leaning against the side. Was it
a mere coincidence that the meadowlark flew up just then from its
grass-tuft, and came to the roof's comb overhead, where it lit
with a light yet audible stroke of its feet and began fluting its
tender, lonesome-sounding strain? If Father Beret heard it he gave
no sign of recognition; very likely he was thinking about the
cargo of liquor and how he could best counteract its baleful
influence. He looked toward the "river house," as the inhabitants
had named a large shanty, which stood on a bluff of the Wabash not
far from where the road-bridge at present crosses, and saw men
Meantime Rene de Ronville had delivered Madame Roussillon's letter
with due promptness. Of course such a service demanded pie and
claret. What still better pleased him, Alice chose to be more
amiable than was usually her custom when he called. They sat
together in the main room of the house where M. Roussillon kept
his books, his curiosities of Indian manufacture collected here
and there, and his surplus firearms, swords, pistols, and knives,
ranged not unpleasingly around the walls.
Of course, along with the letter, Rene bore the news, so
interesting to himself, of the boat's tempting cargo just
discharged at the river house. Alice understood her friend's
danger--felt it in the intense enthusiasm of his voice and manner.
She had once seen the men carousing on a similar occasion when she
was but a child, and the impression then made still remained in
her memory. Instinctively she resolved to hold Rene by one means
or another away from the river house if possible. So she managed
to keep him occupied eating pie, sipping watered claret and
chatting until night came on and Madame Roussillon brought in a
lamp. Then he hurriedly snatched his cap from the floor beside him
and got up to go.
"Come and look at my handiwork," Alice quickly said; "my shelf of
pies, I mean." She led him to the pantry, where a dozen or more of
the cherry pates were ranged in order. "I made every one of them
this morning and baked them; had them all out of the oven before
the rain came up. Don't you think me a wonder of cleverness and
industry? Father Beret was polite enough to flatter me; but you--
you just eat what you want and say nothing! You are not polite,
Monsieur Rene de Ronville."
"I've been showing you what I thought of your goodies," said Rene;
"eating's better than talking, you know; so I'll just take one
more," and he helped himself. "Isn't that compliment enough?"
"A few such would make me another hot day's work," she replied,
laughing. "Pretty talk would be cheaper and more satisfactory in
the long run. Even the flour in these pates I ground with my own
hand in an Indian mortar. That was hard work too."
By this time Rene had forgotten the river house and the liquor.
With softening eyes he gazed at Alice's rounded cheeks and sheeny
hair over which the light from the curious earthen lamp she bore
in her hand flickered most effectively. He loved her madly; but
his fear of her was more powerful than his love. She gave him no
opportunity to speak what he felt, having ever ready a quick,
bright change of mood and manner when she saw him plucking up
courage to address her in a sentimental way. Their relations had
long been somewhat familiar, which was but natural, considering
their youth and the circumstances of their daily life; but Alice
somehow had kept a certain distance open between them, so that
very warm friendship could not suddenly resolve itself into a
troublesome passion on Rene's part.
We need not attempt to analyze a young girl's feeling and motives
in such a case; what she does and what she thinks are mysteries
even to her own understanding. The influence most potent in
shaping the rudimentary character of Alice Tarleton (called
Roussillon) had been only such as a lonely frontier post could
generate. Her associations with men and women had, with few
exceptions, been unprofitable in an educational way, while her
reading in M. Roussillon's little library could not have given her
any practical knowledge of manners and life.
She was fond of Rene de Ronville, and it would have been quite in
accordance with the law of ordinary human forces, indeed almost
the inevitable thing, for her to love and marry him in the
fullness of time; but her imagination was outgrowing her
surroundings. Books had given her a world of romance wherein she
moved at will, meeting a class of people far different from those
who actually shared her experiences. Her day-dreams and her night-
dreams partook much more of what she had read and imagined than of
what she had seen and heard in the raw little world around her.
Her affection for Rene was interfered with by her large admiration
for the heroic, masterful and magnetic knights who charged through
the romances of the Roussillon collection. For although Rene was
unquestionably brave and more than passably handsome, he had no
armor, no war-horse, no shining lance and embossed shield--the
difference, indeed, was great.
Those who love to contend against the fatal drift of our age
toward over-education could find in Alice Tarleton, foster
daughter of Gaspard Roussillon, a primitive example, an elementary
case in point. What could her book education do but set up
stumbling blocks in the path of happiness? She was learning to
prefer the ideal to the real. Her soul was developing itself as
best it could for the enjoyment of conditions and things
absolutely foreign to the possibilities of her lot in life.
Perhaps it was the light and heat of imagination, shining out
through Alice's face, which gave her beauty such a fascinating
power. Rene saw it and felt its electrical stroke send a sweet
shiver through his heart, while he stood before her.
"You are very beautiful to-night Alice," he presently said, with a
suddenness which took even her alertness by surprise. A flush rose
to his dark face and immediately gave way to a grayish pallor. His
heart came near stopping on the instant, he was so shocked by his
own daring; but he laid a hand on her hair, stroking it softly.
Just a moment she was at a loss, looking a trifle embarrassed,
then with a merry laugh she stepped aside and said:
"That sounds better, Monsieur Rene de Ronville much better; you
will be as polite as Father Beret after a little more training."
She slipped past him while speaking and made her way back again to
the main room, whence she called to him:
"Come here, I've something to show you."
He obeyed, a sheepish trace on his countenance betraying his self-
When he came near Alice she was taking from its buckhorn hook on
the wall a rapier, one of a beautiful pair hanging side by side.
"Papa Roussillon gave me these," she said with great animation.
