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Title: Diane of Ville Marie - A Romance of French Canada
Author: Macdonnell, Blanche Lucile
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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provided by Canadiana



                          DIANE OF VILLE MARIE


                       A ROMANCE OF FRENCH CANADA


                                   BY
                       BLANCHE LUCILE MACDONNELL.


                                TORONTO
                            WILLIAM BRIGGS,
                        29-33 RICHMOND ST WEST.
          MONTREAL: C. W. COATES,      HALIFAX: S. F. HUESTIS.
                                  1898



    Entered according to Act of the Parliament of Canada, in the
    year one thousand eight hundred and ninety-eight, by WILLIAM
    BRIGGS, at the Department of Agriculture.



                 I N   L O V I N G   M E M O R Y   O F

                               =A Mother=

                                WHO WAS

                   INSPIRATION, FRIEND AND COMFORTER.



                                PREFACE.



THIS story is an attempt to make known the men and women who once
lived and loved and suffered amid these very scenes wherein we are now
enacting our own life stories.

In dealing with historical events and characters it seems only fair to
the reader to avow what liberties have been taken with facts, and to
state exactly to what extent this tale is founded upon history.

The Le Ber family were prominent figures among their contemporaries.
Jacques Le Ber, brother-in-law to the redoubtable Charles Le Moyne, was
one of the richest merchants of New France. A hardy and intrepid
soldier, he was ennobled by Louis XIV. in 1696. In speaking of him M.
Dollier de Casson says: “M. Jacques Le Ber has in this way rendered
valuable services to the colony, exposing himself very often in canoe,
on the ice, or in the woods, carrying despatches.”

His only daughter, Jeanne Le Ber, was considered a great heiress. At
seventeen she determined to offer herself as an expiatory offering for
the sins of her country. During the fifteen years following she remained
in seclusion in her father’s house, and was never seen but once, and
that exactly as described in this story. Later, this fair enthusiast
decided to give the Sisters of the Congregation sufficient money to
build their church, if they would provide her a cell behind the altar in
which she could spend the remainder of her days. This cell, divided into
three storeys, and extending the whole length of the building, was from
ten to twelve feet deep.

The original deed, containing these conditions—drawn up by Bassett, a
notary of Ville Marie, and signed by the principal nuns of the
Congregation, as well as by M. Dollier de Casson, Superior of the
Seminary—may still be seen in the Registrar’s office in Montreal.

The Le Ber family proved substantial benefactors to the Sisters of the
Congregation. Pierre Le Ber the eldest son, left them a legacy of two
thousand francs, and his sister remembered them handsomely.

Pierre Le Ber joined Charon de la Barre in founding L’Institut des
Frères Hospitaliers de Ville Marie. He was the only one of Charon’s
associates who remained faithful to the end. He appears to have been the
first Canadian artist, and painted portraits of le Sieur Bourgeois, St.
Paul, Ste. Therèse, and the Virgin Mary, for different churches. He died
in 1707, and his heart was buried in the Church of the Congregation.

Lydia Longloy, a New England girl, was taken prisoner by the Abenaquis
in 1694. She was baptized a Roman Catholic in Ville Marie on April 14th,
1696.

The Chevalier de Crisasi was a veritable personage. Charlevoix says of
this gentleman: “One does not know which to admire most, his skill in
war, his sagacity in council, his fertility of resource, or his presence
of mind in action.” The elder brother, the Marquis de Crisasi, was
appointed Governor of Three Rivers; the Chevalier, neglected by his
friends and forgotten by the Court, died of a broken heart.

Madame de Monesthrol, her niece, and Nanon can lay no claim to be
considered historical, but have been drawn after close and extensive
study of the types portrayed in the histories and memoirs of the time.

It may be objected that the expedition of Diane and Lydia to Mount Royal
is improbable; but it must be remembered the road to the Mountain
furnished the most popular pilgrimage of that period, and the dangers
which beset the enterprise only heightened its merits. At a still
earlier date Madame d’Aillebout and her sister climbed the mountain-side
nine days in succession in order to make a neuvena before the cross
erected by Maisonneuve.

Four Iroquois were actually burned at Montreal in the manner described,
but the event occurred in 1701. Dubocq’s exploit is likewise
historically correct, but it also occurred some years later than I have
taken the liberty of placing it. In these, as in some other instances,
the actual chronology has not been strictly followed, but has been
altered to suit the exigencies of the tale.

                                            BLANCHE LUCILE MACDONNELL.



                               CONTENTS.


               CHAPTER.                              PAGE.
                     I. THE SEIGNIORY OF SENNEVILLE      9
                    II. A FORTIFIED RESIDENCE           17
                   III. AN IROQUOIS ATTACK              25
                    IV. AN ENGLISH CAPTIVE              32
                     V. A CANADIAN HOME                 43
                    VI. MADAME’S “APARTEMENT”           54
                   VII. A FOREST ADVENTURE              64
                  VIII. VILLE MARIE                     81
                    IX. AN OCCASION OF REJOICING        92
                     X. THE COUNCIL                    101
                    XI. THE ANNUAL FAIR                110
                   XII. A CANADIAN BUSHRANGER          118
                  XIII. PIERRE’S TEMPTATION            127
                   XIV. AN AWAKENING                   137
                    XV. NANON’S LOVERS                 142
                   XVI. A VICE-REGAL BANQUET           157
                  XVII. THE MATSHI SKOUÉOU             164
                 XVIII. SAINTLY PROTECTION             174
                   XIX. A WOMAN’S LOYALTY              179
                    XX. PREPARING FOR THE EXPEDITION   192
                   XXI. BAPTISTE FINDS HIS WITS        202
                  XXII. THE DEPARTURE                  207
                 XXIII. SUSPENSE                       211
                  XXIV. A PILGRIMAGE TO MOUNT ROYAL    217
                   XXV. TIDINGS AT LAST                227
                  XXVI. DU CHESNE’S RETURN             237
                 XXVII. A COMPLETED SACRIFICE          246



                         DIANE OF VILLE MARIE.



                               CHAPTER I.


                     _THE SEIGNIORY OF SENNEVILLE._

A LANGUID summer day was that of the 3rd of August, 1690. A light mist
lay like a veil upon the St. Lawrence, spreading out in grand and
generous swell, the Lake of Two Mountains glimmering in the distance
like a silver shield. The eye lingered on noble heights, sunny slopes
and deep forest glooms. Near the shore grasses leaned over the surface
of the stream, rushes tall and straight waved with the ripples, but from
their tangled and interlacing fibres the water flowed clear. The St.
Lawrence was full of tinkling tremors of sound. The distant hills showed
blue and vague through the fluctuating haze.

At the Seigniory of de Senneville this was a busy time. The Seignior,
Jacques Le Ber, had been superintending the gathering of his harvests. A
far-sighted and thrifty man in business affairs, while the whole colony
existed in a state of extreme penury he had contrived to accumulate
great wealth. To him the New World had proved wonderfully profitable.
The Western fur trade had led to fortune. Indomitable energy and sound
judgment aided him to overcome the difficulties under which the new
country labored, while experience, joined to natural shrewdness, taught
how to steer safely between the varying official interests which in turn
directed the colony.

The ravages of the caterpillars had left little harvest to gather, and
had it not been for the marvellous incursion of squirrels, which fairly
swarmed over the land, many of the people must have starved. Broken,
uneven fields stretched to the borders of the forest. Amidst the stumps
and prostrate trees of the unsightly clearing, the colonists pursued
their labors, protected by a body of regulars whom the merchants had
brought from Ville Marie. At short distances sentinels were posted to
give the alarm at any sign of approaching danger.

These were troublous times for the handful of French settlers scattered
amidst the savage hordes and half-reclaimed forests of the New World.
Amid tangled thickets and deep ravines, in the shade and stillness of
columned woods, behind woody islets, everywhere there lurked danger and
terror. The fierce and cruel Iroquois were on the war-path. These
tireless savages owed their triumphs as much to craft as to their
extraordinary boldness and bravery. They rarely approached the
settlements in winter, when the trees and bushes had no leaves to
conceal their advance, and when their movements would be betrayed by the
track of their snowshoes, but they were always to be expected at the
time of sowing and harvest, when it was possible to do the most
mischief.

Scarcely one of the little party collected at Senneville but had passed
through scenes of grim horror. Though they chattered over their work
with true Gallic light-heartedness and vivacity, most of them could have
related experiences of the unsleeping hatred and cruelty of the Iroquois
and the hardships of forest life.

Only two years before, Louison Guimond’s young brother had been
butchered before her eyes, and with the remains of the mutilated body
the dazed and miserable woman had journeyed alone through the wilderness
to secure Christian burial for her dead. Sans Quartier, an old soldier,
returning from an expedition, had found his home in ashes and his young
wife and child carried away captive. Another soldier, Frap d’Abord, held
his musket awkwardly (though none could do better service) because his
finger had been burned in the bowl of an Indian pipe, one of the many
ingenious forms of torture practised by the Iroquois. Baptiste Bras de
Fer, a hardy Canadian voyageur and coureur de bois, could tell true
tales of peril and adventure in the pathless forest, such as chilled the
blood in the listener’s veins—stories of forced marches through sodden
snowdrifts and matted thickets, over rocks and cliffs and swollen
streams, when men, perishing from cold and famine, boiled moccasins for
food, and scraped away the snow in search of beech and hickory nuts. The
resignation born of long usage, the conviction that these conditions
were beyond remedy, that the only thing to be done was to endure,
enabled these people to assume a demeanor of calmness and patience. But
there was always an hysterical quiver in Louison’s shrill laughter. When
Sans Quartier was silent the lines of pain deepened in his stern,
bronzed face; the very name of an Indian was sufficient to make Frap
d’Abord swear long strings of queer, quaint oaths. Nevertheless their
chatter usually flowed on cheerily, with much merriment and little
complaint.

The scanty harvests had been gathered, and the party, with the exception
of Gregoire and his wife, Goulet the farmer, and the soldiers left to
garrison the fort, prepared for their return to Ville Marie. Though the
distance to be traversed was not great, the journey was both toilsome
and perilous. In order to escape the turmoil of the Lachine Rapids the
canoes had to be shouldered through the forest. The large flat-bottomed
boats, being too heavy for such handling, were to be dragged and pushed
in the shallow water close to the bank by gangs of men, who toiled and
struggled amidst rocks and foam. Just now the danger and inconvenience
of transit were considerably increased by the presence of some of the
ladies of the Le Ber household who had accompanied the party to
Senneville.

Shrewd trader and fearless soldier as was the honest merchant of Ville
Marie, he possessed a knightly spirit and had never yet been able to
refuse a request urged by his ward, Diane de Monesthrol. When that
capricious damsel had determined to accompany the harvesting expedition,
and had persuaded Le Ber’s nephew, Le Moyne de St. Helène, and his young
wife (who as Jeanne de Fresnoy Carion had also been Le Ber’s ward,) to
join it, it was perfectly understood in the household that opposition
was useless, and the merchant, against his better judgment, yielded to
the girl’s pretty coaxing.

“Throw your tongue to the dogs—of what use to argue with our
demoiselle; she has always ten answers to one objection. One fine day
she, and we others tied to her heels, will furnish an excellent meal to
those sorcerers of Iroquois—faith of Nanon Benest!” cried Madame de
Monesthrol’s serving-woman, with the freedom of a faithful and attached
French servant.

                 *        *        *        *        *

Jacques Le Ber stood close to the shore, where the men, shouting and
joking, were loading the boats. His was a round, bourgeois, somewhat
heavy type of face, seamed and tanned by work and weather, decorated by
a slight moustache, and redeemed from commonness by bright, earnest
eyes. He wore a three-cornered hat, and over his ample shoulders was
spread a stiff white collar of wide expanse and studied plainness. He
looked what he was, a well-to-do citizen of good renown and sage
deportment.

At Diane de Monesthrol’s approach he turned hastily. A true and earnest
friendship united the busy trader and this young girl of noble birth. No
young cavalier (and Diane was said to be the fairest demoiselle in New
France) appreciated the fairness of her gracious youth more thoroughly
than the world-worn elderly man whose thoughts were engrossed with so
many pressing material interests. His most soothing consolations for
several years past had come from this eager-eyed, girlish creature who
seemed intuitively to comprehend his feelings.

In the midst of his prosperity the merchant had experienced heavy
bereavements. He had lost his wife, the thoughtful and sympathetic
partner of all his interests. When their only daughter in the early
promise of her youth had resolved to withdraw into absolute seclusion,
and devote herself as a public offering to God for the sins of her
country, spiritual pride had induced him to consent to the sacrifice. He
had been assured by his guides in religion that he and his wife were to
serve as models to all the parents in the colony; they would be honored
as was Abraham for his sacrifice of Isaac.

Still, even with that consolation, the sundering of domestic ties lay
heavily on his heart. In the sober wisdom that came with years of
disappointment, through the dark experiences that usually isolate men’s
thoughts, he had found comfort in the frank, simple, and guileless
spirit of the girl to whom he had afforded protection. In reality the
man had two natures: the one practical, ambitious, worldly, which was
known to all the world; the other, rarely suspected, was ideal and
passionate, and throve apart from all the common requirements of life.

The primeval strength and freshness of a new world, as yet
uncontaminated by the vices of advanced civilization, seemed to have
breathed into this girl an abounding energy which resulted in a rare
union of vigor and native delicacy. The transplanted flower had not lost
the charm distinctive of her class, and had gained in spirit and
character. The warmth of the sunlight, the flush of youth, the fresh
breeze of the springtide had crystallized within her. The glory of this
undiscovered country, full of grand perils and deliverances, storms to
be braved, griefs, joys and labors to be lived through, were in the
highest degree congenial to her dauntless temperament.

As they made ready to start, Le Ber’s eyes rested with satisfied gaze
upon the radiant beauty of his young ward. Her complexion was purely
pale; the delicately-cut features, lit up by that undisturbed equanimity
which is the inheritance of vigorous minds, were piquant rather than
regular. The cheeks were beautified by playful dimples, the short upper
lip was fresh as a rose, while the softly-rounded and mutinous chin
indicated reserve forces of strength as yet scarcely suspected. Madame
de Monesthrol sometimes lamented that according to the canons of taste
her niece’s eyes ought to have been brown, yet in defiance of all rule
they were intensely blue, and shaded by black heavy curling lashes. Her
hair, lightly powdered, was partly crimped and partly curled. Her gown
of dark cloth opened at the throat, which was veiled by a lace kerchief;
a long waisted corsage fitted tightly over the bust, and flounces of
lace finished off the under-skirt and fell from the sleeves. The regard
which Diane turned on the world was the frank, friendly and confiding
look of a child; mischievous often it might be, scornful sometimes at
the sight of anything mean or paltry, yet always the simple gaze of a
soul as yet undisturbed by passion or distrust.

“And it has been pleasant to have me with you?” the girl asked, taking
her guardian’s arm, and looking up smilingly into his face.

The wrinkles under Le Ber’s deep-set eyes and the tense lines about his
mouth relaxed in an indulgent smile.

“That goes without saying, my little one; your presence carries
sunshine. We must remember, however, the nerves of Madame la Marquise,
who will doubtless await your return with anxiety. If we would reach
Ville Marie by daylight it is time to start; and not to succeed in doing
so would expose us to many dangers. Nanon has at last completed her
preparations. St. Helène is anxious to be gone; experience has taught
him the perils of delay. Nor shall I feel at rest until I see you within
the walls of the town.”



                              CHAPTER II.


                        _A FORTIFIED RESIDENCE._

“I SHOULD like the Indians to know that we understand the use of the
paddle! I don’t absolutely deny that these savages possess some skill in
constructing a canoe; but, I ask you, have they the address to give it
the daintiness of form which renders ours so coquettish as they dance
upon the water? This is not a canoe—it is a feather—a bird that skims
the air—a cloud chased by the wind—it should fly! You may see what
marvels of swiftness that of M. du Chesne will perform directly.” So
spoke a tall Canadian, whose skill as a boatman had gained him the title
of “le Canotier.”

Madame de St. Helène stood cloaked and hooded in black lace, an elegant,
dignified figure whose appearance savored too much of the refinement of
urban life to be in harmony with this rustic scene. Her two little
children, attended by servants, were beside her.

“I would we were safe within the shelter of Ville Marie,” she said
wistfully. “Once we quit the stone walls of the fort who can say what
trouble may assail us.”

“Oh! for that, trouble comes soon enough; it is not worth our while to
search for it, Jeanne,” her husband returned lightly. “The question now
to be considered is our immediate start. Why, I wonder, do we linger?”

The canoes were ready. Soldiers and workmen gathered around them looking
expectantly toward the fort. Among these a woman pushed her way,
scolding, laughing, gesticulating. Nanon was a comely woman of her
class, strong and thick-set, with a face full of piquancy and vivacity.
Brown as a berry was this daughter of southern France, with red cheeks
and eyes black as sloes. She wore a brown petticoat, a crimson apron
with a bib, and a coquettish lace cap with hanging lappets. At every
vehement movement her long gold earrings quivered and jingled.

“Behold! Madame, Mademoiselle and these gentlemen all are accommodated,
and I but attend the good pleasure of the Sieur du Chesne,” she
protested in high, shrill tones.

“Eh, corbleu! but no, this good Nanon awaits no convenience of mine,”
remonstrated a laughing boyish voice; “there is place in the craft of
Sans Quartier for thee, my girl. Diane has promised to share my canoe,
father,” turning to Le Ber, who stood by an amused listener, “and I have
no hesitation in wagering that it is we who shall reach Lachine first.”

“Hein, no!” Nanon reduced her forehead to an inch of tight cords,
crossed her arms, and shook herself from side to side in the most
approved style of obstinacy. “I have morals, me, even in the wilderness.
It is necessary to remember _les convenances_. In our country ladies are
guarded under the care of their mothers, as the hen gathers her chickens
under her wings. My demoiselle has been confided to my care by Madame la
Marquise; not a step, not a shadow of a step, moves my young lady
without my attendance. Madame counts upon my faith.”

“It is I who am responsible to Madame la Marquise for Mademoiselle de
Monesthrol; nor is it likely that surrounded by friends any harm will
befall her. Your faithful attachment to your mistress, my girl, alone
excuses the presumption of your interference. Du Chesne, you will take
charge of Diane; Jean and Nanon will follow closely in the larger canoe;
we shall all remain in sight of one another.” Thus Le Ber decisively
settled the question; then, holding his hat under his arm, with a
profound bow he offered his hand to conduct Madame de St. Helène to the
boat.

“Now, are you satisfied?” the young man laughed gaily. “Diane, is it not
a joke? You and I surely might be allowed to take care of ourselves.”

Nanon was still disposed to be nettled; she resented Le Ber’s rebuke,
but no one could ever resist the gay confidence of the trader’s youngest
son.

Jean Le Ber du Chesne might fitly serve as an example of the best type
of the colonial youth of the period. Born and nurtured in Canada,
thoroughly versed in woodcraft, seasoned to toil, fatigue and trying
extremes of climate, trained amidst dangers and alarms, while yet in his
teens he had acquired a reputation for tact and courage. As the sea is
the sailor’s native element, his cherished career, his passion, so was
the forest that of Le Ber du Chesne. From childhood he had accompanied
his cousins, the Le Moynes, a family of heroes, upon the most difficult
and arduous expeditions. In the elastic buoyancy of early youth,
hardship and perils had but developed an uncommon vitality and afforded
opportunities for the display of resource and valor. The austerity of
the most sombre acetic relaxed at the sight of his debonair face; the
craftiest of Indian diplomats, the most lawless of coureurs de bois were
alike moulded to the purposes of the young Canadian.

“We shall keep Bibelot with us. Diane and I have no desire to furnish
_bouillon à l’Iroquois_; we should neither of us relish being thrown
into the kettle.” Du Chesne’s gay inadvertent laugh rang out as he
jested with one of the grimmest terrors of colonial life.

Three soldiers rowed the larger craft, occupied by Le Ber and St. Helène
with the wife and children of the latter. Several other boats followed,
carrying servants, soldiers, workpeople and baggage.

“Hasten, then, my son; follow us closely.” Le Ber looked around
anxiously. “It is but three years, remember, since Senneville was last
attacked by the Iroquois. What has been may happen again. It is the
policy of the savages to attack stragglers. Above all things it is
necessary to keep together.”

The oars were raised high in the air, and as they moved a shower of
crystal drops flashed in the sunlight. At the same time the voices of
the boatmen broke out into a lusty chorus which rang cheerily across the
water:

                     “Y’a-t il un étang.
                   Fringue, Fringue sur l’aviron.
                     Trois beaux canards
                   S’en vont baignants
                     Fringue, Fringue sur la rivière
                   Fringue, Fringue sur l’aviron.”

Du Chesne was holding the canoe into which Diane was about to step when
there arose an outcry from the fort.

“Monsieur! Monsieur! Sieur du Chesne!” It was Nanon, her plump figure
quivering with excitement, who called in hot haste. “It is that snake of
a Gouillon who disputes with the soldiers. Hasten, then, ere there is
murder done.”

“But an instant, Diane. That lazy varlet lives but to do mischief—just
when we are in haste, too. But he shall pay for his pleasure this time.”

Diane remained alone upon the shore, watching the rapidly disappearing
party, gaily waving a bright-hued silken scarf as long as they were in
sight. Gentle fancies, floating vaguely through her mind without ever
assuming definite form, were reflected on her face in lines of exquisite
sweetness; her delicately fanciful maiden dreams inspired no yearning
for future bliss, but only perfect satisfaction with the present. The
voyage down the river would be one continuous pleasure. She and the
young man were close comrades and firm friends. Being very young when
his mother died, the affectionate lad had grieved deeply. In his
loneliness it was his young playmate who had come nearest to his heart;
she had taken the place of the sister whom religious enthusiasm had
estranged from all human interests. Diane had become his warmest
sympathizer, the confidante of countless escapades. The girl, on her
part, was conscious that the serenity of the blue sky, the tender
greenness and stillness of the landscape, all seemed to borrow a new
charm when viewed in his company.

The Seigniory had once been called Boisbriant, after the first grantee,
Sidrac de Gui, Sieur de Briant, but when it passed into Le Ber’s
possession, it was renamed Senneville. It was a post of considerable
strategic value. The fort, built at the end of the Island of Montreal,
where the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers joined, offered effectual
protection against the attacks of the Iroquois, and was of great service
to the colony.

In front the Ottawa flowed, through its picturesque and fertile islands,
while on the other side the St. Lawrence rolled like a river of gold. A
little to the north-west the water expanded into the Lake of Two
Mountains, the twin peaks which gave it their name appearing in the hazy
distance. On Ile St. Paul Le Ber had erected large storehouses. On Ile
Perrot stood a cluster of buildings constructed by Le Ber’s rival and
antagonist, Perrot, the ex-Governor of Ville Marie, in order to
intercept the Indian tribes from the upper lakes on their way to the
annual fair at Montreal. Ile Perrot was the rendezvous of soldiers who
had escaped from the restraints of a harsh discipline to the freedom of
the woods, and of rovers of every description outlawed by the royal
edict.

The fort at Senneville was remarkably well built; the material of rough
boulder stones, with stone jambs, lintel sills and fire-places. The
buildings formed a parallelogram of which the residence was one end, the
sides being simply defensive walls, nowhere more than twelve feet high,
pierced with loopholes and having a gateway. At the angles stood
flanking towers, the first two being connected with a wall which did not
come much above the first floor window. The courtyard was nearly square,
measuring about eighty feet each way, and looking north-west across the
Lake of Two Mountains.

The residential part had a frontage of about eighty feet and a depth of
thirty-five. In front it was two stories in height, but, as the ground
was higher inside the courtyard, at the back it was only a story and a
half. It had a high pitched roof, tall chimneys and wide fire-places.
The walls of the towers were strengthened by an outward spread at the
base. The towers measured only about twelve feet square inside; they
were two and a half stories in height and had large windows in their
outer walls, and on the sides, commanding the main walls, small
embrasures were mounted with light artillery.

In addition to the castle proper there were out-buildings which served
more than one purpose. A few hundred yards back from the river the
ground swelled to a gently wooded height, crowned by a fortified
windmill. These picturesque structures were a distinctive feature in the
landscape throughout all New France and did good service in protecting
the settlers. The mill at Senneville possessed rather an unusual
adjunct, a hooded door which served the same purpose as the
machicolations of a mediæval castle. The tower was three stories in
height, and measured fifteen feet inside, the floor being supported by
strong oak beams. The chimney was simply a flue in the thickness of the
wall opening to the outer air just below the second story ceiling; the
hood opened before the floor of the same chamber. The roof was of
conical form, covered with shingles, the latter always a point of
weakness in time of attack.

Nature here on every side unfolded panoramic views of loveliness.
Flickers of light were reflected in the water; trailing vines festooned
the trees. There were quiet marshes golden with swaying grasses, and,
farther away, sombre masses of pine through which opened mysterious
shadowy vistas.



                              CHAPTER III.


                         _AN IROQUOIS ATTACK._

DESPITE the beauty of the scene just described, Bibelot, the dog, was
plainly dissatisfied with the existing order of things. She was a direct
descendant of Pilot, one of a number of dogs sent from France to Ville
Marie shortly after its foundation in order to assist the brave
colonists in their warfare against the Indians. Detesting the savages by
instinct, these trusty animals were invaluable in detecting ambuscades.
Bibelot now ran here and there, her bushy tail raised high and curled
like a feather over her back, her slender, alert head and bright eyes
full of keen interest, sniffing among the grass and branches as though
solicitous of some trail of fox or rabbit. Game abounded in the woods;
from where she stood Diane could see a great herd of elk defile quietly
between the water and the forest.

The dog’s persistent uneasiness attracted Diane’s attention. Suddenly
the long-drawn, melancholy cry of a water-fowl fell upon her ear. The
sound might have passed unheeded by faculties less keen and highly
strung; but as she started at the cry, Bibelot, throwing back her head
and quivering all over with rage, uttered a low, deep growl. The call
was repeated several times. Could it be a signal? The dog’s excitement
seemed to warrant the supposition. As she gazed apprehensively about
her, the trunk of a fallen tree, lying on the ground close at hand,
seemed to Diane to stir. Was imagination playing her false? The girl had
grown up amidst the constant dangers of the adventurous colonial life.
She knew well that the Iroquois roamed through the deserted settlements
and prowled continually around the forts. No one could account for the
mysterious movements of these agile warriors, nor for the subtlety and
malice of their stratagems. She now stood perfectly still as if she were
a figure painted on the pale green background. The heart beat high in
her breast, the color came and went in her cheek. A gray squirrel with
small bright eyes scudded through the grass close beside her. At that
instant the log moved again, this time with a hasty, impulsive jerk.
There was no doubt but that in the hollow trunk an Indian lay concealed.
Immediately the loud clamor of Bibelot’s bark rang out, clear and
distinct. Quick as a gleam of light the forest was alive with shadowy
figures moving stealthily and silently among the trees. Diane saw that
her only chance of escape lay in immediate action, and that the lives of
those in the fort might depend upon her presence of mind. She understood
but too well the nameless horrors which captivity among the savages
meant—death was nothing in comparison.

“_Aux armes! aux armes!_” the girlish voice rang out in clear, piercing
tones. Bibelot’s resounding howls were lost in the din as the Indians,
uttering their appalling yells, dashed towards her. Like an arrow from a
bow, fleet as a young fawn, Diana sprang forward, several of the dusky
braves starting in hot pursuit. She had some advantage of distance in
the start, but so close were her pursuers that the slightest hesitation,
a false step, a slip on the sunburnt grass, would prove fatal. The
footsteps of her foremost pursuer fell with growing clearness upon her
ears. With every muscle strained to its utmost tension on she flew, all
the while conscious that the foe was steadily gaining upon her. She had
almost reached the threshold of the fort when, shouting his own name in
the Indian fashion, the Iroquois stretched out his hand to grasp her
shoulder. She could feel the touch of his fingers upon the lace border
of the kerchief she wore around her neck. At this instant the report of
a pistol rang out. With a sharp, convulsive shudder the savage sprang
high in the air and fell prostrate to the ground, as Diane, breathless
and trembling, was drawn into the fort by du Chesne.

A prescient excitement blazed in the young man’s eyes. His spirited face
was full of resolution and confidence.

“Fear not, Diane,” he said, as he barricaded the door, “there are not a
great number of Iroquois gathered outside, and they rarely attack a
fort. Our most serious danger is that the sound of the guns may induce
my father to return, and that from the shore they will fire upon the
boats. We are safe enough here, but we must not allow them to suspect
that our garrison is so small. I have already posted the men; we can
only await the attack.”

Diane sank down faint and sick, yet with a sweet consolatory thought
underlying her physical weakness. Whatever might happen she would not be
obliged to endure alone; she could depend upon a sympathy and
companionship she highly prized.

“And Jean, where is he?” du Chesne continued, as though he wished to
give her time to recover herself. “_Pasembleau!_ that lazy varlet has no
heart for fighting; that I’ll swear. Nanon, thou canst manage an
arquebus as well as any man among them. My brave girl, we will need thy
help.”

Nanon’s black eyes darted furious glances as she ground her teeth in
sheer wrath.

“Yes, Monsieur, I am capable of that, and may I put an end to one of
these sorcerers, these brigands, with every shot I fire! My hairs are
all rubbed the wrong way at the sight of these wolves. Chut!
Mademoiselle, why so pale? I think little of these affairs, me; still
there is no laughing under the nose when it relates to the Iroquois. Sit
far back if you would not see, and for a high-born demoiselle I grant—”

“No, Nanon,” Diane interposed, repulsing the well-intentioned offers of
assistance. “Whatever befalls the others I share, since our lot has been
cast together.”

With an exultant throb the girl’s spirit leaped free from its chains.
Amidst these perilous circumstances she was conscious of feeling a
perfect courage and serenity. Turning his head, du Chesne smiled at her
tone.

“Place yourself behind me, Diane; you can help by loading as I fire. We
will stand on our defence. These wolves will lurk about and try to climb
into the fort under the cover of darkness. We must not permit them to
approach, lest they set fire to the roof.”

The Iroquois showed no disposition to retire, but commenced
industriously to erect barricades of stones and bushes, as though
notwithstanding the check they had encountered they were resolved to
begin a prolonged siege.

“It looks as though it may be late before we reach Ville Marie.
B-r-r-r-r! The tongue of our good Nanon goes like the clapper of a mill.
Well, she amuses the soldiers, and she is as ready to aid with the hands
as the voice. These savages take us for targets, do they? When the
violins play, then is the time to dance.”

Bibelot kept up a continuous barking, which added to the tumult. Nanon’s
wrathful denunciations of the enemy delighted the soldiers and soothed
her own nerves, even if they failed to annihilate the assailants. Thus
the little party contrived to keep up their spirits.

Diane, keeping close behind du Chesne, loading one gun as he fired
another, standing ready to obey his behests, had time to think of many
things. Her eyes rested upon the young man with growing amazement. It
was an hour of revelation. All the careless boyishness of his face had
been replaced by an expression keen, stern, resolute; his eyes flamed
with a light which was almost cruel in its intensity. There was
something splendid in the stalwart pride of courage. Watching this novel
moulding of the familiar features, the girl was beset by a strange sense
of unreality. This was no longer her boyish comrade whom she had teased
and flattered and cajoled; this was a man strong to command, to defy
fate, who would rise equal to every crisis, and who would grow with
every emergency. An absorbing feeling took possession of Diane’s mind,
her heart swelled with a new spring of impassioned emotion, a subtle
intoxication mounted like fire to her brain. It dawned upon her that du
Chesne was a hero, and that he had counted her worthy of aiding him in
his extremity. This thought flushed her horizon with the sunshine of
heroic impulse. Her face was full of a tense eagerness, almost beyond
the artifices of concealment. Once speaking, she ventured rather
breathlessly:

“Gentlemen are born to shed their blood for God and the King.”

“That goes without saying,” he replied quietly. Du Chesne had had so
much experience of Indian warfare that he accepted encounters such as
this as a matter of course. “When the end has to come, a day sooner or
later, what does it matter?” Then his buoyant temperament reasserting
itself, he added, “Bah! Diane, our hour is not yet. You looked so pale
and so serious you made me almost shiver. This is but a brush with these
wolves. Very different would it be were we out in the open, far from the
protection of the fort; then would there be occasion for grimaces. What
is that? Look, Diane!” Then his voice rose in a glad cry. His keen eyes
had discovered a swarm of canoes, thick as a flight of blackbirds in
autumn, on the waters of the Ottawa.

“Aid is at hand! I was not sure that this might not be a reinforcement
of Iroquois, in which case we were lost; but no, these are our own
allies. Saved! Do you hear, Diane? Saved!”

Diane sank on her knees. Her face shone with that spiritual light with
which at moments of supreme feeling the soul illumines its earthly
tenement.

“The good Lord has saved us from the hands of our enemies.” The girl
could have wept with thankfulness and delight, but controlled herself by
an effort.

“Aye, and our lady of Bonsecours shall have three as fine waxen tapers
burning before her shrine as money can buy, and that before the week is
out,” Nanon protested excitedly. “I make no clamor for all the world to
hear, like that vulture Mam’selle Anne, but I make my religion all the
same. Never could I believe that the holy saints could be so ungrateful
and inconsiderate as to refuse to listen to the prayers of my
demoiselle.”



                              CHAPTER IV.


                         _AN ENGLISH CAPTIVE._

SUDDENLY the air was filled with yells as, leaping from their canoes
and advancing through a ridge of thick forest beyond the open fields,
scores of half-naked savages swarmed into the clearing. Ensconced behind
the ramparts of the fort, the little band watched the proceedings in
silence. Through the leafy arches of the woods, over hill and hollow,
across still swamp and gurgling brook, rang the war-whoops of the new
arrivals as they rushed upon their hereditary foes.

“It is now the turn of the wolves to dance, and we can assist at the
festivities!” exclaimed du Chesne, hilariously. “This is a war party of
Hurons and Algonquins returning from an expedition.”

The Iroquois, though taken by surprise, fought with courage and address,
leaping and dodging among the trees and rocks until at last, finding
themselves outnumbered and overborne, they retreated, bearing the
wounded and most of their dead with them. As the tumult of the conflict
died away, the young Frenchman observed in a tone of satisfaction, “It
is settled. Have no apprehensions, Diane; our adversaries have fled,
carrying something to remember us by as well.”

“Is it, then, quite certain, M’sieur, that they have gone, but beyond
doubt,” pleaded a timorous voice from some remote depth of obscurity.

“Wretched coward! of much use thou hast been. And where hast thou hidden
thy miserable carcase?” returned du Chesne in hot anger.

“Scaramouch! screech-owl! much help thou hast been in saving my
demoiselle and me,” Nanon mocked one of her most constant admirers. “Oh,
that I were entrusted with the wringing of thy unworthy neck.”

With an insinuating smile on his sleek, fat face the valet crept out
from the dark corner which had afforded him shelter.

“Ouf! that such should exist!” the young commandant cried
contemptuously. “Poltroon! art thou not ashamed to show thy face?”

“But, M’sieur du Chesne; figure to yourself—it is quite simple,” with
an affectation of innocent frankness. “It is the nature of M’sieur to be
courageous, to love fighting—it is well. It is the delight of Nanon to
chatter. It is Bibelot’s instinct to hate the savages; you observe even
the smell of one throws her into a frenzy. For me, I have an invincible
repugnance to the scalping knife of the Iroquois. Had I permitted myself
to be killed M’sieur would have lost a faithful servant, and these
pagans would have added a fresh sin to the list of their enormities. May
I ask, M’sieur, is it the duty of good Christians to tempt the heathen?
Should they not rather give an example of patience and resignation?”

The new arrivals now claimed attention. Sunburned warriors they were, of
tall stalwart build, limbed like statues. Success had crowned their
arms, as shown in the imposing array of scalps and the necklaces of ears
and fingers which many of them wore. They looked like painted spectres,
grotesquely horrible in horns and tails; their faces painted red or
green, with black or white spots; their ears and noses hung with
ornaments of iron, and their naked bodies daubed with figures of various
animals. These fierce, capricious braves smiled upon the fiery young
soldier whose courage had long since won their approbation.

“What, my brother, we have arrived in time to strengthen your arm
against our foes?” exclaimed the principal war chief. “The face of our
white brother is welcome to the eyes of Howaha.”

The last time du Chesne had met Howaha was at the annual fair in Ville
Marie, when he appeared in a picturesque attire befitting his dignity
and rank. He was much less imposing now as he squatted on the grass
after his triumphs, chopping rank tobacco with a scalping-knife. An
astute old savage, well trained in arts of policy, he showed every
disposition to render himself agreeable to the son of the influential
French trader.

“But look, du Chesne! Here is a white prisoner—a woman, too. Oh, surely
she is not dead!” cried Diane.

“No, not dead, Diane, but evidently overcome by fatigue and fright.
Howaha tells me she is a New England girl whom they have taken. She has
been given to one of the chiefs, Nitchoua, to replace a wife he lost
during the winter. Had it not been for that she would have been
butchered on the spot.”

“An English heretic! Take care, then, Mademoiselle; she may have the
evil eye. True sorcerers are these English; it is said they devour
little children, even to the bones. No doubt they are wicked, and of a
wickedness truly terrible—yet this one has not the appearance of a
veritable monster,” continued Nanon with wavering positiveness.

In the lethargy of utter exhaustion, her limbs relaxed and nerveless,
the girl lay on the grass just as she had been thrown by the Indians.
She seemed utterly unconscious of the clamor of voices or of the curious
regard directed towards her, as though in the terrible numbness of
despair she had grown indifferent to her fate. Her features were
delicately formed, her complexion of an exquisite purity, yet so utterly
devoid of color that she resembled a beautiful statue rather than a
living woman.

Diane, feeling that inexplicable attraction which frequently draws
together persons of entirely different natures, examined her closely.
The novel sensations and sentiments so recently awakened within her
endowed all existence with a new pathos as well as a new delight. She
knelt down beside the captive girl, smoothing the flaxen hair which the
sunlight turned to gold, clasping the cold, passive hands in her own,
whispering soft words of comfort and encouragement. The stranger stared
vacantly into the French girl’s face, while Diane’s brilliant eyes
dimmed with the sympathetic moisture of compassion.

“There has been a violent dispute concerning the prisoner,” explained du
Chesne, who understood the Indian dialects perfectly; “Nitchoua wishes
to take her as his wife. Another party want to torture her when they
reach their own village, and Howaha has threatened to settle the dispute
by a blow with a tomahawk which will terminate at once the discussion
and the existence of the captive.”

“How beautiful she is! She is already half dead with misery and fatigue;
I can scarcely feel her heart beat.” A keen compassion pleaded in the
intensity of Diane’s faltering accents. “You know what captivity among
the Indians means. Think of this tender creature submitted to the
torture. I should know no rest all the remainder of my life for thinking
of it. This might have been our own case had not the Holy Virgin sent us
aid. We can never desert her in her extremity—you must find some way of
ransoming her, du Chesne—you can surely manage it.”

“I do not know. There is the merest pinch of hope; but I will do my best
to save her, Diane.”

The same thought already had crossed the young man’s mind. The chief
impression made upon him by this stranger was one of helpless beauty and
innocence. He was chivalrous and tender-hearted, yet he comprehended
that the rescue of the prisoner was secondary in importance to
propitiating these savage allies. In the one case the fate of an
individual depended upon his exertions; in the other the fate of the
whole settlement might hang in the balance. In their attempts to resist
the encroachments of the Iroquois the French could not do without the
help of the other Indian tribes. Du Chesne thoroughly understood the art
of dealing with these children of the forest. He could conform to their
customs and flatter them with courteous address. He understood the
uncertain, vacillating temper common to all savages. Unsteady as aspens,
fierce as panthers, rent by mad jealousies, they were a wild crew who
changed their intentions with the veering of the wind, and whose
dancing, singing and yelling might at any moment turn into war-whoops
against each other or against the French. There were many difficulties
to be considered, but the young Canadian was not easily daunted, and he
determined to make the effort.

Nerving every faculty for the endeavor, the youth stood forth, his full
deep eyes fixed on the savages with the masterful scrutiny with which a
tamer of wild beasts might regard the ferocious animals committed to his
charge. His dark eyes were aflame; there was so much of quiet strength
suggested in his bearing that, as she listened to his glowing words,
Diane’s heart beat high with pride. The daughter of a race of soldiers,
she was deeply imbued with admiration for physical courage. With bold
adroitness he assured Howaha that if his captive had become a subject of
dissension among the red-men, he, their white brother, ever ready to
oblige his allies, was willing to relieve them of the burden. He
imitated the prolonged accents of the savages and addressed them in turn
by their respective tribes, bands and families, calling their men of
note by name as though he had been born among them. In all he said his
voice and gestures answered to the words. The chiefs, silent and
attentive, with gaze riveted upon the bowls of their pipes, listened
with cool, impartial interest. Plainly the impression made by the young
Canadian’s eloquence was favorable; at every pause in his harangue some
sign of approval could be detected.

Du Chesne did not, however, gain his object without some trouble. At one
moment Nitchoua started forward, brandishing his hatchet in the air,
declaring furiously that the prisoner belonged to him by right of war;
rather than waive his claim he would kill her as she lay helpless before
them. “Has Nitchoua killed enemies on the war-path? His arm is weary
with killing, his eye with counting. The scalps of his enemies ornament
the wigwam of the great chief in such number that they shelter it from
rain in the stormy night,” vaunted the fierce savage, proclaiming his
own deeds of valor.

The English maiden was too far spent to be greatly excited by this new
menace. She understood neither the French language nor the Indian
dialects, even had she been able to control herself sufficiently to
listen. Occurrences had been struck off by time in such quick succession
that they seemed like some terrible continuous nightmare—an awful void
in which every wretchedness was conceivable, and in which there was
neither comfort nor solace to be found. She was not by nature endowed
with nerve or courage. Within the last few days she had become familiar
with scenes of massacre and pillage; she had seen her home burned to the
ground, her relatives butchered before her eyes, had witnessed the cruel
torture of friends and neighbors, had endured incredible fatigue, and
had realized the uncertainty concerning her own fate. Now the
overstrained brain refused to receive fresh impressions, a merciful
lethargy deadened sensation. When the excited savage waved his axe above
her head, though she believed her last hour had come, even in this
extremity she had not sufficient strength to arouse herself. Prompted by
some instinct, her blue eyes turned to Diane with a mute agonized
appeal. The French girl returned the gaze with a sob of excitement and
agitation swelling at her throat.

“We must take care of you, it is our bounden duty—we could not fail
you—trust us,” she pleaded, unconscious or careless of the fact that
the stranger could not know the meaning of her words. There is, however,
a language of the soul which the most distraught can comprehend in the
face of a great crisis. As she met the kindly glance bent upon her, a
ray of comfort penetrated the darkness which had enveloped the captive’s
spirit; it was like an ethereal stimulant quickening all her powers.

Finally, on the promise of a rich ransom being given, Nitchoua allowed
his wrath to be appeased. He began to dance, holding his hands upraised
as though apostrophizing the sky. Suddenly he seized his tomahawk,
brandished it wildly, and then flung it far from him.

“Thus I throw away my anger,” he shouted; “so I cast away my weapons of
blood and war. Let the pale-face girl be led away to the wigwams of the
French, since my white brother desires it to be so. We are friends
forever. Candwish,[1] we are brothers.”

A swift expression of relief, like a flash of light, crossed du Chesne’s
face. Howaha arose, and with an air of great dignity said:

“My brothers, it is well. Farewell, war; farewell, tomahawk; no longer
have we use for you. We have often been fools, henceforth we will learn
wisdom. The French are our brothers; Onontio[2] is our father. Brother,
our covenant with you is a silver chain which can neither break nor
rust. We are of the race of the Bear, and as long as there is a drop of
blood in his veins the bear never yields to force; but the ear of the
bear is ever open to the voice of a friend. Take the prisoner, she is
yours; do with her what you will.”

“The fawn”—du Chesne pointed to Diane, who still clasped the English
girl in her arms,—“will adopt the captive as a sister; she will find
shelter in the lodges of the French.”

“Aye,” Howaha added gravely, “the snow-flower will know peace. Shall the
bird in its nest dread the wind and tempest? shall the child in the arms
of its mother know fear?”

Realizing that the whim of the savages might change like a drift of dry
leaves, du Chesne had no idea of resting in false security. “We will
seize the opportunity of going down the river with Howaha,” he decided
promptly.

Later, as they floated down with the current, the Indians chanted their
songs of victory, as an accompaniment striking the edges of their
paddles against the sides of their bark canoes. First one wild voice
raised itself in strange discordant tones, now dropping low, then rising
again, anon swelling into shrill yelps in which all the others joined.
Among them two Iroquois prisoners stood upright, shouting their own
war-songs in proud defiance, like men who knew no fear of torture or
death, while from seven poles raised aloft as many fresh scalps
fluttered in the evening breeze. Though the vermilion dusk still
lingered over Mount Royal, softly purple in the fading light, the moon,
pearly and splendid, swung high in the east, accompanied by a vaguely
scintillating star at the zenith.

So it came to pass that the Puritan damsel, Lydia Longloy, entered upon
a new existence, protected by Diane de Monesthrol’s tender care,
succored by the charity of those French papists the very sound of whose
name had until now been a terror to her. The only person who appeared
dissatisfied with the turn events had taken was Nanon, who grumbled as
she told her beads:

“An extra rosary I must say in order to avert the evil eye. It may even
be her ill-luck my little mistress is carrying with her in the shape of
this English heretic. We have had sufficient of that, we others, when it
has landed us among the savages; and where next—who can tell? But for
our demoiselle it should be another matter; for her it must be only
sunshine.”

-----

[1] _Candwish_—An Indian word signifying comrade.

[2] _Onontio_—Frontenac.



                               CHAPTER V.


                           _A CANADIAN HOME._

THE house occupied by Jacques Le Ber in Ville Marie stood at the
corner of St. Paul and St. Joseph streets. The front windows commanded a
view of the St. Lawrence, while those at the back overlooked undulating
meadows and woodlands, crowned by Mount Royal, on whose summit, amidst
the thick foliage, gleamed the tall cross which in fulfilment of his vow
Maisonneuve had himself borne up the steep mountain track. The house was
a substantial building, long and low, with high peaked roof and
overhanging eaves. The rooms were large, with low ceilings and immense
chimneys taking up half one side of the wall. The furnishings bore
evidence of wealth and comfort, displayed in old chairs and tabourets,
their covers worked in satin stitch, the buffet and tables of
cherry-wood all in plain solid bourgeois style. On either side of the
street door were placed wooden benches, where the family and visitors
gathered for recreation in the summer evenings. In a wing or annex
adjoining was the shop, the foundation of the successful trader’s
wealth, in which were stored quantities of beaver-skins awaiting
shipment to France, as well as various commodities required by the
settlers, and such provisions as were considered necessary in fitting
out the voyageurs for their long expeditions to the West and for
purposes of trade with the Indian tribes. At the back of the house the
garden bloomed with fragrant, old-fashioned flowers; there, too,
carefully cultivated pear and plum trees revived a memory of Old France.

Though Le Ber’s own family consisted of but a daughter and three sons,
the household was a large one. His home was a capacious abode, extending
a kindly welcome to all who might care to seek its shelter. And it was
always full to overflowing; friends, relatives, guests, servants and
retainers thronged the roomy chambers. As at the settlement, its
occupants were divided into two clearly defined parties who were always
at daggers drawn—the worldly and the devout. In its earliest days Ville
Marie had been regulated like a religious community. The mental
atmosphere was saturated with hare-brained enthusiasm; it was an age of
miracles—the very existence of the little colony was a marvel. But the
severity of the ecclesiastical rule and the unrelenting vigilance of the
Jesuits were resented by many of the more worldly spirits. In the midst
of pressing dangers and heroic struggles there was a natural reaction in
favor of the frivolous gaiety so characteristic of the volatile French
temperament. The presence of a number of officers from France, too,
whose piety was less conspicuous than their love of pleasure, served to
keep this spirit of resistance alive.

The wealthy burgher’s home had, owing to his daughter’s renunciation of
the world and its pleasures, acquired a peculiar sanctity in the eyes of
his co-religionists. She, the richest heiress of New France, had in the
bloom of her youth taken a vow of perpetual seclusion, poverty and
chastity, in order to devote herself to a life of contemplation. The
god-child of Chomody de Maisonneuve and Marguerite Bourgeois, brought up
in an atmosphere of visions and miracles, the halo of saintship
glittered before her young eyes like a diamond crown, and she
entertained a firm determination to scale the steepest heights of virtue
and self-sacrifice. Looking down with spiritual pride upon the common
herd of Christians, busied with the ordinary duties of life, she
eschewed the visible and present, aspiring only to live for the heaven
beyond. Lost in the vagaries of an absorbing mysticism, Jeanne Le Ber
was unrelenting in the practice of humiliation and self-abnegation.
Wonderful stories of her superior sanctity were whispered abroad. She
wore a horse-hair skirt and belt, allowed herself scarcely any sleep,
and confined her diet to the coarsest and meanest of food. She held no
communication with those nearest to her by ties of blood. Two years
after her retirement from the world her mother was attacked by fatal
illness, and though the sound of the poor woman’s groans penetrated to
her daughter’s chamber, the would-be saint denied herself the privilege
of attending her parent’s death-bed. Though Jeanne Le Ber’s face was
never seen except by the one person who waited upon her, nor her voice
ever heard by those most closely connected with her, yet from the
secluded chamber which for several years she had never quitted, that
voiceless presence exercised a potent ascendency.

This influence had operated most powerfully upon her brother Pierre, a
youth of mystical tendencies. Sensitive, full of refinement, quick and
impatient as a thoroughbred, he had been one of Charon’s early
associates—the only one who remained faithful to the end. Possessing
keen artistic perceptions, he yet lacked power of execution. Few in the
colony had either leisure or inclination for the cultivation of the fine
arts, and Pierre Le Ber’s paintings were received by his contemporaries
with an admiration untinged by criticism. His early training had
predisposed him to aceticism, but his natural temperament, against which
he battled with ceaseless resistance, inclined him to a sensuous delight
in beauty, harmony, and brightness. His religion was that of the
affections and sentiments; his imagination, warmed by the ardor of his
faith, shaped the ideal forms of his worship into visible realities. He
displayed a curious ingenuity in inventing torments for himself, wearing
a belt covered with sharp points, whipping himself with a scourge of
small cords until his shoulders were one great wound, playing at beggar,
eating mouldy food, and performing the most repulsive and disagreeable
offices in hospitals. More than once the rich merchant’s eldest son had
been seen staggering through St. Paul Street with a lame beggar, whom he
was bearing through the mud, seated on his back. As Jacques Le Ber de
Senneville, the second son, was a man of the world of fashion and of
courts, and Jean Le Ber du Chesne a man of action and energy, so Pierre
was a dreamer of dreams, a beholder of visions.

The relations between Le Ber and the Marquise de Monesthrol had at one
time furnished gossip to the small community at Ville Marie, which,
during the long winter months cut off from the world, had little but
scandal to serve as a diversion. On his return from a voyage to France
the merchant was accompanied by the Marquise (a perfect type of the
_grande dame_ of the period), a child two years old, and a young
attendant. Even to his closest friends Le Ber had never offered further
explanation than to say that in his youth he had been under obligations
to Madame de Monesthrol’s family, and that on his return to France,
finding her widowed and in trouble, he had been proud to offer her a
home for herself and her orphan niece in the New World. The lady on her
part always warmly acknowledged her indebtedness to the Canadian
merchant. People coming out from France brought rumors of great
pecuniary trouble which had fallen upon Madame’s branch of the family,
and of a terrible tragedy which had deprived her of her husband; but the
most rampant curiosity sank abashed before the lady’s dignified grace,
while the maid Nanon’s sharp tongue and ready wit were capable of
repulsing all intrusive questions. Though Diane persisted in calling Le
Ber her uncle, and in claiming his sons as cousins, it was plain that no
tie of blood existed between them. The line of demarcation between
patrician and plebeian was very clearly defined in those days; no one
could doubt the claim of the de Monesthrols to noble birth—indeed the
family was one of the most noble and powerful of the kingdom of
France—while Le Ber boasted of no pretension higher than the
respectable _bourgeoisie_.

Nor was the obligation altogether on one side. It was whispered that
even in her fallen fortunes the Marquise retained considerable influence
at Court, that the appointment of Le Ber’s second son as one of the
Dauphin’s pages, and later his commission in the Marines, had been due
to her influence, and that the patent of nobility upon which the trader
had set his heart would yet be obtained by the same favor. While anxious
to obtain a high place for himself and his children in the heavenly
kingdom, Le Ber’s affections had by no means become alienated from the
affairs of this world. It was conjectured by those who knew him best
that a sincere reverence for rank was one of his prominent traits. As
his daughter’s aspirations after saintliness conferred upon him an
especial distinction with the ecclesiastical authorities, so the
Marquise’s sojourn beneath his roof bestowed upon his home a stamp of
fashion and exclusiveness to which he otherwise would have had no
pretension. A patent of nobility had, some time before, been conferred
upon his brother-in-law, Charles le Moyne, and it was bitter to the
ambitious man that his own sons should be debarred from wearing the
sword with which his nephews swaggered so gallantly.

Though born and bred in the focus of a most gorgeous civilization,
reared like a princess amidst obsequious troops of vassals and
retainers, having enjoyed a life of wit and splendor amidst a brilliant
and dazzling society, and then suddenly, in her downfall, banished away
to the ends of the earth, surrounded by perils and privations, Madame de
Monesthrol wasted no time in vain regrets. Like many another of her
class, she displayed a marvellous power of accommodating herself to
circumstances and extracting pleasure and profit from them. In her
former life she had loved, rejoiced and suffered with her whole heart;
now there was nothing for it but to make acquaintance with the practical
and inexorable. She coolly counted chances and weighed consequences, and
then, fully and freely, accepted the situation and its conditions. A
submissive spirit might be patient, a strong will could supply
resolution; here existed an elastic mind, a willingness to seek comfort,
a power of turning readily from evil to good, and of finding enjoyment
in many simple occupations which carried her away from the memory of her
sorrows.

In her fantastic French desire to act the new role to perfection she
would fain have adapted herself more quickly than was possible to her
new surroundings. She saw no reason why, with all the ease of a woman of
the world and the loftiness of a great lady, she should not sell in the
shop or undertake a share of the superintendence of the domestic
affairs, as Le Ber’s wife had done. She was promptly called from these
delusions by Demoiselle[3] Le Ber’s bewildered consternation, Nanon’s
shrill clamor, and more than all by the shocked and genuine distress of
the trader himself.

“I am well aware, Madam la Marquise, that the home I have been able to
offer is entirely unworthy your dignity. Have I failed in showing my
appreciation of the honor your coming has conferred upon me that you
should treat me thus?” the host reproached his guest.

“Even a dog can die,” the lady replied with spirit. “I am not of puddle
blood—I, Adrienne Monesthrol—that I should perish at the first breath
of adversity. Still, my old and good friend, to whom I owe so
much”—Madame laid her white jewelled hand upon the merchant’s arm, and
when she softened there was something wonderfully winning in this
woman’s proud gentleness—“if it pleases you best that I should remain
seated like an image I must even yield, and give up all hope of being
useful.”

Then Le Ber kissed the gracious hand respectfully, for by him the French
lady was encircled with a halo of reverence.

Perceiving that her well-intentioned efforts had failed, Madame,
philosophically reviewing all the facts of the case, graciously
permitted herself to remain upon the pedestal where the loyalty of her
devoted friend had placed her.

In New France the appendages of an old-established civilization
flourished side by side with the rough usages of an almost unbroken
wilderness. Amidst the solid comforts of this bourgeois home, the
Marquise established a little court over which she reigned by sheer
majesty, ruling without effort or design, governing because it was her
nature so to do.

Madame’s bedroom, which was the great chamber of reception, was always
warm and heavily perfumed. In the upper part the bed was placed, raised
above the rest of the room by a few steps, and further divided from it
by a row of slight low pillars. The bed was an immense four-poster,
seven feet each way, with gauze and silk curtains, and a blue satin
counterpane embroidered with convolvulus and carnations. The space
beside the bed, called the _ruelle_, was furnished sumptuously with
pictures, statuettes, vases, gilded mirrors, fancy tables of buhl and
ormolu, chairs and stools of various kinds covered with satin and
destined to accommodate Madame’s guests with wise adaptation to the rank
and pretensions of each.

Before the window on a stand were pots of flowers, and in small tubs
bloomed orange trees, above which hung canaries in gilt cages. There
were strips of Persian carpets on the floor; mirrors gleamed in filigree
frames; a harpsichord stood in the corner. The chairs were of gilt ebony
with cushions in tambour. Opposite Madame’s chair hung the portrait of a
young man, in lace cravat and half armor, the _cordon bleu_ of the Order
of St. Louis worn conspicuously across his velvet coat. The face was
gay, reckless, handsome; and before the picture hung a veil of silken
gauze. Most people supposed this to be the portrait of the Marquise’s
husband; Diane knew that it was that of the Marquis’ younger brother,
her own father, the Chevalier Raoul Anatole de Monesthrol, who had been
killed while fighting with the King’s armies in Flanders. On the 12th of
May every year the Marquise spent the day in fasting and prayer. Though
the subject was never alluded to, nor explanations ever offered, the
young girl understood that this custom was in some way connected with
her father’s death.

A draped recess held an ivory crucifix and a Book of Hours. A trailing
ruby velvet curtain veiled the door. A quaint sensuous charm hung about
the apartment, which was enhanced by the stately figure of the lady
herself. Like others of her station, Madame, however heavy at heart, was
consummate mistress of her outward behavior. She sat with fan hanging on
one arm and jewelled snuff-box within reach, her mobile aristocratic
features displayed to advantage by her dress, a panniered robe of blue
and silver brocade. Madame’s common employment consisted in unpicking
gold lace, which Le Ber disposed of for her in the regular market as
bullion.

-----

[3] Only ladies of rank were styled Madame.



                              CHAPTER VI.


                        _MADAME’S “APARTEMENT.”_

EVERY evening, when Le Ber was at home, he went up to kiss Madame’s
hand, inquire how she did, or to play cards with her until the supper
was served at seven. Madame was gracious, with a sense of supremacy and
privilege; many a lesson in worldly wisdom, too, the shrewd trader
received from the witty and sagacious woman of the world. Le Ber had
been brought up on the estate of the Marquise’s father, and the two,
though so strangely dissimilar, had many points of interest in common.

The Marquise de Monesthrol was partial to receptions in bed. On such
occasions she wore a white satin jacket, white gloves, a cornette or
morning cap of exquisite lace, and had the card-table so placed that she
could join in the game without awkwardness. The visitors received
greetings in tone apparently easy and natural, yet in reality framed and
graduated with the most exquisite tact. In this Madame resembled the
great lady who enjoyed the reputation of being so thoroughly well-bred
that one could tell merely from her pronunciation of the word
“Monseigneur” whether she were speaking to a Prince of the blood, an
ecclesiastical dignitary, or a peer of France.

Madame also enjoyed her evening “_apartement_,” commencing at seven and
ending at ten, whither her guests gathered to play lasquenet, hombre and
brélan, while in the intervals between the deals Jean handed around
frothed chocolate and muscat on a massive silver tray chased with
armorial bearings. These receptions were a centre of wit—a wit delicate
and subtle, but always natural and agreeable; they brought with them a
reminiscence of the dazzling days of the lady’s youth. Most of the party
gathered there had passed through manifold troubles. In many cases it
was misfortune which had driven them to quit their native land; disease,
famine and death now stared them constantly in the face, yet they were
proud and high-hearted, presenting an indomitable front to adversity.
The common people might bewail their troubles—that was the privilege of
their low estate—but whatever the dire necessity, the pressing
emergency of the moment, it would have been deemed the height of
ill-breeding for any of the Marquise’s coterie to allude to any subject
not capable of amusing and interesting the entire company.

It was a punctilious French circle, polished and occasionally extremely
brilliant, in which refined artifice and trained coquetry were
constantly exhibited; where a leader cleverly conducted the conversation
and each individual present was under an obligation to contribute his or
her share to the general entertainment. The men stood deferentially
behind the high-backed chairs, treating skilfully the topics which the
women had touched with dexterous grace. The conversation was cynical and
epigrammatic, but always amusing. The Marquise was herself an
accomplished talker. The light sarcastic humor, subtle touches,
unsparing irony or ridicule—always kept within conventional
bounds—with which her conversation flashed and sparkled, permeated the
little circle and charmed all.

When she permitted her thoughts to dwell upon the subject (which was but
seldom, for in her philosophic fortitude Madame objected to idle
repinings), the Marquise thought that she had died when she left
France—died to hope, and love and ambition,—and in this new world had
revived again a sort of ghost of her former self to confront another
existence. She could not dwell forever amidst the crumbling ruins of her
life; an entirely new array of troubles and difficulties had to be met,
which nevertheless had a novel side, and took her mind from her own
wounds. It might be painful to flesh and blood, but the cup had to be
drained. The climax and agony of her youth had been left behind; it
still remained to tread with calmness the dark paths that stretched
before her. In that case it was well to make endurance as pleasant as
possible, to accept every solace and alleviation.

The Marquise represented the sceptical, worldly element in the
household. While Le Ber’s bourgeois tastes and habits prevented him from
feeling much sympathy with those of his noble guests, he greatly prided
himself upon Madame’s social supremacy. He had no paltry vanity to
obscure his clear perceptions, and his unquestioned autocracy was
mellowed by a fine instinct of kindly courtesy. There were others more
narrow-minded and less tolerant, but their ill-natured comments were
ignored by the great lady. She held it becoming in a woman of quality
not to fail in religious observances, but it was her nature to inspect
everything curiously, to fathom intentions and analyze motives, and then
to form her own judgments. Her enemies hinted that the Marquise had been
infected by the Jansenist doctrines and that she had Jansenist books in
her possession. She listened to all that was said, smiled suavely, but
never altered her intention of not allowing her actions to be regulated
by the narrow dogmas of the Jesuits. She still enjoyed her quiet game of
piquet with Père Denys, a kindly and amusing man with a keen sense of
humor, read the books which suited her, and exercised a charitable
tolerance unknown to the fanatics by whom she was surrounded.

Diane was the heaviest weight upon Madame’s heart. For herself she had
done with all things, made the sacrifice of all things, but the child
was young, all life lay before her. Had the demoiselle de Monesthrol
remained in France she might have been received among the _dames nièces_
of Remiremont, that refuge for penniless young girls of high lineage;
but in the colony, with all the outlooks of life uncertain, who could
predict what the fate of a dowerless damsel might be? As Madame’s
opinion of colonial education was not high, she resolutely refused to
send her niece to the Ursulines at Quebec, thus again scandalizing the
clerical authorities.

“Would I see Diane a child of the pavement? a goat-herd—a little
peasant? _Seigneur dieu!_ what a horror! The loss of fortune may
previously have afflicted us, but greatly as that is to be deplored,
what is it to the lack of breeding?”

Madame de Monesthrol imparted to her niece the graces and
accomplishments of which she was herself mistress, while Nanon took
pride in instructing a quick if somewhat volatile and mischievous pupil
in many useful domestic arts. The result was a broader culture, a wider
range of sympathy, than could well have been gained in the seclusion of
a convent. Climatic influences and the peculiar condition of colonial
life had modified, not indeed the French lady’s ideas of education, but
the results derived from her system. In the hardy adventurous condition
of New France, with every faculty called into play, and a constant
demand on every energy, it was quite impossible that even a young girl
of noble birth should retain the utter ignorance of the world, the
absence of self-assertion, supposed to characterize the traditional
French _jeune personne_. Madame watched this development with interest,
curiosity, and some amazement, but always remained strictly and
philosophically impartial.

“I answer to you for it, Nanon, it was not so in my time,” she explained
to her faithful attendant, who was the only person to whom the lady ever
really extended her confidence. “I was timid and sensitive. I scarcely
dared raise my eyes when M. le Marquis de Monesthrol was presented as my
_futur_, the day I left the convent. Diane knows no fear.”

“Yes, Madame la Marquise, and we have all seen the evil that comes of
that sort of thing,” was the daring comment ventured by the
waiting-maid; “let our demoiselle have a chance for happiness in another
way.” For an instant the Marquise’s face looked wan and haggard, but she
quickly recovered herself.

“Happiness—where is it?” she mocked. “But for the little one’s
fortune—I cannot make it, I must not mar. Misfortune has fallen upon
our generation; Diane may be favored with a happier lot.”

“Our demoiselle is of the best; noble and brave and generous to the
core,” asserted Nanon confidently.

Very early marriages were the rule in the colony, yet at eighteen Diane
de Monesthrol, the fairest girl in New France, still remained unwed. The
demoiselle Fresnoy Carion, her youthful companion and Le Ber’s ward, who
had married Le Moyne de St. Helène, at the same age was already a staid
matron, the proud mother of two curly-headed little ones. Many matches
had been proposed, but the girl seemed to be capricious and always
raised objections, and Le Ber was invariably won over to support her
side of the question. Had Madame in any case really exerted her
authority opposition would have been useless, but some subtle intuition
born of her own tragic experience caused her to refrain from doing so.

“I am perhaps not doing my duty by the child in not settling the affair
at once,” Madame ventured to say to her protector. “Should an occasion
entirely favorable arise I should undoubtedly do so. Who is there to
marry here but priests, partridges and wild turkeys? Say, is it not so,
my friend?”

Le Ber gravely agreed to the Marquise’s assertion. His ambitions were
guided by so clear a sagacity that he rarely was forced to recede from a
position once taken. He had his own ideas on the subject, which he kept
strictly to himself. There was no hurry to seek an establishment for
Diane de Monesthrol. His daughter and his eldest son were striving to
establish themselves amidst the highest ranks of the heavenly
aristocracy; it should be right to obtain for his younger sons similar
worldly advantages. To what might not du Chesne aspire were his claims
to consideration strengthened by an alliance with the noble family of de
Monesthrol, who still possessed powerful connections in France? If no
more advantageous offer presented itself Madame might in time be induced
to overlook the presumption of his proposal; she was above all things
eminently reasonable. It would be impossible to leave the girl alone in
the world exposed to the buffets of fate. He would wait patiently for
the realization of his plans.

Anne Barroy, a cousin and poor relative of Le Ber’s, who acted as
attendant to the recluse and was the only one who ever came into
personal contact with Jeanne Le Ber, headed the priestly faction in the
house. Anne was an exaggerated example of the extreme opinions that
obtained in Ville Marie at that date. She had a stealthy way of moving
about, with eyes cast down and hands folded meekly in front of her, as
with pious ostentation she groaned aves and paters. Nanon boldly
declared that Mam’selle Anne had eyes in the back of her head, and a
nose long enough to reach the utmost limits of everybody’s business.
This good woman entertained profound convictions of the worthlessness
and wickedness of the world in general; she also deeply disapproved of
the Marquise and her niece, and evinced a principle of active antagonism
to Nanon, whose powers of sharp retort, audacity, and sauciness rendered
her a formidable adversary. Her mind was forever dwelling upon their
iniquities.

“They revel with fontanges and panniers, coquetry and late suppers,” she
lamented, “forgetful of the promises of their baptism; like the unhappy
Pretexta spoken of by our holy Bishop, who had her hands suddenly
withered and who died five months afterwards, and was precipitated into
hell because by order of her husband she curled the hair of her niece
after a worldly fashion.”

In reality Anne Barroy was a dull, narrow-minded woman, desperately
loyal to her convictions, yet with sufficient cunning to know that her
own claims to distinction rested upon the pretensions of her charge to
superior sanctity; and these she determined to uphold at all costs.

“They feast, those sinners, while that angel eats only the food left by
the servants, and that, too, after it has become mouldy. She suffers
from cold and hears the mass with arms outstretched in the form of a
cross. What her reward will be we all know. Their punishment I leave in
the hands of God and the saints.”

A young Frenchman of noble family, who had been sent out to Canada by
his relations on a _lettre de cachet_, was also a member of Jacques Le
Ber’s household. Louis de Thevet, Sieur d’Ordieux, had lost his father
and was in hopes of succeeding him as _Lieutenant-Genéral des Eaux et
des Forêts_, of the Duchy of Valois, an hereditary office in the family.
His uncle and step-brothers induced him to sell it, promising that the
Duke de Gusore would give him a lieutenancy in the infantry. The
prospect failing him, he was afterwards sent to Canada, where he was
left by his relatives entirely without resources. An effort had been
made to send him to Louisiana, but he resolutely refused to serve as a
private soldier, because, as he maintained, he was of noble birth.
Backed by Le Ber’s powerful influence, he had contrived so far
successfully to elude all efforts to dispose of him contrary to his own
inclinations.

“The youth has great expectations, nor can his uncle be expected to live
forever. He may yet be a great noble, powerful at Court. Those who
befriend him will lose nothing,” decided Le Ber.



                              CHAPTER VII.


                         _A FOREST ADVENTURE._

THE Canadians, reduced to the last extremity by the vacillating policy
of the late Governor, Denonville, had found in the Count de Frontenac a
chief whom they could trust. Frontenac, realizing that prompt and bold
action was necessary to sustain this confidence, resolved to take the
initiative, and revive the prestige of the French arms by striking swift
blows. The wandering Iroquois appeared as evasive as ghosts; but the
English remained open to attack. Rumors began to circulate through the
settlement that a war party was about to be organized. It was noticed
that arms and provisions were being quietly collected. The women became
anxious. The older men discussed the question gravely; the younger were
wildly excited at the prospect of fighting.

Soon it became known that three bands of picked men were to start from
Ville Marie, Three Rivers and Quebec, respectively; the first to strike
at Albany, the second at the border settlements of New Hampshire, and
the third at those of Maine. The party from Ville Marie was ready first.
It consisted of two hundred and ten men, of whom ninety-six were
Christian Iroquois from the two mission villages of Sault St. Louis and
the Mountain of Ville Marie.

The French were mostly coureurs de bois. These restless spirits had
shared in the general demoralization, and under Denonville’s rule had
proved unmanageable. Their chief virtues were hardihood and skill in
woodcraft; their principal faults insubordination and lawlessness. Tact
and address were needed in guiding them. The leaders of the present
expedition, thoroughly trained in the roving and adventurous character
of Indian warfare, enjoyed the entire confidence of the hardy
bushrangers. Le Moyne de St. Helène and d’Ailleboust de Mantet had the
first command, supported by the brothers Le Moyne d’Iberville and Le
Moyne de Bienville, with Repentigny de Montesson, Bonrepos, Le Ber du
Chesne, and many other scions of the sturdy Canadian nobility.

There was difficulty in finding sufficient provisions for the
expedition; but finally, by seeking from house to house, getting here a
few biscuits and there a flitch of bacon, enough was collected to supply
a considerable party.

They began their march in the depth of winter. As they passed over the
surface of the frozen St. Lawrence, each man had the hood of his
blanket-coat drawn over his head and held a gun in his mittened hand; a
knife, a hatchet, a tobacco-pouch and a bag for holding bullets hung at
his belt; he bore a pack on his shoulders, while his pipe, in a leather
case, was suspended at his neck. The blankets and provisions of the
expedition were conveyed on Indian sledges.

Du Chesne was the gayest of the party, most of whom appeared to regard
this adventure more as a frolic than a serious adventure. War was a
pastime to these young Canadian seigniors, as well as the almost
constant employment of their lives.

Crossing the forest to Chambly, they advanced up the frozen Richelieu
towards Lake Champlain, for more than a century the great thoroughfare
of war parties. The trees stood white as ghosts in the sheltered hollows
of the woods, or shivered bare and gray on the wind-swept ridges. The
Canadians made their way on snowshoes, with bodies half bent, struggling
through frozen pine swamps, along deep ravines, and under frowning
hill-sides. Their snowshoes broke on the hard crust or were shivered
against rocks or the trunks of fallen trees. The woods resounded with
jest and laughter as the gay bushrangers shouted at seeing one another
catch and trip to sprawl awkwardly in the deep snow.

St. Helène, wishing to hold a council, ordered the company to halt.
Frontenac had left the precise point of attack to the discretion of the
Canadian leaders, who were familiar with all the conditions of the
country through which they were passing, and the men had been kept in
ignorance of their destination. The Indians had become distrustful, and
now demanded to know where they were being taken. Fickle, wayward, and
inconsequent as children, these allies must at the same time be
conciliated and controlled, for it was impossible to do without their
help. There always existed serious danger that they might repudiate the
French alliance, join hands with the English traders, make peace with
the Iroquois, and sacrifice their former friends without the slightest
compunction.

