Old Kaskaskia: In Four Parts. Part First


EARLY in the century, on a summer evening, Jean Lozier stood on the bluff looking at Kaskaskia. He loved it with the homesick longing of one who is born for towns and condemned to the fields. Moses looking into the promised land had such visions and ideals as this old lad cherished. Jean was old in feeling, though not yet out of his teens. The training - masters of life had got him early, and found under his red sunburn and knobby joints, his black eyes and bushy eyebrows, the nature that passionately aspires. The town of Kaskaskia was his sweetheart. It tantalized him with advantage and growth while he had to turn the clods of the upland. The long peninsula on which Kaskaskia stood, between the Okaw and the Mississippi rivers, lay below him in the glory of sunset. Southward to the point spread lands owned by the parish, and known as the common pasture. Jean could see the church of the Immaculate Conception and the tower built for its ancient bell, the convent northward, and all the pleasant streets bowered in trees. The wharf was crowded with vessels from New Orleans and Cahokia, and the arched stone bridge across the Okaw was a thoroughfare of hurrying carriages.

The road at the foot of the bluff, more than a hundred feet below Jean, showed its white flint belt in distant laps and stretches through northern foliage. It led to the territorial governor’s countryseat of Elvirade ; thence to Fort Chartres and Prairie du Rocker ; so on to Cahokia, where it met the great trails of the far north. The road also swarmed with carriages and riders on horses, all moving toward Colonel Pierre Menard’s house. Jean could not see his seignior’s chimneys for the trees and the dismantled and deserted earth-works of Fort Gage. The fort had once protected Kaskaskia, but in these early peaceful times of the Illinois Territory it no longer maintained a garrison.

The lad guessed what was going on: those happy Kaskaskians, the fine world, were having a ball at Colonel Menard’s. Summer and winter they danced, they made fêtes, they enjoyed life. When the territorial Assembly met in this capital of the West, he had often frosted himself late into the winter night, watching the lights and listening to the music in Kaskaskia. Jean Lozier knew every bit of its history. The parish priest, Father Olivier, who came to hear him confess because he could not leave his grandfather, had told it to him. There was a record book transmitted from priest to priest from the earliest settlement of Cascasquia of the Illinois. Jean loved the story of young D’Artaguette, whom the boatmen yet celebrated in song. On moonlight nights, when the Mississippi showed its broad sheet four miles away across the level plain, he sometimes fooled himself with thinking he could see the fleet of young soldiers passing down the river, bearing the French flag; phantoms proceeding again to their tragedy and the Indian stake.

He admired the seat where his seignior lived in comfort and great hospitality, but all the crowds pressing to Pierre Menard’s house seemed to him to have less wisdom than the single man who met and passed them and crossed the bridge into Kaskaskia. The vesper bell rung, breaking its music in echoes against the sandstone bosom of the bluff. Red splendors faded from the sky, leaving a pearl-gray bank heaped over the farther river. Still Jean watched Kaskaskia.

“ But the glory remains when the light fades away,”

he sung to himself. He had caught the line from some English boatmen.

“ Ye dog, ye dog, where are you, ye dog ? ” called a voice from the woods behind him.

“ Here, grandfather,” answered Jean, starting like a whipped dog. He took his red cap from under his arm, sighing, and slouched away from the bluff edge, the coarse homespun which he wore revealing knots and joints in his workhardened frame.

“ Ye dog, am I to have my supper tonight ? ”

“ Yes, grandfather.”

But Jean took one more look at the capital of his love, which he had never entered, and for which he was unceasingly homesick. The governor’s carriage dashed along the road beneath him, with a military escort from Fort Chartres. He felt no envy of such state. He would have used the carriage to cross the bridge.

“ If I but lived in Kaskaskia! ” whispered Jean.

The man on horseback, who met and passed the ball-goers, rode through Kaskaskia’s twinkling streets in the pleasant glow of twilight. Trade had not reached its day’s end. The crack of long whips could be heard, flourished over oxen yoked by the horns, or three or four ponies hitched tandem, all driven without reins, and drawing huge bales of merchandise. Few of the houses were more than one story high, but they had a sumptuous spread, each in its own square of lawn, orchard, and garden. They were built of stone, or of timbers filled in with stone and mortar.

The rider turned several corners, and stopped in front of a small house which displayed the wares of a penny-trader in its window.

From the open one of the two front doors a black boy came directly out to take the bridle ; and behind him skipped a wiry shaven person, whose sleek crown was partly covered by a Madras handkerchief, the common head-gear of humble Kaskaskians. His feet clogged their lightness with a pair of the wooden shoes manufactured for slaves. A sleeved blanket, made with a hood which lay back on his shoulders, almost covered him, and was girdled at the waist by a knotted cord.

“ Here I am again, Father Baby,” hailed the rider, alighting.

“Welcome home, doctor. What news from Fort Chartres ? ”

“ No news. My friend the surgeon is doing well. He need not have sent for me ; but your carving doctor is a great coward when it comes to physicking himself.”

