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The Hidden Children

Chapter 20. Yndaia
At the mouth of the pass which led to the Vale Yndaia I lay with my Indians that night,
two mounting guard, then one, then two more, and the sentinels changed every three
hours throughout the night. But all were excited and all slept lightly.
Within the Vale Yndaia, perhaps a hundred yards from the mouth of the pass, stood the
lonely little house of bark in which Madame de Contrecoeur had lived alone for twenty
years.
And here, that night, Lois lay with her mother; and no living thing nearer the dim house
than we who mounted guard-- except for the little birds asleep that Madame de
Contrecoeur had tamed, and the small forest creatures which had learned to come
fearlessly at this lonely woman's low-voiced call. And these things I learned not then, but
afterwards.
Never had I seen such utter loneliness-- for it had been less a solitude, it seemed to me,
had the little house not stood there under the pale lustre of the stars.
On every side lofty hills enclosed the valley, heavily timbered to their crests; and through
the intervale the rill ran, dashing out of the pass and away into that level, wooded strip to
the fern-glade which lay midway between the height of land and Catharines-town; and
there joined the large stream which flowed north. I could see in the darkness little of the
secret and hidden valley called Yndaia, only the heights silhouetted against the stars, a
vague foreground sheeted with mist, and the dark little house standing there all alone
under the stars.
All night long the great tiger-owls yelped and hallooed across the valley; all night the
spectral whip-poor-will whispered its husky, frightened warning. And long after midnight
a tiny bird awoke and sang monotonously for an hour or more.
Awaiting an attack from Catharines-town at any moment, we dared not make a fire or
even light a torch. Rotten trunks which had fallen across the stream we dragged out and
piled up across the mouth of the pass to make a defence; but we could do no more than
that; and, our efforts ended, my Indians sat in a circle cross-legged, quietly hooping and
stretching their freshly taken scalps by the dim light of the stars, and humming their
various airs of triumph in low, contented, and purring voices. All laboured under subdued
excitement, the brief and almost silent slaughter in the ferns having thoroughly aroused
them. But the tension showed only in moments of abrupt gaiety, as when Mayaro
challenged them to pronounce his name, and they could not, there being no letter "M" in
the Iroquois language-- neither "P" nor "B" either, for that matter-- so they failed at
"Butler" too, and Philip Schuyler, which aroused all to nervous merriment.
 
 
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