PRELUDE : AT THE HEAD OF THE BAY OF FUNDY.
THE Atlantic rushed across a mile or two of misty beach, boring into all its channels in the neck of Acadia. Twilight and fog blurred the landscape, but the eye could trace a long swell of earth rising gradually from the bay, through marshes, to a summit with a small stockade on its southern slope. .Sentinels pacing within the stockade felt the weird influence of that bald land. The guarded spot seemed an island in a sea of vapor, and the spring night was bringing darkness upon it.
The stockade inclosed a single building of rough logs clumsily put together, and chinked with the hard red soil. An unhewn wall divided the house into two rooms, and in one room were gathered less than a dozen men-at-arms. Their officer lay in one of the cupboard-like bunks, with his hands clasped under his head. Some of the men were already asleep ; others sat by the hearth, rubbing their weapons or spreading some garment to dry. A door in the partition opened, and the wife of one of the men came from the inner room.
“ Good-night, madame,” she said.
“ Good - night, Zélie,” answered a voice within.
“ If you have further need of me, you will call me, madame ? ”
“ Assuredly. Get to your rest, Tomorrow we may have stormy weather for our voyage home.”
The woman closed the door, and the face of the one who had hearkened to her turned again to the fireplace. It was a room repeating the men’s barrack in hewn floor, loophole windows, and rough joists.
This frontier outpost on the ridge since called Beausejour was merely a convenient halting-place for one of the lords of Acadia. It stood on a detached spot of his large seigniory, which he had received with other portions of western Acadia in exchange for his grant of Cape Sable.
Though in his early thirties, Charles de la Tour had seen long service in the New World. Seldom has a man from central France met the northern cold and sea air with so white a favor. His clean-shaven skin and the sunny, undecided color of his hair were like a child’s. Part of his armor had been unbuckled, and lay on the floor near him. He sat in a chair of twisted boughs, made of refuse from trees his men had dragged out of the neighboring forest for the building of the outpost. His wife sat on a pile of furs beside his knee. Her Huguenot cap was on the shelf above the fire. She wore a black gown, slashed in the sleeves with white, and a kerchief of lace pushed from her throat. Her black hair, which Zélie had braided, hung down in two ropes to the floor.
“ How soon, monsieur,” she asked, “ can you return to Fort St. John ?
“ With all speed possible, Marie. Soon, if we can work the miracle of moving a peace-loving man like Denys to action.”
“ Nicholas Denys ought to take part with you.”
“ Yet he will scarce do it.”
“ The king-favored governor of Acadia will some time turn and push him as he now pushes you.”
“ D’Aulnay hath me at sore straits,” confessed La Tour, staring at the flame, “ since he has cut off from me the help of the Bostonnais.”
“ They were easily cut off,” said Marie. “ Monsieur, those Huguenots of the colonies were never loving friends of ours. Their policy has been to weaken this province by helping the quarrel betwixt D’Aulnay and you. Now that D’Aulnay has strength at court, and has persuaded the king to declare you an outlaw, the Bostonnais think it wise to withdraw their hired soldiers from you. We have not offended the Bostonnais as allies ; we have only gone down in the world.”
La Tour stirred uneasily.
“ I dread that D’Aulnay may profit by this hasty journey I make to northern Acadia, and again attack the fort in my absence.”
“ He hath once found a woman there who could hold it,” said Marie, checking a laugh.
La Tour moved his palm over her cheek. Within his mind the province of Acadia lay spread from Penobscot River to the island of Sable, and from the southern tip of the peninsula now called Nova Scotia nearly to the mouth of the St. Lawrence. This domain had been parceled in grants : the north to Nicholas Denys; the centre and west to D’Aulnay de Charnisay; and the south, with posts on the western coast, to Charles de la Tour. Being Protestant in faith, La Tour had no influence at the court of Louis XIII. His grant had been confirmed to him from his father. He had held it against treason to France, and his loyal service, at least, was regarded until D’Aulnay de Charnisay became his enemy, Even in that year of grace 1645, before Acadia was diked by home-making Norman peasants or watered by their parting tears, contending forces had begun to trample it. Two feudal barons fought each other on the soil of the New World. “All things failing me ” — La Tour held out his wrists, and looked at them with a sharp smile.
“ Let D’Aulnay shake a warrant, monsieur. He must needs have you before he can carry you in chains to France.”
She seized La Tour’s hands, with a swift impulse of atoning to them for the thought of such indignity, and kissed his wrists. He set his teeth on a trembling lip.
“I should be a worthless, aimless vagrant without you, Marie. You are young, and I give you fatigue and heart-sickening peril instead of jewels and merry company.”
“ The merriest company for us at present, monsieur, are the men of our honest garrison. If Edelwald, who came so lately, complains not of this New World life, I should endure it merrily enough. And you know I seldom now wear the jewels belonging to our house. Our chief jewel is buried in the ground. ”
She thought of a short grave wrapped in fogs near Fort St. John ; of fair curls and sweet childish limbs, and a mouth shouting to send echoes through the river gorge ; of scamperings on the flags of the hall ; and of the erect and princely carriage of that diminutive presence the men had called “ my little lord.”
