Part 2 out of 3
The cannon was for the time silent, the gunners being elsewhere, but a
boy's voice called from the bastion:--
"Come out here, mademoiselle. I have an apple for you."
"Where did you get an apple?" replied a girl's voice.
"Monsieur Bigot gave it to me. He has everything the king's stores
will buy. His slave was carrying a basketful."
"I do not like Monsieur Bigot. His face is blotched, and he kisses
"His apples are better than his manners," observed the boy, waiting,
knife in hand, for her to come and see that the division was a fair
She tiptoed out from the gallery of the commandant's house, the wind
blowing her curls back from her shoulders. A bastion of Fort St. Louis
was like a balcony in the clouds. The child's lithe, long body made a
graceful line in every posture, and her face was vivid with light and
"Perhaps your sick mother would like this apple, Monsieur Jacques. We
do not have any in the fort."
The boy flushed. He held the halves ready on his palm.
"I thought of her; but the surgeon might forbid it, and she is not
fond of apples when she is well. And you are always fond of apples,
"My name is Clara Baker. If you call me Mademoiselle Anglaise, I will
box your ears."
"But you are English," persisted the boy. "You cannot help it. I am
sorry for it myself; and when I am grown I will whip anybody that
reproaches you for it."
They began to eat the halves of the apple, forgetful of Jacques's sick
mother, and to quarrel as their two nations have done since France and
England stood on the waters.
"Don't distress yourself, Monsieur Jacques Repentigny. The English
will be the fashion in Quebec when you are grown."
It was amusing to hear her talk his language glibly while she
"Do you think your ugly General Wolfe can ever make himself the
fashion?" retorted Jacques. "I saw him once across the Montmorenci
when I was in my father's camp. His face runs to a point in the
middle, and his legs are like stilts."
"His stilts will lift him into Quebec yet."
The boy shook his black queue. He had a cheek in which the flush came
and went, and black sparkling eyes.
"The English never can take this province. What can you know about it?
You were only a little baby when Madame Ramesay bought you from the
Iroquois Indians who had stolen you. If your name had not been on your
arm, you would not even know that. But a Le Moyne of Montreal knows
all about the province. My grandfather, Le Moyne de Longueuil, was
wounded down there at Beauport, when the English came to take Canada
before. And his brother Jacques that I am named for--Le Moyne de
Sainte-Helene--was killed. I have often seen the place where he died
when I went with my father to our camp."
The little girl pushed back her sleeve, as she did many times a day,
and looked at the name tattooed in pale blue upon her arm. Jacques
envied her that mark, and she was proud of it. Her traditions were
all French, but the indelible stamp, perhaps of an English seaman,
reminded her what blood was in her veins.
The children stepped nearer the parapet, where they could see all
Quebec Basin, and the French camp stretching its city of tents across
the valley of the St. Charles. Beneath them was Lower Town, a huddle
of blackened shells and tottering walls.
"See there what the English have done," said Clara, pointing down the
sheer rock. "It will be a long time before you and I go down Breakneck
Stairs again to see the pretty images in the church of Our Lady of
"They did that two months ago," replied Jacques. "It was all they
could do. And now they are sick of bombarding, and are going home.
All their soldiers at Montmorenci and on the point of Orleans are
embarking. Their vessels keep running around like hens in a shower,
hardly knowing what to do."
"Look at them getting in a line yonder," insisted his born enemy.
"General Montcalm is in front of them at Beauport," responded Jacques.
The ground was moist underfoot, and the rock on which they leaned felt
damp. Quebec grayness infused with light softened the autumn world. No
one could behold without a leap of the heart that vast reach of river
and islands, and palisade and valley, and far-away melting mountain
lines. Inside Quebec walls the children could see the Ursuline convent
near the top of the slope, showing holes in its roof. Nearly every
building in the city had suffered.
Drums began to beat on the British ships ranged in front of Beauport,
and a cannon flashed. Its roar was shaken from height to height. Then
whole broadsides of fire broke forth, and the earth rumbled with the
sound, and scarlet uniforms filled the boats like floating poppies.
"The English may be going home," exulted Clara, "but you now see for
yourself, Monsieur Jacques Repentigny, what they intend to do before
"I wish my father had not been sent with his men back to Montreal!"
exclaimed Jacques in excitement. "But I shall go down to the camps,
"Your mother will cry," threatened the girl.
"My mother is used to war. She often lets me sleep in my father's
tent. Tell her I have gone to the camps."
"They will put you in the guard-house."
"They do not put a Repentigny in the guard-house."
"If you will stay here," called the girl, running after him towards
the fortress gate, "I will play anything you wish. The cannon balls
might hit you."
Deaf to the threat of danger, he made off through cross-cuts toward
the Palace Gate, the one nearest the bridge of boats on the St.
"Very good, monsieur. I'll tell your mother," she said, trembling and
putting up a lip.
But nothing except noise was attempted at Beauport. Jacques was
so weary, as he toiled back uphill in diminishing light, that he
gratefully crawled upon a cart and lay still, letting it take him
wherever the carter might be going. There were not enough horses and
oxen in Canada to move the supplies for the army from Montreal to
Quebec by land. Transports had to slip down the St. Lawrence by night,
running a gauntlet of vigilant English vessels. Yet whenever the
intendant Bigot wanted to shift anything, he did not lack oxen or
wheels. Jacques did not talk to the carter, but he knew a load of
king's provisions was going out to some favorite of the intendant's
who had been set to guard the northern heights. The stealings of this
popular civil officer were common talk in Quebec.
That long slope called the Plains of Abraham, which swept away from
the summit of the rock toward Cap Rouge, seemed very near the sky.
Jacques watched dusk envelop this place. Patches of faded herbage and
stripped corn, and a few trees only, broke the monotony of its extent.
On the north side, overhanging the winding valley of the St. Charles,
the rock's great shoulder was called Cote Ste. Genevieve. The bald
plain was about a mile wide, but the cart jogged a mile and a half
from Quebec before it reached the tents where its freight was to be
Habit had taken the young Repentigny daily to his father's camp,
but this was the first time he had seen the guard along the heights.
Montcalm's soldiers knew him. He was permitted to handle arms. Many
a boy of fifteen was then in the ranks, and children of his age were
growing used to war. His father called it his apprenticeship to the
trade. A few empty houses stood some distance back of the tents; and
farther along the precipice, beyond brush and trees, other guards were
posted. Seventy men and four cannon completed the defensive line which
Montcalm had drawn around the top of the rock. Half the number could
have kept it, by vigilance. And it was evident that the officer in
charge thought so, and was taking advantage of his general's bounty.
"Remember I am sending you to my field as well as to your own," the
boy overheard him say. Nearly all his company were gathered in a
little mob before his tent. He sat there on a camp stool. They were
Canadians from Lorette, anxious for leave of absence, and full of
"Yes, monsieur, we will remember your field." "Yes, Captain Vergor,
your grain as soon as we have gathered ours in." "It shall be done,
Jacques had heard of Vergor. A few years before, Vergor had been put
under arrest for giving up Fort Beausejour, in Acadia, to the English
without firing a shot. The boy thought it strange that such a man
should be put in charge of any part of the defensive cordon around
Quebec. But Vergor had a friend in the intendant Bigot, who knew
how to reinstate his disgraced favorites. The arriving cart drew the
captain's attention from his departing men. He smiled, his depressed
nose and fleshy lips being entirely good-natured.
"A load of provisions, and a recruit for my company," he said.
"Monsieur the captain needs recruits," observed Jacques.
"Society is what I need most," said Vergor. "And from appearances I
am going to have it at my supper which the cook is about to set before
"I think I will stay all night here," said Jacques.
"You overwhelm me," responded Vergor.
"There are so many empty tents."
"Fill as many of them as you can," suggested Vergor. "You are
doubtless much away from your mother, inspecting the troops; but what
will madame say if you fail to answer at her roll call to-night?"
"Nothing. I should be in my father's tent at Montreal, if she had been
able to go when he was ordered back there."
"Who is your father?"
"Le Gardeur de Repentigny."
Vergor drew his lips together for a soft whistle, as he rose to direct
the storing of his goods.
"It is a young general with whom I am to have the honor of messing. I
thought he had the air of camps and courts the moment I saw his head
over the side of the cart."
Many a boy secretly despises the man to whose merry insolence he
submits. But the young Repentigny felt for Vergor such contempt as
only an incompetent officer inspires.
No sentinels were stationed. The few soldiers remaining busied
themselves over their mess fires. Jacques looked down a cove not quite
as steep as the rest of the cliff, yet as nearly perpendicular as any
surface on which trees and bushes can take hold. It was clothed with
a thick growth of sere weeds, cut by one hint of a diagonal line.
Perhaps laborers at a fulling mill now rotting below had once climbed
this rock. Rain had carried the earth from above in small cataracts
down its face, making a thin alluvial coating. A strip of land
separated the rock from the St. Lawrence, which looked wide and gray
in the evening light. Showers raked the far-off opposite hills. Leaves
showing scarlet or orange were dulled by flying mist.
The boy noticed more boats drifting up river on the tide than he had
counted in Quebec Basin.
"Where are all the vessels going?" he asked the nearest soldier.
"Nowhere. They only move back and forth with the tide."
"But they are English ships. Why don't you fire on them?"
"We have no orders. And besides, our own transports have to slip down
among them at night. One is pretty careful not to knock the bottom out
of the dish which carries his meat."
"The English might land down there some dark night."
"They may land; but, unfortunately for themselves, they have no
The boy did not answer, but he thought, "If my father and General
Levis were posted here, wings would be of no use to the English."
His distinct little figure, outlined against the sky, could be seen
from the prisoners' ship. One prisoner saw him without taking any note
that he was a child. Her eyes were fierce and red-rimmed. She was
the only woman on the deck, having come up the gangway to get rid of
habitantes. These fellow-prisoners of hers were that moment putting
their heads together below and talking about Mademoiselle Jeannette
Descheneaux. They were perhaps the only people in the world who took
any thought of her. Highlanders and seamen moving on deck scarcely
saw her. In every age of the world beauty has ruled men. Jeannette
Descheneaux was a big, manly Frenchwoman, with a heavy voice. In
Quebec, she was a contrast to the exquisite and diaphanous creatures
who sometimes kneeled beside her in the cathedral, or looked out of
sledge or sedan chair at her as she tramped the narrow streets. They
were the beauties of the governor's court, who permitted in a new
land the corrupt gallantries of Versailles. She was the daughter of
a shoemaker, and had been raised to a semi-official position by the
promotion of her brother in the government. Her brother had grown rich
with the company of speculators who preyed on the province and the
king's stores. He had one motherless child, and Jeannette took charge
of it and his house until the child died. She was perhaps a masculine
nourisher of infancy; yet the upright mark between her black eyebrows,
so deep that it seemed made by a hatchet, had never been there before
the baby's death; and it was by stubbornly venturing too far among the
parishes to seek the child's foster mother, who was said to be in some
peril at Petit Cap, that Jeannette got herself taken prisoner.
