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Our Empire Story by  H. E. Marshall
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COUNT FRONTENAC

[74] WHILE La Salle was struggling down the Mississippi, Frontenac, the great Onontio, was having his troubles too. The Indians who had been at peace for so long were growing restless. It needed all Frontenac's cleverness to keep them quiet. And though he kept peace with the Red Man, he could not do so with his white brother. He quarrelled with the Intendant and he quarrelled with the Bishop. At last the quarrels became so bad, that King Louis in anger called both Frontenac and the Intendant home.

Frontenac was followed by a governor who could not manage the Indians at all. They grew insolent, he grew frightened. Then King Louis, more angry than ever, ordered him to come home.

Again, under the next governor, the troubles with the Indians grew no better but rather worse, till the Iroquois prowled about like wolves, and no white man's life was safe. The French plotted, and the Indians plotted. Treachery was met by treachery, blood was wiped out in blood. The Iroquois' hatred of the French, which for a time they seemed to have forgotten, burst out again with wilder fury than before.

One stormy August night, amid the lashing of hail and the scream of the wind, the Indian war-whoop was heard by the sleeping settlers of Fort La Chine, not far from [75] Montreal. Leaping from their beds they made ready to defend themselves. From all sides yelling, painted warriors poured in upon them. Muskets flashed and roared, tomahawk and hatchet gleamed and fell. Many fled in the darkness, but few escaped the awful vengeance of the Indian. When the sun rose it shone upon the ruined, deserted village in the ashes of which lay the dead bodies of two hundred men, women, and children. More than a hundred others were led away captive, many of them to be done to death with horrible tortures in the Indian encampment.

The people of Montreal were filled with horror, the governor was helpless with fear. For two months the Indians prowled about, ravaging and destroying at will. Then they went off to their own country, carrying their prisoners with them. Before they went they gathered around Montreal, filling the air with hideous yells—giving a yell for every prisoner they had taken, and thus showing their scorn of the governor.

Besides this fearful Indian warfare, quarrels between the British and the French colonies were every day becoming more bitter. For many years, while the French north of the St. Lawrence had been founding scattered colonies and trying to make the heathen people Christian, the British colonies south of the St. Lawrence had been growing stronger and stronger. The British had not claimed so much land as the French, but there were far more people in the small part that they had claimed, and they held it with far firmer hands.

Now there began a struggle between the British and the French for the fur trade, for the possession of the waterways by the rivers and great lakes, and for the friendship of the Indians. The Indians had already found out that the British gave them more for their furs than the [76] French. So even those who were friendly with the French were not unwilling to trade with the British. There is no room in this little book to tell of all the quarrels and of the exciting fights which took place when white men fought against each other, and side by side, with yelling savages whose faces were painted red and green, or spotted with black and white. They were indeed often painted all over, and naked except for tails of wild beasts hanging down their backs. Upon their heads they wore horns, in their noses and ears iron ornaments, and round their necks chains of beads. They were somewhat terrible friends to have, and very fearful enemies.

The Iroquois had nearly wrecked the colonies of New France, when the news came that Frontenac, the great Onontio, was coming back. He was now seventy years old, he was old and grey, but he had not forgotten how to rule. His coming struck terror to the Indian heart. With them he would have made peace, but with the British he waged war. For he believed that they had been to blame for many of the quarrels, and that they had stirred the Iroquois to fight.

So against the British Frontenac sent three armies of French and Indians. It was dead of winter when they set out. Shod with snow-shoes, wrapped in fringed blankets, daubed with paint and decked with feathers, French and Indian alike sped over the snow fields.

The British were not prepared for war. At one fort the gates were open, the doors unbarred. And so secure did they think themselves that, instead of sentinels, there stood by the gateway two snow men. But in the dead of night, over the silent snow, French and Indian stole. With fierce war-whoops they fell upon the sleeping men. [77] The slaughter was awful, and soon the village was a smoking ruin.

All three armies were alike successful, if armies they might be called, for they were rather wild marauders. The Indians began again to respect the French and were no longer so insolent. But the British now gathered in strength to repay the blow. Sir William Phips sailed out from New England, attacked and took Port Royal, and once more claimed Acadie for the British.

Then the New Englanders decided to take Quebec. And one October morning a fleet of thirty-four British ships, big and little, sailed up the St. Lawrence and anchored before Quebec.

A little boat, flying a white flag, put off and made for the shore. In it was an officer carrying a letter to Count Frontenac. As he came to shore the Frenchmen met him, and before he was allowed to land they blind-folded him. Then with a soldier on either side he was led through the streets to the governor.

Up and down steep and stony pathways he was dragged, followed by a jeering crowd of women and children who laughed aloud as he stumbled over rough places, telling him it was but a game of blind man's buff.

At length, bewildered and out of breath, the young officer was led into a room, and the bandage was taken from his eyes. Then he found that he was standing before the governor and his officers. For a moment, dazzled by the sudden light, he gazed in confusion at the crowd of Frenchmen in their gay uniforms, glittering with gold and silver lace. Then recovering himself, he gave the letter which he had brought to Frontenac.

This letter, in very proud words, demanded the surrender of Quebec, in the name of William and Mary, [78] King and Queen of England, Scotland, France and Ireland. It gave Frontenac one hour in which to return an answer.

The letter was read aloud, and when the reading was at an end the British officer pulled out his watch. "It is ten o'clock," he said, showing it to the governor; "I require your answer by eleven."

"By heaven!" thundered Frontenac, "I will not keep you waiting so long! Tell your commander that I do not recognise King William, and that the Prince of Orange, who calls himself so, is a usurper. I know no king of Britain but King James. I will answer your general with the mouths of my cannon. Let him do his best, I will do mine."

With the French commander's proud answer ringing in his ears, blindfolded once more, the British officer was led stumbling down the steep streets to his boat.

So the siege began. But although Phips was brave, he was leading men little used to war. They had courage enough, but little discipline. They were farmers and fishermen rather than soldiers. They threw away their lives, they wasted their shot against the solid wall of stone upon which Quebec is perched, while the Frenchmen riddled their ships with shot and shell.

At last, with splintered masts and torn rigging, the British sailed away. Yet, had they but known it, Quebec had almost been within their grasp. For although there were men enough and powder and shot enough within the walls, food was scarce, and the horror of famine stared the defenders in the face.


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