12th July 1758.
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The general has assigned us to reconnoiter the La Chute in regular patrols - I at the tiller and
My Darling, I beg of you not to concern yourself with my wellbeing on these patrol maneuvers. After repelling the rascals, our spying has become, once again, routine. However, I must tell you of today's "routine" turned a bit awry. Oarsmen struggled with moss and reeds weighing on the sweeps. Their not-quite-calloused palms rotating the wood poles to rid the sweeps of the slime and avoid the reeds. The mouth of the La Chute changes shape constantly, and we must be on the lookout for clear passage.
Ahead, our passage was to remain smooth, the water at times being described as glassy. The sweeps propelled our craft easily, moving us quickly, but ahead an unexpected darkness approached.
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Lucien trained the glass on Rattlesnake Hill, but I noticed the heavens to the west. A patch of grey clouds grew on the horizon and emptied their contents in the valley ahead. Without a doubt, our petite bateau could easily be in direct line of the storm if its rains persisted. I instructed Lucien to look ahead and raise the rod at the bow in the possible event of nearby lightning. Indeed lightning came, accompanied by awful thunder, sounding as if the fort artillery were firing upon us as it had the British less than a week before.
Farther and farther upstream we traveled, until finally, we grounded the boat. No sooner had Lucien secured the bow with a rope when we were deluged with rainfall. The storm came upon us so quickly that we had little choice: tear through the mud to find a rock outcropping or simply wait as the storm soaked our uniforms. We chose the latter as our uniforms would dry when we returned to our barracks, whereas we did not desire to clean caked and dried mud off of our coats and breeches. You must recall, mi amor, how I detest laundry chores, and General Montcalm demands crisp and sharp appearances with no excuse.
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The rains were unrelenting and cold and soaking, disturbing the otherwise smooth water with constant ripples and circles. If lily pads could express their joy, I am certain they would have demonstrated celebration at the continuing shower. Oarsmen held the sweeps across their laps as they shivered from the breeze that blew through us like unholy ghosts. We drew our coats tighter at the throat to keep out the wind (Fortunately, the materials we wear tend to keep us warm in spite of precipitation.). Lucien and I exchanged a look that said we both knew there was nothing that could be done to avoid this unexpected torrent.
One man in particular took much joy in tormenting the rest with bright and cheerful comments, beckoning the gale to become more forceful and begging the sky to open with still more precipitation. As the helmsman, I could have silenced the rabble or threatened the perpetrator, but his teasing did more to lighten the mood than irritate.
The rain became pronouncedly harder for a few minutes, and I knew the end of this particular storm was near. Two final and sharp thunders sounded the end of the rain, and we surmised that our crew had been through enough discomfort for the day. Another crew could reconnoiter in the evening hours after we returned. The wet muck and conditions would discourage the enemy from an attack for a short while - if that is what they had planned for us.
The men were miserable - drenched with the fresh smells of rain, hair plastered to their faces. Their countenances gave away their moods. Unexpectedly, comments turned from misery to jovial mirth, and soon we were all laughing about our experience. Believe me, with the constant threat of British aggression, we do not often exchange frivolous conversation - indeed, I do not believe the general would have approved - but the men's crude comments and light moods were exactly what drove the sweeps to continue their pulling. Lucien smiled and winked at me from the bow and I returned his expression.
We finally climbed the grade back to the parade grounds where our men stripped and dried around our dinner ovens, our bodies absorbing the smoke of red oak coals and the familiar odors of split pea soup. The rest of the evening was cool and delightful, with little thought of the dangers that possibly awaited us.
My dearest, we remain warriors, but we relish the times when we can fellowship as brother countrymen. More so, we covet the idea of returning home to our families or bringing our families to join us in this American wilderness once we secure it as Nouvelle Françoise. I cannot predict when such time will come, but my hope remains firm that our loyal service to the nation will soon benefit us all.
My affection is yours,