“ But it is better for the boy that he died, Marie,” murmured La Tour. “ He has no part in these times. He might have survived us to see his inheritance stripped from him.”
They were silent, until Marie said, “You have a long march before you to-morrow, monsieur.”
“ Yes ; we ought to throw ourselves into these mangers,” said La Lour.
One wall was lined with bunks like those in the outer room. In the lower row travelers’ preparations were already made for sleeping.
“ I am yet of the mind, monsieur,” observed Marie, “ that you should have made this journey entirely by sea.”
“ It would cost me too much in time to round Cape Sable twice. Nicholas Denys can furnish ship as well as men, if he be so minded. My lieutenant in arms next to Edelwald,” said La Tour, smiling over her, “ my equal partner in troubles, and my lady of Fort St. John will stand for my honor and prosperity until I return.”
Marie smiled back.
“ D’Aulnay has a fair wife, and her husband is rich and favored by the king, and has got himself made governor of Acadia in your stead. She sits in her own hall at Port Royal; but poor Madame D’Aulnay! — she has not thee!”
At this La Tour laughed aloud. The ring of his voice, and the clang of his breastplate which fell over on the floor as he arose, woke an answering sound. It did not come from the outer room, where scarcely a voice stirred among the sleepy soldiery, but from the top row of bunks. Marie turned white at this child wail soothed by a woman’s voice.
“ What have we here?” exclaimed La Tour.
“ Monsieur, it must be a baby ! ”
“ Who has broken into this post with a baby ? There may be men concealed overhead.”
He grasped his pistols, but no menat-arms appeared with the haggard woman who crept down from her hidingplace near the joists.
“ Are you some spy sent from D’Aulnay ? ” inquired La Tour.
“ Monsieur, how can you so accuse a poor outcast mother ! ” whispered Marie. The door in the partition was flung wide, and the young officer appeared with men at his back.
“ Have you found an ambush, Sieur Charles ? ”
“ We have here a listener. Edelwald,” replied La Tour, “ and there may be more in the loft above.
Several men sprang up the bunks, and moved some puncheons overhead. A light was raised under the dark roof canopy, but nothing rewarded its search. The much-bedraggled woman was young, with falling strands of silken hair, which she wound up with one hand, while holding the baby. Marie took the poor wailer from her with a divine motion, and carried it to the hearth.
“ Who brought you here ? ” demanded La Tour of the girl.
She cowered before him, but answered nothing. Her presence seemed to him a sinister menace against even his obscurest holdings in Acadia. The stockade was easily entered, for La Tour was unable to maintain a garrison there. All that open country lay sodden with the breath of the sea. From whatever point she had approached, La Tour could scarcely believe her feet came tracking the moist red clay alone.
“ Will you give no account of yourself ? ”
“You must answer monsieur,” encouraged Marie, turning from her cares with the child. It lay unwound from its misery on Marie’s knees, watching the new ministering power with accepting eyes. Feminine and piteous as the girl was, her dense resistance to command could only vex a soldier.
“ Put her under guard,”he said to his officer.
“ And Zélie must look to her comfort.” added Marie.
“ Whoever she may be,”declared La Tour, “ she hath heard too much to go free of this place. She must be sent in the ship to Fort St. John, and guarded there.”
“ What else could be done, indeed? ” asked Marie. “ The child would die of exposure here.”
The prisoner was taken to the other hearth; and the young officer, as he closed the door, half smiled to hear his lady murmur over the wretched little outcast, as she always murmured to ailing creatures, “ Let mother help you.”
AN ACADIAN FORTRESS.
At the mouth of the river St. John an island was lashed with drift, and tide terraces alongshore recorded how furiously the sea had driven upon the land. There had been a two days’ storm on the Bay of Fundy, subsiding to the clearest of cool spring evenings. An amber light lay on the visible world. The forest on the west was yet too bare ol leaf buds to shut away sunset.
A month later, the headlands would be lined distinctly against a blue and quickening sky by freshened air and light and herbage. Two centuries and a half later, long streaks of electric light would ripple on that surface, and great ships stand at ease there, and ferryboats rush back and forth. But in this closing dusk it reflected only the gray and yellow vaporous breath of April, and shaggy edges of a wilderness. The high shores sank their shadows farther and farther from the water’s edge.
Fort St. John was built upon a gradual ascent of rocks, which rose to a small promontory on the south side of the river. There were four bastions guarded with cannon, the northeast bastion swelling above its fellows in a round turret topped with battlements. On this tower the flag of France hung down its staff against the evening sky, for there was scarcely any motion of the air. That coast lay silent, like a pictured land, except a hint of falls above in the river.
It was ebb tide. The current of the St. John set out. toward the sea instead of rushing back on its own channel, and rocks swallowed at flood now broke the surface.
A plume of smoke sprang from one bastion, followed by the rolling thunder of a cannon shot. From a small ship in the bay a gun replied to this salute. She stood gradually clear of a headland, her sails hanging torn and one mast broken, anti sentinel and cannoneer in the bastion saw that she was lowering a boat. They called to people in the fortress, and all voices caught the news:
“ Madame has come at last! ”
Life stirred through the entire inclosure with a jar of closing doors and running feet.
