TALE OF THE AMERICAN INVASION OF CANADA IN 1775-76.
TORONTO: BELFORD BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS. 1877.
Entered according to the Act of Parliament of Canada, in the year one thousand eight hundred and seventy-seven, by BELFORD BROTHERS, in the office of the Minister of Agriculture.
TORONTO: WILLIAMS, SLEETH & MACMILLAN, PRINTERS, 124 BAY STREET.
THE GATHERING OF THE STORM.
CHAPTER I. Blue Lights II. Beyond the River III. At the Chateau IV. In Cathedral Square V. Receiving Despatches VI. Pauline's Tears VII. Beautiful Rebel VIII. The Hermit of Montmorenci IX. The Wolf's Cry X. The Casket XI. The Spirit of the Waterfall XII. Three Rivers XIII. A Successful Mission XIV. Crossing the Boats XV. The Meeting of the Lovers XVI. The Round Table XVII. A Noble Reparation XVIII. Roderick Hardinge XIX. The Frightened Doves XX. The Spectral Army
THE THICKENING OF THE CLOUDS.
I. Zulma Sarpy II. Fast and Loose III. The Sheet-Iron Men IV. Birch and Maple V. On the Ramparts VI. The Flag of Truce VII. The Covered Bridge VIII. Cary Singleton IX. The Song of the Violin X. Blood Thicker than Water XI. Death in the Falls XII. Advice and Warning XIII. A Woman's Tactics XIV. The Romance of Love XV. On the High Road XVI. An Epic March XVII. O Gioventu Primavera Della Vita XVIII. Braiding St Catherine's Tresses XIX. Par Nobile
THE BURSTING OF THE TEMPEST.
I. Quebec in 1775-76 II. Cary's Message III. The Unremembered Brave IV. Practical Love V. Zulma and Batoche VI. The Ball at the Castle VII. The Attack of the Masks VIII. Unconscious Greatness IX. Pauline's Development X. On the Citadel XI. Horseman and Amazon XII. Was it Design or Accident? XIII. The Intendant's Palace XIV. Little Blanche XV. In Batoche's Cabin XVI. A Painful Meeting XVII. Nisi Dominus XVIII. Last Days XIX. Pres-de-Ville XX. Sault-au-Matelot
AFTER THE STORM.
I. The Confessional II. Blanche's Prophecy III. The Prophecy Fulfilled IV. Days of Suspense V. The Invalid VI. The Saving Stroke VII. Donald's Fate VIII. The Burdened Heart IX. Ebb and Flow X. On the Brink XI. In the Vale of the Shadow of Death XII. In the Fiery Furnace XIII. Roderick's Last Battle XIV. At Valcartier XV. Friendship Stronger than Love XVI. The Hour of Gloom XVII. The Great Retreat XVIII. Consummatum Est XIX. Final Quintet
BOOK I. THE GATHERING OF THE STORM.
He stood leaning heavily on his carbine. High on his lonely perch, he slowly promenaded his eye over the dusk landscape spread out before him. It was the hour of midnight and a faint star-light barely outlined the salient features of the scenery. Behind him wound the valley of the St. Charles black with the shadows of pine and tamarac. Before him rose the crags of Levis, and beyond were the level stretches of the Beauce. To his left the waterfall of Montmorenci boomed and glistened. To his right lay silent and deserted the Plains of Abraham, over which a vapor of sanguine glory seemed to hover. Directly under him slept the ancient city of Champlain. A few lights were visible in the Chateau of St Louis where the Civil Governor resided, and in the guard-rooms of the Jesuit barracks on Cathedral-square, but the rest of the capital was wrapped in the solitude of gloom. Not a sound was heard in the narrow streets and tortuous defiles of Lower Town. A solitary lamp swung from the bows of the war-sloop in the river.
He stood leaning heavily on his carbine. To have judged merely from his attitude, one would have said that he was doing soldier's duty with only a mechanical vigilance. But such was not the case. Never was sentry set upon watch of heavier responsibility, and never was watch kept with keener observation. Eye, ear, brain—the whole being was absorbed in duty. Not a sight escaped him—from the changes of cloud in the lowering sky over the offing, to the deepening of shadows in the alley of Wolfe's Cove. Not a sound passed unheard—from the fluttering wing of the sparrow that had built its winter nest in the guns of the battery, to the swift dash of the chipmunk over the brown glacis of the fortifications. Standing there on the loftiest point of the loftiest citadel in America, his martial form detached from its bleak surroundings, and clearly defined, like a block of sculptured marble, against the dark horizon—silent, alone and watchful—he was the representative and custodian of British power in Canada in the hour of a dread crisis. He felt the position and bore himself accordingly.
Roderick Hardinge was a high-spirited young fellow. He belonged to the handful of militia which guarded the city of Quebec, and he resented the imputations which had been continually cast, during the preceding two months, on the efficiency of that body. He knew that the Americans had carried everything before them in the upper part of the Colony. Schuyler had occupied Isle-aux-Noix without striking a blow. Five hundred regulars and one hundred volunteers had surrendered at St. Johns. Bedell, of New Hampshire, had captured Chambly, with immense stores of provisions and war material. Montgomery was marching with his whole army against Montreal. The garrison of that city was too feeble to sustain an attack and must yield to the enemy. Then would come the turn of Quebec. Indeed, it was well known that Quebec was the objective point of the American expedition. As the fall of Quebec had secured the conquest of New France by the British in 1759, so the capture of Quebec was expected to secure the conquest of Canada by the Americans in the winter of 1775-76. This was perfectly understood by the Continental Congress at Philadelphia. The plan of campaign was traced out with this view for General Schuyler, and when that officer resigned the command, owing to illness, after his success at St. Johns, Montgomery took up the same idea and determined to carry it out. From Montreal he addressed a letter to Congress in which he said pithily: "till Quebec is taken, Canada is unconquered."
Roderick Hardinge was painfully aware that the authorities of Quebec had little or no confidence in the ability of the militia for the purposes of defence. It was necessary in the interest of that body, as well as in the interest of the city, that this prejudice should be exploded. Hardinge undertook to do it. No time was to be lost. In a fortnight Quebec might be invested. He set to work with the assistance of only one tried companion. Their project was kept a profound secret even from the commander of the corps.
It was the night of the 6th November, 1775. Hardinge left headquarters unnoticed and unattended, and proceeded at once to the furthest outpost of the citadel. He was hailed by the sentinel and gave the countersign. Then, addressing the soldier by name—the man belonged to his regiment—he ordered him to hand over his musket. No questions were asked and no explanations were given. Hardinge was an officer, and the simple militiaman saw no other course than obedience. If he had any curiosity or suspicion, both were relieved by the further order to keep out of sight, but within hailing distance, until his services should be required. The signal was to be a whistle.
Roderick Hardinge remained on guard from ten till twelve. As we have seen, he was sharply observant of everything that lay before him. But there was one point of the horizon to which his eye more assiduously turned. It was the high road leading from Levis over the table-land of the Beauce back to the forests. It was evidently from this direction that the object of his watch was to appear. And he was not disappointed.
Just as the first stroke of twelve sounded from the turret of Notre-Dame Cathedral, a blue light shot into the air from a point on this road, not more than a hundred yards from the river bank.
Roused by the sight, Roderick straightened himself up, snatched his carbine from his left side, threw it up on his right shoulder and presented arms.
The sixth stroke of midnight was just heard, when a second blue light darted skyward, but this time fully fifty yards nearer. The man who fired it was evidently running toward the river.
Roderick made a step forward and uttered a low cry.
The last stroke of the twelve had hardly been heard, when a third light whizzed up from the very brink of the river.
Roderick turned briskly round and gave a shrill whistle. The faithful soldier, whose watch he had assumed, immediately rushed forward, had his musket thrust back into his hands, with an injunction from Hardinge to keep silence. The latter had barely time to recede into the darkness when the relief-guard, consisting of a corporal and two privates, came to the spot and the usual formality of changing sentries was gone through.
BEYOND THE RIVER.
With a throbbing heart, Roderick Hardinge walked rapidly over the brow of the citadel into Upper Town. He glanced up at the Chateau as he passed, but the lights which were visible there two hours before, were now extinguished, and the Governor was sleeping without a dream of the mischief that was riding out upon the city that night. He passed through the Square and overhead the wassail of the officers over their wine and cards. He answered the challenge of the sentinel at the gate which guarded the heights of Mountain Hill, and doubled his pace down that winding declivity. The old hill has been the scene of many an historic incident, but surely of none more momentous than this midnight walk of Roderick Hardinge. Along the dark, narrow streets of Lower Town, stumbling over stones and sinking into cavities. Not a soul on the way. Not a sign of life in the square, black warehouses, with their barricades of sheet-iron doors and windows.
In twenty minutes, the young officer had reached the river at the point where now stands the Grand Trunk wharf. A boat with two oars lay at his feet. Without a moment's hesitation he stepped into it, unfastened the chain that held it to the bank, threw the oars into their locks, and, with a vigorous stroke, turned the boat's nose to the south shore. As he did this, his eye glanced upward at the city. There it stood above him, silent and unconscious. The gigantic rock of Cape Diamond towered over him as if exultant in its own strength, and in mockery of his forebodings. He rowed under the stern of the war-sloop. A solitary lantern hung from her bows, but no watchman hailed him from her quarter.
