Chapter 24: A Short Rest on the River. April 29th.

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Chapter 24: A Short Rest on the River

The morning of the twenty-ninth of April.

Dollard and his men traveled the next night uneventfully. They were between the Carillion and the Chute a Blondeau Rapids, a couple of days from their objective. Filled with expectation, they forgot their fatigue and covered the distance between the portages in one day.

When they reached the foot of the rapids, their energy carried them through part of the first portage. Then they made camp in a clearing on a bluff. On their left, front and rear was the water. To their right, the forest. Anyone coming would have to come that way. It was a high and defensible position. Dollard made the camp area embrace a short path to the water to be used in case of an emergency,

The new Canadians made two fires out of ash. There was no smoke but the hardwood gave them warmth, and they had some rum from a keg. The talk became idle as if a release from the physical toll of the work with the canoes and the mental tension that was building up regarding the Iroquois.

"I found a basswood tree over there," said Nicholas Josselin, pointing to the woods. "The Indians make rope out of it. They tear off long strips of bark, boil them to get hemp and make ropes and bags from it. Sometimes they don't boil it; sometimes they use it as it is for sewing robes..."

"All right, Nicholas, that's very nice," said Valets.

"...and other articles, or for fastening together birch bark dishes..."

"Fine, Nicholas."

"... or bowls or for tying and holding the planks and poles of houses..."

"Nicholas. "

" ... and for bandaging sores and wounds..."

"NICHOLAS!"

"What?"

"Thank you very much," said Valets.

"Well, if you don't learn about the country how do you expect to get along here?"

"I'll get along," said Valets, "and if I ever need to know about the basswood tree, I can always ask you, can't I?"

"Hey, Lecompte," said Forges, "what are you doing, writing a poem?"

Lecompte was sitting against a rock, knees up. He was writing on a piece of birch bark with a stick.

"Yeah, I'm writing a poem."

"How?"

Forges moved over beside Lecompte.

"I'm writing on birch bark. I peel the bark, get a tan or white section and write on that with a stick. Then when I'm finished I roll the thing up into a nice little package and keep it."

"What are you writing about?"

"The forest."

"Read it," said Forges.

"Read it, read it," the others said.

"No, you'll just laugh."

"We need a good laugh," said Doussin.

"We won't laugh," promised Hebert nudging Doussin.

"We won't laugh," said Doussin.

"All right," said Lecompte. He began to read:

" 'The forest is black and so is my heart, when I think of us so far apart.

The river is rushing so quickly by, I feel I'll not see you before I die.

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