Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- The Trail of the Sword, Volume 4. - 2/7 -
It was in the dark hour before daybreak that Iberville and Perrot met for their first talk after the long separation. What had occurred on the day of Jessica's marriage Perrot had, with the Abbe de Casson's help, written to Iberville. But they had had no words together. Now, in a room of the citadel which looked out on the darkness of the river and the deeper gloom of the Levis shore, they sat and talked, a single candle burning, their weapons laid on the table between them.
They said little at first, but sat in the window looking down on the town and the river. At last Iberville spoke. "Tell me it all as you remember it, Perrot." Perrot, usually swift of speech when once started, was very slow now. He felt the weight of every word, and he had rather have told of the scalping of a hundred men than of his last meeting with Jessica. When he had finished, Iberville said: "She kept the letter, you say?"
Perrot nodded, and drew the ring from a pouch which he carried. "I have kept it safe," he said, and held it out. Iberville took it and turned it over in his hand, with an enigmatical smile. "I will hand it to her myself," he said, half beneath his breath.
"You do not give her up, monsieur?"
Iberville laughed. Then he leaned forward, and found Perrot's eyes in the half darkness. "Perrot, she kept the letter, she would have kept the ring if she could. Listen: Monsieur Gering has held to his word; he has come to seek me this time. He knows that while I live the woman is not his, though she bears his name. She married him--Why? It is no matter --he was there, I was not. There were her father, her friends! I was a Frenchman, a Catholic--a thousand things! And a woman will yield her hand while her heart remains in her own keeping. Well, he has come. Now, one way or another, he must be mine. We have great accounts to settle, and I want it done between him and me. If he remains in the ship we must board it. With our one little craft there in the St. Charles we will sail out, grapple the admiral's ship, and play a great game: one against thirty-four. It has been done before. Capture the admiral's ship and we can play the devil with the rest of them. If not, we can die. Or, if Gering lands and fights, he also must be ours. Sainte-Helene and Maricourt know him, and they with myself, Clermont, and Saint Denis, are to lead and resist attacks by land--Frontenac has promised that: so he must be ours one way or another. He must be captured, tried as a spy, and then he is mine--is mine!"
"Tried as a spy--ah, I see! You would disgrace? Well, but even then he is not yours."
Iberville got to his feet. "Don't try to think it out, Perrot. It will come to you in good time. I can trust you--you are with me in all?"
"Have I ever failed you?"
"Never. You will not hesitate to go against the admiral's ship? Think, what an adventure! Remember Adam Dollard and the Long Sault!"
What man in Canada did not remember that handful of men, going out with an antique courage to hold back the Iroquois, and save the colony, and die? Perrot grasped Iberville's hand, and said: "Where you go, I go. Where I go, my men will follow."
Their pact was made. They sat there in silence till the grey light of morning crept slowly in. Still they did not lie down to rest; they were waiting for De Casson. He came before a ray of sunshine had pierced the leaden light. Tall, massive, proudly built, his white hair a rim about his forehead, his deep eyes watchful and piercing, he looked a soldier in disguise, as indeed he was to-day as much a soldier as when he fought under Turenne forty years before.
The three comrades were together again.
Iberville told his plans. The abbe lifted his fingers in admonition once or twice, but his eyes flashed as Iberville spoke of an attempt to capture the admiral on his own ship. When Iberville had finished, he said in a low voice:
"Pierre, must it still be so--that the woman shall prompt you to these things?"
"I have spoken of no woman, abbe."
"Yet you have spoken." He sighed and raised his hand. "The man--the men--down there would destroy our country. They are our enemies, and we do well to slay. But remember, Pierre--'What God hath joined let no man put asunder!' To fight him as an enemy of your country--well; to fight him that you may put asunder is not well."
A look, half-pained, half-amused, crossed Iberville's face.
"And yet heretics--heretics, abbe"
"Marriage is no heresy."
"H'm-they say different at Versailles."
"Since De Montespan went, and De Maintenon rules?"
Iberville laughed. "Well, well, perhaps not."
They sat silent for a time, but presently Iberville rose, went to a cupboard, drew forth some wine and meat, and put the coffee on the fire. Then, with a gesture as of remembrance, he went to a box, drew forth his own violin, and placed it in the priest's hands. It seemed strange that, in the midst of such great events, the loss or keeping of an empire, these men should thus devote the few hours granted them for sleep; but they did according to their natures. The priest took the instrument and tuned it softly. Iberville blew out the candle. There was only the light of the fire, with the gleam of the slow-coming dawn. Once again, even as years before in the little house at Montreal, De Casson played--now with a martial air. At last he struck the chords of a song which had been a favourite with the Carignan-Salieres regiment.
