Michel De Coucy's Troubles

Michel De Coucy, of Prairie de Rocher, Illinois, sat before his door

humming thoughtfully, and trying to pull comfort out of a black pipe.. He

was in debt, and he did not like the sensation. As hunter, boatman,

fiddler he had done well enough, but having rashly ventured into trade he

had lost money, and being unable to meet a note had applied to Pedro

Garcia for a loan at usurious interest. Garcia was a black-whiskered

Spaniard who was known to have been a gambler in New Orleans, and as

Michel was in arrears in his payments he was now threatening suit.

Presently the hunter jumped up with a glad laugh, for two horsemen were

approaching his place--the superior of the Jesuit convent at Notre Dame

de Kaskaskia and the governor of the French settlements in Illinois, of

whom he had asked advice, and who had come from Fort Chartres, on the

Mississippi, to give it in person. It was good advice, too, for the

effect of it was that there was no law of that time--1750--by which a

Spaniard could sue a Frenchman on French territory. Moreover, the bond

was invalid because it was drawn up in Spanish, and Garcia could produce

no witness to verify the cross at the bottom of the document as of

Michel's making.

Great was the wrath of the Spaniard when Michel told him this, nor was it

lessened when the hunter bade him have no fear--that he might be obliged

to repudiate part of the interest, but that every livre of the principal

would be forthcoming, if only a little time were allowed. The money

lender walked away with clenched fists, muttering to himself, and Michel

lit his pipe again.

At supper-time little Genevieve, the twelve-year-old daughter of Michel,

did not appear. The table was kept waiting for an hour. Michel sat down

but could not eat, and, after scolding awhile in a half-hearted fashion,

he went to the clearing down the road, where the child had been playing.

A placard was seen upon a tree beside the way, and he called a passing

neighbor to read to him these words: Meshell Coosy. French rascal. Pay

me my money and you have your daughter. Pedro Garcia.

Accustomed as he was to perils, and quick as he generally was in

expedient, Michel was overwhelmed by this stroke. The villagers offered

to arm themselves and rescue the child, but he would not consent to this,

for he was afraid that Garcia might kill her, if he knew that force was

to be set against him. In a day or two Michel was told to go to Fort

Chartres, as favorable news awaited him. He rode with all speed to that

post, went to the official quarters, where the governor was sitting, and

as he entered he became almost insane with rage, for Garcia stood before

him. Nothing but the presence of others saved the Spaniard's life, and it

was some time before Michel could be made to understand that Garcia was

there under promise of safe conduct, and that the representatives of King

Louis were in honor bound to see that he was not injured. The points at

issue between the two men were reviewed, and the governor gave it as his

decision that Michel must pay his debt without interest, that being

forfeit by the Spaniard's abduction of Genevieve, and that the Spaniard

was to restore the girl, both parties in the case being remanded to

prison until they had obeyed this judgment.

But I have your promise of safe conduct! cried the Spaniard, blazing

with wrath.

And you shall have it when the girl returns, replied the governor. You

shall be protected in going and coming, but there is no reference in the

paper that you hold as to how long we may wish to keep you with us.

Both men were marched away forthwith, but Michel was released in an hour,

for in that time the people had subscribed enough to pay his debt. The

Spaniard sent a messenger to a renegade who had little Genevieve in

keeping, and next day he too went free, swearing horribly, but glad to

accept the service of an armed escort until he was well out of town.

Michel embraced his child with ardor when once she was in his arms again;

then he lighted his pipe and set out with her for home, convinced that

French law was the best in the world, that Spaniards were not to be

trusted, and that it is safer to keep one's earnings under the floor than

to venture them in trade.

Michael Scott Middle Age Sagas With Roots In The Myth Concerning The Lower World Erik Vidforle's Saga facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail