The Refugees eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 366 pages of information about The Refugees.

The little group of survivors waited in breathless anxiety while the canoe sped swiftly up the river, with a line of foam on either side of her, and a long forked swirl in the waters behind.  They could see that she appeared to be very crowded, but they remembered that the wounded of the other boat were aboard her.  On she shot and on, until as she came abreast of the fort she swung round, and the rowers raised their paddles and burst into a shrill yell of derision.  The stern of the canoe was turned towards them now, and they saw that two women were seated in it.  Even at that distance there was no mistaking the sweet pale face or the dark queenly one beside it.  The one was Onega and the other was Adele.

CHAPTER XXXIX.

THE TWO SWIMMERS.

Charles de la Noue, Seigneur de Sainte Marie, was a hard and self-contained man, but a groan and a bitter curse burst from him when he saw his Indian wife in the hands of her kinsmen, from whom she could hope for little mercy.  Yet even now his old-fashioned courtesy to his guest had made him turn to De Catinat with some words of sympathy, when there was a clatter of wood, something darkened the light of the window, and the young soldier was gone.  Without a word he had lowered the ladder and was clambering down it with frantic haste.  Then as his feet touched the ground he signalled to his comrades to draw it up again, and dashing into the river he swam towards the canoe.  Without arms and without a plan he had but the one thought that his place was by the side of his wife in this, the hour of her danger.  Fate should bring him what it brought her, and he swore to himself, as he clove a way with his strong arms, that whether it were life or death they should still share it together.

But there was another whose view of duty led him from safety into the face of danger.  All night the Franciscan had watched De Catinat as a miser watches his treasure, filled with the thought that this heretic was the one little seed which might spread and spread until it choked the chosen vineyard of the Church.  Now when he saw him rush so suddenly down the ladder, every fear was banished from his mind save the overpowering one that he was about to lose his precious charge.  He, too, clambered down at the very heels of his prisoner, and rushed into the stream not ten paces behind him.

And so the watchers at the window saw the strangest of sights.  There, in mid-stream, lay the canoe, with a ring of dark warriors clustering in the stern, and the two women crouching in the midst of them.  Swimming madly towards them was De Catinat, rising to the shoulders with the strength of every stroke, and behind him again was the tonsured head of the friar, with his brown capote and long trailing gown floating upon the surface of the water behind him.  But in his zeal he had thought too little of his own powers.  He was a good swimmer, but he was

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The Refugees from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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