ON the St. Lawrence River, about twenty miles from
Montreal, there is a pleasant French village called
Verchères. You will see it as you sail down the
river. You will think it very pretty with its small,
old-fashioned houses nestling among the trees, its old
French windmill, and the white spire of its little
church towering above its quiet street and blooming
Two hundred and twenty years ago there was no village
there. A short distance from the river's bank,
however, there was a log fort with palisades around it.
The palisades were made of the trunks of trees set
upright in the ground and so close together that
nothing could pass between. They formed, in fact, a
wooden wall a foot in thickness and ten or twelve feet
high. It was the kind of wall which the early settlers
built to protect themselves from the Indians.
In front of the fort, and joined to it by a covered
way, was a strong blockhouse built also
 of logs. There the guns were kept, and the powder and
The commander of this fort, and indeed the owner of it
and of all the lands around it, was a French gentleman
whose name was M. de Verchères. He had come to
this place, in the heart of the wild Canadian woods, to
found a new home for himself and his family. Here he
lived during the greater part of each year with his
wife and his daughter Madelon, aged fourteen years, and
his two little sons, Louis and Alexander. There were
also in the household several servants; and two
soldiers had been brought from Quebec to man the fort.
One day, in early autumn, M. de Verchères was
called to Quebec on business. His wife was visiting
friends in Montreal. The young girl Madelon was left
at home with her little brothers and the servants.
"Madelon," said her father, "I leave everything in your
care. Keep the fort well while I am gone."
"You may trust me, father," said the child. "But what
if the Iroquois should come?"
 "Nonsense, Madelon. The Iroquois will not dare to show
themselves this side of Montreal. Still it will be
well for you to be watchful."
"And watchful I will be, father. Good-by till your
The boat pushed out into the stream, and Madelon was
left sole mistress of the lonely fort in the midst of
the savage wilderness.
A week, two weeks, three weeks, passed by, and all went
as happily as when the master was at home. The days
were growing shorter, the nights were chilly with now
and then a white frost, the leaves were falling from
the trees. The men were all busy getting ready for
winter,—hauling in the hay, cutting wood, and
putting things in order against the coming of the deep
snows. Scarcely a thought was given to the Iroquois,
although it was known that they were on the warpath.
One day Madelon, as was her habit, went down to the
landing place by the river. It was not more than a
hundred yards from the gate of the fort. A hired man
whose name was Laviolette had just come to shore with a
 of fish. All the rest of the men, except the soldiers
and a grandfather of eighty, were at work in a field
behind the fort.
As Madelon was admiring the fish the sharp crack of
guns was heard in the field.
"The Iroquois!" she cried.
"Yes, yes! Run, Mademoiselle," shouted Laviolette.
She was not a moment too quick. As she ran she saw a
number of painted warriors hurrying to get between her
and the fort. But she was a fleet-footed as a deer and
had the start of them all. The Indians shot at her.
The bullets whizzed close by her ears. How long that
hundred yards seemed!
SHE WAS AS FLEET-FOOTED AS A DEER.
"To arms! To arms!" she screamed to those in the fort,
hoping that the soldiers would come out and help.
But it was of no use. The two fellows were so badly
frightened that they had run and hidden themselves in
Two women met Madelon at the gate, crying, "Oh, what
shall we do? What shall we do? They've killed all the
men, and we are lost!"
"Go back into the fort, you sillies," said Madelon,
 angrily and out of breath. She pushed them back with
her hands. Then she shut the heavy gate and bolted it.
All was confusion inside. The women and children were
running hither and thither and screaming with all their
might. The old grandfather crouched trembling in a
corner. All seemed to have lost their senses.
"Here, Alexander! Here, Louis! Follow me," cried
Madelon. On one side of the fort several of the
palisades had been blown down by a wind. There were
gaps in the wall through which an enemy could shoot,
even if the could not enter.
"Come, every one of you, and help close up these gaps,"
With her own hands she helped to raise the heavy logs
to their places. She told the old man and the boys how
to make them firm. "Be quick and do your work well,"
she said. Laviolette soon joined her, and the weak
places were quickly mended.
The women were still screaming and weeping and running
wildly about. Madelon stopped to quiet them.
 "Hush your noise this moment, or we shall all be lost,"
she said. "Will your crying and moaning do any good?
Hush, I command you."
She spoke so firmly that every one obeyed. She ordered
each of the women to some place of duty. One was to
care for the children in the kitchen, one was to watch
from this corner of the fort, one was to stand guard at
Having thus put matters to rights in the main building
she ran to the blockhouse. There she found Pierre and
Jean, the two soldiers. Pierre was hiding behind some
barrels in a corner. Jean was holding alighted match
in his hand.
"What are you going to do with that match?" asked
"Light the powder and blow us all up," answered Jean,
trembling from head to foot.
"You miserable coward! Get out of here this instant."
She spoke so firmly that the wretched fellow obeyed at
Madelon threw off her bonnet. She put a man's hat on
her head. She took a gun in her hands. She called her
brothers to the blockhouse.
"Here, Louis! Here, Alexander!" she said.
 "You are but children ten and twelve years of age, but
you can be brave. Let us fight to the death. Remember
what our father has taught you, that a gentleman is
born to shed his blood in the service of God and the
With that the two lads seized some guns and began to
fire from the loopholes.
The Indians had gathered at some distance from the
gate, and were afraid to come within closer range of
the rifles. The firing was so sharp that they withdrew
still farther away.
The two soldiers, grown ashamed of their cowardice,
came back and began also to shoot from the loopholes.
There was a single small cannon in the blockhouse.
Madelon ordered it to be fired.
"But we cannot bring it in range of the Indians," said
"Fire it in any case," she said. "It will make them
more afraid of us. It will also be a warning to any of
our friends who may be within hearing distance."
About the middle of the afternoon a canoe was seen
coming toward the landing place.
 "It is Fontaine, the settler whose hut is a mile below
us," said little Louis.
"Yes," said Madelon, "and I see his wife and children
with him. They are coming to the fort to find safety
from the Iroquois."
"But they will never get here," said Laviolette. "The
moment they touch the landing, the savages will be upon
"We must save them," said Madelon. "I myself will go
out and meet them."
It was no use to dissuade the girl. She was the
commander in that fort, and everybody knew it. She
thought not of her own safety but of the welfare of
She ordered Laviolette to open the gate and stand by it
until she returned. Then she walked boldly out in full
view of the savages. They supposed that it was a trick
to draw them nearer to the fort, where they would be
within range of the guns. They were afraid, therefore,
to make any movement toward her.
She went fearlessly down to the landing just as
Fontaine's canoe was coming in. the family were safely
brought to shore. In a few words, Madelon
 told them of their danger. She made them march in good
order before her, showing no signs of fear. The
Indians looked on and kept their distance. They might
easily have captured or killed the whole party, but
they were afraid of falling into some kind of trap.
Night came on and with it a storm of hail and snow.
The wind blew fiercely. It was just such a night as
the savages would wish for their work of destruction
But Madelon was undismayed. She called her garrison
before her. There were six of them.
"God has saved us from our enemies to-day," she said;
"but we must take care not to fall into their hands
to-night. As for me, I am not afraid."
Then she sent each one to his post. She ordered
Fontaine and the two soldiers to keep the blockhouse.
"Take the women and children there, for that is the
safest place. No matter what may happen to me, don't
surrender. The savages cannot get to you in the
Then with Laviolette, the old grandfather, and her
little brothers, she undertook the defense of the rest
of the fort. Laviolette guarded the gate, while
 each of the others stood sentinel at some other
All night long, through the snow and the hail and the
wind, the cry of "All's well!" rang out from each
corner of the fort and was answered by "All's well!"
from the blockhouse. The Indians heard and thought
that the place was full of soldiers. They hold a
council, and decided that it would be unwise to try to
surprise a place that was so well guarded.
It was some time after midnight when the watcher at the
gate called softly to Madelon, "Mademoiselle, I hear
She went and peered through a hole in the wall. In the
darkness she saw what she felt sure were cattle
huddling close up to the gate while the snow was
beating down upon them.
"I think they are our cows," she said, "or at least
such of them as the Iroquois have not stolen. Poor
things, they are needing shelter this fearful night."
"Let us open the gate and call them in," said
"God forbid," said Madelon. "The savages are good at
tricks. Who knows that they are not
 among these cattle, wrapped up in skins and ready to
rush into the fort as soon as the gate is opened?"
for some time everything was quiet. Then it was
decided to open the gate a little and let the cattle
slip in, one at a time. They entered very quietly,
while Louis and Alexander stood on each side with their
guns cocked and ready for any event.
At last the long night was ended. Morning came, and
everybody felt braver and stronger. But all day long
the watch was kept up in fort and blockhouse; and all
day long brave Madelon went hither and thither,
commanding, encouraging, directing. Who could be
afraid in the presence of her cheerful and smiling
face? There was not one of her little company who
would not have died for her.
For forty-eight hours she neither ate nor slept. For a
whole week the savages lurked within sight of the fort.
Courage and watchfulness were necessary every hour.
At last help came at night. A young lieutenant with
forty soldiers landed silently and went
cau-  tiously toward the fort, fearing that it was in the
hands of the Indians. One of the sentinels heard them.
"Who goes there?" he cried.
Madelon was sitting at a table, asleep with her gun
across her arms. The words aroused her.
"Mademoiselle," said the sentinel, "I heard a voice at
Then Madelon herself, in louder tones, demanded, "Who
"We are Frenchmen," was the answer, "and we bring you
Madelon hastened to the gate. When she saw the
Lieutenant at the head of his company, she said,
"Monsieur, I surrender my arms to you."
The lieutenant answered, "Mademoiselle, they are
already in good hands."
"Better than you think," said the brave child.
The men entered the fort and looked around. Everything
was in its place. The sentinels were at their posts.
"Monsieur," said Madelon, "these watchers have been on
guard every hour for a week. Is it not time to relieve