Peggy – Part Four

Peggy – Part Four

Here’s the fourth part of ‘Peggy’, columnist John Spychka’s short story.

Peggy – Part Four

We walk northwest down St. Paul Street, away from the Old Port and all the excitement of the birthday celebration, and into the St. Roch district. As we cross the street and join Charest Boulevard, still moving westward, Hannah asks me who we are going to see.

“Mrs. Mansfield. She is an old family friend who has lived in Quebec City all her life. She is in her nineties now but ill and must remain in a long-term care facility. I visit her at least once a week. I’m sure you’ll find her adorable.”

“That sounds like fun,” says Hannah.

From Charest Boulevard, we go north on Chapel Street and make a quick left on St. Joseph Street. As we go by the Gabrielle Roy Municipal Library, I ask Hannah if she minds if we go in for a second. I’d like to check something.

“I sail to Quebec City from New York, and you take me to a public library,” she jokes.

“Dr. Rasper said that I should get James Kirby Martin’s book, Benedict Arnold Revolutionary Hero,” I say.

“No problem. I can check my email while we’re there,” says Hannah.

In the library, I walk by the local authors display and notice a book by Marie-Josée L’Hérault, Taiko, a collection of Japanese short stories. That sounds interesting so I make a note to myself to buy a copy. I easily find Martin’s book and sit down at a table to leaf through it.

“There you are. I’ve been looking all over for you. We’ve been here for nearly an hour,” says Hannah.

“An hour? Sorry. This book intrigues me.”

We leave the library and continue west on St. Joseph Street toward Langelier Boulevard, and I fill in Hannah on what I read:

“After Arnold had been wounded in the leg, he was taken to the General Hospital, the one we are going to right now!”

“I don’t believe it! The hospital still exists?”

“Yes. It’s actually a monastery and a small hospital. It’s run by the Augustines and is a city within a city. It has its own mayor and is independent from Quebec City.”

“So, tell me about Arnold,” says Hannah.

“Well, Arnold’s headquarters were actually right here, in St. Roch, at a place called Menut’s Tavern. Apparently, Carlton had artillery heavy enough to reach St. Roch. After a few near misses, Arnold decided to move to safer ground further from the city. After the battle on December 31, Arnold and his remaining troops held the city under siege for several months. While convalescing, he made plans to attack the city in the spring of 1776 when the reinforcements he requested from Washington were to arrive. Part of Arnold’s plan was to turn one of his merchant ships, Peggy, into a fire ship. Peggy had sailed to Quebec City on business in the summer of 1775 and got stranded here when the war broke out. He had her cargo unloaded—some say it mostly contained rum that he distributed to his soldiers—and filled the ship with explosives. The idea was to attract British ships to Peggy, then detonate her.”

“Therefore, Peggy was not a war ship, but Arnold’s personal property?” asked Hannah.

“Exactly. Unfortunately for Arnold, he was sent to command Montreal around April 1776 and could not carry out his plan. Carleton’s cannoneers blew Peggy out of the water, which marked the beginning of the American retreat from Quebec City. It also caused Arnold commercial and personal loss. Peggy was the name of his wife who died young in 1775 so losing the brigantine would have been symbolic to him.”

“So, Arnold definitely has grounds for revenge,” says Hannah.

“Yes he does. Look. Here we are at the General Hospital at the end of Langelier Boulevard.”

Hannah has a point, I think to myself. Arnold does have motive. Maybe his ghost has returned here to get revenge on the British and take Quebec City. Ghost? What am I thinking? I don’t believe in ghosts.

To be continued… 

Peggy – Part One
Peggy – Part Two
Peggy – Part Three

Categories: News, Opinion

About Author

John Spychka

John Spychka has dabbled in writing since the early ’90s. His closest claim to fame came around 2006 when his work, “The Slava Ladies League Christmas Pyrogy Fiasco,” was shortlisted for the annual Writers’ Union of Canada’s Short Prose Competition. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in English Literature at the University of Calgary and also has a Master’s in English Literature from Université Laval. He has travelled extensively, having lived in Japan and France. John is a manager in a multi-national software company and dreams to one day be able to live off his writing. He lives in Quebec City with his wife and two children.