A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD DETROIT
AMANDA M. DOUGLAS
A. L. Burt Company Publishers New York
Copyright, 1902, by Dodd, Mead & Company.
First Edition Published September, 1902.
MR. AND MRS. WALLACE R. LESSER
Time and space may divide and years bring changes, but remembrance is both dawn and evening and holds in its clasp the whole day.
A. M. D., NEWARK, N. J.
I. A HALF STORY, 1
II. RAISING THE NEW FLAG, 16
III. ON THE RIVER, 33
IV. JEANNE'S HERO, 50
V. AN UNKNOWN QUANTITY, 65
VI. IN WHICH JEANNE BOWS HER HEAD, 82
VII. LOVERS AND LOVERS, 102
VIII. A TOUCH OF FRIENDSHIP, 121
IX. CHRISTMAS AND A CONFESSION, 139
X. BLOOM OF THE MAY, 157
XI. LOVE, LIKE THE ROSE, IS BRIERY, 176
XII. PIERRE, 194
XIII. AN UNWELCOME LOVER, 209
XIV. A HIDDEN FOE, 228
XV. A PRISONER, 243
XVI. RESCUED, 265
XVII. A PAEAN OF GLADNESS, 289
XVIII. A HEARTACHE FOR SOME ONE, 307
XIX. THE HEART OF LOVE, 327
XX. THE LAST OF OLD DETROIT, 344
A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD DETROIT.
A HALF STORY.
When La Motte Cadillac first sailed up the Strait of Detroit he kept his impressions for after travelers and historians, by transcribing them in his journal. It was not only the romantic side, but the usefulness of the position that appealed to him, commanding the trade from Canada to the Lakes, "and a door by which we can go in and out to trade with all our allies." The magnificent scenery charmed the intrepid explorer. The living crystal waters of the lakes, the shores green with almost tropical profusion, the natural orchards bending their branches with fruit, albeit in a wild state, the bloom, the riotous, clinging vines trailing about, the great forests dense and dark with kingly trees where birds broke the silence with songs and chatter, and game of all kinds found a home; the rivers, sparkling with fish and thronged with swans and wild fowl, and blooms of a thousand kinds, made marvelous pictures. The Indian had roamed undisturbed, and built his temporary wigwam in some opening, and on moving away left the place again to solitude.
Beside its beauty was the prospect of its becoming a mart of commerce. But these old discoverers had much enthusiasm, if great ignorance of individual liberty for anyone except the chief rulers. There was a vigorous system of repression by both the King of France and the Church which hampered real advance. The brave men who fought Indians, who struggled against adverse fortunes, who explored the Mississippi valley and planted the nucleus of towns, died one after another. More than half a century later the English, holding the substantial theory of colonization, that a wider liberty was the true soil in which advancement progressed, after the conquest of Canada, opened the lake country to newcomers and abolished the restrictions the Jesuits and the king had laid upon religion.
The old fort at Detroit, all the lake country being ceded, the French relinquishing the magnificent territory that had cost them so much in precious lives already, took on new life. True, the French protested, and many of them went to the West and made new settlements. The most primitive methods were still in vogue. Canoes and row boats were the methods of transportation for the fur trade; there had been no printing press in all New France; the people had followed the Indian expedients in most matters of household supplies. For years there were abortive plots and struggles to recover the country, affiliation with the Indians by both parties, the Pontiac war and numerous smaller skirmishes.
And toward the end of the century began the greatest struggle for liberty America had yet seen. After the war of the Revolution was ended all the country south of the Lakes was ceded to the United Colonies. But for some years England seemed disposed to hold on to Detroit, disbelieving the colonies could ever establish a stable government. As the French had supposed they could reconquer, so the English looked forward to repossession. But Detroit was still largely a French town or settlement, for thus far it had been a military post of importance.
So it might justly be called old this afternoon, as almost two centuries had elapsed since the French had built their huts and made a point for the fur trade, that Jeanne Angelot sat outside the palisade, leaning against the Pani woman who for years had been a slave, from where she did not know herself, except that she had been a child up in the fur country. Madame De Longueil had gone back to France with her family and left the Indian woman to shift for herself in freedom. And then had come a new charge.
The morals of that day were not over-precise. But though the woman had had a husband and two sons, one boy had died in childhood, the other had been taken away by the husband who repudiated her. She was the more ready to mother this child dropped mysteriously into her lap one day by an Indian woman whose tongue she did not understand.
"Tell it over again," said Jeanne with an air of authority, a dainty imperiousness.
She was leaning against one knee, the woman's heels being drawn up close to her body, making a back to the seat of soft turf, and with her small hand thumping the woman's brown one against the other knee.
"Mam'selle, you have heard it so many times you could tell it yourself in the dark."
"But perhaps I could not tell it in the daylight," said the girl, with mischievous laughter that sent musical ripples on the sunny air.
The woman looked amazed.
"Why should you be better able to do it at night?"
"O, you foolish Pani! Why, I might summon the itabolays—"
"Hush! hush! Do not call upon such things."
"And the shil loups, though they cannot talk. And the windigoes—"
"Mam'selle!" The Indian woman made as if she would rise in anger and crossed herself.
"O, Pani, tell the story. Why, it was night you always say. And so I ought to have some night-sight or knowledge. And you were feeling lonely and miserable, and—why, how do you know it was not a windigo?"
"Child! child! you set one crazy! It was flesh and blood, a squaw with a blanket about her and a great bundle in her arms. And I did not go in the palisade that night. I had come to love Madame and the children, and it was hard to be shoved out homeless, and with no one to care. There is fondness in the Indian blood, Mam'selle."
The Indian's voice grew forceful and held a certain dignity. The child patted her hand and pressed it up to her cheek with a caressing touch.
"The De Bers wanted to buy me, but Madame said no. And Touchas, the Outawa woman, had bidden me to her wigwam. I heard the bell ring and the gates close, and I sat down under this very oak—"
"Yes, this is my tree!" interrupted the girl proudly.
"I thought it some poor soul who had lost her brave, and she came close up to me, so close I heard the beads and shells on her leggings shake with soft sound. But I could not understand what she said. And when I would have risen she pushed me back with her knee and dropped something heavy in my lap. I screamed, for I knew not what manner of evil spirit it might be. But she pressed it down with her two hands, and the child woke and cried, and reaching up flung its arms around my neck, while the woman flitted swiftly away. And I tried to hush the sobbing little thing, who almost strangled me with her soft arms."
"O Pani!" The girl sprang up and encircled her again.
"I felt bewitched. I did not know what to do, but the poor, trembling little thing was alive, though I did not know whether you were human or not, for there are strange shapes that come in the night, and when once they fasten on you—"
"They never let go," Jeanne laughed gayly. "And I shall never let go of you, Pani. If I had money I should buy you. Or if I were a man I would get the priest to marry us."
"O Mam'selle, that is sinful! An old woman like me! And no one can be bought to-day."
Jeanne gave her another hug. "And you sat here and held me—" forwarding the story.
"I did not dare stir. It grew darker and all the air was sweet with falling dews and the river fragrance, and the leaves rustled together, the stars came out for there was no moon to check them. On the Beaufeit farm they were having a dance. Susanne Beaufeit had been married that noon in St. Anne. The sound of the fiddles came down like strange voices from out the woods and I was that frightened—"
"Poor Pani!" caressing the hand tenderly.
"Then you stopped sobbing but you had tight hold of my neck. Suddenly I gathered you up and ran with all my might to Touchas' hut. The curtain was up and the fire was burning, and I had grown stiff with cold and just stumbled on the floor, laying you down. Touchas was so amazed.
"'Whose child is that?' she said. 'Why, your eyes are like moons. Have you seen some evil thing?'"
"And you thought me an evil thing, Pani!" said the child reproachfully.
"One never can tell. There are strange things," and the woman shook her head. "And Touchas was so queer she would not touch you at first. I unrolled the torn piece of blanket and there you were, a pretty little child with rings of shining black hair, and fair like French babies, but not white like the English. And there was no sign of Indian about you. But you slept and slept. Then we undressed you. There was a name pinned to your clothes, and a locket and chain about your neck and a tiny ring on one finger. And on your thigh were two letters, 'J. A.,' which meant Jeanne Angelot, Father Rameau said. And oh, Mam'selle, petite fille, you slept in my arms all night and in the morning you were as hungry as some wild thing. At first you cried a little for maman and then you laughed with the children. For Touchas' boys were not grown-up men then, and White Fawn had not met her brave who took her up to St. Ignace."
"I might have dropped from the clouds," said the child mirthfully. "The Great Manitou could have sent me to you."
"But you talked French. Up in the above they will speak in Latin as the good fathers do. That is why they use it in their prayers."
Jeanne nodded with a curl of disbelief in her red-rose mouth.
"So then Touchas and I took you to Father Rameau and I told him the story. He has the clothes and the paper and the locket, which has two faces in it—we all thought they were your parents. The letters on it are all mixed up and no one can seem to make them out. And the ring. He thought some one would come to inquire. A party went out scouting, but they could find no trace of any encampment or any skirmish where there was likely to be some one killed, and they never found any trace. The English Commandant was here then and Madame was interested in you. Madame Bellestre would have you baptized in the old church to make sure, and because you were French she bade me bring you there and care for you. But she had to die and M. Bellestre had large interests in that wonderful Southern town, New Orleans, where it is said oranges and figs and strange things grow all the year round. Mademoiselle Bellestre was jealous, too, she did not like her father to make much of you. So he gave me the little house where we have lived ever since and twice he has sent by some traders to inquire about you, and it is he who sees that we want for nothing. Only you know the good priest advises that you should go in a retreat and become a sister."
"But I never shall, never!" with emphasis, as she suddenly sprang up. "To be praying all day in some dark little hole and sleep on a hard bed and count beads, and wear that ugly black gown! No, I told Father Rameau if anyone shut me up I should shout and cry and howl like a panther! And I would bang my head against the stones until it split open and let out my life."