"The Horse Jockey is evidently a myth for them all," he murmured. "But he will soon be found a terrible reality, and it's Roddy Hardinge will tell them so."
The St. Lawrence is not so wide above Quebec as it is at other places along its course, and in a quarter of an hour, the oarsman had reached his destination. As the keel of his boat grated on the sands, a man stepped forward to meet him. The officer sprang out and slapped him on the shoulder.
"Good old boy, Donald."
"Thanks to you, maister."
"Punctual to a minute, as usual, Donald."
"Aye, sir, but 'twas a close scratch. The horse, I fear, feels it mair than I do."
"No doubt, no doubt. Rode much?"
"Nigh on ten hours, sir, and nae slackened rein."
"Oh, but my heart leaped, Donald, when I saw your first rocket. I could hardly believe my eyes."
"Just saved my distance, maister. If I had broken a gairth, I would have been too late. But it's dune, sir."
"Yes, old friend, and well done."
The two men then entered upon a long and earnest conference, speaking in low tones. From the animated manner of the old man and the frequent exclamations of the younger, it was evident that important information was being communicated by the one to the other. During a pause in the conversation, Donald produced a small paper parcel which he handed to Roderick Hardinge.
"'Twas stuckit in the seat o' my saddle, maister," said he, "an I wadna hae lost it for the warld."
Roderick wrapped the parcel in his bandanna, and carefully placed it in his breast pocket, after which he buttoned his coat to the chin.
At the end of half an hour, the two men prepared to separate.
"I will now hurry across," said Roderick. "And you, Donald, return to the inn. You must need rest terribly."
"Twa hours or sae will set me to richts, sir."
"And your horse?"
"He's knockit up for gude, sir."
"Then get another and the best you can find. Here are fifty sovereigns. Use them freely in His Majesty's name."
Donald bowed loyally and low.
"I will be awake and awa' a gude hour before dawn, maister Roddy. The sunrise will see me weel oot o' the settlements."
"And we meet here again at midnight."
"Depend upon it, sir, unless the rapscallion rebels should catch and hang me up to one of the tall aiks o' the Chaudiere."
"Never fear, Donald; a traitor's death was never meant for an old soldier of the King, like you."
The young officer entered his boat and immediately bent to the oars. The old servant walked up the hill leading to Levis, and was soon lost in the darkness.
AT THE CHATEAU.
Roderick reached the north shore in safety. He fastened his boat to the same green, water-worn bulwark from which he had loosened it not more than an hour before. He walked up to the city along the same route which he had previously followed. Nothing had changed. Everything was profoundly quiescent. Every body was still asleep. If he courted secrecy, he must have been content, for it was evident that no one had been a witness of his strange proceedings.
When he got within the gates of Upper Town, his pace slackened perceptibly. It was not hesitation, but deliberation. He paused a moment in front of the barracks. The lights in the officers' quarters were out and no sound came from the mess-room. This circumstance seemed to deter him from entering, and he continued on his way direct to the Chateau St. Louis. Having passed the guard satisfactorily, he rapped loudly at the main portal. An orderly who was sleeping in his clothes, on a lounge in the vestibule, sprang to his feet at once snatching up his dark lantern from behind the door, and opened. Throwing the light upon the face of his visitor, he exclaimed—
"Halloa, Hardinge, what the deuce brings you here at this disreputable hour? Come in; it's blasted cold."
"I want to see His Excellency."
"Surely not just now? He was ailing last evening and retired early. I don't think he would fancy being drummed up before daylight."
"Very sorry, but I must see him."
"Some little scrape, eh? Want the old gentleman to get you out of it before the town has wind of it," said the orderly, who by this time was thoroughly awake and disposed to be in good humor.
"Something far more serious, Simpson, I am concerned to say. You know I would not call here at such an hour without the most urgent cause. I really must see the Governor and at once."
This was said without any signs of impatience, but in so earnest a way, that the orderly, who knew his friend well, felt that the summons could not be denied. He, therefore, proceeded at once to have the Governor awakened. With more celerity than either of the young men had looked for, that official rose, dressed and stepped into his ante-chamber where he sent for Hardinge to meet him. After a few words of apology, the latter unfolded to His Excellency the object of his visit. He stated that while every body in the city was busying himself about the invasion of the Colony from the west, by the Continental army under Montgomery, the other invading column from the east, under Arnold, was almost completely lost sight of. For his part, he declared that he considered it the more dangerous of the twain. It was composed of some very choice troops, had been organized under the eye of Washington himself, and was commanded by a dashing fellow. In addition to his other qualities, Arnold had the incalculable advantage of a personal knowledge of the city from several visits which he had quite lately paid it for commercial purposes. The people of Quebec seemed completely to ignore Arnold's expedition. They had a notion that it was or would be submerged somewhere among the cascades of the Kennebec, or, at least, that it would never succeed in penetrating so far as the frontier at Sertigan.
The Governor wrapped his dressing gown more closely about him, threw his head back on the pillow of his arm-chair, and gave vent to a little yawn or two, as if in gentle wonder whether it were worth while to rouse him from his slumbers for the sake of all this information with which he was quite familiar already. But the Governor was a patient, courteous gentleman, and could not believe that even a militia officer would presume so far on his good nature as to come to him at such an hour, unless he had really something of definite importance to communicate. He, therefore, did not interrupt his visitor. Roderick Hardinge continued to say that, fearing lest Arnold should pounce like a vulture upon the city while most of the troops of the Colony were with General Carleton, near Montreal, and in the Richelieu peninsula, and while, consequently, it was in an almost defenceless condition, he had determined to find out for himself all the facts connected with his approach. It might be presumption, on his part, but he had not full confidence in the few reports on this head which had reached the city, and wished to satisfy himself from more personal sources.
Here His Excellency smiled a little at the ingenuous confession of the subaltern, but a moment later, he opened his eyes very wide, when Roderick told him in minute detail all the circumstances which we have narrated in the preceding chapters.
"Your man, Donald, is thoroughly reliable?" queried the Lieutenant-Governor.
"I answer for him as I would for myself. He was an old servant of my father's all through his campaigns."
"He says that Arnold has crossed the line?"
"Yes, Your Excellency."
"And that he is actually marching on Quebec?"
"Yes, Your Excellency."
"And that he is within——?"
"Sixty miles of the city."
The Lieutenant-Governor plucked his velvet bonnet from his head and flung it on the table.
"Did you say sixty miles?"
"Sixty miles, sir."
His Excellency quietly took up his cap, set it on his head, threw himself back in his seat, placed his elbows on the elbows of the chair, closed his palms together perpendicularly, moved them up and down before his lips, and with his eyes cast to the ceiling, entered upon this little calculation.
"Sixty miles. At the rate of fifteen miles a day, it will take Mr. Arnold four days to reach Levis. This is the seventh, is it not? Then, on the eleventh, we may expect that gentleman's visit."
"Arnold will make two forced marches of thirty miles each, Your Excellency, and arrive opposite this city in two days. This is the seventh; on the ninth, we shall see his vanguard on the heights of Levis."
"Ho! Ho! And is that the way the jolly rebel is carrying on? He must have had a wonderful run of luck all at once. The last we heard from him, his men had mutinied and were about to disband."
"That was because they were starving."
"And have they been filled, forsooth?"
"They have, sir."
"By our own people at Sertigan and further along the Chaudiere."
"But horses? They are known to have lost them all in the wilderness."
"They have been replaced."
"Not by our own people, surely."
"Yes, sir, by our own people."
"Impossible. Our poor farmers have been robbed and plundered by these rascals."
"Excuse me, Your Excellency, but these rascals pay and pay largely for whatever they require."
"No, sir, in paper."
"Their Continental paper?"
"Rags, vile rags."
"That may be. But our farmers accept them all the same and freely."
Roderick here produced the small parcel which he had deposited in his breast pocket, and having unfolded it, drew forth several slips which he handed to His Excellency. They were specimens of American currency, and receipts signed by Arnold and others of his officers for cattle and provisions obtained from Canadian farmers.
"Indeed," continued the young officer, "Your Excellency will excuse me for saying that, from all the information in my possession—information upon which I insist that you can implicitly rely—it is beyond question that the population, through which the invading column has passed and is passing, is favourable to their cause. A trumpery proclamation written by General Washington himself, and translated into French, has been distributed among them, and they have been carried away by its fine sentences about liberty and independence. These facts account for all the misleading and false reports which we have hitherto received concerning the expedition. We have been purposely and systematically kept in the dark in regard to it. Left to itself, Arnold's army would have disbanded through insubordination, or perished of starvation and hardship in the wilderness. Comforted and replenished by His Majesty's own subjects, it is now marching with threatening front toward Quebec."
"Traitors to the King in the outlying districts cannot unfortunately be so easily reached as those who lie more immediately under our eyes. But their time will come yet. Meanwhile, we have to keep a sharp watch over disaffection and treason within the walls of this very city," said the Lieutenant-Governor with great earnestness and very perceptible warmth.