Though not a large fortification, St. John was well and compactly built of cemented stone. A row of hewn log barracks stood against the southern wall, ample lor all the troops La Tour had been able to muster in prosperous times. There was a stone vault for ammunition. A well, a mill and great stone oven, and a storehouse for beaver and other skins were between the barracks and the commandant’s tower built massively into the northeast bastion. This structure gave La Tour the advantage of a high lookout, though it was much smaller than a castle he had formerly held at La Hève. The interior accommodated itself to such compactness, the lower floor having only one entrance and windows looking into the area of the fort, while the second floor was lighted through deep loopholes.
A drum began to beat, a tall fellow gave the word of command, and the garrison of Fort St. John drew up in line, facing the gate. A sentinel unbarred and set wide both inner and outer leaves, and a cheer burst through the deep-throated gateway, and was thrown back from the opposite shore, from forest and river windings. Madame La Tour, with two women attendants, was seen coming up from the water’s edge, while two men pushed off with the boat.
She waved her hand in reply to the shout.
The tall soldier went down to meet her, and paused, bareheaded, to make the salutation of a subaltern to his military superior. She responded with the same grave courtesy. But as he drew nearer she noticed him whitening through the dusk.
“ All has gone well, Klussman, at Fort St. John, since your lord left ? ”
“ Madame,” he said, with a stammer, “ the storm made us anxious about you.”
“ Have you seen D’Aulnay ? ”
“ You look haggard, Klussman.”
“If I look haggard, madame, it must come from seeing two women follow you, when I should see only one.”
He threw sharp glances behind her, as he took her hand to lead her up the steep path. Marie’s attendant was carrying the baby, and she lifted it for him to look at, the hairs on her upper lip moved by a good-natured smile. Klussman’s scowl darkened his mountain-born fairness.
“ I would rather, indeed, be bringing more men to the fort instead of more women,” said his lady, as they mounted the slope. “ But this one might have perished in the stockade where we found her; and your lord not only misliked her, as you seem to do, but he held her in suspicion. In a manner, therefore, she is our prisoner, though never went prisoner so helplessly with her captors.”
”Yes, any one might take such a creature,” said Klussman.
“ Those are no fit words to speak, Klussman.”
He was unready with his apology, however, and tramped on without again looking behind. Madame La Tour glanced at her ship, which would have to wait for wind and tide to reach the usual mooring.
“ Did you tell me you had news ? ” she was reminded to ask him.
“ Madame, I have some news, but nothing serious. ”
“If it be nothing serious, I will have a change of garments and my supper before I hear it. We have had a hard voyage.”
“ Did my lord send any new orders? ”
“ None, save to keep this poor girl about the fort: that is easily obeyed, as we can scarce do otherwise with her.”
“ I meant to ask in the first breath how he fared in the outset of his expedition.”
“ With a lowering sky overhead, and wet red clay underfoot. But I thanked Heaven, while we were tossing with a broken mast, that he was at least on film land and moving to his expectations.”
They entered the gateway, Madame La Tour’s cheeks tingling richly from the effort of climbing. She saluted her garrison, and her garrison saluted her, each with a courteous pride in the other, born of the joint victory they had won over D’Aulnay do Charnisay when he attacked the fort. Not a man broke rank until she entered her hall. There was a tidiness about the inclosure peculiar to places inhabited by women. It added grace to military appointments.
“ You miss the swan, madame,” noted Klussman. “ Le Rossignol is out again.”
“ When did she go ? ”
“ The night after my lord and you sailed northward. She goes each time in the night, madame.”
“ And she is still away ? ”
“ Yes, madame.”
“ And this is all you know of her ? ” “ Yes, madame. She went, and has not yet come back.”
“ But she always comes back safely. Though I fear,” said Madame La Tour on the threshold, “ the poor maid will some time fall into harm.”
He opened the door, and stood aside, saying under his breath, “ I would call a creature like that a witch instead of a maid.”
“ I will send for you, Klussman, when I have refreshed myself.”
“ Yes, madame.”
The other women filed past him, and entered behind his lady.
The Swiss soldier folded his arms, staring hard at that crouching vagrant brought from Beausejour. She had a covering over her face, and she held it close, crowding on the heels in front of her, as if she dared not meet his eye.
A girlish woman was waiting for Marie within the hall, and the two exchanged kisses on the cheek with sedate and tender courtesy.
“ Welcome home, madame.”
“ Home is more welcome to me because I find you in it, Antonia. Has anything unusual happened in the fortress while I have been setting monsieur on his way ? ”
“ This morning, about dawn, I heard a great tramping of soldiers in the hall. One of the women told me prisoners had been brought in.”
“ Yes. The Swiss said he had news. And how has the Lady Dorinda fared ?”
“ Well, indeed. She has described to me three times the gorgeous pageant of her marriage.”
They had reached the fireplace, and Marie laughed as she warmed her hands before a pile of melting logs.
“ Give our sea-tossed bundle and its mother a warm seat, Zélie,” she said to her woman.
The unknown girl was placed near the hearth corner, and constrained to take upon her knees an object which she held indifferently. Antonia’s eyes rested on her, detecting her half-concealed face, with silent disapproval.
“ We found a child on this expedition.”
It hath a stiffened look, like a papoose.” observed Antonia. “Is it well in health ? ”
“ No; poor baby. Attend to the child.” said Marie sternly to the mother ; and she added, “ Zéfiie must go directly with me to my chests before she waits on me, and bring down garments for it to this hearth.”
“ Let me this time be your maid,” said Antonia.
“ You may come with me and be my resolution, Antonia; for I have to set about the unlocking of boxes which hold some sacred clothes.”
“ I never saw you lack courage, madame, since I have known you.”
“ Therein have I deceived you, then,” said Marie, throwing her cloak on Zélie’s arm, “for I am a most cowardly creature in my affections, Madame Bronck.”
They moved toward the stairs. Antonia was as perfect as a slim and blueeyed stalk of flax. She wore the laced bodice and small cap of New Holland. Her exactly spoken French denoted all the neat appointments of her life. This Dutch gentlewoman had seen much of the world; having traveled from Fort Orange to New Amsterdam, from New Amsterdam to Boston, and from Boston with Madame La Tour to Fort St. John in Acadia. The three figures ascended in a line the narrow stairway, which made a diagonal band from lower to upper corner of the remote hall end. Zélie walked last, carrying her lady’s cloak. At the top a little light fell on them through a loophole.
” Was Mynheer La Tour in good heart for his march?” inquired Antonia, turning from the waifs brought back to the expedition itself.
Stout-hearted enough ; but the man to whom he goes is scarce to be counted on. We Protestant French are all held alien by Catholics of our blood. Edelwald will move Denys to take arms with us, if any one can. My lord depends much upon Edelwald. This instant,” said Marie, with a laugh, “ I find the worst of all my discomforts these disordered garments.”
The stranger left by the fire gazed around the dim place, which was lighted only by high windows in front. The mighty hearth, inclosed by settles, was like a roseate side chamber to the hall. Outside of this the stone-paved floor spread away unevenly. She turned her eyes from the arms of La Tour over the mantel to trace seamed and footworn flags, and noticed in the distant corner at the bottom of the stairs that they gave way to a trap door of timbers. This was fastened down with iron bars, and had a huge ring for its handle. Her eyes rested on it in fear, betwixt the separated settles.
But it was easily lost sight of in the fire’s warmth. She had been so chilled by salt air and spray as to crowd close to the flame and court scorching. Her white face kindled with heat. She threw back her mufflers, and, the comfort of the child occurring to her, she looked at its small face through a tunnel of clothing. Its exceeding stillness awoke but one wish, which she dared not let escape in words.
These stone walls readily echoed any sound. So scantily furnished was the great hall that it could not refrain from echoing. There were some chairs and tables not of colonial pattern, and a buffet holding silver tankards and china; but these seemed lost in space. Opposite the fireplace hung two portraits, — one of Charles La Tour’s father, the other of a former maid of honor at the English court. The ceiling of wooden panels had been brought from La Tour’s castle at Cape Sable ; it answered the flicker of the fire with lines of faded gilding.
The girl dropped her wrappings on the bench, and began to unroll the baby, as if curious about its state.
“ I believe it is dead,” she whispered.
But the clank of a long iron latch which fastened the outer door was enough to deflect her interest from the matter. She cast her cloak over the baby, and held it loosely on her knees, with its head to the fire. When the door shut with a crash, and some small object scurried across the stone floor, the girl looked out of her retreat with fear. Her eyelids and lips fell wider apart. She saw a big-headed brownie coming to the hearth, clad, with the exception of its cap, in the dun tints of autumn woods. This creature, scarcely more than two feet high, had a woman s face, of beaklike formation, projecting forward. She was as bright-eyed and light of foot as any bird. Moving within the inclosure of the settles, she hopped up with a singular power of vaulting, and seated herself, stretching toward the fire a pair of spotted seal moccasins. These were so small that the feet on which they were laced seemed an infant’s, and sorted strangely with the mature, keen face above them. Youth, age, and wise sylvan life were brought to a focus in that countenance.
To hear such a being talk was like being startled by spoken words from a bird.
“ I ’m Le Rossignol,” she piped out, when she had looked at the vagrant girl a few minutes, “ and I can read your name on your face. It’s Marguerite.”
The girl stared helplessly at this midget seer.
“ You ’re the same Marguerite that was left on the Island of Demons a hundred years ago. You may not know it, but you ’re the same. I know that downward look, and soft, crying way, and still tongue, and the very baby on your knees. You never bring any good, and words are wasted on you. But don ’t smile under your sly mouth, and think you are hiding anything from Le Rossignol.”
The girl crouched deeper into her clothes, until those unwinking eyes relieved her by turning with indifference toward the chimney.