“We are going to attack Albany,” d’Ailleboust de Mantet said firmly. “We
must reach that place or die in the attempt. We must obey the orders of
our great father Onontio.”

The Indians muttered angrily together. They declared the French had
surrendered through cowardice the prisoners they had caught by
treachery. The palefaces had expected their allies to bear the brunt of
the war, and then left them to their fate. The Iroquois had actually
burnt French captives in their towns.

“How long is it since the French have grown so bold?” shouted one in
derision. “They have been shut up in their forts. Will they now fight in
the light of day like men?”

“We shall fight or die,” answered St. Helène boldly. “Are our Indian
allies squaws that they should fly at the first approach of danger?
Before Onontio protected you you felt the teeth of the ravenous Iroquois
dog. Our Governor tamed him and tied him up, but when Onontio was far
away he devoured you worse than ever. We are strong enough to kill the
English, destroy the Iroquois, and whip you if you fail in your duty to
us. Will you let the English brandy that has killed you in your wigwams
lure you into the kettles of the Iroquois?”

The Christian chief of Sault St. Louis, known as the “Great Mohawk,”
harangued his followers, exhorting them to wash out their wrongs in
blood, but the savages remained turbulent, and seemed to be upon the
point of deserting in a body. Their defection would mean the failure of
the enterprise. At this juncture Le Ber du Chesne came to the rescue.
Persuasion having failed he tried the effects of taunts.

“You are cowards!” he cried. “You do not know what war is; go back to
your women and children. You never killed a man, and you never ate one
except those that were given you tied hand and foot. Go home; we do not
need your services.”

Du Chesne gained his point. The pride of the warriors was aroused, and
for the moment they were full of fight. The decision as to the point of
attack was postponed, however, and the expedition moved on. When, after
a march of eight days, they reached the Hudson, and found the place
where two paths diverged, the one leading to Albany and the other to
Schenectady, they took the latter. All agreed that an attack on Albany
would be an act of desperation.

They bivouaced in the forest in squads of twelve or more. Digging away
the snow in a circle, they covered the bare earth with a bed of spruce
boughs, made a fire in the centre and gathered around it to smoke their
pipes. Here crouched the Christian savage muffled in his blanket, his
unwashed face bearing traces of the soot and vermilion he had assumed
for the war-dance in the square of the mission village. There sat the
Canadian, hooded like a Capuchin monk, but irrepressible in loquacity.
The camp-fire glowed on their bronzed and animated features and lighted
up the rocks and pines behind them. The silent woods beyond presented a
region of enchanted romance and mystery.

Their slender store of provisions having been almost all consumed or
shared with the Indians, Le Ber du Chesne was detailed to head a
reconnoitring expedition of less than a score of men. Progress through
the snow-clogged woods was slow and painful; the lengthening days had
brought a partial thaw, and the little band waded through the melting
snow and the mingled ice, mud and water of the gloomy swamps. Lowering
gray clouds stretched monotonously over the desolate waste. Their
provisions soon exhausted, they boiled moccasins for food, or scraped
away the snow to find hickory and beech nuts. Fires could not be lighted
lest the smoke should betray their presence. Many suffered from
frost-bites, and the men soon were half dead with cold, fatigue and
hunger.

The weather changed. Pelted by a cold, gusty snowstorm, they lost the
track and toiled on, shaking down at every step a shower of fleecy white
from the burdened branches. It seemed impossible either to advance or
retreat. Thoroughly discouraged, shivering and famishing, it appeared as
if nothing remained but to lie down and die.

“I would that I could see the little home, or that I could at least have
the blessing of a priest. It is ill to die like a rat in a hole,”
murmured le Canotier drowsily, as he sank down on the snow.

“Rouse thee, my fine big fellow!” shouted du Chesne. “Rouse thee if thou
wouldst again see Ville Marie and Baboche and the little ones. I look to
thee to show the spirit of a man, and to uphold the spirits of thy
comrades.”

“And what is this, mon Capitaine?” suddenly exclaimed le Canotier,
starting up keenly alert, his hand instinctively grasping his knife.

Glancing over his shoulder du Chesne saw close beside him a plumed and
painted Indian, standing motionless as a bronze statue.

“Adarahta comes to his French brother as a friend,” muttered the Indian
in guttural accents.

“And what would Adarahta?” demanded the young Canadian, his keen eyes
striving to read the savage’s expressionless features.

“Adarahta has been sent by the white chief to seek his young brother,
who he feared was lost in the storm, to lead him to the spot where the
French war-party camps.”

“But you are not of our allies. You are an Iroquois,” returned du
Chesne, still distrustful.

“No, Adarahta, is a son of the Great Mohawk. Taken captive by the
Iroquois, treated as their slave, he would pay the debt he owes to his
enemies. Is my French brother ready to follow?”

Still du Chesne hesitated. This might be some snare planned by the wily
Indian to entrap them. Their circumstances were desperate, and this
offer presented the possibility of escape. Action held a relief from
hopeless suffering. It might be better to risk something than to perish
miserably in the snow. The Canadians, feeble and emaciated, found it
almost impossible to arouse themselves, but their leader addressed them
in terms so animating that they caught his spirit and declared their
readiness to push on.

“We follow,” du Chesne decided. “Adarahta shall walk before me. At the
first sign of treachery I shall shoot him like a wolf.”

The Indian made no response. He moved silently in front, closely
followed by the young commander, while the weary bushrangers dragged
themselves through the drifts.

“Is the camp of our brothers far?” asked du Chesne.

“Close at hand,” responded the guide, as his eyes darted furtive glances
in every direction.

“I would we were well out of this scrape. That painted fox means us
ill,” whispered le Canotier.

They had reached a narrow defile, the bed of a frozen stream, guarded on
either side by high banks clothed with a labyrinth of bushes. Suddenly
the air was filled with whoops and yells as scores of savages leaped
from their hiding-places. As a rapid fire opened from the thickets,
Adarahta fell beneath a death-blow from the leader of the expedition.

“Treachery! we are betrayed. Courage, my brave fellows!” shouted du
Chesne. “Better to die fighting than to freeze in inaction. We shall
sell our lives dearly.”

So dense was the snowstorm that the Canadians could not well distinguish
their advancing foes from those of their own party. The cries of the
combatants were redoubled by the echoes of the narrow valley. In this
moment of intense bewilderment the Canadians became broken and confused.
Du Chesne ran to where the uproar was greatest, shouting, gesticulating,
encouraging his men. Then he was suddenly plunged into a horror of thick
darkness, and fell unconscious.

When Le Ber du Chesne recovered his hold on life he was lying in a
wigwam attended by two squaws, who were awaiting the return of a party
of Iroquois. The young Canadian alternately shivered and burned in the
fever occasioned by his wounds. The Indian women were indifferently
kind. They told him that he was to be carried to a distant Iroquois
village; informing him also that the most of his party had been
killed—only a few had managed to escape.

The young man’s mind was still confused; fancy and reality blended
inextricably together. Dreadful scenes of bloodshed, privation and
misery mingled with memories of mirth and pastime. His thoughts
travelled back to his home in Ville Marie. The father, stern and
reticent, whose affection this youngest son had never doubted; the dead
mother, whose tender care had been so sadly missed; the sister whose
superior virtue he regarded with distant and respectful reverence—his
heart turned to them with homesick yearning. Fancy dwelt most
persistently upon the dear companion of his childhood, Diane de
Monesthrol. He remembered her on her first arrival from France, a weary,
dejected little stranger. Nanon’s sharp tongue had been quick to remind
the boy of the deference he owed to his father’s noble guests, but the
little French girl’s affection had obliterated all class distinctions.
What frolics and escapades they had had together! Diane had shown
herself a trusty comrade, always ready to shield him, generously sharing
with him every benefit. Far away in Ville Marie she would not forget to
pray for him. This conviction brought comfort to his soul.

When he began to recover strength du Chesne’s natural buoyancy of
temperament soon reasserted itself. If he could become sufficiently
strong to travel before his enemies returned he could easily make his
escape. Each day his physical powers improved, and he had arranged all
the details of flight when his hopes were abruptly crushed by the
arrival of the Iroquois.

The Indians carried numerous scalps, and brought with them a number of
prisoners. They vaunted their own exploits, and had no hesitation in
proclaiming that there was nothing on earth so great as the Iroquois
League. Being in haste to reach their own country they started at once,
taking du Chesne with them.

The journey westward along the Mohawk valley was long and toilsome. They
passed the first Mohawk town, Kughuawaga, standing on a hill, encircled
by a strong palisade. Here the crowded dwellings of bark were shaped
like the arched coverings of huge baggage waggons, and decorated with
the tokens or armorial bearings of their owners. Gandagora was situated
in a meadow. Tionondogue, the last and strongest of these fortified
villages, stood, like the first, on a hill overlooking the river. On
through the dense columns of primeval forest they marched, through
swamps and brooks and gullies, until they emerged from the shadows of
the woods into the broad light of an Indian clearing, where the town of
the Oneidas stood. This place contained about one hundred bark
dwellings, and numbered twice as many warriors.

Still advancing, they came at length to a vast open space where the
rugged fields sloped upwards into a broad, low hill crowned with the
lodges of Onondaga. In this capital of the Confederacy burned the
council fires of five tribes. Here in time of need were gathered their
wisest and best to debate questions of war and policy.

At a distance of some leagues they had been met by a crowd of the
inhabitants, among them a troop of women bringing venison and corn,
beaten together in a pulp and boiled, to regale the triumphant warriors.
Here they halted and spent the night in songs of victory, mingled with
the dismal chants of the prisoners, who were forced to dance for the
entertainment of their captors. The next day, as they approached the
town, the savage hive sent forth its swarms to meet them, and they were
greeted with demonstrations of the wildest joy.

Du Chesne had visited many Indian villages. The bronzed groups gathered
around the blazing fires, the flames of which painted each face in vivid
light; the shrivelled squaws, grisly warriors scarred by many wounds,
young braves whose honors were yet to be won, brown damsels flaunting in
beads and ochre, the noisy children rollicking with restless dogs—all
these were familiar sights to him. He was sufficiently intimate with
their customs and prejudices to render himself agreeable. The adaptable
young Canadian lost no opportunity of ingratiating himself. His good
humor, gay songs, and clever mimicry afforded his hosts constant
amusement. He knew these dusky denizens of the forest far too well,
however, to suppose that his fate would be influenced by the favor in
which he was held. In this focus of untrained savagery, ferocity was
cultivated as a virtue, and every soft emotion was stifled as unworthy
of a man. The son of the rich trader of Ville Marie, a youth who had
already made a name for himself in the annals of Indian warfare, was far
too rich a prize to be willingly relinquished. By words and signs he was
constantly warned that his hour was come, and each day with renewed
astonishment he found himself still among the living. Yet life contained
many chances; any moment might bring opportunity of escape. So du Chesne
betrayed no sign of trepidation, but jested as merrily as though he were
safe within the precincts of Ville Marie.

It had been decided that the prisoners should be distributed among the
different towns of the Confederacy; only a young French lad named
Gervais Bluet remained with du Chesne. As a preliminary torment an old
chief tried to burn the captive’s finger in the bowl of his pipe. This
was too much for the Canadian’s philosophy, and without wasting words on
the matter he knocked his assailant down. A murmur of approval arose
from the spectators. If du Chesne had begged for mercy their hearts
would have been hard as stone, but this proof of courage pleased the
warrior throng. He even contrived to make friends among the savages, the
most powerful of whom was the famous Onondaga orator, Otréouate.

“If you destroy the wasp’s nest you must crush the wasps or they will
sting you,” declared the old man, fixing his gaze reflectively on a
great mask with teeth and eyes of brass before which the Iroquois
performed their conjurations. “When our young men have sung the war-song
they will listen only to the sound of their own fury. I would gladly
save you, but it is not in my power to do so.”

“And what will be the manner of my death?” the prisoner asked coolly.

“You will run the gauntlet. It has been decided that the young white
chief shall furnish entertainment for the women and children. After that
you will be devoured by fire.”

“It is well,” responded the young man quietly.

That day he gave his farewell feast, after the custom of those who know
themselves to be at the point of death. When the company had gathered
the condemned man addressed them in a clear voice:

“My brothers, I am about to die. Onontio’s arm is long, and he will
certainly avenge his children. That concerns you, not me. Do your worst;
you cannot make me shrink. I do not fear torture or death.”

That night the white prisoners were closely watched. Two Indians slept
one on either side of them, another being stretched across the door of
the lodge. Du Chesne had formed no plan, he could depend upon no hope of
reprieve, yet never did he entirely lose heart.

The next evening the captives were led out amidst the shouts of the
women and children. The village was all alive with the bustle of
preparation. The young white chief would furnish ample entertainment.
The Iroquois formed themselves into long double lines, armed with clubs,
thorny stocks, or slender iron rods bought from the Dutchmen on the
Hudson. The prisoners were started to run between the two lines. They
were saluted with yells and a tempest of blows. Bruised and lacerated
from head to foot, and streaming with blood, young Bluet fell senseless
to the ground. At the sight a sort of frenzy took possession of du
Chesne. Seizing a club from one of the assailants, he used it with such
vigor that his persecutors fell right and left beneath his blows. It was
a valor born of sheer desperation, but it served him well. In their
amazement the Iroquois became confused, and in the excitement du Chesne
darted through an opening in the lines, and seeking shelter behind a
wood-pile, found beneath it a hole into which he contrived to creep, and
which afforded temporary concealment. A howl of furious consternation
arose from the Indians. The prisoner had suddenly vanished. They ranged
fields and forests in vain pursuit, and then concluded that their
captive was a sorcerer who had been delivered by his Manitou.

From his place of hiding in the deepening darkness du Chesne could see
much of what was going on around him. Once a tall savage passed so near
that he could have touched him with his hand. The fate that awaited him
if he were discovered, and the scarcely less terrible dangers of the
wilderness that lay between him and his home, filled him with despair.
Spent and exhausted he lay through the night in his cramped
hiding-place, creeping out once to grope for a few ears of corn left
from the last year’s harvest. He wisely judged that his safety lay in
remaining there till the savages out in search of him should return. So,
though cramped and stiffened, he lay beneath the wood-pile till the
following night; then when all was still, he slipped out, and had
reached the outskirts of the village when, to his dismay, he stumbled
over a log of wood. A sentinel immediately gave the alarm and the whole
village started in furious pursuit. Du Chesne had been the fleetest
runner among all his companions. He now had the advantage of a start and
kept in advance of his pursuers, who took up the chase like hounds
seeking game. When daylight came he showed himself from time to time to
lure them on, then yelled defiance and distanced them again. At night
all but two had given up the chase. Seeing a hollow tree, du Chesne
crept into it, while the Iroquois, losing the trace in the dark, lay
down to sleep near by. At midnight he emerged from his retreat, brained
his enemies with a club, and continued his journey in triumph.

Du Chesne directed his course by the sun, and for food dug roots or
peeled the soft inner bark off the trees; sometimes he succeeded in
catching tortoises in muddy brooks. He had the good fortune to find a
hatchet in a deserted camp and with it made one of those wooden
implements which the Indians used for kindling fire by friction. This
saved him from his worst suffering, as he had but little covering and
was at night exposed to tortures from cold. Building a fire in some deep
nook of the forest he warmed himself, cooked the food he had found, and
slept till daybreak, taking the precaution to throw water on the embers
lest the rising smoke should attract attention. Through all hope
beckoned him on. Life held so many prizes, offered so many delights,
that at no time could he give way to despair.

Once he found himself near a band of Iroquois hunters, but he lay
concealed, and they passed without perceiving him. Du Chesne followed
their trail back, and found a bark canoe which they had hidden near the
banks of the river. It was too large for his use, but he reduced it to
convenient size, embarked and descended the stream. After that progress
was comparatively easy. Finally, after enduring many hardships, he
reached Ville Marie, where he was welcomed as one restored from the
dead—the main expedition having, on returning from its successful
attack on Schenectady, reported his capture by the Iroquois, from whom
no mercy could be expected.



                             CHAPTER VIII.


                             _VILLE MARIE_.

BEAUTIFULLY situated as it was between Mount Royal and the St.
Lawrence, at that early date Ville Marie could scarcely be termed
imposing in appearance. It was busy and bustling, and had been described
as “a place which makes so much noise, but is of so little account.” A
frontier town at the head of the colony, it was the natural resort of
desperadoes of every description, offering a singular contrast between
the rigor of its clerical seigniors and the riotous license of the wild
crews which invaded it. Its citizens were mostly disbanded soldiers,
traders and coureurs de bois—a turbulent population, whose control
taxed to the utmost the patience, tact and ingenuity of the priestly
governors. While a portion of the residents were given up to practices
of mystical piety, others gambled, drank and stole; if hard pressed by
justice they had only to cross the river and place themselves beyond
seigniorial jurisdiction.

Limited as was the sphere of action, here existence offered many
striking contrasts. In love with an exquisite ideal, men and women
struggled to attain purity and unselfishness: they nursed the sick, fed
the hungry, loved and forgave, lived in godly fear and died fortified by
eternal hope; and this side by side with those who yielded themselves up
with boundless license to the worse passions of the human heart.

While scarcely more than a village in dimensions, the preponderance of
large buildings, churches and convents imparted to the town a
substantial appearance which the number of the population and its scanty
resources scarcely warranted. Quaint steeples and turrets cut the misty
pallor of the sky. Ville Marie wore an aspect half military, half
monastic. At sunrise and sunset a squad of soldiers paraded in front of
the citadel; at night patrols marched through the streets; church bells,
deep and sweet mouthed, rang out the Angelus morning, noon and night.

On the river-front were numerous taverns, in front of which boats and
canoes were drawn up on the shore. Here voyageurs swaggered and swore,
and Indians, whom what Charlevois quaintly terms “a light tinge of
Christianity” had scarcely redeemed from savagery, squatted in sullen
apathy or quarrelled with brutal ferocity. A row of small compact
dwellings extended along a narrow street then, as now, called St. Paul.
Some of the houses were of stone, but the majority were of wood with
stone gables, as required by law, the roofs covered with shingles. All
outlying houses were pierced with loopholes and fortified as well as the
slender means of their owners would permit. Gardens were mostly fenced
by pointed cedar stakes, with the poles firmly tied together. Fields
studded with scarred and blackened stumps stretched away to the
bordering forest, crowding gloomy and silent on the right side and on
the left. The green shaggy back of the Mountain towered over all.

Crowning the hill on the right stood the Seignior’s windmill, built of
rough stone, and pierced with loopholes to serve in time of need as a
place of defence. This mill had a right to claim one-third of the grain
brought to be ground; of which portion the miller received one-third as
his share, and the Seminary required that the inhabitants should have
all their corn ground there, or at one of the other mills owned by the
priests.

Toward the left, on an artificial elevation, at an angle formed by the
junction of a swift-glancing rivulet with the St. Lawrence, was a
square-bastioned stone fort. This was the citadel of Ville Marie. About
1640, M. d’Ailleboust had removed the palisade of stakes which had
formerly protected it, and had fortified it by two bastions. The fort
was provided with artillery, and here, in command of a portion of the
Carignan-Salière regiment, resided the military governor appointed by
the Seminary.

Overlooking the river appeared the church of Notre Dame de Bonsecours,
whose walls of rough grey stone have shone as a symbol of hope to the
yearning eyes of many a weary voyageur, many a travel-worn emigrant.
Above the entrance stood a statue of the Virgin, below which ran the
inscription:

                       _“Si l’amour de Marie_
                       _Dans ton cœur est gravé,_
                       _En passant ne t’oublie_
                       _De lui dire un avé.”_

The Hotel-Dieu, founded in 1644 by Madame de Bouillon, fronting on both
St. Paul and St. Joseph (now St. Sulpice) streets, was an abode of much
charity, tender devotion and heroic self-abnegation. The nuns, a devoted
sisterhood, nobly conspicuous in the annals of the colony, excelled in
acts of kindness which had become sacramental symbols of faithful
obedience to God and loving brotherhood with man. Under their snow-white
wimples beat hearts as brave as ever stirred under the robe of statesman
or gorget of soldier. The church stood on St. Paul street, and was of
stone in Tuscan style, surmounted by a triangular pediment and cross.
The buildings consisted of hospital, convent and church.

On a gently swelling knoll west of the citadel stood the edifice erected
by M. Charon as a hospital. Farther back, to the left, was the Jesuit
church, fronting on Notre Dame street. Adjoining this was the College, a
very small structure with large and carefully cultivated gardens
attached. The buildings of the Congregation of Notre Dame faced on St.
Paul street, while the back windows overlooked the river; they were
surrounded by a high stone wall. Here Marguerite Bourgeois, assisted by
a band of noble women, labored for the conversion of the savages, and
here the young girls of Ville Marie received all the instruction they
were likely to obtain. Back of the settlement ran from the citadel a
rough country road, which is now Notre Dame street.

Fronting the river on the line of the street were the enclosures and
buildings of the Seminary, fortified, as was the Hotel-Dieu, to resist
the attacks of the Iroquois. The ancient edifice was of the same shape
as the present, forming three sides of a square, surrounded by spacious
grounds. The priests’ gardens were already renowned for the delicious
quality of their fruit. The air of thrift and comfort which
characterized the belongings of the clergy presented a painful contrast
to the extreme penury of the colonists. With them, method, industry and
frugality had resulted in abounding prosperity. The parish church of
Notre Dame was directly in the centre of Notre Dame street. It was a low
edifice, built of rough stone, pointed with mortar; the high-pitched
roof, covered with tin, reflecting the sunshine in dazzling brightness.
The principal entrance was at the south end, and on the south-west
corner was a tower, surmounted by a belfry. The public market was near
the river, directly facing the Seminary property. This was a favorite
rendezvous for all loiterers, as were also the public wells, which, to
suit the general convenience, had been placed near the Seminary, at the
market-place, and in the Jesuits’ garden. Here the citizens gathered.
The women enjoyed the opportunities of gossiping at the well, their
tongues moving as swiftly as the running water, their whole bodies
aiding with an endless variety of appropriate gestures.

The men, with a vivacity that never diminished, held choleric arguments,
or repeated marvellous stories. They tapped their foreheads, clasped
their hands, clutched impetuously at perruques that presented a
wonderful impunity from becoming disarranged. They discussed how Jean
Louis had strained his right arm and fallen under the power of a
sorcerer; how the good St. Anne had rescued Pierre Boulot and his
comrade from shipwreck because they had made a vow in her honor; how
Mère Bouillette had been tormented by the lutin in the shape of a
will-o’-the-wisp, and the good Mère Berbier, of the Congregation of
Notre Dame, had presented Madelon with a scapulaire as a charm against
fever. It was whispered that it was feared that Georgeon and his fifty
wolves, invisible when hunted by honest men, were driving the colts
about at night. With bated breath they spoke of the dreaded scourge, the
Iroquois, and then, with tears still glistening in their eyes, they
broke into merry laughter at some careless jest. The rigor of the
climate prevented much indulgence in that pleasant outdoor life in which
the French peasant delights, but as soon as the late northern spring
broke forth, and the air became soft and balmy, the natural instincts
reasserted themselves.

To the east of the town, where Viger Square now stands, stretched a
swampy marsh where the bulrushes raised their tall heads and the stately
purple iris bloomed in profusion; there the long-drawn plaintive cry of
the water-fowl echoed through the stillness in melancholy cadences. Back
of the settlement, parallel with Notre Dame street, a stream with mimic
rush and roar urged its way to the river. Between this and the street,
removed from the noise and bustle, lay the quiet cemetery. Some distance
away, to the left, nestling at the foot of the mountain, was situated
the Mission village established by St. Sulpice for the Christianized
Indians. It was dominated by two round stone towers, which afforded
considerable protection to the colony; a few French soldiers were always
stationed here. Near at hand, in winter half buried in peaked drifts and
massive banks of snow, was the shrine of Notre Dame des Nièges.

Opposite the city, on the south bank of the St. Lawrence, extending from
Longueuil to Laprairie, lay the fief acquired by that brave colonist
Charles Le Moyne, the brother-in-law of Jacques Le Ber. His son, the
Baron de Longueuil, notwithstanding the conditions of painful change and
fluctuation that attended the fortunes of the colony, reigned like a
feudal noble at Longueuil. His stone fort, flanked by four strong
towers, resembled a fortified French chateau. A church and various
substantial stone buildings clustered around it. On St. Helen’s lovely
isle, rising with gently wooded slopes out of the water, the troops
often camped. Opposite La Salle’s Seigniory at La Chine, on the south
bank, was Sault St. Louis (Caughnawaga), an Indian mission station.

Ville Marie was open to attack on all sides. The town had been recently
fortified with palisades. The few defences it possessed were in very
indifferent condition. The country around, and for nearly a hundred
miles below it, was easily accessible to the Iroquois by the routes of
Lake Champlain and the Upper St. Lawrence. In the unsettled and variable
condition of the colony, the clerical influence maintained a certain
solidity of aim to the community which they had originated, and in which
they certainly were the ruling influence.

A Christian outpost established in the wilderness, ravaged by foes,
feeble from the exhaustion of a starved and persecuted infancy, Ville
Marie still contrived to exist.

                 *        *        *        *        *

Amid all the conflicting elements of her new surroundings, Lydia Longloy
contrived dexterously to steer her way. In her old home she had been
taught to regard the French as “bloodthirsty heathen,” but with easy
adaptability and admirable tact she now showed herself quite as ready to
adopt the faith and opinions of these new friends as she was to follow
their fashions and manners. A beguiling innocence was her chief
characteristic, accompanied as it was by a soft amiability and
teachableness both touching and flattering.

Père de Mereil, of the Seminary, who spoke the English language and
devoted himself especially to the conversion of heretics, declared
enthusiastically that this young girl was the most interesting convert
he had ever been privileged to instruct. If the English captive were
occasionally betrayed into frivolity by the levity of youth, the worthy
priest ascribed these lapses entirely to the worldly influence of
Mademoiselle de Monesthrol. Lydia had an easy way of explaining herself
to be always in the right, and it would be unjust to attribute the
pretty creature’s innocent vanity and frank simplicity to other than
natural childish frailty.

Heedlessly generous with the divine faith of youth, Diane de Monesthrol
gave her love to the stranger. During the long illness which followed
Lydia’s removal to Ville Marie, Diane nursed her with tender care, and
in her helplessness she had twined herself around the closest fibres of
Diane’s heart. She might not be either very strong or very wise, but she
was her own pet, the joint protégé of herself and du Chesne. Lydia’s
trials and sufferings invested her with a halo of romantic interest.
Diane’s own glowing imagination conferred upon the Puritan maiden
qualities of which the stranger had formed no conception. Her pure and
simple beauty would have shone alike at a cottage door and in the halls
of princes.

Lydia rejoiced in the sweet and exhilarating consciousness of an
approving Providence. She found herself placed exactly to her taste.
Dreading pain, she was only too well pleased to be allowed to forget the
past; finding herself flattered and caressed, she desired nothing better
than to enjoy the present. An orphan, thrown upon the charity of distant
and reluctant relatives, her life had not been happy. She had no
enthusiasm, no imagination, no warm human sympathy to render the severe
existence of her childhood endurable. Without in the least realizing it,
Lydia had been bored to extinction. She hated now to think of those
long, unlovely years of repression of her natural faculties. She had
been accustomed to be looked down upon by her thrifty England kindred,
who had felt no hesitation in sharply chiding her shortcomings. There
her beauty had been of small account; she had no chance of wearing
beautiful clothes, and had never listened to the sweet accents of
flattery. Her various misdeeds had been severely visited upon her, her
frailties exposed to open scorn, with the cheerful prospect held over
her that in another existence these trifling vanities should be still
more actively rued in fire and brimstone.

Thinking of all this Lydia Longloy rejoiced in her new freedom with the
whole strength of her trivial soul. The Puritan settlement of Grotton,
near Boston, with its memories of friends and neighbors, its precise
restraint and rigid formality, became merely an unpleasant remembrance
to be crushed out of sight. All the strict discipline of her New England
training fell from her like a cast-off garment. She learned French with
rapidity, absorbing the ideas and sentiments of those among whom her lot
was cast. She adopted powder and patches, fans and feathers, as though
to the manner born. She acquired a deliciously arch imitation of the
Marquise’s airs; and if she missed Diane’s dainty grace, her coquetry
had a touch of sweet naturalness as of a child’s affectation and
extravagance. Once she found that to be pious was considered essential,
thereafter her piety satisfied even Anne Barroy.

In the large, hospitable household one more or less made very little
difference. Le Ber smiled indulgently upon what he considered his ward’s
new caprice, but for him the English prisoner had no charms. There were
two whose favor she never succeeded in winning: these were Madame de
Monesthrol and Nanon, who quickly arrived at a very distinct perception
of the situation.

“Plebeian to the core,” Madame nodded her stately head sagaciously,
smelling at her _flacon_ as if to keep off infection. “The little one
waters a barren field. All that will count for nothing. This English
girl will keep all she can get, and she is clever at getting. Yet one is
young but once—can one blame her faith?”

Nanon was still more outspoken in her opinion.

“Bah! that crocodile blonde demoiselle. There are two words to a
bargain, and our demoiselle will always be a loser, for she is of those
who give lavishly with both hands; this other is a sponge who absorbs
all and yields nothing in return.”



                              CHAPTER IX.


                      _AN OCCASION OF REJOICING._

THE existence of the colony depended upon the fur trade, and for
nearly three years the Iroquois, with malicious ingenuity, had contrived
to block up the main artery of commerce, the river Ottawa, thus stopping
the flow of the country’s life-blood. The annual supply of beaver-skins
cut off, the settlement was compelled to exist upon credit. During the
preceding winter the need had been so great that the authorities were
obliged to distribute the soldiers among the inhabitants to be fed.
Canada had been reduced to the last extremity, her merchants and farmers
were dying of hunger. But relief was at hand.

One day, shortly before the annual fair, a messenger came in hot haste
with the startling information that Lake St. Louis was covered with
canoes. It must be an Iroquois invasion, and if so it was not an
impossibility that the whole community might be destroyed. Cannon were
fired to call in the troops from the detached posts, the churches were
thronged by excited women and children, and the steady march of trained
soldiers resounded through the streets. The authorities meanwhile were
engaged in anxious consultation.

Suddenly alarm was changed into frantic joy by the arrival of a second
scout, announcing that the new comers were not enemies but friends, who
instead of destruction had come to bring good fortune to Ville Marie.
Frontenac’s courage and policy had at length succeeded in accomplishing
the difficult but absolutely indispensable task of opening the Ottawa.
Louvigny and Perrot, the envoys sent to the Indians by the Governor in
the spring, whose persuasions had been supplemented by the news of the
late victory gained on the Ottawa and the capture of Schenectady, had
executed their mission satisfactorily. Despoiled of an English market
for their furs, the savages were willing to seek sale for them among the
French. Two hundred canoes had come laden with the coveted articles of
merchandise which had for so long been accumulating at Michillimackinac.

It seemed as though good fortune, like ill-luck, were not to come alone.
While three years of arrested sustenance came down from the great lakes
of the West, a French fleet, freighted with soldiers and supplies,
sailed up the St. Lawrence. This sight at any time was a reason for
rejoicing. It meant news from home, succor from want, encouragement,
relief. A moment had changed mourning apprehension into the ease and
composure of perfect security. Almost dizzy with the sweetness of
relief, struggling to retain sober consciousness, men cheered and
laughed, while women who had worn a brave smile during the day of
trouble now wept hysterically. As they looked into each other’s eyes,
the colonists realized how terrible had been the strain through which
they had passed.

As they drew near, the savages, ever delighting in noise, fired their
guns, while the deep continuous roar of cannon from the citadel greeted
them as they landed before the town—woods, waves and hills resounding
with the thunder of artillery. A great quantity of evergreen boughs was
gathered for the use of the Indians, and of these they hastily
constructed their wigwams outside the palisades. The Governor-General
had come up from Quebec to meet the Indian allies. These negotiations,
political and commercial, were of the utmost importance to the
settlement; there was scarcely an individual in all the colony who was
not keenly interested both in the Council which was now to be held and
in the great fair.

Moved by the universal impulse, Diane and Lydia, attended by Le Ber du
Chesne, the Chevalier de Crisasi, and the Sieur d’Ordieux, started to
attend the Council meeting. Nanon, thoroughly enjoying the occasion,
walked behind. Nothing escaped the notice of her quick eyes or the
comment of her unruly tongue.

“It is well said that good blood never lies. Our little partridge holds
her own with the best; those who have taste turn their heads to look at
her. Well they may; a great lady is not a sight to be met with every day
in this part of the world, where every trader’s wife and daughter would
like to perk their heads with their betters. It is an _officier bleu_,
no less, or some great noble at the King’s court, who should claim our
demoiselle as his bride, and think himself lucky to get her besides.”

Diane’s gown of heavy coffee-colored brocade had a train which swayed
gently behind, not dragging, but caught up gracefully and drawn through
both pocket holes, displaying the laced skirt and the pretty shoes on
which jewelled buckles glittered. Her corsage was long waisted and close
fitting; clouds of lace hung from the sleeves, while a lace fichu was
crossed over the bosom and fastened by some fragrant crimson roses.

On either side of Mademoiselle de Monesthrol walked the Chevalier and
the Sieur d’Ordieux. The first was a remarkably elegant and
distinguished-looking man. The thin dark face set within its frame of
powdered hair was somewhat languid and supercilious; the melancholy eyes
were almost oriental in their depth and intensity of expression. The
Marquis de Crisasi and his brother, the Chevalier, were Sicilian
noblemen who had compromised themselves by taking the part of France
against Spain. Their immense possessions were confiscated, and by a
sudden turn of fortune’s wheel they had been precipitated from the
highest pinnacle of prosperity down to bitter adversity. They had been
sent out to Canada in command of French troops. The favor proved, in
this case as in many others, a most unreliable dependence. The Marquis
had been appointed Governor of Three Rivers, a poor post, where it was
almost impossible to keep from starving. The Chevalier, who was regarded
by his contemporaries as a model of every knightly virtue and
accomplishment, neglected and forsaken by his friends at the Court,
waited for those marks of royal favor which he was never to receive.

“For M. le Chevalier, his day is past,” decided Le Ber promptly; “those
who are cast off by the Court have no future.”

But the Chevalier was one of Madame de Monesthrol’s warmest personal
friends, valued by her for his high breeding and personal worth.

The Sieur d’Ordieux was a little man who, in the desire to increase his
stature, used such high heels that he seemed to be walking upon stilts.
He wore a long black wig, powdered and curled in front. He was always
decked in finery like a woman, steeped in perfumes, glittering with
jewelry and ornamented with fluttering ribbons. This youth was a common
type of the men who strolled in the gardens of the Tuilleries or in the
galleries of Versailles, pulling the strings which set the cardboard
toys—the _pantins_—in motion; embroidering at women’s frames in
women’s salons; gambling away body and soul at the receptions given by
great Court ladies, or fighting bloody duels at Longchamps on account of
frail Court beauties. Many of these men were driven by misfortune or
their own reckless folly to the New World. When receiving their baptism
of fire the high heads were dauntless and dignified; these reckless
triflers, when brought into contact with real conditions and
necessities, proved themselves equal to the occasion—the most graceless
young spendthrifts often showing themselves to be brave soldiers and
gallant gentlemen.

Just now the Sieur d’Ordieux certainly could not be considered
interesting. His conversation related exclusively to his own interests
and exploits—the Court, the injuries and indignities which his
relatives had inflicted upon him, the grandeur of his expectations. The
Chevalier walked in dignified silence. His doleful glances inspired
Diane with a teasing wish to coax and torment. She was young, thirsting
for some deep emotion, moved by swaying currents of feeling of whose
origin she had formed no conception. Consequently her smiles encouraged
the loquacious youth, whose vanity never at any time required stimulant.

“_Miséricord!_—but they are fools, these men,” soliloquized Nanon, who
appreciated the humor of the situation. “This little turkey believes
that the world is created for him and his brood to strut and crow in.
That poor, good, jealous Chevalier has grown as thin as a nail, and
makes such sighs. He is furiously displeased, that one, and he never
guesses it is for the grocer’s son that our demoiselle plays the
coquette. _Comment!_ but it is inconceivable that the Sieur du Chesne
perceives nothing.”

