The road to Frontenac - Samuel Merwin - ebook
Kategoria: Obyczajowe i romanse Język: angielski Rok wydania: 1901

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Samuel Merwin

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A book about Denonville's expedition against the Iroquois.

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Fragment ebooka The road to Frontenac - Samuel Merwin

About
Chapter 1 - CAPTAIN MENARD HAS A LAZY DAY.
Chapter 2 - THE MAID.

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Chapter 1 CAPTAIN MENARD HAS A LAZY DAY.

Captain Daniel Menard leaned against the parapet at the outer edge of the citadel balcony. The sun was high, the air clear and still. Beneath him, at the foot of the cliff, nestled the Lower Town, a strip of shops and houses, hemmed in by the palisades and the lower battery. The St. Lawrence flowed by, hardly stirred by the light breeze. Out in the channel, beyond the merchantmen, lay three ships of war, Le Fourgon, Le Profond, and La Perle, each with a cluster of supply boats at her side; and the stir and rattle of tackle and chain coming faintly over the water from Le Fourgon told that she would sail for France on the morrow, if God should choose to send the wind.

Looking almost straight down, Menard could see the long flight of steps that climbed from the settlement on the water front to the nobler city on the heights. Halfway down the steps was a double file of Indians, chained two and two, and guarded by a dozen regulars from his own company. He watched them until they reached the bottom and disappeared behind the row of buildings that ended on the wharf in Patron’s trading store. In a moment they reappeared, and marched across the wharf, toward the two boats from Le Fourgon that awaited them. Even from the height, Menard could see that the soldiers had a stiff task to control their prisoners. After one of the boats, laden deep, had shoved off, there was a struggle, and the crowd of idlers that had gathered scattered suddenly. Two Indians had broken away, and were running across the wharf, with a little knot of soldiers close on their heels. One of the soldiers, leaping forward, brought the stock of his musket down on the head of the nearer Indian. The fugitive went down, dragging with him his companion, who tugged desperately at the chain. A soldier drew his knife, and cut off the dead Indian’s arm close to the iron wristlet, breaking the bone with his foot. Then they led back the captive and tumbled him into the boat, with the hand of his comrade dangling at the end of the chain. The incident had excited the soldiers, and they kicked and pounded the prisoners. A crowd gathered about the body on the wharf, the bolder ones snatching at his beads and wampum belt.

Menard raised his eyes to the lands across the river and to the white cloud-puffs above. After months of camp and canoe, sleeping in snow and rain, and by day paddling, poling, and wading,––never a new face among the grumbling soldiers or the stolid prisoners,––after this, Quebec stood for luxury and the pleasant demoralization of good living. He liked the noise of passing feet, the hail of goodwill from door to door, the plodding shopkeepers and artisans, the comfortable priests in brown and gray.

The sound of oars brought his eyes again to the river. The two boats with their loads of redskins were passing the merchantmen that lay between the men-of-war and the city. On the wharf, awaiting a second trip, was a huddled group of prisoners. Menard’s face clouded as he watched them. Men of his experience were wondering what effect this new plan of the Governor’s would have upon the Iroquois. Capturing a hunting party by treachery and shipping them off to the King’s galleys was a bold stroke,––too bold, perhaps. Governor Frontenac would never have done this; he knew the Iroquois temper too well. Governor la Barre, for all his bluster, would not have dared. It was certain that this new governor, Denonville, was not a coward; but as Menard reflected, going back over his own fifteen years of frontier life, he knew that this policy of brute force would be sorely tested by the tact and intrigue of the Five Nations. His own part in the capture little disturbed him. He had obeyed orders. He had brought the band to the citadel at Quebec without losing a man (saving the poor devil who had strangled himself with his own thongs at La Gallette).

To such men as Menard, whose lives were woven closely into the fabric of New France, the present condition was clear. Many an evening he had spent with Major d’Orvilliers, at Fort Frontenac, in talking over the recent years of history into which their two names and their two lives had gone so deeply. Until his recall to France in 1682, Governor Frontenac had been for ten years building up in the Iroquois heart a fear and awe of Onontio, the Great Father, at Quebec. D’Orvilliers knew that period the better, for Menard had not come over (from the little town of his birth, in Picardy) until Frontenac’s policy was well established. But Menard had lived hard and rapidly during his first years in the province, and he was a stern-faced young soldier when he stood on the wharf, hat in hand and sword to chin, watching New France’s greatest governor sitting erect in the boat that bore him away from his own. Menard had been initiated by a long captivity among the Onondagas, and had won his first commission by gallant action under the Governor’s eye.

