THE big man marched reasonably well, for he was a stranger to the bush and this was only his fourth day on snowshoes, but it was the small man with the wide shoulders and the lean hips who set the pace. It was Pierre Lassonde, the woodsman, who held himself back, who called halts in order that the big man from Montreal might rest and breathe himself and shift his pack. Thus, they marched north, amiably, for Pierre was getting good wages and it was his business to take care of this other man.
Beyond the villages of Lake St. John and up into the country of the Peribonka River they had come, in order that Christophe Manseau, an avocat of importance in Montreal, might find a certain girl named Mignonne Millette, daughter of an old bucheron called Alcidas. Manseau wished to prove that she was herself, before he delivered over to her a fortune left by some rich relative; this much Lassonde knew. An affair more or less foolish, this long trip, but no doubt necessary for the musty courts. There, no man was himself until he brought his neighbors to prove it.
M. Manseau had not been too much trouble; not for a man who knew so little of the woods that Pierre had been obliged to teach him how to put on his snowshoes. A man with a thick waist and shining red lips which opened easily to laughter; so powerful, in spite of his softness, that he could have swung the slender Lassonde over his shoulder. No, he was not disagreeable; a heavy eater and drinker, but ready with a story or a song after he had got over the first fatigue. A glutton—but a good fellow.
This fourth day, Pierre knew that they would come to the cabane Millette hours before dark. He had never seen either the girl or her father, Alcidas, or the cabane, but he had his directions and he knew distances. So that morning he had taken from his pack the ceinture lechee, which he had inherited, and wound it over his shoulder and twice around his waist, with the fringed ends swinging bravely. Woven by hand, with infinite pains, in a gay pattern of red and yellow, the long scarf had become very nearly priceless in these days of great hurry and poor workmanship.
Lassonde wore his ceinture with a dramatic air. One should dress for the ladies. As they marched up a frozen branch of the Peribonka and drew near to the location of the cabane, Pierre made sure that his knitted tuque drooped over one ear. His laughing blue eyes brightened and his stride grew longer until Manseau protested, chuckling so that he shook under his sealskin jacket.
“You’ll wish you hadn’t hurried, Pierre!” he cried. “You’ll kill me, before you get your pay, only to find that she has thick ankles and is half a savage! Bah! I know this type of backwoods girl! I have seen them in court time and again. Their mouths hang open and they know nothing except how to make good soupe aux pois, and work in the fields!”
“Certainly!” agreed Pierre, with a laugh. “Monsieur has spoken truly! But one makes the gesture, nevertheless! Nom de Dieu! What is life for, if not to be lived? Behold the pale and beautiful sun, and the white world! How can a man be alive in this good north country and not be happy with much foolishness? I know very well that the girl will be ugly!”
“I would give a good deal of money, Lassonde, to have your spirit,” said Manseau, soberly. “Yes, I should like to have it!”
“And I should like a great deal of money, me!” laughed Pierre.
“Worthless!” barked the lawyer. “I have a good deal and I cannot buy what I want most!”
“I would be willing to try that!” Lassonde shook his head in disbelief. “Look! I have only this ceinture! It is worth a good many dollars, they say, but when I truly love I shall give it to my wife and then I shall have nothing at all! Do you think that is a good thing? No! It is better to be a wise man, like you, and make money!” The distinguished regarded Pierre thoughtfully, enviously. He sighed and shrugged.
“I eat and drink well,” he said slowly. “Some beautiful women have smiled at me, now and then, but I am not happy. However, this talk is foolishness. I shall find what I want sometime, and when I find it I shall take it! At least it is a comfort to know that one has power!”
“Ah, yes!” agreed Lassonde, meditating. “That is a comfort!”
After that, they were silent for a long time, each thinking his own thoughts. Swish-swish! Swish-swish! The rhythm of their movements was broken now and then by the clatter of wood against wood when Manseau failed in the swinging stride and his snowshoes hit each other. Otherwise, there was no sound except the steady movement through the surface snow. The forest lay dark and silent and white blanketed along the shores of the little river.
IT WAS about noon when they rounded a turn and came upon a little clearing where the axe had pushed back the woods. In the centre, some log buildings clustered, and from one, with a chimney, a thin line of smoke rose into the still air. The cabin was drifted half under and some of the sheds were covered almost entirely by huge mounds of snow. Blue shadows lay painted upon the dazzling surface; and there were soft white curves where the wind had done its sculpturing.
