Authors: Jo Ann Yhard
JO ANN YHARD
Copyright Â© 2013 Jo Ann Yhard
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission from the publisher, or, in the case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, permission from Access Copyright, 1 Yonge Street, Suite 1900, Toronto, Ontario M5E 1E5.
Nimbus Publishing Limited
3731 Mackintosh St, Halifax, NS B3K 5A5
(902) 455-4286 nimbus.ca
Printed and bound in Canada
Author photo: Rhonda Basden
Cover design: Heather Bryan
Interior design: Heather Bryan
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Yhard, Jo Ann
Buried secrets at Louisbourg / Jo Ann Yhard.
Issued also in print format.
PS8647.H37B87 2013 jC813'.6 C2012-907370-9
Nimbus Publishing acknowledges the financial support for its publishing activities from the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) and the Canada Council for the Arts, and from the Province of Nova Scotia through the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage.
For James, my husband and best friend
Fred grabbed the spade and
plunged it into the damp earth. It felt good to dig. The sun was hot on his back, but the ocean breeze was cool. He couldn't believe he was finally here.
“What exactly are we doing here again?” Grace asked, lifting her head.
,” Grace said. She flicked a spade full of dirt in his direction. “Digging for what?”
“I'll know it when I see it.” Carefully, he sifted another handful of dirt through his fingers.
“Why the mystery?” Mai asked.
“I can't tell you yet. You guys have to trust me.”
Mai sat back on her heels, brushing the hair out of her face. A strand was stuck to the corner of her bottom lip.
Fred watched her blow it gently away. He gulped as her eyes met his, feeling heat flood his cheeks.
“Of course we trust you, Freddo.” She smiled. “But if we knew what we were looking for, we might find it faster.”
, good ol' Freddo. She always looks at me the same wayâlike I'm some lost puppy dog.
“Just show me whatever you find, okay?”
Grace muttered under her breath, but resumed digging. Mai shifted another pile of dirt out of her way. Fred remained silent. He had no choice. He
say anything. If he told them what he was looking for, they'd think he was nuts.
He scanned the ground inside the remains of the crumbling stone foundation. It was hard to believe this had been the location of an entire house. It didn't seem much bigger than a living room. The area had already been prepared for excavation, like many other building sites in the ruins; the top layers of grass and rocks had been removed. Otherwise, digging would have been much more difficult. It was luck that this wasn't the site of today's official dig. One more indication in Fred's mind that he was meant to be here.
The King's Bastion towered over them from the top of the hill. Out here on the point, in the ruins, they were outside the reconstructed portion of the Fortress of Louisbourg. Fred, Mai, and Grace were plunk in the middle of where the main part of the town had been. Remnants of collapsed and demolished walls poked out from underneath lumpy carpets of grass and dirt.
Fred examined the collection of artifacts they'd uncovered so far. A few nails, pieces of broken plates, a metal spoon, and a cup. A pile of junk! In two hours, they had barely covered a fraction of the small space.
Time was running out.
What if he didn't find it? What if he was in the wrong place? Beads of sweat bubbled on his forehead. That wasn't an option. He had to find it.
“C'mon you guys, go faster,” he growled. He had checked the map a hundred times. This was where the house had been. It
the right place. He attacked the ground with fury. But the digging and sifting under the hot sun lasted only a few more minutes.
“All right, that's it!” Grace threw down her spade. “We don't work for you, you know. If we did, I'd have to go on strike for better pay. Heck, for
pay. We've been digging in the dirt all morning and I don't even know what I'm supposed to be looking for.”
Mutiny! He turned to Mai, confident of her support. Two to oneâGrace would be outvoted. But he was face to face with another rebellion.
“I don't like being barked at,” she said, crossing her arms. With her lips pressed into a grimace and her eyebrows mashed together in an angry line, she reminded him of a princess warrior in one of his video gamesâpretty, but don't cross her 'cause she'll kill you.
“Okay, okay, I'm sorry.”
“Tell us what we're doing here.”
“Mai, please. You guys have to help me. I can't do it by myself. We may never get back here,” he begged. “C'mon, Grace.”
“Fred, enough with the cloak and dagger. No games,” Grace said.
“It's not a game!” he shouted. “It's my LIFE!”
“Yourâ¦life?” Grace repeated. “Are you cracking up? What are you talking about?”
Time was wasting. No one was digging. He sucked in a deep breath and blew it out slowly. Maybe he could tell them. They might even believe him.
He opened his mouth to speak when a blur of movement caught his eye. “Get down!” he rasped, dropping flat to the ground.
“What theâ” Looking even more confused, Grace obeyed, sprawling in the dirt. Mai crouched down beside her, worry replacing anger in her chocolate brown eyes.
Please don't come over here. Please don't come over here
. Fred's silent prayer ricocheted inside his skull like a pinball. He lifted his head a smidge, trying to catch another glimpse of the man in the soldier's uniform. He had to be a fortress employee. Where had he gone?