"He bought them of an Indian who had kept them a long time; where
he came across them he would not tell; but look how beautiful! Did
you ever see anything so fine?"
Guard and hilt were of silver; the blade, although somewhat
corroded, still showed the fine wavy lines of Damascus steel and
traces of delicate engraving, while in the end of the hilt was set
a large oval turquoise.
"A very queer present to give a girl," said Rene; "what can you do
A captivating flash of playfulness came into her face and she
sprang backward, giving the sword a semicircular turn with her
wrist. The blade sent forth a keen hiss as it cut the air close,
very close to Rene's nose. He jerked his head and flung up his
She laughed merrily, standing beautifully poised before him, the
rapier's point slightly elevated. Her short skirt left her feet
and ankles free to show their graceful proportions and the perfect
pose in which they held her supple body.
"You see what I can do with the colechemarde, eh, Monsieur Rene de
Ronville!" she exclaimed, giving him a smile which fairly blinded
him. "Notice how very near to your neck I can thrust and yet not
touch it. Now!"
She darted the keen point under his chin and drew it away so
quickly that the stroke was like a glint of sunlight.
"What do you think of that as a nice and accurate piece of skill?"
She again resumed her pose, the right foot advanced, the left arm
well back, her lissome, finely developed body leaning slightly
Rene's hands were up before his face in a defensive position,
Just then a chorus of men's voices sounded in the distance. The
river house was beginning its carousal with a song. Alice let fall
her sword's point and listened.
Rene looked about for his cap.
"I must be going," he said.
Another and louder swish of the rapier made him pirouette and
dodge again with great energy.
"Don't," he cried, "that's dangerous; you'll put out my eyes; I
never saw such a girl!"
She laughed at him and kept on whipping the air dangerously near
his eyes, until she had driven him backward as far as he could
squeeze himself into a comer of the room.
Madame Roussillon came to the door from the kitchen and stood
looking in and laughing, with her hands on her hips. By this time
the rapier was making a criss-cross pattern of flashing lines
close to the young man's head while Alice, in the enjoyment of her
exercise, seemed to concentrate all the glowing rays of her beauty
in her face, her eyes dancing merrily.
"Quit, now, Alice," he begged, half in fun and half in abject
fear; "please quit--I surrender!"
She thrust to the wall on either side of him, then springing
lightly backward a pace, stood at guard. Her thick yellow hair had
fallen over her neck and shoulders in a loose wavy mass, out of
which her face beamed with a bewitching effect upon her captive.
Rene, glad enough to have a cessation of his peril, stood laughing
dryly; but the singing down at the river house was swelling louder
and he made another movement to go.
"You surrendered, you remember," cried Alice, renewing the sword-
play; "sit down on the chair there and make yourself comfortable.
You are not going down yonder to-night; you are going to stay here
and talk with me and Mother Roussillon; we are lonesome and you
are good company."
A shot rang out keen and clear; there was a sudden tumult that
broke up the distant singing; and presently more firing at varying
intervals cut the night air from the direction of the river.
Jean, the hunchback, came in to say that there was a row of some
sort; he had seen men running across the common as if in pursuit
of a fugitive; but the moonlight was so dim that he could not be
sure what it all meant.
Rene picked up his cap and bolted out of the house.
THE RAPE OF THE DEMIJOHN
The row down at the river house was more noise than fight, so far
as results seemed to indicate. It was all about a small dame
jeanne of fine brandy, which an Indian by the name of Long-Hair
had seized and run off with at the height of the carousal. He must
have been soberer than his pursuers, or naturally fleeter; for not
one of them could catch him, or even keep long in sight of him.
Some pistols were emptied while the race was on, and two or three
of the men swore roundly to having seen Long-Hair jump sidewise
and stagger, as if one of the shots had taken effect. But,
although the moon was shining, he someway disappeared, they could
not understand just how, far down beside the river below the fort
and the church.
It was not a very uncommon thing for an Indian to steal what he
wanted, and in most cases light punishment followed conviction;
but it was felt to be a capital offense for an Indian or anybody
else to rape a demijohn of fine brandy, especially one sent as a
present, by a friend in New Orleans, to Lieutenant Governor
Abbott, who had until recently been the commandant of the post.
Every man at the river house recognized and resented the enormity
of Long-Hair's crime and each was, for the moment, ready to be his
judge and his executioner. He had broken at once every rule of
frontier etiquette and every bond of sympathy. Nor was Long-Hair
ignorant of the danger involved in his daring enterprise. He had
beforehand carefully and stolidly weighed all the conditions, and
true to his Indian nature, had concluded that a little wicker
covered bottle of brandy was well worth the risk of his life. So
he had put himself in condition for a great race by slipping out
and getting rid of his weapons and all surplus weight of clothes.
This incident brought the drinking bout at the river house to a
sudden end; but nothing further came of it that night, and no
record of it would be found in these pages, but for the fact that
Long-Hair afterwards became an important character in the stirring
historical drama which had old Vincennes for its center of energy.
Rene de Ronville probably felt himself in bad luck when he arrived
at the river house just too late to share in the liquor or to join
in chasing the bold thief. He listened with interest, however, to
the story of Long-Hair's capture of the commandant's demijohn and
could not refrain from saying that if he had been present there
would have been a quite different result.
"I would have shot him before he got to that door," he said,
drawing his heavy flint-lock pistol and going through the motions
of one aiming quickly and firing. Indeed, so vigorously in earnest
was he with the pantomime, that he actually did fire,
unintentionally of course,--the ball burying itself in the door-
He was laughed at by those present for being more excited than
they who witnessed the whole thing. One of them, a leathery-faced
and grizzled old sinner, leered at him contemptuously and said in
queer French, with a curious accent caught from long use of
"Listen how the boy brags! Ye might think, to hear Rene talk, that
he actually amounted to a big pile."