"O Jeanne! Jeanne!" cried the horror-stricken woman. "That is wicked, and the good God hears you."
The girl's cheeks were scarlet and her eyes flashed like points of flame. They were not black, but of the darkest blue, with strange, steely lights in them that flashed and sparkled when she was roused in temper, which was often.
"I think I will be English, or else like these new colonists that are taking possession of everything. I like their religion. You don't have to go in a convent and pray continually and be shut out of all beautiful things!"
"You are very naughty, Mam'selle. These English have spoiled so many people. There is but one God. And the good French fathers know what is right."
"We did well enough before the French people came, Pani," said a soft, rather guttural voice from the handsome half-breed stretched out lazily on the other side of the tree where the western sunshine could fall on him.
"You were not here," replied the woman, shortly. "And the French have been good to me. Their religion saves you from torment and teaches you to be brave. And it takes women to the happy grounds beyond the sky."
"Ah, they learned much of their bravery from the Indian, who can suffer tortures without a groan or a line of pain in the face. Is there any better God than the great Manitou? Does he not speak in the thunder, in the roar of the mighty cataract, and is not his voice soft when he chants in the summer night wind? He gives a brave victory over his enemies, he makes the corn grow and fills the woods with game, the lakes with fish. He is good enough God for me."
"Why then did he let the French take your lands?"
The man rose up on his elbow.
"Because we were cowards!" he cried fiercely. "Because the priests made us weak with their religion, made women of us, called us to their mumbling prayers instead of fighting our enemies! They and the English gave us their fire water to drink and stole away our senses! And now they are both going to be driven out by these pigs of Americans. It serves them right."
"And what will you do, Monsieur Marsac?" asked Pani with innocent irony.
"Oh, I do not care for their grounds nor their fights. I shall go up north again for furs, and now the way is open for a wider trade and a man can make more money. I take thrift from my French father, you see. But some day my people will rise again, and this time it will not be a Pontiac war. We have some great chiefs left. We will not be crowded out of everything. You will see."
Then he sprang up lithe and graceful. He was of medium size but so well proportioned that he might have been modeled from the old Greeks. His hair was black and straight but had a certain softness, and his skin was like fine bronze, while his features were clearly cut. Now and then some man of good birth had married an Indian woman by the rites of the Church, and this Hugh de Marsac had done. But of all their children only one remained, and now the elder De Marsac had a lucrative post at Michilimackinac, while his son went to and fro on business. Outside of the post in the country sections the mixed marriages were quite common, and the French made very good husbands.
"Mam'selle Jeanne," he said with a low bow, "I admire your courage and taste. What one can see to adore in those stuffy old fathers puzzles me! As for praying in a cell, the whole wide heavens and earth that God has made lifts up one's soul to finer thoughts than mumbling over beads or worshiping a Christ on the cross. And you will be much too handsome, my brier rose, to shut yourself up in any Recollet house. There will be lovers suing for your pretty hand and your rosy lips."
Jeanne hid her face on Pani's shoulder. The admiring look did not suit her just now though in a certain fashion this young fellow had been her playmate and devoted attendant.
"Let us go back home," she exclaimed suddenly.
"Why hurry, Mam'selle? Let us go down to King's wharf and see the boats come in."
Her eyes lighted eagerly. She gave a hop on one foot and held out her hand to the woman, who rose slowly, then put the long, lean arm about the child's neck, who smiled up with a face of bloom to the wrinkled and withered one above her.
Louis Marsac frowned a little. What ailed the child to-day? She was generally ready enough to demand his attentions.
"Mam'selle, you brought your story to an abrupt termination. I thought you liked the accessories. The procession that marched up the aisle of St. Anne's, the shower of kisses bestowed upon you after possible evil had been exorcised by holy water; the being taken home in Madame Bellestre's carriage—"
"If I wanted to hear it Pani could tell me. Walk behind, Louis, the path is narrow."
"I will go ahead and clear the way," he returned with dignified sarcasm, suiting his pace to the action.
"That is hardly polite, Monsieur."
"Why yes. If there was any danger, I would be here to face it. I am the advance guard."
"There never is any danger. And Pani is tall and strong. I am not afraid."
"Perhaps you would rather I would not go? Though I believe you accepted my invitation heartily."
Just then two half drunken men lurched into the path. Drunkenness was one of the vices of that early civilization. Marsac pushed them aside with such force that the nearer one toppling against the other, both went over.
"Thank you, Monsieur; it was good to have you."
Jeanne stretched herself up to her tallest and Marsac suddenly realized how she had grown, and that she was prettier than a year ago with some charm quite indescribable. If she were only a few years, older—
"A man is sometimes useful," he returned dryly, glancing at her with a half laugh.
After the English had possession of Detroit, partly from the spirit of the times, the push of the newcomers, and the many restrictions that were abolished, the Detroit river took on an aspect of business that amazed the inhabitants. Sailing vessels came up the river, merchantmen loaded with cargoes instead of the string of canoes. And here was one at the old King's wharf with busy hands, whites and Indians, running to and fro with bales and boxes, presenting a scene of activity not often witnessed. Others had come down to see it as well. Marsac found a little rise of ground occupied by some boys that he soon dispossessed and put the woman and child in their places, despite black looks and mutterings.
What a beautiful sight it all was, Jeanne thought. Up the Strait, as the river was often called, to the crystal clear lake of St. Clair and the opposite shore of Canada, with clumps of dense woods that seemed guarding the place, and irregular openings that gave vistas of the far away prospect. What was all that great outside world like? After St. Clair river, Lake Huron and Michilimackinac? There were a great mission station and some nuns, and a large store place for the fur trade. And then—Hudson Bay somewhere clear to the end of the world, she thought.
The men uttered a sort of caroling melody with their work. There were some strange faces she had never seen before, swarthy people with great gold hoops in their ears.
"Are they Americans?" she asked, her idea of Americans being that they were a sort of conglomerate.
"No—Spaniards, Portuguese, from the other side of the world. There are many strange peoples."
Louis Marsac's knowledge was extremely limited, as education had not made much of an advance among ordinary people. But he was glad he knew this when he saw the look of awe that for an instant touched the rosy face.
There were some English uniforms on the scene. For though the boundaries had been determined the English Commandant made various excuses, and demanded every point of confirmation. There had been an acrimonious debate on conditions and much vexatious delay, as if he was individually loath to surrender his authority. In fact the English, as the French had before them, cherished dreams of recovering the territory, which would be in all time to come an important center of trade. No one had dreamed of railroads then.
The sun began to drop down behind the high hills with their timber-crowned tops. Pani turned.
"We must go home," she said, and Jeanne made no objections. She was a little tired and confused with a strange sensation, as if she had suddenly grown, and the bounds were too small.
Marsac made way for them, up the narrow, wretched street to the gateway. The streets were all narrow with no pretense at order. In some places were lanes where carriages could not pass each other. St. Louis street was better but irregularly built, with frame and hewn log houses. There was the old block house at either end, and the great, high palisades, and the citadel, which served for barracks' stores, and housed some of the troops. Here they passed St. Anne's street with its old church and the military garden at the upper end; houses of one and two stories with peaked thatched roofs, and a few of more imposing aspect. On the west of the citadel near St. Joseph's street they paused before a small cottage with a little garden at the side, which was Pani's delight. There were only two rooms, but it was quite fine with some of the Bellestre furnishings. At one end a big fireplace and a seat each side of it. Opposite, the sleeping chamber with one narrow bed and a high one, covered with Indian blankets. Beds and pillows of pine and fir needles were renewed often enough to keep the place curiously fragrant.
"I will bid you good evening," exclaimed Marsac with a dignified bow. "Mam'selle, I hope you are not tired out. You look—"
A saucy smile went over her face. "Do I look very strange?" pertly. "And I am not tired, but half starved. Good night, Monsieur."
"Pani will soon remedy that."
The bell was clanging out its six strokes. That was the old signal for the Indians and whoever lived outside the palisades to retire.
He bowed again and walked up to the Fort and the Parade.
"Angelot," he said to himself, knitting his brow. "Where have I heard the name away from Detroit? She will be a pretty girl and I must keep an eye on her."
RAISING THE NEW FLAG.
Old Detroit had seemed roomy enough when Monsieur Cadillac planted the lilies of France and flung out the royal standard. And the hardy men slept cheerfully on their beds of fir twigs with blankets drawn over them, and the sky for a canopy, until the stockade was built and the rude fort made a place of shelter. But before the women came it had been rendered habitable and more secure; streets were laid out, the chapel of St. Anne's built, and many houses put up inside the palisades. And there was gay, cheerful life, too, for French spirits and vivacity could not droop long in such exhilarating air.
Canoes and row boats went up and down the river with merry crews. And in May there was a pole put in what was to be the military garden, and from it floated the white flag of France. On the green there was a great concourse and much merriment and dancing, and not a little love making. For if a soldier asked a pretty Indian maid in marriage, the Commandant winked at it, and she soon acquired French and danced with the gayest of them.
Then there was a gala time when the furs came in and the sales were made, and the boats loaded and sent on to Montreal to be shipped across the sea; or the Dutch merchants came from the Mohawk valley or New Amsterdam to trade. The rollicking coureurs des bois, who came to be almost a race by themselves, added their jollity and often carried it too far, ending in fighting and arrests.
But it was not all gayety. Up to this time there had been two terrible attacks on the fort, and many minor ones. Attempts had been made to burn it; sometimes the garrison almost starved in bad seasons. France, in all her seventy years of possession, never struck the secret of colonizing. The thrifty emigrant in want of a home where he could breathe a freer air than on his native soil was at once refused. The Jesuit rule was strict as to religion; the King of France would allow no laws but his own, and looked upon his colonies as sources of revenue if any could be squeezed out of them, sources of glory if not.
The downfall of Canada had been a sad blow. The French colonist felt it more keenly than the people thousands of miles away, occupied with many other things. And the bitterest of all protests was made by the Jesuits and the Church. They had been fervent and heroic laborers, and many a life had been bravely sacrificed for the furtherance of the work among the Indians.