” I have no pity for any Marguerite,” Le Rossignol added, and she tossed from her head the entire subject with a cap made of white gull breasts. A brush of red hair stood up in thousands of tendrils, exaggerating by its nimbus the size of her upper person. Never had dwarf a sweeter voice. If she had been compressed in order to produce melody, her tones were compensation enough. She made lilting sounds while dangling her feet to the blaze, as if she thought in music.
Le Rossignol was so positive a force that she seldom found herself overborne by the presence of large human beings. The only man in the fortress who saw her without superstition was Klussman. He inclined to complain of her antics, but not to find magic in her flights and returns. At that period deformity was the symbol of witchcraft. Blame fell upon this dwarf when toothache or rheumatic pains invaded the barracks, especially if the sufferer had spoken against her unseen excursions with her swan. Protected from childhood by the family of La Tour, she had grown an autocrat, and bent to nobody except her lady.
“ Where is my clavier ? ” exclaimed Le Rossignol. “ I heard a tune in the woods which I must get out of my clavier : a green tune, the color of quickening lichens ; a dropping tune with sap in it; a tune like the wind across inland lakes.”
She ran along the settle, and thrust her head around its high back.
Zélie, with white garments upon one arm, was setting solidly forth down the uncovered stairs, when the dwarf arrested her by a cry.
“Go back, heavy-foot, — go back and fetch me my clavier.”
“Mademoiselle the nightingale has suddenly returned,” muttered Zélie, ill pleased.
“Am I not always here when my lady comes home ? I demand the box wherein my instrument is kept.”
“ What doth your instrument concern me ? Madame has sent me to dress the baby.”
“ Will you bring my clavier?”
The dwarf’s scream was like the weird high note of a wind-harp. It had its effect on Zélie. She turned back, though muttering against the overruling of her lady’s commands by a creature like a bat, who could probably send other powers than a decent maid to bring claviers.
“And where shall I find it?” she inquired aloud. “Here have I been in the fortress scarce half an hour, after all but shipwreck, and I must search out the belongings of people who do naught but idle.”
“ Find it where you will. No one hath the key but myself. The box may stand in Madame Marie’s apartment, or it may be in my own chamber. Such matters are blown out of my head by the wind along the coast. Make haste to fetch it. so I can play when Madame Marie appears.”
Le Rossignol drew herself up the back of the settle, and perched at ease on the angle farthest from the five. She beat her heels lightly against her throne, and hummed, with her face turned from the listless girl who watched all her antics.
Zélie brought the instrument case, unlocked it, and handed up a crooknecked mandolin and its small ivory plectrum to her tyrant. At once the hall was full of tinkling melody. The dwarf’s threadlike fingers ran along the neck of the mandolin, and as she made the ivory disk quiver among its strings her head swayed in rapturous singing.
Zélie forgot the baby. The garments intended for its use were spread upon the settle near the fire. She folded her arms, and wagged her head with Le Rossignol’s. But while the dwarf kept an eye on the stairway, watching like a lover for the appearance of Madame La Tour, the outer door again clanked, and Klussman stepped into the hall. His big presence had instant effect on Le Rossignol. Her music tinkled louder and faster. The playing sprite, sitting half on air, gamboled and made droll faces to catch his eye. Her vanity and self-satisfaction, her pliant gesture and skillful wild music, made her appear some soulless little being from the woods who mocked at man’s tense sternness.
Klussman took little notice of any one in the hall, but waited by the closed door so relentless a sentinel that Zélie was reminded of her duty. She made haste to bring perfumed water in a basin, and turned the linen on the settle. She then took the child from its mother’s limp hands, and exclaimed and muttered under her breath as she turned it on her knees.
“ What hast thou done to it since my lady left thee?” inquired Zélie sharply. But she got no answer from the girl.
Unrewarded for her minstrelsy by a single look from the Swiss, Le Rossignol quit playing, and made a fist of the curved instrument to shake at him, and let herself down the back of the settle. She sat on the mandolin box in shadow, vaguely sulking, until Madame La Tour, fresh from her swift attiring, stood at the top of the stairway. That instant the half-hid mandolin burst into quavering melodies.
“Thou art back again. Nightingale?” called the lady, descending.
“ Yes, Madame Marie.”
“ Madame ! ” exclaimed Klussman, and as his voice escaped repression it rang through the hall. He advanced, but his lady lifted her finger to hold him back.
“ Presently, Klussman. The first matter in hand is to rebuke this runaway.”
Marie’s firm and polished chin, the contour of her glowing month, and the kindling beauty of her eyes were forever fresh delights to Le Rossignol. The dwarf watched the shapely and majestic woman moving down the hall.
“Madame,” besought Zélie. looking anxiously around the end of the settle. But she also was obliged to wait. Marie extended a band to the claws of Le Rossignol, who touched it with her beak.
“Thou hast very greatly displeased me.”
“ Yes, Madame Marie,” said the culprit, with resignation.
“ How many times have you set all our people talking about these witch flights on the swan, and sudden returns after dark ?”
“ I forget, Madame Marie.
“ In all seriousness, thou shalt be well punished for this last,” said the lady severely.
