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A Little Girl in Old Detroit written by Amanda Minnie Douglas who was an American writer of adult and juvenile fiction. This book was published in 1902. And now republish in ebook format. We believe this work is culturally important in its original archival form. While we strive to adequately clean and digitally enhance the original work, there are occasionally instances where imperfections such as missing pages, poor pictures or errant marks may have been introduced due to either the quality of the original work. Despite these occasional imperfections, we have brought it back into print as part of our ongoing global book preservation commitment, providing customers with access to the best possible historical reprints. We appreciate your understanding of these occasional imperfections, and sincerely hope you enjoy reading this book.
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A Little Girl in Old Detroit
Amanda Minnie Douglas
CHAPTER I. A HALF STORY.
CHAPTER II. RAISING THE NEW FLAG.
CHAPTER III. ON THE RIVER.
CHAPTER IV. JEANNE'S HERO.
CHAPTER V. AN UNKNOWN QUANTITY.
CHAPTER VI. IN WHICH JEANNE BOWS HER HEAD.
CHAPTER VII. LOVERS AND LOVERS.
CHAPTER VIII. A TOUCH OF FRIENDSHIP.
CHAPTER IX. CHRISTMAS AND A CONFESSION.
CHAPTER X. BLOOMS OF THE MAY.
CHAPTER XI. LOVE, LIKE THE ROSE, IS BRIERY.
CHAPTER XII. PIERRE.
CHAPTER XIII. AN UNWELCOME LOVER.
CHAPTER XIV. A HIDDEN FOE.
CHAPTER XV. A PRISONER.
CHAPTER XVI. RESCUED.
CHAPTER XVII. A PÆAN OF GLADNESS.
CHAPTER XVIII. A HEARTACHE FOR SOME ONE.
CHAPTER XIX. THE HEART OF LOVE.
CHAPTER XX. THE LAST OF OLD DETROIT.
When La Motte Cadillac first sailed up the Strait of Detroit he kept his impressions for after travelers and historians, by transcribing them in his journal. It was not only the romantic side, but the usefulness of the position that appealed to him, commanding the trade from Canada to the Lakes, "and a door by which we can go in and out to trade with all our allies." The magnificent scenery charmed the intrepid explorer. The living crystal waters of the lakes, the shores green with almost tropical profusion, the natural orchards bending their branches with fruit, albeit in a wild state, the bloom, the riotous, clinging vines trailing about, the great forests dense and dark with kingly trees where birds broke the silence with songs and chatter, and game of all kinds found a home; the rivers, sparkling with fish and thronged with swans and wild fowl, and blooms of a thousand kinds, made marvelous pictures. The Indian had roamed undisturbed, and built his temporary wigwam in some opening, and on moving away left the place again to solitude.
Beside its beauty was the prospect of its becoming a mart of commerce. But these old discoverers had much enthusiasm, if great ignorance of individual liberty for anyone except the chief rulers. There was a vigorous system of repression by both the King of France and the Church which hampered real advance. The brave men who fought Indians, who struggled against adverse fortunes, who explored the Mississippi valley and planted the nucleus of towns, died one after another. More than half a century later the English, holding the substantial theory of colonization, that a wider liberty was the true soil in which advancement progressed, after the conquest of Canada, opened the lake country to newcomers and abolished the restrictions the Jesuits and the king had laid upon religion.
The old fort at Detroit, all the lake country being ceded, the French relinquishing the magnificent territory that had cost them so much in precious lives already, took on new life. True, the French protested, and many of them went to the West and made new settlements. The most primitive methods were still in vogue. Canoes and row boats were the methods of transportation for the fur trade; there had been no printing press in all New France; the people had followed the Indian expedients in most matters of household supplies. For years there were abortive plots and struggles to recover the country, affiliation with the Indians by both parties, the Pontiac war and numerous smaller skirmishes.
And toward the end of the century began the greatest struggle for liberty America had yet seen. After the war of the Revolution was ended all the country south of the Lakes was ceded to the United Colonies. But for some years England seemed disposed to hold on to Detroit, disbelieving the colonies could ever establish a stable government. As the French had supposed they could reconquer, so the English looked forward to repossession. But Detroit was still largely a French town or settlement, for thus far it had been a military post of importance.
So it might justly be called old this afternoon, as almost two centuries had elapsed since the French had built their huts and made a point for the fur trade, that Jeanne Angelot sat outside the palisade, leaning against the Pani woman who for years had been a slave, from where she did not know herself, except that she had been a child up in the fur country. Madame De Longueil had gone back to France with her family and left the Indian woman to shift for herself in freedom. And then had come a new charge.
The morals of that day were not over-precise. But though the woman had had a husband and two sons, one boy had died in childhood, the other had been taken away by the husband who repudiated her. She was the more ready to mother this child dropped mysteriously into her lap one day by an Indian woman whose tongue she did not understand.
"Tell it over again," said Jeanne with an air of authority, a dainty imperiousness.
She was leaning against one knee, the woman's heels being drawn up close to her body, making a back to the seat of soft turf, and with her small hand thumping the woman's brown one against the other knee.
"Mam'selle, you have heard it so many times you could tell it yourself in the dark."
"But perhaps I could not tell it in the daylight," said the girl, with mischievous laughter that sent musical ripples on the sunny air.
