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Title: Old Kaskaskia
Author: Catherwood, Mary Hartwell, 1847-1902
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Old Kaskaskia" ***

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by the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions
(www.canadiana.org))



OLD KASKASKIA


BY

MARY HARTWELL CATHERWOOD

AUTHOR OF "THE LADY OF FORT ST. JOHN," "THE ROMANCE OF DOLLARD," ETC.



  [Illustration]


  BOSTON AND NEW YORK
  HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
  The Riverside Press, Cambridge
  1893


  Copyright, 1893,

  By HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO., and
  MARY HARTWELL CATHERWOOD.

  _All rights reserved._


  _The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A._
  Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton & Company.



CONTENTS.


PART FIRST:                   PAGE

The Bonfire of St. John          1


PART SECOND:

A Field Day                     55


PART THIRD:

The Rising                     106


PART FOURTH:

The Flood                      160



OLD KASKASKIA.



PART FIRST.

THE BONFIRE OF ST. JOHN.


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 country-seat of
Elvirade; thence to Fort Chartres and Prairie du Rocher; 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 earthworks 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 work-hardened frame.

"Ye dog, am I to have my supper to-night?"

"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
headgear 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 candle-light 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 blond 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 haven'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 didn'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
to-night."

"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 heard 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 Angélique Saucier leaning down to make this request, but Peggy
Morrison laughed.

"I warn you against Angélique, 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 Angélique 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 Angélique, "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 shan't. I will not dance with a kangaroo."

"Do you not promise dances ahead?" inquired Maria.

"No, our mothers do not permit that," answered Angélique. "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 wouldn't be so mealy-mouthed
about cutting them out. But Angélique 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 Angélique from growing vain. Thank Heaven, we don't need such
discipline in our family."

"It is my father's grand-aunt," explained Angélique 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 Angélique 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 isn'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?"

"I 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 leggins and
hunting-shirts, 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 Angélique 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
Angélique, 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 wouldn'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 isn'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 Angélique
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 Angélique.

"Yes, let us hurry on."

"I think myself it would be charming." The instant Angélique 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 Angélique 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.

Angélique 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 haven'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
half-visible 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.
Angélique 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 Angélique 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 building 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 Kaskaskia. 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.



PART SECOND.



A FIELD DAY.


The gallery pillars of the Sauciers' house hung full of fragrant vines.
The double doors stood hospitably wide, but no one was visible through
the extent of hall, though the sound of harp music filled it, coming
from a large darkened room. Angélique was playing for her
great-grand-aunt Angélique, the despot of the Saucier family.

This survivor of a past century had her treasures displayed and her
throne set up in the state apartment of the house. The Sauciers
contented themselves with a smaller drawing-room across the hall. Her
throne was a vast valanced, canopied, gilded bed, decorated with down
sacks in chintz covers to keep her warm, high pillows set up as a
background for her, and a little pillow for every bone which might make
a dint in the feather bed. Another such piece of furniture was not to be
found in the Territory. It and her ebony chairs, her claw-footed tables,
her harp and dower chest, had come with her from France. The harp alone
she had already given to Angélique, who was to inherit all she owned.

From childhood the girl had been this aged woman's constant attendant.
Some days the black servants took their orders at the door, and nobody
but Angélique was allowed to enter that room. Then the tyrant would
unbend, and receive family and neighborhood visits. Though she had lived
a spinster's life, she herself taught Angélique to call her
"tante-gra'mère," and this absurd mixture of names had been taken up by
the entire family. So tight a grip did she hold on the growing child
that Angélique was educated by half-days at the convent; she never had
an entire day free from tante-gra'mère. Madame Saucier often rose
against such absorption, and craved the privilege of taking the girl's
place.

"There is a fête of the children on the bluffs to-day," madame would
plead; or, "There is a religious procession, and the mother superior has
particularly sent for Angélique."

But tante-gra'mère lifted her thin shout against every plea, and, if
pushed, would throw the little pillows at her grand-nephew's wife. What
were fêtes and processions to her claims?

"I am the godmother of this child," she declared; "it is for me to say
what she shall do."

The patriarch of a French family was held in such veneration that it was
little less than a crime to cross her. The thralldom did not ruin
Angélique's health, though it grew heavier with her years; but it made
her old in patient endurance and sympathetic insight while she was a
child. She sat pitying and excusing her elder's whims when she should
have been playing. The oldest story in humanity is the story of the
house tyrant,--that usurper often so physically weak that we can carry
him in our arms, yet so strong that he can tumble down the pillars of
family peace many times a day.

There was something monkey-like in the tempers of tante-gra'mère. To see
her grasp her whip and beat her slaves with a good will, but poor
execution, was to smile self-reproachfully as at the antics of a sick
child. Though it is true, for a woman who had no use of her legs, she
displayed astonishing reach in her arms. Her face was a mass of puckers
burnt through by coal-black eyes. Her mouth was so tucked and folded
inward that she appeared to have swallowed her lips. In the daytime she
wore a black silk cap tied under the chin, and a dimity short gown over
a quilted petticoat. Tante-gra'mère was rich in stored finery. She had
inherited brocades, and dozen dozens of linen, including sheets and
napkins. Her things were washed by themselves and bleached on their own
green, where the family washing never dared intrude.

Fortunately for Angélique, tante-gra'mère's hours were early, and she
slept as aged people seldom do. At sunset, summer or winter, she had
herself promptly done up in linen, the whip placed near her hand, and
her black woman's bed made within reach on the floor. She then went into
a shell of sleep which dancing-parties in the house had not broken, and
required no further attention until the birds stirred in the morning.
Angélique rushed out to evening freedom with a zest which became rapture
when she danced. Perhaps this fresh delight made her the best dancer in
Kaskaskia.

