was no snow on the ground. It was Christmas Eve. We
were waiting for conveyance to Amherstburg. It was late
in the afternoon, and the sky over Lake Erie was looming
dark with snow. My companion was a dignified old man
whose name I did not know. Long white hair fell upon
his shoulders; his features were regular; his eyes were
piercing and dark. His complexion was swarthy: the strain
of some wild blood followed his veins.
Before the driver turned the
stage out of the hostelry sheds single snowflakes began
to fall slowly. We could count them. But as we left
the hamlet behind us we came suddenly into flocks of
these slow-moving flakes. They fell in groups, clinging
to one another; they melted as they fell; they fell
silently; the air was moving with the constant fluttering
mass. They gathered in dark blotches upon our coats
and melted upon our faces.
“We will have a wet drive,”
I said to my sole companion.
“Yes,” he replied.
“But,” I resumed,
“before morning the wind will shift into the north
and it will freeze hard.” He turned and gazed
intently at me.
“What you have just said
is very curious,” he remarked. “I have heard
that it happened so on Christmas Eve seventy-two years
“Yes?” said I, interrogatively.
The story which he then and
there began absorbed me; the road shrank and I became
unconscious of the snow falling ceaselessly.
the shore of Lake Erie, near enough for the beating
of the waves to be heard within its walls, stood a house
almost surrounded by forest. To the front there was
the great openness of the lake, with its constant play
of color, light and darkness. The house was little better
than a shanty, built of logs, covered with a scoop roof.
fire leaping in the rude chimney of the one apartment
which this house contained lit up a singular group.
There was a large man in the dress of a trapper. He
had a face marked for violence and evil deeds, and its
villainous expression was heightened by several scars,
one of which lay in a bluish welt across his forehead.
His left nostril had been slit by a knife, and the stroke
had gone down into the hair upon his lip, showing redly
through it. He had one enormous hand, as large as a
giant’s. There was a Pottowattamie Indian, whose
name signified “Man-looking-beyond.” He
wore the old tunic of a British soldier, and wore it
falsely, for his heart hated it. On his head was a Glengarry
bonnet without the ribbons; a pair of riding breeches
came to his knees, and his feet were covered with moccasins.
There was a young girl, somewhat picturesquely clad.
She wore a jacket of bright red and a skirt of brown
drugget falling to the knee. Her black, luxuriant hair
was braided and coiled closely. Her costume was completed
by a pair of deerskin moccasins and leggings, highly
ornamented with designs in porcupine quills. Her face
was brown, and at a glance her Indian blood was discernible,
but her features were finely moulded, and her figure
was alert, slender and beautifully modelled. The fourth
figure in the group was that of a young man clothed
in a complete Indian costume, but he evidently wore
it from whim, for his face was fair, and England spoke
from his eyes. The Indian stood; the rest were seated
on the floor upon skins; the pelt of a black bear filled
the space between them.
“Well, Captain Pring of
his Majesty’s 4th, what do you think of this turn
in your fortunes? It isn’t six months since you
were for hanging Ebenezer Allen, and now Ebenezer Allen
is for hanging you or getting rid of you in some more
decent way, for there is really nothing mean about me,
although I hate you bad enough to eat your heart. I’ve
heard of a soldier’s death and all that. What
do you say?”
“I have nothing to say.
I know perfectly well that you are a scoundrel who should
have been hanged long ago.”
“You’re bold for
a lad who has his hands tied behind his back and a devil
of a Pottowattamie ready to push a knife into his ribs
if I was to hold up a finger; but there’s nothing
mean about me. I’ve caught you fair, and I hold
that when war’s in the country every man carries
the law behind his eyes.” The Pottowattamie grunted
approvingly. Berenice glanced at Captain Pring, who
had not taken his eyes from Allen.
“The law that you carry
in your head will be mighty ruthless,” he remarked.
“As ruthless as yours
when you said I could be hanged for the catching.”
“You were a traitor—”
but here Berenice put her hand over his mouth.
“Let him talk,”
said Allen, darkness coming upon his face. “The
likes of him calls me a traitor, and I listen; but if
I was half as bad as I feel I’d tie the two of
you together and sink you between here and Pelee Island.”
approved in the Indian fashion.
