SOON, however, Rose was at Baptiste's side again, and as he grew calmer and more accustomed to her being there, she let him talks as much as he would, and pour out his griefs to her, for indeed she was as eager to hear all that he could tell her as he was to impart his story. It was a pitiful tale of skirmishes, hardships, ill-planned schemes, and unworthy leaders, who, as ambitious democrats too often will do, thought more of their glory in success, and their own personal safety in defeat, than of their cause or of their misguided followers. Papineau the chief mover of the insurrection, and Brown, who was the first of the rebel leaders who openly broke the peace, fled at the first taste of defeat, with several other kindred spirits; whilst one,--Girod, a Swiss by birth, who had been foremost at Grand Brulé--stung by remorse or unable to bear the disgrace of failure, put an end to his own life rather than fall into the hands of those against whose authority he had risen.
"Oh, Rose, I was ashamed of my cause," said poor Baptiste, bitterly. "I had never heartily loved it. I know not how it was that I got entangled in it. I was blinded by my own conceit and pride, I think. But when we commenced our work, then my eyes were opened. They put me often into the working parties who were set to destroy the bridges over the river Richelieu. Such miserable warfare it seemed to me, to destroy all that useful work: how could we benefit our country, which General Brown had always been talking about, by destroying all these and killing our countrymen and fellow-townspeople? But it was late to begin thinking thus, then. For, as for one's freedom in the army of the Liberators--ah, bah!--it was no more there. If I had tried to run away they would have put a ball through me. If I had gone away quietly with the intention of letting no one know it, they would soon have brought me back, as they did one of my comrades who fled; and him they stuck with their pikes while he was on his knees crying for mercy."
"Poor Baptiste! poor child!" said Rose, soothingly, "it was hard for you. Having gone forward too quickly, you could not go back."
"Ah, Rose, you are too good to me. There was the error of it. Why did I go on with them so long?"
"You meant to turn back. You told me so that Monday morning when all the misery began, but, as you have told me, you did not get the opportunity."
"I had many opportunities before then, Rose. Why was it that I left off going to Mass? Why did I come less often to see you? Solely because the good father and you also spoke against the Sons of Liberty. And I thought it a fine thing to be drilled, to be a patriot, to have a glorious work to do," as they said, and I would not hear anything against them. O Rose, I did truly think that I had a glorious work before me. I was so blind and stupid as that."
"Do not think more of that, my Baptiste:" urged Rose; "tell me how you were wounded."
"It was just after that terrible night which we spent--some of us that is--by the Richelieu, keeping guard and destroying the bridges, as I said. Ah, that night! I shall never forget it. The rain fell in torrents,--it was half rain, half hail. The roads were up to our knees in mud, which also was half-frozen. As one walked, first a mocassin stuck in this mud, then one's boot, then one's whole foot. Several times the troops under Lieutenant-Colonel Hughes and Colonel Gore came up with us and drove us away. Still we kept on. When the morning came I could not feel my hands or my feet, I feared they were frost-bitten; and both I and my comrades who were working with me were so stiff we could hardly move. We hoped we should have been then allowed a little rest; but at half-past ten o'clock, a messenger came down from St. Denis: reinforcements were needed there, and we were marched up and across the river. Firing was going on fiercely on the north side of the village, and all the houses were fortified by our party. We did not get there till nearly all the fighting was over, but we misunderstood our orders,--at least our leader, Monsieur Desrivieres, did, and we met Cornet Sweeny and the Montreal Dragoons in full retreat,--we having taken the wrong road. They rode through us, cutting us down on every side. I know little about what happened, for I was left by my companions for dead by the roadside, and I suppose the enemy rode on, leaving me for dead also."
Rose gave a little shudder. "Oh, Baptiste, had I only been there! I tremble to think of you lying there wounded and cold, even though I have you safe now. Who found you? I will love him for ever for his goodness to you."
"Not too fast, my little Rose," said the sick man, smiling, and looking more like himself again than Rose had yet seen him look all that day. "You must not give away what' is mine without asking me first for my permission. But I will give it this time,--if you do not love him too much, that is; for the man who picked me up was none other than the brother of my mother's old friend--Jean Varelle, the same who took her and you up to Kingston in his bateau; and for love of my mother he took me to his own house. But there I could not feel secure; I was afraid of every one; of my own party and the loyalists both. I was impatient and unreasonable; wounded as I was, I begged him, in a short time, to take me also up the river. For a long time he would not hear of this, and said it was as bad as putting his hand to murder me; but after awhile he saw that he made me but more ill by refusing, and his brother having by that time returned to Montreal, he consented to my wish."
"You were a very foolish, headstrong child, Baptiste," interposed Rose gravely, "you might have killed yourself by this attempt to travel. However," she added, archly, "continue, and let us hear how the foolish child conducted himself afterwards."
"I know I was foolish, dear Rose; but I was dying with a great hunger and thirst to see you, and I could not be quiet. But truly, Jean Varelle thought that it had killed me more than once, as we struggled up the rapids. Ah, my Rose, I thought of nothing but you. If I could only get near you and get your forgiveness, I felt I should die in peace; and I thought only of dying."
"You must think of it no more, Baptiste. Your mother has not seen you yet. For many years she and I will need you to be our consolation and joy."
Baptiste could only answer by returning her caresses in kind.
"When I arrived as far as this," he added, concluding his little tale, "my strength altogether failed me, and I should have died in the Indian woods had it not been for these good Christians; for they are Christians, and most kind, though, alas! they are heretics--Protestants of the English Church. But they are as kind to me as if they were Catholics."
Aye, and as loyal too, Baptiste might have added, as any Christians to be found among the white population of Canada.
"The rest you know," said Baptiste, a little languidly, as he laid his head back and looked contentedly up into the dark earnest eyes of his betrothed. He had talked some time for a sick man, and he felt weary, and looked so.
"Talk no more all this evening," said Rose, gently and gaily. "I will sing you to sleep. I have not sung since the sad day we parted,--but tonight I could sing like a bird on a tree. For have I now got my Baptiste again?"
And in her sweet rich voice she commenced singing some of those lovely Irish airs which are so wildly plaintive, and tender, and gay, all in a breath. The old squaw, their hostess, stole in to listen, and nodded her head with many a grunt of approval, while her dark eyes filled with tears at the touching falls of those simple songs, even though she understood nothing of the words.
Very sweetly and peacefully the next three weeks glided on in that Indian house by the Bay of Quinté. Full of growing and daily increasing health and strength of body and mind for Baptiste; full of a gentle repentance, and an increasing admiration of his future wife, which called into play all the nobler elements of his honest and manly character, which had been only dimmed for awhile, not quenched, by the headstrong tide of his youthful petulance and pride; full of peace and great happiness for both the lovers, and through them to their hospitable and warm-hearted hosts. It was a refreshing lull amid the whirlwind of civil contention and the fierce rush of war and havoc.
So much stronger was Baptiste, indeed, in a short time after Rose's arrival, that he was beginning to think that it was time to burden the hospitality of his Indian friends no longer, and had concerted with Rose some small presents to be offered to them as tokens of their gratitude, when one morning a great stir was perceived by him in the settlement. Oxen and horses were being got ready on all sides, and harnessed to waggons and carts; men, women and children were all astir, and everything betokened some general movement on the part of the Mohawks. It was yet but early morning, and Baptiste had but just risen. Dressing himself quickly, therefore, he went out to enquire the cause of this unusual bustle. As he came out of the house the Indians were all flocking into church. Whatever their enterprise, it was clear that it was a good and just one, upon which they could beseech the blessing of God without irreverence, and clear also that to their devout minds the asking of that blessing was the fitting preliminary to any undertaking.
"What is the matter?" enquired Baptiste of the first Indian whom he encountered as they returned from the church when the service was concluded. "Whither are you all bound?"