The autocrat loved to compound her own dinners. She had a salver which
Angélique placed before her on the bed; and the old child played in
pastry or salads, or cut vegetable dice for her soup. The baking or
boiling or roasting was done with rigor at her own fireplace by her
blacks, the whiplash in her hand hovering over their bare spots. Silence
was the law of the presence-chamber when she labored with her recipes,
of which she had many, looking like spider tracks on very yellow paper.
These she kept locked up with many of the ingredients for creating them.
She pored over them with unspectacled eyes whenever she mixed a cunning
dish; and even Angélique dared not meddle with them, though they were to
be part of the girl's inheritance.

Angélique now played on the harp to soothe tante-gra'mère's digestion
after her midday dinner, while outdoors all Kaskaskia buzzed with
excitement. It was a field day in territorial politics. All the girls
were at Peggy Morrison's house, watching the processions march by, and
making bouquets to send up to the speakers, of whom Rice Jones was
chief. Tante-gra'mère had her heavy green shutters closed, to keep out
disturbing sights and the noise of fife and drum. Her eyes snapped in
the gloom. It was a warm day, and the large apartment looked like a
linen bazaar, so many garments had tante-gra'mère discarded on account
of the heat, and hung about her. The display made Angélique's face burn
when Colonel Menard was announced; but it was one of tante-gra'mère's
unshakable beliefs that her linen was so superior to other people's its
exposure was a favor to the public. Any attempt to fold it away would
put her into a fury.

The colonel had his hat and riding-whip in his hand. He stood smiling at
both the aged woman and the girl, with his comprehensive grasp of all
individualities. The slave woman placed a chair for him between the bed
and the harp. Angélique loved the harp; but she was glad to let her
hands fall in her lap, and leave Colonel Menard to work good nature in
her tante-gra'mère. The autocrat tolerated him with as much liking as
she could give to any suitor of Angélique's. The intentions of the
others were discovered only through slaves used as spies; but he came
into her state apartment and showed her consideration. She sat up on her
broad throne, against the background of pillows, and received his salute
upon her hand. Afterwards he bowed over Angélique's fingers.

"I hope the seven children of monsieur the colonel are well," said
tante-gra'mère in her tiny scream.

"Four, madame," corrected the visitor. "Thanks, they are very well."

They spoke in French, for although she understood English she never
condescended to use it. Their conference begun each time by her inquiry
after his seven children.

"And madame, I hope she is comfortable to-day?"

"I neither sleep nor eat," declared tante-gra'mère. "And with the
streets full of a shouting rabble, there is no comfort to be had in
Kaskaskia."

"We are rather noisy to-day. But we are very earnest in this matter. We
want to be separated from the Indiana Territory and be made an
independent State."

Tante-gra'mère caught up her whip, and cracked it so suddenly on the
back of her little page, who was prying into a wall closet, that he
leaped like a frog, and fell on all fours at the opposite corner of the
hearth. His grandmother, the black woman, put him behind her, and
looked steadily at their tyrant. She sat on the floor like an Indian;
and she was by no means a soft, full-blooded African. High cheek-bones
and lank coarse hair betrayed the half-breed. Untamed and reticent,
without the drollery of the black race, she had even a Pottawatomie
name, Watch-e-kee, which French usage shortened to Wachique.

Tante-gra'mère put this sullen slave in motion and made her bring a
glass of wine for Colonel Menard. The colonel was too politic to talk to
Angélique before her elder, though she had not yet answered his
proposal. He had offered himself through her father, and granted her all
the time she could require for making up her mind. The colonel knew of
her sudden decisions against so many Kaskaskians that he particularly
asked her to take time. Two dimpling grooves were cut in his cheeks by
the smile which hovered there, as he rose to drink the godmother's
health, and she said,--

"Angélique, you may leave the room."

Angélique left the room, and he drew his chair toward the autocrat for
the conference she expected.

"It is very kind of you, madame," said Colonel Menard, "to give me this
chance of speaking to you alone."

"I do so, monsieur the colonel, because I myself have something to say."
The little elfin voice disregarded Wachique and the page. They were part
of the furniture of the room, and did not count as listeners.

"You understand that I wish to propose for mademoiselle?"

Tante-gra'mère nodded. "I understand that you are a man who will make a
contract and conduct his marriage properly; while these Welsh and
English, they lean over a gallery rail and whisper, and I am told they
even come fiddling under the windows after decent people are asleep."

"I am glad to have you on my side, madame."

"I am not on your side, monsieur. I am on nobody's side. And Angélique
is on nobody's side. Angélique favors no suitor. She is like me: she
would live a single life to the end of her days, as holy as a nun, with
never a thought of courtship and weddings, but I have set my face
against such a life for her. I have seen the folly of it. Here am I, a
poor old helpless woman, living without respect or consideration, when I
ought to be looked up to in the Territory."

"You are mistaken, madame. Your name is always mentioned with
veneration."

"Ah, if I had sons crowding your peltry traffic and taking their share
of these rich lands, then you would truly see me venerated. I have
thought of these things many a day; and I am not going to let Angélique
escape a husband, however such creatures may try a woman's religious
nature."

"I will make myself as light a trial as possible," suggested Colonel
Menard.

"You have had one wife."

"Yes, madame."

"But she died." The tiny high voice had the thrust of an insect's
stinger.

"If she were alive, madame, I could not now have the honor of asking for
Mademoiselle Angélique's hand."

The dimpling grooves in his cheeks did not escape tante-gra'mère's black
eyes.

"I do not like widowers," she mused.

"Nor do I," responded the colonel.

"Poor Thérèse might have been alive to-day, if she had not married you."

"Possibly, madame."

"And you have seven children?"

"Four, madame."

"On the whole, I like young men."

"Then you reject my suit?" observed the unmoved wooer.

"I do not reject it, and I do not accept it, monsieur the colonel. I
consider it."

This gracious promise of neutrality Colonel Menard carried away with him
without again seeing Angélique; and he made his way through the streets
of Kaskaskia, unconscious that his little son was following Rice Jones
about with the invincible persistence of a Menard.

