Our Paris Letter
I fear you are a little impatient to know why it was that Jean Baptiste and I were married and off to Paris six weeks before the time fixed for our wedding, according to your latest advices. I also fear you were not quite satisfied with the little letter I sent you the morning we were married. I do not remember one word of that letter, but I know it was too short to contain any proper explanation of the affair. I assure you, my dear mamma, that it was impossible for me to be any more explicit then. I do believe that no other girl was ever hurried as I was that morning and the night before.
Only seventeen hours before the wedding actually took place Jean Baptiste came to my school-room in a buggy, and called me out. He said that a friend of the family had lately died in Paris, leaving him a large legacy, — quite a little fortune, in fact; that his father had just received intelligence to that effect through the Atlantic Cable Telegraph ; that this rendered it necessary for us to start for France immediately, instead of waiting till August, as we had intended ; and that it had been decided, in family council, that the wedding should come off quietly next morning at eight o'clock, so that he and I, and his father and mother, who were to accompany us, could take the 9.15 train eastward.
“Dismiss your school,” said he, “if it costs you half a year’s salary, and get into the buggy, and come with me. Father and mother wish to explain to you our relation to this man who has just died in Paris. Father and he were engaged together in a curious affair a great many years ago, which laid the foundations of both their fortunes. Father thinks you ought to know all about it before we are married, and I quite agree with him. There is nothing criminal nor disgraceful in it, audit there were, it all happened long before I was born, so I know it will make no difference with your willingness to marry me. I will therefore improve the time while father is enlightening you with this scrap of family history by driving around to the school authorities, and telling them all about the matter.”
So saying, my lord and master elect handed me into his buggy, after I had dismissed my wondering pupils, drove home with me, and turned me over to his father and mother, who received me with a degree of kindness that ought to have put me at my ease. But I was so dazed that I could not, and did not, make any objection to being married at such short notice, nor plead for even one day’s delay, but sat helplessly repeating to myself, “To-morrow morning at eight o’clock, — to-morrow morning at eight o’clock.”
Father Moran said, that, in his early youth, he and his friend, who had just died in Paris, had been engaged together in a somewhat extraordinary adventure which he thought ought to be related to me before I united myself irrevocably with a member of his family. The story, he said, had been confided to many of his friends, and was now no secret. Still he preferred that I should hear it from his own lips before Jean Baptiste and I were married, so that it might not appear that any important fact in the history of the family had been concealed from me. He then proceeded to give me an outline of his early history. Since that time he and Mother Moran have returned to the subject so freely and so frequently, that every incident and every situation in the story is impressed upon my memory as distinctly and vividly, I verily believe, as it is upon theirs.
I have been greatly aided, no doubt, in following the narrative, by my own knowledge, acquired while I was teaching in Canada, of the topography and the local' habits and traditions of the neighborhood where Father Moran met with his main adventure.
Father and Mother Moran and Jean Baptiste all think that I ought to write to you a full account of the matter. Father Moran, especially, desires me to do so. He says that if I neglect it ten days, you will, in the mean time, hear from some source that I am married to the son of a reformed brigand or some such character.
I have promised to put the whole story into this letter, and I shall do so if I can find an envelope in Paris large enough to contain it. I have also promised— and I renew the promise to you, mamma — not to draw upon my imagination any more than my nature absolutely requires.
Before I begin this long story, let me finish what I started to write about my wedding.
When I got away from Father and Mother Moran, it was almost five o’clock. I was to be married early next morning to the best-dressed man in St. Louis, and I had no clothes fit to be worn at a drayman’s wedding.
In my despair I went straight to my dress-maker, who had already undertaken to get up my wedding finery, but had not as yet put a stitch in it, and told her my story with tears in my eyes. As soon as my deplorable situation was known in the shop, I commanded the sympathy of the whole establishment. When the regular hours for work were past, the good dress-maker and her dear girls, together with four angels from another establishment, took me in hand; and it is but simple justice to say that they presented me at the altar next morning in unexceptionable attire, and with my trunks packed as became a bride starting upon her wedding tour.
We were quietly married at eight o'clock (no cards), and started immediately for Paris, and here we are.
Now for Father Moran’s story: —
Edward Moran was born in Massachusetts, and is doubtless related to the Morans of Springfield. His parents removed to Lower Canada while he was a baby. His father was a physician, and a poor man his life long. His mother died when he was twelve years old. At fourteen he was articled — whatever that may mean — to an architect in Montreal. Shortly after that his father died, leaving less than property enough to pay his debts.
It would have gone hard with poor Edward in his poverty and his orphanage, if the architect and his lady had not been kind and generous people. They pretended that his services were worth more than his instruction, and made that their pretext for forcing upon him what money and other things he needed. When he was twenty-one, and no longer a student or apprentice, or whatever he had been, the good architect, who was an Englishman, and whose name was Nevins, as I ought to have told you before, gave him fifty pounds. [Fifty pounds in Canada equal two hundred dollars. The Canadians count their money the same as the English do theirs, but their pounds, shillings, and pence are only about four fifths as valuable as the s., and d. sterling. At least, it was so when I was in Canada. From this time forth even unto the end of this letter, I shall reduce every sum I am called upon to mention into rational dollars and cents, so that you can have some notion whether the sum be worth mentioning or not.] Mrs. Nevins gave him several valuable presents, which she called keepsakes, and an honest motherly kiss ; and little Nellie Nevins cried till her eyes were very red when he went away. Mr. Nevins had procured for him a job, or order, or contract, or whatever else an architect would call it, to plan and superintend the erection of a big house above Brockville in Upper Canada, and immediately opposite the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence.
Of course Edward was very much in love with Nellie Nevins. She must have been a splendid girl, she is such a superb old lady. He not only loved her very desperately, but felt quite sure that she loved him. But he was quite penniless, and was, or thought he was, a pensioner on her father’s bounty; so it seemed to him that every principle of honor and gratitude conspired to close his lips, and he and Nellie parted without coming to any understanding in words. The true state of the case was nevertheless plain enough to all concerned, including Nellie’s good father and mother.
Young Moran went to his new field of labor with a vague notion, not reasonable enough to be called an idea, nor definite enough to be called a wish, but still an ever-present lurking fancy, of making some sudden and signal display of genius, or achieving some grand stroke of fortune before his image should quite fade out of Nellie’s tender heart. His aspirations were vague and dreamy, and mixed up with his little love affair, as the heroic tendencies of very young people always are. They found, however, some expression, I verily believe, in the work he had in hand,—-a gentleman’s dwelling, built on a generous and costly scale. I well remember how proudly, and yet how tenderly, it crowned its hill when I saw it, and was never tired of gazing at it, more than twenty years after the young lover and dreamer had built it, and into it some of his lofty day-dreams. His nature was not sordid, but his imagination frequently revelled in gorgeous visions of wealth ; and .many of his ground-plans of life were laid out for a solid foundation of gold and silver. His aspirations, I feel sure, would not have taken this form, I poor as he was, if his imagination had not been fired by stories of hidden treasures among the islands.
No better hiding-place could have been found. The Thousand Islands are not extravagantly named. There are, it is said, more than fifteen hundred islands in the group. They vary in size from a mere point of rock to several hundred acres. The St. Lawrence here abandons the solemn role of a deep, broad river, and frolics madly about among the islands in a perplexing maze of narrow, devious channels, some of them mere rivulets. It was one of the mysteries of my Canadian days, not yet cleared up, how the pilots ever find their way through this labyrinth of waters.
Moran was protected by his pure love for Nellie from running into any excesses which would make him unworthy of her. He was, at the same time, driven by his utter loneliness and his hardy, adventurous spirit into much rough company. A knot of hard-drinking, story-telling cronies who assembled nightly at the Tripe and Trotters tavern had a special attraction for him, though he never joined in their drunken orgies..
Here he heard the story of O’Donnel, the smuggler, par excellence, of the Thousand Islands.