This personage was known to every soul in Vincennes as Oncle
Jazon, and when Oncle Jazon spoke the whole town felt bound to
"An' how well he shoots, too," he added with an intolerable wink;
"aimed at the door and hit the post. Certainly Long-Hair would
have been in great danger! O yes, he'd 'ave killed Long-Hair at
the first shot, wouldn't he though!"
Oncle Jazon had the air of a large man, but the stature of a small
one; in fact he was shriveled bodily to a degree which suggested
comparison with a sun-dried wisp of hickory bark; and when he
chuckled, as he was now doing, his mouth puckered itself until it
looked like a scar on his face. From cap to moccasins he had every
mark significant of a desperate character; and yet there was about
him something that instantly commanded the confidence of rough
men,--the look of self-sufficiency and superior capability always
to be found in connection with immense will power. His sixty years
of exposure, hardship, and danger seemed to have but toughened his
physique and strengthened his vitality. Out of his small hazel
eyes gleamed a light as keen as ice.
"All right, Oncle Jazon," said Rene laughing and blowing the smoke
out of his pistol; "'twas you all the same who let Long-Hair trot
off with the Governor's brandy, not I. If you could have hit even
a door-post it might have been better."
Oncle Jazon took off his cap and looked down into it in a way he
had when about to say something final.
"Ventrebleu! I did not shoot at Long-Hair at all," he said,
speaking slowly, "because the scoundrel was unarmed. He didn't
have on even a knife, and he was havin' enough to do dodgin' the
bullets that the rest of 'em were plumpin' at 'im without any
compliments from me to bother 'im more."
"Well," Rene replied, turning away with a laugh, "if I'd been
scalped by the Indians, as you have, I don't think there would be
any particular reason why I should wait for an Indian thief to go
and arm himself before I accepted him as a target."
Oncle Jazon lifted a hand involuntarily and rubbed his scalpless
crown; then he chuckled with a grotesque grimace as if the
recollection of having his head skinned were the funniest thing
"When you've killed as many of 'em as Oncle Jazon has," remarked a
bystander to Rene, "you'll not be so hungry for blood, maybe."
"Especially after ye've took fifty-nine scalps to pay for yer
one," added Oncle Jazon, replacing his cap over the hairless area
of his crown.
The men who had been chasing Long-Hair, presently came straggling
back with their stories--each had a distinct one--of how the
fugitive escaped. They were wild looking fellows, most of them
somewhat intoxicated, all profusely liberal with their stock of
picturesque profanity. They represented the roughest element of
the well-nigh lawless post.
"I'm positive that he's wounded," said one. "Jacques and I shot at
him together, so that our pistols sounded just as if only one had
been fired--bang! that way--and he leaped sideways for all the
world like a bird with a broken leg. I thought he'd fall; but ve!
he ran faster'n ever, and all at once he was gone; just
"Well, to-morrow we'll get him," said another. "You and I and
Jacques, we'll take up his trail, the thief, and follow him till
we find him. He can't get off so easy."
"I don't know so well about that," said another; "it's Long-Hair,
you must remember, and Long-Hair is no common buck that just
anybody can find asleep. You know what Long-Hair is. Nobody's ever
got even with 'im yet. That's so, ain't it? Just ask Oncle Jazon,
if you don't believe it!"
The next morning Long-Hair was tracked to the edge. He had been
wounded, but whether seriously or not could only be conjectured. A
sprinkle of blood, here and there quite a dash of it, reddened the
grass and clumps of weeds he had run through, and ended close to
the water into which it looked as if he had plunged with a view to
baffling pursuit. Indeed pursuit was baffled. No further trace
could be found, by which to follow the cunning fugitive. Some of
the men consoled themselves by saying, without believing, that
Long-Hair was probably lying drowned at the bottom of the river.
"Pas du tout," observed Oncle Jazon, his short pipe askew far over
in the corner of his mouth, "not a bit of it is that Indian
drowned. He's jes' as live as a fat cat this minute, and as drunk
as the devil. He'll get some o' yer scalps yet after he's guzzled
all that brandy and slep' a week."
It finally transpired that Oncle Jazon was partly right and partly
wrong. Long-Hair was alive, even as a fat cat, perhaps; but not
drunk, for in trying to swim with the rotund little dame jeanne
under his arm he lost hold of it and it went to the bottom of the
Wabash, where it may be lying at this moment patiently waiting for
some one to fish it out of its bed deep in the sand and mud, and
break the ancient wax from its neck!
Rene de Ronville, after the chase of Long-Hair had been given
over, went to tell Father Beret what had happened, and finding the
priest's hut empty turned into the path leading to the Roussillon
place, which was at the head of a narrow street laid out in a
direction at right angles to the river's course. He passed two or
three diminutive cabins, all as much alike as bee-hives. Each had
its squat veranda and thatched or clapboarded roof held in place
by weight-poles ranged in roughly parallel rows, and each had the
face of the wall under its veranda neatly daubed with a grayish
stucco made of mud and lime. You may see such houses today in some
remote parts of the creole country of Louisiana.
