Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Commodore Barney's Young Spies - A Boy's Story of the Burning of the City of Washington
Author: Otis, James, 1848-1912
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Commodore Barney's Young Spies - A Boy's Story of the Burning of the City of Washington" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



(This file was produced from images generously made


Transcriber's Notes: Obvious errors have been corrected. Italic text
in the original has been enclosed by '_' and bold text by '='.



[Illustration: Darius cried out in my ear; but I heard him not, I was
insane with the scene of carnage. Page 272.]

        COMMODORE BARNEY'S
        YOUNG SPIES

        A Boy's Story of the Burning of
        the City of Washington

        By JAMES OTIS

        Author of "Across the Delaware," "At the Siege of Havana,"
        "Life of John Paul Jones," "With Warren at Bunker Hill,"
        etc., etc.

        [Illustration]

        With six page illustrations
        By J. WATSON DAVIS

        A. L. BURT COMPANY, PUBLISHERS
        NEW YORK


        Copyright 1907
        By A. L. BURT COMPANY

        COMMODORE BARNEY'S YOUNG SPIES



CONTENTS.


      CHAPTER                            PAGE

      I. Captain Joshua Barney              1

      II. At Benedict                      20

      III. Elias Macomber                  39

      IV. A Lively Tussle                  58

      V. With the Fleet                    77

      VI. Feeding the Enemy                96

      VII. An Old Acquaintance            115

      VIII. The Deserter                  133

      IX. An Unexpected Meeting           151

      X. A Change of Base                 169

      XI. The British Forces              188

      XII. Suspense                       207

      XIII. Burning the Vessels           226

      XIV. At Washington                  245

      XV. Bladensburg                     263

      XVI. In Hiding                      282

      XVII. Missing                       300

      XVIII. The Escape                   318

      XIX. The Unexpected                 336

      XX. Dodging the Enemy               354

      XXI. In Port                        372



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


      Darius cried out in my ear; but I heard him not, I was
          insane with the scene of carnage                  Frontispiece

                                                                    PAGE

      "Pass up your painter, or I'll shoot!" Cried Darius             56

      With the lantern in my left hand I thrust forward the
          barrel of my musket full in the face of the miller          72

      "I remember your face, my man;" said the Commodore.
          "Come aboard at once."                                     153

      As we pulled away I glanced back at our fleet and saw
          that the vessels were well on fire                         233

      As soon as the line was made fast, a man slipped down,
          quickly followed by another                                335



FROM LOSSING'S "WAR OF 1812."


"Evidently ashamed of the barbarism committed by British hands,
Vice-Admiral Cochrane attempted to palliate it by a pitiful trick.
After the destruction of the capital, and the invaders were safely
back on their vessels in the Patuxent, Cochrane wrote a letter to
Secretary Monroe, in which he said to him, 'Having been called upon
by the Governor-General of the Canadas to aid him in carrying into
effect measures of retaliation against the inhabitants of the United
States for the wanton destruction committed by their army in Upper
Canada, it has become imperiously my duty, conformably with the
Governor-General's application, to issue to the naval force under my
command an order to destroy and lay waste such towns and districts
upon the coast as may be found assailable.' Cochrane then expressed a
hope that the 'conduct of the executive of the United States would
authorize him in staying such proceedings, by making reparation to the
suffering inhabitants of Upper Canada,' etc. This letter was antedated
August 18, or six days before the battle of Bladensburg, so as to
appear like a humane suggestion, in the noncompliance with which might
be found an excuse for the destruction of the national capital. It did
not reach Mr. Monroe until the morning of the 31st of August, a week
after Washington was devastated, when that officer, in a dignified
reply, reminded the vice-admiral that the wanton destruction by the
British of Frenchtown, Frederick, Georgetown, and Havre de Grace, and
the outrages at Hampton by the same people, had occurred long before
the destruction of Newark."



COMMODORE BARNEY'S YOUNG SPIES.



CHAPTER I.

CAPTAIN JOSHUA BARNEY.


It is two years since what we called the "War of 1812" came to an end,
and I, Amos Grout, once owner of the oyster pungy, Avenger, propose to
set down here that which happened to my friend, Jeremiah Sackett, and
myself, during the year of grace, 1814, when, so others have said, we
did good work for our country, although at the time neither of us was
more than fifteen years old.

This I do for two reasons, first because I am proud of what we two
lads succeeded in doing, and hope that at some day, when, mayhap, both
Jerry and I are dead, other boys may read of the part we played, and
be encouraged thereby to work out their own plans for the good.

Secondly, because I would have it known that through a scheme of his,
two boys, living on the shore of Chesapeake bay, succeeded in doing
what experienced men might have failed at, and I am eager to have
others realize my friend's worth.

So much for the reason as to why I, a seventeen-year boy, with none
too many advantages in the way of book education, am thus attempting
to write a tale for others, and now, that whoever should chance to
read this may feel acquainted with us, it is for me to introduce my
friend and myself in regular story-telling shape.

We lads lived in Benedict, Charles County, Maryland, near the mouth of
Indian Creek, when the war broke out, and while many of the people of
our town were not pleased with the idea of fighting the Britishers
again simply to establish the rights of our American seamen, Jerry and
I were hot in favor of it, for, in 1810, my friend's brother Tom was
taken by the king's officers out of his vessel while she was off the
capes, on the false ground that he was born in England. The poor
fellow was forced to serve in the English navy three years, leading a
dog's life, as can well be imagined, since he would never say that he
was willing to serve his majesty to the best of his ability.

Therefore it was that when we invested our savings in a small
sloop-rigged pungy, with the idea of making a living by fishing, we
named her the Avenger, with never a thought that she might one day do
something toward avenging poor Tom's wrongs.

Jerry's parents and mine were poor people, who could not afford to
give their sons what so many fortunate lads have--a good education,
fine clothes and money to spend. We were obliged to do all we could to
aid our families, and had been wage-earners since our tenth birthday.

It would be too long a story if I should attempt to set down all that
my friend and I did by way of gathering up money enough to pay
Nicholas Trundy one hundred dollars for his pungy, which was then
going on six years old. It was a big lot of money for two lads to
save, after contributing to the support of their families, and we were
near to four years doing it.

It was a proud day for us when the little vessel became our property,
and we painted out the name "Handsome Susan," to put in its place in
big red letters, "The Avenger."

She was about twenty-four feet long, with a cuddy in which were four
small bunks, and had been in the oyster business since being launched,
as we intended she should remain there.

We bought her early in the spring of 1812, when the people were
talking strongly for or against war; but it never entered our minds
that we might get mixed up in the fighting, for who could ever have
dreamed that the Britishers would come to Benedict? It was enough to
satisfy us that the oyster business was fairly good, and that we could
often earn, with the pungy, as high as three dollars a day, not
counting the time occupied in running up to Annapolis or Baltimore.

During the second year of the war we did not do as well; but there is
no good reason why I should go into all the details of what would not
be entertaining save to an oysterman. It is enough if I jump over to
the spring of 1814, when we made a trade with an old sailor by name of
Darius Thorpe, whereby he was to sail with us for one-third of the
profits after all expenses had been paid, and this bargain was a good
one for us lads, since he was a master-hand at dredging, being able to
work all around either Jerry or me.

Besides being an expert fisherman, old Darius was an artist at
story-telling, and there was hardly an evening during the first two
months he was with us, when we did not sit in the cuddy long after we
should have been asleep, listening to the old man's yarns.

Then, as everybody knows, about April, Captain Joshua Barney was
ordered to fit up a fleet of small boats to protect the towns of the
bay, for by this time we were having mighty good proof that the United
States was at war with England, and it stands to reason that we lads
were eager to know all that was possible concerning this officer, who
had been the most successful of the privateers sailing out of
Baltimore.

We were on our way to Annapolis with half a load of oysters when the
news was given us by the captain of the Oriole, while he quoted the
prices he got for his cargo, and since the Avenger was creeping along
lazily, with about one-quarter as much wind as she needed, we had
plenty of time in which to discuss a matter that seemed to be of very
great importance to us.

"There won't be any foolin' when Joshua Barney gets here, no matter
how big or how little his fleet is," Darius said as he laid at full
length on the deck sunning himself, and in a twinkling it flashed
across me that the old man may have sailed with or under the gentleman
who was to command such a naval force as could be gathered in the
Chesapeake bay, therefore I asked:

"Do you happen to know the captain, Darius?"

We always called the old man by his first name, because he insisted so
strongly that we should; said it made him feel at home, and sounded a
good deal like putting on airs to tack on the "Mister."

"Know him?" the old man cried, rising lazily on one elbow and swinging
half around to look at me as I sat on the rudder-head. "I know him
lock, stock an' ramrod, lad. The last deep sea cruise I went on was
with him. He's a snorter, that's what he is, an' I've heard his whole
story a hundred times over. I tell you, lads, there's nothin' in a
book that can come up with Josh Barney's doin's."

"Give us the full yarn, Darius!" Jerry cried. "We're like to be
loafin' around here a good many hours, if this wind holds soft as I
reckon it will, an' we may as well make the most of the time."

Darius was always ready to spin a yarn, which was much in his favor
according to my way of thinking; but he couldn't seem to rattle the
words off easy like except when his mouth was full of tobacco,
therefore Jerry and I could always tell whether the story was to be
long or short, by the amount of roughly-cured plug he stowed between
his jaws.

It was a mighty big chew he took while making ready to tell of Captain
Barney, and I must say for Darius, that he never spun a yarn which
interested me more than the one I count on setting down here.

"Josh Barney was born somewhere along 1759 in Baltimore," the old man
began slowly, as if determined to give a regular biography of the
captain. "His folks let him go to school till he was ten years old,
an' then he began to shift for himself by goin' into a store; but,
bless you, he never was made for that kind of work, an' before two
years passed he found it out. Went over to Baltimore one day on a
visit, an' wound up by shippin' on a pilot-boat; but even that wasn't
what he hankered for, an' finally his father shipped him as apprentice
to Captain Tom Drisdale, on a brig for a voyage to Ireland."

"I was in hopes your yarn had somethin' about his runnin' away to go
to sea," Jerry said in a tone of disappointment.

"You'll find these 'ere runaway sailors don't 'mount to very much,
except in story books, an', besides, Josh Barney wasn't that kind of a
chap. Drisdale made the passage, an' then went up to Liverpool, where
he got a chance to sell the brig. Barney worked his way home before
the mast on a full-rigged ship--I don't jest remember her name. When
he struck Baltimore again it was to find that the old man Barney had
been killed accidentally by the youngest boy of the family, who was
foolin' with a loaded pistol, an' Joshua had to shift for himself,
seein's his father didn't have none too much money, an' a big family.
The lad shipped for Cadiz as ordinary seaman; made the voyage all
right; had a little cash to leave with his mother, an' then signed as
an A1 on a brig bound for Italy."

"It don't make very much difference to us how many voyages he made,"
Jerry interrupted. "What we want to know is the kind of a man he is."

"If you can put a stopper on your jaw a bit, you'll soon find out! The
mate of the brig was sent into the forecastle, not bein' up to his
work, an' Josh Barney took his place. Then the captain took sick, an'
lo an' behold, before the lad had turned sixteen years old, he was in
command of the brig. Owin' to the freights that offered, he sailed for
Alicant, an' made port just as the Spaniards were fittin' out an
expedition against Algiers. The brig was chartered as transport, an'
he earned big money for the owners, gettin' back to the mouth of the
Chesapeake in '76, when the British sloop of war King Fisher hove him
to an' took all his papers an' weapons; but let him keep on to
Baltimore, where the brig was laid up. Then Barney had more money, an'
considerable of it, for his mother."

The old man paused to take in another cargo of tobacco, and then
continued:

"Young as he was, the lad found a chance to ship as master's mate on
the sloop Hornet, William Stone commandin', an' in one day, so it's
said, he, carryin' a flag an' with a drummer an' two fifers, enlisted
a full crew for the Hornet, all from Baltimore, which goes to show
that the people there thought he amounted to somethin'. Barney sailed
in Hopkins' fleet to the Bahamas, where the town of New Providence was
taken, an' the commodore scooped in all the ammunition to be found on
the island. A little while after that, he shipped on the schooner
Wasp, which convoyed off the coast the vessel in which Benjamin
Franklin was goin' to Europe to help pull this country through, an'
when they came back into the Cape May channel they found the king's
ships Roebuck an' Liverpool--one of forty-four guns an' the other of
twenty-eight--waitin' for 'em. There was lively times for a spell,
until the Wasp contrived to slip into Wilmington creek, where she laid
till half a dozen row galleys came down from Philadelphia to attack
the British ships. Then the schooner came out, an' while the fightin'
was goin' on, captured the brig Tender, one of his majesty's armed
vessels what poked her nose in to help the big fellows. They say
Barney fought like a tiger, an' with his captain wounded, brought the
little schooner an' her prize through the fog into port.

"Then they gave him a lieutenant's commission, an' sent him off in the
sloop Sachem, all of which happened before he was seventeen years old.
He soon found a chance to fight, an' after an action of two hours,
captured an English brig. After that they took the sloop Race Horse,
cuttin' her up so badly she sank, an' the next to come their way was a
snow from Jamaica, which the lad counted on bringin' into port, he
bein' put on board as prize master. Then he had a bit of bad luck; the
snow was re-captured, an' Barney made prisoner, as stands to reason;
but he was exchanged at Charleston, an' rode horseback to Baltimore."

"How do you happen to remember all these things?" Jerry asked,
thinking, perhaps, that Darius was giving us more guff than truth.

"Remember it?" the old man repeated sharply. "Why I've sailed with
Captain Barney, an' every mother's son of the crew knew the story, for
it ain't often that a lad of seventeen gets such a record, so we
couldn't help keepin' it in mind, besides which, I've got lots of
stuff in my pocket that's been printed about him. Well, in '77 he
shipped on the Andrew Doria for the defense of the Delaware River, an'
when that scrimmage was over, he found himself drafted to the frigate
Virginia, when, as everybody knows, he was taken by the Britishers
again, an' held for nearly a year before bein' exchanged for the
lieutenant of the Mermaid. Then he went out in a letter of
marque--meanin' a privateer--with Captain Robinson; they had but
twelve guns, a mighty small stock of powder, an' only thirty-five men,
but bless you those fellows thought nothin' of tacklin' the British
privateer Rosebud, full of men an' guns. Forty-seven of the enemy were
killed or wounded, an' aboard the Yankee only one was wounded. They
sailed to Bordeaux, took on a cargo of brandy, shipped seventy men,
mounted eighteen guns, an' on the voyage home had a runnin' fight
lastin' well on to two days, when they captured their game.

"Then it was that Barney got married, an' about a month afterward,
when drivin' in a gig from Philadelphia to Baltimore, he was robbed of
every cent he had in the world. He never told anybody of his loss; but
turned back to Philadelphia, took service aboard the Saratoga, sixteen
guns, an' made a big voyage, capturin' one ship of twelve guns,
another of thirty-two, an' two brigs. Then he was taken by the
Intrepid, an' mighty barbarous treatment he got for well on to a year,
when the young officer escaped, an' after he got home the government
gave him command of the Hyder Ally, with which he soon took the
British ship General Monk, as this 'ere bit of paper will show."

Darius took from his pocket a well-worn slip cut from some newspaper,
which purported to be an extract from the Hyder Ally log-book, and as
it was mighty interesting to me, I'm going to set it down here just as
it was printed.

     "April 8th, 1782, at 10 A.M. laying at anchor under Cape May
     (Delaware) discovered three sail standing in from sea with a
     light wind from the eastward; at 11 perceived that they were a
     frigate, a ship, and an armed brig. At meridian the frigate
     stood for Cape Henlopen channel, the ship and brig standing in
     for Cape May; made a signal for our convoy to get under weigh,
     and followed the convoy. At 1 P.M. the ship and brig came into
     the bay, by Cape May channel, the frigate coming around under
     Cape Henlopen; prepared for action, all hands to quarters.

     "At three-quarters past one, the brig passed us, after giving
     us two fires; we reserved our fire for the ship, then fast
     coming up; we received very little damage from the brig, who
     stood after our convoy; she mounted sixteen guns, and was
     formerly the American privateer 'Fair American', commanded by
     Captain Decatur, and equal to us in force.

     "At 2 P.M. the ship ranged up on our starboard quarter, and
     fired two guns at us; we were then at good pistol-shot; we then
     attempted to run her on board, by laying her across the
     starboard bow, but our yard-arms locked, which kept us too far
     off to board; at the same time poured in our broadside from
     great guns and small arms.

     "Our fire was briskly kept up for twenty-six minutes, when she
     struck her colors. Immediately sent our first lieutenant on
     board, and stood up the bay, the frigate at this time under a
     press of sail in chase after us, and the brig ahead in chase of
     our convoy; again prepared for action, and stood after the
     brig, but on her perceiving that the ship had struck, she stood
     for the frigate, and got aground; we were obliged to pass her,
     as the frigate gained on us.

     "At 4 P.M. the frigate came to anchor in the bay, (supposed for
     want of a pilot.) We then spoke the prize for the first time,
     and learned she was his Majesty's ship the General Monk,
     Captain Rodgers, of nineteen nine-pounders, but fighting twenty
     guns, and had on board, when the action began, one hundred and
     thirty-six men, of whom thirty were killed, and fifty-three
     wounded. Of sixteen officers on board, fifteen were killed or
     wounded. The captain received three wounds.

     "We had on board the Hyder Ally four killed and eleven wounded.
     The Hyder Ally mounted twelve six-pounders, and four
     nine-pounders, with a complement of one hundred and fifteen
     men. During the action we fired thirteen broadsides from our
     cannon, and from sixty to seventy rounds from our muskets.

     "Proportion of metal: The General Monk ten nine-pounders, fired
     ninety weight of shot at one broadside. The Hyder Ally, six
     sixes and two nines, fired fifty-four weight of shot at one
     broadside. Proportion--fifty to ninety."

"That all came from the log-book, an' you'll find Captain Barney
didn't try to blow his own horn," Darius said as I ceased reading.
"But I happened to go on board the General Monk when she got into
Philadelphia, an' saw the killed an' wounded bein' brought ashore in
hammocks. The prize looked tough; her decks were covered with blood,
an' three of the bow ports were knocked into one. She was sold,
bought in by the government, an' Barney took command of her, sailin'
for France, with despatches to Benjamin Franklin. Then the war came to
an end, an' he settled in Kentucky somewhere. Here's a newspaper story
of what happened after that," and Darius gave me another slip of
paper, the matter on which I read aloud to Jerry, as follows:

"In 1789 Captain Barney, finding his health impaired by his services,
embarked for Carthagena in a small brig belonging to himself and
partner. Thence he went to Havana, and then home. In 1792 he sailed
again, and arrived at Cape François. While there the town was burnt,
and he was obliged to fight his way. He brought off fifty or sixty
miserable women and children. His vessel was captured by an English
privateer brig, two others in company. Three officers and eleven men
were put on board, and all the Americans taken out except Barney, the
carpenter, boatswain and cook. They were ordered to New Providence.
The keys of the treasure chest were demanded, but Barney would not
deliver them, which occasioned much abuse and ill treatment. He had
concealed a small blunderbuss, and his men some other arms, with which
they re-took the ship. The Englishmen were made to work the vessel
until they arrived at Baltimore. Barney was compelled, for his own
safety, to sleep on the quarter-deck in an arm-chair. He again sailed
for Cape François in 1793; on his return, he was again captured by an
English brig, and taken to Jamaica. When he arrived in Kingston he was
committed to prison, and bills were found against him for piracy. His
ship and cargo were condemned. Once more he escaped, and on his return
was offered command of a frigate; but declined. In 1795 he entered the
French service, remaining in that employ until 1800."

"Now you can see what kind of a man it is who'll be in command here on
the Chesapeake," Darius said triumphantly when I ceased reading. "The
Britishers won't find it all plain sailin' while he's around, and I'm
allowin' he'll make things hum."

It pleased me to know that we would have a live man to protect us, for
if all the rumors were to be credited, the time had come when we
needed protection mighty bad; but with all Darius' storytelling, it
never came into my mind that we would know this wonderful Captain
Barney, except by hearsay.

We continued at our oyster business without being troubled in any way
by the war, although small fights were going on all around us during
the early part of the summer.

More than once had we seen the flotilla under command of this same
Captain Barney, who was come to be a commodore now. In it were
twenty-six barges and pungies, with nine hundred men, all of whom saw
more of service from May to July than they had ever dreamed of.