True, there had not been a cordial sympathy between the Jesuits and the Recollets, but the latter had proved the greater favorites in Detroit. There was now the Recollet house near the church, where they were training young girls and teaching the catechism and the rules of the Church, as often orally as by book, as few could read. Here were some Indian girls from tribes that had been almost decimated in the savage wars, some of whom were bound out afterward as servants. There were slaves, mostly of the old Pawnee tribe, some very old, indeed; others had married, but their children were under the ban of their parents.
With the coming of the English there was a wider liberty, a new atmosphere, and though the French protested bitterly and could not but believe the mother country would make some strenuous effort to recover the territory as they temporized with the Indians and held out vague hopes, yet, as the years passed on, they found themselves insensibly yielding to the sway, and compelled now and then to fight for their homes against a treacherous enemy. Mayor Gladwyn had been a hero to them in his bravery and perseverance.
There came in a wealthier class of citizens to settle, and officials were not wanting in showy attire. Black silk breeches and hose, enormous shoe buckles, stiff stocks, velvet and satin coats and beaver hats were often seen. Ladies rejoiced in new importations, and in winter went decked in costly furs. Even the French damsels relaxed their plain attire and made pictures with their bright kerchiefs tied coquettishly over curling hair, and they often smiled back at the garrison soldiers or the troops on parade. The military gardens were improved and became places of resort on pleasant afternoons, and the two hundred houses inside the pickets increased a little, encroaching more and more on the narrow streets. The officers' houses were a little grander; some of the traders indulged in more show and their wives put on greater airs and finer gowns and gave parties. The Campeau house was venerable even then, built as it was on the site of Cadillac's headquarters and abounding in many strange legends, and there were rude pictures of the Canoe with Madame Cadillac, who had made the rough voyage with her ladies and come to a savage wilderness out of love for her husband; and the old, long, low Cass house that had sheltered so many in the Pontiac war, and the Governor's house on St. Anne's street, quite grand with its two stories and peaked roof, with the English colors always flying.
Many of the houses were plastered over the rough hewn cedar lath, others were just of the smaller size trees split in two and the interstices filled in. Many were lined with birch bark, with borders of beautiful ash and silver birch. Chimneys were used now, great wide spaces at one end filled in with seats. In winter furs were hung about and often dropped over the windows at night, which were always closed with tight board shutters as soon as dusk set in, which gave the streets a gloomy aspect and in nowise assisted a prowling enemy. A great solid oaken door, divided in the middle with locks and bars that bristled with resistance, was at the front.
But inside they were comfortable and full of cheer. Wooden benches and chairs, some of the former with an arm and a cushion of spruce twigs covered with a bear or wolf skin, though in the finer houses there were rush bottoms and curiously stained splints with much ornamental Indian work. A dresser in the living room displayed not only Queen's ware, but such silver and pewter as the early colonists possessed, and there were pictures curiously framed, ornaments of wampum and shells and fine bead work. The family usually gathered here, and the large table standing in the middle of the floor had a hospitable look heightened by the savory smells which at that day seemed to offend no one.
The farms all lay without and stretched down the river and westward. The population outside had increased much faster, for there was room to grow. There were little settlements of French, others of half-breeds, and not a few Indian wigwams. The squaws loved to shelter themselves under the wing of the Fort and the whites. Business of all kinds had increased since the coming of the English.
But now there had occurred another overturn. Detroit had been an important post during the Revolution, and though General Washington, Jefferson, and Clark had planned expeditions for its attack, it was, at the last, a bloodless capture, being included in the boundaries named in the Quebec Act. But the British counted on recapture, and the Indians were elated with false hopes until the splendid victories of General Wayne in northern Illinois against both Indians and English. By his eloquence and the announcement of the kindly intentions of the United States, the Chippewa nation made gifts of large tracts of land and relinquished all claims to Detroit and Mackinaw.
The States had now two rather disaffected peoples. Many of the English prepared to return to Canada with the military companies. The French had grown accustomed to the rule and still believed in kings and state and various titles. But the majority of the poor scarcely cared, and would have grumbled at any rule.
For weeks Detroit was in a ferment with the moving out. There were sorrowful farewells. Many a damsel missed the lover to whom she had pinned her faith, many an irregular marriage was abruptly terminated. The good Recollet fathers had tried to impress the sacredness of family ties upon their flock, but since the coming of the English, the liberty allowed every one, and the Protestant form of worship, there had grown a certain laxness even in the town.
"It is going to be a great day!" declared Jeanne, as she sprang out of her little pallet. There were two beds in the room, a great, high-post carved bedstead of the Bellestre grandeur, and the cot Jacques Pallent, the carpenter, had made, which was four sawed posts, with a frame nailed to the top of them. It was placed in the corner, and so, out of sight, Pani felt that her charge was always safe. In the morning Jeanne generally turned a somersault that took her over to the edge of the big bed, from whence she slid down.
The English had abolished slavery in name, but most of the Pani servants remained. They seldom had any other than their tribal name. Since the departure of the Bellestres Jeanne's guardian had taken on a new dignity. She was a tall, grave woman, and much respected by all. No one would have thought of interfering with her authority over the child.
"Hear the cannon at the Fort and the bells. And everybody will be out! Pani, give me some breakfast and let me go."
"Nay, nay, child. You cannot go alone in such a crowd as this will be. And I must set the house straight."
"But Marie De Ber and Pierre are to go. We planned it last night. Pierre is a big, strong boy, and he can pick his way through a crowd with his elbows. His mother says he always punches holes through his sleeves."
Jeanne laughed gayly. Pierre was a big, raw-boned fellow, a good guard anywhere.
"Nay, child, I shall go, too. It will not be long. And here is a choice bit of bread browned over the coals that you like so much, and the corn mush of last night fried to a turn."
"Let me run and see Marie a moment—"
"With that head looking as if thou hadst tumbled among the burrs, or some hen had scratched it up for a nest! And eyes full of dew webs that are spun in the grass by the spirits of night."
"Look, they are wide open!" She buried her face in a pail of water and splashed it around as a huge bird might, as she raised her beautiful laughing orbs, blue now as the midnight sky. And then she carelessly combed the tangled curls that fell about her like the spray of a waterfall.
"Thou must have a coif like other French girls, Jeanne. Berthe Campeau puts up her hair."
"Berthe goes to the Recollets and prays and counts beads, and will run no more or shout, and sings only dreary things that take the life and gayety out of you. She will go to Montreal, where her aunt is in a convent, and her mother cries about it. If I had a mother I would not want to make her cry. Pani, what do you suppose happened to my mother? Sometimes I think I can remember her a little."
The face so gay and willful a moment before was suddenly touched with a sweet and tender gravity.
"She is dead this long time, petite. Children may leave their mothers, but mothers never give up their children unless they are taken from them."
"Pani, what if the Indian woman had stolen me?"
"But she said you had no mother. Come, little one, and eat your breakfast."
Jeanne was such a creature of moods and changes that she forgot her errand to Marie. She clasped her hands together and murmured her French blessing in a soft, reverent tone.
Maize was a staple production in the new world, when the fields were not destroyed by marauding parties. There were windmills that ground it coarsely and both cakes and porridge were made of it. The Indian women cracked and pounded it in a stone mortar and boiled it with fish or venison. The French brought in many new ways of cooking.
"Oh, hear the bells and the music from the Fort! Come, hurry, Pani, if you are going with us. Pani, are people slow when they get old?"
"Much slower, little one."
"Then I don't want to be old. I want to run and jump and climb and swim. Marie knits, she has so many brothers and sisters. But I like leggings better in the winter. And they sew at the Recollet house."
"And thou must learn to sew, little one."
"Wait until I am big and old and have to sit in the chimney corner. There are no little ones—sometimes I am glad, sometimes sorry, but if they are not here one does not have to work for them."
She gave a bright laugh and was off like a flash. The Pani woman sighed. She wondered sometimes whether it would not have been better to give her up to the good father who took such an interest in her. But she was all the poor woman had to love. True she could be a servant in the house, but to have her wild, free darling bound down to rigid rules and made unhappy was more than she could stand. And had not Mr. Bellestre provided this home for them?
The woman had hardly put away the dishes, which were almost as much of an idol to her as the child, when Jeanne came flying back.
"Yes, hurry, hurry, Pani! They are all ready. And Madame De Ber said Marie should not go out on such a day unless you went too. She called me feather headed! As if I were an Indian chief with a great crown of feathers!"
The child laughed gayly. It was as natural to her as singing to a bird.
Pani gathered up a few last things and looked to see that the fire was put out.
Already the streets were being crowded and presented a picturesque aspect. Inside the stockade the chemin du ronde extended nearly around the town and this had been widened by the necessity of military operations. Soldiers were pouring out of the Citadel and the Fort but the colonial costume looked queer to eyes accustomed to the white trimmings of the French and the red of the British. The latter had made a grander show many a time, both in numbers and attire. There were the old French habitans, gay under every new dispensation, in tanned leathern small clothes, made mostly of deer skin, and blue blouses, blue cap, with a red feather, some disporting themselves in unwonted finery kept for holiday occasions; pretty laughing demoiselles with bright kerchiefs or a scarf of open, knitted lace-like stuff with beads that sparkled with every coquettish turn of the head; there were Indians with belted tomahawks and much ornamented garments, gorgets and collars of rudely beaten copper or silver if they could afford to barter furs for them, half-breed dandies who were gorgeous in scarlet and jewelry of all sorts, squaws wrapped in blankets, looking on wonderingly, and the new possessors of Detroit who were at home everywhere.
The procession formed at the parade in front of the Fort. Some of the aristocracy of the place were out also, staid middle-aged men with powdered queues and velvet coats, elegant ladies in crimson silk petticoats and skirts drawn back, the train fastened up with a ribbon or chain which they carried on their arms as they minced along on their high heeled slippers, carrying enormous fans that were parasols as well, and wearing an immense bonnet, the fashion in France a dozen years before.
