Old Kaskaskia: In Four Parts. Part Fourth


THE moonlight shone in through both windows and the lantern glimmered. The choking smell of gunpowder spread from room to room. Two of the slave men sprung across the sill to pursue Dr. Dunlap, but they could do nothing. They could see him paddling away from the house, and giving himself up to the current ; a desperate man, whose fate was from that hour unknown. Night and the paralysis which the flood laid upon human action favored him. Did a still pitying soul bend above his wild-eyed and reckless plunging through whirls of water, comprehending that he had been startled into assassination ; that the deed was, like the result of his marriage, a tragedy he did not foresee ? Some men are made for strong domestic ties, yet run with brutal precipitation into the loneliness of evil.

A desire to get out of the flood-bound tavern, an unreasonable impulse to see Angelique Saucier and perhaps be of use to her, a mistakenly silent entering of the house which he hardly knew how to approach, — these were the conditions which put him in the way of his crime. The old journey of Cain was already begun while Angelique was robbing her great-grandaunt’s bed of pillows to put under Rice Jones. The aged woman had gone into her shell of sleep, and the muffled shot, the confusion and wailing, did not wake her. Wachique and another slave lifted the body and laid it on the quickly spread couch of pillows.

Nobody thought of Maria. She lay quite still, and made no sound in that flurry of terror.

“ He is badly hurt,” said Angelique. “ Lizette, bring linen, the first your hand touches ; and you, Achille, open his vest and find the wound quickly.”

“ But it’s no use, ma’amselle,” whispered the half-breed, lifting his eyes.

“ Do not be afraid, poor Achille. I will show you how myself. We cannot wait for any one to help us. What would my father and Colonel Menard say, if they found Monsieur Reece Zhone killed in our house ? ”

In her panic Angelique tore the vest wide, and found the great stain over the place where the heart should be. She was kneeling, and she turned back to Peggy, who stood behind her.

Death is great or it is a piteous change, like the slaughter of brutes, according as we bear ourselves in its presence. How mighty an experience it is to wait where world overlaps the edge of world, and feel the vastness of eternity around us ! A moment ago — or was it many ages ? — he spoke. Now he is gone, leaving a strange visible image lying there to awe us. The dead take sudden majesty. They become as gods. We think they hear us when we speak of them, and their good becomes sacred. A dead face has all human faults wiped from it; and that Shape, that Presence, whose passiveness seems infinite, how it fills the house, the town, the whole world, while it stays !

The hardest problem we have to face here is the waste of our best things, — of hopes, of patience, of love, of days, of agonizing labor, of lives which promise most. Rice’s astonishment at the brutal waste of himself had already passed off his countenance. The open eyes saw nothing, but the lips were closed in sublime peace.

“ And his sister,” wept Angelique. “ Look at Mademoiselle Zhone, also.”

The dozen negroes, old and young, led by Achille, began to sob in music one of those sweet undertone chants for the dead which no race but theirs can master. They sung the power of the man and the tenderness of the young sister whose soul followed her brother’s, and they called from that ark on the waters for saints and angels to come down and bless the beds of the two. The bells intoned with them, and a sinking wind carried a lighter ripple against the house.

“ Send them out,” spoke Peggy Morrison, with an imperious sweep of the arm ; and the half-breed authoritatively hurried the other slaves back to their doorway. The submissive race understood and obeyed, anxiously watching Peggy as she wavered in her erectness and groped with the fingers of both bands.

“ Put camphor under Ma’amselle Peggy’s nose, Waehique,” whispered Achille.

Peggy found Rice’s chair, and sat down; but as soon as she returned to a consciousness of the bottle under her nose and an arm around her, she said,—

“ Go away. A Morrison never faints.”

Angelique was kneeling like a nun. She felt the push of a foot.

“ Stop that crying,” said Peggy fiercely. “ I hate to hear it. What right have you to cry ? ”

“No right at all. But the whole Territory will weep over this.”

“What right has the Territory in him now? The Territory will soon find another brilliant man.”