As Rene passed along he spoke with a gay French freedom to the
dames and lasses who chanced to be visible. His air would be
regarded as violently brigandish in our day; we might even go so
far as to think his whole appearance comical. His jaunty cap with
a tail that wagged as he walked, his short trousers and leggins of
buckskin, and his loose shirt-like tunic, drawn in at the waist
with a broad belt, gave his strong figure just the dash of
wildness suited to the armament with which it was weighted. A
heavy gun lay in the hollow of his shoulder under which hung an
otter-skin bullet-pouch with its clear powder-horn and white bone
charger. In his belt were two huge flint-lock pistols and a long
"Bon jour, Ma'm'selle Adrienne," he cheerily called, waving his
free hand in greeting to a small, dark lass standing on the step
of a veranda and indolently swinging a broom. "Comment allez-vous
"J'm'porte tres bien, merci, Mo'sieu Rene," was the quick
response; "et vous?"
"Oh, I'm as lively as a cricket."
"Going a hunting?"
"No, just up here a little way--just on business--up to Mo'sieu
Roussillon's for a moment."
"Yes," the girl responded in a tone indicative of something very
like spleen, "yes, undoubtedly, Mo'sieu de Ronville; your business
there seems quite pressing of late. I have noticed your
industrious application to that business."
"Ta-ta, little one," he wheedled, lowering his voice; "you mustn't
go to making bug-bears out of nothing."
"Bug-bears!" she retorted, "you go on about your business and I'll
attend to mine," and she flirted into the house.
Rene laughed under his breath, standing a moment as if expecting
her to come out again; but she did not, and he resumed his walk
"Elle a les joues vermeilles, vermeilles, Ma belle, ma belle
But ten to one he was not thinking of Madamoiselle Adrienne
Bourcier. His mind, however, must have been absorbingly occupied;
for in the straight, open way he met Father Beret and did not see
him until he came near bumping against the old man, who stepped
aside with astonishing agility and said--
"Dieu vous benisse, mon fils; but what is your great hurry--where
can you be going in such happy haste?" Rene did not stop to parley
with the priest. He flung some phrase of pleasant greeting back
over his shoulder as he trudged on, his heart beginning a tattoo
against his ribs when the Roussillon place came in sight, and he
took hold of his mustache to pull it, as some men must do in
moments of nervousness and bashfulness. If sounds ever have color,
the humming in his ears was of a rosy hue; if thoughts ever exhale
fragrance, his brain overflowed with the sweets of violet and
He had in mind what he was going to say when Alice and he should
be alone together. It was a pretty speech, he thought; indeed a
very thrilling little speech, by the way it stirred his own nerve-
centers as he conned it over.
Madame Roussillon met him at the door in not a very good humor.
"Is Mademoiselle Alice here?" he ventured to demand.
"Alice? no, she's not here; she's never here just when I want her
most. V'la le picbois et la grive--see the woodpecker and the
robin--eating the cherries, eating every one of them, and that
girl running off somewhere instead of staying here and picking
them," she railed in answer to the young man's polite inquiry. "I
haven't seen her these four hours, neither her nor that rascally
hunchback, Jean. They're up to some mischief, I'll be bound!"
Madame Roussillon puffed audibly between phrases; but she suddenly
became very mild when relieved of her tirade.
"Mais entrez," she added in a pleasant tone, "come in and tell me
Rene's disappointment rushed into his face, but he managed to
laugh it aside.
"Father Beret has just been telling me," said Madame Roussillon,
"that our friend Long-Hair made some trouble last night. How about
Rene told her what he knew and added that Long-Hair would
probably never be seen again.
"He was shot, no doubt of it," he went on, "and is now being
nibbled by fish and turtles. We tracked him by his blood to where
he jumped into the Wabash. He never came out."
Strangely enough it happened that, at the very time of this chat
between Madame Roussillon and Rene Alice was bandaging Long-Hair's
wounded leg with strips of her apron. It was under some willows
which overhung the bank of a narrow and shallow lagoon or slough,
which in those days extended a mile or two back into the country
on the farther side of the river. Alice and Jean went over in a
pirogue to see if the water lilies, haunting a pond there, were
yet beginning to bloom. They landed at a convenient spot some
distance up the little lagoon, made the boat fast by dragging its
prow high ashore, and were on the point of setting out across a
neck of wet, grassy land to the pond, when a deep grunt, not
unlike that of a self-satisfied pig, attracted them to the
willows, where they discovered Long-Hair, badly wounded, weltering
in some black mud.
His hiding-place was cunningly chosen, save that the mire troubled
him, letting him down by slow degrees, and threatening to engulf
him bodily; and he was now too weak to extricate himself. He
lifted his head and glared. His face was grimy, his hair matted
with mud. Alice, although brave enough and quite accustomed to
startling experiences, uttered a cry when she saw those snaky eyes
glistening so savagely amid the shadows. But Jean was quick to
recognize Long-Hair; he had often seen him about town, a figure
not to be forgotten.
"They've been hunting him everywhere," he said in a half whisper
to Alice, clutching the skirt of her dress. "It's Long-Hair, the
Indian who stole the brandy; I know him."
Alice recoiled a pace or two.
"Let's go back and tell 'em," Jean added, still whispering, "they
want to kill him; Oncle Jazon said so. Come on!"
He gave her dress a jerk; but she did not move any farther back;
she was looking at the blood oozing from a wound in the Indian's
"He is shot, he is hurt, Jean, we must help him," she presently
said, recovering her self-control, yet still pale. "We must get
him out of that bad place."
Jean caught Alice's merciful spirit with sympathetic readiness,
and showed immediate willingness to aid her.
