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   Chapter 9 PRISONERS

A Little Girl in Old St. Louis By Amanda M. Douglas Characters: 33459

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


The wild cry of "The Indians! the Indians!" had roused a small group from their desultory enjoyment. They were pouring down in what seemed a countless throng. Marchand had no weapon except his knife.

"Run," he cried. "Make for the fort! Keep at the edge of the wood while we can!"

Wawataysee seized Renée's hand. The Indian girl was as fleet as a deer. She could have saved herself, but she would not leave the child. They had now reached the open. All was screams and confusion and flying fugitives.

A tall Indian was behind them with a club. Wawataysee gave a wild shriek and the next instant stumbled over her husband's prostrate body. The Indian rushed on.

"Oh!" cried Renée in wild affright, standing still in terror, the flying crowd like swirling leaves before her eyes.

The sharp crack of a rifle made her spring back. Were both killed now? But Wawataysee moved, groaned.

"They have shot him now, my beloved!" She raised the bleeding head and pressed it to her bosom. "Oh, he has been killed, I know. Why did I not die with him? Oh, Renée-"

Escape now was as impossible as succor. The Indian girl moaned over her husband, and made a futile attempt to drag him back to the edge of the wood to hide him. But suddenly she was violently wrenched away, and an Indian with a hand hold of each began to run with them toward the river. At last Renée fell and he had to pause. Meanwhile the firing from the fort had begun with its execution.

Wawataysee began to plead with her captor, who turned a deaf ear to her entreaties. Renée was crying in a desperate fashion, from both fright and fatigue. He raised his club, but the young wife clasped the child in her arms.

"Kill us both," she exclaimed, "as you have already killed my husband."

"White man?" with a grunt. "Squaw woman. Make some Indian glad." Other prisoners were being brought in this direction, and among them Mère Lunde, who had started to reach the fort and bear the tidings to Gaspard.

"Oh, my dear child," she cried. "The good God help us. They are trying to take the town." And she almost fell at their feet.

Then they were marched on, the Indian guards behind with clubs and tomahawks, now and then goaded by a light blow that would not disable. The cries grew fainter, though they still heard the roar of the cannon.

And now the sun was slanting westward and the trees cast long shadows, the sound of the river fell on their ears mingled with the homeward song of birds. The heat began to wane, the air was dewy sweet.

It was almost dusk when they reached the boats, and they were bidden to get in and were conveyed to the opposite shore. Here they were bound together, two and two, with their hands fastened behind them. One Indian was detailed to watch them while the others took the boats back.

Ducharme's arm hung helplessly by his side, and the English renegades began to upbraid him, while the Indians, seeing that no pillage was possible and no gain could be made, drew away sullenly and began to march toward the rendezvous, leaving some of their own badly wounded behind. It was midnight before they rejoined the others. Then, fearing pursuit, they started up the river again, rousing those who had fallen asleep. All told they had barely thirty prisoners, and had left as many of their own behind.

Mère Lunde had been allowed near the two girls, and now they huddled together in the boat. Renée had fallen asleep again.

"You do not know where they will take us?" Mère Lunde inquired.

Wawataysee shook her head. "They will go up the Illinois River," she whispered.

"Do you think they will not follow?" in a low, desperate tone. "Master Denys and-"

"Oh, he is dead," with a heart-breaking moan. "I held him to my heart and he made no stir, I kissed his cold lips and there was no warmth. But for the sweet child I should have begged them to kill me too, so that my spirit should be with his. If she could be restored safely, my own life I would hold as nothing."

"They have started ere this. Do not despair," and her lips were close to the Indian girl's ear.

"Then I shall thank the Great Spirit for the child's sake." Heaven grant they might be rescued.