“And this poor tiny girl, Peggy, so near her death, what had she done to deserve that it should come in this form ? Are men gone mad in this flood, that Dr. Dunlap, for a mere political feud, should seek out Monsieur Reece Zhone in my father’s house, and shoot him down before our eyes ? I am dazed. It is like a nightmare.”

Peggy set her mouth and looked abroad into the brightening night.

Angelique dropped her face in her hands and shook with sobbing. The three girlish figures, one rigid on the bed, another rigid in the chair, and the third bending in vicarious suffering between them, were made suddenly clear by an illumination of the moon as it began to find the western window. Wachique had busied herself seeking among piles of furniture for candles, which she considered a necessity for the dead. The house supply of wax tapers was in the submerged cellar. So she took the lantern from its nail and set it on the floor at the head of the two pallets, and it threw scattered spots of lustre on Rice’s white forehead and Maria’s hair. This humble shrouded torch, impertinent as it looked when the lily-white moonlight lay across it. yet reminded beholders of a stable, and a Child born in a stable who had taught the race to turn every sorrow into glory.

The night sent its quiet through the attic, though the bells which had clamored so over the destruction of verdure and homes appeared now to clamor louder over the destruction of youth.

“ Do you understand this, Peggy ? They died heretic and unblessed, yet I want to know what they now know until it seems to me I cannot wait. When I have been playing the harp to tantegra’mère. and thinking so much, long, long afternoons, such a strange homesickness has grown in me. I could not make anybody believe it if I told it. These two have found out what is beyond. They have found out the great secret. Oh, Peggy, I do want to know it, also. There will be an awful mourning over them ; and when they go into their little earthen cellars, people will pity that, and say, ‘ Poor things.‘ But they know the mystery of the ages now, and we know nothing. Do you think they are yet very far away ? Monsieur Reece ? Mademoiselle ? ”

Angelique’s low interrogating call, made while she keenly listened with lifted face, had its only response in a mutter from Wachique, who feared any invocation of spirits. Peggy sat looking straight ahead of her without a word. She could not wash her face, soft with tears, and she felt no reaching out towards disembodiment. What she wanted was love in this world, and pride in her love ; long years of glad living on the verdure of earth in the light of the sun. One presence could make the common old world celestial enough for her. She had missed her desire. But Rice had turned his face to her as he died.

Two boats moved to the eaves and rested there, shaken only by a ripple of the quieting water. The overflowed rivers would lie calm when the wind allowed it, excepting where a boiling current drove. The dazed girls yet seemed to dream through the strong indignation and the inquiry and fruitless plans of arriving men. It was a dream when Captain Saucier sat down and stared haggardly at the two who had perished under his roof, and Colonel Menard stood with his hat over his face. It was a dream when the brother and sister were lowered and placed on one pallet in a boat. The hollow of the rafters, the walls on which one might mark with his nail, the waiting black faces, the figures toiling down the roof with those loads, — were any of these sights real?

“ Wrap yourselves,” said Captain Saucier to Peggy and Angelique. “The other boat is quite ready for you.”

“ But, papa, are Monsieur Reece and his sister going alone with the rowers ? ”

“ I am myself going with them.”

“ Papa,” urged Angelique, “ Mademoiselle Zhone was a young girl. If I were in her place, would you not like to have some young girl sit by my head ? ”

“ But you cannot go.”

“ No, but Peggy can.”

“ Peggy would rather go with you.”

“ I am sure she will do it.”

“ Will you, Peggy ? ”

“ Yes, I will.”

So Angelique wrapped Peggy first, and went with her as far as the window. It was the window through which Dr. Dunlap had stepped.

“ Good-by, dear Peggy,” whispered Angelique; for the other seemed starting on the main journey of her life.

“ Good-by, dear Angelique.”

Peggy’s eyes were tearless still, but she looked and looked at Angelique, and looked back mutely again when she sat at Rice’s head in the boat. She had him to herself. Between the water and the sky, and within the dim horizon band, she could be alone with him. He was her own while the boat felt its way across the waste. The rowers sat on a bench over the foot of the pallet. Captain Saucier was obliged to steer. Peggy sat in the prow, and while they struggled against the rivers, she looked with the proud courage of a Morrison at her dead whom she must never claim again.

