“No, I could not sleep.”
“We can do no more down here. What do you say to a round or two of piquet? A little turn of the cards will help us to pass the time.”
They ascended to the upper hall, where Adele came and sat by her husband, while the swarthy Onega crouched by the window looking keenly out into the forest. De Catinat had little thought to spare upon the cards, as his mind wandered to the danger which threatened them and to the woman whose hand rested upon his own. The old nobleman, on the other hand, was engrossed by the play, and cursed under his breath, or chuckled and grinned as the luck swayed one way or the other. Suddenly as they played there came two sharp raps from without.
“Some one is tapping,” cried Adele.
“It is death that is tapping,” said the Indian woman at the window.
“Ay, ay, it was the patter of two spent balls against the woodwork. The wind is against our hearing the report. The cards are shuffled. It is my cut and your deal. The capot, I think, was mine.”
“Men are rushing from the woods,” cried Onega.
“Tut! It grows serious!” said the nobleman. “We can finish the game later. Remember that the deal lies with you. Let us see what it all means.”
De Catinat had already rushed to the window. Du Lhut, young Achille de la Noue, and eight of the covering party were running with their heads bent towards the stockade, the door of which had been opened to admit them. Here and there from behind the trees came little blue puffs of smoke, and one of the fugitives who wore white calico breeches began suddenly to hop instead of running and a red splotch showed upon the white cloth. Two others threw their arms round him and the three rushed in abreast while the gate swung into its place behind them. An instant later the brass cannon at the corner gave a flash and a roar while the whole outline of the wood was traced in a rolling cloud, and the shower of bullets rapped up against the wooden wall like sleet on a window.
THE TAKING OF THE STOCKADE.
Having left Adele to the care of her Indian hostess, and warned her for her life to keep from the windows, De Catinat seized his musket and rushed downstairs. As he passed a bullet came piping through one of the narrow embrasures and starred itself in a little blotch of lead upon the opposite wall. The seigneur had already descended and was conversing with Du Lhut beside the door.
“A thousand of them, you say?”
“Yes, we came on a fresh trail of a large war-party, three hundred at the least. They are all Mohawks and Cayugas with a sprinkling of Oneidas. We had a running fight for a few miles, and we have lost five men.”
“All dead, I trust.”
“I hope so, but we were hard pressed to keep from being cut off. Jean Mance is shot through the leg.”