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Mackinac and Lake Stories

by (Library Of Alexandria)

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WHEN the British landed on the west side of Mackinac Island at three o'clock in the morning of July 17, 1812, Canadians were ordered to transport the cannon. They had only a pair of six-pounders, but these had to be dragged across the long alluvial stretch to heights which would command the fortress, and sand, rock, bushes, trees, and fallen logs made it a dreadful portage. Voyageurs, however, were men to accomplish what regulars and Indians shirked. All but one of the hundred and sixty Canadians hauled with a good will on the cannon ropes. The dawn was glimmering. Paradise hid in the untamed island, breathing dew and spice. The spell worked instantly upon that one young voyageur whose mind was set against the secret attack. All night his rage had been swelling. He despised the British regulars -- forty-two lords of them only being in this expedition -- as they in turn despised his class. They were his conquerors. He had no desire to be used as means of pushing their conquest further. These islanders he knew to be of his own race, perhaps crossed with Chippewa blood. Seven hundred Indians, painted and horned for war, skulked along as allies in the dim morning twilight. He thought of sleeping children roused by tomahawk and scalping-knife in case the surprised fort did not immediately surrender. Even then, how were a few hundred white men to restrain nearly a thousand savages? The young Canadian, as a rush was made with the ropes, stumbled over a log and dropped behind a bush. His nearest companions scarcely noticed the desertion in their strain, but the officer instantly detailed an Indian. "One of you Sioux bring that fellow back or bring his scalp." A Sioux stretched forward and leaped eagerly into the woods. All the boy's years of wilderness training were concentrated on an escape. The English officer meant to make him a lesson to the other voyageurs. And he smiled as he thought of the race he could give the Sioux. All his arms except his knife were left behind the bush; for fleetness was to count in this venture. The game of life or death was a pretty one, to be enjoyed as he shot from tree to tree, or like a noiseless-hoofed deer made a long stretch of covert. He was alive through every blood drop. The dewy glory of dawn had never seemed so great. Cool as the Sioux whom he dodged, his woodsman's eye gathered all aspects of the strange forest. A detached rock, tall as a tree, raised its colossal altar, surprising the eye like a single remaining temple pillar. Old logs, scaled as in a coat of mail, testified to the humidity of this lush place. The boy trod on sweet white violets smelling of incense. The wooded deeps unfolded in thinning dusk and revealed a line of high verdant cliffs walling his course. He dashed through hollows where millions of ferns bathed him to the knees. As daylight grew -- though it never was quite daylight there -- so did his danger. He expected to hear the humming of an arrow, and perhaps to feel a shock and sting and cleaving of the bolt, and turned in recklessly to climb for the uplands, where after miles of jutting spurs the ridge stooped and pushed out in front of itself a round-topped rock. As the Canadian passed this rock a yellow flare like candle-light came through a crack at its base. He dropped on all-fours. The Indian was not in sight. He squirmed within a low battlement of serrated stone guarding the crack, and let himself down into what appeared to be the mouth of a cave. The opening was so low as to be invisible just outside the serrated breastwork. He found himself in a room of rock, irregularly hollow above, with a candle burning on the stone floor. As he sat upright and stretched forth a hand to pinch off the flame, the image of a sleeping woman was printed on his eyeballs so that he saw every careless ring of fair hair around her head and every curve of her body for hours afterwards in the dusk.

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  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • Lending: Disabled
  • Print Length: 206 Pages
  • File Size: 1,447 KB

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