The colonel put Angelique first into the waiting boat. Wachique was set in front of her, to receive tante-gra’mère when the potentate’s chrysalid should be lowered. For the first time in her life Angelique leaned back, letting slip from herself all responsibility. Colonel Menard could bring her great - grandaunt out. The sense of moving in a picture, of not feeling what she handled, and of being cut off from the realities of life followed Angelique into the boat. She was worn to exhaustion. Her torpid pulses owned the chill upon the waters.

There was room in which a few of the little blacks might be stowed without annoying tante-gra’mère, but their mothers begged to keep them until all could go together.

“ Now, my children,” said Colonel Menard, “ have patience for another hour or two, when the boats shall return and bring you all off. The house is safe ; there is no longer a strong wind driving waves over it. A few people in Kaskaskia have had to sit on their roofs since the water rose.”

Achille promised to take charge of his master’s household. But one of the women pointed to the stain on the floor. The lantern yet burned at the head of Rice’s deserted pillows. Superstition began to rise from that spot. They no longer had Angelique among them, with her atmosphere of invisible angels.

“ That is the blood of the best man in the Territory,” said Colonel Menard. “ I would give much more of my own to bring back the man who spilled it. Are you afraid of a mere blood-spot in the gray of the morning? Go into the other room and fasten the door, then. Achille will show you that he can stay here alone.”

“If mo’sieu’ the colonel would let me go into that room, too ” —

“ Go in, Achille,” said the colonel indulgently.

Colonel Menard made short work of embarking tante-gra’mère. In emergencies, he was deft and delicate with his hands. She never knew who caught her in coverlets and did her up like a papoose, with a pillow under her head.

“ Pull westward to the next street,” he gave orders to his oarsmen. “ We found it easy going with the current that way. It will double the distance, but give us less trouble to get into dead water the other side of the Okaw.”

Early summer dawn was breaking over that deluged world, a whiter light than moonshine giving increasing distinctness to every object. This hint of day gave rest to the tired ringers in church tower and convent belfry. The bells died away, and stillness brooded on the water plain. Hoarse roaring of the yellow current became a mere monotonous background for other sounds. A breath stole from the east, bringing the scent of rain-washed earth and foliage and sweet mints. There was no other wind ; and the boat shot easily on its course alongside a thicket made by orchard treetops. Some birds, maybe proprietors of drowned nests, were already complaining over these, or toppling experimentally down on branch tips.

Kaskaskia had become a strange halftown, cut off around its middle. It affected one like a man standing on his armpits. The capital of the Territory was composed chiefly of roofs and dormer windows, of squatty wooden islands in a boundless sea. The Church of the Immaculate Conception was a laughable tent of masonry, top-heavy with its square tower. As for cultivated fields and the pastures where the cattle grazed, such vanished realities were forgotten. And what was washing over the marble tombs and slate crosses in the churchyard ?

The flood strangely lifted and forced skyward the plane of life, yet lowered all life’s functions. An open and liberal sky, dappling with a promise from the east, bent over and mocked paralyzed humanity.

The noble bluffs had become a sunken ridge, water meeting the Forests a little below their waists. From their coverts boats could now be seen putting out in every direction, and, though the morning star was paling, each carried a light. They were like a party of belated fireflies escaping from daylight. Faces in dormer windows waited for them. Down by the Jesuit College weak hurrahs arose from people on roofs.

“ The governor has come with help for us,” said Pierre Menard.

In this dead world of Kaskaskia not a dog barked; not one of the shortened chimney-stacks smoked. Some of the houses had their casements closed in terrible silence ; but out of others neighbors looked and greeted Angelique in the abashed way peculiar to people who have not got used to an amputation, and are sensitive about their new appearance in the world. Heads leaned out, also, firing jokes after the boat, and offering the colonel large shares in the common fields and entire crops for a seat in his conveyance.

