Chapter Thirteen

The Siege Worsens


                 Through the eerie mist Carver could see that the landscape had changed during the night.  Where there had been leveled fields, there was now a long L-shaped trench, approximately two hundred yards in length. Half of it ran parallel to their own front line of entrenchments.  Half lead back to the woods, providing cover for a safe means of access. Would the enemy creep closer every night, he wondered?

            He didn’t have the chance to answer his own question before rapid small arms fire broke out from the enemy trench followed by intense cannon fire from beyond the trees. The siege had begun. All he had to do was survive this one day. Reinforcements would arrive by nightfall. He kept his head down.

            The battle raged at a fever pitch all day. Each side threw everything it had at its enemy.  The blood began to flow.  Slowly but surely, men would drop at their guns, some quietly, some screaming. It was the first time Carver had seen anyone die.  Occasionally he could hear a scream from the other side between cannonfire, but he couldn't see the carnage, only the shattered, ragged trees, torn apart by exploding shells.

                 Towards nightfall the French ceased firing, a welcome respite to the English.  There was a solitary cannon shot, a salute, drumming, and three figures emerged from the woods with another flag of truce.  Their Officer was met at the trenches and blindfolded before being led into the fort and taken to Colonel Monro's quarters.  Only then was the blindfold removed so that he could not report back to Montcalm on the progress of the siege.

                 "Bonsoir, Colonel Monro, I presume," said the Officer.

            "At your service, Captain," said Monro.

            "Allow me to introduce myself, Colonel,” he said in flawless English.  "I am Captain Bougainville, aide to General Montcalm, who wishes you good health, and -"

            "Yes, yes, yes, Captain,” Monro broke in,  "we are all in good health as you can see. Please get to the point."

                 Bougainville paused and looked around the room at the Council of Officers. "General Montcalm wishes to inform you that he still offers you a peaceful surrender in the name of humanity."

            "Please tell the General that we respectfully decline his offer,” Monro answered. "Was there anything else, Captain?"

            "No, Colonel, that was all." he said, shaking his head.

            "Very well, thank the General. We shall see you back to your lines. Lieutenant,” he said to Carver,  "blindfold Captain Bougainville and insure his safe return.”

            Carver complied with his order and led the Frenchman back through the entrenchments to the fields that separated the two armies.  His drummer and flagbearer waited. As Carver untied the blindfold he inquired into the whereabouts of Captain Fontbrune.

                 "Captain Fontbrune is indisposed," said Bougainville.

                 "Indisposed?" said Carver. "What does that mean?"

            "You had met the Captain?" asked Bougainville.

            "Yes," said Carver, "he carried the last flag of truce."

            "Well, in Fontbrune's case, indisposed means he is being buried,” said Bougainville.

                 "Buried?" said Carver. "He's dead? How did it happen?"

            "It was such a small wound.  One would think it insignificant. Hardly mortal,” Bougainville opined, gazing out over the moonlit lake. Perhaps reflecting on his own mortality, thought Carver. "A small piece of grapeshot from the first round of cannonfire pierced his thigh and severed an artery. He bled to death in a matter of minutes, without ever uttering a cry.” He looked at Carver's expressionless face, turned and walked across the fields to his army.

            "What a pity," said Carver, shaking his head.

            "Pity?” said Arbuthnot, who had accompanied them to the trenches and had overheard their conversation.  "I had the distinct impression, Jonathan, that you did not favor the Captain.” 

            “I say pity, Sir, that I did not have the opportunity to see the expression on his face as he died, and that he should have known that it was I who ordered that fateful first shot.” He shook his head.  "But, I suppose I should pity him, nonetheless. God rest his wretched soul."

            The drumming stopped. Bougainville was safe across the fields.  It was night. He had lived through the first day of battle. The reinforcements would be arriving at any moment.  He was safe. Perhaps he could sleep that night.

Go to Chapter Fourteen.

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