“He did not mean it, father,”
“Meant it as much as I
would if I called you the same for giving away your
father’s plans, and sending Baptiste Cadotte the
other way last July, when I had five lads in wait for
him. You Britishers are all alike; you think you own
this country, when there are plenty of lads within a
ten-mile of here who would run the Stars and Stripes
up at Malden if they had their way.” Pring strained
at his thongs.
“You lie!” he cried.
“If I were free you wouldn’t speak in that
way.” The blood blinded his eyes. Allen laid his
hideous, huge hand on the bearskin.
“Come, come,” he
said, in mock conciliation, “don’t let us
quarrel. I propose a little game of cards. What do you
say? To-morrow, early, you are going to the happy hunting
ground. The red lad here can hardly keep his fingers
off you. I don’t mind in the least doing the little
business myself, but there are three of us (this with
a leer at Berenice); suppose we play a little simple
game.” He produced an evil-looking pack of cards
from under the bearskin. “There are four aces;
the ace of spades will be the Indian, I will take clubs,
the Captain diamonds and Berenice hearts. Now, whichever
ace is played after the ace of diamonds, the Captain’s
card, will settle the affair. That will give us an equal
early in the morning—
Before the break of day,
The one whose ace is played after his
Will blow the gallant Pring away.”
broke into a villainous imitation of a song. The Indian
squatted upon the floor. Berenice glanced at Pring,
who half shut his eyes contemptuously.
I am to play the game,” he said, “cut these
“Not a bit of it,”
said Allen; “you’d be playing another game.”
girl will play for you, and oh!” he cried, with
an oath, “it would be a joke on the Britisher
if his own sweetheart had to shoot him so early in the
shuddered. There could be but one outcome to the game
so devised. Allen proceeded to shuffle the cards. But
just at that moment there came a sharp stroke on the
door. [Page 117]
of any interruption, Berenice sprang to her feet. She
opened the door. A man was standing there, huge in bulk,
clad in a rough bearskin coat, with the snow falling
around him. The slow, gentle flakes passed his shoulders
and floated into the room. They were all about him,
crowding into the light. With one stride he was within
the circle of the fire.
he said, “my name is Absalom Ivory. By the great
mercy of God I preach His Son Jesus, and warn sinners
of the wrath to come. May I rest here before I go upon
parson?” cried Allen, with an oath on his lips.
He was about to refuse him shelter, but the Reverend
Absalom Ivory had caught sight of the bright cards strewn
upon the bearskin.
ye hell-bound souls!” he cried, with an uncontrollable
spiritual impulse. “For every time ye touch these
devil’s pictures a flake of fire will burn your
bodies in eternal torment. Oh, God have mercy,”
he implored, throwing off his cap and falling on his
knees, “destroy these engines of the Evil One
and make this Christmas Eve great with joy for these
Thy lost souls.”
rose, and before anyone could prevent him, he had gathered
most of the cards, and had scattered them in the fire.
had been prepared to expel the intruder but this sally
cowed him. His eye took in Ivory’s stature, which
rivalled his own, and he was afraid to try this unknown
force. Moreover, he had Captain Pring on his mind; he
was anxious to get rid of his visitor peaceably before
he discovered that one of his Majesty’s officers
was in his power and would meet the pitfall on the path
of glory on the morrow morn. “Man-looking-beyond”
was only awaiting a signal from Allen to draw his knife.
But instead of letting loose the savage, he said abruptly
in answer to Mr. Ivory’s initial question, “You
may stay for a while; better look after your beast.
Berenice!” His gesture said that his daughter
was to show the itinerant where to shelter his horse.
soon as they had stepped into the dark and the snowflakes,
which seemed to fall toward them in friendliness, Berenice
caught the stranger by the arm. “Come away from
the door. I must speak to you. I am in trouble. Help
me if you can. This afternoon my father overheard us
when we were talking—Captain Pring and I. He hates
him, and now he hates me, for he heard me say that I
had warned a scout last July and saved the King’s
despatches. He was on the way to Fort George and my
father had money from General Hull to capture him and
he had five men waiting for him. But I am British and
I sent him by another way. Now he would kill me, and
to-morrow he is going to shoot Captain Pring. Yes—yes.”