“ I was punished before the offense. Your absence punished me, Madame Marie.”
“A bit of adroit flattery will not turn aside discipline. The smallest vassal in the fort shall know that. A day in the turret, with a loaf of bread and a jug of water, may put thee in better liking to stay at home.”
“ Yes, Madame Marie,” assented the dwarf, with smiles.
“ And I may yet find it in my heart to have that swan’s neck wrung.”
“ Shubenacadie’s neck ! Oh, Madame Marie, wring mine! It would be the death of me if Shubenacadie died. Consider how long I have had him. And his looks, my lady ! He is such a pretty bird.”
“ We must mend that dangerous beauty of his. If these flights stop not, I will have his wings clipped.”
“ His satin wings, — his glistening, polished wings.” mourned Le Rossignol, “ tipped with angel-finger feathers! Oh, Madame Marie, my heart’s blood would run out of his quills ! ”
“ It is a serious breach in the discipline of this fortress for even you to disobey me constantly, said the lady, again severely, though she knew her lecture was wasted on the human brownie.
Le Rossignol poked and worried the mandolin with antennæ-like fingers, and made up a contrite face.
The dimness of the hall had not covered Klussman’s large pallor. The emotions of the Swiss passed over the outside of his countenance, in bulk like himself. His lady often compared him to a noble young bullock or other wellconditioned animal. There Was in Klussman much wholesomeness and excuse for existence.
“ Now, Klussman,” said Marie, meeting her lieutenant with the intentness of one used to sudden military emergencies.
He trod straight to the fireplace, and pointed at the strange girl, who hid her face.
“ Madame, I have come in to speak of a thing you ought to know. Has that woman told you her name ? ”
“ No, she hath not. She hath kept a close tongue ever since we found her at the outpost.”
” She ever had a close tongue, madame, but she works her will in silence.
It hath been no good will to me. and it will be no good will to the Fort of St. John.”
“ Who is she, Klussman ? ”
“ I know not what name she bears now, but two years since she bore the name of Marguerite Klussman.”
“ Surely she is not your sister ? ”
“ No, madame. She is only my wife.” He lifted Ids lip, and his blue eyes stared at the muffled culprit.
“We knew not you had a wife when you entered our service, Klussman.”
“ Nor had I, madame. D’Aulnay de Charnisay had already taken her.”
“ Then this woman does come from D’Aulnay de Charnisay ? ”
“Yes, madame. And if you would have my advice, I say, put her out of the gate this instant, and let her find shelter with our Indians above the falls.”
“ Madame,” exclaimed Z#233;lie. lifting the half-nude infant, and thrusting it before her mistress with importunity which could wait no longer, “of your kindness look at this little creature. With all my chafing and sprinkling I cannot find any hie in it. That girl hath let it die on her knees, and hath not made it known! ”
Klussman’s glance rested on the body with that abashed hatred which a man condemns in himself when its object is helpless.
“ It is D’Aulnay’s child,” he muttered, as if stating abundant reason for its taking off.
“ I have brought an agent from D’Aulnay and D’Aulnay’s child into our fortress.” said Madame La Tour, speaking toward Marguerite’s silent cover, under which the girl made no sign of being more than a hidden animal. Her stern face traveled from mother back to tiny body.
There is nothing more touching than the emaciation of a baby. Its sunken temples and evident cheekbones, the line of its jaw, the piteous parted lips and thin neck, were all reflected in Marie’s eyes. Her entire figure softened, and passionate motherhood filled her. She took the still pliant shape from Zélie, held it, in her hands, and finally pressed it against her bosom. No sign of mourning came from the woman called its mother.
“This baby is no enemy of ours,” trembled Madame La Tour. “ I will not have it even reproached with being the child of our enemy. It is my little dead lad come again to my bosom. How soft, are his dear limbs ! And this child died for lack of loving while I went with empty arms! Have you suffered, dear?
It is all done now. Mother will give you kisses — kisses. O baby — baby ! ” Klussman turned away, and Zélie whimpered. But Le Rossignol thrust her head around the settle to see what manner of creature it was over which Madame Marie sobbed aloud.
FATHER ISAAC JOGUES.
The child abandoned by La Tour’s enemy had been carried to the upper floor, and the woman sent with a soldier’s wife to the barracks; yet Madame La Tour continued to walk the stone flags, feeling that small skeleton on her bosom and the pressure of death on the air.
Her Swiss lieutenant opened the door and uttered a call. Presently, with clatter of hoofs on the pavement, and a mighty rasping of the half-tree which they dragged, in burst eight Sable Island ponies, — shaggy fellows, smaller than mastiffs, yet with large heads. The settles were hastily cleared away for them, and they swept their load to the hearth. As soon as their chain was unhooked these fairy horses shot out again, and their joyful neighing could be heard as they scampered around the fort to their stable. Two men rolled the log into place, set a table and three chairs, and one returned to the cook-house while the other spread the cloth.
