Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Annette, the Metis Spy: A Heroine of the N.W. Rebellion
Author: Collins, J. E. (Joseph Edmund)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Annette, the Metis Spy: A Heroine of the N.W. Rebellion" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



ANNETTE, THE METIS SPY:

A HEROINE OF THE N.W. REBELLION.

BY

EDMUND COLLINS.



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER I

LE CHEF FALLS IN LOVE WITH THE HALF-BREED MAIDEN.

CHAPTER II

ANNETTE FORMS AN HEROIC RESOLVE.

CHAPTER III.

THE LITTLE MAIDEN'S BRAVERY.

CHAPTER IV.

ANNETTE'S LOVER IN DANGER.

CHAPTER V.

DIVERS ADVENTURES FOR OUR HEROINE.

CHAPTER VI.

A DARING ESCAPE.

CHAPTER VII.

A FIGHT; A CAPTURE; AND THE GUARDIAN SWAN.

CHAPTER VIII.

THE STARS ARE KINDLY TO LE CHEF.

CHAPTER IX.

THE STARS TAKE A NEW COURSE.

NOTES.

ADDENDUM.

NANCY, THE LIGHT-KEEPER'S DAUGHTER.



ANNETTE;

THE METIS SPY.

A HEROINE OF THE N.W. REBELLION.



CHAPTER I.

LE CHEF FALLS IN LOVE WITH THE HALF-BREED MAIDEN.


The sun was hanging low in the clear blue over the prairie, as two
riders hurried their ponies along a blind trail toward a distant
range of purple hills that lay like sleepy watchers along the banks
of the Red River.

The beasts must have ridden far, for their flanks were white with
foam, and their riders were splashed with froth and mud.

"The day is nearly done, mon ami," said one, stretching out his arm
and measuring the height of the sun from the horizon. "How red it is;
and mark these blood-stains upon its face! It gives warning to the
tyrants who oppress these fair plains; but they cannot read the
signs."

There was not a motion anywhere in all the heavens, and the only
sound that broke the stillness was the dull trample of the ponies'
hoofs upon the sod. On either side was the wide level prairie,
covered with thick, tall grass, through which blazed the purple,
crimson and garnet blooms, of vetch and wild pease. The tiger lily,
too, rose here and there like a sturdy queen of beauty with its great
terra cotta petals, specked with umber-brown. Here and there, also,
upon the mellow level, stood a clump of poplars or white oaks--prim
like virgins without suitors, with their robes drawn close about
them; but when over the unmeasured plain the wind blew, they bowed
their heads gracefully, as a company of eastern girls when the king
commands.

As the two horsemen rode silently around one of these clumps, there
suddenly came through the hush the sound of a girl's voice singing.
The song was exquisitely worded and touching, and the singer's voice
was sweet and limpid as the notes of a bobolink. They marvelled much
who the singer might be, and proposed that both should leave the path
and join the unknown fair one. Dismounting, they fastened their
horses in the shelter of the poplars, and proceeded on foot toward
the point whence the singing came. A few minutes walk brought the two
beyond a small poplar grove, and there, upon a fallen tree-bole, in
the delicious cool of the afternoon, they saw the songstress sitting.
She was a maiden of about eighteen years, and her soft, silky, dark
hair was over her shoulders. In girlish fancy she had woven for
herself a crown of flowers out of marigolds and daisies, and put it
upon her head.

She did not hear the footsteps of the men upon the soft prairie, and
they did not at once reveal themselves, but stood a little way back
listening to her. She had ceased her song, and was gazing beyond
intently. On the naked limb of a desolate, thunder-riven tree that
stood apart from its lush, green-boughed neighbours, sat a thrush in
a most melancholy attitude. Every few seconds he would utter a note
of song, sometimes low and sorrowful, then in a louder key, and more
plaintive, as if he were calling for some responsive voice from far
away over the prairie.

"Dear bird, you have lost your mate, and are crying for her," the
girl said, stretching out her little brown hand compassionately
toward the crouching songster. "Your companions have gone to the
South, and you wait here, trusting that your mate will come back, and
not journey to summer lands without you. Is not that so, my poor
bird? Ah, would that I could go with you where there are always
flowers, and ever can be heard the ripple of little brooks. Here the
leaves will soon fall, ah, me! and the daisies wither; and, instead
of the delight of summer, we shall have only the cry of hungry
wolves, and the bellowing of bitter winds above the lonesome plains.
But could I go to the South, there is no one who would sing over my
absence one lamenting note, as you sing, my bird, for the mate with
whom you had so many hours of sweet love-making in these prairie
thickets. Nobody loves me, woos me, cares for me, or sings about me.
I am not even as the wild rose here, though it seems to be alone, and
is forbidden to take its walk; for it holds up its bright face and
can see its lover; and he breathes back upon the kind, willing,
breeze-puffs, through all the summer, sweet-scented love messages,
tidings of a matrimony as delicious as that of the angels."

She stood up, and raised her arms above her head yearningly. The
autumn wind was cooing in her hair, and softly swaying its silken
meshes.

"Farewell, my desolate one; may your poor little heart be gladder
soon. Could I but be a bird, and you would have me for a companion,
your lamenting should not be for long. We should journey, loitering
and love-making all the long sweet way, from here to the South, and
have no repining."

Turning around, she perceived two men standing close beside her. She
became very confused, and clutched for her robe to cover her face,
but she had strayed away among the flowers without it. Very deeply
she blushed that the strangers should have heard her; and she spake
not.

"Bonjour, ma belle fille." It was the tall commanding one who had
addressed her. He drew closer, and she, in a very low voice, her
olive face stained with a faint flush of crimson, answered,

"Bonjour, Monsieur."

"Be not abashed. We heard what you were saying to the bird, and I
think the sentiments were very pretty."

This but confused the little prairie beauty all the more. But the
gallant stranger took no heed of her embarrassment.

"With part of your declaration I cannot agree. A maiden with such
charms as yours is not left long to sigh for a lover. Believe me, I
should like to be that bird, to whom you said you would, if you
could, offer love and companionship."

The stranger made no disguise of his admiration for the beautiful
girl of the plains. He stepped up by her side, and was about to take
her hand after delivering himself of this gallant speech, but she
quickly drew it away. Then, turning to his companion,

"We must sup before leaving this settlement, and we shall accompany
this bonny maiden home. Go you and fetch the horses; Mademoiselle and
myself shall walk together." The other did as he was directed, and
the stranger and the songstress took their way along a little grassy
path. The ravishing beauty of the girl was more than the
amorously-disposed stranger could resist, and suddenly stretching
out his arms, he sought to kiss her. But the soft-eyed fawn of the
desert soon showed herself in the guise of a petit bete sauvage. With
an angry scream, she bounded away from his grasp.

"How do you dare take this liberty with me, Monsieur," she said, her
eyes kindled with anger and hurt pride. "You first meanly come and
intrude upon my privacy; next you must turn what knowledge you gain
by acting spy and eavesdropper, into a means of offering me insult.
You have heard me say that I had no lover to sigh for me. I spoke the
truth: I _have_ no such lover. But you I will not accept as one." And
turning with flushed cheek and gleaming eyes, she entered a cosy,
clean-kept cottage. But she soon reflected that she had been guilty of
an inhospitable act in not asking the strangers to enter. Suddenly
turning, she walked rapidly back, and overtook the crest-fallen wooer
and his companion, and said in a voice from which every trace of her
late anger had disappeared.

"Entrez, Messieurs."

The man's countenance speedily lost its gloom, and, respectfully
touching his hat, he said:

"Oui, Mademoiselle, avec le plus grand plaisir." Tripping lightly
ahead she announced the two strangers, and then returned, going to
the bars where the cows were lowing, waiting to be milked. The
persistent stranger had not, by any means, made up his mind to desist
in his wooing.

"The colt shies," he murmured, "when she first sees the halter.
Presently, she becomes tractable enough." Then, while he sat waiting
for the evening meal, blithely through the hush of the exquisite
evening came the voice of the girl. She was singing from _La Claire
Fontaine_.

  "A la claire fontaine
   Je m'allais promener,
   J'ai trouve l'eau si belle
   Que je me suis baigne"

Her song ended with her work, and as she passed the strangers with
her two flowing pails of yellow milk, Riel whispered softly, as he
touched her sweet little hand:

"Ah, ma petite amie!"

The same flash came in her eyes, the same proud blood appeared red
through the dusk of her cheek, but she restrained herself. He was a
guest under her father's roof, and she would suffer the offence to
pass. The persistent gallant was more crest-fallen by this last
silent rebuke than by the first with its angry words. The first, in
his vanity, he had deemed an outburst of petulance, instead of an
expression of personal dislike, especially as the girl had so
suddenly calmed herself, and extended hospitalities.

He gnashed his teeth that a half-breed girl, in an obscure village,
should resent his advances; he for whom, if his own understanding was
to be trusted, so many bright eyes were languishing. At the evening
meal he received courteous, kindly attention from Annette; but this
was all. He related with much eloquence all that he had seen in the
big world in the East, during his school days, and took good care
that his hosts should know how important a person he was in the
colony of Red River. To his mortification, he frequently observed in
the midst of one of his most self-glorifying speeches that the girl's
eyes were abstracted. He was certain that she was not interested in
him, or in his exploits.

"Can she have a lover?" he asked himself, a keen arrow of jealousy
entering at his heart, and vibrating through his veins. "No, this
cannot be. She said in her musings on the prairie, that she had
nobody who would sing a sad song if she were to go to the South.
Stop! She may love, and not find her passion requited. I shall stay
here until the morrow, and let the great cause wait. Through the
evening I shall reveal who I am, and then see what is in the wind."

During the course of the evening the audacious stranger was somewhat
confounded to learn that the father of his fair hostess was none
other than Colonel Marton, an ex-officer of the Hudson Bay Company, a
man of wide influence among all the Metis people, and one of the most
sturdy champions of the half-breed cause. Indeed he was aware that
Colonel Marton was at this very time about preaching resistance to
the people, organising forces, and preparing to strike a blow at the
authority of the Government in the North-West.

"It is discourteous, perhaps, Mademoiselle, that I should not
disclose to you who I am, even though the safety of my present
undertaking demands that I should remain unknown."

"If Monsieur has good reasons, or any reasons, for withholding his
name, I pray that he will not consider himself under any obligation
to reveal it."

"It would be absurd to keep such a secret, Ma petite Brighteye, from
the beautiful daughter of a man so prominent in our holy cause as
Colonel Marton. You this evening entertain, Mademoiselle, none other
than Louis Riel, the Metis chief."

"Monsieur Riel," exclaimed the girl in astonishment, and somewhat in
awe. "Why, we thought that Monsieur was far beyond the prairie,
providing ammunition for the troops."

"I have been there Mademoiselle, and seen every trusty Metis armed,
and ready to follow when the leaders cry Allons!"

Paul, the girl's brother, believed that there had never lived a hero
so brave and so mighty as the man now under his father's roof. As for
poor Annette, she bethought of her outburst of temper and lack of
respect toward the chief; and she trembled to think that she might
have given offense to a man so illustrious, and one who was the head
of the sacred cause of her father and of her people.

"But why should he address a poor simple girl like me?" she mused;
and then as she reflected that the leader had a wife and children in
Montana, and if report spoke true, a half-breed bride in a prairie
village besides, a round red spot came into each cheek and burned
there like a little fire.

The chief watched the changing colour in the maiden's face, and saw
also in the great dark, velvety eyes, the reflection of her thoughts
as they came and went, plainly as you may see the shadows upon an
autumn day chase each other over the prairie meadows.

Paul went out for a little; the chief's companion had retired to his
couch; and Riel was left alone with the girl.

"Mademoiselle must not shrink from me; she is too beautiful to be
unkind. Ah ma petite Amie, those adorable lips of yours are made to
kiss and kiss, not to pout and cry a lover nay. Through this wide
land there is many a maid who would glory in the love, my beautiful
girl, that I offer you." He advanced towards the maid, trembling with
his passion, and dropped upon his knee.

"You would not let me kiss your lovely lips; pray sweet lady of my
heart, let me take your sweet little hand."

The girl was trembling like a bird when the eagle's wings hover over
its nest. "O, why does a great hero like Monsieur address such words
to me? I am only a simple girl, living here upon the plains; besides,
if I could give the brave leader my heart, it would be wrong to do
so, for he is already wedded."

"Do not speak of the ceremonies which men have muttered, binding man
and woman, when the _heart_ cries out. Do not deny me your love my sweet
girl," and the villain once more seized the maiden's waist, and sought
to kiss her lips. But she screamed, and struggled from his embrace.

"Paul, Paul, mon frere, come to me." Her cries speedily brought her
brother. But Monsieur Riel had taken his seat, and he lowered upon
the girl who sat like a frightened fawn upon her chair, her great
eyes glimmering with starting tears.

"What is wrong Annette?" the boy asked, leaning affectionately over
his sister.

"She is not brave Paul. A shadow passed the window which was nothing
more than my own, and she believed it to be that of a hostile Indian."

"What a silly girl you are, Annette," her brother said, softly
smiting her cheek with his finger-tips.

The maiden did not make any explanation, but in a very wretched and
embarrassed way arose and said, "Good night."

Nothing was said about the matter in the morning, and as the girl
passed on her way to milk the cows Riel murmured,

"Mademoiselle will not say anything of the cause of her out-cry last
night?"

"I will not Monsieur; if you will promise not to address any words
of love-making to me again."

"I promise nothing, foolish maiden; but I have to ask that you will
not make of Louis Riel an enemy."

When breakfast was ended he perceived Annette rush to the window,
and then hastily and with a dainty coyness withdraw her head from the
pane; and at the same moment he heard a sprightly tune whistle'd.
Looking down the meadow he saw a tall, well-formed young white man, a
gun on his back, and a dog at his heels, walking along the little
path toward the cottage.

"This is the lover," he muttered; "curses upon him." From that
moment he hated with all the bitterness of his nature the man now
striding carelessly up towards the cottage door.

"Bonjour, mademoiselle et messieurs" the newcomer said in cheery
tones, as he entered, making a low bow.

"Bonjour, Monsieur Stephens, was the reply. Louis Riel, intently
watching, saw the girl's colour come and go as she spoke to the
visitor. The young man stayed only for a few moments, and the chief
observed that everybody in the house treated him as if in some way he
had been the benefactor of all. When he arose to go, Paul, who knew
of every widgeon in the mere beyond the cottonwood grove, and where
the last flock of quail had been seen to alight, followed him out of
the door, and very secretly communicated his knowledge. Annette had
seen a large flock of turkeys upon the prairie a few moments walk
south of the poplar grove, and perhaps they had not yet gone away.

"When did you see them, ma chere demoiselle?" enquired Stephens. "You
know turkeys do not settle down like immigrants on one spot, and wait
till we inhabitants of the plains come out and shoot them. Was it
last week, or only the day before yesterday?" There was a very merry
twinkle in his eye as he went on with this banter. Annette affected
to pout, but she answered.

"This morning, while the dew was shining upon the grass, and you, I
doubt not, were sleeping soundly, I was abroad on the plains for the
cows. It was then I saw them. I am glad, however, that you have
pointed out the difference between turkeys and immigrants. I did not
know it before." He handed her a sun-flower which he had plucked on
the way, saying,

"There, for your valuable information, I give you that. Next time I
come, if you are able to tell me where I can find several flocks, I
shall bring you some coppers." With a world of mischief in his eyes,
he disappeared, and Annette, in spite of herself, could not conceal
from everybody in the house a quick little sigh at his departure.

"It seems to me this Monsieur Stephens is a great favourite with
you folk?" said M. Riel, when the young man had left the cottage.
"Now had I come for sport, no pretty eyes would have seen any flocks
to reserve for me." And he gave a somewhat sneering glance at poor
Annette, who was pretending to be engaged in examining the petals of
the sun-flower, although she was all the while thinking of the
mischievous, manly, sunny-hearted lad who had given it to her. M.
Riel's words and the sneer were lost, so far as she was concerned.
Her ears were where her heart was, out on the plain beyond the
cottonwood, where she could see the tall, straight, lithe figure of
young Stephens, and his dog at his heels.

"Oui, Monsieur," returned Paul, "Monsieur Stephens is a very great
favourite with our family. We are under an obligation to him that it
will be difficult ever to repay."

"Whence comes this benefactor," queried M. Riel, with an ugly sneer,
"and how has he placed you under such an obligation?" Then,
reflecting that he was showing a bitterness respecting the young man
which he could neither explain nor justify, he said:

'"Mais, pardonnez-moi. Think me not rude for asking these questions.
When pretty eyes are employed to see, and pretty lips to tell of,
game for one sportsman in preference to another, the neglected one
might be excused for seeking to know in what way fortune has been
kind with his rival."

"Shall I tell the whole story, Annette" enquired Paul, "or will you
do so?"

"O, I know that you will not leave anything out that can show the
bravery of Mr. Stephens," replied the girl.

"Well, last spring, Annette was spending some days with her aunt, a
few miles up Red River. It was the flood time, and as you remember,
the river was swollen to a point higher than it had ever reached
within the memory of any body in the settlement. Annette is
venturesome, and since a child has shown a keen delight in going upon
boats, or paddling a canoe; so, one day, during the visit which I
have mentioned, she went into a birch that swung in a little pond,
formed behind her uncle's premises by the over-flowing of the
stream's channel. Untying the canoe, she seized the blade and began
to paddle about in the lazy water. Presently she reached the eddies,
which, since a child, she has always called the 'rings of the
water-witches,' wherever she learned that term. Her cousin Violette was
standing in the doorway as she saw Annette move off, and she cried
out to her to beware of the eddies; but my sister, wayward and
reckless as it is her habit to be in such matters, merely replied
with a laugh; and then as the canoe began to turn round and round in
the gurgling circles she cried out.

"I am in the rings of the water-witches. C'est bon! bon! C'est
magnifique! O I wish you were with me, Violette, ma chere. It is so
delightful to go round and round." A little way beyond, not more than
twice the canoe's length, rushed by roaring, the full tide of the
river.

"Beware, Annette, beware, for the love of heaven, of the river. If
you get a little further out, and these eddies must drag you out, you
will be in the mad current, and no arm can paddle the canoe to land
out of the flood. Then, dear, there is the fall below, and the fans
of the mill. Come back, won't you! But my sister heeded not the
words. She only laughed, and began dipping water from the eddies with
the paddle-blade, as if it were a spoon she had in her hand. 'I am
dipping water from the witches-rings,' she cried. 'How the drops
sparkle! Every one is a glittering jewel. I wish you were here with
me, Violette!' Suddenly and in an altered tone, she cried, 'Mon Dieu!
My paddle is gone.' The paddle had no sooner glided out into the
rushing, turbulent waters than the canoe followed it, and Annette saw
herself drifting on to her doom. Half a mile below was the fall, and
at the side of the fall, went ever and ever around with tremendous
violence, the rending fans of the water-mill. Annette knew full well
that any drift boat, or log, or raft, carried down the river at
freshet-flow, was always swept into the toils of the inexorable
wheels. Yet, if she were reckless and without heed a few minutes
before, I am told that now she was calm. Violette gave the alarm that
Annette was adrift in the river without a paddle, and in a few
seconds every body living near had turned out, and was running down
the shore. Several brought paddies, but it took hard running to keep
up with the canoe, for the flood was racing at a speed of eight miles
an hour. When they did get up in line each one flung out a paddle.
But one fell too far out, and another not far enough. About fifteen
men were along the banks in violent excitement, and every one of them
saw nothing but doom for Annette. As the canoe neared a point about
two hundred yards above the falls, a young white-man--all the rest
were bois-brules--rushed out upon the bank, with a paddle in his
hand, and without a word sprang into the mad waters. With a few
strokes he was at the side of the canoe, and put the paddle into
Annette's hand. 'Here;' he said, 'Keep away from the mill; that is
your only danger; and steer sheer over the falls, getting as close as
possible to the left bank.' The height of the fall, as you are aware,
was not more than fifteen or eighteen feet, and there was plenty of
water below, with not very much danger from rocks. 'Go you on shore
now and I will meet my doom, or achieve my safety,' my sister said;
but the young man answered, 'Nay, I will go over the fall too: I can
then be of some service to you.' So he swam along by the canoe's side
directing my sister, and shaping the course of the prow on the very
brink of the fall. Then all shot over together. The canoe and
Annette, and the young man were buried far under the terrible mass of
water, but they soon came to the surface again, when the heroic
stranger seized my sister, and through the fury of the mad churning
flood, landed her unhurt upon the bank. That young man was Philip
Edmund Stephens, whom you saw here this morning. Is it any wonder,
think you, Monsieur, that when Annette sees wild turkeys upon the
prairie, she keeps the knowledge of it to herself till she gets the
ear of her deliverer?

"A very brave act, indeed, on the part of this young man," replied
the swarthy M. Riel. "He has excellent judgment, I perceive, or he
would not so readily have calculated that no harm could come to any
one who could swim well, by being carried over the Falls."

Annette's eyes flashed a little at this cold blooded discounting of
the generous, uncalculating bravery of her young preserver; but she
made no reply.

"This Monsieur Stephens is, if I mistake not, Mademoiselle, a very
zealous servant of Government, and his chief duty now is to keep
watch over the assemblies held by the Half-breed people. I cannot
suppose that Colonel Marton is aware of the intimacy between a deadly
enemy of our cause and the members of his household."

"Indeed, Monsieur, there is no intimacy more than what you have
seen," the girl replied, the roses now out of her cheek. "Thrice,
since rescuing me, Mr. Stephens has been at our home, and I believe
that, henceforth, his duty will take him to a distant part of the
territory." As she said these words her eyes fell, and her bosom
heaved a little.

Riel was upon his feet. "If I find this young spy anywhere about
this settlement again, I shall see that he is cared for." Then as
Paul and his companion went out, he drew himself to his full height
and continued:

"Annette, get your heart away from this young man; such love can
only bring you ruin. From me you shall hear again, and hear soon.
Farewell." As the girl put out her hand, he drew her suddenly into
his arms, and before she could cry or struggle, kissed her upon the
mouth.

Then he was gone.



CHAPTER II

ANNETTE FORMS AN HEROIC RESOLVE.


All day long Annette was in sore trouble, for she felt that the
words of the rebel chief boded no good to herself or to her deliverer.

"Why should he think that I loved Captain Stephens?" the girl
murmured, as a soft tinge of crimson stole into her cheek. "I am sure
that I behaved in no way to him, that a girl should not act towards
the man who had risked his life to save hers."

With the dusk came her father, his horse covered with foam; for he
had ridden fast and far.

"Why is my daughter's cheek so pale?" he asked as he came into the
sweet, tidy cottage, with its trailing morning glories, and bunches
of mignonette.

"I have been a little disturbed, papa. The Metis chief and one of
his friends stayed here last night. O, I do fear that we are now very
near an outbreak. Is it not so, my father? Will you not tell me?"

"It is even so, child. Already nearly a thousand men, including
Bois-Brule's and Indians have arms in their hands, and await the
words of their leaders."

"But, papa, can good really come of this insurrection which you
propose? I mean, mon pere, can you and Monsieur Riel, with your
scattered followers, who have no money, no garrisons, no means of
holding out in a long struggle, hope to overcome the numerous trained
soldiers of the Government, with the money and the enthusiasm of a
nation at their back?"

"You talk, my daughter, as if some friend of Government had been
pouring his tale into your ear. Now, Annette, child, I love you very
dearly, and I am grateful to this young man who has saved your life;
but as the opinions which you have expressed could only have come
from him I must ask that further intercourse between you and him
ceases till this great issue has been fought out and settled."

"Captain Stephens, mon pere, has never uttered a word to me about
these matters; and the opinions which I have, worthless though they
be, are my own. Ah, papa, you surely have not forgotten the last
struggle. Monsieur Riel, then, had some sort of right to set up his
authority in a province which for a time came not under the
jurisdiction of the Company or of the Dominion; the clergy were at
his back; he had possession of the strongest Fort in the North-West
Territories, and provisions enough to supply his forces for a year.
Yet, at the very beating of the soldiers' drums he fled like a felon,
and was obliged to beg a mouthful of food in his flight to exile. The
circumstances now are not nearly so auspicious. How, then, can you
hope to succeed?"

"You are not familiar, child, with affairs in these territories; and
you neither know the extent of the discontent, nor the causes which
have led to it. The Half-Breed people and the Indian tribes have been
treated by government and their agents, worse than we would use our
dogs. Instead of sending honest and capable men to rule here, they
appoint adventurers whose only object is to make money during their
residence, at the expense of the people. You are not wholly ignorant
of the conduct of Lieutenant-Governor Tewtney. Since his arrival in
the territories he has never been known to give a patient hour to
hearing the grievances of the half-breed people; but he is forever
abroad grabbing up plots of choice land, and securing timber and
mineral leases; or furthering the schemes of knots of friends and
advisers gathered about him. I shall relate one instance which has
just came to light, and it will serve as an example of this man's
career. Some time ago a friend of his imported a large quantity of
meat, but upon arrival it was found to be unwholesome and foul. This
man went to Governor Tewtney and he said.

"'All my consignment of meat is spoilt. Isn't that a great loss?'

"'No loss at all my dear friend,' replied the Governor: 'give it to
the Indians and half-breeds.' Now you are aware that government had
undertaken to give relief to the Indians and to the Metis, with
employment that would bring them food. Well, this meat was given to
both, and for every pound of the foul meat the wretched Breed or
Indian was charged fifteen, cents. One of the chief's and also a
Metis, went to the Governor and complained that the meat was vile and
unwholesome; but they only received this in reply:

"'You are becoming very choice, you fellows. You will eat this meat,
or starve and be d--d.'

"Year after year, the half-breed who has toiled upon his holding, has
applied for a grant of this holding under the law, but has applied in
vain; and a friend of Mr. Tewtney coming in may drive him off his
farm, and profit by his toil and skill.

"All these things have been represented at Ottawa by the priests and
the people; and the only reply that has been obtained, in effect, is
this:

"'What a troublesome, noisy set these savages and half-breeds are!
Cease pestering us. We will not, and cannot, do more for you than we
have done.'

"When a new minister of these Territories was appointed, our priests
waited at his office and besought him for God's holy sake, to listen
to the people's wrongs; and to enquire into the doings of Governor
Tewtney; but it is a fact that he actually went asleep in his chair,
while the delegates were stating their case. Instead of making
enquiry into the grievances, he hastily packed his trunks and went
away to England to obtain a knighthood, which had been promised to
him. While he was running back and forth between his lodgings and
Downing street, the officials here were laying upon our backs the
last weight that our endurance could bear."

While he was speaking there suddenly arose, outside, a jingling of
bells, and a clashing of cymbals; and looking through the window
father and daughter beheld a numerous band of painted Indians
advancing, brandishing tomahawks, and singing war songs.

"I hope these savages will not make a bungle of things," the Colonel
said; "I wonder who has started them upon the war-path?" Then going
to the door he raised his voice.

"Where go my friends the Crees?"

The chief, a tall and magnificent savage, put his finger on his lips
and advanced:

"Me speak inside with the colonel. Chief Louis Riel has ordered our
braves to surround the Hickory Bush, when the moon rises. Captain
Stephens, police spy, and heap of other spies there. Take em all and
put em in wigwam a long way off. Mebbe shoot em. Tall Elk comes to
see if Great Colonel would like to come too."

"Thank you, chief; I would rather not be at the capture of Captain
Stephens. You know he saved la Reina here, from being drowned in the
whirlpool."

