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CHAPTER II

BIENVILLE

MUSING on this strange story, and the old man's unwonted fear, I walked on down to the water's edge where my Indian friends, already in the pirogue, awaited me. Another half hour and we were in Biloxi.

When we reached the barracks I found orders to attend the governor at once.

Bienville stood before his fire alone, quiet, but in a very different mood from any in which I had theretofore seen him.

"Captain de Mouret," the rough old warrior began, without any prelude or indirection, "I desire to send you at once to Paris on an errand of the utmost importance to myself and to this colony. I select you for this task, though I can ill spare you here, because it is a delicate matter. I believe you to be honest, I know you are courageous."

I bowed, and he went on. Something had evidently occurred to vex and irritate him.

"You know the people who surround me here, the weak, the vicious, the licentious of all the earth. A band of unprincipled adventurers, vile Canadians and half-breeds, all too lazy to work, or even to feed them-

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