The Fox Cycle- Story 4- The Bodyguard
Ville Marie, New France, 1710.
As his charge gulped the now-cold stew he’d left for her, Gerard la Russo leaned back into his chair and asked the girl where she’d been.
“I was working, Father.”
“Working?” Gerard raised an eyebrow at that, and studied the eight-year old as he took a long draw from his pipe and leaned back into his chair.
“Oui,” she agreed with great earnestness. “Just as you and my other uncles do- I was working as a bodyguard.”
Gerard suppressed a smile- “And who were you guarding, little Renard?”
“The Seigneur’s daughter?”
“And why does young Claudette need a bodyguard?”
The girl paused her eating and gave him a stupid look. “Why, to protect her against the natives, of course!”
Gerard nodded, there had been several native raids in nearby communities recently, and likely the large Dupris estate was filled nightly with horrifically exaggerated tales of these events. With this in mind, it made sense for Claudette’s imagination to run wild and for her to believe that their land was in imminent danger. However, he couldn’t help but wonder at the irony of her picking Rennie, a girl of native blood, to prepare her farm against this phantom native menace.
“She came here this morning. When you were out with Uncle Richmond,” Rennie explained. “She said she wanted someone to help organize the farmers so it would be safe if the natives came.”
“So you offered her your services?”
“Oui. I am your daughter and you have trained me- they are just farmers.” She said with supreme self-assurance.
“Rennie,” her father said with a frown. “I have taught you a few fundamentals- you should not mistake them for skill at fighting.”
“Oh, I know father. But, I told you they were just farmers. I was sure I could prepare them for when you or my uncles came later.”
“I see. So what happened?”
“I had her take me to her father’s estate, and told her that I would need them bring all the farming men to the estate mill so I could train them.”
“And did they?”
“Oh yes! Claudette went to her father and asked him, and he told his servants to gather them together at noon and to beat them if they didn’t want to come.”
Although this tale was starting to sound outlandish, Gerard was inclined to believe it so far. Seigneur Dupris was a man who was known to dote on his spoiled daughter’s every whim, to the point of having her clothes shipped in from France. If these mere trifles kept her happy, he would certainly indulge them.
“How many were there?”
“Twenty-two,” Rennie answered promptly. “I counted to make sure that none ran away to sleep in training like Uncle Armand.”
“Uncle Armand sneaks off during training?”
“Uh-huh, he gives me an apple to let him know if you come back early.”
Gerard made a note to have a word with Armand.
“So, what did you do with this small army?”
“I told them who I was, and that they had to listen to everything I said. A couple didn’t want to do it, but then the Seigneur said they had to listen to me, so they shut their mouths.”
“After that, I told them to run around the house three times to get ready, and asked the Seigneur for swords to practice with.”
“Really? And what did he say?”
Rennie suddenly looked angry. “Father, that man is stupid. He said that they should go find sticks instead. That this was just practice. Claudette and I tried to tell him that they needed to use real swords to get ready, but he still said no.”
“Rennie,” Gerard tried to calm his daughter. “You and I practice with sticks, don’t we? Do I not say it is the skill, not the weapon, that matters?”
“I guess so.” Said the girl, downcast.
“So, you had them gather sticks to practice with,” he said, trying to refocus her. “What did you do after?”
“I made them all line up and showed them how to hold their swords properly. I had to help a few of them because they’re just farmers. Then, I made them get in pairs and start practicing.”
“Practicing in what way?”
“Well, I told the half of them to hit their friend ten times, while their friend protects themselves. I was going to have them do that, then switch like you do, but then one of them broke his stick over the other man’s head, and the two of them started to fight for real. They kept hitting each other until the Seigneur made them stop and sent them home.”
“Was that the end of the training?”
“Oh no, father! We still had much to do. After that, I told them we needed to practice an attack on the manor house, ‘cause that’s where the natives would go first. So I said that the farmers would attack the house with the sticks, and the servants would have to defend it, since it’s their job.”
“Did the farmers want to do this?”
“Oh yes, they were really happy about the idea. But, I don’t think the servants liked it much because they complained to the Seigneur.”
Gerard couldn’t suppress his grin at the thought of Seigneur Dupris’ downtrodden peasant farmers being asked to assault the arrogant house servants with sticks.
“And what did the Seigneur think?”
“Oh, he didn’t want to do it ‘cause he said something might get broken, but Claudette cried and he said ‘okay’. She’s really good at crying.”
“I’ll wager she is. So, what occurred?”
“I had the servants go into the house to get ready, and then after I thought they’d had enough time, I told the farmers to act like real natives and try and get inside. A bunch of them jumped in the windows, and a few of them broke down one of the doors on the side. There was lots of yelling and cursing, and Claudette’s father fainted, but there was no-one there to take care of him, so we just put him under a tree.”
She said the last part so casually that even Gerard could do nothing but look at his young charge in astonishment. “You placed the Seigneur under a tree?”
“It was shadier there.”
“Then I got hungry, and decided to come home.” She yawned sleepily. “I told Claudette that I’d come back tomorrow.”
“Of course, Father. I have to teach them how to shoot arrows, don’t I?”
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