The woman looked amazed.
"Why should you be better able to do it at night?"
"O, you foolish Pani! Why, I might summon the itabolays—"
"Hush! hush! Do not call upon such things."
"And the shil loups, though they cannot talk. And the windigoes—"
"Mam'selle!" The Indian woman made as if she would rise in anger and crossed herself.
"O, Pani, tell the story. Why, it was night you always say. And so I ought to have some night-sight or knowledge. And you were feeling lonely and miserable, and—why, how do you know it was not a windigo?"
"Child! child! You set one crazy! It was flesh and blood, a squaw with a blanket about her and a great bundle in her arms. And I did not go in the palisade that night. I had come to love Madame and the children, and it was hard to be shoved out homeless, and with no one to care. There is fondness in the Indian blood, Mam'selle."
The Indian's voice grew forceful and held a certain dignity. The child patted her hand and pressed it up to her cheek with a caressing touch.
"The De Bers wanted to buy me, but Madame said no. And Touchas, the Outawa woman, had bidden me to her wigwam. I heard the bell ring and the gates close, and I sat down under this very oak—"
"Yes, this is my tree!" interrupted the girl proudly.
"I thought it some poor soul who had lost her brave, and she came close up to me, so close I heard the beads and shells on her leggings shake with soft sound. But I could not understand what she said. And when I would have risen she pushed me back with her knee and dropped something heavy in my lap. I screamed, for I knew not what manner of evil spirit it might be. But she pressed it down with her two hands, and the child woke and cried, and reaching up flung its arms around my neck, while the woman flitted swiftly away. And I tried to hush the sobbing little thing, who almost strangled me with her soft arms."
"O Pani!" The girl sprang up and encircled her again.
"I felt bewitched. I did not know what to do, but the poor, trembling little thing was alive, though I did not know whether you were human or not, for there are strange shapes that come in the night, and when once they fasten on you—"
"They never let go," Jeanne laughed gayly. "And I shall never let go of you, Pani. If I had money I should buy you. Or if I were a man I would get the priest to marry us."
"O Mam'selle, that is sinful! An old woman like me! And no one can be bought to-day."
Jeanne gave her another hug. "And you sat here and held me—" forwarding the story.
"I did not dare stir. It grew darker and all the air was sweet with falling dews and the river fragrance, and the leaves rustled together, the stars came out for there was no moon to check them. On the Beaufeit farm they were having a dance. Susanne Beaufeit had been married that noon in St. Anne. The sound of the fiddles came down like strange voices from out the woods and I was that frightened—"
"Poor Pani!" caressing the hand tenderly.
"Then you stopped sobbing but you had tight hold of my neck. Suddenly I gathered you up and ran with all my might to Touchas' hut. The curtain was up and the fire was burning, and I had grown stiff with cold and just stumbled on the floor, laying you down. Touchas was so amazed.
"'Whose child is that?' she said. 'Why, your eyes are like moons. Have you seen some evil thing?'"
"And you thought me an evil thing, Pani!" said the child reproachfully.
"One never can tell. There are strange things," and the woman shook her head. "And Touchas was so queer she would not touch you at first. I unrolled the torn piece of blanket and there you were, a pretty little child with rings of shining black hair, and fair like French babies, but not white like the English. And there was no sign of Indian about you. But you slept and slept. Then we undressed you. There was a name pinned to your clothes, and a locket and chain about your neck and a tiny ring on one finger. And on your thigh were two letters, 'J. A.,' which meant Jeanne Angelot, Father Rameau said. And oh, Mam'selle, petite fille, you slept in my arms all night and in the morning you were as hungry as some wild thing. At first you cried a little for maman and then you laughed with the children. For Touchas' boys were not grown-up men then, and White Fawn had not met her brave who took her up to St. Ignace."
"I might have dropped from the clouds," said the child mirthfully. "The Great Manitou could have sent me to you."
"But you talked French. Up in the above they will speak in Latin as the good fathers do. That is why they use it in their prayers."
Jeanne nodded with a curl of disbelief in her red-rose mouth.
"So then Touchas and I took you to Father Rameau and I told him the story. He has the clothes and the paper and the locket, which has two faces in it—we all thought they were your parents. The letters on it are all mixed up and no one can seem to make them out. And the ring. He thought some one would come to inquire. A party went out scouting, but they could find no trace of any encampment or any skirmish where there was likely to be some one killed, and they never found any trace.The English Commandant was here then and Madame was interested in you. Madame Bellestre would have you baptized in the old church to make sure, and because you were French she bade me bring you there and care for you. But she had to die and M. Bellestre had large interests in that wonderful Southern town, New Orleans, where it is said oranges and figs and strange things grow all the year round. Mademoiselle Bellestre was jealous, too, she did not like her father to make much of you. So he gave me the little house where we have lived ever since and twice he has sent by some traders to inquire about you, and it is he who sees that we want for nothing. Only you know the good priest advises that you should go in a retreat and become a sister."
"But I never shall, never!" with emphasis, as she suddenly sprang up. "To be praying all day in some dark little hole and sleep on a hard bed and count beads, and wear that ugly black gown! No, I told Father Rameau if anyone shut me up I should shout and cry and howl like a panther! And I would bang my head against the stones until it split open and let out my life."