"What is it all about?" asked one and another.
"They are to put up a new flag."
"For how long?" in derision. "The British will be back again in no time."
"Are there any more conquerors to come? We turn our coats at every one's bidding it seems."
The detachment was from General Wayne's command and great was the disappointment that the hero himself was not on hand to celebrate the occasion; but he had given orders that possession of the place should be signalized without him. Indeed, he did not reach Detroit until a month later.
On July 11, 1796, the American flag was raised above Detroit, and many who had never seen it gazed stupidly at it, as its red and white stripes waved on the summer air, and its blue field and white stars shone proudly from the flag staff, blown about triumphantly on the radiant air shimmering with golden sunshine.
Shouts went up like volleys. All the Michigan settlements were now a part of the United Colonies, that had so bravely won their freedom and were extending their borders over the cherished possessions of France and England.
The post was formally delivered up to the governor of the territory. Another flag was raised on the Citadel, which was for the accommodation of the general and his suite at present and whoever was commandant. It was quite spacious, with an esplanade in front, now filled by soldiers. There were the almost deafening salutes and the blare of the band.
"Why it looks like heaven at night!" cried Jeanne rapturously. "I shall be an American,—I like the stars better than the lilies of France, and the red cross is hateful. For stars are of heaven, you know, you cannot make them grow on earth."
A kindly, smiling, elderly man turned and caught sight of the eager, rosy face.
"And which, I wonder, is the brave General Wayne?"
"He is not here to-day unfortunately and cannot taste the sweets of his many victories. But he is well worth seeing, and quite as sorry not to be here as you are to miss him. But he is coming presently."
"Then it is not the man who is making a speech?—and see what a beautiful horse he has!"
"That is the governor, Major General St. Clair."
"And General Wayne, is he an American?"
The man gave an encouraging smile to the child's eager inquiry.
"An American? yes. But look you, child. The only proper Americans would be the Indians."
She frowned and looked puzzled.
"A little way back we came from England and France and Holland and Spain and Italy. We are so diverse that it is a wonder we can be harmonized. Only there seems something in this grand air, these mighty forests, these immense lakes and rivers, that nurtures liberty and independence and breadth of thought and action. Who would have dreamed that clashing interests could have been united in that one aim, liberty, and that it could spread itself from the little nucleus, north, south, east, and west! The young generation will see a great country. And I suppose we will always be Americans."
He turned to the young man beside him, who seemed amused at the enthusiasm that rang in his voice and shone in his eyes of light, clear blue as he had smiled down on the child who scarcely understood, but took in the general trend and was moved by the warmth and glow.
"Monsieur, there are many countries beside England and France," she said thoughtfully.
"O yes, a world full of them. Countries on the other side of the globe of which we know very little."
"The other side?" Her eyes opened wide in surprise, and a little crease deepened in the sunny brow as she flung the curls aside. She wore no hat of any kind in summer.
"Yes, it is a round world with seas and oceans and land on both sides. And it keeps going round."
"But, Monsieur," as he made a motion with his hand to describe it, "why does not the water spill out and the ground slide off? What makes it—oh, how can it stick?" with a laugh of incredulity.
"Because a wisdom greater than all of earth rules it. Are there no schools in Detroit?"
"The English have some and there is the Recollet house and the sisters. But they make you sit still, and presently you go to Montreal or Quebec and are a nun, and wear a long, black gown, and have your head tied up. Why, I should smother and I could not hear! That is so you cannot hear wicked talk and the drunken songs, but I love the birds and the wind blowing and the trees rustling and the river rushing and beating up in a foam. And I am not afraid of the Indians nor the shil loups," but she lowered her tone a trifle.
"Do not put too much trust in the Indians, Mam'selle. And there is the loup garou—"
"But I have seen real wolves, Monsieur, and when they bring in the furs there are so many beautiful ones. Madame De Ber says there is no such thing as a loup garou, that a person cannot be a man and a wolf at the same time. When the wolves and the panthers and the bears howl at night one's blood runs chilly. But we are safe in the stockade."
"There is much for thee to learn, little one," he said, after a pause. "There must be schools in the new country so that all shall not grow up in ignorance. Where is thy father?"
Jeanne Angelot stared straight before her seeing nothing. Her father? The De Bers had a father, many children had, she remembered. And her mother was dead.
The address ended and there was a thundering roll of drums, while cheers went up here and there. Cautious French habitans and traders thought it wiser to wait and see how long this standard of stripes and stars would wave over them. They were used to battles and conquering and defeated armies, and this peace they could hardly understand. The English were rather sullen over it. Was this stripling of newfound liberty to possess the very earth?
The crowd surged about. Pani caught the arm of her young charge and drew her aside. She was alarmed at the steady scrutiny the young man had given her, though it was chiefly as to some strange specimen.
"Thou art overbold, Jeanne, smiling up in a young man's face and puckering thy brows like some maid coquetting for a lover."
"A young man!" Jeanne laughed heartily. "Why he had a snowy beard like a white bear in winter. Where were your eyes, Pani? And he told me such curious things. Is the world round, Pani? And there are lands and lands and strange people—"
"It is a brave show," exclaimed Louis Marsac joining them. "I wonder how long it will last. There are to be some new treaties I hear about the fur trade. That man from the town called New York, a German or some such thing, gets more power every month. A messenger came this morning and I am to return to my father at once. Jeanne, I wish thou and Pani wert going to the upper lakes with me. If thou wert older—"
She turned away suddenly. Marie De Ber had a group of older girls about her and she plunged into them, as if she might be spirited away.
Monsieur St. Armand had looked after his little friend but missed her in the crowd, and a shade of disappointment deepened his blue eyes.
"Mon pere," began the young man beside him, "evidently thou wert born for a missionary to the young. I dare say you discovered untold possibilities in that saucy child who knows well how to flirt her curls and arch her eyebrows. She amused me. Was that half-breed her brother, I wonder!"
"She was not a half-breed, Laurent. There are curious things in this world, and something about her suggested—or puzzled. She has no Indian eyes, but the rarest dark blue I ever saw. And did Indian blood ever break out in curly hair?"
"I only noticed her swarthy skin. And there is such a mixed-up crew in this town! Come, the grand show is about over and now we are all reborn Americans up to the shores of Lake Superior. But we will presently be due at the Montdesert House. Are we to have no more titles and French nobility be on a level with the plainest, just Sieur and Madame?" with a little curl of the lips. The elder smiled good naturedly, nay, even indulgently.
"The demoiselles are more to thee than that splendid flag waving over a free country. Thou canst return—"
"But the dinner?"
"Ah, yes, then we will go together," he assented.
"If we can pick our way through this crowd. What beggarly narrow streets. Faugh! One can hardly get his breath. Our wilds are to be preferred."
By much turning in and out they reached the upper end of St. Louis street, which at that period was quite an elevation and overlooked the river.
ON THE RIVER.
The remainder of the day was devoted to gayety, and with the male population carousing in too many instances, though there were restrictions against selling intoxicants to the Indians inside the stockade. The Frenchman drank a little and slowly, and was merry and vivacious. Groups up on the Parade were dancing to the inspiriting music, or in another corner two or three fiddles played the merriest of tunes.
Outside, and the larger part of the town was outside now, the farms stretched back with rude little houses not much more than cabins. There was not much call for solidity when a marauding band of Indians might put a torch to your house and lay it in ashes. But with the new peace was coming a greater feeling of security.
There were little booths here and there where squaws were cooking sagamite and selling it in queer dishes made of gourds. There were the little maize cakes well-browned, piles of maple sugar and wild summer plums just ripening. The De Ber children, with Jeanne and Pani, took their dinner here and there out of doors with much merriment. It was here Marsac joined them again, his hands full of fruit, which he gave to the children.
"Come over to the Strait," he exclaimed. "That is a sight worth seeing. Everything is out."
"O yes," cried Jeanne, eagerly. "And, Louis, can you not get a boat or a canoe? Let us go out on the water. I'm tired of the heat and dust."
They threaded their way up to Merchants' wharf, for at King's wharf the crowd was great. At the dock yard, where, under the English, some fine vessels had been built, a few were flying pennons of red and white, and some British ships that had not yet left flaunted their own colors. As for the river, that was simply alive with boats of every description; Indian rowers and canoers, with loads of happy people singing, shouting, laughing, or lovers, with heads close together, whispering soft endearments or promising betrothal.
"Stay here while I see if I can get a boat," said Louis, darting off, disappearing in the crowd.
They had been joined by another neighbor, Madame Ganeau and her daughter Delisse, and her daughter's lover, a gay young fellow.
"He will have hard work," declared Jacques. "I tried. Not a canoe or a pirogue or a flat boat. I wish him the joy of success."
"Then we will have to paddle ourselves," said Jeanne. "Or float, Marie. I can float beautifully when the tide is serene."
"I would not dare it for a hundred golden louis d'or," interposed Delisse.
"But Jeanne dares everything. Do you remember when she climbed the palisade? When one has a lover—" and Marie sighed a little.
"One comes to her senses and is no longer a child," said Madame Ganeau with a touch of sharpness in her voice. "The saints alone know what will become of that wild thing. Marie, since your mother is so busy with her household, some one should look you up a lover. Thou art most fourteen if I remember rightly."
"Well, there is time to be sure. Delisse will be fifteen on her wedding day. That is plenty old enough. For you see the girl bows to her husband, which is as it should be. A girl well brought up should have no temper nor ways of her own and then she more easily drops into those of her husband, who is the head of the house."
"I have a temper!" laughed Jeanne. "And I do not want any husband to rule over me as if I were a squaw."
"He will rule thee in the end. And if thou triest him too far he may beat thee."
"If he struck me I should—I should kill him," and Jeanne's eyes flashed fire.
"Thou wilt have more sense, then. And if lovers are shy of thee thou wilt begin to long for them when thou art like a dried up autumn rose on its stem."
Jeanne bridled and flung up her chin.
Pierre took her soft hand in his rough one.
"Do not mind," he said in a whisper; "I would never beat you even if you did not have dinner ready. And I will bring you lovely furs and whatever you want. My father is willing to send me up in the fur country next year."
Jeanne laughed, then turned to sudden gravity and gave back the pressure of the hand in repentance.
"You are so good to me, Pierre. But I do not want to marry in a long, long time, until I get tired of other things. And I want plenty of them and fun and liberty."
"Yes, yes, you are full of fun," approvingly.
Louis was coming up to them in a fine canoe and some Indian rowers. He waved his hand.
"Good luck, you see! Step in. Now for a glorious sail. Is it up or down?"
"Down," cried Jeanne hopping around on one foot, and still hanging to Pani.
They were soon settled within. The river was like a stream of golden fire, each ripple with a kind of phosphorescent gleam as the foam slipped away. For the oars were beating it up in every direction. The air was tensely clear. There was Lake St. Clair spread out in the distance, touching a sky of golden blue, if such colors fuse. And the opposite shore with its wealth of trees and shrubs and beginnings of Sandwich and Windsor and Fort Malden; Au Cochon and Fighting island, Grosse island in the far distance, and Bois Blanc.
"Sing," said the lover when they had gone down a little ways, for most of the crafts were given over to melody and laughter.
He had a fine voice. Singing was the great delight of those days, and nothing was more beguiling than the songs of the voyageurs. Delisse joined and Marie's soft voice was like a lapping wave. Madame Ganeau talked low to Pani about the child.
"It will not do for her to run wild much longer," she said with an air of authority. "She is growing so fast. Is there no one? Had not Father Rameau better write to M. Bellestre and see what his wishes are? And there is the Recollet house, though girls do not get much training for wives. Prayers and beads and penance are all well enough, some deserve them, but I take it girls were meant for wives, and those who can get no husbands or have lost them may be Saint Catherine's maids."
"Yes," answered Pani with a quaking heart; "M. Bellestre would know."
"A thousand pities Madame should die. But I think there is wild blood in the child. You should have kept the Indian woman and made her tell her story."
"She disappeared so quickly, and Madame Bellestre was so good and kind. The orphan of Le bon Dieu, she called her. Yes, I will see the good father."
"And I will have a talk with him when Delisse goes to confession." Madame Ganeau gave a soft, relieved sigh. "My duty is done, almost, to my children. They will be well married, which is a great comfort to a mother. And now I can devote myself to my grandchildren. Antoine has two fine boys and Jeanne a little daughter. It is a pleasant time of life with a woman. And Jean is prospering. We need not worry about our old age unless these Americans overturn everything."
Pani was a good listener and Madame Ganeau loved to talk when there was no one to advance startling ideas or contradict her. Her life had been prosperous and she took the credit to herself. Jean Ganeau had been a good husband, tolerably sober, too, and thrifty.
The two older girls chatted when they were not singing. It was seldom Marie had a holiday, and this was full of delight. Would she ever have a lover like Jacques Graumont, who would look at her with such adoring eyes and slyly snatch her hand when her mother was not looking?
Jeanne was full of enjoyment and capers. Every bird that flashed in and out of the trees, the swans and wild geese that squawked in terror and scuttled into little nooks along the shore edge as the boats passed them, the fish leaping up now and then, brought forth exclamations of delight. She found a stick with which she beat up the water and once leaned out so far that Louis caught her by the arm and pulled her back.
"Let go. You hurt me!" she exclaimed sharply.
"You will be over."
"As if I could not care for myself."
"You are the spirit of the river. Are your mates down there? What if they summon you?"
"Then why should I not go to them?" recklessly.
"Because I will not let you."
He looked steadily into her eyes. His were a little blurred and had an expression that did not please her. She turned away.
"If I should go down and get the gold hidden under the sands—"
"But a serpent guards it."
"I am not afraid of a snake. I have killed more than one. And there are good spirits who will help you if you have the right charm."
"But you do not need to go. Some one will work for you. Some one will get the gold and treasure. If you will wait—"
"Well, I do not want the treasure. Pani and I have enough."
She tossed her head, still looking away.
"Do you know that I must go up to Micmac? I thought to stay all summer, but my father has sent."
"And men have to obey their fathers as girls do their mothers;" in an idly indifferent tone.
"It is best, Jeanne; I want to make a fortune."
"I hope you will;" but there was a curl to her lip.
"And I may come back next spring with the furs."
She nodded indifferently.
"My father has another secret, which may be worth a good deal."
She made no answer but beat up the water again. There was nothing but pleasure in her mind.
"Will you be glad to see me then? Will you miss me?"
"Why—of course. But I think I do not like you as well as I used," she cried frankly.
"Not like me as well?" He was amazed. "Why, Jeanne?"
"You have grown so—so—" neither her thoughts nor her vocabulary were very extensive. "I do not think I like men until they are quite old and have beautiful white beards and voices that are like the water when it flows softly. Or the boys who can run and climb trees with you and laugh over everything. Men want so much—what shall I say?" puzzled to express herself.
"Concession. Agreement," he subjoined; "that is right," with a decisive nod. "I hate it," with a vicious swish in the water.
"But when your way is wrong—"
"My way is for myself," with dignity.
"But if you have a lover, Jeanne?"
"I shall never have one. Madame Ganeau says so. I am going to keep a wild little girl with no one but Pani until—until I am a very old woman and get aches and pains and perhaps die of a fever."
She was in a very willful mood and she was only a child. One or two years would make a difference. If his father made a great fortune, and after all no one knew where she came from—he could marry in very good families, girls in plenty had smiled on him during the past two months.
Was it watching these lovers that had stirred his blood? Why should he care for this child?
"Had we not better turn about?" said Jacques Graumont, glancing around.
There were purple shadows on one side of the river and high up on the distant hills and a soft yellow pink sheen on the water instead of the blaze of gold. A clear, high atmosphere that outlined everything on the Canadian shore as if it half derided its proud neighbor's jubilee.
Other boats were returning. Songs that were so gay an hour ago took on a certain pensiveness, akin to the purple and dun stealing over the river. It moved Jeanne Angelot strangely; it gave her a sense of exaltation, as if she could fly like a bird to some strange country where a mother loved her and was waiting for her.
When Louis Marsac spoke next to her she could have struck him in childish wrath. She wanted no one but the fragrant loneliness and the voices of nature.
"Don't talk to me!" she cried impatiently. "I want to think. I like what is in my own mind better."
Then the anger went slowly out of her face and it settled in lovely lines. Her mouth was a scarlet blossom, and her hair clung mistlike about brow and throat, softened by the warmth.
They came grating against the dock after having waited for their turn. Marsac caught her arm and let the others go before her, and she, still in a half dream, waited. Then he put his arm about her, turned her one side, and pressed a long, hot kiss on her lips. His breath was still tainted with the brandy he had been drinking earlier in the day.
She was utterly amazed at the first moment. Then she doubled up her small hand and struck the mouth that had so profaned her.
"Hah! knave," cried a voice beside her. "Let the child alone! And answer to me. What business had you with this canoe? Child, where are your friends?"
"My business with it was that I hired and paid for it," cried Marsac, angrily, and the next instant he felt for his knife.
"Paid for it?" repeated the other. "Then come and convict a man of falsehood. Put up your knife. Let us have fair play. I had hired the canoe in the morning and went up the river, and was to have it this afternoon, and he declared you took it without leave or license."
"That is a lie!" declared Marsac, passionately.
"Jeanne! Jeanne!" cried Pani in distress.
The stranger lifted her out. Jeanne looked back at Marsac, and then at the young man.
"You will not fight him?" she said to the stranger. Fights and brawls were no uncommon events.
"We shall have nothing to fight about if the man has lied to us both. But I wouldn't care to be in his skin. Come along, my man."
"I am not your man," said Marsac, furiously angry.
"Well—stranger, then. One can hardly say friend," in a dignified fashion that checked Marsac.
Pani caught the child. Pierre was on the other side of her. "What was it?" he asked. How good his stolid, rugged face looked!
"A quarrel about the boat. Run and see how they settle it, Pierre."
"But you and Marie—and it is getting dark."
"Run, run! We are not afraid." She stamped her foot and Pierre obeyed.
Marie clung to her. People jostled them, but they made their way through the narrow, crowded street. The bells were ringing, more from long habit now. Soldiers in uniform were everywhere, some as guards, caring for the noisier ones. Madame De Ber was leaning over her half door, and gave a cry of joy.
"Where hast thou been all day, and where is Pierre, my son?" she demanded.
The three tried to explain at once. They had had a lovely day, and Madame Ganeau, with her daughter and promised son-in-law, were along in the sail down the river. And Pierre had gone to see the result of a dispute—
"I sent him," cried Jeanne, frankly. "Oh, here he comes," as Pierre ran up breathless.
"O my son, thou art safe—"
"It was no quarrel of mine," said Pierre, "and if it had been I have two good fists and a foot that can kick. It was that Jogue who hired his boat twice over and pretended to forget. But he gave back the money. He had told a lie, however, for he said Marsac took the canoe without his knowledge, and then he declared he had been so mixed up—I think he was half drunk—that he could not remember. They were going to hand him over to the guard, but he begged so piteously they let him off. Then he and Louis Marsac took another drink."
Jeanne suddenly snatched up her skirt and scrubbed her mouth vigorously.
"It has been a tiresome day," exclaimed Pani, "and thou must have a mouthful of supper, little one, and go to bed."
She put her arm over the child's shoulder, with a caress; and Jeanne pressed her rosy cheek on the hand.
"I do not want any supper but I will go to bed at once," she replied in a weary tone.
"It is said that at the eastward in the Colonies they keep just such a July day with flags and confusion and cannon firing and bells ringing. One such day in a lifetime is enough for me," declared Madame De Ber.
They kept the Fourth of July ever afterward, but this was really their national birthday.
Jeanne scrubbed her mouth again before she said her little prayer and in five minutes she was soundly asleep. But the man who had kissed her and who had been her childhood's friend staggered homeward after a roistering evening, never losing sight of the blow she had struck him.