Young Pierre had been allowed to ride into the capital this thronging
day under charge of his father's body-servant and Jean Lozier. The
body-servant he sent out of his way with the ponies. Jean Lozier tramped
at his young seignior's heels, glad of some duty which would excuse him
to his conscience.

This was the peasant lad's first taste of Kaskaskia. He could hardly
believe he was there. The rapture of it at first shook him like a palsy.
He had risen while the whole peninsula was yet a network of dew, and the
Mississippi's sheet, reflecting the dawn, threw silver in his eyes. All
thoughts of his grandfather he put resolutely out of his mind; and such
thoughts troubled him little, indeed, while that sea of humanity dashed
around him. The crash of martial music stirred the man in him. And when
he saw the governor's carriage and the magnates of the Territory,
heading the long procession; the festooned galleries, on which sat
girls dressed in white, like angels, sending their slaves out with
baskets of flowers to strew in the way; when he saw floating tableaux of
men and scenes in the early history of the Territory,--heroes whose
exploits he knew by heart; and when he heard the shouting which seemed
to fill the rivers from bluff to bluff, he was willing to wade through
purgatory to pay for such a day.

Traffic moved with unusual force. It was the custom for outdwelling men
who had something to sell or to trade to reserve it until they came to a
convention in Kasky, when they were certain to meet the best buyers. All
the up-river towns sent lines of vehicles and fleets of boats to the
capital. Kickapoo, Pottawatomie, and Kaskaskia Indians were there to see
the white-man council, scattered immovably along the streets, their
copper faces glistening in the sun, the buckskin fringes on their
leggins scarcely stirring as the hours crept by. Squaws stood in the
full heat, erect and silent, in yellow or dark red garments woven of
silky buffalo wool, and seamed with roebuck sinews. Few of them had
taken to civilized finery. Their barbaric and simple splendor was a
rebuke to poor white women.

Many ease-loving old Frenchmen denied themselves the pleasure of
following the day's pageant from point to point, and chose the best of
the vacant seats fronting the empty platform in the common meadow. There
they waited for speech-making to begin, smoking New Orleans tobacco, and
stretching their wooden-shod feet in front of them. No kind of covering
intervened betwixt their gray heads and the sky's fierce light, which
made the rivers seem to wrinkle with fire. An old Frenchman loved to
feel heaven's hand laid on his hair. Sometimes they spoke to one
another; but the most of each man's soul was given to basking. Their
attitudes said: "This is as far as I have lived. I am not living
to-morrow or next day. The past has reached this instant as high-water
mark, and here I rest. Move me if you can. I have arrived."

Booths were set up along the route to the common meadow, where the
thirsty and hungry might find food and drink; and as the crowd surged
toward its destination, a babel of cries rose from the venders of these
wares. Father Baby was as great a huckster as any flatboat man of them
all. He outscreamed and outsweated Spaniards from Ste. Genevieve; and a
sorry spectacle was he to Father Olivier when a Protestant circuit-rider
pointed him out. The itinerant had come to preach at early
candle-lighting to the crowd of sinners which this occasion drew to
Kaskaskia. There was a flourishing chapel where this good preacher was
esteemed, and his infrequent messages were gladly accepted. He hated
Romish practices, especially the Sunday dancing after mass, which Father
Olivier allowed his humbler parishioners to indulge in. They were such
children. When their week's work was over and their prayers were said,
they could scarcely refrain from kicking up their heels to the sound of
a fiddle.

But when the preacher saw a friar peddling spirits, he determined to
denounce Kaskaskia as Sodom and Gomorrah around his whole circuit in the
American bottom lands. While the fire burned in him he encountered
Father Olivier, who despised him as a heretic, and respected him as a
man. Each revered the honest faith that was in the other, though they
thought it their duty to quarrel.

"My friend," exclaimed the preacher, "do you believe you are going in
and out before this people in a God-fearing manner, when your colleague
is yonder selling liquor?"

"Oh, that's only poor half-crazy Father Baby. He has no right even to
the capote he wears. Nobody minds him here."

"He ought to be brought to his knees and soundly converted," declared
the evangelist.

"He is on his knees half the time now," said Father Olivier
mischievously. "He's religious enough, but, like you heretics, he
perverts the truth to suit himself."

The preacher laughed. He was an unlearned man, but he had the great
heart of an apostle, and was open to jokes.

"Do you think I am riding the wilderness for the pleasure of perverting
the truth?"

"My friend," returned Father Olivier, "you have been in our sacristy,
and seen our parish records kept here by the hands of priests for a
hundred years. You want to make what you call revivals; I am content
with survivals, with keeping alive the faith. Yet you think I am the
devil. As for me, I do not say all heretics ought to be burned."

The preacher laughed again with Father Olivier, but did not fail to
add,--

"You say what I think better than I could say it myself."

The priest left his Protestant brother with a wave of the hand and a
smiling shrug, and passed on his way along the array of booths. His
presence was a check on many a rustic drinker. His glance, dropped here
and there, saved more than one sheep from the shearer. But his own face
fell, and he stopped in astonishment, when an awkward figure was pushed
against him, and he recognized his upland lamb.

"Jean Lozier, what are you doing here?" said Father Olivier.

Jean had dodged him many times. The lad stood still, cap in hand,
looking down. Nothing could make him sorry he had come to Kaskaskia; but
he expected to do penance for it.

"Where is your grandfather?"

"He is at home, father."

"Did you leave that blind old man alone, to wander out and fall over the
bluff?"

"I left him, father, but I tied him to a joist in the ceiling with a
long rope."

"To hang himself?"

"No, father; it is a very long rope."

"And what will the old man do when he grows hungry?"

"His food for the day is on the table."

"My son, my son!"

"Father," exclaimed the boy with passion, "I was never in Kaskaskia
before. And Colonel Menard lent me a pony to ride after my young master.
I have no pleasure but watching the lights of the town at night." The
great fellow began to sob. "If my grandfather would but come here, I
could keep him well. I have been watching how they do things in
Kaskaskia. But no, he will stay on the hills. And when I could stand it
no more I tied him and came."

