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THE FALL OF QUEBEC   93

Saunders, staunch and capable, with a great show of activity and determination as usual, bombarded the Beauport shore, concentrating all the energies of Montcalm and de Levis, while above the Citadel the fateful movement bided its time. In darkness on the decks, or packed together in the shadowy boats below, three thou-sand six hundred troops held themselves in readiness for the start. Between t and 2 a.m. the tide began to turn, and with it a refreshing wind swept down the river. The signal went up at the masthead, and with a thrill of relief the boats stole out one after another, following their leader, with its twenty-four volunteers, all fully alive to the desperate nature of the adventure.

A sharp look-out was kept for the train of provision boats for the Beauport camp that was believed to be running the blockade that night. The expedition had good reason to hope to be mistaken for it. For two hours the cavalcade floated noiselessly down stream, borne by current and tide. The deep blue sky with its twinkling stars stretched above in endless expanse as the mysterious hours of early day crept past. Perfect silence was maintained, except in one of the forward boats, where the young general, in a


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