Ivory could not stop the rush of her words, but he comprehended
the situation. The war which had [Page 118]
been active in the vicinity during the past summer was
then smouldering. He knew he was in a part of the country
where desperate men abounded; in truth, he had an exaggerated
idea of the vice and villainy of the section.
you would have me save him?”
that is it. I will tell you—I will keep back nothing.
I love him. We had planned to go to Amherstburg to-night.
His man is to come to the edge of the clearing with
two horses. He will cry like a lynx; but I cannot go
out to him; my father will watch me.”
The Methodist preacher was,
like the rest of his class in those pioneer days, ready
for any emergency, bold as a lion, sometimes rough and
rash in his methods, using every power of his mind and
every muscle of his body for the glory of his Master
and the saving of souls.
“When the lynx-cry comes,”
he said, quietly, “I will go out, and you may
leave the rest to me; but if you get away safe to Malden
you must give your heart to God. Promise me.”
He was not the least above driving a bargain for a soul.
“I promise,” she
Hardly five minutes had passed
before they returned, but in the interval Captain Pring
had disappeared. Absalom Ivory made no observation upon
his absence and did not seem to notice it. But the sharp-eyed
Berenice knew that he had been lifted to the bunk above
her father’s and that it was the strongest place
in which he could have been secreted. Her heart stopped
when she reflected that no one could approach him without
waking a wolf.
She found an opportunity when
she was preparing supper for the preacher to indicate
to him where the captive was concealed. To his eye the
bunk was merely heaped with blankets.
Allen had not expected to keep
his guest over night, but when he calmly made preparations
to stay he did not demur. His caution had been disarmed
by the seeming ingenuousness of the stranger, and he
was rather amused than otherwise at the strong assault
which the man of God directed against him, expounding
the Word in vigorous English and warning him in terrific
language of future pains and penalties.
But his amusement gradually
waned and he began preparations for the night. The fire
was banked and before long the only sounds in the room
were the steady breathing of five persons verging on
slumber and the smothered nestling of the coals. Berenice’s
rude couch was near the chimney. The Indian slept in
a bunk next his leader. Captain Pring and Ebenezer Allen
were, one above the other, in the double bunk, and the
Rev. Absalom [Page 119] Ivory lay upon
the floor before the fire, covered with his bearskin
coat, his head upon his arm.
on the same afternoon within the barracks of Fort Malden
two men were talking before the fire. One wore the uniform
of the 4th; the other was dressed in the garb of a voyageur.
A mug of rum, supported by a shovel stuck between the
bars of the grate, was warming before the fire.
now,” said the soldier, “what are you making
up to me for, Baptiste Cadotte, talking around something
and wagging your tongue as if it was hung in the middle?”
“Well, then,” said
Cadotte, “it’s this—you’re on
“Ah, now what trick are
you up to?”
Cadotte spoke English with a
French accent, and his manner was as vivacious as his
eyes, which danced with animation. He was rather under
the average height, but did not lack a certain dignity,
despite his spare figure and his restless movement—a
dignity which came from the knowledge that he was trusted
as no other scout in the service.
“No trick, but just plain
business,” he answered, “but before the
sentries are changed to-night I want you to let me by,
me Baptiste Cadotte, with two horses.”
“Never a bit, unless you
tell me what you are up to.”
Cadotte thought for a moment.
“It is some other person’s
affair, not mine, and so I cannot tell.”
“Well, inside the fort
you stay to-night.”
Cadotte thought again. The soldier
turned the mug of rum and tested the temperature of
the liquid by dipping into it his little finger.
“Well, you will have to
swear not to tell.”
“What am I to get for
this oath and for breaking orders?”
“Captain Pring will do
something for you, and I—well, on Christmas Day
I will give you my extra ration of rum.”
“Done. So it’s Captain
Pring’s affair? And that’s where he is,
and I heard the Colonel asking for him an hour ago.”
“You know this Ebenezer
Allen?” said Cadotte, beginning at the very end
of the story.
“Him that lives at Colchester?
Yes, I’ve heard of him.”
“Well, he has a daughter,
and Captain Pring—“
The soldier began to laugh.
Cadotte sprang to his feet and began to walk excitedly
the length of the chamber. [Page 120]
“You laugh!” he
cried. “You laugh and you do not know what you
laugh at. She is brave, that girl. Last summer she saved
my life. True! When I was on the way to Fort George
with despatches her old rascal of a father laid an ambush
for me, and she risked her life to warn me.”