The "Queen" was the name by which Annette was known among all the
Indians and Metis that lived upon the plain. "But," continued the
Colonel, "I hope that Tall Elk and his braves will do no harm to
Stephens. He is not with us, but he is a brave, good man, and love
our people. In acting against us he is only doing his duty."

"Ugh! It is well," grunted the chief. "Will look after Stephens
myself."

But this assurance did not satisfy Annette, who stood, during the
dialogue, with throbbing heart and pale cheek. The threats of the
Rebel Chief still lingered in her ear; and she knew that her
deliverer's life would not be safe in the hands of the terrible man.
She said naught, but a bold resolution passed like a flame through
her brain. In a little while the chief departed, and at the head of
his painted warriors struck out across the dark prairie in the
direction of Hickory Bush. The Bush was about twelve miles distant,
and the rising of the moon would be in two hours.

In a little while the girl said, "Papa, I am so disturbed to-night
that I cannot sit up with you as long as usual: good-night." Then she
kissed her father who caressed her silken hair; and she left the room.

Now, Annette had as a companion or attendant, an orphan girl, named
Julie. She was not tall and graceful like Annette, but her olive face
was stained with delicate carnation, and her little mouth resembled a
rose just about to open. She was intelligent, active and
affectionate; and the great aim of her existence was to serve a
mistress whom she almost adored.

"Come to me, Julie," Annette whispered as she passed the girl.

"Well, mademoiselle, what can Julie do?"

"Captain Stephens, as you are aware, ma petite Julie, is to be
captured to-night by those savages who have just left our house.
Monsieur Riel hates my deliverer, and I shudder to think that he
should fall into his hands. I mean to-night to warn him of his danger.

"Brava!" exclaimed the girl; "c'est bon! It is so like my brave
mistress. Ah, mademoiselle, I have seen Monsieur le Chef look upon
you; and there was great love in his eye. But it was not the good,
the _holy_ kind. Ah! It was bad. He hates le Capitaine, because
he saved you from the chute.

"Ah, then my little Julie, you know? Yes, it is all as you say; and
this is why my heart flutters so for the fate of Monsieur Stephens. I
want my bay saddled and led quietly out to the poplar bush; and I
shall come there in a little."

Julie kissed the forehead of her mistress, and then tripped away
daintily and softly as a fawn to do the bidding.

Before ten minutes had elapsed, an Indian boy, of lithe and graceful
figure, walked swiftly down the path toward the bush. As he reached
the little grove, another figure emerged from the shadow and said in
a low tone:

"Tres bien!" This was Julie, and the Indian boy was Annette,
disguised so perfectly that her father could not have guessed the
truth were he standing by. She wore a buff coat and deer skin
leggings; and about her waist was a belt in which were stuck a long
knife and a pair of pistols. She patted her pony, took the bridle in
her little brown hand, and vaulted lightly into her seat. "There now,
Julie; return quickly, and go to your room."

"Au plaisir, portez-vous bien, ma maitresse."

"I shall take care of myself. Adieu;" and she galloped down the
grassy knoll, and out upon the prairie.

Although the plain was a great, dusky blur, this observant maiden
knew the route as accurately as if the meridian sun were shining; and
her horse, guessing that his mistress was on an errand of life and
death, flew lightly over the level sod, as if he were a thing woven
of the winds. She was aware that her horse could outdistance an
Indian pony; and after half an hour's ride knew that the band must
now be fully a couple of miles in the rear. But she kept on till she
judged that fifteen minutes more must bring her to the encampment at
Hickory Bush. Then through the hush of the night came to her ear a
far off, indistinct sound, which resembled galloping thunder. She
knew not what it could mean, unless indeed it was the tumult of some
distant waterfall, borne hither now because, mayhap, a storm was
brewing, and the dense air was a better carrier of the sound. The
moon was now pushing its wide yellow edge above the plain, and she
was enabled to see objects for a considerable distance around. But
nothing met her view, save here and there a hummock or a clump of
poplars. She rode on marvelling what the sound might be, for the
noise was constantly becoming louder, and growing

  "Nearer, clearer, deadlier than before"

when lo! out of the west come what seemed a dim shadow moving across
the plain. With hushed breath she watched the dark mass move along
like some destroying tempest and, as it seemed to her, with ten
thousand devils at its core. Chained to the ground with a terrible
awe, she stood fast for many minutes, till at last in the dim light
she saw eye-balls that blazed like fire, heads crested with rugged,
uncouth horns and shaggy manes; and then snouts thrust down, flaring
nostrils, and rearing tails.

"My God, a buffalo herd!" she exclaimed. Close at hand was a tall
boulder in the shelter of which she instantly secured her horse; then
running a few paces to where stood a tall, sturdy poplar, she
clambered into its branches.

Then the tremendous mass, headed by maddened bulls, with blazing
eyes and foaming nostrils, drove onward toward the south, like an
unchained hurricane. Some of the terrified beasts ran against the
trees, crushing horns and skull, and fell prone upon the plain to be
trampled to jelly by the hundreds of thousands in rear. The tree upon
which the girl had taken refuge received many a shock from a crazed
bull; and it seemed to Annette from her perch in the branches, as if
all the face of the plains was being hurled toward the south in the
wildest turmoil. Hell itself let loose could present no such
spectacle as this myriad mass of brute life sweeping over the lonely
plain under the elfin light of the new-risen moon. Clouds of steam,
wreathing themselves into spectral shapes rose from the dusky,
writhing mass, and the flaming of myriad eyeballs in the gloom
presented a picture more terrible than ever came into the imagination
of the writer of the Inferno.

The spectacle, as observed by the girl some twenty feet from the
ground, might be likened somewhat to a turbulent sea when a sturdy
tide sets against the storm, and the mad waves tumble hither and
thither, foiled and impelled, yet for all the confusion and
obstruction moving in one direction with a sweep and a force that no
power could chain.

Circling among and around the strange dusk clouds of steam that went
up from the herd were scores of turkey buzzards, their obscene heads
bent downward, their sodden eyes gleaming with expectancy. Well they
knew that many a gorgeous feast awaited them wherever boulder, tree
or swamp lay in the path of the mighty herd. At last the face of the
prairie had ceased its surging; no lurid eye-ball light gleamed out
of the dusk; and the tempest of cattle had passed, and went rolling
out into the unbounded stretches of the dim, yellow plain.

When the ground was clear she descended from the tree, every limb
trembling, lest in the delay the Indians should have accomplished
their object. When she reached her horse, she found near by a heap of
dead and struggling buffalo, which in their headlong race had run
over the bluff front of the boulder. When she resumed her gallop she
observed that the great amplitude of rich grasses was like unto a
ploughed field. The herbage had been literally crushed into mire, and
this the innumerable hoofs had churned up with the soft rich soil.
The leguminous odors of the trodden clover and the rank masses of
wild pease, together with the dank earthy smell of the broken sod,
rose offensively in the girl's face. Her course now lay along an
upland covered with straggling copses of white oak and poplar. In the
dim valley beyond, lying drunken under the moonlight, was Hickory
Bush. Upon the solid crest of the little hill the hoofs rang out
sharply; but the girl's quick ear detected noises besides those which
came from the trample of her horse. Still she swept on, with a long
swing, resembling the flight of a swallow. A small grove lay in
front, and as she swerved around this a horseman sprang suddenly
before her.

"Stop!"



CHAPTER III.

THE LITTLE MAIDEN'S BRAVERY.


She pulled her rein, but her eye flashed and she grasped the butt of
her pistol.

"Who dares call upon me to stop? Have I not the right of way on
these prairies?"

"I call you to stop," replied the horseman, riding up close to the
girl, and pushing back his hat. "_I_ do. Look and see if you know me?"
Full well she knew who the interceptor was. The first sound of his voice
had gone with a shiver to her heart. "Ah, you know the Metis chief?"

"But I wish to pass on, monsieur. Even you, le grand Chef, have no
right to stop me without cause; and I now ask you again to let me
pass."

"I will not because I have reason."

"What is it, monsieur?"

"You are a spy. You are an enemy to the cause."

"Even to you, monsieur, I say it is a lie. I will pass;" and she
struck her heels into her horse's flank. The animal bounded forward,
but the rebel chief seized the bridle, as he cried:

"You are an enemy to the cause; and you go now to the enemy. I know
you, mademoiselle Annette." And a terrible light blazed in his eyes,
as he looked the disguised maiden in the face.

"Ay, monsieur! you are quick at penetrating disguises. I am
Mademoiselle Annette; and I go to the enemy. Nor can monsieur hinder
me." As she spoke these words she suddenly drew a pistol, and cocking
it placed the cold, glittering barrel within a foot of the leader's
face.

"Unhand my bridle or by our Holy Lady I fire." The coward hand
quivered, the fingers relaxed, and the bridle was free.

"Now I advise monsieur to meddle with me no more this night. I will
not suffer any bar to my project; I have sworn it." So saying her
horse sprang forward, and she disappeared down the slope, leaving the
baulked chief sitting upon his horse still as a stone. Away, away out
over the soft grassy plain she sped, swiftly and as lightly as a bird
might fly. Three minutes brought her in sight of Hickory Bush, a
grove of trees straggling up from the flat in the moonlight, and
resembling a congregation of witches with draggled hair, suffering
torture. Beyond the trees shone a cluster of white camps; and the
girl's heart gave a great bound as she saw by the order prevailing
there, that the inmates had been so far unmolested. She sprang into
the midst of the camps and shouted,

"Awaken! Arise! Quick! The Crees are bound hither to make you
captives. Allons! Allons!"

A tall supple figure sprang from one of the tents. How readily she
recognised his manly step, his proud head, his bright eye, his
musical voice.

"Who are you? Why this attack?"

"I am you friend. Away, if you value your liberty, and mount your
horse. I await to lead you from the danger." With motion quick and
noiseless as the movements of night birds, the inmates of the tents
armed themselves, strapped their knapsacks, and got into the saddle.
No one questioned the graceful Indian boy further. There was
something so appealing in his voice, so impatient in his gestures as
he waited for their departure, that suspicion could not lurk in any
mind.

"Hark!" cried the unknown. "They come. Hear you not the dull trample
of their hoofs?"

"By the saints in heaven, yes, and I see them too," said one of the
party, looking from his saddle through a night-glass.


"Away, away," cried the Indian boy. "Follow me;" and as the savages
behind surrounded the empty tents with their hellish cries, he led
the rescued ones at full speed down the valley, around the northern
edge of Hickory Ridge, and out toward the Chequered Hills. After half
an hour's ride, he drew bridle and the company gathered about him.
Captain Stephens was the first to speak.

"Brave lad, we owe our liberty to you; yet wherefore, I am sure, I
cannot tell."

But the boy only raised his hand, as if imposing silence upon that
point.

"You are by no means safe from the Indians yet. They will scour the
plains, and on this untrodden prairie you cannot conceal your trail.
My advice is that you make no delay, but push on to Fort Pitt, which
is only about twelve miles distant."

"Of all points this is the one that I should most desire to be at,"
responded Stephens; "but I do not know that I can find Pitt."

One of the number had been at the Fort a few years before; but he
could not make it again from this unknown part of the prairie.

"Follow me, then," answered the unknown. "I shall take you through
the hills by a short route to the river. Then you need but to follow
the bank to find the fort;" and as he spoke he once more dashed his
heels into his horse's flanks and set off towards the center of the
group of hills, that resembled in the distance a row of Dutchwomen in
heavy petticoats.

Several times as the party followed their deliverer, Stephens would
exclaim,

"Where have I heard that voice? The tone is familiar to me, but I
cannot give the slightest guess as to the boys' identity."

"Do you think he is an Indian?" enquired one.

"His voice is certainly finer and sweeter than any Indian's that I
have ever heard. And his French is perfect.

"True, captain, and notice the delicate little hands that he has,
and the proud, dainty poise of his head. He is evidently in disguise;
and what is equally plain, he does not relish our attempts at
penetrating his identity." Upon the crest of a round hill, the guide
stayed his horse and pointed eastward.

"A few minutes ride will take you to the river; half an hour then to
the north and you are at Pitt. Before I leave, just a word. Tall Elk
put on paint to-day, and before the set of to-morrow's sun, there is
not a Cree in all the region who will not be on the war-path. To-morrow
the chief goes to Big Bear, to press him to dig up the hatchet;
so Messieurs, look to your guns in the Fort, as you will have more
than three hundred enemies under the stockades before the
rising of the next moon. Au revoir."

Before any of the group could utter a word of thanks, the mysterious
boy was off again to the north-west with the speed of the wind.

"That voice!" exclaimed Stephen striking his forehead. "I know it
surely; whose _can_ it be?" and bewildered past hope of enlightenment,
he turned his horse down the slope, and dashed towards the Saskatchewan.
His followers and himself were admitted readily enough by Inspector
Dicken, a son of the great novelist, and destined afterwards to be one
of the heroes of the war.

When Annette rode away from Louis Riel to give warning to her lover,
the rebel chief ground his teeth and swore terrible oaths.

"It is as well" he muttered; "I have now justifiable grounds for
depriving her of liberty." Putting a whistle to his mouth he blew a
long blast, which was immediately answered from a clump of
cottonwood, about a quarter of a mile distant. Then came the tramp of
hoofs, and a minute later a horseman drew bridle by his chief.

"The spy has escaped me, Jean, and he was none other than I
supposed, ma belle Demoiselle. She did not deny that she was on a
mission hostile to our interests, and when I remonstrated, she held a
pistol in my face and swore by the Virgin that she would fire. This
is reason enough, Jean, for her apprehension. Let us away."

The chief led along the skirt of the upland, till he entered the
mouth of a wide, darksome valley. Upon either side straggled a growth
of mixed larch and cedar; in the centre was a dismal bog, through
which slowly rolled a black, foul stream. As they passed along the
shoulder of solid ground, troops of birds rose out of the wide sea of
bog, and the noise of their wings made a low, mournful whirring as
they passed in dark troops upwards into the ever-deepening dusk.

Then out of the gloom came a Ding Dong, like the low, solemn beat of
a bell. Jean crossed himself and exclaimed,

"Mon Dieu! What is that Monsieur?"

"What, afraid Jean? That is no toll for a lost soul, but the crying
of the dismal bell bird."

"I never heard it before Mon Chef."

"And may never hear it again. It lives only in the most doleful and
solitary swamps, and I doubt if there is another place in all the
wide territories save here, where you may hear its voice."

It had now grown so dark that the horses could only tread their way
by instinct, and at every noise or cry that came from the swamp,
Jeans' blood shivered in his veins. He had no idea where his master
was leading him, and had refrained from 'asking all along, though the
query hung constantly upon his tongue. Then a pair of noiseless wings
brushed his cheek, paused, and hovered about his head; while two red
eyes glared at him.

"In the name of God what is it?" he screamed, smiting the creature
with the handle of his whip. "Where are you leading me Mon Chef?"

"Peace Jean, I did not believe that you were such an arrant coward.
You shall soon see where I go. It is seldom that man is seen or heard
in this region, and the strange creatures marvel. That was one of the
large night-hawks which so terrified your weak senses. Do you see
yonder light?"

From a point which appeared to be the head of the valley, came a
piercing white light, and its reflection fell upon the wide, black,
shining stream that ran through the valley, like the links of a
golden chain.

"Yonder, Jean, is the abode of Mother Jubal--thither am I bound."

"What, to Madame Jubal, the Snake Charmer, the witch, the woman that
comes to her enemies when they sleep at nights, and thickens their
blood with cold? I thought, Monsieur, that she lived in hell, and
only appeared on earth when she came to do harm to mankind."

"You will find her of the earth, Jean; but she has ever been willing
to do my behests."

By the reflection of the light could be seen a hut standing in a
cup-shaped niche at the head of the valley. It was ringed around with
draggled larch and cedars; and a belt of dark hills encircled it. No
moonlight penetrated here, save toward the dawn, when pale beams fell
slantwise across the ghostly swamp.

As the horses, drew near there was heard to come from the hut a low,
suppressed yelp, half like the bark of a dog, yet resembling the cry
of a wolf. The door was open, and by a low table, upon which burned
the clear, unflickering light which the two had seen so far down the
valley, sat the old woman. Upon hearing the approach of footsteps,
she blew out this light, and through the hideous gloom the Too whit,
Too whoo of an owl came from the cabin. Then several pairs of eyes
began to gleam at the intruders out of the dusk, and all the while
several throats went on repeating in ghostly tones Too whit, Too whoo.

The chief pulled up his horse, while his companion shivered from
head to foot. Then raising his voice, he cried:

"Jubal, relight your lamp; I have come far to see you. You know me,
Jubal. Monsieur le chef?"

"Pardonnez moi," croaked the hag, as she struck the light. Then came
in quavering tones:

"Entrez."

What a brushing of soft wings and gleaming of eyes! The hut was
literally filled with living creatures.

"These are my children," the old woman said, with a horrible quaking
laugh, as she pointed to the perches. Rows of pert ravens stood upon
tip-toe along the bars looking with bright eyes upon the strangers;
while here and there an owl opened his crooked beak and said Too
whit, Too whoo. A strange creature, with wolfish head and limbs,
crouched by the hearth; but after three or four furtive glances at
the intruders, he skulked back into a dark corner of the cabin. From
this retreat he continued to glare with shy, treacherous eyes.

The old woman was short, and stooped; but her eyes were wonderfully
bright. Nay, when she looked from the dark corner, phosphorescent
jets seemed to break from them.

"Come, mother, toss the cup and tell me what Fortune has in store
for me this time," said the chief, who had seated himself upon a low,
creaking stool in the corner.

"I will," she replied; "why should I not when I am honoured so much
as to receive a visit from le grand chef de Metis." And hobbling
away, she took from a nook a large cup without a handle, black on the
outside and white within. Tea was brewed which the Rebel chief drank,
leaving naught but the dregs. Then Jubal muttered some words, which
her visitors could not understand, and threw up the cup. She had no
sooner done this than the crows began to chatter and caw, and the
owls to cry; and each time that the cup ascended, they all raised
themselves upon their feet and elevated their wings. When the cup
came into her hand from the ceiling the third time, she looked toward
the perches and said:

"Peace children." Then turning to the dark, oily chief, she said,
"Listen, O Monsieur, while I read. Here are bands of men hurrying
across the prairie into the gorges, and concealing themselves in the
wood. There is the flash of sabres, and the smoke of cannon.
Everywhere a bloody war is raging; and Indians are tearing away men,
and women, and children from their homes to captivity.

"Ah! what is this I see here? A girl. Monsieur woos her, but she is
turned away. The maiden flies; Monsieur follows, and he overtakes the
maiden. Then he bears her away with guards around her, through a deep
valley, till he reaches a hut. Now he hands her over to an ugly
hag--and the name of that hag is Jubal. Is it not so, Monsieur?" and
the crone, turning from the cup, looked with a hideous grin in the face
of the Rebel chief.

"Oui, Jubal. You have guessed aright. To-morrow or the next day,
Jean will bring hither a young woman. She is to be strictly guarded
in that room where you kept--....

"Jubal remembers; Monsieur need not mention names."

"C'est bon! Well, Jubal, you need not exercise any severity towards
the maiden, save that of a rigid confinement to her room. Me you
shall hear from again."

"Is the maiden a pretty bird?" the crone asked with a chuckle.

"That matters not, Jubal," the chief replied, somewhat haughtily.
"She is a dangerous young person, and has been playing the traitor to
our cause. The only means of proceeding against the girl, is to take
her liberty away. I am in hopes of persuading her to a right frame of
mind, and with this end in view, I shall be obliged to pay some
visits here during her captivity."

"I understand," quavered the hag; and the gleam in her eyes, as she
laid her hand upon the chiefs shoulder, was most diabolical to see.
"My poor simple son is down to the village with the pony for some
provisions for my little cabin. Ma belle I shall be able to use
handsomely, when she comes." Fetching then a black bottle, around
which were many tangles of cob-web, she set it before; her visitors.
The chief took a long draught. Jean swallowed enough to enable him to
stand boldly up and stare at the owls, and the bright-eyed ravens.

"Let us away, Jean," cried the chief now in high spirits as the old
Jamaica began to race through his veins; and flinging himself into
his saddle, he rode of at a fleet pace.

Jean opened not his mouth till he found himself once more upon the
plain, in the light of the honest moon. The Rebel chief now checking
his pony's gait said:

"I suppose you have control enough over your fears now to listen to
me?"

"Oui Monsieur."

"You will be able to-morrow night to find the den that we have left?"

"Without difficulty, Mon Chef."

"Well; to-morrow you ride away to Tall Elk, and give him this
message from me.

"Colonel Marton is abroad, and his daughter, Annette, the enemy of
the Indian and the Half-breed, is at home. She must be secured this
evening before the moon rises. Bring up twenty braves; approach the
house carefully, and fetch the maiden where directed. You will see
that the braves make no noise, for this girl is as wary as the wild
goose, and that little minx, Julie, her maid, is almost as wide-awake."

And as Jean rode away, the villain muttered to himself, "We shall
see my proud bird how long you will gainsay Louis Riel after I get
you under Jubal's bolt and lock. Go with you from Canada as my wife,
and fly the honours with which this revolution will crown my brows?
No, by the Mater purissima. You have been too scornful my pretty
maiden; you have not concealed your preference for this English dog;
you have held your rebellious pistol in my face. Ah, no, ma petite
Annette; but I shall amuse myself, sometimes, after the brunt of the
day's labour, by riding up the dismal valley, and stroking your
broken wings. When I have served my mood, played to the full with the
caged bird, Jubal can let it go to attract some new mate. Holy
virgin, but my triumph will be very sweet! Yea, Annette, to have you
in one's own power is a sweet thing; nothing can be sweeter except
the vengeance which shall feast itself at the same source as my
passion."

He raised his arm in the direction of White Oaks, where lay the
girl's cottage, and cried like a triumphant fiend.

"Bonsoir. Adieu, ma belle Annette. Sweet dreams about your lover
to-night. To-morrow I shall bathe my face in the coils of your silken
hair." And he was away.

When Jean rode away from his master he fell into a train of musing.
"Methinks," he said aloud after a long pause, "that we had better
kill two birds with one stone to-morrow. If the master take the
mistress, I do not see why the man should not have the maid." And as
the fellow reached this conclusion his little weasel eyes brightened
as if each were the point of a glow worm; and he smote the flank of
his horse with his heavy heel. "You one day turned up your sweet,
haughty nose, Julie, when I told you how beautiful you were, and that
I would like to kiss the dew off your red lips. Well, Julie, my plan
for the morrow is to denounce you to Tall Elk as a spy; and after I
have got possession of you, my pretty one, with a brave at one side
of your pony, and myself at the other, we shall march to the
cottonwood where the door of ma mere stands always open to her son,
and that which belongs to him." So, chuckling over the fair prospects
of the morrow, the fellow urged his pony to the full of its speed,
down to the little village of St. Ignace.

Just as the sun went down like a shield of burning brass over the
gray line of the prairie on the morrow, a cringing, stealthy-looking
man might be seen riding a sorrel pony towards the verge of Alka
Swamp, near which were camped the painted warriors of Tall Elk. As he
drew near the squaws began to clap their hands, and the lean, ugly
dogs gave several short yelps. Tall Elk came to the door of his
wigwam, wherein sat several pretty young Cree wives sewing beads and
dainty work upon his war jacket; and going to the horseman he said:

"The messenger from the great chief is welcome. What is his command
for Tall Elk?"

When the savage had heard the orders of the rebel chief, and the
additional instructions of Jean, he grunted: "Ugh; sorry to do this.
The two girls were always kind to the Indians; and our braves will
not like to do this against La Reine. But we must obey the orders of
le grand chef."

"It is well. Let your braves be ready to start when the gopher comes
out of his burrow." Fastening his horse to a cottonwood tree, this
miscreant emissary began to whistle a tune, and walked about among
the lodges, seeking to attract the attention of some pretty Indian
maiden, of which there were many in the tents. The braves were abroad
a little way, some looking for elk and others for muskrat, so that
the impudent Metis might go about seeking to break hearts without any
risk of getting a broken head.

When night had fallen over the prairie, and the bull-frog and the
cricket filled the lower air with a confusing din of small sounds,
thirty dusky warriors, mounted upon their ponies, with Tall Elk and
Jean at their head, crossed over the ridge and struck out for White
Oaks. An hour's ride brought them to an elevation from which they saw
a light twinkling through the grove. Jean's small eyes were gleaming
with foul expectation--he was thinking of his lovely booty, safe
under the lock and key of his hideous little Metis mother.

"Let us spread our force now, chief," he whispered to Tall Elk. And
we leave them drawing their circle of horses, stealthily and swiftly,
around the silent cottage.



CHAPTER IV.

ANNETTE'S LOVER IN DANGER.


When Annette parted from Captain Stephens and his companions, she
returned homeward through a region of the prairie over which lay no
trail. She approached her cottage with noiseless tread; but the quick
eyes of Julie saw her coming, and she stole forth like a kitten.

"Welcome mademoiselle;--is he safe?"

"Oui Julie. He is now--they are now--in Fort Pitt."

"Bon, Bon! To-morrow all the warriors upon the plain and all the
Breeds arise; and your father leads them. Oh, such throngs as came
around our house since you went away mademoiselle, beating drums,
dancing in the ring, and singing chansons de guerre. And, O
mademoiselle, there was among the Crees one chief, so tall, and so
noble-looking; and he will some day come back again to, to--see me."
She squirmed very gently, and poised upon one dainty foot, till her
pretty hip curved outward; and she pecked at her little forefinger
with her rosy mouth as she made this pretty speech: "I think I like
the chief so much mademoiselle; I know he is brave, and I do not
think that he is altogether un sauvage."

"Oh! has my little Julie lost her heart? I hope your chief has left
a little for me."

"I like mon chef, a good deal, but I love mademoiselle better than
anybody in the world;" and the sweet, round, dimpled little maiden
put her smooth arms closely and tenderly about the neck of her
mistress.

"But how came about this sudden captivation of heart?" They were now
in Annette's sweet tasty bed chamber, fresh and cool with the night
air, and delicately fragrant with the breath of prairie flowers.

"You will not wonder when I tell you mademoiselle. You know I went
away, shortly after the arrival of the warriors, to the little gray
fountain. I sat here listening to the gurgle of the water, for my
heart was sad, and filled with troublesome forebodings about you, and
your deliverer 'Ah, I said, before ma maitresse fell into the freshet
river, she wanted no stranger's love but mine. Now he who delivered
her from death below the Chute, has crept into her heart; and she may
think no more of her fond, and faithful Julie."

"What an absurd, sweet, little creature it is," murmured Annette.

"There I sat, dabbling my fingers in the babbling water when I saw a
straight, tall, handsome man approaching me. He walked direct to the
fountain and lifting his cap said:

"'Pardonnez, ma chere Julie.' His large eyes were very bright, but
the light shining in them was a great tenderness.

"I did not know what to reply, but I rose to go, saying.

"'Monsieur le chef will excuse me. It is late; and I must return.'

"He folded his arms across his breast, and turned so that the
moonlight shone full upon his face.

"'Does not the sweet Julie remember?'

"I looked at him in astonishment, but could not see any familiar
likeness in his face."