For a month this active woman had been a dreamer of dreams. Every day
the prison ship floated down to Quebec, and her past stood before her
like a picture. Every night it floated up to Cap Rouge, where French
camp fires flecked the gorge and the north shore stretching westward.
No strict guard was kept over the prisoners. She sat on the ship's
deck, and a delicious languor, unlike any former experience, grew
and grew upon her. The coaxing graces of pretty women she never
caricatured. Her skin was of the dark red tint which denotes a testy
disposition. She had fierce one-sided wars for trivial reasons, and
was by nature an aggressive partisan, even in the cause of a dog or a
cat. Being a woman of few phrases, she repeated these as often as
she had occasion for speech, and divided the world simply into two
classes: two or three individuals, including herself, were human
beings; the rest of mankind she denounced, in a voice which shook the
walls, as spawn. One does not like to be called spawn.
Though Jeannette had never given herself to exaggerated worship, she
was religious. The lack of priest and mass on the prison transport
was blamed for the change which came over her. A haze of real feminine
softness, like the autumn's purpling of rocks, made her bones less
prominent. But the habitantes, common women from the parishes, who had
children and a few of their men with them, saw what ailed her. They
noticed that while her enmity to the English remained unchanged, she
would not hear a word against the Highlanders, though Colonel Fraser
and his Seventy-Eighth Highland regiment had taken her prisoner. It is
true, Jeannette was treated with deference, and her food was sent to
her from the officer's table, and she had privacy on the ship which
the commoner prisoners had not. It is also true that Colonel Fraser
was a gentleman, detesting the parish-burning to which his command was
ordered for a time. But the habitantes laid much to his blue eyes and
yellow hair, and the picturesqueness of the red and pale green Fraser
tartan. They nudged one another when Jeannette began to plait her
strong black locks, and make a coronet of them on her sloping head.
She was always exact and neat in her dress, and its mannishness stood
her in good stead during her month's imprisonment. Rough wool was
her invariable wear, instead of taffetas and silky furs, which Quebec
women delighted in. She groomed herself carefully each day for
that approach to the English camp at Point Levi which the tide
accomplished. Her features could be distinguished half a mile. On the
days when Colonel Fraser's fezlike plumed bonnet was lifted to her in
the camp, she went up the river again in a trance of quiet. On other
days the habitantes laughed, and said to one another, "Mademoiselle
will certainly break through the deck with her tramping."
There was a general restlessness on the prison ship. The English
sailors wanted to go home. The Canadians had been patient since the
middle of August. But this particular September night, as they drifted
up past the rock, and saw the defenses of their country bristling
against them, the feeling of homesickness vented itself in complaints.
Jeannette was in her cabin, and heard them abuse Colonel Fraser and
his Highlanders as kidnapers of women and children, and burners of
churches. She came out of her retreat, and hovered over them like a
hawk. The men pulled their caps off, drolly grinning.
"It is true," added one of them, "that General Montcalm is to blame
for letting the parishes burn. And at least he might take us away from
"Do you think Monsieur de Montcalm has nothing to do but bring you in
off the river?" demanded Jeannette.
"Mademoiselle does not want to be brought in," retorted one of the
women. "As for us, we are not in love with these officers who wear
petticoats, or with any of our enemies."
"Spawn!" Jeanette hurled at them. Yet her partisan fury died in her
throat. She went up on deck to be away from her accusers. The seamed
precipice, the indented cove with the child's figure standing at the
top, and all the panorama to which she was so accustomed by morning
light or twilight passed before her without being seen by her fierce
Jeannette Descheneaux had walked through the midst of colonial
intrigues without knowing that they existed. Men she ignored; and she
could not now account for her keen knowledge that there was a colonel
of the Seventy-Eighth Highlanders. Her entanglement had taken her in
the very simplicity of childhood. She could not blame him. He had
done nothing but lift his bonnet to her, and treat her with deference
because he was sorry she had fallen into his hands. But at first she
fought with silent fury the power he unconsciously held over her. She
felt only the shame of it, which the habitantes had cast upon her.
Nobody had ever called Jeannette Descheneaux a silly woman. In early
life it was thought she had a vocation for the convent; but she drew
back from that, and now she was suddenly desolate. Her brother had his
consolations. There was nothing for her.
Scant tears, oozing like blood, moistened her eyes. She took hold of
her throat to strangle a sob. Her teeth chattered in the wind blowing
down river. Constellations came up over the rock's long shoulder.
Though it was a dark night, the stars were clear. She took no heed
of the French camp fires in the gorge and along the bank. The French
commander there had followed the erratic motions of English boats
until they ceased to alarm him. It was flood tide. The prison ship sat
on the water, scarcely swinging.
At one o'clock Jeannette was still on deck, having watched through the
midnight of her experience. She had no phrases for her thoughts. They
were dumb, but they filled her to the outermost layer of her skin, and
Boats began to disturb her, however. They trailed past the ship with
a muffled swish, all of them disappearing in the darkness. This
gathering must have been going on some time before she noticed it. The
lantern hanging aloft made a mere warning spot in the darkness, for
the lights on deck had been put out. All the English ships, when she
looked about her, were to be guessed at, for not a port-hole cast
its cylinder of radiance on the water. Night muffled their hulls, and
their safety lights hung in a scattered constellation. In one place
two lanterns hung on one mast.
Jeannette felt the pull of the ebbing tide. The ship gave way to it.
As it swung, and the monotonous flow of the water became constant, she
heard a boat grate, and directly Colonel Fraser came up the vessel's
side, and stood on deck where she could touch him. He did not know
that the lump of blackness almost beneath his hand was a breathing
woman; and if he had known, he would have disregarded her then. But
she knew him, from indistinct cap and the white pouch at his girdle to
the flat Highland shoes.
Whether the Highlanders on the ship were watching for him to appear as
their signal, or he had some private admonition for them, they started
up from spots which Jeannette had thought vacant darkness, probably
armed and wrapped in their plaids. She did not know what he said to
them. One by one they got quickly over the ship's side. She did not
form any resolution, and neither did she hesitate; but, drawing tight
around her the plaidlike length of shawl which had served her nearly a
lifetime, she stood up ready to take her turn.
Jeannette seemed to swallow her heart as she climbed over the rail.
The Highlanders were all in the boat except their colonel. He drew in
his breath with a startled sound, and she knew the sweep of her skirt
must have betrayed her. She expected to fall into the river; but her
hand took sure hold of a ladder of rope, and, creeping down backward,
she set her foot in the bateau. It was a large and steady open boat.
Some of the men were standing. She had entered the bow, and as Colonel
Fraser dropped in they cast off, and she sat down, finding a bench
as she had found foothold. The Highland officer was beside her. They
could not see each other's faces. She was not sure he had detected
her. The hardihood which had taken her beyond the French lines in
search of on whom she felt under her protection was no longer in her.
A cowering woman with a boatload of English soldiers palpitated under
the darkness. It was necessary only to steer; both tide and current
carried them steadily down. On the surface of the river, lines of dark
objects followed. A fleet of the enemy's transports was moving towards
To most women country means home. Jeannette was tenaciously fond
of the gray old city of Quebec, but home to her was to be near that
Highland officer. Her humiliation passed into the very agony of
tenderness. To go wherever he was going was enough. She did not want
him to speak to her, or touch her, or give any sign that he knew
she was in the world. She wanted to sit still by his side under the
negation of darkness and be satisfied. Jeannette had never dreamed
how long the hours between turn of tide and dawn may be. They were the
principal part of her life.
Keen stars held the sky at immeasurable heights. There was no mist.
The chill wind had swept the river clear like a great path. Within
reach of Jeannette's hand, but hidden from her, as most of us are
hidden from one another, sat one more solitary than herself. He had
not her robust body. Disease and anxiety had worn him away while he
was hopelessly besieging Quebec. In that last hour before the 13th of
September dawned, General Wolfe was groping down river toward one of
the most desperate military attempts in the history of the world.
There was no sound but the rustle of the water, the stir of a foot as
some standing man shifted his weight, and the light click of metal
as guns in unsteady hands touched barrels. A voice, modulating rhythm
which Jeannette could not understand, began to speak. General Wolfe
was reciting an English poem. The strain upon his soul was more
than he could bear, and he relieved it by those low-uttered rhymes.
Jeannette did not know one word of English. The meaning which reached
her was a dirge, but a noble dirge; the death hymn of a human being
who has lived up to his capacities. She felt strangely influenced,
as by the neighborhood of some large angel, and at the same time the
tragedy of being alive overswept her. For one's duty is never all
done; or when we have accomplished it with painstaking care, we are
smitten through with finding that the greater things have passed us
The tide carried the boats near the great wall of rock. Woods made
denser shade on the background of night. The cautious murmur of the
speaker was cut short.
"Who goes there?" came the sharp challenge of a French sentry.
The soldiers were silent as dead men.
"France!" answered Colonel Fraser in the same language.
"Of what regiment?"
The sentry was satisfied. To the Queen's regiment, stationed at Cap
Rouge, belonged the duty of convoying provisions down to Quebec. He
did not further peril what he believed to be a French transport by
asking for the password.
Jeannette breathed. So low had she sunk that she would have used her
language herself to get the Highland colonel past danger.
It was fortunate for his general that he had the accent and readiness
of a Frenchman. Again they were challenged. They could see another
sentry running parallel with their course.
"Provision boats," this time answered the Highlander. "Don't make a
noise. The English will hear us."
That hint was enough, for an English sloop of war lay within sound of
With the swift tide the boats shot around a headland, and here was a
cove in the huge precipice, clothed with sere herbage and bushes and
a few trees; steep, with the hint of a once-used path across it, but
a little less perpendicular than the rest of the rock. No sentinel was
stationed at this place.