Drift of rotten wood stuck to the house sides, and broken trees or stumps, jammed under gallery roofs, resented the current, and broke the surface as they rose and dipped. Strange craft, large and small, rode down the turgid sweep. Straw beehives rolled along like gigantic pine cones, and rustic hencoops of bottom-land settlers kept their balance as they moved. Far off, a cart could be outlined making a hopeless ford. The current was so broad that its sweep extended beyond the reach of sight; and perhaps the strangest object carried by this tremendous force was a small clapboarded house. Its back and front doors stood open, and in the middle of the floor stood a solitary chair. One expected to see a figure emerge from a hidden corner and sit down forlornly in the chair.

The slender voice of a violin stole across the water, — an exorcism of the spell that had fallen on Kaskaskia. As the boat reached the tavern corner, this thread of melody was easily followed to the ballroom on the second floor of the tavern, where the Assembly balls were danced. A slave, who had nothing but his daily bread to lose, and who would be assured of that by the hand of charity when his master could no longer maintain him, might take up the bow and touch the fiddle gayly in such a time of general calamity. But there was also dancing in the ballroom. The boat turned south and shot down a canal bordered by trunkless shade trees, which had been one of the principal streets of Kaskaskia. At the instant of turning, however, Father Baby could be seen as he whirled, though his skinny head and gray capote need not have added their evidence to the exact sound of his foot which came so distinctly across the water. His little shop, his goods, his secret stocking-leg of coin, — for Father Baby was his own banker, — were buried out of sight. HLS crop in the common fields and provision for winter lay also under the Mississippi. His late lodger had taken to the river, and was probably drowned. He had no warrant except in the nimbleness of his slave’s legs that he even had a slave left. Yet he had never in his life felt so full of dance. The flood mounted to his head like wine. Father Olivier was in the tavern without forbidding it. Doubtless he thought the example an exhilarating one, when a grown-up child could dance over material loss, remembering only the joy of life.

Wachique had felt her bundle squirm from the moment it was given to her. She enlarged on the hint Colonel Menard had given, and held the drapery bound tightly around the prisoner. The boat shot past the church, and over the spot where St. John’s bonfire had so recently burnt out, and across that street through which the girls had scampered on their Midsummer Night errand.

“ But stop,” said Colonel Menard; and he pointed out to the rowers an obstruction which none of them had seen in the night. From the Jesuit College across the true bed of the Okaw a dam had formed, probably having for its base part of the bridge masonry. Whole trees were swept into the barricade. “We cannot now cross diagonally and come back through the dead water at our leisure, for there is that dam to be passed. Pull for the old college.”

The boat was therefore turned, and thus took the same course that the girls had taken. The current was at right angles with its advance, though the houses on the north somewhat broke that force. The roofless building, ridiculously shortened in its height, had more the look of a fortress than when it was used as one. The walls had been washed out above both great entrances, making spacious jagged arches through which larger craft than theirs could pass. Colonel Menard was quick to see this ; he steered and directed his men accordingly. The Jesuit College was too well built to crumble on the heads of chance passers, though the wind and the flood had battered it; to row through it would shorten their course.

Angelique did not say a word about the changed aspect of her world. A warmth in the pearly light over the bluffs promised a clear day : and how Kaskaskia would look with the sun shining on her predicament ! The boat cut through braiding and twisting water, and shot into the college. Part of the building’s upper floor remained ; everything else was gone.

The walls threw a shadow upon them, and the green flicker, dancing up and down as they disturbed the inclosure, played curiously on their faces. The stones suddenly echoed a slap. Tantegra’mère’s struggling wrath, which Waehique had tried to keep bound in the coverlet, having found an outlet, was swift as lightning in its reprisal. The stings of the whiplash had exhilaration and dignity compared to this attack. It was the climax of her midget rages. She forgot the breeding of a gentlewoman, and furiously struck her slave in the face.

Waehique started up, her Pottawatomie blood painting her cheek bones. That instant she was an Indian, not a slave. She remembered everything this petted despot had done to her, and, lifting her bundle, threw it as far as her arms could send it across the water floor of the college. The pitiful little weight sunk with a gurgling sound.

