“They said,” began Pierre Noir, at length, with trembling voice, turning his eyes aside as he spoke, “that it could not be myself, that it must be one of you, and but one. They are going to cast lots for it. It is Teganisoris who has proposed that the lots shall be thrown by—” Pierre Noir faltered, unwilling to go on.
“And by whom?” asked Law, quietly.
“By—by the woman—by madame!”
There was sometimes practised among the Iroquois a game which bore a certain resemblance to the casting of dice, as the latter is known among civilized peoples. The method of the play was simple. Two oblong polished bones, of the bigness of a man’s finger, were used as the dice. The ends of these were ground thin and were rudely polished. One of the dice was stained red, the other left white. The players in the game marked out a line on the hard ground, and then each in turn cast up the two dice into the air, throwing them from some receptacle. The game was determined by the falling of the red bone, he who cast this colored bone closer to the line upon the ground being declared the winner. The game was simple, and depended much upon chance. If the red die fell flat upon its face at a point near to the line, it was apt to lie close to the spot where it dropped. On the other hand, did it alight upon either end, it might bound back and fall at some little distance upon one side of the line.
It was this game which, in horrible fashion, Teganisoris now proposed to play. He offered to the clamoring medicine man and his ferocious disciples one of these captives, whose death should appease not only the offended Great Spirit, but also the unsated vengeance of the tribe. He offered, at the same time, the spectacle of a play in which a human life should be the stake. He used as practical executioner the woman who was possessed by one of them, and who, in the crude notions of the savages, was no doubt coveted by both. It must be the hand of this woman that should cast the dice, a white one and a red one for each man, and he whose red die fell closer to the line was winner in the grim game of life and death.
Jean Breboeuf and Pierre Noir stood apart, and tears poured from the eyes of both. They were hardened men, well acquainted with Indian warfare; they had seen the writhings of tortured victims, and more than once had faced such possibilities themselves; yet never had they seen sight like this.
Near the two men stood Mary Connynge, the bright blood burning in her cheeks, her eyes dry and wide open, looking from one to the other. God, who gives to this earth the few Mary Connynges, alone knows the nature of those elements which made her, and the character of the conflict which now went on within her soul. Tell such a woman as Mary Connynge that she has a rival, and she will either love the more madly the man whom she demands as her own, or with equal madness and with greater intensity will hate her lover with a hatred untying and unappeasable.