Old Kaskaskia: In Four Parts. Part Third


FATHER BABY’S part in the common fields lay on the Mississippi side of the peninsula, quite three miles from town. The common fields as an entire tract belonged to the community of Kaskaskia ; no individual held any purchased or transferable right in them. Each man who wished to could claim his proportion of acres and plant any crop he pleased, year after year. He paid no rent, but neither did he hold any fee in the land.

Early on rainy summer mornings, the friar loved to hoist his capote on the cord, and tramp, bare-legged, out to his two-acre farm, leaving his slave, with a few small coins in the till, to keep shop should any customer forestall his return.

“ The fathers of all orders,” explained Father Baby, “from their earliest foundations, have counted it a worthy mortification of the flesh to till the ground. And be ready to refresh me without grinning, when I come back muddy from performing the labor to which I might send you, if I were a man who loved sinful ease. Monastic habits are above the understanding of a black rascal like you.”

The truth was, the friar loved to play in wet dirt. Civilized life and the confinement of a shop worked a kind of ferment in his wild spirit, which violent dancing somewhat relieved, but which intimate contact with the earth cooled and settled. Father Baby sometimes stripped off his capote and lay down in the hollow between furrows of corn, like a very lean but peaceful pig. He would not have been seen, on any account, and lifted an apprehensive head in the darkness of the morning if a bird rustled past. This performance he called a mortification of his frame ; but when this sly churchman slipped up and put on his capote again, his thin visage bore the same gratified lines which may be seen on the face of a child making mud pies.

It had rained steadily since the political field day which had drawn such crowds to Kaskaskia. The waters of the Okaw had risen, and Father Baby’s way to his work had been across fields of puddles, through which he waded before dawn; knowing well that a week’s growth of weeds was waiting for him in its rankness.

The rain was not over. It barely yet restrained itself, and threatened without falling ; blotting out distance as the light grew. A damp air blew from the northwest. Father Baby found the little avenues between his rows of maize and pea vines choked with the liberal growth which no man plants, and he fell furiously to work. His greatest pleasure was the order and thrift of his little farm, and until these were restored he could not even wallow comfortably. When he had hoed and pulled out stubborn roots until his back ached, he stood erect, letting his hands hang outspread, magnified by their mask of dirt, and rested himself, thinking of the winter dinners he would enjoy when this moist land should take on a silver coating of frost, and a frozen sward resist the tread of his wooden shoe.

“ O Lord,” said Father Baby. “ I confess I am a sinner ; we all are. But I am a provident sinner who make good use of the increase Thou dost send through the earth. I do Thee to wit that Antoine Lamarche’s crop is pretty weedy. The lazy dog will have to buy of me, and if I do not skin him well — But hold on. My blessed Master, I had forgot that Antoine has a sick child in his house. I will set his garden in order for him. Perhaps Thou wilt count it to me for righteousness, and let it offset some of my iniquities.”

So when he had finished his own, the friar put his hoe into his neighbor’s patch, and worked until the sweat rolled down his thin cheeks. Gusts of rain added their moisture. As much light as the world was to have that day filtered through sheets of vapor. The bluffs hordering the Okaw could not be seen except as a vague bank of forest; and as for the lowlands across the great river, they might as well have had no existence.

It grew upon Father Baby’s observation that the Mississippi had never looked so threatening. He stuck to his hoeing until he was nearly exhausted, and Antoine Lamarche’s ground showed at least enough improvement to offset all the cheating he had done that week, and then made his way among bushes to the verge of the bank. The strong current always bearing down from the northwest against the peninsula had increased its velocity to a dizzy sweep. It bit out pieces of the shore as large as Father Baby’s shop, and far and near these were seen falling in with splashes like the spouting of whales.

“ At this rate,” said Father Baby aloud, “ I shall have no part left in the common fields by next year.”

The river’s tremendous rolling roar was also swollen to unusual magnitude. He looked afar over a tawny surface at undermined stumps and trees racing past one another. The June rise, which the melting of snows in those vague regions around its head-waters was called, had been considerable, but nothing to terrify the Kaskaskians. One week’s rain and the drainage of the bottom lands could scarcely have raised the river to such a height. “Though Heaven alone can tell.” grumbled the friar, “ what the Mississippi will do for its own amusement. All the able slaves in Kaskaskia should be set to work on the levee before this day is an hour older.”

Carrying the hoe on his shoulder like any laborer, and drawing the hood of his garment over his bald crown as the mist of rain increased to a driving sheet, Father Baby tramped along the river edge toward an unfinished defense against the waters. It was a high dike, beginning on a shoulder of the peninsula above the town, but extending barely a mile across a marsh where the river had once continuously raveled the shore even in dry seasons. The friar was glad to discern a number of figures at work carting earth to the most exposed and sunken spots of this dike.

The marsh inside the embankment was now a little lake, and some shouting black boys were paddling about there in a canoe which had probably been made during the leisure enforced by wet weather. It was a rough and clumsy thing, but very strongly put together.

The tavern in Kaskaskia was a common meeting-place. Other guest houses, scattered through the town, fed and lodged the humble in an humble way; but none of them dared to take the name “ tavern,” or even to imitate its glories. In pleasant weather, its lower gallery was filled with men bargaining, or hiring the labor of other men. It was the gathering and distributing point of news, the headquarters of the Assembly when that body was in session, —a little hôtel de ville, in fact, where municipal business was transacted.