"'Does little Julie remember many years ago? Wild men stole her away
from her home, and a Cree chief rode to the village of the robbers,
and smote them in their tents. Then he took upon his saddle a little
girl with skin like the peach, and lips like the rose in bud. He
carried her to his home upon the banks of the Saskatchewan, and she
lived two years in his tent. During the summer days she played among
the flowers, or hooked gold-fish in the river. She had a companion
who was ever at her side, the chief's son, whom the people called
Little Poplar. He loved the maiden, and when they took her away to
her home upon the far prairie, he mourned by day and by night, and
vowed that he would leave no house or wigwam unsearched till he saw
his maid again. To-night as he came to this cottage he saw the face
that he has sought in vain for so many years. He now stands before
the maiden of his heart. Sweet, ma Julie, do you forget your little
boy lover of the sunny Saskatchewan?'

"Ah, my mistress, what could I say when it all came back so plain,
and told in his rich, deep, musical voice? I do not know whether it
was wrong or no; but without speaking any word to my beautiful chief
I went up to him and laid my head against his breast. And he kissed
me, and kissed me again, and stroked my hair; and whispered in my ear
that when the war was over he would come and wed me, and fetch me
wherever my heart desired. But I said that I would not live apart
from you; that I had consecrated my life to the service of my sweet
mistress.

"'I have seen her,' he replied. 'Her face is beautiful and good;'
and then, mademoiselle, the silly chief said a great big untruth, but
I know he only did so because he loves me so much. He declared, ma
belle mademoiselle, that I was just as pretty as my mistress."

"Your beauty is only equalled by your naivete;" Annette exclaimed,
fondly brushing back a stray lock from the forehead of the little
maid.

"I have no doubt that your chief is good, brave, and handsome; but
he should be all these in a high degree before he is worthy to get
such a girl as yourself, ma Julie. Now, away to your bed, and sleep
of your lover. I go, too, for I am tired."

With the morrow's sun all the neutral tribes were astir and mixing
their paint; and long before Annette or her little maid had risen,
Colonel Marton had saddled his horse, and ridden towards the
rendez-vous at Burnt Hills.

The bright, windless day passed over the prairie, and whenever
Annette spoke of the bravery of Captain Stephens, Julie would tell
some praises of the chief with the graceful loins and the great
luminous eye.

"Your lover has said that he would come to see you, Julie, but, ah
me, in these troublesome times Captain Stephens can no more return to
our cottage. Do you know, my little friend, that I cannot bear being
cooped up here during all this strife and tumult, when brave men and
defenceless women are at the mercy of savages and ill-advised men of
our own class. There have been evil and oppressive doings by
government and its agents, but I do not think that Monsieur Riel and
my father have taken the prudent course to remove the wrongs. It will
not be fair or honorable war; for when the savage and cruel instincts
of the red men are once aroused, they will treat the innocent like
the guilty, and neither woman nor child will be safe from their
horrible vengeance. Therefore, Annette, I have made up my mind to go
forth tomorrow in my Indian-boy disguise.

"I shall not betray my people or bur friends, but I shall pass from
one force to the other, and whenever I can warn the loyal troops, or
apprise their people of danger, I shall do it. You Julie I shall
leave in the care of my aunt at the Portage; for it is not safe for
you, it would not be safe for you and me together, to remain in this
deserted cottage alone during these looting and lawless times."

The two maidens were now alone, save for the presence of a Cree
drudge; for Paul had mounted a pony and followed his father, with
pistols in his holster-pipes, and a large bowie knife stuck into his
belt.

So as evening drew on Annette had packed, in little, portable
parcels all the valuables about the house; and when she sat down to
supper with Julie at her side, she said that everything was now
ready, and that they needed but to get into the saddle in the
morning. Little did these two girls know, as they sat quietly eating
their supper, that there was at this very moment a band of painted
enemies hurrying across the dim prairie toward their cottage!
Everything was perfectly still in the house, and the tick-tack of the
clock smote the silence. The heart of each girl was far away, and the
eyes of both were on the white, sweet floor.

Annette was the first to raise her eyes, and a short cry of terror
burst from her lips. For there in the entrance of the little dining-room
stood the tall, straight figure of an Indian chief. The cry brought
Julie to her senses, and she too looked up: but she gave no cry; the
blood came surging into her sweet head till her cheeks, and her smooth
throat, and her little shell-like ears, became the color of a blown
carnation.

"Little Poplar," she exclaimed. "Mademoiselle," turning toward her
mistress, "it is about him that I have told you;" and the dainty
maiden crept softly as a kitten over to the side of the handsome
chief. He smiled, stooped, and touched her forehead with his lips.
Then he rose to the height of his splendid stature again, and took
off his cap.

"There is danger to mademoiselle and to ma Julie. Just now a band of
painted Crees with Tall Elk and Jean, Le Grand Chef's man, at their
head are coming to make you prisoners. Follow me instantly."

In a few moments the two girls were gliding swiftly from the house
toward the corral where their horses stood tethered, the chief
bearing the little packages of valuables in his arms. There was no
time to be lost, and as the trio rode away from the corral, the
neighing of the enemies' ponies close at hand burst in a wild shower
upon their ears.

"Follow me," whispered the chief, and as he rode around the shoulder
of the gloomy hill, the cries of the disappointed Indians were borne
upon the night. When they reached the level prairie the chief reined
in his horse, and the three paced along side by side.

"How can we thank the brave chief enough for his care and help,"
Annette said in the heartiest tones of her sweet voice.

"I was passing through the village of Tall Elk at the set of sun,
and heard the great chief's man, Jean, say, 'It will be a good catch
to-night for master and man, won't it? I take Julie; Le Grand Chef
gets the other.' I then enquired of Tall Elk, and he told me of their
plans. The house was to be surrounded before moonrise; mademoiselle
was to be seized and taken away to the hut of the hag Jubal, and
Julie was to be borne to the cabin of Jean's mother." As he spoke
these words a terrible light gleamed in his eyes, and he muttered,

"Had this man. Jean, succeeded I should have hunted him down and
taken out his heart."

When they were far beyond the enemy's reach, Annette said,

"Will the chef ride to yonder cottonwood and wait there until his
Julie and myself have put on apparel more suited to our present
inclinations?" Tall Poplar rode away; but when he joined the maidens
again a great look of dismay came into his eyes.

"Where are--" but before he ended the words, the truth flashed
across him, and he burst out in a tone of mirth and approval: "Brava,
brava: there is not a man in all the plains that can name these two
Indian boys."

Annette remained during the balance of the night with her aunt; but
she arose before the dew was dry, and with the other lad at her side,
for Julie would not remain behind her mistress, was off at a brisk
canter towards Fort Pitt. The news which she had heard lent speed to
Annette. From far and near the Crees had come to enroll themselves
under the banner of the blood-thirsty chief, Big Bear; and the
murderous hordes were at that very moment, she knew, menacing the
poorly garrisoned fort with rifle, hatchet and fire.

All over the territory, I may say, the Indians had now begun to sing
and dance, and to brandish their tomahawks. Their way of living
during late years has been altogether too slow, too dead-and-alive,
too unlike the ways of their ancestors, when once at least in each
year, every warrior returned to his lodge with scalp locks dangling
at his belt.

Les Gros Ventres for the time, forgot their corporosity, and began
to dance and howl, and declare that they would fight till all their
blood was spilt with M. Riel, or his adjutant M. Marton.

The Blackfeet began to hold pow-wows, and tell their squaws that
there would soon be good feasts. For many a day they had been casting
covetous eyes upon the fat cattle of their white neighbours. Along
too, came the feeble remnant of the once agile Salteaux, inquiring if
it was to be war; and if so, would there be big feasts?

"Oh, big feasts, big feasts," was the reply. "Plenty fat cattle in
the corrals; and heaps of, mange in the store." So the Salteaux were
happy, and, somewhat in their old fashion, went vaulting homewards.

Tidings of fight, and feast, and turmoil reached the Crees, and they
sallied out from the tents, while the large-eyed squaws sat silent,
marvelling what was to come of it all.

High into the air the Nez Perce thrust his nostril; for he had got
scent of the battle from afar. And last, but not least, came the
remnant of that tribe whose chief had shot Custer in the Black Hills.
The Sioux only required to be shown where the enemy lay; but in his
enthusiasm he did not lose sight of the fat cattle grazing upon the
prairies.

But we return for a time to Captain Stephens and his party. When
their deliverer, the Indian boy, departed, they rode along the bank
of the Saskatchewan, according to the lad's instructions, and in half
an hour were in sight of Pitt. Inspector Dicken was glad enough to
receive this addition to his little assistance; and informed Captain
Stephens that he had resolved to fight it out against the forces
menacing him.

"What is the number of the enemy?" enquired Stephens.

"About a hundred armed braves I should judge," Inspector Dicken
replied. "Big Bear accompanied by a dozen wives came under the
stockade this morning, and invited me to have a talk. With the
coolest effrontery he informed me that if I would leave the fort,
surrender my arms, and accompany him, with my men, into his wigwams,
that he would give me a guarantee against all harm. If I refused
these terms, he said he would first let his young men amuse
themselves by a couple of days' firing at our forces; and that
afterwards he would burn the Fort and put the inmates to death.

"I expostulated with the greasy, swaggering ruffian, but he only
swore, and reiterated his threats. Then I told him to be gone for an
insolent savage, and that if I found him prowling about the Fort
again, I should send my men to take charge of him. Thereat his squaws
began to jeer, and cut capers; and squatting upon the sod in a row
they made mouths, and poked their fingers at me. Then they arose
yelling and waving their arms, and followed the savage. It appears
that after the chief left me, he went to the people of our town and
proposed the same terms; for an hour later, to my horror, I saw the
chief factor of the Hudson Bay Company, his wife and daughters, and
several others following the Indian to his wigwams. Had these people
put themselves under our protection, and the men aided us in defence,
we might have laughed defiance at the five score of the enemy who
threaten."

"But," returned Stephens, "I fear that you do not count at its full
the force preparing itself to attack. From all I can gather a hundred
or so of Plain Crees will come here to-day under Tall Elk; while the
total strength of the Stonies, who will rise at Big Bear's call,
cannot be less than five hundred."

Inspector Dicken looked grave; but he was a brave man and busied
himself in making preparations. The total number of his force,
including mounted police and civilians was 24; and each man had a
Winchester and about twenty rounds of ammunition.

"Two of my scouts are abroad," he said, "reconnoitering; they should
be here by this time." While he was yet speaking a storm of yelling
came from the wigwams of Big Bear, and three or four score of braves
were seen pouring from their tents, like bees bundling out of a hive.
Each one had a gun in his hand, and a hatchet in his belt. The cause
of this sudden commotion was soon apparent: about half a mile
distant, two police scouts were riding leisurely along the plain
towards the Fort, and evidently not suspecting the danger which
menaced them. They advanced to a point about two hundred yards from
the stockades; then a yell went up from a body of prostrate savages,
and immediately half a hundred rifles were discharged. One of the men
fell from his horse, dead, upon the prairie; but the other rode
through the storm of lead to the Fort, and entered struck by half a
dozen bullets.

"The devils have begun!" muttered the Inspector, and he quivered
from head to foot, but not with fear.

The first taste of blood set the savages in a high state of
exultation. They gathered yelling and dancing, and flashing their
weapons in the sun around the door of the chief. Big Bear pulled off
his feathered cap and threw it several times in the air. Then turning
to his wives he told them to make ready for a White Dog feast; and he
bade his braves go and fetch the animals.

So a large fire was built upon the prairie, a short distance from
the chief's lodge, and the huge festival pot was suspended from a
crane over the roaring flames. First, about fifteen gallons of water
were put in; then Big Bear's wives, some of whom were old and
wrinkled, others being lithe as fawns, plump and bright-eyed, busied
themselves gathering herbs.

Some digged deep into the marsh for "bog-bane," others searched
among the knotted roots for the little nut-like tuber that clings to
the root of the flag, while a few brought to the pot wild parsnips,
and the dried stalks of the prairie parsley. A coy little maiden whom
many a hunter wooed, but failed to win, had in her sweet little brown
hands a tangle of wintergreen vines, and maiden-hair.

Then came striding along the young hunters with the dogs. Each dog
selected for the feast was white as the driven snow. If a black hair,
or a blue hair, or a brown hair was discovered anywhere upon his body
he was taken away; but if he were _sans reproche_ he was put into the
pot just as he was, with head, and hide, and paws, and tail, his throat
simply having been cut.

Six dogs were thrown in, and the roots and stalks of the prairie
plants, together with salt, and bunches of the wild pepper-plant, and
of swamp mustard, were added for seasoning. Through the reserves
round about for many miles swarthy heralds proclaimed that the great
Chief Big Bear was giving a White Dog feast to his braves before
summoning them to the war-path. The feast was, in Indian experience,
a magnificent one, and before the young men departed they swore to
Big Bear that they returned only for their war-paint and arms, and
that before the set of the next sun they would be back at his side.

True to their word the Indians came, hideous in their yellow paint.
If you stood to leeward of them upon the plain a mile away you could
clearly get the raw, earthy smell of the ochre from their hands and
faces. Some had black bars streaked across their cheeks, and hideous
crimson circles about their eyes. Some, likewise, had stars in
pipe-clay painted upon the forehead, and others were diabolical in the
figures of horrid beasts, painted with savage skill upon their naked
breasts.

The beleaguered could notice all these preparations with their
glasses; and the men spoke to each other in low tones. Savages seemed
to be gathering from all points of the compass, and massing upon the
plateau round about the camps of the Cree Chief. But several bands
were stationed around the Fort, in such a manner as to cut off
retreat from the stockades should escape be attempted.

Close to the fort was the shining, yellow Saskatchewan; and for
miles, with a glass, you could see the bright coils of its leisurely
waters, as that proud river pierced its way through the great stretch
of plain till it became lost in the haze of the distance.

"If you were only upon the river in yonder flat boat," said Captain
Stephens, "you might drop quietly down to Battleford. The
reinforcement would come quite opportunely to Morrison."

"I do not care to leave here without giving the rebels a little of
our lead," the Inspector replied. "But even though I desired to do
so, now, the thing as you see is impossible."

Night fell, and when it came there was not a star in the sky. A
heavy mass of indigo-coloured cloud had risen before the set of sun,
in the south east, and crept slowly over the whole heavens, widening
its dark arms as it came. So when night fell there was not a point of
light to be seen anywhere in the heavens.

"It would seem," murmured one, "as if God were going to aid the
savages with His darkness."

Shortly after dark the wind began to wail like a tortured spirit
along the plain; and in the lull between the blasts the cry of
strange night-birds could be heard coining from each little thicket
of white oak or cottonwood.

Louder and louder grew the screaming of the tempest, and it shrieked
through the ribs of the stockade, like a Titan blowing through the
teeth of a giant comb.

Inspector Dicken, with Captain Stephens at his side, was standing at
the edge of the stockade. Not a sound came from the plateau, and not
a glimmer of light appeared in the darkness. Then the great, wide,
black night suddenly opened its jaws and launched forth an avalanche
of blinding, white light. The two men bounded in their places; then
came a roll of mighty thunder, as if it were moving on tremendous
wheels and destroying all the heavens.

No enemy yet!

But the besieged had hardly breathed their breath of relief, before
there arose upon the dark air, a din of sound so diabolical that you
might believe the gates of hell had suddenly been thrown open. From
every point around the fort went up a chorus of murderous yells, and
then came the irregular flash and crack from rifles.

The Inspector ran hastily back among his men:

"Don't waste your ammunition," he said, "in the dark. Part of their
plan is to burn the fort. Wait till they fire the torches, and then
blaze at them in their own light."

Every man clenched his rifle, and the eyes of the brave band
glimmered in the dark.

Crack! crack! crack! went the rifles of the savages, and now and
again a sound, half like a snarl, and half like a sigh, went trailing
over the fort. It was from the Indians' bullets.

"Keep close, my men," shouted the Inspector; "down upon your faces."

Drawn off their guard by the silence of the besieged, the enemy
became more reckless, and lighting flambeaux of birch-bark, they
began to wave them above their heads. The spluttering glare showed
scores of savages, busy loading and discharging their rifles.

"Now, my men; ready! There, have at them." Crack, crack, crack, went
the rifles, and in the blaze of the torches several of the enemy were
seen writhing about the plain in their agony. Together with the
exultant whoop, came cries of pain and rage; and perceiving the
mistake that they had made, in exposing themselves to the guns of the
garrison, the savages threw down their torches and fled for cover.

The conduct of some of the savages who received slight wounds was
exceedingly ludicrous. One who had been shot, _in running away,_
began to yell in the most pitiable way; and he ran about the plain in
the glare of the light kicking up his heels and grabbing at the
wounded spot.

Thereafter the enemy's firing was more desultory, but it was kept up
for several hours, during which not a rifle flash came from the Fort.
Then there arose the sharp yelp of a wolf through the night, and
instantly the firing ceased. Not a sound could be heard anywhere,
save the uneasy crying, and the occasional howls of the wind.

"The attack is to commence in right earnest now," Stephens whispered
to Mr. Dicken; but in what shape the hovering assault was to come
would be hard to guess.

They were not to be kept long in suspense, however. The pandemonium
cry again went suddenly through the night and the storm; and an
assault of axes was heard against the stockades.

"That is their game is it?" muttered the Inspector. "Now then, my
lads, get your muzzles ready;" for the Indians had lighted a couple
of torches for the benefit of those engaged chopping.

"Fire carefully, picking them off singly. Off you go!" Away went the
rifles, and three more savages sprawled in the light of the torches.
But others came into their places and chopped, and hacked, and smote
like fiends, yelling, jumping, and frequently brandishing their axes
above their heads; their eyes all the while gleaming with the very
light of hell!

"Pick away at them boys," cried the inspector; "they must not be
allowed to get through." But the men needed no urging; each one
loaded nimbly, fired with deliberation, and hit his man. This part of
the contest continued for fully ten minutes, but sturdy as were the
posts, it was plain that they must soon give way. Sometimes, it is
true, the savages would draw rearward from their work, terrified at
the heap of dead and wounded now accumulating about them; but it was
only to return, as the waves that fall from the beach on the sea-shore
come back to strike, with added fury. Meanwhile a number of
lights had begun to appear upon the plateau, and the Inspector,
turning to Captain Stephens said in a low grave voice:

"It cannot last much longer. See, they are coming with torch and
faggot." Scores of Indians were revealed in the blaze, hastening down
the hill; and troops of squaws were perceived dragging loads of brush
wood. Then one of the posts gave way and another was seen to totter.
In the gloom of the Fort, the paling of many a brave man's cheek was
noticed.

"They will be here instantly, my lads," said Inspector Dicken in the
same calm, firm voice. "But we will sell our lives like men. Hurrah!"



CHAPTER V.

DIVERS ADVENTURES FOR OUR HEROINE.


We left Annette and her little companion speeding along the banks of
the Saskatchewan bound for Pitt. They dare not come near the
stockades, for the Indians had invested the high ground overlooking
the Fort, and would be sure to make embarrassing enquiries of the two
strange Indian boys.

"My plan is this Julie," Annette said. "We shall camp in the valley
beyond Turtle Hill, and when it grows dark, we can come in and see
the state of affairs about the garrison."

"Oui Mademoiselle; and Tall Poplar is to be at the stockade facing
the river half an hour after sun-set. He said he would be there, in
case that we should in any way need his assistance."

"Bon, ma Julie. It seems to me that your fine chef may be of some
use to us before these troubles end."

Then the two dismounted, and tethering their horses set at work to
pitch their tent. Annette had brought a tent, strapped to her saddle,
from her aunt's; and the two sweet maidens opened out the folds, set
up the white cotton in a cleared plot, in the centre of a copse of
white oak, where it was securely screened from passing eyes. Julie
took from her pony's back a thick, large rug, which was to serve the
two for a coverlet; and going forth a short way the four little brown
hands busied themselves breaking soft branches from the trees.

"There," Annette said, as she put down her armful in the tent; "that
will make a pillow as cosy as a sack of mallard's down. Now, Julie,
we shall eat, then sleep till the afternoon; for I suspect that there
will be little rest for us while the sun is below the prairie."

Julie opened the hamper, and the winsome pair fell to, making a
hearty meal from home-made bread, cold quail, and butter with the
very perfume of the prairie flowers. A little way beyond a jet of
cold, clear water came gurgling out of the rocks; and tripping away
Julie fetched a cup. Then they fastened their hamper, put their
pistols by their side, laid themselves down together, and fell asleep
to the music of the little spring, and the bickering of gold finches
in the leaves.

When Annette awoke, it was the mellow afternoon, and the sun shone
like a great yellow shield low in the west. Annette stepped quietly
out, her dainty little feet hardly crushing the flowers as she went,
to take a peep at the horses. They, too, had lain down; but upon
seeing the pair of large, bright, peering eyes, they arose, stretched
themselves, whisked their tails, and began again feasting on the
crisp, luscious grass.

When the sun's upper rim lay like a little semi-circle of fire over
the far edge of the prairie, the two adventurers girded on their
belts, and taking their revolvers, started away like a pair of prying
fawns toward the Fort. Twilight does not tarry long upon the plains;
and when the maidens reached the confines of the Fort, the stockades
and the enclosed buildings were a mere dusky blur. Moving cautiously
along the side facing the river, they perceived a straight, tall
figure, awaiting them; and the handsome chief stepped up.

"I had been anxious, and was afraid for the safety of ma Julie and
Mademoiselle."

"Will they attack the Fort to-night?" Annette eagerly asked.

"This will be a bad night for the Fort. The braves have had a White
Dog feast; and the Indians have assembled from far and near to fight
for Big Bear. They attack in half an hour."

"Can they hold out inside?"

"Twenty-four men against five hundred!" the chief replied. "First
they will cut a breach in the stockade; then they will go in and burn
down the Fort. Big Bear has asked the Inspector to surrender, but he
has refused."

"What is to be done, good chief? I have in there a white friend who
saved my life; and I would like also to help the Inspector and his
followers."

The chief mused.

"My braves follow, and will be here before the first blow is struck.
Perhaps I shall be able, at the last moment, to meet the wishes of
Mademoiselle." Julie took two or three dainty steps, and nestled her
head in the breast of her lover. Again he stroked her hair, kissed
her bright face, and murmured sweet words in her little ear. Then he
said,

"I must go among the lodges, for if I am not present to join in the
counsels of the leaders, I may be suspected. Wait, Mademoiselle, in
the shelter of the bank till I come to you." There was then a little
sound like the explosion of a bubble, and Annette saw the chief raise
his head from Julie's face.

"You little rogue," she said, "how your love affairs profit by this
war." Then she tripped off to the point designated by the chief, and
lay down in the shadow with Julie at her side. It was while they lay
nestling here that the storm of yells described in another chapter
burst out. Annette shuddered and grasped the hand of her companion.

Then came the onslaught of musketry, the glare of flambeaux, and the
response from the besieged. Through the wailing of the storm came,
too, the thud, thud, thud of the choppers at the stockade, and the
straggling shots of the brave twenty-four in the Fort.

"The stockade cannot stand long," Annette whispered; "I wonder what
delays your chief?" But while the words were yet quivering upon her
lips, a figure moved swiftly towards them and whispered,

"Come." And when they joined him: "I only wish to have Mademoiselle
satisfied of the escape of her deliverer and of his friends."

In a minute they were at the edge of the stockade; and, at a signal
from the chief, a little postern opened, and they were admitted.

"Follow me," he said, as he advanced, waving a small white cloth,
and the two, close at his heels, found themselves at the door of the
Fort. "Friends are here," he whispered, through his tubed hand, to a
policeman who had been watching the advancing trio from his sentry
post; "let us enter."

The policeman retreated, and in a moment reappeared with the
Inspector and Captain Stephens at his side.

"Who are you?" asked the Inspector in a low voice.

"Friends." Then Annette said, in a distinct voice:

"Monsieur Stephens may remember me?"

"The Indian boy who warned me of my danger!" he exclaimed, turning
to the Inspector. "You may admit them." In a moment Tall Elk was
inside.

"I am a Cree chief, and twenty of my braves are friendly. When the
Indians break through the stockade I shall guard this door, and you
can pass out. Go directly to the river, and at the pier you will find
a boat waiting. Then the river is clear before you to Battleford."
Saying these words the chief was gone, the two Indian boys following
him.

At this moment a chorus of yelling, more infernal than any which had
been heard before, arose, and, brandishing their weapons, the horde
of infuriated savages began to pour through a large gap in the
stockade.

"Follow me, my men," whispered the Inspector, and with Stephens at
his side he descended into the yard where the smoke from burning
torches was so dense that the whole party passed through the group of
friendly braves without attracting the attention of the hostile
savages. They very speedily gained the river and found a large York
boat, of shallow draught, which they pushed out into the slow sweep
of tide. The chief was nowhere to be seen; but the two mysterious and
beautiful Indian boys hovered along the gloomy brink of the river,
frequently turning apprehensive eyes towards the Fort. As the boat
moved downward so did they, flitting along like a pair of guardian
angels. Immediately beside them they perceived a fierce-looking
Indian, glaring through the dark upon the water.

He had evidently just perceived the boat, for, uttering a loud
alarm-yell, he turned and was making off toward the Fort to give
the tidings.

"Stop," shouted Annette, in clear, thrilling Cree.

The savage stood a moment, and glared at this handsome lad of his
tribe.

"If you move a step I shoot you. Drop to the ground."

The Indian stood irresolute, but the girl made a sudden bound
forward and held the glittering barrel of her revolver in his face.

"You are a Cree?" he inquired, in a voice quivering with an odd
mixture of fear and rage.

"I am."

"Why don't you let me alarm the braves? The police are escaping."

"The Cree boy will not give his reasons; but his brother must obey."
The Indian stood looking upon Annette as if endeavouring to scan her
features; and as if to help him in his object, a flash of flame from
a burning building in the Fort shone for a moment upon the boy, and
showed the cowardly warrior a pair of large, soft eyes, fringed with
long lashes; a sweet oval face, and a delicate little hand. The
sudden observation seemed to fill him with contempt and courage, and
turning he bounded away with another wild yell.

Annette did not lower her arm, but she shut one of her eyes and
fired, once, twice at the running savage. Up went the wretch's arms
and he fell upon the plain.

"Let us away Julie, the shots may bring some stragglers," and the
two girls bounded along for nearly half a mile, when they were again
in line with the barge.

"Boat ahoy," shouted Annette. "When you near the first island keep
away to your right. There is a bar with sharp rocks in your way." A
low musical,

"Merci mon petit ami" came to the shore; and Annette whispered:

"It is Monsieur Stephens who gives me thanks." Then straightening
herself up, "It is time we got our horses; come." They hastened away
to the little grove, folded the tent, saddled the horses, and in a
few moments were galloping again towards the river. As they neared
the bank they heard a tempest of yelling up the plain toward the
Fort: and after listening for a moment, Annette said,

"The savages have discovered the flight, and they are now in
pursuit. Can you speak much Cree, Julie?"

"Not much."

"Well, then you are to be my brother and a dummy; for I must meet
the Indians."

"Mademoiselle must not put herself in danger. The Indians may know
that you fired at the brave; perhaps he has given the alarm."

"Fear not, Julie. That poor savage has told no tales. But Monsieur
Stephens must be saved, and if this band is not checked, both he and
his friends are doomed. Half a mile below there are a hundred canoes
upon the bank, and thither those screaming fiends are bound. Now,
follow me, unless you care to ride back again to the hollow. I will
impose no duty upon you except to remain dumb."

Then she struck her heels into her horse and rode full for the
yelling band. As she drew near she raised her hand and shouted in
perfect and musical Cree.

"Let the braves stand and hear their brother."