In those days no insult went unpunished; no tribe failed twice in its obligations. The circle of French influence was firmly extended around the haunts of the Iroquois in New York and along the Ohio. From Frontenac, on Lake Ontario, north to Hudson’s Bay, was French land. To the westward, along the Ottawa River, and skirting the north shore of Lake Huron to Michillimackinac and Green Bay, were the strong French allies, the Hurons, Ottawas, Nipissings, Kiskagons, Sacs, Foxes, and Mascoutins. Down at the lower end of Lake Michigan, at the Chicagou and St. Joseph portages, were the Miamis; and farther still, the Illinois, whom the Sieur de la Salle and Henri de Tonty had drawn close under the arm of New France.

This chain of allies, with Du Luth’s fort at Detroit and a partial control over Niagara, had given New France nearly all the fur trade of the Great Lakes. The English Governor Dongan, of New York, dared not to fight openly for it, but he armed the Iroquois and set them against the French. Menard had laughed when the word came, in 1684, from Father de Lamberville, whose influence worked so far toward keeping the Iroquois quiet, that Dongan had pompously set up the arms of his king in each Iroquois village, even dating them back a year to make his claim the more secure. Every old soldier knew that more than decrees and coats of arms were needed to win the Five Nations.

When La Barre succeeded Frontenac, lacking the tact and firmness which had established Frontenac’s name among foes and allies alike, he fell back upon bluster (to say nothing of the common talk in Quebec that he had set out to build up his private fortune by the fur trade). Learning that, by his grant of Fort Frontenac, La Salle was entitled to a third of the trade that passed through it, he seized the fort. He weakened La Salle’s communications so greatly that La Salle and Tonty could not make good their promises of French protection to the Illinois. This made it possible for the Iroquois, unhindered, to lay waste the Illinois country. By equally shortsighted methods, La Barre so weakened the ties that bound the northern allies, and so increased the arrogance of the Iroquois, that when Governor Denonville took up the task, most of the allies, always looking to the stronger party, were on the point of going over to the Iroquois. This would give the fur trade to the English, and ruin New France. Governor Dongan seized the moment to promise better bargains for the peltry than the French could offer. It remained for the new governor to make a demonstration which would establish firmly the drooping prestige of New France.

Now the spring of 1687 was just ending. Since February it had been spread abroad, from the gulf seignories to Fort Frontenac, that preparations were making for a great campaign against the Iroquois. Champigny, the new Intendant, had scoured the country for supplies, and now was building bateaux and buying canoes. Regulars and militia were drilling into the semblance of an army, and palisades and defences were everywhere built or strengthened, that the home guard might keep the province secure during the long absence of the troops. Menard wondered, as he snapped bits of stone off the parapet, and watched the last boatload of galley slaves embarking at the wharf, whether the Governor’s plans would carry. He would undoubtedly act with precision, he would follow every detail of campaigning to the delight of the tacticians, he would make a great splash,––and then? How about the wily chiefs of the Senecas and Onondagas and Mohawks? They had hoodwinked La Barre into signing the meanest treaty that ever disgraced New France. Would Denonville, too, blind himself to the truth that shrewd minds may work behind painted faces?

But above all else, Menard was a soldier. He snapped another bit of stone, and gave up the problem. He would fight at the Governor’s orders, retreat at the Governor’s command,––to the Governor would belong the credit or the blame. Of only one thing was he sure,––his own half hundred men should fight as they had always fought, and should hold their posts to the end. There ended his responsibility. And did not the good Fathers say that God was watching over New France?

Meantime the breath of summer was in the air. The spring campaign was over for Menard. So he rested both elbows on the parapet, and wondered how long the leaves had been out in Picardy. Over beyond the ships and the river were waves of the newest green, instead of the deep, rich colour and the bloom of full life he had left behind at Fort Frontenac but two weeks back. The long journey down the St. Lawrence had seemed almost a descent into winter. On the way to Quebec every day and every league had brought fewer blossoms. Even Montreal, sixty leagues to the south, had her summer before Quebec.

