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    Chapter 6

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    Chapter 7
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    BATEESE.

    Next morning Barboux and Menehwehna held a long colloquy aft, but in tones so low that John could not catch a word. By and by Muskingon was called into council, and lastly le Chameau.

    The two Indians were arguing against some proposal of the sergeant's, which by the way they pointed and traced imaginary maps with their fingers, spreading their palms apart to indicate distances, plainly turned on a point of geography. Le Chameau's opinion seemed to settle the dispute in the sergeant's favour. Coming that afternoon to the mouth of a tributary stream on the left bank he headed the canoe for it without a word, and at once the paddles were busy, forcing her against the rapid current.

    Then followed days during which, though reason might prove that in the river he held an infallible clue, John's senses lost themselves in the forest maze. It overlapped and closed upon him, folding him deeper and illimitably deeper. On the Richelieu he had played with thoughts of escape, noting how the canoe lagged behind its convoy, and speculating on the Indians' goodwill--faint speculations, since (without reckoning his own raw wound) McQuarters was almost too weak to stir as yet, and to abandon him would be a scurvy trick. So he had put aside his unformed plans, which at the best had been little better than hopes; and now the wilderness oppressed and smothered and buried them out of recollection.

    The voyageurs made tedious progress; for almost at once they came to a chain of rapids around which the canoe had to be ported. The Indians toiled steadily, and le Chameau too, stripped to the waist and sweating; and by the end of the day each man carried a dark red weal on one shoulder, sunk in the flesh by the canoe's weight. John could walk, but was powerless to help, and McQuarters had to be lifted and carried with the baggage. Barboux confined himself to swearing and jeering at le Chameau's naked back--diable de torse, as he proclaimed it. The man was getting past endurance.

    On the second day he called a halt, left le Chameau in charge of the camp and the prisoners, and went off with the Indians in search of a moose, whose lowing call had twice echoed through the woods during the night and been answered by Menehwehna on his birch-horn. The forest swallowed them, and a blessed relief fell on the camp--no more oaths and gibes for a while, but rest and green shade and the murmur of the rapids below.

    After the noon-day meal the hunchback stretched himself luxuriously and began to converse. He was explaining the situation with the help of three twigs, which he laid in the form of a triangle--two long sides and a short base.

    "Voyons, this long one will be the Richelieu and that other the St. Lawrence; and here"--he put his finger near the base--"here is Montreal. The sergeant knows what he is about. Those other boats, look you, will go around so--" He traced their course around the apex very slowly. "Whereas we--!" A quick stroke of the finger across the base filled up the sentence, and the little man smiled triumphantly.

    "I see," said John, picking up the short twig and bending it into an arch, "we are now climbing up this side of the slope, eh? And on the other there will likewise be a river?"

    The boatman nodded. "A hard way to find, m'sieur. But have no fear. I have travelled it."

    "Assuredly I have no fear with you, M.--"

    "Guyon, m'sieur--Jean Bateese Guyon. This M. Barboux is a merry fellow--il ne peut pas se passer de ses enjouements. But I was not born like this." And here he touched his shoulder very simply and gravely.

    "It was an accident then, M. Guyon?"

    "An accident--oh, yes, be assured it was an accident." A flush showed on the little man's cheek, and his speech on a sudden became very rapid. "But as we were saying, I know the trail across yonder; and my brother Dominique he knows it even better. I wish we may see Dominique, m'sieur; there is no such voyageur from Quebec up to Michilimackinac, aye or beyond! He has been down the Cascades by night, himself only; it was when I had my--my accident, and he must go to fetch a surgeon. All along the river it is talked of yet. But it is nothing to boast of, for the hand of God must have been upon him. And as good as he is brave!"

    "And where is your brother Dominique just now?"

    "He will be at home, m'sieur. Soon they will be carrying the harvest at Boisveyrac, and he is now the seigneur's farmer. He will be worrying himself over the harvest, for Dominique takes things to heart, both of this world and the next; whereas--I am a good Catholic, I hope--but these things do not trouble me. It seems there is no time to be troubled." Bateese looked up shyly, with a blush like a girl's. "M'sieur may be able to tell me--or, maybe, he will think it foolish. This love of women, now?"

    "Proceed, M. Guyon."

    "Ah, you believe in it! When the sergeant begins his talk--c'est bien sale, is it not? But that is not the sort I mean. Well, Dominique is in love, and it brings him no happiness. He can never have what he wants, nor would it be right, and he knows it; but nevertheless he goes on craving for it and takes no pleasure in life for the want of it. I look at him, wondering. Then I say to myself, 'Bateese, when le bon Dieu broke you in pieces He was not unkind. Your heart is cracked and cannot hold love, like your brother's; but what of that, while God is pouring love into it all day long and never ceases? You are ugly, and no maid will ever want you for a husband; therefore you are lucky who cannot store away desire for this or that one, like poor Dominique, who goes about aching and fit to burst. You go singing a la claire fontaine, which is full of unhappiness and longing, but all the while you are happy enough.' Indeed, that is the truth, monsieur. I study this love of Dominique's, which makes him miserable; but I cannot judge it. I see that it brings pain to men."

    "But delight also, my friend."

    "And delight also--that is understood. M'sieur is, perhaps, in love? Or has been?"

    "No, Bateese; not yet."

    "But you will; with that face it is certain. Now shall I tell you?-- to my guessing this love of women is like an untried rapid. Something smiles ahead for you, and you push for it and voyez! in a moment down you go, fifteen miles an hour and the world spinning; and at the bottom of the fall, if the woman be good, sweet is the journey and you wonder, looking back from smooth water, down what shelves you were swept to her. That, I say, is what I suppose this love to be; but for myself I shall never try it. Since le bon Dieu broke the pitcher its pieces are scattered all over me, within; they hold nothing, but there they lie shining in their useless fashion."

    "Not useless, perhaps, Bateese."

    "In their useless fashion," he persisted. "They will smile and be gay at the sight of a pretty girl, or at the wild creatures in the woods yonder, or at the thoughts in a song, or for no better reason than that the day is bright and the air warm. But they can store nothing. It is the same with religion, monsieur, and with affairs of State; neither troubles my head. Dominique is devout, for example; and Father Launoy comes to talk with him, which makes him gloomy. The reverend Father just hears my sins and lets me go; he knows well enough that Bateese does not count. And then he and Dominique sit and talk politics by the hour. The Father declares that all the English are devils, and that anyone who fights for the Holy Church and is killed by them will rise again the third day."

    John laughed aloud this time.

    "I too think the reverend Father must be making some mistake," said Bateese gravely. "No doubt he has been misinformed."

    "No doubt. For suppose now that I were a devil?"

    "Oh, m'sieur," Bateese expostulated. "Ca serait bien dommage! But I hope, in any case, God would pardon me for talking with you, seeing that to contain anything, even hatred, is beyond me."

    "Shall I tell you what I think, Bateese? I think we are all pitchers and perhaps made to be broken. Ten days ago I was brimful of ambitions; someone--le bon Dieu, or General Abercromby--has toppled me over and spilt them all; and here I lie on my side, not broken, but full of emptiness."

    "Heh, heh--'full of emptiness'!" chuckled Bateese, to whom the phrase was new.

    "It may be that in time someone will set me up again and pour into me wine of another sort. I hope for this, because it is painful to lie upset and empty; and I do not wish to be broken, for that must be even more painful--at the time, eh?"

    Bateese glanced up, with a twitch of remembered pain.

    "Indeed, m'sieur, it hurt--at the time."

    "But afterwards--when the pieces have no more trouble, being released from pride--the pride of being a pitcher! Is it useless they are as they lie upturned, reflecting--what? My friend, if we only knew this we might discover that now, when it can no longer store up wine for itself, the pitcher is at last serving an end it was made for."

    The little hunchback glanced up again quickly. "You are talking for my sake, monsieur, not for yourself! At your age I too could be melancholy for amusement. Ah, pardon," for John had blushed hotly. "Do I not know why you said it? Am I not grateful?"

    He held out his hand. His eyes were shining.
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