This worthy, it seemed, was a native of Kingston, Upper Canada. His mother was a wretched creature who hung around the soldiers’ barracks at Fort Henry, near that city. He was awfully deformed, there being such an inequality in the length of his legs and the height of his shoulders as to produce a constant distortion of his countenance, when walking or even standing. When he was sitting, or lying quite still, however, his features were said to have been singularly regular and spirituelle, and to have worn a sad and stern expression. His mother, whose name he bore, died when he was a mere lad. From his infancy to his early manhood he fought a battle without a truce with the world for his daily breach His manner was surly and unsocial. He was a miser from his boyhood and a misanthrope from his cradle. When he was about twentytwo years of age he established himself on one of the Thousand Islands, situated about midway between the shores of the river, far away from the route pursued by vessels of any considerable burden, washed on every side by swift narrow channels and fierce eddies, containing about an acre and a half of rocky soil, and approachable only by crooked and unfrequented channels. This delectable retreat soon came to be known as Smuggler’s Island, for reasons that will presently appear.
O’Donnel was strong and resolute, as many deformed men are. He was a skilful trapper and hunter, but was chiefly renowned as a smuggler. In Moran’s day many anecdotes were afloat of the cunning and prowess with which he, time and time again, baffled the custom-house officers. In the summer he transported his goods across the river in a large light canoe. In the winter he used for the same purpose a light sleigh, drawn by powerful and fleet horses, some of them almost as celebrated as he was. Winter and summer alike, his route of transit was only known to himself. He confined his traffic to valuable articles having but little weight or bulk, so that he needed no assistance. Many of the islands were wooded with large forest trees and a dense growth of what the natives called underbrush. O’Donnel was reputed to have made himself familiar with many secure hiding-places, tortuous channels, and blind forest paths which no other man could find or trace, but which were plain to him in the darkest night. There was something weird anti uncanny, it was said, in the suddenness and unaccountableness of his appearances and disappearances.
Thus he flourished some twenty years. Toward the latter part of his career lie seemed a little more amenable to the influences of civilization, and a little more attentive to his own comfort. He built himself a decent ‘‘shanty,” and, what astonished the people still more, he invested over one hundred thousand dollars in lands. This last operation, however, exhibited him in the character of an ordinary human being so much that he soon became disgusted with it. Just before his death he sold all his lands for cash, some of them at a small sacrifice, but most of them at a considerable profit.
After his haunt was revealed, it became the settled policy of the revenue officers to make a descent upon Smuggler’s Island once in about three months. These raids never resulted in the discovery of any contraband goods, but were continued from mere force of habit, which, in such cases, is, I believe, called official routine.
One morning just before dawn, the period of the day always chosen, for these visits, a' party of three officers landed suddenly and silently on Smuggler’s Island, as they had done many times before. They first explored the island outside of the cabin, as was their settled practice. They then entered the shanty in the old unceremonious way, and found the smuggler dead. He had evidently been dead as much as a week. Wretched outcast as he was, he was rich ; and so his remains were taken to the main shore and buried in consecrated soil.
Speculation was now rife as to the disposition of his money. He had no family. No man had ever owned him as his son, nor had his paternity ever been distinctly charged upon any man. Nothing was known, nor could anything be learned, of the early history or family connections of his mother. Who was she? Whence came she ? Was O’Donnel her family name, or the name of some deserted husband ? or had she assumed it, as most of her class assume some name other than that by which they were known in the days of their purity ? These questions had gone down into the wretched woman’s grave unanswered, and the clay of the Potter’s Field had closed over them forever. It was morally certain that no rightful heir would ever appear to claim the smuggler’s treasures. They must go to the government, unless a will should be found.
But these treasures, — where were they ? Every cranny of tire shanty was searched, every inch of Smuggler’s Island was examined, and all the islands immediately surrounding it were carefully explored, under the supervision of two magistrates ; but no money, and not a scrap of paper, was found. Unofficial treasure - hunters, alone and in parties, kept up the search for years, but to no purpose.
The smuggler’s land sales just before his death rendered it certain that he had left over one hundred thousand dollars. This was probably only a small part of his riches ; for smuggling was then very profitable, and parsimony never fails to lay up money. O’Donnel had been a most successful and enterprising smuggler, and a life-long, selfdenying miser. Somewhere along the shores or among the islands there was hidden a treasure well worth the finding. These facts and many others, and not a few fancies in the same connection, did Moran hear discussed nightly at the Tripe and Trotters.
These wild stories about this hidden hoard conspired with his poverty, which stood like a lion in the path between him and his love, to fill his musings by day and his dreams by night with gold, gold, gold, until at last the future of his fancy was as bright and rich with treasure as it was sunny and musical with love, or sublime with high achievements.
It was then about ten years since the smuggler’s death. During the last six years of that time Smuggler’s Island had been occupied by a French Canadian named Jean Baptiste Boisvert.
Of course you foresee that this is the man for whom my Jean Baptiste was named. I beg you to treat the name a little more respectfully than you did in your last letter. Please don’t write it “ J. B.” any more, as if I was married to Joey Bagstock or James Buchanan. I’m sure I can’t comprehend your objections to the name. John the Baptist was the greatest of all the prophets. His character, I think, stands high above that of the patriarch Joseph, after whom your only son is called — Joe. At any rate, the Baptist did not lose his raiment of camels’ hair as Joseph appears to have lost all the coats he ever had.
This Jean Baptiste Boisvert was generally called simply Baptiste, or, as it was oftener pronounced, Batteese.”
He was tall, lean, sinewy, brown, hawk-eyed, and hook-nosed. His inner man was a queer compound of shrewdness and simplicity, fierce passion and easy good-nature. $He was totally illiterate. He seemed to understand most that was said to him in English, but his efforts to convey his ideas in our language consisted in gesticulations, shrugs, and grimaces, with a little broken — nay, crushed and pulverized — English, the performance being generally more entertaining than intelligible. He drank pretty freely among boon companions, but was never known to get drunk, in the sense of being weakened or muddled. The only effect which liquor seemed to have upon him was to improve his English. Under the inspiration of whiskey, he would arrange his limited stock of English words into combinations which no uninspired man would ever venture upon. His grand independence of all the rules of English syntax on such occasions made him far more easily understood than when, under other circumstances, he tried to conform his speech to what he supposed were the laws of the language.
We have just such a case here. An octogenarian French gentleman, who was an attache to the French Embassy at Washington in the days of President John Adams, and who still dresses like the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and wears his hair in a queue, frequently visits us here at our hotel. He will try to talk English. At first his anxiety to be precise and correct renders him painfully helpless, with his small stock of English words ; but when he has sipped away half a dozen glasses of Father Moran’s good wine, then — to quote the strong language of an American medical student who also visits us — t£ old pig - tail slings English, regardless of Bindley Murray and all his works.”
As it was evident that Baptiste had plenty of money, and as he lived on Smuggler’s Island, the people thereabouts concluded that he was a smuggler, as his predecessor had been. The revenue officers shared the popular belief, and spent much valuable time laying snares and setting traps for Baptiste and his smuggled goods. They visited Smuggler’s Island as regularly as they had done in the days of O’Donnel, and with as little success in the way of finding contraband goods. In other respects their visits were now more satisfactory than in the days of the miser, for Baptiste always met them with great cordiality, invariably persuaded them to take breakfast with him, and, as he was an excellent cook and a generous host, never failed to send them away in the best of humor.
His long-continued impunity from detection gave him a reputation among the people and at the custom-house for almost superhuman shrewdness. The official and the public mind, having taken up the theory that he was a smuggler, steadily refused to regard his case from any other point of view. To take a new departure, and to say, “This fellow can’t be caught smuggling because he don’t smuggle,” would have been a mode of reasoning far too simple and elementary for these sagacious officers and profound people. Baptiste rather encouraged his questionable reputation than otherwise.