Big Bear who was leading, surrounded by two or three of his wives,
stopped, and shouted to his braves to be still.

"What has our little brother to say?"

"Myself and my dumb brother have just escaped a great army of
soldiers at Souris Creek."

The chief's eyes became blank with fright.

"Where were the white braves going?"

"Marching for Fort Pitt; and they will be here in fifteen minutes,
for they are mounted on swift horses. If you go down to fight yonder
boat, you will be attacked in rear."

"The boy speaks well," muttered the chief to his prettiest wife who
was standing by his side; and that dainty Cree was feasting her eyes
upon the beautiful face of the Indian lad. It might not have been so
well for Annette had the chief seen the way in which his young wife
stared at the little Indian scout.

"My braves will turn back," shouted Big Bear, "and when we get to
the lodges we will hold a council. The little Cree brave and his dumb
brother will come to o tents."

"Nay, brave chief," replied Annette, "my mother is on the way
hither, and I must return and see that she is safe from harm." And
despite the beseeching eyes of the chief's prettiest wife, the daring
spy turned her horse and rode away followed by her dumb brother.

"Now Julie, we must see how it fares with the boat," and the two
horses went at a long, swinging gallop down the banks of Saskatchewan.
With the boat all was right, and in her clear, bird-like voice,
Annette informed the fugitives that Big Bear and his braves had
returned to their lodges.

"What turned then back?" enquired the same low, musical voice.

Annette hesitated, for she was not a girl that boasted of her
achievements. There are enough of maids white and brown, of lesser
character, to do that sort of thing.

"I told a story; I said that a great body of soldiers were close at
hand."

"Brava, brava," and the girl heard many words of warm commendation
spoken in the boat. Then letting her luminous eyes linger for a
moment with a tender longing upon the barge, she raised her voice,
saying,

"Bon voyage Messieurs," and was off through the dark like a swallow.

Meanwhile tidings of atrocities committed by Indians upon
unoffending settlers, began to set the blood shivering in the veins
of persons throughout the continent; and one horrible circumstance,
bearing upon the story, I shall relate. At the distant settlement of
Frog Lake, at the commencement of the tumult, when night came down,
Indians, smeared in hideous, raw, earthy-smelling paint, would creep
about among the dwellings, and peer, with eyes gleaming with hate,
through the window-panes at the innocent and unsuspecting inmates. At
last one chief, with a diabolical face, said,

"Brothers, we must be avenged upon every white man and woman here.
We will shoot them like dogs." The answer to this harangue was the
clanking of barbaric instruments of music, the brandishing of
tomahawks, and the gleam of hunting-knives. Secretly the Indians went
among the Bois-Brules squatting about, and revealed their plans; but
some of these people shrank with fear from the proposal. Others,
however, said,

"We shall join you." So the plan was arranged, and it was not very
long before it was carried out. And now runners were everywhere on
the plains, telling that Marton had a mighty army made up of most of
the brave Indians of the prairies, and comprising all the dead shots
among the half-breeds; that he had encountered heavy forces of police
and armed civilians, and overthrown them without losing a single man.

"Now is our time to strike," said the Indian with the fiendish face,
and the wolf-like eyes.

Therefore, the 2nd day of April was fixed for the holding of a
conference between the Indians and the white settlers. The malignant
chief had settled the plan.

"When the white faces come to our lodge, they will expect no harm.
Ugh! Then the red man will have his vengeance." So every Indian was
instructed to have his rifle at hand in the lodge. The white folk
wondered why the Indians had arranged for a conference.

"We can do nothing to help their case," they said. "It will only
waste time to go." Many of them, therefore, remained at home,
occupying themselves with their various duties, while the rest,
merely for the sake of agreeableness, and of showing the Indians that
they were interested in their affairs, proceeded to the place
appointed for the pow-wow.

"We hope to smoke our pipes before our white brothers go away from
us," was what the treacherous chief, with wolfish eyes, had said, in
order to put the settlers off their guard.

The morning of the fateful day opened gloomily, as if it could not
look cheerily down upon the bloody events planned in this distant
wilderness. Low, indigo clouds pressed down upon the hills, but there
was not a stir in all the air. No living thing was seen stirring,
save troops of blue-jays which went scolding from tree to tree before
the settlers as they proceeded to the conference. Here and there,
also, was a half-famished, yellow, or black and yellow dog, with
small head and long scraggy hair, skulking about the fields and among
the wigwams of the Indians in search for food.

The lodge where the parley was to be held stood in a hollow. Behind
was a tall hill, crowned with timber; round about it grew poplar,
white oak, and firs; while in front rolled by a swift dark stream.
Unsuspecting harm, two priests of the settlement, Oblat Fathers,
named Fafard and Marchand, were the first at the spot.

"What a gloomy day," Pere Fafard said, "and this lodge set here in
this desolate spot seems to make it more gloomy still. What, I
wonder, is the nature of the business?" Then they knocked, and the
chief was heard to say,

"Entrez." Opening the door, the two good priests walked in, and
turned to look for seats. Ah! What was the sight presented! Eyes like
those of wild beasts, aflame with hate and ferocity, gleamed from the
gloom of the back portion of the room. The priests were amazed. They
knew not what all this meant. Then a wild shriek was given, and the
chief cried,

"Enemies to the red man, you have come to your doom." Then raising
his rifle, he fired at Father Marchand. The levelling of his rifle
was the general signal. A dozen other muzzles were pointed, and in
briefer space than it takes to relate the two priests lay weltering
in their blood, pierced each by half a dozen bullets.

"Clear away these corpses," shouted the chief, and "be ready for the
next." There was soon another knock, and the same wolfish voice
replied as before,

"Entrez." This time a tall, manly young fellow, named Charles Gowan,
opened the door and entered, Always on the alert for Indian
treachery, he had his suspicion now, before entering suspected
strongly, that all was not right. He had only reached the settlement
that morning, and had he returned sooner he would have counselled the
settlers to pay no heed to the invitation. He was assured that
several had already gone up to the pow-wow, so being brave and
unselfish, he said,

"If there is any danger afoot, and my friends are at the meeting
lodge, that is the place for me, not here." He had no sooner entered
than his worst convictions were realized. With one quick glance he
saw the bloodpools, the wolfish eyes, the rows of ready rifles.

"Hell hounds!" he cried, "what bloody work have you on hand? What
means this?" pointing to the floor.

"It means," replied the chief, "that some of your paleface brethren
have been losing their heart's blood there. It also means that the
same fate awaits you." Resolved to sell his life as dearly as lay in
his power, he sprang forward with a Colt's revolver, and discharged
it twice. One Indian fell, and another set up a cry like the
bellowing of a bull. But poor Gowan did not fire a third shot. A tall
savage approached him from behind, and striking him upon the head
with his rifle-stock felled him to the earth. Then the savages fired
five or six shots into him as he lay upon the floor. The body was
dragged away, and the blood-thirsty fiends sat waiting for the
approach of another victim. Half an hour passed, and no other rap
came upon the door. An hour went, and still no sound of foot-fall.
All this while the savages sat mute as stones, each holding his rifle
in readiness.

"Ugh!" grunted the chief, "no more coming. We go down and shoot em
at em houses." Then the fiend divided his warriors into four
companies, each one of which was assigned a couple of murders. One
party proceeded toward the house of Mr. Gowanlock. Creeping
stealthily, they reached within forty yards of the dwelling without
being perceived. Then Mrs. Gowanlock, a young woman, recently
married, walked out of her abode, and gathering some kindling wood in
her apron, returned again. When the Indians saw her, they threw
themselves upon their faces, and so escaped observation. No one
happened to be looking out of the window after Mrs. Gowanlock came
back; but about half a minute afterwards several shadows flitted by
the window, and immediately six or seven painted Indians, with
rifles cocked, and uttering diabolical yells, burst into the house.
The chief was with this party; and aiming his rifle, shot poor
Gowanlock dead. Another aimed at a man named Gilchrist, but Mrs.
Gowanlock heroically seized the savage's arms from behind, and
prevented him for a moment or two. But the vile murderer shook her
off, and falling back a pace or two, fired at her, killing her
instantly.

The York boat, with its brave little band, reached Battleford in
safety, and the two handsome Indian boys pitched their tents aloof
upon the prairie, about, a mile distant from the Fort, selecting a
little cup shaped hollow, rimmed around with scrubby white oak. The
horses fed in the centre, and at the edge of the bushes gleamed the
white sides of the tent.

That evening, as the two entered the town, they perceived a tall
Indian standing by the gate.

"It is Little Poplar," whispered Julie; and seeing the two maidens
about the same time, the chief stepped forward.

"Cruel work," he said, "reported from Frog Lake. Captain Stephens
and two others were sent an hour ago with fast horses to enquire if
the story is true. But he had not long passed this gate when I
noticed Jean, the great chief's man, and a dozen of the Stoney Crees
ride after him. I am sure that they are plotting him harm."

"What route did they take?" asked Annette, while her eyes grew large
and bright.

"They went upon the muskeg trail. It leads directly to Frog Lake."

"Thank you again, chief; I go immediately." Julie likewise turned
about.

"Nay, you must not encounter this peril with me; already you have
ventured more than I should have permitted;" but a look of sorrowful
reproach came into the little maiden's eye.

"Is Julie of no use, that her mistress will not consent for her to
come? Did the faithful follower not say in the beginning that
wherever her mistress went, there she would go? that the dangers of
the mistress should be borne also by the maid?"

"Well, since you wish to come, dear girl, I will not gainsay you.
But what thinks your chief about his darling courting all these
dangers?"

"Little Poplar," the Indian replied, "is proud to see his sweetheart
brave; and if she were not so brave, he could not love her half so
much." And stooping, the noble chief kissed and kissed the maiden's
forehead; and then, once, and very tenderly, her two red lips.

The pair now swiftly returned to the hollow, once again folded the
tent, closed their hamper, saddled the horses, and struck out swiftly
for the trail. They had practised eyes, and were soon convinced that
both parties had gone by this route. Their horses were fairly fresh
and they pushed on at high speed.

Their course lay over a long stretch of sodden marshes, brown with
the russet of Indian pipes and the bronze of their leafage. Here and
there a dry ridge lifted itself lazily out of the spongy flat, and
afforded solid, buoyant footing. But a dull gray began to fall upon
the plains. It was fog and they knew that less than half an hour of
clear skies, and the sight of landscape, remained to them. So they
sped on, now sinking deep in a mass of sodden liverwort, glistening
in the most exquisite of green, again treading down a tangle of
luscious, pale-yellow "bake-apples." The huge, noiseless mass soon
reached the swampy plain; and it rolled as if upon wheels of floss,
shutting out the sun and smothering the bluffs. The gloom was now so
great that they could not see more than twenty paces on any hand, and
every object in view seemed many times greater than its natural size,
and distorted in shape. Miles and miles they went through swamp and
tangle, till they heard the far-off, sullen roar of water. The land
now also began to dip, and fifteen minutes' ride brought them to a
low-lying region of swamp, sentinelled with dismal larches. Close at
hand they heard the moaning of a slow stream; beyond was the muffled
thunder of some tremendous waterfall. They were soon convinced that
they were on the confines of the Styx River, a dreary, forbidding
stream of ink-black water which wallowed through a larch swamp for
many miles till it reached the face of a bold cliff down which its
flood went booming with the sound of thunder. At every step now the
horses sank almost to the knee; but as the trail was yet visible they
pushed on, keeping close to the banks of the stream.

Beyond was a bluff of poplar and white oak, and as the riders passed
round it, the gleam of a camp-fire about a quarter of a mile distant
shone through the trees.

"Hist; here they are. We shall go behind this clump and pitch our
tent; then we can see how affairs stand."

The horses were corralled, the tent pitched, a fire lighted; and
Julie was busy breaking branches for pillows. Annette prepared the
supper.

"What is your next step, my ingenious hero mistress?"

"To steal up near the camp-fire and see to which party it belongs;
or whether the worst has happened." Her fingers trembled a little as
she ate; but her heart was as brave as a lion's.

"Take your pistol, Julie, and let us go." The night was pitchy dark,
although the fog had rolled away; for the moon had not yet risen, and
no light came from the few feeble stars that were out. Over swamp and
tangle, across bare marsh, and through dense wood they went, lightly
as a pair of fawns, till the warm, ruddy glare of the strange camp-fire
shone on their faces.

"Lie you here," whispered Annette, "while I go forward." She was not
absent many minutes, but when she returned her cheeks were pale and
her voice quivered a little. "As I expected. Captain Stephens and his
two companions are prisoners. He is lying upon the ground without any
cover over him, and his hands are bound behind his back. I see only
one other, and he is wounded;--the other must have been killed."

"But there is no use in waiting here to-night. The band is divided
into watches; and one division has lain down to sleep. From some
words that I heard one of the braves say I judge that they will carry
the prisoners to Beaver Mountain, where there is a Cree stronghold.
Here they will be held to abide the will of le chef. The march will
last at least three days. But as they advance they will grow less
cautious; then we may be able to accomplish something. Come, let us
get back to our tent."

Stretching themselves upon the fresh, fragrant boughs, they drew the
rug over their two sweet, tired bodies, and fell into a restoring
sleep.



CHAPTER VI.

A DARING RESCUE.


When they awoke the sun was up, the mists had rolled out of the
hollow, and every bush and blade of grass glittered as if set in
diamonds. Hard by the tent ran a little brook, leaping, rushing,
eddying, gurgling, sparkling down the incline, to join the larger
stream whose slow moaning had sounded so terrible in the fog and dark.

"It is full of fish," gleefully exclaimed Julie; and casting a fly
(for they had not come without tackle), she soon landed a trout about
a pound weight. It was a blending of pink and silver on the belly,
and was mottled with dots of brown. "One apiece," she cried, as
another beauty curled and leaped upon the grass, by one of Annette's
deftly booted little feet.

The kit supplied two or three flat pans that could be stowed
conveniently; and into one of these the fish were put.

"Now, Julie, while you prepare the breakfast, I shall go and take a
look at how things stand in the next camp."

She crept noiselessly through bush and brake, and perceived the band
just making ready for a start. Captain Stephens was put upon a horse
in the centre of the cavalcade, and his companion, pale and
blood-stained, rode next behind.

Annette and Julie cautiously followed, drawing close to the party
when it rode through the bush, but keeping far in the rear when the
course lay over the plain. Towards the set of sun, they observed a
horseman about a mile behind them, riding at high speed. They waited
till the man drew near, and perceived that he was a Cree Indian.

"Message from Little Poplar," the brave said, as he reined in his
splashed and foam-flecked pony, "The Great Chief rages against
mademoiselle, and has braves searching for her through every part of
the territory." Producing a paper, he handed it to Annette. Upon it
were written in bold letters the following:

PROCLAMATION.

Any one bringing to my presence a young person, disguised as a Cree
spy, and riding a large gray mare, will receive a reward of $500.
This spy and traitor is usually accompanied by another person of
smaller stature, and also disguised as a Cree boy. Rides a black
gelding. These traitors have heard our secret counsels as friends,
and have gone and disclosed our plans to the enemy. They gave warning
of our approach to a band of government officers; they procured the
escape of the oppressors from Fort Pitt; and they turned away Big
Bear and his braves from pursuit of the fugitives, by lies. Our first
duty is to capture them. No injury is to be done to the chief
offender, who is to be immediately brought to my presence.

LOUIS DAVID RIEL.

"Tell your brave chief, mon ami," Annette said, "that we shall take
care to avoid the followers of le grand chef, and of unfriendly
Indians."

The Indian turned his pony, and was about retracing his steps, when
Julie rode up to him, and in her exquisitely timid little way, said
in a soft voice,

"Faites mes amities a monsieur, votre chef." The Indian replied,
"Oui, oui," and urged his pony to the height of its speed. When Julie
joined her mistress there was a little rose in each cheek, and a
gleam in her faintly humid eye.

"Sending a message to her chief?" Annette said, looking at the
bright, brown beauty. "She need not have blushed at giving her
message to the brave; he thought that she was an Indian lad."

"Oh, I forgot," Julie murmured; and she pressed her deftly booted
feet against the flanks of her pony.

The savage was, evidently, not enamoured of the lonesome journey
back to his chief, for rumour had peopled every square mile of all
the plains with warriors, and with hidden assassins. And spread
across that arc of the sky where the sun had just gone down, were
troops of clouds, of crimson, and bronze and pink; and in their
curious shapes the solitary rider saw mighty horses, bestrode by
giant riders, all congregated to join in the war. He knew that these
were the spirits of chiefs who had ruled the plains long before the
stranger with the pale face came; they always assembled when great
battles were to be fought; and when their brothers began to lose
heart in the fray, they would descend from the clouds and give to
each warrior the heart of the lion, and the arm of the jaguar.

His heart swelled with a wild war-fever as these thoughts passed
through his brain. Then the darkness began to creep over the plains;
it came softly and as remorselessly as the prairie panther; and a
fear grew upon the savage. The horsemen in the sky had come nearer to
the earth; some of them had trooped across through the dusk, till
they stood directly above his head; and he fancied that several of
the figures had lowered themselves down till they almost touched him.
In the deepening dusk he could not observe what they were doing. They
at last actually reached the earth;--and three giants stood before
his horse.

"Mon Dieu," shrieked the terrified creature, and his hand lost
control over the reins. His pony did not heed the spectres, but
walked straight on. Nay, he passed so close to one of the dread
things that the Indian's arm brushed the goblin. Its touch was hard.
The man shrieked, and in a terror that stopped the beating of his
heart fell to the ground. When he arose, he found that the spectre
was not from the sky; but only a tall prairie poplar.

Pray, readers, do not laugh at the unreasonable terror of this
untutored savage. I have seen some of yourselves just as unreasonable.

While the Indian was suffering the sunset clouds to fill him, now
with enthusiasm, and again with dread, Annette and Julie were keeping
their ponies at their fleetest pace to regain sight of the party.

"Do you know, Julie, I feel a presentiment that an opportunity for
the rescue will come to-night. The captors will not dream of pursuit
so far from the frequented grounds and known trails, and they will be
off their guard. See! yonder they camp;" and while she was yet
speaking, a pyramid of scarlet flame, scattering showers of sparks,
shot up from a recess in the bluff lying directly before them.

"Rein in, Julie, we must find a bluff a safe distance off for our
horses. Should they get scent or sight of the ponies in yonder camp,
and whinny, all would be lost."

So swerving to the left, and taking a course at right angles to
their late one, they rode slowly and silently till a bluff rose from
the prairie, a short distance in front, like a hill.

"We shall tether our horses here, Julie; but I believe our stay will
not be a long one." And the pair dismounted, tied their tired beasts,
and swiftly raised the white sides of their tent.

"Ee-e-e-e!" it was Julie who gave the shriek. The thicket was
swarming with soft, noiseless wings, and a bird with burning eyes had
brushed the face of the maiden with its pinion. "What is it, ma
maitresse? It has two bright eyes, and it touched my face. Ee-e-e. O!
There it is again."

"What is the matter, Julie? Do you want to bring Jean and his
Indians here, with this pretty screaming of yours?"

"But it brushed me in the face twice, mademoiselle."

"These are only night hawks, Julie; they gather sometimes like this
in our own poplar-grove."

"O-o that's what it was? Pardonnez-moi. What a simpleton I am, my
mistress. Do you think they heard me?" and her sweet voice was now so
low, that the locust, dozing among the spray of the golden-rod, could
scarcely have heard her tones. The thicket was literally swarming
with these noiseless birds; and wondering they flew round and round
the figures of the intruders, but most of all did they marvel at the
great mound of white that had been raised amongst them. Some of them,
in alarm, rose high above the bluff, wheeling and darting hither and
thither, and the girls could hear their c-h-u-n-g as if some hand,
high up in the air, had smote the bass chord of a violoncello. But
when the flame from the camp fire arose, terror seized every
feathered thing in the bluff, and they all flew, in wild haste, away
from the bewildering light.

Annette was now away wandering through the grove, gathering dry and
fallen limbs for the fire; and as Julie bustled about through the
long prairie grass, preparing the meal, she was startled with a
little cry.

"Mon Dieu, what is it?" Julie hastened away to her mistress, her
bright eyes widened and gleaming with alarm.

"What has happened my mistress?"

"Oh! is that all it is? Why Julie, I am just as silly as you are. I
stooped to pick up what I thought a little bramble, but when I laid
my hand upon it, it moved; and then went under the ground. It was a
gopher. I am now rebuked for chiding the fears of my little maid."

"But anybody would scream at touching a live thing like that on the
ground. It was foolish, though, to be frightened at a bird."

Generous, sweet little Julie!

They now busied themselves with their supper, brewing some tea in a
shallow pan; and when they had spread their store of provisions they
sat down by the side of the fire, and ate their meal of home-made
bread and cold meat. It would have gladdened the heart of the most
withered monk to see those two healthy, plump little maidens in the
flickering fire light, their garments loosened, their eyes glowing,
their cheeks and lips in hue like the cherry, eating slice after
slice of bread and meat, and draining cup after cup of the fragrant
tea.

"Now Julie," Annette said rising, after the precious maiden had
eaten enough to make some miserable philosopher ill for a week of
dyspepsia, "I shall creep out and make a reconnaissance." And
buckling on her belt, with its large bright-bladed knife, and her
ready revolver, she went away softly and cunning as a cat. The very
field-mouse could have known nothing of her coming till her sweet
foot was upon its head: and when she came in sight of the hostile
camp fire with the dull scarlet glow that the mass of dying embers
threw out, she stooped so low that a spectator near by would have
imagined that the dark thing moving across the level was a prairie
dog.

At last she was at the very edge of the bluff, and was peering
between the branches at the party, about the flight of an arrow
within. Captain Stephens was there, full in the light, his arms and
legs fast bound, and tied to a sturdy white oak tree. Near a poplar,
a few paces distant, lay his comrade, likewise bound and fastened to
a tree. Most of the Indians were asleep; the remainder lolled about,
showing no evidence of keeping vigil. Jean she could not perceive;
and she believed, and was no doubt right, that he was sleeping.

"It is well," the maiden ejaculated in a little whisper; and she
returned swiftly and noiselessly as a shadow to her own camp fire.

"Most of them sleep; and presently there will not be an open eye
among the braves. Ah, Julie, if you but saw how they have _him_
bound--both of the captives, I mean." And her eyes flashed, while her
hand made a little blind, convulsive motion toward her pistol. "We
have no time now to waste; help me to pack." In the space of a few
minutes everything was ready for a start, and the horses led away to
another bluff which loomed up about five hundred yards distant. Julie
could not divine the reason for this precaution, but Annette
whispered,

"Child, the light of our fire might, at the first moment of flight
lead to recapture, should any of my plans fail; and it would take us
a half an hour to extinguish the embers by fetching water in our
little pans."

Yes, Julie saw a little of what her mistress was aiming at; and
reposed perfect trust in Annette's ability to do everything with
skill and success. The beasts were tethered, and dark as was that
prairie night, these two girls with skill as unerring as the instinct
of a pair of night-hawks could come back and find them. Then they
struck out through the long grass, and made for the bluff where lay
the Stonies and their prisoners.

"Now, if we can find their ponies!" Annette said.

"Wherefore look for their ponies, mademoiselle?"

"You soon shall see. Ah, here they are; stay you there, Julie, I
will come to you again presently." But Julie followed her mistress. A
little shudder passed through her heart as she saw the dull glitter
of something in her mistress' hand.

"I don't like to do this cruel thing; but then I spill only brute
blood; and I do so to save the shedding of human blood." Julie now
surmised what her mistress was about; and drew her own knife. Annette
had already passed from one of the ponies, after pausing for a few
seconds stooped by its hinder legs, to another; and with the knife
still gleaming in her hand, performed upon the second beast what she
had done to the first.

"You just cut the tendons of the hinder legs, I suppose,
mademoiselle?" Julie enquired in a whisper.

"What, are you at work too, Julie?"

"Oui mademoiselle; I have cut yonder one, and yon;" and she darted
away to continue the work of mutilation. In a few minutes the uncanny
task was ended, and with a shudder at their hearts the girls wiped
their knives and led away from the flock of lamed and bleeding beasts
the horses of Captain Stephens and his brother captive. These they
tethered beside their own, and again returned. They then proceeded
with noiseless tread towards the hostile camp.

The fire had burnt lower, but the glow was still strong enough to
reveal the condition of the camp. After Annette had counted every
Indian, and convinced herself that one and all were soundly sleeping,
and that Jean in his tent was the deepest slumberer of all, she
whispered softly.

"Remain you here, Julie. Should I be discovered fly instantly and
take horse. Don't tarry for me. Peace, ma petite amie; I go."

And softly as sleep she went away, and in among the trees till she
stood within a pace of where her deliverer lay. He had been on the
border land that divides the world from the realm of dreams; but
through the wavering senses of his eye and ear, he was sensible of
the faintest stir among the leaves, of a shadow moving near him.
Instantly his eyes were wide open; and the dull glow of the embers
revealed standing above him with his finger on his lips, the figure
of the beautiful Indian boy who had saved his life before. The next
moment, the boy is leaning over him; in another moment his bonds are
severed, and he is free.

"Go," whispered the boy, pointing toward the bluff; "no noise."
These words were as low and as fine as the little whisper that you
hear among the leaves of the alder when a faint wind comes out of the
west on a summer's evening and moves them. And while he yet remained
bewildered by the suddenness of the boy's appearance, his own
deliverance, and the order that had been given to him, he perceived
the lad stooping over his companion in captivity, and severing the
thongs that bound him. Stephens now moved hastily away a short
distance, and then turned. The captive was upon his feet, and his
deliverer was beside him; but at the same moment he saw a tall savage
bound to his feet, with hatchet uplifted, and make towards the two.
At the same time he uttered the fierce alarum-yell of the Stoney
tribe.

"Fly!" shouted the Indian boy to the white. "Away!" and then he
turned to face the approaching foe. The savage came on, and when, as
it seemed to Stephens, his hatchet was about to cleave the boy's
skull, there was a pistol report, and the Indian fell with a
convulsive toss of his arms. This was accomplished in the space of a
couple of heart-beats; but the time was long enough to bring Jean and
the entire party to their feet.

"Fly!" repeated the Indian boy, and he bounded swiftly out of the
bluff, joining Stephens, his companion and Julie, who all four now
led off across the dark prairie towards the horses.

"Ought we not get our horses," Stephens enquired in a low hurried
tone, for the noise of the pursuit from the camp was close, and
tumultuous as a broken bedlam.

"You will get your horses, Monsieur," Annette replied, and Captain
Stephens implicitly relied upon the word of the beautiful youth. The
grass upon the prairie was thick and high, and in some places lay in
heavy tangles, making slow the progress of the refugees; but they
were able to keep their distance ahead of the Indians, who with
flaring flambeaux were following their trail like bloodhounds. Out of
the darkness came a series of sharp whinnies, and the next moment
they found themselves among the horses. The beasts were ready for
mounting, and without delay or bungle, the party were instantly in
the saddles and cantering briskly across the prairie. As they rode
along cries of baffled rage came to their ears; and they knew that
the Indians had discovered the plight of their ponies.

But when they had ridden beyond the sound of the enemies' voices,
they slacked their pace, and Captain Stephens said,

"Brave lad, is it your intention to ride all night?"

"No, Monsieur; I purpose resting at the first suitable place, till
moon-rise. It is not safe for our horses' legs travelling among the
gopher-burrows in the dark. At any rate Monsieur le Capitaine and his
companion must be hungry."

