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Madeleine De Vercheres: The Heroine Of Castle Dangerous
by [?]

The Seignieur was at that time on duty at Quebec, his wife was also away on a visit to Montreal, and their daughter, Madeleine, a girl of fourteen, was in command of both fort and home–not very difficult offices to fill, so thought her parents in leaving, as there had been no attacks for some time, and we can picture Madeleine, tall and slender, with a wealth of golden-brown hair falling over her low brow, her eyes dancing with merriment as she received her list of household duties from her mother, and her commands concerning the fort from her father, sure that the hours and days of the golden autumn would bring her no graver responsibilities than she had carried before.

Her morning duties in the home despatched, she sauntered down to the river boat-landing, taking with her a hired man named Laviolette. She was expecting some friends from Montreal and for a long time she stood on the bank of the sparkling river, shading her eyes from the glare of the sun, watching eagerly in hopes of seeing the boatload coming. It was not in sight, and she chatted with Laviolette and watched the movements of some near-by fishing craft for a moment. Suddenly she turned, stood still, and held up a silencing finger to the garrulous Laviolette, who was spinning a sea yarn of his boyhood. She had heard an ominous sound in the direction of the field where the settlers were at work.

“Run, Laviolette, to the top of the hill and see what it is,” she said, without serious apprehension. The man, quick to do her bidding, ran to a point of vantage, stood beside her again, and what was it he said?

“Shots! Run, Mademoiselle, run !” he cried, “here come the Iroquois!”

The warning was too late. As Madeleine turned she found herself within gun range of forty or fifty of the dreaded Indians! Like a bit of thistle-down blown by the wind, she ran toward the fort, her brown hair flying in the breeze, commending herself as she ran, so she herself afterwards told, to the Holy Virgin, the Iroquois in hot pursuit, but not one of them fleet-footed enough to catch the fleeing maiden. Disconcerted, they stood still, seeing that pursuit was fruitless, and, standing, fired at her, the bullets whistling about her ears, while her heart beat so fast with fright that it seemed she could not take another step. But still she was fleeing, fleeing. She was at the gate at last, she cried loudly, “To arms! To arms!” praying that someone within would hear her and come to the rescue, but she prayed in vain. The two soldiers who were in the fort were so terror stricken that they ran to the blockhouse and hid, and only one answered Madeleine’s call. To add to her horror, outside the gate were two women huddled, moaning for their husbands who had just been killed before their eyes. There was no time for quiet thought, but in Madeleine’s veins flowed the blood of warriors. In a brave voice she called, “Go in, and cease your crying!” and pushing the women inside the gate, closed it, as she did so, trying to think how she was to save the other defenceless ones of whom in her father’s absence she was the guardian. With flying feet she inspected the fort and wall, and to her dismay found that in several places the defences were so insecure that the enemy could easily push through. The weak spots must be barricaded at once. With peremptory orders Madeleine set her few helpers to work, and herself fetched wood for her purpose, helping place it with her quick strong hands. That done, she went into the blockhouse where all the ammunition was kept, and there crouching in a corner she found the two soldiers, one with a lighted match in his hand.