Du Chesne’s handsome young face was shaded by a large musquetaire hat of
felt in which a freshly curled white plume waved gaily. He wore a new
crimson coat, bordered with a gold band in a fashion called at that time
_à la bourgogne_. Black silk stockings displayed the perfect symmetry of
his limbs. It was a costume not unworthy a young man’s vanity. De
Crisasi and d’Ordieux both wore swords which clanked at every step. The
knowledge that his favorite son was without one cost Le Ber many a
poignant pang.

Lydia walked demurely at du Chesne’s side. Her fresh face, tinged with
excited color, stood out in bewildering contrast to the flaxen hair. The
neat dress of dark camlet with its snowy frills and “pinners,” which had
formed her Puritan costume, had been exchanged for an imitation of
Diane’s dress. Mademoiselle de Monesthrol delighted in decking out her
protégé in the best she had; nothing was too good to heighten the charm
of the blonde beauty.

“This is likely to be an expensive whim,” Madame had remarked to Le Ber.
“It would have been better, my friend, to have provided Diane with the
little negro boy of whom you have so often spoken. The imp would have
been less mischievous than this colorless English girl.”

Le Ber shook his head. Though a Frenchman he was a man of few words.
Many critical issues had been confided to his judgment with advantageous
results. Was it possible that a frail, silly girl should have power to
thwart the plans which he had labored with a refinement of elaboration
to perfect?

As they neared the encampment Lydia gave a frightened start. “I dread
the savages. The very glance of these painted monsters makes me faint
and ill,” she whispered nervously.

Diane paused with quick compunction.

“It is I who should have thought of that. You have nothing to fear,
little one, with du Chesne at your side. Leave her not, even for an
instant, my friend. Remember the terrible trial through which she has
passed.”

Lydia reddened to her very throat, and turning around flashed upon the
young man such an odd, piteous, pleading glance that it startled him.
Her naivété was as novel as her beauty; every glance had a glamor of
magic. She was attractive with that undefinable charm that belongs to
some women, a magnetic quality not depending upon faultlessness of
physical beauty. A very child, she carried herself with an air of
innocently transparent indifference, with her ready blushes and her
pettish, winning face. She was so petulant that du Chesne was amused,
and found his charge extremely interesting. When, some time later,
Diane, finding herself at his side, whispered words of thanks for his
consideration, he shook his head in protest, laughing in a startled,
gratified sort of way; then turned from the subject with the careless
ease which was one of his characteristics.

“It is to you she owes her life. I want you really to like her, du
Chesne,” the girl pleaded warmly.

“It would not be difficult to do that!” and du Chesne laughed again.



                               CHAPTER X.


                             _THE COUNCIL._

A LARGE oblong space was marked out on a common between St. Paul
street and the river, and enclosed by a fence of branches. In this
enclosure the Council upon which such momentous issues depended was
held. Some of the Indians who attended had gathered from a distance of
fully two thousand miles. The assembly presented a strange and grotesque
appearance. There were Hurons and Ottawas from Michillimackinac;
Pottawatomies from Lake Michigan; Ojibways from Lake Superior; Crees
from the remote north; Mascoutins, Sacs, Foxes, Winnebagoes and
Menominies from Wisconsin; Miamis from St. Joseph; Illinois from River
Illinois; Abenakis from Acadia, and many allied tribes of less account.
These sang, whooped and harangued in their several accents. Their
features were different; so were their manners, their weapons, their
decorations, their dances. Each savage was painted in diverse hues and
patterns, and each appeared in his dress of ceremony—leather shirt
fringed with scalp-locks, colored blanket, robe of bison-hide or
beaver-skin, bristling crest of hair or long lank tresses, eagle
feathers or skins of beasts. A young Algonquin warrior, in the dress of
a Canadian, was crowned with drooping scarlet feathers and a tall ridge
of hair like a cock’s crest. A chief of the Foxes, whose face was
painted red, wore an elaborate French wig, the abundant curls of which
were in a state of complete entanglement. He persisted in bowing right
and left with great affability, lifting his wig like a hat to show that
he was perfect in French politeness.

The Indians, feathered, greased and painted, were seated in close ranks
on the grass, braves, chiefs and sachems gravely smoking their pipes in
silence. Troops, making the best possible show, were drawn up in lines
along the sides. At one side, under a canopy of boughs and leaves, were
seats for the spectators; these were occupied by ladies, officials, and
the principal citizens of Ville Marie. In front was placed a chair for
the Governor-General.

The French yielded themselves up readily to the spirit of the occasion.
The whole community had recently passed through unheard-of sufferings,
yet on the appearance of the faintest gleam of sunshine the colonists
were ready to smile, to deck themselves out in their bravest, to seize
eagerly all the brightness of the hour. Eyes and jewels flashed,
brocades rustled, feathers waved, and here and there was a shimmer of
filmy lace. In carf and coif, ladies whose noble manners, stately
bearing and sparkling wit would have fitly graced the Court of
Versailles, whose elegant and ingenious coquetries were the product of
the most finished civilization, promenaded, escorted by officers
bedecked with gold and silver lace and all the martial foppery rendered
necessary by the etiquette of the day.

“Vive M. le Comte de Frontenac! It is M. le Gouverneur who has saved us
from the clutches of those vultures, the Iroquois! Yes, and opened the
fur trade, that we may not starve! Vive le Gouverneur!” shouted the
crowd.

Frontenac’s gallantry and open-handed liberality, his success in dealing
with the Indians, the prosperity which his policy had brought to Canada,
rendered him the idol of the populace, who had not been blinded by
jealousy or rent by internal divisions, as were the officials, civil,
military and ecclesiastical, all of whom apparently wanted to obtain aid
from the Government. In the upper classes every man had a grievance
against somebody or something, of which he was continually writing
complaints to France. These bickerings and animosities added, at least,
a spice of variety to the life of the colony.

A detachment of guards in the King’s livery preceded the Governor, who
was surrounded by a brilliant retinue of young nobles, gorgeous in lace
and ribbons. Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac, Chevalier de l’Ordre de
St. Louis and Governor-General of New France, had already attained his
seventieth year, though the alert, decided movements of the bold and
impetuous soldier showed no diminution of vitality. He represented the
best type of French courtier and gentleman soldier of the reign of _le
Grand Monarque_. A fine martial figure, erect and vigorous, the natural
distinction of his mien and pose, the assured ease of look and manner,
marked him as one familiar with the usages of courts. His keen black
eyes shone beneath a broad brow upon which the years, with their many
troubles, had traced scarcely a wrinkle. The Roman nose, thin lips, and
firm, prominent chin, imparted a severe and imperious expression to his
face. He wore a wig, lightly powdered, with long ringlets falling on
either side of his face, crowned by a three-cornered hat bordered with
gold. His fine red surtout and short embroidered vest were of the latest
fashion; his loosely knotted cravat was of point lace, while his white
and delicate hands were partly concealed by falling ruffles of the same.
He wore shoulder and sword knots. A broad belt, inlaid with gold, fell
from his right shoulder, encircling the waist, and held a sword whose
hilt, resting upon the left hip, glittered with jewels. His shapely
limbs showed to advantage in long black silk stockings and shoes with
jewelled buckles. The Governor had a decided taste for splendor and
profusion, delighting in brilliancy of clothing and luxury of service.
All his surroundings presented as much pomp and magnificence as the
slender resources of the colony would permit. This was an hour of
triumph precious to the daring and potent spirit of the French noble,
who fully perceived the force of his own position. Some time before he
had been recalled in disgrace owing to the machinations of his enemies,
and during his absence the colony’s fortunes had fallen to their very
lowest ebb; he had now returned to taste the sweetness of success, and
even his foes were forced to acknowledge the beneficial results which
his policy had already achieved.

Near the Governor stood the interpreters, whose services were constantly
required, while scattered about were a number of Canadian officers
nearly every man of whom had been the hero of some marvellous exploit.
Here was the Chevalier de Callière, Governor of Ville Marie, dark and
haughty, almost as imperious as Frontenac himself, a man respected by
the savages and adored by his own men. His rival, de Vaudreuil, a
fluent, voluble Gascon, was in attendance upon the beautiful Louise de
Joybert of Quebec, who was soon to become his bride, and had little
attention to give to the animated conversation of d’Ailleboust de
Mousseaux, Civil and Criminal Magistrate of Ville Marie, and his brother
d’Ailleboust de Mantet, who had won laurels at the taking of
Schenectady. All three courteously saluted Boisberthelot de Becancourt
and Augustin le Gardeur de Coutremanche as they passed. Leaning on his
sword stood the Sieur d’Hertel, who at the head of fifty Canadians and
savages had taken Salmon Falls during the winter of 1690. Near by,
Boucher de Boucherville, who with forty-six Frenchmen had held the fort
of Three Rivers against five hundred Iroquois, was holding animated
discussion with the Sieur de Montigny, whose body bore traces of
conflict in innumerable wounds, and who in command of only twelve
Canadians had taken forcible possession of Portugal Cove, and with M. de
Pontneuf, son of the Baron de Becancourt, the preceding winter had
gallantly silenced the eight cannon defending Casco. On one side the
Sieurs de Beaujeu, de St. Ours, Baby de Rainville, de Lanandière,
Deschambault, Chartier de Lobinière, d’Estimanville, de la Brossee,
Repentigny de Montesson, Captains Subercase, d’Orvilliers, Sieur de
Valrennes, and his lieutenant, M. Dupuy, conversed with something
emphatically Gallic in their vivacious gestures and absorbed faces.

The clergy were also well represented. Talking to the Marquise de
Monesthrol appeared Dollier de Casson, Superior of the Seminary,
gigantic in stature, hearty of voice, with bold, brown, earnest face,
frank and simple in expression. He had been a cavalry officer, and had
fought bravely under Turenne; the soldier and the gentleman still lived
under the priest’s hassock. Father Joseph Denys, Superior of the
Recollets, benign and jovial, basking openly in the Governor’s favor,
eyed jealously askance by the Jesuits, stood close behind Frontenac.
Father Denys had to a great extent shared the Governor-General’s
disgrace; the period of Frontenac’s banishment had proved evil days for
the Recollets, and their Superior would have been more than human had he
not exulted in their present exaltation.

In a group apart stood Jacques Le Ber, Le Moyne de Longueuil, La
Chesnaye, de Niverville and Aubert de Gaspé. Some of these men had been
the Governor’s most resolute antagonists during his first term of
office, and were not at all sure of the ground upon which they were
treading or the turn which affairs were likely to take.

Now ensued a striking scene, an essential preliminary to the treaty
which the Governor-General hoped to conclude with the Indians. Few white
men have ever surpassed the Count in skill in dealing with the
aborigines. Those who had succeeded to his position after his recall to
France had utterly failed in this direction. The only hope of
maintaining this little settlement planted in the wilderness was in
inducing the other Indian tribes to unite in a determined resistance to
the encroachments of the Iroquois. He now listened to their orators with
gravest attention, as though weighing every word that was uttered. When,
in his turn, he addressed them with an air of mingled kindness, firmness
and condescension that inspired them with respect, their expressions of
approval came at every pause in his address. Then with the same
ceremonious grace with which he might have bowed before Louis the
Magnificent, the Governor grasped the hatchet, brandished it skilfully
in the air, and in a clear, strong voice, intoned the war-song. To a
punctilious courtier the position might have seemed utterly absurd, but
Frontenac was a man of the world in the widest sense, and as much at
home in a wigwam as in the halls of princes; as a diplomat he retained a
clear, logical perception of all the facts of the situation. Many, under
such circumstances, would have lost respect by an undignified
performance, but the Count’s native tact enabled him to harmonize the
most incongruous elements; the faculty of imitativeness, the utter
absence of self-consciousness, the determination faithfully to execute a
disagreeable duty, served his purpose. Instead of exciting ridicule his
achievements delighted the Indians, aroused his friends to enthusiasm,
and extorted a reluctant admiration even from the most determined of his
opponents.

“This poor M. le Gouverneur! he possesses my sincere sympathy. Figure to
yourself how these cries and howls, worse indeed than those made by the
wild beasts of the forest, must prove trying to the throat,” remarked
the Marquise, with a sincere appreciation of the loyalty involved in
undergoing so very objectionable an ordeal.

The principal officers present followed the example of their chief;
indeed, not a little ambition was shown as to who should go through the
ceremony with the most perfect accuracy, and some of the younger members
of the party, who had become familiar with forest life, displayed much
agility and derived apparent enjoyment from the ceremony.

At first the savages stood stolid, silent, making no response to the
invitation extended to them. It was an interval of anxious suspense.
Suddenly the Christian Iroquois of the two neighboring missions rose and
joined the Frenchmen; then, as though impelled by some irresistible
impulse, the Hurons and Algonquins of Lake Nipissing did the same. One
wild tribe after another followed this example, until the whole troop
joined in the stamping and screeching like an army of madmen, and the
Governor with grave dignity led the dance, stamping and whooping like
the rest. The heathen allies at last were thoroughly aroused. With the
wildest enthusiasm they snatched the proffered hatchet and swore war to
the death against the common enemy.

Then came a solemn war-feast. Barrels of wine with abundant supplies of
tobacco were served out to the guests. Two oxen and several large dogs
had been chopped to pieces for the occasion and boiled with a quantity
of prunes. Kettles were carried in, and their steaming contents ladled
into the wooden bowls with which each provident guest had supplied
himself. Seated in a ring on the grass, the Indians began eagerly to
devour the food placed before them. It was a point of conscience not to
flinch, and they gorged themselves until they fairly choked with
repletion. It was not a pleasant sight, yet the colonists regarded it
with some complacency, seeing that it meant prosperity and security
against danger.



                              CHAPTER XI.


                           _THE ANNUAL FAIR._

THE following day witnessed the opening of the great Annual Fair.
Trade was in full activity; never had Canada known a more prosperous
commerce than now in the midst of her dangers and tribulations. That
very morning, to the overwhelming joy of the citizens of Ville Marie, Le
Durantaye, late Commandant at Michillimackinac, arrived with fifty
canoes, manned by French traders and filled with valuable furs.

Merchants of high and low degree had brought up their most tempting
goods from Quebec, and every inhabitant of Montreal of any substance
sought by every means in his power to gain a share of the profit. The
booths were set along the palisades of the town, and each had an expert
interpreter, to whom the trader usually promised a certain portion of
his gains. The payment was in card money—common playing cards—each
stamped with a crown and a _fleur de lys_. The newly arrived French
bushrangers were the heroes of the hour and appeared to enjoy their
popularity. All the taverns were full. The coureurs de bois conducted
themselves like the crew of a man-of-war paid off after a long voyage,
and their fellow-countrymen, in the prevailing good-humor of the moment,
willingly condoned their excesses. Many of them were painted and
feathered like their wild Indian companions, whose ways they imitated
with perfect success. Some appeared brutally savage, but often their
bronzed countenances expressed only dare-devil courage and reckless
gaiety.

“These gentry will live like lords, and set no bounds to their revelry
as long as their beaver-skins last; then they will starve till they can
go off to the countries up above there to seek a fresh supply.
Swaggering, spending all their gains on dress and feasting, they even
try to imagine themselves nobles, and despise the honest peasants, whose
daughters they will not marry, even though they are themselves
peasant-born,” said one priest to another, as he eyed with evident
disapproval the noisy, reckless crew.

The windows on St. Paul Street were thrown open and crowded with ladies;
the benches before every door were thronged. One woman of the poorer
sort had a half-dressed baby in her arms; another a lettuce that she was
washing; a third held a little bowl of soup, which she ate in the
street, gesticulating with such frantic energy that her sabots rattled
on the stones. All dreaded to lose any part of the show.

The gathering about the market-place represented all classes and
conditions. There were merchants engaged in serious negotiations, grave
priests of St. Sulpice, suave, smiling Jesuits, plump, good-humored
Recollets. Gentlemen critically examined the crowd as it passed,
exchanging salutations with friends and acquaintances, commenting with
the slyest of chuckles upon the appearance of the ladies. Habitants, in
plain, coarse attire, and their brown buxom wives, more gaily attired,
chattered volubly. Indians stalked about with stoical and haughty
composure. Children, in close caps without borders, and long-waisted
gowns and vests, an exact imitation of the dress of their elders,
shouted and gambolled with all the exuberance of youth. Plumed soldiers
swaggered jauntily about, arquebus on shoulder. Licensed beggars
abounded, wearing ostentatiously their certificate of poverty signed by
some local judge or curé. French musicians with drum, trumpet and cymbal
did their best to swell the tumult.

“All this tintamarre presages well for the colony,” decided Nanon as she
followed her mistress. “Beaver-skins and trade and money, it means
absolutely the same thing, and all good in their way. I like not the way
things are going, either. My poor little generous demoiselle! That soft,
sleek, splendid cat of an English girl, for all her feigned innocence,
still makes eyes at the Sieur du Chesne. Is it only I who have eyes to
spy her tricks? For me, I waste not my breath on the melancholy; no
patience have I for jeremiads. Tell not your secret in the eyes of the
cat, but it is I, Nanon Benest, who will at once sew in the lappet of
that gallant’s coat an image of St. Felix to secure him from charms and
lead him in the right way. And it was I who dreaded the evil eye from
the first.”

“_Oui-da! oui-da!_ we are in despair for time, my friends. Shall we then
lose the chance of making a sou when it alights at our very door—we who
have been breaking our hearts for trade so long,” panted a stout woman,
followed by two sturdy lads, as she resolutely pushed her way through
the crowd. “Place, there, _ma bibiche_.”

Nanon reddened and flouted like an enraged turkey gobbler at this
unceremonious address.

“Thy _bibiche!_ indeed, that were an honor to be coveted. I know thee,
wife of Chauvin the younger, whose son Louis was turned back from his
confirmation for running the woods when he should have been ringing the
bells. And old Pepin, who is like a sour crab-apple. _Scaramouch!_
knowest thou to whom thou speakest?”

The struggling, jesting, good-humored assembly found no lack of
diversion. Two men, who had been arrested for theft, were exposed in the
pillory, each having on his chest a record of the offence committed.
One, a sturdy rogue to whom such correction was likely enough not a
novelty, looked boldly around with a certain humorous appreciation of
the situation; the other, younger and more sensitive to the shame of his
position, sat with bowed head and downcast eyes, while a herald, after
beating a drum to call attention to the announcement, proclaimed aloud:

“_De par le roi._ Know, then, nobles, citizens, peasants, that by order
of His Majesty the King, Candide Bourdon and Xavier Cointet, accused and
found guilty of theft, are condemned to two days in the pillory and two
hundred livres damages, payable to the religious ladies of the
Hotel-Dieu.”

The crowd cast mud and abuse liberally at the culprits, and Migeon the
bailiff, an imposing personage in the dignity of his uniform,
contemplated the whole affair with an easy and affable air of
proprietorship. Bayard the notary—a man of consequence in the town as
being thoroughly conversant with everybody’s business affairs; lean and
brown and wrinkled, wearing narrow robes with a collar almost
ecclesiastical in appearance, and waistband to match, whose brown wig in
the ardor of controversy was constantly being pushed crooked—was
settling a dispute between two traders, who in their eagerness seemed
ready to tear the mediator to pieces. In another spot, to the intense
delight of the populace, the effigies of two Indians were being consumed
in a roaring fire. Sentence of death had been passed upon two savages,
who, escaping, had regained their native haunts. Justice therefore for
the moment was obliged to content herself with wreaking vengeance upon
their inanimate representatives.

Amid all this throng du Chesne found friends and companions of every
degree. His father, a man of sound rather than brilliant qualities, was
respected, but was too cautious and distrustful to be liked except by
those who knew him well. His brother Pierre was reverenced as a saint
but despised as a man. It was du Chesne who monopolized the popularity
accorded to the family. His charming lightness of manner expressed
confidence rather than carelessness; he was interested in everybody’s
concerns and carried about with him a buoyancy of spirit which acted
like a tonic upon all with whom he came in contact.

Jean Ameron, Le Ber’s valet, was describing to a soldier recently
arrived from France the burning of four Indians, which had taken place
not long before at the Jesuit Square.

“This is nothing to look at,” pointing to the squirming bundles of
clothes rapidly being consumed by the flames. “These people of whom I am
telling you exhibited a marvellous courage and endurance. That is the
Indian fashion. But, see you, faith of Jean Ameron, that was something
to laugh at. Their agony lasted six hours, during which they never
ceased to sing their own warlike deeds. Four brothers, they were, the
largest and handsomest men I ever saw.”

“Burned to death?” inquired the soldier.

“No, not precisely that. It was a form of torment the Indians themselves
have invented. They were tied to stakes, driven deep into the earth, and
every one of our savage allies, aye, and some Frenchmen, too—in truth,
I myself also took part in the affair, and it requires courage to touch
an Iroquois—even when tied to a stake he might get loose, and their
looks are like those of demons. Every one of us, believe you, armed
himself with a piece of iron heated red-hot, with which we scorched all
the bodies of the heathens from head to foot.”

“Yes, fault of me, too-well treated were those pagans,” interrupted a
sunburnt voyageur, whose head was adorned with waving red feathers,
“Drinking brandy that disappeared down their throats as quickly as
though it had been poured into a hole made in the earth. They were
provided with all they desired.”

“Bah! that explains itself; the brandy was to deaden their sufferings,”
added a woman standing by. “Better chance had those heathens than many
Christians. The Fathers baptized them, addressing merely a few brief
words of exhortation (for to do more would be merely washing a death’s
head), and free from their sins they ascended straight to Heaven.”

Suddenly, while trade and amusement were in the full tide of activity,
high above the babble of chattering and bargaining and the echo of
jovial laughter rose the death-cry. Instantly every sound and motion
ceased; it was as though a sudden spell had fallen upon the busy
gathering, an awed, breathless silence. Once, twice, eight times it was
heard, rising and falling in weird cadences. Its significance was
perfectly comprehended by the listeners, most of whom were habituated to
modes of savage warfare. This was the signal given by a war-party
returning in triumph with the scalps of eight enemies. Every man
snatched his weapon, and for a time all was confusion. Among the
authorities hurriedly whispered consultations took place, then, inspired
by a sudden and irresistible impulse, soldiers, priests, traders,
Indians, women and children, all rushed off in the direction whence the
sound proceeded.

A man of gigantic stature, painted, greased and feathered like an
Indian, and almost as swarthy of complexion, strode forward with a
majestic air of composure, as though enjoying a happy sense of his own
importance. In one hand he held eight long sticks from which were
suspended a like number of lank waving tresses. In front of him, tied
together like children in leading strings, walked two squaws with
downcast eyes, whose resigned and stoical countenances looked as though
carved out of wood.

“Who can this be?” each one asked his neighbor. “He is one of ours, a
Frenchman.”

Suddenly among the voyageurs a cry arose.

“It is Dubocq, or his spirit—no, it _is_ Dubocq, yes, truly, Dubocq!”
Then they raised a resounding shout of welcome—“Vive Dubocq! our brave
Dubocq, our champion against our enemies!”



                              CHAPTER XII.


                        _A CANADIAN BUSHRANGER._

DUBOCQ smiled condescendingly upon the enthusiasm with which his
appearance was greeted; he accepted with sedateness the embraces and
warm congratulations of his friends, but, perfectly conscious of his own
dignity, resolutely refused to divulge any of the particulars of his
story until he reached M. de Callière, Governor of Ville Marie.

Lydia, by nature timid, had no idea of controlling her fears when
comfort and succor of an especially pleasant description were close at
hand. She now clung to du Chesne for protection, her face irradiated by
a lovely expression, half smiles, half tears. Did ever sculptor chisel a
mouth where all sweet graces curved more bewitchingly? The young man
noted the upward sweep of the long lashes, the exquisite flush deepening
in the cheeks and melting into the warm whiteness of brow and chin and
throat. How engaging this clinging helplessness was!

“He is a savage!” the English girl exclaimed with a shiver, “I shall
never get over my terror of all Indians.”

Du Chesne’s glowing eyes rested on her face; the fervent glance cheered
and strengthened her. Lydia required to be supported constantly, and she
enjoyed the exhilarating sensation.

“No, Mademoiselle, he is of our own country. His grandfather was a
Frenchman from Normandy, who married a squaw, Marie Arontio, daughter of
the first Huron chief baptized by, the sainted Father de Breboeuf. Ah!
Mademoiselle, but that was a martyr worthy of the faith! Sainte Marie
Madeleine, a nun of the Ursulines, in Quebec, is Dubocq’s sister. He has
always been considered one of our best fighters, an adept in Indian
modes of warfare, and a man of great courage and extraordinary strength.
Some years ago he was taken prisoner by our enemies, and as time went on
and nothing was heard of him, all believed him dead. That was a genuine
loss for the colony; we could ill afford to spare one of our best
champions; hence his return occasions so much rejoicing. He has
contrived to escape the clutches of the most ferocious savages in the
world, at whose hands he could expect nothing but agonizing torments.”

The crowd, following the bushranger with shouts and cheers, proceeded up
St. Joseph Street to the residence of M. de Callière. The Count de
Frontenac, attended by several members of his suite, happened to be
within. Disturbed by the noise, the party, led by M. de Callière,
hurried to the door to inquire into the cause of the commotion.

“What have we here?” asked the Governor-General, who possessed a
singular faculty for endearing himself to the populace by being
interested in all his surroundings.

“Dubocq! Dubocq has returned! Dubocq! Vive our champion, Dubocq!”

The forest rover with composed assurance advanced to exhibit his
trophies, and in answer to the Governor’s enquiries, recounted the
history of his exploits with much natural eloquence.

“I was taken prisoner by the Iroquois,” he began, “and for a long time I
labored as their slave. They found my strength useful in many ways. For
me, I devoured my heart in silence, M. le Comte, for no way of escape
seemed possible, and if it was my fate to perish in the hands of those
demons, why, there was no more to be said. So I was waiting with what
patience I could muster for the fatal moment in which I was to be burnt
alive. It happened on an occasion when I was engaged in hunting with
eight braves and two squaws”—(here he indicated with a gesture his two
female companions, who had never even raised their eyes or given the
slightest indication that they knew their fate was trembling in the
balance)—“we camped in a spot where they had hidden a quantity of
liquor. Having been on two war expeditions in which they had performed
prodigies of valor, they had succeeded in enriching themselves at their
enemies’ expense, and were at the time visiting the liquor as a rest and
indulgence after much privation. Desiring to carry nothing with them but
their arms and ammunition, they had been fasting for many days; so, as
you may imagine, M. le Comte, those wolves were not inclined to be very
abstemious.”

“It is the custom of these pagans to swallow brandy at a gulp, easier
than we take light wine at our most jovial parties,” whispered Jean
Ameron to his friend, who was a keenly interested spectator of all that
was going on.

“After supper,” continued the hero of the occasion, “they commenced
drinking and singing, according to their own ideas of enjoyment.
Considering me as a victim about to be sacrificed to their vengeance,
they invited me to join their orgy, with the comforting assurance that
it would be my last opportunity, as they had decided to put an end to me
at once. Being for the moment all companions in pleasure, they sang
loudly, with joyful hearts celebrating their victories. They persisted
in forcing quantities of the liquor on me. Though in usual well inclined
to drink, I restrained my inclination, knowing that should I become
helpless my fate would be at once sealed. After raising the brandy to my
mouth I allowed it to spill, and as the wigwam was illuminated only by
the uncertain light of the fire, the savages did not notice my evasion
of their hospitable intentions. By this means I retained my composure,
while by the middle of the night my companions, whose heads were heated
by drink and the war-songs they had sung, were overcome by sleep. I made
no movement, but feigned to be the drunkest of all the party, though
watching quietly like a fox. Faith of Dubocq! the Iroquois and I, we
know each other well, and here it was a question of life and death. I
debated seriously whether when I found them all helpless, completely at
my mercy, I should profit at once by my liberty, or whether before
leaving I should send those ten heathen to the land of souls. As for the
braves, that meant eight enemies less for the colony. Then, M. le
Gouverneur, ladies, gentlemen and friends,” with a grandiloquent
flourish of the hand towards the unhappy prisoners, who still stood
mute, like bronzed images of resignation, “then I resolved to spare
these women as being unworthy a man’s vengeance, and also as witnesses
of my triumph.

“_V’là!_ I commenced by tying the squaws tightly together, comprehending
well that, having smaller brains than the men, they were more easily
intoxicated and consequently more difficult to awaken. And, I assure
you, they had not stinted themselves in the use of the liquor. I
resolved to make sure, however, trusting my fate to no chance which I
had power to provide against. In order to try if their sleep were really
so profound as it appeared, I held pieces of flaming wood close to their
faces; but, behold! not a movement, not so much as the quiver of an
eyelash. My opportunity had come; it but depended upon the strength of
my own arm to escape death by torture. I have seen that; I know what it
is; so do many of you, my friends.”

The crowd responded to this appeal by a quick sympathetic murmur.

“Many of us have witnessed the death of our comrades, many bear scars of
the wounds inflicted by those wolves. That thought nerved my heart.
Arming myself with a heavy hatchet, I dealt one warrior after another a
deadly blow, and that with the greatest rapidity. If one should awaken
and give the alarm, then I was lost. _Tiens!_ it was all finished in a
crack. It was a cold butchery, I grant you, M. le Comte, but what will
you, then? The choice lay between my death and theirs. Imagine to
yourself when a man fights in the name of his lord the King, his Lord
God, the holy saints and angels, and his own safety. I owed the Iroquois
many a debt, and I endeavored honestly to pay them all.

“I tried vainly to awaken the two women, who still slept soundly. Then I
sat down to smoke my pipe and indulge in many pleasant memories of the
home which I had never thought to see again. We had still a long and
dangerous journey before us, so it was necessary to set about making
preparations. Next morning when the two women regained their senses I
allowed them to perceive that a change had taken place in the position
of affairs—that they had at the one stroke become widows and my slaves.
I could not suppose that they were pleased by the course of events, but
they said little. I assured them that I would spare their lives on
condition that they would bear witness to the truth of my story, and
they agreed with the best possible resignation. I may make them my
compliments on their docility; never have they troubled me with useless
lamentations. When I had adjusted my scalps to my taste—and you will
perceive, M. le Comte, that they are arranged in true savage fashion—I
took them and my prisoners and started upon my journey.”

“Vive, Dubocq, who has killed eight Iroquois at a blow! Vive Dubocq!”
shouted the excited and sympathetic crowd.

“But they are monsters! One hears only of shedding of blood.” In her
agitation Lydia had seized hold of du Chesne’s hand, at which a thrill
went through the young man’s veins.

“All this is far removed from you; it is not fit that you should hear
such tales. You should be surrounded by scenes of peace and tenderness.
Cannot you trust yourself to my care, my sweet Lydia?” he urged
tenderly.

The young Canadian felt himself completely fascinated by this fair
childish beauty. There was something in the girl’s guileless expression,
the sight of her hair flowing in waves of gold over the shapely
shoulders, that ensnared his heart. Then his efforts at consolation were
so very successful, and were so gratefully received, that he could not
fail to be thoroughly satisfied. Diane de Monesthrol might accept
tribute of general admiration if it pleased her to do so; for his part,
he preferred the sweetly feminine creature who was pleased to receive
rather than confer distinction.

Frontenac, himself a brave man, had always shown cordial sympathy for
the reckless courage of the voyageurs and bushrangers. He now readily
gave utterance to his commendations.

“Ta, ta, ta! bravely done, my fine fellow. These are the sort of
defenders that Canada requires; would that we had many more of them.
Eight enemies killed at a stroke! He is a Canadian hero; we owe him the
thanks of the colony.”

“_Et par le corbeau_,” grumbled Jean Ameron, who made desperate but
futile attempts to imitate the soldiers in the jaunty swagger of their
manner. “Heroes, like saints, are cheap in this country. To kill eight
Iroquois, that were easily enough done—just one sharp blow skilfully
directed, and all is over. Little more effort is required than for
killing a mouse. Thirty livres, no less, is the price paid for each
scalp; two hundred and forty livres will this bird of prey receive from
the Government. It was but chance that placed the occasion in Dubocq’s
way. Some are favored by luck; I could myself do as much as that.”

“Jean, my friend, thou art not of those whose light is suffered to hide
under bushels,” protested the soldier.

                 *        *        *        *        *

“Maître Bourdon, hast thou good wine at thy tavern?” demanded Frontenac.

“But yes, plenty, and of the most excellent, M. le Comte; of many kinds
also, to suit all tastes—Vin de Grève, both the white and the red, wine
of Xeres, Muscat—” the little fat man was delighted to seize the
opportunity of proclaiming the prime quality of his wares.

“Drink, then, my friends, to the health of His Majesty, and to that of
the brave Dubocq, not forgetting the prosperity of Canada, and confusion
to our enemies, the Iroquois!”



                             CHAPTER XIII.


                         _PIERRE’S TEMPTATION._

THE grounds attached to Jacques Le Ber’s house were laid out partly as
a flower and partly as a kitchen garden. They were divided by broad
gravelled walks, bordered with fragrant herbs and deliciously sweet
old-fashioned plants. Orange and oleander trees in green boxes stood
here and there. Along the side of the wall grew pear trees, currant
bushes and grape vines. Sweetness of fragrance and brilliancy of color
were everywhere.

Over the garden one morning had hung a dense fog, which, lifting,
revealed radiant glimpses of blue sky, distant mountain and shining
river. The trees, silvered by the light, seemed to rush gladly out of
the mist, and the still fleeing remnants of vapor gave grace and
movement to every object over which their trembling shadows passed. The
air was sweet with growth and blossom, glad with song of birds, quiver
of leaves, and flicker of sunshine and shadow. Pierre Le Ber, strolling
leisurely down a shady path with his breviary in his hands, his lips
moving in silent prayer, resolutely strove to steel his heart against
all the harmonies of nature. His tall, slight figure, emaciated by
ceaseless vigils and penances, showed the high and narrow forehead,
thin-lipped sensitive mouth, and deep dreamy eyes of the enthusiast. As
he walked the sound of a tender lullaby broke upon his meditations.
Instead of soothing him, however, the gentle strains seemed to produce a
strangely disturbing effect upon the ascetic’s mind. His brow showed
deep corrugations, his lips were compressed in quick irritation. With
the warm sunshine and the fresh morning air, laden with the scent of
opening blossoms, there seemed to glide into his senses, to thrill
through every vein and nerve, an instinct of hope and consciousness of
pleasure, a sensation of peace and easy indulgence alluring as a child’s
dream. He had been troubled in mind; now the very air he breathed seemed
to offer consolation. Vainly he tried to forget that he was still young,
and that the world was beautiful. He was impatient of his own thoughts,
and filled with indignant astonishment that after ceaseless efforts to
suppress the claims of the body such trifles should have power to occupy
his mind.

As these thoughts crowded upon poor Pierre he made a violent effort to
fling them from him as something intrusive. He would go away, he would
resist this entrancing influence. Turning hastily he found himself close
to Diane de Monesthrol. She was carrying, easily and lightly, little
Léon, the crippled orphan whose parents had both perished at the
massacre of Le Chesnaye, and who had himself been grievously maimed by
blows from an Indian tomahawk. His spine was injured, and he had but now
been suffering from one of those paroxysms of pain which occasionally
tortured him. The violence of the attack over, the child, soothed and
exhausted, was falling asleep; the heavy blue-veined lids were slowly
closing, while the girl bent over him with wistful tenderness. She laid
the little one down beneath the shade of a wide-spreading tree,
supported by cushions, and then, as she turned, encountered Pierre’s
earnest gaze. Le Ber’s eldest son was seized with a sincere conviction
that he would be better away from his father’s beautiful ward, yet he
stood silent, rooted to the spot.

Life just then to Diane was a vague, sweet chaos. Rejoicing in the
strength of her ardent youth, it was not easy to accept existence calmly
and tranquilly. Every day the sunshine seemed brighter, the sky above
her more blue. It was always to her an amusement to tantalize and
provoke Pierre, who was curiously sensitive to every girlish taunt.
Professing as he did to despise feminine charms, it seemed a frolic to
the girl to show him that he was not so invulnerable as he chose to
fancy himself. Diane was aware that Anne Barroy was peering anxiously
from a side window, and Anne’s sharp, jealous eyes had already detected
the weakness which the young man could never have been brought to
acknowledge. It was like a child heedlessly playing with fire, for she
had formed no conception of what strong human passion might mean. Just
to tease Pierre was the impulse of the moment—a thing which she had
done a hundred times before and never bestowed a thought upon. Long
years afterwards, looking back on her life, it seemed to Diane that on
that fragrant summer day, in Le Ber’s sunny garden, she had taken leave
forever of her free and careless youth.