Father Olivier had looked into the eyes of soldiers and seen the sick
longing for some particular place which neither courage nor resolution
seems able to control. He saw even more than this in Jean Lozier's eyes.
He saw the anguish of a creature about to be driven back from its
element to another in which it cannot develop. The priest had hitherto
used Jean's fondness for the capital as means of moral discipline. But
the sympathy which gave so many simple natures into his literal keeping
enlightened him now.

"My son," said Father Olivier, "I see how it is with you better than I
ever did before. You shall come and live in Kaskaskia. I will myself
forbid your grandfather to keep you longer on the hills."

"But, father, he says he will die in a great town."

"Then, my son, the crown of a little martyrdom is yours. Will you wear
it until this old man ends his days, and then come to Kaskaskia as your
reward? Or will you come trampling down your duty, and perhaps
shortening the life of your father's father? I will not lay any penance
on you for following this strong desire."

Jean's spirit moved through his rough features, and responded to the
priest's touch.

"I will wait, father," he said.

"You do right, my son. Now enjoy the remainder of this day, but do not
make it too long a trial to the old man dependent on you."

Jean Lozier knew very little about the fierce partisan war raging in
the Territory over separation and non-separation, and all the
consequences which lay beyond either. But he took his place in a sea of
listeners, having a man's object in life to struggle for. He was going
to live in Kaskaskia, and have a little house of his own, a cart and two
oxen; and when he had made enough by hauling bales from the wharf, he
could set up in trade. His breast lifted and fell freely as he looked
into this large and possible future. The patience and frugality and
self-confidence of the successful man of affairs were born in him.

Rice Jones was on the speaker's platform, moulding the politics of the
Territory. His voice reached over the great outdoor audience, compelling
and convincing; now sinking to penetrating undertones, and now rising in
thrilling music. His irony was so cutting, his humor so irrepressible.
Laughter ran in waves across the sea of heads as wind runs across the
grass. On many a homeward road and in many a cabin would these issues
be fought over before election day, and Rice Jones's arguments quoted
and propagated to the territorial limits. The serious long-jawed
Virginia settler and the easy light-minded French boatman listened side
by side. One had a homestead at stake, and the other had his possessions
in the common fields where he labored as little as possible; but both
were with Rice Jones in that political sympathy which bands unlike men
together. He could say in bright words what they nebulously thought. He
was the high development of themselves. They were proud of him, with
that touching hero worship which is the tribute of unlettered men to
those who represent their best.

Dr. Dunlap stopped an instant at the edge of the crowd, carrying his
saddle-bags on his arm. He was so well known to be Rice Jones's
political and personal enemy that his momentary lingering there drew a
joke or two from his observers. He was exhorted to notice how the
speaker could wipe up Kasky with such as he, and he replied in kind.
But his face was wearing thin in his deeper and silent struggle with
Rice Jones.

He knew that that judicial mind was fathoming and understanding his past
relations with Maria upon the evidence he had himself furnished. Every
day since their encounter in the college the doctor had armed himself.
If he saw Rice Jones appear suddenly on the street, his hand sought his
pocket. Sometimes he thought of leaving the Territory; which would be
giving up the world and branding himself a coward. The sick girl was
forgotten in this nightmare of a personal encounter. As a physician, he
knew the danger of mania, and prescribed hard labor to counteract it.
Dismounting under the bluff and tying his horse, he had many times
toiled and sweated up the ascent, and let himself down again, bruised
and scratched by stones and briers.

Very trivial in Dr. Dunlap's eyes were the anxieties of some poor
fellows whom he saw later in the day appealing to Colonel Menard. The
doctor was returning to a patient. The speeches were over, and the
common meadow had become a wide picnic ground under the slant of a low
afternoon sun. Those outdwelling settlers, who had other business to
transact besides storing political opinions, now began to stir
themselves; and a dozen needy men drew together and encouraged one
another to ask Colonel Menard for salt. They were obliged to have salt
at once, and he was the only great trader who brought it in by the
flatboat load and kept it stored. He had a covered box in his cellar as
large as one of their cabins, and it was always kept filled with cured
meats.

They stood with hands in their pockets and coonskin caps slouching over
their brows, stating the case to Colonel Menard. But poverty has many
grades. The quizzical Frenchman detected in some of his clients a
moneyed ability which raised them above their fellows.

"I have salt," admitted the colonel, speaking English to men who did not
understand French, "but I have not enough to make brine of de Okaw
river. I bet you ten dollaire you have not money in your pockets to pay
for it."

More than half the pockets owned this fact. One man promised to pay when
he killed his hogs. Another was sure he could settle by election day.
But the colonel cut these promises short.

"I will settle this matter. De goats that have no money will stand on
this side, and de sheep that have money will stand on that."

The hopeless majority budged to his right hand, and the confident ones
to his left. He knew well what comfort or misery hung on his answer, and
said with decision which no one could turn:--

"Now, messieurs, I am going to lend all my salt to these poor men who
cannot get it any other way. You fellows who have money in your pockets,
you may go to Sa' Loui', by gar, and buy yourselves some."

The peninsula of Kaskaskia was glorified by sunset, and even having its
emerald stretches purpled by the evening shadows of the hills, before
Rice Jones could go home to his sister. The hundreds thronging him all
day and hurrahing at his merciless wit saw none of his trouble in his
face.

He had sat by Maria day after day, wiping the cold dampness from her
forehead and watching her self-restraining pride. They did not talk
much, and when they spoke it was to make amusement for each other. This
young sister growing up over the sea had been a precious image to his
early manhood. But it was easier to see her die now that the cause of
Dr. Dunlap's enmity was growing distinct to him.

"No wonder he wanted me shot," thought Rice. "No wonder he took all her
family as his natural foes at sight."