"This parcel may probably assist Your Excellency in doing so," replied Hardinge, at the same time delivering the remainder of the package which he had received from Donald.
"What have we here?" questioned the Governor, while unfastening the strings which bound the parcel.
"Letters from Colonel Arnold to General Schuyler, the original commander of the army of invasion. Arnold will be surprised, if not chagrined, to learn that Schuyler has been succeeded by Montgomery."
"Ah! I see. Well, as these letters are not addressed to General Montgomery, and as Gen. Schuyler has left the country, it will be no breach of etiquette on our part if we open them. No doubt they will furnish very interesting reading. And these?"
"They are letters from Arnold to several prominent citizens of Quebec."
"Your Excellency will please read the addresses."
The Governor examined the superscriptions one by one, and in silence, while he made his comments in an undertone.
"Mr. L.—It does not surprise me."
"Mr. F.—I shall inquire into it."
"Mr. O.—As likely as not."
"Mr. R.—Must be some mistake. He is too big a fool to take sides one way or the other."
"Mr. G.—His wife will have to decide that matter for him."
"Mr. X.—I'll give him a commission, and he'll be all right."
"Mr. N.—I don't believe a word of it."
"Mr. H.—Loose fish. He was false to France under Montcalm. He may be false to England under Carleton."
And so on through a dozen more. At length he came upon the twentieth address, when he exclaimed:
"Mr. B.—Impossible! My best friend! But what if it were true? Who knows what these dark days may bring about? B—! B—! I will see to it at once."
Saying which, he flung all the letters on the table, and striving to master his excitement, turned towards Roderick Hardinge, and asked:
"Have you anything else to say to me, my young friend?"
"Nothing more, sir, unless it be to apologize for having occupied so much of your time, and especially at this hour."
"Never mind that. If what you have told me is all true, the information is incalculable in importance. I shall lose no time in acting, and shall not forget you, nor your old servant. I will send out scouts at once, and proceed myself to the examination of these letters which you have placed in my hands. The situation is grave, young man. You have done well, and to show you how much I appreciate your conduct, I intend employing you on a further mission. You have not slept this night?"
"No, Your Excellency."
"It is now half-past five. Go and rest till noon. At that hour come to me with the best saddle horse in your regiment. I will give you your instructions then."
Roderick Hardinge gave the salute and took his departure just as the first streaks of dawn lighted the sky.
No one accosted him in the vestibule. The sentinel at the entrance did not even notice him. He walked straight to the barracks. As he crossed the Cathedral-square, a graceful hooded figure glided past him and entered into the old church. It was pretty Pauline Belmont. Roderick recognized her, and turned to speak to her, but she had disappeared under the arcade. Alas! if either of them had known.
IN CATHEDRAL SQUARE.
There was a notable stir in Quebec on the morning of the 7th November, 1775. The inhabitants who had retired to their houses, the evening before, in the security of ignorance, rose the next day with the vague certainty of an impending portent. There was electricity in the air. The atmosphere was charged with moral as well as material clouds. People opened their windows and looked out anxiously. They stood on their doorsteps as if timorous to go forward. They gathered in knots on the street corners and conferred in low tones. There was nothing definite known. Nobody had seen anything. Nobody had heard anything. Yet all manner of wild stories circulated through the crowds. Strange fires were said to have burned in the sky during the night. A phantom sentinel had kept watch on the citadel, a spectral waterman had crossed the river with muffled oars, a shadowy horseman from the forest had dashed through Levis, and his foaming steed had fallen dead on the water's edge. Those who disbelieved might see the corse of the animal in a sand-quarry not a hundred yards from where he fell. And there was more. A mysterious visitor had called upon the Governor in the small hours. A long conference had taken place between them. The Governor was in a towering rage, and the stranger had departed upon another errand as singular as that which had brought him to the Chateau. These and other more fantastic rumors flew from mouth to mouth and from one end of the city to the other. It is wonderful how near the truth of things above them the ignorant crowd can come, and how powerful is the instinct of great events in vulgar minds. By ten o'clock Quebec was in an uproar, and Cathedral-square was full of people.
Facing the Square from the east was the barracks. But no signs of commotion were visible there. Two sentries walked up and down their long beats as quietly as if on parade. Privates who were off duty stood leaning against the wall or the door-frames of the building, with their hands in their pockets and one leg resting over the other. Some even smoked their pipes with that half-blank, half-truculent expression which people find so provoking in public officials at times of popular excitement. Still a close inspection showed that the military were busier than usual. Patrol guards issued from the courtyard at more frequent intervals, and the knowing ones observed that they were doubled. It was noticed also that more parts of the city were being guarded than the day before. For instance, fully one hundred men were detached for service along the line of the river where previously there were few or none. Officers, too, were constantly riding to and from the barracks, evidently carrying orders. Passing through the Square, they moved slowly, but in the side streets accelerated their pace.
The forenoon thus wore away. The sky kept on thickening and lowering until it broke into a snow-storm. A light east wind arose, and the white flakes tossed and whirled, blotting out the lines of the horizon. The heights of Levis melted in the distance, the bed of the river was surmounted by a wall of vapor, and the tall rock of the citadel wavered like a curtain of gauze. What a delicious sense of isolation is produced by an abundant snowfall. It hems you in from all the world. You extend your hand feeling for your neighbor, and you touch nothing but a palpable mist. You raise your face to the heavens, and the soft touch of the flossy drops makes you close your eyes as in a dream. The great crowd in the Square was thus broken into indistinct groups, and its mighty rumor dwindled to a murmur in the heavy atmosphere. But all the same the expectant and anxious multitude was there, and its numbers were continually increasing. Women, wrapped in scarfs or muffled in hoods, now added to its volume. Priests from the neighboring Seminary, in shovel hats, Roman collars, and long black cloaks, quietly edged their way through the masses. And the irrepressible small boy, the very same a hundred years ago as he is to-day, dashed in and out, from the centre of the crowd to its circumference, intent upon seeing and hearing everything, yet blissfully incurious of the dread secret of all this gathering.
Suddenly there was a movement in the centre of the Square. The concentric circles of people felt it successively till it rippled to the very outskirts of the assemblage. Everybody inquired of his neighbor what had happened.
"Two men are fighting," said one.
"A woman has fallen into a fit," said another.
"Old Boniface is glancing a jig," said a third.
Whereupon there was a laugh, for Boniface was a mountebank of La Canardiere, famous in the city and all the country side.
"A Bastonnais prisoner has just been brought in," said a fourth.
At this a serious interest was manifested. A Bastonnais prisoner meant an American prisoner. The expedition of Arnold was known to have started from Boston. Hence its members were called Bostonese. Bastonnais is a rustic corruption for the French Bostonnais, and the corruption has extended to our day. The whole American invasion is still known among French Canadians as la guerre des Bastonnais. There is always a certain interest attached to national solecisms, and we have retained this one.
"It is none of any of these things," said a grave old gentleman, who was working his way out of the crowd with a scared look.
"What is it?" asked several voices at once.
"One of our own citizens has been arrested."
"Well, if he is not arrested, he is at least summoned to the Chateau."
"Who is it?"
"What! the father of our nationality, the first citizen of Quebec? It cannot be."
"Ah, my friends! let us disperse to our homes. This is a day of ill-omen. Things look as if the sad times of the Conquest were returning. '59 and '75! It seems that we have not suffered enough in these sixteen years."
And the old gentleman disappeared from the throng.
What happened was simply this. A tall young man, dressed in a long military coat, had for a time mingled in the crowd, looking at nearly every one as he moved along. When at length he was well in the midst, he seemed suddenly to recognize the object of his search, for he stepped deliberately up to a middle-aged gentleman, and handed him a paper. With a movement of surprise, the gentleman received the missive and looked sharply at the messenger. He glanced at the address, while a perceptible thrill shot over his features. He then hurriedly broke the seal and ran his eye over the brief contents of the letter, after which he crumpled it into his pocket.
"How long since this paper was despatched?" he asked rather testily of the young messenger.
"Over an hour ago, sir."
"And why was it not delivered at once?"
"Because I could not find you at your residence, and had to seek you in this dense multitude," was the firm, yet respectful reply.
"Are you an aide de camp of His Excellency?"
"I have that honor, sir."
"There is then no time to be lost. Let us go immediately."
The two men turned and a way was immediately opened for them by the crowd, while a suppressed murmur greeted them as they passed. A frail girl, with azure veil drawn closely over her face, hung heavily on the arm of the elder. When they reached the corner of Fabrique-street, which debouches into the Square at the north-west angle of the Cathedral, these two separated.
"What does it mean, father?" asked the girl in a timid voice.
"Nothing, my child. Go home directly and await my return. I will be with you within an hour."
The girl went up the narrow street, and the two men wended their way in silence to the Chateau St. Louis.
After this incident the Square gradually emptied until only a few idlers were left.
A little before noon Roderick Hardinge stepped down from his quarters into the courtyard of the barracks, booted and spurred. A full-blooded iron-grey charger, instinct with speed and strength in every limb, stood saddled and bridled for him. The man who held him by the head happened to be the soldier whose watch Hardinge had kept the night before.
"Is that you, Charles?" said the young officer tightening his girth by two buckle holes.