The commodore did indeed make things "hum," as Darius had predicted.
He attacked anything and everything that was British, never seeming to
care one whit whether he was outclassed or not, and succeeded in doing
the enemy a big lot of injury. It is well known that once, during a
full four hours, he kept his small fleet under the fire of a frigate's
guns, hoping to capture her.

Then the Britishers began to understand that if they wanted to have
things their own way in the Chesapeake, it would be necessary to first
do away with Commodore Barney, and they began operations in great
shape, although at the time we who were most interested in that
locality had little idea of what was coming.

Now after this fleet of barges and pungies began their work, Jerry
seemed to have something of import on his mind; but never a word would
he say in explanation to Darius and me, until our business grew so
dull that it was only with great difficulty we could earn enough to
pay the running expenses, and then it was that the lad came to the
front with a scheme which he thought great, while neither of us so
much as dreamed of what the carrying out would result in.

"It's no use freightin' oysters to Baltimore, when we can't sell 'em
for enough to pay for the use of the pungy, to say nothin' of our time
in dredgin'," Jerry began one afternoon about the first of August,
when we were coming down the bay with our pockets nearly as empty as
the Avenger's hold.

"But we do get a dollar now an' then," I said with a laugh, "which is
more than could be done if we turned idlers. Half a loaf is way ahead
of no bread at all."

Darius nodded gravely as if to show that he agreed with me fully, and
Jerry cried with more of anger than good humor in his tones:

"But I'm countin' on havin' a bit of meat now an' then. I could eat a
razor-back this minute without stoppin' to take off the bristles; but
there isn't money enough on board to buy the smallest ham."

"How are you goin' to mend matters, lad, while the price of oysters
keeps down as it is now?" Darius asked, beginning to understand that
Jerry had something in his head which might serve us.

"I'm told that Commodore Barney keeps his men jumpin' so lively at
fightin' that they don't have time for anythin' else," the lad said
slowly, as if speaking to himself, and I wondered if he counted that
the commodore could raise the price of oysters.

"I reckon that's the straight truth," Darius replied. "It ain't his
way to keep cats that don't catch mice."

"Then why is it we can't make a trade to help supply the commodore
with fish an' oysters? Even though he didn't give very much for the
freights we brought in, it wouldn't be a case of losin' three or four
days out of every ten runnin' up to Baltimore."

Even then I failed to understand his scheme, and said as much, whereat
the lad cried impatiently:

"You must be thick-headed, Amos Grout, if you can't see what I'm
drivin' at. The matter has been in my mind these two months past, so
now I propose that we go to Commodore Barney--he surely will hear what
we've got to say--, an' try to make a trade. He buys more'n half of
all his provisions, for the men of the fleet don't get time to do much
fishin', an' we could let ourselves an' the pungy outright, or agree
upon a price for what we bring in."

It wasn't at all a bad scheme, now that our regular business was so
dull; but I questioned if the commodore would listen to such as we
were, long enough to understand what kind of a bargain we had to
offer.

"I'll go bail that you won't have any trouble in gettin' speech with
Joshua Barney, an' for so long as the business warrants, pervidin' you
can catch him when he's got a few spare minutes on his hands," Darius
said quickly, and from his tone I understood that he heartily approved
of Jerry's scheme.

"But where shall we find the fleet?" I asked, and to the question
Jerry made answer:

"We've been countin' on runnin' in to see our folks at Benedict, an' I
warrant that there we'll get news of the commodore. If not, it won't
cost so very much time to have a look around the lower end of the
bay."

"Yes, an' be snapped up by some bloomin' Britisher," I said, having no
desire to mix in where people were fighting with such playful weapons
as cannon and rifles.

"We should be able to keep out of the way of danger," Jerry replied,
as if he had thought out the whole scheme, and I then understood that
he had been mooning over it the past two months, determined to spring
it on us when the price of oysters dropped below what would be decent
wages.

Well, we didn't come to any conclusion that day, owing to my standing
back and throwing cold water; but we were bound to touch at the home
port, and Jerry bided his time until we were where information
regarding the fleet could be had.



CHAPTER II.

AT BENEDICT.


I had not supposed that the people of Benedict would know very much
concerning what was going on at the lower end of the bay; but the
Avenger was hardly more than at anchor when I understood that we could
have gone to no better place in order to learn what was being done.

We had but just come to anchor, not having time to set foot on the
shore, when Jim Freeman rowed over to us, his eyes bulging and every
freckle on his face standing out like pips on a gooseberry.

"What did you put in here for?" he cried before yet coming alongside.
"Are you hankerin' to have your pungy burned or sunk?"

"What's the matter, Jim?" Jerry cried. "You're actin' like as if
somethin' had gone wrong!"

"Gone wrong?" Jim exclaimed, and it did really look as if his eyes
would roll right down on his cheeks. "The whole bloomin' bottom has
dropped out of everything. The Britishers are comin' into the bay
thicker'n spatter, an' I don't see how you got in here without bein'
caught!"

"In here?" I cried in amazement. "Have you lost your wits that you
think the Britishers would come into the Patuxent river?"

"I reckon it's you that are needin' wits!" Jim cried as he scrambled
over the rail. "So you think they wouldn't come into the Patuxent,
eh?"

"Certainly not, and for the very good reason that there's nothing here
they want."

Jim looked at me in pity, and I afterward understood that there was
good reason for his so doing.

"How long have you been up Baltimore way?"

"Near to ten days," Jerry replied, hoping to hasten Jim in the telling
of the news with which he was near to bursting. "We had hard work to
sell our oysters at any price, an' then it fell a dead calm with
weather hot enough to tan a nigger."

"Then there's little wonder that you boys are way behind the times as
to what has been goin' on 'round here," and Jim threw out his chest as
he swelled with the importance of being the first to impart startling
news. "In the first place," he said, speaking slowly as if to prolong
his enjoyment at giving information which would not be pleasing to
hear, "Admiral Cochrane, the Britisher, has passed the capes with
twenty-one vessels, an' Commodore Malcolm is below with a fleet
loaded with soldiers. Tom Harrison swears there were more'n ten
thousand men."

"Somebody has been stuffin' you, Jim," I said, not crediting his news.

"Then they've stuffed Commodore Barney too, an' when he runs I allow
the rest of us had better be huntin' a hole."

"Commodore Barney don't run!" Darius cried angrily, for he never
allowed anything disparaging to be said in his presence of the man
whom he believed to be the greatest naval commander who ever lived.

"Perhaps he don't very often; but he has this time," Jim said in a
tone so decided that we could not but believe he was convinced of the
truth of his own words.

"Did you see him?" Darius demanded, and I expected that when he
answered this question Jim's story would fall to pieces; but the lad
replied bold as a lion:

"Of course I did! All the boats laid here after the fight in St.
Leonard's bay, an' it was only yesterday they scooted up the river!"

Here was news with a vengeance, and I no longer felt the same desire
to punch Jim's head which had come over me when he first came aboard
with what I believed was a cock and bull story.

Then, with first one and another asking questions, we learned from
Jim that while we were in Baltimore the British frigate Loire had
chased Commodore Barney's flotilla into St. Leonard's bay, and
blockaded it there until Colonel Carberry's artillery came down from
Frederick and drove the enemy away.

Then, having learned of the enormous force at the mouth of the bay,
Commodore Barney sailed to Benedict, where he remained four and twenty
hours, or till word was brought that ten or twelve of the enemy's
vessels were bound up the bay, bound most likely for Baltimore or
Washington, when he sailed for Nottingham, further up the river.

Darius was more concerned than either of us, for he firmly believed
that Joshua Barney would not have beaten a retreat without first
having been positive that an overwhelming force was near at hand, and
if there were Britishers near enough to drive the commodore away, we
had got ourselves in a pickle by coming up the river.

The first thought which came to my mind was that the Avenger was in
great danger of being captured in short order, for I made no question
but that the enemy would pursue Barney, and we were where we could not
escape, save by way of the bay.

Jerry, however, had the idea that all these manoeuvres would further
his scheme, and he said as if being thoroughly well satisfied with
the situation:

"We can run up to Nottingham, as well as the commodore, and once there
I reckon it will be possible to make our trade."

"But if the fleet is forced to remain there, all hands will be idle,
and the commodore won't care to hire us while several hundred men are
loafing around the decks," I suggested, and Jerry's jaw fell.

But Jim had not exhausted his budget of news, although it was
impossible for him to give us anything more very startling.

"The commodore had only got eight pungies an' five barges of the
fleet--"

"Where are the other boats?" Darius demanded sharply.

"Somewhere on the Delaware side; they went off on a cruise before the
Britishers hove in sight. He has taken on the schooner Scorpion, which
was here at anchor, an' I heard one of the officers say that there was
about five hundred men in this part of the fleet."

"I'm goin' ashore," Darius said abruptly. "It ain't no ways certain to
me that Jim has heard this thing right, an' I count on gettin' down to
facts."

Jerry and I were eager to land, and, without even stopping to thank
Jim for the news he brought, we went over the rail into our canoe,
pulling in hot haste for the shore.

Never waiting to speak with such few loungers as were to be seen near
the water front, I went directly to my own home, and there found more
tidings of war.

My father had joined Commodore Barney, as had nearly all the
able-bodied men of Benedict, agreeing to remain in service while our
section of the country was menaced by the enemy, and mother seemed to
have the idea that I would follow his example.

Jerry's father had gone with the fleet, and, as she said, only those
who had been opposed to the war with England, remained at home. After
greeting me, and telling what little she knew of the situation, mother
set about getting together the few things I owned which might be
needed on a long cruise, and I was ashamed to say that as yet I had
had no idea of going to fight the Britishers.

Don't let it be understood I believed the United States could have
done other than declare war in 1812, or that I had any secret liking
for the Britishers. I simply believed that I did not have the backbone
of a fighter, and preferred to stand at a distance while the more
eager went ahead; but yet I was not really a coward, as I think was
afterward proved.

However, just then it made me feel rather uncomfortable to have
mother gathering up my few belongings, and telling me what to do in
event of receiving such or such a wound, and, with my brain all in a
whirl, I went out of doors under the pretense that it was necessary I
should have a talk with Darius and Jerry.

Once alone by myself, behind the corn-crib where no one would be
likely to see me, I tried to sum up the situation so far as I was
immediately concerned, and it did not look cheering. We had sailed the
Avenger down the bay and up the river never sighting a single craft,
although it appeared that the British were swarming near about our
very course. It was not probable we could run to the southward without
coming across some of their vessels, especially if they were reckoning
on pursuing Commodore Barney, and even though we did get to the mouth
of the river in safety, where could we go? The big fleets were at the
entrance of the bay, and had not come there for nothing; the enemy was
counting on attacking Washington or Baltimore, it seemed certain, and
by going to the northward we would likely find ourselves out of the
frying-pan into the fire.

It seemed very much to me as if we had lost the Avenger, whichever way
we turned, and my heart grew heavy, for once she was gone Jerry and I
were badly off.

Hardly knowing what I did, I went toward my friend's home, and met
him coming my way, a look of excitement and eagerness on his face.

"Well, it seems as if we were in for it!" he cried when we were come
within hailing distance, and I asked irritably:

"In for what?"

"A bit of fightin', of course. You wouldn't be willin' to stay here
with the cowards Commodore Barney left behind, would you?"

"There are a good many things I had rather do than poke my nose into a
hornet's nest," I replied, feeling as if Jerry was in some way my
enemy because he appeared to be so delighted with the situation.

"What did your mother say?" he asked, giving no heed to my grumpiness.

"Nothing much; she is getting things ready for me to go away, and
without so much as asking if I counted on leaving."

"She knows, as I do, that you wouldn't remain behind," the lad cried,
showing as much joy as if we were thinking of visiting a peepshow.
"Come on; Darius is waitin' for us. We must try to get a supply of
provisions, for it's likely they haven't any too large a store in the
fleet."

Then was the moment when I should have declared bluntly that I had no
idea of putting myself in a position to be shot at if it could be
avoided; but I hadn't the courage to tell him that I would not leave
Benedict immediately, although I was fully determined not to go up the
river.

Jim Freeman and a couple of other boys strolled along, having been in
search of us. They also took it for granted that the Avenger would
join Commodore Barney's fleet, and were come to ask that the three be
allowed to go with us.

"It won't do, Jim," Jerry said, taking it upon himself to act as
spokesman, although I figured as captain of the pungy. "We can't feed
ourselves, the way things look now, an' it don't stand to reason we
should add to the crew."

"But I'll bring enough to eat," Jim persisted, and turned to me as he
said, "I've done you many a good turn, Amos, an' you won't lose
anything by givin' me lift now."

"Do you call it a lift to be put where the Britishers can kill you?" I
asked angrily, for if these lads were so eager to have a hand in the
fighting as to beg for a chance, it would be all the harder for me to
declare that I wouldn't join the fleet.

"We might carry you as far as Nottingham, if you'd agree to ship on
some other craft after we got there," Jerry said without stopping to
ask my permission.

"That we'll do, an' be glad of the chance," Jim replied, acting as if
really overjoyed by the permission to run his nose into danger.
"We'll be on board in half an hour; you can't get under way before
then?"

"No; we shall likely be here an hour or more," Jerry said as if he was
the sole owner of the Avenger, and when the foolish boys ran away at
full speed, he began to figure as to where we could get a small store
of food.

I held my peace, angry and timorous, until we were come to the water
front, where we found Darius awaiting us, and he, as could be seen at
a glance, was of the same mind as Jerry.

"I've found two hams an' a side of bacon!" he cried triumphantly,
pointing to the articles which were in the canoe. "If you fellows can
scare up some meal, we'll be fixed for a spell. Did you see Jim
Freeman an' his crowd?"

"Yes; they're goin' to Nottingham with us," Jerry replied, and the old
man asked me:

"How soon can we get under way?"

I hesitated; it was on the tip of my tongue to say that I would not
stir a hand in the matter, nor should the Avenger leave her moorings;
but, fortunately, I remembered that we couldn't hold the pungy there
to be destroyed when the enemy came up the river, and, to tell the
absolute truth, I was ashamed to declare bluntly that I had no idea of
casting in my lot with such a firebrand as Commodore Barney.

"We ought to leave here in an hour," Jerry said, making answer because
he thought I was trying to figure how long it would take us to make
ready. "Amos won't need more than ten minutes to get what stuff his
mother is puttin' up for him, an' I'm goin' round by the mill to see
if they will trust us for half a bushel of meal."

He was off like an arrow as he spoke, and Darius had no idea that I
was hesitating as to the course to pursue, for an old fighter like him
supposed it would be a pleasure for me to voluntarily go into the
worst kind of a row.

It was fortunate indeed for me that the old man never suspected what
was in my heart, otherwise I would have been shamed in my home to such
an extent that I could never go there again; but all that came to mind
later. Just then I felt as if I was being cruelly wronged by those who
should have stood my friends.

Darius would have told me yet further of what Commodore Barney had
done in the past; but I cut him short by saying like a spoiled child:

"I don't care to hear anything more about him; just now it strikes me
that we'd better be thinking of ourselves."

The old man looked really distressed, and but for the fact that my
heart was sore, I could have laughed because of the mistake he made.
Darius really believed that I was grieving over being thus obliged to
leave my mother and the children, and he said soothingly:

"I come somewhere near knowin' how it is, lad. At such a time as this
the least home talk that's made, the better, for it kind'er unstrings
a fellow. You wait here, an' I'll go after what dunnage your mother is
gettin' together; she'll understand that a short partin' is the best."

I could not have stopped him, for he was off before I had time to so
much as open my mouth, and there I stood leaning against the canoe,
giving the people of Benedict to believe I was eager to be fighting
for my country.

Jim Freeman and his companions came along a few moments after Darius
left, and in order to have some occupation, rather than from a desire
to serve them, I offered to put the three aboard the Avenger.

They talked of nothing but what they would do once the enemy gave them
an opportunity, until I asked petulantly:

"Is everybody in Benedict as eager to shed blood as are you?"

"Not much," Jim cried with a laugh. "There's Elias Macomber, for
example--he's an Englishman, you know, an' hasn't been in this country
more'n four years. He's makin' a lot of wild talk 'bout what he'll do
to us folks when the Britishers come up the river."

"What reason has he to make any fuss?" I asked, rather for the sake of
saying something, than because I desired information.

"Well, I suppose all hands have roughed into him pretty bad, on
account of things he's said, an' now he counts on showin' what his
countrymen can do."

Now it was that I began to feel glad because of having said nothing in
opposition to joining Commodore Barney's fleet. By hanging back while
all the others were taking up arms, I would be ranging myself on the
side of Elias Macomber, which would have caused me to be ashamed of
myself, for he was by no means a reputable citizen.

However glad I might be because I had refrained, or been prevented,
from saying that which would have made it appear as if I took sides
with the British, I was in nowise reconciled to the idea of going
where the bullets were like to be flying, and, after putting Jim and
his friend aboard the Avenger, I pulled back to the shore in anything
rather than a cheerful frame of mind.

Darius was waiting for me, and he must have run every step of the way
from the river to my father's home. He had with him a small bundle
wrapped in one of mother's blankets, and said as he pulled the bow of
the canoe up on the mud:

"I reckon it is jest as well that I went after your dunnage, lad, for
your mother was ready to have a cryin' fit, which she couldn't
perlitely let come on while I was there; but I'll warrant the water
would have run had you been alone with her."

"She can't be feeling terribly bad, otherwise she wouldn't have been
so anxious to have me go," I said sulkily.

"I don't know about that, my boy. It stands to reason she had rather
anything else happened, than that you should stay at home when this
part of the country needs every hand that can be raised in defense.
She feels sore because you are goin'; but I'll go bail she'd have felt
ten times worse had you said you'd stay back with such as Elias
Macomber."

I wasn't in a proper frame of mind to appreciate all that the old man
said, and continued to consider myself as being abused, although not
to such an extent as before I heard about Elias Macomber.

It was noised around in the village, told most likely by Jim Freeman,
that we were going to Nottingham to join the commodore, and while
Darius and I stood by the canoe waiting for Jerry, we were literally
besieged by women, whose husbands or sons were with the fleet, nearly
all of whom wanted to send some message, or this or that article which
had been forgotten at the time of departure.

I believe of a verity that Darius and I charged ourselves with no less
than twenty errands by word of mouth, and as for packages, why we had
the bow piled full, until it seemed as if we were to carry something
by way of reminder for every man under Commodore Barney's command.

Near-by where we stood were also gathered four men whose sympathies
were entirely with the British, and among them, as a matter of course,
was Elias Macomber.

These worthless ones who would injure the country which had provided
them with a home, food and clothing, to say nothing of the comforts of
life, evidently counted on ruffling our feathers, believing it would
be safe to do so now that nearly all the men were gone from the
village, and they began by talking loudly of the sorry spectacle which
the commodore and his followers would present when Admiral Cochrane
and his vessels came up the river.

I feel certain that Darius would have held his peace, for he was not
naturally a quarrelsome man, had they made sport of everybody in the
American army and navy, save Joshua Barney; but a word against him was
to the old man much as a red flag is to a bull, and in a twinkling the
trouble began.

"The man who says aught against the commodore must answer to me for
his words," Darius said angrily as he strode toward the four who were
trying to bait him. "I'll not stand here and listen to such talk!"

It was Elias Macomber who showed his lack of sound sense by making
reply:

"We didn't ask you to stand here; but if you choose to do so, it's
more than likely you'll hear a good many things which may not please
you."

"Hold your tongue as to Barney, or it'll be the worse for all hands!"
Darius cried angrily, and at that moment Jerry appeared, staggering
under a bag which must have contained a full bushel and a half of
meal.

I shall always believe Elias Macomber held the idea that Darius was a
feeble old man, otherwise he would have kept his tongue between his
teeth, for he was far from being brave; but however that may be, he
replied hotly:

"I do not count on choosin' my words when I speak of such a bag of
wind as Josh Barney has shown himself to be!"

It seemed to me as if the words had not been fully spoken before
Darius launched out, and, in, less time than it takes to tell it, was
in the midst of a hot, one-sided fight, for the Tories all pitched
into him, regardless of the fact that his quarrel was with Elias.

It stands to reason that I could never remain idle while a shipmate
was getting the worst of it, particularly when his adversaries were
men for whom I entertained no friendly feelings, and the scrimmage was
hardly more than begun when I took a hand, standing close by the old
man's side.

As I aimed a blow at Elias I saw, out of the tail of my eye, Jerry
drop his meal as he came forward at full speed, and at almost the same
moment a loud splashing in the water caused me to glance quickly in
the direction of the pungy.