"O Jeanne! Jeanne!" cried the horror-stricken woman. "That is wicked, and the good God hears you."
The girl's cheeks were scarlet and her eyes flashed like points of flame. They were not black, but of the darkest blue, with strange, steely lights in them that flashed and sparkled when she was roused in temper, which was often.
"I think I will be English, or else like these new colonists that are taking possession of everything. I like their religion. You don't have to go in a convent and pray continually and be shut out of all beautiful things!"
"You are very naughty, Mam'selle. These English have spoiled so many people. There is but one God. And the good French fathers know what is right."
"We did well enough before the French people came, Pani," said a soft, rather guttural voice from the handsome half-breed stretched out lazily on the other side of the tree where the western sunshine could fall on him.
"You were not here," replied the woman, shortly. "And the French have been good to me. Their religion saves you from torment and teaches you to be brave. And it takes women to the happy grounds beyond the sky."
"Ah, they learned much of their bravery from the Indian, who can suffer tortures without a groan or a line of pain in the face. Is there any better God than the great Manitou? Does he not speak in the thunder, in the roar of the mighty cataract, and is not his voice soft when he chants in the summer night wind? He gives a brave victory over his enemies, he makes the corn grow and fills the woods with game, the lakes with fish. He is good enough God for me."
"Why then did he let the French take your lands?"
The man rose up on his elbow.
"Because we were cowards!" he cried fiercely. "Because the priests made us weak with their religion, made women of us, called us to their mumbling prayers instead of fighting our enemies! They and the English gave us their fire water to drink and stole away our senses! And now they are both going to be driven out by these pigs of Americans. It serves them right."
"And what will you do, Monsieur Marsac?" asked Pani with innocent irony.
"Oh, I do not care for their grounds nor their fights. I shall go up north again for furs, and now the way is open for a wider trade and a man can make more money. I take thrift from my French father, you see. But some day my people will rise again, and this time it will not be a Pontiac war. We have some great chiefs left. We will not be crowded out of everything. You will see."
Then he sprang up lithe and graceful. He was of medium size but so well proportioned that he might have been modeled from the old Greeks. His hair was black and straight but had a certain softness, and his skin was like fine bronze, while his features were clearly cut. Now and then some man of good birth had married an Indian woman by the rites of the Church, and this Hugh de Marsac had done. But of all their children only one remained, and now the elder De Marsac had a lucrative post at Michilimackinac, while his son went to and fro on business. Outside of the post in the country sections the mixed marriages were quite common, and the French made very good husbands.
"Mam'selle Jeanne," he said with a low bow, "I admire your courage and taste. What one can see to adore in those stuffy old fathers puzzles me! As for praying in a cell, the whole wide heavens and earth that God has made lifts up one's soul to finer thoughts than mumbling over beads or worshiping a Christ on the cross. And you will be much too handsome, my brier rose, to shut yourself up in any Recollet house. There will be lovers suing for your pretty hand and your rosy lips."
Jeanne hid her face on Pani's shoulder. The admiring look did not suit her just now though in a certain fashion this young fellow had been her playmate and devoted attendant.
"Let us go back home," she exclaimed suddenly.
"Why hurry, Mam'selle? Let us go down to King's wharf and see the boats come in."
Her eyes lighted eagerly. She gave a hop on one foot and held out her hand to the woman, who rose slowly, then put the long, lean arm about the child's neck, who smiled up with a face of bloom to the wrinkled and withered one above her.
Louis Marsac frowned a little. What ailed the child to-day? She was generally ready enough to demand his attentions.
"Mam'selle, you brought your story to an abrupt termination. I thought you liked the accessories. The procession that marched up the aisle of St. Anne's, the shower of kisses bestowed upon you after possible evil had been exorcised by holy water; the being taken home in Madame Bellestre's carriage—"
"If I wanted to hear it Pani could tell me. Walk behind, Louis, the path is narrow."
"I will go ahead and clear the way," he returned with dignified sarcasm, suiting his pace to the action.
"That is hardly polite, Monsieur."
"Why yes. If there was any danger, I would be here to face it. I am the advance guard."
"There never is any danger. And Pani is tall and strong. I am not afraid."
"Perhaps you would rather I would not go? Though I believe you accepted my invitation heartily."
Just then two half drunken men lurched into the path. Drunkenness was one of the vices of that early civilization. Marsac pushed them aside with such force that the nearer one toppling against the other, both went over.
"Thank you, Monsieur; it was good to have you."
Jeanne stretched herself up to her tallest and Marsac suddenly realized how she had grown, and that she was prettier than a year ago with some charm quite indescribable. If she were only a few years, older—
"A man is sometimes useful," he returned dryly, glancing at her with a half laugh.
After the English had possession of Detroit, partly from the spirit of the times, the push of the newcomers, and the many restrictions that were abolished, the Detroit river took on an aspect of business that amazed the inhabitants. Sailing vessels came up the river, merchantmen loaded with cargoes instead of the string of canoes. And here was one at the old King's wharf with busy hands, whites and Indians, running to and fro with bales and boxes, presenting a scene of activity not often witnessed. Others had come down to see it as well. Marsac found a little rise of ground occupied by some boys that he soon dispossessed and put the woman and child in their places, despite black looks and mutterings.
What a beautiful sight it all was, Jeanne thought. Up the Strait, as the river was often called, to the crystal clear lake of St. Clair and the opposite shore of Canada, with clumps of dense woods that seemed guarding the place, and irregular openings that gave vistas of the far away prospect. What was all that great outside world like? After St. Clair river, Lake Huron and Michilimackinac? There were a great mission station and some nuns, and a large store place for the fur trade. And then—Hudson Bay somewhere clear to the end of the world, she thought.
The men uttered a sort of caroling melody with their work. There were some strange faces she had never seen before, swarthy people with great gold hoops in their ears.
"Are they Americans?" she asked, her idea of Americans being that they were a sort of conglomerate.
"No—Spaniards, Portuguese, from the other side of the world. There are many strange peoples."
Louis Marsac's knowledge was extremely limited, as education had not made much of an advance among ordinary people. But he was glad he knew this when he saw the look of awe that for an instant touched the rosy face.
There were some English uniforms on the scene. For though the boundaries had been determined the English Commandant made various excuses, and demanded every point of confirmation. There had been an acrimonious debate on conditions and much vexatious delay, as if he was individually loath to surrender his authority. In fact the English, as the French had before them, cherished dreams of recovering the territory, which would be in all time to come an important center of trade. No one had dreamed of railroads then.
The sun began to drop down behind the high hills with their timber-crowned tops. Pani turned.
"We must go home," she said, and Jeanne made no objections. She was a little tired and confused with a strange sensation, as if she had suddenly grown, and the bounds were too small.
Marsac made way for them, up the narrow, wretched street to the gateway. The streets were all narrow with no pretense at order. In some places were lanes where carriages could not pass each other. St. Louis street was better but irregularly built, with frame and hewn log houses. There was the old block house at either end, and the great, high palisades, and the citadel, which served for barracks' stores, and housed some of the troops. Here they passed St. Anne's street with its old church and the military garden at the upper end; houses of one and two stories with peaked thatched roofs, and a few of more imposing aspect. On the west of the citadel near St. Joseph's street they paused before a small cottage with a little garden at the side, which was Pani's delight. There were only two rooms, but it was quite fine with some of the Bellestre furnishings. At one end a big fireplace and a seat each side of it. Opposite, the sleeping chamber with one narrow bed and a high one, covered with Indian blankets. Beds and pillows of pine and fir needles were renewed often enough to keep the place curiously fragrant.
"I will bid you good evening," exclaimed Marsac with a dignified bow. "Mam'selle, I hope you are not tired out. You look—"
A saucy smile went over her face. "Do I look very strange?" pertly. "And I am not tired, but half starved. Good night, Monsieur."
"Pani will soon remedy that."
The bell was clanging out its six strokes. That was the old signal for the Indians and whoever lived outside the palisades to retire.
He bowed again and walked up to the Fort and the Parade.
"Angelot," he said to himself, knitting his brow. "Where have I heard the name away from Detroit? She will be a pretty girl and I must keep an eye on her."
Old Detroit had seemed roomy enough when Monsieur Cadillac planted the lilies of France and flung out the royal standard. And the hardy men slept cheerfully on their beds of fir twigs with blankets drawn over them, and the sky for a canopy, until the stockade was built and the rude fort made a place of shelter. But before the women came it had been rendered habitable and more secure; streets were laid out, the chapel of St. Anne's built, and many houses put up inside the palisades. And there was gay, cheerful life, too, for French spirits and vivacity could not droop long in such exhilarating air.
Canoes and row boats went up and down the river with merry crews. And in May there was a pole put in what was to be the military garden, and from it floated the white flag of France. On the green there was a great concourse and much merriment and dancing, and not a little love making. For if a soldier asked a pretty Indian maid in marriage, the Commandant winked at it, and she soon acquired French and danced with the gayest of them.
Then there was a gala time when the furs came in and the sales were made, and the boats loaded and sent on to Montreal to be shipped across the sea; or the Dutch merchants came from the Mohawk valley or New Amsterdam to trade. The rollicking coureurs des bois, who came to be almost a race by themselves, added their jollity and often carried it too far, ending in fighting and arrests.
But it was not all gayety. Up to this time there had been two terrible attacks on the fort, and many minor ones. Attempts had been made to burn it; sometimes the garrison almost starved in bad seasons. France, in all her seventy years of possession, never struck the secret of colonizing. The thrifty emigrant in want of a home where he could breathe a freer air than on his native soil was at once refused. The Jesuit rule was strict as to religion; the King of France would allow no laws but his own, and looked upon his colonies as sources of revenue if any could be squeezed out of them, sources of glory if not.
The downfall of Canada had been a sad blow. The French colonist felt it more keenly than the people thousands of miles away, occupied with many other things. And the bitterest of all protests was made by the Jesuits and the Church. They had been fervent and heroic laborers, and many a life had been bravely sacrificed for the furtherance of the work among the Indians.
True, there had not been a cordial sympathy between the Jesuits and the Recollets, but the latter had proved the greater favorites in Detroit. There was now the Recollet house near the church, where they were training young girls and teaching the catechism and the rules of the Church, as often orally as by book, as few could read. Here were some Indian girls from tribes that had been almost decimated in the savage wars, some of whom were bound out afterward as servants. There were slaves, mostly of the old Pawnee tribe, some very old, indeed; others had married, but their children were under the ban of their parents.