The wainscoted dining-room, winch had a ceiling traversed by oak beams, had been the scene of many a stately banquet. In front of this was the barroom, thirty by forty feet in dimensions, with a great stone fireplace built at one end. There was a high carved mantel over this, displaying the solid silver candlesticks of the house, and the silver snuffers on their tray embossed with dragons. The bar was at the end of the room opposite the fireplace, and behind it shone the grandest of negro men in white linen, and behind him, tier on tier, an array of flasks and flat bottles nearly reaching the low ceiling. Poor Kaskaskians who entered there, entered society. They always pulled their cappos off their heads, and said “ Good evening, messieurs,” to the company in general. It was often as good as a feast to smell the spicy odors stealing out from the dining-room. It was a gentle community, and the tavern bar-room was by no means a resort of noisy drinkers. If any indecorum threatened, the host was able to quell it. He sat in his own leather chair, at the hearth corner in winter, and on the gallery in summer; a gigantic Frenchman, full of accumulated happiness.

It was barely dusk when candles were lighted in the sconces around the walls, and on the mantel and bar. The host had bis chair by a crackling fire, for continual dampness made the July night raw ; and the crane was swung over the blaze with a steaming tea-kettle on one of its books. Several Indians also sat by the stone flags, opposite the host, moving nothing but their small restless eyes ; aboriginal America watching transplanted Europe, and detecting the incompatible qualities of French and English blood.

The bar-room had its orchestra of three banjos, making it a hall of music every night in the year. And herein Africa added itself to the civilization of the New World. Three coal-black slaves of the host’s sat on a bench sacred to them, and softly twanged their instruments, breaking out at intervals into the wild chants of their people ; improvising, and stimulating each other by musical hints and exclamations. It was evident that they esteemed their office : and the male public of Kaskaskia showed them consideration. While the volume of talk was never lessened during their glees, the talkers all listened with at least one ear. There was no loud brawling, and the laughter raised by argument rarely drowned the banjos. Sometimes a Frenchman was inspired to cut a pigeon wing ; and Father Baby had tripped it over every inch of this oak floor, when the frenzy for dancing seized him and the tunes were particularly irresistible. The bar-room gave him his only taste of Kaskaskia society, and he took it with zest. Little wizened blackeyed fellows clapped their hands, delighting, while their priest was not by, in the antics of a disreputable churchman ; but the bigger and colder race paid little attention to him.

Various as were the home backgrounds of the lives converging at the tavern, there were but two topics before that little public while the cosy fire roared and the banjos rattled. A rumor of coming high water was running down the Mississippi Valley like the wind which is driven before a rush of rain; and the non-separation party had suffered some local defeat in the Indiana Territory. The first item of news took greatest hold on those serious Anglo-Americans who had come from the Atlantic coast to found estates in this valley. On the contrary, the peasant tenant gave his mind to politics. It was still an intoxicating privilege for him to have a say in the government.

“ Dese Indiana Territory fellers,” piped a grasshopper of a Frenchman, springing from his chair in excitement, “ dey want our slaves, dey want our Territory, — dey want de hide off our backs.”

“ Tony Lamarche,” drawled a Virginian, “ you don’t know what you ’re talking about. You have n’t e’er a slave to your name ; and you don’t own a foot of the Territory. As for your hide, it would n’t make a drumhead nohow. So what are you dancin’ about? ”

“If I got no land, I got some of dose rights of a citizen, eh ? ” snorted Antoine, planting himself in front of the Virginian, and bending forward until they almost touched noses.

“ I reckon you have, and I reckon you better use them. You git your family over onto the bluff before your house is sucked into the Okaw.”

“And go and hoe the weeds out of your maize patch, Antoine,” exhorted Father Baby, setting an empty glass back on the bar. “ I cleaned part of them out for you myself, with the rain streaming down my back, thinking only of your breadless children. And what do I find when I come home to my shop but that Antoine Lamarche has been in and carried off six dog-leg twists of tobacco on credit! I say nothing about it. I am a childless old friar ; but I have never seen children eat tobacco.”

The baited Frenchman turned on Father Baby; but, like a skittish girl, the friar hopped across the room, shook off his wooden shoes, picked up the skirt of his habit, and began to dance. The exhilarating drink, the ruddiness of the fire, the discomfort outside, the smoothness of the oak boards, — these were conditions of happiness for Father Baby. This was perhaps the crowning instant of his experience. He was a butterfly man. He saw his lodger, Dr. Dunlap, appear at the door as haggard as the dead. The friar’s first thought was : —

“ That fellow has proposed for Mademoiselle Saucier and been rejected.

I’m glad I’m a churchman, and not yoked up to draw a family, like these fools, and like he wants to be. This bowing down and worshiping another human being, — crazy if you don’t get her, and crazed by her if you do, — I ’ll have none of it.”

Dr. Dunlap raised his arms and shouted to the company in the bar-room. What he said no one could hear. Hissing and roaring filled the world, submerging the crackling of the fire, the banjo tunes, and human voices. Men looked at each other, stupefied, holding their pipes from their mouths. Then a wave struck the solid old tavern, hissed across its lower gallery, and sprawled through the hall upon the bar-room floor. Not a person in the house could understand what had happened to Kaskaskia peninsula; but Jean Lozier stood on the bluff and saw it.