They entered the shop, while the slave led the horse away; and no customers demanding the trading friar’s attention, he followed his lodger to an inner room, having first lighted candles in his wooden sconces. Their yellow lustre showed the tidiness of the shop, and the penny merchandise arranged on shelves with that exactness which has been thought peculiar to unmarried women. Father Baby was a scandal to the established confessor of the parish, and the joke of the ungodly. Some said he had been a dancing-master before he entered the cloister, and it was no wonder he turned out a renegade and took to trading. Others declared that he had no right to the gray capote, and his tonsure was a natural loss of hair; in fact, that he never had been a friar at all. But in Kaskaskia nobody took him seriously, and Father Olivier was not severe upon him. Custom made his harlequin antics a matter of course ; though Indians still paused opposite his shop and grinned at sight of a long-gown peddling. His religious practices were regular and severe, and he laid penance on himself for all the cheating he was able to accomplish.

“ I rode down from Elvirade with Governor Edwards,” said the doctor. “ He and all Kaskaskia appear to be going to Colonel Menard’s to-night.”

“ Yes, I stood and counted the carriages : the Bonds, the Morrisons, the Vigos, the Sauciers, the Edgars, the Joneses ” —

“ Has anything happened these three days past ? ” inquired the doctor, breaking off this list of notable Kaskaskians.

“ Oh, many things have happened. But first here is your billet.”

The young man broke the wafer of his invitation and unfolded the paper.

“ It is a dancing-party,” he remarked. His nose took an aquiline curve peculiar to him. The open sheet, as he held it, showed the name of “ Dr. Dunlap ” written on the outside. He leaned against a high black mantel.

“You will want hot shaving - water and your best ruffled shirt,” urged the friar.

“ I never dance,” said the other indifferently.

“ And you do well not to,” declared Father Baby, with some contemptuous impatience. “ A man who shakes like a load of hay should never dance. If I had carried your weight, I could have been a holier man.”

Dr. Dunlap laughed, and struck his boot with his riding-whip. “ Don’t deceive yourself, worthy father. The making of an abbot was not in you. You old rascal, I am scarcely in the house, and there you stand all of a tremble for your jig.”

Father Baby’s death’s-head face wrinkled itself with expectant smiles. He shook off his wooden shoes and whirled upon one toe.

The doctor went into another room, his own apartment in the friar’s small house. His office fronted this, and gave him a door to the street. Its bottles and jars and iron mortar and the vitreous slab on which he rolled pills were all lost in twilight now. There were many other doctors’ offices in Kaskaskia, but this was the best equipped one, and was the lair of a man who had not only been trained in Europe, but had sailed around the entire world. Dr. Dunlap’s books, some of them in board covers, made a show on his shelves. He had an articulated skeleton, and ignorant Kaskaskians would declare that they had seen it whirl past his windows many a night to the music of his violin.

“ What did you say had happened since I went away?” he inquired, sauntering back and tuning his fiddle as he came.

“ There’s plenty of news,” responded Father Baby. “ Antoine Lamarche’s cow fell into the Mississippi.”

Dr. Dunlap uttered a note of contempt.

“ It would go wandering off where the land crumbles daily with that current setting down from the northwest against us; and Antoine was far from sneering in your cold - blooded English manner when he got the news.”

“ He tore his hair and screamed in your warm-blooded French manner ? ”

“ That he did.”

The doctor stood in the bar of candlelight which one of the shop sconces extended across the room, and lifted the violin to his neck. He was so large that all his gestures had a ponderous quality. His dress was disarranged by riding, and his blonde skin was pricked through by the untidy growth of a three-days’ beard, yet he looked very handsome.

Dr. Dunlap stood in the light, but Father Baby chose the dark for those ecstatic antics into which the fiddle threw him. He leaped high from the floor at the first note, and came down into a jig of the most perfect execution. The pat of his bare soles was exquisitely true. He raised the gown above his ankles, and would have seemed to float but for his response in sound. Yet through his most rapturous action he never ceased to be conscious of the shop. A step on the sill would break the violin’s charm in the centre of a measure.

But this time no step broke it, and the doctor kept his puppet friar going until his own arm began to weary. The tune ended, and Father Baby paused, deprived of the ether in which he had been floating.

Dr. Dunlap sat down, nursing the instrument on his crossed knees while he altered its pitch.

“ Are you not going to Colonel Menard’s at all ? ” inquired the friar.

“ It would be a great waste of good dancing not to,” said the doctor lazily. “ But you have n’t told me who else has lost a cow or had an increase of goats while I was away.”

“ The death of even a beast excites pity in me.”

“Yes, you are a holy man. You would rather skin a live Indian than a dead sheep.”

The doctor tried his violin, and was lifting it again to position when Father Baby remarked, —

“ They doubtless told you on the road that a party has come through from Post Vincennes.”

“ Now who would doubtless tell me that ? ”

“ The governor’s suite, since they must have known it. The party was in almost as soon as you left. Perhaps,” suggested the friar, taking a crafty revenge for much insolence, “nobody would mention it to you on account of Monsieur Zhone’s sister.”

The violin bow sunk on the strings with a squeak.

“ What sister ? ”

“ The only sister of Monsieur Reece Zhone, Mademoiselle Zhone, from Wales. She came to Kaskaskia with the party from Post Vincennes.”

On Dr. Dunlap’s face the unshorn beard developed like thorns on a mask of wax. The spirit of manly beauty no longer infused it.

“ Why did n’t you tell me this at first? ” he asked roughly.

“ Is the name of Zhone so pleasant to you ? ” hinted the shrugging friar. “ But take an old churchman’s advice now, my son, and make up your quarrel with the lawyer. There will be occasion. That pretty young thing has crossed the sea to die. I heard her cough.”

The doctor’s voice was husky as he attempted to inquire, —

“ Did you hear what she was called ? ”

“ Mademoiselle Mareea Zhone.”

The young man sagged forward over his violin. Father Baby began to realize that his revel was over, and reluctantly stuck his toes again into his wooden shoes.

“ Will you have something to eat and drink before you start ? ”

“I don’t want anything to eat, and I am not going to Colonel Menard’s tonight.”

“ But, my son,” reasoned the staring friar, “are you going to quit your victuals and all good company because one more Zhone has come to town, and that one such a small, helpless creature ? Mademoiselle Saucier will be at Menard’s.”

Dr. Dunlap wiped his forehead. He, and not the cool friar, appeared to have been the dancer. A chorus of slaves singing on some neighboring gallery could be beard in the pause of the violin. Beetles, lured by the shop candles, began to explore the room where the two men were, bumping themselves against the walls and buzzing their complaints.

“ A man is nothing but a young beast until he is past twenty-five years old,”said Dr. Dunlap.

Father Baby added his own opinion to this general remark : —

“ Very often he is nothing but an old beast when you catch him past seventy. But it all depends on what kind of a man he is.”

“ Friar, do you believe in marriage ? ”

“ How could I believe in marriage ? ”

“ But do you believe in it for other people ? ”

“ The Church has always held it to be a sacred institution.”

Dr. Dunlap muttered a combination of explosive words which he had probably picked up from sailors, making the churchman cross himself. He spoke out, with a reckless laugh : —

“ I married as soon as I came of age, and here I am, ruined for my prime by that act.”

“ What! ” exclaimed Father Baby, setting his hands on his hips, “you a man of family, and playing bachelor among the women of Kaskaskia?”

“ Oh, I have no wife now. She finally died, thank Heaven. If she had only died a year sooner! But nothing matters now.”

“My son,” observed Father Baby severely, “ Satan has you in his net. You utter profane words, you rail against institutions sanctioned by the Church, and you have desired the death of a human being. Repent and do penance ” —

“ You have a customer, friar,” sneered the young man, lifting his head to glance aside at a figure entering the shop. “ Vigo’s idiot slave boy is waiting to be cheated.”

“By my cappo! ” whispered Father Baby, a cunning look netting wrinkles over his lean face, “you remind me of the bad shilling I have laid by me to pass on that nigger. O Lamb of mercy,” — he turned and hastily plumped on his knees before a sacred picture on the wall, — “ I will, in expiation for passing that shilling, say twelve paters and twelve aves at the foot of the altar of thy Virgin Mother, or I will abstain from food a whole day in thy honor.”

Having offered this compromise, Father Baby sprung with a cheerful eagerness to deal with Vigo’s slave boy.

The doctor sat still, his ears closed to the chatter in the shop. His bitter thoughts centred on the new arrival in Kaskaskia, on her brother, on all her family.

She herself, unconscious that he inhabited the same hemisphere with her, was standing up for the reel in Pierre Menard’s house. The last carriage had driven to the tall flight of entrance steps, discharged its load, and parted with its horses to the huge stone stable under the house. The mingling languages of an English and French society sounded all around her. The girl felt bewildered, as if she had crossed ocean and forest to find, instead of savage wilderness, an enchanted English county full of French country estates. Names and dignitaries crowded her memory.

A great clear glass, gilt-framed and divided into three panels, stood over the drawing-room mantel. It reflected crowds of animated faces, as the dance began, crossing and recrossing or running the reel in a vista of rooms, the fan-lights around the hall door and its open leaves disclosing the broad gallery and the dusky world of trees outside; it reflected cluster on cluster of wax-lights. To this day the great glass stands there, and, spotless as a clear conscience, waits upon the future. It has held the image of Lafayette and many an historic companion of his.

On the other side of the hall, in the dining-room, stood a carved mahogany sideboard holding decanters and glasses. In this quiet retreat elderly people amused themselves at card-tables. Apart from them, but benignantly ready to chat with everybody, sat the parish priest; for every gathering of his flock was to him a call for social ministration.

A delicious odor of supper escaped across a stone causeway from the kitchen, and all the Menard negroes, in their best clothes, were collected on the causeway to serve it. Through open doors they watched the flying figures, and the rocking of many a dusky heel kept time to the music.

The first dance ended in some slight confusion. A little cry went through the rooms: “ Rice Jones’s sister has fainted ! ” “ Mademoiselle Zhone has fainted! ” But a few minutes later she was sitting on a gallery chair, leaning against her brother and trying to laugh through her coughing, and around her stood all girlish Kaskaskia, and the matrons also, as well as the black maid Colonel Menard had sent with hartshorn.

Father Olivier brought her a glass of wine; Mrs. Edwards fanned her; the stars shone through the pecan-trees, and all the loveliness of this new hemisphere and home and the kindness of the people made her close her eyes to keep the tears from running out. The separation of the sick from all healthy mankind had never so hurt her. Something was expected of her, and she was not equal to it. She felt death’s mark branding in. and her family spoke of her recovery! What folly it was to come into this gay little world where she had no rights at all! Maria Jones wondered why she had not died at sea. To be floating in that infinity of blue water would be better than this. She pictured herself in the weighted sack, — for we never separate ourselves from our bodies, — and tender forgiveness covering all her mistakes as the multitude of waters covered her.

“ I will not dance again,” laughed Maria. Her brother Rice could feel her little figure tremble against him. “ It is ridiculous to try.”

“ We must have you at Elvirade,” said the governor’s wife soothingly. “ I will not let the young people excite you to too much dancing there.”

“ Oh, Mrs. Edwards ! ” exclaimed Peggy Morrison. “ I never do dance quite as much anywhere else, or have quite as good a time, as I do at Elvirade.”

“ Hear these children slander me when I try to set an example of sobriety in the Territory! ”

“ You shall not want a champion, Mrs. Edwards,” said Rice Jones. “When I want to be in grave good company, I always make a pilgrimage to Elvirade.”

“ One ought to be grave good company enough for himself,” retorted Peggy, looking at Rice Jones with jealous aggressiveness. She was a lean, sandy girl, at whom he seldom glanced, and her acrid girlhood fought him. Rice Jones was called the handsomest man in Kaskaskia, but his personal beauty was nothing to the ambitious force of his presence. The parted hair fitted his broad, high head like a glove. His straight nose extended its tip below the nostrils and shadowed the long upper lip. He had a long chin, beautifully shaped and shaven clean as marble, a mouth like a scarlet line, and a very round, smooth throat, shown by his flaring collar. His complexion kept a cool whiteness which no exposure tanned, and this made striking the blackness of his eyes and hair.

“ Please will you all go back into the drawing-room ? ” begged Maria. “ My brother will bring me a shawl, and then I shall need nothing else.”

“ But may I sit by you, mademoiselle?”

It was Angelique Saucier leaning down to make this request, but Peggy Morrison laughed.

“ I warn you against Angelique, Miss Jones. She is the man-slayer of Kaskaskia. They all catch her like measles. If she stays out here, they will sit in a row along the gallery edge, and there will be no more dancing.”

“ Do not observe what Peggy says, mademoiselle. We are relations, and so we take liberties.”

“But no one must give up dancing,” urged Maria.

They arranged for her in spite of protest, however. Rice muffled her in a shawl, Mademoiselle Saucier sat down at her right side and Peggy Morrison at her left, and the next dance began.

Maria Jones had repressed and nestling habits. She curled herself into a very small compass in the easy gallery chair, and looked off into the humid mysteries of the June night. Colonel Menard’s substantial slave cabins of logs and stone were in sight, and up the bluff near the house was a sort of donjon of stone, having only one door letting into its base.

“ That’s where Colonel Menard puts his bad Indians,” said Peggy Morrison, following Maria’s glance.

“ It is simply a little fortress for times of danger,” said Mademoiselle Saucier, laughing. “ It is also the colonel’s bureau for valuable papers, and the dairy is underneath.”

“ Well, you French understand one another’s housekeeping better than we English do; and may be the colonel has been explaining these things to you.”

“ But are there any savage men about here now ? ”

“ Oh, plenty of them,” declared Peggy. “ We have some Pottawatomies and Kickapoos and Kaskaskias always with us, — like the poor. Nobody is afraid of them, though. Colonel Menard has them all under his thumb, and if nobody else could manage them he could. My father says they will give their furs to him for nothing rather than sell them to other people. You must see that Colonel Menard is very fascinating, but I don’t think he charms Angelique as he does the Indians.”

Mademoiselle Saucier’s smile excused anything Peggy might say. Maria thought this French girl the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. The waist of her clinging white gown ended under the curve of her girlish breasts, and face, neck, and arms blossomed out with the polish of flower-petals. Around her throat she wore gold beads suspending a cross. Her dark hair, which had an elusive bluish mist, like grapes, was pinned high with a gold comb. Her oval face was full of a mature sympathy unusual in girls. Maria had thought at first she would rather be alone on the gallery, but this reposeful and tender French girl at once became a necessity to her.

“ Peggy,” said Angelique, “ I hear Jules Vigo inquiring for you in the hall.”

“Then I shall take to the roof,” responded Peggy.

“ Have some regard for Jules.”

“ You may have, but I sha’n’t. I will not dance with a kangaroo.”

“ Do you not promise dances ahead ? ” inquired Maria.

“ No, our mothers do not permit that,” answered Angelique. “It is sometimes best to sit still and look on.”

“ That means, Miss Jones,” explained Peggy, “ that she has set a fashion to give the rest of the girls a chance. I would n’t be so mealy-mouthed about cutting them out. But Angelique has been ruined by waiting so much on her tante-gra’mère. When you bear an old woman’s temper from dawn till dusk, you soon forget you ’re a girl in your teens.”

“ Don’t abuse the little tante-gra’mère.”

“ She gets praise enough at our house. Mother says she’s a discipline that keeps Angelique from growing vain. Thank Heaven, we don’t need such discipline in our family.”

“It is my father’s grand-aunt,” explained Angelique to Maria, “ and when you see her, mademoiselle, you will be surprised to find how well she bears her hundred years, though she has not been out of her bed since I can remember. Mademoiselle, I hope I never shall be very old.”

Maria gave Angelique the piercing stare which unconsciously belongs to large black eyes set in a hectic, nervous face.

“ Would you die now ? ”

“ I feel always,” said the French girl, “ that we stand facing the mystery every minute, and sometimes I should like to know it.”

“Now hear that,” said Peggy. “I’m no Catholic, but I will say for the mother superior that she never put that in your head at the convent. It is wicked to say you want to die.”

“ But I did not say it. The mystery of being without any body, — that is what I want to know. It is good to meditate on death.”

“It is n’t comfortable,” said Peggy.

“ It makes me have chills down my back.”

She glanced behind her through the many-paned open window into the dining-room. Three little girls and a boy were standing there, so close to the sill that their breath had touched Peggy’s neck. They were Colonel Menard’s motherless children. A black maid was with them, holding the youngest by the hand. They were whispering in French under cover of the music. French was the second mother tongue of every Kaskaskia girl, and Peggy heard what they said by merely taking her attention from her companions.

“ I will get Jean Lozier to beat Monsieur Reece Zhone. Jean Lozier is such an obliging creature he will do anything I ask him.”

“ But, Odile,” argued the boy, with some sense of equity, “ she is not yet engaged to our family.”

“ And how shall we get her engaged to us if Monsieur Reece Zhone must hang around her ? Papa says he is the most promising young man in the Territory. If I were a boy, Pierre Menard,

I would do something with him.”

“ What would you do ? ”

“ 1 would shoot him. He has duels.”

“ But my father might punish me for that.” “ Very well, chicken-heart. Let Mademoiselle Saucier go, then. But I will tell you this: there is no one else in Kaskaskia that I will have for a second mother.”

“ Yes, we have all chosen her,” owned Pierre, “ but it seems to me papa ought to make the marriage.”

“ But she would not know we children were willing to have her. If you did something to stop Monsieur Zhone’s courtship, she would then know.”

” Why do you not go out on the gallery now and tell her we want her ? ” exclaimed Pierre. “ The colonel says it is best to be straightforward in any matter of business.”

“ Pierre, it is plain to be seen that you do not know how to deal with young ladies. They like best to be fought over. It is not proper to tell her we are willing to have her. The way to do is to drive off the other suitors.”

“ But there are so many. Tante Isidore says all the young men in Kaskaskia and the officers left at Fort Chartres are her suitors. Monsieur Reece Zhone is the worst one, though. I might ask him to go out to papa’s office with me to-night, but we shall be sent to bed directly after supper. Besides, here sits his sister who was carried out fainting.”

“ While he is in our house we are obliged to be polite to him,” said Odile.

“ But if I were a boy, I would, some time, get on my pony and ride into Kaskaskia ”— The conspiring went on in whispers. The children’s heads bobbed nearer each other, so Peggy overheard no more.

It was the very next evening, the evening of St. John’s Day, that young Pierre rode into Kaskaskia beside his father to see the yearly bonfire lighted. Though many of the old French customs had perished in a mixing of nationalities, St. John’s Day was yet observed ; the Latin race drawing the Saxon out to participate in the festival, as so often happens wherever they dwell.

The bonfire stood in the middle of the street fronting the church. It was an octagonal pyramid, seven or eight feet high, built of dry oak and pecan limbs and logs, with straw at all the corners.

The earth yet held a red horizon rim around its dusky surface. Some half-distinct swallows were swarming into the church belfry, as silent as bats ; but people swarming on the ground below made a cheerful noise, like a fair. The St. John bonfire was not a religious ceremony, but its character lifted it above the ordinary burning of brushwood at night. The most dignified Kaskaskians, heretics as well as papists, came out to see it lighted; the pagan spell of Midsummer Night more or less affecting them all.

Red points appeared at the pile’s eight corners and sprung up flame, showing the eight lads who were bent down blowing them ; showing the church front, and the steps covered with little negroes good-naturedly fighting and crowding one another off; showing the crosses of slate and wood and square marble tombs in the graveyard, and a crowd of honest faces, red kerchiefs, gray cappos, and wooden shoes pressing close around it. Children raced, shouting in the light, perpetuating unconsciously the fire-worship of Asia by leaping across outer edges of the blaze. It rose and showed the bowered homes of Kaskaskia, the tavern at an angle of the streets, with two Indians, in leggings and huntingshirts, standing on the gallery as emotionless spectators. It illuminated fields and woods stretching southward, and little weeds beside the road whitened with dust. The roaring and crackling heat drove venturesome urchins back.

Father Baby could be seen established behind a temporary counter, conveniently near the pile, yet discreetly removed from the church front. Thirsty rustics and flatboat-men crowded to his kegs and clinked his glasses. The firelight shone on his crown which was bare to the sky. Father Olivier passed by, receiving submissive obeisance from the renegade, but returning him a shake of the head.

Girls slipped back and forth through the church gate. Now their laughing faces grouped three or four together in the bonfire light. In a moment, when their mothers turned to follow them with the eye, they were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps outside the beacon’s glare hobgoblins and fairies danced. Midsummer Night tricks and the freemasonry of youth were at work.

People watched one another across that pile with diverse aims. Rice Jones had his sister on his arm, wrapped in a Spanish mantilla. Her tiny face, with a rose above one ear, was startling against this black setting. They stood near Father Baby’s booth ; and while Peggy Morrison waited at the church gate to signal Maria, she resented Rice Jones’s habitual indifference to her existence. He saw Angelique Saucier beside her mother, and the men gathering to her, among them an officer from Fort Chartres. They troubled him little ; for he intended in due time to put these fellows all out of his way. There were other matters as vital to Rice Jones. Young Pierre Menard hovered vainly about him. The moment Maria left him a squad of country politicians surrounded their political leader, and he did some effectual work for his party by the light of the St. John fire.

