Read CHAPTER I - A VOICE OUT OF THE DEEP of The Lily and the Cross A Tale of Acadia , free online book, by James De Mille, on ReadCentral.com.

Once upon a time there was a schooner belonging to Boston which was registered under the somewhat singular name of the “Rev. Amos Adams.”  This was her formal title, used on state occasions, and was, no doubt, quite as appropriate as the more pretentious one of the “Duke of Marlborough,” or the “Lord Warden.”  As a general thing, however, people designated her in a less formal manner, using the simpler and shorter title of the “Parson.”  Her owner and commander was a tall, lean, sinewy young man, whoso Sunday-go-to-meeting name was Zion Awake Cox, but who was usually referred to by an ingenious combination of the initials of these three names, and thus became Zac, and occasionally Zachariah.  This was the schooner which, on a fine May morning, might have been seen “bounding over the billows” on her way to the North Pole.

About her motion on the present occasion, it must be confessed there was not much bounding, nor much billow.  Nor, again, would it have been easy for any one to see her, even if he had been brought close to her; for the simple reason that the “Parson,” as she went on her way, carrying Zac and his fortunes, had become involved in a fog bank, in the midst of which she now lay, with little or no wind to help her out of it.

Zac was not alone on board, nor had the present voyage been undertaken on his own account, or of his own motion.  There were two passengers, one of whom had engaged the schooner for his own purposes.  This one was a young fellow who called himself Claude Motier, of Randolph.  His name, as well as his face, had a foreign character; yet he spoke English with the accent of an Englishman, and had been brought up in Massachusetts, near Boston, where he and Zac had seen very much of one another, on sea and on shore.  The other passenger was a Roman Catholic priest, whose look and accent proclaimed him to be a Frenchman.  He seemed about fifty years of age, and his bronzed faced, grizzled hair, and deeply-wrinkled brow, all showed the man of action rather than the recluse.  Between these two passengers there was the widest possible difference.  The one was almost a boy, the other a world-worn old man; the one full of life and vivacity, the other sombre and abstracted; yet between the two there was, however, a mysterious resemblance, which possibly may have been something more than that air of France, which they both had.

Whatever it may have been, they had been strangers to one another until the past few days, for Claude Motier had not seen the priest until after he had chartered the schooner for a voyage to Louisbourg.  The priest had then come, asking for a passage to that port.  He gave his name as the Abbe Michel, and addressed Claude in such bad English that the young man answered in French of the best sort, whereat the good priest seemed much delighted, and the two afterwards conversed with each other altogether in that language.

Besides these three, there were the ship’s company dispersed about the vessel.  This company were not very extensive, not numbering over three, in addition to Zac.  These three all differed in age, in race, and in character.  The aged colored man, who was at that moment washing out some tins at the bows, came aboard as cook, with the understanding that he was to be man of all work.  He was a slave of Zac’s, but, like many domestic slaves in those days, he seemed to regard himself as part of his master’s family, ­in fact, a sort of respected relative.  He rejoiced in the name of Jericho, which was often shortened to Jerry, though the aged African considered the shorter name as a species of familiarity which was only to be tolerated on the part of his master.  The second of the ship’s company was a short, athletic, rosy-cheeked, bright-eyed, round-faced lad, who was always singing and dancing except when he was whistling.  His name was Terry, and his country Ireland.  In addition to Jerry and Terry, there was a third.  He was a short, dull, and somewhat doleful looking boy of about twelve, who had a crushed expression, and seemed to take gloomy views of life.  The only name by which he was known to himself and others was Biler; but whether that was a Christian name, or a surname, or a nickname, cannot be said.  Biler’s chief trouble in life was an inordinate and insatiable appetite.  Nothing came amiss, and nothing was ever refused.  Zac had picked the boy up three years before, and since that time he had never known him to be satisfied.  At the present moment, Terry was standing at the tiller, while Biler was at the masthead, to which he had climbed to get rid of the disappointments of the world below, in a more elevated sphere, and from his lofty perch he was gazing with a hungry eye forth into space, and from time to time pulling bits of dried codfish from his pocket, and thrusting them into his mouth.

“Hy da!” suddenly shouted the aged Jericho, looking up.  “You da, Biler?  You jis come down heah an’ help me fotch along dese yar tings.  Ef you ain’t got notin’ to do, Ise precious soon find you lots ob tings.  Hurry down, da; make haste; relse I’ll pitch some hot water up at you.  I can’t be boddered wid dese yer pots an’ pans any longer, cos Ise got de dinna to meditate ’bout.”

With these words Jericho stood up, regarding Biler with an appearance of grave dignity, which would have overawed even a less solemn lad than this.  Biler did not refuse obedience, but thrusting a few fragments of dried codfish into his mouth, heaved a sigh, gave another dejected look at surrounding space, and then slowly and mournfully descended to the lower world.