Instantly Iberville and Perrot responded, and there rang out from three strong throats the words:
"There was a king of Normandy, And he rode forth to war, Gai faluron falurette! He had five hundred men-no more! Gai faluron donde!
"There was a king of Normandy, Came back from war again; He brought a maid, O, fair was she! And twice five hundred men-- Gai faluron falurette! Gai faluron donde!"
They were still singing when soldiers came by the window in the first warm light of sunrise. These caught it up, singing it as they marched on. It was taken up again by other companies, and by the time Iberville presented himself to Count Frontenac, not long after, there was hardly a citizen, soldier, or woodsman, but was singing it.
The weather and water were blustering all that day, and Phips did not move, save for a small attempt--repulsed--by a handful of men to examine the landing. The next morning, however, the attack began. Twelve hundred men were landed at Beauport, in the mud and low water, under one Major Walley. With him was Gering, keen for action--he had persuaded Phips to allow him to fight on land.
To meet the English, Iberville, Sainte-Helene, and Perrot issued forth with three hundred sharpshooters and a band of Huron Indians. In the skirmish that followed, Iberville and Perrot pressed with a handful of men forward very close to the ranks of the English. In the charge which the New Englander ordered, Iberville and Perrot saw Gering, and they tried hard to reach him. But the movement between made it impossible without running too great risk. For hours the fierce skirmishing went on, but in the evening the French withdrew and the New Englanders made their way towards the St. Charles, where vessels were to meet them, and protect them as they crossed the river and attacked the town in the rear --help that never came. For Phips, impatient, spent his day in a terrible cannonading, which did no great damage to the town--or the cliff. It was a game of thunder, nothing worse, and Walley and Gering with their men were neglected.
The fight with the ships began again at daybreak. Iberville, seeing that Walley would not attack, joined Sainte-Helene and Maricourt at the battery, and one of Iberville's shots brought down the admiral's flagstaff, with its cross of St. George. It drifted towards the shore, and Maurice Joval went out in a canoe under a galling fire and brought it up to Frontenac.
Iberville and Sainte-Helene concentrated themselves on the Six Friends-- the admiral's ship. In vain Phips's gunners tried to dislodge them and their guns. They sent ball after ball into her hull and through her rigging; they tore away her mainmast, shattered her mizzenmast, and handled her as viciously as only expert gunners could. The New Englander replied bravely, but Quebec was not destined to be taken by bombardment, and Iberville saw the Six Friends drift, a shattered remnant, out of his line of fire.
It was the beginning of the end. One by one the thirty-four craft drew away, and Walley and Gering were left with their men, unaided in the siege. There was one moment when the cannonading was greatest and the skirmishers seemed withdrawn, that Gering, furious with the delay, almost prevailed upon the cautious Walley to dash across the river and make a desperate charge up the hill, and in at the back door of the town. But Walley was, after all, a merchant and not a soldier, and would not do it. Gering fretted on his chain, sure that Iberville was with the guns against the ships, and would return to harass his New Englanders soon. That evening it turned bitter cold, and without the ammunition promised by Phips, with little or no food and useless field-pieces, their lot was hard.
But Gering had his way the next morning. Walley set out to the Six Friends to represent his case to the admiral. Gering saw how the men chafed, and he sounded a few of them. Their wills were with him they had come to fight, and fight they would, if they could but get the chance. With a miraculous swiftness the whispered word went through the lines. Gering could not command them to it, but if the men went forward he must go with them. The ships in front were silent. Quebec was now interested in these men near the St. Charles River.
As Iberville stood with Frontenac near the palace of the Intendant, watching, he saw the enemy suddenly hurry forward. In an instant he was dashing down to join his brothers, Sainte-Helene, Longueil, and Perrot; and at the head of a body of men they pushed on to get over the ford and hold it, while Frontenac, leading three battalions of troops, got away more slowly. There were but a few hundred men with Iberville, arrayed against Gering's many hundreds; but the French were bush-fighters and the New Englanders were only stout sailors and ploughmen. Yet Gering had no
Previous Page Next Page
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything