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Warning: Mature Adults only

Harper's Egypt


Chapter 11 Chapter 11. Time. It was Bonaparte's enemy and Acre's friend on this 24th April. There was still that second Turkish army, massed at Rhodes, ready to descend on Egypt while he was pinned down here. He must finish this! But, as he stood on King Richard's Hill and trained his telescope on the city's still unbroken walls, he reflected that lack of time was not his only problem. First, he was forced to admit that in Djezzar Pasha, he was facing a surprisingly formidable opponent. Any other Turkish governor would long ago have fled or come to terms, and Acre would have been Bonaparte's. Obviously, he held his soldiers in a grip of terror, and they would gladly endure the worst that the French could hurl at them rather than risk his wrath. And he was getting regular supplies from the English-controlled sea; there was no question of starving him out. Secondly, the French army was racked with dysentery, heatstroke and typhus. And there were ugly indications that the plague had followed his army from Jaffa. The same symptoms, delirium, buboes and fever, over two hundred and fifty cases in the last two weeks. The stink of death hovered over the besieger's camp like a gunpowder cloud. So far, the army wasn't panicking, but if the cases increased . . . Third, he still lacked the heavy siege guns he needed to batter down the defiant city walls. If only his message had gotten to that fool Captain Standelet in time, that he should land the guns immediately before the English captured them. The remaining siege guns, six twenty-four and three eighteen-pounders, had been brought from Egypt by three French frigates as far as Jaffa, and from there were proceeding overland. He had needed to send four hundred men from Lannes' division as escort; he was not going to lose these guns to the English! But he was expecting them in less than a week. Then they would see! In the mean time, he lacked adequate ammunition for the two siege guns he had captured at Haifa. His soldiers were reduced to collecting spent Turkish and British shot, for which they were paid; twenty-three sous for each thirty-four-pounder delivered, fifteen for each twelve-pounder, and ten for each eight-pounder. Fourth, he had suffered a grievous loss, General Caffarelli, his chief engineer. The one legged General had been stumping around the trenches three days ago, had raised his arm to point to the Devil's Tower, and promptly had it shattered by a cannonball. He had been hovering between life and death ever since, but gangrene had set in, and Doctor Larrey had said that the end was not far off. As a good Republican, Caffarelli was having Voltaire read to him during his lucid moments. Even as he reflected on the loss of his engineer, a round shot struck just to his left, killing a number of soldiers who were sitting at rest there. Two of Bonaparte's aide-de-camps threw themselves on him, bearing him to the ground and shielding him with their bodies as dirt from the blast was flung over their backs. Bonaparte got to his feet, brushing himself off. An aide handed him his hat, which he repositioned on his head, and his telescope, which he trained again on the Devil's Tower. ******* From his parapet by the Devil's Tower, Harper peered out at the French, who were either out of range on safe below ground level in their trenches. Since the failed French attack nearly a month ago, things had been quiet. But now that the bulk of the French army had returned from Galilee, it looked like things would soon get lively again. The besieged had certainly not taken the siege passively. Since the failed French assault, the Turks had sallied out from the gates at lest four times, sometimes led by Djezzar Pasha himself, scimitar in hand, at the head of his horsemen, assaulting the French working on their trenches and tunnels. Bonaparte's men had suffered some losses, but always, they had driven the attackers back. Both sides resorted to various tricks to confuse the enemy. The French put up scarecrows in grenadier's uniforms along the trenches, to cause the Turks and British to reveal their gun positions and squander ammunition. Djezzar's men threw incandescent grenades developed by Colonel Phelipeaux into the moat at night to keep it well lit, in case the French tried to infiltrate under cover of darkness. This supplemented the lanterns and torches hung along the walls. The Turks also put dogs in the moat, whose barking would warn of any French surprise attacks. Harper hoped the dogs wouldn't get hurt. He realized that he had not noticed any birds for a long time. Obviously, they knew, better than men, to steer clear of the siege. The French had been methodically digging trenches, and then parallels to the trenches, and then closer trenches. From there, they had tunneled towards the walls and exploded mines under them. The besieged strengthened the walls and towers where they had been damaged by the mines' explosions. They dug counter-tunnels, starting inside the town, but leading towards the French tunnels, with the aim of capturing and destroying them, and preventing the detonation of more mines. Harper had taken his turn working on the counter-tunnels, but his size prevented him from working deep within their length. It was just as well, for he discovered that he disliked tightly closed-in places almost as much as he disliked heights. And always, Djezzar Pasha had been there, exhorting his men and herding civilians, men, women and children, to work on the fortifications. Almost always, Sir Sidney, in his full dress uniform, stood at his side. On one occasion, Sir Sidney and some officers had crept out from the walls to reconnoiter the French position. Harper had been part of his escort. They had gotten no more than a hundred yards from the walls before French light troops had them under fire from the trenches. As they crouched down, Sir Sidney turned to his escort. "Gentlemen, crawling back to the city is now impossible. Therefore, I suggest we run, and the devil take the hindmost!" Without another word, he leaped to his feet and sprinted for Acre. The rest watched him in shock, and then followed as fast as they could. Harper and the marines rose in line and poured a volley into the French trenches to keep their heads down. Harper was the last one to make it inside, so the devil hadn't been fast enough. On 15th April, while most of the French army had been away in Galilee, the besieged made their greatest sally, against a big mine within their main tunnel, no more than half a pistol-shot from the wall. And Harper ended up right in the middle of it. They were organized into three groups. The Turks, on either flank, would make sorties to divert French attention towards them. Meanwhile, a hundred marines, mostly from the Theseus, under Major Oldfield and Captain Wright, would make the real attack in the center. Finnigan and the other marines along the ramparts, mostly from the Tigre, would give covering fire. The Turks ran full into the massed canister fire of the French field guns. Although ineffective against the walls, they did much better against flesh and blood, and the Turks took heavy losses. Harper was amazed at their reckless courage. He figured they probably didn't want their noses or balls cut off by Ardath Bey. Shrugging off their casualties, they poured into the French trenches and started fierce hand-to-hand combat. Major Oldfield signaled with his hand, and the marines poured down the breach towards the tunnels mouth, which they could see by the culvert, near the moat. A few shots whizzed by Harper's ears, but most grenadiers in the area were jumping into the fight with the Turks. Major Oldfield reached the tunnel, but started back, a bullet through his heart, just at its door. Harper was just behind him. He only had a few seconds. No time to go into the tunnel. As he looked into its black mouth, he could see the red glow of the mine's fuse burning down. No time left! Harper unslung his volley gun, pointed it down the tunnel, and let fly. The detonation in the confined space was deafening. Six of the wooden supports of the tunnel were destroyed in a cloud of flying splinters, and the others gave way, one after the other, quicker and quicker, until the whole thing collapsed, burying the mine under hundreds of pounds of dirt and quenching its fuse. But now the French were wise to their ruse, and as Harper turned to exit, he ducked down to avoid shots coming at his from three sides. The marines on the wall tried to cover them, but the French were already at bayonet point with the marines, and they couldn't fire on the first without hitting the second. Harper swung the empty volley gun, felt the satisfying impact of steel against skull, and looked around. He wished there was a faster way to reload it. Looking down the trenches, he could see French soldiers heading his way. A lot of French soldiers. From the ramparts, he faintly heard Finnigan's unmistakable voice. "C'mon, Patrick, move your sorry arse!" He didn't need the prompt. Attacked from the front and both flanks, it was plain that it was time to leave. They had done their job. He saw a wounded officer at his feet and scooped him up under his left arm. It was Captain Wright. He sprinted for the breach, and the marines now had a clear field of fire to cover their withdrawal. A half dozen French infantry tried to follow, but thought better of it when two of them were shot down. Harper got back to the breach in the midst of the raiding party's withdrawal, depositing the dazed Wright on the floor. It looked like they had lost some twenty-five marines, and perhaps three times as many Turks. As for French losses, the Turks brought back sixty-seven heads that night, to present to Djezzar Pasha for his bounty. From his place on the wall, Harper could see the Major's body where it lay. Thinking that the Major might be the hated Colonel Phelipeaux, the French, not daring to risk the fire from the walls, harpooned his body and dragged it into the trenches. Some papers in his pocket identified Major Oldfield, and the French buried him with full military honors. Even as he was resting from his sprint, a loud, but muffled explosion drew his attention to the Devil's Tower. The French had exploded yet another mine beneath it. As the smoke and dust cleared, Harper could see that it had only blown up a corner, opening