"We go to Kingston," answered the man, quietly, "to fight for our Mother across the great Lake. Her enemies have armed themselves against her rule. They march against Kingston to-morrow. We go to meet them. They with not return upon their warpath."
He pointed to a time-honoured Union Jack which one of the tribe had just unfurled, with a grave lighting up of his stern but not unhandsome features which was very singular and impressive. What if their banner had a few rents in it, and was somewhat the worse also in brilliancy of colour for stress of time and weather, it was none the less the honoured sign of their allegiance to the great Mother in the distant land from whom they received their beloved pastor, from whose ancestors theirs had received the one faith. Her God had become their God; her people had become their people; her cause had become their cause; and like Ruth, they were ready to follow their Naomi even to the death.
Baptiste's pale face flashed, half with shame, half with eager and sudden resolve. How much more noble and manly was this prompt devotion of the red men to their white Queen, than his hasty and fitful adherence to those rebel leaders who had caused so much misery to the land! One thought possessed him, one burning desire,--to blot out the stain of his disloyalty by giving himself without delay, by sacrificing himself,-if need be, to the better and truer cause.
"But Baptiste, your health!" said the anxious Rose, to whom he instantly communicated his wish. "Are you fit yet to engage in any more fighting? Consider how short a time it is since you were, too weak to get up out of your bed. You are indeed much better, but is not this trying your strength too soon?"
"But, Rose," responded Baptiste, sadly and earnestly, "my honour,--for even a peasant ought to have his honour, Rose. I will answer you word for word. Is my honour clear enough that I should not engage in any more fighting? Consider how short a time it is since I was foolishly and madly fighting on the wrong side. Would it not be cowardly to remain quiet, and not atone for my error now that I have a chance? Oh, Rose, say thou wilt be glad' to have me go,--send me to fight for the right as once thou didst warn me back from the wrong."
"Go then, Baptiste, go," exclaimed Rose, catching his enthusiasm; "fight manfully for the Queen, and the blessing of the good God and the saints go with thee."
For a moment he caught her in. his arms, then ran into the house to make the few needful preparations. But though she had given her consent, Rose's heart somewhat misgave her, as she looked her last on the spare figure, and wan though now smiling face of her betrothed. "Ah, if I have done wrong to let him go! How shall I answer it to Jacqueline? Blessed Virgin, how miserable is all this fighting!"
The services of the Mohawks were most gladly accepted by the authorities at Kingston. They were put into barracks, and patrol duties were assigned to them by Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Richard Bonnycastle. The town of Kingston was threatened by an attack on the 22nd of February from a large force of insurgents, who somewhat grandiloquently styled themselves the "Army of Liberation," under General Rensselaer Van Rensselaer and William Lyon Mackenzie. But so prompt and energetic were the measures taken for the protection of that town, that the insurgents were deterred from venturing farther than Hickory Island; and finally, by the combined efforts of the Belleville riflemen and the Indian warriors under Major Fitzgerald, they were ignominiously driven away, leaving behind them their stores and ammunition. When, the danger being over and tile enemy fled, the Mohawks were about to return to the woods of Tyendinaga, they were urged to accept the usual pay of militia. But this they with characteristic dignity declined:--"We came to do battle for our Mother across the Great Waters, not to be paid. If she is pleased with her red children, we are rewarded." And so they returned empty-handed, but satisfied in heart, to their homesteads by the shores of the Bay of Quinté.
As for Baptiste, he would have been glad of a little more hard fighting. In the enthusiasm of his repentance he longed to do a great deal to testify his sorrow and sincerity. But he had done all that lay in his power, and was obliged for the present to be content. Rose, at least, was thoroughly content to have him back again. "Now, dear Baptiste," she urged, "let us have no more fighting. Let us go up to the little farm by the Otonabee, and let Jacqueline see you. Flow will they all rejoice with us at the sight of you!"
Little did Rose gues what was going on that very night by the side of the brawling river.