Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- The Seats Of The Mighty, Volume 5. - 10/13 -
we stooped beside a brook that leaped lightly down the ravine, and drank a little rum and water. Then I led the way, Clark at one side of me, and a soldier of the Light Infantry at the other. It was hard climbing, but, following in our careful steps as silently as they might, the good fellows came eagerly after. Once a rock broke loose and came tumbling down, but plunged into a thicket, where it stayed; else it might have done for us entirely. I breathed freely when it stopped. Once, too, a branch cracked loudly, and we lay still; but hearing nothing above, we pushed on, and, sweating greatly, came close to the top.
Here I drew back with Clark, for such honour as there might be in gaining the heights first I wished to go to these soldiers who had trusted their lives to my guidance. I let six go by and reach the heights, and then I drew myself up. We did not stir till all twenty-four were safe; then we made a dash for the tents of Lancy, which now showed in the first gray light of morning. We made a dash for them, were discovered, and shots greeted us; but we were on them instantly, and in a moment I had the pleasure of putting a bullet in Lancy's heel, and brought him down. Our cheers told the general the news, and soon hundreds of soldiers were climbing the hard way that we had come.
And now while an army climbed to the heights of Maitre Abraham, Admiral Saunders in the gray dawn was bombarding Montcalm's encampment, and boats filled with marines and soldiers drew to the Beauport flats, as if to land there; while shots, bombs, shells, and carcasses were hurled from Levis upon the town, deceiving Montcalm. At last, however, suspecting, he rode towards the town at six o'clock, and saw our scarlet ranks spread across the plains between him and Bougainville, and on the crest, nearer to him, eying us in amazement, the white-coated battalion of Guienne, which should the day before have occupied the very ground held by Lancy. A slight rain falling added to their gloom, but cheered us. It gave us a better light to fight by, for in the clear September air, the bright sun shining in our faces, they would have had us at advantage.
In another hour the gates of St. John and St. Louis emptied out upon this battlefield a warring flood of our foes. It was a handsome sight: the white uniforms of the brave regiments, Roussillon, La Sarre, Guienne, Languedoc, Bearn, mixed with the dark, excitable militia, the sturdy burghers of the town, a band of coureurs de bois in their rough hunter's costume, and whooping Indians, painted and furious, ready to eat us. At last here was to be a test of fighting in open field, though the French had in their whole army twice the number of our men, a walled and provisioned city behind them, and field-pieces in great number to bring against us.
But there was bungling with them. Vaudreuil hung back or came tardily from Beauport; Bougainville had not yet arrived; and when they might have pitted twice our number against us, they had not many more than we. With Bougainville behind us and Montcalm in front, we might have been checked, though there was no man in all our army but believed that we should win the day. I could plainly see Montcalm, mounted on a dark horse, riding along the lines as they formed against us, waving his sword, a truly gallant figure. He was answered by a roar of applause and greeting. On the left their Indians and burghers overlapped our second line, where Townsend with Amherst's and the Light Infantry, and Colonel Burton with the Royal Americans and Light Infantry, guarded our flank, prepared to meet Bougainville. In vain our foes tried to get between our right flank and the river; Otway's Regiment, thrown out, defeated that.
It was my hope that Doltaire was with Montcalm, and that we might meet and end our quarrel. I came to know afterwards that it was he who had induced Montcalm to send the battalion of Guienne to the heights above the Anse du Foulon. The battalion had not been moved till twenty-four hours after the order was given, or we should never have gained those heights; stones rolled from the cliff would have destroyed an army.
We waited, Clark and I, with the Louisburg Grenadiers while they formed. We made no noise, but stood steady and still, the bagpipes of the Highlanders shrilly challenging. At eight o'clock sharpshooters began firing on us from the left, and skirmishers were thrown out to hold them in check, or dislodge them and drive them from the houses where they sheltered and galled Townsend's men. Their field-pieces opened on us, too, and yet we did nothing, but at nine o'clock, being ordered, lay down and waited still. There was no restlessness, no anxiety, no show of doubt, for these men of ours were old fighters, and they trusted their leaders. From bushes, trees, coverts, and fields of grain there came that constant hail of fire, and there fell upon our ranks a doggedness, a quiet anger, which grew into a grisly patience. The only pleasure we had in two long hours was in watching our two brass six-pounders play upon the irregular ranks of our foes, making confusion, and Townsend drive back a detachment of cavalry from Cap Rouge, which sought to break our left flank and reach Montcalm.
We had seen the stars go down, the cold, mottled light of dawn break over the battered city and the heights of Charlesbourg; we had watched the sun come up, and then steal away behind slow-travelling clouds and hanging mist; we had looked across over unreaped cornfields and the dull, slovenly St. Charles, knowing that endless leagues of country, north and south, east and west, lay in the balance for the last time. I believed that this day would see the last of the strife between England and France for dominion here; of La Pompadour's spite which I had roused to action against my country; of the struggle between Doltaire and myself.