"Yes, sir," replied the soldier, showing the white of his teeth.
"And all right this morning?"
"Yes, thank you, sir."
Hardinge vaulted into the saddle at one spring. Then lacing the reins in his left hand, he continued:
"Not been blabbing, Charles?"
"Oh, no, sir. Mum's my word."
"That's right. But did you see everything?"
"I saw the three rockets, sir, if that's what you mean, and knew they were meant for you. But what they were fired for I didn't know till this morning, when I heard the talk in the Square. Folks are pretty wild altogether this morning, sir."
"So they are, but they will be wilder when they know all. In the meantime keep everything to yourself, Charles, till you hear from me again. Good-bye."
The soldier touched his cap, and the officer trotted through the archway.
A moment later he dismounted at the portal of the Chateau, threw the bridle into the hands of a groom in waiting, and entered. The Lieutenant-Governor was in his office, and evidently expected him, for he immediately rose and congratulated him on his punctuality. He then proceeded to business without delay.
"You are well mounted?"
"I think I have the fleetest and best-winded horse in the army."
"You will need him. Three Rivers is eighty miles from Quebec."
"As the crow flies, Your Excellency. By the road it is something more."
"You must be there by ten o'clock to-night."
"I will be there."
"Here are despatches for the Commandant of Three Rivers."
And he handed the officer a sealed package which the latter at once secured in his waistcoat pocket.
"These despatches," the Governor continued, "contain all the information of military movements in this vicinity which I have been able to procure up to the last moment. But as no written statement can ever be so full as a verbal communication, I authorize you to repeat to the authorities of Three Rivers all the details which you gave me during the night. There was considerable exaggeration in the story of your man Donald"—here the Governor smiled a little—"but I have reason to believe that the substance of it is true, and I am going to act upon it. Arnold's column is marching on Quebec. That is the great point. Its arrival is only a question of time. It may be in ten days, eight days, six days, four days—"
"Or two days," Hardinge could not help suggesting in a jovial way.
"Yes, perhaps even two days," continued the Governor quite seriously. "Hence the necessity of your speed to Three Rivers. When you spoke to me this morning, I was so impressed that I resolved then to communicate with the military posts up the river, but before actually sending you, I thought it best to make further inquiries. The information I have now received justifies me in despatching you at once. The letter of Arnold to Schuyler and some of those he addressed to residents of this city, especially one, yes, one"—and here, for a moment, the Governor got very excited—"have revealed his whole plans to me. To horse then and away for King and country."
Hardinge bowed and walked to the door. On reaching the threshold, he paused and said:
"Pardon me, Your Excellency, but there is one thing I forgot to tell you before, and which, perhaps, I ought to tell you now?"
"What is it?"
"I promised to meet Donald again to-night."
"On the other side of the river, just above the Point."
"Will he have important news?"
"It may or may not be important, but it will be fresh, inasmuch as he will have been all day reconnoitering the enemy on a very fast horse."
"Can he not cross to this side?"
"He has no instructions to that effect. Besides, he will arrive at the rendezvous at the last moment."
"Then I will meet him myself. Good morning."
Noon was just striking when Roderick cleared the gates and took the high road to Three Rivers.
When Pauline Belmont reached her home, after separating from her father at the Square, she was considerably troubled. She could not define her fears, if, indeed, she had any, but mere perplexity was enough to weigh down her timid, shrinking little heart. She went up into her room, put off her furs, and, as she removed her azure veil, there was the gleam of tears in her beautiful brown eyes. She seated herself in her low rocking chair, and placing her feet on the edge of the fender, looked sadly into the flames. Little did Pauline know of the great world outside. Her home was all the universe to her, and that home centred in her father. Mother she had none. Sisters and brothers had died when she was a child. She had spent her youth in the convent of the gentle Ursulines, and now that she had finished her education, she had come to dedicate her life to the solace of her father. M. Belmont was still in the prime of life, being barely turned of fifty, but he had known many sorrows, domestic, social and political, and the only joy of his life was his darling daughter. An ardent Frenchman, he had lived through the terrible days of the Conquest which had seared his brow like fire and left only ashes in his heart. He had buried his wife on the memorable day that Murray made his triumphal entry into Quebec, and within three years after that event, he laid three babes beside their mother. Had Pauline died, he too should have died, but as that lovely flower continued to blossom in the gloom of his isolation, he consented to live, and at times even to hope a little for her sake. Fortunately large remnants of his fortune remained to him. Indeed, he was accounted one of the wealthiest men of Quebec. As his daughter grew to womanhood, he used these riches to beautify his home and make existence more enjoyable to her. He was also a generous friend to the poor, especially those French families whom the war of 1759 and 1760, had reduced to destitution. Those who could not abide the altered forms of British rule and who desired to emigrate to France, he assisted by every means in his power, while those whom circumstances forced to remain in the vanquished province always found in him a patron and supporter. As time wore on, his friends induced him occasionally to withdraw from his solitude and take a feeble part in public affairs. But this interest was purely civic or municipal, never political. He persistently kept aloof from legislative councils and his loyalty to England was strictly passive. The ultra-British did not like him, always putting him down in their books as a malcontent.
When the news of the revolt of the Thirteen Colonies reached Quebec, it had at first no perceptible effect upon him. It was only a quarrel of Englishmen with Englishmen. The casting of tea chests into the waters of Boston Bay he scoffed at as a vulgar masquerade. The musketry of Concord and Lexington found no echo in his heart. But when one day he read in his favorite Gazette de France that la patrie had designs of favoring the rebels, a flash of the old fire rose to his eyes, and he tossed his head with a show of defiance. Then came the thunders of Bunker Hill, and he listened complacently to their music. Then came rumors of the rebel army marching into Canada with a view of fraternizing with the conquered settlers of its soil. There was something after all then in this revolution. It was not mere petulant resistance to fancied oppression, but underlying and leavening it, there was a germinating principle of freedom, a parent idea of autonomy and nationality. He read the proceedings of the Congress at Philadelphia with ever-increasing admiration, and for once he admitted the wisdom of such British statesmanship as that of Pitt Burke and Barre, the immortal friends of the American Colonies.
All these things little Pauline remembered and pondered as she sat in her low chair looking into the fire. She did not do so in the consecutive form or the big words which we have just employed, but her remembrance was none the less vivid and her perplexity none the less keen, for all the phases of her father's mental life were well known to her in those simple intuitive ways which are peculiar to women. She concluded by asking herself these questions:
"Has my father said or done anything to compromise himself within the last few hours? Why did M. de Cramahe send for him in such haste? The Governor is a friend of the family and must surely have cause for what he has done. And why was my poor father so agitated, why the young officer so grave, why the people so deeply impressed at the scene?"
She looked up at the clock over the mantel and found that an hour had been spent in these musings. Her father had promised to be back within that hour, and yet there were no signs of him. She went to the window and looked out, but she failed to see his familiar form advancing through the snow-storm.
We have said that Pauline's life was wholly wrapped up in her father. That was strictly true in one sense, but in another sense, we must make note of an exception. There were new feelings just awakening in her heart. She was entering that delicious period of existence which is the threshold of the paradise of love.
"Oh! if he were only to come," she murmured, "or if I could go to him. He would relieve my anxiety at once. I will write him a note."
She went to her table and was preparing paper and pen, when the maid entered the room and delivered her a letter.
"It is from himself, I declare," she exclaimed, and all the sorrow was dispelled from her eyes. She opened the letter and read.
I saw you going into the church this morning and wanted to speak to you, but you were too quick for me. I should very much have liked to run up in the course of the forenoon, but that too was impossible. So I send a line to say that I am off at noon on military duty. I don't know yet where I am going, nor how long I shall be away. But I trust the journey will be neither far nor long. I shall see you immediately on my return. I suppose you and your father saw the crowd in the Square this morning. It was great fun. Give my respects to M. Belmont and believe me,
Ever yours, devotedly,
Pauline was still holding this note in her hand, thinking over it, when her father surprised her by walking into the room. He was very pale, but otherwise bore no marks of agitation. Setting his fur cap on the table and throwing open his great coat, he took a seat near the hearth. Before his daughter had time to say anything, he asked her quietly what she had in her hand.
"It's a letter, papa?"
"Roderick Hardinge? Burn it, my dear."
"Burn it at once."
"But he sends you his love."
"He has just sent me his hate. Burn it, my daughter."
Poor Pauline was overwhelmed with surprise and sorrow, but, without a word further, she dropped the paper into the fire. Then throwing her arms around her father's neck, she burst into a tempest of tears.
Hardinge had not been gone more than half an hour when the skies lifted and the snow-storm ceased. The wind then shifted to the north, driving the drifts in banks against the fences and low stone walls, and leaving the road comparatively clear. He thus had splendid riding in the open spaces. He was in exultant spirits, of course, for he had everything in his favor—a magnificent horse upon whose speed and endurance he could rely, the opportunity of exploring a long stretch of country previously unknown to him, and, above all, the sense of being employed on a military expedition of the greatest importance. He had played for high stakes and had won them. At one stroke, he had rehabilitated the militia and brought his own name into prominence. The way was now open to him in the career which he loved and which his father had honored. If all went well with him he would win advancement and glory in this war. And he had no misgivings. What young soldier has with the bright sky over his head, the solid earth under his feet, the wide world before him, and the whiff of coming battle in his nostrils?
He imparted his own animation to his steed. The noble grey fairly flew over the ground, and Roderick saw from the first that he would have to restrain rather than impel him. His first stoppage was at Pointe-aux-Trembles, a beautiful village, which became historic during the war of invasion and with which will be associated several of the incidents of this story. He passed the inn of the place so as to avoid the queries and comments of the loungers who might be congregated there, and pulled up at a neat farm house on the outskirts. Without dismounting, he asked that his horse might be watered, while he requested for himself a bowl of milk and a few drops of that good old Jamaica which all Canadian families had the good sense to keep in their houses at this period. As he was thus comforting himself, he noticed a pair of sparkling blue eyes laughing at him through the narrow panes of the road window. He did not try to be very inquisitive, but he could not help observing, in addition, that the roguish blue eyes belonged to a face of rare beauty, and that the form of the lady—for she was a lady, every inch of her—so far as it could be defined by the diminutive aperture, was of an exquisitely graceful mould. One observation led to another, and he very naturally associated this lady with the purple pinion that sat on the back of a little bay mare which was hitched near the door.
His own horse had drained his bucket, and was champing his bit, as if anxious to be off once more; he himself had emptied his bowl and he was vainly endeavoring to force a few pieces of coin upon the denying farmer, when the door of the dwelling opened and the lady walked forth. She arranged the bridle herself, and placing her foot on the lowest step of the porch, seated herself snugly in the saddle without assistance. Then wishing the farmer and the farmer's jolly wife and the farmer's multitudinous children a sweet bonjour, she gently cantered away, not without a parting shaft from those murderous blue eyes at the handsome cavalier. Venus and Adonis! but she was going in his direction. So, bowing politely to the household, he immediately followed, and to his unspeakable delight—for this was an adventure he certainly had not looked for—he caught up with her at the first turn of the road. When he came alongside, he pulled in his reins, took off his cap and bowed. The salute was returned with a superb yet easy grace. His ardent glance took a full view of her with lightning speed and precision. He felt that he was in the presence of a grand woman.
"As we seem to be travelling in the same direction, will mademoiselle allow me to accompany her to her destination?"
"Thank you, sir; a military escort is always welcome, especially to a lady, in these troublous times, but I really do not live very far—only ten miles."
"Ten miles!" exclaimed Hardinge.
The lady broke out into a merry laugh, and said:
"You wonder. This little beast is like the wind. You are well mounted, but I doubt you can follow me. Will you try?"
So saying, she snapped her white fingers, and the little Canadian pony, making a leap into the air, was away like an arrow. Hardinge dashed off in pursuit, and for a time held his own bravely, the horses keeping neck to neck, but presently he fell behind and the lady disappeared out of sight. When at length he came up with her, she was waiting at the gate of her father's house, a mansion of fine colonial dimensions, standing in a bower of maples. She was laughing heartily and enjoying her triumph. Hardinge, touching his cap gracefully, acknowledged his defeat.
"This will be a lesson for you, sir," she said.
"A lesson, mademoiselle?"
"It will teach you to chase rebels again."
"Beautiful rebel," murmured Roderick, bowing profoundly and wholly unable to conceal his admiration.
"You don't choose to understand me," she said, half seriously and half jestingly, "but later, perhaps, you will do so. I believe I am speaking to Lieutenant Hardinge?"
"That is my name, at your service, mademoiselle, and am I mistaken in presuming that I address a member of the Sarpy family, for this is the mansion of Sieur Sarpy, well known to me."
"I am his daughter. I have only lately returned from France where I spent many years."
"Not the Zulma of whom I have heard your brother speak so often?"
And the wild frolic of her spirits broke out into a silvery peal, as she seemingly recollected some idea connected with the name. She invited Roderick to dismount and enter, but he was obliged to excuse himself as having tarried already too long, and thus this adventure terminated. Its romantic sequel will be related in subsequent chapters.
Hardinge pursued his journey without further episodes of interest. The road between Quebec and Three Rivers was not what it is at present. There were no corduroys across the swamps, no bridges over the streams and the way was blocked for miles upon miles by the unpruned forest, through which a bridle path was the only route. Notwithstanding all these drawbacks, however, our horseman had reached Three Rivers, stabled his grey, and delivered his despatches before ten o'clock that night. He was very tired, indeed, when he retired to rest, but this did not prevent the youthful brain from dreaming, and the youthful lips from murmuring:
THE HERMIT OF MONTMORENCI.
His name was Baptiste, but he went by the more familiar appellation of Batoche. His residence was a hut near the Falls of Montmorenci, and there he led the life of a hermit. His only companions were a little girl called Blanche, and a large black cat which bore the appropriate title of Velours, for though the brute was ugly and its eyes,
"Had all the seeming Of a demon's that is dreaming,"
its coat was soft and glossy as silken velvet. The interior of the hut denoted poverty, but not indigence. There was a larder in one corner; a small oven wrought into the chimney to the right of the fire-place; faggots and logs of wood were piled up near the hearth, and diverse kitchen utensils and other comforts hung brightly on the wall. In the angle of the solitary room furthest from the door, and always lying in shadow, was a curtained alcove, and in this a low bedstead over which a magnificent bear-skin was thrown, with the head of the animal lying on the pillow, and its eyes, bulging out in red flannel, turned to the rafters above. Directly behind the door stood a wooden sofa which could sit two or three persons during the day, but which, at night, served as the couch of little Blanche. A shallow circular cavity in the large blue flag of the hearth was the resting place of Velours. On two hooks within easy reach of his hand, rested a long heavy carbine, well worn, but still in good order and with which, so long as he could carry it, Batoche needed never pass a day without a meal, for the game was abundant almost to his very door. From the beams were suspended an array of little bags of seeds, paper cornets of dried wild flowers and bunches of medicinal herbs, the acrid, pungent odor of which pervaded the whole room and was the first thing which struck a stranger upon entering the hut.
The habitation of Batoche was fully a mile from any other dwelling. Indeed, at that period, the country in the immediate vicinity of the Falls of Montmorenci was very sparsely settled. The nearest village, in the direction of Quebec, was Beauport, and even there the inhabitants were comparatively few. The hut of the hermit was also removed from the high road, standing about midway between it and the St. Lawrence, on the right side of the Falls as one went toward the river, and just in a line with the spot where they plunge their full tide of waters into the rocky basin below. From his solitary little window Batoche could see these Falls at all times, and under all circumstances—in day time, and in night time; glistening like diamonds in the sunlight, flashing like silver in the moonbeams, and breaking through the shadow of the deepest darkness with the corruscations of their foam. Their music, too, was ever in his ears, forming a part of his being. It ran like a web through his work and his thoughts during the day; it lulled him to sleep at night with the last ember on the hearth, and it always awoke him at the first peep of dawn. The seasons for him were marked by the variation of these sounds—the thunderous roar when the spring freshets or the autumn rain-falls came, the gentle purling when the summer droughts parched the stream to a narrow thread, and the plaintive moan, as of electric wires, when the ice-bound cascade was touched upon by certain winter winds.
Batoche's devotion to this cataract may have been exaggerated, although only in keeping, as we shall see, with his whole character, but really the Falls of Montmorenci are among the most beautiful works of Nature on this continent. We all make it a point to visit Niagara once in our lives, but except in the breadth of its fall, Niagara has no advantage over Montmorenci. In altitude it is far inferior, Montmorenci being nearly one hundred feet higher. The greater volume of Niagara increases the roar of the descent and the quantity of mist from below, but the thunder of Montmorenci is also heard from a great distance, and its column of vapor is a fine spectacle in a strong sunlight or in a storm of thunder and lightning. Its accessories of scenery are certainly superior to those of Niagara in that they are much wilder. The country around is rough, rocky and woody. In front is the broad expanse of the St. Lawrence, and beyond lies the beautiful Isle of Orleans which is nothing less than a picturesque garden. But it is particularly in winter that the Falls of Montmorenci are worthy of being seen. They present a spectacle unique in the world. Canadian winters are proverbial for their severity, and nearly every year, for a few days at least, the mercury touches twenty-five and thirty degrees below zero. When this happens the headlong waters of Montmorenci are arrested in their course, and their ice-bound appearance is that of a white lace veil thrown over the brow of the cliff, and hanging there immoveably. Before the freezing process is completed, however, another singular phenomenon is produced. At the foot of the Falls, where the water seethes and mounts, both in the form of vapor and liquid globules, an eminence is gradually formed, rising constantly in tapering shape, until it reaches a considerable altitude, sometimes one-fourth or one-third the height of the Fall itself. This is known as the Cone. The French people call it more poetically Le Pain de Sucre, or sugar-loaf. On a bright day in January, when the white light of the sun plays caressingly on this pyramid of crystal, illuminating its veins of emerald and sending a refracted ray into its circular air-holes, the prismatic effect is enchanting. Thousands of persons visit Montmorenci every winter for no other object than that of enjoying this sight. It is needless to add that the youthful generation visit the Cone for the more prosaic purpose of toboganning or sledding from its summit away down to the middle of the St. Lawrence.
THE WOLF'S CRY.
It was an hour after sunset, and the evening was already very dark. Batoche had stirred the fire and prepared the little table, setting two pewter plates upon it, with knife and fork. He produced a huge jack-knife from his pocket, opened it, and laid that too on the table. He then went to the cup-board and brought from it a loaf of brown bread which he laid beside one of the plates. Having seemingly completed his preparations for supper, he stood still in the middle of the floor, as if listening:
"'Tis strange," he muttered, "she never is so late."
He walked to the door, which was flung open into his face by the force of the wind, and looked long and intently to the right and to the left.
"The snow is deep," he said, "the path to the high road is blocked up. Perhaps she has lost her way. But, no. She has never lost her way yet."
He closed the door, walked absently over the room, and after gazing up and around for a second or two, threw himself into a low, leather-strapped chair before the fire. As he sits there, let us take the opportunity of sketching the singular being. His face was an impressive one. The chin was long and pointed, the jaw firm. The lips were set as those of a taciturn man, but not grimly, and their corners bore two lines as of old smiles that had buried their joys there forever. A long and rather heavy nose, sensitive at the nostrils. High cheek bones. A good forehead, but rather too flattened at the temples. Long, thin meshes of white hair escaping through the border of the high fox-skin cap. The complexion was bronze and the face beardless. This last feature is said to be characteristic of low vitality, but it is also frequently distinctive of eccentricity, and Batoche was clearly eccentric, as the expression of his eyes showed. They were cold grey eyes, but filled with wild intermittent illuminations. The reflection of the fire-light gave them a weird appearance.
Batoche sat for fully half an hour in front of the fire, his long thin hands thrust into his pockets, his fox-skin cap dashed to one side of his head and his eyes steadily fixed upon the flames. Although immoveable, he was evidently a prey to profound emotions, for the lurid light, playing upon his face, revealed the going and coming of painful thoughts. Now and then he muttered something in a half articulate voice which the black cat seemed to understand, for it purred awhile in its circular nest, then rising, rounded its back, and looked up at its master with tender inquiry in its green eyes. But Batoche had no thought for Velours to-night. His mind was entirely occupied with little Blanche who, having gone into Quebec upon some errands, as was her wont, had not yet returned.
The wind moaned dismally around the little hut, at times giving it a wrench as if it would topple it from its foundations. The spruces and firs in the neighborhood creaked and tossed in the breath of the tempest, and there was a dull, heavy roar from the head of the Falls. Suddenly, amid all these sounds, the solitary old man's quick ear caught a peculiar cry coming from the direction of the road. It was a sharp, shrill bark, followed by a low whine. He sat up, bent his head and listened again. Velour's fur stood on end, and its whisker bristled like wire. The sound was heard again, made clearer and more striking by a sudden rush of wind.
"A wolf, a wolf!" exclaimed Batoche, as he sprang from his seat, seized his gun from its hooks and rushed out of the house. He did not hesitate one moment as to the direction which he should take, but bent his steps to the main road.
"Never. Oh, it can never be," he gasped, as he hurried along. "God would never throw her into the wolf's embrace."—
He reached the road at last, and paused on its border to listen. He was not disappointed, for within one hundred or two hundred yards of him, he heard for the third time the ominous yelp of the wolf. Then all the hunter showed itself in Batoche. He became, at once, a new man. The bent form straightened, the languid limbs became nerved, the sinister eyes shot fire, as if lighting the way before them, and the blank melancholy features were turned and hardened into one single expression—watching. In a moment he had determined the exact direction of the sound. Cautiously he advanced from tree to tree, with inaudible footfall and bated breath, until he reached the outskirts of a thicket. There he expected to bring the wolf to bay. He peered long and attentively through the branches.
"It is a den of wolves," he whispered to himself. "Not one pair of eyes, but four or five pairs are glancing through the dark. I must make quick work of the vermin. They must not be allowed to take their residences for the winter so near my cabin."
Saying which he raised his carbine to his shoulder and pointed. His finger was upon the trigger and was about to let go, when he felt the barrel of his gun bent from its position and quietly but firmly deflected towards the ground.
"Don't be a fool, Batoche. Keep your ammunition for other wolves than these. You will soon need it all," said a voice in a low tone.
The hunter immediately recognized Barbin, a farmer of Beauport.
"What are you doing here?"
"No time for questions to-night. You will know later."
"And who are those in the thicket yonder?"
"My friends and yours."
Batoche shook his head dubiously, and muttered something about going forward to satisfy himself by personal inspection. He was an enemy of prowlers of all sorts, and must know with whom he had to deal before abandoning the search.
A low whistle was heard and the thicket was instantaneously cleared.
Barbin tried to retain him, but the old man's temper rose, and he snatched himself away.
"Don't be a fool, I say to you again, Batoche. You know who I am and you must understand that I would not be out in such a place and on such a night without necessary cause. These are my friends. For sufficient reasons, they must not be known at present. Believe me, and don't advance further. Besides they are now invisible."
"But why these strange cries?"
"The bark of the wolf is our rallying cry."
"Do you understand now?"
The old man passed his hand rapidly over his forehead and his eyes, then grounding his musket, and seizing Barbin by the collar, he exclaimed:
"You don't mean it. I knew it would come, but did not expect it so soon. The wolf, you said? Ah! sixteen years are a long time, but it passes, Barbin. We are old now, yet not broken—"
He would have continued in this strain, but his interlocutor suddenly stopped him.
"Yes, yes, Batoche, it is thus. Make yourself ready, as we are doing. But I must go. My companions are waiting for me. We have important work to do to-night."
"And I?" asked the old man reproachfully.
"Your work, Batoche, is not now, but later, not here, but elsewhere. Be quiet; you have not been forgotten."
Barbin then disappeared in the wood, while Batoche slowly returned toward the road, shaking his head, and saying to himself:
"The wolf! I knew it would come, but who would have thought it? Will my violin sing the old song to me to-night? Will Clara glide under the waterfall?"
Little Blanche had not been forgotten all this time. The old man when he reached the road, looked in the direction of Quebec for a moment, as if hesitating whether to turn his steps in that direction. But he apparently changed his mind, for he deliberately walked across the road, and plunged into the narrow path leading to his cabin. When he arrived there, he saw a horse and sleigh standing a little away from it under the trees. He paid no attention to them, however, and walked up to the door, which was opened for him by little Blanche. Bending down, he kissed her on the forehead, laid his hand upon her hair, and said:
"It is well, child, but why so late?"
"I could not return earlier, grandpapa."
"Who detained you?"
She pointed to a muffled figure seated in a shaded angle of the room. Still trailing his carbine in his left hand, Batoche walked up to it. The figure rose, extended its hand and smiled sadly.
"You don't know me, Batoche?"
The old man looked into the face of the stranger for a long time, then the light of recognition came and he exclaimed:
"I must be mistaken. It cannot be."
"Yes, it is I—"
"Yes, Batoche, we remember each other, though we have not met for some years. You live the life of an anchorite here, never coming to the city, and I remain in retirement, scarcely ever going from the city. We are almost strangers, and yet we are friends. We must be friends now, even if we were not before."
The old man did not reply, but asked his visitor to sit down, while he, having hung up his weapon, and drawn a chair to the fire-place, took a seat beside him. The fire had burned low and both were seated in the deep shadow. Blanche had offered to light a candle, but the men having refused by a sign, the child sat down on the other side of the hearth with the black cat circled on her lap.
"I brought back the child to you," said M. Belmont, by way of opening the conversation. "She was in good hands with Pauline, her godmother, but we knew that she never spent a night out of your hermitage, and that you would be anxious if she did not return."
"Oh, Blanche is like her old grandfather. She knows every path in the forest, every sign of the heavens, and no weather could prevent her from finding her home. I have no fear that man or beast would hurt the little creature. Indeed, she has the mark of Providence upon her and no harm will come to her so long as my life is spared. There is a spirit in the waterfall yonder, M. Belmont, which watches over her and the protection is inviolable. But I thank you, sir, and your daughter for having taken care of her."
"I kept her for another reason, Batoche," and M. Belmont looked furtively at his companion, who returned his glance in the same dubious fashion.
"It gave me the opportunity of paying you a visit which, for special reasons, is of the greatest importance to me."
Batoche seemed to divine the secret thought of his guest, and put him immediately at his ease by saying:
"I am a poor solitary being, M. Belmont, severed from all the world, cut off from the present, living only in the past, and hoping for nothing in the future except the welfare of this little orphan girl. Nobody cares for me, and I have cared for nobody, but I am ready to do you any service in my power. I have learned a secret to-night, and—who knows?—perhaps life has changed for me during the last hour."
M. Belmont listened attentively to these words. He knew in the presence of what strange being he was, and that the language which he heard had perhaps a deeper meaning than appeared upon the surface. But the manner of Batoche was quiet in its earnestness, his eye had none of its strange fire, and there was no wild incoherent gesture of his to indicate that he was speaking outside of his most rational mood. M. Belmont therefore contented himself with thanking the hermit for his good will. A lull then ensued in the conversation, when suddenly a low howl was heard in the forest beyond the high road. By a simultaneous impulse, both men sprang to their feet and glared at each other. Little Blanche's head had fallen on her shoulder and she was sweetly sleeping unconscious of all harm, while Velours, though, she stirred once or twice, would not abandon her warm bed on her mistress' knees.