Claude La Tour and his wife, the maid of honor, seemed to palpitate in their frames with the flickering expressions of firelight. The silent company of these two people was always enjoyed by Le Rossignol. She knew their disappointments, and liked to have them stir and sigh. In the daytime, the set courtier smile was sadder than a pine forest. But the chimney’s huge throat drew in the hall’s heavy influences, and when the log was fired not a corner escaped its glow. The man who laid the cloth lighted candles in a silver candelabrum and set it on the table, and carried a brand to waxlights which decorated the buffet.
These cheerful preparations for her evening meal recalled Madame La Tour to the garrison’s affairs. Her Swiss lieutenant yet stood by, his arms and chin settled sullenly on his breast; reluctant to go out and pass the barrack door where his wife was sheltered.
“ Are sentinels set for the night, Klussman ? ” inquired the lady.
He stood erect, and answered, “ Yes, madame.”
“ I will not wait for my supper before I hear your news. Discharge it now.
I understand the grief you bear, my friend. Your lord will not forget the faithfulness you show toward us.”
“ Madame, if I may speak again, put that woman out of the gate. If she lingers around, I may do her some hurt when I have a loaded piece in my hand. She makes me less a man.
“ But, Klussman, the Sieur de la Tour, whose suspicions of her you have justified, strictly charged that we restrain her here until his return. She has seen and heard too much of our condition.”
“ Out Indians would hold her safe enough, madame.”
“Yet she is a soft, feeble creature, and much exhausted. Could she bear their hard living ? ”
“ Madame, she will requite whoever shelters her with shame and trouble. If D’Aulnay has turned her forth, she would willingly buy back bis favor by opening this fortress to him. If he has not turned her forth, she is here by his command. I have thought out all these things; and, madame, I shall say nothing more, if you prefer to risk yourself in her hands instead of risking her with the savages.”
The dwarf’s mandolin trembled a mere whisper of sound. She leaned her large head against the settle and watched the Swiss denounce his wife.
“You speak good military sense,” said the lady, “ yet there is monsieur’s command; and I cannot bring myself to drive that exhausted creature to a cold bed in the woods. We must venture — we cannot do less — to let her rest a few days under guard. Now let me hear your news.”
“ It was only this, madame: Word was brought in that two priests from Montreal were wandering above the falls, and trying to cross the St. John in order to make their way to D’Aulnay’s fort at Penobscot. So I set after them and brought them in, and they are now in the keep, waiting your pleasure.”
“ Doubtless you did right,” hesitated Madame La Tour. “ Even priests may be working us harm, so hated are we of Papists. But have them out directly, Klussman. We must not be rigorous. Did they bear any papers ? ”
“No, madame; and they said they had naught to do with D’Aulnay, but were on a mission to the Abenakis around Penobscot, and had lost their course and wandered here. One of them is that Father Isaac Jogues who was maimed by the Mohawks, when he carried papistry among them ; and the other is his donné. a name these priests give to any man who of his own free will goes with them to be servant of the mission.”
“ Bring them out of the keep,” said Madame La Tour.
The Swiss walked with ringing foot toward the stairway, and dropped upon one knee to unbar the door in the pavement. He took a key from his pocket and turned it in the lock, and, as he lifted the heavy leaf of beams and crosspieces, his lady held over the darkness a candle which she had taken from one of the buffet sconces. Out of the vault rose a chill breath, from which the candle flame recoiled.
“ Monsieur,” she spoke downward, “ will you have the goodness to come up with your companion ? ”
Her voice resounded in the hollow ; and some movement occurred below as soft-spoken answer was made :—
“ We come, madame.”
A cassocked Jesuit appeared under the light, followed by a man wearing the ordinary dress of a French colonist. They ascended the stone steps, and Klussman replaced the door with a clank which echoed around the hall. Marie gave him the candle, and with clumsy touch he fitted it to the sconce while she led her prisoners to the fire. The Protestant was able to dwell with disapproval on the Jesuit’s black gown, though it pioved the hard service of a missionary priest; the face of Father Jogues none but a savage could resist.
His downcast eyelids were like a woman’s. and so was his delicate mouth. The cheeks, shading inward from their natural oval, testified to a life of hardship. His full and broad forehead, bordered by a fringe of hair left around his tonsure, must have overbalanced his lower face, had that not been covered by a short beard, parted on the upper lip and peaked at the end. His eyebrows were well marked, and the large-orbed eyes seemed so full of smiling meditation that Marie said to herself, “This lovely,, woman-looking man hath the presence of an angel, and we have chilled him in our keep ! ”
“ Peace be with you, madame,” spoke Father Jogues.
“ Monsieur, I crave your pardon for the cold greeting you have had in this fortress. We are people who live in perils, and we may be over-suspicious.”
“ Madame, I have no complaint to bring against you.”
Both men were shivering, and she directed them to places on the settle. They sat where the vagrant girl had huddled. Father Jogues warmed his hands, and she noticed how abruptly serrated by missing or maimed fingers was their tapered shape. The man who had gone out to the cook-house returned with platters, and, in passing the Swiss lieutenant, gave him a hurried word, on which the Swiss left the hall. The two men made space for Father Jogues at their lady’s board, and brought forward another table for his donné.
