Read CHAPTER XII - THE PARSON AMONG THE PHILISTINES of The Lily and the Cross A Tale of Acadia , free online book, by James De Mille, on ReadCentral.com.

A map of this part of America, in this year, 1743, would show a very different scene from that which is presented by one of the present date.  The country held by the English did not reach beyond the Kennebec, although claimed by them.  But north of this river it was all in the virtual possession of the French, and on the map it was distinguished by the French colors.  A line drawn from the mouth of the Penobscot, due north, to the River St. Lawrence, divided New England from the equally extensive territory of New Scotland, or Nova Scotia.  This New England was bordered on the east by Nova Scotia, on the north by the River St. Lawrence, and on the west by the province of New York.  But in New England the French colors prevailed over quite one half of this territory; and in Nova Scotia, though all was claimed by the English, every part was actually held by the French, except one or two points of a most unimportant character.

Looking over such a map, we perceive the present characteristics all gone, and a vast wilderness, full of roaming tribes of Indians, filling the scene.  North of Boston there are a few towns; but beyond the little town of Falmouth, the English settlements are all called Fort this and Fort that.  Up the valley of the Kennebec is the mark of a road to Quebec; and about half way, at the head waters of the Kennebec, a point is marked on the map with these words:  “Indian and French rendezvous.  Extremely proper for a fort, which mould restrain the French and curb the Abenakki Indians.”  And also:  “From Quebec to Kennebek River mouth, not much above half way to Boston, and one third to New York, thence by that R. and ye Chaudiere ye road to Canada is short.”

North of the St. Lawrence is a vast country, which is called New France.  As Old France and Old England struggle for the supremacy in the old world, so New France and New England struggle for the supremacy in the new world, and the bone of contention is this very district alluded to, ­this border-ground, ­called by the French L’Acadie, but claimed by the English as Nova Scotia, which bordered both on New England and New France.

This debatable territory on the map is full of vast waste spaces, together with the names of savage tribes never heard of before or since, some of which are familiar names, merely spelled in an unusual manner, while others owe their origin, perhaps, to the imagination of the map-maker or his informant.  Thus, for example, we have Massasuk, Arusegenticook, Saga Dahok, and others of equally singular sound.

In this debatable territory are numerous forts, both French and English.  These are situated, for the most part, in the valleys of rivers, for the very good reason that these valleys afford the best places for settlement, and also for the further reason that they are generally used as the most convenient routes of travel by those who go by land from one post to another.  These forts are numerous on the west of New England; they also stud the map in various places towards the north.  The valley of the St. John, in Nova Scotia, is marked by several of these.  Farther on, the important isthmus which connects the peninsula of Nova Scotia with the main land is protected by the strong post called Fort Beausejour.

In this peninsula of Nova Scotia, various settlements are marked.  One is named Minas, which is also known as Grand Pre, a large and important community, situated in one of the most beautiful and fertile valleys in America.  In the neighborhood of this are a half dozen points, marked with the general name of French settlements, while the vacant places between and beyond are marked with the name Mic Macs, which is the title of the Indians who inhabit Nova Scotia.  One post here, however, possesses a singular interest in the eyes of the good people of Boston.  It is marked on the map by the name of Annapolis, once the French Port Royal, but now the only English post of any consequence in all Nova Scotia.  Here resides the handful of Englishmen who claim to rule the province.  But the government is a mockery, and the French set it at defiance.  If England wishes to assert her power here, she must have a far different force in the country from the handful of ragged and ill-armed soldiers who mount guard on the tumble-down forts at Annapolis.

Beyond all these, at the extreme east of the peninsula, is an island called by the French Île Royale, and by the English Cape Breton.  This is held by the French.  Here is their greatest stronghold in America, except Quebec, and one, too, which is regarded by Boston with greater jealousy and dread than the latter, since it is actually nearer, is open winter and summer, and can strike a more immediate blow.

This was the extreme eastern outpost of French power in America.  Here the French colonies reached out their arms to the mother country.  Here began that great chain of fortresses, which ran up the valleys of navigable rivers, and connected with the great fortress of Quebec the almost impregnable outpost of Ticonderoga, and the posts of Montreal Island.  From these the chain of military occupation extended itself towards the south, through the valleys of the Ohio and the Mississippi, until they were connected with the flourishing colony at New Orleans.

