“Make no doubt, Monsieur L’as,” said he, “that I shall ascend this river of the Illini and reach Michiganon well before the snows. Once at the mission of the Miamis, or the village at the river Chicaqua, I shall be quite safe for the winter, if I decide not to go farther on. Then, in the spring, I make no doubt, I shall be able to trade our furs at the Straits, if I like not the long run down to the Mountain. Thus, you see, I may be with you again sometime within the following spring.”
“I hope it may be so, my friend,” replied Law, “for I shall miss you sadly enough.”
“’Tis nothing, Monsieur; you will be well occupied. Suppose I take with me Kataikini and Kabayan, perhaps also Tete Gris. That will give us four paddlers for the big canoe, and you will still have left Pierre Noir and Jean, to say nothing of our friends the Illini hereabout, who will be glad enough to make cause with you in case of need. I will leave Wabana for madame, and trust she may prove of service. See to it, pray you, that she observes the offices of the church; for methinks, unless watched, Wabana is disposed to become careless and un-Christianized.”
“This I will look to,” said Law, smiling.
“Then all is well,” resumed Du Mesne, “and my absence will be but a little thing, as we measure it on the trails. You may find a winter alone in the wilderness a bit dull for you, mayhap duller than were it in London, or even in Quebec. Yet ’twill pass, and in time we shall meet again. Perhaps some good father will be wishing to come back with me to set up a mission among the Illini. These good fathers, they so delight in losing fingers, and ears, and noses for the good of the Church—though where the Church be glorified therein I sometimes can not say. Perhaps some leech—mayhap some artisan—”
“Nay, ’tis too far a spot, Du Mesne, to tempt others than ourselves.”
“Upon the contrary rather, Monsieur L’as. It is matter for laughter to see the efforts of Louis and his ministers to keep New France chained to the St. Lawrence! Yet my good lord governor might as well puff out his cheeks against the north wind as to try to keep New France from pouring west into the Messasebe; and as much might be said for those good rulers of the English colonies, who are seeking ever to keep their people east of the Alleghanies.”
“’Tis the Old World over again, there in the St. Lawrence,” said Law.
“Right you are, Monsieur L’as,” exclaimed Du Mesne. “New France is but an extension of the family of Louis. The intendant reports everything to the king. Monsieur So-and-so is married. Very well, the king must know it! Monsieur’s eldest daughter is making sheep’s eyes at such and such a soldier of the regiment of the king. Very well, this is weighty matter, of which the king must be advised! Monsieur’s wife becomes expectant of a son and heir. ’Tis meet that Louis the Great should be advised of this!