up the narrowest of breaches. Still, the grenadiers charged it with commendable spirit. From above, the Turks rained down on them rocks, grenades, and fizzing shells. This apparently wasn't enough to stop the Frogs, so Harper obligingly rolled down on their heads a "stinkpot" a keg of mealed gunpowder mixed with sulphur. They burned with an intense fire and let off a cloud of choking fumes. When this didn't seem to be enough, he followed it with a second, and then a third. Catching a whiff of the sulpherous fumes, Harper was glad he wasn't down there with the French. The resulting explosions incinerated or suffocated most of them instantly, but a few stumbled, half-burned, back to their lines. Harper looked down at the crisped, blackened bodies below and decided on the whole, that he liked defending a fortress better than attacking one. Apparently, General Bonaparte's philosophy of siegecraft was, if your first strategy doesn't succeed, do it again and again and expect different results. Finnigan said he'd heard that was the definition of insanity. The following day, Bonaparte ordered another assault, in the same place, at the same breach. Lieutenant Bromley signaled several of the marines, including Harper and Finnigan. "Move into the tower, second floor. I think the French may get a foothold this time." He was right. A hundred grenadiers actually penetrated into the lower level of the Devil's Tower, shouting their battle cries, looking around for some Turks to butcher. But something was wrong with the room, and they quickly identified it. There were no Turks in it. They had removed the ladders, so there was no way to the second level. From gaps in the ceiling, they poured a withering fire down on the French, muskets, grenades, and shells, with a solid line of marines backing them up, led by Sir Sidney himself. The grenadiers were caught like rats in a trap. Harper almost felt sorry for them, killing them was so easy. But he killed them anyway. After most of them were dead, the rest were forced to withdraw. Apparently, Sir Sidney's strategy, to play for time, to extend the siege's duration, was working. Bonaparte was making all the mistakes of a man in desperate haste. If he had waited for the siege guns, coordinated his mines and assaults with their bombardment, things might be going differently now. On the 1st May, Harper and Finnigan received some sad news. Colonel Phelipeaux, the brave little French artilleryman, had collapsed and died of sunstroke while putting the final touches on the defenses behind the site of the expected French breach. Harper was sorry, he had not known the Frenchman well, but he seemed a fine fellow for a Frog. But he had prepared a final surprise for Bonaparte before he died. On 4th May, another mine exploded, not under the original breach, but under the next one southward along the eastern wall. A big new breach was opened in the wall, covered by French artillery, and the defenders could not seal it. And now the French siege guns were arriving, and were set up in a new battery trained on the Devil's Tower. Bonaparte planned his final attack for the 9th, when the last gun would be in place. Acre was so close to falling he could taste it. But on the morning of the 7th, his proverbial luck deserted him at last. His scouts reported seeing a fleet of some thirty ships approaching from the west. It was the Turkish fleet from Rhodes, which had been diverted from Egypt to come to the aide of Acre. Sir Sidney, watching the fleet's approach from the sea wall of Acre, let out a characteristic whoop of triumph, in which Harper and the rest of the marines joined in. Bonaparte's time was up; he had to break Acre now, before these reinforcements landed. He would move the attack up and begin it immediately. Again, all was done in uncoordinated haste, aimed at the same corner tower of the same section of wall. There was no attempt to force a breach elsewhere, no diversionary bombardment, no assault against the marines' two redoubts beyond the wall and moat. Like a bull, Bonaparte rammed his head against the same spot that had defeated him again and again. He would find it considerably harder than his head. ******* The bombardment began that afternoon; a thunderous barrage aimed at the old breach beneath the Devil's Tower, at least twenty times the intensity of anything that had come before. It was the first time Harper had been on the receiving end of such an attack. Vibrations rattled through the walls with each impact, and a cloud of stone dust hung in the air. He crouched down behind the parapet and turned to Finnigan, shouting over the slamming concussion of iron against stone. "I think they might mean us harm." "Patrick, how could you think such a thing? Where's your Christian charity? They're just serenading us to sleep!" By midnight, a sizable breach had been opened in the tower's base, which had already received so much punishment. Harper could hear the sound of the massive French column advancing from behind their earthen breastworks, and through the darkness, he could see the gleam of their bayonets and hear their cries "Vive la Republique!" Then they strode into the light of the torches, a great column from Lannes' division. Sir