Jean was watching the lights of Kaskaskia while his sick grandfather slept. The moon was nearly full, but on such a night one forgot there was a moon. The bushes dripped on Jean, and the valley below him was a blur pierced by those rows of lights. A great darkness was coming out of the northwest, whistling as it came. He saw the sky and the turbid Mississippi meet and strangely become one. There were waters over the heavens, and waters under the heavens. A wall like a moving dam swept across the world and filled it. The boy found himself sitting on the ground holding to a sapling, drenched and half drowned by the spray which dashed up the bluffs. The darkness and hissing went over him, and he thought he was dying without absolution, at the end of the world. He lay down and gasped and shuddered until the great Thing was gone, — the incredible Thing, in which no one believes except him who has seen it, and which no name can name ; that awful spirit of Deluge, which lives in the traditions of every race. Jean had never heard of waterspout or cloudburst or any modern name given to the Force whenever its leash is slipped for a few minutes. He felt himself as trivial a thing in chaos as the ant which clung on his hand and bit him because it was drowning.

The blind downpour being gone, though rain still fell and the wind whistled in his ears, Jean climbed across bent or broken saplings nearer the bluff’s edge to look at Kaskaskia. The rows of lights were partially blotted; and lightning, by its swift unrollings, showed him a town standing in a lake. The Mississippi and the Okaw had become one water, spreading as far as the eye could see. Now bells began to clamor from that valley of foam. The bell of the Immaculate Conception, cast in France a hundred years before, which had tolled for D’Artaguette, and made jubilee over weddings and christenings, and almost lived the life of the people, sent out the alarm cry of smitten metal; and a tinkling appeal from the convent supplemented it.

There was no need of the bells to rouse Kaskaskia ; they served rather as sounding buoys in a suddenly created waterway. Peggy Morrison had come to stay all night with Angelique Saucier. The two girls were shut in their bedroom, and Angelique’s black maid was taking the pins from Peggy’s hair, when the stone house received its shock, and shuddered like a ship. Screams were heard from the cabins. Angelique threw the sashes open, and looked into storm and darkness; yet the lightning showed her a driving current of water combed by pickets of the garden fence. It washed over the log steps, down which some of her father’s slaves were plunging from their doors, to recoil and scramble and mix their despairing cries with the wakening clamor of bells.

Their master shouted encouragement to them from the back gallery. Angelique’s candles were blown out by the wind when she and Peggy tried to hold them for her father. The terrified maid crouched down in a helpless bunch on the hall floor, and Madame Saucier herself brought the lantern from the attic. The perforated tin beacon, spreading its bits of light like a circular shower of silver on the gallery floor, was held high for the struggling slaves. Heads as grotesque as the waterspouts on old cathedrals craned through the darkness and up to the gallery posts. The men breasted the deepening water first, and howling little blacks rode on their fathers’ shoulders. Captain Saucier pulled the trembling creatures in, standing waistdeep at the foot of the steps. The shrieking women balanced light bundles of dry clothes on their heads, and the cook brought useless kettles and pans, not realizing that all the food of the house was lost in a water-filled cellar.

The entire white - eyed colony were landed, but scarcely before it was time to close the doors of the ark. A far-off roar and a swell like that of the ocean came across the submerged country. No slave had a chance to stand whimpering and dripping in the hall. Captain Saucier put up the bars, and started a black line of men and women, with pieces of furniture, loads of clothing and linen, bedding and pewter and silver, and precious baskets of china, or tiers of books, upon their heads, up the attic stairs. Angelique’s harp went up between two stout fellows, tingling with little sighs as they bumped it on the steps. Tantegra’mere’s room was invaded, and her treasures were transferred before she had a chance to prohibit it. The children were taken from their beds by the nurse, and carried to beds made for them in the attic, where they gazed awhile at their rude dark canopy of rafters, and fell asleep again in luxury, sure of protection, and expecting much of such novel times.

The attic, like the house under it, had dignity of space, in which another large family might have found shelter. Over rawhide trunks and the disused cradle and still-crib was now piled the salvage of a wealthy household. Two dormer windows pierced the roof fronting the street, and there was also one in the west gable, extending like a hallway toward the treetops, but none in the roof at the back.

The timbers of the house creaked, and at every blow of the water the inmates could hear it splashing to the chimneys on one side, and running down on the other.

“ Now,” said Captain Saucier desperately, “ tante-gra’mère must be roused and carried up.”

“ Yes, the feather beds are all piled together for her, with fresh linen sheets and all her cushions; but,” gasped madame his wife, “ she has never before been waked in the night. Is it not better to send Angelique to bring her by degrees into a frame of mind for being removed ? ”

“There is no time. I have left her till the last minute, hoping she might wake.”

They made a procession into her chamber, Angelique and Peggy carrying candles, the grandnephew and grandniece ready for a conflict. Waters booming against the house, and already making river coves of familiar rooms, were scarcely more to be dreaded than the obstinate will of a creature as small as a child.

Angelique lifted a ruffle of tante-gra’mère’s nightcap and whispered in her ear. She stirred, and struck out with one hand, encountering the candle flame. That brought her upright, staring with indignant black eyes at the conclave.

“ Dear tante-gra’mère, we are in danger. There is a great overflow of the rivers.”

The autocrat felt for her whip in its accustomed place, and armed herself with it.

“ Pardon us for disturbing you, tantegra’mère,” said her grandnephew, “ but I am obliged to carry you into the attic.”