Jim Freeman had jumped overboard to do his share toward teaching
Macomber a lesson, and when he arrived the odds would be even.

Of course it was a disgraceful spectacle; but it could not have been
avoided, so far as I was concerned, and I did my best, fighting as
vigorously as if I had been the one to urge upon my companions the
necessity of joining the fleet.

It is not well that I give too much space to this brawl when there are
so many other adventures, in which a fellow might well take pride, to
be recorded, therefore I will only say that we had no very easy task
to down these admirers of King George and the Prince Regent; but
finally succeeded, thanks to the assistance of Jim Freeman.

It is doubtful which side got the worst drubbing, although we claimed
a victory because the others ran; but positive it is that the four of
us had all the punishment needed, and were forced to wash our faces
more than once before we could look at each other without a certain
feeling of shame.

"What made you tackle the whole of 'em?" Jerry asked the old man. "If
the rest of us hadn't been near at hand, they'd wiped you out."

"I'd tackle twenty if they dared say anything against Joshua Barney!"
Darius cried as he shook his fist in the direction where our
adversaries had last been seen. "I'd rather get the toughest
pummellin' such as them could give, than keep my mouth shut while they
was slurrin' their betters!"

We were actually obliged to use force with him, otherwise the old man
would have gone in pursuit of the British-lovers, and it was only by
tumbling him into the canoe head-foremost, holding him down by sitting
on him once he was there, that we could make Darius listen to anything
like reason.

"Let up on me, an' I'll keep quiet," he said after we had threatened
to continue the drubbing begun by the Tories; "but this much I
promise, that after the commodore has made shoestrings of that
conceited admiral, I'll come back here an' have it out with Elias
Macomber."

"We'll let it go at that," Jerry said as he released his hold of
Darius and went back for the meal, while Jim wrung the water out of
his clothing as best he could, for the fellow had not stopped to throw
off coat or shoes when he jumped overboard to take a hand in the
scrimmage.

It was near to half an hour before we were ready to go on board the
Avenger, and by that time it was too late to make any protests against
following the commodore.

My comrades took it for granted that I was equally eager with them to
be where I could do my share of fighting the Britishers, and so
stirred up was I by the game of fisticuffs ashore that I actually
forgot to be frightened by the prospect of taking part in a battle.

We got our anchor and made sail on the Avenger without delay, and
thus, in less than an hour from the time of making port, we were off
again on what proved to be a series of wild adventures.



CHAPTER III.

ELIAS MACOMBER.


Of a verity Elias Macomber did me a good turn when he started the
quarrel with Darius Thorpe, for up to this time I had been sadly
lacking in patriotism, as may have been learned from that which is
already set down in these pages.

Until this day it had been as if the war did not concern me or mine,
save as it affected the price of oysters, and when I saw this lad or
the other who had enlisted, I said to myself that another foolish one
had been found who willingly engaged to go where he might be killed.

Within a very few moments after the fight between Elias Macomber and
his crew of British-lovers had come to an end, I began to view the
situation of affairs as an honest lad should.

The country which protected me in my home--that territory which had
been bought, or redeemed, by the blood of brave men, and even of women
and children, from the savage Indians and a merciless king, was in
danger, and if I did not rush to its defense how might I expect my
heritage of a free land could be preserved to me and those who came
after me?

Like a picture I saw before me those brave men and women who had
battled against the forces of nature as they made homes in the
wilderness; then struggled against the bloodthirsty Indians to protect
their little all, and were finally called upon to fight a powerful
nation in order to hold themselves free in the land already redeemed
by sweat and blood.

Once that was presented to my mental vision I ceased to regret having
been forced to thus set off for the purpose of joining Commodore
Barney's fleet, and rejoiced that my comrades had prevented me from
showing the white feather when even my loving mother urged me forward.
I forgot all the fears which had assailed me, and thought only of what
it might be possible for me to do in order to show myself worthy the
land of my birth.

In a word, I had in a few seconds been transformed from a cowardly lad
who would shirk his duty lest, perchance, he receive some bodily hurt,
to a boy burning with the desire to do whatsoever lay in his power
toward checking the advance of an enemy who was bent upon carrying on
the war by destroying the property of peaceful settlers.

Unless my comrades read what I have here set down, they will never
know how near I was on that day at Benedict, to proving myself a
false-hearted American lad.

The afternoon was considerably more than half spent when we left home
for the eighteen-mile sail up the river, and I saw little chance of
our coming upon the fleet before morning, unless we kept the pungy
under sail far into the night, for the breeze, what little we had of
it, came from the westward, and we could not make more than two miles
an hour against the current.

Therefore it was that I said to Darius when we were half an hour or
more from port, after Jim Freeman and his friends had wearied
themselves by cutting monkey-shines on the deck in order to prove
their joy at thus having an opportunity to do whatsoever they might in
defense of their country:

"With so light a wind we are like to be forced aground when it is so
dark that we cannot give the shoals a wide berth, because of not
seeing them," and the old man replied, saying that which was in my own
mind:

"It'll be a case of comin' to anchor, lad, after the sun has set, for
we had best make haste slowly rather than jam the pungy up where a day
may be spent in tryin' to float her."

"But suppose the British are close at hand?" I asked, for now I was
hot with the desire to make certain of keeping so far ahead of the
enemy that I could take part in whatsoever might be done by way of
fighting.

"They will be more helpless than we, after night has come, for we know
the river fairly well, while they are strangers to it."

If it had not been that we lads were about to take part in the war I
might have refused to accept Darius' advice so readily, for, it must
be confessed, I am overly headstrong and apt to go contrary when one
makes the least show of driving me; but in the business we were about
to embark upon, I knew it was safe to follow the old man, since he had
had long experience in such matters, the telling of which would be
more entertaining than will be the account of our adventures.

It was destined, however, that the Avenger should come to anchor even
before the river was shrouded in darkness, for we were not more than
four miles above our own town of Benedict, when the wind, died away
completely, thus forcing us to make fast somewhere, unless we were
minded to drift back to our starting point.

In my ignorance, I would have anchored the pungy in the stream,
hoisting a riding light, and turned in feeling that everything was
safe and snug; but to this Darius made decided objection.

"Keep out of the channel," he said emphatically. "We know beyond a
peradventure that the enemy is astern of us, and there is no tellin'
when he may come--"

"He will wait for wind before goin' very far up the river," I
interrupted, and thus showed my ignorance of anything concerning
warfare, for the old man replied:

"It wouldn't be strange if he should send a boat in the night to make
certain of the water, and get such other information as might be
useful. This 'ere pungy would be captured by half a dozen men as
easily as if the whole British fleet was close by."

"Are you of the opinion that we should haul in to the bank?" I asked
very humbly, understanding that if we would run safely it might be
better to give Darius the command.

"Let her drop back beyond the point, an' then sneak in as far among
the trees as her spars will permit," he said, and this we did, pulling
her around by aid of the canoe until we were nicely hidden from all
save by closest scrutiny.

Right glad was I by this time that Jim Freeman and his two friends had
come aboard, for they were willing lads, who strove to do all they
might in the way of work, and we who belonged on the Avenger had an
easy time of it.

Jim took it upon himself to get supper, and he had brought with him
such a tempting store of provisions, all of which he turned over to
the party, that our meal that night was a veritable feast. I had never
but once before had such an appetizing repast, and that one exception
was when oysters were scarce, and a Baltimore dealer gave us a dinner
at the hotel in addition to the regular price of the cargo.

When our hunger had been satisfied, and the cuddy put to rights, we
lads would have spent the time spinning yarns, or in some other such
amusement; but Darius put his foot down strongly against it.

"Remember that you are liable to be made prisoners of war at any
moment," he said gravely. "Wise men do not hide themselves and their
vessel, an' then talk and laugh that strangers may know where they are
hidden."

"Do you really expect to see Britishers on the river this night?" Jim
Freeman asked with a laugh, and, much to my surprise, the old man said
emphatically:

"I surely do, if all we heard at Benedict be true, an' I have little
doubt of it. The enemy count on destroyin' Commodore Barney's fleet,
an' know that it can be found up this stream. It will be strange,
'cordin' to what I know of such business, if the admiral does not send
out spies before shovin' any armed vessels up here."

It can well be supposed that such talk as this insured silence among
us; we had hardly begun to understand that we might be very near a
British prison unless every precaution was taken; but the old man's
words, and manner of speaking them, brought us to a better
realization of the situation.

We almost held our breath, fancying the enemy might be close aboard,
until Darius, talking in a whisper, said:

"I'm countin' on seein' or hearin' the Britishers 'twixt now an'
mornin', an' it strikes me that we might do a good stroke of work for
Joshua Barney, by lookin' after a prisoner or two. It wouldn't be no
ways strange if we could nab 'em, pervidin' they put themselves in a
fair position to be taken."

I was dumfounded by such a proposition, and it is not impossible that
my knees began to shake as I thought of attempting such a thing. Then
I suddenly remembered that we had no weapons aboard, except an old
musket which we used to shoot into a flock of ducks now and then, and
I said with a laugh:

"Do you expect that the Britishers will surrender if we simply invite
them? Our one musket wouldn't make much of a showin' against a
boat-load of men."

"All that has been in my mind, lad, an' I reckon it won't be hard to
put ourselves in right good shape. If any British spies count on
comin' up the river, it wouldn't be till after dark, an' we've got no
right to expect they'd be around this way much before midnight. Now
I'll paddle back to the village, an' see if I can't scare up two or
three muskets. It won't take me more'n an hour for the whole job."

Darius said this as if asking advice; but I could make no reply, and
my companions held their peace, therefore, after waiting a few moments
without hearing any comment, the old man set about carrying his plan
into execution.

Noiselessly he hauled the canoe alongside, went over the rail into
her, and took up the paddle, as I stood near the bow waiting for his
command to cast off the painter.

"Keep quiet, whatever happens, an' don't fuss if I'm kept quite a
spell, for if there's anythin' to be learned, I shall make mighty
little account of time. Cast off, lad, an' be certain that nothin'
goes up or down the river without your seeing it."

I obeyed the command, and in an instant the canoe glided into the
obscurity of the shadows cast by the overhanging trees.

With the disappearance of Darius there came upon me the full sense of
my responsibility, for I was the one to whom the others would look in
event of trouble, and I knew full well how poorly fitted I was by
experience to be in command of the pungy.

The knowledge of my own short-comings at least served one good turn,
since it made me more than usually cautious, and without delay I set
about preparations for obeying the command given by Darius.

All my companions were on deck, and calling them aft to the cuddy
companion-way, I said in a whisper:

"You heard the words of Darius. Now I propose the work shall be done
in this fashion: All hands will remain on duty, not in a group, but
stationed equal distances apart at the rail, each one to watch and
listen to the best of his ability. No fellow shall speak with his
neighbor, nor can he move about lest the sound of footsteps on the
deck give an alarm."

Then I took up my station near the stern, and in the gloom I could see
the forms of my companions while they ranged themselves as I had
suggested, neither of them making more noise than so many mice.

From that moment not a sound could be heard from the deck of the
Avenger. That which Darius said had aroused us all to the danger, and
even though we had only a crew of lads, I felt confident no blunder
would be charged against us.

It was dreary work waiting there in the darkness, listening intently
for the lightest unusual noise, and believing that an enemy was, or
soon would be, close at hand. The gurgling of the water in an eddy;
the leap of a fish, or a bit of drift-wood striking against the side
of the pungy, sounded in our ears loud as thunder, and we heard the
ordinary night rustlings of the forest as if it was something strange
to our ears.

Then came that which caused us to bend far out over the rail, trying
to pierce the gloom with our eyes, for the measured stroke of oars
could be heard, and it was a positive relief to me, even though it
betokened the coming of strangers.

I felt certain an enemy's boat was approaching, because had any one
living on the river been coming up at that time of night, paddles
would have been used instead of oars. I knew of no one nearabout
Benedict who would have rowed a boat against the current when she
could have been handled so much more readily the other way.

Nearer and nearer came the splashing of water, as if more than one
oarsman was at work, and when it seemed as if the boat must be close
upon us, I heard a low voice, but could not distinguish the words.

Immediately the noise of the oars ceased, and then came the words, not
loud, but clear enough for us who were listening so intently to hear
with reasonable distinctness:

"On which side of the river were we to pick the man up?"

"The left, sir; the same side as the village."

The Avenger was lying near the right bank of the river, such position
having been taken because of the trees, and not through good judgment.

"One of you men get ashore, and see what can be found. If this is the
place agreed upon, and he said he would be about three miles above
the village, there should be a road running on a line with the river."

There was no question in my mind but that the speakers were Britishers
from one of the fleets, and that some of our people had agreed to play
the traitor by giving information, or piloting the boat. But, if such
was the case, where was Darius? He had not had time to reach Benedict
before this boat came past there, and might already be a prisoner on
his way to the nearest English vessel.

Even though he had gained the village while the strangers were yet
below it, then was his danger the greater, for he might unwittingly
come directly upon them when he returned. Whichever way I looked at
the matter I saw cause for grave fear, and the perspiration came out
in big drops on my forehead, for without him we would be in a bad
predicament.

While these thoughts were running through my mind I gave due attention
to what might be going on at the opposite side of the river, for I was
convinced that the boat was nearly in a straight line across from
where we lay.

I could hear such noises as told that one of the crew was scrambling
ashore amid the underbrush, and I heard a man cough; but after that
all was still until at least fifteen minutes were passed, when there
was a faint sound of voices from a distance, and then the rustling of
the foliage as if one or more was forcing a passage through the tangle
of vines.

"Hello!" came in a hoarse whisper from the boat, and some one ashore
replied:

"It's all right, sir."

From what could be heard I knew that a man, or men, were making their
way to the boat from the highway, and then, when it seemed as if he or
they were aboard, the voice which had given the command, said in
greeting:

"So you're come at last, Macomber. I had begun to believe we were
mistaken as to the rendezvous."

"I was delayed in the village, for your orders were that I must get
away without its being known, and there are many inquisitive ones in
Benedict."

My heart gave a great bound. So it was Elias Macomber who was playing
traitor, for even though he was born in England, the United States was
his home by adoption, and to our people he was bound in honor.

If Darius could only get weapons so that we might capture the boat's
crew, what joy would be mine to carry the base hound to Commodore
Barney as a prisoner!

Elias was speaking in a low tone and rapidly to some one--whom I had
no doubt was a British officer--, and I could only catch a word here
and there; but it was enough to let me know that he was reporting all
he had heard concerning the movements of the flotilla.

"At Nottingham yesterday," I heard. "Thirteen barges an' pungies, with
the schooner Scorpion. Five hundred men all told. Well armed, an'
knowin' how to use their weapons."

It was by such fragments of conversation as set down above that I knew
Elias Macomber was giving all the information in his power to the
enemy, and I resolved that some day he should pay the penalty of the
crime, even though I was forced to pursue him single-handed.

When all the story had been told the officer asked:

"Can you give us a place on the river where we may lay by during the
day? I am minded to have a look at the boats before going back to make
report."

I bent forward eagerly to hear the reply:

"At a mill, five miles above here, you will find a friend by name of
Essek Harland. He can give you all that may be needed."

"You shall go with us to make certain he takes us in."

"Very well, sir; but in that case I cannot get back home before
morning."

"You should be able to pull eight miles with a current in a few hours,
and I will pay for the hire of a boat."

"Very well, sir," Macomber replied in a tone of content, and I laughed
inwardly with joy, for he would be our prisoner to a certainty if he
came down the river alone.

Then the word was given for the oarsmen to resume their work, and we
heard the light splashing of water as the boat was pulled up-stream.

After that all was silent once more, and Jerry came tip-toeing aft to
whisper in my ear:

"Do you think Darius managed to give them the slip, or did they
capture him?"

"It seems to me that the officer would have told Elias if he had taken
a prisoner," I replied, and such fact gave me great satisfaction. "At
all events he must be here soon if nothing has happened to his
disadvantage."

Even as I spoke the canoe came out of the shadow, gliding lightly and
noiselessly as thistledown, and we knew that Darius was safe, for the
time being at least.

"Did you run across the boat when you went down?" I asked in a whisper
as he came over the rail, and he stood silent as if with surprise.

"Didn't you see a boat?" Jerry asked impatiently, and the old man
replied:

"I met with nothing either goin' or comin' an' I've brought back two
muskets with a mighty small lot of powder an' ball; but it's better'n
nothin'. What do you mean by a boat?"

Then we told him what we had heard, and when I mentioned the name of
the traitor, he brought his hand down on his leg with a resounding
thwack that might have been heard some distance away, as he said
incautiously loud:

"We'll have that snake, lads, if we don't do anythin' more, an' he
shall have a chance to see how the commodore looks when the Britishers
come up the river!"

"Then it is for you to take command of the Avenger, Darius. The boat
has not been gone from here above ten minutes, therefore it is likely
to be some time before the traitor comes down stream."

"We won't wait here for him, lads. There's breeze enough stirrin' now
to send the pungy against the current, an' we'll push ahead."

Sheltered by the trees as the vessel had been, we were ignorant of the
fact that a night breeze was springing up, until the Avenger swung out
into the stream, and then we found it as Darius had said.

The little craft could make about two miles an hour against the
current, which, as I reckoned, was about what the boat could do with a
couple of men at the oars, and I suggested to the old man that there
was danger we might over-run our game.

He gave heed by sending all hands, save me, into the bow as lookouts,
and steered a zig-zag course, which reduced our speed a full third.

"I don't believe I've ever heard of this Essek Harland you tell
about," the old man said to me in a whisper, and, understanding that
he desired all the information I could give concerning the miller, I
replied:

"He's of much the same kidney as Elias Macomber, except that he was
born in this country. A mean native of North Carolina, who starves his
slaves, and makes them work twice as many hours as they should. He
runs the mill, and it is said that all those who carry grist to him
keep a sharp watch lest he take out too much toll. If he hides the
Britishers, or gives them any information, it will be because they pay
him, for he will do any mean thing for money."

"Have you ever heard it said whether he was for or against the war?"

"No, and I haven't heard his name spoken for a year or more. It would
make little difference with him which side he was on, if the opposite
party offered money they could buy him."

Then we fell silent again during half an hour or more, when Darius
said:

"You shall tell me when we are within a mile of the mill; it won't be
safe to run any nearer unless we have overhauled that snake of a
Macomber."

I was so well acquainted with the river as to know every crook and
turn for at least ten miles above Benedict, and when it seemed certain
the pungy had run three miles or more, I kept a sharp look-out on the
banks in order to comply with the old man's request.

It was just when I believed we were close upon the spot where the
Avenger should be stopped, that Jerry came tip-toeing aft, waving his
arms to attract our attention.

"Macomber has hove in sight!" Darius whispered. "Take the tiller, an'
head her for his canoe!"

As he spoke he darted into the cuddy, returning a few seconds later
with two muskets, and these he carried with him well forward.

I strained my eyes in vain for a view of the canoe, which should be
coming right fast, with a favoring current, and had not yet made her
out when Darius hailed:

"In the boat there! Whereabouts are our people?"

The old man had disguised his voice, and the traitor must have
believed that we were a party of British coming to join those whom he
had piloted, for he paddled alongside fearlessly, as he replied:

"Up the river half a mile or so."

"Can you show us the way?"

"Ay, that I can; but it will delay me in--"

He ceased speaking very suddenly, for at that moment Jerry
incautiously came toward the port rail, and even though the night was
dark, it was possible to see that he was neither a British soldier nor
sailor.

Quickly he seized the paddle to shove off; but Darius thrust the
muzzle of a musket in his very face, as he cried sharply:

"Pass up your painter, or I'll shoot! Quick, or your life is gone in
another second!"

Elias Macomber was a coward, as we knew full well, but I never
believed he would give in quite as readily as he did. He passed up the
painter as meekly as any cooing dove, and when Darius ordered him to
come over the rail, he made all haste to obey the command.

When we gathered around the cur, however, for all of us were so eager
that we could not keep out of sight any longer, and he saw who had
captured him, he let go a cry of anger that was like unto the whoof of
a bear, as he struck out with both fists savagely.

He would have showed better sense had he taken matters with a bit more
grace, for before he could land a blow on either of us, Darius floored
him with the butt-end of the musket, and during a minute or two he
laid like one dead.

"You struck too hard!" I cried in alarm, for even though the man was a
traitor, it seemed terrible to take a human life.

"Not a bit of it," the old sailor said quietly as he set about lashing
the fellow's arms and legs. "He ain't the kind that can be killed so
easily. Get off the hatch, for we must have him out of sight before
coming up to the mill."

[Illustration: "Pass up your painter, or I'll shoot!" Cried Darius.
Page 56.]