On the wharf below him the crowd were still plucking the dead Indian. Menard could hear their laughter and shouts. Their figures were small in the distance, their actions grotesque. One man was dancing, brandishing some part of the Indian’s costume. Menard could not distinguish the object in his hand. A priest crossed the wharf and elbowed into the crowd. For the moment he was lost in the rabble, but shortly the shouting quieted and the lightheaded fellows crowded into a close group. Probably the priest was addressing them. Soon the fringe of the crowd thinned, then the others walked quietly away. When at last the priest was left alone by the mutilated Indian, he knelt, and for a space was motionless.

The idleness of reaction was on Menard. He leaned on the parapet, hardly stirring, while the priest went on his way across the square and began toiling up the steps. When he was halfway up, Menard recognized him for Claude de Casson, an old Jesuit of the Iroquois mission at Sault St. Francis Xavier, near Montreal. Menard strolled through the citadel to the square, and, meeting the Father, walked with him.

“Well, Father Claude, you are a long way from your flock.”

“Yes, Captain Menard, I came with the relations. I have been”––Father Claude was blown from his climb, and he paused, wiping the sweat from his lean face––“I have been grieved by a spectacle in the Lower Town. Some wretches had killed an Onondaga with the brutality of his own tribe, and were robbing him. Are such acts permitted to-day in Quebec, M’sieu?”

“He was a prisoner escaping from the soldiers. It must be a full year since I last saw you, Father. I hope you bring a good record to the College.”

“The best since our founding, M’sieu.”

“Is there no word in the relations from the New York missions?”

“Yes, M’sieu. Brother de Lamberville brings glorious word from the Mohawks. Twenty-three complete conversions.”

“You say he brings this word?” Menard’s brows came together. “Then he has come up to Montreal?”

“Yes.”

“It is true, then, that the Iroquois have word of our plans?”

“It would seem so. He said that a war party which started weeks ago for the Illinois country had been recalled. A messenger was sent out but a few days before he came away.”

Menard slowly shook his head.

“This word should go to the Commandant,” he said. “How about your Indians at the Mission, Father Claude? They have not French hearts.”

“Ah, but I am certain, M’sieu, they would not break faith with us.”

“You can trust them?”

“They are Christians, M’sieu.”

“Yes, but they are Iroquois. Have none of them gone away since this news reached Quebec?”

“None, save one poor wretch whose drunkenness long ago caused us to give up hope, though I––”

“What became of him? Where did he go?”

“He wandered away in a drunken fit.”

“And you have not heard from him since?”

“No, M’sieu. He was Teganouan, an Onondaga.”

“You would do well, Father, if I may suggest, to take what news you may have to the Commandant. You and I know the importance of trifles at such a time as this. How long do you remain in Quebec?”

“A few days only, unless there should be work for me here.”

“Do you return then to Montreal?”

“I cannot say until I have made my report and delivered the relations. Brother de Lamberville thinks it important that word should go to all those who are now labouring in the Iroquois villages. If they remain after the campaign is fairly started, their lives may be in danger.”

“You think it necessary to go yourself?”

“What else, M’sieu? This is not the time to trust too freely an Indian runner. And a layman might never get through alive. My habit would be the best safeguard.”

“I suppose you are right. If I should not see you again, I must ask you to convey my respect to your colleagues at the Mission. I shall probably be here until the campaign is fairly started; perhaps longer. Already I am tasting the luxury of idleness.”

“A dangerous luxury, M’sieu. If I might be permitted to advise––”

“Yes, yes, Father,––I know, I know. But what is the use? You are a priest, I am a soldier. Yours is penance, mine is fighting; yours is praying, mine is singing,––every man to his own. And when you priests have got your pagans converted, we soldiers will clean up the mess with our muskets. And now, Father, good day, and may God be with you.”

The priest’s face was unmoved as he looked after the retreating figure. He had watched Menard grow from a roistering lieutenant into a rigid captain, and he knew his temper too well to mind the flicks of banter. But before the soldier had passed from earshot, he called after him.

