Madeleine, a brave teenager in New France, defends the fort from invasion with her tiny army, successfully holding off the Iroquois. When her mother departs for a short trip to Quebec, 14-year-old Madeleine de Vercheres is left in charge of the fort in Canada. At first her job is easy, as she only has to oversee her younger brothers, Louis and Alexandre. For although the Iroquois Indians always are a threat, there have been no recent outbreaks of violence.
However, their peaceful, simple life is disturbed the next day when Louis goes missing, having slipped out through a treacherous gap in the picket fence. He finally returns at sunset, but the siblings' reunion is cut short by a gunshot from the woods; the Iroquois are attacking the fort.
Madeleine has only her brothers, an 80-year-old man, and 2 cowardly soldiers at her command. The sergeant and the rest of his men never return from their hunting expedition, and almost all of the workers in the fields were ambushed before they reached the safely of the fort. Nevertheless, Madeleine is determined to defend the fort to the last man.
Madeleine wastes no time pondering the seriousness of her predicament, but shepherds the women and children into the safe blockhouse. Then she assigns her meager army of 5 to the bastions, telling them to make lots of noise, hoping to trick the Iroquois into thinking she has a well manned, strongly defended fort. They periodically fire the cannons, which temporarily scare the Iroquois back into the woods.
Her work is not finished, as she spots a family unwittingly journeying towards the fort. She makes a daring sortie, a rescue mission, and brings them to safety in the nick of time, gaining another recruit.
They survive the whole night and the next day, foiling an attempt to burn them out and fixing the hole in the fence before the Indians can approach it. By the fourth day of the siege, everyone is weary and spent, but still holding onto hope courageously. There are no sightings of Indians but just as the defenders hope they have left, the firing from the woods recommences.
Madeleine gains her seventh recruit when Louis's friend arrives at the fort, having escaped from the Indians' camp. He brings good news; another prisoner also escaped and has gone to fetch reinforcements.
Finally, reinforcements from Montreal arrive and relieve them. Their commander is amazed by Madeleine's courage and resourcefulness. She never gave up although faced with daunting circumstances. The Indians are chased away and those terrible days and endless nights are nothing more than a bad memory.
Best part of story, including ending:
Madeleine tricks the Indians into thinking that the fort is well defended. Her strategies were clever and utilized her limited resources.
Best scene in story:
One of the soldiers assigned to protect the fort decides it is hopeless. Madeleine finds him just as he is about to blow the whole place up. He cowardly snivels and cries, but her indignation and leadership put him in his place and he meekly leaves to guard his post.
Opinion about the main character:
Madeleine is a born leader and keeps her cool in tense, high pressure situations. She is also resilient and courageous.