“Messasebe! Messasebe!” broke out the voices of the paddlers.
“Stop the paddles!” cried Du Mesne. “Voila!”
John Law rose in the bow of the boat and uncovered his head. It was a noble prospect which lay before him. His was the soul of the adventurer, quick to respond to challenge. There was a fluttering in his throat as he stood and gazed out upon this solemn, mysterious and tremendous flood, coming whence, going whither, none might say. He gazed and gazed, and it was long before the shadow crossed his face and before he drew a sigh.
“Madam,” said he, at length, turning until he faced Mary Connynge, “this is the West. We have chosen, and we have arrived!”
The boat, now lacking its propelling power, drifted on and out into the clear tide of the mighty stream. The paddlers were idle, and silence had fallen upon all. The rush of this majestic flood, steady, mysterious, secret-keeping, created a feeling of awe and wonder. They gazed and gazed again, up the great waterway, across to its farther shore, along its rolling course below, and still each man forgot his paddle, and still the little ship of New France drifted on, just rocking gently in the mimic waves which ruffled the face of the mighty Father of the Waters.
“By our Lady!” cried Du Mesne, at length, and tears stood in his tan-framed eyes as he turned, “’tis true, all that has been said! Here it is, Messasebe, more mighty than any story could have told! Monsieur L’as, ’tis big enough to carry ships.”
“’Twill carry fleets of them one day, Du Mesne,” replied John Law. “’Tis a roadway fit for a nation. Ah, Du Mesne! our St. Lawrence, our New France—they dwindle when compared to this new land.”
“Aye! and ’tis all our own!” cried Du Mesne. “Look; for the last ten days we have scarce seen even the smoke of a wigwam, and, so far as I can tell, there is not in all this valley now the home of a single white man. My friend Du L’hut—he may be far north of the Superior to-day for aught we know, or somewhere among the Sauteur people. If there he any man below us, let some one else tell who that may be. Sir, I promise you, when I see this big water going on so fast and heading so far away from home—well, I admit it causes me to shiver!”
“’Tis much the same,” said Law, “where home may be for me.”
“Ah, but ’tis different on the Lakes,” said Du Mesne, “for there we always knew the way back, and knew that ’twas down stream.”