“Well, she may be brave
enough and honest enough; I know nothing about that.”
“Captain Pring loves her
for that and for herself, and he is going to steal her
away from old Allen and marry her to-morrow.”
“And what will his fine
relations in England say to that?”
“I don’t know. What
I have promised to do I will do. To-night I will take
the horses; I go down the trail to Colchester; I go
to Allen’s cabin; I make sound like a lynx. Then
they come away.”
“And you walk back ten
miles or so to Malden and maybe face old Allen, who
is a sort of devil, I hear?”
“Yes, for them I would
walk many times as far and face many devils as wild
as Ebenezer Allen.”
“Well, everyone to his
trade. You’re a scout and like that sort of thing,”
said the soldier, proceeding to toss off the hot rum,
“but as for me—“He broke off, threw
on his cap and overcoat, and without answering Cadotte’s
frantic question, “Well, then, to-night—to-night—?”
he swung out, leaving him without a promise.
It was in vain that the scout
attempted to get a word with his friend before he went
on duty. The fellow was always in company, and gazed
blankly at the pantomime which Cadotte carried on. Night
fell, and the storm-cloud laden with snow drew up from
Lake Erie. The flakes began to fall slowly at first,
but soon the air was moving with the constant fluttering
mass. Cadotte saddled his horses early, and when the
lights were extinguished in the officers’ quarters
he led them forth, a rein in each hand.
It was intensely dark. The snow
falling slowly was heavy with moisture. Moving with
confidence, he was met with a challenge and felt a bayonet
at his breast. The dark mass of the sentry loomed before
him in the snow; behind him towered the stockade.
“What’s the word?”
Cadotte replied in a flash:
rejoined the sentry, with a laugh, and soon Cadotte
was outside the fort and on his way to Colchester.
The trail lay through dense
forest for the most part. The snow, melting as it fell,
clung to the horses and turned to water on Cadotte’s
face. But soon the clouds thinned, colder grew the wind,
the snow came in finer flakes, then almost ceased, and
before he reached Allen’s clearing the sky [Page
121] before him was full of stars, and behind
him, dividing the heaven, hung the black cloud still
carrying the storm.
seemed like a lifetime to Berenice before she heard
from the stillness of the night the lonely cry of a
lynx. It rose clear and wild. A moment later Ivory got
upon his feet and went out without making any attempt
to conceal his movements. Allen turned in his bunk.
“It’s only old death and damnation,”
he growled, and when the preacher returned he was again
sound asleep. It was not absolutely dark in the room;
the small flames that played about the fire threw fitful
lights into the shadow. Berenice, alert, with every
sense on the strain, saw in the dimness the huge bulk
of the stranger, and as she gazed she seemed to see
a figure much smaller drop away from him, stretch upon
the floor and creep into the darkest corner.
laid himself upon the hearth-stone. Again there was
silence. Time seemed to draw moments into hours. Suddenly
rose the chirp of a cricket, sharp, insistent. It seemed
to Berenice that at once, by some magic, the room was
in a turmoil. She sprang to the fire, hurled the ashes
aside, grasped a brand, whirled it in the air, and in
an instant the cabin was illuminated. Something had
already happened in the darkness. Upon the signal of
the cricket’s chirp Ivory had leaped to his feet
and pinioned Allen into his bunk. The little man who
had slipped into the room under the flap of Ivory’s
coat had met the Pottowattamie and altered his name
to the past tense. He was no longer “Man-looking-beyond,”
he was “Man-who-had-looked-beyond.” He had
seen the happy hunting grounds where his forefathers
inhabited. Pring, always ready for action, despite his
pinioned arms, had rolled himself out of his bunk, struck
upon the ample shoulders of Ivory, and had fallen upon
Then came the light. Berenice
held it aloft. Allen was struggling like a leviathan,
his enormous hand clutching Ivory’s coat at the
neck. He had worked his left hand free, and with a prodigious
effort he had forced himself out of the bunk. The little
man rushed upon him, tripped over the Captain’s
legs and fell with his arms extended upon the floor.
At the same moment Allen, with his hand disengaged,
had grasped a cutlass which he had by his side in the
bunk, and had made a random sweep with it. It fell upon
the little man’s right arm, just above the wrist
and went clean through it to the floor. Allen did not
swing it again. Berenice thrust the brand into his face,
and the next instant Ivory had overpowered him. [Page
A very few moments later Captain
Pring was free and the thongs which had bound him held
Allen as firmly. Berenice stood in the shadow gazing
at the group of three, Captain Pring and the Rev. Absalom
Ivory bending over the wounded man, as they made a rude
tourniquet and stopped the flow of blood. Now that there
was a steady light in the room she recognized the little
man as the scout whom she had saved with his despatches
from the clutches of her father’s men as he came
from Malden on his way to Fort George in the previous
July. She heard Pring calling him Cadotte, and she knew
that the brave scout had kept his promise, hurriedly
given on that summer day, to aid her if it ever lay
in his power.
“Never mind, Captain,”
cried out Cadotte, to quiet Captain Pring, who was cursing
the fate which had maimed him in such a service. “I
couldn’t have lost a hand in better sport. I’ll
practice with my left and will live to let light into
that scoundrel yet.”
“I will go up and send
the surgeon down at once,” said the Captain.
“All right,” responded
Cadotte. “Hurry him up; to-morrow is pay day,
and I want to be there to sign the list. The horses
are here; better take the girl with you, now you have
He seemed exhausted, but out
he went into the night to see them mount and ride away.
The stars were clear in a deep sky. The cloud had left
pure snow in the woods. The air was growing keen with
frost. Cadotte’s wound stung him.
“I kept my promise, didn’t
I?” he said to Berenice, as he tried bravely to
fix her foot in the stirrup.
“Yes,” she said,
as she bent over him. “Yes, I helped you, you
helped me; we will never forget.” They followed
the road into the bush. Cadotte shouted merrily after
Half an hour later he began
to fret. “Say, parson,” he cried, “are
you going to start soon?”
“I never move,”
said “Absalom Ivory, “till I snatch this
man’s soul from the bottomless pit.” Then
and there he fell upon his knees beside Ebenezer Allen.
Said Cadotte to himself: “I can’t stand
this praying. If the parson is going to stay on his
knees till he prays this scoundrel out of hell, he won’t
need his horse again in this life. I’ll be off
and be in with the rest of the lads.”
The Rev. Absalom Ivory prayed
without ceasing in such thunders of supplication that
Allen withered beneath the force. He was bound hand
and foot, lying helpless upon the floor, and over him
knelt this gigantic figure. His soul was wrestled for
in tones rising from height to height of power, and
in language burning with imagery, barbed with all the
power of Scripture [Page 123] quotation.
Soon he began to roll from side to side in an agony
of fear and repentance. But the intercession continued,
amplifying in illustration, dropping sometimes to a
colloquialism directed more at the sinner than at the
throne, and again rising in a fury of impassioned pleading,
until Allen had passed through all the stages known
to a convert under these methods, and until tears of
joy were downstreaming on his face.
In the grey dawn the triumphant
evangelist began his walk to Amherstburg; Cadotte had
borrowed his horse.
The preacher turned back the
surgeon and the men who accompanied him from the fort.
They had not met Cadotte, who had taken a short trail
through the woods. They found him in one of the open
fields near the village. Absalom Ivory’s horse
stood faithful beside him, marking the place where he
had fallen. He lay, frozen into one of the shallow pools
in the rough field. In some way, probably by the jolting
of his horse, the tourniquet had become loosened, and
his blood had gradually left him. He had dismounted
and had stumbled into the water, possibly as dawn was
lighting the flagstaff at Malden. His calm face was
framed by thin ice. The rest of his body was under the
surface, except his hands, which were clasped over his
“His hands!” I interrupted,
with an involuntary start.
“Yes,” said the
old man, quietly. “He had brought his severed
right hand with him, probably from some whim about signing
the ration roll; or, maybe, thinking that the surgeon
might sew it on again, and when he fell he held it to
his breast, and so they found him.”
“He was a good bit of
stuff,” said the driver, who had checked his horses
to light his pipe, “a right proper bit of stuff.”
“But did the girl keep
her promise to the parson?”
“She did, indeed,”
said the narrator, who had fixed his eyes on Amherstburg,
gleaming through the snow, and then with a sigh of remembrance
he added: “My mother was an angel.”
Whereupon we understood and
no one spoke again. [Page 124]