Darkness grew outside the irregular radiance of that pile, and the night concert of insects could be heard as an interlude between children’s shouts and the hum of voices. Peggy Morrison s lifted finger caught Maria’s glance. It was an imperative gesture meaning haste and secrecy, and separation from her brother Rice. Maria laughed and shook her head wistfully. The girlish pastimes of Midsummer Night were all done for her. She thought of nights in her own wild county of Merionethshire, when she had run, palpitating like a hare, to try some spell or charm which might reveal the future to her; and now it was revealed.

An apparition from the other hemisphere came upon her that instant. She saw a man standing by the friar’s booth looking at her. What his eyes said she could not, through her shimmering and deadly faintness, perceive. How could he be here in Kaskaskia ? The shock of seeing him annihilated physical weakness in her. She stood on limbs of stone. Her hand on her brother’s arm did not tremble; but a pinched blueness spread about her nostrils and eye sockets, and dinted sudden hollows in her temples.

Dr. Dunlap took a step toward her. At that, she looked around for some place to hide in, the animal instinct of flight arising first, and darted from her brother into the graveyard. Rice beheld this freak with quizzical surprise, but he had noted the disappearance of more than one maid through that gate, and was glad to have Maria with them.

“ Come on,”whispered Peggy, seizing her. “ Clarice Vigo has gone to fetch Angelique, and then we shall be ready.”

Behind the church, speaking all together like a chorus of blackbirds, the girls were clustered, out of the bonfire’s light. French and English voices debated.

“ Oh, I would n’t do such a thing.”

“ Your mother did it when she was a girl.”

“ But the young men may find it out and follow.”

“ Then we ’ll run.”

“ I’m afraid to go so far in the dark.”

“ What, to the old Jesuit College ? ”

“ It is n’t very dark, and our old Dinah will go with us ; she’s waiting outside the fence.”

“But my father says none of our Indians are to be trusted in the dark.”

“What a slander on our Indians! ”

“ But some of them are here ; they always come to the St. John bonfire.”

“ All the men in Kaskaskia are here, too. We could easily give an alarm.” “Anyhow, nothing will hurt us.”

“ What are you going to do, girls ? ” inquired the voice of Angelique Saucier. The whole scheme took a foolish tinge as she spoke. They were ashamed to tell her what they were going to do.

Peggy Morrison drew near and whispered, “ We want to go to the old Jesuit College and sow hempseed.”

“ Hempseed ? ”

“Yes. You do it on Midsummer Night.”

“ Will it grow the better for that ? ” asked the puzzled French girl.

“ We don’t want it to grow, you goose. We want to try our fortunes.”

“ It was Peggy Morrison’s plan,” spoke out Clarice Vigo.

“ It’s an old English custom,” declared Peggy, “as old as burning brushwood.”

“ Would you like to observe this old English custom, Mademoiselle Zhone ? ” questioned Angelique.

“ Yes, let us hurry on.”

“ I think myself it would be charming.” The instant Angelique thought this, Peggy Morrison’s plan lost foolishness, and gained in all eyes the dignity of adventure. “ But we have no hempseed.”

“ Yes, we have,” responded Peggy. “ Our Dinah is there outside the fence with her lap full of it.”

“ And how do you sow it ? ”

“ You scatter it and say, ‘Hempseed,

I sow thee, — hempseed, I sow thee ; let him who is to marry me come after me and mow thee.’ ”

An abashed titter ran through girlish Kaskaskia.

“ And what happens then ? ”

“ Then you look back and see somebody following you with a scythe.”

A suppressed squeal ran through girlish Kaskaskia.

“ Now if we are going, we ought to go, or it will all be found out,” observed Peggy with decision.

They had only to follow the nearest cross-street to reach the old Jesuit College ; but some were for making a long detour into the common fields to avoid being seen, while others were for passing close by the bonfire in a solid squad. Neither Peggy nor Angelique could reconcile these factions, and Peggy finally crossed the fence and led the way in silence. The majority hung back until they were almost belated. Then, with a venturous rush, they scaled the fence and piled themselves upon Dinah, who was quietly trying to deal out a handful of hempseed to every passer ; and some of them squalled in the fear of man at her uplifted paw. Then, shying away from the light, they entered a street which was like a canal of shadow. The houses bounding it were all dark, except the steep roof slopes of the southern row, which seemed to palpitate in the bonfire’s flicker.

Finding themselves away from their families in this deserted lane, the girls took to their heels, and left like sheep a perceptible little cloud of dust smoking in the gloom behind them.

Beyond the last house and alongside the Okaw River stood the ruined building with gaping entrances. The girls stumbled among irregular hummocks which in earlier days had been garden beds and had supplied vegetables to the brethren. The last commandant of Kaskaskia, who occupied the Jesuits’ house as a fortress, had complained to his superiors of a leaky and broken roof. There was now no roof to complain of, and the upper floors had given way in places, leaving the stone shell open to the sky. It had once been an imposing structure, costing the Jesuits forty thousand piasters. The uneven stone floor was also broken, showing gaps into vaults beneath ; fearful spots to be avoided, which the custom of darkness soon revealed to all eyes. Partitions yet standing held stained and ghastly smears of rotted plaster.