He was good-natured to a rare degree, but under strong provocation had more than once proved himself an ugly customer in a fight. There was one curious peculiarity about his fighting. After one desperate and damaging onset, which was sure to upset his antagonist,— or half a dozen antagonists, if so many stood in his way, — he always ran away with the speed of a greyhound to his canoe, escaped with all possible expedition to his island, and there secluded himself two or three days. Nobody ever pursued him. It was generally understood that, cornered and cut off from all retreat, he would be an uncommonly dangerous man ; for his strength and agility were incredible, and he always carried in his belt a heavy hunting-knife. This weapon, however, he was never known to draw upon a human being, except in the single instance which I shall relate by and by. When I have added that he was occasionally subject to violent attacks of hypochondria, which, while they lasted, threw a glamour of gloom over every object he looked upon, and made every sound, even that of his own voice, seem hollow and sepulchral, you have the portrait of Jean Baptiste Boisvert as well as I can paint it.
Moran first became acquainted with Baptiste in this wise. He happened one day into a store in the neighborhood which had just been opened by a newly arrived Scotchman from Dumfries. Baptiste was there, and had been trying to sell a pack of beaver-skins to the new merchant. Beaver fur was at that time very valuable, and not veryscarce in Canada. Every country merchant dealt in it as a matter of course. Indeed, it was regarded almost as a legal tender.
Sandy with his broad Scotch, and Baptiste with his execrable English, had each reduced the other to a condition bordering on lunacy. When Moran entered the store, Baptiste was tying up his bundle, and muttering to himself.
“Sacre bleu!” said he. “Zat man not onderstan no French, and he know not some English. How sal somebody wiz heem, vat you call make bargain, by tonder! eh?”
This he said as if to himself, but without lowering his tones, for he fully believed that the merchant could not understand anything he could say. The latter, however, took him up warmly.
“Hoot, mon,” said he, “gin your French be like your Ennglish, ye canna parlevoo for the twa hurdles of a frogue, nor e’en whustle to a French dogue to ony pourpose.”
Baptiste, who understood nothing of this, shrugged his shoulders, took up his pack of skins, and started for the door. Moran called him back in French, and offered to interpret for him.
With his aid the Frenchman and Scotchman soon came to a satisfactory understanding.
After that Moran and Baptiste frequently met, and soon became quite intimate. They were a queeriy assorted pair, but their friendship grew and strengthened apace Each found in the other a sort of supplement to his own character. Baptiste was volatile, quick of resource and fertile in expedients, but singularly wanting in persistence, except when some powerful passion dragged him steadily on. Moran, on the other hand, was clear-headed, slow but sure in his mental processes, and, though a dreamer of wild young dreams, he was none the less a man of firm purpose and unyielding decision of character. They were both generous fellows, and capable of strong friendship; and so it happened that they became constant companions during their hours of leisure, and the firmest and truest of friends.
It was not long until Baptiste invited Moran to visit him at his home on Smuggler’s Island. The time fixed for the visit was one Saturday evening, late in the fall. Moran was to stay all night at the shanty, and return to the main-land in the morning. At the appointed hour Baptiste appeared with his canoe. Moran entered it boldly, but was immediately afterwards aware of no little trepidation. It was a birchbark canoe such as you have seen described many times. Moran had been a distinguished member of a boat-club in Montreal, but this craft showed such a determined tendency to escape from beneath its burden, and was withal so slippery on the water, that he began to lose faith in the law of gravitation the moment after he set his foot in it. Baptiste, however, held the restless vessel firmly until his passenger was seated near the bow. He then stepped lightly aboard, and pushed off with as much unconcern as though he had been navigating a raft. He apologized to Moran for the clumsiness of his craft, said it was his canoe for carrying loads, answered that purpose very well, but was not to be compared to his hunting canoe, which, unfortunately, would not carry two men, unless they were both experienced canoe-men.
“Zat leetle canoe,” said he, “ees so light, zat, when somebody shoot from heem, he mose shoot right overze bow, so,” — taking aim with his paddle. “Eef he shoot ziz vay, ”—taking aim again in another direction, — “ze canoe vill spill ze man, before ze shot sall get out of ze fusil, — vat you call gone.”
“You must excuse me from hunting in that canoe until I get over being nervous in this,” said Moran in French.
Moran’s French always recalled Baptiste from his raids against the King’s English. So he went on extolling his little canoe in French. He gave several instances of its extraordinary buoyancy and sea-worthiness ; also its remarkable tendency to upset with inexperienced navigators.
He dwelt with special unction upon the case of an old lake sailor, who swore that he could manage any craft that ever floated, but was ignominiously upset before he had fairly got clear of the shore with the little canoe ; and who excused his mishap by averring, with many fearful imprecations, that he had careened the craft by carelessly shifting his tobacco from his starboard cheek tQ the port side of his face.
When they had landed upon Smuggler’s Island, and entered the shanty, they found a great wood-fire blazing upon the hearth. This had been kindled by Baptiste before he started for his guest, and so built up with green logs that it was sure not to burn down before he returned. Its warmth was right welcome that cold November evening.
The shanty was built oflogs “scored and hewed,”— i. e. chipped with a common axe, and partially smoothed with a broad-axe inside. The intersticesbetween the logs were first stopped with strips of white cedar, then “ chinked,” or calked with moss, and plastered, or pointed ” with “ mud” — he. clay tempered with sand, — a kind of mortar formerly much used by the common people in Canada. The roof, which was also the ceiling, was nearly flat, and was composed of “ troughs,” — that is, logs split in halves, and hollowed out, so that each piece resembles a great slab of bark. These were disposed in two layers, so that the upper layer battened the lower. This form of roof is quite waterproof and very durable. Only the better class of shanties boast such roofs. The inferior sort are covered with bark. The floor of rough plank was well fitted, or “ jointed,’’ and securely fastened xo the “sleepers” below with wooden pins. There was but one room, and only two small windows. The great feature of the establishment was the fireplace, which occupied at least one third of the north wall. It consisted of a fire-back of rough stones laid up in mud, built into an opening left in the side of the building for that purpose. It was flush with the inside face of the wall, and extended back, out of doors, some four feet. Above the stone fire-back the chimney was carried up entirely outside of the shanty, and was built of strips of cedar, laid up cob-house fashion, and thickly daubed inside and out with “mud.” .
To be so well versed in building,
Roofing, flooring, warming shanties,
I would answer, I would tell you :
The first Winter I taught school in
The primeval, hyperborean
Backwoods of the New Dominion ;
I and my Canadian pupils
Housed were we in such a shanty.
Only the great generous fireplace
Was not there, — was sadly wanting.
And its place was meanly taken
By a dingy stove of iron.
Redolent of heat and headache.
Baptiste’s domicile was furnished with a rough pine table, three stools, a big chest banded with hoop-iron and fastened with a padlock. A few cheap religious prints hung on the walls, also a large assortment of guns, powderhorns, and other hunting implements. Bedstead there was none ; but there was, instead, a big pile of skins and blankets in one corner.
Into another corner there were fitted four triangular shelves, upon which rested the culinary resources of the establishment, also a plentiful supply of pipes and tobacco.
Baptiste was, as I have before remarked, a good cook and a generous host. He soon prepared a savory supper, to which his guest did ample justice.
After supper the two friends smoked and talked until bedtime. Their conversation consisted of ordinary neighborhood gossip, seasoned by a few marvellous hunting-stories on the part of Baptiste, and a demonstration by the young architect that the defunct smuggler could have erected a comfortable stone house on the site of the shanty for less than the cost of that rude structure, inasmuch as the logs of which the shanty was built had to be brought some distance, and at considerable expense, while the materials for a good stone house were to be found in great abundance on the island.
After this they retired each to a liberal pile of skins and blankets, and slept soundly till daylight.
The next morning turned out to be windy and rainy, and miserably cold withal, and Moran was easily persuaded to spend the Sunday on the island.
After breakfast Baptiste amused bis guest by showing him some astonishing tricks with playing-cards.
Of these he had a large and various assortment in his big chest. Being unable to while away the solitude of his home with books, he had by long practice acquired astonishing dexterity and skill in manipulating cards. He explained each trick to Moran after he had exhibited it. Some of them involved intricate mathematical calculations, others consisted merely in rapid and dexterous handling ; but the most numerous and bewildering ot his feats were clue solely to his ability to distinguish the cards by their backs. Moran was naturally astonished at this faculty, but Baptiste made light of it.