"Wolf!" muttered Batoche.
"Wolf!" replied M. Belmont
And the two men fell into each other's embrace.
"We are brothers once more," said M. Belmont, pressing the hand of the old man, while the tears flowed down his cheeks.
"Yes, and in the holiest of causes," responded Batoche.
"There is no more mystery between us now," resumed M. Belmont. "That call was for me. I must be away at once. I have delayed too long already. What I came to you particularly for, Batoche, was this."
And he produced, from the interior of his huge wild-cat overcoat, a small casket bound with clasps of silver.
"In this small casket, Batoche, are all my family relics and treasures. For my money I care nothing; for this I care so much that I would give my life rather than that it should perish. You are the man to hide it for me. You know of secret places which no mortal can penetrate. I confide it to you. This has been a dark day for me; what to-morrow has in store I almost fear to guess. The times will probably go hard with all of us, including you, Batoche. For ourselves the loss will be nothing. We are old and useless. But Pauline and little Blanche! They must survive the ruin. Should I perish, this casket is to go to my daughter, and should you too come to grief, entrust the secret of its hiding place to Blanche that she may deliver it. Take it, and good night. I must go."
Without waiting for a word of reply, M. Belmont embraced the old man on the cheek, stooped to imprint a kiss on the forehead of the sleeping child, rushed out of the cabin, threw himself into his cariole and drove away.
As he disappeared, the same low cry of the wolf was borne plaintively from the forest.
THE SPIRIT OF THE WATERFALL.
Batoche gave a single moment to deliberation. He stood silently holding the latch of the closed door. Then he walked slowly across the room and entered behind the chintz curtains of the little alcove. What he did there is unknown, but when he issued forth his face was hard set, every lineament bearing the stamp of resolution. He took up the silver casket which had been left in his charge and balanced it in his hands. It was heavy, but heavier still appeared to him the responsibility which it entailed, if one might judge from the deep sigh which escaped him. He glanced at little Blanche, but she still slumbered quietly, with her head resting on the wall and bent over her shoulder. Velours was more wakeful, looking furtively at her master from the corners of her eyes but, knowing his habits well, she did not deem it prudent to stir from her nest or make any noise.
"There is a place of all others," murmured Batoche, "where I may hide this beyond all fear of detection. There neither the birds of the air, nor the beasts of the forests, nor the eye of man will ever discover it. Blanche only will know, but I will not tell her now. She sleeps and it is well."
He then placed the casket under his arm and stole out of the house. He took a footpath leading from his cabin to the Falls, and having reached their summit, turned to the right, descending from one rock to another, until he reached the depths of the basin. There he paused a moment, looking up, as if to ascertain his bearings. An instant later, he had disappeared under the Fall itself. Grasping the casket more tightly under his right arm, he used his left to grope his way along the cold, wet wall of granite. The rocks underneath his feet, some round, some angular, some flat, were slippery with the ooze of the earth fissures above and the refluent foam of the cascade. Beside these dangers, there was the additional peril of darkness, the immense volume of descending waters effectually curtaining out the light of heaven. When he had attained about the middle of the distance between the two banks of the river, Batoche paused and stooped at the mouth of an aperture which would admit only his bent body. Without faltering, and as if sure of his locality, he thus entered into the subterranean cavity. He was gone for fully half an hour, but when he issued forth, he straightened himself up with ease, and by the assistance of his two hands, rapidly retraced his steps to the foot of the Falls. There he stopped, looking above and around him, to assure himself that he was really alone with his secret.
But no, he was not alone. Upon the brow of the waterfall, along the perilous ridge, where the torrent plunges sheer into the chasm below, a fragile figure in white glided slowly with face turned towards him. Her yellow hair, bound with a fillet about her forehead, fell loose upon her shoulders; there was the light of love in her eyes and a sweet smile irradiated her lips. Her white hands hung at her sides, and from under the hem of her flowing garb, a tiny, snowy foot appeared barely touching the surface of the water.
What was it—a phantom or a reality? A mockery of the vapor and the night, or a spirit of God truly walking over the waters? We cannot say, or rather we shall not stop to inquire. Enough that the poor old hermit saw it, and seeing, was transported into ecstacy. His whole being appeared transfused into the ethereal vision which shone before him. The gross outlines of old age and shabby costume were melted into the beautiful forms of exultation and reverence. Under the misty moon, under the faint light of the stars, he fell upon his knees, stretched out his arms, and his face turned eagerly upwards in the absorption of prayer.
"Once more, O Clara! Once more, O my daughter! It is long since I have seen you, and my days have passed sadly in the lonesomeness of solitude. You come once more to smile upon your old father, and bring a blessing upon your orphan child. She sleeps sweetly yonder near the hearth. Protect her from the harm which I know must be impending and of which your visitation is the warning. You are the guardian angel of my cabin, shielding it from all the dangers which have threatened it these many years. Give me a sign of your assistance and I shall be content."
These were the words the old man uttered as he knelt upon the wet rocks. Let no one smile as he reads them, for even the ravings of a diseased brain are beautiful when they have a spiritual significance.
Batoche rose and advanced nearer, with arms still outstretched, as if he would clasp the Spirit of the Waterfall, and seize the token which he implored. But in this he was disappointed.
Not a word her lips did utter, and without a start or flutter, She crossed her hands upon her bosom in the attitude of prayer; And his stricken soul beguiling with the sweetness of her smiling, Raised her bright eyes up to heaven, and slowly melted into air.
A thick bank of cloud floated in the sky, veiling the moon. The stars paled, and it was very dark. The great Falls thundered with a sullen roar. The wind beat against the forest trees with a moan. The hermit knelt once more and engaged for a long time in silent prayer; then rising, returned directly to his hut. He found little Blanche standing in the middle of the room and in the full light of the hearth, with a scared look in her brilliant, black eyes. He stooped to kiss her, and noticing the supper still untasted on the table, said:
"You have eaten nothing, my dear."
"I cannot eat, grandpapa."
"Then go to sleep. It is late."
"I cannot sleep."
The old man understood. The white wings of the mother's spirit had hovered over the child.
"Then pray," he said.
And dropping on her knees, little Blanche repeated all the prayers which her godmother, Pauline Belmont, had taught her.
Roderick Hardinge's mission to Three Rivers was completely successful. He found that town and the surrounding country in a state of alarm and excitement consequent on the march of events in the upper part of the province. The whole Richelieu peninsula was overrun with Continental troops and the Montreal district was virtually in their power. The only chance was that the British army might make a stand at Sorel, which commanded the Richelieu and the St. Lawrence, at the confluence of these two rivers, and accordingly around that point concentrated the interest of the war in the first week of November. It was only natural, therefore, that the people of Three Rivers should be in a turmoil of excitement, for if the British were unable to hold their own at Sorel, the whole of the St. Lawrence would be swept by the Americans, and Three Rivers would be the very next place which they would occupy.
The arrival of Hardinge was not calculated to allay the excitement, and the tidings which he brought were spread through the town that very night notwithstanding all attempts at official secrecy. The Commandant of the town was considerably alarmed.
"The news from above was bad enough," he said to his principal secretary, after reading Hardinge's despatches, "but the intelligence from below is not more reassuring. Three Rivers thus finds itself between two fires. Montgomery from the west, and now Arnold from the east. I am very much afraid that we shall have to succumb. And the worst of all is that being masters of the intervening country, with emissaries in all the villages along their route, they improve their opportunity by tampering with our simple-minded farmers. Here in Three Rivers the disaffection among our own people is already quite marked, and I very much fear that this new source of danger will only increase it."
The secretary was a very old man who listened attentively to his superior, biting the feathers of his pen and giving other signs of nervous excitement.
"I am certain, sir, that you do not exaggerate the situation," he said, speaking slowly, but with emphasis. "We are on the eve of a crisis, and I suspect that this time next week the town of Three Rivers will be in the hands of the Bastonnais. We have no means of resistance, and even if we had, there is too much dissension in our midst to attempt it with any hope of success. The next question which arises is whether it were best for you to provide for your own safety as well as that of the archives and registers of the town."
"I will do neither," replied the Commandant with dignity. "As for myself, the duty of my office is to remain in charge until I am dispossessed by force. Personal violence I do not fear, but should I be subjected to such, I will endure it. Remember that you and I know what war is. We both passed through the terrible years of the Conquest. With respect to the archives, you will see that they are properly guarded, but they must not be removed. The enemy are not barbarians. On the contrary it is their policy to conciliate as much as possible. Besides, they will only pass through Three Rivers."
"They will do more than that, sir. As they intend to march upon Quebec, around whose walls they will more than probably spend the winter, it will be a matter of military necessity for them to occupy all the little towns and villages on their route between Quebec and Montreal, both for the sake of their commissariat and as recruiting stations."
"Recruiting stations! Don't use those hateful words."
"They are hateful words, sir. But they express a fact which we must face. Unless we are very careful, this war will be aggravated by the circumstance of many of our countrymen turning their arms against us."