Thus it was, and with these advantages, that the French engaged in the great and momentous conflict with the English for the possession of America, and on the side of the former were the greater part of the wild and warlike Indians.

And now let us return to our friend Zac, who for some time has been lost sight of.

When the Aigle came to anchor, the schooner did the same, and lay under her guns some miles out from the shore.  Zac had been allowed a certain amount of freedom, for, as the lieutenant had promised, his hands had not been bound.  The same liberty was allowed to the others on board.  Six French seamen were on board, who navigated the schooner, and acted as her guard.  These were armed, while Zac and his friends were all unarmed.  While sailing up the bay this guard was hardly necessary, as the schooner was under the guns of the frigate; but afterwards the necessity was more apparent.

The Aigle could not wait at Grand Pre longer than was requisite to land those who were going ashore.  The boat that landed these brought back a half dozen Acadians from Grand Pre, whom it left on board the schooner.  Then, taking back again her own seamen, the Aigle spread her white wings and sailed away for La Belle France.

Zac saw this change in affairs with varied feelings.  First of all, he had half hoped that he might be let off, after all; partly because it was not a time of formal war, and partly because the schooner had saved some important lives, and therefore, at the very least, ought to be let off.  But this change in her masters dispelled Zac’s hope, and made him see that there was not at all any prospect of an immediate release.  From that moment Zac gave up all hope of any release whatever, and began to see that, if escape were to be made, it must be effected by his own skill and daring.

The new comers seemed willing to maintain the old state of things, and showed no inclination to keep their prisoners in bonds.  They were a good-natured lot, with simple, unsophisticated faces, and looked with amiable smiles upon the schooner and its company.  Still, they were all stout, able-bodied fellows, and all were armed.  The leader was a man of about forty, who seemed to be regarded by the rest with considerable respect.  He was also able to speak a few words of English.  They contented themselves with keeping a general lookout over the schooner and its crew, and taking turns at the night watch.

In fact, the simple confidence of the Acadians in the security of their guard seemed to be justified by circumstances.  These six stout men wore armed; Zac and his followers were unarmed.  All the floating craft in the Basin belonged to the Acadians, and all the settlements.  For Zac to escape by water was scarcely possible, and to get off by land was not to be thought of.  The nearest English settlement was many miles away, and to reach it he would have to run the gantlet of a population of French and Indians.

Day after day passed, and Zac spent most of the time in meditating over his situation and keeping his eyes and ears on the alert.  He understood pretty well that to the villany of Cazeneau were due both his own captivity and the more serious danger which threatened his friend.  It was from Margot that he had first heard of Cazeneau as an enemy, and little more had he been able to find out beyond what she had told him in the brief conversation already related.  The illness of Laborde had necessitated her attendance on her master and mistress, and prevented any further confidences.  Only a few occasional greetings were possible after that.  Then followed the arrival of the Aigle, and the transfer of Margot, with the rest, to the French frigate.  Zac had consequently been left in the dark as to the particular villany of Cazeneau towards Laborde and Mimi.  But he had seen enough and felt enough to be sure that his enmity, from whatever cause it arose, was of no common kind, that Claude was in great danger, and that he himself was involved in the same peril, though to a less degree.  This conviction served, therefore, to keep his mind continually on the alert, so as to find out what was the present situation of Claude, and also to devise and lay hold of some plan of action for himself.

In his thoughts the good Pere Michel was suggested as the only one who could do anything for either of them.  What his influence might be, he could not guess; but he at least believed in his friendliness and good faith, and he could not help feeling that the priest would do all that was possible.  It seemed to him not unlikely that the priest might come out to see him, and convey to him some information about the present state of affairs in Grand Pre.  And besides this, he could not help feeling a vague hope that, even if the priest were unable to do anything, he might receive some sort of a message from one whom he could not help as regarding in the light of a friend ­namely, the amiable Margot.

The situation had been accepted by the rest of the ship’s company without any great display of emotion.  Biler’s melancholy remained unchanged, and still, as of yore, he passed much of his time at the mast-head, contemplating the universe, and eating raw turnips.  Jericho remained as busy as ever, and cared for his pots, and his kettles, and his pans, without apparently being conscious that his master was a slave now, as well as himself.  Upon Terry, also, the yoke of captivity lay but lightly.  It was not in the nature of Terry to be downcast or sullen; and the simple expedients which had led him to fraternize with the shipwrecked sailors had afterwards enabled him to fraternize equally well with the crew of the Aigle that had been put on board.  These had gone, and it remained now for him to come to an understanding with the Acadians.  Constant practice had made him more capable, and, in addition to his own natural advantages, he had also learned a few French words, of which he made constant use in the most efficient way.  The Acadians responded to Terry’s advances quite as readily as any of the others had done; and before they had been on board one day they were all singing and laughing with the merry Irish lad, and going into fits of uproarious mirth at Terry’s incessant use of the few French words which he had learned; for it was Terry’s delight to stop each one of them, and insist on shaking hands, whenever he met them, saying at the same time, with all the gravity in the world, ­

Commy voo party voo, bong tong.  Bon jure, moosoo!”

Thus nearly a week passed, and during all that time Zac had heard nothing about the fate of his friends ashore.  Neither the priest nor Margot sent him any message whatever.  The Acadians themselves did not hold any communication with the shore, but remained on board quite placidly, in a state of calm content ­as placidly, indeed, as though they had been living on board the Parson all their lives.

During all the time Zac had been meditating over his situation, and trying to see his way out of it.  At length a ray of light began to dawn into his mind, which illuminated his present position, and opened up to him a way of action.  One day after dinner, while the Acadians were lolling in the sun, and while Terry was smoking his pipe forward, Zac sauntered up to him in a careless fashion, and placing himself near Terry, where he could not be overheard, he began to talk in an easy tone with the other,

“Terry, lad,” said he, “I’m getting tired o’ this here.”

“Faix, an’ it’s mesilf that’s been waitin’ to hear ye say that same for a week an’ more ­so it is.”

“Wal, ye see, I ben a turnin’ it over in my mind, and hain’t altogether seen my way clear afore; but now it seems to me as how it’s a burnin’ shame to stand this here any longer.”

“Thrue for you; an’ so it is,” said Terry.  “An’ so, ef ye’ve got anythin’ on yer mind that ye want to do, why, out with it, for I’m your man.”

“Wal, ye see,” resumed Zac, “it’s this here; I don’t want to go away out o’ this jest yet.”

“Not go away!  Tare an ages,” cried Terry; “d’ye want to be a prisoner?”

“Course not.  I mean this:  I don’t want to go an’ leave my friend here, Motier, in the hands of the Philistines.”

“Sure ye can’t do anythin’ for him; an’ he’s among his own kin ­so he is; for he jabbers French ayqual to the best of thim.”

“No, I can’t do anything for him as I am; that’s a fact; and so I’m bound to put myself in a position whar I can do somethin’; that is, I’m bound to seize this here schewner, an’ bring the old Parson back to the fold.”

“Arrah, sure, an’ that’s the right sort of talk ­so it is; an’ it’s mesilf that’s glad to hear ye.  An’ so, what is it, captain dear?  Out with it.  Tell me what yer plan is, an’ I’m wid ye ­so I am.”

“I think, Terry, that we can manage to get the schewner from these chaps ­can’t we?”

“Sure we can.  Sure, an’ I’d ingage to do it alone, almost.”

“They don’t watch much.”

“Not a bit of it.”

“The two that watch at night sleep half the time.”

“Sure, an’ that’s thrue for you, for I’ve seed thim at it whin I was asleep mesilf.”

“We can git Jericho to bar down the cabin door, Terry, an’ then you an’ I can seize the two on deck.”

Aisy enough ­so it is.  They’ll all be dead asleep ­so they will.”

“Wal, thar we’ll have them; an’ then I hope to be able to bring a pressure on the natyves of these regions by which I may git my friend out of their clutches.”

“Sure, an’ I don’t onderstand ye at all, at all.”

“Why, I’ll have these six Acadians prisoners, an’ then I’ll sail up off Grand Pre, an’ threaten to cut the throats of all of them if they don’t send off Motier to me in ten minutes.”

“Tare an’ ages!” cried Terry.  “Whoroo! but isn’t that the plan?  It is.  It bates the wurruld ­so it does.  An whin’ll ye begin, captain darlint?”

“To-night,” said Zac.