Sidney was there, saber in hand. Harper and the rest of the marines began to fire down on them, while the Turks tossed bombs down on their heads and the redoubts poured a fire into their flank. French dead began to pile up, both before and down in the moat, and the wounded tried feebly to drag themselves away, leaving trails of blood in the sand. But this time, the French would not be denied. Soon, the sound of firing and the cries of wounded and dying men came from the Devil's Tower. Lieutenant Bromley told the marines to hold their positions, there would be work for them soon enough. As dawn came, Harper could see a flag flying from the top of the tower. It was the tricolor. The Frogs had control of it. But the Turks were mounting one sally after another against the French foothold, and so far, Bonaparte had not been able to reinforce them. And still, Harper and the other marines manned the parapet, waiting. And the bombardment continued, as heavy balls smashed into the parapet one after another, like blows from a fist. And now marines from the redoubts, who were themselves being replaced by French-trained Turkish gunners who had just landed, were reinforcing the defenders at the parapet. Even at the height of the siege, Djezzar Pasha was reluctant to let troops from Constantinople land in Acre; so jealous was he of his power. Sir Sidney had to persuade him to let them pass through the city to take charge of the redoubts' cannon. By four o'clock of the 8th, Bonaparte's cannon had opened up a second breach in the wall, just south of the Tower. And this one was huge. As the rubble slid into the moat, Harper saw that fifty men abreast could march through it. There would be no plugging this hole. This was what Sir Sidney had been saving the marines for. They now massed behind the breach in a three-rank firing line, Harper in front rank kneeling, Finnigan in the second rank, muskets poised. They could hear the shouts, the tromping of boots, and the jingling of harness, drawing nearer, nearer. And behind them stretched Colonel Phelipeaux's last surprise. He had constructed a second wall, stretching the length of the parapet and blocking access to the interior of the city. It had ravelins to either side of the breach, so the defenders could pour a flanking fire into any troops storming in. And it was now manned from one end to the other with Turkish soldiers. Bonaparte's stubborn insistence on attacking the same spot repeatedly had allowed him to construct a death trap right where the French assault force would emerge. Harper didn't notice Ardath Bey, standing behind and off to one side. A slow, sinister smile played across the massive executioner's face. The French assault of the breach would be confused, desperate. No one would notice. Now! Now was the time for him to strike! The noise grew louder, and then the French were there, first a line of leather desert caps, then a row of snarling, mustached faces, then the white crossbelts and lowered bayonets. At the side of the marines' line, Lieutenant Bromley brought his sword down. "Front rank, fire!" The front ranks' crackling volley slammed into the grenadiers at a range of no more than fifty feet. Men were thrown back with red blossoms sprouting on their white waistcoats. Marines fell at Harper's side. Frantically, he reloaded, crouching down. And then the second rank of grenadier's scrambled over the bodies of their comrades. "Second rank, fire!" The newcomers wilted under the volley, the 3/4-inch balls doing terrible damage at such close range, spattering blood, tissue and bone over the grenadiers who came behind. From behind the marines, the Turks on the wall loaded and fired at will. And the French were coming in a ceaseless tide, forcing their comrades before them as a living shield against the marines' volleys. "Third rank, fire!" The last volley was delivered at ten feet's range, and then the French slammed into them, bearing them back by sheer weight of numbers. It was chest-to-chest, brown, mustached French faces snarling into pink, clean-shaven English ones, stabbing and clubbing and swiping and groaning and bleeding, and the dying ones spat into the face of their killers. Harper lunged and felt his bayonet go six inches into a French throat, and frantically jerked to free it as the man behind shoved his dying comrade forward, then he swung it up to parry the thrust, and lunged forward. His bayonet missed, but his shoulder smashed into the smaller man's chest, knocking him down among the stamping feet. He had to chance of getting up. But in the next instant, two more took his place, with more following. There was no space to unsling his volley gun; though it would have done butcher's work here. Time melted away into a sea of snarling faces and thrusting steel, of grunts and curses and death cries. An eternity went by in minutes. From behind him, Ardath Bey drew his great scimitar. The Irishman's back was to him, just a few feet away, blissfully ignorant. He swung up the great gleaming blade . . . "Look out, Patrick!" And suddenly, Finnigan was there, firing his musket at point blank range into Ardath Bey's left side below the ribs. He turned and looked at the annoying little insect