Sometimes the lawyer dropped his papers and walked his office,
determining to go out and shoot Dr. Dunlap. The most judicial mind has
its revolts against concise statement. In these boiling moods Rice did
not want evidence; he knew enough. But cooler counsel checked him. There
were plenty of grounds and plenty of days yet to come for a political
duel, in which no names and no family honor need be mixed.

Rice turned back from the gallery steps with a start at hearing a voice
behind him. It was only young Pierre Menard at his father's gate. The
veins on the child's temples were distended by their embarrassed
throbbing, and his cheeks shone darkly red.

"I want, in fact, to speak to you, Monsieur Zhone," stammered Pierre,
looking anxiously down the street lest the slave or Jean Lozier should
appear before he had his say.

"What is it, colonel junior?" said Rice, returning to the gate.

"I want, in fact, to have some talk about our family."

"I hope you haven't any disagreement in your family that the law will
have to settle?"

"Oh, no, monsieur, we do not quarrel much. And we never should quarrel
at all if we had a mother to teach us better," said young Pierre
adroitly.

Rice studied him with a sidelong glance of amusement, and let him
struggle unhelped to his object.

"Monsieur Zhone, do you intend to get married?"

"Certainly," replied the prompt lawyer.

"But why should you want to get married? You have no children."

"I might have some, if I were married," argued Rice.

"But unless you get some you don't need any mother for them. On the
contrary, we have great need of a mother in our family."

"I see. You came to take my advice about a stepmother. I have a
stepmother myself, and I am the very man to advise you. But suppose you
and I agree on the person for the place, and the colonel refuses her?"

The boy looked at him sharply, but there was no trace of raillery on
Rice's face.

"You never can tell what the colonel intends to do until he does it,
monsieur, but I think he will be glad to get her. The girls--all of us,
in fact, think he ought to be satisfied with her."

"You are quite right. I don't know of a finer young woman in Kaskaskia
than Miss Peggy Morrison."

"But she isn't the one, Monsieur Zhone. Oh, she wouldn't do at all."

"She wouldn't? I have made a mistake. It's Mademoiselle Vigo."

"Oh, no, she wouldn't do, either. There is only one that would do." The
boy tried to swallow his tumult of palpitation. "It is Mademoiselle
Angélique Saucier, monsieur."

Rice looked reproachfully at him over folded arms.

"That's why I came to you about it, monsieur. In the first place, Odile
picked her out because she is handsome; Berenice and Alzira want her
because she is good-natured; and I want her because I like to sit in the
room where she is."

"Young man, this cannot be," said Rice Jones.

"Have you engaged her yourself, monsieur? If you haven't, please don't.
Nobody else will suit us; and you can take Mademoiselle Peggy Morrison
that you think is such a fine young woman."

Rice laughed.

"You and I are not the only men in Kaskaskia who admire Mademoiselle
Saucier, my lad."

"But you are the worst one," said Pierre eagerly. "Odile thinks if you
let her alone we may get her."

"But I can't let her alone. I see the force of your claims, but human
nature is so perverse, Pierre, that I want her worse than ever."

Pierre dug with his heel in the grass. His determined countenance
delighted the rival.

"Monsieur, if you do get her, you have our whole family to beat."

"Yes, I see what odds there are against me," owned Rice.

"We are going to marry her if we can--and my father is willing. He is
nearly always willing to please us."

"This is fair and open," pronounced Rice, "and the way for gentlemen to
treat each other. You have done the right thing in coming to talk this
matter over with me."

"I'm not sure of that, m'sieur."

"I am, for there is nothing better than fair and open rivalry. And after
all, nobody can settle this but Mademoiselle Saucier herself. She may
not be willing to take any of us. But, whatever the result, shake hands,
Pierre."

The boy transferred his riding-whip, and met the lawyer's palm with a
hearty grasp. They shook hands, laughing, and Pierre felt surprised to
find how well he liked Rice Jones.

As the wide and capacious Kaskaskia houses were but a single story high,
Maria's bedroom was almost in the garden. Sweet-brier stretched above
the foundation and climbed her window; and there were rank flowers,
such as marigolds and peppery bouncing-betties, which sent her pungent
odors. Sometimes she could see her stepmother walking the graveled paths
between the vegetable beds, or her father and Rice strolling back and
forth together of an evening. Each one was certain to bring her
something,--a long-stemmed pink, or phlox in a bunch, like a handful of
honeycomb. The gardener pulled out dead vines and stalks and burned them
behind a screen of bushes, the thin blue smoke trailing low.

Her father would leave his office to sit beside her, holding the hand
which grew thinner every day. He had looked forward to his daughter's
coming as a blossoming-time in his life. Maria had not left her bed
since the night of her hemorrhage. A mere fortnight in the Territory
seemed to have wasted half her little body.

When you have strained to bear your burden and keep up with the world's
march, lightly commiserated by the strong, there is great peace in
finally giving up and lying down by the roadside. The hour often
fiercely wished for, and as often repelled with awe, is here. The
visible is about to become invisible. It is your turn to pass into the
unknown. You have seen other faces stiffen, and other people carried out
and forgotten. Your face is now going to chill the touch. You are going
to be carried out. But, most wonderful of all, you who have been so
keenly alive are glad to creep close to Death and lay your head in his
lap.

There are natures to whom suffering is degradation. Sympathy would burn
them like caustic. They are dumb on the side which seeks promiscuous
fellowship. They love one person, and live or die by that love.

"I have borne it by myself so far," Maria would think; "I can bear it by
myself the rest of the way."

Yet the sleepy nurse was often roused at dead of night by her sobbing:
"Oh, James, that you should be in the same town with me, and never come
near to see me die! And I love you,--I love you so in spite of
everything."

Sometimes she resolved to tell her brother the whole story. He would
perhaps think better of Dr. Dunlap than he now did. Yet, on the
contrary, his implacable pride and sense of justice might drive him
directly out to kill the man she loved. And again she would burn with
rage and shame at Dr. Dunlap's condescension to a legal marriage. He was
willing.