“ Is the sun up ? ” cried the little voice.

“The water is, madame,” answered Peggy.

“ If you wait for the sun, tante-gra’mère,” urged her grandnephew’s wife, “ you will drown here.”

“ Do you tell me I will drown in my own bed ? I will not drown. Where is Wachique ? ”

“She is carrying your chairs into the attic, tante-gra’mère.”

“ My chairs gone to the attic in my lifetime ? And who has claimed my dower chest and my linen ?”

“ All your things are safely removed except this bedstead, madame,” declared Angelique’s mother. “ They were set down more carefully than my china.”

“ How long have I been asleep ? ”

“ Only a few hours, tante-gra’mère. It is early in the night.”

Her withered face was quite wrathful.

“ The water is all over the floor, madame. We are standing to our ankles. In a few minutes we shall he standing to our knees. Look at it. Do you hear the roaring and the wash outside ? Kaskaskia is under water, and the people have to climb to the roofs.”

The aged woman always listened incredulously to Peggy. She now craned over the side of the bed, and examined for herself streams like quicksilver slipping along the dark boards.

“ Why did you not do something to prevent this, instead of coming in here to break my rest ? ” she inquired.

Captain Saucier extended his hands to lift her, but she lay down again, holding the whip bolt upright.

“ If I go to the attic, Captain Saucier, my bed goes with me.”

“ There is not time to move it.”

“ And there is such a beautiful bed up there, quite ready, with all your cushions.”

“My bed goes with me,” repeated tante-gra’mère.

“ There will soon be water enough to carry it,” remarked Peggy, “if it will float.”

Waves crashing across the gallery broke against tante-gra’mère’s closed shutters and spurted between the sashes. This freak of the storm devastating Kaskaskia she regarded with sidelong scrutiny, such as a crow gives to the dubious figure set to frighten it. The majesty of the terror which was abroad drove back into their littleness those sticks and pieces of cloth which she had valued so long. Again came the crash of water, and this time the shutters bowed themselves and a sash blew in, and the Mississippi burst into the room.

The candles were out, but Captain Saucier had caught up his relative as the water struck. Angelique groped for her mother, and she and Peggy led that dazed woman through the hall, laughing at their own shudders and splashes, and Captain Saucier waded after them. So the last vestige of human life forsook this home, taking to the shelter of the attic; and ripples drove into the fireplaces and frothed at the wainscots.

The jangling of the bells, to which the family had scarcely listened in their nearer tumult and frantic haste, became very distinct in the attic. So did the wind which was driving that foaming sea. All the windows were closed, but moisture was blown through the tiniest crevices. There were two rooms in the attic. In the first one, the slaves huddled among piles of furniture. The west room held the children’s pallets and tante-gra’mère’s lowly substitute for her leviathan bed. She sat up among pillows, blinking resentfully. Angelique at once had a pair of bedroom screens brought in, and stretched a wall of privacy across the corner thus occupied; hut tante-gra’mère as promptly had them rearranged to give her a tunnel for observation. In chaotic anger and terror she snapped her whip at intervals.

“ What is it, dear tante-gra’mère ? ” Angelique would inquire.

“ Send Wachique down to bring up my bedstead.”

“But, dear tante-gra’mère, Wachique would drown. The water is already halfway up the attic stairs.”

“ Am I to lie here on the floor like a slave ? ”

“ Dear, there are six feather beds under you.”

“ How long is this to last ? ”

“ Not long, I hope.”

Peggy stood at the gable window and looked out at the seething night. To her the peninsula seemed sinking. She could not see anything distinctly. Foam specked the panes. The bells kept up their alarm. Father Olivier was probably standing on the belfry ladder cheering his black ringer, and the sisters took turns at their rope with that determined calmness which was the rule of their lives. Peggy tried to see even the roof of her home. She was a grateful daughter ; but her most anxious thoughts were not of the father and mother whose most anxious thoughts would he of her.

When the fury of the cloudburst had passed over, and the lightning no longer flickered in their faces, and the thunder growled away in the southeast, the risen water began to show its rolling surface. A little moonlight leaked abroad through cloudy crevices. Angelique was bathing her mother’s face with camphor; for Madame Saucier sat down and fainted comfortably, when nothing else could be done. Something bumped against the side of the house, and crept crunching and bumping along, and a voice hailed them.

“ That is Colonel Menard ! ” cried Angelique.

Her father opened one of the dormer windows and held the lantern out of it. Below the steep roof a boat was dashed by the swell, and Colonel Menard and his oarsman were trying to hold it off from the eaves. A lantern was fastened in the prow.

“ How do you make a landing at this port ? ”

“ The saints know, colonel. But we will land you. How dared you venture out in the trail of such a storm ? ”

“ I do not like to wait on weather, Captain Saucier. Besides, I am a good swimmer. Are you all safe ? ”

“ Safe, thank Heaven,” called Madame Saucier, reviving at the hint of such early rescue, and pressing to the window beside her husband. “ But here are twenty people, counting our slaves, driven to the roof almost without warning; and who can say where the water will stop ? ”

“ On that account, rnadame, I came out with the boat as soon as I could. But we shall be stove in here. Monsieur the captain, can you let the family down the roof to me ? ”

Captain Saucier thought he could, and he saw it would have to be done quickly. By dim lantern light the Saucier children were hurried into their clothing, and Wachique brought a wrap of fur and wool for tante-gra’mère. Three of the slave men were called in, and they rigged a rope around their master’s waist, by which they could hold and guide him in his attempt to carry living freight down the slippery roof.