With the coming of the English there was a wider liberty, a new atmosphere, and though the French protested bitterly and could not but believe the mother country would make some strenuous effort to recover the territory as they temporized with the Indians and held out vague hopes, yet, as the years passed on, they found themselves insensibly yielding to the sway, and compelled now and then to fight for their homes against a treacherous enemy. Mayor Gladwyn had been a hero to them in his bravery and perseverance.
There came in a wealthier class of citizens to settle, and officials were not wanting in showy attire. Black silk breeches and hose, enormous shoe buckles, stiff stocks, velvet and satin coats and beaver hats were often seen. Ladies rejoiced in new importations, and in winter went decked in costly furs. Even the French damsels relaxed their plain attire and made pictures with their bright kerchiefs tied coquettishly over curling hair, and they often smiled back at the garrison soldiers or the troops on parade. The military gardens were improved and became places of resort on pleasant afternoons, and the two hundred houses inside the pickets increased a little, encroaching more and more on the narrow streets. The officers' houses were a little grander; some of the traders indulged in more show and their wives put on greater airs and finer gowns and gave parties. The Campeau house was venerable even then, built as it was on the site of Cadillac's headquarters and abounding in many strange legends, and there were rude pictures of the Canoe with Madame Cadillac, who had made the rough voyage with her ladies and come to a savage wilderness out of love for her husband; and the old, long, low Cass house that had sheltered so many in the Pontiac war, and the Governor's house on St. Anne's street, quite grand with its two stories and peaked roof, with the English colors always flying.
Many of the houses were plastered over the rough hewn cedar lath, others were just of the smaller size trees split in two and the interstices filled in. Many were lined with birch bark, with borders of beautiful ash and silver birch. Chimneys were used now, great wide spaces at one end filled in with seats. In winter furs were hung about and often dropped over the windows at night, which were always closed with tight board shutters as soon as dusk set in, which gave the streets a gloomy aspect and in nowise assisted a prowling enemy. A great solid oaken door, divided in the middle with locks and bars that bristled with resistance, was at the front.
But inside they were comfortable and full of cheer. Wooden benches and chairs, some of the former with an arm and a cushion of spruce twigs covered with a bear or wolf skin, though in the finer houses there were rush bottoms and curiously stained splints with much ornamental Indian work. A dresser in the living room displayed not only Queen's ware, but such silver and pewter as the early colonists possessed, and there were pictures curiously framed, ornaments of wampum and shells and fine bead work. The family usually gathered here, and the large table standing in the middle of the floor had a hospitable look heightened by the savory smells which at that day seemed to offend no one.
The farms all lay without and stretched down the river and westward. The population outside had increased much faster, for there was room to grow. There were little settlements of French, others of half-breeds, and not a few Indian wigwams. The squaws loved to shelter themselves under the wing of the Fort and the whites. Business of all kinds had increased since the coming of the English.
But now there had occurred another overturn. Detroit had been an important post during the Revolution, and though General Washington, Jefferson, and Clark had planned expeditions for its attack, it was, at the last, a bloodless capture, being included in the boundaries named in the Quebec Act. But the British counted on recapture, and the Indians were elated with false hopes until the splendid victories of General Wayne in northern Illinois against both Indians and English. By his eloquence and the announcement of the kindly intentions of the United States, the Chippewa nation made gifts of large tracts of land and relinquished all claims to Detroit and Mackinaw.
The States had now two rather disaffected peoples. Many of the English prepared to return to Canada with the military companies. The French had grown accustomed to the rule and still believed in kings and state and various titles. But the majority of the poor scarcely cared, and would have grumbled at any rule.
For weeks Detroit was in a ferment with the moving out. There were sorrowful farewells. Many a damsel missed the lover to whom she had pinned her faith, many an irregular marriage was abruptly terminated. The good Recollet fathers had tried to impress the sacredness of family ties upon their flock, but since the coming of the English, the liberty allowed every one, and the Protestant form of worship, there had grown a certain laxness even in the town.
"It is going to be a great day!" declared Jeanne, as she sprang out of her little pallet. There were two beds in the room, a great, high-post carved bedstead of the Bellestre grandeur, and the cot Jacques Pallent, the carpenter, had made, which was four sawed posts, with a frame nailed to the top of them. It was placed in the corner, and so, out of sight, Pani felt that her charge was always safe. In the morning Jeanne generally turned a somersault that took her over to the edge of the big bed, from whence she slid down.
The English had abolished slavery in name, but most of the Pani servants remained. They seldom had any other than their tribal name. Since the departure of the Bellestres Jeanne's guardian had taken on a new dignity. She was a tall, grave woman, and much respected by all. No one would have thought of interfering with her authority over the child.
"Hear the cannon at the Fort and the bells. And everybody will be out! Pani, give me some breakfast and let me go."
"Nay, nay, child. You cannot go alone in such a crowd as this will be. And I must set the house straight."
"But Marie De Ber and Pierre are to go. We planned it last night. Pierre is a big, strong boy, and he can pick his way through a crowd with his elbows. His mother says he always punches holes through his sleeves."
Jeanne laughed gayly. Pierre was a big, raw-boned fellow, a good guard anywhere.
"Nay, child, I shall go, too. It will not be long. And here is a choice bit of bread browned over the coals that you like so much, and the corn mush of last night fried to a turn."
