They halted and the distance widened between.
And then the flotilla parted at a word of command from the darkness ahead and a boat came back among them. It passed close to the fugitives, and Maren saw a tall man with a square chin, who stood up in it.
When it reached the fringe it went on out into the open water toward the halted canoes of the Nakonkirhirinons, on whose eager faces sat a sort of stupid awe.
“What do yez want?” called the tall man sternly, as he swept face to face with the foremost canoe in which stood a headman of the tribe. “Whyfore is all this bally-hoo wid th’ lights?”
There was no answer and he roared at them like a lion
“Can yez not shpake, ye haythen?”
Whereat a canoe glided from the back shadows and the voice of Bois DesCaut came in its broken English,
“A boat,—M’sieu,—we seek a boat that but now escaped from camp with a murderer aboard,—one who killed in cold blood the chief Negansahima back at the post of De Seviere. My brothers travel to the Pays d’en Haut that justice may be done. We only seek the murderer.”
The tall man stood in silence a moment and glared at the scene, at the excited faces, the gleaming eyes, the shifting glance of the spokesman.
“A likely sthory!” he said presently. “An’ who, may I make bould to ask, is this murderer?”
DesCaut squirmed a moment in silence.
“Who,—did ye say?”
“A man, M’sieu,—a-a-trapper.”
“One lone man? Troth I commend his valour in evadin’ such a rabble o’ hell-spawn! An’ what from did he escape,—th’ sthake an’ th’ stretchline?”
“Justice, M’sieu,—his life for the chief’s.”
“Ho-ho! From th’ looks o’ yer fri’nds, me lad, I’m thinkin’ ’twill be justice wid her eyes shut!...But ye may turrn back an’ search the forest,—we have no sthrangers in our party.”
DesCaut glowered at him a moment and spoke to the headmen around in their speech. There were threatening gutturals and gestures.
The flotilla was small compared to that of the tribe back at the gorge, they would know, at any rate.
“They say, if M’sieu will let one canoe go through his people with the torches, all will be well. Otherwise,—five hundred warriors, M’sieu, can take their will with two hundred.”
“Aye?” said the tall man, jerking his head around. He had been scanning the mass of his own craft, packed behind him, fading into the shadows out of the light. There was a peculiar look in his eyes when he faced DesCaut again, a thrust to his square jaw. In that backward look he had caught sight of the brown face of Maren Le Moyne, the white garment, glittering with its beads,—but he had seen, too, the crown of braids, wrapped round her head after the manner of the white woman.
“Go yer ways,” he said; “we thravel fast on urgent business,—ye cannot throuble us wid yer lookin’ an’ pokin’. Tell yer fri’nds—No.”