“ How many can you carry ? ” he inquired.

“ Six at a time,” answered Colonel Menard. “To try to do more would hardly be safe, in this rough water.”

“ Were the boats at the wharf swept away ? ”

“ It is not now easy to tell where the wharf was. But some of the large craft seem wedged among trees along the bluff. By daylight we shall get some out. And I have sent to the governor for all the boats he can muster for us.”

Angelique came to the dormer window and touched her father’s shoulder.

“ Are you all ready ? ” he asked.

“ Taute-gra’mère will not go into the boat.”

“ But she must. There will be six of you, with Peggy; and Colonel Menard cannot much longer hang by the eaves.”

“ Perhaps if you pick her up and run with her, papa, as you did from the danger below, she may allow it.”

“ She must go into the boat directly,” said Captain Saucier ; and the negroes paid out the rope as he stalked to the screened corner.

Angelique leaned over the sill and the chill wilderness of waters. The wind sung in her ears. She could not distinctly see Colonel Menard, and there was such a sound of waves that she was not sure it was best to try her voice against them. His man had an oar thrust into the broken window below, and was thereby able to Hold the boat against the current.

“ Monsieur the colonel! ” called Angelique ; and she saw the swift removal of his hat.

“ Mademoiselle, have you been alarmed ? ”

“ Yes, monsieur. Even my father was unable to do anything for the family until you came. But it seems when we find one relief we get another anxiety with it.”

“ What other anxiety have you now ? ”

“ I am afraid you will he drowned trying to carry us out.”

“ My bel-o-ved, would you care ? ” said Pierre Menard, speaking English, which his slave could not understand, and accenting on the first syllable the name he gave her.

“ Yes ; it would be a serious inconvenience to me,” replied Angelique.

“Now that is worth coming here for. De northwest wind, I do not feel it since you say that.”

“ I was thinking before you came, monsieur, what if f should never see you again ? And if I saw you plainly now I could not talk so much. But something may happen. It is so strange, and like another world, this water.”

Tante-gra’mère screamed, and Angelique disappeared from the window-sill. It was not the mere outcry of a frightened woman. The keen small shriek was so terrible in its helplessness and appeal to Heaven that Captain Saucier was made limp by it.

“What shall I do?” he asked his family. “ I cannot force her into the boat when she cries out like that.”

“ Perhaps she will go at dawn,” suggested Angelique. “ The wind may sink. The howling and the darkness terrify her more than the water.”

“ But Colonel Menard cannot wait until dawn. We shall all be drowned here before she will budge,” lamented Madame Saucier.

“ Leave her with me,” urged Peggy Morrison, “ and the rest of you go with Colonel Menard. I ’ll manage her. She will be ready to jump out of the window into the next boat that comes along.”

“ We cannot leave her, Peggy, and we cannot leave you. I am responsible to your father for your safety. I will put you and my family into the boat, and stay with her myself.”

“ Angelique will not leave me ! ” cried the little voice among the screens.

“ Are you ready to lower them ? ” called Colonel Menard.

Captain Saucier went again to the window, his wife and daughter and Peggy with him.

“ I could not leave her,” said Angelique to Peggy. They stood behind the father and mother, who told their trouble across the sill.

“ That spoiled old woman needs a good shaking,” declared Peggy.

“ Poor little tante-gra’mère. It is a dreadful thing, Peggy, to be a child when you are too old for discipline.”

“ Give my compliments to madame, and coax her,” urged Colonel Menard. “Tell her, if she will let herself be lowered to me, I will pledge my life for her safety.”

The two children stood huddled together, waiting, large-eyed and silent, while their elders kneeled around the immovable invalid. Peggy laughed at the expectant attitudes of the pleaders.

“ Tante-gra’mère has now quite made up her mind to go,” Madame Saucier announced over and over to her family and to Peggy, and to the slaves at the partition door, all of whom were waiting for the rescue barred from them by one obstinate little mummy.

But these hopeful assertions were wasted. Tante-gra’mere had made up her mind to stay. She held to her whip, and refused to be touched. Her fixed decree was announced to Colonel Menard. He asked for the women and children of the family in haste. He and his man were wasting time and strength holding the boat against the waves. It was in danger of being swamped.

Angelique stood deferentially before her father and asked his permission to stay with his grandaunt. In the same deferential manner she asked permission of her mother. Madame Saucier leaned on her husband’s shoulder and wept. It was plain that the mother must go with her two young children only. Peggy said she would not leave Angelique.

“ Monsieur the colonel,” spoke Angelique again into the windy darkness, “ we are not worth half the trouble you are taking for us. I wonder you do not leave such ridiculous people to drown or get out as we can. But my tante-gra’mère is so old ; please forgive her. My mother and the children are quite ready. I wish poor Mademoiselle Zhone were with you, too.”

“ I will fetch Mademoiselle Zhone out of her house before madame and the children get in,” said Pierre Menard promptly. “ As for the delay, it is nothing, mademoiselle ; we must get you all to land as we can.”

“Monsieur, will it not be dangerous? I thought of her because she is so sick. But there is foam everywhere ; and the trees are in your way.”

“We can find a track,” answered the colonel. “ Push off, boy.”

The boat labored out, and the click of oars in rowlocks became presently a distant thumping, and then all sound was lost in the wash of water.

