Peggy – Part Three

Peggy – Part Three

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

Peggy – Part Three

We turn off of Sault-au-Matelot Street and go northwest on St. Paul Street. I suggest we stop for lunch at one of my favourite spots, Buffet de l’Antiquaire, for some affordable home-style cooking.

We get the last table in the crowded restaurant: I order a poutine while Hannah plays it safe with a hamburger and fries.

“I guess you are somewhat of an anomaly,” Hannah says.

“An anomaly? What do you mean?”

“Well, how many Americans do you know who speak French, live in Quebec City, understand Canadian history, and consider beer and poutine as the mainstay of their diet? I mean, you could be tried for treason,” she laughs.

“I guess you have a point. I mean the majority of Americans still think Canadians live in igloos. And I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard the Canadian peso joke from my American friends. You know that I come from a long line of New Englanders, but I love Canada, especially Quebec. My father would have paid for my studies anywhere in the world, but I wanted to study here, in Quebec City. The history and language attract me most. When I’m here, I feel like I’m a million miles away from everyone, yet I also know that I can go to my parents’ place for the week-end in New Hampshire anytime. I get the best of both worlds.”

“I think you’re great. But, then again, I’m a little biased since I’m you’re girlfriend. You know, I’ve been thinking, maybe what’s happened today was not a coincidence. Do you know anyone in Rimouski who you could contact to find out more?”

“As a matter of fact, I do. Would you mind if I make a quick call while you finish off your lunch?” I ask.

“Not at all,” says Hannah.

“Hello, may I speak to Dr. Rasper, please?”

“This is he.”

“Hi doctor, this is Henry Shippen. I’ve taken a few Canadian history courses with you at Laval.”

“Yes, I remember you. You’re American, aren’t you?”

“Yep. Listen, doctor, I was hoping you could give me some information. I read in the paper today about the possible sighting of the Empress of Ireland just off St. Barnabe Island. Can you tell me more about that?”

“A bunch of gibberish. That ship sank ninety-six years ago. How could anyone have seen it? I happened to be down by the St. Lawrence yesterday morning when I heard a commotion. Three people were standing by the edge of the water, almost hysterical, pointing out toward the river. ‘Can you see it’? they kept asking. I looked out and didn’t see anything. Then—and this didn’t appear in the newspaper article—one of the people, a local mystic (whom I consider more of a nut case) looked up to the clouds and said, ‘Beware, beware, revenge will be sought, beware’, as if she was possessed.”

“But did you actually see something, doctor?” I ask.

“Nothing.”

“I’ve got another question for you. Have you ever seen a drawing of the Battle of Quebec by Sydney Adamson?”

“Adamson, yes. It illustrates British forces firing at the American rebels on Sault-au-Matelot Street. This was a crucial moment in the Battle of Quebec. The Americans, led by Montgomery and Arnold, attacked early in the morning on December 31, 1775, using a violent snow storm as cover. Montgomery attacked the Lower Town from below Cape Diamond at Près de Ville—what is now Champlain Boulevard—and Arnold and his men attacked the Lower Town from the other side of Cape Diamond on Sault-au-Matelot Street. There were two diversionary attacks, one at the top of Cape Diamond—right around where the Citadel stands now—and the other at St. John Gate. These were supposed to lure the majority of the British army to the Upper Town while Montgomery and Arnold attempted to capture the Lower Town.”

“Arnold, do you mean Benedict Arnold?”

“Of course. He was wounded in the left leg before the patriots took the first barrier on Sault-au-Matelot Street and sent to the hospital. A man named Morgan replaced him and succeeded in passing the first barrier with little resistance, which means that the patriots’ plan was working; they had taken the British by surprise. But before attacking the second barrier, Morgan wasted valuable time waiting for the signal from Montgomery, his superior officer. Little did he know that Montgomery was killed instantly when he stormed the guardhouse at Près-de-Ville. When Morgan finally decided to attack the second barrier, Sir Guy Carlton, the British governor of Quebec and of Canada, had had time to send troops to Sault-au-Matelot Street—as you can see in Adamson’s drawing—and the British greeted Morgan and his men with close-range musket fire.”

I thanked the professor and closed my cell phone. Then I told Hannah everything. The mystic in Rimouski spooked her. But I reassured her that if Dr. Rasper was not alarmed, then it was likely a hoax. Besides, we have other business to attend to, that of Mrs. Mansfield.

To be continued… 

Peggy – Part One
Peggy – Part Two

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.