“My friend,” said he, “you ask me for my answer. I have pondered and I now decide. We shall go on. We shall go forward. Let us have this West, my friend. Heaven helping us, let me find somewhere, in some land, a place where I may be utterly lost, and where I may forget!”
THE PATHWAY OF THE WATERS
The news of the intended departure was received with joy by the crew of voyageurs, who, on the warning of an instant, fell forthwith to the simple tasks of breaking camp and storing the accustomed bales and bundles in their places in the great canot du Nord.
“La voila!” said Tete Gris. “Here she sits, this canoe, eager to go on. ’Tis forward again, mes amis! Forward once more; and glad enough am I for this day. We shall see new lands ere long.”
“For my part,” said Jean Breboeuf, “I also am most anxious to be away, for I have eaten this white-fish until I crave no more. I had bethought me how excellent are the pumpkins of the good fathers at the Straits; and indeed I would we had with us more of that excellent fruit, the bean.”
“Bah! Jean Breboeuf,” retorted Pierre Noir. “’Tis but a poor-hearted voyageur would hang about a mission garden with a hoe in his hand instead of a gun. Perhaps the good sisters at the Mountain miss thy skill at pulling weeds.”
“Nay, now, I can live as long on fish and flesh as any man,” replied Jean Breboeuf, stoutly, “nor do I hold myself, Monsieur Tete Gris, one jot in courage back of any man upon the trail.”
“Of course not, save in time of storm,” grinned Tete Gris. “Then, it is ‘Holy Mary, witness my vow of a bale of beaver!’ It is—”
“Well, so be it,” said Jean Breboeuf, stoutly. “’Tis sure a bale of beaver will come easily enough in these new lands; and—though I insist again that I have naught of superstition in my soul—when a raven sits on a tree near camp and croaks of a morning before breakfast—as upon my word of honor was the case this morning—there must be some ill fate in store for us, as doth but stand to reason.”
“But say you so?” said Tete Gris, pausing at his task, with his face assuming a certain seriousness.
“Assuredly,” said Jean Breboeuf. “’Tis as I told you. Moreover, I insist to you, my brothers, that the signs have not been right for this trip at any time. For myself, I look for nothing but disaster.”
The humor of Jean Breboeuf’s very gravity appealed so strongly to his older comrades that they broke out into laughter, and so all fell again to their tasks, in sheer light-heartedness forgetting the superstitions of their class.