Chapter 8: Attack at Nun's Island
April 20TH, 1660. Montreal
On the morning of the twentieth of April, the chapel of the Hotel Dieu was filled with well-wishers for the special mass of departure. Father Jean-Marie Chaumonot celebrated the mass and gave a short sermon, which was surprisingly felicitous, on the character of Christian courage.
He began by quoting Isiah 41:6.
"They helped everyone his neighbor; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage."
He spoke of martyrs and Montreal, of Brebeuf and Lalement, of Frenchmen and their God. He said he knew that courage filled the men of this mission and as he spoke everyone looked upon those men with respect and pride and some with a measure of envy. He blessed them and after hearing their confessions he gave them Holy Communion.
Even Cognac received it. He said it couldn't hurt and besides, what if the Jesuits were right?
Bells rang when Mass was over and the people side-stepped out of the church slapping backs and heads and shoulders and shouting encouraging remarks. The whole procession -- it became so, being led by Father Chaumonot, who had a flair for the dramatic--moved down to the shore where the six canoes were waiting, fully packed.
Robert Jurie supervised the places of the men as he had done with the supplies earlier. He decided that there should be six canoes, five to carry three men and one to take two.
The four best canoeists - Cognac, Doussin, Robin, and Alonie Delestre, to take the sterns along with Hebert, and himself, the best of the average canoeists.
In the middle, he put Valets, Josselin, Pilote, Augier, and Dollard. The first four were practically hopeless at paddling and Dollard he estimated as average. But Dollard wanted to be free to watch at all times anyway.
In the bows: Forges, Lecompte, Brassier, Tiblement, Simon Grenet and Louis Martin.
Jurie looked around as the men climbed into their canoes. Simon Grenet was missing.
"Where the hell is Grenet? It's time to leave."
"Has anybody seen Grenet?"
"Is Simon with you?"
"I haven't seen him."
"He wasn't at Mass."
The youths bantered and Louis Martin offered to go and get him.
"No," said Dollard. "He knew what time we were going. If he isn't here when we leave, we go without him."
"We should leave now," said Robert Jurie.
"Fine -- let's push off," said Dollard.
Robert Jurie looked ruefully at his canoe. He was to be stern for Grenet's bow while Augier sat in the middle. He couldn't give Augier a paddle. Jean Valets saw the dilemma.
"I'll take the front, Robert," said Valets, getting out of the Boisseau-Forges canoe.
"Thank God," said Christophe Augier. "I thought I was going to have to steer this thing."
"Right, and the journey would be over in ten minutes," replied Jean Valets as he settled himself in the bow. "It's too cold for swimming, thanks. I'll take it."
"Good," said Augier, "I'll sleep."
Dollard thanked Governor Maisonneuve, stepped into his canoe and the frail flotilla moved out into the river.
Shouts of cheer from le Moyne, de Belestre, Closse and all the people from the church urged the little band on into the chilly April wind.
In the canoes, everyone was in grand spirits and the waving, shouting and laughing continued until the crafts turned at the bend of the river and were swept out of view.
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