who had stung him, and changed the angle of his swing, arching down at the little Kerry man, who raised his musket to ward off the blow. The Damascus steel sheered through both wood and iron, slicing off a foot from the end of the Brown Bess. It was only Finnigan's quickness that allowed him to dodge the sword's downward sweep. Ardath Bey raised the killing blow- - and grunted in pain as Harper shot him in the back, the ball going through the right side of his chest. He staggered, and then with a great backhand blow, knocked the musket from Harper's hands. Harper went to his knees from the sheer force of the blow, and Ardath Bey kicked him in the chest, knocking him sprawling. Now the infidel died! The sword swung down - And then Finnigan hurled himself onto the Turk's broad back, holding onto his scalp lock with his left hand, while his right drove the severed end of his musket, bayonet first, deep into the giant's neck. Blood flowed in a crimson stream down his chest. With one arm, he gripped the makeshift spear, tearing it out and forward. Finnigan was torn loose from his perch and thrown to the floor with brutal force, the breath forced from his lungs in a gasp. The huge Turk was half blind with blood and pain now, his sword swung wildly, crashing down next to Finnigan's head, striking sparks from the stone floor. But then Harper, raising himself up on one arm, stabbed low from behind with his bayonet, the blade going between the huge, pillar-like legs and into the groin. Ardath Bey howled in pain, dropping his sword. He turned on Harper, and they grappled for the musket. Harper was born backwards by the giant's great weight, and now was on his back, with Ardath Bey leaning on the gun with all his strength, forcing it down on the infidel's throat to crush it- Finnigan staggered to his feet, looked around, and saw the great scimitar lying by his foot. He gripped it in both hands; it seemed to weigh as much as a horse. Raising it above his head, he brought it down on Ardath Bey's head from behind. Unfortunately, he had neither the strength nor the skill to wield it properly, and the blade sliced away a great piece of the giant's scalp, but glanced off the skull beneath. Ardath Bey looked like something out of a butcher's yard now, covered in blood from head to foot. But he would not die! He was operating on pure instinct now, his only thought to send this runt of an infidel to the grave before him. He rose from Harper's prone body, turned and with the swiftness of a striking python, his great hands shot out and gripped Finnigan around the throat, lifting him from the ground and shaking him as a dog shakes a rat. Finnigan's eyes bulged from the pressure; he struggled to loose the great throttling hands from his neck, even though he knew it was hopeless. Ardath Bey's snarling face was beginning to blur. "Ardath Bey!" The Turk turned at the sound of Harper's voice. The last things he ever saw were the seven barrels of the volley gun an inch from his face, and then a blinding flash of light. The impact of seven half-inch balls dissolved his head into a cloud of red mist. Teeth, bone, and flesh rained over Finnigan's face and embedded themselves in the wall. For an instant, the giant body stood upright, and Harper half expected the headless Turk to turn and attack him. Then he swayed, and came crashing down like a great tree, pinning Finnigan beneath his bulk. With Harper's help, he got the loosened hands off of his throat and squirmed out from under the great weight. They both sat on the ground, gulping down air and looking at their enemy's body. "Is he dead yet?" Finnigan gasped. "He-he'd better be. Because I've got nothing left to kill him with." Then the body of Ardath Bey thrashed and jerked, and both of them scrambled back with startled curses. But it was just a reflex action. The big Turk was just so much dead meat. But in the next instant, Harper's attention returned to the battle. "God save Ireland!" he breathed. The French had pushed their column into the rampart above the breach, and had jammed the marines against the inner wall in a thin red line. The marines were resisting fiercely, but they did not have the space to fire, and so greater numbers were inexorably telling. From atop the wall, the Turks were firing down into the column, but the grenadiers would not be stopped. Their victory was mere moments away. Harper felt the beginning of something burning hot within him, which grew and grew like his father's forge when Harper had worked the bellows. It was rage. The marines being pushed back were his mates. He had eaten and drunk with them, told stories to them, shared songs around campfires and on the ship's deck at night. And now they were being destroyed before his eyes, just like his father and brother . . . No! Not this time! He had been helpless to save them. But he was not helpless now. His hand touched something solid. It was Ardath Bey's great sword. He picked it up; it felt as light as a feather. And with a blood-curdling cry, he hurled himself at the flank of the French column. The blade cut through a grenadier's neck like it was a stalk of grass, and he would have fallen, but his position jammed tight into the column kept him