"During my captivity I have eaten nothing save a piece of an elk's
heart raw; and I do not believe that Phillips has taken anything."

The truth is that Phillips had been severely wounded; and besides
several shot wounds in his side, his left arm was at this moment in a
sling, having been nigh severed from his body with a hatchet blow.

"No, I have not eaten; and I think it was as well while the fever of
my wounds was upon me."

"But," continued Captain Stephens, "I am most anxious to rest that I
may hear how came you, my brave lad, and your heroic companion, to
get knowledge of our capture; how it is that fate seems to have
singled you out to be my constant guardian-angel and deliverer. I
trust that you will not refuse the explanations as you did on a
former occasion. A man who has been thrice rescued from probable
death, has good excuse for seeking to know all about the person who
has delivered him."

"I would much rather that Monsieur did not press me upon the point,"
the boy replied in a low voice.

"But I will, my heroic lad. I believe that we met somewhere before
under different circumstances; for several times I have noticed a
familiar accent in your voice."

"It is only a delusion, Monsieur," she replied in the same low tone.
"But, here is a bluff wherein we shall be likely to find some place
to rest for a little;" and turning her horse, she led the way along a
grassy lane which seemed, in the night, as regular as if it had been
fashioned with human hands. As she halted and while her hand lay upon
her horse's neck, she said:

"I have a tent which I regret I cannot offer to share with you; but
we can prepare a comfortable supper upon the grass; and you can rest
cosily in the warmth of the fire." With these words she dismounted.

In a few minutes the white of the tent loomed through the dusk; and
presently a fire was roaring and scattering about a spray of scarlet
sparks.

Annette had some moments with Julie in the tent, while Stephens was
busy making a comfortable resting-place for his wounded companion.

"Julie, I cannot longer keep this secret; when we have eaten, I
shall tell him. But oh! I think it will nearly kill me to do it. I am
so ashamed; our dress, you know, Julie." And by the dull glimmer of
the camp-fire Julie could see that her mistress' face was like a
freshly-blown carnation.

"I would not mind telling mon chef, ma maitresse; Monsieur Stephens
will prize you all the more for your bravery. And then it is so
becoming;" and this sweetest of maids looked admiringly at the
exquisite curves and grace of outline in her mistress. And she came
to her softly as a mouse, taking the still blushing face into her
brown hands, and looking lovingly into the luminous eyes.

"Ah Julie, your chief, or our own Metis, might admire us in this
costume, but the ladies of Captain Stephens' acquaintance would
shrink from doing that in which we see naught amiss. He may think it
indelicate and--." Once more the blood came stinging with a thousand
sharp points in her temples; but Julie interposed:

"Nay, mademoiselle; if you have done anything unlike what white
ladies do, it was for the sake of Captain Stephens; and if you did
not adopt disguise, you could not have saved him."

"True, sweet Julie; you fill me with courage;" and then she set
about preparing the meal.

Captain Stephens was amazed at the deftness with which the young
scout prepared the repast; and he lay upon the grass, with his eyes
rivetted upon the nimble, noiseless, graceful lad. It puzzled him
that the mysterious youth should persistently keep his head averted,
and he was the more strongly decided to discover his identity. When
the meal was ended Annette whispered,

"Julie will come with us; I never could tell him in the light of the
fire." Then turning towards Captain Stephens, with eyes looking
timidly down, "If monsieur will walk forth a little with me and mon
frere, I shall tell him something."

Certainly, he would go, and was upon his feet beside the mysterious
boy, whose colour had now become most fitful, changing from pale
olive to the dye of the damask rose. They went beyond the bluff, and
out upon the prairie, Stephens marvelling much, though speaking no
word, what the handsome boy had to say to him.

"Monsieur," she began in a soft, trembling voice, "has wondered who
I am, and thinks he has heard my voice before. He has heard it--at
the cottage of my father."

Captain Stephens turned around and gazed with amazement at the lad.

"He has heard it elsewhere, too," Annette went on--"he heard it on
the brimming river; he saved me from death below the chute."

"Heavens, Annette Marton! Sweet, generous, noble girl, why had I not
guessed the truth," and he stood rapt with gratitude and admiration
before her. Kindly dusk of the starless prairie that hid the blushes
and confusion of the girl!

Then in a low tone, as they walked aimlessly about upon the plain,
she told him the story of her adventures, all of which my reader
already knows. Then they returned; and when they neared the camp
fire, Annette with a shy little run disappeared into her tent,
murmuring softly,

"Au revoir, Monsieur."

Her dreams were bewildering, yet delicious, that night; but there
ran through them all a feeling of shame that he should have detected
her in those unwomanly clothes. Indeed, the embarrassment went
further than this; and once she imagined, the dear maiden, that she
was by the edge of an amber-green pool fringed with rowan bushes and
their vermillion berries, and that as she was about to step into it
for a bath, there occurred what happened in the case of Artemis and
her maids, the one upon whom her heart was set taking the place of
Actaon. She gave a great scream and awoke, to find Julie sitting up
and looking with wide affrighted eyes through the dusk at her
mistress.

"Oh, I had such a horrid dream, Julie," and nestling her head upon
the bosom of her maid, she was soon asleep and wandering again in
spirit with her lover through the prairie flowers.

They were astir early in the morning, and Annette, as was the habit
of the Metis women, had about her shoulders a blanket of Indian red
and Prussian blue. [Footnote: It is customary for Metis women, even
the most coquettish and pretty of them, to wear blankets; and the
hideous "fashion" is the chief barbaric trait which they inherit from
their wild ancestry. Annette, of course, donned the robe under a
mental protest. E.C.] Captain Stephens had gone abroad upon the
prairie in the morning, and with his pistol shot a pair of chickens.
These he handed to Annette as he returned, saying,

"Here my little hero deliverer; and take this, too," handing her a
tiger lily, moist with dew. "Now, in what way can I assist the Cree
boy who has twice saved my life?" and he looked wistfully into the
eyes of the brown maiden.

"If monsieur will just sit there upon the grass, petite and myself
will get the meal;" and straightway she began to pluck and prepare
the chickens which Stephens had given her. The sun burned through the
cobalt blue of the prairie sky, and there was not anywhere in the
great, blue dome an atom of cloud. The sun and the rays from the fire
combined made the heat unbearable, and Annette with no little
confusion laid by her blanket. Perceiving her discomfiture, Stephens
arose and wandered about the prairie, picking flowers; and only
returned in obedience to the call of Julie's little silver whistle.

Very soon, the party was in motion along the trail, Annette leading,
Captain Stephens riding in rear beside Phillips, who was again
feverish with his wounds.

They rode till the post meridian sun became too warm, and then
obtaining shelter in a bluff, they lunched and rested for several
hours. They then resumed their march and continued it till the set of
sun. During the day Stephens rode frequently by the side of Annette,
but she invariably made her horse mend its pace, and rode alone.
Despite his admiring glances, and his deep expressions of gratitude,
Stephens gradually began to resume his old playful manner of address.
He referred to her as "the little Cree boy," and in speaking of her
to Julie or Phillips, always used the word "he." Annette took no heed
of this; she led the party through mazes of woodland, across
stretches where there was no trail, or selected the camping-ground.

"The moon rises to-night about twelve, monsieur," she said to
Stephens when supper had been ended, "and we had better resume our
march then. There is a Cree village not far from here, and the braves
are everywhere abroad. I do not think that travelling by day would be
safe; for all the Indians must have read the proclamation."

About midnight a dusky yellow appeared in the south-east, and then
the luminous, greenish-yellow rim of the moon appeared and began to
flood the illimitable prairie with its wizard light.

"So this miscreant has been hunting you, Annette?" said Stephens,
for both had unconsciously dropped in rear. "I suppose, ma petite, if
I had the right to keep you from the fans of the water-mill, that I
also hold the right of endeavouring to preserve you from a man whose
arms would be worse than the rending wheel?" She said nothing, but
there was gratitude enough in her eye to reward one for the most
daring risk that man ever ran.

"You do not love this sooty persecutor, do you, ma chere?"--and
then, seeing that such a question filled her with pain and shame, he
said, "Hush now, petite; I shall not tease you any more." The
confusion passed away, and her olive face brightened, as does the
moon when the cloud drifts off its disc.

"I am very glad. Oh, if you only knew how I shudder at the sound of
his name!"

"There now, let us forget about him," and reining his horse closer
to hers, he leaned tenderly towards the girl. She said nothing, for
she was very much confused. But the confusion was less embarrassment
than a bewildered feeling of delight. Save for the dull thud, thud of
the hoofs upon the sod, her companion might plainly have heard the
riotous beating of the maiden's heart.

"And now, about that flower which I gave you this morning. What did
you do with it?"

"Ah, Monsieur, where were your eyes? I have worn it in my hair all
day. It is there now."

"Oh, I see. I am concerned with your head,--not with your heart. Is
that it, ma petite bright eye? You know our white girls wear the
flowers we give them under their throats--upon their bosom. This they
do as a sign that the donor occupies a place in their heart."

He did not perceive in the dusky light that he was covering her with
confusion. Upon no point was this maiden so sensitive, as the
revelation that a habit or act of hers differed from that of the
civilized girl. Her dear heart was almost bursting with shame, and
this thought was running through her mind.

"What a savage I must seem in his eyes." Her own outspoken words
seemed to burn through her body. "But how could I know where to wear
my rose? I have read in English books that gentle ladies wear them
there." And these lines of Tennyson [Footnote: I must say here for
the benefit of the drivelling, cantankerous critic, with a squint in
his eye, who never looks for anything good in a piece of writing, but
is always in the search for a flaw, that I send passages from
Tennyson floating through Annette's brain with good justification.
She had received a very fair education at a convent in Red River. She
could speak and write both French and English with tolerable
accuracy; and she could with her tawny little fingers, produce a true
sketch of a prairie tree-clump, upon a sheet of cartridge paper, or a
piece of birch rind. I am constrained to make this explanation
because the passage appeared in another book of mine and evoked
censure from one or two dismal wiseacres.--E.C.] came running through
her head:

  "She went by dale, and she went by down,
  With a single rose _in her hair_."

These gave her some relief, for she thought, after all, that he
might be only jesting. When the blood had gone from her forehead, she
turned towards her lover, who had been looking at her since speaking,
with a tender expression in his mischievous eyes.

"Do white girls never wear roses in their hair? I thought they did.
Can it be wrong for me to wear mine in the same place?"

"Ah, my little barbarian, you do not understand me. If an ancient
bachelor, whose head shone like the moon there in the sky, were to
give to some blithe young belle a rose or a lily, she would, most
likely, twist it in her hair; but if some other person had presented
the flower, one whose eye was brighter, whose step was quicker, whose
laugh was cheerier, whose years were fewer; in short, ma chere
Annette, if some one for whom she cared just a little more than for
any other man that walked over the face of creation, had presented it
to her, she would not put it in her hair. No, my unsophisticated one,
she would feel about with her unerring fingers, for the spot nearest
her heart, and there she would fasten the gift. Now, ma Marie,
suppose you had possessed all this information when I gave you the
flower, where would you have pinned it?"

"Nobody has ever done so much for me as Monsieur. He leaped into the
flood, risking his life to save mine. I would be an ungrateful girl,
then, if I did not think more of him than of any other man;
therefore, I would have pinned your flower on the spot nearest my
heart."

Then, deftly, and before he could determine what her supple arms and
nimble brown fingers were about, she had disengaged the lily from her
hair, and pinned it upon her bosom.

"There now, Monsieur, is it in the right place?" and she looked at
him with a glance exhibiting the most curious commingling of naivete
and coquetry.

"I cannot answer. I do not think that you understand me yet. If the
act of saving you from drowning were to determine the place you
should wear the rose, then the head, as you first chose, was the
proper spot. Do you know what the word Love means?"

"O, I could guess, perhaps, if I don't know. I have heard a good
deal about it, and Violette, who is fond of a young Frenchman, has
explained it so fully to me, that I think I know. Yes, Monsieur, I
_do_ know."

"Well, you little rogue, it takes one a long time to find out
whether you do or not. In fact I am not quite satisfied on the point.
However, let me suppose that you do know what love is; the all-consuming
sort; the kind that sighs like the furnace. Well, supposing
that a flower is worn over the heart only to express love of this
sort, where would you, with full knowledge of this fact, have pinned
the blossom that I plucked for you this morning?"

"Since I do not understand the meaning of the word love with very
great clearness,--I think Monsieur has expressed the doubt that I do
understand it--I would not have known where to pin the flower. I
would not have worn it at all. I would, Monsieur, if home, have set
it in a goblet, and taking my stitching, would have gazed upon it all
the day, and prayed my guardian angel to give me some hint as to
where I ought to put it on."

"You little savage, you have eluded me again. Do you remember me
telling you that some day, if you found out for me a couple of good
flocks of turkeys, I would bring you some coppers?"

"I do."

"Well, if you discovered a hundred flocks now I would not give you
one." And then he leaned towards her again as if his lips yearned for
hers. For her part, she took him exactly as she should have done. She
never pouted;--If she had done so, I fancy that there would have been
soon an end of the boyish, sunny raillery.

"Hallo! Petite, we are away, away in the rear. Set your horse going,
for we must keep up with our escort." Away they went over the level
plain, through flowers of every name and dye, the fresh, exquisite
breeze bearing the scent of the myriad petals. After a sharp gallop
over about three miles of plain, they overtook the main body of the
escort, and all rode together through the glorious night, under the
calm, bountiful moon.

"When this journey is ended we shall rest for a few days at my
uncle's, my brave Cree," Stephens said. "Running through the grounds
is a little brook swarming with fish. Will you come fishing with me
there, petite?"

"Oui, avec grand plaisir, Monsieur."

"Of course, you shall fish with a pin-hook. I am not going to see
you catch yourself with a barbed hook, like that which I shall use."

"Oh, Monsieur! Why will you always treat me as a baby!" and there
was the most delicate, yet an utterly indescribable, sort of reproach
in her voice and attitude, as she spoke these words.

"Then it is not a baby by any means," and he looked with undisguised
admiration upon the maiden, with all the mystic grace and the perfect
development of her young womanhood. "It is a woman, a perfect little
woman, a fairer, a sweeter, my own mignonnette, than any girl ever
seen in these plains in all their history."

"Oh, Monsieur is now gone to the other extreme. He is talking
dangerously; for he will make me vain."

"Does the ceaseless wooing of the sweet wild rose by soft winds,
make that blossom vain? or is the moon spoilt because all the summer
night ten thousand streams running under it sing its praises? As
easy, Annette, to make vain the rose or the moon as to turn your head
by telling your perfections."

"Monsieur covers me with confusion!" and the little sweet told the
truth. But it was a confusion very exquisite to her. It was like
entrancing music in her veins; and gave her a delightful delirium
about the temples. How fair all the glorious great round of the
night, and the broad earth lit by the moon, seemed to her now, with
the music of his words absorbing her body and soul. Everything was
transfigured by a holy beauty, for Love had sanctified it, and
clothed it in his own mystic and beautiful garments. It was with poor
Marie, then, as it has some time or other been with us all: when
every bird that sang, every leaf that whispered, had in its tone a
cadence caught from the one loved voice. I have seen the steeple
strain, and rock, and heard the bells peal out in all their
clangorous melody, and I have fancied that this delirious ecstacy of
sound that bathed the earth and went up to heaven was the voice of
one sweet girl with dimples and sea-green eyes.

The mischievous young Stephens had grown more serious than Annette
had ever seen him before.

"But, my little girl, what is to become of you during this period of
tumult. It may continue long, and it is hard to say what the chances
of war may have in store for your father."

"I know not; though my heart is with the cause of my father and of
his people, yet, I do not desire to see them triumph over your
people. A government under the hateful chief would be intolerable;
and whenever I can warn the white soldiers of danger, I shall do it."

"What a hero you are Annette! How different from what I supposed on
that day when I saw you sitting in your canoe in the midst of the
racing flood."

She was glad that Monsieur held what she had done in such high regard.

"Why dear girl, the story of your bravery will be told by the
writers of books throughout all Christendom. Ah, Annette, I shall be
so lonely when you go from me!"

Stephens was all the while growing more serious, and even becoming
pathetic, which is a sign of something very delicious, and not
uncommon, when you are travelling under a bewitching moon in company
with a more bewitching maiden.

But there was so much mischief in his nature that he would rebound
at any moment from a mood of pathos or seriousness to one of levity.
"Well, Annette," and he leaned yearningly towards her, "when you
leave me to take the chances of this tumultuous time, the greatest
light that I have known will have gone out of my life."

"When I am absent from Monsieur, perhaps he never thinks of me."

"What a little ingrate it is! Yesterday morning, while you were
getting breakfast, I was upon the prairie, doing--what think you?"

How was Annette to know?

"Well, I was making verses about ma petite. I was describing her
eyes, and her ears, and all her beautiful face."

"Oh, Monsieur!" and again came the blood to her face till her cheeks
rivalled the crimson dye of the vetch at their ponies' feat. Then in
a little,

"What did Monsieur say about my ears? They are like those of all the
Metis girls; and I do not think that they are as pretty as Julie's."

Then he replied with the lines,

"Shells of rosy pink and silver are most like her dainty ears;
Shells wherein the fisher maiden the sad Nereid's singing hears."

"Oh, indeed Monsieur, my ears are not at all beautiful like that;
indeed they're not." Then slightly changing her tone, "Perhaps le
capitaine made these about some white maiden whose ears _are_, like
that."

"What an ungrateful little creature it is!"

"No, but Monsieur cannot make me believe that my ears resemble
shells, coloured in pink and silver. In his heart he is comparing my
brown skin with the snow-white complexions of some of his Caucasian
girls, and thinking how horrid mine is."

"Why, you irreconcilable little wretch, it is your complexion that
most of all I adore. It is not 'brown;' who told you that it was? The
colour of your skin I described in these lines, though you do not
deserve that I should repeat them to you:"

"In the sunny, southern orchard fronting on some tawny beach,
Exquisite with silky softness hangs the downy silver peach; But as
dainty as the beauty of the bloom whereof I speak--Rain, nor sun, nor
frost can change it--is the bloom on Annette's cheek."

"Oh, monsieur! I do not know what to say, if you really made these
verses about me. If you did, they are not true; I am sure they are
not;" and her confusion was a most exquisite sight to see.

"But I have not described your eyes yet; here are the two lines that
I made about them:

   "Annette's eyes are starlight mingled with the deepest dusk of
  night;--
  Eyes with lustre rich and glorious like some sweet, warm, southern
  light."

"Oh, no, no, monsieur, they are not true; I don't want you to say
any more of them to me," and she put her hand over her face; for the
dear little one's embarrassment was very great.

"That is all I wrote about you; but I may write some more. You say,
petite, that they are not true. I confess that they are not--true
enough. Why, sweet, brave, and most lovely of girls, they fall far
short of showing your merits in the full. I have so far tried to
explain only what is beautiful in your face; but, darling, you have a
nobleness of soul that no language of mine could describe.

"I believe, my heroic love, that you have regarded yourself as a
mere plaything in my eyes. Why, ma chere, all of my heart you have
irrevocably. One of your dear hands is more precious to me, than any
other girl whom mine eyes have ever seen. Do you remember the
definition of love that I tried to give you? Well, I gave it from my
own experience. With such a love, my prairie flower, do I adore you.
It is fit now that we are so soon to part, that I should tell you
this: and you will know that every blow I strike, every noble deed I
do, shall be for the approbation of the dear heart from whom fate
severs me. And though the hours of absence will be dreary there will
lie beyond the darkest of them one hope which shall blaze like a star
through the night, and this is, that I shall soon be able to call my
Annette my own sweet bride. Now, my beloved, if that wished-for time
had come, and I were to say, 'Will you be mine, Annette,' what would
your answer be?"

"I did not think it was necessary for Monsieur to ask me that
question," she answered shyly, her beautiful eyes cast down; "I
thought he knew."

"My own little hunted pet!" He checked his horse, and seized the
bridle of Annette's pony, till the two animals stood close together.
Then he kissed the girl upon her dew-wet lips, murmuring low,

"My love!"

Later on, they were in sight of the spot where they must part, and
Phillips and Julie were awaiting them there. The light of the moon
was wan now upon the prairie, for the dawn was spreading in silver
across the eastern sky.

"My beloved must run no more risk, even for me," he said, leaning
tenderly towards her.

She would be prudent, but she would always for his sake warn his
friends of danger when she had knowledge of the same.

Again he breathed a low "Good-bye, my love," his eyes wistful,
mournful and tender; and with Phillips at his side, then rode down a
small gorge at the bottom of which were tangles of cedar and larch.

And as they rode suspecting naught of danger, several Indians hidden
in the draggled bush arose and stealthily followed them.



CHAPTER VII.

A FIGHT; A CAPTURE; AND THE GUARDIAN SWAN.


ANNETTE with a tear in the corner of each eye, and Julie at her
side, rode on till the two came within sight of the shining waters of
the indolent Saskatchewan. As they rode leisurely along its banks,
Annette, now sighing and now Julie, they heard the trample of hoofs,
and turning saw approaching an Indian chief, well mounted.

"Ah, your chef, ma petite," Annette said, looking at Julie.

But Julie was well aware who the fast riding stranger was; and she
was covered with the most becoming of blushes when her lover drew
rein beside them.

"No time; Indians in pursuit of you. I said I would come ahead of
braves to keep watch upon your movements. Ride to the south, and
unless you find good bluffs to the east, don't rest till you reach
Souris." And he was about to go; but Julie, who had quietly managed
to so work her left heel as to make her horse perform a right pass
till its side touched that of the chief's pony, turned towards him,
her face having the expression of a large note of interrogation,
which if put in words would say, Are you going away without giving
your Julie a kiss? while her lips would remind you of the half-opened
rose that awaits the hovering shower.

The chief may have interpreted the mute and delicious appeal, but he
was too full of alarm to accept the invitation, even though he could
have conquered his sense of delicacy enough to do it before Annette.

"There now, I must be away, he said; and you must be off too." Julie
put down her head till her chin touched her bosom; but she turned her
dusky eyes up towards her lover with irresistible effect, as she said,

"Won't you before you go? Ma maitresse will not mind." It is not in
the nature of man, even before the cannon's mouth, to resist such an
appeal as there was upon the half-pouting, half-yearning lips of that
Metis girl. He stooped suddenly, kissed her once, twice, thrice, and
then was away.

Annette and Julie at the same moment turned their horses, and rode
at a swift pace along the Saskatchewan; but they had barely started
when a shower of fierce yells came to them, and turning in their
saddles they saw a band of painted savages not more than five hundred
paces distant, mounted on fleet ponies, and making for them at high
speed. As for Julie's chief there was nothing to be seen of him.

"Where can the chief have gone, ma maitresse? Will the braves not
know that he has played them false? Oh it was so selfish not to think
of him;" and she turned again in her saddle, and once more scanned
the plains for sight of her lover.

"Julie need not fear for the chief. He is very likely in that
cottonwood bluff near where we parted."

"He could hide safely there, think you mademoiselle?" and she gave
her reins a joyous fling. Then in an altered tone, "But he must think
me indifferent, that I did not ask him how he was to conceal from the
braves knowledge of what he had done."

"There is not much fear that he will think petite indifferent,"
Annette replied in a playful tone. "A sweet girl that asks a lover to
kiss her is not _indifferent_."

"Oh, there now, mademoiselle; please don't! Oh, it was such a
dreadful thing for me to do. Perhaps he will not like me for it;" and
this wretched darling was the colour of a new-blown poppy.

"Why, Julie, they are closing upon us," Annette exclaimed, as she
turned to look at the pursuers. "Their ponies are fresh, and our
horses cannot keep up a long run, I fear. Spur on, Julie," and the
girls put their horses at the top of their speed.

"There, we are holding our distance now Julie; and I think gaining a
little," she added after a few moments. "See, some of their ponies
are falling out of the chase," and a glance revealed four savages now
several hundred yards in advance of the main body which were
evidently unwilling to join further in the pursuit.

"These four Julie, must in the end overtake us. Note their lithe,
large ponies, and what a buoyant spring they have."

"How soon, mademoiselle, will they catch us? and what will we do
then?"

"You must not ask two questions at once, Julie. I mean, you must not
get frightened. As to the first question,"--the sentences were now
and again broken by the swift galloping--"they will catch us probably
in half an hour."

"Oh, goodness," Julie said.

"As to the second, we must fight them."

"Mon Dieu, they will kill us mademoiselle."

"Perhaps; but they will have to try hard. See yon valley with the
tangles of bush?"

"Oui, mademoiselle."

"I know that valley. Was there once with mon pere. Unless they keep
directly upon our trait, I shall lead them into a pretty mess."
Altering her course, suddenly, for a bluff intervened and hid the
movements of the girls from the savages, Annette followed by Julie
made rapidly for the bottom of the valley, crossing through a belt of
straggling cedar and larches, and then held her way along the skirt
of the opposite ridge.

Faint, far-off yells told the girls that they had been again
discovered, but they had the consolation of knowing that their
pursuers must have lost almost a quarter of a mile. But the best part
of the matter was that, as Annette had expected and planned, the
Indians descended into the valley at a point much higher than that
chosen by the pursued. They knew not of the stretch of quaking,
treacherous bog, with its population of designing beaver; indeed,
they would be certain to be lured by the bright, glittering green of
the liverwort that clad the level where the ground was most
unsubstantial.

Although I am not certain as to the prevalence of this weed in the
swampy places of the North-West, I can affirm that I have scarcely
ever seen a very dangerous quagmire that has not been covered with
this exquisite little plant; and if I could credit the stories of the
nursery, I would be able to believe that those malignant fairies who
live about dangerous springs and shaking swamps, cover the ground
with these dainty sprays of green to lure men to their destruction.
Perhaps the fairies were as interested in the fortunes of Annette and
Julie as, at my heart, I am; and that they decked this swamp in its
cover of glistering green to hide the death beneath.

Well, whether the fairies did this thing or not, the savages were
taking such a course that, in order to regain the trail of the
fugitives, they must cross some portion of the treacherous bog.
Annette's eye was upon their movements now.

"Pull rein, Julie;" and both brought their horses to a standstill.

"Well, ma maitresse, what now?" and the pet's hands trembled, and
the roses were out of her cheek.

"See; they near the swamp, and will be able, after a struggle, to
get through it. Now, Julie, I wish to ride down when they get fairly
in the toils; but I would prefer that you should go in the direction
we were pursuing. If everything is right, I shall soon overtake you."

"Oh, I go with ma chere maitresse, to do whatever she does."

"Brava, Julie; I do not think we have much to fear. Ha, they are in
the toils. In fifteen minutes they will be out. Let us away." While
she guided her horse with her bridle hand, Julie perceived her
unbutton her holster pipe, and seize and cock a Colt's revolver.

"I have one, too," muttered Julie; "so I guess I'll do the same
thing." Not a bit of cowardice did the sweet exhibit now.

They were now within a hundred paces of that portion of the swamp
wherein the braves were tangled. And if ever savages, or anything
else, were in a mess, these painted warriors now were. They had
reached the centre of the bog, and were floundering in it up to their
horses' bellies. Their excitement was so intense that they had eyes
for no other place than the spot where their horses floundered and
writhed; and did not notice the approach of the fugitives. Nay, the
two had reached the very edge of the quagmire before the Indians
noticed the Cree boys. The yell that then went up from their throats
was most comical.