“Why are we hiding?” Grace whispered fiercely. “Mom said I could come this weekend to stay
She glared at him with Medusa eyes.
Sweat trickled a lazy path between his shoulder blades. He countedâ
one, two, three
âup to one hundred. Nothing. Were they safe? He rose to his knees, peering over the grassy slope that surrounded the foundation. He felt like a gopher poking out of its hole, watching for the hovering eagle to swoop down and grab him in its talons.
Grace's lips were almost touching his ear. Fred jumped and lost his balance, toppling backward against the rock wall. She advanced menacingly. He feared for a moment she actually could turn him to stone with her angry eyes. His fingers clenched, burrowing into the soft dirt beneath him.
Wait a minute. This didn't feel like dirt. It was soft and fluffy. He pulled out a handful and ground some in his palm. The residue was grey and sooty. Ash. The fireplace.
“We're not allowed to be here,” Grace guessed, interrupting his thoughts. “That's why everyone else is digging further away at that roped-off place, isn't it?”
Mai's mouth fell open. “Is that true?” she gasped. “I mean, this is a heritage site. They only let the public in on this archaeological program a few days a year.” She dug into her pocket, pulling out a neatly folded brochure and waving it at him. “We have permission to be on this lot, don't we, Fred? We're not breaking the law, are we?”
“Uhâ¦” he said, digging his hands deeper into the ash. Was it possible? Could he have buried it here?
Could we get arrested?
“What?” He felt around with his fingers. How deep did the ash go? Fred pushed down harder. It was a curious sensation, being buried up to the elbows. His shoulders were pressed against the cold stone of the foundation. Grace was still glowering down at him.
“Are you listening to me?”
Mai's voice tickled his brain, as if from far away. Fred closed his eyes, his senses honed in on his fingers as they tunnelled through the ash.
“Ouch!” he cried. His index finger had run into something sharp. Gently, he felt around the area, his fingers finding the straight edges of something cool and hardâ¦and square.
He could barely breathe. This was it. Just like he'd dreamed. Everything was going to be okay after all. His fingers curled around his find. Sighing, Fred tilted his head back and slowly opened his eyes. An angry face stared down at him.
“What do you think you're doing?” the soldier snarled.
Fred gaped up at the
angry soldier dressed in blue, his eyes drawn to the long gun at his side. The re-enactor's eighteenth-century French officer's uniform looked totally real, just like photos he'd seen. So what about the gun? Was it real, too?
“Well?” barked the soldier.
“Cat got your tongue?”
Fred clutched the box tighter. Whatever happened, he wasn't leaving without it.
“Trying to think up a lie, eh? Out with it!”
Could my heart explode?
Fred wondered, wincing as it thundered like a Japanese taiko drum in his ear. Paralyzed, he couldn't think of anything to say. He was dead meat!
“We're part of the Public Archaeological Program,” Mai said.
The soldier immediately relaxed his stance. “Oh, you're with those people, are you?” he grunted, rolling his eyes. He waved his gun toward the roped-off section on the other side of the ruins. “You're supposed to be over there with the rest of them.”
“Sorry,” she continued. “It was so crowded, we thought it wouldn't matter which part of the ruins we excavated. As long as we turned in what we found, of course.”
Fred held his breath, his arms still buried in soot.
The soldier rotated in a slow circle, examining each of them in turn. His gaze rested on the few items they'd found. “Well,” he said, “it does matter. This is a protected site, and I'm here to do just thatâprotect it. You can't dig wherever you feel like it.”
“We didn't know.”
“They shouldn't be letting the public dig in here anyway,” the soldier said. “I warned them it wasn't a good idea.”
“We'll leave,” Grace said.
“This might be just a field of rocks to you kids, but it's actually a very important place.” Soldier guy stuck his chest out, his arms spread wide. “Bet you kids didn't know thisâthe Fortress of Louisbourg is the biggest reconstructed site in North America. A real piece of history.”
“It is amazing,” Mai said.
“And it needs to be protected.” The soldier stood over Fred. “You. Up. You'll all have to come with me.”
The guy was going to turn them in. Fred couldn't believe he'd come this close and was going to lose it all. As the soldier bent to scoop up their meagre collection of unearthed treasures, Fred glared at Grace. Distract him, he mouthed silently, his eyes darting to the soldier's back.
Grace grinned and nodded.
“Um, officer?” she cooed in a sickly sweet and very un-Grace-like voice. “Could I ask you some questions about the fortress? You seem like you know a lot.” She spread out a map along the wall away from Fred.
“Well, yes, I do. I've worked here every summer for fifteen years,” he said. “I know every boulder and brick.”
Mai and Grace huddled over the map, asking questions about various buildings. Fred pulled the box out of the ash and leapt to his feet. He stuffed the narrow, flat, black metal case down the front of his pants and pulled his shirt out over, letting it hang loose. It seemed to hide the bulge from the box. At least, he hoped it did.