It was a difficult thing to do; but there was a will and of course
a way. They had knives with which they cut willows to make a
standing place on the mud. While they were doing this they spoke
friendly words to Long-Hair, who understood French a little, and
at last they got hold of his arms, tugged, rested, tugged again,
and finally managed to help him to a dry place, still under the
willows, where he could lie more at ease. Jean carried water in
his cap with which they washed the wound and the stolid savage
face. Then Alice tore up her cotton apron, in which she had hoped
to bear home a load of lilies, and with the strips bound the wound
very neatly. It took a long time, during which the Indian remained
silent and apparently quite indifferent.
Long-Hair was a man of superior physique, tall, straight, with the
muscles of a Vulcan; and while he lay stretched on the ground half
clad and motionless, he would have been a grand model for an
heroic figure in bronze. Yet from every lineament there came a
strange repelling influence, like that from a snake. Alice felt
almost unbearable disgust while doing her merciful task; but she
bravely persevered until it was finished.
It was now late in the afternoon, and the sun would be setting
before they could reach home.
"We must hurry back, Jean," Alice said, turning to depart. "It
will be all we can do to reach the other side in daylight. I'm
thinking that they'll be out hunting for us too, if we don't move
right lively. Come."
She gave the Indian another glance when she had taken but a step.
He grunted and held up something in his hand--something that shone
with a dull yellow light. It was a small, oval, gold locket which
she had always worn in her bosom. She sprang and snatched it from
"Thank you," she exclaimed, smiling gratefully. "I am so glad you
The chain by which the locket had hung was broken, doubtless by
some movement while dragging Long-Hair out of the mud, and the
lid had sprung open, exposing a miniature portrait of Alice,
painted when she was a little child, probably not two years old.
It was a sweet baby face, archly bright, almost surrounded with a
fluff of golden hair. The neck and the upper line of the plump
shoulders, with a trace of richly delicate lace and a string of
pearls, gave somehow a suggestion of patrician daintiness.
Long-Hair looked keenly into Alice's eyes, when she stooped to
take the locket from his hand, but said nothing.
She and Jean now hurried away, and, so vigorously did they paddle
the pirogue, that the sky was yet red in the west when they
reached home and duly received their expected scolding from Madame
Alice sealed Jean's lips as to their adventure; for she had made
up her mind to save Long-Hair if possible, and she felt sure that
the only way to do it would be to trust no one but Father Beret.
It turned out that Long-Hair's wound was neither a broken bone nor
a cut artery. The flesh of his leg, midway between the hip and the
knee, was pierced; the bullet had bored a neat hole clean through.
Father Beret took the case in hand, and with no little surgical
skill proceeded to set the big Indian upon his feet again. The
affair had to be cleverly managed. Food, medicines and clothing
were surreptitiously borne across the river; a bed of grass was
kept fresh under Long-Hair's back; his wound was regularly
dressed; and finally his weapons--a tomahawk, a knife, a strong
bow and a quiver of arrows--which he had hidden on the night of
his bold theft, were brought to him.
"Now go and sin no more," said good Father Beret; but he well knew
that his words were mere puffs of articulate wind in the ear of
the grim and silent savage, who limped away with an air of stately
dignity into the wilderness.
A load fell from Alice's mind when Father Beret informed her of
Long-Hair's recovery and departure. Day and night the dread lest
some of the men should find out his hiding-place and kill him had
depressed and worried her. And now, when it was all over, there
still hovered like an elusive shadow in her consciousness a vague
haunting impression of the incident's immense significance as an
influence in her life. To feel that she had saved a man from death
was a new sensation of itself; but the man and the circumstances
were picturesque; they invited imagination; they furnished an
atmosphere of romance dear to all young and healthy natures, and
somehow stirred her soul with a strange appeal.
Long-Hair's imperturbable calmness, his stolid, immobile
countenance, the mysterious reptilian gleam of his shifty black
eyes, and the soulless expression always lurking in them, kept a
fascinating hold on the girl's memory. They blended curiously with
the impressions left by the romances she had read in M.
Roussillon's mildewed books.
Long-Hair was not a young man; but it would have been impossible
to guess near his age. His form and face simply showed long
experience and immeasurable vigor. Alice remembered with a
shuddering sensation the look he gave her when she took the locket
from his hand. It was of but a second's duration, yet it seemed to
search every nook of her being with its subtle power.
Romancers have made much of their Indian heroes, picturing them as
models of manly beauty and nobility; but all fiction must be taken
with liberal pinches of salt. The plain truth is that dark savages
of the pure blood often do possess the magnetism of perfect
physical development and unfathomable mental strangeness; but real
beauty they never have. Their innate repulsiveness is so great
that, like the snake's charm, it may fascinate; yet an
indescribable, haunting disgust goes with it. And, after all, if
Alice had been asked to tell just how she felt toward the Indian
she had labored so hard to save, she would promptly have said:
"I loathe him as I do a toad!"
Nor would Father Beret, put to the same test, have made a
substantially different confession. His work, to do which his life
went as fuel to fire, was training the souls of Indians for the
reception of divine grace; but experience had not changed his
first impression of savage character. When he traveled in the
wilderness he carried the Word and the Cross; but he was also
armed with a gun and two good pistols, not to mention a dangerous
knife. The rumor prevailed that Father Beret could drive a nail at
sixty yards with his rifle, and at twenty snuff a candle with
either one of his pistols.
THE FIRST MAYOR OF VINCENNES
Governor Abbott probably never so much as heard of the dame jeanne
of French brandy sent to him by his creole friend in New Orleans.