“Ah, beautiful!” cried Pierre, and his feet moved faster.
“If the girl is half as beautiful, you’ll have good reason for that devil-may-care swagger!” laughed Monseau. “How do you know that this is the place?”
“If one knows the bush it is simple,” replied Lassonde. “I had my directions from a good woodsman, monsieur.” “Every hill and every river looks the same to me,” said the lawyer. “Anyhow, we’ll soon know whether you are right!” Lassonde struck into a narrow path that led, probably, from the water supply. He saw many prints of small moccasins and decided that this Mignonne Millette -must be very young to have such little feet. There was only one pair of snowshoes, stuck in a snowbank by the doorway; they were light, and tasseled, and must belong to a girl. By that sign, Alcidas must be away from home. Pierre took off a sheep-lined mitten and pounded upon the hewn planks of the door.
Often, the great moments come upon a man when he has the gates of his soul closed; when he sleeps, with his head nodding stupidily. Thus it was with Pierre Lassonde. His jaw dropped and he stood looking like an imbecile into the face of the girl who opened that cabin door. How, he asked himself, did an angel from heaven happen to be here in a blue flannel dress? It was not possible that he saw what he saw. Hair,like golden moonlight, drawn down about her ears; eyes, dark with the mystery of the forest and bright with the sparkle of starlit nights. She stood looking at him, and he looked at her; until Manseau pushed him to one side, with a laugh, and spoke.
“Mademoiselle,” he said, “we are trying to find Alcidas Millette, and his daughter, Mlle. Mignonne Millette. I am Christophe Manseau, an avocat of Montreal, and this is my guide, Pierre Lassonde. He is no more astonished than I am at sight of a girl like you in this wilderness. Already, we are repaid for a long and hard trip!”
If there had been any trace of apprehension in her face, it vanished now; to be replaced by a little sadness as she stepped aside.
“Enter, messieurs!” she said, in a soft, pleasant voice. “I am Mignonne Millette. My father died last fall, and I have been alone here since St. Catherine’s day.”
“Alone?” echoed Manseau. “Mon Dieu! This is terrible!”
“It is home to me,” she smiled, “and I am not afraid. It seemed better for me to stay through the winter, at least. There is a friendly trapper a day’s march to the west, and I know how to shoot! Also, I don’t let strangers in unless they look all right. There is a little hole in the door, messieurs, and I looked you over before I took down the bar!”
“Bon!” grunted Manseau, watching her with strange eyes. “Perhaps you will permit us to dine with you, mademoiselle, and then I will tell you what business has brought us here.”
“But, yes!” She swung a crane carrying a steaming kettle of pea soup out from the fireplace, and brought a long, crusty loaf of bread. “You shall be served at once!”
Lassonde, who had remained speechless, marvelled. This girl, who might have been expected to be in appearance all that the lawyer had predicted, might also have been expected to speak a patois such as one so often hears in the bush. Instead, her French showed that she had had some convent training, certainly; and Pierre could judge, because his family had sent him to school until the call of the woods had become too strong.
He took off his ceinture thoughtfully, fingering it, and wondering how it would look if it were wound gayly around the slender body of Mignonne Millette. He put it, with his sheep lined jacket and his pack and rifle, in a corner of that well scrubbed room and drew a bench up to the table. With a pang of jealousy, he saw the glance of Christophe Manseau follow the girl. Malediction! How could he, in his homespun and sheepskin, compare with this avocat who wore rich furs and clothes made by a Montreal tailor? Moreover, the girl, herself, was rich. It would be a good thing for Pierre Lassonde to fill his stomach with soupe aux pois, and forget that she was glancing sidewise at him, while she listened to the compliments and answered the questions of the lawyer.
When they were ready to eat, Manseau brought a few small delicacies from his pack, which evidently he had been saving against such time as he might desire a change from beans and salt pork. He opened little tins of well-seasoned meat and set a bottle of fine whiskey upon the table. Lassonde wondered that he had persisted in carrying extra weight, when, for the first two days, it had been all that he could do to keep the easy pace. Here, without doubt, was a man who loved greatly the stomach that rounded against his belt.
