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Authors: John Skelton

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Band of Acadians

BOOK: Band of Acadians
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             a novel

John Skelton

Copyright © John Skelton, 2009

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise (except for brief passages for purposes of review) without the prior permission of Dundurn Press. Permission to photocopy should be requested from Access Copyright.

Editor: Michael Carroll
Designer: Jennifer Scott
Printer: Webcom

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Skelton, John, 1942-
  Band of Acadians : a novel / by John Skelton.

ISBN 978-1-55488-040-9

  1. Acadians--Expulsion, 1755--Juvenile fiction. I. Title.

PS8637.K45B36 2009    jC813'.6    C2009-900500-X

1 2 3 4 5    13 12 11 10 09

We acknowledge the support of the
Canada Council for the Arts
and the
Ontario Arts Council
for our publishing program. We also acknowledge the financial support of the
Government of Canada
through the
Book Publishing Industry Development Program
The Association for the Export of Canadian Books
, and the
Government of Ontario
through the
Ontario Book Publishers Tax Credit program
, and the
Ontario Media Development Corporation

Care has been taken to trace the ownership of copyright material used in this book. The author and the publisher welcome any information enabling them to rectify any references or credits in subsequent editions.

J. Kirk Howard, President

Printed and bound in Canada.

Dundurn Press
3 Church Street, Suite 500
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M5E 1M2
Gazelle Book Services Limited
White Cross Mills
High Town, Lancaster, England
Dundurn Press
2250 Military Road
Tonawanda, NY
U.S.A. 14150

For Brian and Hollyberry Oursie Bear with love


1. Grand Pré

2. Crossing the Isthmus

3. Tatamagouche

4. To St. Peter's

5. Whycocomagh

6. Westmount and Louisbourg

7. Amazing Excitement

8. War

Selected Reading and Websites

Grand Pré

Fenced-in yard of Saint-Charles-des-Mines Church, Sunset, September 9, 1755

ourage, my dear, you must muster all of your courage,” Nola's father said. “Your mother and I beg you to show your love by escaping Grand Pré this very night. Tomorrow will be too late. First thing in the morning the British soldiers will be shoving all men and boys onto those awful transport boats. That will be the end of our life here in lovely Acadia. We'll be landless and treated like dirt wherever we go. But you, Nola, with daring and luck, can get away to start a new life. We want you to escape to become our beacon of hope. Get away, dear daughter. Go to Louisbourg, or somewhere else that's safe.”

“But, Papa, no! I want to help you and Mama here. I want us to stay together as a family.”

“In a better world that would be the right thing to do, but we must accept that our life here is over. Be strong, my love. We've worked out a plan for you and fifty other girls and fifty boys to escape. You're a leader. We're depending on you to help lead those young people to a place where you can live free from these dreadful British soldiers.”

“What about Mama? Will she stay with you?”

“Yes, we'll work together to survive as best we can. The plan is for you, as soon as it's dark, to help our friend, Hector, and the others to escape from this church that's become a prison. You and the girls must prepare hollows in the dikes by the west side of the Gaspereau River beforehand so the others have a place to hide from the soldiers. When the soldiers give up searching, the whole group is to scramble over to where our small fishing sloops are stored. Our hope is that those trusty shallops will carry you away from Grand Pré to a new life.”

“Has Hector agreed to this? Is he ready?”

“Yes, Hector's very keen. He's sick to death of being shoved around by the military.”

“Papa, if I do this, I may never see you or Mama again.”

Her father hugged her tightly, tears welling up. “Don't despair,
ma petite fille
. We must hope that someday, somewhere, we'll be reunited in a place that's safer than Grand Pré has become.”

Unable to stifle her own sobs, Nola mustered all her strength and turned away from her distraught father. Looking up, she saw a surly sky forming — a southeaster was coming in. That could bring cover and a good wind for an escape. Perhaps she could make it all happen, after all. Slowly, optimism began to fill her as she contemplated the implications of the advancing storm. She walked nervously past the heavily guarded priest's house used as a headquarters by the British, and studiously avoiding eye contact with the soldiers, went straight to the spot in a field where her best friend, Jocelyne, was picking corn. On reaching her friend, she whispered nervously, “Jocelyne, have you heard about the escape plan?”

“Yes, Nola, my mother told me. Our parents have come up with an excellent plan. It's scary, but I think we can do it. There are only three hundred soldiers here, and we're almost three thousand. It won't be easy. Those soldiers are tough, and they aren't playing games. Some of the meaner ones seem to enjoy harassing us.”

“I know what you mean. Yesterday one of them tried to touch me, but I shrieked so loudly he ran off. It was lucky for me there were others around when that happened. It's going to be difficult and scary, but the more I think about it the more I believe escaping is the right thing to do.” Hesitating for a moment, Nola continued. “Let's get a crew of girls together without attracting undue attention and start loading food in our shallops.”

“Oh, I'm so glad you've agreed to come,” Jocelyne said, reaching over and giving her friend a big hug. “I've got some corn here, and near our house there are apples, wheat, carrots, and turnips.”

“That's my Jocelyne! If you could butcher a few dozen chickens, that would help, but you must do it quietly or don't do it at all. And try to get some blankets to protect us from the weather. There's not much time before Hector and company will be looking for our signals, so do what you can in the next few hours and then hide by the shallops. On second thought, I'd best get the rest of the girls and start digging hollows into the dikes myself. Are you going to be all right to get the supplies on your own?”

“I don't know, but I'll try. I know where everything is, including where the soldiers stowed our shallops. Count on me to do my best. But I'm not sure how you'll make those hiding holes.”

“Try not to worry about that,” Nola said. “You'll have more than enough to do yourself. Father told me how to work around the hollow places between the main supports in the dikes. We'll need shovels and saws for that. He said we need to make enough room to hide about fifty people. I think we can hide the entrances by replacing the flaps of grass. You go ahead and do what you have to do.”

“Did you hear that your grandpa may be coming with us? The soldiers didn't lock him up at the church since it's so crowded and they figured he's too old to cause them much trouble.”

“That's great news,” Nola said. “He's a good man with lots of experience. I'm sure he'll be a big help even with that painful arthritis of his.”

While Jocelyne busied herself with the food and shelter tasks, Nola moved on to some houses and scouted around for tools. Along the way she attempted to recruit a few girls she judged were responsible enough to handle the tough and dangerous job of tunnelling into the dikes. She found the tools she needed and convinced several trustworthy girls to take on the digging and sawing tasks.

About four hours after dusk the streets were deserted and dark enough that Nola felt the time was right for her and her crew to slink toward the embankments. That risky manoeuvre went off without a hitch, and the dike work began. Nola was cheered that the wind and rain from the incoming southeaster helped muffle the noise of their burrowing.

Mud, restricted space, and dim lantern lights made digging and chopping difficult and sweaty, yet after an hour's work Nola paused to say, “You know, it's strange, but I find this work actually quite comforting.”

Three hours into the task and bathed in sweat she judged they had made sufficient headway. She sat inside the biggest hollow, turned up the lantern, and called her fellow diggers. “Great work, girls, but that's all we have time to do. Give yourself a pat on the back. Our next step is for you join the others back at the shallops. There's no need to risk having all of you here when the soldiers chase after the boys. Anyway, there's not enough room. I'll stay behind to signal them. Go, run over to those boats.”

There were many grumbles about leaving Nola alone, though everyone understood why that had to be. Those hesitating too long — and there were several — she shoved forcibly out the flap door, chiding them. “
It's the right thing to do now.”

Shortly after the last girl slipped out, Nola climbed to the top of the dike and waved her signal light in a slow semicircle. She then crouched so that only her head and no light showed. Almost immediately shouts and thumping noises came from the direction of the church, and an instant after that a stream of figures rose out of the darkness and swept toward her at full speed. She doused the lantern and stood, casting a dim silhouette in the shadows of the night.

BOOK: Band of Acadians
10.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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