Menard turned back. “What now, good Father? A mass for my soul, or a last absolution before I plunge into my term of dissolute idleness?”

“Neither, my son,” replied the priest, smiling. “Is any of your idleness to be shared with another?”

“Certainly, Father.”

“I am bringing a picture to the College.”

“I have no money, Father. I should be a sorry patron.”

“No, no, M’sieu; it is not a patron I seek. It is the advice of one who has seen and judged the master work of Paris. The painting has been shown to none as yet.”

“But you have seen it?”

“Yes, yes, I have seen it. Come with me, M’sieu; it is at my room.”

They walked together to the cell, six feet long by five wide, where Father Claude slept when in Quebec. It was bare of all save a hard cot. A bale, packed in rough cloth and tied with rope, lay on the bed. Father Claude opened the bundle, while Menard leaned against the wall, and drew out his few personal belongings and his portable altar before he reached the flat, square package at the bottom. There was a touch of colour in his cheeks and a nervousness in the movement of his hands as he untied the flaxen strings, stripped off the cloth, and held the picture up to Menard’s view.

It was a full-length portrait in oil of a young Indian woman, holding a small cross in her right hand, and gazing at it with bent head. Her left hand was spread upon her breast. She wore a calico chemise reaching below her knees, and leggings, and moccasins. A heavy robe was thrown over the top of her head, falling on the sides and back to within a foot of the ground. In the middle background was a stream, with four Indians in a canoe. A tiny stone chapel stood on the bank at the extreme right.

Father Claude’s hand trembled as he supported the canvas upon the cot, and his eyes wavered from Menard to the picture, and back again.

“It is not altogether completed,” he said, nervously. “Of course the detail will be worked out more fully, and the cross should be given a warmer radiance. Perhaps a light showing through the windows of the chapel––”

“Who is it?” asked Menard.

“It is Catherine Outasoren, the Lily of the Onondagas,” replied the priest; “the noblest woman that ever rose from the depths of Indian superstition.”

Menard’s eyes rested on an obscure signature in a lower corner, “C. de C.”

“You certainly have reason to be proud of the work. But may I ask about the perspective? Should the maiden appear larger than the chapel?”

The priest gazed at the painting with an unsettled expression.

“Yes,” he said, “perhaps you are right, M’sieu. At any rate I will give the matter thought and prayer.”

“And the Indians,” Menard questioned, “in the canoe; are they coming toward the chapel or going away from it? It seems to me that any doubt on that point should be removed.”

“Ah,” said the priest; “that very doubt is allegorical. It typifies the workings of the human mind when first confronted by the truth. When the seeker first beholds the light, as shown through the devotion of such a woman as Catherine Outasoren, there arises in his mind––”

“Very true, very true! But I never yet have seen a canoe-load of Indians in doubt whether they were moving forward or backward.”

Father Claude held the canvas at arm’s length and gazed long at it.

“Tell me, M’sieu,” he said at last, “do you think it deserving of a place in the College?”

“I do not see why not.”

“And you think I would be justified in laying a request before the Superior?”

Menard shrugged his shoulders.

“That is your decision, Father.”

“I never can fully thank you, my son, for your kindness in looking on my humble work. I will not decide to-day. First I must add foliage in the foreground. And I will give it my earnest prayer.”

Menard said farewell and went out, leaving the priest gazing at the picture. He strolled back toward the citadel, stopping now and then to greet an old friend or a chance acquaintance. When he arrived at the headquarters in the citadel he found Danton, a brown-haired young lieutenant of engineers, gazing at a heap of plans and other papers on the table.

“Well, Captain Menard,” was his greeting, “I’d give half of last year’s pay, if I ever get it, to feel as lazy as you look.”

“You are lazy enough,” growled Menard.

“That begs the question. It is not how lazy a man is, but how lazy he gets a chance to be.”

“If you’d been through what I have this spring, you’d deserve a rest.”

“You must have had a stirring time,” said the Lieutenant. “Major Provost has promised to let me go out with the line when the campaign starts. I’ve not had a brush since I came over.”

Menard gave him a quizzical smile before he replied, “You’ll get brushes enough.”

“By the way, the Major wants to see you.”

“Does he?” said Menard.

He lighted his short pipe with a coal from the fire and walked out.


Chapter 2 THE MAID.