upright, so his blood spouting neck sprayed his companions. Harper brought the sword up and sliced off another Frenchman's arm, then killed two more in a terrible sideways swipe, which led into another and another. With every blow, a Frenchman died, arms and heads flying through the air. The French reacted in bewilderment, trying to reverse direction to face this new threat, but their tight ranks hindered them. Fear began to eat at their hearts, for they were facing a madman. Harper had worked himself into a state that many would have recognized in King Brian Boru's day. An ancestral memory had awakened in Harper. He was in the grip of the Celtic Black Fury, before whose madness even the berserk rages of the Vikings had paled. Curses and foam flew from his lips; his face was crimson and his eyes distended. His own mother would not have recognized him in this state. The French of the left hand side of the column had turned towards him now, jabbing at him with their bayonets. Harper swatted them away like flies, drove them back into the ranks of their comrades, so that they stumbled and brought them down. It seemed to the French that what they were fighting was not human, but some thousand-armed demon whose flashing blade was in all places at once, killing everywhere with terrible speed. A few shot at him, but he ignored the bullets. Harper saw them through a red mist over his eyes, nothing before him but heads and arms and bodies to chop, and enemies to kill, and kill, and kill, until there were no more left to kill. The stone floor below was pooled with blood, which grew deeper and deeper. The marines looked on in awe. Harper had become Cuchulain at the Ford of the Forked Pole, and those who had heard his stories of the ancient hero's battle rage half expected a spout of blood the height of a ship's mast to erupt from the crown of Harper's head. And then, the unbelievable happened. The French began to give back. And one crazy Irishman with a sword was driving them. Some of the brave ones rushed him, to be thrown back mangled and dying. The others thrust with their bayonets, but none of them could bring themselves to close with this monster. They had seen too many of their comrades die. The marines rallied on either side of him, making sure to keep well clear of the swinging blade, shooting and bayoneting any who tried to take Harper in the flank. Turks firing from the rooftops on either side of the breach and from the roof of Djezzar's palace lashed down upon them, further shaking their resolve. Other Turks attacked from the ramparts by the moat, cutting off reinforcements from reaching the breach. General Lannes, with his customary courage, stood by the head of the column, shouting at it to return to the attack, heedless of any danger to himself. Then he fell as a musket ball glanced off his head. He was carried, stunned, back down the breach. His subordinate, General Rambaud, took his place and was promptly killed. Back and back Harper drove the grenadiers, giving them no chance to recover. And back and back they went, they could not stand against this towering killing machine. They were only human. Now they were at the crest of the breach, still jabbing timidly at the great flashing blade, and still being cut down like wheat before a scythe. Then it was over and they were running, first one, then two, then the whole lot of them, back the way they came down the breach, leaving piles of their dead behind. And all grew quiet around the breach, the boom of the cannon, the shouts of enraged Turks and dying Frenchmen, gave way to the smoky desolation of the burning wooden supports and the sickly-sweet stench of death. Harper was about to follow, and might have chased them all the way back to their camp, had not Finnigan and two other marines tackled him and brought him to the ground. The great scimitar flew from his hand, clattering down to the moat below. He kicked and struggled, and four more marines piled on top of him to hold him. Finnigan wondered if they had any barrels of water they could douse him in, as Cuchulain's friends had to do to calm him down. He spoke in Harper's ear gently, as if he were calming a horse. "Easy, Patrick. Easy. I've got you, mate. Calm down. They're all gone." Slowly, Harper stopped struggling. He looked at his friend, and the light of sanity gradually returned to his eyes. "Finnigan?" Finnigan nodded, smiling, and slapped his arm. The marines got off of him and he got to his feet, looking at the carnage all around him, and the breach, still firmly in the hands of the defenders of Acre. ******* By that night, after twenty-five hours of nonstop fighting, the Devil's Tower was back in Turkish hands. A few of the French there had managed to surrender to the British, the rest had been butchered. Although Bonaparte would not admit it, the repulse of Lannes' column from the breach at the moment of victory had broken the spirit of the French army. But now Kleber's division arrived, fresh from three weeks rest in Galilee. On the 10th, Bonaparte threw them into the breach. Their leader, General Fouler, was killed at the breaches edge. They marched over his body crying "Vive le Republique!" They ran straight into the fire of four