Five minutes later our prisoner was snugly stowed aft, near the cabin
bulkhead, and we had brought the pungy to anchor lest she over-run the
port we counted on making.



CHAPTER IV.

A LIVELY TUSSLE.


Darius would have it that the traitor had not been seriously hurt by
the blow on the head; but when he failed to show any signs of
consciousness after we stowed him away in the hold, I grew alarmed,
and, calling on Jim Freeman for assistance, set about trying to bring
him to life, for of a verity I believed him dead.

It was not until we had worked over him ten minutes or more that I
could see any change, and then suddenly he opened his eyes, blinking
in the rays of the lantern Jim was holding close by his face.

"What happened to me?" he asked wildly, and as my fears that he had
been killed were banished by the words, so did my anger against him
return.

"You were known to have been giving information to the enemy, and
piloting English spies to a hiding-place," I replied sharply. "We took
it upon ourselves to cut your career as a traitor short, and while the
job was being done you got a clip on the head that knocked you
senseless."

While I was speaking the cur looked me full in the face, as if trying
to make out who I was; but I believe he feigned ignorance only that he
might have time in which to decide upon a course of action.

I could see by the look in his eyes, when his mind was made up as to
how he should steer, and a moment later he said with a start of
pretended surprise.

"Is it you, Amos Grout? I was afraid I had fallen into the hands of
enemies!"

"You are not among friends, and that is certain," I replied, boiling
with rage because the miserable cur would try to pull wool over my
eyes, for I well knew what tack he was about to take.

"And are you willin' to hold enmity simply because we had a bit of a
scrimmage over differences of opinion? I thought all that was settled
on the spot."

"So it was," I said curtly.

"Then why have you tied me up in this fashion?"

"Listen to me, Elias Macomber," I cried. "Do you think for a moment
that you can deceive any one aboard this craft. We heard all you said
to the British officer who is in the Patuxent with a boat's crew
spying, and know where you took him to pass the night. We sailed up
the river for the purpose of capturing you, and here you remain until
we can deliver the meanest traitor in Maryland over to Commodore
Barney."

Now the cur was frightened, and with good cause. He would have said
something more, thinking, I dare say, that it might yet be possible to
blind me; but I refused to listen.

"I only came here to learn if you were alive, and now that matter has
been settled, I count on leaving you. Don't be so foolish as to think
you can wiggle out of the scrape by lying, for when you made your talk
with the Britisher this pungy was on the other side of the river, her
spars hidden by the trees. We heard nearly every word that was
spoken."

"An' you're gettin' out of this part of the trouble mighty easy, if
Amos insists you shall be left alone," Jim added angrily. "If I had my
way, all hands of us would take a turn at thumpin' you, an' then the
account between us wouldn't be square."

"Come on, Jim," I said impatiently. "It is doing no good to parley
with such as him. Leave the traitor to himself until the commodore
directs what shall be done."

Elias called after us imploringly as we went out of the hold; but I
had no desire to remain longer with the cur, and we put on the hatch
in order that, if he did succeed in freeing himself of the bonds, he
would yet be imprisoned.

On gaining the deck I looked around for Darius, but he was not to be
seen, and Jerry, understanding for whom I searched, said:

"The old man has gone ashore. He counts on lookin' around the mill, so
that we may know exactly how to get at work when the time comes."

"At work?" I repeated in bewilderment. "What does he reckon on doing
now that we have caught the traitor?"

"It is in his mind that we can make prisoners of all the boat's crew,
an' if that could be done, we'd be takin' with us such as would insure
a hearty welcome from the commodore."

"We had better let well enough alone," I replied irritably. "If
Commodore Barney won't be pleased to see him when we offer our own
services, the use of the pungy, and the biggest traitor in Maryland,
then there's little reason to try to purchase his favor."

"You've agreed that Darius should run this thing to suit himself, an'
he's doin' it. I believe he's right, too! If there's a chance to take
a few prisoners, it would be downright folly to let it slip."

"And do you expect that we can capture at least half a dozen
well-armed Britishers?"

"There are as many of us, when you come to figgerin' up the fightin'
force, an' the advantage of takin' them by surprise will overbalance
the difference in weapons."

It was useless to argue with Jerry, as I understood by his tone,
therefore I turned away, saying to myself that by trying to bite off
too big a piece in the way of taking prisoners, we might find the
tables turned very suddenly to our disadvantage.

Jim Freeman and his friends seemed to be of the same mind as Jerry,
and I said nothing to them lest I be accused of faint-heartedness,
when everything was apparently going our way.

We waited in silence for the coming of Darius, allowing the Avenger to
remain in the stream where some of the boys had anchored her while I
was caring for the prisoner, and not until nearly midnight did the old
man put in an appearance.

Jim Freeman was on the lookout well forward, and that he did his duty
well was shown by the fact that he came aft with the word that a canoe
was drifting down the river while the craft was yet some distance
away.

Jerry and I, each with a musket, went forward to make certain the
newcomer was a friend rather than an enemy, and when we hailed softly,
Darius replied with a low hissing sound which was familiar to us all.

He made fast, came inboard, and entered the cuddy without speaking,
therefore we followed, knowing full well that he had something of
importance to impart.

When we were all together, unable to see each other because of the
darkness, Darius said softly, in a tone of triumph:

"I've found the Britishers, an' can put my hand on the whole gang
without much trouble. There are but three men an' the officer, who, I
reckon, will be the only fellow to make much fuss when we get at work.
Now I'm countin' that one of Jim's friends shall be left on board to
look out for the pungy, an' make certain the traitor don't kick up any
row. Three of us will have a musket each, an' the other two can do
mighty good work with belayin' pins."

"Where are the men?" Jerry asked.

"In the loft of the mill. The officer is havin' a right sociable time
with Essek Harland, an' if the miller's bottle holds out, I reckon
them two won't be in shape to make much trouble. Jim is to say which
of his party shall stay aboard, an' the sooner the rest of us get to
work the better, for I want to begin the scrimmage in a couple of
hours."

It was evident that my opinion as to whether the attempt to capture
the Britishers should be made, was not to be asked, and yet I must
follow where Darius led, or give my comrades good reason for calling
me a coward--or worse.

The old man settled it that he and Jerry should arm themselves with
belaying pins, and the two muskets he brought back from Benedict,
together with our old fowling-piece, was distributed among the rest
of us.

Jim Freeman named Dody Wardwell as the one to keep ship and look after
the prisoner, and Darius instructed the watchman to be free with his
blows in case Elias tried to pick up a row.

"If he undertakes to yip even once, give him a dose over the head that
will put him to sleep, an' it won't be much harm if you kill such a
cur as he is. Keep your wits about you, lad, an' remember that the
prisoner is the one who can make the most trouble."

Then the old man saw to it that each of our weapons was loaded, after
which he led the way to the rail where the canoe was made fast.

The little craft would not carry more than three, therefore two trips
were necessary in order to land us all, and when we stood on the bank
Darius proposed that Jerry paddle the boat up to the mill.

"Why do we want her there?" I asked, thinking he was providing for a
means of escape. "We couldn't all take passage in her, and in case we
need to get away in a hurry, it might be done easier by striking into
the woods."

"I'm not thinkin' how we can get her off, for if the plan fails to
work there's little chance any of us will need the canoe," Darius said
grimly, and I began to understand that he might be more of a fighter
than would suit me. "It may be we shall want to send some prisoners
down to keep Macomber company, an' then a small craft will come in
handy, for their boat is hauled up high an' dry among the bushes; she
is so heavy that it would be a long job to float her."

Jerry was so impatient to be in the thick of danger that he hardly
waited for the old man to conclude his long-winded speech, and before
the last word had hardly been spoken he was paddling up stream at a
rate which told that he would arrive at the rendezvous some time in
advance of us who were to walk.

Neither was Darius willing to waste much time, and when Jerry was lost
to view in the darkness he struck through the underbrush toward the
highway, leading the party, while I brought up the rear.

It can well be fancied that we moved with the utmost caution, for
people do not set out on such an enterprise as we were bent upon with
any great blowing of horns, and although none of us were what might be
called woodsmen, I flatter myself that we did not bungle the job very
badly.

Hardly more than a quarter-hour had passed when Darius left the
underbrush to cut across toward the river, and within five minutes
more we were halted near the southeast corner of the mill, not having
heard or seen anything of those whom we hoped to make prisoners.

Jerry joined us almost immediately, having been on the lookout during
five minutes or more, and he reported that there had been no signs of
life in the vicinity since his arrival.

"We who carry the clubs will go ahead, an', if it so be possible, do
the biggest part of the work, for our weapons ain't the kind that make
much of any noise," Darius whispered. "Jim Freeman will stand guard at
the door of the mill, but he is not to shoot unless it becomes
necessary to prevent the Britisher or the miller from takin' a hand in
the scrimmage, pervidin' there is one. Now follow me, lads, an'
remember that we must get the three sailors under our thumbs, once
we've started, no matter what turns up."

We stole up to the big door on the northwest corner, the only entrance
to the building, and, as I had expected, found it fastened on the
inside. One would hardly have supposed that the Britishers in hiding
would neglect to make themselves as secure as possible.

It appeared that Darius was not disappointed, for after pushing gently
at the door, and motioning for Jim to stand in front of it, he led the
way along the northerly side of the mill to a portion of the
under-pinning which had given way, disclosing an aperture through
which a mule might have been driven.

"Keep close at my heels," he whispered, and then he plunged into the
darkness, we obeying his command to the letter, for a mis-step might
throw us into the mill-race, which we could hear rippling close at
hand.

One would have said that the old man had always lived in this place,
so directly and swiftly did he go to the desired point, which was a
portion of the flooring where was a trap-door, evidently used to dump
the refuse, for suddenly we found ourselves climbing up a heap of what
appeared to be husks and cobs of corn.

It was a simple task to gain entrance to the building in this manner,
for Darius had only to force the trap-door up with his shoulder, and
in a twinkling we were standing on the lower floor, near-by what I
took to be the hopper.

Touching each of us in turn that we might be warned to follow closely,
Darius led the way to the easterly end of the building, where he
halted at the foot of a flight of stairs.

Now he marshaled his force according to the weapons. Jerry was behind
him; I came next, determined to use my musket as a club so long as it
could be done, rather than take the risk of killing a man, and in the
rear of me was Josiah Coburn, one of Jim Freeman's party.

Now it must be understood that we could see nothing; the darkness was
so intense that one could almost feel it, and yet we proposed to
blunder in upon enemies who would probably shoot without warning in
the direction of the slightest suspicious noise.

It was not a cheerful adventure, and I hold myself well excused for
being frightened, so that I followed the leader's orders implicitly to
the best of my ability.

Just at this point, when we were trembling with suppressed excitement,
and, as in my case, fear, Darius remembered that he had not unlocked
the outer door in order that Jim might hide within the building, and
we were forced to stand at the foot of the stairs while he groped his
way back to remedy the neglect.

It seemed to me that we remained there hardly daring to breathe, a
full half-hour, although I suppose now that it was no more than five
minutes, and then our leader was returned.

Pushing his way to the head of the line once more, we began the ascent
of the stairs, each fellow stepping cautiously; but despite all our
efforts each board sent forth loud protesting creaks as we bore our
weight upon it, and the only wonder was that the Britishers did not
awaken sooner.

The noise we made in ascending the stairs seemed to me loud enough to
alarm the inmates of the house near at hand, and, therefore, I was
neither startled nor surprised when some person at one end of the
second floor, cried out:

"Who is there? What's the row?"

"Can't you give your shipmates the same show for a watch below that
you've got?" Darius asked with a regular deep-sea note in his voice,
and this it was that gave us a slight advantage, since the men did not
open fire.

"How did you get here?" the same voice asked, and again the old man
answered as if speaking to shipmates:

"The bloomin' swab that piloted you here, gave us the course. Where
are you?"

"Over here," and the voice came from the westerly end of the building,
thus showing that we must walk the entire length of the mill before
coming upon our adversaries. "What ship are you from?"

My heart stood still as this question was asked, for I knew only too
well that Darius was wholly ignorant as to what British vessels had
entered the bay; but the old sailor never hesitated, as he replied:

"What other than the flag-ship, you lubber?"

"No, I'll be burned if you are!" the man cried loudly, and I heard him
spring to his feet. "She's in the Potomac river long before this!
Rouse up, my bullies, an' let's have a look at these beach-combers."

During this brief conversation we had been advancing swiftly in the
direction from which the sailor's voice could be heard, and when his
comrades were ready to receive us, we could not have been a dozen
paces distant from the three.

I felt, rather than saw, that Darius sprang forward; there was a dull
thud, a groan, and a cry from one of the other Britishers which told
that the battle was on, but the number of active enemies had been
reduced by one, for there could be no question but that Darius had put
his man out of the fight for some time to come.

I ran forward with my companions; but it was impossible to use the
musket, even had I been eager to shoot, because of the darkness, and
as I swung the weapon from side to side, striving to feel my way, some
one clutched me by the throat.

"Here's one of 'em!" I managed to scream before the fellow's fingers
shut off my wind, and then I had my hands full trying to save my own
life.

I managed to hit my adversary two or three solid blows which weakened
his hold somewhat, otherwise I would have been strangled in short
order, and then I fought as I never did before, but sadly at a
disadvantage, as can be imagined.

How long we swayed to and fro, I striving to reach the enemy's face
with my fists, and he trying to strengthen his hold on my throat, I
know not; but certain it is that I held him in fairly good play five
minutes or more before the report of Jim Freeman's musket told that
the Britishers were about to receive reinforcements.

Even as I fought with my adversary I understood that the English
officer, and, probably, the miller, aroused by the noise of the
scrimmage, were coming to the rescue, and the thought flashed through
my mind that in a few moments more the battle would be decided in
favor of his majesty's forces.

Just at that moment a heavy body pushed past me; I heard that
sickening sound which tells that a living object has been struck a
powerful blow, and instantly the hands relaxed their grasp on my
throat.

"That makes the third one; we've got the upper hands of all up here,
an' you lads are to make the Britishers fast the best you can in the
darkness, while I 'tend to the visitors."

It was Darius who spoke, and when this had been said I understood that
he was running toward the stairway.

Now it was possible to see faint gleams of light coming through the
cracks of the floor, and I realized that the newcomers had with them a
lantern.

The report of Jim's musket had been followed by the discharge of a
pistol, and I heard the lad running across the floor at full speed.

I did not have sense enough to obey the old man's command in regard to
the prisoners; but stood there like a simple, staring at the moving
rays of light, and wondering how long it would take the British
officer to shoot us all down.

Then, to my great surprise, I heard a voice from the head of the
stairs, on the floor where we were, cry loudly:

"This way, sir! We've got the best of two bloomin' Yankees, an' the
other is sneakin' in some corner!"

There came the sound of hurried footsteps, and then the light of the
lantern so far illumined the head of the stairway that I could see
Darius, lying at full length on the floor, within a few inches of the
opening.

Just for one second I stood as if stupefied, and then I understood
what the old man would do.

The British officer ascended swiftly; but before his head was fairly
above the top of the stairs Darius stretched out his long arm, seizing
the gentleman by the throat even as my adversary had seized me.

Now I had my wits about me; running forward swiftly I caught the
lantern before the officer could let go his grasp on it, and thus made
it possible to have a view of what was going on.

Darius hauled his captive up, much as if he had been a bale of
merchandise, and as he was dragged to the floor I saw one whom I
believed to be the miller, directly behind him, within three steps of
the top of the stairs.

With the lantern in my left hand, I thrust forward the barrel of my
musket full in his face, as I said sharply:

"Throw down that gun, or I'll fire!"

[Illustration: With the lantern in my left hand, I thrust forward the
barrel of my musket full in the face of the miller. Page 72.]

The man was armed in much the same fashion as was I; but he had little
stomach for fighting, as could be seen when he dropped the weapon
immediately I spoke, and when it fell clattering to the floor below,
Jim Freeman came into view from behind a pile of bags.

"Can you look after the miller, Jim?" I cried, and the lad replied as
he came bounding up the stairs:

"Ay, let him go, an' I'll blow the whole top of his head off if he
dares to look crosswise!"

I knew Jim's musket must be empty, since he had not had time to
recharge it after firing that which served as an alarm; but I took the
chances of the fact being discovered, and turned with the lantern held
high above my head to view the scene.

Near at hand Darius was kneeling on the British officer's chest,
industriously engaged in strapping the latter's arms to his body with
the prisoner's waist-belt.

In the distance Jerry and Josiah knelt beside a form which was
stretched out frightfully limp, as if life had departed; but I
observed that they were securing the man's hands and feet with
portions of his trousers.

Beyond them a short distance was a second Britisher, tied tightly with
what appeared to be strips torn from his own clothing, and midway
between them and Darius, was a third body, evidently that of the man
who had attacked me; but he remained motionless, and, having heard the
blow which struck him down, I could well understand why he did not
give any very violent signs of life.

It did not appear that I was needed elsewhere, therefore I turned my
attention to the miller, who was standing like a statue, not daring to
lift a finger lest Jim should "blow off the top of his head."

"Come here," I said to him. "Come here while my friend trusses you up
in proper fashion. What can you find there to tie him with, Jim?"

"Plenty," Jim cried gleefully as he picked up from the floor a couple
of bags and began cutting them into strips. "Here's enough an' to
spare, of what is better than rope."

The venture had come to a most successful end, providing there were no
others in the vicinity whose love for the British would prompt them to
interfere, and I was amazed, even amid the excitement of victory, that
we had come off ahead when it seemed certain the enemy could overcome
us easily.

Darius, having bound his captive, stood up facing me, and from the
expression on his face one never would have supposed that he had just
come unscratched out of as lively a tussle as I ever took part in. It
was as if he had been stowing oysters in the hold of the Avenger, and
was stretching his back before going at it again.

"You've done a big thing," I said, holding out my hand to congratulate
him. "To you belongs all the credit of having taken these prisoners,
and when we meet Commodore Barney I shall insist that he hears the
whole story, for I doubt if every old sailor has head enough to put
such a venture through in good shape."

It could readily be seen that the old man was pleased by the praise;
but he made as if it was of no consequence.

"You lads have done your full share, an' if any credit is to be given
it goes to the whole crowd."

"Not a bit of it!" Jerry cried, looking up from his task of binding
the sailor with whom I had fought. "It's as Amos says; but for you
this never would have been done, an' it won't be my fault if all the
men of the fleet don't hear of it."

"We're not out of the woods yet," Darius said, as though he would
change the subject. "If I'd had half the head you give me credit for,
we'd run the pungy up here, instead of leavin' her a mile away."

"Josiah can go after her," I suggested, "and by the time we're ready
to put our prisoners aboard she should be here."

This proposition suited the old man, and Jim's friend left the
building at full speed, while I asked Darius to make certain the
miller was trussed up in proper fashion.

"What'er you goin' to do with me?" Essek Harland cried with a whine.
"I ain't to be blamed for what's been done this night! How can I help
it if a crowd of Britishers take possession of my mill?"

"Talk that over with Elias Macomber; he's aboard the pungy," Darius
replied in a matter-of-fact tone as he proceeded to bind the man with
strips of bags provided by Jim.



CHAPTER V.

WITH THE FLEET.


The British sailors did not make any talk on returning to
consciousness and finding themselves bound hand and foot. The officer,
however, after recovering from the bewilderment which appeared to have
come over him because of having been taken prisoner in such an
unceremonious fashion, protested against being tied like a criminal.

"Will you give your word to make no attempt at escape?" Darius asked;
but this did not suit the Britisher, for most likely he was reckoning
on a rescue by those of the people who favored the king, and there
were not a few of such vermin on the Patuxent river.

"I refuse to give my parole, save to an officer of the American army
or navy," he said stiffly, and Darius replied cheerily:

"Then you see that we've got no other course save to deal out the same
dose for all, 'cause we're not countin' on losin' any of you."

"What are you goin' to do with me?" the miller asked, and I took it
on myself to make reply:

"You'll get the same treatment as Elias Macomber, and however harsh it
may be, you won't have it as tough as is deserved. These others are
prisoners of war; but you two are traitors and spies, therefore must
expect to fare according to your deserts."

"That's about the size of it, Amos," Darius said as he went from one
to another of the prisoners to make certain they were secured
properly, and in condition to travel. "I reckon, lad, that we might as
well be gettin' the crowd down to the shore, for unless the wind has
died away entirely Josiah Coburn should be here mighty soon."

"How would it do to take along a supply of meal?" Jerry asked. "If it
so be that we don't come up with the fleet by noon to-morrow, we'd be
short of provisions, with so many to feed."