Angelique went to the dormer window in the gable. As she threw the sashes wide she was partly drenched by a wave, and tante-gra’mère sent from the screens a shrill mandate against wind which cut to the bone. Captain Saucier fastened the sashes again. He was a crestfallen man. He had fought Indians with credit, but he was not equal to the weakest member of his household.

Occasionally the rafters creaked from a blow, and a wave rushed up the roof.

“It is rising higher,”said Peggy.

Angelique wished she had not mentioned Mademoiselle Zhone. Perhaps, when the colonel had risked his life to bring the sick girl out of a swamped house, her family might prefer to wait until morning to putting her in the boat now.

The bells kept ringing, now filling the attic with their vibrations, and then receding to a faint and far-off clamor as the wind swept by. They called to all the bluff-dwellers within miles of Kaskaskia.

The children sat down, and leaned their heads against their mother’s knee. The others waited in drawing-room chairs; feeling the weariness of anxiety and broken domestic habits. Captain Saucier watched for the return of the boat; but before it seemed possible the little voyage could be made they felt a jar under the gable window, and Rice Jones’s voice called.

The gable of the house had a sloping roof, its window being on a level with the other windows. Captain Saucier leaned far out. The wind had extinguished the boat’s lantern. The rowers were trying to hold the boat broadside to the house, but it rose and fell on waves which became breakers and threatened to capsize it. All Kaskaskia men were acquainted with water. Pierre Menard had made many a river journey. But the Mississippi in this wild aspect was new to them all.

“ Can you take her in ? ” shouted Rice.

“ My sister thinks she cannot be got ashore alive.”

“ Can you lift her to me ? ”

“ When the next wave comes,”said Rice.

He steadied himself and lifted Maria. As the swell again tossed the boat upward, he rose on a bench and lifted her as high as he could. Captain Saucier caught the frail bundle and drew the sick girl into the attic. He laid her down on the children’s bed, leaving her to Angelique, while he prepared to put them and their mother into the boat. Rice crept over the wet strip of gable roof, and entered the window after his sister. By lantern light he was a strong living figure. His austerely white face was full of amusement at the Kaskaskian situation. His hat had blown away. The water had sleeked down his hair to a satin skullcap on his full head.

“ This is a wet night, madame and mesdemoiselles,” he observed.

“ Oh, Monsieur Zhone,” lamented Madame Saucier, “ how can you laugh ? We are all ruined.”

“ No, madame. There is no such word as ‘ ruin ’ in the Territory.”

“ And I must take my two little children, and leave Angelique here in the midst of this water.”

Rice had directly knelt down by his sister and put his hand on her forehead. Maria was quite still, and evidently gathering her little strength together.

“ But why do you remain ? ” said Rice to Angelique. She was at Maria’s opposite side, and she merely indicated the presence behind the screens ; but Peggy explained aloud, —

“ She can’t go because tante-gra’mère won’t he moved.”

“ Put that limb of a Morrison girl out of the house,” came an unexpected mandate from amongst the screens.

“ I would gladly put her out, said Captain Saucier anxiously. “Peggy, my child, now that Mademoiselle Zhone is with Angelique, be persuaded to go with rnadame and the children.”

Peggy shook her head, laughing. A keen new delight in delay and danger made her sparkle.

“ Go yourself. Captain Saucier. One gentleman is enough to take care of us.”

“ I think you ought to go, Captain Saucier,” said Rice. “ You will be needed. The boat may be swamped by some of those large waves. I am ashamed of leaving my stepmother behind ; but she would not leave my father, and Maria clung to me. We dared not fill the boat too full.”

Angelique ran and kissed the children before her father put them into the boat, and offered her cheeks to her mother. Madame Saucier was a fat woman. She clung appalled to her husband, as he let her over the slippery roof. Two slave men braced themselves and held the ropes which steadied him, the whites of their eyes showing. Their mistress was landed with a plunge, but steadied on her seat by Colonel. Menard.

“Oh,”she cried out, “ I have left the house without saying adieu to tante-gra’mère. My mind is distracted. She will as long as she lives remember this discourtesy.”

“It could be easily remedied, madame,” suggested Colonel Menard, panting as he braced his oar, “ if she would step into the boat herself, as we all wish her to do.”

“ Oh, monsieur the colonel, you are the best of men. If you had only had the training of her instead of my poor gentle Francis, she might not be so hard to manage now.”

“We must not flatter ourselves, madame. But Mademoiselle Angelique must not remain here much longer for anybody’s whim.”

“ Do you think the water is rising? ”

“ It is certainly rising.”

Madame Saucier uttered a shriek as a great swell rolled the boat. The searching wind penetrated all her garments and blew back loose ends of her hair. There was now a partially clear sky, and the moon sent forth a little lustre as a hint of what she might do when she had entirely freed herself from clouds.

The children were lowered, and after them their black nurse.

“ There is room for at least one more! ” called Pierre Menard.

Captain Saucier stood irresolute.

“ Can you not trust me with these fragments of our families ? ” said Rice.

“ Certainly, Monsieur Reece, certainly. It is not that. But you see the water is still rising.”

“ I was testing the rise of the water when Colonel Menard reached ns. The wind makes it seem higher than it really is. You can go and return, captain, while you are hesitating.”

“ I am torn in two,” declared the Indian fighter. “ It makes a child of me to leave Angelique behind.”