“ Good friends,” said Marie, “ this Huguenot fare is offered you heartily, and I hope you will as heartily take it, thereby excusing the hunger of a woman who has just come in from seafaring.”
“ Madame,” returned the priest, “ we have scarcely seen civilized food since leaving Montreal, and we need no urging to enjoy this bounty. But, if you permit, I will sit here beside my brother Lalande.”
“ As you please,” she answered, glancing at the plain young Frenchman in colonial dress with suspicion that he was made the excuse for separating Romanist and Protestant.
Father Jogues saw her glance and read her thought, and silently accused himself of cowardice for shrinking, in his maimed state, from her table with the instincts of a gentle-born man. He explained, resting his hand upon the chair which had been moved from the lady’s to his servant’s table : —
“ We have no wish to be honored above our desert, madame. We are only humble missionaries, and often, while carrying the truth, have been thankful for a meal of roots or berries in the woods.”
“Your humility hurts me, monsieur. On the Acadian borders we have bitter enmities, but the fort of La Tour shelters all faiths alike. We can hardly atone to so good a man for having thrust him into our keep.”
Father Jogues shook his head, and put aside this apology with a gesture. The queen of France had knelt and kissed his mutilated hands, and the courtiers of Louis had praised his martyrdom. But such ordeals of compliment were harder for him to endure than the teeth and knives of the Mohawks.
As soon as Le Rossignol saw the platters appearing, she carried her mandolin to the lowest stair step and sat down to play; a quaint minstrel, holding an instrument almost as large as herself. That part of the household who lingered in the rooms above owned this accustomed signal and appeared on the stairs : Antonia Bronck, still disturbed by the small skeleton she had seen Zélie dressing for its grave ; and an elderly woman, of great bulk and majesty, with sallow hair and face, who wore, enlarged, one of the court gowns which her sovereign, the queen of England, had often praised. Le Rossignol followed these two ladies across the hall, alternately aping the girlish motion of Antonia and, her elder’s massive progress. She considered the Dutch gentlewoman a sweet interloper, who might, on occasions, be pardoned; but Lady Dorinda was the natural antagonist of the dwarf in Fort St. John. Marie herself seated her mother-in-law, with the graceful deference of youth to middle age and of present power to decayed grandeur. Lady Dorinda was not easy to make comfortable. The New World was hardly her sphere. In earlier life, she had learned in the school of the royal Stuarts that some people are, by divine right, immeasurably better than others, and experience had thrust her down among those unfortunate others.
Seeing there were strange men in the hall, Antonia divined that the prisoners from the keep had been brought up to supper. But Lady Dorinda settled her chin upon her necklace, and sighed a large sigh that priests and rough menat-arms should weary eyes once used to revel in court pageantry. She looked up at the portrait of her dead husband, which hung on the wall. He had been created the first knight of Acadia ; and though this honor came from her king, and his son refused to inherit it after him, Lady Dorinda believed that only the misfortunes of the La lours had prevented her from being a colonial queen.
“ Our chaplain being absent in the service of Sieur de la Tour,” spoke Marie, “ will monsieur, in his own fashion, bless this meal ?”
Father Jogues spread the remnant of his hands, but Antonia did not hear a word he breathed. She was again in Fort Orange. The Iroquois stalked up hilly paths, and swarmed around the plank huts of Dutch traders. With the savages walked this very priest, their patient drudge until some of them blasphemed, when he sternly and fearlessly denounced the sinners.
Supper was scarcely begun when the Swiss lieutenant came again into the hall and saluted his lady.
“ What troubles us, Klussman ? ” she demanded.
“ There is a stranger outside.”
“ What does he want ? ”
“ Madame, he asks to be admitted to Fort St. John.”
Is he alone ? Hath he a suspicious look ? ”
“ No, madame. He bears himself openly, and like a man who is of consequence.”
“ How many followers has he ? ”
“ A dozen, counting Indians. But all of them he sends back to camp with our Etchemins.”
“ And well he may. We want no strange followers in the barracks. Have you questioned him ? Whence does he come ? ”
“ From Fort Orange, in the New Netherlands, madame.”
“ He is then Hollandais.” Marie turned to Antonia Bronck, and was jarred by her blanching face.
“ What is it, Antonia ? You have no enemy to follow you into Acadia? ”
The flaxen head was shaken for reply, “ But what brings a man from Fort Orange here ? ”
“ There be nearly a hundred men in Fort Orange,” whispered Antonia.
“ He says,” announced the Swiss, “ that he is cousin and agent of the seignior they call the patroon, and his name is Van Corlaer.”
“ Do you know him, Antonia ? ”
“ And is he kindly disposed to you ? ”
“ He was the friend of my husband, Jonas Bronck,” trembled Antonia.
“ Admit him,” said Marie to her lieutenant.
“ Alone, madame ? ”
“ With all his followers, if he wills it. And bring him as quickly as you can to this table.”
“ We need Edelwald to manage these affairs, added the lady of the fort, as her subaltern went out. “ The Swiss is faithful, but he has manners as rugged as his mountains.”
Mary Hartwell Catherwood.