"Let me run and see Marie a moment—"
"With that head looking as if thou hadst tumbled among the burrs, or some hen had scratched it up for a nest! And eyes full of dew webs that are spun in the grass by the spirits of night."
"Look, they are wide open!" She buried her face in a pail of water and splashed it around as a huge bird might, as she raised her beautiful laughing orbs, blue now as the midnight sky. And then she carelessly combed the tangled curls that fell about her like the spray of a waterfall.
"Thou must have a coif like other French girls, Jeanne. Berthê Campeau puts up her hair."
"Berthê goes to the Recollets and prays and counts beads, and will run no more or shout, and sings only dreary things that take the life and gayety out of you. She will go to Montreal, where her aunt is in a convent, and her mother cries about it. If I had a mother I would not want to make her cry. Pani, what do you suppose happened to my mother? Sometimes I think I can remember her a little."
The face so gay and willful a moment before was suddenly touched with a sweet and tender gravity.
"She is dead this long time, petite. Children may leave their mothers, but mothers never give up their children unless they are taken from them."
"Pani, what if the Indian woman had stolen me?"
"But she said you had no mother. Come, little one, and eat your breakfast."
Jeanne was such a creature of moods and changes that she forgot her errand to Marie. She clasped her hands together and murmured her French blessing in a soft, reverent tone.
Maize was a staple production in the new world, when the fields were not destroyed by marauding parties. There were windmills that ground it coarsely and both cakes and porridge were made of it. The Indian women cracked and pounded it in a stone mortar and boiled it with fish or venison. The French brought in many new ways of cooking.
"Oh, hear the bells and the music from the Fort! Come, hurry, Pani, if you are going with us. Pani, are people slow when they get old?"
"Much slower, little one."
"Then I don't want to be old. I want to run and jump and climb and swim. Marie knits, she has so many brothers and sisters. But I like leggings better in the winter. And they sew at the Recollet house."
"And thou must learn to sew, little one."
"Wait until I am big and old and have to sit in the chimney corner. There are no little ones—sometimes I am glad, sometimes sorry, but if they are not here one does not have to work for them."
She gave a bright laugh and was off like a flash. The Pani woman sighed. She wondered sometimes whether it would not have been better to give her up to the good father who took such an interest in her. But she was all the poor woman had to love. True she could be a servant in the house, but to have her wild, free darling bound down to rigid rules and made unhappy was more than she could stand. And had not Mr. Bellestre provided this home for them?
The woman had hardly put away the dishes, which were almost as much of an idol to her as the child, when Jeanne came flying back.
"Yes, hurry, hurry, Pani! They are all ready. And Madame De Ber said Marie should not go out on such a day unless you went too. She called me feather headed! As if I were an Indian chief with a great crown of feathers!"
The child laughed gayly. It was as natural to her as singing to a bird.
Pani gathered up a few last things and looked to see that the fire was put out.
Already the streets were being crowded and presented a picturesque aspect. Inside the stockade the chemin du ronde extended nearly around the town and this had been widened by the necessity of military operations. Soldiers were pouring out of the Citadel and the Fort but the colonial costume looked queer to eyes accustomed to the white trimmings of the French and the red of the British. The latter had made a grander show many a time, both in numbers and attire. There were the old French habitans, gay under every new dispensation, in tanned leathern small clothes, made mostly of deer skin, and blue blouses, blue cap, with a red feather, some disporting themselves in unwonted finery kept for holiday occasions; pretty laughing demoiselles with bright kerchiefs or a scarf of open, knitted lace-like stuff with beads that sparkled with every coquettish turn of the head; there were Indians with belted tomahawks and much ornamented garments, gorgets and collars of rudely beaten copper or silver if they could afford to barter furs for them, half-breed dandies who were gorgeous in scarlet and jewelry of all sorts, squaws wrapped in blankets, looking on wonderingly, and the new possessors of Detroit who were at home everywhere.
The procession formed at the parade in front of the Fort. Some of the aristocracy of the place were out also, staid middle-aged men with powdered queues and velvet coats, elegant ladies in crimson silk petticoats and skirts drawn back, the train fastened up with a ribbon or chain which they carried on their arms as they minced along on their high heeled slippers, carrying enormous fans that were parasols as well, and wearing an immense bonnet, the fashion in France a dozen years before.
"What is it all about?" asked one and another.
"They are to put up a new flag."
"For how long?" in derision. "The British will be back again in no time."
"Are there any more conquerors to come? We turn our coats at every one's bidding it seems."
The detachment was from General Wayne's command and great was the disappointment that the hero himself was not on hand to celebrate the occasion; but he had given orders that possession of the place should be signalized without him. Indeed, he did not reach Detroit until a month later.
On July 11, 1796, the American flag was raised above Detroit, and many who had never seen it gazed stupidly at it, as its red and white stripes waved on the summer air, and its blue field and white stars shone proudly from the flag staff, blown about triumphantly on the radiant air shimmering with golden sunshine.
Shouts went up like volleys. All the Michigan settlements were now a part of the United Colonies, that had so bravely won their freedom and were extending their borders over the cherished possessions of France and England.
The post was formally delivered up to the governor of the territory. Another flag was raised on the Citadel, which was for the accommodation of the general and his suite at present and whoever was commandant. It was quite spacious, with an esplanade in front, now filled by soldiers. There were the almost deafening salutes and the blare of the band.