THE eyes of Christophe Manseau glistened at the first taste of the soup; he ate three bowls of it, with plenty of corn bread, before he went to his own food. For the palate of Lassonde, the meat in the tins was a little too highly flavored; and, although Mile. Millette tasted and wondered over it, she did not eat much. It was Manseau who made the great meal, consuming twice as much as the others together. It seemed as though the man had come to a much desired end, after long waiting, and that whatever restraint he had put upon himself during the days that Lassonde had known him was now thrown aside.
Ever the gaze of Manseau turned from his food and his glass to follow the girl. He watched her as she went to refill his soup bowl, letting his glance run along the fine curves of her figure. He dwelt upon her little feet, clad in neat bottes sauvages, and caressed, with his eyes, the pale curls that gathered at the back of her neck. Lassonde told himself that it was foolish to find fault with a man for admiring Mignonne Millette; and yet as he watched under troubled brows, he could not but feel that Manseau looked at her as though she were a rich morsel of food which he was about to gobble.
“Mademoiselle Mignonne,” said the lawyer, when he had emptied his glass at the end of the meal and lighted a very thick cigar, “I told you that I had news. Now you shall hear what it is!”
“I hope it is good!” she smiled. “I have been wondering . . . thinking a great deal as we ate. I know it cannot be bad news, for now there is no one left whom I love greatly ... no one to go away from me as my father did.”
Manseau had the grace to wait until the tears left her eyes; meanwhile he rolled the cigar between his bulging lips. A new expression had come into the face of the man, and it was one that made Lassonde vaguely uneasy.
“My child,” he said, at length, “you have forgotten the brother of your father, Tacite Miilette! Don’t you remember of hearing your father speak of his brother, a habitant who lived near Trois Rivières?”
“Ah, yes!” But her face did not light up with any degree of pleasure. “I had forgotten Uncle Tacite. It was because of some trouble with him, that my father left the old parishes and came up here into the wilderness. Me, I do not know that I owe much to Tacite Miilette! Yet I will help him if he is old, and very poor. I have not much, but I can spare something.”
“Hear her!” cried Manseau. “The angel! But no, mademoiselle, you will never be called upon to help Tacite Miilette. He is dead, and to undo the wrong he did your father, perhaps, he has left you fifty thousand dollars! It was his whole fortune, and it is all for you!”
A little gasp in the silence of the room; Mignonne stared at the lawyer as though she were sleep walking. Her lips parted,and two little spots of pink spread in her cheeks. The small brown fists trembled against the table, and for a moment she could not speak. Pierre Lassonde watched her, earnestly. He had not known the amount, and it was greater than he had thought. A fortune in that country; yes, she could go where she liked and live as she pleased.
“May le bon Dieu forgive me for having thought evil of my uncle!” she whispered.
“You had reason,” said Manseau. “But think, Mignonne! Forget the past and think of the future! To-day, if you like, you can start for Quebec, for Montreal! Life opens before you! You can leave what little there is here behind you and never think of it again. Throw it away!”
“No!” She shook her head decidedly. “I could not go and leave the animals like that!”
“Poof!” exclaimed the lawyer. “You can buy more animals!”
“Buy more? Do you think I would desert Prince, the horse, and Nicolette, who has given us milk for three years? Not at all!”
“But ...” Christophe Manseau shrugged. “Very well! Someone can be hired and sent back to take care of them. I am not a poor man, mademoiselle. It will be a pleasure to undertake this for you. Yes, it will be worth much to help you learn how to get pleasure from your money, if you will permit me.”
“I have pleasure,” she replied, slowly; with troubled eyes looking first to the avocat and then to Lassonde, as though for help. “Bon Dieu! This money troubles me!”
“Mademoiselle!” exclaimed Pierre, huskily. “You must not take it like that! Understand me! You can walk along the Rue de la Fabrique in Quebec, where I have been, and buy anything you wish in the shops, French or English. Parbleu! You are as rich as an American! You are powerful! I wish I had as much, or knew how to earn it!”
“You also think that this money is a blessing?” she asked. “Eh, bien! It must be true, then! But I am troubled!”
“It does not trouble you half so much as your eyes trouble us!” cried Manseau, leaning over the table. “Dieu Seigneur! I would give fifty thousand to make them look at me as I would like to have them look at me!”
“Monsieur!” She drew back in her chair, alarmed. The avocat raised a hand.