"The tiger cat!" he said with what force he could summon. "She shall pay for this, if it is ten years! In three or four years I will marry her and then I will train her to know who is master. She shall get down on her knees to me if she is handsome as a princess, if she were a queen's daughter."
Laurent St. Armand went home to his father a good deal amused after all his disappointment and vexation, for he had been compelled to take an inferior canoe.
"Mon pere," he said, as his father sat contentedly smoking, stretched out in a most comfortable fashion, "I have seen your little gossip of the morning, and I came near being in a quarrel with a son of the trader De Marsac, but we settled it amicably and I should have had a much better opinion of him, if he had not stopped to drink Jogue's vile brandy. He's a handsome fellow, too."
"And is the little girl his sister?"
"O no, not in anyway related." Then Laurent told the story, guessing at the kiss from the blow that had followed.
"Good, I like that," declared St. Armand. "Whose child is it?"
"That I do not know, but she lives up near the Citadel and her name is Jeanne Angelot. Shall I find her for you to-morrow?"
"She is a brave little girl."
"I do not like Marsac."
"His mother was an Indian, the daughter of some chief, I believe. De Marsac is a shrewd fellow. He has great faith in the copper mines. Strange how much wealth lies hidden in the earth! But the quarrel?" with a gesture of interest.
"Oh, it was nothing serious and came about Jogue's lying. I rated him well for it, but he had been drinking and there was not much satisfaction. Well, it has been a grand day and now we shall see who next rules the key to the Northwest. There is great agitation about the Mississippi river and the gulf at the South. It is a daring country, mon pere."
The elder laughed with a softened approval.
Louis Marsac did not come near St. Joseph street the next day. He slept till noon, when he woke with a humiliating sense of having quite lost his balance, for he seldom gave way to excesses. It was late in the afternoon when he visited the old haunts and threw himself under Jeanne's oak. Was she very angry? Pouf! a child's anger. What a sweet mouth she had! And she was none the worse for her spirit. But she was a tempestuous little thing when you ran counter to her ideas, or whims, rather.
Since she had neither birth nor wealth, and was a mere child, there would be no lovers for several years, he could rest content with that assurance. And if he wanted her then—he gave an indifferent nod.
Down at the Merchants' wharf, the following morning, he found the boats were to sail at once. He must make his adieus to several friends. Madame Ganeau must be congratulated on so fine a son-in-law, the De Bers must have an opportunity to wish him bon voyage.
Pani sat out on the cedar plank that made the door-sill, and she was cutting deerskin fringe for next winter's leggings. "Jeanne," she called, "Louis has come to say good-by."
Jeanne Angelot came out of the far room with a curious hesitation. Pani had been much worried for fear she was ill, but Jeanne said laughingly that she was only tired.
"Why, you run all day like a deer and never complain," was the troubled comment.
"Am I complaining, Pani?"
"No, Mam'selle. But I never knew you to want to lie on the cot in the daytime."
"But I often lie out under the oak with my head in your lap."
"To be sure."
"I'm not always running or climbing."
"No, little one;" with smiling assent.
The little one came forward now and leaned against Pani's shoulder.
"When I shall come back I do not know—in a year or two. I wonder if you will learn to talk English? We shall all have to be good Americans. And now you must wish me bon voyage. What shall I bring you when I come? Beaver or otter, or white fox—"
"Madame Reamaur hath a cape of beautiful silver fox, and when the wind blows through it there are curious dazzles on every tip."
"Surely thou hast grand ideas, Jeanne Angelot."
"I should not wear such a thing. I am only a little girl, and that is for great ladies. And Wenonah is making me a beautiful cape of feathers and quills, and the breast of wild ducks. She thinks Pani cured her little baby, and this is her offering. So I hardly want anything. But I wish thee good luck and prosperity, and a wife who will be meek and obedient, and study your pleasure in everything."
"Thank you a thousand times." He held out his hand. Pani pressed it cordially, but Jeanne did not touch it.
"The little termagant!" he said to himself. "She has not forgiven me. But girls forget. And in a year or two she will be longing for finery. Silver fox, forsooth! That would be a costly gift. Where does the child get her ideas? Not from her neighborhood nor the Indian women she consorts with. Nor even Madame Ganeau," with an abrupt laugh.
Jeanne was rather quiet all that day and did not go outside the palisade. But afterward she was her own irrepressible self. She climbed the highest trees, she swung from one limb to another, she rode astride saplings, she could manage a canoe and swim like a fish, and was the admiration of the children in her vicinity, though all of the southwestern end of the settlement knew her. She could whistle a bird to her and chatter with the squirrels, who looked out of beady eyes as if amazed and delighted that a human being belonging to the race of the destroyer understood their language. She had beaten Jacques Filion for robbing birds' nests, and she was a whole year younger, if anyone really knew how old she was.
"There will never be a brave good enough for you," said the woman Wenonah, who lived in a sort of wigwam outside the palisades and had learned many things from her white sisters that had rather unsettled her Indian faith in braves. She kept her house and little garden, made bead work and embroidery for the officers and official ladles, and cared for her little papooses with unwonted mother love. For Paspah spent most of his time stretched in the sunshine smoking his pipe, and often sold his game for a drink of rum. Several times he had been induced to go up north with the fur hunters, and Wenonah was happy and cheerful without him.
"I do not want a brave," Jeanne would fling out laughingly. "I shall be brave enough for myself."
"And thou art sensible, Red Rose!" nodding sagely. "There is no father to bargain thee away."
"Well, if fathers do that, then I am satisfied to be without one," returned the child gayly.
There were many changes to make in the new government. Under the English there had been considerable emigration of better class people and more personal liberty. It was no longer everything for a king whose rigorous command was that there should be no thought of self-government, that every plan and edict must come from a court thousands of miles away, that knew nothing of the country.
The French peasants scattered around the posts still adored their priests, but they had grown more ambitious and thrifty. Amiable, merry, and contented they endured their privations cheerfully, built bark and log cottages, many of them surrounded by sharpened palisades. There were Indian wigwams as well, and the two nations affiliated quite readily. The French were largely agriculturists, though many inside the Fort traded carefully, but the English claimed much of this business afterward.
Captain Porter was very busy restoring order. Wells had been filled with stones, windows broken, fortifications destroyed. Arthur St. Clair had been appointed Governor of the Territory, which was then a part of Illinois, but the headquarters were at Marietta. Little attention was paid to Detroit further than to recognize it as a center of trade, while emigrants were pouring into the promising sites a little farther below.
M. St. Armand had much business on hand with the new government, and was a most welcome guest in the better class families. The pretty demoiselles made much of Laurent and there were dinners and dances and card playing and sails on the river during the magnificent moonlight nights. The young American officers were glad of a little rest from the rude alarms of war that had been theirs so long, although they relaxed no vigilance. The Indians were hardly to be trusted in spite of their protestations, their pipes of peace, and exchange of wampum.
The vessel was coming gayly up the river flying the new flag. There was always a host of idle people and children about the wharf, and now they thronged to see this General Anthony Wayne, who had not only been victorious in battles, but had convinced Joseph Brant, Little Turtle, and Blue Jacket that they were mistaken in their hopes of a British re-conquest, and had gained by honorable treaty much of the country that had been claimed by the Indians. Each month the feeling was growing stronger that the United States was to be a positive and enduring power.
General Wayne stepped from the boat to the pier amid cheers, waving of flags and handkerchiefs. The soldiers were formed in line to escort him. He looked tired and worn, but there was a certain spirit in his fine, courageous eyes that answered the glances showered upon him, although his cordial words could only reach the immediate circle.
Jeanne caught a glimpse of him and stood wondering. Her ideas of heroes were vague and limited. She had seen the English dignitaries in their scarlet and gold lace, their swords and trappings, and this man looked plain beside them. Yet he or some power behind him had turned the British soldiers out of Detroit. What curious kind of strength was it that made men heroes? Something stirred within Jeanne that had never been there before,—it seemed to rise in her throat and almost strangle her, to heat her brain, and make her heart throb; her first sense of admiration for the finer power that was not brute strength,—and she could not understand it. No one about her could explain mental growth.
Then another feeling of gladness rushed over her that made every pulse bound with delight.
"O Pani," and she clutched the woman's coarse gown, "there is the man who talked to me the day they put up the flag—don't you remember? And see—he smiles, yes, he nods to me, to me!"
She caught Pani's hand and gave it an exultant beat as if it had been a drum. It was near enough like parchment that had been beaten with many a drumstick. She was used to the child's vehemence.
"I wish he were this great general! Pani, did you ever see a king?"
"I have seen great chiefs in grand array. I saw Pontiac—"
"Pouf!" with a gesture that made her seem taller. "Madame Ganeau's mother saw a king once—Louis somebody—and he sat in a great chariot and bowed to people, and was magnificent. That is such a grand word. And it is the way this man looks. Suppose a king came and spoke to you—why, you would be glad all your life."
Pani's age and her phlegmatic Indian blood precluded much enthusiasm, but she smiled down in the eager face.
The escort was moving on. The streets were too narrow to have any great throng of carriages, but General Wayne stepped into one. (The hospitable De Moirel House had been placed at his service until he could settle himself to his liking.) Madame Moirel and her two daughters, with Laurent St. Armand, were in the one that followed. Some of the officers and the chief citizens were on horseback.
Then the crowd began to disperse in the slow, leisurely fashion of people who have little to do. Some men took to their boats. It did not need much to make a holiday then, and many were glad of the excuse. A throng of idlers followed in the chemin du ronde.
Pani and her charge turned in the other direction. There was the thud of a horse, and Jeanne stepped half aside, then gave a gay, bright laugh as she shook the curls out of her eyes.
"So you have not forgotten me?" said the attractive voice that would have almost won one against his will.
"O no, M'sieu. I knew you in a moment. I could not forget you."
"Thank you, ma fille." The simple adoration touched him. Her eyes were full of the subtle glow of delight.