"Right you are, lad. We'll take from Essek Harland's meal-chest as
much as may be needed, an' surely he can't make any complaint when he
gets his share."

While Jerry was rummaging around to discover the miller's store, we
got the prisoners down-stairs, finding it no slight task because two
of the sailors, in a spirit of pure mischief, refused to walk, and we
were forced to tote them like so many barrels of flour. By the time
they were at the foot of the stairs, however, both were willing to
provide their own means of transportation, for we did not handle them
with any too much care.

Essek Harland whimpered and whined like the cur that he was, until we
came to suspect he might be making a noise in order to give an alarm
to somebody in the vicinity, when Darius reduced him to silence by
threatening to put a gag in his mouth.

We had no more than got in fairly good marching shape when Josiah came
up with the Avenger, the wind being strong enough to push her along
about as fast as a man could walk.

Then well on to an hour was spent before the prisoners and the meal
were stowed in the hold of the pungy, and I counted that it was near
daybreak when we started up the river toward where Commodore Barney's
fleet was supposed to be.

It struck me that we should meet with a warm reception from the
commander, when we delivered up to him the Britishers and the
traitors, for by capturing the spies we had delayed the coming of the
enemy for a few hours at least.

And in thinking of this I came to ask myself how we were to present
ourselves? Whether as lads who wanted to make a bargain to supply the
fleet with fish, or as recruits? Ponder over it as I might, it was
impossible to come to any satisfactory conclusion, and I decided that
before committing myself in any way I would ask the advice of my
father, whom I was likely to find on some of the vessels belonging to
the flotilla.

It was Darius who broke in upon my perplexing thoughts by asking:

"Well, what do you think of it now, lad? We couldn't have done the job
any browner if we'd had on board a full cargo of rifles an'
ammunition."

"Ay, Darius, it has been well done because you were on hand; but I
question if another might have worked the scheme as well."

"There are thousands who'd make less bungle of it," the old man
replied, and I could see that he was well pleased because of being
praised, even by a boy. "All that's needed is a little backbone; but
if the other fellow happens to have more'n you've got, then things are
apt to go wrong."

"Thanks to your arrangement of the affair, the enemy didn't have a
chance to show his pluck; but we'd have been in a bad box if you
hadn't made the Britishers believe, for a minute or two, that we were
their friends."

Darius laughed heartily as he thought of the brief conversation with
the sailors, and then said with a chuckle:

"If I'd only known the name of a vessel belongin' to their fleet, we'd
been right on top of 'em before bein' found out; but as it was we got
well alongside when the trouble began."

Then Jerry came aft to take part in the conversation, and we spent a
good half-hour praising each other and chuckling over the good fortune
that had been ours.

We might have continued at such pleasing occupation a very long while,
but that day began to break, and there was too much work on hand to
admit of further foolishness.

Darius gave up the tiller to me, and went below to look after the
prisoners, returning five minutes later with the British officer, who,
much to my surprise, was no longer fettered.

"This gentleman has decided that he can give his parole to us as well
as to brother officers," Darius said by way of introduction. "He has
pledged his word to make no attempt at escape, therefore we will give
him the liberty of the ship."

"Which won't mean much for one who has been accustomed to the luxury
found on board some of his majesty's vessels," I added, trying to show
that I had some semblance of good breeding. "An oyster pungy isn't the
most beautiful craft in the world."

"Very true," the officer replied with a friendly smile; "but there is
a vast difference between the hold and the deck of an oysterman."

"Yes, I can fancy that to one unaccustomed to such things, the Avenger
seems like a foul ship below."

"So your vessel is named the Avenger?" and the gentleman looked at me
quizzically. "Isn't that rather high-sounding for a peaceful
fisherman?"

The officer was so different from what I had fancied a Britisher might
be, and had such a friendly air, that I made no hesitation in telling
him how the pungy got her name, and after the explanation he ceased to
laugh at it.

"I can well believe that some of your people have been abused," he
said in a kindly tone; "but there are always two sides to a story, and
the commander of one of the king's ships may believe that he is doing
absolutely that which is right and just, when in your eyes he commits
a most grievous wrong."

I had sense enough to understand that if I attempted to argue with the
officer on the causes of the war I should speedily find myself in deep
water, therefore I made reply:

"It is not for me to measure words with such as you, sir. I know that
Jerry's brother, who had never stepped foot on other than American
soil, was forced to serve in one of your ships, being carried forcibly
and secretly away, to the great distress of all who cared for him."

"And in that case his majesty's officers did a most grievous wrong,"
he said frankly, and then as if to turn the subject of conversation,
he asked, "When do you expect to come up with Barney's fleet, for I
understand you are in search of it?"

"If the wind holds, we should be there by noon, providing Commodore
Barney is yet at Nottingham."

With this the gentlemen turned away to take note of what was being
done, for Darius had brought the three sailors on deck, they also
having solemnly pledged themselves to refrain from attempt at escape.

Jerry was making preparations for cooking breakfast, which would be no
small job with so many to be fed, and Jim Freeman was helping him. It
was to be a good wholesome meal, better than we of the Avenger had
enjoyed for many a day; because there was to be a plentiful supply of
fried ham with corn-dodgers, which last Jerry could make better than
any person I ever knew, except my mother.

The British sailors were taking things comfortably, being seated on
the deck well forward, and apparently enjoying the sail up the river,
even though they were going as prisoners rather than passengers who
could come or depart at will.

Darius remained in the hold some time, and when he showed himself
again as if his work was done, I asked what he had been about.

"I've been makin' them two sneaks fast to a stanchion, where they
won't have any too good a time. I reckon we've got to treat 'em
somewhere near decent, though it goes mightily agin the grain. How is
breakfast comin' on? I could eat the toughest mule that ever walked!"

Fortunately for him Jerry announced at this moment that the meal was
ready, and Darius would have it that I should eat in the cuddy with
the officer; but I insisted he was the one who could best do the
honors aboard the Avenger, when we had seamen as guests, and literally
forced him to act the host.

Dody Wardwell and Josiah Coburn were detailed to feed the prisoners,
including the curs in the hold, and Jerry, Jim and I ate on the deck
aft, where I could at the same time keep the pungy in the channel.

Jim brought out some of the stores he had taken from home, and we lads
had a veritable feast, with the cause of success to give flavor to
food which could not be improved upon even though it had been served
on a king's table.

It is needless for me to set down all that was said during the
forenoon when we sailed very slowly up the river, chatting in friendly
fashion with our prisoners--meaning such of them as were allowed to
remain on deck--, or discussing our plans for the future among
ourselves, and as we did this last we almost unconsciously reckoned
Jim and his friends as belonging to the pungy. In fact, after what
they had done toward helping out on the night's work, it was no more
than right they should be allowed to consider themselves as a portion
of the Avenger's crew, if so be their desire ran that way.

It was half an hour past twelve o'clock when we came in sight of the
flotilla anchored off Nottingham, and seemingly blocking the river
until it would have been difficult for anything larger than a canoe to
pass through.

"Where shall we find the commodore among all that crowd of vessels?" I
asked in perplexity, and Darius replied promptly:

"He's like to be aboard the Scorpion, unless havin' gone ashore. At
all events, it's there we should look for him."

Fortunately for us, the schooner was anchored nearer down stream than
the remainder of the craft, and there was no difficulty in running the
Avenger alongside.

"You shall do the talking, Darius," I said as Jim Freeman passed a
hawser, and his friends dropped the sails.

"I'll look after that part of it so far as tellin' Joshua Barney who
you are; but after that you'll take the tiller, for the owners of a
vessel are the ones to show themselves."

Just then a kindly-faced gentleman came from the schooner's cabin and
looked about as if asking how we dared to make fast alongside. He was
one whom I would have picked out for a good friend, rather than a
desperate fighter, therefore my surprise was great when Darius
whisked off his hat, made a great flourish as he bowed in sailorman
fashion, and said:

"We're here to report for duty, an' it please you, Commodore Barney,
though you wasn't more'n a captain when I sailed under ye. We've
brought a few British prisoners, an' a couple of traitors."

"Why, bless my heart, its Darius Thorpe!" the commander cried as if
well pleased at seeing the old sailor, whereupon Darius bowed again,
grinning with delight until it seemed as if he would split his mouth
from ear to ear.

"It's the same old shell-back, sir, only he's turned oysterman, bein'
too stiff in the joints for much deep-sea work."

"When your joints grow stiff, Darius, I shall begin to look after
mine; but up to the present time they're fit for a hornpipe almost any
day. Is that your craft?"

"No, sir; she is owned by these two lads," and he pointed to Jerry and
me.

"And you have taken prisoners on your own account?" the commodore
asked, looking directly at me as he advanced nearer the rail,
therefore I felt called upon to reply.

"It was really Darius who took the prisoners, sir," I made answer. "He
planned the work, and did most of the execution; the rest of us simply
obeyed his orders, with the result that we have this officer," and I
pointed to the gentleman who was standing well forward as if to be
out of ear-shot, "with three sailors, all on parole. In addition,
there are, in the hold, two men living on the river, whom we found
giving information to the enemy, and aiding them in their spying."

"Come aboard, and let me hear the particulars," the commodore said
kindly, and yet the words were a command.

I beckoned to Jerry, and, observing it, the commander said:

"Come with the lads, Darius Thorpe, it may be that I have particular
need of you."

We three clambered on to the schooner's deck, following the commodore
into the cabin which was not fitted up very much better than our
cuddy, save that it had a fair-sized table with chairs, and here we
seated ourselves as comfortably as if about to have speech with our
equals.

"Now tell me how it happens that you are on the Patuxent river taking
prisoners here and there without due warrant from the government at
Washington," the commodore said with a smile, and I began by
explaining why we started in search of the fleet, not forgetting to
make mention of the fact that we had hoped to find a sale for fish or
oysters.

Then I gave a detailed account of all that had happened to us, winding
up by saying:

"We count that you'll take the prisoners from us, sir, because we
haven't overly much food for so large a number, and if it so be you
can buy such as we can catch, it shall be at whatever price you set."

"Do you think, lad, that I would encourage you to spend your time
fishing when you have already shown yourselves capable of bigger
things? I can use Darius to good advantage, and I doubt not but that
he may need you and your vessel. Are you minded to serve your country,
lad?"

"Ay, sir, if it so be she needs me; but lads like Jerry and me may be
of more service as fishermen than as soldiers."

"Regarding that I am not so certain, because of the proof you have
brought; it strikes me that your pungy and her crew will well serve my
turn. You may deliver the prisoners to an officer whom I will send
aboard, and later in the day we will have another chat."

Then the commodore arose to his feet in token that the interview was
at an end, and we lads went out, Joshua Barney saying to Darius as he
went up the companion-way stairs:

"Since your joints are so stiff it may be a good plan for you to stay
aboard the sloop during the remainder of the day, and then you'll be
on hand when I'm ready to see you."

I was both surprised and pleased to know that the old man stood so
well with the commander, I had looked upon Darius Thorpe as a
broken-down sailor; but Commodore Barney appeared to have a far
different idea on the subject.

Darius was actually puffed up with pride when he gained the deck of
the Avenger. His face was as red as a beet, and his mouth open so wide
that I could have tossed a quart of oysters into it without spilling
one.

"Well, lads," he cried, turning on Jerry and me insistently, "you've
seen the biggest man in this country, an' what do you think of him?"

Neither Jerry nor I could do less than praise the commodore, for he
had treated us in a friendly fashion; but although we spoke our minds
emphatically, declaring that he was a very pleasant gentleman, Darius
was not satisfied.

"I tell you he's the greatest man in the country," he repeated, and I
am not certain but that he would have insisted on our saying the same
over and over again if an officer from the schooner had not come to
receive the prisoners.

The officer and the sailors went over the rail on being told that they
were to change quarters; but it was necessary that the traitors be
brought from the hold, and I proposed that Darius and Jim Freeman
attend to such duty, for I had no desire to set eyes on Elias Macomber
again.

"Let's you and I deliver some of these packages and messages with
which we are charged," I suggested to Jerry. "By so doing we shall
meet many old friends, and I would, if possible, have speech with my
father before seeing the commodore again."

"Why?" Jerry asked as if in surprise, when we went into the cuddy to
get the articles which were to be delivered.

I was at a loss to make reply. It would not be pleasant to tell the
lad that I wanted my father's advice before agreeing to serve under
the commodore, since he might believe that to be a coward's trick,
therefore I said after some hesitation:

"It is for him to say what I shall do; surely a fellow's father should
decide anything of this kind."

"But your mother the same as told you to come."

"Ay, and I am here; now I will see my father, which is but natural. Do
not spend so much time in idle words for I would be out of the pungy
before those curs are brought from the hold."

We had our arms full of packages by this time, and it did not take us
long to load them into the canoe, after which we paddled among the
fleet having a bundle or message for some person aboard nearly every
craft in the river.

It was not until our work was nearly done that I came upon my father
and he received me as if expecting I would come.

"When did you arrive at Benedict?" he asked.

"Yesterday noon, sir."

"You couldn't well have got here earlier because of the wind. I
allowed you would join us as soon as possible."

"Then you think, father, that I should serve under the commodore,
taking the chances of losing the pungy after having paid so much money
for her?"

"Don't you?" he asked sharply, and I could do no less than reply as he
expected I would.

Thus it was settled beyond a peradventure that the Avenger and her
crew should become a portion of Commodore Barney's flotilla, and I
really felt better in mind after the question had been definitely
decided.

We stopped long enough to give father a detailed account of our
adventures, and by the way he slapped me on the back after the story
was brought to an end, I knew that he felt right well pleased because
I had begun serving my country in such a satisfactory manner.

When we returned to the Avenger after our round of visits, we found
Jim Freeman and his friends keeping ship in great style. They were
looking as proud as peacocks, and I failed to understand the meaning
of it all, for ordinarily they were meek lads, until Jim whispered:

"The commodore is a mighty nice man."

"Ay, that he is," I replied, thinking that Darius had been drilling
the crew in our absence to sing the praises of Joshua Barney both in
and out of season.

"We're goin' to have a chance to do some big things."

"Why do you think so?"

"Because when Darius gave the word that the pungy had better be hauled
down stream a bit an' anchored, the commodore put a stop to it, by
allowin' that he wanted this craft where he could put his hand on
her."

"And because of that you think that we are to play an important part
in this portion of the war, eh?"

"It looks like it for a fact," Jim replied, strutting to and fro, and
I could not but laugh outright, for the idea that we might be called
upon to do more than any others seemed ridiculous.

Matters began to wear a different look a moment later, however, when
an officer came over from the Scorpion, and said that the commodore
would have speech with Jerry and me.

"Where is Darius?" I asked, looking around without seeing the old man.

"He's been aboard the schooner this last half hour an' I've taken
particular notice that everybody else is kept out of the cabin," Jim
replied. "That's one reason why I'm so certain we'll have a soft time
of it while we stay with the fleet."

"Don't stand there chewin' things over in your mind," Jerry said
impatiently as I loitered near the helm. "It strikes me that when the
commander of a fleet sends for a couple of lads they should step out
right lively."

Jerry was right, and I meekly followed him to the commodore's cabin,
where we saw Darius hob-nobbing with Joshua Barney as if they were two
old cronies.

We lads saluted in as sailorly a fashion as was possible, for we were
not well up on such manners, and the commodore said abruptly as he
handed me a folded paper:

"Here is a guarantee from the government, through me as the commander
of the naval forces in this section, that if your vessel is captured
or destroyed by the enemy while you are under my orders, you are to be
paid the sum of four hundred dollars."

I was dumfounded. Of course it was pleasing to know that we would be
paid a good price in case we lost the Avenger; but why such an
arrangement should be made at this time was way beyond me, until
Darius said:

"Wouldn't it be a good idee, sir, if you was to tell the lads what is
expected of 'em? I'm not allowin' they'd go contrary to what I said;
but it would be pleasanter all around if they got the business from
your lips."

"It shall be as Darius says," and the commander half-turned in his
chair to face Jerry and me. "I propose that you shall continue to act
as oystermen; but without spending much time at the labor. In other
words, I want information from the enemy, such as you can gather, and
have spent considerable time explaining where and how you may
communicate with me. That part of the business need not be repeated.
This much you should know: Darius has said that you would do, so far
as possible, whatever I might set for you. Now I want your pungy to
drop down the river at once; you are to act as if engaged in the
peaceful occupation of fishing for oysters, and try to sell your cargo
to the enemy. In other words, lads, you are to spy out the disposition
of the British ships when they advance, for I am convinced that as yet
they remain in the lower bay."

If I had been faint-hearted before, what shall be said of my condition
now? In plain words, the commodore proposed that we turn spies, and if
we were caught while thus engaged, we would make a speedy trip to the
nearest British yard-arm with a rope around our necks!

Jerry did not appear to realize the dangers of the undertaking
proposed, and when the commodore suggested that we had better get
under way at once, he started toward the companion-way as if about to
embark on some pleasure excursion.

"Are we to take on any weapons?" I asked, remembering the crippled
muskets, and how dangerous it might be to discharge them.

"Oystermen do not carry modern arms," Joshua Barney said curtly. "Go
exactly as if you were performing your regular work, as indeed you
are, except that the price received for your wares does not cut any
figure."



CHAPTER VI.

FEEDING THE ENEMY.


It was evident that Commodore Barney did not propose to spend any more
minutes with us explaining the proposition he had made, and, indeed,
it really was high time he attended to others, for no less than four
gentlemen of importance in Nottingham had sent a request for an
interview.

When the commander arose to his feet, after settling the question as
to whether we should be prepared to defend ourselves in case the
occasion required, I started up the companion-way stairs, beckoning
for Jerry to follow.

Darius Thorpe, although he had been only a sailor, understood somewhat
of manners among people of gentility, and he saluted properly--which
we had forgotten to do--while awaiting an opportunity to ascend the
stairs.

It was as if we no longer had an existence, so far as Commodore Barney
was concerned. We were not yet out of the cabin when he called an
orderly to say that he would see such or such a man immediately, and
began turning over papers on his table without even glancing in our
direction.

Once on board the Avenger I stopped to face my comrades, thinking that
now has come the time we should discuss the matter which was of such
vital importance to ourselves; but Darius said impatiently:

"Why do you stop here, lad? Give the word for gettin' under way, so
the commodore may see we know how to obey in sailorman fashion, an' if
there's any talkin' to be done we'll have plenty of time for tongue
waggin' while runnin' down the river."

"But surely you're not proposing that we shall start without knowing
where we are going, or what is to be done?" I cried, showing quite as
much impatience as he had.

"That's jest what I do propose! We can whittle out a plan while the
pungy is slippin' down stream, as well as if she was made fast here."

"But what about Jim Freeman and his party?"

"There's no reason why they shouldn't go with us; six isn't any too
many for the crew of an oysterman."

"But do you count on taking them without first explaining the
situation? It strikes me that when a fellow sets about that which may
put his neck in a halter, he is entitled to something by way of an
understanding."

"If that's all which blocks our makin' sail, I'll soon put an end to
it," and Darius beckoned to Jim and his friends, who were standing
well forward that they might not seem to be listening to that which
possibly was not intended for their ears.

The lads came aft quickly, knowing full well by the expression on our
faces that something serious was afoot, and the old man said bluntly:

"The commodore wants us to spy on the British fleets. If we're caught
on their anchorage, or nosin' around the ships, pretendin' to be what
we're not, its a case of hangin', an' salt won't save us. If you lads
want to stay aboard, takin' the same chances we do, well an' good; if
not, you'd better go ashore in quick order, for we shall be under way
mighty soon."

"Shall we be helpin' the government the same as if we stayed aboard
one of the vessels to do our share of fightin'?" Jim asked, and Darius
replied:

"Yes, an' a good deal more. If you were taken prisoner after bein' in
a fight, it's only a case of goin' to jail on one of his majesty's
ships; but if you're taken while on such work as has been given out to
us, it's a hangin' for sure, with you at the loose end of the rope."

No one could say that Darius had not put the matter plainly, and I
expected to see Jim draw back; but to my surprise he said stoutly:

"I reckon we fellows can stand it if you do; we'll stay, an' the
commodore shan't have a chance to say that we didn't hold up our end
of the business."

Surely I could make no protest of any kind after Jim had announced
himself so firmly, and, in order to make it appear that I was really
eager to set forth on this dangerous expedition, I said quickly:

"Cast off there! Darius, take the tiller! Tail on the halliards,
lads!"