This conversation which we have briefly introduced in order to afford the reader glimpses of the situation, relieved as much as possible from the dryness of mere historical detail, was interrupted by the arrival of a messenger who delivered a letter to the Governor.
"This is from Sorel," exclaimed the official. "It comes just in time to throw light upon our affairs and will enable Lieutenant Hardinge, who returns to-morrow, to bring the latest news to Quebec."
Saying which, he read the despatch.
A SUCCESSFUL MISSION.
At ten o'clock, on the morning of the 8th November, the day after his arrival, Roderick Hardinge presented himself at the residence of the Commandant of Three Rivers. It was the hour agreed upon between them for a conference, which circumstance did not prevent the Commandant from manifesting some surprise on seeing the young officer.
"You surely are not ready to start for Quebec already?" he asked.
"If possible, sir, I should very much like to do so. My horse is not as fresh as he was yesterday, and he will delay me longer, and besides I think my presence will be required in Quebec before midnight."
"Very well. Time is pressing, I know. I have jotted down a few lines giving Lieutenant-Governor Cramahe all the information in my possession. Here is the letter. But you have doubtless wandered about the town a little this morning, and thus learned many details which have escaped me."
"I have heard much more than I am willing to believe," said Hardinge, with a laugh.
"Tell me briefly what you have heard, and I will correct or confirm it."
"I have heard that Montreal has fallen."
"Not yet. Montgomery is still on the plateau between St. Johns, which he captured about a week ago, and Montreal, which is his next point of attack. But there are two obstacles which retard him. The first of these is the skirmishing of the British troops on his flank, and the second, the discontent among his own soldiers. Many men from Vermont and New York have returned home. Montreal is, however, really defenceless, and cannot hold out more than a few days, especially as Montgomery is anxious to get there in order to house and clothe his naked, suffering men. What else have you heard?"
"That the French of Montreal are secretly working for the enemy."
"It is false. Those who told you so are treacherous friends, and we have several here in Three Rivers. Next?"
"That the Indians under LaCorne have dug up the hatchet which they buried in the Recollets church, one month ago, and declared against us."
"That would be terrible news if true, but it is not true. My last courier from the west, who arrived not an hour ago, has particular information from the Indians about Montreal. They still maintain the neutrality pledged in the Recollets church. I admit, however, that it would not take much to turn them into foes, and I know that Montgomery has already his emissaries among them. But LaCorne is a true Frenchman, and so long as our own people retain their allegiance, he will maintain his."
After a pause, Hardinge said:
"I have heard, sir, in addition, that Colonel McLean, at the head of his Highlanders, has not been able to form a junction with Governor Carleton, at Longueuil, so as to intercept Montgomery between St. Johns and Montreal."
"It is true."
"That, owing to the defeat of Governor Carleton at Longueuil by a Vermont detachment, and the spread of Continental troops through the Richelieu peninsula, Colonel McLean was forced to fall back precipitately to Sorel."
"That is unfortunately too true. Do you know more?"
"That is all."
"Then, I will tell you more. McLean will have to retreat from Sorel. My coureurs des bois and Indian messengers have been arriving in succession all last night and this morning. They inform me that while Montgomery is marching on Montreal, a considerable body, under one of his best officers, is moving towards Sorel, with a view of occupying it, and thus commanding the river. McLean is in no condition to withstand this attack. What will hasten his retreat is the news he has by this time received from Quebec. Last night, so soon as I had read the despatches which you brought me, I sent him one of my fleetest messengers with the intelligence. The messenger must have reached Sorel early this morning. The special messenger to Governor Carleton, with the same news, will arrive in Montreal about noon to-day."
During the whole of this conversation, Hardinge's face had been grave and almost downcast. But at the last words of his interlocutor, it suddenly flushed with an expression of enthusiasm.
"If Colonel McLean and Governor Carleton know exactly how we stand at Quebec, I am content," he exclaimed.
"Then you may be content. I have stated all this briefly to Lieutenant-Governor Cramahe, but you may repeat it to him with emphasis."
"I will not fail."
And after a few parting words, he respectfully took his leave.
When he had cleared the streets of Three Rivers, and was alone upon the road, he could not restrain a long, loud whoop of exultation.
"The game is up," he cried. "The war is in full blaze. In twenty-four hours, my name has gone from one end of the province to the other. My mission has indeed succeeded. How proud little Pauline will be of her cavalier."
With such thoughts uppermost in his mind, he forgot his bodily fatigue, and rode back to Quebec with more eagerness than he had gone from it.
CROSSING THE BOATS.
Notwithstanding the late hour at which he arrived in Quebec—it was considerably after midnight—Hardinge repaired directly to the Chateau St. Louis. There was no bustle in the Castle, but his eye noticed signs of unusual vigilance. The guard about the entry was a double one, and many of the lower windows were lighted. It was evident also that his coming was expected, for, immediately on his dismounting, his horse was taken charge of by a soldier, and he was at once ushered into the presence of the Lieutenant-Governor. Cramahe was in the Council chamber, and several members of the Council were seated around the centre table, on which was spread a number of papers.
"Welcome back, Lieutenant," said the Governor, with a weary smile and extending both his hands.
Hardinge bowed and at once delivered his despatches. Cramahe having rapidly glanced over them, handed them to his colleagues, then turning to the young officer, said:
"It is clear that the storm which has been gathering over this province must break upon Quebec. This is the old city of destiny. And we shall accept our destiny, Lieutenant," said the Governor, rising from the table, and advancing toward Roderick. "We have not been idle during your absence. Much can be done in a day and a half, and we have done it. We have done so much that we can await the arrival of Arnold with some assurance. I see, however, from the despatches you bring me, that Colonel McLean is in some danger at Sorel. I had calculated on his arrival and that of Governor Carleton who knows our exact position by this time. Should they have come to harm, it will go hard with us, but we will do our best all the same."
Hardinge replied that he was exceedingly glad to hear this, because the people of the upper country, through which he had ridden, looked to Quebec for the ultimate salvation of the province. It was pretty well understood that the rest of the country was lost.
"Your despatches make that painfully clear," replied the Governor, "and increase our responsibility. I rely upon you particularly, Lieutenant. I appreciate so much all that you have done, that I look to you, for something more. This is our last day, remember."
"Our last day?"
"Yes, Arnold will be at Point Levis to-morrow."
Hardinge could not help smiling.
"You may well smile. Your prediction was correct. I saw Donald last night. He had been hovering around the enemy all day and informed me that by direct and forced marches they would surely be at Levis to-morrow. This being the case, I have a duty for you to perform. But first, you must take some rest."
"I will be ready for orders at daylight, Your Excellency."
"Ten o'clock will be quite early enough. If we worked during the dark we should excite too much curiosity. The city is really ignorant of what is impending, though there are many rumors. The excitement of yesterday has entirely subsided, and it would be very unwise to renew it. At ten o'clock therefore, you will quietly cross to the other side of the river, with two or three of your men, and under pretence of wanting them for some service or other—I leave you to imagine a plausible pretext—you will cause every species of embarkation, canoe, skiff, flat-boat or punt, to be taken over to this side. Not a floating plank must be left at Levis. If Arnold wants to get over, he will have to hew his boats out of the trees of the forest. Donald will be there to assist you, and may possibly be in possession of fresh news."
Roderick thanked His Excellency for entrusting to him this task which he regarded as the crowning act of the services which he had been rendering the cause of his country in the past two days. After giving expression to his obligation, he added:
"The removal of the boats, sir, will give us three or four days of respite, for I suppose Donald repeated to you that Arnold has no artillery and must procure boats if he really intends to attack the city. In the interval, we may look for Colonel McLean and Governor Carleton."
The Lieutenant-Governor nodded assent, and ordering the subaltern to report to him when his work was done, he dismissed him to his quarters.
When the appointed hour came, Hardinge set about his business which he conducted very quietly and judiciously. In those days everybody living on or near the river owned a boat which was almost the only conveyance whereby to reach the markets of Quebec. And the inhabitants had learned from the Indians how to use their craft with skill, so that women were as expert at the oars as men. Those who resided on the banks of the St. Lawrence usually kept their boats chained near a little house on the water's edge, where the women did their washing. The practice is maintained to this day along many parts of the river which are distant from large cities and where there are no ferries. Those who lived a short distance in the interior were in the habit of drawing their boats a little way into the woods, after they had used them, and leaving them there in some marked spot till they were required again. It thus happened that, at the time of which we write, there were perhaps no less than a thousand boats within a radius of three miles up and down from Quebec and on both sides of the St. Lawrence. Directly opposite the city there were probably about a hundred, not belonging only to Point Levis, for that was then an insignificant village, but mostly to farmers of the neighboring parishes. The number was important if Arnold had been able to lay hold of the craft, but it gave Hardinge little or no difficulty to dispose of. Some thirty or forty of them that were leaky, or otherwise disabled, he quietly broke up, sending the fragments afloat down the river. The remainder he despatched over to the other side, at intervals and from different points, with the aid of a dozen men whom he had joined to his party. Operating thus from ten in the forenoon till five in the afternoon, he succeeded in clearing the south shore of all its boats, without exciting undue attention in the city.