"You know what we spoke of that day, and now General Wayne has come. Did you see him?"
"O yes, M'sieu. I looked sharp."
"And were you pleased?" Something in her expression led him to think she was not quite satisfied, yet he smiled.
"I think you are grander," she returned, simply.
Then he laughed, but it was such a tender sound no one could be offended at it.
"Monsieur," with a curious dignity, "did you ever see a king?"
"Yes, my child, two of them. The English king, and the poor French king who was put to death, and the great Napoleon, the Emperor."
"Were they very—I know one splendid word, M'sieu, magnifique, but I like best the way the English say it, magnificent. And were they—"
"They were and are common looking men. Your Washington here is a peer to them. My child, kings are of human clay like other men; not as good or as noble as many another one."
"I am sorry," she said, with quiet gravity, which betrayed her disappointment.
"And you do not like General Wayne?"
"O Monsieur, he has done great things for us. I hear them talk about him. Yes, you know I must like him, that is—I do not understand about likes and all that, why your heart suddenly goes out to one person and shuts up to another when neither of them may have done anything for you. I have been thinking of so many things lately, since I saw you. And Pierre De Ber asked the good father, when he went to be catechised on Friday, if the world was really round. And Pere Rameau said it was not a matter of salvation and that it made no difference whether it was round or square. Pierre is sure it must be a big, flat plain. You know we can go out ever so far on the prairies and it is quite level."
"You must go to school, little one. Knowledge will solve many doubts. There will be better schools and more of them. Where does your father live? I should like to see him. And who is this woman?" nodding to Jeanne's attendant.
"That is Pani. She has always cared for me. I have no father, Monsieur, and we cannot be sure about my mother. I haven't minded but I think now I would like to have some parents, if they did not beat me and make me work."
"Pani is an Indian?"
"Yes. She was Monsieur Bellestre's servant. And one day, under a great oak outside the palisade, some one, an Indian squaw, dropped me in her lap. Pani could not understand her language, but she said in French, 'Maman dead, dead.' And when M. Bellestre went away, far, far to the south on the great river, he had the little cottage fixed for Pani and me, and there we live."
St Armand beckoned the woman, who had been making desperate signs of disapprobation to Jeanne.
"Tell me the story of this little girl," he said authoritatively.
"Monsieur, she is mine and M. Bellestre's. Even the priest has no right to take her away."
"No one will take her away, my good woman. Do not fear." For Pani's face was pale with terror and her whole form trembled. "Did you know nothing about this woman who brought her to you?"
Pani told the story with some hesitation. The Indian woman talked very fair French. To what tribe she had belonged, even the De Longueils had not known otherwise than that she had been sent to Detroit with some Pawnee prisoners.
"It is very curious," he commented. "I must go to the Recollet house and see these articles. And now tell me where I can find you—for I am due at the banquet given for General Wayne."
"It is in St. Joseph's street above the Citadel," said Jeanne. "Oh, will you come? And perhaps you will not mind if I ask you some questions about the things that puzzle me," and an eager light shone in her eyes.
"Oh, not at all. Good day, little one. I shall see you soon," and he waved his hand.
Jeanne gave a regretful smile. But then he would come. Oh, how proud he looked on his handsome horse! She felt as if something had gone out of the day, but the sun was shining.
At the corner of old St. Louis street they paused. Here was M. De Ber's warehouse,—the close, unfragrant smell of left-over furs mingling with other smells and scenting the summer air. There was almost everything in it, for it had great depth though not a very wide frontage: hardware of many kinds, firearms, rough clothing such as the boatmen and laborers wore, blankets, moccasins, and bunches of feathers, that were once in great demand by the Indians and were still called upon for dances, though they were hardly war dances now, only held in commemoration.
Pierre threw down the bundle he was shifting to the back of the place.
"Have you seen Marie this morning, Jeanne?"
There was a slow, indifferent shake of the head. The child's thoughts were elsewhere.
"Then you do not know?" The words came quick and tumbled out of his throat, as it were. He was so glad to tell Jeanne his bit of news first, just as he had been glad to find the first flowers of spring for her, to bring her the first fruits of the orchard and the first ripe grapes. How many times he had scoured the woods for them!
"What has happened?" The boy's eyes were shining and his face red to its utmost capacity, and Jeanne knew it was no harm.
"Madame Ganeau came to tea last night. Delisse is to be married next month. They are to get the house ready for her to go into. It is just out of St. Anne's street, not far from the Recollet house. It will be Delisse's birthday. And Marie is to be one of the maids."
"Oh, that will be fine," cried Jeanne eagerly. "I hope I can go."
"Of course you will. I'll be sure of that," with an assumption of mannishness. "And a great boat load of finery comes in to Dupree's from Quebec. M. Ganeau has ordered many things. Oh, I wish I was old enough to be some one's lover!"
"I must go and see Marie. And oh, Pierre, I have seen the great general who fought the Indians and the British so bravely."
Pierre nodded. It made little difference to the lad who fought and who won so that they were kept safe inside of the stockade, and business was good, for then his father was better natured. On bad days Pierre often had a liberal dose of strap.
"Come, Pani, let us go to Madame De Ber's."
Marie was out on the doorstep tending the baby, who was teething and fretful. Madame was cooking some jam of sour plums and maple sugar that was a good appetizer in the winter. There was always a baby at the De Bers'.
"And Delisse is to be married! Pierre told me."
"Yes; I wanted to run up this morning, but Aurel has been so cross. And I am to be one of the maids. At first mother said that I had no frock, but Madame Ganeau said get her a new one and it will do for next summer. I have outgrown most of my clothes, so they will have to go to Rose. All the maids are to have pink sashes and shoulder knots and streamers. It will take a sight of ribbon. But it will be something for my courting time, and the May dance and Pentecost. O dear, if I had a lover!"
"Thou foolish child!" declared her mother. "Girls are never satisfied to be girls. And the houseful of children that come afterward!"
Marie thought of all the children she had nursed, not her own. Yet she kissed little Aurel with a fond heart.
"And Delisse—" suggested Jeanne.
"Oh, Delisse is to wear the wedding gown her sisters had. It is long and has a beautiful train, some soft, shiny stuff over white silk, and lace that was on her grand'mere's gown in France, and satin slippers. They are a little tight, Delisse declares, and she will not dance in them, but they have beautiful buckles and great high heels. I should be afraid of tipping over. And then the housekeeping. All the maids go to drink tea the first Sunday, and turn their cups to see who gets the next lover."
Jeanne gave a shrug of disdain.
Marie bent over and whispered that she was sorry Louis Marsac had gone. He was so nice and amusing.
"Is he going to wait for you, Jeanne? You know you can marry whom you like, you have no father. And Louis will be rich."
"He will wait a long while then and tire of it. I do not like him any more." Her lips felt hot suddenly.
"Marie, do not talk such nonsense to Jeanne. She is only a child like Rose, here. You girls get crack-brained about lovers."
"Come," said Pani. "Let us get a pail and go after wild plums. These smell so good."
"And, Pani, look if the grapes are not fit to preserve," said Madame De Ber. "I like the tart green taste, as well as the spice of the later ripeness."
Jeanne assented. She was so glad Louis Marsac had gone. Why, when she had liked him so very much and been proud to order him about, and make him lift her over the creeks, should she experience such a great revulsion of feeling? Two long years! and when he returned—
"I can take Pani and run away, for I shall be a big girl then," and she laughed over the plan.
What a day it was! The woods were full of fragrant odors, though here and there great patches had been cut and burned so as to afford no harbor to the Indians. Fruits grew wild, nuts abounded, and oh, the flowers! Jeanne liked these days in the woods, but what was there that she did not like? The river was an equal pleasure. Pani filled her pail with plums, Jeanne her arms with flowers.
The new house of Delisse Ganeau became a great source of interest. It had three rooms, which was considered quite grand for a young couple. Jacques Graumont had a bedstead, a table, and a dresser that had been his mother's, a pair of brass candlesticks and some dishes. Her mother looked over her own stores, but the thriftier kind of French people put away now and then some plenishing for their children. She was closely watched lest Delisse should fare better than the other girls. Sisters had sharp eyes.
There was her confession to be made, and her instruction as to the duties of a wife, just as if she had not seen her mother's wifely life all her days!
"I like the Indian way best," cried Jeanne in a spirit of half contrariness. "Your husband takes you to his wigwam and you cook his meal, and it is all done with, and no fuss. Half Detroit is running wild."
"Oh, no," replied Pani, amused at the child's waywardness. "I dare say the soldiers know nothing about it. And your great general and the ladies who give dinners. After all it is just a few people. And, little one, the Church wants these things all right. Then the husbands cannot run away and leave the poor wives to sit and cry."
"I wouldn't cry," said the child with determination in her voice, and a color flaming up in her face.
Yet she had come very near crying over a man who was nothing to her. She was feeling hurt and neglected. One day out in her dainty canoe she had seen a pleasure party on the river and her hero was among them. There were ladies in beautiful garments and flying ribbons and laces. Oh, she could have told him among a thousand! And he sat there so grandly, smiling and talking. She went home with a throbbing heart and would eat no supper; crawled into her little bed and thrust her face down in the fragrant pillow, but her fist was doubled up as if she could strike some one. She would not let the tears steal through her lids but kept swallowing over a big lump in her throat.
"Mam'selle," said the tailor's wife, who was their next door neighbor, "yesterday, no, it was the day before when you and Pani were out—you know you are out so much," and she sighed to think how busily she had to ply her needle to suit her severe taskmaster—"there came a gentleman down from the Fort who was dreadfully disappointed not to find you. He was grand looking, with a fine white beard, and his horse was all trapped off with shining brass. I can't recall his name but it had a Saint to it."
"St. Armand?" with a rapid breath.
"Yes, that was it. Mademoiselle, I did not know you had any such fine friends."
Jeanne did not mind the carping tone.
