Chapter 37: People in Hell

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Chapter 37: People in Hell

The Iroquois stormed out of their palisade much like dervishes running toward the barricade. Painted clubs and muskets waving, they followed the braves who wore the make-shift armor. Screeching and yelling insults and threats, they ran toward the barricade. They looked as if they would suffocate it by sheer weight of numbers.

"Here they come!" yelled Dollard. "Fire on command!... Aim... fire!"

Twenty-two muskets cracked; thirteen Iroquois fell dead, four more were wounded.

Three guns had misfired, and two missed their targets.

"Change!"

The riflemen had already automatically moved back, and the men two steps back jumped to the loopholes.

"Aim.... fire!"

Ten muskets fired and seven Iroquois fell. At this range and with so many attackers it was difficult to miss. Three guns had misfired.

"Fire at will! Make your shots count!"

The Iroquois came on. They had lost twenty braves in half a minute, but the places of the dead were taken immediately by eager men.

Some of the Iroquois reached the barricade. They could do no harm unless the loopholes were clear, and these were all manned by the Hurons, French, and Algonquins. The Mohawks could not shoot through the barricade, the earth was too thick. Some started to climb the barricade walls but were shot in the stomach as they passed the loopholes. Others, who had reached the barricade, crouched low at its base, under the loopholes. They and began hacking away with their hatchets at the dead branches, roots, stumps and stockade shafts that gave the barricade its meager strength.

Dollard, seeing him, called to Robert Jurie.

"Robert, get some pistols. We'll make bombs."

Robert Jurie, Nicholas Josselin and Roland Hebert rapidly broke pistols, filled the muzzles with powder, inserted fuses, lit them, and threw the small bombs just over the barricade so that they exploded among the Mohawks.

The explosions sent shards of steel, shot and burning powder into their midst. They were dismantling more pistols when trouble came at the tenth loophole on the right side --Mituvemeg's position.

An Algonquin was hit in the shoulder. Jacques Brassier, the back-up man behind the tenth and eleventh position, moved in. Immediately he was hit in the neck by a bullet. He sank to his knees, surprised, and stayed there, holding his neck as if praying. Brassier had a strange, unbelieving expression on his face as the blood poured out of the hole in his neck. Kneeling in stillness, he looked like a grotesque fountain. The blood was falling in a short arc, spilling dreadfully on Mituvemeg's white polar bear cape. Mituvemeg, trying to regain the loophole, could not get around Brassier fast enough. An Onondaga pushed his musket through the unmanned loophole and fired. His shot went across the semi-circle of the enclosure and buried itself in a Huron's back.

Mituvemeg pushed Brassier' paling body aside and fired his musket through the loophole. His shot missed the Indian, who had withdrawn, but he hit a second man in the chest. Another Onondaga appeared at the loophole. Mituvemeg drew his pistol from inside his shirt and fired point-blank into his enemy's face. The Onondaga's head exploded, spewing brains, blood, and teeth. Mituvemeg's face was covered in the dead man's blood, and it was impossible to distinguish the blood marks now from his war paint.

The rear-guard man from between loopholes eight and nine--Christophe Augier--raced over and took up a place at the tenth loophole, allowing Mituvemeg time to reload.

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