“ Francis Saucier,” came in shrill French from the screens, “get into that boat, and leave my godchild alone.”

The captain laughed. He also kissed the cheeks of tante-gra’mère’s godchild and let himself slide down the roof, and the boat was off directly.

The slaves, before returning to their own room, again fastened the sashes of the dormer window. The clamor of bells which seemed to pour through the open window was thus partly silenced. The lantern made its dim illumination with specks of light, swinging from a nail over the window alcove. Maria had not yet unclosed her eyes. Her wasted hand made a network around one of Rice’s fingers, and as the coughing spasm seized her she tightened it.

“ She wants air,” he said hastily, and Angelique again spread wide the window in the gable, when the thin cry of her tante-gra’mère forbade it.

“ But, dear tante-gra’mère, Mademoiselle Zhone must have air.”

“ And must she selfishly give me rheumatism in order to give herself air ? ”

“ But, dear tante-gra’mère ” —

“ Shut that window.”

“ I dare not, indeed.”

Rice seized two corners of the feather pallet, and made it travel in a swift swish across the attic boards to the window at the front, which he opened. Supporting Maria in his arms, he signaled Angelique, with an amused face, to obey her tyrant; and she did so. But Peggy stalked behind the screens, and put her face close to the black eyes in the great soft lair built up of so many beds.

“ You and I are nice people, madame,” said Peggy through her teeth. “ We don’t care who suffers, if we are happy. We ought to have been twins ; the same little beast lives in us both.”

Tante-gra’mère’s eyes snapped.

“ You are a limb,” she responded in shrill French.

“Yes; we know each other,” said Peggy.

“ When you are old, there will come a little wretch to revile you.”

“ I don’t revile you, madame. I dote on you.”

“Your mother should box your ears, mademoiselle.”

“ It would do me no good, madame.”

“ I should like to try it,” said tantegra’mère, without humor.

Angelique did not hear this little quarrel. She was helping Rice with his sister. His pockets were full of Maria’s medicines. He set the bottles out, and Angelique arranged them ready for use. They gave her a spoonful and raised her on pillows, and she rested drowsily again, grateful for the damp wind which made the others shiver. Angelique’s sweet fixed gaze, with an unconscious focus of vital power, dwelt on the sick girl ; she felt the yearning pity which mothers feel. And this, or the glamour of dim light, made her oval face and dark hair so beautiful that Rice looked at her ; and Peggy, coming from the screens, resented that look.

Peggy sat down in the window, facing them, the dormer alcove making a tunnel through which she could watch like a spider ; though she lounged indifferently against the frame, and turned toward the water streets and storm-drenched half houses which the moon now plainly revealed. The northwest wind set her teeth with its chill, and ripples of froth chased each other up the roof at her.

“ The water is still rising,” remarked Peggy.

“ Look, Peggy,” begged Angelique, “and see if Colonel Menard and my father are coming back with the boat.”

“ It is too soon,” said Rice.

“ Perhaps Colonel Menard will never come back,” suggested Peggy. “ It was a bad sign when the screech-owl screeched in the old Jesuit College.”

“ But the storm is over now. The water is not washing over the house.”

“ The moon shows plenty of whitecaps. It is rough.”

“ As long as this wind lasts the water will be boisterous,” said Rice. “ But Colonel Menard no more minds rough weather than a priest carrying the sacrament. He is used to the rivers.”

“ Hear a Protestant catering to a papist,” observed Peggy. “ But it is lost on Angelique. She is as good as engaged to Colonel Menard. She accepted him through the window before all of us, when he came to the rescue.”

“ Must I congratulate him ? ” Rice inquired of Angelique. “ He certainly deserves his good luck.”

“ Peggy has no right to announce it so! ” exclaimed Angelique, feeling invaded and despoiled of family privacy. “ It is not yet called an engagement.”

Peggy glanced at Rice Jones, and felt grateful to Heaven for the flood. Sbe admired him with keen appreciation. He took his disappointment as he would have taken an offered flower, considered it without changing a muscle, and complimented the giver.

Guns began to be beard from the bluffs in answer to the bells. Peggy leaned out to look across the tossing waste at a dim ridge of shadow which she knew to be the bluffs. The sound bounded over the water. From this front window of the attic some arches of the bridge were always visible. She could not now guess where it crossed, or feel sure that any of its masonry withstood the enormous pressure.

The negroes were leaning out of their dormer window, also, and watching the nightmare world into which the sunny peninsula was changed. When a particularly high swell threw foam in their faces they started back, but others as anxious took their places.

“ Boats will be putting out from the bluffs plentifully, soon,” said Rice. " Before to-morrow sunset all Kaskaskia and its goods and chattels will be moved to the uplands.”

“ I wonder what became of the poor cows,” mused Angelique. “ They were turned out to the common pasture before the storm.”

“ Some of them were carried down by the rivers, and some swam out to the uplands. It is a strange predicament for the capital of a great Territory. But these rich lowlands were made by water, and if they can survive overflow they must be profited by it.”

“ What effect will this have on the election ? ” inquired Peggy, and Rice laughed.

“ You can’t put us back on our ordinary level, Miss Peggy. We are lifted above elections for the present.”

“ Here is a boat! ” she exclaimed, and the slaves at the other window hailed Father Olivier as he tried to steady himself at the angle formed by the roofs.

Angelique looked out, but Rice sat still beside his sister.

