The Choctaw village was orderly with rows of neatly arrayed log houses and planted fields, outlying. Within the village, there was whirlwind of activity as a party readied to march east and join the fighting. The British had a new strategy and were moving south, expecting to find more support there.
The Choctaw would support the colonists, Marie learned, though the great military captain Joseph Brandt of the Six Nations had joined the British. It is like betting on cards, she thought dreading the outcome either way. The Choctaw had been allied with the French whom they traded with and now that the French supported the colonists, they would so as well. But the French were very different in nature, Marie thought, not at all like the British or the rough colonials. Yet these people had heard that the great chief Washington would support them and honor treaties, and they themselves said the colonists were too numerous for the British to subdue and too numerous for the Indians to fight off.
The previous year Don Bernardo de Galvez, the governor of the territory of Louisiana had joined the colonists against the British and had traveled up and down the Mississippi burning British forts and driving their armies eastward. Now after winning a victory in Mobile, he had sailed for Florida where the fighting had intensified.
Marie had not known what to expect when a war party traveling east had come across them. She had been ready to barter her jewels for their freedom, but it had not been necessary. The Choctaw were prepared to guide them, they were allies and so would do the honorable thing. Marie and Seraphine waited while they provisioned themselves in the village and were told a small party would break off from the main group and bring them to a point where they could find their way back. And so they set out, the two women on horseback with a scout and three warriors.
The scout was a mature man and serious and although the three warriors tried to emulate him, Marie could see they were exchanging glances with Seraphine. It’s normal at that age, Marie thought, and who am I to deny them the semblance of a normal life? But even she became worried when she noticed the energy between the girl and the tallest young man when he accompanied her as she gathered wood for their evening fire.
‘It wouldn’t do to become entangled with him,’ she said to the girl, pulling her aside.
‘No Madame,’ The girl agreed all too readily. But the following evening, Marie woke up in the middle of the night and saw that the boy and the girl had left their sleeping places near the fire. She raised her head and noticed that the scout was awake as well. He looked at her, as if to say, it is nothing to do with us and lowered his head and went to sleep. Marie said nothing. In the morning they reached the shores of the river and when the boat approached, Marie gave both horses to the scout. He smiled and drew a necklace of blue stones off his neck and presented it to her.
‘Say your goodbyes,’ she said to Seraphine, turning her back.
She waited, looking at the river, brown and churning, until the boat approached and then with the girl at her side, she boarded.
‘Will you miss him?’ she asked.
‘A little,’ Seraphine replied.
‘I hope we will not have complications.’
‘I have herbs for that.’
Marie raised her brow, remembering that the girl’s grandmother was a healer of some sort. Well, my dear, she thought, let us hope you won’t need to make use of them because they don’t always work.