The world was just beginning to come out of positive shadow into the
indistinctness of dawn. Current and tide were so strong that the boats
could not be steered directly to shore, but on the alluvial strip at
the base of this cove they beached themselves with such success as
they could. Twenty-four men sprung out and ran to the ascent. Their
muskets were slung upon their backs. A humid look was coming upon the
earth, and blurs were over the fading stars. The climbers separated,
each making his own way from point to point of the slippery cliff, and
swarms followed them as boat after boat discharged its load. The cove
by which he breached the stronghold of this continent, and which was
from that day to bear his name, cast its shadow on the gaunt, upturned
face of Wolfe. He waited while the troops in whom he put his trust,
with knotted muscles and panting breasts, lifted themselves to the
top. No orders were spoken. Wolfe had issued instructions the night
before, and England expected every man to do his duty.
There was not enough light to show how Canada was taken. Jeannette
Descheneaux stepped on the sand, and the single thought which took
shape in her mind was that she must scale that ascent if the English
The hope of escape to her own people did not animate her labor. She
had no hope of any sort. She felt only present necessity, which was to
climb where the Highland officer climbed. He was in front of her, and
took no notice of her until they reached a slippery wall where there
were no bushes. There he turned and caught her by the wrist, drawing
her up after him. Their faces came near together in the swimming
vapors of dawn. He had the bright look of determination. His eyes
shone. He was about to burst into the man's arena of glory. The woman,
whom he drew up because she was a woman, and because he regretted
having taken her prisoner, had the pallid look of a victim. Her tragic
black eyes and brows, and the hairs clinging in untidy threads
about her haggard cheeks instead of curling up with the damp as the
Highlandman's fleece inclined to do, worked an instant's compassion
in him. But his business was not the squiring of angular Frenchwomen.
Shots were heard at the top of the rock, a trampling rush, and then
exulting shouts. The English had taken Vergor's camp.
The hand was gone from Jeannette's wrist,--the hand which gave her
such rapture and such pain by its firm fraternal grip. Colonel Fraser
leaped to the plain, and was in the midst of the skirmish. Cannon
spoke, like thunder rolling across one's head. A battery guarded by
the sentinels they had passed was aroused, and must be silenced. The
whole face of the cliff suddenly bloomed with scarlet uniforms. All
the men remaining in the boats went up as fire sweeps when carried
by the wind. Nothing could restrain them. They smelled gunpowder and
heard the noise of victory, and would have stormed heaven at that
instant. They surrounded Jeannette without seeing her, every man
looking up to the heights of glory, and passed her in fierce and
Jeannette leaned against the rough side of Wolfe's Cove. On the
inner surface of her eyelids she could see again the image of the
Highlandman stooping to help her, his muscular legs and neck showing
like a young god's in the early light. There she lost him, for he
forgot her. The passion of women whom nature has made unfeminine, and
who are too honest to stoop to arts, is one of the tragedies of the
Daylight broke reluctantly, with clouds mustering from the inverted
deep of the sky. A few drops of rain sprinkled the British uniforms as
battalions were formed. The battery which gave the first intimation
of danger to the French general, on the other side of Quebec, had been
taken and silenced. Wolfe and his officers hurried up the high plateau
and chose their ground. Then the troops advanced, marching by files,
Highland bagpipes screaming and droning, the earth reverberating with
a measured tread. As they moved toward Quebec they wheeled to form
their line of battle, in ranks three deep, and stretched across the
plain. The city was scarcely a mile away, but a ridge of ground still
hid it from sight.
From her hiding-place in one of the empty houses behind Vergor's
tents, Jeannette Descheneaux watched the scarlet backs and the tartans
of the Highlanders grow smaller. She could also see the prisoners that
were taken standing under guard. As for herself, she felt that she
had no longer a visible presence, so easy had it been for her to move
among swarms of men and escape in darkness. She never had favored her
body with soft usage, but it trembled now in every part from muscular
strain. She was probably cold and hungry, but her poignant sensation
was that she had no friends. It did not matter to Jeannette that
history was being made before her, and one of the great battles of the
world was about to be fought. It only mattered that she should discern
the Fraser plaid as far as eye could follow it. There is no more
piteous thing than for one human being to be overpowered by the god in
She sat on the ground in the unfloored hut, watching through broken
chinking. There was a back door as well as a front door, hung on
wooden hinges, and she had pinned the front door as she came in. The
opening of the back door made Jeannette turn her head, though with
little interest in the comer. It was a boy, with a streak of blood
down his face and neck, and his clothes stained by the weather. He
had no hat on, and one of his shoes was missing. He put himself at
Jeannette's side without any hesitation, and joined her watch through
the broken chinking. A tear and a drop of scarlet raced down his
cheek, uniting as they dripped from his chin.
"Have you been wounded?" inquired Jeannette.
"It isn't the wound," he answered, "but that Captain Vergor has let
them take the heights. I heard something myself, and tried to wake
him. The pig turned over and went to sleep again."
"Let me tie it up," said Jeannette.
"He is shot in the heel and taken prisoner. I wish he had been shot in
the heart. He hopped out of bed and ran away when the English fired on
his tent. I have been trying to get past their lines to run to General
Montcalm; but they are everywhere," declared the boy, his chin shaking
and his breast swelling with grief.
Jeannette turned her back on him, and found some linen about her
person which she could tear. She made a bandage for his head. It
comforted her to take hold of the little fellow and part his clotted
"The skin of my head is torn," he admitted, while suffering the
attempted surgery. "If I had been taller, the bullet might have killed
me; and I would rather be killed than see the English on this rock,
marching to take Quebec. What will my father say? I am ashamed to look
him in the face and own I slept in the camp of Vergor last night. The
Le Moynes and Repentignys never let enemies get past them before. And
I knew that man was not keeping watch; he did not set any sentry."
"Is it painful?" she inquired, wiping the bloody cut, which still
welled forth along its channel.
The boy lifted his brimming eyes, and answered her from his deeper
"I don't know what to do. I think my father would make for General
Montcalm's camp if he were alone and could not attack the enemy's
rear; for something ought to be done as quickly as possible."
Jeannette bandaged his head, the rain spattering through the broken
log house upon them both.
"Who brought you here?" inquired Jacques. "There was nobody in these
houses last night, for I searched them myself."
"I hid here before daybreak," she answered briefly.
"But if you knew the English were coming, why did you not give the
"I was their prisoner."
"And where will you go now?"
She looked towards the Plains of Abraham and said nothing. The open
chink showed Wolfe's six battalions of scarlet lines moving forward or
pausing, and the ridge above them thronging with white uniforms.
"If you will trust yourself to me, mamoiselle," proposed Jacques, who
considered that it was not the part of a soldier or a gentleman to
leave any woman alone in this hut to take the chances of battle, and
particularly a woman who had bound up his head, "I will do my best to
help you inside the French lines."
The singular woman did not reply to him, but continued looking through
the chink. Skirmishers were out. Puffs of smoke from cornfields and
knolls showed where Canadians and Indians hid, creeping to the flank
of the enemy.
Jacques stooped down himself, and struck his hands together at these
"Monsieur de Montcalm is awake, mademoiselle! And see our
sharpshooters picking them off! We can easily run inside the French
lines now. These English will soon be tumbled back the way they came
In another hour the group of houses was a roaring furnace. A
detachment of English light infantry, wheeled to drive out the
bushfighters, had lost and retaken it many times, and neither party
gave up the ready fortress until it was set on fire. Crumbling red
logs hissed in the thin rain, and smoke spread from them across the
sodden ground where Wolfe moved. The sick man had become an invincible
spirit. He flew along the ranks, waving his sword, the sleeve falling
away from his thin arm. The great soldier had thrown himself on this
venture without a chance of retreat, but every risk had been thought
of and met. He had a battalion guarding the landing. He had a force
far in the rear to watch the motions of the French at Cap Rouge. By
the arrangement of his front he had taken precautions against being
outflanked. And he knew his army was with him to a man. But Montcalm
rode up to meet him hampered by insubordinate confusion.
Jeannette Descheneaux, carried along, with the boy, by Canadians and
Indians from the English rear to the Cote Ste. Genevieve, lay dazed in
the withered grass during the greater part of the action which decided
her people's hold on the New World. The ground resounded like a drum
with measured treading. The blaze and crash of musketry and cannon
blinded and deafened her; but when she lifted her head from the shock
of the first charge, the most instantaneous and shameful panic that
ever seized a French army had already begun. The skirmishers in
the bushes could not understand it. Smoke parted, and she saw the
white-and-gold French general trying to drive his men back. But they
evaded the horses of officers.
Jacques rose, with the Canadians and Indians, to his knees. He had a
musket. Jeannette rose, also, as the Highlanders came sweeping on in
pursuit. She had scarcely been a woman to the bushfighters. They were
too eager in their aim to glance aside at a rawboned camp follower
in a wet shawl. Neither did the Highlanders distinguish from other
Canadian heads the one with a woman's braids and a faint shadowing of
hair at the corners of the mouth. They came on without suspecting
an ambush, and she heard their strange cries--"Cath-Shairm!" and
"Caisteal Duna!"--when the shock of a volley stopped the streaming
tartans. She saw the play of surprise and fury in those mountaineer
faces. They threw down their muskets, and turned on the ambushed
Canadians, short sword in hand.
Never did knight receive the blow of the accolade as that crouching
woman took a Highland knife in her breast. For one breath she grasped
the back of it with both hands, and her rapt eyes met the horrified
eyes of Colonel Fraser. He withdrew the weapon, standing defenseless,
and a ball struck him, cutting the blood across his arm, and again he
was lost in the fury of battle, while Jeannette felt herself dragged
down the slope.
She resisted. She heard a boy's voice pleading with her, but she got
up and tried to go back to the spot from which she had been dragged.
The Canadians and Indians were holding their ground. She heard their
muskets, but they were far behind her, and the great rout caught her
and whirled her. Officers on their horses were borne struggling along
in it. She fell down and was trampled on, but something helped her up.
The flood of men poured along the front of the ramparts and down to
the bridge of boats on the St. Charles, or into the city walls through
the St. Louis and St. John gates.
To Jeannette the world was far away. Yet she found it once more close
at hand, as she stood with her back against the lofty inner wall. The
mad crowd had passed, and gone shouting down the narrow streets.
But the St. Louis gate was still choked with fugitives when Montcalm
appeared, reeling on his horse, supported by a soldier on each side.
His white uniform was stained on the breast, and blood dripped from
the saddle. Jeannette heard the piercing cry of a little girl:
"Oh heavens! Oh heavens! The marquis is killed!" And she heard
the fainting general gasp, "It is nothing, it is nothing. Don't be
troubled for me, my children."