What was the punishment for removing artifacts from a heritage site? He imagined being locked away in some dungeon-like prison for fifty years, with long white hair and crazy eyes, never seeing his family againâ
Fred snapped out of his daydream. “What?”
Did he suspect? Could he see there was something under his shirt? “What? No, Iâ”
“We're leaving,' Grace interrupted. “No problem. We're going
.” She grabbed her pack and handed Fred his. “Come on,” she whispered. “And walk behind me. You've got soot all over your shirt.”
He could feel the sharp metal edges of the box digging into his skin. Maybe he could sneak it into his backpack. The waist of his jeans wasn't very secureâthey were baggier than ever these days.
“Hang on,” the soldier said. “What's in those packs?”
“Nothing,” Mai said.
“How do I know that? I'll have to take you to the office to have them searched. This is a breach of security.”
“Please, we, uh, don't want to get in any trouble,” Fred said. “Isn't there something you can do?”
The soldier stroked his chin. “Well,” he said. “You'll have to show me what you've got in there. I wouldn't be doing my job if I just let you walk away without checking inside them.”
“You can't do that,” Grace said. She shoved her pack behind her back. “Isn't that like an illegal search or something?”
“Fine.” The soldier shrugged. “We'll go to the security office. But they'll
look in your packs, and you'll probably get kicked out of here.”
“No!” Fred shouted. “We're camping hereâpart of the grand encampment. We can't get kicked out.”
“Your choice,” the soldier said.
Fred pleaded to Mai and Grace with his eyes.
“Oh, fine,” Grace relented, handing over her pack. “But I still think it's illegal.” Mai surrendered hers as well. The soldier began rooting through them, searching every compartment and placing the contents one by one on the grass.
Mai inched over to stand beside Fred and grabbed his arm. “What are you doing?” she hissed in his ear.
“What do you mean?”
“I saw you stick something in your shirt.”
“No I didn't.”
She jabbed him in the stomach, her knuckle banging on the metal. “Then what's that?”
The box slipped. He grabbed the front of his jeans, catching it before it fell down his pant leg. Luckily, the soldier, still sorting through Mai's pack, had his back to them.
“Mai, don't start,” Fred whispered. He wiggled around, trying to shift the box to a more secure spot.
“You aren't seriously stealing that?”
“It's not stealing,” he said. “It belongs to me.”
Mai's jaw dropped. “Okay, now I know you're losing it. You think something you just dug up in a three-hundred-year-old fortress belongs to
“I know it does.”
“How do you figure that?”
“It's a long story.”
“Next,” the soldier said, beckoning over his shoulder for Fred's backpack.
Fred was still doing a little dance to get the box over his right leg so he could hold on to it through his pocket, and trying to hide the sooty handprints on his shirt. Mai glared at him, grabbed his bag, and stomped over to pass it to the soldier.
“What are you doing with all that stuff?” The soldier pointed to the contents of Mai's bag spread out on the grass.
“I like to be prepared.”
“For what? World War Three?”
“Thank you for being neat.” Mai smiled and began methodically repacking her bag.
The soldier shook his head and turned to Grace. “And you,” he said, “are you kidding me? Swiss Army knife, rope, gloves,
“We're explorers,” she said, as if that explained everything.
He held Grace's gaze. She didn't flinch. Oh no, Fred thought. What if he changed his mind and took them to security after all? That couldn't happen.
“Uh-huh.” The soldier passed her empty pack back to her.
Suddenly, another blue-uniformed employee appeared. His eyes widened as he took in the backpack contents strewn over the grass. “
What are you doing?”
“These kids aren't supposed to be here.” He pointed to the small pile of artifacts.
“You can't search their stuff!”
“I had to make sure they didn't take anything.”
The other soldier ran his hand through his hair. “You take this way too seriously, Gerard. We're just re-enactors, you knowâa summer job. If there's a problem, you're supposed to tell security. That's
“No, it's okay,” Fred said. “We told him he could.”
“Why would you do that?” the other soldier asked.
“It's our faultâwe were in the wrong place,” Fred replied. “He was giving us a break. Look, he can see what's in my bag, too. Mai, show him.”
Mai dumped everything onto the grass. Fred's rumpled clothes and balled-up papers were a stark contrast to Mai's tidy pile, now neatly packed away.
The other soldier shook his head. “Whatever,” he said.
Gerard reached out as if to search through the pile.
The other soldier cleared his throat. “
“Well, I suppose you weren't stealing anything,” Gerard said, finally. He sounded disappointed. His eyes met Fred's. “But you're up to something. There's no doubt about that.”
Fred opened his mouth to protest, but Mai's warning stare stopped him.
“Give it a rest, Gerard. C'mon, kids,” the other soldier said.
Fred shuffled awkwardly over to the wall, leaning against the stone to hold the box in place so he had both hands free to pack his things. The guard was surveying him with a frown.
As they marched single file along the path to join the authorized excavation site, Gerard leaned over and whispered menacingly in Fred's ear, “I'll be watching you.”