“Ze gamblur,” said he, “he mark ze carte so, and so, and so ; but zat ces vat you call clomsy. Ze pack of carte, he ees all make on von big sheet, and zen cut in pieces. Ze back oi von carte not vill like ze back of anozer carte be never. You mose look close at ze back of von carte and remember heem, zen anozer and anozer. ’T is ver’ easy. You can learn eet to make queek in two, tree year.”
“ I should think,” said Moran in French, “ you might win all the money you chose at cards.”
“ So I might,” said Baptiste in the same language, “ but what good would it do me ? What good does a gambler’s money ever do him ? My father used to say, ‘ It is more comfortable to pick up red-hot pennies bare-handed, than to win cool guineas at play.’ My father was right. I have seen a few gamblers, and I know he was right.
“ No,” continued Baptiste, after musing awhile, “ I am not a gambler, thank God, nor a smuggler neither, though the stupid people think I am. Bah ! the sots ! Where do they think I sell my smuggled goods ? I never go away, except sometimes to Brockville, and once in a great while to Kingston, and there the custom-house officers stick to me like my shadow. No, messieurs, I am obliged to you, no smuggling for me. It would fatigue me too much. Still, you must not tell the people that I am not a great smuggler. They would not believe you if you did. Besides, it is convenient for me to be thought a smuggler. While the people and the officers are looking out for my smuggled goods, they are blind to my real faults. I have enough of them, God knows.”
The day wore away with smoking, drowsy talk, and downright napping. In short, the two bachelors spent the Sunday as unprotected males are apt to do.
After supper, when they were once more seated before the big fire, Baptiste suddenly exclaimed : “ Eet ees not von beet — by tonder! — use to have a man for your fren, or be bees fren, if you can't trose heem. My boy, tell me your leetle story, zen I sall to you tell eet mine. You begeen, for yours sall be moche,—not so longer as mine.”
Moran readily complied, and frankly and modestly related his short and simple annals. He approached the subject of his passion for Nellie Nevins reluctantly. But he felt sure that the rough, uncultivated man before him was as pure-minded and chivalrous of heart as the proudest chevalier "of them all. The sacred name of Nellie Nevins he knew would rest in the memory of this semi-barbarian as free from evil associations as in his own. Besides, he was anxious, not merely to have, but to deserve, Baptiste’s entire confidence. So he made full confession of his hopeless love, hopeless because of his poverty.
“Ma foi! ” Said Baptiste, in his mother-tongue, “ you have but little to look back upon. You are all the more free to look forward. At your age my story was even shorter than yours. For I was then living with my father and mother, and had no cares.
“ My father, after whom I am named, and his brother Cyril, were first voyageurs, and afterwards traders, — factors they called them,—in the service of the Northwest Company of fur-traders. When that company was swallowed up by the Hudson Bay Company my father returned to his native village, about twelve miles from Montreal, bought a house in the village, and a farm, near it, married, and became a quiet citizen. He had money enough to make his family comfortable and respectable, and, being a prudent, sober man, his property increased to the day of his death. My father and mother had but two children, — myself and my sister Marie, two years younger.
“ About ten years after my father left the fur trade, my uncle Cyril also came out of the woods, and settled in our village. He, too, married, and his wife was a dear good woman. They had no children. A yellow devil possessed my uncle. He was rich ; but the more gold he had the more he toiled and schemed for gold. Give him a chance to do a good deed which cost no money, and he was a good man. He would sit up all night, and many nights, with a sick neighbor. Once, when a feeble old man was attacked by a big bully, my uncle defended him so bravely and so stoutly that every one applauded him, and the bully never showed his face in the village again. Another time, when a fire was raging in our village, he rushed into the very flames, and rescued a little girl who would have been burned in her bed but for him. That little girl was afterwards my wife. She loved and trusted my uncle, in spite of his avarice, as long as she lived. My sister, too, always defended him. She said his love of gold was a disease rather than a fault; and that he ought to be pitied and not blamed for it. These two girls could, either of them, persuade him to give a little money for a good object, when no one else could get a sou out of him.
“At twenty-two I was married to a dear good girl, — - the same that my uncle had saved from the fire. My sister was betrothed to an excellent young man, and we were all happy. My father and mother had never been taught, and cared nothing for learning. There was no school in our village. We had two villages in one parish. The parish school was in the other village, and more than four miles from us. So I never went to school, and know nothing. But my good aunt had persuaded my father to send Marie to a conventschool, and she was quite a scholar. So was my wife.
“ Now comes the miserable part of my story : —
“ There came to our village a terrible fever. No one who was taken down with it recovered. More than half the people in our village were swept away by it. First my mother died, then my aunt, then my father was taken down at my uncle’s house, where he happened to be ; and, in four days from the time he took to his bed, he died there. My wife and my sister were worn out with watching and grief, and, two days after my father’s death, they died, both in one hour. Then, in the midst of my wild grief, I was summoned to my uncle’s to hear the reading of my father’s will. I went. My uncle, a villanous little notary, and I, were there together. No one else was about the house. The notary produced a big parchment, which he said was my father’s last will. He explained to me, before he commenced reading it, that, two days before my father’s death, while I was away at Montreal to buy medicine, my father had sent for him ; that he came and drew this will at my father’s request, and after his dictation ; and that my uncle was not present when the will was drawn, and had not yet been informed of its contents. The will, he said, was witnessed by my wife and my sister and another person, whose name I had never heard before. He then read the will. It left all my father’s property to my uncle to dispose of as he pleased, except a miserable little tract of cedar swamp, which my father had lately bought to get fencing-timber from. This was willed to me. The will then went on to say that my father had full confidence in his brother that he would treat his children justly, and provide for them better than they could provide for themselves.
“ I did not believe that my father had ever made or intended to make such a will, nor that my wife and sister had ever signed it as. witnesses, knowing what it meant, and I do not now believe they did. I was mad with grief and rage. I denounced my uncle and the notary as forgers, swindlers, robbers, and every other evil thing I could think of. My uncle coolly said : ‘Nephew, you are not well ; you had better go to bed.’ The little notary took a pinch of snuff, and smiled a wicked smile. This so inflamed me, that I seized my uncle and the notary each by the throat, and rapped their heads together till they saw twenty thousand stars. I then became frightened at my own violence, as I always do when I hurt a man, and ran away and hid myself in my swamp, and stayed there two days and two nights with nothing to eat.
“ While I was there, the Devil, who is ever at the elbow of an angry man, put a miserable scheme of vengeance in my head, which it took me nearly a year to execute. It was a wretched fraud, as you will say when you hear it; yet I swear to you, Moran, that, during all the time I was planning and carrying out that sneaking business, I never once thought I was doing wrong.
“ I sometimes have a curious disorder which is not sickness.. The doctors call It a disease of the nerves, and give it a long name which I cannot speak. When this trouble is upon me, everything looks blue and strange. The fire burns blue on the hearth. The air seems full of smoke, every sound seems to come from an empty barrel. Even my own voice sounds like the voice of another man, and a very surly fellow at that, i can think well enough, and talk and act like other men ; but it all seems like the thinking, talking, and acting of another man. When I am very bad, my own thoughts and words sometimes lake me by surprise, as if another man had said something I had never before thought of.
“The first, worst, and longest attack of this kind that I ever had came upon me while I was hiding, shivering, and starving in the swamp, and lasted until I had been some two months on this island. Perhaps it was this that prevented me from seeing as I now see the wrong I was doing.
“ I went straight from my swamp to my uncle, told him that I had been mad with grief and surprise at the reading of the will; that I had since thought the matter over, and was satisfied that my father had done what was best for me, and what would have been best for my poor sister if she had lived ; that my wife and sister, who were wiser than I, and who had always loved and trusted him, my uncle, had, no doubt, thought my father was disposing of his property wisely and well when they signed the will as witnesses. I begged my uncle to forget what had passed, to excuse my conduct to the good notary, and be my friend.
“This he readily undertook to do, and from that time forward, as long as I stayed there, we seemed to be friends. Heaven forgive me; I stayed at his house, and ate his bread — execrable black bread — most of the time.
“ My father had given me some money, a good team of horses, a wagon, and some other things, when I was married. My mother also had left a little property, which had come to me, so that I was able to go and come, and work and play, as I pleased.