She knew how he felt as he was led by. The indistinctness of the
opposite wall, which widened from the gate, was astonishing. And she
was troubled by the same little boy whose head she had tied up in
the log house. Jeannette looked obliquely down at him as she braced
herself with chill fingers, and discerned that he was claimed by a
weeping little girl to whom he yet paid no attention.
"Let me help you, mademoiselle," he urged, troubling her.
"Go away," said Jeannette.
"But, mademoiselle, you have been badly hurt."
"Go away," said Jeannette, and her limbs began to settle. She thought
of smiling at the children, but her features were already cast. The
English child held her on one side, and the French child on the other,
as she collapsed in a sitting posture. Tender nuns, going from friend
to foe, would find this stoical face against the wall. It was no
strange sight then. Canada was taken.
Men with bloody faces were already running with barricades for the
gates. Wailing for Montcalm could be heard.
The boy put his arm abound the girl and turned her eyes away. They ran
together up towards the citadel: England and France with their hands
locked; young Canada weeping, but having a future.
The cry of those rapids in Ste. Marie's River called the Sault could
be heard at all hours through the settlement on the rising shore and
into the forest beyond. Three quarters of a mile of frothing billows,
like some colossal instrument, never ceased playing music down an
inclined channel until the trance of winter locked it up. At August
dusk, when all that shaggy world was sinking to darkness, the gushing
monotone became very distinct.
Louizon Cadotte and his father's young seignior, Jacques de
Repentigny, stepped from a birch canoe on the bank near the fort, two
Chippewa Indians following with their game. Hunting furnished no
small addition to the food supply of the settlement, for the English
conquest had brought about scarcity at this as well as other Western
posts. Peace was declared in Europe; but soldiers on the frontier,
waiting orders to march out at any time, were not abundantly supplied
with stores, and they let season after season go by, reluctant to put
in harvests which might be reaped by their successors.
Jacques was barely nineteen, and Louizon was considerably older. But
the Repentignys had gone back to France after the fall of Quebec; and
five years of European life had matured the young seignior as decades
of border experience would never mature his half-breed tenant. Yet
Louizon was a fine dark-skinned fellow, well made for one of short
stature. He trod close by his tall superior with visible fondness;
enjoying this spectacle of a man the like of whom he had not seen on
Jacques looked back, as he walked, at the long zigzag shadows on the
river. Forest fire in the distance showed a leaning column, black at
base, pearl-colored in the primrose air, like smoke from some gigantic
altar. He had seen islands in the lake under which the sky seemed to
slip, throwing them above the horizon in mirage, and trees standing
like detached bushes on a world rim of water. The Ste. Marie River was
a beautiful light green in color, and sunset and twilight played upon
it all the miracles of change.
"I wish my father had never left this country," said young Repentigny,
feeling that spell cast by the wilderness. "Here is his place. He
should have withdrawn to the Sault, and accommodated himself to the
English, instead of returning to France. The service in other parts
of the world does not suit him. Plenty of good men have held to Canada
and their honor also."
"Yes, yes," assented Louizon. "The English cannot be got rid of. For
my part, I shall be glad when this post changes hands. I am sick of
He scowled with open resentment. The seigniory house faced the parade
ground, and they could see against its large low mass, lounging on the
gallery, one each side of a window, the white uniforms of two French
soldiers. The window sashes, screened by small curtains across the
middle, were swung into the room; and Louizon's wife leaned on her
elbows across the sill, the rosy atmosphere of his own fire projecting
to view every ring of her bewitching hair, and even her long eyelashes
as she turned her gaze from side to side.
It was so dark, and the object of their regard was so bright, that
these buzzing bees of Frenchmen did not see her husband until he ran
up the steps facing them. Both of them greeted him heartily. He felt
it a peculiar indignity that his wife's danglers forever passed their
good-will on to him; and he left them in the common hall, with his
father and the young seignior, and the two or three Indians who
congregated there every evening to ask for presents or to smoke.
Louizon's wife met him in the middle of the broad low apartment where
he had been so proud to introduce her as a bride, and turned her
cheek to be kissed. She was not fond of having her lips touched. Her
hazel-colored hair was perfumed. She was so supple and exquisite, so
dimpled and aggravating, that the Chippewa in him longed to take her
by the scalp-lock of her light head; but the Frenchman bestowed the
salute. Louizon had married the prettiest woman in the settlement.
Life overflowed in her, so that her presence spread animation. Both
men and women paid homage to her. Her very mother-in-law was her
slave. And this was the stranger spectacle because Madame Cadotte
the senior, though born a Chippewa, did not easily make herself
subservient to anybody.
The time had been when Louizon was proud of any notice this siren
conferred on him. But so exacting and tyrannical is the nature of man
that when he got her he wanted to keep her entirely to himself. From
his Chippewa mother, who, though treated with deference, had never
dared to disobey his father, he inherited a fond and jealous nature;
and his beautiful wife chafed it. Young Repentigny saw that she was
like a Parisian. But Louizon felt that she was a spirit too fine and
tantalizing for him to grasp, and she had him in her power.
He hung his powderhorn behind the door, and stepped upon a stool to
put his gun on its rack above the fireplace. The fire showed his round
figure, short but well muscled, and the boyish petulance of his shaven
lip. The sun shone hot upon the Sault of an August noon, but morning
and night were cool, and a blaze was usually kept in the chimney.
"You found plenty of game?" said his wife; and it was one of this
woman's wickedest charms that she could be so interested in her
companion of the moment.
"Yes," he answered, scowling more, and thinking of the brace on the
gallery whom he had not shot, but wished to.
She laughed at him.
"Archange Cadotte," said Louizon, turning around on the stool before
he descended; and she spread out her skirts, taking two dancing steps
to indicate that she heard him. "How long am I to be mortified by your
conduct to Monsieur de Repentigny?"
"Oh--Monsieur de Repentigny. It is now that boy from France, at whom I
have never looked."
"The man I would have you look at, madame, you scarcely notice."
"Why should I notice him? He pays little attention to me."
"Ah, he is not one of your danglers, madame. He would not look at
another man's wife. He has had trouble himself."
"So will you have if you scorch the backs of your legs," observed
Louizon stood obstinately on the stool and ignored the heat. He was in
the act of stepping down, but he checked it as she spoke.
"Monsieur de Repentigny came back to this country to marry a young
English lady of Quebec. He thinks of her, not of you."
"I am sure he is welcome," murmured Archange. "But it seems the young
English lady prefers to stay in Quebec."
"She never looked at any other man, madame. She is dead."
"No wonder. I should be dead, too, if I had looked at one stupid man
all my life."
Louizon's eyes sparkled. "Madame, I will have you know that the
seignior of Sault Ste. Marie is entitled to your homage."
"Monsieur, I will have you know that I do not pay homage to any man."
"You, Archange Cadotte? You are in love with a new man every day."
"Not in the least, monsieur. I only desire to have a new man in love
with me every day."
Her mischievous mouth was a scarlet button in her face, and Louizon
leaped to the floor, and kicked the stool across the room.
"The devil himself is no match at all for you!"
"But I married him before I knew that," returned Archange; and Louizon
grinned in his wrath.
"I don't like such women."
"Oh yes, you do. Men always like women whom they cannot chain."
"I have never tried to chain you." Her husband approached, shaking his
finger at her. "There is not another woman in the settlement who has
her way as you have. And see how you treat me!"
"How do I treat you?" inquired Archange, sitting down and resigning
herself to statistics.
"Ste. Marie! St. Joseph!" shouted the Frenchman. "How does she treat
me! And every man in the seigniory dangling at her apron string!"
"You are mistaken. There is the young seignior; and there is the new
English commandant, who must be now within the seigniory, for they
expect him at the post to-morrow morning. It is all the same: if I
look at a man you are furious, and if I refuse to look at him you are
more furious still."
Louizon felt that inward breaking up which proved to him that he could
not stand before the tongue of this woman. Groping for expression, he
"If thou wert sickly or blind, I would be just as good to thee as when
thou wert a bride. I am not the kind that changes if a woman loses her
"No doubt you would like to see me with the smallpox," suggested
Archange. "But it is never best to try a man too far."
"You try me too far,--let me tell you that. But you shall try me no
The Indian appeared distinctly on his softer French features, as one
picture may be stamped over another.
"Smoke a pipe, Louizon," urged the thorn in his flesh. "You are always
so much more agreeable when your mouth is stopped."
But he left the room without looking at her again. Archange remarked
to herself that he would be better natured when his mother had given
him his supper; and she yawned, smiling at the maladroit creatures
whom she made her sport. Her husband was the best young man in the
settlement. She was entirely satisfied with him, and grateful to
him for taking the orphan niece of a poor post commandant, without
prospects since the conquest, and giving her sumptuous quarters and
comparative wealth; but she could not forbear amusing herself with his
Archange was by no means a slave in the frontier household. She did
not spin, or draw water, or tend the oven. Her mother-in-law, Madame
Cadotte, had a hold on perennially destitute Chippewa women who could
be made to work for longer or shorter periods in a Frenchman's kitchen
or loom-house instead of with savage implements. Archange's bed had
ruffled curtains, and her pretty dresses, carefully folded, filled a
She returned to the high window sill, and watched the purple distances
growing black. She could smell the tobacco the men were smoking in the
open hall, and hear their voices. Archange knew what her mother-in-law
was giving the young seignior and Louizon for their supper. She could
fancy the officers laying down their pipes to draw to the board, also,
for the Cadottes kept open house all the year round.
The thump of the Indian drum was added to the deep melody of the
rapids. There were always a few lodges of Chippewas about the Sault.
When the trapping season and the maple-sugar making were over and his
profits drunk up, time was the largest possession of an Indian. He
spent it around the door of his French brother, ready to fish or to
drink whenever invited. If no one cared to go on the river, he turned
to his hereditary amusements. Every night that the rapids were void of
torches showing where the canoes of white fishers darted, the thump of
the Indian drum and the yell of Indian dancers could be heard.
Archange's mind was running on the new English garrison who were said
to be so near taking possession of the picketed fort, when she
saw something red on the parade ground. The figure stood erect and
motionless, gathering all the remaining light on its indistinct
coloring, and Archange's heart gave a leap at the hint of a military
man in a red uniform. She was all alive, like a whitefisher casting
the net or a hunter sighting game. It was Archange's nature, without
even taking thought, to turn her head on her round neck so that the
illuminated curls would show against a background of wall, and wreathe
her half-bare arms across the sill. To be looked at, to lure and
tantalize, was more than pastime. It was a woman's chief privilege.
Archange held the secret conviction that the priest himself could be
made to give her lighter penances by an angelic expression she could
assume. It is convenient to have large brown eyes and the trick of
casting them sidewise in sweet distress.
But the Chippewa widow came in earlier than usual that evening, being
anxious to go back to the lodges to watch the dancing. Archange pushed
the sashes shut, ready for other diversion, and Michel Pensonneau
never failed to furnish her that. The little boy was at the widow's
heels. Michel was an orphan.
"If Archange had children," Madame Cadotte had said to Louizon, "she
would not seek other amusement. Take the little Pensonneau lad that
his grandmother can hardly feed. He will give Archange something to
So Louizon brought home the little Pensonneau lad. Archange looked at
him, and considered that here was another person to wait on her. As to
keeping him clean and making clothes for him, they might as well have
expected her to train the sledge dogs. She made him serve her, but for
mothering he had to go to Madame Cadotte. Yet Archange far outweighed
Madame Cadotte with him. The labors put upon him by the autocrat of
the house were sweeter than mococks full of maple sugar from the hand
of the Chippewa housekeeper. At first Archange would not let him come
into her room. She dictated to him through door or window. But when he
grew fat with good food and was decently clad under Madame Cadotte's
hand, the great promotion of entering that sacred apartment was
allowed him. Michel came in whenever he could. It was his nightly
habit to follow the Chippewa widow there after supper, and watch her
brush Archange's hair.
Michel stood at the end of the hearth with a roll of pagessanung or
plum-leather in his fist. His cheeks had a hard garnered redness like
polished apples. The Chippewa widow set her husband carefully against
the wall. The husband was a bundle about two feet long, containing
her best clothes tied up in her dead warrior's sashes and rolled in a
piece of cloth. His armbands and his necklace of bear's-claws appeared
at the top as a grotesque head. This bundle the widow was obliged to
carry with her everywhere. To be seen without it was a disgrace, until
that time when her husband's nearest relations should take it away
from her and give her new clothes, thus signifying that she had
mourned long enough to satisfy them. As the husband's relations
were unable to cover themselves, the prospect of her release seemed
distant. For her food she was glad to depend on her labor in the
Cadotte household. There was no hunter to supply her lodge now.
The widow let down Archange's hair and began to brush it. The long
mass was too much for its owner to handle. It spread around her like
a garment, as she sat on her chair, and its ends touched the floor.
Michel thought there was nothing more wonderful in the world than this
glory of hair, its rings and ripples shining in the firelight. The
widow's jaws worked in unobtrusive rumination on a piece of pleasantly
bitter fungus, the Indian substitute for quinine, which the Chippewas
called waubudone. As she consoled herself much with this medicine,
and her many-syllabled name was hard to pronounce, Archange called her
Waubudone, an offense against her dignity which the widow might not
have endured from anybody else, though she bore it without a word from
this soft-haired magnate.
As she carefully carded the mass of hair lock by lock, thinking it
an unnecessary nightly labor, the restless head under her hands
was turned towards the portable husband. Archange had not much
imagination, but to her the thing was uncanny. She repeated what she
said every night:--
"Do stand him in the hall and let him smell the smoke, Waubudone."
"No," refused the widow.
"But I don't want him in my bedroom. You are not obliged to keep that
thing in your sight all the time."
"Yes," said the widow.
A dialect of mingled French and Chippewa was what they spoke, and
Michel knew enough of both tongues to follow the talk.
"Are they never going to take him from you? If they don't take him
from you soon, I shall go to the lodges and speak to his people about
The Chippewa widow usually passed over this threat in silence; but,
threading a lock with the comb, she now said,--
"Best not go to the lodges awhile."
"Why?" inquired Archange. "Have the English already arrived? Is the
"Don't know that."
"Then why should I not go to the lodges?"
"Windigo at the Sault now."
Archange wheeled to look at her face. The widow was unmoved. She
was little older than Archange, but her features showed a stoical
harshness in the firelight. Michel, who often went to the lodges,
widened his mouth and forgot to fill it with plum-leather. There was
no sweet which Michel loved as he did this confection of wild plums
and maple sugar boiled down and spread on sheets of birch bark. Madame
Cadotte made the best pagessanung at the Sault.
"Look at the boy," laughed Archange. "He will not want to go to the
lodges any more after dark."
The widow remarked, noting Michel's fat legs and arms,--
"Windigo like to eat him."
"I would kill a windigo," declared Michel, in full revolt.
"Not so easy to kill a windigo. Bad spirits help windigos. If man kill
windigo and not tear him to pieces, he come to life again."
Archange herself shuddered at such a tenacious creature. She was less
superstitious than the Chippewa woman, but the Northwest had its human
terrors as dark as the shadow of witchcraft.
Though a Chippewa was bound to dip his hand in the war kettle and
taste the flesh of enemies after victory, there was nothing he
considered more horrible than a confirmed cannibal. He believed that
a person who had eaten human flesh to satisfy hunger was never
afterwards contented with any other kind, and, being deranged and
possessed by the spirit of a beast, he had to be killed for the safety
of the community. The cannibal usually became what he was by stress
of starvation: in the winter when hunting failed and he was far from
help, or on a journey when provisions gave out, and his only choice
was to eat a companion or die. But this did not excuse him. As soon as
he was detected the name of "windigo" was given him, and if he did not
betake himself again to solitude he was shot or knocked on the head
at the first convenient opportunity. Archange remembered one such
wretched creature who had haunted the settlement awhile, and then
disappeared. His canoe was known, and when it hovered even distantly
on the river every child ran to its mother. The priest was less
successful with this kind of outcast than with any other barbarian on
"Have you seen him, Waubudone?" inquired Archange. "I wonder if it is
the same man who used to frighten us?"
"This windigo a woman. Porcupine in her. She lie down and roll up and
hide her head when you drive her off."
"Did you drive her off?"
"No. She only come past my lodge in the night."
"Did you see her?"
"No, I smell her."
Archange had heard of the atmosphere which windigos far gone in
cannibalism carried around them. She desired to know nothing more
about the poor creature, or the class to which the poor creature
belonged, if such isolated beings may be classed. The Chippewa
widow talked without being questioned, however, preparing to reduce
Archange's mass of hair to the compass of a nightcap.
"My grandmother told me there was a man dreamed he had to eat seven
persons. He sat by the fire and shivered. If his squaw wanted meat, he
quarreled with her. 'Squaw, take care. Thou wilt drive me so far that
I shall turn windigo.'"
People who did not give Archange the keen interest of fascinating them
were a great weariness to her. Humble or wretched human life filled
her with disgust. She could dance all night at the weekly dances,
laughing in her sleeve at girls from whom she took the best partners.
But she never helped nurse a sick child, and it made her sleepy to
hear of windigos and misery. Michel wanted to squat by the chimney and
listen until Louizon came in; but she drove him out early. Louizon
was kind to the orphan, who had been in some respects a failure, and
occasionally let him sleep on blankets or skins by the hearth instead
of groping to the dark attic. And if Michel ever wanted to escape the
attic, it was to-night, when a windigo was abroad. But Louizon did not
It must have been midnight when Archange sat up in bed, startled out
of sleep by her mother-in-law, who held a candle between the curtains.
Madame Cadotte's features were of a mild Chippewa type, yet the
restless aboriginal eye made Archange uncomfortable with its anxiety.
"Louizon is still away," said his mother.
"Perhaps he went whitefishing after he had his supper." The young wife
yawned and rubbed her eyes, beginning to notice that her husband might
be doing something unusual.
"He did not come to his supper."
"Yes, mama. He came in with Monsieur de Repentigny."
"I did not see him. The seignior ate alone."
Archange stared, fully awake. "Where does the seignior say he is?"
"The seignior does not know. They parted at the door."
"Oh, he has gone to the lodges to watch the dancing."
"I have been there. No one has seen him since he set out to hunt this
"Where are Louizon's canoemen?"
"Jean Boucher and his son are at the dancing. They say he came into
Archange could not adjust her mind to anxiety without the suspicion
that her mother-in-law might be acting as the instrument of Louizon's
resentment. The huge feather bed was a tangible comfort interposed
betwixt herself and calamity.
"He was sulky to-night," she declared. "He has gone up to sleep in
Michel's attic to frighten me."
"I have been there. I have searched the house."
"But are you sure it was Michel in the bed?"
"There was no one. Michel is here."
Archange snatched the curtain aside, and leaned out to see the orphan
sprawled on a bearskin in front of the collapsing logs. He had pushed
the sashes inward from the gallery and hoisted himself over the high
sill after the bed drapery was closed for the night, for the window
yet stood open. Madame Cadotte sheltered the candle she carried, but
the wind blew it out. There was a rich glow from the fireplace upon
Michel's stuffed legs and arms, his cheeks, and the full parted lips
through which his breath audibly flowed. The other end of the room,
lacking the candle, was in shadow. The thump of the Indian drum could
still be heard, and distinctly and more distinctly, as if they were
approaching the house, the rapids.
Both women heard more. They had not noticed any voice at the window
when they were speaking themselves, but some offensive thing scented
the wind, and they heard, hoarsely spoken in Chippewa from the
"How fat he is!"
Archange, with a gasp, threw herself upon her mother-in-law for
safety, and Madame Cadotte put both arms and the smoking candle around
her. A feeble yet dexterous scramble on the sill resulted in something
dropping into the room. It moved toward the hearth glow, a gaunt
vertebrate body scarcely expanded by ribs, but covered by a red
blanket, and a head with deathlike features overhung by strips of
hair. This vision of famine leaned forward and indented Michel with
one finger, croaking again,--
"How fat he is!"
The boy roused himself, and, for one instant stupid and apologetic,
was going to sit up and whine. He saw what bent over him, and,
bristling with unimaginable revolutions of arms and legs, he yelled a
yell which seemed to sweep the thing back through the window.
Next day no one thought of dancing or fishing or of the coming
English. Frenchmen and Indians turned out together to search for
Louizon Cadotte. Though he never in his life had set foot to any
expedition without first notifying his household, and it was not the
custom to hunt alone in the woods, his disappearance would not have
roused the settlement in so short a time had there been no windigo
hanging about the Sault. It was told that the windigo, who entered his
house again in the night, must have made way with him.
Jacques Repentigny heard this with some amusement. Of windigos he had
no experience, but he had hunted and camped much of the summer with
"I do not think he would let himself be knocked on the head by a
woman," said Jacques.
"White chief doesn't know what helps a windigo," explained a Chippewa;
and the canoeman Jean Boucher interpreted him. "Bad spirit makes a
windigo strong as a bear. I saw this one. She stole my whitefish and
ate them raw."