The stir and lap of the river and the boats had a mysterious sound in the weird darkness. Then the cry of some wild animal or a bit of wind sweeping through the trees at the edge, here and there. The stars shone out overhead. Mère Lunde dropped asleep also. But Wawataysee sat with wide-open eyes. One moment she said to herself that he could not be dead, the next his white face and half-closed, dulled eyes were against her breast. She felt as if she must shriek and tear her hair, but there was the Indian's self-control, and the thought of her companions who might be made to suffer for her. But she could not go out of life for her own satisfaction merely, unless it came to the martyrdom worse than death, for the child was a sacred charge. Gaspard Denys would go to the death, even, for both of them, and she was grateful for all the kindness and countenance he had given her at St. Louis.

They turned up a small stream, tributary to the Illinois. At noon they drew the boats up to what looked like an impenetrable brushwood, and disembarked, pulling in the boats and canoes. There was a sort of trodden path through the wild shrubbery, and tangled vines overhung it. Two of the Indians went ahead, the prisoners were driven next, and the rest of the party brought up the rear.

"Oh, where are we going?" cried Renée in affright, clutching Wawataysee's dress with both hands.

The girl shook her head.

They were stiff from their cramped position in the boats and faint from hunger. Now and then one received a blow and an admonition to hurry on. At length they came in sight of a clearing, an Indian settlement, with wigwams and a space planted with corn. Women were moving about over their fires, children playing or stretched out in the sun. Skins were tacked from tree to tree drying, and several women were busy making garments and leggings, some young girls cutting fringes. It was a pretty, restful scene to the tired travellers.

An old man rose, it almost seemed from the earth itself. He was thin and gaunt, hollow-cheeked and wrinkled to the last degree. From his attire and his head-dress of feathers one could gather that he was the chief of the small settlement.

"Why all this warlike array and these prisoners?" he asked sharply. "We are at peace with our white brothers. We have gathered in the remnant of our tribe, we have few young braves among us, we are mostly women and children. We have nothing to be despoiled of, we do no hunting save for ourselves."

"We want only a little food and rest, good father Neepawa. We will not molest you and yours. We are going up to the Great Lakes. We have been led astray by a white chief who promised us much plunder, but the town was too strong for us. He has gone south to one of the English forts and taken some of his followers, leaving the prisoners with us. Give us some food and we will go on."

Their request was acceded to, but with no special cordiality. The thing they would most have liked was whiskey, but that was not to be supplied at this simple Indian village.

"Oh, if we could stay here!" sighed Renée. "Do you know where they mean to take us?" and her eyes dilated with fear.

"Only that we are going farther north."

Wawataysee was fain to have some conversation with the Indian women, but she soon saw that every effort was adroitly frustrated. Still, they were fed abundantly and some provisions given the party. They reembarked late in the afternoon and made their way down to the Illinois River and up farther on their journey, until their provisions were gone, when they were obliged to land again.

After foraging about awhile they met a party of Indians and traders quite plentifully supplied with whiskey. This led to quarrels and disputes. A number of them were tired of having the prisoners to feed, and had changed their minds about going north. They were roving Indians who had no strong ties anywhere. Half a dozen decided to cast in their lot with the traders.

And now those going on picked out the most likely of the prisoners. Some of the strong young men who would be useful in the capacity of slaves, one half-breed woman who had astuteness enough to make herself of account in preparing food and did not resent the small indignities offered.

As they marched down to the river's edge these were first put on the boat. Then Wawataysee and the child. Mère Lunde started to follow, but was rudely thrust back.

"I must, I must!" she shrieked, struggling with her captor; "I must stay with the child!"

"Push off!" was the command. Three Indians stepped in and the boat was propelled out in the stream. Then Wawataysee saw what had happened and half rose, crying wildly that they should take on the poor creature begging in her desperation.

"She is ours! We cannot do without her!"

The Indian pushed her down on her seat and uttered a rough threat.

"Oh, what will they do with her?" shrieked Renée.

A blow was the only answer. Renée fell into her companion's lap sobbing wildly. Wawataysee tried to soothe and comfort her. But she felt strangely defenceless. The half-breed she mistrusted. If there could be some escape! She studied every point. They were no longer bound, but out here on the river one could do nothing.

So passed another night and day and a second night. No place of refuge had been found in their brief landings. But they reached another settlement, not as orderly or inviting as that of Chief Neepawa. Still, they were glad of a rest. And now their captors seemed undecided again. Two or three were already tired of the journey with its hardships.

An Indian woman found a place in her wigwam for the two girls. They were bound at night and their keeper had strict injunctions about them.

The Elk Horn, as one of the most authoritative Indians was called, now assumed the command. He had an idea, that he kept quite to himself, that he might dispose of his prisoners to some advantage, to make up in part for the ill-advised raid on St. Louis. There were many roving Indians about whose tribes had been decimated by wars and sickness, and who attached themselves to the English or American cause, whichever offered the most profit, and who liked a lawless, wandering life and plunder.

The keeper seemed kindly disposed toward the two girls and treated them well, though she watched them sharply. Wawataysee had been careful to talk in a patois of broken French and the Sioux that she had picked up. She understood nearly all that her captors said and thus held them at a disadvantage, but she could not learn what Elk Horn's plans were, if indeed he had any certain ones. She admitted that she had left a husband in St. Louis, for there were moments when she could not believe him dead, and that this was the end of their tender love! And she was young, she had just tasted of the sweetness of it all.

There were hours of heart-break, when it seemed as if she could not endure Renée's prattle, and would fain shake off the soft touch on her arm, the kisses on her forehead, for the awful, desperate want of the other kisses, the other clasp. And oh, how strong the longing was at times to throw herself headlong into the river and let her spirit of love fly to that other land, that the good God provided for His children.

Then she would think of Gaspard Denys and his love for the little maid. He had seen enough of the cruelty of her race to know the danger. Ah, why had the great All-Father allowed any human beings to become such fiends? Up in her northern home she had heard things that turned the blood to ice. And she had been so near the white settlements.

Yes, she must care for the little one, keep with her, befriend her, try to restore her to her dear protector.

It was best to claim that Renée was her little sister by adoption. If they could only get back! Why should they go up north? What was that more than any other place!

The woman at this would shake her head doubtfully. Yet Wawataysee could see that she softened, and once she asked how far it was to St. Louis, and how one could get there.

Wawataysee's heart beat high with hope. Yet how could two girls reach there alone? They might meet other Indian bands who would capture them. There were wild animals. And they might not get a canoe. They had no money. Still, she would escape if they could and pray to the good God to keep them safe. Often and often she and Renée comforted themselves with the sweet, brief prayers they had learned. And oh, where was poor Mère Lunde!

Several days of rest were vouchsafed to them. Then one day a company of hunters joined them, among which there were a few white prisoners as well. One, a young fellow, strolled about with evident curiosity, and came upon the girls in a leafy covert near the wig-wam. They were given a little liberty by their keeper on promising by the Great Manitou they would not attempt to escape.

"It would be of no use," said the woman. "An alarm would be given, and you do not know your way anywhere. Then you might be beaten when you were captured, and confined with thongs. Have patience. Sometimes all the braves go off to hunt."

The young man listened to the French with delight. Two of the other captives were English and they had conversed mostly with signs and Indian words they had picked up.

Renée heard a stir in the leaves and started with a little cry. The hand was raised for silence.

"Pardon me. I will do you no harm," he said, with an appeal in his voice. "It was the language that sounded so sweet to me. I am French. I come from Detroit. But we fell in with a band of Indians and only three of us escaped unhurt. We were made prisoners."

"And we are prisoners, too," returned Wawataysee, with a sigh. "We come from St. Louis."

"St. Louis! How strange! I had meant to go there. I have an uncle, Pierre Valbonais."

"Oh, I know!" cried Renée with delight, as if she had found a friend. "He comes in my uncle's shop; and Uncle Gaspard likes him. They sit and smoke together."

"And I am André Valbonais. We are companions in adversity, both prisoners. Whither are you going?"

Wawataysee shook her head. "We do not know, m'sieu."