Menard did not go at once to see Major Provost, the Commandant. He had already handed in his report at the citadel. It was probable that this was some new work for him. He had just settled his mind to the prospect of a rest, the first since that mad holiday, seven years before, when word had come that his lieutenant’s commission was on the way. That was at Three Rivers. He wanted to idle, to waste a few weeks for the sheer delight of extravagance, but his blood did not flow more quickly at the wish. He was an older man by a score of years––or was it only seven?

He lingered on the square. The black-eyed children, mostly dirty and ragged (for the maids whom the King had sent over by shiploads to his colonists had not developed into the most diligent and neat housewives) tumbled about his feet. He allowed himself to be drawn into their play. They had no awe of his uniform, for it was worn and frayed. He had not yet taken the trouble to get out his fresher coat and breeches and boots. He thought of this, and was again amused. It was another sign of age. The time had been when his first care after arriving in Quebec was to don his rich house uniform and polished scabbard, and step gaily to the Major’s house to sun himself in the welcome of the Major’s pretty wife, who had known his uncle, the Sieur de Vauban, at La Rochelle. Now he was back in Quebec from months on the frontier, he was summoned to the Major’s house, and yet he stayed and laughed at the children. For the Major’s wife was older, too, and the vivacity of her youth was thinning out and uncovering the needle-like tongue beneath. A slim little urchin was squirming between his boots, with a pursuing rabble close behind, and the Captain had to take hold of a young tree to keep his feet. He turned and started in pursuit of the children, but caught sight of two Ursuline sisters entering the square, and straightened himself. After all, a captain is a captain, even though the intoxication of spring be in him, and his heart struggling to clamber back into the land of youth. He walked on across the square and down the street to the Major’s house.

Major Provost welcomed Menard heartily, and led him to his office. “We’ll have our business first,” he said, “and get it done with.”

Menard settled back in the carved oak chair which had for generations been a member of the Major’s family. The light mood had left him. Now he was the soldier, brusque in manner, with lines about his mouth which, to certain men, gave his face a hard expression.

“First let me ask you, Menard, what are your plans?”

“For the present?”

“Yes.”

“I have none.”

“Your personal affairs, I mean. Have you any matters to hold your attention here for the next few weeks?”

“None.”

Major Provost fingered his quill.

“I don’t know, of course, how your own feelings stand, Menard. You’ve been worked hard for three years, and I suppose you want rest. But somebody must go to Fort Frontenac, and the Governor thinks you are the man.”

Menard made a gesture of impatience.

“There are a dozen men here with little to do.”

“I know it. But this matter is of some importance, and it may call for delicate work before you are through with it. It isn’t much in itself,––merely to bear orders to d’Orvilliers,––but the Governor thinks that the right man may be able to do strong work before the campaign opens. You probably know that we are to move against the Senecas alone, and that we must treat with the other nations to keep them from aiding the Senecas. No one can say just how this can be done. Even Father de Lamberville has come back, you know, from the Mohawks; but the Governor thinks that if we send a good man, he may be able to see a way, once he gets on the ground, and can advise with d’Orvilliers. Now, you are a good man, Menard; and you can influence the Indians if anyone can.”

“You are a little vague, Major.”

“You will go to Frontenac in advance of the army to prepare the way. La Durantaye and Du Luth are already at Detroit, awaiting orders, with close to two hundred Frenchmen and four hundred Indians. And Tonty should have joined them before now with several hundred Illinois.”

“I don’t believe he’ll bring many Illinois. They must have known of the Iroquois war party that started toward their villages. They will stay to defend their own country. They may not know that the Iroquois party was recalled.”

“Recalled?” said the Major.

“Yes. Father de Casson has the news from Father de Lamberville. You see what that means. The Iroquois have been warned.”

“I was afraid of it. These new governors, Menard––each has to learn his lesson from the beginning of the book. Why will they not take counsel from the men who know the Indians? This campaign has been heralded as broadly as a trading fair.”

“When should I start?” asked Menard, abruptly.

“At once––within a few days.” Major Provost looked at the other’s set face. “I am sorry about this, Menard. But you understand, I am sure. Perhaps I had better give you an idea of our plans. You know, of course, that we have three ships fitting out at Frontenac. Already our force is being got together at St. Helen’s Island, by Montreal. Champigny is engaging canoemen and working out a transport and supply system between Montreal and Frontenac. The force will proceed to Frontenac, and embark from there in the ships, bateaux, and canoes.”

“Is the rendezvous at Niagara?”

“No, at La Famine, on the southern shore of Lake Ontario.”

Menard nodded. He knew the place; for by nearly starving there, years before, with the others of Governor la Barre’s ill-starred expedition, he had contributed to giving the spot a name.

“La Durantaye and Du Luth, with Tonty, are to meet us there. You will instruct them to move on to Niagara, and there await further orders. We shall sail around the east end of the lake and along the south shore.”

“The Iroquois will follow your movements.”

“We intend that they shall. They will not know where our final landing place will be, and will have to keep their forces well in hand. And it will prevent them from uniting to attack Niagara.”

“What then?”

“We will leave a strong guard at La Famine with the stores, and strike inland for the Seneca villages.”

“And now what part am I to play in this?”

Major Provost leaned back in his chair.

“You, Menard, are to represent the Governor. You will move in advance of the troops. At Frontenac it will be your duty to see first that the way is clear to getting the two divisions to the meeting place at La Famine, and to see that d’Orvilliers has the fort ready for the troops, with extra cabins and stockades. Then the Governor wishes you and d’Orvilliers to go over all the information the scouts bring in. If you can decide upon any course which will hold back the other tribes from aiding the Senecas, act upon it at once, without orders. In other words, you have full liberty to follow your judgment. That ought to be responsibility enough.”

Menard stretched his arms. “All right, Major. But when my day comes to taste the delights of Quebec, I hope I may not be too old to enjoy it.”

“The Governor honours you, Menard, with this undertaking.”

“He honoured De Sévigné with a majority and turned him loose in Quebec.”

“Too bad, Menard, too bad,” the Major laughed. “Now I, who ask nothing better than a brisk campaign, must rot here in Quebec until I die.”

“Are you not to go?”

“No. I am to stay behind and brighten my lonely moments drilling the rabble of a home guard. Do you think you will need an escort?”

“No; the river from here to Frontenac is in use every day. I shall want canoemen. Two will be enough.”

“Very well. Let me know what supplies you need. You mistake, man, in grumbling at the work. You are building up a reputation that never could live at short range. Stay away long enough and you will be a more popular man than the Governor. I envy you, on my honour, I do.”

“One thing more, Major. This galley affair; what do you think of it?”

“You mean the capture at Frontenac? You should know better than I, Menard. You brought the prisoners down.”

“There is no doubt in my mind, Major, nor in d’Orvilliers’s! We obeyed orders.” Menard looked up expressively. “You know the Iroquois. You know how they will take it. The worst fault was La Grange’s. He captured the party––and it was not a war party––by deliberate treachery. D’Orvilliers had intrusted to him the Governor’s orders that Indians must be got for the King’s galleys. As you know, d’Orvilliers and I both protested. I did not bring them here until the Governor commanded it.”

“Well, we can’t help that now, Menard.”

“That is not the question. You ask me to keep the Onondagas out of this fight, after we have taken a hundred of their warriors in this way.”

“I know it, Menard; I know it. But the Governor’s orders––Well, I have nothing to say. You can only do your best.”

They went to the reception room, where Madame de Provost awaited them. Menard was made to stay and dine, in order that Madame could draw from him a long account of his latest adventures on the frontier. Madame de Provost, though she had lived a dozen years in the province, had never been farther from Quebec than the Seignory of the Marquis de St. Denis, half a dozen leagues below the city. The stories that came to her ears of massacres and battles, of settlers butchered in the fields, and of the dashing adventures of La Salle and Du Luth, were to her no more than wild tales from a far-away land. So she chattered through the long dinner; and for the first time since he had reached the city, Menard wished himself back on Lake Ontario, where there were no women.

Menard returned to the citadel early in the evening. Lieutenant Danton was drawing plans for a redoubt, but he leaned back as Menard entered.

“I began to think you were not coming back, Captain,” he said. “I’m told the Major says that you are the only man in New France who could have got that trading agreement from the Onondagas last year. How did you do it?”