Annette's arm was extended, and her revolver was pointed at the
nearest savage; seeing which, Julie drew hers, and covered the next
brave. But before she had the lid over her left eye, Annette had
fired, and fired to effect, for the brave had gone over upon his
back, and sprawled and splashed among the liverwort and the bog.

Julie next fired, and when she saw, as the result of her shot, the
arm of the savage hang useless at his side, she cried--

"Bon, bon!" and cocked her pistol again.

"We must wing them, Julie," Annette said, who had her arm extended
once again. "I don't like to kill the wretches." Then came a voice
crying from the swamp, in dismal Cree--

"Don't fire any more; we won't follow the little scouts. We swear it
by the Sun, and by the God of Thunder;" and laying his hand upon his
hatchet, the terrified wretch faced the Sun and swore the oath: then
turning towards the clouds wherein the Thunder God resides, he
repeated his avowal with the same forms and solemnity of gesture.
Still Annette kept her arm extended.

"The braves talk with forked tongues, and we do not believe them,"
she replied, in the Cree language.

"But we have sworn it," the miserable savage replied, in a doleful
voice.

"False men, swearing by false gods!" Annette replied. "No; we will
not trust them. But let the braves listen. We do not want to kill
them, and have decided to wing them instead."

"Oh, oh!" groaned the poor red-skins.

"There is no time to lose; the braves must not hide behind their
ponies in that way, or we shall be obliged to fire at their bodies
and kill them. They must come out so that we can shoot them in the
legs."

The reader who has reached this point will likely say, "Well, Mr.
Author, you are a bright individual. Why did not the Indians fire?"
The truth is, they had no firearms, being supplied only with hatchets
and spears; and they were not aware that the scouts had pistols.

"But we have nothing more to fear from them, mademoiselle," Julie
said, "wherefore need we fire at them?"

"Nor do I intend to do so, Julie; I am only bent now on so
frightening them that they will no more attempt pursuit. Moreover, I
am anxious that they shall convey tidings of our bloodthirstiness
among all the tribes; for when such rumour obtains circulation, we
shall be harassed less by pursuit."

"C'est bien, ma maitresse; c'est bien."

"No more delay," shouted Annette. "Let the two braves stand up," But
each one lay close under the lee of a struggling horse, holding the
animal fast by the head, in order to keep him sure in the swamp.

"Put you up your pistol, Julie; leave this work to me." And once
more presenting her little round, ferocious arm, she fired, hitting
one of the shielding horses upon the fore shoulder. Maddened with
pain, the brute flung himself out of his predicament, and left the
Indian exposed, upon which Annette immediately fired. The savage
uttered a terrible cry, flung up his arms, and fell without a move
among the liverwort.

"Did you kill him, after all, mademoiselle?"

"No, Julie; the wretch is only shamming. I fired yards away from
him. Now let the other brave stand up, or the same fate awaits him,"
the girl cried; and, presenting a picture of abject terror, the
unfortunate redskin, who believed the third one shot at to be dead,
drew himself out of his covert, and, putting his leg upon the horse,
exposed himself to the pistol. Once more the bloodthirsty little
scout fired, and with an agonized yell, the Indian sprawled in the
marsh-mire. His leg he seized just above the knee, as if the bullet
had entered at that point.

"Is he hit?" whispered Julie.

"No, silly petite; he is also making believe. How well the two
rascals act their part. See the one playing dead. Well, we shall wait
long enough to see his imposture exposed. He is sinking fast in the
quagmire. His head is almost under now." She had scarce ceased, when
the redskin gave a convulsive start, resembling a dying spasm, and
got once more safely above the hungry swamp.

"He will continue to have the spasms right along," Julie whispered,
"while we stay here."

"Yes; but for the sake of the two wounded ones--I believe mine is
badly hurt--we shall ride away. But we must keep watch to-night,
Julie. I believe these two men will follow; and if they find us
sleeping, they will brain us." Then, turning to the tangle of
struggling horses and Indians, she said in a stern voice--

"Some of you may only pretend that you have been wounded, and
purpose following us. But we shall keep strict watch, and woe unto
any one of you that we catch in pistol range again. We now leave
you." With these words the two sanguinary girls turned their horses,
and briskly rode away.

"What idiots they must have been to follow without fire-arms," Julie
said.

"Had we been armed only with hatchets, how different the case would
have been, enfant naif. You, child, may have considered this shedding
of blood unnecessary, and therefore cruel."

Oh, no; Julie did not think it so. La maitresse knew better than she
did.

"But there was only the choice between taking the method adopted,
and openly meeting the four Indians on _terra firma_, when probably all
the savages would have been killed; or, in the hurried shooting, we
might have missed the mark, and been cloven or speared."

"Where shall my mistress camp to-night?"

"I know an extensive bluff, and we could penetrate it far enough to
be tolerably safe from the braves."

When the upper rim of the sun burned like a semi-circlet of yellow,
quivering flame, above the far flat prairie, the girls turned their
horses towards a stretch of sombre wood that stood like a vast and
solemn congregation of cloaked men upon the level.

It was not considered prudent that night to kindle a fire; for one
wandering spark might prove a signal to the foe. So they ate their
meal, and Julie rolled herself up in her blanket, while Annette
seated herself outside of the tent to keep vigil during the first
watch.

"My mistress must not let me sleep too long; she ought not to sit up
at all. What did I come for--if--not--to--to--." Here the tired,
drowsy pet stopped, for she was asleep.

Annette sat upon her blanket, and heard no sound save the breaking
of the grass and the grinding of the horses' teeth, as the hungry
beasts fed. Her heart was not in the wood; it was away with her
lover, and once more her blood tingled, and a delicious sensation
made her heart warm as the words which he spoke when they rode
together passed through her brain.

"Oh, what nice verses he made about my eyes and ears, and my skin.
Ah, if he were only playing with me." An arrow now quivered for a
moment in her heart. "But no; he has the two ways--he can be playful,
and say all manner of teazing things; but, oh, he can be sincere. He
never could have spoken in such a tone, with such a light in his
eyes, with such an expression in his face, if all had not come from
the bottom of his heart. And he will take me away, away out to the
far east, where white men dwell, and put into some great mansion,
and make me its mistress. Oh, it will be all so sweet. But the
dearest part of all is that he will love me, and me alone. How proud
I shall be that no other girl can say, that his heart is hers.

"Ah, Annette, just for your sweet sake, I trust that the future over
which your heart now gloats will fit itself to such a dream. I think,
somehow, that it will; for he seems true, and, darling, you are
worthy. But you know it does not always happen in the way that you
have fashioned it in your dear head. Some other girl _does_
sometimes come with sly, soft feet and steal away hearts from
trusting and adoring wives, and they have no remorse either in doing
the cruel deed. Indeed, believe me, I have known them in their heart
to glory that they had done this thing. You will, therefore, have to
take your chance."

While Annette was in the midst of her reverie, her round dimpled
cheek resting on her hands, one of the horses tossed his head and
whinnied. "Julie, awake," she cried, quickly touching the sleeping
girl; and then seizing her pistol took position behind a tree,
whispering Julie to join her there. And as that frightened maiden
hurried out from her warm nest, a voice came through the poplars
saying,

"Fear not, Little Poplar comes."

"It is _his_ voice, Mademoiselle," and immediately the sleep flew out of
Julie's eyes, and left them luminous as the stars shining beyond the
tree-tops.

"The chief is welcome," Annette replied; and Julie was upon her feet
making a little voyage now in this direction, and now in that, in the
endeavour to find him. All the while she kept saying, "This way! this
way!" but in a tone so low that he could not have heard her at a
distance of ten lengths of this small maiden. At last his tall,
straight figure, resembling in very truth a little poplar, was seen
moving towards the tent; and with a shy run Julie was at his side.

"I followed the four braves who were bent on your capture, and saw
the affair in the swamp. When you rode away, one whom I supposed
dead, arose and joined with another whose leg I had thought was
broken in getting out the horses. One brave was really dead, and he
has by this time sunk in the bog. A fourth had a broken arm, and he
went away with the other two. They will not pursue again, so you may
sleep in peace till the rise of sun. I shall put my blanket here.
Should one approach, the ears of Little Poplar are as keen while the
spirit of sleep hovers over him as while he is awake."

Julie's dreams were very happy that night.

On the morrow Little Poplar informed them that his heart was not now
as much with the white people as it had been some little time ago. He
was aware that the braves were for the most part unreasonable, and
that they were easily led into wrong as well as to right doing.

"They have, I admit, committed some excesses; but it never can be
forgotten that strangers have taken possession of their hunting
grounds, and that, if they have no substitute to offer, the red
children of the plains must die. My tongue could not tell,
mademoiselle, nor your brain conceive, the sufferings that I have
seen among our people in the long bitter winters, with only the snow
for wrappers, and pieces of dried skins for food. Will the white man
die of hunger while food is within his reach? No, he will beg it
first, and then he will take by violence; but I have seen the young
maiden and the withered crone gasp their last breath away upon the
snow, while ranches teeming with cattle lay not an hour's march away.

"If an Indian, with a wife, and a lodge full of children dying on a
bitter winter's day of hunger, turn a calf from some nigh herd of
white man's cattle, alarming tidings fly to the east, and white men
and women learn, in their sumptuous houses, that the Indians do
naught but plunder. But they would have no need, I repeat, to lay
hands upon the ranchers' cattle if the white man had not come and
stripped them of their boundless heritage, and put them upon
reservations where a buffalo may never come. [Footnote: The words in
the mouth of this chief are not exaggerations, and it is God's own
truth that during late winters dozen after dozen of Indians, men and
women and children, perished in the snow after they had devoured the
skins that covered them. Yet these poor people are said to be under
"the paternal care of Government." Alas, our public men are only
concerned in playing their wretched political game, and they sit
intriguing, while the helpless creatures committed to their care
perish like dogs, of hunger, in their lodges.--E.C.]

"And some of the soldiers who have come here from the east are more
bent on earning reputation than on making peace. Some of their
leaders do not want the cheap glory of 'killing a lot of Indians;'
and I have with my own ears heard one of the Ontario magistrates,
Col. Denison, declare that he did next come here to kill, but to
prevent killing. If military affairs were now to be given into the
hands of some men like him it would prove better for all concerned.

"But there is another officer, Major Beaver, who has made amazing
marches; his men, in fact, have travelled like March hares. But give
me a bluff, and fifty braves, and not one of all his rash and rushing
followers will get back again to Ontario to boast of their deeds of
daring.

"Some of our men have been guilty of excesses, but Government gave
them its solemn pledge that if they returned to their reserves no
harm should come to them. All of my braves have gone back, because I
gave them the assurance that some of the officers gave to me. Yet, if
I mistake not, Major Beaver is at this moment planning an attack upon
us. His young men want to kill a few Indians, provided the thing can
be done without any risk; and then they will be described as great
heroes in the newspapers. They would fare very badly if they had to
return without having 'a brush,' as the more war-like of them have
put it, in the hearing of some of my friends."

"Yes, mon chef," Annette replied, "but you say that Colonel Denison
and others advocate a healing of the present sores, and pacific
measures. Then there are others who have always sympathized with the
Indian, like Mr. Mair. Mon pere tells me that he has been for some
time engaged on a beautiful poem, intended to show the injustice that
has been heaped upon the children of the plains. With good counsels
like these, surely no outrage will be done unto your people."

"And now, where do the two brave scouts purpose going?" the chief
enquired, as they came in sight of a small settlement nestling around
the edge of a coil in the Saskatchewan.

Annette was going to see her aunt, and Julie was coming with her.
They would remain there for a day or two to rest, and then they would
go wherever their services were needed most.

"Oh! not to mademoiselle's aunt's. Le grand chef and his followers
have twice been there looking for the scouts, and he has spies among
the neutral braves who would speedily bring him the news of your
arrival."

"Then, what would the chief advise? Our hampers are exhausted now,
and we must replenish them."

The chief would go after the gopher had sought his burrow, and fetch
all that the maidens needed. Beyond a wooded knoll, plain to the
view, was a lake, and in the wood skirting the water would be a
suitable camping ground. The chief advised the maidens to ride
thither, as they must now be tired and hungry; he would fetch them
the provisions and other things needed when the stars came out.
Annette then scribbled a note to her aunt, and mentioned those little
things that she needed. She would some day show her gratitude to sa
tante for her kindness, and "made" her love and duties as girls of
her race do with such grace. And the chief was away.

"Is Julie very tired?"

"Pas beaucoup, mademoiselle. If you want not to pitch tent now, I
should be well able to ride for a couple of hours yet."

"I want to hear what tidings there may be of Captain Stephens,
Julie," and her voice trembled a little. "I do not think that the
braves who go in and out of the village can all be hostile. Those who
are up to mischief have their paint on."

Turning their horses towards the village, they perceived two braves
riding towards them.

"I think I know one of these, Julie. Is not the taller one he who
brought us the proclamation of le grand chef?"

"Oh, yes; the very one. How quick ma maitresse is in remembering
persons." The Indian rode rapidly towards the two little scouts, and
as he drew near he raised his hand.

"It is not safe down here," he said, in Cree, "for the scouts. A
runner from the Stonies saw you both, and Little Poplar with you,
this morning, and swiftly carried the news. It is likely that le
grand chef knows of it before this. Little Poplar, who is now
disguised as a medicine man, is yonder in the valley, and he charged
me to come and warn the two scouts, his friends, to follow out the
instructions that he gave them without any delay. He has got some
tidings, too, about Stephens, le capitaine. Not good tidings, I
think; a brave saw several of le chef's men steal after him down the
Valley of the Snakes."

A short cry escaped from Annette's lips, and the blood shrunk
chilled to her heart.

"Are there any tidings of a capture?"

"No; perhaps le capitaine escaped. Upon clear ground the white men's
horses could easily outdistance the braves, who, it is said, were not
mounted."

Unsatisfactory as this intelligence was, it left room to hope. But
the beauty of the silvery lake, with its fringe of berried bushes;
the scolding of the kingfisher as he gadded from one riven tree to
another; the goblin laughter [Footnote: I borrow this most expressive
phrase from my friend, Prof. Roberts, as vividly descriptive of the
cry of the loon. John Burroughs applies the epithet "whinny," which
is good; but it misses the sense of supernatural terror with which,
to me, the cry of this bird in the moonlight is always associated.]
of the stately loon, as he held his way across the wide stretch of
shining, richly tinted water, might all as well have never been; for
Annette saw them not. Julie was busy trying to cheer her.

"Be not down at heart, sweet my mistress. These territories are now
invested by numerous soldiers from the East, and tidings of this
capture, if such there has been, would speedily reach them. Throw
away your care, and rest to-night. With the sun we shall rise to-morrow,
ourselves restored, our horses fresh, and ascertain the facts.
Inspector Dicken will know; and him we can reach in a two hours'
ride."

"Sweet girl, in the hour of pain you always can give me consolation.
Indians have also skulked after us; and it may be that the braves
were only watching whither Captain Stephens went."

"My view precisely, mademoiselle; but we shall talk no more about it
now. Sit beside me here upon the bank, and look at the peace and the
beauty of all this scene." Under the shadow of the bank, with its
matted growth of trees, the water was a pure myrtle green; midway in
the expanse it was purple, and beyond, in the last faint light of the
sun, it was an exquisite violet. The sand at their feet alternated in
veins of umber brown, and ashes of roses; while the vermillion of the
rowan berries made a vivid and gorgeous contrast to the glaucous
green of the leafage.

Little ripples came upon the bright, pink sand that fringed the
unvarying tide-mark.

"What causes the ripple now, Julie, when no breath of wind is in the
heavens, and neither oar nor paddle is on the lake?"

"Stay; I thought that I heard it a moment ago! Yes, I hear it again.
Hear you not the note of some waterfowl?"

Yes, Annette did hear it; but she could not say from what kind of
bird the singing came.

"Well, my sweet mistress, the ripples which you now see swinging in
upon the sand come from the same bird whose song you hear. The bird
itself is the swan, made sacred to love."

"Oh, I remember something of the legend, Julie. Repeat it to me,
s'il vous plait."

"Well; there was once a beautiful maiden of the plains, whom many of
the bravest and most noble of the chiefs adored; but she disdained
their wooing, for she loved with a passion that absorbed her soul and
body a young man with hair like the corn leaves when, after rain, the
sunlight is shot through the stalks. He stayed some days in the lodge
of the chief, her father; and while his heart was yet full of love
for the peach-skinned, star-eyed maiden, he was obliged to go away
with his white brethren, who had come from over seas to trace the
source and flow of some of our mighty rivers. The parting of the
lovers was like the breaking of heart-strings. The maiden pined, and
through all the summer sat among the flowers sighing for her darling
with the amber-tinted hair. Her sleep refreshed her not, for through
the night she dreamt of naught but the parting, and of the sorrow in
his sky-blue eyes. In the day, her eyes were ever looking wistfully
along the trail by which he had come, or gazing, with a woe past
skill to describe, out along the stretch by which he had gone from
her sight. Late in the autumn, when the petals of the rose and the
daisy began to fall, and summer birds prepared for the flight to the
south, the Great Spirit came softly down from a cumulus cloud and
stood beside the maiden, as she sat upon the fading prairie. He told
her of a glorious land out in the heavens, where spring endured for
ever, and true lovers were joined to have no more parting; and when
she looked yearningly towards the region at which he pointed, he
asked her if she would go thither with him. With joy unutterable she
consented, and giving her hand into his, the two rose in the air and
disappeared through a piled mass of rosy cloud. When she reached
paradise, knowledge was given to her of the loves of maidens upon the
earth, and reflecting how bitter her lot had been, she besought the
God of Thunder, and the Ruler of the Spheres, to permit her to pass a
portion of each year upon the earth, in order to watch over and
console love-sick virgins who were separated from their betrothed. To
her request the god consented, giving to the maiden the figure of a
swan. Since that time she visits the earth a short time after
midsummer day; and you can hear her singing upon our great inland
waters during the night, at any place between the lonesome stretches
of the far north to the great southern lakes, from the middle of
summer till the first golden gleam comes in the maple leaf. Then she
arises, and the hunter marvels at the beautiful bird with the white
pinions which flies up into the heavens, and passes beyond the
highest clouds."

"Harken now, mademoiselle; it sings again." And lo! from over the
hushed face of the water came the notes of the guardian maiden.

"The song is not plaintive and sorrow-laden, as I have been told the
swan's song is, Julie."

"No; the singing of the swan soothes and consoles. Hark again to it."

"Oh, it is divine, Julie, and creeps into my heart, filling me with
comfort and exquisite peace."

"I doubt not, mademoiselle, that the maiden came to this lake to
cheer your sorrowful spirit, and to give you surety that neither you
nor your lover stand in danger."

"Ah, Julie; it is so sweet to think this. And this it is which the
song tells me through the delightful quiet of my heart."

"Yes, my sweet mistress; and I had forgotten the most delicious
tidings in the legend. The maiden's singing is always a guarantee
that no harm can come to either of the lovers." And while Annette was
feasting her spirit upon this new joy, the song of the swan, which
for a minute or two had been hushed, suddenly was resumed close by;
and looking, the two maidens saw a bird, beautiful, and endowed with
grace of motion past description, move by, sending divers shining
rings of water before it. Then a sudden darkness fell and hid the
bird; but the song came at frequent intervals to the girls from the
midst of the lake, and whenever a shadow passed over Annette's
spirit, the singing was resumed. [Footnote: There is a legend among
some of the Indian tribes of the North-West territories that the swan
is a metamorphosed love-sick maiden, whose function and prerogative is
to watch over all young virgins who have given away their hearts. It
is a fact that the Indian hunters long refrained from killing the
white swan in deference to a belief in this legend.--E.C.]

There was now a stir among the brambles near the girl's tent, and to
Annette's "Qui vive?" came the response--

"It is Little Poplar."

"Oh, I am so glad that he is come," Julie said, and the eyes of this
minx grew instantly larger, and ten times more bright.

Some of my fair readers may now desire to know "exactly" what this
Indian chief, who is so conspicuous in the story "looked like." Well,
he was just such a man as always finds an easy access to a woman's
heart. It is true that he was "a savage," but if merit there be in
"blood,"--and for my own part I would not have a dog unless I was
sure about his pedigree,--he was descended of a long and illustrious
line of chiefs, whose ancestors, mayhap, were foremost in that
splendid civilization, that has left us an art mighty and full of
wonders, centuries before the destroying sails of Cortez were spread
upon the deep.

He was tall, and straight, and lithe; and he had a certain
indefinable grace of gesture and address which fits itself only to
one who, by descent and breeding, has been "to the manner born." His
hair was dark, and almost silky fine; and the poise of his head would
be a theme for the pen or the pencil of Rossetti. His eye was dark as
night, but it revealed an immense range of expression; a capacity for
great tenderness, and passion without bound. His nose approximated
the aquiline type; his firm mouth was a bow of Cupid, and his skin
was a light nut-brown. His dress was like that of a cow-boy, and was
devoid of barbaric gauds. I suppose that is enough to say about him.
[Footnote: I may say that when afterwards, through the fortunes of
war, this same chief was brought as a prisoner before a certain
paunchy officer, the attempt of the latter to show his dignity was a
clumsy failure. The proud and splendid chief, with arms folded across
his breast, and head slightly bowed, looked singularly out of place
arraigned before the stumpy judge.--E. C.]

"And now," said the chief, putting down the hamper, "We shall see
what your aunt has sent." Nimble fingers soon opened it, and found,
besides le cafe and le the, as they were labelled, several petits
pains--"Rolls!" cried Julie, smacking her hungry lips--a bunch of
saucisses; of le fromage about a pound, and of la patisserie enough
for a meal for the hungry girls.

"There now, Julie, we have coffee, and tea, and rolls, and sausage;
a pound of cheese, fully, and pie enough for one delicious meal." Her
sweet mouth was "watering," and when she came to un gigot de mouton,
she cried, "What a sweet aunt she is! But when can we eat this whole
leg of mutton?"

Oh, Julie was very hungry, and so was her chief; and Annette herself
was like a bear. After all, very little would be left for the prairie
dog.

"Does the chief think that Captain Stephens was in danger of capture
by those Indians?" Annette ventured to ask. This is the question that
had been upon her lips since the arrival of the chief, but she could
not summon courage enough to ask it sooner.

"When last seen, mademoiselle, le capitaine and his wounded friend
were moving slowly through the swampy bottom of the ravine; and many
braves, with arms in their hands, were in close pursuit. But le
capitaine may have gone upon the high ground and escaped; he easily
could have done so."

There was not much consolation in this for Annette's foreboding
heart; but as she lay down in her blanket, with Julie at her side,
there came once more, through the stillness, from the bosom of the
lake, the soothing song of the swan.

"Do you hear it again, Julie?"

Yes, Julie heard it: It was, without any doubt, singing to quiet the
groundless apprehensions of sa maitresse. Then both the maidens
slept. And whenever through the night Annette awoke, and began to
think of her lover's peril and probable captivity, the soft, scented
night wind bore to her ears a note or two of reassuring music from
the throat of the maiden-bird.

Before the sun had cleared the horizon on the morrow the breakfast
was ended, the tent rolled; and the saddles were upon the horses.
Then the trio set out at a brisk trot; the chief to join his people
upon their reserve, the girls to find Inspector Dicken at Battleford.

I do not like "breaking threads," but it is necessary that, for the
present, I should allow my two Metis maidens to journey without my
company, while I go back to where I left Captain Stephens in the
gulch.

The route of the two horsemen lay through alternating swamp and
grassland, and as the path was not much traversed, bush tangles here
and there almost blocked the way. They had no misgiving as they rode,
and expected to be soon with Inspector Dicken. The lower end of the
gulch was not so cheerful as that portion where they had entered. The
trees grew thicker; swamps composed the greater portion of the
ground, and the long groping shores of the trees might be traced far
through the black bog, till they found anchoring place at the skirt
of the upland. At last they reached a point where the swamp extended
across the entire valley; and further progress by the level was
impossible.

"I fear, Phillips, that we shall be obliged to try the edge of the
upland; but how our horses can make their way through the dense bush
I am unable to see. Nevertheless, we must try it." As they turned
their horses' heads, a din of yells burst upon their ears from the
bushes round about; and immediately a score of savages with tomahawks
uplift, headed by a Metis with snaky eyes, surrounded them.

"Surrender, messieurs; resistance is useless."

Stephens looked about him, and at one glance mastered the situation.
Phillips was too ill of his wounds to be able to use his right arm,
even though a dash down the trail by which they had come were
practicable. For himself, he had a pair of Colt's revolvers; but
before he could fire twice the savages would be enabled to brain him
with their tomahawks.

"I surrender," he said, nodding to the hateful boisbrule; and the
detestable eyes of the man gleamed as he said--

"Bind the prisoners."



CHAPTER VIII.

THE STARS ARE KINDLY TO LE CHEF.


Ah! can it be that the swan sings, and soothes through the night the
maiden with its song, when the lover is in the toils that jealousy
and hate have set!

The party of braves, with the Metis at its head, turned and marched
swiftly back over the path taken by Stephens, till they reached a
point from which the bank was easily accessible. In a bluff upon the
level the savages had tethered their ponies, which were speedily
mounted. Then the party set out for "le corps de garde," as the Metis
put it, of "le grand chef."

"Had le chef then a guard-house?" Stephens asked.

"Monsieur, the spy, and enemy of the half-breeds, will learn these
things soon enough." He had scarcely ended, however, before he seemed
to regret the tone that he had adopted, and hastened to mend the
matter. "I have instructions to be guarded about making known the
affairs of le grand chef, monsieur, or I should be pleased to answer
your question. I hope that the thongs are not hurting you."

"I wonder what this rattlesnake would be at now?" Stephens asked
himself, and then turning to the bois-brule--

"I do not much mind the binding, but you would do me a favour by
relaxing those of my companion. He has been severely wounded, and
inflammation has set in. If you were to remove his bonds altogether
you would run no risk."

"I shall do as you suggest, monsieur," and in a minute Phillips was
unbound.

"Now, if monsieur le capitaine will fall a little in rear with me, I
should like some private conversation." Stephens was fast bound, but
play enough was left to one hand to guide his horse.

"Of course," began the half-breed, "you know something of those two
Cree boys who go riding about the prairies and fighting with the
Indians."

"Yes; to one of these I twice owe my deliverance."

"Ah, yes; to mademoiselle Annette. Now, monsieur, we know--I know--who
the two are. The other is the demoiselle Julie, maid to demoiselle
Annette."

"Well, what if you do happen to know these facts?"

"I will tell monsieur. I love Julie very much, and if le capitaine
will procure me an interview with the maiden, at some place where I
shall name, I may be useful to him in the hour of peril."

"I think," replied Stephens, "that I am now talking with the
confidential friend, secretary and adviser of M. Riel. You are the
Jean of whom I have heard mention?"

"Oui, monsieur. I am Jean."

"I fear, Jean, that I will be unable to procure this interview."

"Oh, do not say so. A note written by you to the maiden is all that
I should need, setting forth the time and the place. A neutral brave
could be procured to fetch it to the house of mademoiselle's aunt."

"Now, Jean, wherefore do you seek this interview with the girl?"
Stephens asked, with a slight curl of contempt upon his lip.

"I want to tell her that I love her; and to arrange to have further
meetings with la petite."

"Why, Jean, I had been under the impression that once before you
told this girl that you loved her, and that she turned up her pretty
nose in disdain. But whether this be true or not, there is another
fact which forms an insuperable barrier to your object. Julie loves
another." The eyes of the half-breed snapped and flamed with jealous
rage.

"Some worthless vagabond, I suppose?" he said, fairly spitting the
words out of him.

"O, no," Stephens replied, with exasperating composure; "but a brave
and illustrious Indian chief. A nobler looking man I have never laid
my eyes upon. You could walk under his legs."

"O, do you think so?" the little Metis replied, with a very ugly
glance. "Now, monsieur, you have refused my offer, and listen to what
you gain by doing so. By some means or other these two traitorous
jades will be captured. Then le grand chef takes yours away up the
dismal valley to Jubal's hut. I take your fine Indian chief's down to
ma mere's ready cottage. As for you, if the maiden retain her reputed
preferences she will be able, when the spring arrives, to come out
upon the prairie and plant daisies, or any other blossom to her
liking, above you."

Stephens had been prepared for malignity, but of such devilish
brutality as this he had not deemed any man living capable. He was so
overwhelmed with horror and disgust that he simply waved his bridle
hand, imposing peace. Thereat Jean pushed forward and gave some
instructions to a savage, who immediately put the bonds again upon
Phillips, tying the thongs so tight that the wounded man groaned with
pain. Then the cavalcade resumed a brisk trot, slacking not until the
prisoners found themselves before the stronghold of the rebel chief.

It is necessary to pause a moment here and point out that M. Riel
had actually formed a provisional government, and succeeded by his
passionate eloquence in deluding the Metis and Indians into the
belief that he was exercising a lawful authority, inasmuch as the
territories had not, within the interpretation of the law, passed
from the Hudson Bay Company under the jurisdiction of Canada. Subject
to this doctrine he laid down the right to establish tribunals of
law, to try, and punish offenders against his authority, and do all
other things that made for the stability and peace of the new regime.

A prominent white settler named Toltbon, had raised a company of
volunteers and gone against the forces of the Metis leader; but his
men were captured like a flock of sheep, and he himself locked up in
the strongest room in the guard house.

Now at the very time that Jean and his prisoners drew up before the
rebel stronghold, the chief himself was striding up and down his room
with dishevelled hair and gleaming eye.

"If Jean cannot bring me either the girl or Stephens within the
coming forty-eight hours, I shall go abroad myself, and scour the
plains. What if after all they should come together, marry, and
escape me. Curses, eternal curses upon them. Maledictions eternal
upon my own worthless followers. By the Holy Mary, if Jean cannot
catch one or other I shall put him to death for treason." While these
hot words were upon his lips the door opened and Jean entered.

"I bring mon chef good news."

"Ah, what is it? Any tidings of Stephens?"

"He is at this very moment in the fort. I caught him in Larch Swamp
on his return after being set free by Mademoiselle. He was most
insulting to myself, and used very abusive language respecting you. I
think, Monsieur, you have cause sufficient against him."

"Bon! bon! He shall not escape me this time," and rising, he began
to stride up and down the floor, his eyes flaming with joy and
vengeance.

"Now, Jean, give me your attention. At once go and put Toltbon in
irons. I shall attend presently and declare that he is to be shot
to-morrow. Suppliants will come beseeching me to spare his life; but at
first I shall refuse to do so, and say that I am determined to carry
out my sentence. At the last I shall yield. So far, so good. I do not
know, now, whether you understand my methods."

"I think I do, mon chef," and there was a knowing twinkle in the eye
of the ugly scoundrel.

"Well, this Stephens has an unbridled tongue, and is pretty certain
to use it. If he does not, a little judicious goading will set him
on. If possible, it would be well for one of the guards to provoke
him to commit an assault. Could you rely upon any one of your men for
such a bit of business?"

"Oui, Monsieur; I have such a man."

"Bon! let him be so provoked, and after his violence has been
thoroughly trumpeted through the fort, make a declaration of the same
formally to me. I will then direct you to try him by court martial.
You are aware of how I desire him to be disposed of. When the news
gets abroad that he is to be shot, some will be incredulous, and
others will come to sue for his life. I shall reply to them: 'This is
a matter of discipline. The man has deserved death, or the court?
martial would not have sentenced him. I spared Toltbon's life, and
already I have as fruits of my leniency increased turbulence and
disrespect. My government must be respected, and the only way to
teach its enemies this fact, is to make an example of one of the
greatest offenders.' Lose no time in completing the work. We know
not, else, what chance may rob our hands of the fellow. You
understand? I am least of all mixed up in the matter, being more
concerned with weightier affairs."

"Oui, Monsieur," and making an obeisance the murderous tool
departed. Exactly as planned, it all fell out. Captain Toltbon was
put in irons, and Riel declared that for the sake of peace and order
he must be shot. Many people came and implored him to spare the
condemned man's life; but he was inexorable. "At the eleventh hour,"
however, as the newspapers put it, yielding to solicitation, Riel
said:

"He is spared."

Jean presented himself before his leader.

"Monsieur, I think it will not be necessary to employ stratagem in
working our man to violence. He has been showering reproaches upon
the guards, and loading your name with ignominious reproach. The
guards knew my feelings; so during the night they put chains upon him.
As the foremost one advanced with the manacles, the prisoner raised
his arm, and dealt him a blow on the head, which felled him to the
ground."

"Bon! bon!" Riel cried, while he rubbed his hands. "Without applying
the little goad, he fulfils our will."

"Well, not in the strictest sense, mon chef. Luc had certain private
instructions from me, and he carried them out in a very skilful
manner."

"N'importe, Jean, n'importe how the thing came about; we have the
cause against him, and that suffices. What do you now propose to do,
for you are aware, Jean--" there was now a tone of diabolical
raillery in his words--"that this matter is one in which I cannot
concern myself, you being the best judge of what is due rebellious
military prisoners?"

"Merci, mon chef! I shall endeavour to merit your further regard. My
intention is to proceed forthwith to try him. Already, I have
summoned the witnesses of his guilt; and he and you shall know our
decision before another hour has passed." Then the faithful Monsieur
Jean was gone.

"No, ma chere Annette. You shall never deck your nuptial chamber
with daisies for Edmund Stephens. You will find occupation for your
sweet little fingers in putting fresh roses upon the mound that
covers him. For a _feu-de-joie_ and the peal of marriage bells,
I will give you, ma petite chere, the sullen toll that calls him to
his open coffin, and the rattle of musketry that stills the tongue
which uttered to you the last love pledge."

For an hour did he pace up and down the floor gloating over his
revenge. Meanwhile, I shall leave him and follow the
"adjutant-general," as Jean was known under the new regime. He
proceeded to the private room of the military quarters, and entering
found his subordinates assembled there.

"Messieurs," he said, "We know what our business is. We must lose no
time in despatching it. But before commencing, let me say a few
words. Monsieur Riel is so overweighted with other affairs that the
matter of dealing with the man Stephens rests entirely in our hands.
I have just left him, after endeavouring in vain to induce him to be
present at the trial: but he could not spare the time to come. By
skilfully sounding him, however, I discovered that his sentiments
regarding the prisoner are exactly the same as those entertained by
myself. What these are I need hardly say. It is now a struggle
between the authority of the Provisional Government and a horde of
rebellious persons of which the defendant is the most dangerous. The
eyes of our followers are upon us; and if we permit the authority of
Government to be defied, its officers reviled, and insult heaped upon
us, depend upon it we shall speedily lose the hold we have gained
after so many bitter struggles; and become a prey to the conspiracy
which our enemies are so actively engaged in promoting. The very fact
that this man Stephens leagued himself with our enemies, is an
offence worthy of death; but I shall ask these persons who are here
as witnesses to show you that since his capture he has merited death
ten times over at our hands. With your permission, gentlemen, I will
proceed:

"Edmund Stephens, of Prince Albert, stands charged before this
court-martial  with treasonable revolt against the peace and welfare of
the colony; with having leagued himself with an armed party, whose object
was the overthrow of authority as vested in our Provisional Government.
He is likewise charged with having attempted criminal violence upon
lawfully delegated guards appointed over him, during his incarceration;
and likewise with inciting his fellow-prisoners to insubordination and
tumult contrary to the order and well-being of this community.

"Luc Lestang."

That person came forward:

"Relate all you know in the conduct of the prisoner Stephens that
may be regarded as treasonable and criminal."

"I have seen him in armed revolt against the authority of Monsieur
le chef."

"Will you please state what have been his demeanour and conduct as a
prisoner."

"He has been insulting and disorderly in the last degree."

"Will you specify a few particular examples?"

"I have frequently heard him describe the Provisional Government and
its supporters as a band of mongrel rough-scruffs; a greasy, insolent
nest of traitors; and a lot of looting, riotous, unwashed savages. He
has used language of this sort ever since his imprisonment. Likewise,
I have heard him say that he would have the pleasure of assisting in
hanging Monsieur Riel to a prairie poplar; and in putting tar and
feathers upon his followers."

"Has he been guilty of any acts of violence?"

"He has been guilty of acts of violence. When he became unbearably
insubordinate I found it my duty to put irons upon him. As I
approached him with the handcuffs he smote me twice in the face, and
I yet carry the mark that he gave me. [Here the precious witness
pointed to his right eye, which was a dusky purple.] This black eye I
received from one of his blows."

"That will do, Luc."

Another witness with the movements of a snake, and eyes as black as
sloes, was called. He gave evidence which tallied exactly with that
sworn to by Lestang. This, of course, was not an extraordinary
coincidence, for he had been present while the first miscreant was
giving his evidence. Yet poor Stephens, whose life was the issue of
all the swearing, was not permitted to be present, but was kept in a
distant room, chained there like a wild beast.

"The Court," said the Adjutant-General, "has heard the accusation
against this man; and its duty is now to consider whether the safety
and the peace of the district demand that the extreme penalty should
be visited upon this enemy of both. The question is, whether he is
worthy of death, or not. You will retire, gentlemen,--" there were
four of them, exclusive of witnesses, and the clerk--"and find your
verdict."

They were absent about two minutes. The foreman then advancing, said:

"Monsieur l'Adjutant, WE FIND THE PRISONER EDMUND STEPHENS, GUILTY."

Then drawing upon his head a black cap, the adjutant said:

"After due and deliberate trial by this Court, it has been found
that the prisoner Edmund Stephens, is 'Guilty.' _I do, therefore,
declare the sentence of this court-martial to be, that the prisoner
be taken forth this day, at one o'clock, and shot_. And may God in
His infinite bounty have mercy upon his soul."



CHAPTER IX.

THE STARS TAKE A NEW COURSE.


Monsieur Riel had been all this while pacing up and down his room. A
tap came upon his door.

"Entrez. Ah, it is you, mon adjudant!"

"Oui, mon president."

"What tidings?"

"C'est accompli. The court-martial has found the prisoner guilty;
and he is condemned to be shot at one o'clock this day."

"Monsieur is expeditious! Monsieur is zealous. C'est bon; c'est bon;
merci, Monsieur." And the miscreant walked about delirious with his
gratification. Then he came over to where his adjutant stood, and
shook his hand; then he thrust his fingers through his hair, and half
bellowed, his voice resembling that of some foul beast.

"La patrie has reason to be proud of her zealous son," and he again
shook the hand of his infamous lieutenant. Then with a very low bow
Jean left the room, saying, as he departed.

"I shall endeavour to merit to the fullest the kindly eulogy which
Monsieur le President bestows upon me." The news of Stephens'
sentence spread like fire. Some believed that the penalty would not
be carried out, but others thought it would.

"If this prisoner is pardoned, people will treat the sentences of
the provisional authorities as jokes. Riel must be aware of this;
therefore Stephens is likely to suffer the full penalty." Several
persons called upon the tyrant and besought him to extend mercy to
the condemned man; but he merely shrugged his shoulders!

"This prisoner has been in chronic rebellion. He has set bad example
among the prisoners, assaulted his keeper, and loaded the Government
with opprobrium. I may say to you, Messieurs, however, that I have
really nothing to do with the man's case. In this time of tumult,
when the operation of all laws is suspended, the court-martial is the
only tribunal to which serious offenders can be referred. This young
man Stephens has had fair trial, as fair as a British court-martial
would have given him, and he has been sentenced to death. I assume
that he would not have received such a sentence if he had not
deserved it. Therefore I shall not interfere. There is no use,
Messieurs, in pressing me upon the matter. At heart, I shall grieve
as much as you to see the young man cut off; but his death I believe
necessary now as an example to the hundreds who are desirous of
overthrowing the authority which we have established in this
district." The petitioners left the monster with sorrowful faces.

"My God!" one of them exclaimed, "it is frightful to murder this
young man, whose only offence is resistance to insult from his
debased half-breed keeper. Is there nothing to be done?"

No, there was nothing to be done. The greasy, vindictive tyrant was
lord and master of the situation. When Riel was alone, he began once
more to walk his room, and thus mused aloud:

"I shall go down to his cell. Perhaps he may tell me where she is to
be found."

"Yes," he was sure that he would succeed: "I shall get his secret by
promising pardon; then I will spit upon his face and say, 'Die, dog;
I'll not spare you.'" So forth he sallied, and made his way to the
cell where the young man sat in chains.

"Well, malignant tyrant, what do you here? Whatever your business
is, let it be dispatched quickly; for your presence stifles me. What
dishonourable proposal have you now to make?"

"Monsieur Stephens, it seems to be a pleasure to you to revile me.
Yet have I sought to serve you;--yea, I would have been, would now
be, your friend."

"Peace; let me hear what it is that you now propose?"

"You are aware that it is ordered by court-martial, of which I was
not a member, that you are to be shot at one o'clock this day? It is
now just forty-five minutes of one. I can spare your life, and I will
do it, upon one condition."

"Pray let me hear what dishonour it is that you propose? I ask the
question out of a curiosity to learn, if possible, a little more of
your infamy."

"And I reply to you that I shall take no notice of your revilings,
but make my proposal. I simply ask you to state to me where this
maiden Annette has betaken herself?"

"Where you will never find her. That's my answer, villain and
tyrant; and now begone."

"Perhaps you imagine that the sentence will not be carried out. I
ask you to choose between life and liberty, and an almost immediate
ignominious death."

"I care not for your revenge, or your mercy. Once more I say, get
you gone." Then the ruffian turned round, rushed at the chained
prisoner, and dealt him a terrific kick in the side, after which he
spat upon his face.

"She shall be mine!" he hissed, "when your corpse lies mouldering in
a dishonoured, traitor's grave." The young man was chained to a heavy
table, but with a sudden wrench, he freed himself, raised both arms,
and was about bringing down his manacled hands upon the tyrant
miscreant--and that blow would have ended the rebellion at Prince
Albert,--when Luc burst into the room, seized the prisoner, and threw
him. While his brute knee was on Stephens' breast, and his greasy
hand held the victim's throat, Riel made his escape, and turned back
to his own quarters.

As for poor Stephens, when the tyrant and the brutal guard had left
the cell, he began to pace up and down, sorely disturbed. He had
somehow cherished the hope that the miscreant would be induced to
commute the sentence to lengthy imprisonment. But the diabolical
vengeance which he had seen in the tyrant's eye undermined all hope.
Some friends were admitted to his cell, and they informed him that
they had pleaded for him, but in vain.

And now we go back to Annette and Julie. Their horses soon took them
to the post, wherein Inspector Dicken had taken up his abode for the
nonce.  They soon learnt that Captain Stephens and his friend had
been captured, and that both had been hurried off to the stronghold
of the rebel chief.

"Have any steps been taken for his rescue, monsieur?" Annette asked.

"None, I regret, have so far been practicable. I am detained on duty
here with twenty men; and expect an attack hourly. I would surrender
the fort and hasten to the rescue of my friend, but that the lives of
more than a hundred women and children here depend upon my remaining."

"And where, monsieur, are the nearest troops? Holy Mother of God!"
she exclaimed, "surely they will not permit le chef to put him to
death without making an effort to save him."

"Anything possible will be done, my brave lad. The nearest troops
are those of Colonel Denison. Here I will write you a note to the
Colonel. He is an officer whom I much admire. He is quick at
conceiving, and prompt and firmhanded in achievement. His force is
mounted and a few of his troopers thundering into the rebels' nest
would scatter them like rats."

"Speed, speed, monsieur," she cried, as she perceived the Inspector
pause to consider the terms in which he should address the Colonel.
"Let it be simply an introduction; and a mere statement that I have
rendered service to you and to your forces."

"So be it," he replied; and then rapidly pencilled the note, which
he put into her hand. A quick "Merci, merci," and the two were gone,
and speedily upon their horses' backs. They had not ridden far before
they espied a mounted party, evidently reconnoitering. Instead of
pursuing its course, the party, upon perceiving the two Indian boys,
turned their horses and rode towards the pair.

"Oh, Julie, I hope that they will not detain us. They judge, I
suppose, that we are enemies."

"But you can tell them that we are not, mademoiselle."

"Ah, Julie, the world is not as truthful and as free from guile as
you. They might not believe us. But I can at any rate show them the
Inspector's note."

"Who goes there?" shouted the officer of the approaching party.

"Friends, who want to see Colonel Denison immediately.

"Consider yourselves in my charge now," the officer said, fitting
very high and straight upon his horse.

"But will monsieur l'officier take us straightway to Colonel Denison?"

"In good time we shall see that officer," the starchy commander
replied.

"But, monsieur, I pray you to make haste. It is a matter of the
gravest importance that I should see him as speedily as possible. We
were riding at a mad pace before you joined us, as witness our
horses' flanks. This note I bear from Inspector Dicken to Colonel
Denison."

The officer took it, opened it slowly, and cast his eye over the
writing.

"I do not know whether this has been written by Dicken or not," he
said, "as I have never seen his writing." Then folding the note he
put it into his pocket.

"But that is my note, monsieur, my passport to Colonel Denison's
attention. Wherefore do you keep it?"

The officious military gentleman did not feel called upon to explain
why he had retained it. Now, all the while the party was at a halt,
and the agony that poor Annette was suffering may be imagined.

"Monsieur, I repeat," the girl said in a tone of agony, "it is of
the utmost importance that I should reach Colonel Denison without
delay. The life of one of your most valuable allies may depend upon
your haste."

"Would you favour me with the name of this valuable ally?"

"Captain Stephens: he who has been made prisoner by the personal
followers of the rebel chief."

"I have not heard anything about this capture," said Lieutenant
Unworthy; "and it seems to me, if the thing occurred word must have
reached us." This conceited block-head had not yet made a start.

"I implore you once again, monsieur, either to accompany us to the
presence of the Colonel or to let us go alone. I do not see that you
have any right to detain us. If harm comes to Captain Stephens you
will remember that his blood must be upon your head. You are either
stupid beyond words to describe, or bent upon showing your authority.
Will you come, or let me go, to the Colonel?"

"I want neither lectures nor impertinent speeches," replied the
numb-skull, putting on an air of severe dignity; nevertheless it was
plain that Annette had frightened him.

"Forward, march--tro-o-o-t!" and the troop set out for Camp Denison.
Whenever the word "W a-a-a-lk" came, the heart of the girl sank; but
despite the anxiety and annoyance, the camps of Colonel Denison at
last were in sight.

"Well, Unworthy," the Colonel said, "who are these boys you have
brought in?" The Colonel was intently reading the faces of the little
scouts, with his penetrating dark-grey eyes, as he asked the question.

"The largest of the two has a story about the capture of Captain
Stephens, and declares a profuse interest in the affairs of that
officer. I have taken the story with a pinch of salt; as I regard the
two a pair of spies."

"May I speak, Colonel Denison?" the girl said, touching the brim of
her broad hat respectfully.

"Most certainly, my lad. I shall be glad to hear anything that you
have to say." Then turning to Unworthy,--"He looks no more like a spy
than you do, man. Are you any judge of faces?"

"Well, monsieur," the girl began, her voice quivering, "l'officier,"
pointing to Unworthy, "says he believes that I am a spy. He has no
ground for such a belief, but he _has_ proof which must have taught him
otherwise. Inspector Dicken gave me a note of introduction to you. This
note l'officier has in his pocket, having rudely taken it away from me."

"Please, Mr. Unworthy, hand me this note." And as the officer did
so, Colonel Denison, knitting his brows, said, "Pray, sir, why was
this not handed to me at once?"

"Because I believe it is a forgery."

"Allow me, if you please, sir, to settle that point for myself."
Then hastily reading the note, he said, "Yes, my spirited lad, I have
already heard of your brave and noble deeds, and of yours, too,"
turning to Julie. "I am extremely sorry that any officer of the
militia force should so lack discrimination as to have acted towards
you as Mr. Unworthy has done."

Then the sweet girl, with a bounding heart, told him that she had
come to him for a force of twenty men; that if he gave these, she
could take them in a line as the bird flies to the stronghold of the
rebel chief.

"Your suggestion is good," Colonel Denison replied; "and I will give
you thirty men. Browninge," he shouted, calling to a clerical looking
officer who was standing among a group of brother officers, "get
thirty men in the saddle at once, and follow these scouts."

Browninge saluted, and went speedily to make preparations.

"Will you not dismount and take refreshments," the Colonel asked in
a kindly tone, advancing a step nearer the two boys.

Annette could not eat anything. She felt excited till the troop got
in motion. But Julie would not mind if she ate something. She was
hungry now because she had not taken much breakfast; and the sweet
gourmand was soon at work upon the choicest food in the Colonel's
larder.

"If my experience of character during the years that I have spent
upon the bench be of any value," the Colonel remarked in a low tone
to some of his officers, "I could give you some interesting
information about that scout," looking towards Annette, "and this
other one as well," meaning Julie. "These boys, trust my word, are no
more Crees than I am. Note the fineness of their features, and the
well-bred air and the grace of the one on horseback." The remarks of
the Colonel were brought to an end by the appearance of Browninge,
who saluted, and announced that he was ready to go.

Julie jumped up, like a kitten, from her feasting, vaulting into the
saddle; and while her mouth was yet half full of meat, thanked the
Colonel for his hospitality. Annette simply said;

"Colonel Denison, my words fail me now to thank you. But I wish you
knew my heart." He simply waved his hand, and wished the party _bon
voyage_. Then striking spurs into her horse, Annette led away across the
level prairie towards the stronghold of the hateful Metis chief.

"I shall now give you my opinion, gentleman," Colonel Denison said,
as the horses disappeared over a knoll; "these two lads were not what
they seemed. They were girls."

"Impossible!"

"Well, we shall some day know. What is more, I am satisfied that the
larger one has more than an ordinary interest in Stephens. She has
twice already saved his life; and I should not be surprised if she
were now to lay him once more under the obligation. Ha, truant," he
said, turning to one of his staff who had come from a nigh tree-clump,
where he had been writing, "you should have been here to see the
beautiful Metis maiden. She was in disguise, but her beauty was
not less divine than that of your own Iena. Fancy the feelings of
Stephens, when his own fortunes are bright, to have that beautiful
girl straying about this wilderness. I can imagine him asking, in
that passage which you gave me yesterday from your poem--

  'My little flower amongst a weedy world,
  Where art thou now? In deepest forest shade?
  Or onward where the Sumach stands arrayed
  In autumn splendour, its alluring form
  Fruited, yet odious with the hidden worm?
  Or, farther, by some still sequestered lake,
  Loon-haunted, where the sinewy panthers slake
  Their noon-day thirst, and never voice is heard
  Joyous of singing waters, breeze or bird,
  Save their wild waitings.'"

[Footnote: This passage is from the pages of the recently-published
Canadian drama, "Tecumseh."--E. C. ]

Further conference was cut short by the hasty approach of a coureur
du bois. The colonel approached as the man dismounted.

"Captain Stephens has been tried by le chef's court martial, and is
condemned to be shot. Le chef has only a few braves and bois-brules
about him; and I could fetch you to the nest in an hour and a half by
hard riding."

When the coureur learnt that the force had been dispatched he rode
away again. And we shall likewise bid good-bye to the poet and the
colonel, and join Browninge.

"Now, then, my good lad," the lieutenant said, "we have turned out a
large force at your bidding to-day. Are you certain (_a_) that Captain
Stephens is at Chapeau Rouge; (_b_), that Riel is there; (_c_), that
there is such a stronghold at all?"

"Certainement, monsieur."

"It is well. Now, my men, keep in shelter of yonder bluff; for under
cover of it only can we approach the den unperceived. We are now
within three miles of the place." The men received the intelligence
with enthusiasm, and put their horses at best speed.


When only fifteen minutes more remained to poor Stephens, the
clergyman signed to the others to leave the room; and then, with his
hands folded before him, asked the condemned man if he had any
message to leave, or any peace to make with God.

No; he was not afraid to meet his God. He had wronged no man, and
kept within the bounds of the laws set for his kind. But he had a
message to leave--it was enclosed in a letter which he put into the
hand of the minister.

"It is for Annette Marton. Oh, my God. We have been only two days
betrothed. It is very hard to die."

"This doom was ordained for you, and you must try to meet it like a
man."

"Oh, it is not death I fear. That is nothing. But, ah, to leave my
love." After he had passed his hands across his temples, as if to
clear his understanding, he said, in a voice grown low and calm--

"There is also upon the table a note to my sister, Aster. That is
all I have to say."

"Will you not pray with me awhile?"

"No; my heart is right; the rest matters not."

There was now a rude bustling at the door; the rusty key was plied,
and with a harsh scream the bolt flew back. Then the evil-looking Luc
entered, followed by three others, all of whom seemed partially
intoxicated.

"Your hour has come, young man," Lestang said, in a brutal voice.
"Let us be jogging."

Stephens then bade good-bye to the visitors who had re-entered; to
the clergyman, and to one or two prisoners detained for minor
offences. His face was deathly pale, but his eye was steadfast and
his step firm.

Beyond the entrance to the building, about an arrow's flight, was
drawn up a firing party; and midway between these and one of the
bastions of the fort was an open coffin. Thither Luc and his guard
led the condemned man.

"Stop a moment till I bind you," Luc said, taking a hempen cord from
about his waist. Then he fastened Stephens' hands behind his back,
and with the most devilish cruelty tied the cord far tighter than
might be needed for the most refractory culprit. Indeed, his arms
were almost dislocated at the shoulders, and when the brutal jailer
saw the corners of his mouth twitch under the torture, he said, with
a bestial sneer--

"It'll not hurt long. Should be patient."

These words had barely escaped the fellow's lips when a terrified
cry went up from a score of throats gathered about; and immediately a
scene of the wildest confusion prevailed.

"Les soldats! Les soldats!" shouted one and all: and immediately the
little Cree scout was seen upon the earthworks, the eyes of her horse
gleaming, spray drifting from his open jaws. Close following Annette
came Lieutenant Browninge waving his sword above his head, and
shouting,

"Down with the rebels!" at the same time slashing the scurrying
enemy in such a fashion with his sword as would gladden one's heart.

As for Annette, her quick eye at once showed her how the situation
stood: her lover, his hands bound, a black cap over his eyes, a
coffin beside him. Luc, the jailer, and chief of the executioners,
remained at his post as long as possible; and at the first outburst
of the din had called upon his party to fire. But these
mahogany-complexioned executioners scurried like rats at the first cry.
Most of them carried their arms with them, but Luc perceived a musket
lying in a corner of the drill square. This he seized and levelled at
Stephens, pulling the trigger, after careful aim. The rusty weapon
missed fire, and the intrepid half-breed began hastily to chip the
flint with the back of his sheath-knife; but while he was engaged in
this laudable preparation, Annette came over the earthworks like a
bird, smote him with the handle of her whip upon the crown, and sent
him sprawling in the dust. With another bound she was at her lover's
side; and slipping from her horse, she pulled off the hideous cap,
cut his thongs,--and then the hero-darling waited to be taken to his
heart.

The change in his fortunes was so sudden, and so amazing,--passing
at one bound from the grave's edge back to freedom and love, that he
was for some seconds unable to realize it, and his eyes and brain
swam with a sense of happiness that reached delirium. But gradually
it all began to grow clear: the scurrying figures of his captors and
jailers; the shouting of mounted soldiers; the wistful eyes of his
beloved looking at him.

"Ah, Annette; you again; my guardian angel!"

It took but a few minutes to restore order. It was ascertained that
Riel and Jean had made their escape while Browninge's horse was yet
half a mile away from the post; but they made their exit in secrecy.

"If we give the alarm," Kiel muttered, as he prepared to get into
the saddle, "there will be an instant stampede, and the execution
will be stayed."

"I agree with the decision of mon chef. Let Luc remain; he has
courage enough to have the thing done with the soldiers at the very
stockades." And the two rode away helter-skelter, till a dozen miles
lay between them and their treason nest.

"The rebel chief is gone; he skurried away half an hour ago," was
the tidings that one of the men brought to Browninge. That officer
was not surprised; and ordered that the prisoners, which numbered
about a dozen in all, be put in carts, and escorted by a guard of
cavalry back to Camp Denison.

They were all tired, and it was resolved that the horses be
permitted to rest for a couple of hours before returning.

"I can find the way back to your colonel's camp, monsieur Browninge,
as easily by night as in the daylight." Riel and his greasy followers
lived like so many swine in a sty; but several brace of quail and
chicken, and quarters of elk were found, which the two Cree boys at
once began to prepare. A few loaves of bread were found, and a
tolerable side of bacon, from all of which, with the pure, cold water
that gurgled out of the side of a nigh ridge, a sumptuous meal was
promised.

Stephens objected to the Cree boys doing the drudgery, but Annette
besought ham so sweetly with her eyes to let "the little scouts" do
it, that he desisted. His glance, as he followed every movement of
the maiden, had as much of mute adoration, reverent and tender, as
ever has been seen in the eyes of a man. How little he had known the
worth of this girl, when he toyed with her hair and put a straw into
her dimples at her father's house! I suppose he regarded her as
thoughtful men regard most girls before they become enslaved either
to their fascination or their gifts. I do not care to write an
ungallant speech, but I do say that I have so far in life looked upon
men much as I do upon women; and I assume every man to be a fool till
he has proven himself otherwise to _me_.

The sun was setting when the order to saddle was given; and with the
two scouts leading, the party set out along nearly the same route by
which they had come in the morning. A darkness that, without a flight
of imagination, might be called "dense," pressed upon the prairie,
and only a few small and feeble points of star-light were to be seen.
But on a sudden a mellow, green-tinted light burst out of the
northern sky with a brightness that showed the startled expression
upon every face. The horses pricked up their ears, and looked for a
moment at the radiant, quivering, northern sky.

I have not bothered my readers with much description so far, and I
trust that they will forgive me if I pause for a moment to do so now.
After this great, aerial conflagration had continued for the space of
five minutes, the light went out from the whole sky as suddenly and
as entirely as though it were a lamp which some one had extinguished.
After a few seconds of darkness, here and there a long rib of yellow
light appeared; then these disappeared, and once more the party was
in the pitchy dusk. Suddenly, however, fully half the heavens burst
into flame again.

In the south the light was soft, and seemed unconnected with that of
the east and north. The whole would remain for a few seconds
quiescent, save for some slight, erratic pulsations, but all would at
once madly undulate and quiver from end to end. It seemed at such
times like a mighty cloth woven of the finest and softest floss,
being violently shaken at both ends by invisible hands. But the most
curious part of the phenomena was the noise, like the cracking of
innumerable whips, which accompanied the pulsations in the auroral
flame. [Footnote: Captain Huysbe mentions having heard this peculiar
noise during auroral displays in the North-West; and Mr. Charles Mair
and other authorities add their testimony to the same fact.--E. C.]
The corruscations were produced in the valleys, among the bluffs, and
far out over the face of the prairie. To lend terror to the
stupendous and awful beauty of the scene, a ball of fire came out of
the southern sky, passed slowly across the belt of agitated flame,
and disappeared over the crest of a distant hill.

Above, the heavy masses of auroral cloud now began to assume the
shape of a mighty umbrella, the enormous ribs of weird light forming
in an apex above the heads of the party, and radiating towards all
points of the compass. Sometimes these ribs would all shake, and then
blend; but they would speedily rearray themselves in perfect and
majestic symmetry. It was a most weirdly-beautiful sight, riding
along the still and boundless prairie, when the merry dancing ceased
for a moment, to see this stupendous dome of fluffy, ghost-like light
suspended over their heads. For an hour they continued looking upon
it; upon the yellow of the level prairie, and the yellow and gloom of
the knolls and hollows. Then there was a universal flash so sudden as
to be terrible; then a darkness equally as sudden. Not the faintest
glow was there anywhere in all the wide heavens. It seemed as if God
had blown out the mysterious light.

Stephens rode beside his love; and when the light went out of the
sky, if Lieutenant Browninge had been concerned with the doings of
the leaders, he would have been amazed to see the rescued captain
lean over and deliberately kiss the Cree scout upon the lips. When
the white sides of the tents of Capt. Denison appeared in view,
Annette halted, and said that she and her brother must now ride in
another direction.

"My brave boy, if by that term I rightly address you," Browninge
said, "I wish that you would accept the hospitalities of our camp;"
but the scout refused, and after a few moments in conversation with
Captain Stephens, rode away.

Meanwhile affairs had fallen out much as Little Poplar predicted.
Captain Beaver, after thorough consideration of the matter, decided
that it would never do to allow his men to return to Ontario without
having a "brush with the Indians." He therefore opened correspondence
with Major Tonweight, pointing out the expediency of making an attack
upon Little Poplar. "He is upon his reserve, it is true," Beaver
wrote, "but he has gathered his men together for the purpose of
marching on Hatchet Creek, and there effecting a junction with the
rebel Metis. If you permit me to run down and give them a good
trouncing, it will make an end of the contemplated league."

"Our policy," replied Tonweight, "is not to antagonize but to
conciliate; to treat all as friends till they prove themselves to be
enemies."

"But you will pay dear for your generous theory if this man, Little
Poplar, succeeds in joining the rebels. And I assure you that the
savage is now making ready to march.".

"The matter is in your own hands, then," Tonweight replied. "If all
be as you say, you must consult your own judgment, and shoulder the
responsibilities."

"Hurrah!" Beaver shouted. "Hurrah! Now then, boys, you'll have a
brush. Get ready for a march. You know I am only supposing a case
against these Indians," he said turning to a brother officer.

"Good God! is this outrage to occur!" Col. Denison exclaimed, when a
Coureur-des-bois brought him the tidings.

And so, the sanguinary Beaver made ready to start.

"How much provisions do we need, Sir?" the purveyor asked.

"You do not need any. Let each man eat a hearty meal, and put some
bread into his pocket. It is only going to be a short job. I'll kill
a hundred or so," he said aside to a subordinate officer, "and then
come straight back." Then he put himself at the head of his column,
and swooped towards his prey.

So when Little Poplar, on the morning after the rescue of Captain
Stephens, met the two maidens, there was great sorrow in his face.

"I have to fight your friends," he said, "but there is nothing else
left me for choice. Beaver and his men are at this moment marching
towards my reserve, though all my braves went back to peaceful
occupation upon the assurance from English officers that no harm
would come to them; but, as I have already stated, Beaver and his
young men want to kill a lot of Indians, and return home great
heroes. But they will make a grievous mistake. I shall lead them into
a defile of swamp and bush tangle, where every one of the number will
be at my mercy. I believe that this foolhardy man regards my
followers as a band of dogs, whom he can kill as they run. But my men
know not what fear is." Then kissing Julie, and bowing sorrowfully to
Annette, this chief went away.

That very day, when midway upon his march, Captain Beaver was joined
by two Cree scouts, one of whom besought him for a moment's interview.

He had no time to waste; but if the scout had anything very
important to communicate he would listen.

"Then, Monsieur," Annette began, "my advice is that you call a halt
of your troops. Little Poplar is in strong position upon his reserve;
the swamps approaching his ground are quagmires; the bush is a tangle
through which the rabbit may scarcely pass. The chief's men are
numerous, and war is their occupation. They will destroy Monsieur's
force."

"Indeed, I am at a loss to know why I should be an object of such
solicitude to an Indian scout, whose sympathy and interest must be
with those savages, against whom I now march." And without further
parley he dismissed the lad.

That afternoon mirrors flashed signals from bluff to bluff; our men
were surrounded by the enemy; and at the set of sun their lives lay
at the-mercy of the men whom they had come to trounce. Julie was at
the side of her lover, and tears were in her eyes.

"I beseech my chief for the sake of his love for me to desist, and
allow these rash soldiers to depart." Her chief stood with arms
folded upon his breast. There was sorrow on his face; but there was
scorn there, too, as he turned affectionally to the sweet pleader.

"These men came down to massacre my people, that they might
henceforth be clad with glory. They have not destroyed any of my men;
but their dead strew the plain. They are at my mercy; so utterly,
too, that if I desire it, not a man of all the host shall return to
give tidings to his friends. You ask me to stay my hand. Ah! It is
hard. But you ask it; you, my little lover-playmate of the sunny
Saskatchewan. I consent!" Then he strode down among his men, and
ordered them to cease. Naught-but the ascendancy which the splendid
chief had gained over his followers, through his wisdom and his
prowess, could have prevailed upon them to stay their hand, now that
the men who had broken solemn faith were at their mercy. But they
unstrung their bows, shouldered their muskets, and permitted the
invaders to depart. Then Julie knelt at her lover's feet, and kissed
his hand with reverent gratitude; and he laid his hand upon her head,
and bade her arise.

Before I leave this feature of my narrative I may state that Captain
Beaver subsequently sought to justify this wanton breach of faith
with the Indians, upon the ground of military policy; affirming that
the "punishment" which he inflicted upon the chief prevented the
latter joining forces with the rebel Metis. As to the punishment
there was very little inflicted upon the Indians;--it was
emphatically conferred in another direction. As to the statement that
the attack prevented Poplar from joining the rebel forces at Hatchet
Creek, the same is absurdly untrue. Little Poplar did actually set
out, after the attack, to join the bois-brules, and he deliberately--I
was going to say contemptuously--exposed himself to the flank attack
by Beaver's men, of which movement, we are told, he had been so much
in dread. In due time, as the chief was pursuing his march, tidings
came to him that the Metis had been overwhelmed. Then he
surrendered;--and thereafter for many a dreary month there was no
happiness for Julie. I may as well anticipate events, and say that this
dear girl brought it emphatically to the knowledge of the authorities
that her beloved chief early in the war had served the white people in
the hour of peril; and that the offence for which he stood committed
now had been forced upon him by the bad faith of a Canadian militia
officer. At last he was released; and holding his hand, apparelled in
proper attire, she walked out by his side to a little cottage wherein
a priest stood waiting to wed the two. Her happiness was very great,
as may be guessed when I state that in each of her beautiful eyes a
tear glimmered like you see a drop of rain glitter upon the thorn
bush, when the storm has ended, and the sun shines. Her lover took
her many miles up the Saskatchewan, where she said she would remain
till Annette got "settled." A friend has lately been at her cottage,
and he tells me that she has a "cherub of a baby," absurdly like
herself in all save its skin, which is rather of a mahogany cast. The
chief and his petite wife are very happy; and many a time under the
blossoms of their own orchard, or when the wind howls like a belated
wolf, they discuss the alternation of sorrow and joy which fell to
their lot when the two maidens went disguised as scouts over the
unbounded prairie. My great wish is that all the pretty and
noble-harted girls of my acquaintance may be as happy as my sweet
Julie.

As for Annette, when the battle of Saw-Knife Creek ended, she was
waiting for Julie to join her. Her hand was upon her horse's neck,
and she was leaning against the animal thinking of her lover.

"Ah, at last!" The terrible words and the voice were but too plain.
Turning she saw the rebel chief, triumph, passion, and revenge in his
eyes. By his side were several Metis with muskets presented, ready to
fire at the girl if she uttered a cry, or made resistance. Then they
bound her arms, and set her upon her horse, which one of the chief's
followers led by the bridle. They rode as fast as the ponies could
travel across the prairie; and Annette's heart sank, and all hope
seemed to die out of her life, as she realized, that the miscreants
were hurrying towards the valley of Dismal Swamp where abode Jubal,
the hideous hag.

As the party hurried along the skirt of the ridge flanking the swamp
and the inky stream, lo! there came to her ears the notes of a bird's
song. It was the guardian swan; and joy and hope crept into the
maiden's bosom.

"Hear you yonder singing, my pretty bird?" the hideous chief asked,
with a foul sneer. "Its song is always intended to console and
reconcile maidens to their lovers."

But she turned her head away with loathing, and answered him not.
Then came a sudden trampling; swords gleamed; eyes flashed in the
dusk; and before the helpless girl could gather her routed senses,
the beastly chief was sent sprawling from his horse with a sabre-blow;
his followers were routed; and she was free.

"My own beloved," were the words whispered in her ear, and warm lips
were pressed upon her mouth. "We no more part, my darling--never,
never more."

They rode along through the night, he telling of his love, and
fashioning the future; she listening with bright eyes, and a
happiness too great for words.

"You have asked me, darling, why I love _you_ so? How it comes that of
all the girls whom I have known, I should give my heart to you entire
and for ever? Well, darling, I shall say naught of your heroism, which
would alone make you illustrious and beloved in our historic annals for
all time to come; but I shall regard you as a maiden who has never seen
the brunt of battle, or done a deed of warlike valour. You have still
enough of sterling worth to win my heart ten thousand times. You are
beautiful, dear, and you are good as you are beautiful. You are true,
because in you there is naught of affectation or of desire _to act a
part;_ and there is on your lips no speech that is not the true
expression of your thought. This I conceive to be the highest
tribute-gift that man can offer a woman."

After all the turmoil and the besetting dangers this was very sweet
to her;--and it was sweet to him.

In a little the rebellion ended, and Stephens came to the house of
Annette's aunt, and wedded his beloved there. Then he took her to
wild, sweet places in the Territories; and after the lapse of a few
weeks, went with her to the east, where both pleaded for the life of
Colonel Marton. All men worshipped her when she came to our cities;
and when she had obtained the boon for which she had come amongst us,
she went away to the west again. She is happy now as woman can be,
and my latest information is that Julie has prevailed upon her chief
to change his place of abode and come with her to live, for the
remainder of their days, close to the abode of her beloved mistress.

Annette is now the most popular woman in the North-West Territories.
Her beauty seems to have attained a fuller development since we knew
her as a maiden. Her mole is a deeper brown, I really believe, and
her dimple deeper. But best of all her happiness is as well assured
as her beauty.


THE END.



NOTES.


The preceding story lays no claim to value or accuracy in its
descriptions of the North-West Territories. I have never seen that
portion of our country; and to endeavour to describe faithfully a
region of which I have only a hearsay knowledge would be foolish.

I have, therefore, arranged the geography of the Territories to suit
my own conveniences. I speak of places that no one, will be able to
find upon maps of the present or of the future. Wherever I want a
valley or a swamp, I put the same; and I have taken the same liberty
with respect to hills or waterfalls, The birds, and in some instances
the plants and flowers of the prairies, I have also made to order.

I present some fiction in my story, and a large array of fact. I do
not feel bound, however, to state which is the fact, and which the
fiction.

I have not aimed at dramatic excellence in this book. Change of
scene, incident and colour are the points which I had in view. There
is not any sham sentiment in the book.

I have introduced a few passages, with little change from a small
volume, entitled "The Story of Louis Riel." These passages in no way
effect the current of my story; but as I thought that they had some
merit, I had no compunction in diverting them to present uses. The
most notable authors have done this sort of thing; and chief amongst
them I may mention Thackeray.

I beg likewise to say a word with respect to the book known as "The
Story of Louis Riel." That volume has been quoted as history; but it
is largely fiction. There is no historic truth in the story therein
written by me that Louis Riel conceived a passion for a beautiful
girl named Marie; and that he put Thomas Scott to death, because the
maiden gave her heart to that young white man. I have seen the story
printed again and again as truth; but there is in it not one word of
truth. This much I am glad to be able to say in justice to the memory
of the miserable man, who has suffered a just penalty for his
transgressions. I never intended that the work in question should be
taken as history; and I should have made that point clear in an
introduction, bearing my name, but that I was unwilling to take
responsibility for the literary slovenliness, which was unavoidable
through my haste in writing, and through Mr. D. A. Rose's hurry in
publishing, the work. It occupied me only seventeen days; and I did
not see my proofs.

Once more: one of the leading characters in that book, Mr. Charles
Mair, is most unjustly treated. Him I held as one of the prime agents
in the rebellion of 1869; but nothing could be further from the fact.
His pen and his voice had always advocated justice and generosity
towards the Indians and the Metis. As to his sentiments respecting
the Indians, I need but refer to the drama of his "Tecumseh," which
Canadians have received with such enthusiasm.



NANCY, THE LIGHT-KEEPER'S DAUGHTER.

BY EDMUND COLLINS.


"Yes, that is a picture of Grace Darling, but I can tell you a story
of great bravery, too, which the world has never heard, about the
daughter of a light-keeper who lived on the shore of one of our
Canadian lakes." These words were spoken to me by an old Canadian
fisherman in whose house I was spending a few nights while out for my
autumn shooting.

"The girl's name was Nancy and her father was keeper of a small
wooden light-house which stood chained to a ledge lying close to the
harbour's mouth. The girl and her father lived alone upon the rock,
but when the water was smooth they went every day to the mainland in
their little boat. One day in the late autumn the keeper was obliged
to make a journey to a distant town, and as he could not reach home
again till some hours after dark, he left the lighting of the light
to Nancy. The girl and a number of others went among the hills in the
afternoon to pick bake-apples, and they remained till the sun was
only "a hand high" in the west. Then the party turned their steps
toward the coast.

"There will be a heavy gale to-night," the girl said, looking at the
sky; for a mass of dark cloud resembling a ragged mountain had
appeared up the coast and begun to roll rapidly toward the harbour.
It is only those who live near the lakes, that know how suddenly
sometimes a terrible hurricane will come out of a sky which was the
most peaceful of azure only a few moments before. The tempest first
moved along the level shore, casting an awful shadow upon the
landscape for miles before it; then it smote the sea in its full fury.

To describe the tumult of sound as the gale drove onward would be
impossible. A sad cry would swell out like the voice of a mother
wailing for her child; then, pitched in a low, loud key, would come a
noise like the howling of a soul condemned; while above the confusing
din could be heard shrill whistles and cross pipings as if a host of
mad spirits were signalling one another through the storm.

Nancy hurried to the shore where lay her little boat, and several
fishermen were gathered about the dock.

"Girl," said one, a hardy sailor who had been on the lakes in the
roughest weather, "no boat would live now to reach the reef. Better
wait till your father returns."

"But if some ship, unable to clear the land with this ingale, should
be obliged to run for the harbour, she could never enter without the
light."

"I was on the look-out a few moments ago, and there was nothing in
sight. But, even if there was, it would be madness to launch a boat
now. Look at these seas!"

The whole face of the gulf between the reef and the shore was a
wilderness of raging water. The fisherman had hardly ceased speaking,
when another of the coast people was seen hurrying down from the look-out.

"There is a ship about eight miles to the sou'west, with canvas
close hauled; but I don't think that she will be able to weather the
point."

"If she cannot, then she must run for the harbour, and there will be
no light," Nancy exclaimed; and the colour faded out of her brown
cheek. Then borrowing a telescope from one of the fishermen, she set
out for the top of the look-out. While she held the glass in her
trembling hands she saw the ship wear and turn her head toward the
harbour. Gathering her plaid shawl hastily about her shoulders, she
ran down the steep and returned to the dock.

"The ship is running for the harbour, and there _must_ be a light. Here,
help me to launch my boat."

"Is the girl mad!" two or three voices exclaimed at once.

"Girl," said the old man who had spoken before, "no small boat that
ever swam can reach yonder ledge now. Why do you want to throw away
your life? It cannot save the ship."

"The boat is light," Nancy replied, "and the canvas covering will
keep it from filling, if I can only manage always to meet the sea
head on. If I had a pair of after oars as well as my own there would
not be much difficulty." As she spoke these words, she looked at the
group, as if calling for a volunteer: but nobody took her hint. They
all cowered in the face of the gale, and some of them began to move
away from the dock.

"Then I must go alone," the girl said, as she threw off her shawl,
and hastily tied up her mane of soft, black hair. "You will surely
help me to launch the boat." But no hand would help her. They saw the
impetuous girl going to doom, and they would not be a party to her
madness. Getting three or four round pieces of driftwood, which were
slippery with water-slime, she laid them along the dock; two other
billets she placed under the boat's keel. Then gathering her strength
for one pull, she sent the boat into the churning surf. One of the
fishermen advanced to detain her, but she waved him back with a
gesture so determined and imperious that he hesitated. He then held
consultation with his friends. Two or three now hurried down to the
water's edge, but the boat had shot out beyond their reach, and was
already rising like some great sea-bird over the mad waves. The girl
had seized her oars and was rowing at a brisk rate toward the ledge.
Sometimes a huge, green, glittering wave would arise and roll towards
the shell, and the fishermen would close their eyes; but in response
to the rower's quick wrist, the little skiff would turn and climb
over the roaring crest of the terrible billow. Sometimes the boat was
nowhere to be seen, and one of the spectators would say to another,

"It is all over!"

Presently, however, the cockle would rise out of the trough and
appear upon the summit of a breaking sea, looking like a large,
crouching, sea-gull. On, steadily, the mite of a craft held its way,
sometimes heading directly for the reef, again swerving to the right
to mount a rampant billow. Smaller, and smaller grew the little
figure, till it became a mere white speck away in the driving mist.
The fishermen still remained huddled together in the dock; and as
one, with the telescope in his hand, announced that the girl was now
within a cable's length of the reef, a great look of shame came into
their faces, that not one had shown courage enough to go with her. As
for Nancy, in the midst of the ravening turmoil, she was cool of head
and steady of arm, pulling with a sturdy stroke, and constantly
turning her face to note the waves to be met with the full front of
the skiff. Sometimes the cross wash from a sea would smite the boat
upon the quarter, and for a moment expose it to destruction; but in
response to the girl's quick judgment and steady wrist, the bold
little prow would be instantly brought again in the face of the
tempest. In one continuous storm the spray drove over her, and the
skiff was more than half full of water. It was growing dark, and she
could barely distinguish the opposite shore. But the danger of the
passage was at last over, and her tiny craft was in the shelter of
the gloomy reef.

There was a windlass bolted to the rock, with which she drew the
skiff beyond the reach of the waves. Nimbly then she climbed the reef
till she reached the door of the tower. A few seconds later all the
fishermen saw the warm, yellow glare of the light streaming over the
turbulent water.

Nancy was happy now, and her large eyes strained through the lantern
of the tower to catch sight of the ship. She had not long to wait.
Between the reef and the long stretch of eastern shore, a red light
pulsed upon a wave, moving towards the harbour.

"Good!" the girl cried out, "she is midway in the channel and safe."
Then she descended to the basement, where she brewed a cup of tea,
and sat down to a supper of cold sea-fowl, and juicy, white bread of
her own baking.

The sleeping rooms were upon the middle story, but the girl began to
grow uneasy at the increasing violence of the hurricane, and would
not go to bed. Taking a book, she went to the lantern and sat upon a
box to read. The whistling of the wind around the glass and the dome
of zinc, the booming of the sea against the rock, and the brawling of
the waters around her produced such a tumultuous din that persons
speaking in the tower would be unable to hear each other.

Then dawned a new terror; and she looked upon the floor with
wide-opened eyes and blanched lips. Twice since its establishment,
during winter gales, had the tower been swept off the rock. It is true
the present structure was substantially built, and was firmly secured
to long iron "stringers" bolted to the solid rock; yet the sea was
already surging against the base of the tower, and at every blow the
edifice quivered till the machinery of steel and brass rang like a
number of little bells. Upon the grated, iron pathway running around
the lantern inside, she took her stand, and, thence, looked out. The
light streamed far beyond the ledge and revealed the full fury of the
sea. The agitated waters would recede from the reef upon the windward
side like a jumper who runs backward, that he may be able to leap
with greater force; then gathered up to the stature of a hill and
crowned with roaring foam, it would return with soft tread, but
terrible might, scaling the rock, and flinging its white arms around
the waist of the tower. Throughout the tumult, flocks of sea-birds,
driven from the surface, and bewildered in the dense darkness of the
storm, would fly for the light and smite the lantern; and then they
would fall backward into the surf, as if struck with a thunderbolt.
Other creatures flew with more care; and Nancy shuddered as she saw
the gleaming eyes of huge fish hawks outside, and beheld their dusky
wings waving at the panes.

Many an hour of terror passed with no employment for the trembling
watcher, save when the lamps grew dim and she moved from her standing
place to snuff the wick and turn more flame. Stepping nervously down
to the basement she found that it lacked only a quarter of four
o'clock. In half an hour it would be dawn, and she was cheered by the
thought as she re-ascended.

But how could a frail, wooden tower withstand these terrible shocks!
As she trod the spiral stairs, the whole edifice trembled and
creaked. Once, under a tremendous surge, she felt it reel. She
hurried again to the iron pathway and looked out. Billow after billow
came sweeping up the ledge, and did not pause till it smote the very
lantern with its soft foam.

"Oh! merciful God deliver me!" the girl cried, as she espied far out
a wave far more terrible and gigantic than any other which her
frightened eyes had seen. Before it reached the reef, she believed
that its storming crest was on a level with the lantern. Then it
seemed as if the whole ocean, aroused to strike one overwhelming
blow, fell in thunder upon the tower. Nancy was conscious of being
hurled rapidly through space; then followed a crashing sound, an
overturning and a confusion that no pen could describe. The tower was
in the sea.

She could never explain how it came about, but when she recovered
from the shock she was floating close by one of the tower floors. The
dawn had broken in glaring gray, and she was enabled to perceive her
situation. The lower part of the tower was uppermost, and the lantern
with its weight of machinery was beneath. Yes, God had heard her
supplication; and, comparatively safe from the billows, she clung to
a piece of timber, projecting above the floor. She was certain that
the storm was abating; yet the wreck was drifting rapidly toward the
inexorable rocks. Wave after wave passed over the uppermost part of
the tower, and sometimes the water smote her so that her head reeled,
and her senses became dimmed for some moments. A coil of rope hung
from a spike in the wall, and fastening an end of it around her slim
waist, she bound herself to a stout piece of timber.

A young man, passenger in the ship which the girl had saved, heard
of the heroism of the light-keeper's daughter. As soon as light came,
through promise of a liberal reward, he induced one of the sailors to
come with him in the launch. Near the shore they met the floating
tower, and saw lying upon the top, and bound there with a rope, the
girl who had risked her life to save the vessel. They believed that
she was dead, so pale was her beautiful face; and the coils of her
soft hair were trailing in the surging water. But she was not dead,
and, placed in the warm cabin of the delivered ship, soon opened her
great, timorous eyes.

Now, that my story may seem like a novel, I may add that the brave
young fellow who rescued Nancy was often seen afterwards about the
girl's home. Indeed I doubt if the two were ever parted.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Annette, the Metis Spy: A Heroine of the N.W. Rebellion" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home