He laughed softly. "How natural that sounds! I am glad to hear a familiar voice. Neither do I know my destination. It is one thing to-day, another to-morrow. I do not think they know themselves. Black Feather is chief of the gang. Now and then they quarrel. He killed two Indians not more than a week ago who wanted to have their own way, but he has not been cruel to us. Still, I dream of escape continually."

"Ah, if we could compass it together!" and Wawataysee's beautiful eyes went to his very heart.

The woman came out with her beadwork in her hand.

"You are not of our people," she said. "You have no right here. Go your way."

"Perhaps not. I am a sort of compulsory guest, but I will say adieu," and bowing, he disappeared in the shrubbery; but his last glance said he would find them again.

"Who was it?" The woman looked from one to the other.

"He is French, and a prisoner. The chief is Black Feather. But the young man comes from Detroit."

She gave a nod, as if she knew this much already.

Elk Horn and Black Feather had cemented a friendship over their whiskey. They would start the next morning. The word was given to be early astir, and the woman roused them.

"Every step takes us farther away," said Wawataysee regretfully. Yet they would be in the company of Valbonais, who had resolved upon escape.

She walked slowly down to the river's edge, holding Renée by the hand. Black Feather caught sight of her. Her tall, lithe figure, her airy step, the poise of the head, had a touch of familiarity. Ah, yes! and the name. The pretty Firefly had been taken away from the strait by a white trader, and her brother had been unsuccessful in his attempt to capture her. Ah, if this was she, then he was truly in luck!

He did not attempt to come nearer, but saw her and the child step into the boat. Elk Horn took command of this. Black Feather gathered his small force together, and his boatload of treasures of different kinds with which he could purchase supplies, and the other looked on with envy.

All day Black Feather watched warily, more and more certain that this girl would prove a treasure to him if he managed rightly. He would buy her of Elk Horn.

"What do you know about her?" he inquired. "She comes from St. Louis. Who was her father? for she has Indian blo

od, and I am sure I know her tribe."

Elk Horn looked amazed. "I believe she married a trader and came with him. I will ask her."

"No. Cannot some of the men tell you?"

"Oh, I think so. Have you been smitten with her charms?"

The Indian nodded, but his face showed no emotion.

They made a rude camp for the night and proceeded to cook some supper.

"I have found out," announced Elk Horn. "A Frenchman, Marchand, married her. He was killed, I believe, in the assault on the town."

"Yes, I like her. I will buy her of you. Let us make a bargain."

"And the little one?" inquiringly.

"Oh, I do not want her. Yet she has some beauty, according to pale-face ideas. But no, I will take only the Indian girl."

They ate their supper of broiled fish, and then smoked in the gathering darkness. Elk Horn deliberated. He had not exactly thought of selling her, though it was often done with female captives. He had two wives now, and did not want to be burdened with a third who was a helpless young girl. Wives were for profit, in his estimation.

Black Feather was as wary. He was not sure he wanted to marry her. She might prove turbulent and headstrong. Half breeds were not as tractable as Indian women. And they were not as strong. They might die on your hands, and what, then, would one have for the bargain?

"You will take the child. I will not part them. You can spare a trifle more. She will soon grow up."

Black Feather shrugged his shoulders and was silent.

"Then there is no bargain," declared Elk Horn. "I will offer my wares to some other chief. I think of one farther up in the Illinois country. But our ways may be together a few days longer. It need not make ill friends."

Black Feather brought out some whiskey. He knew how to tempt his brother. To have a supply of this for days would be more satisfying than any future gain. For the present was the great thing to the Indian's improvident nature. And so Black Feather made his bargain, including the child that he really did not care for. Yet perhaps it would be better not to separate them at present.

Elk Horn had not slept off all his potion. His compeer was awake early, and had laid aside the promised treasures for his inspection. Then he called his men and stealthily manned his own boats. He judged rightly that Elk Horn would not leave the place until the last drop of firewater had been drained, and then it would take him a few days to get over his debauch.

"Come," he exclaimed roughly, at length. "Here is your portion-beads, wampum, skins and whiskey."

Elk Horn nodded and rubbed his bleared eyes. He looked at the goods and they seemed magnified to his sight, so adroitly were they spread about.

"Ugh! It is early," with a yawn.

"I must be on my way. You can overtake me at night. We will share the same fire, and I will have everything prepared for my brother. But I wish you to rouse the two captives and have them ready also. You will lead them to the boat, so there need be no disturbance."

Elk Horn considered. Wawataysee might object to her new master. He felt his part had been rather underhand, but was she not his property?

They were a little surprised at the summons, and to be hurried off without breakfast. The canoes were already out in the river. The larger boat had a few men in it. Elk Horn put in Renée first.

"Where are we going?" the Indian girl asked, turning toward him.

"Up the river," roughly, in a thick, guttural voice. "Come, get in."

She stepped aboard, not especially remarking the men. Then suddenly her eye fell upon Valbonais, who greeted her with a joyous expression. Had he been handed over to Elk Horn? She experienced a certain contentment, and suspicion was allayed.

But as they emerged from the shadow of the overhanging trees she saw that all the faces were strange. She had not noted the newcomers in the camp, having been kept in seclusion, and it also being her choice. Now a chill of terror ran over her. Noting the aspect of two of the rowers more closely, she saw to her dismay that they were Hurons. One man had his head turned from her and bowed down.

"Why do we go so early?" asked Renée. "And we have had no breakfast."

"I do not know," tremblingly.

"And why did Elk Horn stay on shore?"

"Did he?" with a curious lift of the brows.

"Oh, yes; I saw him. And these men-oh, where are Pierre and Jules? But there is the young man who came and talked to us. Oh, Wawataysee, shall we never stay anywhere again? How can we get back to St. Louis?"

"Hush, dear; hush!"

"But I am getting hungry. And I am so tired of sailing."

She leaned her head down on Wawataysee's lap. Every moment the Indian girl grew more terrified. True, Elk Horn and his men might come on. But these Hurons!

The boat glided along. The sun rose higher and made of the river a band of gold and gems, where each little wavelet dazzled in strange colors. They passed great plains where grass grew rank and waved in the wind like another sea of green. Then a belt of pines or walnut, the first standing stiff and strong, the others mound-like.

The bowed figure had straightened itself and spoken to the men, but not turned his face. Now he gave an order and the boat swerved in toward the shore, grating a little on the pebbly beach. The other one in advance turned also. Some food was distributed. He spoke in the Huron language, and said they must make Bear Creek by night.

It was dreadful to go out in the broiling sun again, but presently a cooling breeze blew up. They passed a chain of boats well laden, going down, the French sailors singing a merry lilt, and they gave each other greeting. The shadows began to grow longer and a reviving fragrance was wafted over from the shore edge. There were fields abloom with gay flowers, then shrubby clumps, and when the sun went down they had neared a little cove where one could see two rather dilapidated wigwams. Here they were to stop for the night.

The men began to make a fire, while provisions were brought out of the boat. The two girls had been left alone, but now the chief-Wawataysee knew he was that by his dress and a long black feather stuck through the topknot of hair-turned to her. Oh, then she was quite sure she had seen him before and her heart stood still. Yes, it was in that life she had fled from.

He addressed her in the Huron tongue; she answered irrelevantly in French. A frown crossed his brow, but he handed them both out of the boat with a firm grasp on the arm of each, and led them to the smaller tent of the two. Some fir and hemlock branches had been thrown on the ground and covered with a blanket.

"You and the child will be safe here. You will be well guarded," with a cruel little smile. "Some supper will be sent you. Compose yourself."

She gave no sign of recognition.

"You cannot deceive me, Firefly of the Hurons, even if some French blood does course in your veins and you are tricked out in this attire. Your brother's anger was kindled against you when you made him break his word, when you ran off with a vile Frenchman. If you could have been found justice would have been swift and sure. And now you will go back. You will not be a wife this time, but a slave to your master and his other wives."

"I am a wife already," she answered proudly in his language, since it was no use to feign. "I have been wedded a year by a priest, and the Great Manitou will call down vengeance upon those who dare interfere with his ordinances. And what right have you to bring me here?"

"I bought you, Mistress Insolence. And I shall double my price when the Chief Pamussac hears that you will be at his service."

There was a little dagger lying in a treasure box at home. Her husband had given it to her. If she had it here she would stab him to the heart.

"Well, what is your reply?" he asked in a tone of triumph. "Your white lord is dead. He cannot come at your call."

"My reply is that we are both hungry and want some supper," she returned in an impatient tone. "And then some more blankets," glancing disdainfully at the pile of boughs. "You will hardly double your money if you starve or maltreat me. I may die on your hands."

Black Feather was more than amazed at the effrontery of the girl. He stared at her, and his fingers worked as if he would like to clutch her by the throat. Yes, what she said was true enough.

Wawataysee knew well that an Indian despised any sign of weakness or cowardice, and that to secure good treatment she must put on the boldness of the soldier who does not fear even death, and from whom his persecutors can extort no groan.

"I will send you some supper. And guards shall be set to keep you from harm," in a mocking tone.

"Take my thanks for that," she flung out sharply. "I am mortally afraid of the wild beasts of the forests. And I would like some sleep after this hot, fatiguing day and the early start of the morning."

"Oh, what did he say?" and Renée clung to her with desperation. "He was so fierce I thought he would kill us. And why are we here? Where is Elk Horn?"

"My little darling, it seems that we have been sold and are to be taken up north, unless the Great Manitou or the pitying Virgin listens to our prayers and sends us rescue. It is a long way and something may happen."

Renée began to cry.

"Sweet, take courage. I do not know why, but I have a curious faith that overrides my fears, that something will intervene. Elk Horn has dealt treacherously, after the fashion of his tribe. Oh, my darling! I know you will see Uncle Gaspard again, so dry your tears."

"I am so tired of the journeying and those fierce men. Do you remember the old Chief Neepawa and the women of the village? They seemed like ours at home."

"Ah, I wish we were there!"

The supper came in, and, in spite of their fears, they were hungry. The wind rose and the air was delightfully cool. Wawataysee spread the bed and the child was soon peacefully asleep. The tent pole was a tree that had been trimmed for that purpose, and the young girl leaned against it, watching the flicker of the fire without and the pine torches that had been lighted. Courageous as she had appeared, every pulse shrank and throbbed. But there was death. She would be no man's slave. Only Renée must not be left behind. She knew of poisonous plants for which there was no remedy. Oh, would she have the courage to take another's life?

She dozed at length, even in her uncomfortable position. Then something roused her, a rending crash and a glare that seemed to be the world on fire. She sprang up, and the next crash she knew was the storm that had broken over them with the wildest fury. Were there cries of beast and men mingled with it? The deluge seemed to sweep the ground, the trees writhed and groaned and crashed in the fury of the gale. In the intervals she could hear voices without. Presently the flashes of bewildering light ceased, though the mutterings of thunder could still be heard, and the trees were wind-swept by the fierceness of the mighty power. One and another came down, but her tent stood the storm and was sheltered by an angle of three trees.

The gray light of morning began to dawn sullenly. She watched the faint streaks stealing through the loopholes. Renée still slept. She went to the flap of the wigwam and raised it. The rain was pouring in torrents. There at her feet lay a body, the leggings and deer-skin breeches ploughed by a curious zigzag streak, scorched and torn, and the blanket shrivelled to fragments. Some figures were moving about like wraiths in the dusky light. It was a weird picture. She was not at all afraid. She was used to forest storms.

One of the figures came nearer. "Ma'm'selle!" it said in a whisper.

The familiar word was the sweetest music. She stretched out her hand.

"I never saw anything so terrible. And you-lived? Others have gone. Three are dead. One is drowned, and Black Feather-" Valbonais's voice trembled.