“ Are you all quite safe ? ” shouted the priest.

“ Quite, father. The slaves were brought in, and we are all in the attic.”

“ Keep up your courage and your prayers. As soon as this strong wind dies away they will put out from shore for you.”

“ Colonel Menard has already been here and taken part of the family.”

“ Has he ? ”

“ Yes, father; though tante-gra’mère is afraid to venture yet, so we remain with her.”

They could see the priest, indistinctly, sitting in a small skiff, which he tried to keep off the roof with a rough paddle.

“ Where did you find a boat, father ? ”

“ I think it is one the negroes had on the marsh by the levee. It lodged in my gallery, and by the help of the saints I am trying to voyage from house to house, as far as I can, and carry a little encouragement. I have the parish records here with me ; and if this vessel capsizes, their loss would be worse for this parish than the loss of me.”

“ But, father, you are not trying to reach the land in that frail canoe ? ”

“Not yet, my daughter; not until some of the people are taken out. I did intend to venture for help, but the ringing of the bells has been of service to us. The sexton will stay in the belfry all night. I was able to get him there by means of this boat.”

“ Come up here until the wind dies down, Monsieur Olivier,” urged Peggy. “ That little tub is not strong enough to carry you. I have seen it. The slaves made it, with scarcely any tools, of some boards from the old Jesuit College.”

“ The little tub has done good service to-night, mademoiselle; and I must get as far as the tavern, at least, to carry news of their families to men there. Antoine Lamarche’s child is dead, and his family are on the roof. I was able to minister to its parting soul; and I set the others, for safety, astride the roofpole, promising them heavy penance if they moved before help came. He ought now to take this boat and go to them, if I can put him in heart to do it.”

“ A Protestant hardly caters to a papist when he puts some faith in the courage of a man like Father Olivier,’ said Rice to Peggy.

“ Did I hint that you would cater to any one ? ” she responded, with a lift of her slender chin. The wind had blown out a long tress of Peggy’s hair which trailed to the floor. Rice seldom looked at her ; but he noticed this sweep of living redness with something like approval; in shadow it shone softened to bronze.

“ I think my father and Colonel Menard are coming back,” said Angelique.

“ I see a light moving out from the bluffs.”

“ Oh, no ; they are only picking their way among trees to a landing.”

“ They have gone with the current and the wind,” said Rice. “ It will take a longer time to make their way back against the current and the wind.”

“ Let us begin to bind and gag madame now, anyhow,” Peggy suggested recklessly. “ It’s what the colonel will do, if he is forced to it. She will never of her own will go into the boat.”

“ Poor tante-gra’mère. I should have asked Father Olivier to urge her. But this is such a time of confusion one thinks of nothing.”

Angelique stooped to watch Maria’s stupor. Rice had put the skeleton hand under a coverlet which was drawn to the sick girl’s chin. He sat beside her on one of the brocaded drawing-room chairs, his head resting against the high back and his crossed feet stretched toward the window, in an attitude of his own which expressed quiescent power. Peggy went directly behind the screens, determined to pounce upon the woman who prolonged their stay in a flooded house, and deal with her as there would not be opportunity to do later. Tantegra’mère was asleep.

Angelique sat down with Peggy on the floor, a little way from the pile of feather beds. They were very weary. The tonic of excitement, and even of Rice Jones’s presence, failed in their effect on Peggy.

It was past midnight. The girls heard cocks crowing along the bluffs. Angelique took the red head upon her shoulder, saying, —

“ It would be better if we slept until they call, since there is nothing else to do.”

“ You might coquette over Maria Jones. I won’t tell.”

“ What a thorn you are, Peggy ! If I did not know the rose that goes with it ” — Angelique did not state her alternative.

“ A red rose,” scoffed Peggy; and she felt herself drowsing in the mother arms.

Rice was keenly awake, and when the gills went into the privacy of the screens he sat looking out of the window at the oblong of darkly blue night sky which it shaped for him. His temples throbbed. The strange conditions around him were not able to vary his usual habits of thought. Something exhilarated him; and he wondered at that, when Peggy had told him Angelique’s decision against him. He felt at peace with the world, and for the first time even with Dr. Dunlap.

“ We are here such a little time,” thought Rice, “ and are all such poor wretches. What does it matter, the damage we do one another in our groping about ? God forgive me ! I would have killed that man, and maybe added another pang to the suffering of this dying girl.”

Maria stirred. The snoring of the sleeping negroes penetrated the dividing wall. He thought he heard a rasping on the shingles outside which could not be accounted for by wind or water, and rose to his feet, that instant facing Dr. Dunlap in the window.

Dr. Dunlap had one leg across the low sill. The two men stood breathless. Maria saw the intruder. She sat up, articulating his name. At that piteous sound, betraying him to her brother, the cowardly impulse of many days’ growth carried Dr. Dunlap’s hand like a flash to his pocket. He fired his pistol directly into Rice’s breast, and dropped back through the window to the boat he had taken from the priest.

The screams of women and the terrified outcry of slaves filled the attic. Rice threw his arms above his head, and sunk downward. In the midst of the smoke Peggy knelt by him, and lifted his head and shoulders. The night wind blew upon them, and she could discern his dilated eyes and piteous amazement.

“ Dr. Dunlap has shot me,” he said to her. " I don’t know why he did it.” And his face fell against her bosom as he died.

Mary Hartwell Catherwood.