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CHAPTER XXIV THE GLORIOUS VICTORY
The weeks went by and still Montcalm held Quebec, and the English invaders made little progress toward wresting it from him. Flags of truce often passed between the hostile camps.

"You will demolish the town, no doubt," said the bearer of one of them, "but you shall never get inside of it."

To which Wolfe replied:

"I will have Quebec if I stay here till the end of November."

Along the river from Montmorenci Falls to Point Levi there were frequent artillery fights between the English warships and the French batteries, while bands of Indians infested the outskirts of the English camps, killing and scalping the sentries at every opportunity.

The special duty of the Rangers was to attend to these red devils, and they did it nobly.

Seth was never idle. Had he needed any incitement to diligence and daring in meeting the assaults of the Indians, his admiration for General Wolfe and desire to merit his approval would have supplied it, and it was one of the proudest moments of his life when, on his return from a dash into the forest which had resulted in the despatching of a dozen Indians, and the taking of half as many prisoners, the General called him before him, and in the presence of his whole staff, said:

"I want to express to you, Lieutenant Allen, my appreciation of the very valuable service you and your Rangers are rendering. My own men know nothing about this forest fighting in which yours are so expert, and I would be well pleased if we had a much larger company of you than we have. When this business is over I will see to it that your excellent work receives due acknowledgment."

Seth heard this praise with heightened colour and throbbing pulses. No sweeter words had ever fallen upon his ears, and he was so moved that he found difficulty in making a brief response expressing his thanks for the commendation, and assuring the general that he would continue to serve him to the utmost of his ability.

Still the days grew into weeks, until autumn drew near without the defence of the city showing signs of weakening. A part of the English fleet had run the gauntlet of the French batteries and reached the upper river, so that the city was now exposed to attack from above and below as well as in front, but the unique strength of its situation enabled it even then to defy the invaders, who began to despair of accomplishing their object.

At last Wolfe determined upon attempting the desperate expedient of landing a force on the beach above Quebec, scaling the precipitous bluff to the Plains of Abraham, and thence advancing upon the city.

No sooner did this daring design come to Seth's knowledge than he resolved to have a part in the enterprise if he could, and he made haste to secure an interview with the general that he might prefer his request.

He found the great man engrossed in business, and had to wait long before he could obtain his ear, but when he did make known his desire, the kindly smile that lit up the commander's countenance augured well as to the nature of his reply.

"And so you are not content with having thus far escaped the scalping knives of your Indian friends, but hanker for further perils," he said in a bantering tone. "Do you realize what tremendous risks we are taking, and that there is a very good chance of our being cut to pieces, or taken prisoners?"

"That does not trouble me in the least," responded Seth brightly. "I only know that you intend to lead the attacking party yourself, and wherever you go I'm ready to go too."

Rising from his seat General Wolfe stepped up to Seth and laid his hand upon his shoulder, while he said, in a voice that shook with emotion, for he had been greatly depressed of late, and the New England youth's expression of loyal devotion had touched and cheered his heart:

"You're a brave, true lad. I appreciate and honor your noble feelings. You shall go with us."

Seth murmured his thanks and withdrew in a state of high elation. He would not then have changed places with any officer in the whole English army.

When Wolfe had gathered his men, whose total number fell short of five thousand, and the necessary boats and bateaux to transport them from the ships to the shore, he appointed the night for the venture.

On a call being made for volunteers to lead the soldiers up the heights Seth was among the first to respond, and only twenty-four being wanted he was glad to be accepted for the dangerous task.

It was a still dark night when the procession of boats carrying the vanguard of the English, followed by the ships with the remainder, borne on the current, steered silently down the St. Lawrence, and Seth in the foremost boat, sobered by a sense of the tremendous risk, speculated as to the chances of being alive twenty-four hours hence.

"We're bound to lose a good many of our men," he said to himself, "and maybe it will be my turn to fall. I've had a lot of narrow escapes and I suppose I can't count on always being so lucky. Well, there's no telling, and I'm not going to worry about it. I'll just do the best I can, and leave the rest to Providence."

As the boats neared their destination the tide bore them in toward the shore, and suddenly the silence was broken by the sharp "qui vive" of a French sentry invisible in the darkness.

Now Seth had put to good use the long months of his captivity at Montreal by acquiring a knowledge of the French language, having noticed what an advantage Major Rogers found his command of it to be, and so with quick wit he responded:

"France."

"A quel regiment?" the sentry demanded, being not altogether satisfied.

"De la Reine," answered Seth, because he knew that this corps was with Bougainville up the river, and the sentry, who was expecting a convoy of provisions from that direction, asked no more awkward questions.

But the danger from this source was not yet over. A little further on another vigilant sentry challenged, and ran down to the water's edge to get a better look at them. Seth, however, was equal to the occasion.

"Be quiet," he said, in a tone of reproof, "or the English will hear us. We have provisions for the army."

As an English war vessel lay at anchor not very far off the warning seemed well-founded, and the suspicions of the sentry being allayed, he, too, forebore to question further.

A few minutes later the boats rounded the headland above the Anse du Foulon, and were beached on the narrow strand at the foot of the heights.

Seth and his fellow-volunteers at once sprang ashore, and set about climbing the steep, tree-clothed ascent, being closely followed by a number of regulars.

It was a no less difficult than perilous task, and had the French above been on the alert they might easily have foiled the daring attempt, for the climbers could not have defended themselves, seeing that it required all their energies to work their way up.

Seth could not help thinking how easily a stalwart guardsman might drive them back single-handed, and it was with a very decided feeling of relief that at last, breathless and wellnigh spent, he reached the top unchallenged, and saw in the dim light a cluster of tents not far away.<............
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