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255 W e were five altogether—Mr. Stevens, Clark, the two Boston soldiers, and myself; and presently we came down the steep passage in the cliff to where our craft lay, secured by my dear wife—a birch canoe, well laden with necessaries. Our craft was none too large for our party, but she must do; and safely in, we pushed out upon the current, which was in our favour, for the tide was going out. My object was to cross the river softly, skirt the Levis shore, pass the Isle of Orleans, and so steal down the river. There was excitement in the town, as we could tell from the lights flashing along the shore, and boats soon began to patrol the banks, going swiftly up and down, and extending a line round to the St. Charles River towards Beauport. It was well for us the night was dark, else we had never run that gantlet. But we were lucky enough, by hard paddling, to get past the town on the Levis side. Never were better boatmen. The paddles dropped with agreeable precision, and no boatswain’s rattan was needed to keep my fellows to their task. I, whose sight was long trained to darkness, could see a great distance round us, and so could prevent a trap, though once or twice we let our canoe drift with the tide, lest our paddles should be heard. I could not paddle long, I had so little Chapter XXII The Lord of Kamaraska 256 strength. After the Isle of Orleans was passed I drew a breath of relief, and played the part of captain and boatswain merely. Yet when I looked back at the town on those strong heights, and saw the bonfires burn to warn the settlers of our escape, saw the lights sparkling in many homes, and even fancied I could make out the light shining in my dear wife’s window, I had a strange feeling of loneliness. There, in the shadow of my prison walls, was the dearest thing on earth to me. Ought she not to be with me? She had begged to come, to share with me these dangers and hardships; but that I could not, would not grant. She would be safer with her people. As for us desperate men bent on escape, we must face hourly peril. Thank God, there was work to do. Hour after hour the swing and dip of the paddles went on. No one showed weariness, and when dawn broke slow and soft over the eastern hills I motioned my good boatmen towards the shore, and we landed safely. Lifting our frigate up, we carried her into a thicket, there to rest with us till night, when we would sally forth again into the friendly darkness. We were in no distress all that day, for the weather was fine, and we had enough to eat; and in this case were we for ten days and nights, though indeed some of the nights were dreary and very cold, for it was yet but the beginning of May. It might thus seem that we were leaving danger well behind, after having travelled so many heavy leagues, but it was yet several hundred miles to Louisburg, our destination, and we had escaped only immediate danger. We passed Isle aux Coudres and the Isles of Kamaraska, and now we ventured by day to ramble the woods in search of game, which was most plentiful. In this good outdoor life my health came slowly back, and I should soon be able to bear equal tasks with any of my comrades. Never man led better friends, though I have seen adventurous service near and far since that time. Even the genial ruffian Clark was amenable, and took sharp reprimand without revolt. On the eleventh night after our escape our first real trial came. We 257 were keeping the middle of the great river, as safest from detection, and when the tide was with us we could thus move more rapidly. We had had a constant favouring breeze, but now suddenly, though we were running with the tide, the wind turned easterly and blew up the river against the ebb. Soon it became a gale, to which was added snow and sleet, and a rough, choppy sea followed. I saw it would be no easy task to fetch our craft to the land. The waves broke in upon us, and presently, while half of us were...


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