“By my faith, I believe that they have gone!” cried the seigneur.
“Take care that it is not a ruse,” said Du Lhut. “Why should they fly before six men when they have conquered sixty?”
But the censitaire had looked out of the other window, and in an instant he was down upon his knees with his hands in the air, and his powder blackened face turned upwards, pattering out prayers and thanksgivings. His five comrades rushed across the room and burst into a shriek of joy. The upper reach of the river was covered with a flotilla of canoes from which the sun struck quick flashes as it shone upon the musket-barrels and trappings of the crews. Already they could see the white coats of the regulars, the brown tunics of the coureurs-de-bois_, and the gaudy colours of the Hurons and Algonquins. On they swept, dotting the whole breadth of the river, and growing larger every instant, while far away on the southern bend, the Iroquois canoe was a mere moving dot which had shot away to the farther side and lost itself presently under the shadow of the trees. Another minute and the survivors were out upon the bank, waving their caps in the air, while the prows of the first of their rescuers were already grating upon the pebbles. In the stern of the very foremost canoe sat a wizened little man with a large brown wig, and a gilt-headed rapier laid across his knees. He sprang out as the keel touched bottom, splashing through the shallow water with his high leather boots, and rushing up to the seigneur, he flung himself into his arms.
“My dear Charles,” he cried, “you have held your house like a hero. What, only six of you! Tut, tut, this has been a bloody business!”
“I knew that you would not desert a comrade, Chambly. We have saved the house, but our losses have been terrible. My son is dead. My wife is in that Iroquois canoe in front of you.”
The commandant of Fort St. Louis pressed his friend’s hand in silent sympathy.
“The others arrived all safe,” he said at last. “Only that one was taken, on account of the breaking of a paddle. Three were drowned and two captured. There was a French lady in it, I understand, as well as madame.”
“Yes, and they have taken her husband as well.”
“Ah, poor souls! Well, if you are strong enough to join us, you and your friends, we shall follow after them without the loss of an instant. Ten of my men will remain to guard the house, and you can have their canoe. Jump in then, and forward, for life and death may hang upon our speed!”