"Why didn't you give her cooked food when you saw her?" demanded
"She would not eat that now. She likes offal better."
"Yes, she was going to eat me," declared Michel Pensonneau. "After
she finished Monsieur Louizon, she got through the window to carry me
Michel enjoyed the windigo. Though he strummed on his lip and mourned
aloud whenever Madame Cadotte was by, he felt so comfortably full of
food and horror, and so important with his story, that life threatened
him with nothing worse than satiety.
While parties went up the river and down the river, and talked about
the chutes in the rapids where a victim could be sucked down to death
in an instant, or about tracing the windigo's secret camp, Archange
hid herself in the attic. She lay upon Michel's bed and wept, or
walked the plank floor. It was no place for her. At noon the bark roof
heated her almost to fever. The dormer windows gave her little air,
and there was dust as well as something like an individual sediment of
the poverty from which the boy had come. Yet she could endure the loft
dungeon better than the face of the Chippewa mother who blamed her,
or the bluff excitement of Monsieur Cadotte. She could hear his voice
from time to time, as he ran in for spirits or provisions for parties
of searchers. And Archange had aversion, like the instinct of a maid,
to betraying fondness for her husband. She was furious with him, also,
for causing her pain. When she thought of the windigo, of the rapids,
of any peril which might be working his limitless absence, she set
clenched hands in her loosened hair and trembled with hysterical
anguish. But the enormity of his behavior if he were alive made her
hiss at the rafters. "Good, monsieur! Next time I will have four
officers. I will have the entire garrison sitting along the gallery!
Yes, and they shall be English, too. And there is one thing you will
never know, besides." She laughed through her weeping. "You will never
know I made eyes at a windigo."
The preenings and posings of a creature whose perfections he once
thought were the result of a happy chance had made Louizon roar. She
remembered all their life together, and moaned, "I will say this:
he was the best husband that any girl ever had. We scarcely had a
disagreement. But to be the widow of a man who is eaten up--O Ste.
In the clear August weather the wide river seemed to bring its
opposite shores nearer. Islands within a stone's throw of the
settlement, rocky drops in a boiling current, vividly showed their
rich foliage of pines. On one of these islands Father Dablon and
Father Marquette had built their first mission chapel; and though they
afterwards removed it to the mainland, the old tracery of foundation
stones could still be seen. The mountains of Lake Superior showed like
a cloud. On the ridge above fort and houses the Chippewa lodges were
pleasant in the sunlight, sending ribbons of smoke from their camp
fires far above the serrated edge of the woods. Naked Indian children
and their playmates of the settlement shouted to one another, as they
ran along the river margin, threats of instant seizure by the windigo.
The Chippewa widow, holding her husband in her arms, for she was
not permitted to hang him on her back, stood and talked with her
red-skinned intimates of the lodges. The Frenchwomen collected at the
seigniory house. As for the men of the garrison, they were obliged
to stay and receive the English then on the way from Detour. But
they came out to see the boats off with the concern of brothers, and
Archange's uncle, the post commandant, embraced Monsieur Cadotte.
The priest and Jacques Repentigny did not speak to each other about
that wretched creature whose hoverings around the Sault were connected
with Louizon Cadotte's disappearance. But the priest went with
Louizon's father down the river, and Jacques led the party which took
the opposite direction. Though so many years had passed since Father
Dablon and Father Marquette built the first bark chapel, their
successor found his work very little easier than theirs had been.
A canoe was missing from the little fleet usually tied alongshore, but
it was not the one belonging to Louizon. The young seignior took that
one, having Jean Boucher and Jean's son to paddle for him. No other
man of Sault Ste. Marie could pole up the rapids or paddle down them
as this expert Chippewa could. He had been baptized with a French
name, and his son after him, but no Chippewa of pure blood and name
looked habitually as he did into those whirlpools called the chutes,
where the slip of a paddle meant death. Yet nobody feared the rapids.
It was common for boys and girls to flit around near shore in birch
canoes, balancing themselves and expertly dipping up whitefish.
Jean Boucher thrust out his boat from behind an island, and, turning
it as a fish glides, moved over thin sheets of water spraying upon
rocks. The fall of the Ste. Marie is gradual, but even at its upper
end there is a little hill to climb. Jean set his pole into the stone
floor of the river, and lifted the vessel length by length from crest
to crest of foam. His paddles lay behind him, and his arms were bare
to the elbows, showing their strong red sinews. He had let his hair
grow like a Frenchman's, and it hung forward shading his hatless
brows. A skin apron was girded in front of him to meet waves which
frothed up over the canoe's high prow. Blacksmith of the waters, he
beat a path between juts of rock; struggling to hold a point with the
pole, calling a quick word to his helper, and laughing as he forged
his way. Other voyagers who did not care to tax themselves with this
labor made a portage with their canoes alongshore, and started above
the glassy curve where the river bends down to its leap.
Gros Cap rose in the sky, revealing its peak in bolder lines as the
searchers pushed up the Ste. Marie, exploring mile after mile of pine
and white birch and fantastic rock. The shaggy bank stooped to them,
the illimitable glory of the wilderness witnessing a little procession
of boats like chips floating by.
It was almost sunset when they came back, the tired paddlers keeping
near that shore on which they intended to land. No trace of Louizon
Cadotte could be found; and those who had not seen the windigo were
ready to declare that there was no such thing about the Sault, when,
just above the rapids, she appeared from the dense up-slope of forest.
Jacques Repentigny's canoe had kept the lead, but a dozen light-bodied
Chippewas sprung on shore and rushed past him into the bushes.
The woman had disappeared in underbrush, but, surrounded by hunters
in full chase, she came running out, and fell on her hands, making
a hoarse noise in her throat. As she looked up, all the marks in her
aged aboriginal face were distinct to Jacques Repentigny. The sutures
in her temples were parted. She rolled herself around in a ball, and
hid her head in her dirty red blanket. Any wild beast was in harmony
with the wilderness, but this sick human being was a blot upon it.
Jacques felt the compassion of a god for her. Her pursuers were after
her, and the thud of stones they threw made him heartsick, as if the
thing were done to the woman he loved.
"Let her alone!" he commanded fiercely.
"Kill her!" shouted the hunters. "Hit the windigo on the head!"
All that world of northern air could not sweeten her, but Jacques
picked her up without a thought of her offensiveness and ran to his
canoe. The bones resisted him; the claws scratched at him through her
blanket. Jean Boucher lifted a paddle to hit the creature as soon as
she was down.
"If you strike her, I will kill you!" warned Jacques, and he sprung
into the boat.
The superstitious Chippewas threw themselves madly into their canoes
to follow. It would go hard, but they would get the windigo and
take the young seignior out of her spell. The Frenchmen, with man's
instinct for the chase, were in full cry with them.
Jean Boucher laid down his paddle sulkily, and his son did the same.
Jacques took a long pistol from his belt and pointed it at the old
"If you don't paddle for life, I will shoot you." And his eyes were
eyes which Jean respected as he never had respected anything before.
The young man was a beautiful fellow. If he wanted to save a windigo,
why, the saints let him. The priest might say a good word about it
when you came to think, also.
"Where shall I paddle to?" inquired Jean Boucher, drawing in his
breath. The canoe leaped ahead, grazing hands stretched out to seize
"To the other side of the river."
"Down the rapids?"
"Go down rough or go down smooth?"
"Rough--rough--where they cannot catch you."
The old canoeman snorted. He would like to see any of them catch him.
They were straining after him, and half a dozen canoes shot down that
glassy slide which leads to the rocks.
It takes three minutes for a skillful paddler to run that dangerous
race of three quarters of a mile. Jean Boucher stood at the prow, and
the waves boiled as high as his waist. Jacques dreaded only that the
windigo might move and destroy the delicate poise of the boat; but she
lay very still. The little craft quivered from rock to rock without
grazing one, rearing itself over a great breaker or sinking under a
crest of foam. Now a billow towered up, and Jean broke it with his
paddle, shouting his joy. Showers fell on the woman coiled in the
bottom of the boat. They were going down very rough indeed. Yells from
the other canoes grew less distinct. Jacques turned his head, keeping
a true balance, and saw that their pursuers were skirting toward the
shore. They must make a long detour to catch him after he reached the
foot of the fall.
The roar of awful waters met him as he looked ahead. Jean Boucher
drove the paddle down and spoke to his son. The canoe leaned sidewise,
sucked by the first chute, a caldron in the river bed where all Ste.
Marie's current seemed to go down, and whirl, and rise, and froth, and
"Ha!" shouted Jean Boucher. His face glistened with beads of water and
the glory of mastering Nature.
Scarcely were they past the first pit when the canoe plunged on the
verge of another. This sight was a moment of madness. The great chute,
lined with moving water walls and floored with whirling foam, bellowed
as if it were submerging the world. Columns of green water sheeted in
white rose above it and fell forward on the current. As the canoemen
held on with their paddles and shot by through spume and rain, every
soul in the boat exulted except the woman who lay flat on its keel.
The rapids gave a voyager the illusion that they were running uphill
to meet him, that they were breasting and opposing him instead of
carrying him forward. There was scarcely a breath between riding the
edge of the bottomless pit and shooting out on clear water. The rapids
were past, and they paddled for the other shore, a mile away.
On the west side the green water seemed turning to fire, but as the
sunset went out, shadows sunk on the broad surface. The fresh evening
breath of a primitive world blew across it. Down river the channel
turned, and Jacques could see nothing of the English or of the other
party. His pursuers had decided to land at the settlement.
It was twilight when Jean Boucher brought the canoe to pine woods
which met them at the edge of the water. The young Repentigny had been
wondering what he should do with his windigo. There was no settlement
on this shore, and had there been one it would offer no hospitality to
such as she was. His canoemen would hardly camp with her, and he had
no provisions. To keep her from being stoned or torn to pieces he had
made an inconsiderate flight. But his perplexity dissolved in a moment
before the sight of Louizon Cadotte coming out of the woods towards
them, having no hunting equipments and looking foolish.
"Where have you been?" called Jacques.
"Down this shore," responded Louizon.
"Did you take a canoe and come out here last night?"
"Yes, monsieur. I wished to be by myself. The canoe is below. I was
"It is time you were coming home, when all the men in the settlement
are searching for you, and all the women trying to console your mother
and your wife."
"My wife--she is not then talking with any one on the gallery?"
Louizon's voice betrayed gratified revenge.
"I do not know. But there is a woman in this canoe who might talk on
the gallery and complain to the priest against a man who has got her
stoned on his account."
Louizon did not understand this, even when he looked at the heap of
dirty blanket in the canoe.
"Who is it?" he inquired.
"The Chippewas call her a windigo. They were all chasing her for
eating you up. But now we can take her back to the priest, and they
will let her alone when they see you. Where is your canoe?"
"Down here among the bushes," answered Louizon. He went to get it,
ashamed to look the young seignior in the face. He was light-headed
from hunger and exposure, and what followed seemed to him afterwards a
"Come back!" called the young seignior, and Louizon turned back. The
two men's eyes met in a solemn look.
"Jean Boucher says this woman is dead."
Jean Boucher stood on the bank, holding the canoe with one hand, and
turning her unresisting face with the other. Jacques and Louizon took
off their hats.
They heard the cry of the whip-poor-will. The river had lost all its
green and was purple, and purple shadows lay on the distant mountains
and opposite ridge. Darkness was mercifully covering this poor
demented Indian woman, overcome by the burdens of her life, aged
without being venerable, perhaps made hideous by want and sorrow.
When they had looked at her in silence, respecting her because she
could no longer be hurt by anything in the world, Louizon whispered
aside to his seignior,--
"What shall we do with her?"
"Bury her," the old canoeman answered for him.
One of the party yet thought of taking her back to the priest. But she
did not belong to priests and rites. Jean Boucher said they could dig
in the forest mould with a paddle, and he and his son would make her a
grave. The two Chippewas left the burden to the young men.
Jacques Repentigny and Louizon Cadotte took up the woman who, perhaps
had never been what they considered woman; who had missed the good,
and got for her portion the ignorance and degradation of the world;
yet who must be something to the Almighty, for he had sent youth and
love to pity and take care of her in her death. They carried her into
the woods between them.
THE KIDNAPED BRIDE.
(For this story, little changed from the form in which it was handed
down to him, I am indebted to Dr. J.F. Snyder of Virginia, Illinois,
a descendant of the Saucier family. Even the title remains unchanged,
since he insisted on keeping the one always used by his uncle, Mathieu
Saucier. "Mon Oncle Mathieu," he says, "I knew well, and often sat
with breathless interest listening to his narration of incidents
in the early settlement of the Bottom lands. He was a very quiet,
dignified, and unobtrusive gentleman, and in point of common sense and
intelligence much above the average of the race to which he belonged;
but, like all the rest of the French stock, woefully wanting in energy
and never in a hurry. He was a splendid fiddler, and consequently a
favorite with all, especially the young folks, who easily pressed him
into service on all occasions to play for their numerous dances. He
died at Prairie du Pont, in 1863, at the age of eighty-one years.
His mother, Manette Le Compt, then a young girl, was one of the
bridesmaids of the kidnaped bride.")
Yes, the marshes were then in a chain along the foot of the bluffs:
Grand Marais, Marais de Bois Coupe, Marais de l'Ourse, Marais Perdu;
with a rigole here and there, straight as a canal, to carry the water
into the Mississippi. You do not see Cahokia beautiful as it was when
Monsieur St. Ange de Bellerive was acting as governor of the Illinois
Territory, and waiting at Fort Chartres for the British to take
possession after the conquest. Some people had indeed gone off to
Ste. Grenevieve, and to Pain Court, that you now call Sah Loui', where
Pontiac was afterwards buried under sweetbrier, and is to-day trampled
under pavements. An Indian killed Pontiac between Cahokia and Prairie
du Pont. When he rose from his body and saw it was not a British
knife, but a red man's tomahawk, he was not a chief who would lie
still and bear it in silence. Yes, I have heard that he has been
seen walking through the grapevine tangle, all bleached as if the bad
redness was burned out of him. But the priest will tell you better, my
son. Do not believe such tales.
Besides, no two stories are alike. Pontiac was killed in his French
officer's uniform, which Monsieur de Montcalm gave him, and half the
people who saw him walking declared he wore that, while the rest swore
he was in buckskins and a blanket. You see how it is. A veritable
ghost would always appear the same, and not keep changing its clothes
like a vain girl. Paul Le Page had a fit one night from seeing the
dead chief with feathers in his hair, standing like stone in the white
French uniform. But do not credit such things.
It was half a dozen years before Pontiac's death that Celeste Barbeau
was kidnaped on her wedding day. She lived at Prairie du Pont; and
though Prairie du Pont is but a mile and a half south of Cahokia,
the road was not as safe then as it now is. My mother was one of the
bridesmaids; she has told it over to me a score of times. The wedding
was to be in the church; the same church that now stands on the east
side of the square. And on the south side of the square was the old
auberge. Claudis Beauvois said you could get as good wines at that
tavern as you could in New Orleans. But the court-house was not
built until 1795. The people did not need a court-house. They had no
quarrels among themselves which the priest could not settle, and
after the British conquest their only enemies were those Puants, the
Pottawattamie Indians, who took the English side, and paid no regard
when peace was declared, but still tormented the French because there
was no military power to check them. You see the common fields across
the rigole. The Puants stole stock from the common fields, they
trampled down crops, and kidnaped children and even women, to be
ransomed for so many horses each. The French tried to be friendly, and
with presents and good words to induce the Puants to leave. But those
Puants--Oh, they were British Indians: nothing but whipping would take
the impudence out of them.
Celeste Barbeau's father and mother lived at Prairie du Pont, and
Alexis Barbeau was the richest man in this part of the American
Bottom. When Alexis Barbeau was down on his knees at mass, people used
to say he counted his money instead of his beads; it was at least as
dear to him as religion. And when he came au Caho', he hadn't a
word for a poor man. At Prairie du Pont he had built himself a fine
brick house; the bricks were brought from Philadelphia by way of New
Orleans. You have yourself seen it many a time, and the crack down
the side made by the great earthquake of 1811. There he lived like an
estated gentleman, for Prairie du Pont was then nothing but a cluster
of tenants around his feet. It was after his death that the village
grew. Celeste did not stay at Prairie du Pont; she was always au
Caho', with her grandmother and grandfather, the old Barbeaus.
Along the south bank of this rigole which bounds the north end of
Caho' were all the pleasantest houses then: rez-de-chaussee, of
course, but large; with dormer windows in the roofs; and high of
foundation, having flights of steps going up to the galleries. For
though the Mississippi was a mile away in those days, and had not yet
eaten in to our very sides, it often came visiting. I have seen this
grassy-bottomed rigole many a time swimming with fifteen feet of
water, and sending ripples to the gallery steps. Between the marais
and the Mississippi, the spring rains were a perpetual danger. There
are men who want the marshes all filled up. They say it will add to us
on one side what the great river is taking from us on the other; but
myself--I would never throw in a shovelful: God made this world; it is
good enough; and when the water rises we can take to boats.
The Le Compts lived in this very house, and the old Barbeaus lived
next, on the corner, where this rigole road crosses the street running
north and south. Every house along the rigole was set in spacious
grounds, with shade trees and gardens, and the sloping lawns blazed
with flowers. My mother said it was much prettier than Kaskaskia; not
crowded with traffic; not overrun with foreigners. Everybody seemed
to be making a fete, to be visiting or receiving visits. At sunset the
fiddle and the banjo began their melody. The young girls would gather
at Barbeau's or Le Compt's or Pensonneau's--at any one of a dozen
places, and the young men would follow. It was no trouble to have
a dance every evening, and on feast days and great days there were
balls, of course. The violin ran in my family. Celeste Barbeau would
call across the hedge to my mother,--
"Manette, will Monsieur Le Compt play for us again to-night?"
And Monsieur Le Compt or anybody who could handle a bow would play for
her. Celeste was the life of the place: she sang like a lark, she was
like thistledown in the dance, she talked well, and was so handsome
that a stranger from New Orleans stopped in the street to gaze after
her. At the auberge he said he was going au Pay, but after he saw
Celeste Barbeau he stayed in Caho'. I have heard my mother tell--who
often saw it combed out--that Celeste's long black hair hung below her
knees, though it was so curly that half its length was taken up by the
natural creping of the locks.
The old French women, especially about Pain Court and Caho', loved
to go into their children's bedrooms and sit on the side of the bed,
telling stories half the night. It was part of the general good time.
And thus they often found out what the girls were thinking about; for
women of experience need only a hint. It is true old Madame Barbeau
had never been even au Kaw; but one may live and grow wise without
crossing the rigoles north and south, or the bluffs and river east and
"Gra'mere, Manette is sleepy," Celeste would say, when my mother was
"Well, I will go to my bed," the grandmother would promise. But still
she sat and joined in the chatter. Sometimes the girls would doze, and
wake in the middle of a long tale. But Madame Barbeau heard more than
she told, for she said to her husband:--
"It may come to pass that the widow Chartrant's Gabriel will be making
proposals to Alexis for little Celeste."
"Poor lad," said the grandfather, "he has nothing to back his
proposals with. It will do him no good."
And so it proved. Gabriel Chartrant was the leader of the young men
as Celeste was of the girls. But he only inherited the cedar house
his mother lived in. Those cedar houses were built in Caho' without
an ounce of iron; each cedar shingle was held to its place with cedar
pegs, and the boards of the floors fastened down in the same manner.
They had their galleries, too, all tightly pegged to place. Gabriel
was obliged to work, but he was so big he did not mind that. He was
made very straight, with a high-lifted head and a full chest. He could
throw any man in a wrestling match. And he was always first with
a kindness, and would nurse the sick, and he was not afraid of
contagious diseases or of anything. Gabriel could match Celeste as a
dancer, but it was not likely Alexis Barbeau would find him a match
in any other particular. And it grew more unlikely, every day that the
man from New Orleans spent in Caho'.
The stranger said his name was Claudis Beauvois, and he was interested
in great mercantile houses both in Philadelphia and New Orleans,
and had come up the river to see the country. He was about fifty, a
handsome, easy man, with plenty of fine clothes and money, and before
he had been at the tavern a fortnight the hospitable people were
inviting him everywhere, and he danced with the youngest of them all.
There was about him what the city alone gives a man, and the mothers,
when they saw his jewels, considered that there was only one drawback
to marrying their daughters to Claudis Beauvois: his bride must travel
far from Caho'.
But it was plain whose daughter he had fixed his mind upon, and Alexis
Barbeau would not make any difficulty about parting with Celeste.
She had lived away from him so much since her childhood that he would
scarcely miss her; and it was better to have a daughter well settled
in New Orleans than hampered by a poor match in her native village.
And this was what Gabriel Chartrant was told when he made haste to
propose for Celeste about the same time.
