Arundel

Arundel by Kenneth Roberts

Book: Arundel by Kenneth Roberts Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kenneth Roberts
woolen stockings when she has mended them; I could have drunk the hogshead of rainwater that stands by our kitchen door in Arundel.
    I was, I thought, slipping down an endless waterfall, turning slowly in my descent; but as I strove to reach out and grasp the swollen objects past which I swirled, I ceased to slide. I lay on a bed of fir tips in a canoe. The surging green sea resolved itself into the trees along the river bank; the dusky red wall was the naked back of Woromquid, rising and dipping with each paddle stroke.
    My head felt overtight, as though a squirrel had crawled in to share it with me; and though I vaguely knew there was a matter of importance to consider, I could only squeak for water. The canoe swerved inshore. My father climbed out and held up my head to let me drink from a birch bark cone. My skull was bound like a bale of beaver skins. My father cut more fir tips and slipped them beneath me, ordering me to sleep. When I woke again, the setting sun blazed red in our eyes and the canoe was pushing through a guzzle at the tip of Swan Island.
    There was talk from folk on shore—dim, distant talk which angered me for no reason. The canoe was lifted with me in it, carried up a hill and into a cabin. Before I fell asleep again, I saw Rabomis and the m’téoulin and my father gathered around me. There was a soothing softness on my overcrowded head. I was pleased to be among friends, but unbearably oppressed by something that continued to escape me.
    It was not until morning that my senses returned sufficiently to let me remember that our pursuit of Mary and Guerlac had failed because Guerlac’s canoe had not been spilled at the first attempt.
    Guerlac, my father said, had risen from the bottom of the canoe when I had dragged at the thwart, and had driven his hatchet toward my head. My father had shouted and loosed an arrow at his face; but the arrow, flying to the left as arrows will when too light or the bow imperfect, had slashed Guerlac along the right cheekbone and split his right ear—enough of a hurt to turn his hatchet a little so that by the grace of God I was struck with the flat of the blade instead of with the edge. The canoe turned over and my father set up a shouting in different voices to make the Indians think there were more of us. Mary, he saw, was not in this canoe at all; so he knew too late our ambush was badly planned.
    He loosed two more arrows and fired a musket, striking one of the Indians in a spot that would oblige him to kneel or stand while eating.
    Then, roaring and shouting, he had dashed into the river and pulled me out, emptying the water from me while the Indians were helping Guerlac to the opposite shore. In that moment he had seen the second canoe at the bend below us. The Indians, ignorant of our numbers, drove it against the bank and took to the woods, and with them they carried Mary. He fired the second musket and two more arrows toward them, to make them cautious. Then he gathered up the muskets and bows, swung me over his shoulder with my face streaming blood, and set off in search of Natawammet and Woromquid and our own canoe.
    My father was frightened by my appearance, he said, for my face, where it was not covered with blood, was as white as a loon’s belly, and my breathing no stronger than a kitten’s, so he thought best to go down at full speed through the Five Mile Ripples.
    If our canoe should be broken on them, he figured, we would be no worse off than we then were; whereas if we passed them safely we could catch the outgoing tide below Cushnoc, and by hard effort win through by sundown to Swan Island, where Rabomis and the m’téoulin, having some knowledge of remedies, might heal my head.
    My father declared he couldn’t say how Natawammet and Woromquid guided us through the quick water without disaster, for mostly he was afraid to look, and he was busy supporting my head when we bumped over the ripples, which are not ripples at all, but curling waves with

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