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Myths and Legends of our Own Land, by Charles M. Skinner, [1896], at


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.



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