“I mean it,” he told her, “and you need not be frightened. You are something I have looked for for many years, Mignonne Miilette. Peace, and a taste in the mouth like rare wine! Truly, I did not think there was one like you this side of Paradise!”
“Mademoiselle is in paradise now,” said Pierre, shifting nervously in his chair. “She does not know that there is any other place. And, if I can help it, she shall not learn!”
Manseau scowled, and his heavy jaws seemed to grow wider as he swung around slowly and glared at the guide. Lassonde knew that, from that moment, his employer hated him: it was understood between them with a look. Christophe Manseau wanted the girl on any terms, and Pierre Lassonde would fight to keep her from unhappiness. It was not that Lassonde had gone so far as to determine that Manseau should not marry Mignonne; it was rather that he pledged himself, inwardly, to see that no harm came to her and that she had whatever her heart desired.
The hint of the clash of battle, as yet afar off, was in the air. Mignonne felt it, and was confused. It was plain that she was a little flattered as well as scared by the man of importance who had come all this distance from Montreal on account of her. Also she was interested in Lassonde. The money was as yet vague to her; Pierre guessed rightly that she was more interested in the two personalities than in fifty thousand dollars.
“Messieurs!” She spread out her hands. “You must not quarrel over me! Let me think a little. Overnight, if you please! And give me a chance to pray. First of all, I must know whether I want to leave my home now and go down to the old parishes with you. Truly, I have been happy here! It is lonely to you, M Manseau, but to me it is home. Here my father is buried. Here I have picked cornflowers, and watched the stars, and listened to the singing river. One night to think, I beg of you!”
“A week, if you will!” promised Manseau, pouring himself another drink. His hand shook, but not from the whiskey. “What other business I have can wait, and Lassonde will stay to take us out of the woods. He knows that he will be well paid!”
“I will stay for the sake of mademoiselle,” said Pierre, “and I will do what she wishes. But from now on, monsieur, my pay ceases and I am my own man. It will go better like that. For I am a bucheron, monsieur, a man of the axe. And we are free!”
Manseau stared at him, anger clouding his eyes. Either he was not ready to quarrel or else he thought it bad policy, for presently he laughed.
“As you like, Pierre! The money is yours if you want it. Certainly I must have a guide!”
The moment of tension passed. Mignonne Miilette rose from the table with an embarrassed laugh of relief, and began to clear away the thick soup bowls and the heavy plates. Pierre filled his pipe and put a fresh log on the fire; while Manseau stared into the red depths, busy with his own thoughts. They sat in front of that fireplace, the three of them, talking until it was time to milk Nicolette and feed her and the horse. This Lassonde did, under the direction of Mignonne, and Manseau followed them with a cigar in his mouth and his eyes watching each gesture of the girl.
Supper and a long evening in front of the fire. It seemed that Christophe Manseau had begun a campaign against the heart of Mignonne; he was undertaking to carry on her education, to give her a taste of the flattery which her beauty could command, to teach her the power of her money. He did this well, subtly making himself a part of everything, and sweeping Pierre into the dark background of the bush which she would leave behind. She listened, and she asked intelligent questions, but, in the liquid depths of her gaze, Lassonde could find no hint of what she really thought of all this. She smiled little smiles which rippled from eyes to lips but she gave no hint of her feelings.
When it was time to go to bed, and Mignonne had gone to the room partitioned off at one end of the cabin, Manseau took the bunk that had belonged to Alcidas Millette. Without protest, Lassonde unrolled his bed upon the floor and lay down with his feet to the fire. He looked over at the lawyer, and found him watching. Red firelight and shadow fell upon the big face, grotesquely. Pierre went to sleep with the vague fancy that Christophe Manseau was getting ready to eat something.
THE next day began uneventfully. The avocat was at his best, with a long sleep and a solid breakfast under his belt. He talked, he made Mignonne laugh, he helped her wipe the dishes while Lassonde brought in the day’s supply of wood and water. Pierre worked without haste, and with a heavy sadness upon him. He could only wait to see what was going to happen. Often, it was necessary for him to jerk his shoulders back, and set his tuque still more rakishly over one ear, in order to keep his spirits up. It seemed to him, that Mignonne was giving more and more heed to the talk of Manseau; that she laughed oftener than she had the evening before.
Christophe Manseau was waiting for the girl; and she was waiting for some intangible thing within herself. Perhaps, she was waiting for her own mind to be made up. If events obeyed her will, Lassonde would be content. Let her decide when she would go, and how, or whether she would stay in the cabin for the present If the path of Mignonne were unhindered toward whatever she might consider happiness, then Pierre told himself that he would be satisfied, and ready to take the trail again. Yes; he must take the trail with his forehead set against the tump-line of his pack and his heart set as steadfastly away from memories of Mignonne Millette.
However, it was not to be settled like this; and, from the first, Lassonde had had a feeling that it would not be. The forces moving Christophe Manseau were too strong for peace in that cabane. Just at the edge of the early darkness, Pierre came in from some small errand out of doors. He stopped, even as the door thudded shut behind him; stopped with his body poised and his mind alert to danger as he looked from the flushed and lowering face of Manseau to the pale girl.
The table was between them. They had been staring at each other in silence; during a pause in some drama that had been going on there when Lassonde entered. Manseau turned toward Pierre with all insolence, and desire, and consciousness of power in his gloomy eyes and his half smile. Pierre Lassonde knew that the lawyer had made a decision which might mean death for one of them.
“Lassonde,” he said, hoarsely, “I have just asked Mignonne to become my wife!”
“Yes? And what, monsieur l’avocat, does mademoiselle say to that?”
“No!” cried the girl, in a clear voice. “That is what she says! M. Lassonde, he frightens me!”
“It is not necessary to be afraid,” Pierre told her, quietly. “M. Manseau, it is time that you and I started south, whether or not Mlle. Millette goes with us. She can follow later on to claim her inheritance!”
“Lassonde,” said the lawyer, steadily, “I will take the trouble to explain to you, because I prefer not to be obliged to kill you. Mignonne, here, has what I have always wanted and never found. She is peace of the spirit for me, and she is beautiful! I want her. I shall marry her in the first village where there is a priest, and I shall see to it that she wants to marry me! You understand! Now take your pack and go!”
There was no doubt that Manseau meant every word he said. The only question in the mind of Lassonde was as to how he should fight this man.
“Perhaps monsieur has forgotten the law?” he suggested. “It is not well to kill a man, even in the bush!”
“You fool!” laughed Manseau. “You know we are beyond the law here! And if we were not I know how to lead the law by its nose!”
The hand of Pierre went to his knife. He took one step forward, and became motionless as the avocat swung up a rifle and let it rest across his arm.
“I have my gun, and yours, and the rifle of old Millette! You are done, Lassonde!”
Manseau had been right; he was a fool! To let a man from the cities trick him! Then, in lightning flashes, his mind took hold of the problem; he must begin to turn defeat into victory now or never. Although he gazed steadily at Manseau, he was conscious that Mignonne had come silently to him for protection. He risked a bullet and took one swift step that brought him in front of her: the rifle jerked in the hands of the lawyer but he did not fling it up to fire. Lassonde remained still and evidently Manseau did not know exactly what he intended to do.
“Mignonne!” exclaimed Pierre, in a low voice. “Keep behind me, and open the door! As I back out, stay so close behind me that you touch me!”
Christophe Manseau exploded with a swift volley of curses, he raised the rifle, shifted from side to side, but he could not fire with his uncertain marksmanship; not unless he wanted to take an even chance of killing or wounding Mignonne. He hesitated, as though he were about to throw down the weapon and attack Lassonde with his hands; thought better of that evidently, and advanced slowly toward them.
Pierre heard a movement behind, and knew by the rush of cold air that the door was open; then the arms of Mignonne encircled him from the rear. Her chin pressed against his shoulder and her hands clasped across his breast. Step by step, they moved together, backward, out of the cabin. Manseau followed. Pierre swept up the snowshoes of Mignonne and his own as they reached them. He and the girl continued to retreat carefully along one of the paths.
It was dusk already, and in the woods it would be dark. Manseau stopped, dropped to one knee with the rifle ready at hand, and began to lace on his snowshoes. He had guessed, apparently, that Lassonde was making for the forest and he would know that they could not keep close together on snowshoes. A chance for a shot then! Pierre half smiled to himself; he wanted Manseau to think just that, and he wanted him to follow.