"You are not willing," she would whisper fiercely at the night candle.
"You do not love me any more."

The old glamour again covering her, she would lie in a waking dream for
hours, living over their stolen life together. And she puzzled herself
trying to fit the jagged pieces of her experience, and to understand why
all these things should happen. The mystery to come is not greater than
the mystery which has been, when one lies on a dying bed and counts the
many diverse individuals that have lived in his skin and been called by
his name.

At other times, all she had lost of common good flashed through Maria in
a spark: the deeds to other souls; the enjoyment of nature, which is a
continual discovery of new worlds; the calm joy of daily life, that best
prayer of thanks to Almighty God.

Maria always thought of these wholesome things when Angélique came in at
twilight, a little exhilarated by her escape from the tyrant at home.
The nurse would give place, and go out to talk with the other negroes,
while Angélique sat down and held Maria's hand. Perhaps invisible
streams of health flowed from her, quieting the sick girl. She smiled
with pure happiness, on account of general good and comfort; her oval
face and dark hair and eyes having a certain freshness of creation.
Maria looked at her and wondered what love and sorrow would do to her.

Angélique had one exquisite characteristic which Maria did not at first
notice, but it grew upon her during these quiet half-hours when she was
spared the effort of talking or listening. It was a fixed look of
penetrating sweetness, projecting the girl herself into your nature, and
making her one with you. No intrusive quality of a stare spoiled it. She
merely became you for the time being; and this unconscious pretty trick
had brought down many a long Kaskaskian, for it drove directly through
the hearts of men.

The provincial girl sometimes puzzled herself about the method of
education abroad which had produced such a repressed yet such an
appealing creature as Maria Jones. When she talked to the triangular
little face on the pillow, she talked about the outdoor world rather
than its people; so that after Angélique went away Maria often fell
asleep, fancying herself on the grass, or lying beside the rivers or
under the cool shadows of rocks.

As Rice Jones entered the house, after his talk about Angélique with
young Pierre Menard, he met her coming out. It was the first time that
her twilight visits to his sister had brought them face to face, and
Rice directly turned off through the garden with her, inquiring how
Maria had borne the noise of the day.

"She is very quiet," said Angélique. "She was indeed falling asleep when
I came out."

"I sent my man at noon and at three o'clock to bring me word of her."

There was still a great trampling of horses in the streets. Shouts of
departing happy voters sounded from the Okaw bridge, mixing with the
songs of river men. The primrose lights of many candles began to bloom
all over Kaskaskia. Rice parted the double hedge of currant bushes which
divided his father's garden from Saucier's, and followed Angélique upon
her own gravel walk, holding her by his sauntering. They could smell the
secluded mould in the shadow of the currant roots, which dew was just
reaching. She went to a corner where a thicket of roses grew. She had
taken a handful of them to Maria, and now gathered a fresh handful for
herself, reaching in deftly with mitted arms, holding her gown between
her knees to keep it back from the briers. Some of them were wild roses,
with a thin layer of petals and effulgent yellow centres. There was a
bouquet of garden-breaths from gray-green sage and rosemary leaves and
the countless herbs and vegetables which every slaveholding Kaskaskian
cultivated for his large household. Pink and red hollyhocks stood
sentinel along the paths. The slave cabins, the loom-house, the kitchen,
and a row of straw beehives were ranged at the back of the lawn, edging
the garden.

Angélique came back to the main walk, picking her way with slipper toes,
and offered part of her spoil to Rice. He took some roses, and held the
hand which gave them. She had come in his way too soon after his mocking
little talk with young Pierre Menard. He was occupied with other things,
but that had made him feel a sudden need.

Angélique blushed in the dense twilight, her face taking childlike lines
of apprehension. Her heart sank, and she suffered for him vicariously
in advance. Her sensibility to other presences was so keen that she had
once made it a subject of confession. "Father, I cannot feel any
separateness from the people around me. Is this a sin?" "Believe that
you have the saints and holy angels also in your company, and it will be
no sin," answered Father Olivier.

Though she was used to these queer demonstrations of men, her conscience
always rebuked her for the number of offers she received. No sooner did
she feel on terms of excellent friendliness with any man than he began
to fondle her hand and announce himself her lover. It must be as her
tante-gra'mère said, that girls had too much liberty in the Territory.
Jules Vigo and Billy Edgar had both proposed in one day, and Angélique
hid herself in the loom-house, feeling peculiarly humbled and ashamed to
face the family, until her godmother had her almost forcibly brought
back to the usual post.

"I love you," said Rice Jones.

"But please, no, Monsieur Zhone, no."

"I love you," he repeated, compressing his lips. "Why 'no, Monsieur
Zhone, no'?"

"I do not know." Angélique drew her hand back and arranged her roses
over and over, looking down at them in blind distress.

"Is it Pierre Menard?"

She glanced up at him reproachfully.

"Oh, monsieur, it is only that I do not want"--She put silence in the
place of words. "Monsieur," she then appealed, "why do men ask girls who
do not want them to? If one appeared anxious, then it would be
reasonable."

"Not to men," said Rice, smiling. "We will have what is hard to be got.
I shall have you, my Angélique. I will wait."

"Monsieur," said Angélique, thinking of an obstacle which might block
his way, "I am a Catholic, and you are not."

"Priests don't frighten me. And Father Olivier is too sensible an old
fellow to object to setting you in the car of my ambition."

They stood in silence.

"Good-night, Monsieur Zhone," said Angélique. "Don't wait."

"But I shall wait," said Rice.

He had bowed and turned away to the currant hedge, and Angélique was
entering her father's lawn, when he came back impetuously. He framed her
cheeks in his hands, and she could feel rather than see the power of
possession in his eyes.

"Angélique!" he said, and the word rushed through her like flame. She
recoiled, but Rice Jones was again in his father's garden, moving like a
shadow toward the house, before she stirred. Whether it was the trick of
the orator or the irrepressible outburst of passion, that appeal
continued to ring in her ears and to thrill.

More disturbed than she had ever been before by the tactics of a lover,
Angélique hurried up the back gallery steps, to find Peggy Morrison
sitting in her chamber window, cross-legged, leaning over with one palm
supporting a pointed chin. The swinging sashes were pushed outward, and
Peggy's white gown hung down from the broad sill.

"Is that you, Peggy?" said Angélique. "I thought you were dancing at
Vigo's this evening."

"I thought you were, too."

"Mama felt obliged to send our excuses, on account of going to sister's
baby."

"How beautiful these large French families are!" observed Peggy; "some
of them are always dying or teething, and the girls are slaves to their
elders."

"We must be beautiful," said Angélique, "since two of the Morrisons have
picked wives from us; and I assure you the Morrison babies give us the
most trouble."

"You might expect that. I never saw any luck go with a red-headed
Morrison."

Angélique sat down on the sill, also, leaning against the side of the
window. The garden was becoming a void of dimness, through which a few
fireflies sowed themselves. Vapor blotted such stars as they might have
seen from their perch, and the foliage of fruit trees stirred with a
whisper of wind.

"I am so glad you came to stay with me, Peggy. But you are dressed; why
did you not go?"

"I am hiding."

"What are you hiding from?"

"Jules Vigo, of course."

"Poor Jules."

"Yes, you are always saying poor this and that, after you set them on by
rejecting them. They run about like blind, mad oxen till they bump their
stupid heads against somebody that will have them. I shouldn't wonder if
I got a second-hand husband one day, taking up with some cast-off of
yours."

"Peggy, these things do not flatter me; they distress me," said
Angélique genuinely.

"They wouldn't distress me. If I had your face, and your hands and arms,
and the way you carry yourself, I'd love to kill men. They have no sense
at all."

Angélique heard her grind her teeth, and exclaimed,--

"Why, Peggy, what has poor Jules done?"

"Oh, Jules!--he is nothing. I have just engaged myself to him to get rid
of him, and now I have some right to be let alone. He's only the fourth
one of your victims that I've accepted, and doctored up, and set on foot
again. I take them in rotation, and let them easily down to marrying
some girl of capacity suitable to them. And until you are married off, I
have no prospect of ever being anything but second choice."

Angélique laughed.

"Your clever tongue so fascinates men that this is all mockery, your
being second choice. But indeed I like men, Peggy; if they had not the
foolishness of falling in love."

"Angélique Saucier, when do you intend to settle in life?"

"I do not know," said the French girl slowly. "It is pleasant to be as
we are."

Peggy glanced at her through the dark.

"Do you intend to be a nun?"

"No, I have no vocation."

"Well, if you don't marry, the time will come when you'll be called an
old maid."

"That is what mama says. It is a pity to make ugly names for good
women."

"I'll be drawn and quartered before I'll be called an old maid," said
Peggy fiercely. "What difference does it make, after all, which of these
simpletons one takes for a husband? Were you ever in love with one of
them, Angélique?"

Peggy had the kind of eyes which show a disk of light in the dark, and
they revealed it as she asked this question.

"No, I think not," answered Angélique.

"You think not. You believe, to the best of your knowledge and
recollection, that such a thing has never happened to you," mocked
Peggy. And then she made a sudden pounce at Angélique's arm. "What was
the matter with you when you ran up the gallery steps, a minute ago?"

The startled girl drew in her breath with surprise, but laughed.

"It was lighter then," hinted Peggy.

"Did you see him?"

"Yes, I saw him. And I saw you coaxing him along with a bunch of roses,
for all the world like catching a pony with a bunch of grass. And I saw
him careering back to neigh in your face."

"Oh, Peggy, I wish Monsieur Reece Zhone could but hear what you say. Do
teach me some of your clever ridicule. It must be that I take suitors
too seriously."

"Thank you," said Peggy dryly, "I need it all for my second-hand lot. He
is the worst fool of any of them."

"Take care, Peggy, you rouse me. Why is a man a fool for loving me?"

"He said he loved you, then?"

The Saucier negroes were gathering on doorsteps, excited by the day and
the bustle of crowds which still hummed in the streets. Now a line of
song was roared from the farthest cabin, and old and young voices all
poured themselves into a chorus. A slender young moon showed itself
under foliage, dipping almost as low as the horizon. Under all other
sounds of life, but steadily and with sweet monotony, the world of
little living things in grass and thicket made itself heard. The dewy
darkness was a pleasure to Angélique, but Peggy moved restlessly, and
finally clasped her hands behind her neck and leaned against the window
side, watching as well as she could the queen of hearts opposite. She
could herself feel Angélique's charm of beautiful health and outreaching
sympathy. Peggy was a candid girl, and had no self-deceptions. But she
did have that foreknowledge of herself which lives a germ in some
unformed girls whose development surprises everybody. She knew she could
become a woman of strength and influence, the best wife in the Territory
for an ambitious man who had the wisdom to choose her. Her sharp
fairness would round out, moreover, and her red head, melting the snows
which fell in middle age on a Morrison, become a softly golden and
glorious crown. At an age when Angélique would be faded, Peggy's richest
bloom would appear. She was like the wild grapes under the bluffs; it
required frost to ripen her. But women whom nature thus obliges to wait
for beauty seldom do it graciously; transition is not repose.

"Well, which is it to be, Rice Jones or Pierre Menard? Be candid with
me, Angélique, as I would be with you. You know you will have to decide
some time."

"I do not think Monsieur Reece Zhone is for me," said Angélique, with
intuitive avoidance of Colonel Menard's name; Peggy cared nothing for
the fate of Colonel Menard. "Indeed, I believe his mind dwells more on
his sister now than on any one else."

"I hate people's relations!" cried Peggy brutally; "especially their
sick relations. I couldn't run every evening to pet Maria Jones and feed
her pap."

"I do not pet her nor feed her pap," declared Angélique, put on the
defensive. "Don't be a little beast, Peggy," she added in French.

"I see how it is: you are going to take him. The man who needs a bug in
his ear worse than any other man in the Territory will never be handed
over to me to get it. But let me tell you, you will have your hands full
with Rice Jones. This Welsh-English stock is not soft stuff to manage.
When he makes that line with his lips that looks like a red-hot razor
edge, his poor wife will wish to leave this earth and take to the
bluffs."

"You appear to think a great deal about Monsieur Reece Zhone and his
future wife," said Angélique mischievously.

"I know what you mean," said Peggy defiantly, "and we may as well have
it out now as any time. If you throw him at me, I shall quarrel with
you. I detest Rice Jones. He makes me crosser than any other person in
the world."

"How can you detest a man like that? I am almost afraid of him. He has
a wonderful force. It is a great thing at his age to be elected to the
National Assembly as the leader of his party in the Territory."

"I am not afraid of him," said Peggy, with a note of pride.

"No,--for I have sometimes thought, Peggy, that Monsieur Reece Zhone and
you were made for each other."

Peggy Morrison sneered. Her nervous laughter, however, had a sound of
jubilation.

The talk stopped there. They could see fog rising like a smoke from the
earth, gradually making distant indistinct objects an obliterated
memory, and filling the place where the garden had been.

"We must go in and call for candles," said Angélique.

"No," said Peggy, turning on the broad sill and stretching herself along
it, "let me lay my head in your lap and watch that lovely mist come up
like a dream. It makes me feel happy. You are a good girl, Angélique."



PART THIRD.



THE RISING.


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 makes 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
bordering 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 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, which had a ceiling traversed by oak beams,
had been the scene of many a stately banquet. In front of this was the
bar-room, 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 his 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 hooks.
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
black-eyed 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 haven't e'er a slave to your name; and you don't own
a foot of the Territory. As for your hide, it wouldn'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 on to 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
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 Angélique Saucier. The two girls were shut in
their bedroom, and Angélique'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. Angélique 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.
Angélique'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 waist-deep 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. Angélique's harp went up between two stout fellows,
tingling with little sighs as they bumped it on the steps.
Tante-gra'mère'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 Angélique
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, Angélique and Peggy carrying
candles, the grand-nephew and grand-niece 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.

Angélique 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, tante-gra'mère," said her grand-nephew,
"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 grand-nephew'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 Angélique'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 be 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. Angélique 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. Angélique at once had a pair
of bedroom screens brought in, and stretched a wall of privacy across
the corner thus occupied; but 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?" Angélique would inquire.

"Send Wachique down to bring up my bedstead."

"But, dear tante-gra'mère, Wachique would drown. The water is already
half way 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 be
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. Angélique 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 Angélique.

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, madame, 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."

Angélique came to the dormer window and touched her father's shoulder.

"Are you all ready?" he asked.

"Tante-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.

Angélique 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 Angélique; 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 be 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 Angélique.

"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 I 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 Angélique 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 Angélique. "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."

"Angélique 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 Angélique 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'mère 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.

Angélique stood deferentially before her father and asked his permission
to stay with his grand-aunt. 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 Angélique.

"Monsieur the colonel," spoke Angélique 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.

Angélique 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.

Angélique 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 Angélique, 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 Angélique 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 Angélique. 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 be 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 Angélique, be persuaded to go
with madame 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."

Angélique 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 Angélique 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 us. 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 Angélique 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 Angélique 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 Angélique, 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 tante-gra'mère, without humor.

Angélique 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 Angélique 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. Angélique'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 Angélique, "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 Angélique. 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 Angélique. "He certainly
deserves his good luck."

"Peggy has no right to announce it so!" exclaimed Angélique, 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.
She 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 heard 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 Angélique. "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.

Angélique 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 roof-pole, 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 Angélique.
"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."

Angélique bent 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. Tante-gra'mère was asleep.

Angélique 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. Angélique 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"--Angélique 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 girls 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. Though 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 Angélique'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.



PART FOURTH.



THE FLOOD.


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 Angélique 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 Angélique was
robbing her great-grand-aunt'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 Angélique. "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 Wachique, lifting her 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 Angélique 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 Angélique. "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 hands.

"Put camphor under Ma'amselle Peggy's nose, Wachique," 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."

Angélique 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.

Angélique 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 tante-gra'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?"

Angélique'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 Angélique. "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 Angélique, "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 Angélique 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 Angélique; for the other seemed
starting on the main journey of her life.

"Good-by, dear Angélique."

Peggy's eyes were tearless still, but she looked and looked at
Angélique, 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 Angélique 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 Angélique
leaned back, letting slip from herself all responsibility. Colonel
Menard could bring her great-grand-aunt 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 Angélique 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 Angélique 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 half-town, 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 Angélique 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.
His 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.

Angélique 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. Tante-gra'mère's struggling
wrath, which Wachique 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.

Wachique 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.

Wachique 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 half-breed 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 Angélique'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-grand-aunt, 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. Angélique caught her breath, saying,
"Tante-gra'mère!" She heard a plunge, and knew that Colonel Menard had
stood on the platform only long enough to cast aside his coat and shoes
before he dived.

The slaves, supporting themselves on their palms, stretched forward,
open-mouthed. 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 Angélique, creeping also to her trembling knees.
"Where is monsieur the colonel?"

Both men gave her the silent, frightened testimony of their rolling
eyes, but Wachique 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 Angélique 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 Angélique. "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!" Angélique reached 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 Angélique 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.

Angélique lifted her head. Colonel Menard was in plain sight, resting
his arms across a tree, and propping a sodden bundle on branches.
Neither Angélique 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 he 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. Angélique 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."

"Angélique, 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, Angélique. 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."

Angélique'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 be 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, Angélique. 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 rivergauge 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.

Angélique 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 lantern-bearing 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 low-lying 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.'"





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