The priest was seated on a water-cask, reading his Breviary, while Zac stood not far off, looking thoughtfully over the vessel’s side.  Terry was at the tiller, not because there was any steering to be done, but because he thought it would be as well for every one to be at his post in the event of a change of wind.  He had whistled “St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning,” and was about beginning another interminable strain of the same kind.  Claude was lounging about, and gradually drew nearer to the meditative Zac, whom he accosted.

“Well, we don’t appear to be making much progress ­do we?” said he.

Zac slowly shook his head.

“No,” said he; “I must say, I don’t like this here one mite.  ’Tain’t quite right.  Seems kin’ o’ unlucky.”

“Unlucky?  How?”

“Wal, fust and foremost, ef it hadn’t been you, you’d never a’ got me to pint the Parson’s nose for that French hole, Louisbourg.”

“Why not?” asked Claude, in some surprise; “you don’t suppose that there’s any danger ­do you?”

“Wal, it’s a risky business ­no doubt o’ that thar.  You see, my ‘pinion is this, that Moosoo’s my nat’ral born enemy, an’ so I don’t like to put myself into his power.”

“O, there’s no danger,” said Claude, cheerily.  “There’s peace now, you know ­as yet.”

Zac shook his head.

“No,” said he, “that ain’t so.  There ain’t never real peace out here.  There’s on’y a kin’ o’ partial peace in the old country.  Out here, we fight, an’ we’ve got to go on fightin’, till one or the other goes down.  An’ as to peace, ‘tain’t goin’ to last long, even in the old country, ‘cordin’ to all accounts.  There’s fightin’ already off in Germany, or somewhars, they say.”

“But you know,” said Claude, “you thought you could manage this for me somehow.  You said you could put me ashore somewhere without trusting yourself in Louisbourg harbor ­some bay or other ­wasn’t it?  I forget what the name is.  There’s no trouble about that now ­is there?”

“Wal, not more’n thar was afore,” said Zac, slowly; “on’y it seems more resky to me here, jest now, settin’ here this way, inactive like; p’aps it’s the fog that’s had a kin’ o’ depressin’ effect on my sperrits; it’s often so.  Or mebbe it’s the effect of the continooal hearin’ of that darned frog-eatin’ French lingo that you go on a jabberin’ with the priest thar.  I never could abide it, nor my fathers afore me; an’ how ever you ­you, a good Protestant, an’ a Massachusetts boy, an’ a loyal subject of his most gracious majesty, King George ­can go on that way, jabberin’ all day long with that thar priest in that darned outlandish lingo, ­wal, it beats me, ­it doos clar.”

At this Claude burst into a merry laugh.

“Well, by George,” he cried, “if this ain’t the greatest case of patriotic prejudice!  What’s the matter with the French language?  It’s better than English to talk with.  Besides, even if it wern’t, the French can’t help their language.  If it were yours, you’d like it, you know.  And then I hope you’re not beginning to take a prejudice against the good Pere Michel.  He’s as fine a fellow as ever lived, by George!”

“O, mind you, now, I wan’t intendin’ to say anythin’ agin him,” said Zac.  “I like him, an’ can’t help it, he’s so gentle, an’ meek, an’ has sech a look out of his eyes.  Blamed if I don’t sometimes feel jest as though he’s my father.  O, no, I ain’t got anythin’ agin’ him.  Far from it.  But it’s the idée.  For here, you see ­this is the way it is; here aboard the Parson I see a Roman Catholic priest; I hear two people jabber French all day long.  It makes me feel jest for all the world as though I’d got somehow into the hands of the Philistines.  It seems like bein’ a captive.  It kin’ o’ seems a sort o’ bad lookout; a kin’ o’ sort o’ sign, you know, of what’s a goin’ to happen afore I git back agin.”

At this, which was spoken with much earnestness, and with a very solemn face, Claude gave another laugh.

“O, that’s all nonsense,” said he, gayly.  “Why, you don’t really think, now, that you’re going to get into trouble through me ­do you?  And then as to Pere Michel, why, I feel as much confidence in him as I do in myself.  So come, don’t get into this low state of mind, but pluck up your spirits.  Never mind the fog, or the French language.  They oughtn’t to have such an effect on a fellow of your size and general build.  You’ll put us ashore at that bay you spoke of, and then go home all right.  That’s the way of it.  As to the land, you can’t have any danger from that quarter; and as to the sea, why, you yourself said that the French cruiser was never built that could catch you.”

“Wal,” said Zac, “that’s a fac’, an’ no mistake.  Give me any kin’ of wind, an’ thar ain’t a Moosoo afloat that can come anywhar nigh the Parson.  Still, jest now, in this here fog, ­an’ in the calm, too, ­if a Moosoo was to come along, why, I railly don’t ­quite ­know ­what ­I could ­railly do.”

“The fog!  O, in the fog you’ll be all right enough, you know,” said Claude.

