Quebec, New France
16 August 1706
Philippe de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil and Governor General of New France, looked unhappily across the fleuve Saint-Laurent at the Île d'Orléans. From his vantage point at the northeastern brink of the rock of Quebec, he could see the masts of two dozen ships flying the Cross of St. George, the banner of France's eternal English enemy. Hundreds of cookfires rose up into the morning air from the island, where Governor Sir Joseph Dudley and his army lay camped.
The Marquis pulled his gaze from the enemy army to spare a glance at his companion, a sight which he found scarcely less objectionable. The stocky figure of Pierre Le Moyne, sieur d'Iberville, was one that de Vaudreuil had grown to detest these last few months. "Happy now?" the Governor snarled.
Le Moyne was uncharacteristically subdued, but that afforded the Marquis only minor comfort. "It's not my fault," he muttered.
"Then whose fault is it?" de Vaudreuil snapped. "I went to considerable difficulty trying to keep the English as pacifistic as possible. After all, they outnumber us fifteen to one! If ever they become roused enough to exert their full strength, New France is doomed. Thus, it behooves us to keep the English as unroused as we possibly can, a policy which I have been following with determination, and with some degree of success, ever since this most recent war began.
"So what do you do? You decide to kidnap the most respected Englishman in North America, the heretic Boston preacher Cotton Mather, and hold him prisoner here in Quebec! Now the conqueror of Louisbourg has descended upon us with the largest army ever assembled on this continent!"
The Marquis's eyes flashed with anger. "My dear sieur d'Iberville, you have managed the almost impossible feat of persuading half a dozen of the incessantly feuding English colonies to join forces against us! There are even companies out there from Maryland and Virginia! Five thousand enemy soldiers now occupy the Île d'Orléans, and a thousand more under Colonel March have been dispatched upriver to seize Montreal."
"It is nothing," d'Iberville assured the Governor. "March will be fortunate if he can even reach Montreal, and as for the men on the Île d'Orléans, ptah! I spit upon them! They are but the dregs of the English colonies, with not a regular English soldier among them! All they can do is plunder civilians and drink themselves stupid. We can hold out until the fall, and then the English must depart or see their fleet trapped when the Saint-Laurent freezes."
"These same dregs, need I remind you," said de Vaudreuil, "succeded in taking the King's fortress at Louisbourg two years ago under this same Governor Dudley. Furthermore, the veterans of that campaign make up the core of the forces now facing us.
"We, by contrast, find ourselves fighting without the aid of most of our erstwhile Indian allies. Again, I might add, as a direct result of your capture of the preacher Mather."
"My Lord," d'Iberville responded, "I must confess myself perplexed on this matter. I can only conclude that the heretic preacher must be the very Devil himself, come to earth to torment New France. He has a power over the savages that I cannot explain. They call him 'the Crow' and seem to regard him as some sort of sorcerer. For the last seven years he has gone among them and used his Devil's powers to seduce them from Holy Mother Church to his diabolical Calvinist heresy. They credit him, and not Dudley, with the fall of Louisbourg, and now they see his presence in Quebec as a sign that it, too, will fall to the English."
"Could you not make an end of him?" wondered de Vaudreuil. "Would that not break the spell he holds over the Indians?"
"Were that the case," said d'Iberville, "I would have run him through myself long since. But his death would only make our cause seem that much more hopeless, for we would have his blood on our hands, and the Indians believe his spirit would haunt Quebec until the crime had been avenged, probably with my own death and the destruction of the city itself."
"Perhaps if we agree to hand him over to the English."
D'Iberville shook his shaggy head. "It is too late for that. Now that Dudley is here, he will not give up the siege until we are overthrown or he is forced to retreat."
A movement out by the Île d'Orléans caught de Vaudreuil's attention, and he turned away from d'Iberville to watch. Several new ships had appeared around the north shore of the island, and they were anchoring there.
The Marquis was taken by surprise by a sudden volley of curses bursting forth from d'Iberville. He too was gazing at the newly arrived ships. He drew a spyglass forth from a case at his belt, and his curses continued in a never-repeating sequence that the Governor found both appalling and astonishing. The grizzled warrior ended his tirade with the words, "Marie-Joseph!"
"The second one from the right, it is the Marie-Joseph, I have sailed upon her! She left for France in the spring to secure supplies for us, and now she is in the hands of the English! And the others, I would swear it, are French as well! The English have captured our supply fleet!" And he lapsed into more curses.
The Marquis de Vaudreuil felt like joining him. With the addition of the supplies carried by the captured fleet, the English would be able to maintain their siege all winter, and the lack of those same supplies doomed the city, already reduced to rations, to certain starvation by spring.
The Governor instead motioned for one of his attendants to approach him. "Go and fetch forth the heretic preacher from his rooms, and have him brought to me here." The attendant saluted and left.
D'Iberville left off his cursing when he heard the Governor's order. "What do you wish of the heretic?" he asked in tones of suspicion.
De Vaudreuil replied, "I intend to send him as an envoy to Governor Dudley. I must meet with Dudley in order to discuss . . . the terms of our surrender."
(Proceed to part 13 - Trick or Treaty)