“How does a man usually do what he is told to do?” Menard sat on a corner of the long table and looked lazily at the boy.

“That wasn’t the kind of treaty our Governors make; you know it wasn’t.”

“You were not here under Frontenac.”

“No. I wish I had been. He must have been a great orator. My father has told me about the long council at Montreal. He said that Frontenac out-talked the greatest of the Mohawk orators. Did you learn it from him?”

“My boy, when you are through with your pretty pictures,” Menard motioned toward the plans, “and have got out into the real work; when you’ve spent months in Iroquois lodges; when you’ve been burned and shot and starved,––then it will be a pity if you haven’t learned to be a soldier. What is this little thing you are drawing?”

Danton flushed. “You may laugh at the engineers,” he said, “but where would King Louis be now if––”

“Tut, my boy, tut!”

“That is very well––”

Menard laughed. “How old are you, Danton?” he asked.

“Twenty-two.”

“Very good. You have got on well. I dare say you’ve learned a deal out of your books. Now we have you out here in the provinces, where the hard work is done. Well send you back in a few years a real man. And then you’ll step smartly among the pretty officers of the King, and when one speaks of New France you’ll lift your brows and say: ‘New France? Ah, yes. That is in America. I was there once. Rather a primitive life––no court, no army.’ Ah, ha, my boy––no, never mind. Come up to my quarters and have a sip of real old Burgundy.”

“Are you ever serious, Menard?” asked Danton, sitting on the Captain’s cot and smacking his lips over the liquor.

Menard smiled. “I’m afraid I shall have to play at composure for an hour,” he said. “I must see Father Claude. Settle yourself here, if you like.”

Menard hurried away, for it was growing late. He found the Jesuit meditating in his cell.

“Ah, Captain Menard, I am glad to see you so soon again.”

Menard sat on the narrow bed and stretched out his legs as far as he could in the cramped space.

“How soon will your duties be over here, Father?”

“There seems to be no reason for me to stay. I have delivered the relations, and no further work has come to hand.”

“Then it may be that you can help me, Father.”

“You know, my son, that I will.”

“Very well. I have been ordered to Fort Frontenac in advance of the troops. I am to bear orders to d’Orvilliers and to Du Luth and La Durantaye. It is possible that there may be some delicate work to be done among the Indians. You know the Iroquois, Father, and our two heads together should be stronger than mine alone. I want you to go with me.”

The priest’s eyes lighted.

“It may be that I can get permission at Montreal.”

“You will go, then?”

“Gladly. It is to be no one else––we two––”

“We shall have canoemen. To my mind, the fewer the better.”

“Still, Captain, you cannot depend on the canoemen. Would it not be well to have one other man? You might need a messenger.”

Menard thought for a moment.

“True, Father. And if I am to have a man, he had best be an officer; yes, a man who could execute orders. I’ll take Danton. You will be ready for a start, Father, probably to-morrow?”

“At any time, my son.”

“Good night.”

There was little work to be done in preparing for the journey (Major Provost would attend to the supplies and to engaging the canoemen), and Menard still was in the lazy mood. He stood for a while at the edge of the cliff and looked down at the wharf. It was dark, and he could not see whether the body of the Indian had been removed. The incident of the afternoon had been gathering importance to his mind the longer he thought of it. Five years earlier Menard had been captured by the Onondagas during a fight near Fort Frontenac. They had taken him to one of their villages, south of Lake Ontario, and for days had tortured him and starved him. They had drawn out cords from his arms and legs and thrust sticks between them and the flesh. His back was still covered with scars from the burning slivers which they had stuck through the skin. They had torn the nails from his left hand with their teeth. Then Otreouati, the Big Throat, the chief who had led his followers to believe in Frontenac, came back from a parley with another tribe, and taking a liking to the tall young soldier who bore the torture without flinching, he adopted him into his own family. Menard had lived with the Indians, a captive only in name, and had earned the name of the Big Buffalo by his skill in the hunt. At last, when they had released him, it was under a compact of friendship, that had never since been broken. It had stood many tests. Even during open campaigns they had singled him out from the other Frenchmen as their brother. He wondered whether they knew of his part in stocking the King’s galleys. Probably they did.

