20 THE DEFENCE OF VERCHERES
homage to the representative of his King, one gentleman after another yielded up his sword, and with his right hand between those of the Governor, repeated the ancient oath of fidelity, afterwards to be entered in a register and signed and countersigned with official exactitude. In the absence of Monsieur and Madame, the head of the family for the time being was their eldest child and only daughter, a girl of fourteen or so, named Madelaine.
At the time the reedy bays and indentations on both shores of the river were alive with the fluttering wings and excited quackings of wild-duck, on their semi-annual migratory flight. The long summer had been spent in the far north nesting and bringing up their young, and now as usual they sought a climate more genial in which to spend the winter. Day by day myriads of the graceful water-fowl, with their glossy dark necks and breasts of silvery grebe, might be seen passing overhead in wedge-shaped flocks, though rarely without spending some days at least in their favourite St. Lawrence feeding-grounds.
To the average man nothing is more irresistible than a shot at duck in the season, and in the natural course of events the garrison had