“ Sit down, woman ! ” shouted Colonel Menard.

Waehique cowered, and tried to obey. But the motion she had given the boat was not to be overcome. It careened, and the water rushed over their knees, filled it full, and became a whirlpool of grasping hands and choking heads.

The overturned boat, wedged partially under the flooring, lodged against the eastern wall. Both negro rowers came up from their plunge and climbed like cats upon this platform, smearing a mire of sodden plastering over their homespun trousers as they crawled. One of them reached down and caught the halfbreed by the hair, as she rose at the edge of the flooring. Between them they were able to draw her up.

The shock of a cold flood around Angelique’s ears sent life as vivid as fire through her brain. The exhaustion and stupor of the night were gone. She felt her body swallowed. It went down to the floor where the girls had walked when they chanted, “ Hempseed, I sow thee.” It rose, and all the rapturous advantage which there was in continuing to inhabit it took mighty possession of her. She was so healthily, so happily lodged. It was a sin to say she was longing for the mystery hereafter, when all the beautiful mysteries here were unknown to her. Then Colonel Menard was holding her up, and she was dragged to sight and breathing once more, and to a solid support under her melting life. She lay on the floor, seeing the open sky above her, conscious that streams of water poured from her clothes and her hair, ran down her face, and dripped from her ears. A slow terror which had underlain all these physical perceptions now burst from her thoughts like flame. Her great-grandaunt, the infant of the house, was all this time lying at the bottom of the old college. It was really not a minute, but minutes are long to the drowning. Angelique caught her breath, saying, “ Tante-gra’mère ! ” She heard a plunge, and knew that Colonel Menard had stood on the platform only longenough to cast aside his coat and shoes before he dived.

The slaves, supporting themselves on their palms, stretched forward, openmouthed. There was the rippling surface, carrying the shadow of the walls. Nothing came up. A cow could be heard lowing on the bluffs to her lost calf. The morning twitter of birds became an aggressive and sickening sound.

“ Where is he ? ” demanded Angelique, creeping also to her trembling knees. “ Where is monsieur the colonel ? ”

Both men gave her the silent, frightened testimony of their rolling eyes, but Waehique lay along the floor with hidden face. Not a bubble broke the yellow sheet smothering and keeping him down.

As the driving of steel it went through Angelique that the aching and passion and ferocity which rose in her were love. She loved that man under the water ; she so loved him that she must go down after him ; for what was life, with him there ? She must have loved him when she was a child, and he used to take off his hat to her, saying, “ Good-day, mademoiselle.” She must have felt a childish jealousy of the woman called Madame Menard, who had once owned him, — had owned the very coloring of his face, the laugh in his eye, the mastery of his presence among men. She loved Colonel Menard — and he was gone.

“ Turn over the boat! ” screamed Angelique. “ He is caught in the cellars of this old house, — the floors are broken. We must find him. He will never come up.”

The men, ready to do anything which was suggested to their slow minds, made haste to creep along the weakened flooring, which shook as they moved, and to push the boat from its lodgment. The oars were fast in the rowlocks, and stuck against beams or stones, and made hard work of getting the boat righted.

“ Why does he not come up ? Does any one stay under water as long as this ? Oh, be quick ! Turn it, — turn it over ! ” Angelique readied down with the men to grasp the slippery boat, her vivid will giving their clumsiness direction and force. They got it free and turned it. dipping a little water as they did so ; but she let herself into its wet hollow and bailed that out with her hands. The two dropped directly after her, and with one push of the oars sent the boat over the spot where Colonel Menard had gone down.

“ Which of you will go in ? ”

“ Ma’amselle, I can t swim, " piteously declared the older negro.

“Neither can I, ma’amselle,” pleaded the other.

“ Then I shall have to go in myself. I cannot swim, either, and I shall die, but I cannot help it.”

