“Hold them for an instant,” he screamed, and rushing at the brass gun he struck his flint and steel and fired it straight into the thick of the savages. Then as they recoiled for an instant he stuck a nail into the touch-hole and drove it home with a blow from the butt of his gun. Darting across the yard he spiked the gun at the other corner, and was back at the door as the remnants of the garrison were hurled towards it by the rush of the assailants. The Canadians darted in, and swung the ponderous mass of wood into position, breaking the leg of the foremost warrior who had striven to follow them. Then for an instant they had time for breathing and for council.
THE COMING OF THE FRIAR.
But their case was a very evil one. Had the guns been lost so that they might be turned upon the door, all further resistance would have been vain, but Du Lhut’s presence of mind had saved them from that danger. The two guns upon the river face and the canoes were safe, for they were commanded by the windows of the house. But their numbers were terribly reduced, and those who were left were weary and wounded and spent. Nineteen had gained the house, but one had been shot through the body and lay groaning in the hall, while a second had his shoulder cleft by a tomahawk and could no longer raise his musket. Du Lhut, De la Noue, and De Catinat were uninjured, but Ephraim Savage had a bullet-hole in his forearm, and Amos was bleeding from a cut upon the face. Of the others hardly one was without injury, and yet they had no time to think of their hurts for the danger still pressed and they were lost unless they acted. A few shots from the barricaded windows sufficed to clear the enclosure, for it was all exposed to their aim; but on the other hand they had the shelter of the stockade now, and from the further side of it they kept up a fierce fire upon the windows. Half-a-dozen of the censitaires returned the fusillade, while the leaders consulted as to what had best be done.
“We have twenty-five women and fourteen children,” said the seigneur. “I am sure that you will agree with me, gentlemen, that our first duty is towards them. Some of you, like myself, have lost sons or brothers this day. Let us at least save our wives and sisters.”
“No Iroquois canoes have passed up the river,” said one of the Canadians. “If the women start in the darkness they can get away to the fort.”
“By Saint Anne of Beaupre,” exclaimed Du Lhut, “I think it would be well if you could get your men out of this also, for I cannot see how it is to be held until morning.”
A murmur of assent broke from the other Canadians, but the old nobleman shook his bewigged head with decision.
“Tut! Tut! What nonsense is this!” he cried. “Are we to abandon the manor-house of Sainte Marie to the first gang of savages who choose to make an attack upon it? No, no, gentlemen, there are still nearly a score of us, and when the garrison learn that we are so pressed, which will be by to-morrow morning at the latest, they will certainly send us relief.”