nine-pounders loaded with grapeshot that had been assembled beyond the breach, mowing them down in bloody chaos. Arabic women on the rooftops gave their ululating cries, giving a surrealistic backdrop to the mayhem. From atop the wall and along either flank, Turks and marines poured an unrelenting fire into them. If they had been properly supported by the other French divisions, they might have done better, but those wanted nothing more to do with that breach of death. Kleber's men gave back, leaving only the dead and the dying behind. The Turks counterattacked from the ramparts, and Murat, organizing the French in the trenches, threw them back. It was the only shred of triumph the French knew that day. Harper took no part in the defense. Once his berserk rage had subsided, he realized that he was wounded. A musket ball had cut a bloody groove in his right cheek below the eye, and he had a deep bayonet wound in the thigh. He had been completely unaware of them during his battle-rage. But once they were treated, he insisted on once again manning the wall, where he looked out on the French positions. Still, Bonaparte would not give up. Just one more push must do it, and then on to Damascus and Constantinople! On the next day, Kleber's remaining demi-brigades, those who had not participated on the previous day's attack, insisted that they be allowed to attack the breach. Bonaparte gave his consent. And leading the way was the 18th, and the company of Captain Jean Calvet. They assembled in the trenches and then threw themselves into the breach like madmen, trampling the putrefying bodies of their comrades from the day before, for Djezzar Pasha had refused all offers of a truce to bury the dead. The fire they received was more murderous than ever, as dozens of cannons were trained on the breach, waiting for them. Kleber himself stood on the brink of the breach, tall and proud, daring the defenders to shoot him. The French took courage from his example and surged forward, then recoiled as Kleber staggered, hit in the leg. His aide-de-camps were already dead. Once again, the area beyond the breach, encompassed by Phelipeaux's wall, became a death trap. The French were being annihilated without a chance of striking back. Calvet, for all his stubborn pride, recognized this. He was now the ranking officer of the column; all others were dead or wounded. He raised his sword, and shouted, his voice carrying above the carnage and chaos. "Withdraw! Withdraw!" The French needed no prompting. They withdrew, but not in headlong retreat, but slowly, grudgingly, firing every step of the way. Calvet was the last French soldier to leave the breach alive. Once again, Harper was astonished at his seeming invulnerability. ******* The French were finished. God himself couldn't have made them attack that breach again. If Bonaparte had ordered another assault, they would have mutinied. That night, Murat told him "You have become the butcher of your soldiers." His time had run out. He could not capture Acre. He had been defeated. All he could do was to get his army back to Egypt in the best shape possible to contest the Turkish army's invasion, which surely could be expected any day now. He needed to get rid of his stock of ammunition. And he wanted to conceal his defeat. So from 12th to 15th May, he ordered another heavy bombardment, not of the breach this time, but the city. Casualties were heavy, especially among the civilians, as round shot crashed through their thin rush-woven roofs, or set their street stalls on fire. Although he was still limping, Harper plunged in with the other marines to try to help, pulling families out of burning rubble and shepherding them to comparative safety down by the harbor. He didn't remember much of that time, just a lot of noise and chaos. Only one incident stood out. As he was coming back from the harbor where he had deposited a family, he saw a dark shape crouched in the street. As he came closer, he saw it was a woman, clad in a dark birqua, crouched over a bundle and weeping uncontrollably. As she raised her tear-stained eyes to his, he recognized her; it was the woman whose daughter Jazell he had saved from Ardath Bey, thus earning his wrath. With a sinking feeling in his stomach, he looked at the object of her grief. It was Jazell, and she was dead. He could not see a mark on her. Had he saved her from death by the sword, just so a piece of round shot could kill her? His tears held no answer. Gently, he gathered up the little body in his arms, and, with the mother following, bore her to the refugee center. ******* Six days later, the French pulled out by night, having destroyed their siege guns and exploded their powder. They left a quarter of their army dead behind them. Even as they withdrew, the Turks made another furious sally into the French trenches, and it was all that General Reynier's division could do to hold them off. It was sixty-two days since they had begun the siege. The next day, looking down on their empty camp, Harper and Finnigan stood with the rest of the defenders on the wall and cheered. And Patrick Harper was still a member of His Majesty's Corps of Marines.

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