“ When I was hiding in the swamp, I discovered a black pool there, which seemed to gather in water from every direction, and to have no outlet. It was very deep and cold.
“ Coarse ,salt was then very cheap at Montreal. The ships that came from England for lumber and ashes used to come ballasted with salt. I brought a wagon-load of coarse gray salt from the city in the night, and salted the pool. I brought three other loads, and hid them near it. Why did I do this ? I had heard, when I was a little boy, of the discovery of a salt spring somewhere, and how rich men with piles of money had come to buy it,
“ By some means the deer found my salted pool, and came to it in great numbers, so that the ground around it was beaten like a path with their feet.
“ I took three men, one at a time, and showed them the pool and the deertracks, and let them taste the salted water. I charged each of them not to tell any one of my salt-spring,-—told them I had carried some of the water to Montreal, and had learned from one who knew all about such things that it was very valuable for the manufacture of salt. Of course the news spread fast, that I had discovered a salt-spring of great value in my swamp.
“Soon people from Montreal and other places began to visit this new wonder. One evening an old gentleman who wore spectacles, and spoke no French, and a young fellow who carried a note-book in which he often wrote with a pencil, and who jabbered all the time in French almost as bad as my English, came to our village, and stopped at the little tavern there. They inquired for me. I was sent for, and came. The youngster told me that they desired to visit and test my salt-spring. He said that the old gentleman was a scientific man, and that he himself was the editor of a newspaper in Montreal. I told them I should be happy to wait upon them next morning, and show them the spring.
“All this time, remember, if you please, there was a continual buzzing in my head, everything looked blue and dismal, every sound seemed hollow and sad, and, worse than all, I seemed to have within me two minds at the same time,—one thinking and planning as usual; and the other looking on, criticising, mocking. The doctors may say what they please, I believe I was possessed. by a devil. I went to my swamp that night, and was obliged to hide myself until three hunters had each killed a deer and carried it away. Toward morning the coast was clear, and I succeeded in putting three big sacks of salt into the pool unobserved.
“ I conducted the two gentlemen to the swamp. They had come out from the city in a light wagon, and had brought with them a small filter and a brass kettle. The old gentleman fixed the filter so that the water would run from it into the kettle. We then built a brisk fire under the kettle, and the old gentleman commenced filtering the water, first measuring it carefully with a quart measure. The black water came from the filter clear and beautiful. After we had filtered and boiled down I don’t know how many quarts, we let the filter run dry, and kept up a slow fire under the kettle until the thick brine in it was dried down into about a quarter of a pound of salt. I was astonished to see that the salt in the kettle was very much finer and whiter than the coarse gray salt I had put into the pool.
“ An old, red-nosed Yankee who loafed about our village, and who had been a schoolmaster before he became a common drunkard, plucked my sleeve, and led me aside when I had returned with the two salt-hunters to the little tavern.
“ 4 Baptiste,’ said he, ‘if you know what is good for your salt-spring, you will set up that little editor with some money.’
444 I’m afraid, Uncle Dan.’ said I,— everybody called him Uncle Dan,— ‘I’m afraid it will offend him to offer him money.’
“ 4 You ’re greener than cabbage/ said Uncle Dan. ‘ Here, you fellow with the note-book, come here.’
44 The young gentleman came to us, and asked Uncle Dan what he wanted.
“‘This young man/said Uncle Dan, ‘knows nothing about the newspaper business. Of course you found Ids spring all right, and a big thing. Now, how much will a first-rate puff cost ? He isn’t rich unless his spring turns out to be a fortune. Do the fair thing by him, and I ’ll warrant he ’ll do the fair thing by you.’
I should think/ said the younggentleman, 4 that ten pounds ($ 40) would be about right.’
44 I paid him the money before Uncle Dan had time to ask him to take less, as I saw he was about to do.
44 I then gave Uncle Dan a glass of whiskey, the young gentleman gave him another, and everything was satisfactory.
44 A day or two afterwards a flaming account of my salt-spring appeared in one of the Montreal newspapers. Uncle Dan read and translated it to me, and borrowed twenty-five shillings ($ 5) of me.
“Then people began to offer to buy my swamp of me. I always answered : 4 You do not offer me enough ; besides, I intend to sell to my uncle, if he wants to buy.’
“At last a gentleman from Vermont offered me five thousand pounds ($ 20,000). I answered him as I had answered the others, and then went to my uncle and said: —
“‘Uncle, a Yankee has offered me five thousand pounds for my land. Give me forty-five hundred pounds (f>18,000) for it I will take the money, and go away, and see what I can do with it Everything here reminds me of my dead. I shall go mad if I stay here.’
“ All this was true. If you want to have a lie believed, always tell as much truth with it as you can ; or, better still, keep the lie out of sight altogether. The truth is so much stronger than a lie, that 1 believe the Devil always tells the truth when he can make it answer his purpose by any means.
“ ' You speak wisely,’ said ray uncle ; ‘but how am I to get forty-five hundred pounds ?’
“£ Bah ! ’ said I, ‘ that is a bagatelle for you, uncle.’
“ ‘ I am going to Montreal to-morrow,’ said he, 'and I wall see if I can get the money. If I can, I will take the property.’
“ He went to the city the next day; and, the day after, we went to the notary. My uncle became the owner of the swamp, and I went to Montreal with my money.
I knew that my fraud would not be discovered at once, so I loitered several days at Montreal. I intended to go to New Orleans, where I had a cousin who was doing well. Before I got ready to leave I heard that my uncle had sold the swamp to the Yankee for six thousand pounds ($ 24,000).
“ My miserable trick was, after all, played at the expense of an innocent man. My uncle had made a cool fifteen hundred pounds ($ 6,000) out of the punishment which I had sneaked and lied so much to prepare for him. I became disgusted with myself. I changed my plans, and resolved to push straight West into the great wilderness, and hide myself among the savages.
“When I had come as far as here I said to myself, Where can a man hide better than in these islands ? There is no proof against me. I am in no danger of being pursued and arrested. My uncle can never make any one believe that I defrauded him as he defrauded the Yankee. His reputation for sharpness is too good for that. I have no one to please but myself. These islands are some of them wild and lonely enough for the greatest wretch alive. I will stay here awhile, at any rate. I found this shanty not claimed by any one, and took possession of it. I have been here and hereabouts ever since. A banker at Kingston pays me some interest on my money. That and what I can make by hunting and trapping is more than I can use here. I have added more than five hundred pounds ($ 2,000) to the money I brought from Montreal. I have never heard from my uncle since I came here. I am as happy here as I should be anywhere, and so I stay. The people think I am a great smuggler, like poor O’Donnel, and the custom-house officers watch me and visit me, as they did him. But I never smuggle, as I told you this morning. That is my story. When you have reached my age, you will have a happier story than mine, for you are not a wild man like me. Whether you win all you seek or not, you will always know what you are doing, and will, at least, try to do it like a man.”
At the conclusion of Baptiste’s long recital, the two friends refilled and relighted their pipes, which had long been cold and empty, and fell into a desultory conversation concerning the departed smuggler, O’Donnel. Moran’s superior knowledge of the English language had enabled him to pick up more of the traditions afloat upon that subject than had ever come to the ears of Baptiste. After they had discussed the affairs of the dead smuggler about an hour, Baptiste went lazily to the big chest, remarking as he went: “ Dees big box,—-I found heem here ven I come here. I ’in s’pose O’Donnel mose forgot to hide heem before he die.”
He then removed a large and varied assortment of bachelor’s dry goods, groceries, hardware, hats, caps, boots, and shoes, throwing them in wild confusion on the floor, until the chest seemed quite empty. He then stuck the point of his hunting-knife deep into what appeared to be the bottom of the chest, lifted it up, and disclosed the fact that the chest had a false, or, more properly speaking, a double bottom. The false bottom fitted so closely to the true one, that there was no room for anything a quarter of an inch thick between them. The removal of the false bottom brought to light an old yellow half-sheet of foolscap paper.
Baptiste took this up, and handed it to Moran, saying in French, “Read me these two words, if they are words.”
Moran instantly read the words pointed out to him. They were “shanty” and “ money.”
“ I suspected as much,” said Baptiste.
Moran sat down, and diligently scanned the paper, which had on one side what appeared to be three diagrams. The other side was blank. The diagrams were drawn apparently with a blunt lead-.pencil. The two words above mentioned were inscribed in rude imitation of printed letters, evidently with the same implement, one at each end of one of the diagrams.
One of the diagrams seemed to represent a crooked and intricate route among islands, — the smaller islands being fully outlined, and the larger ones being represented only by so much of their coast lines as lay along the supposed route. This diagram, Baptiste said, indicated, in his opinion, the route by which O’Donnel had transported his goods from shore to shore during the season of navigation. Baptiste felt sure that he had found and traced it.
The second diagram corresponded with the one above described, except that the supposed route sometimes went across the islands. Baptiste surmised that this represented the track by which the smuggler had transported his goods in sleighs when the river was closed with ice. He was sure he had traced it. The road across the islands, he said, was still visible by its effect on the vegetation to one who observed it closely. He said it came ashore at each end across a narrow channel, where so much of the sleigh-track as was visible from the main-land could be hidden in two minutes by covering it with snow.
The third diagram seemed to have been made purposely obscure. It consisted of a long and crooked series of small circles of uniform size placed at uniform distances. All the circles except the first and last had dotted lines across them, running in the general direction of the series. The first and last circles, having no dotted lines across them, were marked respectively “ money” and “ shanty.”
This diagram Baptiste called a string of devil’s beads, and said it had baffled him completely. If it was intended to represent islands, it showed them all of one size and shape, and at uniform distances from each other, which made it impossible to follow it among the real islands of the group, varying as they did in size, shape, and position.
“ Besides,” said Baptiste, “you cannot tell which way to start. There are three islands, any one of which may be meant by the little circle next to the one marked ’shanty.’ I fear we shall never find our way from ‘ shanty ’ to ‘ money.’ ”
So saying he replaced the paper on the bottom of the chest, put the false bottom over it, tumbled his miscellaneous stores back into the chest, and locked it. While he was doing this he explained to Moran that it was only a little over two years since he had found the false bottom and the paper under it. He said that a ball of shoemaker’s wax had found its way down to this board, and had stuck to it. In his efforts to remove the wax he had started the board from its place, and had so discovered it to be a false bottom. Upon removing it, he had found under it this paper, and nothing else.
It was now more than an hour after midnight. The two men retired to their couches, Baptiste to sleep, Moran to dream, but not to sleep. The Frenchman’s strange story, and the enigmatical diagram, kept his mind in a constant ferment of wild fancies, until daylight, and long afterwards.
Some two months afterwards, when the river was bridged with thick ice, Moran met Baptiste at the Tripe and Trotters, where he was an occasional, though not a frequent visitor.
It was Saturday evening, and a goodly company were there. Baptiste drank pretty freely, and became quite lively and chatty. About ten o’clock he went to ,the bar to pay his reckoning, also his compliments to the landlady, preparatory to going home. The landlady was a blooming English widow of about th irty-five.
“ W’y do you come so seldom, and leave so hearly, Mr. Batteese ? ” said the landlady.
“Eh, Madame ?” said Baptiste with an interrogative grimace.
“ W’y don’t you come hoffner and stay longer ? ” said the landlady, repeating her question, so as to make it more easily understood.
This time Baptiste caught her meaning, and, not wishing to be outdone in civility, he laid his hand upon his heart in a very impressive manner, saying, “ O Madame, eef I vill come here ver moche, and ver long stay, I sail ruin ze Tripe and Trottair. I sail like von leetle dog all ze time follow you roun’, and—vat you call — quarrel wiz every zhontilman zat vill say two, tree word to you.”
The landlady, who was not at all averse to Baptiste, laughed at his strangely worded compliment, called him a hodd fish, and cordially shook hands with him as he bade her good night.
He then started towards the door, but paused on his way to look at a game of cards which was in progress.
Two young men, sons of rich parents, had foolishly come into this rough company, and, more foolishly still, had allowed themselves to be drawn into a game of cards with two strangers, who were professional gamblers. It was this game which Baptiste stopped to look at. The gamblers were -fleecing the young men unmercifully, the victims being by this time excited and reckless. One of the gamblers favored Baptiste with a malignant scowl. Baptiste shrugged his shoulders, and stepped on lightly towards the door; as he was about to raise the latch, he seemed to change his mind. He paused, and an ashy pallor overspread his swarthy countenance ; he walked back to the card-table with unusual deliberation, and addressed the gamblers in a tone so low and soft that, judging from it alone, one would have thought he was asking a favor.
“ Zhontilmen,” said he, “ you are dam two swindleurs. You are robbing the bigad yong men. Your carte every von of heem he is marrrk.” One of the gamblers — a big, truculent bully — sprang to his feet with a great oath, put himself in a scientific attitude, and struck a quick, powerful blow at Baptiste. The latter avoided the blow by springing lightly aside, and then greatly astonished the gambler by seizing him with both hands, raising him high above his head, and clashing him to the floor with a force that threatened the integrity of bones and floor alike. He then turned upon the other gambler, for it was his habit on such occasions to pay his respects briefly to every one who stood opposed to him before he ran away. The other gambler, who was a spry little man, had retreated into a corner. When the enraged Frenchman turned upon him, he quickly drew from his vest pocket a very small pistol, and fired.
Baptiste staggered, but did not quite fall. Instantly he stood firm upon his feet again, and then for the first and last time did he draw the big huntingknife upon a human being. With this weapon in hand he sprang upon the little gambler like a wounded tiger. A dozen strong hands interposed to save the little reptile from being cut in pieces ; as it was he lost his left ear, and a thin slice off his left cheek, besides receiving a severe flesh wound in his left shoulder, —all from one half-arrested sweep of the big knife. Baptiste then staggered back into the arms of Moran, who was one of those who had interfered to prevent him from killing the gambler. He was now quite faint, and was carried to a bed in a room just back of the bar. Fortunately, there was a surgeon at hand, — a seedy, drunken, but skilful man, who haunted the Tripe and Trotters nightly. Him the landlady seized by main force, dragged him behind the bar, and showered upon his head copious libations of cold water, which had already done duty in the way of rinsing glasses.
“ Now, Doctor,” said she, “ do your best, and your scores for the last ’alfyear, and the next, too, you may consider paid.”
Thus refreshed and incited, the surgeon examined and dressed Baptiste’s wound promptly and skilfully. The ball had entered his right breast obliquely, had glanced around outside of the ribs, and was found lodged in the muscles of the back, whence it was easily extracted.
Everybody’s attention having been given exclusively to Baptiste, until it was ascertained that he was not dangerously wounded, the gamblers had been permitted to steal away. When their absence was at last noticed, search was made for them far up and down the road that ran along the riverbank, and upon another road which ran back northward from the river. When daylight came, the blood-stained tracks of the wounded gambler showed that he and his fellow had wallowed through the snow-drifts to the ice, and then made the best of their way through the islands to the New York shore.
It was well for them that they escaped, for, if they had fallen into the hands of the crowd at the Tripe and Trotters, they would have been roughly handled.
In about a week Baptiste was well enough to go to his cabin ; but when he got there he over-exerted himself providing firewood for his big chimney, and was taken down with a fever. He had good medical attendance, and the people thereabouts were very kind to him. Moran was with him every hour that he could spare from his work.
The fever was very severe, and lingered long. It was early in May when Baptiste was well enough to take his seat in his hunting-canoe, and then he was too weak for long voyages or hard toil of any kind.
About the 10th of May, Moran put the finishing stroke to the building he had undertaken to plan and superintend, and was ready to go and seek his fortune elsewhere.
He went to Smuggler’s Island, intending to make a long farewell visit. He arrived there in the evening, and found Baptiste much improved in health since he had last seen him, but still feeble and languid, compared with his former self.
They were sitting outside the shanty, smoking their pipes, and fighting mosquitoes, after sunset, when Baptiste, having mused a little while, said : “ Moran, you remember the turning-point in my fever last winter, — the time that the doctor called the crisis, when I lay senseless so many hours ? ”
“Yes. I was here then.”