The public stake was worthy of our army--worthy of the dauntless soldier, who had begged his physicians to patch him up long enough to fight this fight, whereon he staked reputation, life, all that a man loves in the world; the private stake was more than worthy of my long sufferings. I thought that Montcalm would have waited for Vaudreuil, but no. At ten o'clock his three columns moved down upon us briskly, making a wild rattle; two columns moving upon our right and one upon our left, firing obliquely and constantly as they marched. Then came the command to rise, and we stood up and waited, our muskets loaded with an extra ball. I could feel the stern malice in our ranks, as we stood there and took, without returning a shot, that damnable fire. Minute after minute passed; then came the sharp command to advance. We did so, and again halted, and yet no shot came from us. We stood there, a long palisade of red.
At last I saw our general raise his sword, a command rang down the long line of battle, and, like one terrible cannon-shot, our muskets sang together with as perfect a precision as on a private field of exercise. Then, waiting for the smoke to clear a little, another volley came with almost the same precision; after which the firing came in choppy waves of sound, and again in a persistent clattering. Then a light breeze lifted the smoke and mist well away, and a wayward sunlight showed us our foe, like a long white wave retreating from a rocky shore, bending, crumpling, breaking, and, in a hundred little billows, fleeing seaward.
Thus checked, confounded, the French army trembled and fell back. Then I heard the order to charge, and from near four thousand throats there came for the first time our exultant British cheer, and high over all rang the slogan of Fraser's Highlanders. To my left I saw the flashing broadswords of the clansmen, ahead of all the rest. Those sickles of death clove through and broke the battalions of La Sarre, and Lascelles scattered the good soldiers of Languedoc into flying columns. We on the right, led by Wolfe, charged the desperate and valiant men of Roussillon and Guienne and the impetuous sharpshooters of the militia. As we came on, I observed the general sway and push forward again, and then I lost sight of him, for I saw what gave the battle a new interest to me: Doltaire, cool and deliberate, animating and encouraging the French troops.
I moved in a shaking hedge of bayonets, keeping my eye on him; and presently there was a hand-to-hand melee, out of which I fought to reach him. I was making for him, where he now sought to rally the retreating columns, when I noticed, not far away, Gabord, mounted, and attacked by three grenadiers. Looking back now, I see him, with his sabre cutting right and left, as he drove his horse at one grenadier, who slipped and fell on the slippery ground, while the horse rode on him, battering him. Obliquely down swept the sabre, and drove through the cheek and chin of one foe; another sweep, and the bayonet of the other was struck aside; and another, which was turned aside as Gabord's horse came down, bayoneted by the fallen grenadier. But Gabord was on his feet again, roaring like a bull, with a wild grin on his face, as he partly struck aside the bayonet of the last grenadier. It caught him in the flesh of the left side. He grasped the musket-barrel, and swung his sabre with fierce precision. The man's head dropped back like the lid of a pot, and he tumbled into a heap of the faded golden-rod flower which spattered the field.
It was at this moment I saw Juste Duvarney making towards me, hatred and deadly purpose in his eyes. I had will enough to meet him, and to kill him too, yet I could not help but think of Alixe. Gabord saw him, also, and, being nearer, made for me as well. For that act I cherish his memory. The thought was worthy of a gentleman of breeding; he had the true thing in his heart. He would save us--two brothers--from fighting, by fighting me himself.
He reached me first, and with an "Au diable!" made a stroke at me. It was a matter of sword and sabre now. Clark met Juste Duvarney's rush; and there we were, at as fine a game of cross-purposes as you can think: Clark hungering for Gabord's life (Gabord had once been his jailer, too), and Juste Duvarney for mine; the battle faring on ahead of us. Soon the two were clean cut off from the French army, and must fight to the death or surrender.
Juste Duvarney spoke only once, and then it was but the rancorous word "Renegade!" nor did I speak at all; but Clark was blasphemous, and Gabord, bleeding, fought with a sputtering relish.
"Fair fight and fowl for spitting," he cried. "Go home to heaven, dickey-bird."
Between phrases of this kind we cut and thrust for life, an odd sort of fighting. I fought with a desperate alertness, and presently my sword passed through his body, drew out, and he shivered--fell--where he stood, collapsing suddenly like a bag. I knelt beside him, and lifted up his head. His eyes were glazing fast.
"Gabord! Gabord!" I called, grief-stricken, for that work was the worst I ever did in this world.
He started, stared, and fumbled at his waistcoat. I quickly put
Previous Page Next Page
1 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything