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

“What are you going to do with that?” she asked.

Too frightened to lie, he answered, “Light the powder and blow us all up.”

Madeleine flashed a glance of contempt at him. “You are a miserable coward!” she said. “Go out of this place. I am commander of the fort,” and there was that in her voice which made the men obey. Then throwing off her bonnet, putting on a more masculine hat, and taking up a gun, in the use of which she was unusually skilful, she gave a command to her two brothers, who were awaiting her orders. “Let us fight to the death,” she said. “We are fighting for our country and our religion. Remember our father has taught you that gentlemen are born to shed their blood for the service of God and the King.”

The boys were only ten and twelve years old, but they had received the same early training as Madeleine, and in their veins too ran the blood of those who conquer. The stirring words roused their courage, and like old seasoned warriors they took up arms, and with what ability they possessed began at once to fire through the loopholes of the blockhouse on the Iroquois, who, having no idea how many soldiers were inside defending the garrison, were overcome with fear, and giving up their attack on the fort, began to chase the people in a neighbouring field, and killed all whom they could catch. Madeleine was now so thoroughly filled with the spirit of war that she at once ordered a cannon to be fired, partly to keep the enemy from a further assault, and also as a signal to some of the soldiers who were at a distance, hunting. And all this time within the fort there was the shrill sound of the women and children wailing and screaming. Madeleine, on guard at a loophole, gave a stern order, “Be quiet, or your screams will encourage the enemy!” Then with far sighted eyes she saw a canoe gliding up to the landing-place, the one that she had been looking for in that care-free hour which now seemed years ago; the canoe in which was her friend who was trying to reach the fort with his family. Knowing how near the Indians were, Madeleine was terrified lest the visitors should be killed before her eyes, and she begged the soldiers to go to their aid, but they were not brave enough to do it. She must go herself. With a hasty command to Laviolette to keep watch at the gate while she was gone, she ran out alone down to the landing-place. She afterwards said, “I thought that the savages would suppose it to be a ruse to draw them towards the fort, in order to make a rush upon them. They did suppose so, and thus I was able to save my friends, the Fontaine family. When they were landed I made them all march up to the fort before me in full sight of the enemy. We put so bold a face on that they thought they had more to fear than we had.” Thus the settlers and their plucky young escort gained the shelter of the fort, and Madeleine, quite encouraged by this addition to the number of her forces, at once ordered that whenever an Indian came in sight, he should at once be fired on, which order was faithfully obeyed, and in watching and firing, the hours of the long day wore away.

After sunset a fierce northeast wind came up, accompanied with a flurry of snow and hail, and as the little band in the fort heard the howling of the wind they looked at one another with pale and terrified faces, fearing that the Iroquois, who were still lurking near, would be able, under cover of the noise and darkness of the storm, to climb into the fort, and all would be lost. Whitest of all was Madeleine, the young commander, but she gathered her troop of six persons around her, and said stoutly, “God has saved us to-day from the hands of our enemies, but we must take care not to fall into their snares to-night. As for me, I want you to see that I am not afraid. I will take care of the fort with an old man of eighty and another who never fired a gun, and you, Pierre Fontaine, with the two soldiers, will go to the blockhouse with the women and children because that is the strongest place, and if I am taken, don’t surrender, even if I am cut to pieces and burned before your eyes. The enemy cannot hurt you in the blockhouse if you make the least show of fight.”