In an instant Du Lhut had scraped together a little bundle of dry twigs, and had heaped them up against a withered beech tree which was as dry as tinder. A stroke of flint and steel was enough to start a little smoulder of flame, which lengthened and spread until it was leaping along the white strips of hanging bark. A quarter of a mile farther on Du Lhut did the same again, and once more beyond that, until at three different points the forest was in a blaze. As they hurried onwards they could hear the dull roaring of the flames behind them, and at last, as they neared Sainte Marie, they could see, looking back, the long rolling wave of fire travelling ever westward towards the Richelieu, and flashing up into great spouts of flame as it licked up a clump of pines as if it were a bundle of faggots. Du Lhut chuckled in his silent way as he looked back at the long orange glare in the sky.
“They will need to swim for it, some of them,” said he. “They have not canoes to take them all off. Ah, if I had but two hundred of my coureurs-de-bois on the river at the farther side of them not one would have got away.”
“They had one who was dressed like a white man,” remarked Amos.
“Ay, and the most deadly of the lot. His father was a Dutch trader, his mother an Iroquois, and he goes by the name of the Flemish Bastard. Ah, I know him well, and I tell you that if they want a king in hell, they will find one all ready in his wigwam. By Saint Anne, I have a score to settle with him, and I may pay it before this business is over. Well, there are the lights of Sainte Marie shining down below there. I can understand that sigh of relief, monsieur, for, on my word, after what we found at Poitou, I was uneasy myself until I should see them.”
THE TAPPING OF DEATH.
Day was just breaking as the four comrades entered the gate of the stockade, but early as it was the censitaires and their families were all afoot staring at the prodigious fire which raged to the south of them. De Catinat burst through the throng and rushed upstairs to Adele, who had herself flown down to meet him, so that they met in each other’s arms half-way up the great stone staircase with a burst of those little inarticulate cries which are the true unwritten language of love. Together, with his arm round her, they ascended to the great hall where old De la Noue with his son were peering out of the window at the wonderful spectacle.
“Ah, monsieur,” said the old nobleman, with his courtly bow, “I am indeed rejoiced to see you safe under my roof again, not only for your own sake, but for that of madame’s eyes, which, if she will permit an old man to say so, are much too pretty to spoil by straining them all day in the hopes of seeing some one coming out of the forest. You have done forty miles, Monsieur de Catinat, and are doubtless hungry and weary. When you are yourself again I must claim my revenge in piquet, for the cards lay against me the other night.”