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A short story by Charles M. Skinner

The Escape Of Francois Navarre

Title:     The Escape Of Francois Navarre
Author: Charles M. Skinner [More Titles by Skinner]

When the Hurons came to Sandwich, opposite the Michigan shore, in 1806, and camped near the church for the annual "festival of savages," which was religious primarily, but incidentally gastronomic, athletic, and alcoholic, an old woman of the tribe foretold to Angelique Couture that, ere long, blood would be shed freely and white men and Indians would take each other's lives. That was a reasonably safe prophecy in those days, and, though Angelique repeated it to her friends, she did not worry over it. But when the comet of 1812 appeared the people grew afraid--and with cause, for the war soon began with England. The girl's brothers fought under the red flag; her lover, Francois Navarre, under the stars and stripes.

The cruel General Proctor one day passed through Sandwich with prisoners on his way to the Hurons, who were to put them to death in the usual manner. As they passed by, groaning in anticipation of their fate, foot-sore and covered with dust, Angelique nearly swooned, for among them she recognized her lover. He, too, had seen her, and the recognition had been noticed by Proctor. Whether his savage heart was for the moment softened by their anguish, or whether he wished to heighten their pain by a momentary taste of joy, it is certain that on reaching camp he paroled Francrois until sunset. The young man hastened to the girl's house, and for one hour they were sadly happy. She tried to make him break his parole and escape, but he refused, and as the sun sank he tore himself from her arms and hastened to rejoin his companions in misery.

His captors admired him for this act of honor, and had he so willed he could have been then and there received into their tribe. As it was, they allowed him to remain unbound. Hardly had the sun gone down when a number of boats drew up at the beach with another lot of prisoners, and with yells of rejoicing the Indians ran to the river to drive them into camp. Francois's opportunity was brief, but he seized it. In the excitement he had been unobserved. He was not under oath now, and with all speed he dashed into the wood. Less than a minute had elapsed before his absence was discovered, but he was a cunning woodman, and by alternately running and hiding, with gathering darkness in his favor, he had soon put the savages at a distance.

A band of English went to Angelique's home, thinking that he would be sure to rejoin her; but he was too shrewd for that, and it was in vain that they fired guns up the chimneys and thrust bayonets into beds. Angelique was terrified at this intrusion, but the men had been ordered not to injure the woman, and she was glad, after all, to think that Francois had escaped. Some days later one of the Hurons came to her door and pointed significantly to a fresh scalp that hung at his belt. In the belief that it was her lover's she grew ill and began to fade, but one evening there came a faint tap at the door. She opened it to find a cap on the door-step.

There was no writing, yet her heart rose in her bosom and the color came back to her cheeks, for she recognized it as her lover's. Later, she learned that Francois had kept to the forest until he reached the site of Walkerville, where he had found a canoe and reached the American side in safety. She afterward rejoined him in Detroit, and they were married at the end of the war, through which he served with honor and satisfaction to himself, being enabled to pay many old scores against the red-coats and the Indians.

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Charles M. Skinner's short story: Escape Of Francois Navarre