"Why it looks like heaven at night!" cried Jeanne rapturously. "I shall be an American,—I like the stars better than the lilies of France, and the red cross is hateful. For stars are of heaven, you know, you cannot make them grow on earth."
A kindly, smiling, elderly man turned and caught sight of the eager, rosy face.
"And which, I wonder, is the brave General Wayne?"
"He is not here to-day unfortunately and cannot taste the sweets of his many victories. But he is well worth seeing, and quite as sorry not to be here as you are to miss him. But he is coming presently."
"Then it is not the man who is making a speech?—and see what a beautiful horse he has!"
"That is the governor, Major General St. Clair."
"And General Wayne, is he an American?"
The man gave an encouraging smile to the child's eager inquiry.
"An American? yes. But look you, child. The only proper Americans would be the Indians."
She frowned and looked puzzled.
"A little way back we came from England and France and Holland and Spain and Italy. We are so diverse that it is a wonder we can be harmonized. Only there seems something in this grand air, these mighty forests, these immense lakes and rivers, that nurtures liberty and independence and breadth of thought and action. Who would have dreamed that clashing interests could have been united in that one aim, liberty, and that it could spread itself from the little nucleus, north, south, east, and west! The young generation will see a great country. And I suppose we will always be Americans."
He turned to the young man beside him, who seemed amused at the enthusiasm that rang in his voice and shone in his eyes of light, clear blue as he had smiled down on the child who scarcely understood, but took in the general trend and was moved by the warmth and glow.
"Monsieur, there are many countries beside England and France," she said thoughtfully.
"O yes, a world full of them. Countries on the other side of the globe of which we know very little."
"The other side?" Her eyes opened wide in surprise, and a little crease deepened in the sunny brow as she flung the curls aside. She wore no hat of any kind in summer.
"Yes, it is a round world with seas and oceans and land on both sides. And it keeps going round."
"But, Monsieur," as he made a motion with his hand to describe it, "why does not the water spill out and the ground slide off? What makes it—oh, how can it stick?" with a laugh of incredulity.
"Because a wisdom greater than all of earth rules it. Are there no schools in Detroit?"
"The English have some and there is the Recollet house and the sisters. But they make you sit still, and presently you go to Montreal or Quebec and are a nun, and wear a long, black gown, and have your head tied up. Why, I should smother and I could not hear! That is so you cannot hear wicked talk and the drunken songs, but I love the birds and the wind blowing and the trees rustling and the river rushing and beating up in a foam. And I am not afraid of the Indians nor the shil loups," but she lowered her tone a trifle.
"Do not put too much trust in the Indians, Mam'selle. And there is the loup garou—"
"But I have seen real wolves, Monsieur, and when they bring in the furs there are so many beautiful ones. Madame De Ber says there is no such thing as a loup garou, that a person cannot be a man and a wolf at the same time. When the wolves and the panthers and the bears howl at night one's blood runs chilly. But we are safe in the stockade."
"There is much for thee to learn, little one," he said, after a pause. "There must be schools in the new country so that all shall not grow up in ignorance. Where is thy father?"
Jeanne Angelot stared straight before her seeing nothing. Her father? The De Bers had a father, many children had, she remembered. And her mother was dead.
The address ended and there was a thundering roll of drums, while cheers went up here and there. Cautious French habitans and traders thought it wiser to wait and see how long this standard of stripes and stars would wave over them. They were used to battles and conquering and defeated armies, and this peace they could hardly understand. The English were rather sullen over it. Was this stripling of newfound liberty to possess the very earth?
The crowd surged about. Pani caught the arm of her young charge and drew her aside. She was alarmed at the steady scrutiny the young man had given her, though it was chiefly as to some strange specimen.
"Thou art overbold, Jeanne, smiling up in a young man's face and puckering thy brows like some maid coquetting for a lover."
"A young man!" Jeanne laughed heartily. "Why he had a snowy beard like a white bear in winter. Where were your eyes, Pani? And he told me such curious things. Is the world round, Pani? And there are lands and lands and strange people—"
"It is a brave show," exclaimed Louis Marsac joining them. "I wonder how long it will last. There are to be some new treaties I hear about the fur trade. That man from the town called New York, a German or some such thing, gets more power every month. A messenger came this morning and I am to return to my father at once. Jeanne, I wish thou and Pani wert going to the upper lakes with me. If thou wert older—"
She turned away suddenly. Marie De Ber had a group of older girls about her and she plunged into them, as if she might be spirited away.
Monsieur St. Armand had looked after his little friend but missed her in the crowd, and a shade of disappointment deepened his blue eyes.
"Mon père," began the young man beside him, "evidently thou wert born for a missionary to the young. I dare say you discovered untold possibilities in that saucy child who knows well how to flirt her curls and arch her eyebrows. She amused me. Was that half-breed her brother, I wonder!"
"She was not a half-breed, Laurent. There are curious things in this world, and something about her suggested—or puzzled. She has no Indian eyes, but the rarest dark blue I ever saw. And did Indian blood ever break out in curly hair?"
