“Ay,” said Amos, “I saw him once, when I was brought before him with the others for trading on what he called French ground. His mouth set like a skunk trap and he looked at us as if he would have liked our scalps for his leggings. But I could see that he was a chief and a brave man.”
“He was an enemy of the Church, and the right hand of the foul fiend in this country,” said a voice from the bottom of the canoe.
It was the friar who had succeeded in getting rid of the buckskin glove and belt with which the two Americans had gagged him. He was lying huddled up now glaring savagely at the party with his fiery dark eyes.
“His jaw-tackle has come adrift,” said the seaman. “Let me brace it up again.”
“Nay, why should we take him farther?” asked Amos. “He is but weight for us to carry, and I cannot see that we profit by his company. Let us put him out.”
“Ay, sink or swim,” cried old Ephraim with enthusiasm.
“Nay, upon the bank.”
“And have him maybe in front of us warning the black jackets.”
“On that island, then.”
“Very good. He can hail the first of his folk who pass.”
They shot over to the island and landed the friar, who said nothing, but cursed them with his eye. They left with him a small supply of biscuit and of flour to last him until he should be picked up. Then, having passed a bend in the river, they ran their canoe ashore in a little cove where the whortleberry and cranberry bushes grew right down to the water’s edge, and the sward was bright with the white euphorbia, the blue gentian, and the purple balm. There they laid out their small stock of provisions, and ate a hearty breakfast while discussing what their plans should be for the future.
THE INLAND WATERS.
They were not badly provided for their journey. The captain of the Gloucester brig in which the Americans had started from Quebec knew Ephraim Savage well, as who did not upon the New England coast? He had accepted his bill therefore at three months’ date, at as high a rate of interest as he could screw out of him, and he had let him have in return three excellent guns, a good supply of ammunition, and enough money to provide for all his wants. In this way he had hired the canoe and the Indians, and had fitted her with meat and biscuit to last them for ten days at the least.
“It’s like the breath of life to me to feel the heft of a gun and to smell the trees round me,” said Amos. “Why, it cannot be more than a hundred leagues from here to Albany or Schenectady, right through the forest.”
“Ay, lad, but how is the gal to walk a hundred leagues through a forest? No, no, let us keep water under our keel, and lean on the Lord.”
“Then there is only one way for it. We must make the Richelieu River, and keep right along to Lake Champlain and Lake St. Sacrament. There we should be close by the headwaters of the Hudson.”