“It is thus I would always see you, Diane,” Pierre exclaimed eagerly,
“engaged in works of charity.”

“I take charge of the little Léon simply because Nanon is occupied with
Madame la Marquise,” Mademoiselle de Monesthrol explained carelessly.

“You spend so much time and thought on those things which are unworthy
of you,” the young man could not forbear exhorting her, “lace and low
dresses, fontanges and strange trinkets, the immodest curls expressly
forbidden by St. Peter and St. Paul, as well as by all the Fathers and
Doctors of the Church, the pomp of sin, the favorite devices of Satan.
In their wish to please men, women make themselves the instruments and
captives of the arch fiend.”

Diane flashed a swift, bright, audacious glance at him.

“Do the ladies try to win your favor, cousin? I thought they all feared
you. You must acknowledge I have never shown any desire to please you.”

In the still sunny air, in the warmth and glow of a life which he could
not stifle, standing face to face with the loveliest eyes he had ever
seen, Pierre found himself engaged in an unusual conflict, and felt he
must utter a vehement protest against the fatal, alluring attraction.
The peculiar susceptibility to impressions which rendered him pliant to
priestly influence also gave rise to endless complications against which
he had no defence.

“Cast from you that levity destructive to the soul,” he urged.

“But it is levity that I delight in,” she replied, tapping a dainty
high-heeled shoe upon the gravelled walk. “One can be young but once.
When old age overtakes me I shall devote myself to good works. When that
time comes then shall we, perhaps, be better friends; at that season I
may perchance enjoy your sermons, cousin.”

Pierre strove hard to maintain his tone of gentle superiority and to
continue the discussion on a line of persuasive argument, but he was
nervously impatient. A tinge of uncertainty was shadowed in his manner,
a tumultuous excitement, a badgered, hopeless, still struggling shame.
It was not often that he had the opportunity of holding a long
conversation with the girl; he felt obliged to make the best of the
occasion.

“That is the doctrine of the devil. Canada is indeed the fold of Christ,
but the hosts of this world are beleaguering the sanctuary. Diane, is
the glory of the Church to suffer prejudice from your actions? We are in
the midst of sin. Remember that death is close at hand.”

These words jarred upon Diane’s mood. She resented Pierre’s air of
dissatisfied inspection, his assumption that his own judgment must be
fundamentally and eternally right.

“Then let me be happy while I may. All have not the vocation to be
saints and martyrs. We are young, the sun shines, life is fair and
sweet, and God is good.”

Pierre looked at her in evident anger, the wrathful disguise of tortured
love. His reason was hampered in its action. He was unable to exercise
any discriminating faculty. There was something pathetic in his
insistence, for he plainly perceived that his importunities were
unavailing. His desire for sympathy was so urgent and all occupying that
he could not thrust it aside. The proud, untamable creature, so arch, so
kind, so generous, with her whims and caprices and beauty, alive with
spirit and energy, seemed to him the embodiment of all he had renounced.
Had he only the power to mould her into an entirely different form, to
convert her into a bloodless personification of sanctity, he was
convinced that he would be saving her soul.

“Diane,”—he could not control the quivering of his voice—“Diane, the
Holy Virgin will transform into angels all those who have the happiness
to abandon the cares of this life. Will you not drink of the living and
abounding waters of grace which have flowed so benignly over this land
of New France? Misfortune is about to fall upon this household, how or
when I have no power to tell, but it is sorrow and death; when I would
pray, a dark presentiment weighs my spirit to the earth—there is no
escape from it. Diane,” he cried with yearning entreaty, “though you
have cast in your lot with the world, the robe of God’s saints awaits
you; but that means suffering deep and terrible, the crucifixion of what
is dearest. In my dreams you are ever present, but always among the holy
ones, crowned with the exceeding glory of the martyrs worn only by those
who have reached the fairest ideal of heaven’s attainment, who have
risen above all earthly joys and affections.”

Diane was confused and awed, and withal much annoyed, at this address.
It did not touch her as it might have done a woman of wider experience.
She had a just faith in her own instincts, and was possessed of all the
happy confidence of youth. What had she to do with suffering and misery?
she, Diane de Monesthrol, surrounded by affection, to whom the plant of
life was daily blossoming out into fuller perfection, the happiest girl
in all the colony of New France.

“Oh! listen then, cousin, to the tumult in the street.” Diane was
delighted at the diversion. “Is it the voyageurs? nay, but it is the
gentlemen.”

                     _“Vive Henri Quatre,_
                       _Vive le Roi Vaillant,_
                     _Ce diable á quatre_
                       _A le triple talent_
                     _De boire and de battre_
                       _Et d’être un vert galant.”_

The jovial strains of the chorus broke on the stillness of the garden
like a disturbing influence.

“And the music, cousin, how entrancingly gay! When I hear the music I
must dance; the desire is stronger than I.”

Inspired by an impulse of wild mirth and the love of frolic, enlivened
by the knowledge that Anne Barroy still kept an inquisitive watch at her
shaded window, Diane began to circle and pirouette around the astonished
young man. Gradually she surrendered herself to the influence of the
music, allowing its rhythm to govern her movements. The lithe young form
fell into flexible attitudes; it was a delight to mark the exquisite
grace of her gestures, the suppleness of her limbs, the action of her
swiftly twinkling feet. This was no wild whirl of abandonment; the
smooth, swaying movement was stately and dignified; but to Pierre it
meant the essence of sorcery. Was ever fairer creature formed? Her
attractions were vivid, imperious, irresistible.

Diane herself was full of intense sensation and susceptibility to every
new impression. The color deepened in her soft cheeks. She was no longer
a heedless, guileless child; the soul of a woman, ardent and seductive,
flamed in her sweet blue eyes. Pierre flushed with sudden mortification.
For an instant he hated the girl and hated himself. His glance, first
gently pleading, then sternly disapproving, changed swiftly to some
keener emotion. He had been tolerably calm until he reached this point,
then the blood began to course hotly through his veins; he found himself
drifting upon wild unknown currents, carried beyond the safe limits of
ecclesiastical restraint.

“Diane! Diane!” he cried, breaking in suddenly as if suffocated. All the
girlish fun and mischief faded out of her eyes, Diane de Monesthrol’s
cheeks flamed with shame and fierce resentment. What did this new light
of revelation mean? In her carelessness had she cruelly injured the son
of one who had been her protector? Who was Pierre that he should dare to
look at her with such eyes? She could have killed him as he stood. With
the keen quivering of heart and soul she gained a glimpse of some of the
deeper things of life.

“_Hola!_ Diane and—and Pierre!” As he parted the branches of the
thicket and stood revealed before the actors in this extraordinary
scene, his surprise quite as great as their own, du Chesne’s expression
of utter consternation was so extremely comic that Diane broke into
peals of ringing laughter.

This added the last touch to Pierre’s misery. A sudden panic and horror
seized him, furrowing his countenance as if with the action of years. As
his brother’s frank glance rested on him, giddy, as if buffeted by wind
and tide in the midst of heat and passion, he paused with a convulsive
shiver. He was conscious of falling from a great height to dread
discomfiture and humiliation. The girl’s beauty had kindled an emotion
which glowed in his brain, leaped like wildfire from conjecture to
conclusion, and carried all before it in an irresistible exhilaration.
This was succeeded by the inevitable reaction. A sob, suppressed yet
unrestrainable, escaped him. All three, the girl and the two young men,
moved by a common instinct, glanced apprehensively up at the window
where, from the heights of superior sanctity, the recluse might be
looking down upon the trivial worldly passions and interests of her
kindred. Pierre disappeared. Diane would have been glad to do the same,
but mentally pulling herself together she conquered the cowardly impulse
and sank panting down on the grass, shamed to the depths of her soul by
du Chesne’s look of mingled wonder and reproach.



                              CHAPTER XIV.


                            _AN AWAKENING._

“WAS it a new step you were teaching him?” asked du Chesne. “But, no,
it cannot be—not Pierre, who disapproves of worldly amusements.”

“That melancholy death’s head of a Pierre, he professes to despise
women; he is never content with me; he has dared to sermonize me and I
punished him,” Diane roused herself to explain defiantly, instinctively
resenting the youth’s questioning gaze.

“But, Pierre—I cannot understand—Pierre is a saint—he will scarcely
raise his eyes to look at any human being—his lips utter only prayers.”

“And they are indeed detestable, these saints,” she returned petulantly.

“Surely you would respect the virtues of those holy ones. We may not be
very perfect, we others, but they accumulate perfections for us. Who can
say how much we owe them?”

Du Chesne was staunch to his teaching and traditions. His voice had a
caressing sound when he spoke to women. A smile now parted his lips as
he threw himself on the grass beside her.

“Pierre is like other men,” Diane exclaimed with laconic positiveness.

The audacity of the reply startled the young man. He watched her with
eager, wistful scrutiny. Du Chesne was not an intellectual man, but his
perceptions were swift and keen. Could it be possible that Diane loved
Pierre, and that this affection had rendered her insensible to the
attractions of the numerous lovers who had already sighed at her feet?
It was a startling supposition, overturning some of his fixed ideas, but
it would certainly account for many of the caprices which had puzzled
him. He was loyal to the core, with a jealous and fervid allegiance both
to his brother and to the girl who had held the place of a sister.
Pierre was bound by solemn vows to an ascetic life—could he be willing
to decline to what he would choose to consider a lower plane? Diane’s
affection was certainly a prize worth obtaining. No doubt it would all
come right in some way. The glamor proceeding from the indefinite
brightness of youth, certain bewitching and yet intangible possibilities
which had enthralled his own imagination, disposed him to accept the
most hopeful view of the situation. And, after all, the hypothesis might
not be built on sufficient foundation.

“And Crisasi, too,” he continued, speaking without reflection, awkwardly
and anxiously. There were curious lines of perplexity on his brow.

“Oh! the Chevalier is really too absurd; at his best he is only
doleful—never amusing. And you know it is the plain duty of a man to
show himself amusing.” Diane strove to speak lightly, notwithstanding
the rising tremor in her throat. Why should there be any restraint in
the frank, pleasant comradeship which had united them since childhood?
Du Chesne plainly comprehended none. He was so kind, so cordial, so
honestly satisfied with his own good intentions, that it was difficult
to hold him at a distance. He held an inveterate objection to
inconsistencies of every description, and tried to reconcile two
apparently conflicting tendencies in the girl, to whom he was sincerely
attached. A vague resolve that had been floating through his mind
suddenly assumed definite proportions.

“Crisasi is a brave and gallant gentleman; none in the colony is more
respected. If amusement is a necessity, choose such fops as d’Ordieux,
and leave alone the men you have power to pain. Spare the Chevalier,
Diane, he is a disappointed and heart-broken man.”

“You are as bad as Pierre! That is not like you, du Chesne.”
Mademoiselle de Monesthrol was suddenly aroused. The blood in a rich
carmine flood mantled over her delicate face; her eyes dilated,
deepened, darkened, until their soft blue changed to black. What was
this man’s frankly expressed disapproval to her that she should thrill
and tremble at his words. A terrible dread, latent in her heart, now ran
through her throbbing veins, her entire being quickened by that thrill
of feeling which is at once sweetness and keenest pain. A sentiment
which she disowned, which she had fought desperately and persistently,
inch by inch, had conquered; yet to hide the wound, to hold up her head,
smiling, and, if need be, die hiding it, was the first natural instinct.
She did not speak, for her heart was fluttering to her lips and she
could not utter a word. Yet to the tender-hearted, wilful creature there
was an excitement in the consciousness of peril. Detection might be
worse than death; still to dare discovery, to push danger to the very
verge of exposure, furnished a thrilling agitation which offered relief
from pain. Raising her head, as though courting rather than avoiding
scrutiny, she met du Chesne’s searching gaze with cool nonchalance.

“_Sainte Dame!_ and what is that to me?” with a gesture of haughty
repudiation. “Were I answerable for the disappointments of every
gentleman of New France my lot would be indeed a sad one.”

The clear tones of gentle disdain irritated the young Canadian. He could
scarcely restrain a movement of impetuous anger; and yet, with the
characteristic trust of his nature, he tried to believe the best.

“Diane, you know not of what you speak. It is your inexperience that
causes you to appear cruel. Why, I remember you cried yourself sick when
your bird died, and again when Bibelot’s paw was hurt—and then the
devotion with which you have attended little Léon shows you are no
heartless woman. It may be your time has not yet come. When it comes, as
it surely will, you will then comprehend the meaning of true love—the
happiness, the suffering, the trust and faith.” He spoke eagerly, his
glowing boyish heart shining in his eyes. Diane could not mistake the
evidence of that fire out of which love is born; her doubt and pride
were suddenly swept away. She had no power to confront this precious and
bewildering possibility. All existence was suddenly raised to brilliancy
and interest, as with a sparkling draught of sunlit elixir.

                 *        *        *        *        *

In a little closet off from Mademoiselle de Monesthrol’s chamber stood a
miniature altar. A fair ivory image of Our Lady of Sorrows gleamed white
amidst the environment of gorgeous color; a richly chased silver lamp
burned dimly before it, and a jar of spotless lilies was set beside the
_prie-dieu_ with its velvet hassock and Book of Hours. In a fervor of
devotion the girl sank down before the altar.

“Holy Virgin, bless me! Make me worthy of the great happiness thou hast
given me.”



                              CHAPTER XV.


                           _NANON’S LOVERS._

MARRIAGEABLE women were at a premium in the colony. Nanon in her
comeliness, activity, and audacity had since her arrival in New France
attracted many lovers. Most of these followed her for a while, then,
discouraged by her disdain, fell away from their allegiance and married
some meeker damsel. The two who had remained most persistently faithful
to her charms, patiently enduring her tempers and caprices year after
year, were Jean the valet and Baptiste Leroux, familiarly known as Bras
de Fer.

Baptiste was an enormous man, over six feet two in height, and stout in
proportion. His round face expressed an exaggeration of simplicity. His
beard was black, but the long hair he wore floating on his shoulders was
a warm auburn. His eyes, which were nearly always half closed, gave him
the appearance of stupidity; but when moved by any unusual emotion they
opened wide, their keen brightness changing the whole character of his
countenance. The extreme slowness of his movements imparted an air of
apathetic indolence to the massive frame. He wore a striped blue shirt
and grey trousers, with a red sash knotted around his waist, its fringed
ends hanging down on the left side. On his head, winter and summer, was
a beaver cap. His feet were protected by Indian boots, the upper part,
of sheepskin, drawn up over the trousers, and fastened under the knee by
narrow strips of sealskin. The sleeves of his jacket were turned up at
the elbows, displaying a pair of huge muscular arms tattooed curiously.
Malicious people sometimes insinuated that all the good fellow’s force
lay in his physical powers, and that his intellectual faculties were not
of the brightest.

The eldest of a family of nineteen children born to a poor colonist,
Baptiste had been obliged from early childhood to make his way through
the world as best he could. When still a very young lad he had entered
Le Ber’s service, where later he had shared the games and escapades of
du Chesne and his cousins, the young le Moynes, teaching the boys the
secrets of woodcraft and the delights of forest life. Afterwards he
became a noted coureur de bois, wandering at will through the trackless
woods of Canada, the great North-West and Louisiana, camping, hunting,
fishing, fighting, everywhere renowned among white men and Indians for
his unerring skill as a marksman and his extraordinary strength and
courage. When severe laws were enacted against the bushrangers,
prohibiting that lawless, delightful freedom of the wilderness to which
his heart ever clung, Leroux again took service with the Le Ber family,
for whom he felt an unswerving devotion. Among the colonists many
marvellous tales concerning Bras de Fer’s adventures were told. Even
allowing for the exaggeration of national pride, it must be admitted
that many of these stories had a substantial foundation in fact.

Once it happened that on the shores of Lake Champlain Baptiste and a
younger brother were taken prisoners by the Iroquois. The Indians, in
triumph at having secured so redoubtable an adversary, fastened their
captives to two oaken stakes planted firmly in the ground. Fancying that
Bras de Fer, who was much the stronger of the two, would endure torture
the longer, they selected the brother as their first victim. A savage
heated his hatchet red hot and applied it to the boy’s naked breast.
Baptiste, resigned to his fate, had prepared to chant his death-song
with a stoicism borrowed from his Iroquois foes, but the sight of his
brother’s torture roused him to superhuman effort.

“Forty thousand tribes of demons!” he shouted, bending himself double,
and by a supreme effort bursting the bonds that held him; then tearing
the stake out of the earth, with it he struck down four of the Iroquois
in quick succession. The assault was so unexpected, and his attitude so
terrifying, that the remainder of the party, believing in their
consternation that they were attacked by a species of avenging Manitou,
swiftly fled, leaving Baptiste and his brother to make their way home
undisturbed.

All Bras de Fer’s brave exploits, his renown, or the friendly
consideration with which his employers treated him, seemed unavailing to
give him advantage over his voluble rival. Baptiste was far too modest
to boast of his own merits, and Jean was only too ready to vaunt
imaginary virtues which he liberally attributed to himself. Nanon
accepted the homage of both in a sharp, imperious, scornful way, never
directly favoring either. Through all Baptiste endured the most hopeless
jealousy of Jean’s fluent, deceiving tongue.

“Aye,” Jean declared easily and lightly, “It is the taste of Nanon, as
of all women, to coquette. It is their privilege, and I for one would
not deny it to them.”

His charmer was never without a ready retort.

“Aye, as it is the wont of all men to be fools and heartless apes, to
run to death after any proud turkey, and never to perceive those of real
worth.”

Nothing daunted, Jean continued to smoke his pipe reflectively.

“I have never been greatly inclined to matrimony myself. When I picture
the perils through which I have passed—aye, I myself, Jean Ameron—with
damsels of every description to choose from, brown and blonde, fat and
lean, tall and short, all awaiting but a look, and some not absolutely
ill-favored; one, indeed, with a barrel of bacon entirely her own, was
offered me, but I found myself obliged to decline, my friends trying in
vain to persuade me to accept the King’s gift.”

Bras de Fer was taking his supper in the same room. In general the
stalwart voyageur had an inordinate capacity for devouring the various
colonial dainties, such as eels in sailor guise, pigeons with cabbages,
partridges served with onions, soup with plums, eggs and tripe, brown
bread and cheese. He had been hungry when he entered the house, but the
Frenchman’s facility of utterance quite reduced the big Canadian’s
enjoyment of his food. Were he but master of such captivating eloquence
he might long ago have won the desire of his heart. Nanon never appeared
more attractive. Her full lips took a richer red, a livelier crimson
suffused her sunburnt cheek, there was a dancing merriment in her
bright, dark eyes as she asked demurely:

“Was it not the damsels who escaped so sad a fate? To me it is equal. I
see on every side husbands and wives who quarrel and spit at each other
like cats, and where is the gain, my heart? In this country it is not
difficult to marry. Brown and lean as a weasel is Mam’selle Anne, yet
even she could become a wife if she would.”

Baptiste felt that to sit silently listening was the hardest trial he
had ever endured. He had been no stranger to manifold dangers and
adventures, having served as guide in nine expeditions against the Five
Cantons. He had killed with his own hand more than sixty Iroquois, had
twice been tied to the stake waiting to be burned alive; had bravely
sung the death-song, while the joints of two of his fingers had been
broken, after they had been smoked in an Indian pipe; had in genuine
savage fashion learned to mock at his own torments, when a necklace of
hatchets, heated red hot, had been suspended round his neck, causing
wounds of which he still kept the scars; yet with all this his valor
failed him when he had most need of it. He could have demolished his
paltry rival at a blow, yet he dared not contemplate the possibility of
having Nanon turn on him with scorn and anger.

“Nanon!”

By a tremendous effort Baptiste concentrated his will. Rising, he left
his untasted supper with the determination to crush his rival’s
pretensions, plead his own suit, or perish in the attempt! At the
impassioned utterance of her name the girl quickly turned her head. When
he felt the sharp, bright glance of his beloved resting upon him, the
giant’s courage oozed away. With a long drawn sigh he sank back on his
chair disconsolately.

“If you please, Bras de Fer?” Nanon inquired politely.

Baptiste shook his head with the most helpless and mournful resignation;
both ideas and words had escaped him; he felt himself turning hot and
cold all over as he gazed at her deprecatingly. Nanon shrugged her plump
shoulders with an air of amused amazement.

“What wouldst thou say, Bras de Fer? Surely thou wouldst not make
sugar-plum compliments like those of Jean? Is it the week of the three
Thursdays, that thou shouldst attempt to make compliments? Even Balaam’s
ass had the power of speech conferred upon it at times, but thine
eloquence is overpowering. Ta, ta, ta! there would be no peace in
Paradise if thou wert there, unless thou couldst contrive to mend thy
manners, my friend.” Nanon’s brown face dimpled with coquettish smiles,
and Jean indulged in a malicious grin for which the Canadian could have
found it in his heart to slay him.

“It was constancy to thy attractions, it was disinclination to marriage
with another, that prevented me from entering the forest, engaging in
warfare against the Iroquois, becoming a renowned fighter, and making my
fortune in the fur trade,” pursued the imperturbable Jean.

“Think, then, and is it truly so?” Nanon interposed with exasperating
simplicity, “and I had really believed that it was thine own cowardice
that made thee prefer the ease of home to ranging the woods with the
savages and wild beasts.”

“Indeed, yes, such is really the case. A cow, a pair of swine, a pair of
fowls, two barrels of salted meat, and eleven crowns in good money have
my own constancy and thine hard-heartedness cost me. Surely some
recompense may be considered my due. And during all these long years I
have been pursued by a frightful nightmare, a dream of awakening to find
myself a husband against my will. Consider how sad a fate, my good
Nanon; and when once the ceremony is performed, no redress, for when the
Church binds she ties fast; one fastens a knot with the tongue which the
hands cannot untie.”

Nanon smiled complacently upon all this, until Baptiste, who felt that
he had reached the extreme limit of endurance, rushed out. Then the girl
promptly gathered up her work and prepared to ascend to her mistress’s
apartment. Jean made another attempt to detain her.

“And Nanon, I have observation, me. I see many things. I would tell a
secret but between ourselves. It is the blonde English demoiselle whom
the Sieur du Chesne adores, and not the most noble the demoiselle de
Monesthrol.”

The ruddy peasant face flamed into fiery wrath. That her lady’s
attractions should be cheapened, that her pretensions should be
slighted, infuriated the devoted maid. Such a dread had awakened in her
own mind—would another dare to put it into words?

“Guard thy mouth! And is it a good-for-nothing of thy species who will
dare to compare my demoiselle—the daughter of great nobles who fought
and bled for the King—to any dirt of bourgeois? It is with such as the
Comte de Frontenac—except that M. le Gouverneur has already had the
ill-luck to make choice of a lady, and if report speaks true, of one not
so admirable either—that our demoiselle should mate. _Bête!_ cease,
then, thy bellowing and mend thy manners. Like a serpent thou wouldst
bite the hand that nourishes thee.”

In terror Jean fled from the storm he had evoked. Nanon stood wringing
her hands and stamping her feet.

“In truth, I know not whether to weep like a watering-pot or to scratch
somebody’s eyes out. Ah! if I could but reach that craven-hearted wolf
with my nails. The worst sting of all is that it is all true. And this
English girl will pay him with his own coin, loving herself always best
and last, with but small thought to spare for anyone else. My noble,
proud mistress who smiles and is happy, seeing nothing, decking that
other one in her best, and never weary of praising that one’s beauty and
sweetness. Sweetness?—it is the look of the cat at the cream. The
neuvena I made in honor of that worthless St. Joseph, with the intention
of securing our little lady’s happiness, all goes for nothing. That
useless image shall no longer delude innocent believers.”

Like a whirlwind the serving-woman swept to the altar where stood the
figure of St. Joseph, serenely unconscious of the enormity of his own
offences, or of the storm which was about to descend upon him. It was
the work of an instant to snatch him from his eminence, to shake and
belabor him viciously, pouring out the while a flood of abuse as
eloquently vituperative as a fertile brain and fluent tongue could
devise, to rush down the garden and with all the strength inspired by
fury to hurl him over the stone wall. Then, and then only, when her
vengeance was accomplished, did Nanon pause for breath, drawing a long
sigh of relief.

“Now shall my eyes, even mine, have the consolation of seeing that
valueless saint lying in the dust shattered into a thousand pieces.”

With a bang which was intended as a further vent for her distressed
feelings, Nanon threw wide open the side gate leading from the secluded
greenery of the garden into the dusty street. Then she stopped suddenly
as though she had received a shock; the gleam of triumphant satisfaction
faded from her eyes, her ruddy color turned to gray pallor. The
ecclesiastical authorities would likely view with strong disfavor any
disrespect paid to the saints; some thought of the consequences of her
action began to penetrate Nanon’s agitated mind.

Looking thoughtfully down at the fragments of the ill-used St. Joseph
stood a priest. He was a large, powerfully-built man, in a narrow
collar, long dusty black coat and three-cornered hat. As she met his
kindly piercing gaze Nanon’s wrath faded, and she bent her head while he
raised his hands with a slight gesture of benediction before he blessed
her. Her quick feminine intuition taught her that she would fare much
better with this man than if she had fallen into the hands of the
Jesuits. There were few in Ville Marie but had unqualified faith in the
gigantic soldier priest, Father Dollier de Casson, Superior of the
Seminary of St. Sulpice.

“Why, what is this? Didst thou imagine, my good Nanon, that the
passers-by were heathen Iroquois, that thou shouldst assault them by
means of the holy saints?”

Nanon in the excitement of the moment forgot her fear and recovered her
natural audacity. As she remembered her grievances her breast shook with
great sobs; for a second the passion struggling in her throat could find
no utterance. At last she broke forth:

“The worthless, deceiving saint! My little noble, gentle mistress, pure
and guileless as the holy saints themselves, cast aside for any tag of
rubbish! Of all the great and noble ladies whom God has sent into this
world to beautify His creation, to glorify His name, and for the relief
and happiness of their fellow-creatures, none ever fulfilled the object
of the Creator more perfectly than our demoiselle. Yet, behold that kite
of an Anne, stuck all over with feathers of spite and hypocrisy, her
very look enough to turn milk sour, and she boasts that she receives of
the saints every favor she demands. And if the saints fail us what is to
become of us poor common people who have no other protection?”

The priest listened with silent attention to the confused, vehement
recital. He was too thoroughly versed in the intricacies of human nature
not to readily comprehend the faithful serving-woman’s meaning. He had
himself a passion for duty and discipline, a genius for command and
obedience, while his whole soul loathed dastards and renegades. A good
Christian, laboring manfully at his calling, he had made the joys and
sorrows, hopes and fears of his flock his own. In the most cordial
fashion he worked for the people, dogmatized, and stormed at them, but,
however strict to his ideal of duty, he never lost patience with human
frailty.

“Ah, the good-for-nothing saint! Figure to yourself, my Father, a
neuvena in his honor—never a word omitted though the poor bones ached
and the eyes were drowsy with sleep—four candles burning perpetually
before his altar, and all of the very best. Nothing did I grudge if only
the little demoiselle could have her heart’s desire. It was I that took
her from the arms of her dying mother—me, but a slip of a girl
myself—and she has been my charge, my first thought, ever since.” Here
beating her hands together, Nanon yielded to a new transport of
exasperation.

The Sulpician cast a keen glance from under the white eyebrows which
contrasted with his hale, sunburned face.

“_Voyons_, my daughter. You would desire high place and favor in this
world for Mademoiselle de Monesthrol.”

“Oh! but yes, my Father,” she replied, coloring deeply, smoothing down
her apron the while with her shapely brown hands. “Perhaps I have not
the air of it, but I have seen things in my time. The people here know
nothing of all that, but I remember the life over there in France. It is
at the Court of our lord the King that my demoiselle should shine, among
the great dames and brilliant demoiselles. Ah! that is what I would have
for our little one. To see all the world admire her state, but with
reverence, be it understood; to walk behind, to see and to share her
glory, to repay the rebuffs we have received in our fallen fortunes, to
hear it whispered as I pass, ‘There goes Nanon, serving-woman to Her
Grace, Madame la Duchesse de’—— that is as it should be.”

A smile of irrepressible humor curved de Casson’s firm lips.

“Thou covetest this world’s glory, yet thou wouldst grudge her high
place in the Heavenly Kingdom. My brave and loyal Nanon, thou wouldst
generously sacrifice much to win happiness for thy mistress. I also
would it were God’s will that the demoiselle should travel His way by a
smooth and sunny road, but if there is no easier path to heaven, then
bless her in taking that which is offered, my daughter. The roads
leading to perfection are often dark and thorny.”

“And that is what I cannot bear,” sobbed Nanon, as the priest continued
thoughtfully as though thinking aloud:

“To love is to serve. If service and affection are considered
separately, the very essence of love, that which gives it life, is lost.
After all, love, when unselfish, whether joyous or unfortunate in its
results, must be splendid and lofty.” Then recalling his attention by an
effort he added, “Thy loyal affection, my good Nanon, is not as wise and
tender as that of thy Master, who knows all things and judges with
clearer eyes than we poor mortals. Thine would deprive Mademoiselle of
the crown and grace of suffering; His will uphold her amidst the fiery
ordeal of tribulation. See to it, Nanon. Yield the child’s future up to
the care of Him who is the loving Father of all.”

The clear tones had a sort of inspiring ring in them; the composed,
benevolent countenance was illumined by the cheering light of faith and
courage. Nanon hung her head. This philosophy, so high and pure, was
beyond her comprehension; what she really craved was assurance of
success.

“What you say is doubtless all true, M. le Superior, and it has the
sound of beautiful language; it is suited to the quality, of that I am
firmly convinced; but, faith of Nanon Benest, the heavenly glory is too
fine, too far off for such as I. I would rather that other, me, that I
could touch with the hands, and talk about, and let all the world see.
Let Mam’selle Anne, who is ugly as a spider and cross as an enraged
sheep, keep the first; I grudge it not. If M. le Superior will but give
himself the trouble to consider, he will certainly perceive that no one
thinks of the little one’s interests but her own poor servant Nanon.
Madam la Marquise made the sacrifice of all when she left her own
country, and it appears quite natural to her that others should do the
same. The Sieur Le Ber adores Mademoiselle, but keeps steadily in mind
his plans for ennobling his own family. M. Pierre would have her a saint
and a martyr against her will, and now this English cuckoo has settled
herself comfortably in Mademoiselle’s own nest in order to pick the
feathers from her at her ease.”

“Thou wouldst undertake to play the part of Providence, and without
having the means of doing so at thy disposal. _Va_, faithless one, it is
well the good God should take the child’s destiny out of thy rash and
reckless hands. What signifies the mode to him who goes to glory—the
shorter cut from the battle-field or a little longer way through a world
of trouble? Thy loyal affection will be to thee a crown, but thy pride
will prove a thorn to prick thee to the heart, my poor girl.”

“Not that the most noble the demoiselle de Monesthrol could condescend
to wed with the son of the bourgeois Le Ber”—Nanon hastened to qualify
her rash admissions, and to vindicate her feminine right of having the
last word; “but of right he should kneel humbly at her feet, thankful
for a glance or a gracious word.”



                              CHAPTER XVI.


                        _A VICE-REGAL BANQUET._

THE Count de Frontenac entertained the dignitaries of the colony at
one of those late suppers which had been so severely denounced by the
clerical authorities, but which were so highly enjoyed by the more
worldly portion of the community. The service of the table was arranged
with elaborate magnificence. Clusters of lights flashed on gold and
silver plate. The banquet consisted of four courses. Chicken soup was
served first; then followed prime legs of mutton garnished with chops,
and choice venison pies whose pale gold-colored crust was raised in
fanciful shapes. Between the roasts were dishes of plover, woodcock and
partridges roasted on the spit, and strings of larks served by the
half-dozen on the little splinters of wood upon which they had been
cooked. The third course consisted of entrées, salads, both sweet and
salt, perfumed omelettes, blanc-manges, burnt creams, fritters and fruit
pies. The fourth was dessert, for which there were fruits piled in
pyramids, cakes, macaroons, march-paine and preserves of various kinds,
the whole accompanied by the fashionable French wines of the day.

As a host, stately, brilliant, imposing, the Governor-General was at his
best. The winning grace that tempered his strenuous will, the delicate
condescension of his bearing, charmed his guests, as they had ever the
power to bind his own party into devoted adherence.

“A last toast before we leave the table: ‘To the glory of our arms.’
Help yourselves, gentlemen, and here’s to you,” carrying to his lips a
golden goblet engraved with the family arms, “To the glory of our arms.”

The guests bowed ceremoniously in acknowledgement, raising their goblets
and repeating, “To the glory of our arms.”

The room to which the company adjourned was a long drawing-room with
curtains of the finest Turkey red, embossed with a damask pattern. The
high carved mantel-piece was painted white. There were rich fauteuils
and couches, buhl cabinets and spindle-legged chairs. On rosewood
cabinets, inlaid with ivory, stood dainty Japanese jars filled with
spices and dried rose-leaves.

The company was as brilliant as beauty and wit could render it. The
fascination and marked individuality which have made of Frenchwomen a
power, and rendered them an inspiration to the men of their race,
stamped on all around them the impress of their aptitudes, their graces,
their charm. Card-tables were set out; the older guests played at
lasquenet, hombre, piquet and brélan; the younger members of the party
revelled in charades and _boutrimés_, or listened to the soft strains of
the théobe. In this charmed circle Madame la Marquise reigned like an
empress. Diane, thoroughly in touch with her surroundings, had never
looked more beautiful. From the white and silver brocade of her robe
rose a regal head and neck; beneath the powdered masses of hair her eyes
burned deeply like violet stars.

“The fairest favorite of Versailles cannot compare with this peerless
flower of New France!” declared the Governor-General, who was considered
a connoisseur in feminine charms. “She has that in her face that would
send men to death as to a banquet.”

“Mademoiselle, will you permit an old man whom your freshness has made
young again to pay his devoirs? Your father was among my early friends,
as Madame la Marquise will bear me witness.” Frontenac made a low bow,
his palms steadying his sword, while his spurs clanked and his plumed
hat, held in the right hand, swept the ground. He spoke the accepted
language of gallantry, uttering the strained courtesies of the Court and
high society; but the homage offered was palpably sincere, and carried
with it a subtle flattery.

The Chevalier de Crisasi held his place at Mademoiselle de Monesthrol’s
side. The Chevalier was owned body and soul by this girl; there was a
pathetic dignity in his very hopelessness. Even to hint at his
affection, under the present unfortunate circumstances, would have been
so glaring a departure from French precedent that the courtly gentleman
would have shrunk from attempting it. He could, however, express many
varying meanings with his eyes, while the rest of his face remained
blandly inexpressive; the most rigid propriety could not deny him that
privilege. The slow veiling of his eyes was like a silent salutation.
Regarding the Chevalier with attention, Diane, by the aid of that new
intuition which vitalized all her faculties, perceived a change in the
man with whom in high spirits of girlhood she had carelessly trifled. Is
this the misery of sleepless nights and weary days—the sick craving of
a heart at variance with itself? A swift thrill of misgiving crossed her
mind. Was it possible that her witcheries had helped to crush one upon
whom the hand of misfortune had already been laid heavily?

“But she is a Circe, the Demoiselle de Monesthrol, a superb, magnificent
creature whose spells are irresistible; but, alas! without heart,
without soul, like the coquettes of the Court,” complained d’Ordieux,
who found himself secluded from the circle which surrounded Diane, and
whose views of matters in general were in consequence somewhat
embittered.

“Ah! softly, my friend, softly, but what a comparison! Women of the
Circe type to me offer no attraction. I prefer something simple and
natural.” Du Chesne laughed with easy frankness as his eyes turned to
the spot where Lydia sat looking like a pale blush rose, childishly
engrossed with all about her.

“‘Simple and natural,’ indeed. How you talk, my cousin. And who could be
more simple and natural than our Diane? You are blind because you won’t
see,” sharply interrupted Le Ber’s niece, Madame de St. Rochs.

Wife and mother at thirteen, the little lady wore her matronly dignity
with exaggerated demureness, or sometimes in the wild exhilaration of
youthful spirits forgot it altogether. Now, with her piquant, mutinous
face, she looked in her rich costume like some pretty, mischievous child
masquerading in the stately robes of a grown woman.

“_Sainte Dame!_ who so sweet to the old and the sick as Diane? who so
patient with the little ones? When my baby—”

“When that baby’s mother,” mischievously interrupted du Chesne, his eyes
twinkling with fun, “heartlessly abandoned the poor infant in order to
enjoy the amusement of sliding with the children, Diane, moved to pity
by its desolate condition, doubtless took the marmot under her
protection. Say, then, is it not so, cousin?”

“Not at all, du Chesne. Could you believe so wicked a falsehood? I went
only to see that no harm befell the little ones, and—”

“And were tempted to join in the amusements. What a situation for a
matron of experience!” The young Canadian delighted in provoking his
quick-tempered cousin. “And the doll, Cecile, that remained so long
hidden in the old oak chest that Armand, believing it a secret concealed
from him, became wildly jealous. When the baby was ill, St. Rochs
cradled the marmot on one knee and his wife on the other, singing
soothing lullabies to the two babies at once. Was it not so, Cecile?”
persisted her good-natured tormentor.

Madame de St. Rochs flushed angrily. Tears of vexation sprang to her
eyes, though she made a determined effort to control herself.

“Say, then, Cecile, have you heard of the Indian witch who is camped at
the foot of the mountain?” It was Diane de Monesthrol who came to the
little mother’s relief. “Strange things are told of her. She is said to
have attained a marvellous age, and to be possessed of extraordinary
powers.”

“She foretold the disasters of the Sieur la Salle,” said Crisasi.

“Let us organize a promenade to visit her,” urged Madame de St. Rochs,
who was immediately interested. “Baptiste Leroux can tell us all about
her, and guide us to where she is to be found. He is as familiar with
the Indian customs as with the five fingers of his hand. A genuine
witch, and the sorcery practised by the natives is said to be of the
worst possible kind. _Ciel!_ let us go.”

“Oh, fie! then, Cecile; such vagaries are unfitting a dignified matron.
Your destiny is already settled. What would you more? A second husband
before you are twenty?” The glimmer of laughter was shining in du
Chesne’s eyes, though his face was grave.

“Rest tranquil, cousin, it is about your fate I would concern myself.
And, oh! there are a thousand things I would know. If Armand is soon to
rise in the army?—we have indeed need of a larger income—and Diane?
and the Chevalier? and the Sieur d’Ordieux?—yes, I would know what
their fortunes are to be—and whether those wolves of Iroquois will end
by devouring us all? I would know all.” Madame de St. Rochs would not
include Lydia, whose beauty and tractability had never won her favor,
and against whom she had conceived a blind and inveterate prejudice.

“Are you so determined to obtain a glance into futurity, Cecile?”
Diane’s eyes sparkled with a glance of audacious fun. “Lydia will become
a nun of the Congregation of Notre Dame. Cecile will be a
great-grandmother before she is forty. The Chevalier will receive a
command and win honor and renown. The Sieur d’Ordieux will regain his
rights and appear as a great noble at the Court. Armand will be a
General.”

“And my cousin du Chesne?”

“Du Chesne will be Governor-General of New France, and subdue the
Iroquois and discover new countries for the King,” said Diane, with a
momentary stirring of impatience, quick and vital.



                             CHAPTER XVII.


                         _THE MATSHI SKOUÉOU._

AS the party came out into the street the flambeaux of the servants
flared wildly against the solemn sky of night.

“It is against the rules of the Church, this expedition,” hazarded
Lydia, raising the most beauteous of anxious eyes.

“Then risk it not,” counselled Madame de St. Rochs, briskly. “There is
always a danger of being attacked by the savages, but we shall be well
protected. For us, that promenade takes place to-morrow. Just fancy, a
witch who talks to the devil face to face! It is assuredly a sin, but we
will do ample penance afterwards, and Father Denys is never severe to
those who are contrite for their sins.”

“There is but evil to be found with the witch of the woods and all
others of her tribe, I answer to you for that, Mesdames and Messieurs.”
Bras de Fer removed the pipe from his mouth and gazed around
reflectively at the circle of eager faces. Here, where he could pose as
an authority, he found no difficulty in expressing his views. “Trust to
the experience of a coureur de bois to whom the silence of the forest
has taught much that is not found in books. Tales of the most exciting I
could tell you of the Lady of the Iris, whom the redskins call Matshi
Skouéou.”

“Tell us, then, I pray thee, good Baptiste,” implored Madame de St.
Rochs. “It is in such tales we delight.”

“The Matshi Skouéou,” the voyageur began, “is in alliance with the Evil
One, and this witch must be one of her disciples. Her green eyes possess
the power of fascination, like those of a snake. On her head she wears a
crown of iris flowers, and she is surrounded by flames of fire. She
never appears in the light of day, but at midnight she descends upon a
moonbeam, and appears in the foam of waterfalls, in the shadow of dark
rocks, or among the mists rising in the valleys. Her favorite hour is
when all nature reposes, the time when the fire-flies, those spirits of
the lost, dance over the rank marshes; when bats beat the air with their
wings, or cling with sharp, slim claws to the rocks; when the silence is
broken only by the croaking of frogs and the hou-hou of night birds. It
is then the Matshi Skouéou descends to gather the iris with which to
crown herself and to invoke the great Manitou.

“‘Children,’ say the old people, and they know that of which they speak,
those old ones; ‘never go near the river by moonlight. Hidden behind the
rushes the Lady of the Iris watches for her prey; her voice enthralls
the senses, but those upon whom her glance falls are blighted. Woe to
him who falls into her power.’ No, no, Mesdames and Messieurs, remain at
home and say your prayers; think not of the witch of the woods.”

This salutary advice, instead of allaying the young people’s curiosity,
served only to increase it. Baptiste, much against his better judgment,
was forced to serve as guide to the expedition, and the hardy voyageur
uttered the most doleful predictions concerning the disasters that would
surely follow this traffic with unholy things.

Far in the heart of the forest stood the solitary lodge of the Witch of
the Woods. The witch herself was a diminutive old crone, wrinkled and
shrivelled like a mummy, in whom the whole force of a vigorous vitality
was gathered in a pair of luminous dark eyes. Displaying no surprise at
the late hour which the strangers had chosen for their visit, she
received them with cringing servility, the chief characteristic of her
face being a kind of animal cunning.

When the merry party found themselves in direct contact with the
consequences of their indiscretion, all the fun of the enterprise faded
away, and only the undefined sense of terror and mystery remained. In
those days superstition reigned supreme; but at the same time existence
was environed with real dangers of so many kinds that it required no
effort of imagination to create phantoms of dread. As they stood
silently seeking mutual support and encouragement amidst the quiet of
the forest, a vague sound made itself heard. At first it was scarcely
perceptible, but growing more distinct, it rose in waves of tender
harmony, and then receded to die away in the distance. Lydia, frightened
and tired, began to cry. Bras de Fer had drawn his rosary from his
pocket, and was telling over his beads assiduously.

“The blessed saints will bear me witness that I am here against my
will,” he protested. “Besides that I am protected by a scapulary and a
piece of consecrated palm against the attacks of evil spirits.”

As the mysterious sounds were resumed, the bushranger looked up gravely
from his prayers.

“Ah! well, Mesdames and Messieurs, will you now believe the word of a
man who has not gained his knowledge from books? Midnight, the first
night of the new moon, that unearthly music! _Voilà!_”

“Bah! that is a seal on the rocks far in the distance,” responded du
Chesne promptly.

“_Mon dieu!_ I fear—I would I had not ventured—I dare not!” Madame de
St. Rochs turned her troubled childish face towards her companions, her
brown eyes moist with tears, when informed that those who would
penetrate the mysteries of futurity must, one by one, accompany the
witch into still deeper recesses of the forest. Du Chesne jestingly
assured her that as matron of the party she should set an example of
dignified courage.

“Let us return, Cecile,” proposed her husband.

Young as he was, Armand de St. Rochs had already given incontestible
proofs of gallantry, but he had no taste for ghostly terrors and would
have avoided them. But the girl-wife’s curiosity still exceeded her
fear; she would not consent to abandon her project.

“_Parbleu!_ that is demanding too much of a lady. It is the gentlemen’s
place to lead the way,” proposed Crisasi. “I shall be charmed to venture
first. Having little to risk and much to hope—.”

“And being, as your friends are well aware, a stranger to fear,”
interrupted du Chesne, laying his hand upon his companion’s shoulder in
a friendly persuasive fashion.

When after an interval the Chevalier returned to the party his smile was
as suave, his tone as bland as usual. No one would have divined that the
Sicilian had received, and accepted as irrevocable, his death-warrant.
Toward Diane he had gained a new confidence; his manner was respectful,
as became a gentleman, but he scarcely withdrew his eyes from her face.
The miserable past and doubtful future were forgotten in the rich flavor
of the exquisite present, intensified now by the conviction of its brief
duration.

Du Chesne presently reappeared, looking flushed and annoyed.

“It is a cheat! I saw nothing—but the water was red as blood,” he
announced.

“_Mort diable!_ I am convinced that no deception exists.” D’Ordieux
shook his perfumed locks excitedly. “I have had the very happiest
predictions, far exceeding my expectations, which should naturally be
great in a man of my rank—the promise of realizing my dearest hopes. I
entertain no doubt of its truth.”

“I wish we had not been tempted to come. I shall vow a taper to the
Virgin to keep us from harm,” whispered Madame de St. Rochs to her
husband.

“I am persuaded that this is very wicked. I was induced to consent
against my sense of right,” murmured Lydia, her blue eyes swimming in
tears. She was so deliciously timid and gentle that in his efforts to
reassure her du Chesne was betrayed into several trifling follies; but
her scruples were not sufficiently urgent to induce her to relinquish
her intentions, and she returned from the interview radiant and flushed.

It had finally come to Diane’s turn. The shade of the trees was
excessively dense, and for an instant the French girl stood confused by
the prevailing obscurity and the air of unreality in which all things
seemed to be wrapped. Presently she perceived the witch, with a long
wand in her hand, standing before a fountain of water. She was speaking
rapidly in her native tongue, her voice rising and falling in a weird,
monotonous recitative, a strange fantastic incantation in which distant
voices appeared to join, rendered more impressive by the perfect
stillness of the forest. She could hear sounding and re-echoing a slow,
solemn chant, dreamy and plaintive, redolent of mystery and
melancholy—long-drawn sighs, the whisper of angels’ voices, the song of
the winds, all those magical accents that captivate imagination. Then
there was a change. Quick and bright came broken notes, rising to a mad,
reckless gaiety that set the blood aflame; then mournful melody like the
autumn wind moaning in the branches, deepening and still deepening; anon
rising into the flourish of trumpets on the battle-field, and ending in
a funeral hymn floating through the dim aisles of some vast cathedral.
It was like the entrance into dream-life, for those enchanted strains
embodied all the extremes of human joy and suffering, aspiration and
yearning.

As she listened, the witch’s decrepit form expanded, acquiring size,
height and dignity; the crafty, sensual features gained a strange power
and majesty. A sudden sense of mystery, of dominant and all but
overpowering force, took possession of Diane. Every thought of her
heart, to the very depth of her being, seemed familiar to this influence
and responsive to its command. She shivered with an excited desperation
of feeling, of mingled desire and apprehension, of attraction and
repulsion. A rich, heavy perfume, resembling the fragrance of incense,
filled the air, and a thick cloud hung over the large basin of water
which stood before her. Obeying an imperious gesture of the Indian
woman, the girl advanced and bent over the basin.

Diane’s form grew rigid as she stood with eyes fixed on the water, their
pupils dilated in a terror-stricken gaze. A light film of pungent smoke
arose, which, wreathing itself in airy circles, seemed to catch a fiery
color from some unseen flame. Then, gradually crystallizing, it assumed
definite form. Was it a tissue of fancy and reality that produced a
creation so fantastic? Vaguely, as in a dream, she perceived remote
vistas, all weird and mysterious, peopled by spectral shapes, resounding
with far-off, uncertain footsteps. Then out of the darkness there glided
wavering, shadowy figures, at first faint and indefinite, then gradually
becoming more distinct. Clear as a reflection in a mirror, every
trifling, delicate detail perceptible, the scene shaped itself before
her eager gaze. It was a spacious apartment; two nuns were moving softly
to and fro about the lofty four-post bed; wax tapers, in tall
curiously-chased silver candlesticks, shed a softened radiance upon the
room. Lying on the bed, still and stately, like the heroic statue of
some knight asleep upon his tomb, lay a young man. In the shadow a girl,
slender and delicately formed, knelt upon a _prie-dieu_, her head bowed
upon her tightly clasped hands. For a time she seemed to be looking on
some scene that she had long known and loved, but which had taken on a
new aspect. Then as the flickering, uncertain light settled into a
clearer reflection, Mademoiselle de Monesthrol asked herself if that
aged nun with the sweet, benign expression did not surely resemble the
venerable Sister Marguerite Bourgeois; and that other, taller and more
active, certainly must be Sister Berbier, Superior of the Congregation
of Notre Dame. The young man’s features were concealed from her, but the
girlish mourner moved, and with the listlessness of apathetic suffering
turned her head.

A horrible paralyzing dread ran shuddering through Diane’s veins, for
that face, haggard, bloodless, convulsed by inexpressible grief, was her
own. Then a thick cloud of darkness passed between her and the mystic
scene; she was conscious only that the glowing eyes of the witch were
riveted intensely upon her. When, bewildered, she turned to look again,
all had collapsed like shadows in a dream; the basin of water alone
remained.

Diane did not often lose self-command. In this supreme crisis, when all
things seemed to be slipping away from her, she fought to persuade
herself that what she had seen had been all a creation of her own
imagination. A faint smile, like the palest of winter sunshine, curved
her lips; her hands tightened in a silent struggle at self-restraint.
When she raised her white face, a proud, confident look shone from her
eyes.

“Never yet has it been in the power of danger and disaster to daunt the
spirit of a de Monesthrol. Others have suffered—I may suffer—yet are
we still in the hands of the good God.” Drawing herself up with
conscious dignity, Diane spoke as though hurling defiance at some
unknown and threatening power.

The soft sounds of quivering leaves were the only noises that disturbed
the silence of the forest; she seemed to be surrounded by darkling
shadows profound with fate. The witch crouched low on the ground, her
face hidden in the folds of her blanket.

“We have been guilty of a folly. It is but an idle jest,” Diane said
quietly as she rejoined her companions. “We can go home now and do
penance for the sin we have committed.”

“Now that it is over I do not care about our expedition in the least,”
grumbled Madame de St. Rochs, who was tired and sleepy, and who had not
received the flattering predictions which her youthful buoyancy of
spirit had led her to anticipate.

Crisasi regarded Mademoiselle de Monesthrol earnestly. The man who loved
her alone perceived that the girl was stricken, and that, with hand
clenched hard against her heart, she was resolutely striving to control
her throbbing pulses.

“It has, indeed, been tiresome, and not worth the trouble,” he said
gently.

In the serene composure of Diane’s outward bearing as she left the scene
there was no trace of the tense passion and misery that were gnawing at
her heart. She was resolved calmly to face the future, whatever it might
contain.

                 *        *        *        *        *

That night, as the French girl lay awake, a strange flash of realization
came over her. Panting with pain and terror, flinging up her hands in
the darkness, she cried desperately:

“Holy Virgin! deliver me. That which I never imagined has come upon
me—has conquered me—that which will never again leave me in peace, all
my life long. Something beautiful and terrible—so terrible! Holy
Virgin! thou hast a woman’s heart—deliver me from this!”



                             CHAPTER XVIII.


                         _SAINTLY PROTECTION._

WITH each returning morn the land awoke, glad and fragrant, at the
caress of the pale dawn. The rooks clamored in their nests, the fish
rose in the lazy streams, the robins sang plaintively among the shrubs.
Mount Royal, St. Helen’s Island and the St. Lawrence glowed palpitant in
the magical summer haze. All nature seemed to breathe a spirit of
tranquil peace.

But despite this calm a dark cloud of alarm hung over the colony. The
air was full of rumors concerning the expedition which it was
confidently alleged the English were about to direct against Canada.
Priests and traders, nobles and bourgeois, bushrangers, and red-skinned
children of the forest, were content to forget prejudices and
animosities in consideration of the common interest, and to unite in the
extremity of their peril. Yet through all, the elements of true Gallic
light-heartedness relieved the poignant distress of the moment.

It was plainly understood that the situation of the colony was most
precarious. The garrison of Ville Marie consisted of but seven or eight
hundred soldiers, and of these many were posted at various points in the
surrounding country to protect the colonists while gathering in the
harvest. It was deemed advisable to draw in all of these for the
protection of the town. Prolonged echoes reverberated from Mount Royal
and across the St. Lawrence as guns were fired to recall the troops.
Soon they began to arrive, accompanied by many of the settlers seeking
the protection of the forts.

At this crisis the clamor of fear and anxiety and endeavor penetrated
even to the cloistered cell where the recluse, Jeanne Le Ber, strove to
shut out all sign of earth’s joys and sorrows, and to devote herself to
the contemplation of heavenly glories. Yielding to the urgent entreaties
of the Sisters of the Congregation, Jeanne Le Ber wrote upon a sacred
picture a prayer of her own composing, addressed to the Virgin. This the
nuns caused to be fastened up on a barn in the country (owned by the
community, and supposed to be peculiarly liable to attack), as a sort of
talisman, to preserve it from harm. This was Anne Barroy’s hour of
triumph; enjoying it to the fullest extent, her pride swelled to
enormous proportions. At this moment beauty, birth, breeding and worldly
pride could bear no comparison with the temporal as well as spiritual
advantages of superior holiness. “Our saint” and “that sainted one” were
the mildest terms in which Anne permitted herself to allude to her
cousin, and she never wearied of talking.

“When I enter her apartment,” the enthusiast would declare, with
impressive solemnity, “I perceive in the air a certain odor of sanctity
which gives me the sensation of an agreeable perfume. Truly she speaks
like a seraph and is the companion of angels. What a blessing to rest
beneath a roof which affords shelter to so perfect a creature, though
there may be those not so far away who fail to appreciate their
privileges.”

“For me!” cried Nanon with a clatter, “I had no necessity to travel to
Canada to make acquaintance with saints. We have them at home, and of
superior quality. There was St. Anne d’Auray, Mother of the Blessed
Virgin; and St. Geneviève of Paris, at whose shrine kings and nobles
worshipped; but indeed, I have no taste for home-made articles.”

Anne continued as though she were not aware of the interruption. She
knew that at this moment her words were eagerly listened to.

“Indeed, our saint accumulates merits against the day of judgment; those
who are wise would strive to share a small portion of them. From her
earliest years she began the study of perfection; every virtue was seen
and admired in her. It is the country of saints, this. Behold the head
of the martyred Frenchman, which amazed the Iroquois who had cut it off
by scolding them roundly for their perfidy, and threatening them with
the vengeance of Heaven. Think, also, of the handkerchief of the late
Père la Maître (may his soul rest in Paradise!) stamped indelibly, as on
a piece of wax, with the features of its former owner. The heathen
Iroquois have ever since been seen using it as a banner in battle.
Should the country be saved, our deliverance will be due to the prayers
of our sainted one, who has sacrificed herself as an expiatory offering
for Canada.”

“Might I commend myself to the good prayers of our reverend demoiselle,
and particularly to the sacrifice of the Mass for my intention,” urged
Jean Ameron, with eager subserviency. “And are you quite persuaded,
Mam’selle Anne, that our saint’s credit with the powers of heaven will
be sufficient to protect Canada from those sorcerers of English?”

Nanon glared at her adorer, who had so readily gone over to the enemy,
but in his fright his mistress’ ire had no terror for Jean. Anne
hastened to reassure him.

“Certainly. Have not the gentlemen of the Seminary and the blessed
Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame given ready testimony to her
perfection? Can you doubt the power of the saints, given them by the
blessed Virgin herself?”

“Assuredly not, nor should I dare to presume. Without doubt it is a
convenience to find one’s self near a holy saint, if she will but
remember the needs of the poor sinners, and exert her credit with all
the heavenly host on our account. Could our sainted demoiselle be
persuaded but to write me a little word that I might wear with my
scapulary to preserve me from evil fortune? _Voilà_, Mam’selle Anne, if
you would have the goodness to remark the fact, like the demoiselle Le
Ber herself I have denied myself the happiness of matrimony in order to
merit the favor of Heaven.”

“Ta, ta! there are saints and saints, my son, and thou wouldst place
thyself among them. Wilt thou then dare to compare thyself to that
spotless creature, reverenced by all the world for her holiness, who is
an expiatory offering for the sins of her country, and not a refuge for
cowardly lackeys? Out of my presence! It is that unruly ostrich Nanon
who has inspired thee with the thought of such impertinence!” cried Anne
with growing fury.

“Mam’selle Anne has always reason. Yet doubtless you will allow that my
bones are precious to me, and that it is a duty to take thought for
one’s self,” whimpered Jean.

When Jeanne Le Ber’s prayer disappeared, stolen from the edifice to
which it had been attached, to the consternation of the good Sisters who
had trusted implicitly in its efficacy, no one suspected the immense
solace which Jean derived from having it tucked comfortably away under
his scapulary.



                              CHAPTER XIX.


                          _A WOMAN’S LOYALTY._

ONE day scouts coming into the town informed the Military Governor, M.
de Callière, that Peter Schuyler, with a strong force of English and
Dutch troops, accompanied by Mohawks, Wolves and Mohegans, was marching
on Ville Marie. Rumor magnified the actual facts to the most exaggerated
proportions. A crowd of anxious people blocked the streets in every
direction.

“Is it true that the invaders are close at hand?” asked the baker.

“But assuredly,” responded the grocer, who in his haste had forgotten to
remove his blue woollen night-cap, the corner of which dangled rakishly
over his left eye. “It is the English who will make mincemeat of us.
They have sold themselves to the devil, and bathe themselves in the
blood of little children. I already see us all being devoured.”

“Ah! my good St. Anne!” cried a young woman, whose short homespun skirt
revealed a trim pair of ankles. “Can anyone tell if they are numerous,
these sorcerers of English?”

“Numerous, good woman? _Dame!_ but like the sands of the sea. A thousand
fire-eaters are close at hand.” A soldier who happened to be passing
amused himself at the public expense.

“Javotte! Javotte!” the woman shrieked, waving her hands excitedly.
“Five thousand English are upon us; we are all to be scalped and taken
prisoners immediately!”

This terrifying prediction spread among the populace, creating
consternation which almost amounted to a panic. Meanwhile energetic
preparations for defence were being made. All the military and most of
the bourgeois were under arms; among the soldiers appeared old men and
young lads who, in ordinary cases, would have been considered unfit for
service. It had become an absolute necessity that anyone who could
shoulder a musket should lend a helping hand. Women and children, who at
the signal of alarm had come in from the surrounding country, were
busily occupied in carrying their poor possessions to the shelter of the
citadel or to the convents. Here an invalid with pale face was carried
on a hastily improvised stretcher; there an old man, anxious to preserve
the poor remnant of life that remained to him, tottered feebly, leaning
on his daughter’s arm; yonder a young mother, frantic with terror,
flying in search of refuge, bore in her arms a tiny babe, the little one
regarding with true infantile calmness the unfamiliar scene of tumult
and confusion.

“Make way there, good people, make way!” cried a stout, robust woman,
who was bearing a large blue wooden chest, into which she had thrown
pell-mell everything she could collect—clothing, furniture and cooking
utensils all huddled together—and which was so heavy that it seemed a
marvel she could move it at all. “It is hard enough to get along with
never a man’s hand to help, or even to push, without being blocked up as
well. Make way there, I say!”

“Make way then yourself, Pétronille,” retorted the sharp, quivering
voice of a tiny, withered old crone, staggering under the weight of a
feather-bed. “Chut! screech-owl! see to it.”

“_Allons!_ Mère Poisson, bite with but one tooth. Rest tranquil, I pray
you. At your age it would appear more seemly to rest upon your mattress
than to drag it about the streets in the open light of day.”

“And your rubbish had better be burnt, it is so long since those things
have touched water.”

The shrewish Pétronille, enraged by the taunt, roughly jostled her
neighbor, who fell against a child carrying a clock; the glass cracked
into splinters, while a nail, standing out from the chest, tore a hole
in the covering of the mattress, from which, the feathers escaped,
flying out in a cloud. The child cried, the old woman loudly lamented
the catastrophe, but Pétronille, without even turning her head, and
still dragging her chest, pushed her way resolutely on.

                 *        *        *        *        *

It was decided by the authorities that M. de Callière should encamp at
La Prairie, to be in readiness to meet Schuyler’s attack, while
Valrenne, an officer of birth and ability, should proceed to Chambly
with one hundred and sixty regulars and Canadians, a body of Huron and
Algonquin converts, and another band of Algonquin converts from the
Ottawa, in order to intercept any of the English forces which might
chance to come by that way.

“Du Chesne goes in command of the Canadians.” Jacques Le Ber spoke with
a long-drawn sigh, that seemed to come from the depths of his heart.
These tragic episodes were interruptions to his own serious interests.
More than that, affection for his youngest son was entwined with the
closest fibres of his nature, and no one recognized the dangers of
forest warfare more clearly than the grave merchant, experienced in such
strife, who himself had ever been ready to serve his country.

“They are going to lay siege to Paradise, to win it and enter in,
because they are fighting for religion and the faith.” A sort of
passionate insistence contrasted oddly with the ordinary calm
preciseness of Pierre Le Ber’s level tones. The words fell upon the
father’s ear like a prediction which he resented. He regarded his eldest
son with a mingling of reverence and impatience, and then turned to seek
comfort in Diane de Monesthrol’s open, steadfast gaze.

“It is but a plain duty, my uncle; a soldier belongs to his country. It
is an honor that du Chesne should have been selected. The men adore him;
there is no one who has as much influence with them as he. How proud we
all shall be when he returns covered with glory.” The liquid voice,
speaking in tones of deepest compassion and tenderness, penetrated to
the core of the man’s scheming, worldly nature.

“Certainly times may change, my rabbit. Before now we have been reduced
to extremities, and have found deliverance. It may happen so again.
Whichever way it goes, there is nothing to be done but make the best of
it.” Saying this, Le Ber shrugged his shoulders with resigned emphasis,
though there were strange nervous twitches about his firm lips.

Diane was so young, so buoyant in her hopes, so high-spirited and
high-hearted, that neither fear nor shadow of disaster could easily
crush her. This was a time of trial, to be lived through as best they
could, but it seemed positive that, after all, things must go well. With
the sweet agitation of hope and delight dancing in her veins, she felt
only elation from the excitement around her. The spectacle of a courage
absolutely free from egotism was too common among the devoted Canadian
women of the day to attract much attention. Yet it was with some
surprise that those about saw Mademoiselle de Monesthrol throwing off
the dainty air of stateliness which was considered becoming to her
station, and growing sweet and womanly in the glory of self-sacrifice.
It was difficult to identify the proud and capricious beauty with the
gentle girl whose watchful eye and helpful hand were at the service of
all, who in a frank, generous fashion dealt out cheer and sympathy to
whoever chanced to need it.

“This is a change I scarcely expected, a new development,” mused the
Marquise, always critical and philosophical. “Well, the little one comes
of a race born brave and generous.” For an instant the keen eyes
softened, the delicate features quivered, warm waves of memory rolled
over the proud woman’s soul.

                 *        *        *        *        *

“Diane, I must talk with you. I can trust you entirely.” Du Chesne spoke
eagerly.

A hot wave of color swept over the girl’s face, but she raised her eyes
frankly to the young man’s.

Out of the careless gladness of his youth du Chesne was going forth to
meet the solemn future, full of lights and shadows. Nature breathed into
his heart an inarticulate thrill of prophecy, a dark foreboding. He
paused before advancing lightly to meet that fate, whatever it might be.
Grasping the outstretched slender hands so hard that the pressure hurt
the girl, he gazed at her with a subdued and silent tenderness, such as
he might bestow upon a sister. There was a shadow of anxious care upon
the merry, boyish face which no one could ever have associated with du
Chesne. He sought assurance and comfort from the companion of his
childhood. As he watched the moist red lips close firm and sweet above
the delicate chin, he was persuaded that his expectation would not be
disappointed. With a sob of excitement and agitation swelling in her
throat, Diane returned his gaze. A cry of momentary anguish almost
escaped her, but she scorned herself for the failure of courage, and
forced a smile upon lips that quivered. It was not weak repining, but
encouragement to strengthen his heart in time of need, that a man had
the right to expect from the woman who loved him.

“I have had too much experience of forest warfare not to know that I
take my life—aye, and carry it lightly, too—in my hand. A stray shot
from behind a tree”—Diane shivered—“a random blow from a tomahawk, and
all is over. There are things I would settle in case an accident should
befall me. I know you will be a true daughter to my father, who loves
you as though you were his own. And for Pierre—our good Pierre,”
knitting his brows in perplexity over a problem to which he had failed
to find a solution, “I don’t know. Things arrange themselves, Diane;
don’t trifle with him, or lose heart, my dear. I have promised a mass in
honor of the good St. Anne that things may go well with you both, though
I know not how. You have never trusted me as I mean to trust you.”

Diane’s heart suddenly stilled its fluttering, and sank like lead. Of
what interest at this supreme moment were Pierre’s concerns that they
should be allowed to occupy word or thought.

“We have been as brother and sister, truly attached,—is it not so,
Diane? I can remember now exactly what you looked like when my father
arrived holding you in his arms, saying that you would be my little
companion, and that I must be gentle and learn to protect you; and I was
so proud to have a little lady for my playmate. You have, indeed, been a
sunbeam in our house. Before we part I would share my secret with you,
knowing I can rely upon your sympathy.”

The conscious face, with its hot color and drooping eyes; the air of
happy confusion that sat so curiously upon impetuous, light-hearted du
Chesne; the tenderness that softened the force and boldness of his
features, thrilled the girl who stood beside him.

“On my return I shall ask my father’s consent to make Lydia my wife.
Should success attend our arms it will be a propitious moment to win a
hearing, and I want you to use your influence, which is great, to plead
my cause. My father is ambitious; greatly as he is attached to me, I am
by no means certain that his sanction will be easily gained. From the
first moment that my eyes rested upon the English captive I have loved
her. All through the winter before I met her I had passed through toil
and danger and carnage, and then that summer day her tender presence
dawned upon me like some star of peace and repose. You, too, have been
won by her sweetness. It was together we rescued her, remember, Diane. I
never loved you so dearly as when I watched your tender care of the
helpless stranger cast upon your mercy. She has the gift of winning all
hearts. For my sake I would ask you to protect and care for my
treasure.”

Du Chesne was so completely engrossed by his own thoughts and feelings
that he paid but slight attention to his companion. Diane’s rich color
had given place to a strange excited pallor. She looked at him with the
wild, hunted eyes of some desperate animal at bay. The world was
suddenly upheaving beneath her feet, and her heart stood still as the
keenness and sharpness of the shock crushed the spirit within her.

Oh, Heaven! not later than yesterday she had been as a queen, graciously
dispensing her favors, smiling tolerantly at Lydia’s petty vanities and
weaknesses—Lydia, who had come into her life as a stranger, stirring it
to its very foundations, robbing it of peace and happiness, leaving her
in return the blank of a great desolation—Lydia, whom she had protected
and cherished, who owed all to her generosity. Now a flash of lightning
had come out of the apparently cloudless sky, smiting her from her
pedestal, precipitating her into this awful void in which every
wretchedness was conceivable. Others had not been as blind as herself.
She remembered her aunt’s sarcasm, the hints Nanon had given her, the
ill-will to the English girl Cecile de St. Rochs had so often openly
expressed. The glare of illumination was intolerable, bringing with it a
galling, insupportable mortification. As these bitter truths flashed
upon her, Diane clenched her hands, flushing into a sudden rage of
bitter humiliation.

“Diane, you are surely not surprised? I thought that you, who are so
quick, would have divined my feeling from the first. I fancied that your
kindness to Lydia was inspired by friendship for me, as well as delight
in her charms.”

The trustful glance of the young man’s frank, eager eyes melted the fire
of pain and rage and jealousy. A piteous little smile crossed her lips,
as though she were amused at, yet very sorry for, that proud,
high-handed girl who had fancied herself supreme, and who was none other
than her old self. The vehement, hot-blooded creature was overwhelmed by
a black pall of shame and self-disgust. What did it matter if the whole
world crumbled away, and that her pride and vanity vanished with it? If
du Chesne sought comfort it must be her place, crowned by the glory and
agony of self-sacrifice, to supply it. No one could supplant the
companion of his childhood in that office. Turning her resolute face to
the future, without wasting a single thought upon her own strength or
need, she battled against the rush of strong feeling with a fierce,
determined energy.

Diane could scarcely stand, but she confronted the young Canadian with a
brave smile, a dumb denial of her anguish, and even succeeded in
assuming an air of gaiety.

“You did take me by surprise. I had no thought of this. But I am
grateful for your confidence, and shall try to prove myself worthy. And
then, my cousin, when you return——”

“Aye, return, who can tell how that will be.”

He paled before a supposition to which he dreaded to give form even in
his thoughts. Together with a stern sense of his own immediate duty,
which was to put through the work in hand steadily and cheerfully,
without any careful hesitation or speculation concerning the ultimate
ethics of the situation, there existed in Le Ber’s youngest son much
tenderness of heart towards the weak and unfortunate, and delicate
consideration for friends and kindred, as well as ardent devotion to the
chosen one of his heart. Existence was full of hope and generous
ambition; he was surrounded by kindly, faithful faces and honest love.
In the strength of his early manhood he was conscious of stirring hopes
and untold possibilities, above which shone the thought of his girl-love
with her innocent grace and guilelessness. All this was deepened by that
touch of uncertainty that gives exquisite intensity to affection, and
the quickened interest of tragic possibilities. These fancies were
followed by wiser and sadder thoughts, and immediate practical
considerations. Just as the color grew richer and the pace faster, and
life spread before him a full completeness he had never even imagined,
was it, he asked himself, to be stained forever by the cruelty of
circumstances? A great wave of sadness, a swift dread of advancing pain
and disaster, the reaction from his natural buoyancy of temperament,
rushed over du Chesne’s spirit.

“Somehow, Diane, when I try to picture my return, I cannot imagine how
it will be. Many times before have I started on such expeditions without
a thought; this time it is entirely different. I cannot help
remembering—it was less than a year ago—St. Helène’s fate. Then De
Clermont, Bienville, De Bellefonds, De la Motte, were close friends and
trusty comrades, with whom I fought and camped and hunted; where are
they? Gallant gentlemen, they have laid down their lives, gaily and
carelessly, forcing and country. _Mort dieu!_ what will you? A day
sooner or later makes but little difference. Shall I make a nightmare of
death?”

One thing, evident and definite, seemed to clear Diane’s dazzled
senses—du Chesne had turned to her for comfort. She held his hand with
a strong compelling pressure which had in it no trace of selfish
sentiment.

“But there are others, my cousin, whose duty compels them constantly to
go upon such expeditions, and who have ever returned unharmed.”

“Yes, but to you I do not mind confessing that for the last few days I
have been unnerved by strange fancies. It is because another’s fate
depends upon my own. It is for her, so young, so tender and trusting,
without protection of friend or relative; at this thought the heart
melts within me, and there is nothing to be done. Diane, you have ever
been strong and true; you could not fail one who trusts you.”

The strength of one dedicated to a pure and elevated purpose flamed into
Mademoiselle de Monesthrol’s eyes; all her face grew nobly luminous.
Every word she spoke was crystal clear, coming straight from the heart.

“You can trust me, du Chesne. I will be to Lydia a loving sister; I will
place her welfare before my own. With our Blessed Lady’s help I will be
as true and tender to her as I would be to you.”

“In life or death I commit her to your charge. You have removed my
heaviest care.” Du Chesne bent reverently to kiss the warm hand that
clasped his own. “I shall have perfect peace in trusting to the loyalty
of my brave and tender sister.”



                              CHAPTER XX.


                    _PREPARING FOR THE EXPEDITION._

PIERRE LE BER had lately been occupied in painting upon a piece of
fair white linen a picture of the Virgin, and this he had embellished
with all the beauties which an ardent imagination could suggest.

“_Ciel!_” cried Nanon, regarding the painting attentively, “It is a
beautiful picture, and in truth it resembles our demoiselle.”

This speech greatly scandalized Anne Barroy.

“It is not sufficient that this proud turkey would claim for her
mistress highest rank on earth; she would fain push her to the front
among the heavenly host as well,” she whispered to one of her familiars.

Jeanne Le Ber, who excelled in embroidery, had made a very beautiful
banner for the picture, and it was decided that this emblem of the
protectress of the settlement should be presented to the war-party as a
safeguard. Recognizing the fact that the panic-stricken settlers
required every available encouragement that could be derived from both
faith and patriotism, the ecclesiastical authorities organized a
procession, as imposing as the resources of the colony would allow, to
carry the flag to the Parish Church of Notre Dame, where it was to be
consecrated by Dollier de Casson.

The church was a spacious building. Above the great altar, blazing with
lights, rose an immense wooden image of our Saviour suspended on the
cross. Behind it the dim glories of the choir deepened into golden
gloom. From the lofty rood screen dark shadows, thrown by the lights of
distant altars, brooded over the space beyond. At the head of the
church, near the chancel, was placed a _prie-dieu_ for the Governor of
Ville Marie, who was surrounded by a brilliant group of officers.
Soldiers thronged the side aisles, and all the intervening space was
occupied by the confused movement of the throng of spectators. The eager
faces of all turned toward the high altar, with the banner displayed
before it, as though therein lay their only hope. Wistful women,
scarcely able to restrain their streaming tears, or wrapt in the heroism
of some higher purpose, gazed, hushed and awed, upon the little band of
heroes who for faith and country were willing to face danger and risk
life itself. Tears came to haggard eyes looking upon the flag.
Patriotism was an inspiring principle, faith a fervent flame, to those
who had already made great sacrifices for religion and country; there
was even a thrill of sweetness in the thought of dying for it. A fine
and simple courage sustained many a sinking spirit, and in the contagion
of popular enthusiasm there was but slight betrayal of individual
weakness. Many were moved to an almost passionate exhilaration by the
martial music, while others were overcome by the pathos of the brave
show, with its implied possibilities of horror, agony and death.

The service proceeded with intoning of litanies and chanting of psalms.
From a grated gallery, beyond the obscurity of the screen and crucifix,
floated the delicate harmony of sweet voices in wave after wave of soft
melody, like the measured refrain of an angelic choir, echoes of an
eternal voice speaking to the human soul. The choir intoned the
_libera_, and when the concluding words of the last verse died away in
the arched roof, a woman’s voice, clear, pure and penetratingly sweet,
arose in the miseremine:

“_Miseremine mei, miseremine mei saltem vos amici mei. De profundis
clamavi ad te, Domine, Domine exaudi vocem meam._”

In the deepness of her human anguish, from the longing for strength to
sustain a wounded spirit and fainting flesh, Diane de Monesthrol
repeated:

“Out of the depths I cry unto Thee, oh, my God!”

She had come to realize that for herself nothing remained but an
absolute, solitary and sorrowful renunciation; but this was no time for
indulgence in sinking of heart or depression of soul. Some spirit
stronger than herself took hold of her, giving her the look of an
embodied passion, beautiful but terrible. Her figure and her whole
attitude were instinct with resolution; every word and movement was
vitalized by an inspiration. Her face was full of vehement life—eyes
kindling, cheeks flushed, lips trembling, nostrils quivering. Led by
some subtle intuition, timid souls crept near her for comfort and
support. If an impatient expression broke from her unawares, she quickly
controlled herself, and followed it with words of hope and consolation.
Suffering was so new to her that any sort of exertion seemed preferable
to passive endurance.

“Don’t leave me, Diane; you inspire me with courage. Oh! it is fine to
be brave and strong as you; but then you are not risking your heart’s
dearest; and you, who laugh at men’s follies, and despise their
sentiment, you have never known what it is to give your heart to one
alone. Hold me fast, then, Diane; let me feel you close when the time
comes to look my last on Armand’s face—perhaps for ever. Oh! I dare not
allow myself to think of that possibility. I am a soldier’s wife; do not
let me forget it. I promised him to be brave, though my heart should
break with the effort; he must not see me fail,” whispered little Madame
de St. Rochs, all her childish features quivering in the effort to
restrain her grief.

“My Cecile, your gallant soldier may be proud of your courage. You will
do your best to strengthen his heart.”

An old woman, with two weeping children clutching frantically at the
skirts of her gown, paused in mumbling her rosary as Diane passed, and
held up her withered hands imploringly.

“Oh, Mademoiselle! it is Pierrot, my youngest, the father of these
helpless little ones, who goes with the expedition. Their mother died at
Easter. If anything happens to him they have but me to look to; and in
these expeditions each man has his share, big or little, according to
the size of the cake—”

“It is to fight for his country, my poor Mère Bernichou.”

“His country—but yes, they all say their skin belongs to themselves,
and they must dispose of it to their taste; but when the men are killed
what is to become of the old people and the babies, I ask you that?
Three of Pierrot’s brothers went the same way, but not one ever
returned. He is as strong as  a lion, and he worked for us so well. Oh,
my good and noble demoiselle! you are of those who are listened to by
the Blessed Virgin and the holy saints; pray for us, I implore you.”

Lydia, the tears running down her pretty, piteous face, with so sad a
curve of lips that seemed made for smiles, so wistful a glance in the
swimming blue eyes, made no effort to control her sorrowful
consternation. Trembling and shivering she clung to her friend’s arm,
and Diane was able to soothe her as a generous woman in her tribulation
may seek to console a creature more dependent than herself. She could
even keep in mind the fact that, though weak and frivolous, Lydia had
proved herself neither base nor deliberately treacherous; and she tried
loyally to remember that in every kindness she offered the English girl
she was lightening du Chesne’s burden.

As the crowd surged out from the church and flocked down to the beach,
the scene was a bright and varied one. The St. Lawrence stretched out
like a great mirror under the blaze of sunshine, reflecting every
floating cloud above. St. Helen’s, with banks of velvet softness, arose
out of this liquid light; the Mountain was varied with a hundred
restless rays playing upon secluded slopes and woody hollows. The summer
sun gleamed brightly upon bayonets and naked swords, and shone on the
rich costumes of the gallant French officers, whose nodding plumes
shaded hats adorned with gold, and whose lace ruffles, sashes and
sword-knots made a brave show. Some of the regulars wore light armor,
while the Canadians were in plain attire of coarse cloth and buckskin,
their provisions strapped on their backs. Much rivalry existed between
the latter and the French. The Canadians had adopted the Indian mode of
fighting, while the Frenchmen, accustomed only to civilized warfare,
found it difficult to adapt themselves to the methods of the savages.

Among the soldiers walked, with a solemn dignity befitting the occasion,
the dog which was inscribed on the regimental list as M. de Niagara, and
to whom regular rations were granted. The progeny of a dog named Vingt
Sols, who had done good service at the fort of Niagara, where he was
held in high esteem, this animal had been brought from that place by M.
de Bergères and taken to Chambly, where his master served as commandant.
As the roads leading to this post were often blocked by Iroquois war
parties, it was found extremely difficult to send or receive news from
Montreal. At this critical juncture M. de Niagara solved the problem of
how despatches might be conveyed. It was noticed by the garrison at
Chambly that the dog found his way of his own accord to La Prairie de la
Madeleine. Fearing that some of the French with whom he had started had
been captured by their enemies, a letter was written and fastened to the
animal’s collar, and he was driven out of the fort. He at once took the
road whence he had come. Reaching Chambly, the despatch was read, and,
with an answer tied to his collar, the dog was sent off again. Thus
communication was established between the two posts, and many a life
saved. M. de Niagara always took part in reviews, was profoundly
conscious of his own importance, and was regarded by the soldiers with
the greatest affection as a true and staunch comrade.

A corporal drummer, escorted by two armed soldiers, marched through the
streets beating a rhythmic movement, which, joined with the shrill notes
of a fife, thrilled the nerves, while the air resounded with the deep
clamor of bells mingling with the fantastic cries of the Indians and
bushrangers. The condition of things was so precarious that a courage
born of desperation inspired the colonists. “In order to breathe,” they
assured one another, “one must hope.” It was hard to realize grim
possibilities of death and disaster amidst sunshine and music and
movement. After all, if the worst were to come, it was better to enjoy
the present moment. The spirit of adventure had already made itself felt
in the French blood, a rapid current wonderfully susceptible to elation.
A wild gaiety began to exhibit itself. Not to be subdued by an
emergency, certain lively youths could be heard shouting hilariously to
one another.

“I lost my tobacco pouch,” cried Bras de Fer, to whom the prospect of
action had restored a comfortable spirit of self-assertion; “one quite
new, too, made out of the skin of a little seal that I killed on the
Island of M. de St. Helène last year. Ah! if one of those English
wizards falls into my claws, and I don’t succeed in making a better
pouch out of his skin, may I be scalped before All Saints. The fox
counts on eating the goose, but there are occasions when things turn the
other way; then it is the goose who gets a chance at the fox. Our hearts
are in this affair, and that is something.”

“It is impossible to content all the world and his father,” grumbled an
old soldier, “or to take time to enquire what his servants, his ass or
his ox may think about. For my part, I enjoy these little skirmishes;
they give a spice of variety to life. I don’t want to spend my days
telling stories in the chimney corner.”

“My little brother Jaquot, a true imp of the devil, who is only thirteen
and can manage the arquebus like a man, says, ‘It’s the season for
plums, and truly we will make them eat the stones.’ No fear but we shall
turn out all right. Our captain is brave as the King’s sword; no one
need fear to follow his lead. After all, I like better to kill the devil
than to permit him to kill me. But pardon, my commandant,”—Baptiste
took the freedom of an old and trusted servant—“Pardon, but it is an
evil day to start on an expedition.”

“And why, pray, Master Bras de Fer? What are you croaking about there,
old bird of ill-omen?” All shade of melancholy had passed from du
Chesne’s spirit as soon as practical affairs required his attention. His
face was now all alight with martial excitement. Amidst the cheerful
sounds of human bustle and movement his spirits rose to any height of
adventure.

“Is not to-day Friday? Don’t laugh, my commandant; we don’t learn these
things from books, they are what we see and know; every chance counts.
The day of ill-omen, I would it were another day we were starting.”

“Bah! old wives’ tales,” du Chesne laughed merrily. “You will never give
a thought to that when once the fight begins. Let me hear no more such
nonsense.”

Bras de Fer shook his head in solemn disapprobation.

“A closed mouth never swallows flies. I might have spared my breath. To
think that I carried him in my arms and taught him to shoot! The Lord
send me plenty such commandants, there are not many like him; but
Friday—I like it not.”

“You have a rage for searching noon at fourteen o’clock, my poor Bras de
Fer,” remonstrated the old soldier. “_Saccagé—Chien!_ I have heard that
spoken of—the ill-luck of starting on Friday—but once let us come in
sight of those English and we shall think of neither A nor B.”



                              CHAPTER XXI.


                       _BAPTISTE FINDS HIS WITS._

NANON, who for the last few days had been as restless as an unquiet
spirit, had followed her mistress down to the beach, and now stood close
at hand, watching the preparations for departure which were being
energetically carried on. She found herself in a position antagonistic
to all her former instincts. Those about her were so completely
engrossed by their own concerns that no one remarked how greatly Nanon
had changed in the last few days. The Frenchwoman’s rich brown
complexion had turned to dark chalk color; her cap, usually poised so
coquettishly, was pushed carelessly to the extreme corner of her head;
the crushed lappets hung limp over her shoulders, her cheeks had lost
their rounded contour, her eyes were red and swollen with crying. A
rueful sense of loss was troubling her, and she had even ceased to care
whether Anne Barroy suspected the cause of her affliction.

“Is it for her sins that poor Nanon is taking thought, or is it the men
who are pleased to go that she is weeping for?” Anne had whispered to a
crony, taking care that her voice should be quite loud enough to be
overheard.

The malicious words revived Nanon’s spirit. As she spoke there was a
blaze of fiery agitation, and a light of pain flashed through the
moisture in her eyes.

“Yes, it is for the brave men going to their death that I am crying. I
am not ashamed of being soft-hearted; if there were more like me it
would be to their credit.”

“The poor Nanon! she fears that she may be left to make _la tire_ on the
feast of St. Catharine.”[4]

Baptiste, smoking his pipe in silence, eyed Nanon reflectively. He was
very slow, but he was very sure, and an heroic resolve was gradually
assuming definite proportions in his mind. Things could not continue as
they had been; any change was better than that. He meditated upon his
long, hopeless passion. When did it begin? He could not decide that; it
seemed always to have dominated him. Away in the forest, amidst toil,
hardship and privation, when he thought of home, it was Nanon’s saucy
face that smiled upon him. He thought upon all the wit and sparkling
vivacity that rendered his cruel love charming, the oppressive thraldom
in which she had held him, the burning pains of jealousy which he had
endured. No one knew better the dangers of an expedition such as that
upon which he and his comrades were starting, and none dreaded them less
than Baptiste Leroux. But the thought that he might never again see
Nanon confused and depressed his mind; happily it also inspired the
great simple fellow with a more desperate courage than any required to
resist the attacks of English or Iroquois, or to die in defence of his
country.

“That is the last of all trades—a coward,” he said to himself. “My
principle has always been to conduct matters by beat of drum. After all,
I can be in no worse condition than I am now; so here goes, even if I
pay through the nose for it.”

He stretched out his strong right arm, quietly took possession of his
coquettish mistress,—who appeared to be so entirely taken by surprise
that she made no attempt to offer resistance—enveloped her in a great
bear’s hug, kissed her once, twice, a dozen times, then recovering
himself, loosened his hold. Realizing the enormity of his offence he
stood humbled and contrite, with bowed head, to receive the punishment
of his audacity. He could conceive no idea of what form the tempest
which was about to break upon his devoted head was to assume, but even
the noisiest clamor of Nanon’s sharp tongue would be less terrible to
bear than this breathless silence. Feeling that he could no longer
endure the suspense, he burst out impetuously:

“I do not care, I could not help it; you may be enraged if it pleases
you; in truth, I could no longer contain myself. Any good woman would
have some pity on a poor fellow.” Words were scarce with Bras de Fer,
but now he was fairly started, the sound of his own eloquence delighted
him, and he continued boldly, “If to-morrow I am to be scalped, or
thrown into the Iroquois kettle—and either may likely happen—I shall
have had the satisfaction of feeling what it would be like if you were
really my own girl, who would welcome me back if I should be so lucky as
to escape tomahawk and bullet, and who would mourn for me should I
fall.” The light of a strong love illumined his brave, honest face as he
spoke.

There was still silence. It was hard that at such a moment she should
remain obdurate. His heart swelled to bursting; she must be altogether
heartless. Bras de Fer at last found courage to steal an anxious,
imploring glance in the direction of his sweet tormentor. Nanon stood
still as a statue; the warm tears were streaming down her cheeks, but a
strangely happy smile lingered about her lips.

“If you please, Master Baptiste Bras de Fer, but it is an innocent one
may eat with salt, your Canadian.” The color had returned to the girl’s
cheek, the sparkle to her eye. “Your wits have long been wool gathering;
say, then, is it possible that you have found them at last? Did you
expect the women to make love to you, my fine big fellow?”

                 *        *        *        *        *

Du Chesne had drawn Lydia apart from the crowd. The girl made no effort
to control herself; sobbing convulsively, she clung to him as, taking
her hands in his, his eyes went slowly over her from head to foot. He
was silent, as one who, looking for the last time on a face he loves,
would carry the memory of it with him to the wide world’s end.

“Stay! Give the expedition up; let the others go. What does it matter?
Even if the English come here, I may find friends among them. Do not
leave me; the parting will kill me,” she entreated.

The young Canadian shook his head. He scarcely understood her thought,
or grasped the idea that she should dream of placing herself between him
and his duty. A low, pitiful wail, like that of some helpless creature
in distress, stole unawares from her quivering lips. Du Chesne shivered,
and looked around fearfully. In all his life he had never endured
torture like this; great drops of moisture gathered on his brow. Could
courage desert him now? It was Diane who, rousing her dauntless spirit
with courage that affection alone could give, came to his aid. She had
reached the highest manifestation of human passion—self-sacrifice—and
was learning that the soul can be taught to bear pain as the saints
taught their bodies to bear the rigors of hardship and
self-mortification. She was like a soldier who must fight till the last
gasp, who must bear every blow like a stoic, so long as there was any
excuse for the conflict.

“They call you, du Chesne; leave Lydia to my care. The Blessed Virgin
protect you.”

An expression of sharp anguish for a moment marred the composure of his
countenance. A quick breath escaped him, half groan, half sob; one long,
lingering look, and he was gone.

-----

[4] A saying commonly applied to confirmed spinsters.



                             CHAPTER XXII.


                            _THE DEPARTURE._

PIERRE LE BER and de Crisasi were standing side by side; the Chevalier
was also to form one of the expedition. As Diane looked at the two men
she was conscious of a pang of keen self-reproach. Had her girlish
levity and thoughtlessness indeed made havoc of their lives? Her
imagination endowed them with the pathos of her own suffering. Pierre
was thin and haggard. He had drifted far from that state of acquiescent
contemplation, passionless and impersonal, destitute of either desire or
movement, which in the estimation of the mystic constitutes the highest
conception of enduring bliss. A dreadful tension of resistance, a dim
anguish of fear and impotence, had him in possession. His passion
blinded him, but it could not stifle the abhorrence of the chains which
bound him, nor could it restore his self-esteem. He seemed to have
fallen to the lowest depths, yet this despairing dream was more
exquisite than any of his mystical visions.

De Crisasi, on the contrary, in the perfection of his high breeding, was
even blander and more courtly than ever. He was a strong man, who could
calmly set self aside and rise above the sensations of the hour. The
Indian witch’s prediction, in his opinion, had settled the whole affair.
He had received his death-warrant, and since all was so soon to be over,
it was really not worth while to trouble about mundane matters. Life had
been hard of late years, and this very conflict would likely end all. He
had always desired a soldier’s death; he had a soldier’s simple faith,
too, in the duty of obedience, courage and discipline, and made no
question that fate had dealt hardly with him. As Diane’s glance met his,
over her whole frame there came a tremulous fluttering of apprehension,
as though beneath the warmth of true affection her self-control were
breaking; something inexpressibly touching came into her eyes. That look
overcame the man who loved her. De Crisasi removed his hat, and bowed
profoundly.

“M. de Chevalier,” the girl exclaimed impulsively, “let me wish you
God-speed. My prayers shall follow you.”

His heart leaped into his throat. Could it be possible that his devotion
had won its reward, that the twilight of life should be gilded by a ray
of vivid sunshine? Then he smiled at the absurdity of his own fancy. Two
great hot tears, that scorched like fire, gathered in Mademoiselle de
Monesthrol’s eyes, and fell upon her cheeks unheeded.

“M. Le Chevalier, my cousin du Chesne carries with him all our hopes,
especially those of my uncle and my poor Lydia. If it should happen to
be in your power to shield him from danger, I know we can rely upon you,
our friend.”

The Sicilian had given this girl the best love of his heart, yet their
acquaintance had been at best but a formal one. His fancy had endowed
her with many high qualities, but never before had he realized her
tenderness and simple womanliness. He spoke in a low, moved tone.

“The confidence with which you have honored me, Mademoiselle, shall not
be in vain. It is a soldier’s fate to die with fortitude and
resignation, professing the fate of a Christian. Du Chesne is my valued
friend and comrade; if any act of mine can avail to help him, to bring
him back to those who love him, you can trust to me. The prayers of such
as you, Mademoiselle, must ever be heard in heaven.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

“Diane, hold up the little one, high, there, that his father’s last look
may rest upon his face. I can no longer see,” pleaded Madame de St.
Rochs, “and Armand must not see me weep.”

“Diane, I can’t bear it, I am fainting; take me home.” Sobbing and
quivering, Lydia clung to her friend. “I am afraid of the Indians and
the noise. Oh! let us go away.”

“For our Blessed Lady’s sake try to comfort her,” were du Chesne’s
parting words. “She is only a child, sensitive and tender-hearted, and
it is I who have brought this sorrow upon her. For my sake be good to
her, Diane.”

“My daughter!”

As he looked upon his youngest son, Jacques Le Ber grasped his ward’s
arm. He spoke almost sternly. The strong muscles about his mouth
quivered, though the facial lines did not lose their firm expression.

A soft golden haze, obscuring the view of the opposite shore, lay upon
the river, sweeping on in subdued silvery tints. The Indians manned the
large elm-bark canoes, their paddles cleaving the sunshine and dimpling
the waters of the river. The savage voices arose in a wild tumult of
resounding yells; the soldiers cheered lustily; a sharp wailing cry
resounded from the shore.

The agony of parting, the strain and stress of the hour at last over, du
Chesne stood erect in the bow of his canoe. His handsome young face,
eager and animated with the excitement of adventure, bore no trace of
grief or care or doubt; in the relief afforded by action all dark
forebodings had sunk into the background. As the boats vanished from the
tear-dimmed eyes that watched the last gleam of the receding oars, the
strains of a stirring chorus resounded across the wave—

                     “_Grand Dieu! sauvez le Roi._
                     _Grand Dieu! sauvez le Roi,_
                               _Sauvez le Roi._
                     _Que toujours glorieux,_
                               _Louis victorieux,_
                     _Voit ses enemies,_
                               _Toujours soumis._”



                             CHAPTER XXIII.


                              _SUSPENSE._

LE BER stood alone in the world, though surrounded by family ties and
dependents. His individuality was so marked and striking that he had few
close friends, though his commercial interests bound him to many
associates. During this period of anxiety old griefs, seared over by
time and distance, acquired fresh vitality to sting. Pierre, in his
feverish unrest, had betaken himself to the hospital to pray; but it was
not so much the fate of the colony, or anxiety for his brother’s
welfare, that troubled Le Ber’s eldest son, as consternation concerning
his own individual shortcomings. His sister was as remote from her
father as though she had already attained that heaven which was the
object of her thoughts and prayers. The merchant’s spirit fainted for
sore need of human help, human nearness. In this emergency it was the
stranger that he had sheltered who clasped his hand, whispering bright
words of cheer and encouragement, ever ready to offer sweet and gracious
sympathy.

“You must learn to be brave, as becomes a soldier’s bride, my sweet
one,” du Chesne had exhorted Lydia. But the girl had no qualifications
for ripening and mellowing under the influence of any searching mental
experience. The atmosphere was antagonistic; she hated pain, longed for
brightness, pined for sunshine. She was peevish and nervous, and had no
idea of self-command; nor could she understand how it was that all the
world was not absorbed in her affliction. That soft, flattering aspect
of life in which she had delighted seemed to be receding from her.
Diane’s patience with her moods was unfailing, yet there was something
about the French girl that awed Lydia and held her at a distance. Le
Ber, who had conceived some suspicion that his long-dreamed-of plans for
an alliance with the de Monesthrols might be frustrated by the presence
of the English captive, looked upon her with cold disapproval. Whenever
she dared, Nanon, whose sense of exasperation had reached fever point,
jeered and flouted at the blonde beauty. Madame la Marquise, who had had
excellent occasion for weeping bitterly many times in her life, declared
that these ceaseless tears gave her the _migraine_.

“You will retire to your chamber, my daughter,” the Marquise commanded,
with a disdainful condescension which was not unkindly, looking down at
the swollen, tear-stained face with a serene surprise, too elevated to
partake of the nature of disgust. “You will have _tisane_ for the
sick—I have already commanded Nanon to prepare it—you will say your
prayers and remain in seclusion. Where there are many anxious hearts we
need cheer. There will be time for tears and lamentation when hope no
longer exists, although even then I cannot see that lamentation is of
use to ourselves or others. When the men are ready to give their lives
for their faith and their country, it is the women’s part to nerve and
encourage them; what are our pitiful weaknesses that they should stand
in the way of our duty? It is the right of the nobles to submit to the
decrees of Providence, to subdue the body, to show ourselves models of
cheerfulness and resignation, that the more ignorant may learn to follow
our example. But why talk or reason with those who have no ears to hear
and no spirit to learn the lesson? Therefore, my kitten, retire to your
own apartment, where, at least, you will have no chance of afflicting
others.”

It must be admitted that the Marquise de Monesthrol was given to
contemplating calamities with a courage which appeared overwhelming to
less undaunted spirits.

Madame de St. Rochs, unable to endure the loneliness of her own home,
determined to take up her abode at Le Ber’s. She came rushing in
impetuously, white, cold, and shivering, in the midst of the August
heat, clasping the baby and a bundle, which seemed all one, so closely
were they held. The childish creature threw herself at Diane’s feet,
clutching her friend’s knees, still grasping the bundle and the little
waxen baby, who never seemed alarmed, in the other arm.

“I cannot keep up alone any longer, and I am ashamed to let the others
see me grieve. Let me be quiet—hide me, and don’t let anybody look at
me. Diane, tell me how I can live till news comes. I have fearful
dreams; I cannot be strong like you.”

“At the first touch of sorrow these children think they will die,” mused
the Marquise. “Ah! life were very simple could it end when it becomes
unendurable. No; poor little Cecile, who is not without courage in her
childish way, will live through it all, and will learn to suffer like a
woman in the passion and patience of silence. But it is harder for those
older, who, while feeling the wound, know that time will heal, and yet
know that a look, a touch, a tone, will have power at any moment to
revive the old agony till life ends. The happy delusions of youth find
no resurrection.”

Under the soothing influence of Diane’s consoling presence, the baby
wife succeeded in recovering her courage. As her spirits rose in
transient reaction against the despondency which had crushed her, the
absurd, hapless child committed a hundred extravagances. She chattered
and laughed, played wild games with the baby and Nanon—pastimes which
were at any moment in danger of being interrupted by vehement
thunderstorms of despair.

“Our good friend Le Ber has afforded us protection; it is but right that
we should share his anxiety,” decided the Marquise.

Madame de Monesthrol’s reception-room was continually thronged by women
whose gaiety was almost reckless in its exuberance; but there remained
an intent, listening look upon the vivacious French faces and sobs often
struggled up surreptitiously amidst the laughter. While awaiting the
decision of all those tremulous doubts and fears, they bravely endured
the dreadful anxiety with which those shiver and burn whose strongest
hopes hang in the balance. After all, most of these sorely tried people
experienced a sort of desperate trust in circumstances; and the fact
that duty was the thing to be considered, and not anybody’s feelings,
was cheerfully recognized.

For the demoiselle de Monesthrol, the old order of things had been
completely overthrown. Deprived of affection and close sympathy, she was
still looking out upon a world not realized, a bewildered spectator of
something like the throes of creation, seeing the new landscape tumble
and roll into place, the heights and hollows changing. Those about her
had their own engrossing anxieties; no one thought of her save as a
friendly and disinterested sympathizer. Whatever she endured she endured
alone. Yet between every pang of heart sickness there intervened bright
glimpses of wayward sunshine, stirrings of fresh, uncontrollable hope.
Reserve forces of strength, hitherto unsuspected, developed under the
strain of silent endurance. Only a supreme resolve could have steadied
her nerves, calmed the fluttering pulses, and preserved self-command. An
expression of collected strength that was becoming habitual, and that
during life was never again to leave it, settled upon Diane’s face.
These few days had made the change of years. Her brow was contracted
with lines hitherto unknown to its broad serenity, her eyes looked out
eagerly from lids that had grown curved with anxiety, her mouth was
drawn and colorless. Through all she tried to remind herself that God
was still in heaven, faith and mercy on earth; the joy of her youth had
withered, but duty must teach her to be wise and strong and courageous.

“Blessed Mother of Sorrow, help me to bear through this hour—help me to
endure the burden for half a day—let my strength hold out till night,”
prayed Diane de Monesthrol.



                             CHAPTER XXIV.


                     _A PILGRIMAGE TO MOUNT ROYAL._

THE long anxious days that followed the departure of the troops, with
little occupation save that of watching and waiting, with endless
dreadful suggestions of what might be happening, were a severe ordeal to
the whole settlement. It seemed as though a trifle might turn the
balance—might mean ruin, total destruction of all hopes and plans, or,
on the other hand, afford the blessed sweetness of relief.

With Diane the flame of suffering burned so fiercely that it permitted
no rest. She could allow herself to look neither backward nor forward.
Suddenly swept out of the joy of her youth into circumstances so
desperate—waiting, dumb and steadfast, before the necessity which could
not be resisted—there were moments of wild rebellion of spirit,
paroxysms of impatience with life and its complications, a longing to
escape this restless wretchedness, which was almost unbearable,
alternating with brief, ecstatic moments of complete self-renunciation.
What was the strength of her womanhood good for, the French girl asked
herself, if not to teach her to tread with calm fortitude those dark
paths which seem to be the only way to heaven; if not to afford solace
to those dependent upon her ministries, to lead her to endure, with high
heart and constancy, the buffets of fortune.

Three days had passed, and yet to Ville Marie, waiting in anxiety, no
news had come. M. de Valrenne had promised to send a messenger directly
he could secure any tidings of the enemy’s movements, and many regarded
this prolonged silence as ominous of disaster.

The night of the third day was oppressively warm; the landscape lay
wrapped in a soft incense-breathing obscurity. The feverish excitement
tingling in Diane de Monesthrol’s veins drove away all thought of sleep.
Suspense imparted an unnatural keenness to all her faculties,
imagination was stimulated to the highest point, fears and fancies
thronged her excited brain. Her pulses leapt with a prescient thrill of
some blow about to fall. She was convinced that a supreme crisis had
arrived, the endurance of which would tax her strength to the utmost. It
seemed as though, in the midst of her gay and fearless career, she had
been caught in the gigantic iron hand of a ruthless Fate that could not
fail to crush her.

Suddenly her whole being seemed to contract and shiver, with a nameless
agony of apprehension. She could no longer endure the house, which
seemed to stifle her; perhaps the cool night air might relieve this
overpowering horror. Breathless, trembling, she rushed out into the
garden. Over Mount Royal the moon was shining in a cloudless sky, its
sheen lighting up the tin roof of Notre Dame until it shone like silver,
illuminating the dark foliage of the quaint garden, and driving its
lances of pearly light through the close-woven branches. Beneath the
shade a sort of mystic twilight prevailed; the dim trees rose in soft
undulations half veiled in the faint and dreamy light. In the silent
hush of nature the dew fell like a benediction; all the breathings of
night were suggestive of peace and balm.

Diane moved amidst the familiar scene with a dazed and bewildered
consciousness that made all her surroundings appear like the dim reality
of a dream. This ethereal twilight, with its pale, ineffable clearness,
seemed to be the hour of tender reveries, of delicate visions. She
heard, without heeding, a hundred crackling sounds—echoes, movements,
the rustling of leaves, the occasional twittering of some bird disturbed
in its nest. A depression deep and dark, the inevitable reaction
succeeding a long strain of agitation, took possession of her. The
feverish energy which had until now sustained her gave out, and with the
physical exhaustion came the mental. All the pain and trouble of the
last few days became focused into a haunting fear. It was one of those
times when it seems possible for a human being to stand outside of
material things; when the veil which hides the everlasting verities is
raised before eyes all pained and strained with gazing. The windows of
Jeanne Le Ber’s room, overlooking the garden, stood wide open to the
summer breeze. An overwhelming impulse moved Diane. No longer able to
stifle the cry of her anguish, she sank on her knees, stretching out
imploring, passionate hands. Was it the moonlight, or the play of her
own fancy, or did a slight, wasted form appear at the window, dreamily
indistinct in the prevailing obscurity? Had the urgency of human need
torn the saint from her prayers and her vigils? The girl’s voice, clear
and penetrating, echoed through the stillness.

“Have you, far away there, no feeling for our trouble? Even in the bliss
of heaven itself it seems as though one’s heart must be touched by love
and grief and pain. You have sacrificed yourself for the country—cannot
you help your own in their extremity? Du Chesne—he is your brother, if
you can recall the ties of kindred where you are—du Chesne may be
grievously wounded; he may even now be lying still in death. Have you
ceased to hear, to feel? Does no woman’s heart beat in your breast?”

Did a white face, with deep-sunken, haggard eyes look down upon her from
the window—a face more like that of a dead woman than a living one? It
seemed to the excited girl, driven to extremities by her own fancy as
much as by stress of circumstances, that her cry fell upon a
passionless, unseen world which returned no answer. There was a
blighting silence, like a conscious death. A heavy, dull despair settled
upon her.

“You are all alike, St. Joseph and the saints; you are content with your
own goodness, and are dead and deaf and dumb concerning the claims of
earth; but we others are only flesh, our hearts throb and bleed and
burn; we cannot keep silent. Du Chesne is nothing to me but my old
playmate, the companion of my childhood; I have no claim upon him, he
owes me no duty—he never even guessed that I cared for him. I merit
suffering, I who dealt it out to others, but why should he pay the
penalty for my fault? I have been pitiless, though I never meant it; the
good God may well be pitiless to me, but not to him, not to him. If I
could only tell the Chevalier that I repent; I never thought my coquetry
meant suffering, I regarded playing at love as a light jest.” Diane
detailed her misdeeds in a voice of anguish. “And Pierre, too, he might
have been happy enough with his prayers and his painting had I but let
him alone; but it amused me to try my power—the Holy Virgin forgive
me!—and this is the end. Du Chesne told me that I did not know the
meaning of true love. I have learned too late. Of what use is your
perfection, your credit at the court of heaven, your prayers and virtues
and mortifications, if you will not help us? And I—I would rather be
wicked and be able to aid those I love, or at least to suffer with
them.”

For a time after this impassioned outburst she lay hushed in exhaustion,
then a new thought aroused her to action.

“There is the mountain cross of M. de Maisonneuve; it is said that great
graces have been obtained there. We must lose no time. They might be
fighting even now, and this may be the moment of greatest danger.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

“Lydia, Lydia, awaken! We will go to pray at the cross of M. de
Maisonneuve.”

The English girl lay sleeping with cheek upon her hand, like an innocent
babe. The perfect repose of her position was so strangely childish and
trustful that it was hard to realize she was slumbering on the brink of
terror and desolation. The incongruity impressed Diane forcibly, but as
she knelt beside the couch her face grew soft and womanly. When she felt
her friend’s hand laid gently on her shoulder, Lydia started up with a
faint cry, rubbing her eyes and her soft flushed cheeks.

“Diane, why have you awakened me? When I am asleep I can at least
forget,” she protested, sitting up in bed, and staring at the demoiselle
de Monesthrol as if she were not sufficiently awake to realize exactly
what the scene meant. Diane’s expression of restrained excitement
recalled all; she flung herself down on the pillows, and broke into
violent sobbing.

“Something has happened, news has come; I see by your face that it is
evil tidings. The savages are upon us, and even if they come here to
scalp me, I am too weak to move.”

“No, no news has come, Lydia, but rise and dress,” was the crisp,
laconic reply. “We will go to the mountain cross to pray for du Chesne’s
safety, I have a conviction that at this moment he needs our prayers.”

Lydia’s blue eyes opened, wide and startled; in her consternation she
forgot to sob.

“But it is dark night, still and lonely. The savages may line every foot
of the way; we may be killed or taken prisoners. Oh! I dare not face the
dangers,” she cried, shuddering.

“The greater the merit of the pilgrimage. Our sufferings may enable us
to obtain grace; for danger, I think nothing of it. Dress quickly and
quietly; if we are observed, we shall not be allowed to start”

Action was a relief from pain, and Diane was bestirring herself
vigorously. Finding herself being hastily dressed, against her will, and
perceiving that her peevish importunities produced absolutely no effect,
Lydia ceased to resist. Indeed, this pale girl with a troubled
restlessness in her anxious eyes, a pathetic droop of the red lips,
moving with a steady purpose, bore so little resemblance to vivid,
brilliant Diane, that the English girl was thoroughly frightened, and
became passive in the hands of the stronger spirit.

A pilgrimage to the mountain cross was considered at Ville Marie a
fashionable act of devotion. As the way to the mountain teemed with real
and tangible dangers, ladies generally undertook it in parties,
protected by armed escorts. Every tree or stone might be expected to
offer shelter to feathered and painted enemies; there were also wild
beasts to be dreaded; so that in starting there was always the
possibility of not being able to return.

Soon the two girls—Diane erect and stately, never for an instant
pausing or faltering; Lydia clinging feebly to her arm—like shadows
moving amidst shadows, were traversing the deserted streets. The
desolate, dark night was full of visionary terrors and real dangers. The
chant of the St. Lawrence filled the air, the river trembling with
violet tints and glancing pearly shafts. Presently they crossed a
swiftly flowing stream, and emerged upon the open country. Here no
vagrant echo, not even the stir of a leaf, disturbed the stillness. The
dew was rich with cool fragrance. Now dark trees would close up the
path, then it would widen into a world of space as it passed into the
odorous moorland or crossed little rivulets tinkling on their way to the
river. The moonbeams, piercing through the interlacing branches, threw
chequered shadows on the path. Anon, amidst vistas of leafy shade, they
caught fleeting glimpses of the illuminated world beyond.

As the two girls crept up the slope, under the flickering shadows of the
trees, the scene was incredibly solitary and mournful. The path, simply
an Indian trail, was long and toilsome. Vegetation was dense, tangled
with vines, sombre with gloomy foliage, through which the white light
strove to penetrate. Lydia, whose feelings were impressions which rarely
deepened into emotion, was rendered helplessly hysterical by terror. All
Diane’s faculties were absorbed in a sombre, bewildering excitement, as
with the English captive sobbing, panting, clinging to her arm, she made
her way through the thicket. Before long she was obliged to support the
almost fainting girl. Little did it matter what they endured, if their
sufferings might perchance gain the grace to save the young Canadian
from a cruel fate. Once the long dewy trail of a creeper caught Diane
lightly like the grasp of a restraining hand; a soft rustle among the
leaves caused the heart to leap in her breast; that long-drawn cry of a
bird which broke the stillness in melancholy cadences might be the
signal of danger.

At last, gleaming white amidst dark, glossy foliage, arose the cross
erected on Mount Royal in a vow to God for the conversion of the
savages. Lydia, overcome by fatigue, fear, the night air, the strain and
agitation of the expedition, now sank down against a boulder. She had
ceased to reason, and only desired rest. The wooded gray slope towered
immutably above them, the wind harping in the pines. The moon had
dropped below the horizon, familiar objects acquired strangely grotesque
forms in the uncertain light, while in the blue sky above trembled a
single luminous star. Pressing on, Diane knelt at the foot of the cross.
It seemed as though she had at length reached a sure refuge, a power to
whose strength and goodness she could confidently appeal. Then her hands
clenched and her whole frame began to shake.

“It is for du Chesne, for his life, that we have come so far to pray. He
is so young and strong; he might be so happy. Holy Virgin Mother, who
knowest the secret of all love and suffering, I ask nothing for myself;
let me suffer, but spare him.” The sound of her voice seemed to profane
the hush of nature. Its tones had acquired a husky shrillness in which
there was a note of presaging horror.

“They are too holy, the saints—they despise earthly pains and
losses—they think only of their own heavenly bliss—they set themselves
against us. Oh! how can they look calmly on our suffering? God in
heaven, have mercy! or is He also too high and great to care for our
poor, miserable concerns? I will sacrifice myself—my life—what does
anything matter? If he returns in safety I make a vow to enter the
Congregation as a novice, to devote myself to the expiation of my sins;
only spare him, oh, God!” Diane writhed and battled for air as a
paroxysm of suffocating sobs came upon her; then, worn out with wild
heart-broken weeping, she lay at the foot of the cross, motionless and
exhausted.



                              CHAPTER XXV.


                           _TIDINGS AT LAST._

AS the girls crept wearily homeward, the first rays of the summer dawn
were breaking in the east in flushes of saffron and pink; overhead the
sky held quivering lights, ready to flash into a blaze. A refreshing
sense of physical renewal was in the cool blueness of the morning; there
was dewy fragrance in the atmosphere; the trees gave out a breath of
strength, the golden-rod gleamed in the hollows, the heights were purple
bronze. Lydia moved in a state of passive exhaustion, half stupefied. As
they reached home Diane turned to her companion a face which glowed with
some subtle inspiration.

“Be assured that du Chesne is safe. God is good. Oh, behold! that must
be a messenger from M. du Plessis, sent by M. de Callière. See how all
the people are gathering to hear what the tidings may be. You are so
exhausted, Lydia, it were perhaps better to retire to your room. I see
my uncle. I will go to him; he will certainly know what has occurred. If
there is news I will return to you.” An instant later she had joined Le
Ber on the shore.

“Is there news of M. de Valrenne’s command?”

“Yes, news has come at last. Oshawa has been sent to say that they have
caught sight of the enemy. M. de Callière lies ill at La Prairie. M. de
Valrenne is stationed between there and Chambly.” Jacques Le Ber showed
no sign of weakness save a momentary trembling of the lines about the
mouth.

“Oh! my uncle, even to-night they may be with us victorious.”

The trader smiled. It would never do to admit the possibility of
disaster.

“The sky may brighten for New France, my daughter. I have ever remarked
that good as well as ill-luck runs in courses. Our good fortune may now
commence.”

A number of women, who had been attending the early mass, were emerging
from the church of Notre Dame. Among them, erect and stately, walked
Madame de Monesthrol, attended by Nanon and followed by Madame de St.
Rochs with her baby in her arms. Pierre, thin and dark and sallow,
pushed his way through the crowd to where the demoiselle de Monesthrol
stood a little apart.

“Diane, I Have here for you a picture of Our Lady of Pity surrounded by
the five wounds of her Son.” He tried to fortify himself by recalling
the excellence of his intention, but that only increased his nervous
agitation. “I have been holding a neuvena in honor of St. Joseph and all
the holy saints. For nine days, a number especially dedicated to the
holy angels, have I prayed, and no light has dispersed the darkness of
my soul. Dazzling visions, the creation of the Father of Evil, ever
appear before my eyes. Instead of the angelic faces which once beamed
upon me, it is thine I see, glorified by the crown of martyrdom.”

Until now Diane had had slight patience with Pierre’s freaks and
fancies, considering them effeminate and unreasonable. Now, looking at
him with wistful eyes, she said quietly:

“Dear Pierre, we are all sorely tried by anxiety and suspense. Try to
forget your own temptations, my cousin, in thought for others. Could you
not support my uncle, who is alone in this time of trouble? On every
hand you will find those who have need of your kindly ministrations.”

In the young man’s impatient gesture there appeared all the petulance of
misery. He felt it unreasonable and monstrous that anything save the
painful state of his own concerns should occupy Diane’s mind.

“I stand alone,” he complained. “My father is absorbed in worldly
interests; your heart is engrossed by vanity. What are the trivial
affairs of this life—privation, danger, and even death—in comparison
with the perils that menace the soul?”

                 *        *        *        *        *

The next day a terrible storm broke over Ville Marie. Great trees
groaned and snapped like saplings in the blast, the wind raved, the
whole heavens were illumined by the swift electric flashes. Such a storm
had never been known in the colony. Nature, in her convulsive throes
smote the stoutest heart with terror. Late in the afternoon the tempest
ceased. The sun set fair and beautiful, with rays of purple and gold
smiling on the waters of the river; the clouds, black with the recoil of
tempest, gradually broke into rifts, trailing silvery tints of celestial
hue, sublime marvels of color.

Diane joined Le Ber as he walked down to the shore. That day no news had
been received, yet it was almost certain that an engagement had taken
place. His face was grey with consuming care; his eyes had a famished
expression. The demoiselle de Monesthrol slipped her hand within the arm
of her guardian and walked quietly by his side, offering a mute
responsive sympathy which was grateful to his soul.

“We shall surely have news before night, my daughter. Behold M. du
Plessis on the shore; like ourselves, he looks for tidings from our
men.”

Restless expectation tinged everybody’s thoughts. These were anxious
moments to the French commander. No one understood better than he the
reality of the danger that threatened the settlement. His brow was heavy
with care, though he endeavored to seem at ease.

As she looked out upon the shining waters of the river, a strange
perception came to Diane de Monesthrol. It seemed as though the world
had broken into fragments and lay crumbling at her feet, while her
spirit soared free above the ruins. She already understood the tragic
possibilities of fear and loss and pain; she had acknowledged the
necessity of devotion, self-abnegation, heroism; now a lightning flash
of intuition revealed to her the terrible beauty of self-sacrifice,
giving her to realize, though faintly and indistinctly, some conception
of a divine help, offered with a human eagerness of sympathy, patient
until the feeble mortal hands could reach up and lay hold of it. With
this conviction a wonderful peace came to succeed the burning
wretchedness. Just then the peals of the Angelus rang out, echoing
through the mountain slopes and over the waters. It was the voice of
prayer and praise, rising in triumph above all earthly passions of grief
and pain.

Groups of women, with heavy eyes and care-worn faces, holding their
rosaries with fingers which still mechanically pressed the beads as they
walked, while their lips moved in silent prayer, came out from the dusky
seclusion of the church, where day and night lights burned and prayers
were offered. The beadle of the Parish Church, in full uniform, mace in
hand, was narrating with much dramatic emphasis all the particulars of a
supposed engagement, to a keenly interested group of listeners, when the
tide of his eloquence was abruptly checked by a sharp poke in the ribs
that deprived him of breath. Nanon, her face flushed like a peony, the
lappets of her cap flying, swept past like a whirlwind.

“_Seigneur dieu!_ I would know the truth, me, after waiting so long—a
canoe!”

“A boat arriving!—tidings!—tidings!” The words passed from one to
another, and were repeated in a variety of keys, as, moved by a common
impulse, the group rapidly dispersed, flying down to the shore, where
the whole population of the town seemed to have gathered.

Propelled by four strong arms, skimming lightly as foam over the surface
of the water, leaving a faint track behind it as it moved, the frail
craft advanced. As it came between the eager spectators and the sun, the
forms of those it contained stood out like silhouettes against the
light. The citizens of Ville Marie waited with quickened breath and
beating hearts, hoping, fearing, expecting—they dared not think what.
Le Ber gazed with the wrinkles deepening on his brow. The setting sun
shone so brilliantly in his eyes that he raised his hand to shade them;
and for the moment could see nothing.

“Le Canotier and Madouaska—the Blessed Virgin send us good news,” du
Plessis announced hurriedly, speaking with a catch in his breath.

Then again a breathless silence settled on the crowd; not a sound was
heard but the dipping of the paddles and the soft murmur of the waves as
they caressed the shore. Silently, swiftly the canoe advanced. Beside
the Canotier was an Indian, a tall, superbly built man, whose remarkably
regular features might have been sculptured out of Florentine bronze.
Over his shoulders was thrown a mantle of caribou skin with pink and
lilac border. His head was shaved, with the exception of a tuft on the
crown, which was ornamented with hawk feathers, resembling the crest of
an antique helmet. His face was absolutely impassive in its immobility.
As the canoe grated on the shore, a dozen willing hands offered aid in
landing her.

“All is well?” cried du Plessis, unable longer to restrain his anxiety.
Then a shuddering, convulsive sob ran through the ranks of the women as
a French officer appeared, bearing, in haggard eye and ghastly pallor,
traces of the fatal wound which was rapidly draining his life-blood.
Tender hands lifted him from the boat.

“It is M. le Capitaine de Breteuil. He is dying!” The women separated to
allow a lady, with three little children clinging to her gown, to push
her way to the front.

“Carry him home,” she said quietly. “At least the good Lord has granted
the favor of permitting him to die with me. I must have courage; he will
need me beside him. Let us be together while we may.”

For an instant she had seemed on the point of breaking into a wild
outcry, but quickly checking the impulse, had braced herself for the
duty waiting her. Now, as she spoke, the icy composure of voice and
manner seemed almost like indifference. A black-robed nun silently
detached herself from the crowd, and placed herself at the side of the
stricken wife. Dollier de Casson, his brown earnest face all quivering
with emotion, solemnly raised his hands in benediction over the living
and the dying.

“You will not grudge the sacrifice, my daughter? It is a hero willingly
and gallantly laying down his life for his faith and his King.”

“There will be plenty of time to consider that later,” she answered,
very quietly. “Now he needs me. I have no thought to spare for aught
else.”

The whole assembly were hanging eagerly upon the accents of le Canotier,
who had already delivered the despatches he had brought to M. du
Plessis.

“We marched straight to Chambly—such were our orders. The object of M.
de Valrenne was to permit those devils of English to pass, and then, by
placing himself in their rear, to cut them off from their canoes. Our
scouts—and there are none better than Misti, Tshinespek and
Mushawana,—soon discovered the advance of the enemy, and then we
marched six or seven miles towards La Prairie, on the path by which
Schuyler was retreating. The sun stood high; it was nine o’clock when
our scouts met those of the foe, and then—_Dianthe!_—the woods
resounded with the shrill yells of the Indians as their war-whoops gave
the alarm. You all know how that part of the country is buried in
forests. We take possession of a ridge of ground that crosses the way of
those English wolves. Two enormous trees thrown down by the storm have
fallen along the crest of this rising ground, and behind these we crouch
in a triple row, well hidden by bushes and thick standing stumps, like
wolves ready to spring upon their prey. Believe me, Mesdames and
Messieurs, I have witnessed much of forest warfare, yet never before
have I seen so hot a conflict. The English charged like devils—(to give
them their due they do not lack courage)—and were sent reeling back by
a close and deadly volley. Like hail the balls flew—three times were we
mingled together, scorching each other’s shirts by the flash of our
guns. With still greater fury our enemies repeated the attack, and
dislodged us from our place of ambush. It was then the veritable
struggle commenced. Figure to yourself that they determined to break
through our lines, and our commandant desired, above all else, to drive
them back within the reach of our people at La Prairie. Our muskets
thirsted to kill. There, amidst that storm of hell-fire, stood M. de
Valrenne, giving his orders, calm and smiling as at a ball. Forty dead
they left behind them, those English, yet they managed to cut their way
through and drive us from the path.”

To the anxious listeners the prospect appeared to grow darker and more
appalling. There had been a sharp engagement, many lives apparently had
been lost, and who could divine whose heart had been smitten, whose home
rendered desolate?

“M. le Lieutenant Dumerque?” asked a timorous voice.

“Dead; shot at my side,” responded le Canotier, with the sharp brevity
of excitement. “I see a little officer with hair as red as his coat,
fighting like a Turk. I send him a sugar plum—_v’là!_—his legs in the
air, but not before mon Lieutenant had fallen, pierced by a shot from
his hand.”

There was a faint stifled cry. A pale young girl, who had been listening
eagerly, fell on the ground in a nerveless heap; an elderly woman, with
face set in lines of stony composure, bent anxiously over her; then
Dollier de Casson, raising the slight form in his strong arms, bore her
away to her home.

“It is Mademoiselle Adèle de Montigny; they were to have been married in
the early days of September. And his mother—it is the fourth son she
has lost.”

It seemed that those who listened to the vivid recital could see the dim
forests and floating smoke-wreaths, with vague glimpses of the hidden
foe. They could imagine the incessant rattle of musketry, could see
terrible figures looming through the haze, and watch the gleaming of the
war-axes as the weapons fell clattering from stricken hands.



                             CHAPTER XXVI.


                         _DU CHESNE’S RETURN._

“AND M. de St. Rochs?”

Cecile was clinging to Diane’s gown, trembling, shivering, half
believing herself already a widow, the soft outlines and fresh bloom of
youth contrasting oddly with the pathetic trouble of her eyes.

“M. de St. Rochs was safe, Madame, when I left. I was sent away in
charge of mon Capitaine before the fight was fairly over.”

Like a little tempest, Madame de St. Rochs rushed into Diane’s arms,
sobbing, laughing, uttering inarticulate exclamations of joy.

Le Ber’s grasp on his ward’s arm tightened. She understood that he
desired her to ask the question which his own lips could not frame.
Twice Diane tried to speak, but her throat seemed to close each time;
the words would not come. It was Cecile who, in a burst of joyful
confidence, found voice for the consuming desire of the French girl’s
heart.

“And M. Le Ber du Chesne—he is safe, of course?”

“Ah! yes, Madame, our brave young commandant. And is it any wonder that
the bluecoats love their leader? He fought like all the king’s troops in
one, being of a valor truly marvellous.”

The father caught his breath sharply and drew a hand across his eyes, as
if to clear his mind from confused ideas. Diane had been watching the
working of le Canotier’s scarred and weather-beaten face with vigilant
scrutiny. The reaction, the sweetness of relief, was almost as poignant
a sensation as pain. For an instant she closed her eyes and clung to Le
Ber’s arm. With what trembling thanksgiving she welcomed this gleam of
hope. The Blessed Virgin had granted her prayer; the Holy Mother had a
woman’s heart, and was touched by compassion. Though du Chesne would
never be hers, yet he would live; his career, in the brilliancy of its
promise, would not be cut short; he would continue to move in the light
of God’s earth; she would be spared the supreme anguish of yielding him
up to death.

Absorbed in the interest of le Canotier’s narrative, and in the
incidents attending it, no one perceived the rapid advance of another
canoe. The shrill voice of a child proclaimed the fact.

“_Voilà!_ yet another canoe,” exclaimed one of the group. “Truly, more
news. It is M. le Chevalier and the Sieur d’Ordieux—yes, and Baptiste
Bras de Fer.”

Le Ber, turning abruptly, withdrew his support. Diane, gazing but not
seeing, sickened with a sudden sense of dread. She made a hasty step
forward, staggering like one blind, then, stretching her hands with a
long, gasping cry, that seemed to carry with it the trouble of those
last terrible days, recovered herself by a supreme effort.

“Mademoiselle, I have failed in my commission, believe me, through no
negligence or fault of mine. I have brought back my brave and faithful
comrade. Do me the justice to believe that I would willingly have given
my own life in his stead.” It was the Chevalier de Crisasi who spoke,
the disorder of his dress showing plainly the desperateness of the
conflict through which he had passed.

In the midst of this sudden panic, the downfall of all her hopes, Diane
had pity to spare for him who felt so much. As he encountered her gaze
he bowed his head reverently. At that moment the girl’s secret was
revealed to him, and the Sicilian gentleman stood awed and abashed
before the revelation.

“It was but now they said he was safe; it cannot be du Chesne.” Le Ber’s
shock was so great that he looked piteously into his ward’s eyes as she
stood with her white lips pressed together.

Diane’s agitation affected her strangely. She was surprised at her own
composure in this supreme crisis. Hastily forming a distinct plan of
action, she coolly took command, directing everything. For the first
terrible interval she could not even wonder, or doubt, or question. She
seemed to have known it all long ago, to have felt the cold creeping to
her heart to thrill her with a shiver as of ice, to have grown used and
deadened to it. It was du Chesne who was being borne away helpless in
Bras de Fer’s strong arms, surrounded by anxious comrades and
kindred—du Chesne, whose eyes were pathetic with the silent protest of
life against death, whose bright, boyish face wore that mysterious
expression, sweeter, calmer than a smile, that sometimes comes to those
who look their last upon life. She saw Cecile drop down to the ground,
heard Nanon’s noisy grief, was conscious of the stricken look of Le
Ber’s face, yet she seemed to stand outside and beyond it all.

With the hush and awe of natural sympathy, friends and neighbors
gathered around, looking with deep pity on the bereavement which might
so easily have been their own. Ville Marie was overcast with mourning
for the fate of the kindly, genial young fellow.

There was one whom the young Canadian sought—his wandering glances
revealed the secret. All the force within Diane was torn two ways, so
sorely rent as to scarcely leave her any strength for decisive action.
Her own affection, jealous, restless, imperative, had claims which were
irresistible. At such a moment who would remember the helpless
stranger’s rights? Not Le Ber, who was absorbed in grief for the
destruction of his hopes; not Madame de Monesthrol, who despised the
English captive’s weakness; nor Pierre, engrossed in his prayers and
penances; neither could it be Madame de St. Rochs, nor Nanon, both of
whom had conceived violent prejudices against the intruder. During all
the years of her after life Diane could never think of the strength of
that dreadful temptation without a convulsion of her whole being. She
had no choice; the steadfast spirit, holding brave sovereignty over the
body and its pangs, must triumph. Hearts, apparently, were made to be
crushed and broken. A little more or less, what did it matter in the
vast and silent anguish that consumed her? In the heat of conflict there
came a new tide in her veins, a novel force to all her thought. It was
she who must break the news of this bereavement to her rival, and she
would be required to comfort and sustain. It must be her part to see
that du Chesne’s desire was satisfied, that the English girl should take
her rightful place at her lover’s death-bed. Every trace of color died
out of Lydia’s face as she listened; she turned on Diane a wild and
appealing look.

“But it is not true; it cannot be true. We were to have been so happy
together,” she insisted desperately, sobbing out the words in her
anguish and terror.

In one of those brilliant impulses of generosity, courage and
self-sacrifice which bear a noble soul on, heedless of the temptations
of the body, to the performance of lofty deeds—acts of heroism in which
life goes for nothing—Diane supported the pretty, frightened creature
who clung to her panting and sobbing.

“You will come to him. You will try to be calm for his sake,” the
demoiselle de Monesthrol urged.

But Lydia was overwhelmed with fear. The shock rendered her helpless and
hysterical; she wanted to force her own complaints and grievances upon
the attention of others, rather than yield to the claims of the dying
man. She was utterly unable to collect her scattered faculties. This
frail sufferer, with spectral eyes and pain-distorted form, seemed to
have no connection with her gay and gallant young lover. She loved
strength, brightness, the joy of life, and hated anything that was
maimed or gloomy. She shuddered involuntarily as a feeling of repulsion
crept over her; she could not look at him without whitening and
shivering. She was not touched by the spectacle of a valor so steadfast,
a submission so sweet; her one thought was to escape the horror of it.

Du Chesne lay in a quiet room, while the moments which no human will
could arrest swept on. He had accepted the verdict passed upon him as
the most natural thing in the world—“quite simple,” as he said.

He was still so young and ardent of temperament that even the dark
passage to the grave abounded in hopeful portents. He would insist upon
being propped up in bed, and being allowed to talk. Affection banished
the solemn, wistful look from his face, and gleamed like faint flashes
of sunshine from the edges of the dark shadow.

The young Canadian was tender and considerate, even on his death-bed. He
was wondrously patient in his pity for Lydia’s simplicity and weakness;
his dying eyes followed her ceaselessly, with a faithful love which had
been born on earth, but which would last forever.

Cecile, outside the door of the sick-room, cried out, launching furious,
vehement invectives against the cruelty of Fate; and Nanon, all glowing
red, her eyes blazing with indignation, her lips quivering with genuine
distress, stood by, with a gaze of wrath and disgust fixed on the
stranger’s face.

But Lydia was too completely absorbed in her own fright and misery to be
sensible of criticism, animosity, or even the evidences of tenderest
affection. All her complacent little vanities had vanished as, clinging
to her friend with piteous, shaking hands, she sought vainly to obtain
some inspiration from the desperate bravery of Diane’s face.

“Diane, be good to her,” pleaded the dying man. “You are her only
protector. You are strong and tender and loyal. I can trust you, my
brave and faithful sister.”

In the constancy of her courage Diane never either faltered or failed.
If she was crushed beneath the cross which was laid upon her, she at
least tasted the supreme blessedness of sacrificing self. Tender
affection gave sight to her eyes, and taught her how to comfort and
solace the sufferer to beguile the pain and tedium of a death-bed, to
staunch those wounds for which human art has no remedy.

A consciousness came over the household that sad change and revolution
hung over the family. Jean Le Ber du Chesne was going away in the bloom
of his days to that unknown bourn of which God alone knows the secret.
It was very quiet in the death-chamber, where the young hero lay looking
at the distant tapers, the one centre of light in the great gloomy room,
gazing with eyes from which all conflict had departed, abstracted in
their wistfulness. He had grown calm in absolute self-surrender, giving
a sigh occasionally to what might have been, and feeling perhaps an
awakening thrill of anticipation of what was to come. The room was
filled with dusky, wavering shadows. On a _prie-dieu_ close at hand
knelt Diane. The torture of one who had fought a protracted battle was
ended by the hard-won victory over self. In this solemn hour she felt
the stirring of some wider, grander life within, and the human eyes
gazed appealingly across the darkness of present things, striving to
see, no matter how indistinctly, the first faint glimmer of that light
which glows beyond the grave. Farther from the bed, two nuns of the
Congregation, Sister Marguerite Bourgeois, an aged woman whose serenity
of countenance was like a benediction, and sister Berbier, Superior of
the Convent of the Congregation, whispered together.

Something stirred softly. At the sound of the measured, ill-assured
movements, timid yet rushing, with a definite purpose underlying the
desperate haste, even Diane raised her head, and the nuns, crossing
themselves, drew closer together. A wan, hollow-eyed form, gliding from
among the shadows, advanced towards the bed, stood for a moment gazing
down upon du Chesne’s peaceful face, and then disappeared as noiselessly
as it had entered. The strong and subtle tie of kindred had drawn Jeanne
Le Ber from the seclusion of years. The spectators were awed by the
sight of a mortal, divided from all human hopes and interests, yet still
firmly bound to its inheritance of human woe.

Night had passed. The stars paled in the sky, lingering shadows
dispersed, the dawn was breaking in the east. Sister Berbier rose, and
crossing the room, threw open the heavy wooden shutters. The fresh, cool
air, moist and odorous, rushed in; and with it a searching ray of light,
clear and terrible, fell upon the calm dead face on the pillow.



                             CHAPTER XXVII.


                        _A COMPLETED SACRIFICE._

“MY daughter, when the earthly hope that lights existence has faded,
and we find it impossible to lay down our lives to perish in the grave
beside it—when we can neither endure our trouble nor be reconciled to
it—we can only disengage ourselves and leave it behind us, dead and
buried. The true and genuine portion of our sorrow lives; the base
regrets we must learn to cast from us; there is no companionship between
the living and the dead,” Dollier de Casson assured Diane.

All had come to an abrupt and ruthless end; the anxiety and suspense had
terminated in dread certainty. Hope and fear had perished with du
Chesne, yet the tense throb of anguish survived. The girl was crushed
under the cross which had been laid upon her, and which she did not know
how to bear. Pleasure and hope had broken off short; existence was a
solitude. Often it struck her as strange that no one had ever suspected
that she, as well as the gallant young Canadian, had died.

Lydia’s forlorn condition attracted much sympathy; the sentimental
appreciation of a dramatic situation, so dear to the French heart,
operated in her favor. She enjoyed posing as a victim of affliction, and
performed the role so modestly and gracefully that she won all hearts.
Du Chesne to her would remain a tender, pensive memory, which throughout
her life would be capable of affording occupation for an idle hour,
comfort for a distressed one, and which would not forbid consolation.

Two years later, the Sieur d’Ordieux, by the death of his uncle, became
Duke de Ronceval, and triumphed over his enemies. Though he had entered
upon a great inheritance, and become a peer of France, the pompous
little man was faithful in his attachments. He did not forget those who
had befriended him in the day of adversity; his heart remained true to
the woman whom he had loved with all the devotion of which he was
capable.

The future of her niece had furnished the consuming anxiety of Madame de
Monesthrols existence. If her protector Le Ber should die, what would
become of the beautiful portionless girl? If Diane only had a vocation,
that would simplify matters; she might become a nun, and a safe retreat
would be secured from the perils of the world. But Diane had no
vocation, and the Duke de Ronceval’s affection offered a solution of the
difficulty.

When an advantageous settlement was in question, it was not the custom
in those days to consult the bride’s taste. The sacrifice of the
individual for the good of the race was then—as it still to a large
extent remains—a generally accepted principle among the French. A
well-bred damsel, trained in the traditions of the ancient _régime_,
would make it a point of honor to accept the fate which her family chose
for her, just as a high-spirited girl of our generation would take a
pride in rendering herself independent.

Youth and hope had perished, but the claims of duty remained imperative;
so when Madame de Monesthrol urged, “By marrying the Duke you will not
only secure a great establishment for yourself; you will also purchase
peace for me. When I know that you are provided for, I can spend my last
days in repose. I have suffered, my child, you will never know how
much”—Diane could not turn a deaf ear to the prayer of the kinswoman
who loved her well.

The annual ship was returning to France, an event always of the deepest
importance to the whole colony. Every man, woman, and child who could
manage to get to the water-side at Quebec, gathered to view the
departure.

The most prominent passengers were the Duke and Duchess de Ronceval.
Curled, powdered and decorated, the nobleman stormed at his obsequious
lackeys, or gesticulated wildly as he jested with his friends. The pale,
beautiful bride was composed and dignified. Madame de Monesthrol
remarked with satisfaction that her niece bore herself with an air of
the very highest distinction.

A little desolate group had gathered about Diane. This parting meant the
sundering forever of ties which had been very close and dear. Jacques Le
Ber was there. He had aged, and the stern lines of his face were visibly
deepened. Madame de Monesthrol, older, frailer, always bearing her
infirmities with suave dignity, leaned upon his arm. Nanon, her comely
honest face disfigured by the tears which she made no effort to
restrain, pressed close to her mistress.

“The sunshine of my life goes with thee.” Le Ber spoke in a low, moved
voice.

“It is your desire that I should serve your interests at the Court, my
uncle.”

“My little one, could I but accompany thee!” Then the Marquise added
brightly, “Though the journey is beyond my strength, I can always pray
for thy welfare. I can think of thee as occupying thy rightful place in
the world, and I can praise the good God that the desire of my heart has
been realized. Thy marriage has removed the last trace of anxiety from
my mind; I can await my end in peace. Thy duty lies before thee, my
daughter. Let no remembrance of a feeble old woman, whose stormy life is
ending in a haven of rest, weaken thy peace. Think of me always as
rejoicing in thy prosperity.”

As the good ship _Renommée_ disappeared below the horizon, Nanon lifted
up her voice and wept with boisterous vehemence.

“When I looked my last look upon my demoiselle her face was like that of
an angel. Never shall I see the like again. My little one, that I
cradled in my arms, and who loved me with her whole heart. I am but of
the people—if my heart is broken I have no need to look like a stone;
now that she has left me I shall please myself by weeping like a
waterspout. She said to me, speaking, oh! so gently, at the very last,
‘It is thy duty to stay with Madame, to comfort and care for her, as it
is mine to leave her. Neither of us must forget her obligations, we will
both strive to fulfil them nobly and faithfully, good and loving Nanon.’
Oh! my brave and beautiful demoiselle, I coveted greatness for her, I
wanted to see her set high above all the world, and behold! Her Grace
Madame la Duchess de Ronceval is taken away from my sight. It sounds
well, that title, even if my heart is broken. How can I live without
her? what can the blessed saints be thinking of up in heaven there?
Behold that blonde English sheep, selfish and cold-blooded as a snake,
the happy wife of M. de Gallifet, no less! No one will ever cry her eyes
out for her.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

At the Court of Louis the Magnificent, Diane de Ronceval lived out the
years that remained to her. The vivifying breath of an utterly unselfish
affection had touched her. All egotism had been annihilated by the
fierce sweep of a spiritual flame, before which every unworthy desire
and ambition had perished. In the midst of a corrupt society, she
preserved a noble and lofty ideal. With an earnest and simple contriving
of gentle charities, she strove to make some rough places smooth. Brave
with the inspiration of faith and hope, she found happiness in
identifying herself with the needs and claims of others.

If she were conscious of a wound which throbbed and bled, of
unquenchable longings, of memories which never were to be forgotten, she
contrived to carry her cross in such fashion that no other heart should
be saddened, no other’s joy shadowed. And the world was purer and
brighter for one woman’s faith and courage.

                                THE END.



                          Mrs. Traill’s Works


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    =COT AND CRADLE STORIES.= Edited by Mary Agnes FitzGibbon.
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                            =WILLIAM BRIGGS=

           Wesley Buildings                       TORONTO, CAN



 In the Days of the
   Canada Company
                                                        ...By...
                                      _ROBINA AND KATHLEEN M. LIZARS_
   With Introduction by
   REV. PRINCIPAL GRANT, D. D., LL. D.
                                             =Price, postpaid • $2.00=
                               CONTENTS:

    Spirit of the Times—The Father of the Company—Canada as the
    Company Found It—The Face of the Land—From Champlain to
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    _vs._ The People—The People _vs._ The Canada Company—A Social
    Pot-Pourri—The Heart of Huron—The Bonnie Easthopes—The Cairn.


                      Personal and Press Comments.


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    “It is full of the most readable gossip and the spiciest of
    sketches.”—_Stratford_ _Beacon._

    “This is a book purely Canadian, and a credit to our
    literature.”—_Educational_ _Journal._

    “No more entertaining book has ever been written about early
    life in British North America.”—_Montreal Witness._

    “Few productions of a woman’s pen show sounder judgment, higher
    culture and better literary taste than this book.”—_Mail and
    Empire._

    “The authors have thoroughly imbued themselves with the ’spirit
    of the times’ of which they wrote. Their sympathy is
    infectious.”—_Ottawa Citizen._

    “The authors have a keen sense of the ludicrous side of things,
    and a happy knack of seizing the salient traits of a personality
    and bringing it strongly before the reader.”—_Kingston News._

    “Unquestionably one of the best local histories. It possesses a
    permanent value as a realistic and thoroughly intelligent record
    of the condition of pioneer colonial life.”—PROF. MAVOR, in
    _Massey’s Magazine_.

    “It is a lively, interesting and perfectly fresh opening of a
    field of history of which people in the Old Country know little,
    and which even to Canadians must be full of the attraction of
    novelty and originality both in subject and treatment.”—PROF.
    HERBERT STORY, OF GLASGOW UNIVERSITY.


                             WILLIAM BRIGGS
                             ——Publisher——

           Wesley Buildings                      TORONTO, CAN.



  =Humours of ’37=
                                                      GRAVE, GAY AND
                                                          GRIM . . .
                     REBELLION TIMES IN THE CANADAS
                                  ——By Robina and Kathleen M. Lizars
  PRICE. $1.25
    Postpaid
                               CONTENTS:

    Baneful Domination—More Baneful Domination—The Canadas at
    Westminster—A Call to Umbrellas—Le Grand Brule—Gallows
    Hill—Autocrats All—Huron’s Age Heroic—Deborahs of ’37.


                           =PRESS COMMENTS.=

    “A volume of great literary and historical value, and one of
    deep national interest.”—_St. Thomas Times._

    “This book is capital reading, and throws some unexpected lights
    on a comedy that had its tragic features.”—_Montreal Gazette._

    “The book gives us a better idea of the condition of Canadian
    society when the Queen came to the throne than perhaps any
    history of the time does.”—=Rev. Principal Grant=,
    in _Toronto Globe_.

    “The reader finds many amusing pages illustrative of the
    primitive ideas of the people, nor are tales of cruelty and
    outrage wanting to make up the grimmer side of the
    picture.”—_Detroit Free Press._

    “The authors are of French extraction, and come honestly by the
    epigrammatic style, which their former work familiarized us
    with, and which renders the opening chapter of this volume
    brilliant.”—_Montreal Witness._

    “The authors know their subject—their style of writing is
    conspicuously sprightly, full of wit, which is at times truly
    caustic. It is an admirable supplement to existing histories and
    journals and memoirs on the subject”—_Buffalo Illustrated
    Express._

    “An intensely interesting book, a true and vivid picture of that
    confused period. If the overabundance of material has been a
    drawback, on the other hand it has given a style, a nervous
    energy and strength, and a dash that are refreshing.”—_Mail and
    Empire._

    “The principal value of the book to most readers will be in the
    power which these pages possess of bringing the student face to
    face with the incidents of the epoch to which they refer, and
    its interest is enhanced by the manner in which toe story is
    told, different in various respects from that of the ordinary
    scribe—the style of well-bred and accomplished women, entirely
    free from affectation and effort.”—PROF. WM. CLARK, in
    _Montreal Star_.


                       WILLIAM BRIGGS, Publisher

 Wesley Buildings                                                TORONTO



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           29-33 Richmond St. West,              TORONTO, ONT.



                           TRANSCRIBER NOTES


Misspelled words and printer errors have been corrected.

Inconsistencies in punctuation have been maintained.

A cover was created for this eBook.

[The end of _Diane of Ville Marie: A Romance of French Canada_, by
Blanche Lucile Macdonnell.]





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