The river’s gurgle and rush could be distinctly heard here, while the company around the bonfire were lost in distance. Angelique had given her arm to Maria Jones in the flight down the road; but when they entered the college Maria slipped away from her. A blacker spot in an angle of the walls and a smothered cough hinted to the care-taker where the invalid girl might be found, but where she also wished to be let alone.

Now a sob rising to a scream, as if the old building had found voice and protested against invasion, caused a recoil of the invaders. Girls brought up in neighborly relations with the wilderness, however, could be only a moment terrified by the screech-owl. But at no previous time in its history, not even when it was captured as a fort, had the Jesuit College inclosed such a cluster of wildly beating hearts. Had light been turned on the group, it would have shown every girl shaking her hand at every other girl and hissing, “ S^— s— sh ! ”

“ Girls, be still.”

“ Girls, do be still.”

“ Girls, if you won’t be still, somebody will come.”

“ Clarice Vigo, why don’t you stop your noise ? ”

“ Why do you not stop yours, mademoiselle ? ”

“ I have n’t spoken a word but Sh !

I have been trying my best to quiet them all.”

“ So have I.”

“Ellen Bond fell over me. She was scared to death by a screech-owl ! ”

“ It was you fell over me, Miss Betsey.”

“ If we are going to try the charm, " announced Peggy Morrison, “we must begin. You had better all get in a line behind me and do just as I do. You can’t see me very well, but you can scatter the hempseed and say what I say. And it must be done soberly, or Satan may come mowing at our heels.”

From a distant perch to which he had removed himself, the screech-owl again remonstrated. Silence settled like the slow fluttering downward of feathers on every throbbing figure. The stir of a slipper on the pavement, or the catching of a breath, became the only tokens of human presence in the old college. These postulants of fortune in their halfvisible state once more bore some resemblance to the young ladies who had stood in decorum answering compliments between the figures of the dance the night before.

On cautious shoe leather the march began. One voice, two voices, and finally a low chorus intoned and repeated, —

“Hempseed, I sow thee,—hempseed, I sow thee; let him who is to marry me come after me and mow thee.”

Peggy led her followers out of the east door towards the river; wheeling when she reached a little wind-row of rotted timbers. This chaos had once stood up in order, forming makeshift bastions for the fort, and supporting cannon. Such boards and posts as the negroes had not carried off lay now along the river brink, and the Okaw Was steadily undermining that brink as it had already undermined and carried away the Jesuits’ spacious landing.

Glancing over their shoulders with secret laughter for that fearful gleam of scythes which was to come, the girls marched back ; and their leader’s abrupt halt jarred the entire line. A man stood in the opposite entrance. They could not see him in outline, but his unmistakable hat showed against a low-lying sky.

“ Who’s there ? ” demanded Peggy Morrison.

The intruder made no answer.

They could not see a scythe about him, but to every girl he took a different form. He was Billy Edgar, or Jules Vigo, or Rice Jones, or any other gallant of Kaskaskia, according to the varying faith which beating hearts sent to the eyes that saw him.

The spell of silence did not last. A populous roost invaded by a fox never resounded with more squalling than did the old Jesuit College. The girls swished around corners and tumbled over the vegetable beds. Angelique groped for Maria, not daring to call her name, and caught and ran with some one until they neared the light, when she found it was the dumpy little figure of her cousin Clarice.

As soon as the girls were gone, the man who had broken up their hempseed sowing advanced a few steps on the pavement. He listened, and that darker shadow in the angle of the walls was perceptible to him.

“ Are you here ? ”

“ I am here,” answered Maria.

Rice Jones’s sister could not sit many minutes in the damp old building without being missed by the girls and her family. His voice trembled. She could hear his heart beating with large strokes. His presence surrounded her like an atmosphere, and in the darkness she clutched her own breast to keep the rapture from physically hurting her.

“ Maria, did you know that my wife was dead ? ”

“ Oh. James, no ! ”

Her whisper was more than a caress. It was surrender and peace and forgiveness. It was the snapping of a tension which had held her two years.

“ Oh, James, when I saw you to-night I did not know what to do. I have not been well. You have borne it so much better than I have.”

“ I thought,” said Dr. Dunlap, “ it would be best for us to talk matters over.”

She caught her breath. What was the matter with this man ? Once he had lain at her feet and kissed the hem of her garment. He was hers. She had never relinquished her ownership of him even when her honor had constrained her to live apart from him. Whose could he be but hers ?

Dr. Dunlap had thought twenty-four hours on what he would say at this unavoidable meeting, and he acknowledged in a business-like tone, —

“ I did not treat you right, Maria. My wretched entanglement when I was a boy ruined everything. But when I persuaded you into a secret marriage with me, I meant to make it right when the other one died. And you found it out and left me. If I treated you badly, you treated me badly, too.”

He knew the long chin of the Joneses. He could imagine Maria lifting her slim chin. She did not speak.

“ I came over here to begin life again. When you ran off to your friends, what was there for me to do but take to the navy again or sail for America ? Kaskaskia was the largest post in the West; so I came here. And here I found your family, that I thought were in another Territory. And from the first your brother has been my enemy.”