"Well!" with a long breath. Did she hope for his death?

"He ordered the men to look after the boats. They had been drawn up, but the ground was sloping, the rain a torrent, the blackness something fearful save when the blinding blaze of light came. He was there ordering, cursing, threatening. Then a tree crashed down and pinned him to the earth. He is badly hurt about the legs, but has voice enough left in him for four."

Wawataysee shuddered.

"Ma'm'selle!" in a breathless manner.

"Yes?" with eager inquiry.

"I am going to escape. There never can be a more favorable moment."

"Oh! oh! oh!" she cried in a piercing tone.

"I shall find my way to St. Louis. Ma'm'selle, if you and the child dared and would trust me. For if I have heard aright, you are to be taken to some chief up in the straits. And if you shrank from going--"

"I shall never reach there alive. I know a swift, unfailing poison-" And her words came out sharply.

He gave her a half-horrified, half-entreating look.

"It will be a hard journey. But if we should start now there is not much chance of our being overtaken. Everything is in such confusion, and it may be weeks before Black Feather is able to move about. We would follow the river as well as we could, keeping out of sight if the other boats come up, as they are likely to do. For the rest we must trust to the good God. I shall take a gun. I have dreamed this over many times. And if you will go--"

"You mean to start now-in the storm?"

"It will clear up presently, by noon. Meanwhile, I could plan all the arrangements. Just now you are not a close prisoner. There is no telling what may happen to-morrow."

"That is true." Wawataysee studied the eager young face. The eyes had an honest, pleading look. "I will trust you," she said. "Tell me what to do when you are ready."

The party were too terror-stricken to think much of their captives. There were the three dead men lying out in the rain. They brought Black Feather up to the miserable wigwam and bound up his bruised limbs, finding that one leg only was broken. Black Feather had tabooed the company of women on these journeys, and had a half-breed that he had trained for a cook. Just now an old Indian nurse would have been very serviceable. Once he roused himself from his pain and suffering, cursing with true Indian passion.

"Look if the girl and the child are safe," he commanded in threatening tones.

They had fared very well in the storm. Both they and the shelter had taken no harm.

Valbonais had gathered a sack of provisions and taken it down below the camp some distance, leaving it there with the gun. He had been very helpful all the morning, and his brief absence had not been noted.

At noon the rain ceased, though it was nearly an hour before the sun came out. Dinner was eaten, the boats were dragged up so as to be within sight, and two or three of the Indians were kept busy about their master. Two of the prisoners had been killed and one Indian. Black Feather ordered them buried.

Valbonais came to the door of the tent.

"Give me one of the blankets," he said, "and send the child out to the back of the tent when you can do so unperceived. Then wrap yourself in the other and steal away. We will take the other side of the strip of woods. It is not wide."

Renée ran out presently and seized his hand.

"Oh, are we going back to St. Louis?" she asked in a whisper, while her eyes were alight with joy.

"I hope so, little one. Come this way. Now you will not be afraid to stay here. Do not utter a cry or sound. Wrap the blanket about you-so."

Then Valbonais waited and waited. He made one journey to Renée to comfort her. Then he saw Wawataysee struggling through an aperture she had made in the tent, and ran to her assistance.

"There were so many of them about," she said breathlessly. "I pinned the tent flap down with a stout stick, so they may think I am asleep. Oh, let us hurry. I am so afraid," and she trembled in her excitement, though she ran lightly along.

When they reached Renée he picked up the sack of food and slung it over his shoulder, took the gun and one blanket, while Wawataysee wrapped the other about herself, the gray making her more indistinct. Renée, wild with joy, danced and skipped, and could not repress soft gurgles of laughter as she kept on ahead of them.

Valbonais found Wawataysee fleet of foot and graceful as a forest nymph. The blanket did not seem to impede her skimming motion. The sense of danger and the thought of freedom inspired her, and hope swelled anew in her breast. Surely the good God would have Fran?ois in His keeping and let them meet again.

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