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- The Trail of the Sword, Volume 2. - 6/9 -

there seemed to accompany each boat and each person an atmosphere within this other haze, a spiritual kind of exhalation; so that one might have thought them, with the crucifixes on their breasts, and that unworldly, distinguished look which comes to those who live much with nature, as sons of men going upon such mission as did they who went into the far land with Arthur.

But the silence could not be maintained for long. The first flush of the impression gone, these half-barbarians, with the simple hearts of children, must rise from the almost melancholy, somewhat religious mood, into which they had been cast. As Iberville, with Sainte-Helene and Perrot, sat watching the canoes that followed, with voyageurs erect in bow and stern, a voice in the next canoe, with a half-chanting modulation, began a song of the wild-life. Voice after voice slowly took it up, until it ran along the whole procession. A verse was sung, then a chorus altogether, then a refrain of one verse which was sung by each boat in succession to the last. As the refrain of this was sung by the last boat it seemed to come out of the great haze behind. Verses of the old song are still preserved:

"Qui vive! Who is it cries in the dawn Cries when the stars go down? Who is it comes through the mist The mist that is fine like lawn, The mist like an angel's gown? Who is it comes in the dawn? Qui vive! Qui vive! in the dawn.

"Qui rive! Who is it passeth us by, Still in the dawn and the mist? Tall seigneur of the dawn: A two-edged sword at his thigh, A shield of gold at his wrist: Who is it hurrieth by? Qui vive! Qui vive! in the dawn."

Under the influence of this beautiful mystery of the dawn, the slow thrilling song, and the strange, happy loneliness--as though they were in the wash between two worlds, Iberville got the great inspiration of his life. He would be a discoverer, the faithful captain of his king, a trader in provinces. . . . And in that he kept his word--years after, but he kept it. There came with this, what always comes to a man of great ideas: the woman who should share his prowess. Such a man, if forced to choose between the woman and the idea, will ever decide for the woman after he has married her, sacrificing what--however much he hides it--lies behind all. But he alone knows what he has sacrificed. For it is in the order of things that the great man shall be first the maker of kingdoms and homes, and then the husband of his wife and a begetter of children. Iberville knew that this woman was not more to him than the feeling just come to him, but he knew also that while the one remained the other would also.

He stood up and folded his arms, looking into the silence and mist. His hand mechanically dropped to his sword, and he glanced up proudly to the silver flag with its golden lilies floating softly on the slight breeze they made as they passed.

"The sword!" he said under his breath. "The world and a woman by the sword; there is no other way."

He had the spirit of his time. The sword was its faith, its magic. If two men loved a woman, the natural way to make happiness for all was to let the sword do its eager office. For they had one of the least- believed and most unpopular of truths, that a woman's love is more a matter of mastery and possession than instinct, two men being of comparatively equal merit and sincerity.

His figure seemed to grow larger in the mist, and the grey haze gave his hair a frosty coating, so that age and youth seemed strangely mingled in him. He stood motionless for a long time as the song went on:

"Qui vive! Who saileth into the morn, Out of the wind of the dawn? 'Follow, oh, follow me on!' Calleth a distant horn. He is here--he is there--he is gone, Tall seigneur of the dawn! Qui vive! Qui vive! in the dawn."

Some one touched Iberville's arm. It was Dollier de Casson. Iberville turned to him, but they did not speak at first--the priest knew his friend well.

"We shall succeed, abbe," Iberville said.

"May our quarrel be a just one, Pierre," was the grave reply.

"The forts are our king's; the man is with my conscience, my dear friend."

"But if you make sorrow for the woman?"

"You brought me a gift from her!" His finger touched his doublet.

"She is English, my Pierre."

"She is what God made her."

"She may be sworn to the man."

Iberville started, then shook his head incredulously. "He is not worthy of her."

"Are you?"

"I know her value better and prize it more."

"You have not seen her for four years."

"I had not seen you for four years--and yet!"

"You saw her then only for a few days--and she was so young!"

"What are days or years? Things lie deep in us till some great moment, and then they spring into life and are ours for ever. When I kissed King Louis' hand I knew that I loved my king; when De Montespan's. I hated, and shall hate always. When I first saw this English girl I waked from youth, I was born again into the world. I had no doubts, I have none now."

"And the man?"

"One knows one's enemy even as the other. There is no way but this, Dollier. He is the enemy of my king, and he is greatly in my debt. Remember the Spaniards' country!"

He laid a hand upon his sword. The face of the priest was calm and grave, but in his eyes was a deep fire. At heart he was a soldier, a loyalist, a gentleman of France. Perhaps there came to him then the dreams of his youth, before a thing happened which made him at last a servant of the Church after he had been a soldier of the king.

Presently the song of the voyageurs grew less, the refrain softened and passed down the long line, and, as it were, from out of far mists came the muffled challenge:

"Qui vive! Qui vive! in the dawn."

Then a silence fell once more. But presently from out of the mists there came, as it were, the echo of their challenge:

"Qui vive! Qui vive! in the dawn."

The paddles stilled in the water and a thrill ran through the line of voyageurs--even Iberville and his friends were touched by it.

Then there suddenly emerged from the haze on their left, ahead of them, a long canoe with tall figures in bow and stern, using paddles. They wore long cloaks, and feathers waved from their heads. In the centre of the canoe was what seemed a body under a pall, at its head and feet small censers. The smell of the wood came to them, and a little trail of sweet smoke was left behind as the canoe swiftly passed into the mist on the other side and was gone.

It had been seen vaguely. No one spoke, no one challenged; it had come and gone like a dream. What it was, no one, not even Iberville, could guess, though he thought it a pilgrimage of burial, such as was sometimes made by distinguished members of Indian tribes. Or it may have been-- which is likely--a dead priest being carried south by Indian friends.

The impression left upon the party was, however, characteristic. There was none but, with the smell of the censers in his nostrils, made the sacred gesture; and had the Jesuit Silvy or the Abbe de Casson been so disposed, the event might have been made into the supernatural.

After a time the mist cleared away, and nothing could be seen on the path they had travelled but the plain of clear water and the distant shore they had left.

Ahead of them was another shore, and they reached this at last. Where the mysterious canoe had vanished, none could tell.

Days upon days, they travelled with incredible labour, now portaging over a stubborn country, now, placing their lives in hazard as they shot down untravelled rapids.

One day on the Black Wing River a canoe was torn open and its three occupants were thrown into the rapids. Two of them were expert swimmers and were able to catch the stern of another canoe as it ran by, and reached safe water, bruised but alive. The third was a boy, Maurice Joval, the youngest of the party, whom Iberville had been at first loth to bring with him. But he had remembered his own ambitious youth, and had consented, persuading De Troyes that the lad was worth encouragement. His canoe was not far behind when the other ran on the rocks. He saw the lad struggle bravely and strike out, but a cross current caught him and carried him towards the steep shore. There he was thrown against a rock. His strength seemed to fail, but he grasped the rock. It was scraggy, and though it tore and bruised him he clung to it.

Iberville threw off his doublet, and prepared to spring as his boat came down. But another had made ready. It was the abbe, with his cassock gone, and his huge form showing finely. He laid his hand upon Iberville's arm. "Stay here," he said, "I go; I am the stronger."

But Iberville, as cries of warning and appeal rang out around him, the drowning lad had not cried out at all,--sprang into the water. Not alone. The abbe looked around him, made the sacred gesture, and then

The Trail of the Sword, Volume 2. - 6/9

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