There was a kind of truce, while the lawyer fumbled with the lacings of his snowshoes; and Mignonne and Pierre had theirs on and were away before he straightened up in the half light and started to come after them. They plunged into the woods and ran, straight on, until Lassonde felt that he had enough lead to do what he had in mind.
Pierre, with a whispered caution to silence, pushed Mignonne down behind a big rock that rose, white mounded, above the level of the snow. Then he hastily scooped snow over her until she was white and indistinguishable in the gloom of night; darkness faintly penetrated by the light of the stars.
LASSONDE went on rapidly, plunging now into clumps of brush that rose above the snow and flinging himself against dead branches so that they snapped loudly in the stillness. He was using the tactics of the mother partridge who hides her young and leads the hunter away from them. It was crude, and a woodsman on his trail would have become instantly suspicious, but when a bullet sang above his head and the report of the rifle came crashing after him he knew that he had deceived Christophe Manseau.
Pierre laughed, and went on. A mile or so, and then Lassonde slipped off at right angles through a clump of firs and waited. When he heard the pursuer coming, he threw a branch high into the air so that it fell ahead of Manseau. A red flash stabbed the night; Christophe Manseau went heavily past, breathing hard with the labor of his chase and the belief that he was close to the quarry. The man must be half mad to fire recklessly like that, if he wanted to save Mignonne. Mad? Well, men went mad in the bush; men who did not know the north star and the signs which were so plainly to read by one who had learned them.
Pierre Lassonde turned and went swiftly back to Mignonne. He found her with mittenless hands tucked under her arms, shivering, and he took off his own jacket and mittens and gave them to her.
“It is over,” he said. “Now we can go back to the cabane, and my rifle! If Christophe Manseau should be able to find his way back, he can’t get in without stopping a bullet!”
She walked beside him in silence until they were in the cabin again, with the door barred and the windows shuttered. As a precaution, which he knew was not necessary, Lassonde made sure that his rifle was ready to hand. He filled the magazine and slipped a cartridge into the chamber.
Then he walked over to the fireside, where Mignonne Millette was watching him. Her hair was burnished gold in the red light. There was an expression in her dark eyes which he had not seen there before. It seemed to invite him so that he took a step toward her, with hands lifted; then it held him back. He stood wondering and hesitating. What did it matter that she was rich? After all, he was a free man of the north and never yet had he been afraid to speak when the time for words came!
“I love you,” he said. “I have nothing but my ceinture lechee to offer you. I had it from my father, and he from his father. That is all my fortune, and I shall give it to my wife. Then I shall have nothing at all! It is droll, is it not, Mignonne?”
“It is very droll, Pierre Lassonde,” she said, with the sparkle of a little star in each of her eyes. “This fortune will be quite agreeable, no doubt, but I would give it up rather than lose . . . happiness!”
“Diable!” cried Pierre, joyously. “Do you mean ...”
“Wait!” She leaned forward and peered up into his face, searching him. “We have forgotten something! The avocat from Montreal, what will happen to him in the woods to-night?”
“Ah ... his soul will go . . . wherever it belongs!” replied Lassonde. uneasily. He made the sign of the cross. “Mignonne, I have not yet forgotten the way he looked at you!”
“Then he cannot take care of himself?”
“No! I doubt whether he knows how to make a fire that will burn!”
“Alors!” she murmured, softly, watching his face. “What are you going to do about it, my bucheron?”
Lassonde, looking down at her as she stood so straight and so little before him, felt his heart soften. He imagined the big and soft Manseau traveling in a circle through the night, unable to follow his own back track, tiring, going into a panic, falling, bitten even by cold until he was tortured, numb. Perhaps the wolves would follow; eyes glaring from the deep shadows. Down in the snow, and getting up each time more slowly. Praying with half forgotten words. Manseau still at last, under the stars, with a fine white powder drifting over him and a long howl rising in the distance; or maybe a rush of dark bodies even before the last flicker of consciousness had gone out. It was no longer the Christophe Manseau who had tried to harm Mignonne. A call came to Pierre, and he had ears to hear. Brother! Brother!
“I shall go and bring him in, Mignonne!” he whispered. He pulled on his mittens and squared his shoulders and smiled down at her. “Do you want to go with me?”
She flung her head back, with her eyes flashing happiness.
“Truly, I will go with thee!” she cried. “And I shall wear the ceinture lechee of thy father’s father, my Pierre!”