"I only noticed her swarthy skin. And there is such a mixed-up crew in this town! Come, the grand show is about over and now we are all reborn Americans up to the shores of Lake Superior. But we will presently be due at the Montdesert House. Are we to have no more titles and French nobility be on a level with the plainest, just Sieur and Madame?" with a little curl of the lips. The elder smiled good naturedly, nay, even indulgently.
"The demoiselles are more to thee than that splendid flag waving over a free country. Thou canst return—"
"But the dinner?"
"Ah, yes, then we will go together," he assented.
"If we can pick our way through this crowd. What beggarly narrow streets. Faugh! One can hardly get his breath. Our wilds are to be preferred."
By much turning in and out they reached the upper end of St. Louis street, which at that period was quite an elevation and overlooked the river.
The remainder of the day was devoted to gayety, and with the male population carousing in too many instances, though there were restrictions against selling intoxicants to the Indians inside the stockade. The Frenchman drank a little and slowly, and was merry and vivacious. Groups up on the Parade were dancing to the inspiriting music, or in another corner two or three fiddles played the merriest of tunes.
Outside, and the larger part of the town was outside now, the farms stretched back with rude little houses not much more than cabins. There was not much call for solidity when a marauding band of Indians might put a torch to your house and lay it in ashes. But with the new peace was coming a greater feeling of security.
There were little booths here and there where squaws were cooking sagamite and selling it in queer dishes made of gourds. There were the little maize cakes well-browned, piles of maple sugar and wild summer plums just ripening. The De Ber children, with Jeanne and Pani, took their dinner here and there out of doors with much merriment. It was here Marsac joined them again, his hands full of fruit, which he gave to the children.
"Come over to the Strait," he exclaimed. "That is a sight worth seeing. Everything is out."
"O yes," cried Jeanne, eagerly. "And, Louis, can you not get a boat or a canoe? Let us go out on the water. I'm tired of the heat and dust."
They threaded their way up to Merchants' wharf, for at King's wharf the crowd was great. At the dock yard, where, under the English, some fine vessels had been built, a few were flying pennons of red and white, and some British ships that had not yet left flaunted their own colors. As for the river, that was simply alive with boats of every description; Indian rowers and canoers, with loads of happy people singing, shouting, laughing, or lovers, with heads close together, whispering soft endearments or promising betrothal.
"Stay here while I see if I can get a boat," said Louis, darting off, disappearing in the crowd.
They had been joined by another neighbor, Madame Ganeau and her daughter Delisse, and her daughter's lover, a gay young fellow.
"He will have hard work," declared Jacques. "I tried. Not a canoe or a pirogue or a flat boat. I wish him the joy of success."
"Then we will have to paddle ourselves," said Jeanne. "Or float, Marie. I can float beautifully when the tide is serene."
"I would not dare it for a hundred golden louis d'or," interposed Delisse.
"But Jeanne dares everything. Do you remember when she climbed the palisade? When one has a lover—" and Marie sighed a little.
"One comes to her senses and is no longer a child," said Madame Ganeau with a touch of sharpness in her voice. "The saints alone know what will become of that wild thing. Marie, since your mother is so busy with her household, some one should look you up a lover. Thou art most fourteen if I remember rightly."
"Well, there is time to be sure. Delisse will be fifteen on her wedding day. That is plenty old enough. For you see the girl bows to her husband, which is as it should be. A girl well brought up should have no temper nor ways of her own and then she more easily drops into those of her husband, who is the head of the house."
"I have a temper!" laughed Jeanne. "And I do not want any husband to rule over me as if I were a squaw."
"He will rule thee in the end. And if thou triest him too far he may beat thee."
"If he struck me I should—I should kill him," and Jeanne's eyes flashed fire.
"Thou wilt have more sense, then. And if lovers are shy of thee thou wilt begin to long for them when thou art like a dried up autumn rose on its stem."
Jeanne bridled and flung up her chin.
Pierre took her soft hand in his rough one.
"Do not mind," he said in a whisper; "I would never beat you even if you did not have dinner ready. And I will bring you lovely furs and whatever you want. My father is willing to send me up in the fur country next year."
Jeanne laughed, then turned to sudden gravity and gave back the pressure of the hand in repentance.
"You are so good to me, Pierre. But I do not want to marry in a long, long time, until I get tired of other things. And I want plenty of them and fun and liberty."
"Yes, yes, you are full of fun," approvingly.
Louis was coming up to them in a fine canoe and some Indian rowers. He waved his hand.
"Good luck, you see! Step in. Now for a glorious sail. Is it up or down?"
"Down," cried Jeanne hopping around on one foot, and still hanging to Pani.
They were soon settled within. The river was like a stream of golden fire, each ripple with a kind of phosphorescent gleam as the foam slipped away. For the oars were beating it up in every direction. The air was tensely clear. There was Lake St. Clair spread out in the distance, touching a sky of golden blue, if such colors fuse. And the opposite shore with its wealth of trees and shrubs and beginnings of Sandwich and Windsor and Fort Malden; Au Cochon and Fighting island, Grosse island in the far distance, and Bois Blanc.
"Sing," said the lover when they had gone down a little ways, for most of the crafts were given over to melody and laughter.
He had a fine voice. Singing was the great delight of those days, and nothing was more beguiling than the songs of the voyageurs. Delisse joined and Marie's soft voice was like a lapping wave. Madame Ganeau talked low to Pani about the child.
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