He had been gone from Vincennes several months when the batteau
arrived, having been recalled to Detroit by the British
authorities; and he never returned. Meantime the little post with
its quaint cabins and its dilapidated block-house, called Fort
Sackville, lay sunning drowsily by the river in a blissful state
of helplessness from the military point of view. There was no
garrison; the two or three pieces of artillery, abandoned and
exposed, gathered rust and cobwebs, while the pickets of the
stockade, decaying and loosened in the ground by winter freezes
and summer rains, leaned in all directions, a picture of decay and
The inhabitants of the town, numbering about six hundred, lived
very much as pleased them, without any regular municipal
government, each family its own tribe, each man a law unto
himself; yet for mutual protection, they all kept in touch and had
certain common rights which were religiously respected and
defended faithfully. A large pasturing ground was fenced in where
the goats and little black cows of the villagers browsed as one
herd, while the patches of wheat, corn and vegetables were not
inclosed at all. A few of the thriftier and more important
citizens, however, had separate estates of some magnitude,
surrounding their residences, kept up with care and, if the time
and place be taken into account, with considerable show of taste.
Monsieur Gaspard Roussillon was looked upon as the aristocrat par
excellence of Vincennes, notwithstanding the fact that his name
bore no suggestion of noble or titled ancestry. He was rich and in
a measure educated; moreover the successful man's patent of
leadership, a commanding figure and a suave manner, came always to
his assistance when a crisis presented itself. He traded shrewdly,
much to his own profit, but invariably with the excellent result
that the man, white or Indian, with whom he did business felt
himself especially favored in the transaction. By the exercise of
firmness, prudence, vast assumption, florid eloquence and a kindly
liberality he had greatly endeared himself to the people; so that
in the absence of a military commander he came naturally to be
regarded as the chief of the town, Mo'sieu' le maire.
He returned from his extended trading expedition about the middle
of July, bringing, as was his invariable rule, a gift for Alice.
This time it was a small, thin disc of white flint, with a hole in
the center through which a beaded cord of sinew was looped. The
edge of the disc was beautifully notched and the whole surface
polished so that it shone like glass, while the beads, made of
very small segments of porcupine quills, were variously dyed,
making a curiously gaudy show of bright colors.
"There now, ma cherie, is something worth fifty times its weight
in gold," said M. Roussillon when he presented the necklace to his
foster daughter with pardonable self-satisfaction. "It is a sacred
charm-string given me by an old heathen who would sell his soul
for a pint of cheap rum. He solemnly informed me that whoever wore
it could not by any possibility be killed by an enemy."
Alice kissed M. Roussillon.
"It's so curious and beautiful," she said, holding it up and
drawing the variegated string through her fingers. Then, with her
mischievous laugh, she added; "and I'm glad it is so powerful
against one's enemy; I'll wear it whenever I go where Adrienne
Bourcier is, see if I don't!"
"Is she your enemy? What's up between you and la petite Adrienne,
eh?" M. Roussillon lightly demanded. "You were always the best of
good friends, I thought. What's happened?"
"Oh, we are good friends," said Alice, quickly, "very good
friends, indeed; I was but chaffing."
"Good friends, but enemies; that's how it is with women. Who's the
young man that's caused the coolness? I could guess, maybe!" He
laughed and winked knowingly. "May I be so bold as to name him at
"Yes, if you'll be sure to mention Monsieur Rene de Ronville," she
gayly answered. "Who but he could work Adrienne up into a perfect
green mist of jealousy?"
"He would need an accomplice, I should imagine; a young lady of
some beauty and a good deal of heartlessness."
"Like whom, for example?" and she tossed her bright head. "Not me,
I am sure."
"Poh! like every pretty maiden in the whole world, ma petite
coquette; they're all alike as peas, cruel as blue jays and as
sweet as apple-blossoms." He stroked her hair clumsily with his
large hand, as a heavy and roughly fond man is apt to do, adding
in an almost serious tone:
"But my little girl is better than most of them, not a foolish
mischief-maker, I hope."
Alice was putting her head through the string of beads and letting
the translucent white disc fall into her bosom.
"It's time to change the subject," she said; "tell me what you
have seen while away. I wish I could go far off and see things.
Have you been to Detroit, Quebec, Montreal?"
"Yes, I've been to all, a long, hard journey, but reasonably
profitable. You shall have a goodly dot when you get married, my
"And did you attend any parties and balls?" she inquired quickly,
ignoring his concluding remark. "Tell me about them. How do the
fine ladies dress, and do they wear their hair high with great big
combs? Do they have long skirts and--"
"Hold up, you double-tongued chatterbox!" he interrupted; "I can't
answer forty questions at once. Yes, I danced till my legs ached
with women old and girls young; but how could I remember how they
were dressed and what their style of coiffure was? I know that
silk rustled and there was a perfume of eau de Cologne and
mignonette and my heart expanded and blazed while I whirled like a
top with a sweet lady in my arms."
"Yes, you must have cut a ravishing figure!" interpolated Madame
Roussillon with emphatic disapproval, her eyes snapping. "A bull in
a lace shop. How delighted the ladies must have been!"
"Never saw such blushing faces and burning glances--such
fluttering breasts, such--"
"Big braggart," Madame Roussillon broke in contemptuously, "it's a
piastre to a sou that you stood gawping in through a window while
gentlemen and ladies did the dancing. I can imagine how you looked
--I can!" and with this she took her prodigious bulk at a waddling
gait out of the room. "I remember how you danced even when you
were not clumsy as a pig on ice!" she shrieked back over her
"Parbleu! true enough, my dear," he called after her, "I should
think you could--you mind how we used trip it together. You were
the prettiest dancer them all, and the young fellows all went to
the swords about you!"
"But tell me more," Alice insisted; "I want to know about what you
saw in the great towns--in the fine houses--how the ladies looked,
how they acted--what they said--the dresses they wore--how--"
"Ciel! you will split my ears, child; can't you fill my pipe and
bring it to me with a coal on it? Then I'll try to tell you what I
can," he cried, assuming a humorously resigned air. "Perhaps if I
smoke I can remember everything."
Alice gladly ran to do what he asked. Meantime Jean was out on the
gallery blowing a flute that M. Roussillon had brought him from
The pipe well filled and lighted apparently did have the effect to
steady and encourage M. Roussillon's memory; or if not his memory,
then his imagination, which was of that fervid and liberal sort
common to natives of the Midi, and which has been exquisitely
depicted by the late Alphonse Daudet in Tartarin and Bompard. He
leaned far back in a strong chair, with his massive legs stretched
at full length, and gazed at the roof-poles while he talked.
He sympathized fully, in his crude way, with Alice's lively
curiosity, and his affection for her made him anxious to appease
her longing after news from the great outside world. If the sheer
truth must come out, however, he knew precious little about that
world, especially the polite part of it in which thrived those
femininities so dear to the heart of an isolated and imaginative
girl. Still, as he, too, lived in Arcadia, there was no great
effort involved when he undertook to blow a dreamer's flute.
In the first place he had not been in Quebec or Montreal during
his absence from home. Most of the time he had spent disposing of
pelts and furs at Detroit and in extending his trading relations
with other posts; but what mattered a trifling want of facts when
his meridional fancy once began to warm up? A smattering of social
knowledge gained at first hand in his youthful days in France
while he was a student whose parents fondly expected him to
conquer the world, came to his aid, and besides he had saturated
himself all his life with poetry and romance. Scudery, Scarron,
Prevost, Madame La Fayette and Calprenede were the chief sources
of his information touching the life and manners, morals and
gayeties of people who, as he supposed, stirred the surface of
that resplendent and far-off ocean called society. Nothing suited
him better than to smoke a pipe and talk about what he had seen
and done; and the less he had really seen and done the more he had
His broad, almost over-virile, kindly and contented face beamed
with the warmth of wholly imaginary recollections while he
recounted with minute circumstantiality to the delighted Alice his
gallant adventures in the crowded and brilliant ball-rooms of the
French-Canadian towns. The rolling burr of his bass voice, deep
and resonant, gave force to the improvised descriptions.
Madame Roussillon heard the heavy booming and presently came
softly back into the door from the kitchen to listen. She leaned
against the facing in an attitude of ponderous attention, a hand,
on her bulging hip. She could not suppress her unbounded
admiration of her liege lord's manly physique, and jealous to
fierceness as she was of his experiences so eloquently and
picturesquely related, her woman's nature took fire with enjoyment
of the scenes described.
This is the mission of the poet and the romancer--to sponge out
of existence, for a time, the stiff, refractory, and unlovely
realities and give in their place a scene of ideal mobility and
charm. The two women reveled in Gaspard Roussillon's revelations.
They saw the brilliant companies, the luxurious surroundings,
heard the rustle of brocade and the fine flutter of laces, the hum
of sweet voices, breathed in the wafts of costly perfumeries,
looked on while the dancers whirled and flickered in the confusion
of lights; and over all and through all poured and vibrated such
ravishing music as only the southern imagination could have
conjured up out of nothing.
Alice was absolutely charmed. She sat on a low wooden stool and
gazed into Gaspard Roussillon's face with dilating eyes in which
burned that rich and radiant something we call a passionate soul.
She drank in his flamboyant stream of words with a thirst which
nothing but experience could ever quench. He felt her silent
applause and the admiring involuntary absorption that possessed
his wife; the consciousness of his elementary magnetism augmented
the flow of his fine descriptions, and he went on and on, until
the arrival of Father Beret put an end to it all.
The priest, hearing of M. Roussillon's return, had come to inquire
about some friends living at Detroit. He took luncheon with the
family, enjoying the downright refreshing collation of broiled
birds, onions, meal-cakes and claret, ending with a dish of
blackberries and cream.
M. Roussillon seized the first opportunity to resume his
successful romancing, and presently in the midst of the meal began
to tell Father Beret about what he had seen in Quebec.
"By the way," he said, with expansive casualness in his voice, "I
called upon your old-time friend and co-adjutor, Father
Sebastien, while up there. A noble old man. He sent you a thousand
good messages. Was mightily delighted when I told him how happy
and hale you have always been here. Ah, you should have seen his
dear old eyes full of loving tears. He would walk a hundred miles
to see you, he said, but never expected to in this world.
Blessings, blessings upon dear Father Beret, was what he murmured
in my ear when we were parting. He says that he will never leave
Quebec until he goes to his home above--ah!"
The way in which M. Roussillon closed his little speech, his large
eyes upturned, his huge hands clasped in front of him, was very
"I am under many obligations, my son," said Father Beret, "for
what you tell me. It was good of you to remember my dear old
friend and go to him for his loving messages to me. I am very,
very thankful. Help me to another drop of wine, please."
Now the extraordinary feature of the situation was that Father
Beret had known positively for nearly five years that Father
Sebastien was dead and buried.
"Ah, yes," M. Roussillon continued, pouring the claret with one
hand and making a pious gesture with the other; "the dear old man
loves you and prays for you; his voice quavers whenever he speaks
"Doubtless he made his old joke to you about the birth-mark on my
shoulder," said Father Beret after a moment of apparently
thoughtful silence. "He may have said something about it in a
playful way, eh?"
"True, true, why yes, he surely mentioned the same," assented M.
Roussillon, his face assuming an expression of confused memory;
"it was something sly and humorous, I mind; but it just escapes my
recollection. A right jolly old boy is Father Sebastien; indeed
very amusing at times."
"At times, yes," said Father Beret, who had no birth-mark on his
shoulder, and had never had one there, or on any other part of his
"How strange!" Alice remarked, "I, too, have a mark on my
shoulder--a pink spot, just like a small, five-petaled flower. We
must be of kin to each other, Father Beret."
The priest laughed.
"If our marks are alike, that would be some evidence of kinship,"
"But what shape is yours, Father?"
"I've never seen it," he responded.
"Never seen it! Why?"
"Well, it's absolutely invisible," and he chuckled heartily,
meantime glancing shrewdly at M. Roussillon out of the tail of his
"It's on the back part of his shoulder," quickly spoke up M.
Roussillon, "and you know priests never use looking-glasses. The
mark is quite invisible therefore, so far as Father Beret is
"You never told me of your birth-mark before, my daughter," said
Father Beret, turning to Alice with sudden interest. "It may some
day be good fortune to you."
"Why so, Father?"
"If your family name is really Tarleton, as you suppose from the
inscription on your locket, the birth-mark, being of such singular
shape, would probably identify you. It is said that these marks
run regularly in families. With the miniature and the
distinguishing birth-mark you have enough to make a strong case
should you once find the right Tarleton family."
"You talk as they write in novels," said Alice. "I've read about
just such things in them. Wouldn't it be grand if I should turn
out to be some great personage in disguise!"
The mention of novels reminded Father Beret of that terrible book,
Manon Lescaut, which he last saw in Alice's possession, and he
could not refrain from mentioning it in a voice that shuddered.
"Rest easy, Father Beret," said Alice; "that is one novel I have
found wholly distasteful to me. I tried to read it, but could not
do it, I flung it aside in utter disgust. You and mother
Roussillon are welcome to hide it deep as a well, for all I care.
I don't enjoy reading about low, vile people and hopeless
unfortunates; I like sweet and lovely heroines and strong, high-
souled, brave heroes."
"Read about the blessed saints, then, my daughter; you will find
in them the true heroes and heroines of this world," said Father
M. Roussillon changed the subject, for he always somehow dreaded
to have the good priest fall into the strain of argument he was
about to begin. A stray sheep, no matter how refractory, feels a
touch of longing when it hears the shepherd's voice. M. Roussillon
was a Catholic, but a straying one, who avoided the confessional
and often forgot mass. Still, with all his reckless independence,
and with all his outward show of large and breezy self-
sufficiency, he was not altogether free from the hold that the
church had laid upon him in childhood and youth. Moreover, he was
fond of Father Beret and had done a great deal for the little
church of St. Xavier and the mission it represented; but he
distinctly desired to be let alone while he pursued his own
course; and he had promised the dying woman who gave Alice to him
that the child should be left as she was, a Protestant, without
undue influence to change her from the faith of her parents. This
promise he had kept with stubborn persistence and he meant to keep
it as long as he lived. Perhaps the very fact that his innermost
conscience smote him with vague yet telling blows at times for
this departure from the strict religion of his fathers, may have
intensified his resistance of the influence constantly exerted
upon Alice by Father Beret and Madame Roussillon, to bring her
gently but surely to the church. Perverseness is a force to be
reckoned with in all original characters.
A few weeks had passed after M. Roussillon's return, when that
big-hearted man took it into his head to celebrate his successful
trading ventures with a moonlight dance given without reserve to
all the inhabitants of Vincennes. It was certainly a democratic
function that he contemplated, and motley to a most picturesque
Rene de Ronville called upon Alice a day or two previous to the
occasion and duly engaged her as his partenaire; but she insisted
upon having the engagement guarded in her behalf by a condition so
obviously fanciful that he accepted it without argument.
"If my wandering knight should arrive during the dance, you
promise to stand aside and give place to him," she stipulated.
"You promise that? You see I'm expecting him all the time. I
dreamed last night that he came on a great bay horse and,
stooping, whirled me up behind the saddle, and away we went!"
There was a childish, half bantering air in her look; but her
voice sounded earnest and serious, notwithstanding its delicious
timbre of suppressed playfulness.
"You promise me?" she insisted.
"Oh, I promise to slink away into a corner and chew my thumb, the
moment he comes," Rene eagerly assented. "Of course I'm taking a
great risk, I know; for lords and barons and knights are very apt
to appear Suddenly in a place like this."
"You may banter and make light if you want to," she said, pouting
admirably. "I don't care. All the same the laugh will jump to the
other corner of your mouth, see if it doesn't. They say that what
a person dreams about and wishes for and waits for and believes
in, will come true sooner or later."
"If that's so," said Rene, "you and I will get married; for I've
dreamed it every night of the year, wished for it, waited for it
and believed in it, and--"
It was a madly sudden rush. He made it on an impulse quite
irresistible, as hypnotized persons are said to do in response to
the suggestion of the hypnotist, and his heart was choking his
throat before he could end his speech. Alice interrupted him with
a hearty burst of laughter.
"A very pretty twist you give to my words, I must declare," she
said; "but not new by any means. Little Adrienne Bourcier could
tell you that. She says that you have vowed to her over and over
that you dream about her, and wish for her, and wait for her,
precisely as you have just said to me,"
Rene's brown face flushed to the temples, partly with anger,
partly with the shock of mingled surprise and fear. He was guilty,
and the guilt showed in his eyes and paralyzed his tongue, so that
he sat there before Alice with his under jaw sagging ludicrously.
"Don't you rather think, Monsieur Rene de Ronville," she presently
added in a calmly advisory tone, "that you had better quit trying
to say such foolish things to me, and just be my very good friend?