It was late when Menard took a last sweeping look at the river and walked up to the citadel. His day of idleness was over. After all, it had not been altogether a wasted day. But it was the longest holiday he was likely to have for months to come. Having made up his mind to accept the facts, he stretched out on his bed and went to sleep.

Danton took the news that he was to be a member of the party with enthusiasm. Menard had hardly finished telling him when he swept the tiresome plans and specifications into a heap at the end of the table, and rushed out to get a musket (for a sword would have no place in the work before them). The start was to be made at noon, but Danton was on the ground so early as almost to lower his dignity in the eyes of the bronzed canoemen. He wore his bravest uniform, with polished belt and buttons and new lace at the neck. His broad hat had a long curling feather. He wore the new musket slung rakishly over his shoulder.

About the middle of the forenoon, as Menard was looking over his orders, memorizing them in case of accident to the papers, he was found by Major Provost’s orderly, who said that the Commandant wished to see him at once.

The Major was busy with the engineers in another room, but he left them.

“Menard,” he said abruptly, “I’ve got to ask you to do me a favour. If I could see any way out of it––”

“I will do anything I can.”

“Thank you. I suppose you know the Marquis de St. Denis?”

“Slightly.”

“Well, I shan’t take time to give you the whole story. St. Denis has the seignory six leagues to the east. You may know that he went into debt to invest in La Salle’s colonizing scheme in Louisiana. St. Denis was in France at the time, and had great faith in La Salle. Of course, now that La Salle has not been heard from, and the debts are all past due without even a rumour of success to make them good––you can imagine the rest. The seignory has been seized. St. Denis has nothing.”

“Has he a family?” asked Menard.

“A daughter. His wife is dead. He came here after you left last night, and again this morning. We are old friends, and I have been trying to help him. He is going to sail to-day on Le Fourgon for Paris to see what he can save from the wreck. My house is crowded with the officers who are here planning the campaign; but St. Denis has a cousin living at Frontenac, Captain la Grange, and we’ve got to get Valerie there somehow. Do you think it will be safe?”

“It’s a hard trip, you know; but it’s safe enough.”

“I shan’t forget your kindness, Menard. The girl is a spirited little thing, and she takes it hard. Madame has set her heart on getting her to La Grange. I don’t know all the details myself.”

“I think we can arrange it, Major. We start in an hour.”

“She will be there. You are a splendid fellow, Menard. Good-bye.”

Menard’s face was less amiable once he was away from the house. He knew from experience the disagreeable task that lay before him. But there was nothing to be said, so he went to his quarters and took a last look at the orders. Then taking off his coat and his rough shirt, he placed the papers carefully in a buckskin bag, which he hung about his neck.

Everything was ready at the wharf. The long canoe lay waiting, a voyageur at each end. The bales were stowed carefully in the centre. Father de Casson met Menard at the upper end of the dock. He had come down by way of the winding road, for his bundle was heavy, and he knew no way but to carry it himself. Menard good-naturedly gave him a hand as they crossed the dock. When they had set it down, and Menard straightened up, his eyes twinkled, for young Danton, in his finery, was nervously walking back and forth at the edge of the dock, looking fixedly into the canoe, apparently inspecting the bales. His shoulders were unused to the musket, and by a quick turn he had brought the muzzle under the rim of his hat, setting it on the side of his head. His face was red.

Sitting on a bundle, a rod away, was a girl, perhaps eighteen or nineteen years old, wearing a simple travelling dress. Her hands were clasped tightly in her lap, and she gazed steadily out over the water with an air that would have been haughty save for the slight upward tip of her nose.

Menard’s eyes sobered, and he handed his musket to one of the canoemen. Then he crossed over to where the maiden was sitting.

“Mademoiselle St. Denis?”

The girl looked up at him. Her eyes seemed to take in the dinginess of his uniform. She inclined her head.

“I am Captain Menard. Major Provost tells me that I am to have the honour of escorting you to Fort Frontenac. With your permission we will start. Father Claude de Casson is to go with us, and Lieutenant Danton.”

The bundle was placed in the canoe. Menard helped the girl to a seat near the middle: from the way she stepped in and took her seat he saw that she had been on the river before. Danton, with his Parisian airs, had to be helped in carefully. Then they were off, each of the four men swinging a paddle, though Danton managed his awkwardly at first.