The desperate and useless impulse which so often perishes in words returned upon her with its absurdity as she stared down, trying to part the muddy atoms of the Mississippi. The men held the boat in a scarcely visible stream moving from west to east through the gaps in the building. They eyed her, waiting the motions of the Caucasian mind, but dumbly certain it was their duty to seize her if she tried to throw herself in.

They waited until Angelique hid her face upon a bench, shivering in her clinging garments with a chill which was colder than any the river gave. A ghostly shadow of themselves and the boat and the collapsed figure of the girl began to grow upon the water. More stones in the moist walls showed glistening surfaces as the light mounted. The fact that they had lost their master, that his household was without a head, that the calamity of Kaskaskia involved their future, then took possession of both poor fellows, and the great heart of Africa shook the boat with sobs and groans and useless cries for help.

“ Come out here, you black rascals ! ” called a voice from the log dam.

Angelique lifted her head. Colonel Menard was in plain sight, resting his arms across a tree, and propping a sodden bundle on branches. Neither Angelique nor his men had turned a glance through the eastern gap, or thought of the stream sweeping to the dam. The spot where he sank, the broken floor, the inclosing walls, were their absorbing boundaries as to his fate. As the slaves saw him, a droll and sheepish look came on their faces at having wailed his death in his living ears. They shot through the door vigorously, and brought the boat with care alongside the trunk supporting him.

The colonel let them take tante-gra’mère in. He was exhausted. One arm and his cheek sunk on the side of the boat, and they drew him across it, steadying themselves by the foliage upreared by the tree.

He opened his eyes, and saw rose and pearl streaks in the sky. The sun was mounting behind the bluffs. Then a canopy of leaves intervened, and a whir of bird wings came to his ears. The boat had reached dead water, and was moving over the submerged roadbed, and groping betwixt the stems of great pecan-trees, — the great pecan-trees which stood sentinel on the river borders of his estate. He noticed how the broken limbs flourished in the water, every leaf satisfied with the moisture it drew.

The colonel realized that he was lying flat in a boat which had not been bailed dry, and that his head rested on wet homespun, by its odor belonging to Louis or Jacques ; and he saw their black naked arms paddling with the oars. Beyond them lie saw Wachique holding her mistress carefully and unrestrained; and the negro in her quailed before him at the deed the Indian had done, scarcely comforted by the twinkle in the colonel’s eye. Tante-gra’mère was sitting up meekly, less affected by dampness than anybody else in the boat. She had a fresh and toughened look. Her baptism in the rivers had perhaps renewed her for another century.

“ Madame, you are certainly the most remarkable woman in this Territory. You have borne this night marvelously well, and the accident of the boat even better.”

“ Not at all, monsieur the colonel.”

She spoke as children do when effectually punished for ill temper.

“ Are you cold ”

“ I am wet, monsieur. We are all wet. It is indeed a time of flood.”

We shall soon see a blazing fire and a hot breakfast, and all the garments in the country will be ours without asking.”

The colonel raised himself on his elbow and looked around. Angelique sat beside his head; so close that they both blushed.

They were not wet nor chilled nor hungry. They had not looked on death nor felt the shadow of eternity. The sweet mystery of continued life was before them. The flood, like a sea of glass, spread itself to the thousand footsteps of the sun.

Tante-gra’mère kept her eyes upon them. But it is not easy to hear what people say when you are riding among treetops and bird’s-nests in the early morning.

“Mademoiselle, we are nearly home.”

“Yes. monsieur.”

“It has been to me a great night.”

“ I can understand that, monsieur.”

“The children will be dancing when they see you. Odile and Pierre were awake, and they both cried when the first boat came home last night without you.”

“ Monsieur the colonel, you are too good to us.”

“ Angelique, do you love me ? ”

“ It is true, monsieur.”

“ But it must be owned I am a dozen years older than you, and I have loved before.”

“ I never have.”

“ Does it not seem a pity, then, that you who have had the pick of the Territory should become the second wife of Pierre Menard ? ”

“ I should rather be the second choice with you, monsieur, than the first choice of any other man in the Territory.”

“ Mademoiselle, I adore you.”

“That remains to be seen, monsieur.”

“What did you think when I was under water ? ”

“ I did not think, monsieur. I perished. It was then you conquered me.”

“ Good. I will take to the water whenever any little difference arises between us. It is a lucky thing for me that I am a practiced river man.”

“ I do not say it could be done again. Never will there be such another night and morning.”

“ Now see how it is with nature, Angelique. Life is always rising out of death. This affair of ours, — I call it a lily growing out of the water. Does it trouble you that your old home is out there standing almost to its eaves in the Mississippi ? ”

“ Papa cannot now give me so good a dower.” The girl’s lowered eyes laughed into his.

“ We will not have any settlements or any dower. We will be married in this new American way. Everything I have left from this flood will be yours and the children’s, anyhow. But while there is game in the woods, or bacon in the cellar, or flour in the bin, or wine to be tapped, or a cup of milk left, not a child or woman or man shall go hungry. I was not unprepared for this. My fur storehouse there on the bank of the Okaw is empty. At the first rumor of high water I had the skins carried to the strong-house on the hill.”

Angelique’s wet hair still clung to her forehead, but her warmth had returned with a glow. The colonel was a compact man, who had passed through water as his own element. To he dripping was no hindrance to his courtship.

“When may we celebrate the marriage ? ”

“ Is it a time to speak of marriage when two are lying dead in the house? ”

His countenance changed at the rebuke, and, as all fortunate people do when they have passed the selfish fury of youth, he apologized for success.

“ It is true. And Reece Zhone was the only man in the Territory whom I feared as a rival. As soon as he is laid low I forget him. He would not so soon forget me. Yet I do not forget him. The whole Illinois Territory will remember him. But Reece Zhone himself would not blame me, when I am bringing you home to my house, for hinting that I hope to keep you there.”

“ To keep me there, monsieur the colonel ! No, I am not to be married in a hurry.”

“But I made my proposals months ago, Angelique. The children and I have long had our secrets about bringing you home. Two of them sit on my knee and two of them climb my back, and we talk it over. They will not let you leave the house alive, mademoiselle. Father Olivier will still celebrate the sacraments among us. Kaskaskia will have the consolations of religion for this flood; but I may not have the consolation of knowing my own wedding-day.”

“ The church is now half full of water.”

“ Must I first bail out the church ? ”

“ I draw the line there, monsieur the colonel. You are a prevailing man. You will doubtless wind me around your thumb as you do the Indians. But when I am married, I will be married in church, and sign the register in the old way. What, monsieur, do you think the water will never go down ? ”

“ It will go down, yes, and the common fields will be the better for it. But it is hard a man should have to watch a river-gauge to find out the date of his own wedding.”

“Yet one would rather do that than never have a wedding at all.”

“ I kiss your hand on that, mademoiselle.”

“ What are those little rings around the base of the trees, monsieur the colonel ? ”

“ They are marks which show that the water is already falling. It must be two inches lower than last night on the Church of the Immaculate Conception. I am one sixth of a foot on my way toward matrimony.”

A tent like a white blossom showed through the woods ; then many more. The bluffs all about Pierre Menard’s house were dotted with them. Boats could be seen coming back from the town, full of people. Two or three sails were tacking northward on that smooth and glistening fresh-water sea. Music came across it, meeting the rising sun ; the nuns sang their matin service as they were rowed.

Angelique closed her eyes over tears. It seemed to her like floating into the next world, — in music, in soft shadow, in keen rapture,—seeing the light on the hills beyond while her beloved held her by the hand.

All day boats passed back and forth between the tented bluffs and the roofs of Kaskaskia, carrying the goods of a temporarily houseless people. At dusk, some jaded men came back — among them Captain Saucier and Colonel Menard— from searching overflow and uplands for Dr. Dunlap.

At dusk, also, the fireflies again scattered over the lake, without waiting for a belated moon. Jean Lozier stood at the top of the bluff, on his old mount of vision, and watched these boats finishing the work of the day. They carried the only lights now to be seen in Kaskaskia.