His sulky complaint brought no response in words ; but a strangling sob broke all restraint in the angle of the wall.

“ Maria,” exclaimed the startled doctor, “don’t do that. You excite yourself.”

In her paroxysm she rolled down on the stone floor, and he stooped in consternation and picked her up. He rested his foot on the ledge where she had sat, and held her upon his knee. She struggled for breath until he thought she would die, and the sweat of terror stood on his forehead. When he had watched her by the bonfire, his medical knowledge gave her barely two months of life ; and within those two months, he had also told himself bitterly then, Rice Jones could marry Angelique Saucier ; but to have her die alone with him in this old building was what he could not contemplate.

Scarcely conscious of his own action, the doctor held her in positions which helped her, and finally had the relief of hearing her draw a free breath as she lapsed against his shoulder. Even a counterfeit tie of marriage has its power. He had lived with this woman, she believing herself his lawful wife. Their half-year together had been the loftiest period of his life. The old feeling, smothered as it was under resentment and a new passion, stirred in him. He strained her to his breast and called her the pet names he used to call her. The diminutive being upon his knee heard them without response. When she could speak she whispered, —

“ Set me down.”

Dr. Dunlap moved his foot and placed her again on the stone ledge. She leaned against the wall. There was a ringing in her ears. The unpardonable sin in man is not his ceasing to love you. That may be a mortal pain, but it has dignity.

It is the fearful judgment of seeing in a flash that you have wasted your life on what was not worth the waste.

“Now if you are composed, Maria,” said Dr. Dunlap hurriedly, “ I will say what I followed you here to say. The best thing for us to do, now that I am free to do it, is to have the marriage ceremony repeated over us and made valid. I am ready and willing. The only drawback is the prejudice of your family against me.”

A magnanimous tone in his voice betrayed eagerness to put the Joneses under obligations to him.

“Dr. Dunlap,” — when Maria had spoken his name she panted awhile, —

“ when I found out I was not your wife, and left you, I began then to cough. But now — we can never be married.”

“ Why, Maria ? ”

She began those formidable sounds again, and he held his breath.

Somebody in the distance began playing a violin. Its music mingled with the sounds which river-inclosed lands and the adjacent dwellings of men send up in a summer night.

“ You know,” said Maria when she could speak, “how we deceived my people in Wales and in London. None of my family here know anything about that marriage.”

Another voice outside the walls, keen with anxiety, shouted her name. Dr. Dunlap hurried a few yards from her, then stopped and held his ground. A man rushed into the old building1 regardless of the broken floor.

” Maria, are you here ? ”

“ Yes, brother Rice.”

She was leaving her corner to meet him. The doctor could see that she sunk to her hands and knees with weakness and helped herself up by the wall.

“ Where are you ? Is any one with you ? ”

As they met in the darkness the brother felt her hands and trembling figure.

“What possessed you to sit down here in this damp old place? You are clammy as stone. Poor little thing, were you frightened ? What have you been doing ? ”

“ I have been talking,” replied Maria. The doctor’s heart labored like a drum. Perhaps she would tell it all out to Rice Jones now.

The same acrid restraint may be heard in a mother’s voice when she inquires, as Rice did, —

“ Who was talking with you ? ”

“ Dr. Dunlap.”

Dr. Dunlap? You don’t know Dr. Dunlap.”

“ We met in England,” daringly broke out Dr. Dunlap himself.

“ He is here yet, is he ? ” said Rice Jones. “ Doctors are supposed to be the natural protectors of ailing women ; but here’s one that is helping a sick girl to take her death cold.”

An attack on his professional side was what Dr. Dunlap was not prepared for. He had nothing to say, and Maria’s brother carried her out of the old college and took the nearest way home.

Noise was ceasing around the sinking bonfire, a clatter of wooden shoes setting homeward along the streets of ivaskaskia. Maria saw the stars stretching their great network downward enmeshing the Mississippi. That nightly vision is wonderful. But what are outward wonders compared to the unseen spiritual chemistry always at work within and around us, changing our loves and beliefs and needs ?

Rice stopped to rest as soon as they were out of Dr. Dunlap’s hearing. Light as she was, he felt his sister’s complete prostration in her weight.

“For God’s sake, Maria,’’ he said to her in Welsh, “is that fellow anything to you ? ”

She shook her head.

“But he says he met you in England.”

She said nothing, and Rice also remained in silence. When he spoke again, it was in the tone of dry statement which he used for presenting cases in court.

“My pistols have hair triggers and go off at a touch. I had a political difference with a gentleman some time ago, and this Dr. Dunlap acted as his second. We were standing ready, but before the word was given, and while the pistol hung down in my hand, it went off, and the ball struck the ground at my feet.

Then Dr. Dunlap insisted I had had my shot, and must stand still and be fired at without firing again. His anxiety to have me shot was so plain that my opponent refused to fire, and we made up our difference. That’s the Dr. Dunlap we have here in the Territory, whatever he may have been in England.”

Rice hurried on with her, his motherless little sister, who had been left with kinspeople in Wales because she was too delicate to bear the hardships of the family transplanting. He blamed himself for her exposure and prostration, and held her tenderly, whispering, —“ Mareea-bach ! ”

She tried to answer the Welsh caressing name, but her throat gurgled and a warm stream ran out of her mouth, and he knew it was blood.

Mary Hartwell Catherwood.