At Quebec the news of the calamity did not become known till near midnight. As the wind-drifted pleasure-boat told its grim story, desolation fell upon the hearts of four men, each being conscious in his own way that some part of the world had shifted from under his feet. The governor recommended patience; he was always recommending that attribute; he was always practising it, and fatally at times. The four men shook their heads. The Chevalier and Victor bundled together a few necessities, such as cloaks, blankets and arms. They set out at once while the moon was yet high; set out in silence and with sullen rage.
Jean Pauquet and the vicomte were in the act of following, when D’Herouville, disheveled and breathing heavily from his run down from the upper town, arrested them.
“Vicomte,” he cried, “you must take me with you. I can find no one to go with me.”
“Stay here then. Out of the way, Monsieur.” The vicomte was not patient to-night, and he had not time for banter.
“I say that you shall!”
“Not to-night. Now, Pauquet.”
“One of us dies, then!” D’Herouville’s sword was out.
“Are you mad?” exclaimed the vicomte, recoiling.
“Perhaps. Quick!” The sword took an ominous angle, and the point touched the vicomte.
“Get in!” said the vicomte, controlling his wild rage. “I will kill you the first opportunity. To-night there is not time.” He seized his paddle, which he handled with no small skill considering how recently he had applied himself to this peculiar art of navigation.
Pauquet took his position in the stern, while D’Herouville crouched amidships, his bare sword across his knees. The vicomte’s broad back was toward him, proving his contempt of fear. They were both brave men.
“Follow the ripple, Monsieur,” said Pauquet; “that is the way Monsieur le Chevalier has gone.”
It was all very foolhardy, this expedition of untried men against Indian cunning; but it was also very gallant: the woman they loved was in peril.
So the two canoes stole away upon the broad bosom of the river and presently disappeared in the pearly moon-mists, the one always hugging the wake of the other. The weird call of the loon sometimes sounded close by. The air was heavy with the smell of water, of earth, and of resin.
Three of these men had taken the way from which no man returns.
The Oneida village lay under the grey haze of a chill September night. Once or twice a meteor flashed across the vault of heaven; and the sharp, clear stars lighted with magic fires the pure crystals of the first frost. The hoot of an owl rang out mournfully in answer to the plaintive whine of the skulking panther. A large hut stood in the center of the clearing. The panther whined again and the owl hooted. The bear-skin door of the hut was pushed aside and a hideous face peered forth. There was a gutteral call, and a prowling cur slunk in.