He was not excited by the swarming life just below him. His idea of Kaskaskia was not a buzzing encampment around a glittering seigniory house, with the governor’s presence giving it grandeur, and Rice Jones and his sister, waiting their temporary burial on the uplands, giving it awe. Old Kaskaskia had been over yonder, the place of his desires, his love. The glamour and beauty and story were on the smothered valley, and for him they could never be anywhere else.

Father Olivier came out on the bluff, and Jean at once pulled his cap off, and looked at the ground instead of at the pale green and wild-rose tints at the farther side of the world. They heard the soft wash of the flood. The priest bared his head to the evening air.

“ My son, I am sorry your grandfather died last night, while I was unable to reach him.”

“ Yes, father.”

“ You have been a good son. Your conscience acquits you. And now the time has come when you are free to go anywhere you please.”

Jean looked over the flood.

“ But there ’s no place to go to now, father. I was waiting for Kaskaskia, and Kaskaskia is gone.”

“ Not gone, my son. The water will soon recede. The people will return to their homes. Kaskaskia will be the capital of the new State yet.”

“ Yes, father,” said Jean dejectedly, He waited until the priest sauntered away. It was not for him to contradict a priest. But watching humid darkness grow over the place where Kaskaskia had been, he told himself in repeated whispers, —

“ It ’ll never be the same again. Old Kaskaskia is gone. Just when I am ready to go there, there is no Kaskaskia to go to.”

Jean sat down, and propped his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands, as tender a spirit as ever brooded over ruin. He thought he could bear the bereavement better if battle and fire had swept it away ; but to see it lying drowned before him made his heart a clod.

Singly and in bunches the lanternbearing boats came home to their shelter in the pecan-trees, leaving the engulfed plain to starlight. No lamp was seen, no music tinkled there; in the water streets the evening wind made tiny tracks, and then it also deserted the town, leaving the liquid sheet drawn and fitted smoothly to place. Nothing but water, north, west, and south ; a vast plain reflecting stars, and here and there showing spots like burnished shields. The grotesque halves of buildings in its foreground became as insignificant as flecks of shadow. The sky was a clear blue dome, the vaporous folds of the Milky Way seeming to drift across it in indistinct light.

Now, above the flowing whisper of the inland sea Jean Lozier could hear other sounds. Thunder began in the north, and rolled with its cloud toward the point where Okaw and Mississippi met ; shaggy lowered heads and flying tails and a thousand hoofs swept past him ; and after them fleet naked men, who made themselves one with the horses they rode. The buffalo herds were flying before their hunters. He heard bowstrings twang, and saw great creatures stagger and fall headlong, and lie panting in the long grass.

Then pale blue wood smoke unfolded Itself upward, and the lodges were spread, and there was Cascasquia of the Illinois. Black gowns came down the northern trail, and a cross was set up.

The lodges passed into wide dormered homesteads, and bowers of foliage promised the fruits of Europe among old forest trees. Jean heard the drum, and saw white uniforms moving back and forth, and gun barrels glistening, and the lilies of France floating over expeditions which put out to the south. This was Kaskaskia. The traffic of the West gathered to it. Men and women crossed the wilderness to find the charm of life there; the waterways and a north trail as firm as a Roman road bringing them easily in. Neyon de Villiers lifted the hat from his fine gray head and saluted society there ; and the sulky figure of Pontiac stalked abroad. Fort Gage, and the scarlet uniform of Great Britain, and a new flag bearing thirteen stripes swam past Jean’s eyes. The old French days were gone, but the new American days, blending the gathered races into one, were better still. Kaskaskia was a seat of government, a Western republic, rich and merry and generous and eloquent, with the great river and the world at her feet. The hum of traffic came up to Jean. He saw the beautiful children of gently nurtured mothers ; he saw the men who moulded public opinion ; he saw brawny white-clothed slaves ; he saw the crowded wharf, the bridge with long rays of motes stretching across it from the lowlying sun.

Now it disappeared. The weird, lonesome flood spread where that city of his desires had been.

“ Kaskaskia is gone. ‘ But the glory remains when the light fades away.’ ”

Mary Hartwell Catherwood.