"I have already accepted for my daughter much more gratifying offers
than any you can make. The banns will be put up next Sunday, and in
three weeks she will be Madame Beauvois."
When Celeste heard this she was beside herself. She used to tell my
mother that Monsieur Beauvois walked as if his natural gait was on all
fours, and he still took to it when he was not watched. His shoulders
were bent forward, his hands were in his pockets, and he studied the
ground. She could not endure him. But the customs were very strict in
the matter of marriage. No French girl in those days could be so bold
as to reject the husband her father picked, and own that she preferred
some one else. Celeste was taken home to get ready for her wedding.
She hung on my mother's neck when choosing her for a bridesmaid, and
neither of the girls could comfort the other. Madame Barbeau was a fat
woman who loved ease, and never interfered with Alexis. She would
be disturbed enough by settling her daughter without meddling about
bridegrooms. The grandfather and grandmother were sorry for Gabriel
Chartrant, and tearful over Celeste; still, when you are forming
an alliance for your child, it is very imprudent to disregard great
wealth and by preference give her to poverty. Their son Alexis
convinced them of this; and he had always prospered.
So the banns were put up in church for three weeks, and all Cahokia
was invited to the grand wedding. Alexis Barbeau regretted there was
not time to send to New Orleans for much that he wanted to fit his
daughter out and provide for his guests.
"If he had sent there a month ago for some certainties about the
bridegroom it might be better," said Paul Le Page. "I have a cousin
in New Orleans who could have told us if he really is the great man he
pretends to be." But the women said it was plain Paul Le Page was one
of those who had wanted Celeste himself. The suspicious nature is a
Gabriel Chartrant did not say anything for a week, but went along the
streets haggard, though with his head up, and worked as if he meant
to kill himself. The second week he spent his nights forming desperate
plans. The young men followed him as they always did, and they held
their meeting down the rigole, clustered together on the bank. They
could hear the frogs croak in the marais; it was dry, and the water
was getting low. Gabriel used to say he never heard a frog croak
afterwards without a sinking of the heart. It was the voice of misery.
But Gabriel had strong partisans in this council. Le Maudit Pensonneau
offered with his own hand to kill that interloping stranger whom he
called the old devil, and argued the matter vehemently when his offer
was declined. Le Maudit was a wild lad, so nervous that he stopped
at nothing in his riding or his frolics; and so got the name of the
But the third week, Gabriel said he had decided on a plan which might
break off this detestable marriage if the others would help him. They
all declared they would do anything for him, and he then told them he
had privately sent word about it by Manette to Celeste; and Celeste
was willing to have it or any plan attempted which would prevent the
"We will dress ourselves as Puants," said Gabriel, "and make a rush on
the wedding party on the way to church, and carry off the bride."
Le Maudit Pensonneau sprung up and danced with joy when he heard that.
Nothing would please him better than to dress as a Puant and carry off
a bride. The Cahokians were so used to being raided by the Puants that
they would readily believe such an attack had been made. That very
week the Puants had galloped at midnight, whooping through the town,
and swept off from the common fields a flock of Le Page's goats and
two of Larue's cattle. One might expect they would hear of such a
wedding as Celeste Barbeau's. Indeed, the people were so tired of the
Puants that they had sent urgently to St. Ange de Bellerive asking
that soldiers be marched from Fort Chartres to give them military
It would be easy enough for the young men to make themselves look like
Indians. What one lacked another could supply.
"But two of us cannot take any part in the raid," said Gabriel. "Two
must be ready at the river with a boat. And they must take Celeste as
fast as they can row up the river to Pain Court to my aunt Choutou.
My aunt Choutou will keep her safely until I can make some terms with
Alexis Barbeau. Maybe he will give me his daughter, if I rescue her
from the Puants. And if worst comes to worst, there is the missionary
priest at Pain Court; he may be persuaded to marry us. But who is
willing to be at the river?"
Paul and Jacques Le Page said they would undertake the boat. They were
steady and trusty fellows and good river men; not so keen at riding
and hunting as the others, but in better favor with the priest on
account of their behavior.
So the scheme was very well laid out, and the wedding day came,
clear and bright, as promising as any bride's day that ever was seen.
Claudis Beauvois and a few of his friends galloped off to Prairie du
Pont to bring the bride to church. The road from Caho' to Prairie du
Pont was packed on both sides with dense thickets of black oak, honey
locust, and red haws. Here and there a habitant had cut out a patch
and built his cabin; or a path broken by hunters trailed towards the
Mississippi. You ride the same track to-day, my child, only it is not
as shaggy and savage as the course then lay.
And as soon as Claudis Beauvois was out of sight, Gabriel Chartrant
followed with his dozen French Puants, in feathers and buckskin, all
smeared with red and yellow ochre, well mounted and well armed. They
rode along until they reached the last path which turns off to the
river. At the end of that path, a mile away through the underbrush,
Paul and Jacques Le Page were stationed with a boat. The young men
with Gabriel dismounted and led their horses into the thicket to wait
for his signal.
The birds had begun to sing just after three o'clock that clear
morning, for Celeste lying awake heard them; and they were keeping
it up in the bushes. Gabriel leaned his feathered head over the road,
listening for hoof-falls and watching for the first puff of dust in
the direction of Prairie du Pont. The road was not as well trodden
as it is now, and a little ridge of weeds grew along the centre, high
enough to rake the stirrup of a horseman.
But in the distance, instead of the pat-a-pat of iron hoofs began a
sudden uproar of cries and wild whoops. Then a cloud of dust came in
earnest. Claudis Beauvois alone, without any hat, wild with fright,
was galloping towards Cahokia. Gabriel understood that something had
happened which ruined his own plan. He and his men sprung on their
horses and headed off the fugitive. The bridegroom who had passed that
way so lately with smiles, yelled and tried to wheel his horse into
the brush; but Gabriel caught his bridle and demanded to know what was
the matter. As soon as he heard the French tongue spoken he begged for
his life, and to know what more they required of him, since the rest
of their band had already taken his bride. They made him tell them the
facts. The real Puants had attacked the wedding procession before it
was out of sight of Prairie du Pont, and had scattered it and carried
off Celeste. He did not know what had become of anybody except
himself, after she was taken.
Gabriel gave his horse a cut which was like a kick to its rider.
He shot ahead, glad to pass what he had taken for a second body of
Indians, and Le Maudit Pensonneau hooted after him.
"The miserable coward. I wish I had taken his scalp. He makes me feel
a very good Puant indeed."
"Who cares what becomes of him?" said Gabriel. "It is Celeste that
we want. The real Puants have got ahead of us and kidnaped the bride.
Will any of you go with me?"
The poor fellow was white as ashes. Not a man needed to ask him where
he was going, but they all answered in a breath and dashed after him.
They broke directly through the thicket on the opposite side of the
road, and came out into the tall prairie grass. They knew every path,
marais, and rigole for miles around, and took their course eastward,
correctly judging that the Indians would follow the line of the bluffs
and go north. Splash went their horses among the reeds of sloughs and
across sluggish creeks, and by this short cut they soon came on the
At Falling Spring they made a halt to rest the horses a few minutes,
and wash the red and yellow paint off their hands and faces; then
galloped on along the rocky bluffs up the Bottom lands. But after a
few miles they saw they had lost the trail. Closely scouting in every
direction, they had to go back to Falling Spring, and there at last
they found that the Indians had left the Bottom and by a winding path
among rocks ascended to the uplands. Much time was lost. They had
heard, while they galloped, the church bell tolling alarm in Cahokia,
and they knew how the excitable inhabitants were running together
at Beauvois' story, the women weeping and the men arming themselves,
calling a council, and loading with contempt a runaway bridegroom.
Gabriel and his men, with their faces set north, hardly glanced
aside to see the river shining along its distant bed. But one of them
thought of saying,--
"Paul and Jacques will have a long wait with the boat."
The sun passed over their heads, and sunk hour by hour, and set. The
western sky was red; and night began to close in, and still they urged
their tired horses on. There would be a moon a little past its full,
and they counted on its light when it should rise.
The trail of the Puants descended to the Bottom again at the head of
the Grand Marais. There was heavy timber here. The night shadow of
trees and rocks covered them, and they began to move more cautiously,
for all signs pointed to a camp. And sure enough, when they had passed
an abutment of the ridge, far off through the woods they saw a fire.
My son (mon Oncle Mathieu would say at this point of the story), will
you do me the favor to bring me a coal for my pipe?
(The coal being brought in haste, he put it into the bowl with his
finger and thumb, and seemed to doze while he drew at the stem. The
smoke puffed deliberately from his lips, while all the time that
mysterious fire was burning in the woods for my impatience to dance
upon with hot feet, above the Grand Marais!)
Oh, yes, Gabriel and his men were getting very close to the Puants.
They dismounted, and tied their horses in a crabapple thicket and
crept forward on foot. He halted them, and crawled alone toward the
light to reconnoitre, careful not to crack a twig or make the least
noise. The nearer he crawled the more his throat seemed to choke up
and his ears to fill with buzzing sounds. The camp fire showed him
Celeste tied to a tree. She looked pale and dejected, and her head
rested against the tree stem, but her eyes kept roving the darkness in
every direction as if she expected rescue. Her bridal finery had been
torn by the bushes and her hair was loose, but Gabriel had never seen
Celeste when she looked so beautiful.
Thirteen big Puants were sitting around the camp fire eating their
supper of half-raw meat. Their horses were hobbled a little beyond,
munching such picking as could be found among the fern. Gabriel went
back as still as a snake and whispered his orders to his men.
Every Frenchman must pick the Puant directly in front of him, and be
sure to hit that Puant. If the attack was half-hearted and the Indians
gained time to rally, Celeste would suffer the consequences; they
could kill her or escape with her. If you wish to gain an Indian's
respect you must make a neat job of shooting him down. He never
forgives a bungler.
"And then," said Gabriel, "we will rush in with our knives and
hatchets. It must be all done in a moment."
The men reprimed their flintlocks, and crawled forward abreast.
Gabriel was at the extreme right. When they were near enough he gave
his signal, the nasal singing of the rattlesnake. The guns cracked all
together, and every Cahokian sprung up to finish the work with knife
and hatchet. Nine of the Puants fell dead, and the rest were gone
before the smoke cleared. They left their meat, their horses, and
arms. They were off like deer, straight through the woods to any place
of safety. Every marksman had taken the Indian directly in front of
him, but as they were abreast and the Puants in a circle, those
four on the opposite side of the fire had been sheltered. Le Maudit
Pensonneau scalped the red heads by the fire and hung the scalps in