We got under way in fine style, and as the pungy swung around with the
current, I saw my father waving his hat from the craft to which he
belonged, and thus knew he understood we were bound on some service
for the commander.

Nor was he the only one who bade us a mute adieu. Half the members of
the fleet made some quiet demonstration in token of good wishes, and
just then it seemed almost a fine thing to be thus voluntarily going
into extraordinary danger for the benefit of one's friends and
acquaintances.

I am well aware that by writing down all my thoughts I have pictured
myself as a weak-kneed lad, and one who delighted in making a show of
authority, as has been seen when I was disgruntled because Jerry or
Darius took it upon themselves to say that this thing or that should
be done, without first consulting me, and yet I hold it is only fair I
give the same plain dealing concerning myself as I try to in the case
of my companions.

Now, however, as we were setting out on a cruise from which not one of
us might return, I was more than glad to surrender up to Darius the
charge of the Avenger, and I was determined that he should keep it,
taking whatsoever of honor might come to the commander, contenting
myself with being simply a member of the crew who would ever strive to
obey all orders promptly, whatever might be the situation. And in so
doing I counted myself to be wise.

The old man remained at the helm speaking not a word, and chewing
vigorously as we worked the pungy down the reaches in face of a head
wind, not very strong at that, but the current favored, therefore we
had the satisfaction of knowing that with all our pulling and hauling
we were doing better than two and a half miles an hour.

I had expected Darius would propose that we hold a consultation as to
our future course; but he gave no sign of so doing and Jerry finally
asked:

"Where are we headin' for?"

"Fishin'."

I turned away, thinking the old man had given an idle answer to evade
questions; but Jerry was not to be turned down so readily, and he said
with a laugh:

"We've given over the fishin' business for quite a spell, I reckon.
'Cordin' to my way of thinkin', an' seein's how this cruise may turn
out to be anything rather than a picnic, I allow that all hands should
know what is to be done."

"That's my idee to a dot, lad, an' I'm tryin' to think up some kind of
a plan so that when you fellows begin to figger, I can put in my oar
with some show of sense."

"But where do you reckon that we're bound for?"

"Fishin', lad. Where else can we be bound?"

I turned again, understanding now that the old man was serious, and
asked him if he supposed we could do any spying on the British fleet
while we were wasting time getting oysters or fish.

"Didn't the commodore allow that we should keep right on bein'
oystermen?" Darius asked with just a shade of impatience. "How do you
expect we can sneak around the British fleet unless we've got some
excuse for goin' there? It was in Joshua Barney's mind, the way I
looked at it, that we might sell oysters to the fleet, which would
account for our bein' among the vessels, an' to do that we've got to
put in a cargo."

It was plain enough, now that the old man had spoken of it, and I
understood that we had a bit of dredging before us in order to make
ready for the more important portion of the work.

"But after we get a load, Darius? Shall we sail boldly down the bay,
asking the Britishers to buy?"

"That's what I've been tryin' to make out. All of you can figger it
'cordin' to your own idees, an' then we'll talk it over."

Surely this was putting it fairly, and we tried to follow the old
man's advice, or, at least I did; but without arriving at any
satisfactory conclusion. The only plan I could put together was that
we first get our wares and then blunder ahead trying to sell them,
trusting to luck for the rest.

We were a silent crew for some time, as each fellow tried to think up
some brilliant scheme, and then, when midnight was nearly come, we had
arrived off Benedict.

"Why not go ashore for an hour?" Jerry suggested, and all of us gladly
agreed, I in particular, because I wished to see my mother once more
now there was no petulance in my heart on account of her willingness
to have me go into danger.

Darius had no relatives, or even very near friends, in the village,
therefore he volunteered to keep ship, and Jim Freeman set us ashore
in the canoe, taking two at a trip, after which each fellow went his
way.

My mother was overjoyed at seeing me so soon again, even though I
aroused her from sleep to open the door, and asked so many questions
that I could do no less than tell her all which had happened since I
last saw her.

She was frightened at learning what we were about to do, and showed it
plainly; but never a word did she speak against the project.

"If it is your duty, Amos, I have nothing to say, although I wish most
heartily that others had been pushed forward into danger, and in thus
speaking I am selfish, for then some other mother's heart would ache.
Be as prudent as you can without being cowardly, my boy, and may God
be ever with you. It is believed in the village that Elias Macomber
has gone to join the British, because he has not been seen since last
night; but if he should escape, Amos!"

"There is little fear of that, mother," I replied confidently.
"Commodore Barney is not the man Darius has pictured him, if he allows
such a villain to escape."

After this we talked of family matters until I went up stairs to look
at my sisters and brother who were asleep. Then the visit was come to
an end, and I went out into the night with a heavy heart; but
determined that my family should have no cause to blush for me.

I was the first to arrive at the shore, and, lying at full length in
the canoe, I waited until my comrades returned from their visit.

Jerry and Jim came in company, and appeared to be excited over
something, therefore to draw them on without asking any questions, I
repeated what my mother had said concerning Elias Macomber.

"Ay, that was the talk in town this forenoon," Jerry replied; "but now
people are saying that he came back just before sunset--"

"Back here to Benedict?" I cried in amazement.

"Ay, Jim's mother saw him as he went by her house on the way to his
own. She saluted him, but he made no reply--"

"But to be here he must have escaped!" I interrupted, unable to hold
my peace. "The commodore would not have set him at liberty without
telling us!"

"That goes without sayin', an' now what shall we do?" Jerry asked as
if he had some plan in mind.

"What can we do, except to get away before he brings some of his
cronies down here to make a row?"

"Jerry wants to catch him over again," Jim replied, since my partner
did not speak. "If he's alone in his house it wouldn't be such a
dreadful hard job, surely not as compared with what we did at the
mill."

It seemed as if our own safety demanded that we give some especial
attention to the traitor, and I proposed that we consult with Darius
at once.

This was agreeable to my companions, and we boarded the Avenger
without delay, rousing the old man to bitter wrath when we told that
Elias had escaped.

"Somebody will smart for bein' so careless!" he cried. "Joshua Barney
ain't the man to overlook anythin' of that kind. Do you allow there
may be traitors in the fleet? It looks mightily like it when a coward
like Macomber can give 'em the slip inside of twelve hours, for if he
was seen in this town at sunset, he must have been at liberty by noon,
ay, even before we got under way!"

"Jerry thinks we might catch him again, by going at once to his home,"
I said, impatient to make the attempt or set sail, for I was not easy
in mind at lying there while the villain was free.

"And Jerry is right!" Darius, exclaimed, darting into the cuddy and
returning in a twinkling with the old muskets. "See that these are
well loaded, lads, an' if we can lay hands on that cur again, I'll
attend to it that he don't walk off like a gentleman at large within
any very short time."

Well, we found the weapons in fit condition for immediate use, and
paddled ashore in a hurry, finding Josiah and Dody waiting for us.
They also had heard that Elias was in the village, and we knew beyond
a peradventure, even if we had not been certain before, that the cur
had slipped away from those who should have guarded him with their
lives.

It was not a long walk to Macomber's house, and on arriving there we
found the building closely shuttered as if deserted; but we were not
for taking outside indications as facts.

Although knowing full well that we were not proceeding in accordance
with the law, since we had no authority for forcing an entrance into a
dwelling, we burst open the rear door, and made thorough examination
of the place.

The household goods were tossed and tumbled about as if some one had
lately been there having little time to spare; but no living thing
could be found.

The traitor had no children, therefore flight with his wife would be
comparatively easy, and I was convinced that he had gone down the
river intending to claim protection from the enemy.

"That's what he has done!" Darius said emphatically when I gave words
to my belief. "It stands to reason that he went away in a boat, an'
there's just a chance we may come up with him yet! Let's get on board,
lads, an' if the Avenger knows how to sail we'll bring it out of her
this night."

Then we returned with all speed to the shore; but I had little hope we
could overtake the traitor, because he had at least three or four
hours the start, and a canoe might be paddled twice as fast as the
pungy would sail with such a light wind.

Darius, however, seemed certain we would overtake him, and urged us
lads to greater speed or more severe exertions until the little vessel
was under way, gliding down the river but little faster than the
current would carry a canoe even though no paddles were used.

So eager in the chase was Darius that he would not allow either of us
to go below, but insisted that all hands remain on the lookout, lest
we over-run the game, and losing no little time as he swung the
Avenger in close to this bank or that where the overhanging foliage
afforded a hiding place for a small boat.

Not until daylight did we arrive off St. Leonard's bay, and it goes
without saying that we had seen nothing of our traitor, neither had we
come across a craft of any kind.

"He's bound now to go on until he overtakes the British fleet," Darius
said angrily when the coming of daylight revealed the shores to us.
"We'll have the best of him once we're out of the river!"

"You can't keep up the chase much longer if we count on gettin' a
cargo of oysters," Jerry suggested, and the old man declared that he
would never throw over a dredge until it became certain that Macomber
had really escaped us.

But after some reflection he was willing to take back his words,
knowing we could not go very far into the lower bay without some
excuse for being there, and also realizing that we must never pursue
Elias within sight of any vessel of the fleet, otherwise he might give
such information as would cut short our career in this world.

With the coming of the new day the wind came out of the west with a
force that gave promise of providing the pungy with a goodly sized
bone in her teeth, and in case Macomber was no more than two hours in
advance there was yet some possibility of overtaking him.

We usually dredged for oysters off Hog Point, or Parker's creek,
therefore in a short time we would be on the fishing grounds, unless
we took the risk of standing across the mouth of the Potomac on the
chance of seeing the traitor, and I did not believe he would venture
to make that long stretch while the breeze was so strong.

By the time we arrived at the mouth of the river there was no
necessity of discussing the situation, for the chase had surely come
to an end.

However great his need of coming up with the British, Elias Macomber
knew too much to trust himself in a canoe on the open bay while the
wind held as it did, and we knew beyond a peradventure that if he had
not already gained the fleet, he was hiding on shore somewhere.

It would be folly to spend time in such a needle-in-the-haystack
business as looking for him on shore when we had no clue to guide us,
as even Darius was forced to admit, and, therefore, we set about the
work in hand, which was the dredging of oysters enough to give us
excuse for seeking out the enemy.

It seemed to all of us that we were in more danger through information
which Elias might give, than we would have been while playing the spy
with him safely cared for on one of the vessels of Commodore Barney's
flotilla, and we went about the work as if it was possible to feel the
chafing of British halters around our necks.

We began dredging exactly as we would have done had we been trying to
get a cargo for the Baltimore market, and never a sail did we see
during all that day, a fact which told us that the enemy was not yet
ready to open his campaign.

Not until well into the night would Darius allow that we had a
sufficient quantity of oysters to warrant us in finding purchasers,
and even then there was no more than fifteen bushels aboard.

"It will do for a starter," Jerry said when Jim Freeman proposed that
we spend one more day dredging.

"But the first Britisher we came across would buy as many as we've
got," Jim objected, and Jerry replied with the air of one who has
thoroughly turned the matter over in his mind:

"So much the better. We shall then have established ourselves in the
business, and can come back for another cargo. There will be less
suspicion of us the second time."

"I reckon you're right, lad," Darius said decidedly. "We can't expect
to gather much of any news the first pop, an' if we get acquainted, it
will be a long step in the right direction."

As a matter of course, the old man's opinion settled the question, and
we hauled around for a run down the bay, double reefing the mainsail
and jib, as was proper when you take into consideration the fact that
we had the same as no cargo aboard to give the pungy stiffness.

Up to this time neither one had made any proposition as to how we were
to begin operations, and I naturally concluded that we would sail
boldly up to the first craft we saw, asking if we could sell them
oysters, therefore I suggested, when we were standing off on a course
that would bring us on to the Tangier Islands:

"If we keep up this rate of speed, we may come upon the enemy while it
is yet night."

"Ay, lad, an' I'm thinkin' it would be a good plan."

"But people don't go out sellin' things before daylight," I said with
a laugh.

"I'm countin' on bein' properly interduced," Darius replied with a
grin. "If we're hailed, an' ordered to lay by till mornin', we shall
have one ship's crew that'll listen to us."

I did not understand this explanation more than if it had been given
in Latin; but the others appeared to be satisfied, and I held my peace
rather than display ignorance.

We kept our course a couple of hours, and, then, directly in a line
with the Tangiers, I saw the loom of what appeared to be a large ship.

"There's one of the fleet," I said in a whisper to Darius, who was at
the tiller, and he replied in a matter-of-fact tone:

"Ay, lad, I'm allowin' she's the Severn or the Narcissus, both of
which made it hot for the commodore in the Patuxent."

"How large are they?"

"The Severn should be carryin' thirty-eight guns, an' the other four
less, if I remember rightly."

"I had rather we made our first attempt with a smaller vessel," I
said, feeling decidedly uncomfortable in mind now we were so near
beginning the dangerous work.

"Bless you, lad, we might as well be overhauled by a frigate as a
sloop, so far as the chances of bein' found out are concerned; but
we're goin' through this business as slick as we did at the mill."

Darius held the Avenger straight for the enemy, and when we were come
within half a musket-shot I heard the hail we had been expecting:

"Sloop ahoy!"

"Ay, ay, sir!" Darius cried.

"What craft is that?"

"An oyster pungy with part of a cargo which we're hopin' to sell, sir.
Can we do any business with you?"

"Heave to, an' lay alongside until daylight."

"Very well, sir," the old man cried, and then he let fly a lot of
orders to us of the crew which would have shamed a landsman to utter,
for of a verity no sailor could have understood them.

However, by giving no heed to what he said, we brought the Avenger
into position; but I soon saw that the tide was setting us away from
the Britisher, and suggested that we let go the anchor.

To this the old man would not agree.

"Obey orders if you break owners," he said with a grin, and I knew he
had some reason for thus being so foolish.

However, to make a long story short, we remained hove to until day
dawned, and then we were within a cable's length of a large ship,
while a mile or more further up the bay was the vessel that had first
hailed.

"Ahoy on the sloop!" came from the second ship, and Darius replied in
the tone of a countryman:

"Ay, ay, sir."

"Why are you loafing around here?"

"We came down to sell some oysters; but the chap on t'other craft told
us to heave to, an' we've been driftin' 'round here ever since. I
dunno whether we ought'er go back to him, or try to sell you what few
bushels we've got."

"When did you take them?"

"Last night. Oh, they're fresh enough, if that's what you're thinkin'
of. Don't you want to try 'em?"

"What is the price?"

"Ten cents a bushel; that's what we ought'er get up to Baltimore, an'
I reckon we might knock off a little if we don't have to run there to
unload."

Then, without waiting for permission, Darius began giving us fool
orders intended to get the pungy under way, and we came lumbering
around under the ship's starboard, where we could have been blown into
the next world with no more labor than the lighting of a match.

Darius lifted one of the hatches and leaped into the hold ordering us
to "bear a hand lively that the gentlemen might taste the oysters,"
and passing up a basket full, shouting to me so loudly that he could
readily have been heard on the ship:

"Pass 'em over the side, Bubby dear, an' be careful how you fool
'round the rail!"

I should have laughed at his manner of speaking but that I knew he was
playing a part, and I did my best to obey the command.

The sailors of the ship, eager for anything by way of a change of
food, held out both hands invitingly for the fish, and I contrived to
swing the basket aboard.

Then it was that I saw an officer take charge of the fish, calling for
the after steward to come forward, and a moment later some one cried:

"Where's your captain?"

I sung out for Darius; but he pretended to misunderstand, and replied:

"They can have the lot for eight cents a bushel. Ask 'em if I shall
begin takin' 'em out?"

Then it was that I fancied he had some good reason for wanting to
remain out of sight, and I looked around in alarm to see what had
caused the trouble.



CHAPTER VII.

AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE.


Jerry was at the tiller; Jim Freeman and his friends stood near me at
the main-hatch ready to obey the commands of Darius, and since all
hands of us, with the exception of Josiah Coburn, really were
oystermen, knowing no other business or trade, there was little reason
for the Britishers to have any suspicions regarding us.

It was evident, however, that Darius had seen something to cause him
alarm, otherwise he would not remain in the hold, having a care to
keep out of sight while he might be seeing much which would please the
commander to hear about.

So far as I could make out, the Britishers regarded us as ignorant
fishermen who were trying to earn a very slim livelihood by selling
oysters at a price which would hardly pay enough to provide food for a
crew the size of ours.

Three or four of the petty officers were making very awkward attempts
to open the shells with a marlin-spike, while the idle crew, having
nothing better to do, watched the proceedings on their ship as well as
aboard our craft.

I was not looking for an explanation of the old man's behavior among
the seamen, therefore gave little heed to the old shell-backs who
lined the starboard rail from the forecastle-deck to the mainmast.

Gaze intently as I might, it was impossible to see anything which
could have caused Darius uneasiness, and I dismissed the matter from
my mind with the belief that he remained hidden from view simply to
avoid being recognized as an old sailor whom it would pay to impress
into his majesty's service.

It was just when I was growing a trifle more cheerful in mind because
of having banished the fears which assailed me when the old man leaped
so suddenly into the hold, that one of the officers called out:

"Here, you Bubby, come aboard and show us how to open these
shell-fish!"

"Will one of your men stand by for our line, sir?" I asked, because
the pungy was bobbing around on the small waves ten feet or more from
the ship's side, and I was not minded to take the chances of jumping
for the rail when there was good possibility of landing in the water.

The Britisher said something to the knot of men forward, and several
of them stepped forward, overhanging the rail, while Jerry made ready
to pass one of the small hawsers.

I stopped only long enough to get one of our oyster-knives from the
cuddy, and by that time the Avenger was alongside the ship, rubbing
against the huge fenders which had been swung out.

At the moment there was no thought of fear in my mind because I was
thus venturing into the very jaws of the lion; I had it in mind only
to play my part well, and believed that by showing the gentlemen how
easily the shells might be opened, I would be forwarding our business.

Much to my surprise, when I would have clambered aboard the ship,
whose rail towered many feet above ours, one of the sailors leaned far
over to give me aid when it was not really needed. He grasped both my
hands in a grip as of iron, holding me back when it appeared that he
would pull me aboard, and while I was thus hampered, I heard him
whisper:

"Tell Darius Thorpe to be to the eastward of the Tangiers this night!"

Having thus spoken, he hauled me inboard quickly, disappearing
immediately among the throng of men which literally covered the ship's
deck.

"Well, Bubby, have you gone daft?"

This aroused me to the consciousness that I was playing my part very
badly, and I quickly went to the after-hatchway where was our basket
of oysters around which several officers were standing.

Without speaking I whipped out the oyster-knife, and, using the
combing of the hatch as a bench, set about opening the shells as
rapidly as the most expert could have done.

The gentlemen were so astonished at seeing me do readily what they had
failed at, that I had a good two dozen fat oysters ready for the
eating before any one made an attempt at swallowing them.

From that out, until the basket was emptied, I was kept busy, and
although I searched with my eyes while thus engaged, it was impossible
to single out the sailor who had sent the message to Darius.

When there was nothing before me but shells, and one of the officers
asked if my father was going to send more aboard, I thought it would
be more in keeping with my part to act like a lad who was eager to
receive money for his cargo, therefore I replied that we would send
the whole load aboard at the rate of eight cents a bushel.

To this proposition the gentleman agreed, and I called out for the
others to begin slinging the baskets up, counting on lending a hand to
take them over the rail; but I was not allowed to abandon my job of
oyster-opener.

I worked as lively as I ever did in my life, and it surely seemed as
if I would not be allowed to go on board the Avenger until the entire
cargo had been eaten, therefore I called for Jerry to help me, after
our small lot had been dumped on the ship's hold.

Darius did not come out of the hold. He had good excuse for remaining
there while we were unloading; but once the pungy was empty I greatly
feared suspicions might be aroused by his remaining hidden from view.

Not until Jerry and I had opened a full two bushels, and given one of
the cooks a few lessons in the manner of holding a knife to the best
advantage while shucking, were we allowed to cease the tiresome labor,
for it must be known that we did not claim to be experts at such work.

One of the officers paid us for the cargo, and agreed to take as many
every other day while they remained at that station.

As if eager to know how long we might find a ready market thereabouts,
I asked if he could tell me when there was a possibility of the ship's
being moved; but he shut his mouth as close as any of our oysters,
saying that it was enough for us to know that they would patronize us
while they remained there, consequently I did not succeed in getting
any information for Commodore Barney.

I explained my reasons for asking such a question, by saying that it
would be a waste of time for us to sail down the bay when the fleets
were not there, because our only other market was at Annapolis or
Baltimore, and he said with a laugh:

"When we're not here you can look for us further north, and we will
take your oysters wherever we go."

I observed that we were on board the Narcissus, and thus understood
that Darius had made no mistake when he gave that name to the ship,
therefore my admiration for the old man's knowledge of nautical
matters increased, for only an experienced seaman could have thus
recognized a craft he had seen but once before.

By setting down so much when our business was concluded, it would
appear as if we loafed on the deck of the ship some time, whereas we
were given to understand that our room was better than our company
immediately the transaction was completed, and in a very few seconds
after the officers allowed Jerry and I to cease the labor of shucking,
we were aboard the Avenger, getting under way.

"Look at the name they've given that old bargee!" one of the gentlemen
on the quarter-deck cried with a laugh as the pungy swung around until
the letters on her stern could be read. "These Americans may be hot
for vengeance; but I take notice that they're ready to feed the enemy
if there's a dollar to be made."

All this seemed very funny to the Britishers, and they cracked many a
quip and joke at our expense, as I guessed by the roars of laughter
which could be heard so long as we were within earshot.

Darius came on deck once we had filled away; but he kept his hat
pulled well down over his face as he walked aft from the main-hatch,
and when he had taken the tiller I asked:

"What were you afraid of that you kept under cover so close?"

"It was a mighty snug shave, lad," he replied with a long indrawing of
the breath. "I knew one of the men on the forecastle deck, 'cause I
was shipmate with him on the privateer Honest Ben, when Joshua Barney
was in command. I'm not sayin' that he'd given me away; but I feared
he might sing out on seein' me."

"What is his name?"

"Bill Jepson. He's a Baltimore man; but whether he's there owin' to
fallin' in with a press-gang, or on account of his own free will, it's
hard to say, though I never believed Bill would willingly have served
the king."

"He wants you to be to the eastward of the Tangiers this night," I
said, and the old man started as if he had been struck by a bullet.

"How do you know, lad?"

Then I told him when the sailor had had speech with me, and again
repeated the message.

"That shows as how poor Bill was pressed into the service," Darius
said sympathetically, "an' now he's countin' that an old shipmate will
lend a hand."

"Which of course you will do!" I cried hotly.

"We must make some kind of a turn to favor him; but we're here on the
commodore's business, an' the question is whether we'll be warranted
in doin' what may turn all the plans upside down. Bill reckons to slip
over the side, an' swim ashore. If we're roundabout here, the
Britishers will count it for certain that we had a hand in the
desertion, an' the Avenger may be taken from us before we've got well
into our work. The king's officers ain't noways easy in handlin' them
as tries to get the best of 'em."

"But if the man swims for the islands expectin' to find us, and we're
not there, he'll be retaken."

"Ay, lad, an' most likely dance at the yard-arm for desertion."

"Then of course we must help him," and I beckoned to Jerry, knowing
full well he would fall into my way of thinking.

Before anything could be said between my partner and me, however, the
Avenger had come off the Severn, and we received peremptory orders to
heave to.

"Why didn't you remain alongside, as you were told?" an officer asked
angrily when the pungy was at a standstill, and Darius replied:

"The current carried us down the bay durin' the night, an' when
mornin' came the captain of that other ship ordered us alongside, sir.
He bought our cargo an' agreed to take more, so if you'd like to
trade with us, we can have fifteen or twenty bushels here by to-morrow
night, in case the wind holds."

I could see that two or three of the gentlemen on the quarter-deck put
their heads together, as if talking about us, and then the one who had
first spoken ordered us to lay alongside.

"They're goin' to search us, an' it may be I'll have an invite to stop
aboard quite a spell." Darius said half to himself as he swung the
pungy around preparatory to obeying orders.

"Then why do we go alongside? It wouldn't take many minutes to run out
of range," I said excitedly.

"They'd sink us in a twinkling, an' even though I knew we might give
'em the slip, it shouldn't be done, 'cause we couldn't come here
again, which never'd suit the commodore."

The possibility that any of our crew might be pressed into service on
board the ship frightened me, as may be imagined; but I understood
even while making the suggestion, that we could not hope to escape,
and the fate of poor Tom Sackett was pictured before me.

There was no way out of it, however, but my knees were very weak when
we ranged up under the starboard guns, waiting like criminals until
his majesty's officers should work their will regardless of right or
wrong.

Darius was the one who stood in the most danger, for it could readily
be seen that he was an old sailor; but he never turned a hair. One
would have said to see him that nothing was more pleasant than to thus
be overhauled, and he made a most awkward flourish by way of a bow
when we were come into position.

Jim Freeman passed a hawser, and when it was made fast a midshipman,
who acted as if he owned the whole of Chesapeake Bay, came aboard with
two marines.

The little whipper-snapper poked his nose into the cuddy, and
pretended to be nearly overcome by the odor of the place, therefore he
sent the marines below to overturn everything in the bunks, as if
believing we had somebody hidden there.

The soldiers came up with our three old muskets, and the little
whifflet demanded in a tone of authority to be told why we went so
well armed.

"We carry 'em, sir, so's we can get a mess of ducks now an' then,"
Darius replied as respectfully as if he had been speaking to the king.
"They ain't any great shakes of guns, seein's how all of 'em are
rusted pretty bad; but we oystermen can't afford anythin' better."

One would have thought the little ape had found three or four
thirty-two pounders, by the way he passed them up over the rail for
the inspection of the officers on the quarter-deck, and then he
turned his attention to the hold.

I heard the gentlemen laughing as they looked at our weapons, and in a
twinkling the pieces were thrown down on the deck with so little care
that the hammer of one was broken off short to the lock, but those who
served the king had little care how they destroyed the property of
those whose crime consisted in being born Americans.

The midshipman got one whiff from the hold, which I'm free to admit
wasn't pleasing, and the soldiers were sent below while he stood with
a handkerchief decked out with lace held to his nose, as if in danger
of fainting.

As a matter of course nothing was found below, save a lot of mud and
some oyster shells. A blind man might have seen that so far as the
vessel was concerned she could be nothing more than an honest
oysterman; but the whifflet forced the marines to search over every
portion of the hold, and while this was being done one of the officers
asked how many bushels we sold to those of the Narcissus.

Darius replied to the question, speaking as nearly unlike a sailor as
possible, and not until he had stated the price, showing British
silver as proof of the amount received, was the curiosity of the
gentleman satisfied.

Then the midshipman clambered over the side of the ship to make his
report, and the moment had come when if any of our number were to be
taken from us, we would be made aware of it.

I stood by the side of Darius trembling with apprehension, and even
amid my fear I took note of the fact that Jerry was feeling far from
comfortable in mind, while the old man chewed incessantly on a huge
piece of tobacco that caused his cheeks to swell out as if on the
point of bursting.

Although we had good cause for being frightened, nothing came of it,
and never did words sound more sweetly in my ears than when one of the
officers said:

"You can get on about your business; but don't make the mistake again
of trying to get below us without first reporting."

"We wasn't countin' on goin' very far away, sir," Darius replied
awkwardly. "There's good fishin' to be found around the islands here,
an' I was reckonin' on gettin' the drags out."

"Very well, but see to it that you heave to when coming nearabout, and
remain until getting permission to proceed."

"Yes sir, I'll do it for certain," Darius cried, and as one of the
Britisher's crew cast off our hawser, we filled away, standing to the
northeast.

There was not one aboard the Avenger who did not realize what a narrow
escape we had had from being forced to serve the king, and I dare
venture to say that all hands drew a breath of relief as the pungy
sailed beyond range of the big guns.

"Where are you bound?" Jerry asked when he was sufficiently master of
himself to note the course.

"I reckon we'll run over to Pocomoke; we'll find oysters in that
locality, such as they are, an' there's no need of running too far
away from the market."

"You're goin' to lend Bill Jepson a hand!" I cried joyfully, for it
would have gone far toward breaking my heart to turn a deaf ear to the
poor fellow's appeal.

"That's just what I ain't so clear about," Darius replied
thoughtfully. "Suppose we talk the matter over a bit."

I called Jim Freeman and his friends aft, knowing full well what their
opinion would be, and when we were together, repeated the story as I
had told it to the old man.

Then Darius explained that by helping a sailor to desert from one of
the enemy's ships, we might get into serious difficulties, to say
nothing of losing the sloop, and he also put it very plainly that in
going outside the task set us, we stood a good chance of disappointing
the commodore.

It was Jerry who put the matter to my liking, when he said:

"There are chances in favor of our bein' able to do this without
interferin' with the work set for us by the commodore; but there isn't
much hope for the sailor if he swims over to the Tangiers an' fails of
findin' us waitin' for him. You say he'll be hanged if they catch him
tryin' to desert. I don't believe I could sleep well nights if we
should leave this place, an' he met with his death."

All hands of us felt much as did Jerry, and after thinking the matter
over a moment Darius said slowly, as if choosing well his words:

"You lads must understand that I'm as hot for helpin' Bill as you can
be; but we're doin' our little part in a war, an' at such times the
life of one man don't count for very much when the good of others is
concerned. To tell the truth, I couldn't really say what we ought'er
do if I studied the thing over for four an' twenty hours. You lads own
this 'ere pungy, an' I allow you have the right to say somethin' as to
what shall be done with her, though you the same as put the craft out
of your keepin' when you took a guarantee from the commodore that so
many dollars should be paid in case she was lost. We'll consider it as
settled, an' now get to work. Swing out the drags, an' we'll let the
Britishers see that we're fishin', even though it ain't noways likely
we'll get much here."

I am free to confess that Darius' words made me a bit uneasy in mind
regarding our deciding the matter, for I knew full well that he had
spoken no more than the truth. It would be hard on Bill Jepson if we
gave him the cold shoulder; but by trying to lend a hand we might be
doing others a wrong.

However, the question had been decided, and there was little sense in
crying over spilled milk, for I was not minded to make any effort at
bringing about a change of opinion, therefore I turned to with the
others that we might appear to be industriously fishing.

Darius stood to the eastward until we were in Pocomoke bay, and there
we stood a good show of getting fifteen or twenty bushels before it
would be time to be at the rendezvous appointed by Bill Jepson.

During all this while we had the enemy's fleets in fairly good view,
for the vessels appeared to be to the northward of New Point; but, as
a matter of course, it could be of little benefit to the commodore to
know how many vessels there were, if we could not give him any idea of
their weight of metal.

It was nearly noon before we got breakfast, and when the meal was come
to an end we had struck some small oyster beds, therefore we were kept
jumping from that time until dark, and then had on board a good twenty
bushels of fair stock. Not enough from a money-making point of view;
but plenty to serve our purpose, for it might not be well to let the
Britishers think we could take on a cargo quickly.

Now the greater portion of this time we were in view of those aboard
the two vessels we had visited, and by using their spy-glasses it
would have been possible for them to make out what we were doing.

Once the night began to shut in, however, we were out of sight, and
Darius said as we hauled in the drags for the last time:

"Now we'll run over for the Tangiers, lads, an' stay there till two or
three o'clock in the mornin'. If Bill don't show up by that time we
must count that he couldn't get away, or was caught in the act."

"Are you simply reckoning on laying off the islands?" I asked,
understanding that a man might swim ashore at one point while we were
at another, and easily fail of finding us.

"I reckon that some of us will take to the canoe, an' cruise off the
western shore lookin' for him. His best time for makin' the try will
be when the last dog-watch goes off duty at eight o'clock, or again at
midnight. It won't be easy to paddle 'round so long; but it's a man's
life that you're after."

"Jerry and I will go in the canoe," I said, thinking it no more than
right for us to perform the greatest share of the labor since we were
held, by Darius, responsible for making the attempt to aid the sailor.

We made a hearty supper that night, eating the last of the ham, and
frying a generous quantity of oysters with it, and then the pungy was
hove to on the westward side of the large island, as near inshore as
we dared to run.

I proposed that she be anchored lest the wind set her on the beach;
but Darius claimed that it was necessary for us to be ready to leave
at a moment's notice, and promised to have an eye on the craft all the
while we were absent.

Then Jerry and I took to the canoe, with good prospect of half a
night's work before us, and paddled around to the eastward, after
which we set about going back and forth for a distance of a quarter of
a mile, since that seemed to be the place a man naturally would make
for.

We could see the riding lights of the ship plainly, and although it
would require considerable labor to swim so far, it should be readily
done by one who was at all familiar with the work.

"We'd find ourselves in a pretty hobble if a boat put off from the
ship just now," Jerry said in a low tone, and I was angry with him for
having offered such a suggestion. There was enough in the venture to
make a fellow nervous, without conjuring up all the possibilities at a
time when one needed to have his wits about him.

"We won't think of anything except trying to pick the poor man up," I
said sharply. "This isn't the kind of work that suits me, and I'm not
so cold-blooded that I can picture out all the trouble which may come
upon us."

"A fellow can't help thinkin'," Jerry replied grumpily, and I said yet
more curtly:

"He needn't talk about it to mix others up." Then, angered with myself
for having spoken so petulantly, I added, "To tell the truth, Jerry, I
am as frightened as a lad well can be, and don't dare to talk overly
much lest I should show the white feather in a way to make you ashamed
of me."

"You can't be any worse off than I am," my partner replied, and then
we both laughed softly. An acknowledgment of our timorousness seemed
to hearten us, and we worked the paddles in a more whole-souled
fashion.

As I have said, we decided to pull back and forth on a line about a
quarter of a mile long, and all the while kept a sharp watch in the
direction of the vessel, for a swimmer's head on the water is not a
very large object to see in the night.

We did not dare indulge in much conversation, and during an hour we
had not spoken once; but then I said, thinking to spare ourselves
useless labor:

"If he slipped off at eight o'clock, he should have been here by this
time. We may as well lay still till midnight."

I had hardly ceased speaking when we heard a sound as of some one
whistling softly, and nothing more was needed to tell us that Bill
Jepson had succeeded in slipping away from the ship.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE DESERTER.


Even after knowing that the deserter was near at hand, we had
considerable difficulty in locating him, and not until after making a
complete circle around the swimmer could I see his head.

As we came alongside he grasped the gunwale to rest himself, and
asked:

"Are you from the oysterman?"

"Ay, shan't we take you aboard now? The pungy is on the other side of
the island."

"The canoe would be overturned if I attempted to come over the rail.
Paddle into shoaler water, an' I'll try it."

"Tired out?" I asked as we worked the craft toward the shore, he still
holding by the gunwale.

"Nothin' to speak of when its a case of escapin' from the Britishers.
I'd tried this a week ago if I hadn't known that the first search
would be made on the island, an' I didn't dare take the chances of
findin' them as would help me off."

We were not many moments in coming to the beach, and then Bill Jepson
clambered over the stern, not being hampered overly much by wet
clothing, since he had come off with nothing save his trousers and
shirt.

"I was willin' to leave all my dunnage, providin' I could say good by
to the bloomin' ship. When we put in here I counted on seein' friends
'most anywhere, for I hail from Baltimore way; but Darius Thorpe's was
the first friendly face I came across. A good honest sailorman is
Darius, an' I knew he wouldn't leave me in a hole if it was possible
for him to lend a hand."

Jepson had nothing startling to tell relative to his escape from the
ship. When the watch was changed he quietly slipped over the side,
dropping into the water without making any disturbance, and swimming
beneath the surface, coming up to breathe only when it was absolutely
necessary, until he was a full half-mile from the Severn.

As we paddled around the island, putting in our best strokes, for we
had no desire to be found in that vicinity when it was discovered on
the British ship that one of the crew had deserted, I asked Jepson how
he chanced to be aboard the enemy's vessel, and while his story
related to a cruel wrong, it was in no wise exciting, or unusual.

Five months before the declaration of war he was taken from an
American merchantman on the flimsy pretex of being an English citizen,
and since then had led what he called "a dog's life" aboard several
of the king's ships. Never before had he seen an opportunity to
escape, and now he knew full well that, if caught, he would be hanged.

Now that we had the man I began to question as to what should be done
with him, for it was certain we must not take the chances of keeping
him aboard the Avenger, and I could well understand that he might not
want to remain if we were to fish in that vicinity.

It seemed almost as if he read that which was in my mind for he said
after a long time of silence:

"I'm only half free now, for your pungy will be searched if you go
anywhere near the Narcissus again, an' the question is, how I am to
get to the mainland?"

"We could put you ashore in Maryland," I suggested.

"Yes, an' I'd starve to death before gettin' anywhere, unless you ran
further up the bay than I allow you've any right to go," he said with
a laugh which had in it nothing of mirth.

"What's the sense of stewin' over that part of it now?" Jerry asked.
"Wait till you get aboard the pungy, an' I dare say Darius will have a
plan all worked out."

"He's a good one, is Darius, an' when he settles on a thing it comes
mighty near bein' sound. We'll wait, an' I'll spell one of you lads
with a paddle, if you'll give me a show."

"After swimming so far I reckon you'd better lay still," I replied,
and from that time until we ran alongside the Avenger not a word was
spoken between us.

If I had expected to see anything affecting in the meeting between the
two old shipmates, I was mistaken.

Darius, who was on the lookout for us as may be supposed, said when he
saw that the canoe had three occupants:

"So you got him, eh? Well, Bill Jepson wasn't born to be drowned,
that's certain."

Then the old man passed us a line, and the deserter said as he went
over the rail:

"I knew I could depend on you, Darius."

"You made a mistake this time, Bill, for if the boys hadn't hogged up
agin it, I'd left you to do the best you could, seein's we're down
here on a bit of work for Commodore Joshua Barney, whose fleet is in
the Patuxent river, as perhaps you have heard."

"Well there! I knew you wouldn't be foolin' round here oysterin' while
able seamen are likely in good demand. I'd be well fixed if I could
run across the commodore just now."

"That's what I've been thinking'. Of course it don't stand to reason
you can stay here a great many hours."

"I must be off before daylight, an' am countin' on your tellin' me
where."

"What do you know about the Britishers?"

"Considerable which has been picked up from the marines who've been on
duty aft. There won't be any move made for two or three days, an' then
they're goin' to strike Washington an' Baltimore at the same time. Sir
Peter Parker goes to our home, an' Captain Gordon will run up the
Potomac. Leastways, that's what we of the gun-deck have heard, an' you
know that what leaks through the sentries is most generally to be
counted on."

"Ever been up the Patuxent river?" Darius asked abruptly.

"Only two or three times."

"Well that's where you ought'er be, tellin' the commodore all you
know, an' if the three of you agree, here's a plan we'll try."

Darius looked at Jerry and me as he spoke, therefore I understood that
we were counted as two of the three to whom he referred.

"I'm agreeable to anythin' you figger out, Darius," Bill Jepson said
as he wrung the water from his scanty clothing.

"Well then, Amos an' Jerry shall take you in the canoe, an' start for
Nottingham within the next ten minutes. Since they left to look for
you I've been fixin' up a sail for the craft, an' with a breeze like
this you ought'er be well across the Potomac by sunrise."

"Don't you need the lads with you?" Jepson asked as Jerry and I looked
at each other in surprise, and, perhaps, displeasure.

"Yes; but not so much as I need to hear from the commodore after he
knows what you've got to say."

"The Britishers are certain to search this craft 'twixt now an'
to-morrow night, an' seein' the canoe is gone, may smell a rat," the
deserter suggested.

"I reckoned all that in with my figgerin'. If you start for the
Patuxent river I shall run over to the Delaware shore an' pick up a
boat somewhere."

"They knew how much of a crew you had when the oyster bargain was
made."

"Well, what if the boys went ashore to go home for a couple of days?
That yarn will go down, I reckon, an' if it don't I'll have to take
the chances for the sake of gettin' you to Joshua Barney as soon as it
can be done."

Darius had evidently considered the plan well, and I understood that
nothing would turn him from it unless one of us flatly refused to
carry it into execution, which, considering all the importance of
getting information to the commodore, I was not prepared to do. At the
same time, the idea of going back to Nottingham in no better craft
than our canoe, was by no means to my liking.

"If you've got it worked out, Darius Thorpe, an' allow it should be
done, I'm ready," Bill Jepson said, "an' it ain't noways strange that
I should be willin' to jump at anythin', considerin' I'm like to go to
the yard-arm if captured now."

The old man looked inquiringly at Jerry, and my partner said slowly
much as if not being exactly certain what he thought of the scheme:

"I'm willin' to go if it so be you want to keep the pungy here; but
'cordin' to my way of thinkin' the chances are against our gettin'
there in the canoe."

"You can do it if the wind don't breeze up, an' it ain't likely to at
this time of the year." Then, as if considering the question settled
absolutely, Darius cried out to Jim, "Have you stowed everythin' in
the canoe?"

