Sunday, June 20, 2021


One Step at a Time
Doug Hall


As the bedraggled French soldiers moved away from the fort, Sergent Malheur let Sergent Bernard know, in no uncertain terms, that by right of seniority he was now in command. Bernard tried to protest, but he did so in vain. Bernard realized that he was completely out of his depth in this situation.

Sergent Louis Malheur had been a soldier for over twenty years, first in Europe, now here in the New World. His regiment had arrived in Quebec three years ago. He had served on garrison duty in that town until he had been told to retire. Not asked, but told. He could have gone back to France but he chose to stay in New France.

After casting about for employment, he had been in a small tavern on the Rue Saint-Louis when he had been accosted by a sergeant recruiting for the Compagnies franches de la marine.

"You there, you look like a soldier. We could use a fellow like you in the Compagnies!"

Malheur had turned to look at the man, "My own regiment, the Régiment de Carignan-Salières didn't want me, why should la marine want me?"

The man had sidled up to Malheur, "Different rules mon vieux¹, we belong to the Navy not those old women of the Army."

When Malheur started to bristle at the insult, the sergeant of la marine sat down, "No insult intended, I am Pierre Tournières. We need experienced men in la marine, many of our recruits are young and inexperienced, an old hand like you would be welcome."

One thing led to another, which is how Sergent Louis Malheur found himself in the wilderness far to the south of Quebec City. He knew that if he struck out for the north, very few of the men would make it, they were children in this vast wilderness. The Abenaki might give them succor, but after the bloody defeat they had suffered at the hands of les anglais, they might turn against them as well. Malheur figured they were on their own.

"Hold up!" he had commanded when the men had entered the edge of the cleared zone near the fort. Bernard looked at him in confusion.

"Les anglais commanded us to leave. Why are we stopping?"

Malheur turned in amazement, "Since when do we belong to les anglais? A pox on them. We will camp here for the moment. There is no sense in setting out into the forest with no plan, no direction, and no supplies. We wait."

The Gaudry brothers and their Abenaki friend left the Frenchmen who had fled with Alain in what they had hoped was a safe place. Alain had let them know that moving about in the forest could get them killed. The Mohicans were certainly still around. After leaving them, they had returned to the ambush site, as Alain had figured, there were still muskets and other equipment laying about. The Mohican had no need of them, they did. So they re-armed themselves.

"Little Wolf, do you think your kinsmen might lend us aid? We need to guide those other soldiers back to the north, they cannot do it themselves." Alain said as they made their way towards the fort, alert for any sign of the enemy.

Little Wolf shook his head, "It will be another moon before my people will return to war, they have many to bury, many to mourn. But they will return to the warpath, eventually. Though I think not against les anglais."

Alain saw the truth of the matter, he turned to Jacques and said, "We must lead them north as best we can. We know the way."

"We don't have canoes brother, we will have to go on foot." Jacques pointed out.

"I know, but if the soldiers stay here, they will die."

Turning to Little Wolf, "You do not have to help us my brother. You have done enough."

Little Wolf looked disappointed. "I will not abandon my French brothers, you are the only kin I have left. Come let use make contact with the other soldiers. We need to start soon."

Malheur awakened just before dawn, something wasn't right. Getting up he looked for the sentries, all of them were asleep. He also discovered that Sergent Bernard was gone, along with fifteen men. Apparently he was going to strike out on his own.

The fool.

As he stood there, looking into the forest, almost bereft of hope, he heard a voice call out to him. A French voice.

"Hallo, Sergent Malheur, it is Private Alain Gaudry!"

Malheur was instantly on alert, he had seen Gaudry slip into the woods with a few others before he could stop them. But he had come back, he wondered why.

"Advance and be recognized." Malheur called.

Alain approached, he was armed, his brothers had scrounged weapons from the dead, firelocks, tomahawks, and enough powder and shot to make him feel safe again. He might be killed in the forest, but not without a fight.

"Sergent." Alain walked into the open, firelock in the crook of his left arm, his right hand raised in a sign of peace.

"Gaudry, where did you get a firelock?"

"There are many in the forest, the Mohicans did not take any. There are more. I wish to help you get away from this place. My brothers and I have traveled this land, we know the forest, we know the people. If you stay here, you will die."

"You abandoned your post Private..."

"Only to make contact with my brothers, one of whom is Abenaki. You must rouse your men, we need to start moving."

"Where are we going?"


"How can I trust you?" Malheur was suspicious.

"Whether you trust me or not, I don't care. I and my brothers are going north, to Montréal, if you wish to come, then come. If you do not, then stay. I will give you until the sun is one finger above that mountain." He pointed to the ridge in the distance. "We will return to see you ready to travel, or ready to die. It is your choice."

"Give me time to rouse the men, we will go now. I see no other choice."

"You are a wise man mon Sergent. Make haste."

Sergeant Rutland reported to Major Jenkins, "Sir, the French, they've gone. Moved north I think."

"Good riddance to them. Now find my orderly, we have a busy day ahead. Sarn't Major!" Jenkins was bellowing for the senior non-commissioned officer, as he did at the start of every day.

Rutland was beginning to wonder who actually commanded the unit.

Editor's Note: Posting may dwindle to virtual silence over the next cuppla. We have family in town and a very sick kitty to boot. Things may get hectic this week. My morale is in the dumpster, thank the Lord that The Nuke and her tribe are inbound. Seeing the grandkids will be nice. A bientôt.

¹ My pal (vieux also means "old")

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.


  1. Second Scott Sarge........attend to family, especially the four-footed one. Engage in R&R.

    1. Third to Scott and Nylon, Sarge. You do what ya gotta do, and good luck with all that! We'll be lurking 'round here when you get back, hoping for more tales, but patiently. We've all gotta take some time off now and again. You've left the Gaudry boys in a relatively good place, so we needn't worry overly much for them for the time being.

      I sincerely hope the younguns can revive your spirits, and I hope the kitty has a turn for the better!

    2. Nylon12 - Great first day of the visit. The cat (Sasha) is holding her own so far. I have to remind myself that it's God's will, not mine.

    3. Patrick - I appreciate it. The young'uns have already given me great joy. Our cat Sasha is a fighter, but she's old and there is a day which comes for us all, I understand that. It will hurt when it happens, but for seventeen years she has given us great joy. Her sister (same litter) is still healthy and active, so we are blessed in many ways.


  2. The "HECTIC" will build until 6 July when the town will stand down until about Pearl Harbour Day. You have been here long enough to have a personal relationship with the veterinarian but if I can help you have my contact info.
    Old Guns

    1. I heard the first salvos launched Father's Day in the evening.

      Sasha is 17, she's had a good life. We're spoiling her even more these days. But time marches on...

  3. Prayers up for the kitty and safe travels for the family. All else can wait for its time. We will be here.

    1. Thanks Mark.

      It's what I like about this blogging thing, all the readers are my extended family.

  4. On the road seeing family, but a quiet few minutes with a cuppa jo and your fiction is a nice start to the day. Sorry to hear things are not to your liking at the moment (sick animals will do that alone).
    T'any rate, you've produced another great installment, Sarge. Take the time you need; we'll be here.
    Boat Guy

    1. It will give my Muse time to work on her curve ball...

      You know how she is.

  5. Prayers for the kitty, and you.
    I know you’ll enjoy the family.

    1. Thanks Skip. Like I mentioned above, great first day of the visit.

  6. Between Little Wolf, the Guidrys and Malheur -presuming he's smart enough to learn (in addition to teach when appropriate) - which seems likely and being rearmed , those French survivors could turn into something. If nothing else, they've got a good shot at getting home. Such things seem "epic" to us but in that time and place would just be called "life"
    Boat Guy

    1. Having a LOT of French blood in me, I thought it was high time that the French got to be the heroes in the story.

  7. Your priorities are exactly correct.
    Sending good thoughts your way.

  8. Prayers Up Sarge.

    (Another good vignette; given the circumstances it seems a little out of place to comment more than that.)

  9. Replies
    1. Thanks Rob, it will be as it was meant to be.

  10. As to who actually commands the unit, a wise 2nd Lt knows that it is the senior NCO through the 2nd Lt that commands the unit.

    I'll watch the story board and if there's a blank spot I'll toss something on the fire...

    Take care of family, all of it. Just stay safe, okay?

    1. Officers in general are just there to try to enforce the mandates of "command", but it is definitely through the NCOs that things actually get done. Sometimes as per the mandates, but more often somewhat more of a synthesis between command's ideal, and the demands of reality. Often a pretty fine line to walk, between reasonable consideration for the needs of the enlisted, and the wants of the officers, who all too often seem to think those under them are just expendable equipment.

    2. Beans - First lesson I taught my kids before they went off to NROTC, "Listen to your NCOs, they'll make you look good. Also, take care of your people, they'll keep you alive if it comes to that."

    3. Patrick - You know the way of things.

  11. Prayers your way for you, your family, and your kitty.
    - Barry

  12. Remember that we are your “digital band of brothers”here. What hurts you, hurts us to some degree and in this world today we need support like never before.
    I will never forget the camaraderie between this brown bar and my crew on the deuce at Itazuke. A couple of “entry level” kids and a SSGT. I will always feel bad that we were never able to go for a ride in the airplane together. Pretty much the same in the Phantom, except for the most part MacNamara said we didn’t need the crew concept between the flying corps and the airplanes. The maintenance squadron provided the birds for flight and we were never sure who did the work. That didn’t work out well.

    1. McNamara was a complete idiot. I love the idea of dedicated grown and air crew, they get to know each other. It's better for maintenance, better for aircraft reliability and the aircrew. But what would an Edsel salesman know about that?

      Yup, sore point there.

      As for your first point, this really is a digital band of brothers and sisters. I love you all. (In a manly, non-threatening kind of way. 😁)

  13. I know I'm late in posting this, been busy few days for me as well - Have fun with the kiddos, I'm sure they'll lift your spirits. And reflect on all the good times you've had with Sasha - it will hurt, but in time that fades to be replaced by better memories that will bring a smile to your face.

    1. You're never too late Tom. Thanks, Sasha and I have had a long run together, many good times, many good memories. She's been an awfully good kitty.


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