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      But Flora kept silence.


      IX.The travellers now held counsel as to what course they should take. They had gone far enough, as they thought, to establish one important point,that [Pg 74] the Mississippi discharged its waters, not into the Atlantic or sea of Virginia, nor into the Gulf of California or Vermilion Sea, but into the Gulf of Mexico. They thought themselves nearer to its mouth than they actually were, the distance being still about seven hundred miles; and they feared that if they went farther they might be killed by Indians or captured by Spaniards, whereby the results of their discovery would be lost. Therefore they resolved to return to Canada, and report what they had seen.

      Splendid! Excellent! cried Hipyllos, clapping his hands. Men dont praise your clever counsel without cause. But how is this to be managed?


      By and by ambulances and then open wagons began to jolt and tilt past them full of ragged, grimy, bloody men wailing and groaning, no one heeding the entreaties of the three ladies to be taken in as nurses. Near a cross-road before them they saw on a fair farmhouse the yellow flag, and a vehicle or two at its door, yet no load of wounded turned that way. Out of it, instead, excited men were hurrying, some lamely, feebly, afoot, others at better speed on rude litters, but all rearward across the plowed land. Two women stepped out into a light trap and vanished behind a lane hedge before Constance could call the attention of her companions.

      Conops, who had watched what was occurring with less indifference and dullness than usual, now made an apt remark.

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      [69] Faillon, Colonie Fran?aise, iii. 497, and manuscript authorities there cited. I have examined the principal of these. Faillon himself is a priest of St. Sulpice. Compare H. Verreau, Les Deux Abbs de Fnelon, chap. vii.

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      The character of the fleet at Tadoussac was now sufficiently clear. Quebec was incapable of defence. Only fifty pounds of gunpowder were left in the magazine; and the fort, owing to the neglect and ill-will of the Caens, was so wretchedly constructed, that, a few days before, two towers of the main building had fallen. Champlain, however, assigned to each man his post, and waited the result. On the next afternoon, a boat was seen issuing from behind the Point of Orleans and hovering hesitatingly about the mouth of the St. Charles. On being challenged, the men on board proved to be Basque fishermen, lately captured by the English, and now sent by Kirke unwilling messengers to Champlain. Climbing the steep pathway to the fort, they delivered their letter,a summons, couched in terms of great courtesy, to surrender Quebec. There was no hope but in courage. A bold front must supply the lack of batteries and ramparts; and Champlain dismissed the Basques with a reply, in which, with equal courtesy, he expressed his determination to hold his position to the last.


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