“O, but that’s the very thing I don’t know,” said Zac.  “That thar pint’s the very identical pint that I don’t feel at all clear about, an’ would like to have settled.”

Claude said nothing for a few moments.  He now began to notice in the face, the tone, and the manner of Zac something very different from usual ­a certain uneasiness approaching to anxiety, which seemed to be founded on something which he had not yet disclosed.

“What do you mean?” he asked, rather gravely, suddenly dropping his air of light banter.

Zac drew a long breath.

“Wal,” said he, “this here fog makes it very easy for a Moosoo to haul up alongside all of a suddent, an’ ax you for your papers.  An’ what’s more,” he continued, dropping his voice to a lower tone, and stooping, to bring his mouth nearer to Claude’s ear, “what’s more, I don’t know but what, at this very moment, there’s a Moosoo railly an’ truly a little mite nearer to us than I altogether keer for to hev him.”

“What!” exclaimed Claude, with a start; “do you really think so?  What! near us, here in this fog?”

“Railly an’ truly,” said Zac, solemnly, “that’s my identical meanin’ ­jest it, exactly; an’ ’tain’t overly pleasant, no how.  See here;” and Zac dropped his voice to still lower tones, and drew still nearer to Claude, as he continued ­“see here, now; I’ll tell you what happened jest now.  As I was a standin’ here, jest afore you come up, I thought I heerd voices out thar on the starboard quarter ­voices ­”

“Voices!” said Claude.  “O, nonsense!  Voices!  How can there be voices out there?  It must have been the water.”

“Wal,” continued Zac, still speaking in a low tone, “that’s the very thing I thought when I fust heerd ’em; I thought, too, it must be the water.  But, if you jest take the trouble to examine, you’ll find that thur ain’t enough motion in the water to make any sound at all.  ‘Tain’t as if thar was a puffin’ of the wind an a dashin’ of the waves.  Thar ain’t no wind an’ no waves, unfort’nat’ly; so it seems beyond a doubt that it must either be actooal voices, or else somethin’ supernat’ral.  An’ for my part I’d give somethin’ for the wind to rise jest a leetle mite, so’s I could step off out o’ this, an’ git out o’ hearin’, at least.”

At this Claude was again silent for some time, thinking to himself whether the possibility of a French ship being near was to be wished or dreaded.  Much was to be said on both sides.  To himself it would, perhaps, be desirable; yet not so to Zac, although he tried to reassure the dejected skipper by telling him that if a French vessel should really be so near, it would be all the better, since his voyage would thereby be made all the shorter, for he himself could go aboard, and the Parson might return to Boston.  But Zac refused to be so easily comforted.

“No,” said he; “once I git into their clutches, they’ll never let me go; and as for the poor old Parson, why, they’ll go an’ turn her into a Papist priest.  And that,” he added, with a deep sigh, “would be too ­almighty ­bad!”

Claude now found that Zac was in too despondent a mood to listen to what he called reason, and therefore he held his tongue.  The idea that a French ship might be somewhere near, behind that wall of fog, had in it something which to him was not unpleasant, since it afforded some variety to the monotony of his situation.  He stood, therefore, in silence, with his face turned towards the direction indicated by Zac, and listened intently, while the skipper stood in silence by his side, listening also.

There was no wind whatever.  The water was quite smooth, and the Parson rose and fell at the slow undulations of the long ocean rollers, while at every motion the spars creaked and the sails flapped idly.  All around there arose a gray wall of fog, deep, dense, and fixed, which shut them in on every side, while overhead the sky itself was concealed from view by the same dull-gray canopy.  Behind that wall of fog anything might lie concealed; the whole French fleet might be there, without those on board the Parson being anything the wiser.  This Claude felt, and as he thought of the possibility of this, he began to see that Zac’s anxiety was very well founded, and that if the Parson should be captured it would be no easy task to deliver her from the grasp of the captor.  Still there came no further sounds, and Claude, after listening for a long time without hearing anything, began, at length, to conclude that Zac had been deceived.

“Don’t you think,” he asked, “that it may, after all, have been the rustle of the sails, or the creaking of the spars?”

Zac shook his head.

“No,” said he; “I’ve heerd it twice; an’ I know very well all the sounds that sails an’ spars can make; an’ I don’t see as how I can be mistook.  O, no; it was human voice, an’ nothin’ else in natur’.  I wouldn’t mind it a mite if I could do anythin’.  But to set here an’ jest git caught, like a rat in a trap, is what I call too ­almighty ­bad!”

At this very instant, and while Zac was yet speaking, there came through the fog the sound of a voice.  Claude heard it, and Zac also.  The latter grasped the arm of his friend, and held his breath.  It was a human voice.  There was not the slightest doubt now of that.  Words had been spoken, but they were unintelligible.  They listened still.  There was silence for a few moments, and then the silence was broken once more.  Words were again heard.  They were French, and they heard them this time with perfect distinctness.  They were these: ­

Put her head a little over this way.”