Chapter 5: Prudhomme's Tavern. March 20. Later that night.
Dollard left the interrogation meeting quickly and let out a yelp that was heard inside the governor's house. He began to run, but slipped on the ice, slammed into the side of a building, fell to the ground and began laughing.
He was about to get up immediately but he stopped, deciding to savor the moment before seeing his friends at the tavern He rose and leaned against the building, his feet in the snow, his head slamming back against a large log house.
He thought, at last, he would have a chance to prove himself. He would return an accomplished commander and, he hoped, with enough furs to start him on his fortune. He could think of nothing better than to be a wealthy soldier, to be like Closse and le Moyne.
He put off heading for the tavern. Instead, he thought of his friends, recruited last autumn, and others approached later, such as Roland Hebert and some of them were on duty.
He walked to the watchtower in the evening chill. He had been there last November and first beheld the rigid back of Roland Hebert. Hebert took life too seriously. His tone was black and his comic remarks often failed to make others laugh because they were snide. He spent a great deal of time mumbling to himself about things. Cognac said he was deranged.
"Roland," Dollard had said, "how are you?"
"I'm on duty." The remark was a reproof.
"You can stay on your watch," said Dollard, who outranked Hebert.
"What else would you have me do?" He looked down from his height of six feet at Dollard some four inches shorter. Sometimes his attitude affronted people; after a time they decided that was his way and let it go. But they didn't seek out his company.
When Dollard told him his idea, Hebert changed completely and said, "Where do I sign?" All traces of condescension had disappeared from his voice. He was like a boy, enthusiastic, willing and eager to begin. He was always this way at the prospect of an adventure, especially a military one. It was as if he consciously contained himself, was barely civil while doing the routine chores of a settler and only became himself when asked to fight. Dollard understood the feeling but he still wondered at the abrupt change in attitude.
He had climbed down the ladder from the parapet and walked over to the forge where Jean Tavernier was pumping bellows shooting the flames toward an iron grate. Tavernier then dropped the bellows and seized a hammer and began banging a piece of metal with force but not enthusiasm.
"How is it going, Dollard?"
"Good. Got a minute?"
"I'm not going anywhere." He said it as if he meant his life.
Jean Tavernier, "Forges," because of his occupation, usually looked sure and self-confident as he hammered. He always looked so at the forge or at games, but when he just stood and talked, his posture sagged, almost as if he were embarrassed at his great height.
"Like to kill some Iroquois and get some beaver?" said Dollard.
"You say it like it was a choice of desserts."
"Almost. If I get the right people, I think I can get the authority."
Forges stopped hammering, wiped his wrist on his forehead and his hands on his leather apron.
"Are you sure?"
He always asked this question. He wasn't sure of himself so he had to be sure of other people. Forges, who was so strong, had eyes that rarely remained still and this gave a constant appearance of nervousness that was out of joint with his heroically cast physique. His eyes darted from Dollard's right eye to his left as if to detect uncertainty in his friend. He saw none.
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THE BATTLE OF THE LONG SAULTHistorical Fiction
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