Imprisoned: part five
With morose anxiety Michelet studied him do so. “We will stop for the day.”
“No, no. Never mind what Broughton tells you.”
They had barely begun. Honoré by now had gained some inkling of that phrase Broughton used…if, in this “having something to say for himself”, he could parrot Michelet’s vocabulary with a show of knowledge and confidence, he might escape being given many of Michelet’s lessons.
“As you prefer, monsieur. But you must take control of your mount.”
Dragging himself in the direction of his instructor’s pointing finger, Honoré ducked his head well in advance of closing on Mignonne, and scuttled pace by pace until he neared her neck. Twice he darted a hand at the dangling rein. She was a lowly creature, but her new master controlled her with such cowed ineptitude, as to strengthen her resolve. A vine leaf shielded from frost near a fence-post had retained a bit of green…
And this human pest fingering at her halter, soon was sent scrambling by a blow from her flank. Michelet strolled up. “If you will stop those movements, monsieur. Go stroke her nose and speak to her. And remember it is your right foot.”
More prudent their second go, Michelet kept a hand on the saddle pommel, and as he walked Honoré up and down the lane, told his story. “I was born at Beaupré, in Quebec. Of a very respectable mother, monsieur. Now. I made the best living I could in those days, before―”
He began again. “You see, I worked in the logging camps…it has been not quite ten years, I was at the town of St. John. St. John, monsieur, is far from my old home, perhaps as far as your town of Huy from Paris…at the fort there, I saw they had been putting up placards. They asked for men to join the militias. This was at the time of the American war. I will confess to you, that in my childhood, I was taught to read. Books had filled my mind with falsehoods, with stories of spies and smugglers, and I had a hope of seeing action, of doing some great thing.
“The army sent me to the outpost of Tobique. It is a dangerous, rough place, Tobique, full of the bastard Indians. But for me, for knowing from the camps the patois of the métis…they decided I could best serve on sentry duty, and take the watch that began at midnight. I was a dog to them, monsieur…and if they had a bad job that no one wanted, that job was Michelet’s. At times there was a moon, I could use my glass; if a pirogue or a flatboat passed on the river, I noted down what I saw―the number of men aboard her, her location when she appeared, and when she passed from sight.
“You see how I wasted my time in the English uniform! My old work paid me better, and with the horses I was trusted to know my business…I was not given five chores, stopped before I could start the first…then told I would never be promoted because I would not listen to orders! That is a thing about Canada that I know, and that you would not know, Monsieur Gremot.”
(2017, Stephanie Foster)