What she would say in her defence, could we interrogate her, is, that she obeyed the voice of heaven, taking the wise and good men of her day as its interpreters. Oh! that she had but persisted in listening to it, as it spoke in her own kindly heart, when with womanly pity she was wont to intercede in favour of the poor cooped-up inmates of some closely beleaguered town or fortress!
"All that day Mustafa Khan and my grandfather remained in close and secret conclave. Again I occupied my time by watching the approaching sabat. The work was progressing quicker than ever. At this rate, within two or three days the covered trench would be within a short stone throw of the fortress walls. After the evening meal I reported this position of affairs to Shir Jumla Khan.
"God He knoweth why so sweet a lady is set here to bear the brunts of a frontier fortress, where no man can aid her without espousing her husband's quarrel! while hundreds of evil women degrade the courts of Europe. But I can only do mine errand and go. And you will best mend your own expedition at this time by a new start from Montreal, Father Jogues."
They were some eight or ten thousand in number, well horsed, with a fair number of guns, under the able leadership of De Wet, Prinsloo, and Olivier. Above all, they had a splendid position, mountainous and broken, from which, as from a fortress, they could make excursions to the south or west.
How steep and unapproachable! "Could you find no fairer site for a new Paris?" he inquired smilingly. "How will you get up and down the streets when you come to that?" "Is it not the key to the north and a natural fortress? Look you, with a cannon at its base and over opposite, no trading vessel could steal up, no hostile man-of-war invade us.
The Victory and the omen," they said, "they would accept, and would assign and dedicate to that goddess, as her abode, the Capitol, the temple of Jupiter, the best and greatest of gods, hoping that, consecrated in that fortress of the city of Rome, she would continue there firm and immoveable, kind and propitious to the Roman people."
"I am afraid that won't help us," said the first lieutenant, laughing. "Ah! he thought himself very clever; but I know his name, I saw it on his musket. It was Tower!" exclaimed Pigeon triumphantly. A general laugh followed this announcement, for Tower is the name engraved on all Government arms issued from the stores in that ancient fortress of London.
A grand gingerbread cake could not have yielded more readily to their efforts. Fortunate that it was so, as they believed that their safety depended on felling this forest monarch before the arrival of the Matabili. The latter could not be far-off, and every exertion was made to get the fortress ready for receiving the attack. There was a doubt as to the direction the tree would take in falling.
Stuyvesant stood at one of the angles of the fortress as the frigates passed by. It was a critical moment. The fate of the city and the lives of its inhabitants trembled in the balance. The guns were loaded and shotted, and the gunners stood by with their burning matches. A word from the impetuous Stuyvesant would have opened upon the city all the horrors of a bombardment.
They turned their course toward the Mississippi and that afternoon they met a Union scout who told them that Grant, now in the very heart of the far South, was gathering his forces for a daring attack upon Grand Gulf, a Confederate fortress on the Mississippi. In the North and at Washington his venture was regarded with alarm. There was a telegram to him to stop, but it was sent too late.