"Thank you. I must go and tell Pani," and she skipped away, knowing that Pani was not in the house, but she wanted to give vent to her joy.
She danced about the old room and her words had a delight that was like music. "He has not forgotten me! he has not forgotten me!" was her glad song. The disappointment that she had missed him came afterward.
For although Detroit was not very large at this time, one might have wandered about a good deal and not seen the one person it would have been a pleasure to meet. And Jeanne was much more at home outside the palisade. The business jostling and the soldiers gave her a slight sense of fear and the crowding was not to her taste. She liked the broad, free sweep outside. And whether she had inherited a peculiar pride and delicacy from the parents no one knew; certain it was she would put herself in no one's way. Others came to her, she felt then every one must.
She could not have understood the many claims upon Monsieur St. Armand. There were days when he had to study his tablets to remember even a dinner engagement. He was called into council by General Wayne, he had to go over to the Canada side with some delicate negotiations about the upper part of the Territory, he was deeply interested in the opening and working of the copper mines, and in the American Fur Company, so it was hardly to be wondered at that he should forget about the little girl when there were so many important things.
The wedding was not half so tiresome then. And oh, what glorious weather it was, just enough sharpness at night to bring out all the fragrant dewy smells! The far-off forests glowed like gardens of wonderful bloom when the sun touched them with his marvelous brilliancy. And the river would have been a study for an artist or a fairy pen.
So one morning the bell of old St. Anne's rung out a cheerful peal. It had been rebuilt and enlarged once, but it had a quaintly venerable aspect. And up the aisle the troop of white clad maidens walked reverently and knelt before the high altar where the candles were burning and there was an odor of incense beside the spice of evergreens.
The priest made a very sacred ceremony of the marriage. Jeanne listened in half affright. All their lives long, in sickness and health, in misfortune, they must never cease to love, never allow any wavering fancies, but go on to old age, to death itself.
Delisse looked very happy when her veil was thrown back. And then they had a gala time. Friends came to see the new house and drink the bride's health and wish the husband good luck. And the five bridesmaids and their five attendants came to tea. There was much anxiety when the cups were turned, and blushes and giggles and exclamations, as an old Indian woman, who had a great reputation for foretelling, and would surely have been hung in the Salem witchcraft, looked them over with an air of mystery, and found the figure of a man with an outstretched hand, in the bottom of Marie De Ber's cup.
"And she's the youngest. That isn't fair!" cried several of the girls, while Madelon Dace smiled serenely, for she knew when the next trappers came in her lover would be among them, and a speedy wedding follow. Marie had never walked from church with a young man.
Then the dance in the evening! That was out of doors under the stars, in the court at the back of the house. The Loisel brothers came with their fiddles, and there was great merriment in a simple, delightful fashion, and several of the maids had honeyed words said to them that meant a good deal, and held out promises of the future. For though they took their religion seriously in the services of the Church, they were gay and light hearted, pleasure loving when the time of leisure came, or at festivals and marriages.
AN UNKNOWN QUANTITY.
"There was a pretty wedding to-day in St. Anne's," said Madelon Fleury, glancing up at Laurent St. Armand, with soft, dark eyes. "I looked for you. I should have asked you formally," laughing and showing her pearly teeth, "but we had hardly thought of going. It was a sudden thing. And the bridesmaids were quite a sight."
"There is an old English proverb," began Madame Fleury—
"'Who changes her name and not the letter, Marries for worse and not the better.'
and both names begin alike."
"But they are French," appended Lisa, brightly. "The prediction may have no effect."
"It is to be hoped it will not," commented Monsieur Fleury. "Jacques Graumont is a nice, industrious young fellow, and not given to drink. Now there will be business enough, and he is handy and expert at boat building, while the Ganeaus are thrifty people. M. Ganeau does a good business in provisioning the traders when they go north. Did you wish the young couple success, Madelon?"
The girl flushed. "I do not know her. We have met the mother occasionally. To tell the truth, I do not enjoy this mixing up of traders and workmen and—" she hesitated.
"And quality," appended Lisa, with a mischievous glance at her sister.
"We are likely to have more of it than less," said her father, gravely. "These Americans have some curious ideas. While they are proud enough to trace their ancestry back to French or English or even Italian rank, they taboo titles except such as are won by merit. And it must be confessed they have had many brave men among them, heroes animated by broader views than the first conquerors of the country."
"Yes," exclaimed St. Armand, "France made a great mistake and has lost her splendid heritage. She insisted on continuing the old world policy of granting court favorites whatever they asked, without studying the conditions of the new world. Then England pinned her faith and plans to a military colonization that should emanate from a distant throne. It is true she gave a larger liberty, a religious liberty, and exploited the theory of homes instead of mere trading posts. The American has improved on all this. It is as if he said, 'I will conquer the new world by force of industry; there shall be equal rights to homes, to labor, to'—there is a curious and delightful sounding sentence in their Declaration, which is a sort of corner stone—'life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.' One man's idea of happiness is quite different from another's, however;" smiling.
"And there will be clashing. There is much to do, and time alone can tell whether they will work out the problem."
"They seem to blend different peoples. There is the Puritan in the East, who is allowing his prejudices to soften; there are the Dutch, about the towns on the Hudson, the Friends in Pennsylvania, the proud old cavaliers in Virginia and Carolina."
"And the Indians, who will ever hate them! The French settlements at the West, up and down the mighty river, who will never forget La Salle, Tonti, Cadillac, and the De Bienvilles. There's a big work yet to do."
"I think they will do it," returned St. Armand, his eyes kindling. "With such men as your brave, conciliatory General Wayne, a path is opened for a more reasonable agreement."
"You cannot trust the Indians. I think the French have understood them better, and made them more friendly. In many respects they are children, in others almost giants where they consider themselves wronged. And it is a nice question, how much rights they have in the soil."
"It has been a question since the world began. Were not the children of Israel commanded to drive the Canaanites out of their own land? Did not the Romans carry conquests all over Europe? And the Spaniard here, who has been driven out for his cruelty and rapacity. The world question is a great tree at which many nations have a hack, and some of them get only the unripe fruit as the branches fall. But the fruit matures slowly, and some one will gather it in the end, that is certain."
"But has not the Indian a right to his happiness, to his liberty?" said Laurent, rather mischievously. He had been chaffing with the girls, yet listening to the talk of the elders.
"In Indian ethics might makes right as elsewhere. They murder and destroy each other; some tribes have been almost wiped out and sold for slaves, as these Pawnee people. Depend upon it they will never take kindly to civilization. A few have intermarried, and though there is much romance about Rolfe and his Indian princess, St. Castin and his, they are more apt to affiliate with the Indians in the next generation."
"My young man who was so ready to fight was a half-breed, I heard," said Laurent. "His French father is quite an important fur trader, I learned. Yet the young fellow has been lounging round for the past three months, lying in the sun outside the stockade, flirting and making love alike to Indian and French maids, and haunting Jogue's place down on the river. Though, for that matter, it seems to be headquarters for fur traders. A handsome fellow, too. Why has he not the pride of the French?"
"Such marriages are a disgrace to the nation," said Madame Fleury, severely.
"And that recalls to my mind,—" St. Armand paused with a retrospective smile, thinking of the compliment his little friend had paid him,—"to inquire if you know anything about a child who lives not far from the lower citadel, in the care of an Indian woman. Her name is Jeanne Angelot."
The girls glanced at each other with a little curl of the lip as St. Armand's eyes wandered around.
"My father met her at the flag-raising and was charmed with her eyes and her ignorance," said Laurent, rather flippantly.
"If I were going to become a citizen of Detroit I should interest myself in this subject of education. It is sinful to allow so many young people to grow up in ignorance," declared the elder St. Armand.
"Most of our girls of the better class are sent to Montreal or Quebec," exclaimed Madame Fleury. "The English have governesses. And there is the Recollet school; there may be places outside the stockade."
Monsieur Fleury shook his head uncertainly. "Angelot, Angelot," he repeated. "I do not know the name."
"Father Gilbert or Father Rameau might know. Are these Angelots Catholics?"
"There is only one little girl."
"Oh!" a light broke over Madame's face. "I think I can recall an event. Husband, you know the little child the Bellestres had?"
"I do not remember," shaking his head.
"It was found queerly. They had a slave who became its nurse. The Bellestres were Huguenots, but Madame had a leaning toward the Church and the child was baptized. Madame Bellestre, who was a lovely woman, deferred to her husband until she was dying, when Father Rameau was sent for and she acknowledged that she died in the holy faith. There was some talk about the child, but M. Bellestre claimed it and cares for it. Under the English reign, you know, the good fathers had not so much authority."
"Where can I find this Father Rameau?"
"At the house beside the church. It is headquarters for the priests who come and go. A delightful old man is the father, though I could wish at times he would exercise a little more authority and make a stand for our rights. I sometimes fear we shall be quite pushed to the wall."
St. Armand had come of a long line of Huguenots more than one of whom had suffered for his faith. He was a liberal now, studying up religion from many points, but he was too gallant to discuss it with a lady and his hostess.
The young people were getting restive. It was just the night for delightful canoeing on the river and it had been broached in the afternoon. Marie the maid, quite a superior woman, was often intrusted with this kind of companionship. Before they were ready to start a young neighbor came in who joined them.
Monsieur Fleury invited his guest to an end porch shaded by a profusion of vines, notable among them the sweetbrier, that gave out a fragrant incense on the night air. Even here they could catch sounds of the music from the river parties, for the violin and a young French habitan were almost inseparable.
"Nay," he replied, "though a quiet smoke tempts the self-indulgent side of my nature. But I want to see the priest. I am curiously interested in this child."
"There were some whispers about her, Monsieur, that one does not mention before young people. One was that she had Indian blood in her veins, and—" here Madame Fleury lowered her voice almost to a whisper,—"and that Madame Bellestre, who was very much of the haute noblesse, should be so ready to take in a strange child, and that M. Bellestre should keep his sort of guardianship over her and provide for her. Some of the talk comes back to me. There have been many questionable things done we older people know."