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   Chapter 4 JEANNE'S HERO.

A Little Girl in Old Detroit By Amanda M. Douglas Characters: 21345

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


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 Père 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 woo

ds 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.

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