While the wood runners rested, Antoine could not sleep, and he paced the ground near their encampment. While trying to calm his racing mind, he turned thoughts to the long day of travel ahead of them. He knew they would probably reach Big Turtle Island within a day or two.
Antoine watched the night skies, hoping to catch another glimpse of the shooting stars. At times, he wondered about the state of his mind. When he was home, he longed for the open wilderness, yet now, all he wanted was to be under his own roof, surrounded by his family.
He knew Jeanne, and their three children would also be tucked in for the night; they, too, had chores to complete tomorrow. The father suspected they would till the ground, and plan for their garden. When the sun began to rise, Jeanne prepared for her day. His wife allowed the younger sons some extra time to sleep before she called them to breakfast. He also knew his two girls enjoyed their quiet time together. They often shared a cup of peppermint tea before the younger boys joined in the morning activities. He smiled, for his two little men were always in constant motion.
Loneliness spread through him, and he longed for his family. Time away from those he loved caused him to regret his decision. More than once, the wood runner wanted to be home, with his wife and children. Under the stars in this forest, he was comforted, knowing Jean and Black Feather would watch over his household in his absence. But he knew that was his job, and he coveted to roar at the demon within that would seek adventure over family. And in that moment, he knew the enemy was losing his hold. Deep in the forest, as a late-night breeze caused the leaves to rustle, Antoine made his decision. “Black Feather, you are right, my old friend.” He knew it was time to be the man that his wife needed him to be.
Peace flooded through him for the first time in months. He knew his decision was sound that he needed to return home and care for those he loved. Though it took time, he realized his love and his need for his family simply outweighed his desire for the outdoors. He decided to share his news with the wood runners in the morning. This would be his last fur trading voyage. It was time to leave this mistress and return to his wife.
He silently thanked God for helping him make this decision. Standing, he went to relieve himself before he settled in for the night. Once he started to saunter back to the encampment, the moonlight captured movement between the trees. In the soft light, Antoine viewed the dark silhouettes that almost floated across the landscape.
The wood runner froze, for he did not want to make a sound and reveal his location. His heart raced, and his breathing slowed. He knew if the band continued, their path would cross with his sleeping friends.
Bending over, he felt the ground and picked up some large rocks. Throwing the stones with all his might, the rocks ricocheted off the trees and bounced on the earth. The clamor captured the Iroquois’s attention. Antoine raced through the trees; he knew his movement would draw the natives in his direction and away from the others. As he hoped, the group turned and followed him into the darkness. He longed to distance himself and prayed the others would not be discovered.
In the darkness, the man stumbled over a fallen branch. When he tried to stand, a sharp pain caused him to cry out. His ankle throbbed, and his scream had signaled the men that hunted him. Crawling, he tried to find cover, but his actions caught the attention of one of the natives, and the group strode towards the injured man.
The man that reached him first tried to pull Antoine to his feet. Refusing to show pain or fear, Antoine would not allow himself to yell, but his injured ankle could not support his weight, and he collapsed onto the ground. At that moment, he breathed in the woodsy scent of earth and pine, and he knew this would be the last time he enjoyed the land he loved.
One of the Iroquois dropped to his knees beside Antoine and pulled a knife from his belt. The moonshine reflected off the metal. Grabbing Antoine, the warrior pulled back on Antoine’s head and exposed his neck. Instinctively, the trapper knew the man was about to slit his throat. Before the native could act, another from his band spoke to the others and pointed to the skies. All present looked upwards, and some spoke in awed tones. One after another, the stars danced in the moonlight.
The heavens showered the night skies as falling stars raced above the men. In silent anguish, the trapper believed the heavens cried for him. It was a sign. The shooting stars rained down tears and wept for a man that finally discovered his destiny when his end was near.
When the surge ended, the band of Iroquois turned their attention to Antoine, and he suddenly bellowed and shouted. Surprised by his fearlessness, the group of warriors respected the strength of their enemy and allowed him one final supplication. Reaching for the wolf’s head that he wore around his neck, he shouted to the stars, “My love, God is gracious,” and in the distance, a lone wolf howled and answered Antoine’s final cry.
This short story is based on the lives of my 9x great grandparents, Antoine Leduc and Jeanne Faucheau. The following information is what I know about their lives.
In the 17th century, my great grandparents sailed to New France after leaving loved ones behind in their homeland in France. Although the two did not sail together, they eventually met, married, began raising a family, and settled in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Perade.
In 1643, my 9x great grandfather, Antoine Marie Leduc, was born in Louvetot, Rouen, Normandy, France. He was the son of Jean Leduc and Jeanne Franscoise Desobrie.
As a teen in 1656, Antoine traveled from Dieppe to Quebec on the ship the Saint-Sebastion. That same year he signed an agreement to serve Pierre Denys Sieur de la Ronde for one year. In 1666, the census showed that seventeen-year-old Antoine worked as domestic help for Claude Herline in Trois-Rivieres
Sometime in 1649, Jeanne was born; she was the daughter of Noel Faucheux and Jacqueline Trion. In 1671, at the age of twenty-two, Jeanne Faucheaux arrived in Quebec after sailing from Saint-Pierre-es-Liens in Huisseau-sur-Mauves in Orleans, Orleanais, France.
She came to the New World as a King’s Daughter; this venture sent about 800 women to New France. The women married the soldiers and frontiersman. Although no records were found, it was believed that Jeanne and Antoine married that same year. The couple had three children, Marie Francoise (1675), Jean Baptiste (1678), and Pierre Charles (1680).
Antoine worked as a fur trapper and a farmer. On May 15, 1682, he and four men, Louis Dandonneau, Paul Desmarais, Jean Morneau, and Michel Desrosiers banded together for a fur trading expedition to the Outaouais.
They proclaimed if one died during the trip, the survivors would bring back his share of furs. At Teiagon, (Baby Point, Montreal), they were attacked by the Iroquois as they headed to Michillimakinac. From that point on, Antoine was not heard from again. His widow, Jeanne, remarried Pierre Vaillant on February 29, 1888. In 1689, Pierre and Jeanne had one son, Pierre Rene Vaillant.