“Well, I had a strange dream then. I dreamed that I had spread out before me that diagram — as you call it — with a word at each end of it. I thought the little circles grew and grew, and changed their shapes, until they became islands, many of them well known to me. Then I saw that the dotted lines were made of little stumps of bushes, cut off with a knife about an inch from the ground. Beside every little stump there lay a little flat pebble, such as they find on the shores of Lake Ontario, and in some places along the river-banks.”
“ That was a very strange dream.”
“ It will not seem so strange when I tell you that I had often seen some of these little stumps and pebbles on two of the islands near here, where I get firewood. I suppose that in my deep sleep, when all manner of memories were mingling in my brain, the old yellow paper and the little stumps and pebbles happened to stumble against each other, and each took its proper place beside the other, as would have been the case at any other time if I had happened to think of both in the same hour.”
“ Do you think there is anything in the dream ? ” said Moran, anxiously.
“ I don’t know whether there is any money in it or not, but I have found the lines of stumps and pebbles across three islands, corresponding to the dotted lines across the three circles nearest the one marked “shanty.” If you had not come here this evening, I should have gone after you to-morrow morning. Will you come and help me find out whether that diagram, as you call it, tells the truth or a lie ? ”
“Certainly I will,” said Moran with a good deal of excitement, “if it takes two months to decide the question.”
“It may take longer than that,” said Baptiste ; “ for if the island, ‘ money,’ happen to be a large island, we may have to hunt there a long lime. You remember there is no dotted line on that island.”
Baptiste seemed tired of the subject, and abruptly forced the conversation into another channel, whereupon Moran fell into the habit, for the first time in his life, of being inattentive to his friend’s remarks, and answering them at cross purposes.
They retired at an unusually early hour, but Moran could get no sleep until after daylight.
Then he fell into a troubled sleep, and dreamed that the Right Reverend, the Lord Bishop of Montreal, the landlady of the Tripe and Trotters, Baptiste, and himself were pitching golden quoits about three feet in diameter at little stumps about an inch high, for an immense pile of bank-notes of the denomination of one hundred pounds each. At the conclusion of the game, while the landlady was putting away the quoits in her snuff-box, and the bishop and Baptiste were each lighting his pipe with one of the bank-notes, he awoke with the sun shining in his eyes.
After breakfast the two friends freighted the big canoe with provisions for three days, including a good supply of tobacco. They also took with them two spades, two axes, a rifle, a shotgun, a good supply of ammunition, and two pairs of blankets. Thus armed and equipped they set out upon their voyage of discovery.
Baptiste steered directly for the island he had last explored. They landed, and Baptiste pointed out the line of little stumps and pebbles, reaching straight across the island.
“Zis trail,” said he, “ ees more as plain as a vagon road. I vas an idiot eet not for find wizout ze dream. My poor fazer vould eet find in von minute, and follow heem on ze ron, so vould mine oncle. Von dronk Indian scout vould find heem and follow heem in ze dark.”
“Every man to his trade,” said Moran in French. “You and I were not educated for trail-hunters.”
“You have reason,” replied Baptiste. “Now you go back, if you please, and bring the canoe around to this place. I must save my strength, or the doctor will be feeding me on bitter bark again.”
All that and the next day they toiled upon this trail. The little sfumps were rotten, and many of them gone altogether. The flat pebbles, being unlike the little stones that belonged on the islands, were very noticeable when visible ; but most of them were covered with dead leaves, and had to be dug up. The sun was still visible, on the afternoon of the third day, when they reached the island indicated by the circle marked “money.” To their great relief, it turned out to be a small island, thinly wooded. It was situated only about thirty rods from the south bank of the river, but was hidden from the main-land by a long and densely wooded island.
Baptiste took his spade, and examined the soil of the island at various points.
“ Here are,” said fee, “ about five inches of black mould below the leaves, and under that there is gravel. We must find a place where the mould is gone, or thin, or mixed with gravel. There is no use hunting among the roots of the big trees, for they were here before O’Donnel’s great-grandmother was born ; but if we find a root that has been cut, we must see what that means.”
They then went systematically to work, examining the ground with the points of their spades, commencing at the west end of the island, and thoroughly testing the ground, clear across the island as they advanced eastward.
They had thus examined perhaps one tenth of the surface of the island, when it became too dark to work. Then they built a fire. Baptiste made some excellent soup, seasoned with all manner of weeds, it is true, but so proportioned and harmonized as to produce a very agreeable and appetizing flavor. This, with the cold meat and bread which they had brought with them, afforded them a good supper. After supper they lighted their pipes, and talked an hour or more upon every subject but treasure-hunting. Baptiste then wrapped his blanket around him, and lay down for the night. Moran essayed to follow his example, but no sooner had he stretched himself upon the ground than he arose hastily, and went and lay down in another place.
“ Vat’s ze mattair ? ” said Baptiste.
“There were some little stones or something under my blanket,” said Moran.
“ Leetle stones, eh ? — leetle stones,” said Baptiste, springing up and pawing away the dead leaves where Moran had first lain down, “ vat beezness leetle stones have ope here among ze leaves, for deesturb zhontilmen’s rest, eh ? ”
He pursued his investigations in silence for a few minutes after the above remark. Moran looked on, and felt humiliated by the thought that he ought to have been as well aware as Baptiste that gravel above the vegetable mould was not the normal condition of the soil. Baptiste next fetched his spade, and marked off a rectangular space about six feet long and two and a half feet wide.
“Dig here,” said he to Moran, “if you would rather dig than sleep. I must rest.”
So saying, he wrapped himself in his blanket again, and was soon sound asleep,
Moran mended the fire so that it would afford him some light, and then fell to digging with a will. The spade was a new implement to him, and he did not make very satisfactory progress. But towards morning, having penetrated the gravel to the depth of about five feet, and having blistered his hands and lamed his shoulders, and being on the point of climbing' out of his pit to rest, his spade struck something which returned a wooden sound. He renewed his efforts with redoubled energy, and with no sense of pain or weariness left in him. In less than an hour he had laid bare the top, and most of the sides and ends, of a chest, which seemed to be a fac-simile of Baptiste’s big chest in the shanty, padlock and all.
He then awoke Baptiste, who yawned and stretched himself at least two minutes without intermission, and then took a brand, and went down into the pit, and examined the old rusty padlock. He tried it with the key of his own chest, but to no purpose. He then fetched his powder-horn, and deftly filled the old lock with powder. He then lighted a small bit of “punk” (a kind of rotten wood which takes fire from the merest spark, and then burnt: very slowly). He put the punk into the keyhole so that when nearly consumed it would fall into the lock and ignite the powder, sprang lightly ou of the pit, and retired several paces, taking Moran with him to await results. In about two minutes there was an explosion, which blew the old padlock into fragments.
“Now open ze ole box, and see vat you have find,” said Baptiste. “ I mose sleep von more leetle hour. I am no more good for something after I vas seek.”
So saying, he retired to his blanket once more, and was almost instantly asleep.
Moran, without stopping.to decide, at that time, which he ought to admire most in the Frenchman, his grand indifference to the contents of the chest or his generous confidence in him, proceeded to open the chest, and examine its contents as well as he could by the light he had. He saw that there was in one end of the chest a considerable pile of silver coins, and in the other a much larger hoard of gold coins. He had no very clear notion how much money there was, but he had seen and counted money enough to know that there was not one hundred thousand dollars, —the amount which the smuggler was reputed to have realized by his land sales. It was with a feeling of deep disappoint ment that he reflected that he and Baptiste would find no difficulty in carrying away this whole hoard of gold and silver. He sat and mused some time on the strange adventure in which he was engaged. The result of his cogitations was that the gold and silver in the chest did not constitute the sum total of the treasures left by the deceased smuggler, and that it would be childish to leave the island without further search. He was aroused from his reveries by the twittering of the early birds, and the appearance of daylight in the east. He then set about removing the coin from the chest. He wrapped it carefully in one of his blankets. He then sat down, and, being very drowsy and tired, he fell asleep, and of course nodded himself awake again instantly. But the momentary slumber had done the business. In his brief sojourn in dreamland the box he had just rifled metamorphosed itself into its fac-simile in the shanty, with the false bottom full in view. All that he remembered of his dream when he awoke was that same false bottom. He rushed to the canoe, seized one of the axes, returned to the pit, and split the apparent bottom of the chest into narrow slits so that it was easily removed, although it had been very carefully fitted in. The board thus ruthlessly reduced to kindlings turned out to be a false bottom, and beneath it there lay a very handsome deposit of notes of the Bank of England, in a perfect state of preservation. Of these Moran speedily took possession. He did not stop to count them, but could readily see that they were far more valuable than the hoard of coin. He put them with the coin, and resolved to emulate the generous confidence of Ids sleeping friend. So he wrapped himself in his remaining blanket, and composed his weary limbs to rest, well knowing that Baptiste would be awake hours before he would.
When he awoke it was afternoon. Baptiste had dragged the canoe ashore, and had turned it over the pit which contained the chest, having first so arranged the fresh earth which Moran had thrown out of the pit, that it was all hidden by the big canoe.
A kettle of savory soup was seething over the fire, and the last remaining fragments of bread and cold meat were laid out on a piece of white birch-bark.
Moran’s first business was to appease his keen appetite. This done, he examined the blanket in which he had wrapped the exhumed treasures. He found the money just as he had left it.
“You are a better scholar than I am,” said Baptiste ; “ count this money, if you please. Let us each take half of it, and be gone from here before we starve to death, with money enough to buy a month’s provision for an army.”
“But that is not fair,” said Moran. “ I am not entitled to half the money. I have done hardly anything towards finding it.”
“ You can take it,” said Baptiste, “ or put it back in the old box, just as you please ; I shall only take half of it.”
Thus overruled, Moran proceeded with all possible expedition to count the money and divide it. There was four hundred and twenty thousand dollars, and it was nearly dark when Moran had finished counting and dividing it.
When this was done, Baptiste said, with an air of great seriousness, “ Moran, zis money —belong not he to ze roy — vat you call ze — ze keeng ? ”
“ What king ? ” said Moran in French, a little impatiently. “This island is in the State of New York. The Yankees can probably take care of themselves.”
“True,” said Baptiste, in a musing tone in French. “ This money was no doubt buried here by a British subject. We find it in Yankee soil. If it were known that we had found it, there would be a dispute about it between the United States and Great Britain. Let us suppose that the Yankees win, — then it must be settled whether it belongs to the general government or the State of New York. On the contrary, if the British should win, then there would be a dispute between England and Upper Canada about it. We had better keep our little secret and our little money, and let the big-wigs drink their wine in peace.”
“ What do you propose to do, now you have so much money?” said Moran.
“ I shall go to Paris,” said Baptiste. “ I will employ masters, and learn to read and write the beautiful French language in its purity. In a word, I will become a Frenchman. I must leave here at once. If I stay here, I shall meet that little wretch who tried to shoot roe. He will again try to kill me. If he fails, I shall kill him. There is murder in that little scoundrel’s face. He is a much worse man than the big gambler who was with him. He and I will be safer with the sea between us.”
The two friends went to Montreal. There Baptiste so disguised himself that there was no danger of his being recognized.
He found, upon inquiry, that his uncle was in good health, was married again, and had two children. With Moran’s assistance, he made diligent inquiry for the Yankee who had purchased his swamp. He found that this unfortunate was living in Boston, and was worth half a million, notwithstanding his unlucky salt speculation. Baptiste, however, insisted upon remitting to him the amount he had paid for the salted pool, with legal interest carefully computed. He also caused Moran to prepare for publication a statement of the fraud he had practised in the matter of the salt-spring, the reparation he had made to the purchaser, and the fact that his uncle was not at all implicated in the fraud. This he insisted was due to his uncle’s innocent children, if not to himself. This statement was to be published after his departure for France. He then employed a competent French teacher, and set out for Europe by the first ship that left Montreal.
Of course, he and Moran arranged to correspond regularly and frequently.
As for Moran he went to the house of Mr. Nevins upon his arrival at Montreal. Baptiste had strongly advised him to confide to his old instructor and benefactor the whole story of the treasure he had found, and after much hesitation and reflection he had concluded to do so.
When Moran arrived at Mr. Nevins’s house, he found the old gentleman in his working-room, the garret of a tall house. Mrs. Nevins and Nellie were out shopping. The old architect met his late pupil with unaffected cordiality. Moran had made up his mind not to delay his disclosures an hour, lest his resolution to make them should be weakened. So he dashed into the subject at once, and greatly astonished his old master by a circumstantial narrative of his treasure-hunting and its result.
“ I congratulate you most sincerely,” said Mr. Nevins, when Moran had finished his story. “You are one of the few young men I know not liable to be spoiled by such a piece of fortune, and you must guard yourself well against giddiness., my friend. Your course is far more difficult than it would have been if you had remained dependent upon your profession for your bread.
“ But,” said Moran, “ ought I to keep this money ? There can never be found an heir of O’Donnel, that is morally certain; but has the government no claim ?”
“Fiddlesticks!” said Mr. Nevins. “ The very sensible remarks of your French friend upon that subject ought to set your patriotic scruples at rest. To show you that I have no doubt of your right to this money, I will gladly accept a loan of a thousand pounds of it for such time as it will be convenient for you to spare it. I have an opportunity to use that sum very profitably, and I can give you the best of security.”
“You are welcome to five times that sum, and I will not hear of security,” said Moran. “ I owe all that I am to you. But for your generosity I should have been obliged to surrender my articles and go into service very soon after my father’s death.”
“ You are always perfectly absurd upon that little subject,” said Mr. Nevins. “Your poor father paid for your articles upon the reasonable hypothesis that you would develop the usual degree of stupidity, and give the average amount of trouble. How did the facts turn out? In less than two years you had mastered the theory of our profession, and had become an excellent draughtsman. From that time forward I made money out of you all the time. I could hardly have procured at any price the valuable and faithful service you rendered me. I hope that my wife and I would have had the grace to treat you kindly, if you had been ordinarily or even uncommonly stupid. Your own professional knowledge must teach you that you earned more than you received during the last live years you were with me. I will borrow one thousand pounds of you, and no more, if you will lend it to me. I will waive giving security if you insist upon it, and I will hear no more of your being under obligation to me. As for this treasure trove of yours, I think you will do well not to publish it at present. Of course I shall tell Mrs. Nevins of your good fortune, but we had better say nothing to Nellie about it. Young girls find it hard to be burdened with a secret. I hear the ladies down stairs. Let us go down to them. They will be very glad to see you.”
1 About six months after the above conversation Mr. Moran and Nellie Nevins were married. They made an extended wedding tour in Europe. At Paris Moran renewed his intimacy with Baptiste, who had mastered the mysteries of reading and writing, was a diligent student of French literature, and was by fits and starts an enthusiastic amateur chemist.
My Jean Baptiste was born in Paris. Baptiste was his godfather and always promised to make him his heir.
When Mr. and Mrs. Moran returned to Montreal, the severe climate seemed to irritate the lady’s lungs, and they removed to St. Louis, where they have ever since resided. Mr. Moran is, as you know, very wealthy. He purchased a large tract of land when he first went to St. Louis, which is now in the best part of the city.
Father Moran has looked over my version of his story. He is pleased to say that I have been quite as conscientious and faithful to the facts of the case as was Mr. Abbott in his Life of Napoleon. He thinks I have not done full justice to the characters of Baptiste and Mr. and Mrs. Nevins. We must be critical, or we are nothing, here in Paris.
Jean Baptiste thinks I had better not attempt to describe the great exposition of last year in this brief note. He advises me to defer that task till I have time to write a good long letter. He sends his dutiful respects to you. Father and Mother Moran also salute you, and bid me add that we shall visit you, and take you to St. Louis with us, if you will go, upon our return to America next fall.
Dearest mamma, adieu.
PARIS, July 20.
To MRS. W. H. WILMAN, Lowell, Mass.