"Ay, sir, an' I've taken all the provisions for them, so we'll be left
to suck our thumbs when we get right hungry."

Darius not only planned the journey while we were absent; but had gone
ahead with the preparations as if advised in advance that we would
agree to it.

"Well, there was no use in hanging back, since the thing must be done,
and I had sense enough to know that if we were going to make the
venture the sooner it was begun the better chance we had for
succeeding, therefore I went over the rail into the canoe, where I
found a small sprit-sail, a package of food, and one musket with
powder and balls sufficient for two or three charges.

"We've done the best we could by you, lad," Darius called out as he
saw me examining the cargo. "You'll soon be where you can lay in a
good supply."

"Yes, if we don't go to the bottom first," I replied just a trifle
sharply, whereat Darius replied with a laugh:

"I'll trust you for that part of the business. Bill Jepson should be a
master hand with a paddle, an' take it all in all, you're bound to
push ahead right fast."

"How are we to find you again?" Jerry asked.

"The commodore will attend to that part of it. We'll stay here foolin'
around as agreed upon, for a week--unless we get important news before
then--, an' if you haven't shown up I'll allow that Joshua Barney set
you about other business."

Jerry and Bill Jepson took their places in the canoe, the latter
stepping the small spar to which the bit of canvas was rigged, and as
I ran a paddle out over the stern to take the place of a rudder, I was
astonished at feeling that the little craft was making remarkably good
headway.

Almost at the same moment we started, the pungy was hauled around for
the Delaware shore, and in less than five minutes she was lost to view
in the darkness.

"How is she doin'?" the old sailor asked as he leaned over to watch
the rush of water along the side.

"Better than we could shove her with the paddles," I replied, not
feeling overly inclined to talk very much.

"Then I can't see but that everything is as smooth as grease, an'
what's better'n all else, we're leavin' the bloomin' Britishers astern
in a way to make my heart glad. The wind is likely to increase before
it lessens, so we'll be a good bit on our way by sunrise."

"Ay," Jerry said grimly; "but if you've lived in Baltimore you know
what the mouth of the Potomac is when the breeze comes strong, an' I
don't allow that this canoe would make any too good weather of it in a
heavy sea."

"She should be able to do it all right," Jepson said carelessly, and
then he set about filling a pipe he had borrowed from Darius, as if
there was nothing in the world to cause him trouble.

After he had lighted the tobacco he must needs ply us with questions
regarding Joshua Barney, to which we could make no very satisfactory
replies because of our ignorance; but he seemed to think it his duty
to keep a conversation going, regardless of the fact that both Jerry
and I showed plainly our disinclination to do very much
tongue-wagging.

When an hour had passed, and the canoe was walking along in right
smart style, surprising me by her performance under sail, for I had
never supposed she could be used in such fashion, Bill Jepson said
suddenly:

"Look here, what's the use of all hands standin' watch? Give me the
paddle, an' I'll steer while you lads get a bit of sleep. I'll call
you when its time to take your trick at the helm."

At first I was inclined to hold my place; but thought differently when
I saw Jerry curling himself up in the bow for a nap, and gave the
paddle to the sailor, saying as I did so:

"I don't count on sleeping very long; but if you should come up to the
Potomac before I turn out, it would be a good idea to call me."

"I reckon you think that because I'm a deep-water sailor I ain't fit
to be trusted with one of these Chesapeake cockle shells; but bless
your heart, lad, I've always knocked about in 'em, an' you shall see
that I'll handle you tenderly enough."

I laid down in the bottom of the boat, under the thwarts, and
contrived to make myself so comfortable that in less than five minutes
I was sleeping soundly.

When next I became conscious of anything there was at least two inches
of water under my back, and the spray was coming over the starboard
side at a rate that threatened speedily to founder the little craft.

Jerry, being in the bow which stood higher out of the water, had not
been disturbed.

"What's the matter?" I asked in alarm, crawling out from under the
thwarts with no little difficulty.

"Matter? Nothin' as I knows of," Bill Jepson said as if surprised that
I should have asked such a question. "What made you think anything was
wrong?"

"Why we're half full of water, man, and if it keeps coming in at this
rate it'll soon be a case of swimming!"

"It's a bit dusty, that's all; but the canoe is doin' her work like a
lady. We're well nigh across the Potomac, an' just a hummin'."

The day was breaking, and in the gray light of early dawn I could see
the little craft laboring under her rag of a sail in a manner that
sent my heart into my mouth, although I'm not given to being timorous
on the water.

"We must get in some of that sail," I cried, forced to yell at the
full strength of my lungs in order to be heard above the rollicking
sea song in which Bill Jepson was pouring forth his musical soul.

"Let her go as she is; I'll answer for it that no harm will be done."
Bill said with a laugh as he cut short his song. "We wouldn't be in as
good shape with the paddles, an' that's a fact."

By this time Jerry had awakened, and he, like me, had the idea that
we were storming through it at a hotter pace than the canoe could
safely stand; but the sailor insisted that nothing was wrong, although
he did suggest it might be a good idea if we baled the craft a bit,
and we were forced to act upon his advice in order to save ourselves
from being swamped.

The canoe rode more easily when the liquid load had been taken from
her, and I came to the conclusion that perhaps it might be as well to
let Bill Jepson have his way since we were cutting down the miles in
great shape, and speed was the one thing necessary for us just at that
time.

We were forced to use the baling dishes about every ten minutes before
crossing the mouth of the river, and then the little craft made better
weather of it, to the great relief of both us lads.

No one would ever have suspected that Bill Jepson was a deserter who
would surely be hanged if the Britishers caught him. He sang, told
stories of a wild and terrible kind, mimicked the officers of the
Narcissus, and explained what the Americans would do when the enemy
came up the bay, going into the details of the naval maneuvers as if
perfectly familiar with all the defenses, instead of being wholly
ignorant of everything connected with the war save from an English
standpoint.

It was not a very appetizing breakfast which we had that morning, for
the food, stowed in the stern of the boat, was soaked with water; but
to lads who had never been accustomed to luxuries a little thing like
fasting did not seem to be of much importance.

The breeze, which had been freshening all night, increased with the
rising of the sun, and Jerry and I, unwilling to suggest that the sail
be reefed, saw the little craft humming along under the guidance of
Bill Jepson, when, had we dared assert our authority, she would be
creeping with no other motive power than the paddles in the hands of
two tired boys.

At noon we landed on the southerly side of Hog Point, where I knew a
fisherman lived, and went toward the house hoping we might be able to
get something in the way of provisions, for I had in my pocket the
money which had been paid by the officers of the Narcissus.

Bill Jepson remained in the canoe, to "keep ship" as he said, and
Jerry and I walked through the small growth of timber nearly
encircling the building, with never a thought of keeping ourselves
concealed from view; but yet remaining silent for the very good reason
that we had nothing of interest to say to each other.

Thus it was by mere chance that our approach was almost noiseless, and
when we were come within view of the dwelling, from whence we could
hear the hum of voices, none of the inmates were aware of our
presence.

This man--Jenkins was his name--had a wife and one child, as I well
knew, therefore hearing the sound as of several voices, I naturally
looked out from the underbrush before showing myself, for there was in
my mind the thought that he might have a party of Britishers as
visitors.

One man, and he the owner of the dwelling, was lying on the grass just
outside the window, talking with another who was seated within the
building, whose head and shoulders only could be seen; but one glance
at the face was sufficient to cause me to draw suddenly back as I
motioned to Jerry to advance where he could have a view of Jenkins'
visitor.

It was Elias Macomber who sat at the window, talking with his host on
the outside, and we could readily overhear the conversation.

Under ordinary circumstances I hold that an eavesdropper is the
meanest kind of a person; but considering all the facts of the case,
it seemed just then that it was our duty to learn all we might.

As we came up Jenkins was evidently opposing something which the
traitor had said, for when we were in position to listen, Macomber
cried sharply:

"I shall watch out for the British fleet, an' board the first vessel
that heaves in sight. I reckon I can tell the admiral somethin' which
he'll like to hear."

"But, Elias," Jenkins remonstrated, "even though you don't believe in
the war, surely you wouldn't do that which might work harm to your
neighbors?"

"I'm an Englishman!"

"By comin' here an' settlin' down, you turned into an American, or
should have done so. I claim that a man has no right to hold himself
an Englishman when he moves into another country to live, never
expectin' to go back to the old home. All your interests are here, an'
by holdin' true to the United States you are benefitin' yourself."

"That's all rot. I work for what I get here, an' have no man to thank
for it."

"But the laws of the country protect you; all the advantages to be had
from the town where you live are yours, the same as others, an' when
you take them you have no right to do harm to the land which feeds
you."

"It's no use tryin' to argue me out of it, Jenkins, for you don't know
how I've been treated in Benedict. I'll give the British commander all
the information in my possession, an' it's enough to be of
importance."

Just then a woman's voice from the inside of the house summoned Mr.
Jenkins to some household duty, and I drew back among the foliage yet
further, dragging Jerry with me.

"We'll stay right here till we get our hands on that cur!" my partner
exclaimed when we were so far from the house that there was no danger
the words would be overheard, "an' if Commodore Barney's men can't
keep him a prisoner, we'll turn to an' see what kind of a fist we make
of the job!"

I was of Jerry's mind; but there was nothing that could be safely done
in broad day, and we went softly back to the shore that we might hold
counsel with Bill Jepson.

We found the sailor sleeping peacefully on the warm sand; but had no
compunctions about disturbing his slumbers, and after he was fully
awake it became necessary to tell him the story of what we had done in
the Patuxent, that he might the better understand the situation.

"So the spy is here, an' counts on stayin' till the Britishers come up
the bay, eh?" the old sailor said half to himself. "What have you lads
got in your heads?"

"We're goin' to get our hands on him once more, an' then take precious
good care he don't have a chance to tell the Britishers what he knows
concerning the commodore's fleet," Jerry said hotly.

"An' you count on doin' that first of all, eh?"

"Sure; that cur shan't have a chance to give us the slip!"

"But he said he'd stay till the fleet came up."

"Well?"

"That won't happen for three or four days yet, if all I've heard be
true."

"It makes no difference to us when the vessels come. What we want is
Elias Macomber!"

"What would you do with him, supposin' he was here this minute?"

"Carry him to Commodore Barney, of course."

"Can the four of us get along in the canoe?"

Jerry and I looked at each other in perplexity. It was a fact that the
little craft would not carry four, particularly when one was a
prisoner who might struggle against being taken up the river, and yet
it seemed to me as if we were in duty bound to effect the capture.

"Now this is the way it looks to me," Bill Jepson said slowly, as if
talking with himself, "though, of course, I ain't countin' on
interferin' with you lads in any way: What I've got to tell the
commodore is of more importance than the yarn Macomber can spin for
the admiral, an' Darius Thorpe seemed to think I couldn't see the old
man any too soon. Now if this 'ere sneak is goin' to wait where he is
till the fleet comes, what's to prevent our keepin' on as we started,
an' then comin' back to pull him in? This wind will set us up the
river in great shape, an' within four an' twenty hours we should be at
Nottingham, unless the town has been moved from where I saw it last."

I understood at once that the sailor's advice was good, and should be
followed, yet it went sadly against the grain to go away from that
place leaving the cur free to do us harm if the opportunity presented
itself.

Jerry had much the same struggle in his mind as I, but, watching his
face, I soon saw that he was ready to act upon Bill Jepson's
suggestion, and without waiting for him to give his thoughts words, I
said:

"Very well, if we're to go up the river first, there is no time to be
lost. We must paddle the canoe close inshore until we get around the
point, so that we may not be seen from Jenkins' house, and then we'll
push her for all she's worth."

We no longer remembered that we were hungry; but jumped to the task as
if every moment was precious, as indeed was the case if we would make
Elias Macomber a prisoner for the second time.

As I had said in regard to paddling around the point, so we did, but
once the canoe was so far beyond that she could not be seen from the
dwelling, we hoisted the sail, and I dare venture to say that Bill
Jepson might have run her rail under without hearing any word of
protest from Jerry or me, so eager were we to be on the return
voyage.



CHAPTER IX.

AN UNEXPECTED MEETING.


It was as if the elements favored us in the race to Nottingham and
indeed I counted it a race in which were pitted against us the British
fleet and Elias Macomber.

The wind held strong, the day was cloudless, and the canoe, clumsy
craft as I had always looked upon her, sailed like a bird. Bill Jepson
insisted on holding the steering paddle, and we were well content to
have him at the helm, for he held her so nearly to the course that our
wake stretched out behind us straight as an arrow.

Under almost any other circumstances we would have made at least a
short stop at Benedict; but now it was out of the question, and we
sailed by at full speed, being hailed by several of our acquaintances
who urged that we come to for a moment, but we resisted all such
entreaties.

I knew that my mother, on being told we had refused even to so much as
have speech with our friends as we passed, would understand we were
on urgent business, and have no thought that I had slighted her.

When, in due course of time, we passed the mill from which had been
taken the prisoners, it bore the appearance of being deserted,
therefore we had good reason for believing that Macomber was the only
one of our capturing who succeeded in making his escape.

It was late in the night before we came upon the fleet, and were
brought to by a hail from the guard-boat.

The commodore was yet with the flotilla on board the Scorpion, so the
sentinels told us; but they were minded to prevent our having speech
with him at that unseemly hour.

Had Jerry and I been alone I believe of a verity we would have been
forced to wait until morning before seeing Joshua Barney; but Bill
Jepson could not be put aside as easily as two lads, and he roared out
as if he had been an admiral of the blue at the very least:

"Tell him that Darius Thorpe has sent word from the lower bay, an' it
must be delivered straight away."

[Illustration: "I remember your face, my man;" said the Commodore.
"Come aboard at once." Page 153.]

In the darkness, when it was impossible to see him, no one could say
that Bill was not a person of the greatest importance, and the
sentinels, judging from his voice, must have concluded that he, or the
man whose name he gave, was some one high in authority, therefore they
not only allowed us to approach the schooner, but went before to
announce our arrival.

The commodore was not the kind of an officer to keep any one in
waiting simply that due respect might be shown to his station; but
came on deck half-dressed, bidding one of the sailors to hold a
lantern that he might see who we were.

"So you lads have come back in haste, eh?" he said, on recognizing
Jerry and me. "Have you by chance lost the pungy?"

"No, sir; she is in the lower bay oysterin', with Darius in charge," I
made haste to say.

"And who is this you have with you?"

"Bill Jepson, sir, who has served under you twice; but is now a
deserter from his majesty's ship, Severn, having been pressed into the
British service nigh to three years ago," the sailor replied, rising
to his feet at imminent risk of overturning the canoe.

"I remember your face, my man. Come aboard at once, all hands of you."

We clamored over the rail, having made the canoe fast, and entered the
commodore's cabin.

"When did you desert from the Severn?" Joshua Barney asked, showing
more of excitement than I had ever seen him display.

"Last night, sir, an' it may be by so doin' I've upset some of your
plans; but when I asked for help it never struck me that Darius might
be there on special business."

"Tell me all the story," the commodore said, motioning toward me, and
without delay I gave him a full account of what we had done, save that
then I said nothing regarding Elias Macomber.

Then he questioned Bill Jepson regarding what he knew, and, if I am
any judge of such matters, he got considerable valuable information.

The sailor was able to give him the names of nearly all the vessels in
the two fleets, together with their probable weight of metal, and
repeated the gossip which had leaked from the Severn's cabin through
the marines on guard.

The commodore listened intently, making many notes as Bill spun his
yarn, and when it was come to an end he said:

"You did well to steer for here at once; but I am inclined to believe
that the enemy will move very soon. Is there anything else to be
said?"

"I would like to speak about Elias Macomber, sir?" I made bold to say.

"That was the prisoner who escaped? One of them got away, and there is
good reason to suspect that he received aid from some of our men. We
have no time to look into the matter now; but it shall be thoroughly
sifted later, and if there be a British sympathizer among us, it will
go hard with him."

Then I gave him all the information we had concerning the traitor, and
wound up by asking if there was any reason why we should not go back
and re-take the cur.

"You may as well make the attempt, although I question if he can tell
the enemy anything which is not already known. The utmost he could say
would be that our force is small, and so much the British learned at
St. Leonard's bay. However, I would like to have the fellow; but am
not willing you should run into any danger for the purpose of
effecting the capture."

"I believe that Jerry and I will be able to get hold of him, and we
will go back at once, unless you have other work for us."

"There is nothing especial that you can do here. Warn Darius Thorpe to
be ready for an immediate move on the part of the enemy, and tell him
to make sail for the Patuxent at the first signs of activity. You lads
had better get some sleep before setting off again. Go forward, and
see that you have a hearty meal at once. Jepson, you will remain
aboard the schooner."

Bill thanked the commodore, and the three of us went into a sort of
forecastle which had been rigged up in the forward part of the vessel,
where, after considerable arguing, we succeeded in getting so much
food as satisfied our hunger, which was no small amount.

Then we turned in by lying down on deck, which was preferable to
getting into a bunk on such a hot night.

As a matter of course we were aroused right early, even before any
signs of a new day could be seen; but the three hours of sleep
refreshed us wonderfully, and we were ready to set off down the river.

We managed, at the expense of considerable argument, to get a supply
of provisions from the cook without awakening Commodore Barney, and,
after a warm parting with Bill Jepson, cast off the canoe.

Because the wind was blowing straight up the river it was impossible
to use a sail, save at the cost of considerable time, and we took to
the paddles, which seemed like mighty hard work after our experience
with the rag of a sail.

Don't let it be thought that we begrudged our labor; I would have
paddled till the skin was worn from both hands for the sake of
re-taking Elias Macomber, and looked pleasant all the while; but when
a fellow has been flying over the water with no effort of his own save
to keep the little craft on her course, he cannot but contrast that
pleasure with the dreary work of shoving her ahead with an ashen
blade.

Again we felt obliged to pass our homes without stopping. It would
have taken a full hour, hurry as we might, to go ashore and speak ever
so briefly with those who would greet us, and in that length of time
Elias Macomber could, possibly, join his friends the Britishers.

"We'll keep well over on the eastern shore, where there is less chance
of bein' seen, an' do our best at the paddles," Jerry said as we
discussed the matter just before coming within sight of the village.
"I'd give a good deal to see mother an' the children; but it seems as
if we had no right to loiter."

I was of his mind, and we hugged the opposite bank of the river,
keeping under the screen of foliage as much as possible, until there
was no danger of being recognized.

During all that day and far into the night we paddled. Now and then
one would stop to rest his arms; but the other continued the labor,
therefore the canoe did not come to a stop from the time we left the
fleet until we were arrived at Hog Point.

There we run her bow on the shore while we ate a hearty meal, and
discussed the question as to whether it would be better to approach
the house from the northerly or the southerly side.

I was in favor of going ashore where we then were; but Jerry won the
day by suggesting that if we ran around on the other side, it would be
possible to see if the British came up the bay, and this last was
quite important to us in case we were forced to spend much time
waiting for a fitting opportunity to catch our game.

After refreshing ourselves with food, we paddled around the point
without danger of being seen, because it was so late in the night,
and landed at the same place as before, knowing that from there we
would have no difficulty in finding the dwelling.

After pulling the canoe up amid the bushes, and hiding her as well as
was possible in the darkness, we laid down on the ground, falling
asleep almost immediately we had stretched ourselves out at full
length, and not until the first beams of the rising sun shone across
our faces did we awaken.

It was but natural that we should look down the bay before doing
anything else; but we saw nothing to disturb us. A small craft was
coming slowly up, for the breeze was light; but to her we gave little
or no heed.

We began the day by eating breakfast. Then we saw to it the boat was
so nearly concealed by the foliage that she would not be seen save
after careful search, and we set out to reconnoiter the premises.

We advanced cautiously, stopping every half dozen paces to listen lest
we inadvertently stumble upon the owner of the plantation, or his
guest, and after spending half an hour in such slow progress, we came
in view of the place.

Elias Macomber was pacing to and fro in front of the dwelling, as if
weary of his voluntary confinement, and gazing seaward every few
seconds, for from that side of the house it must have been possible
to get a full view of the bay.

"We might get our musket, an' rush up on him now," Jerry whispered,
and I replied as I believed Darius would have done:

"We don't know how well armed Jenkins may be, nor what he will be
willing to do in aid of his friend. My idea is that we should wait
here until the owner goes to his work, leaving the traitor with the
women folks, and even then the task won't be an easy one, for we must
come out in sight of all hands a full three minutes before arriving at
the house, however fast we run."

"We should have brought the musket with us on this trip," Jerry
grumbled, and I soothed him by saying:

"There is really no time lost. The first thing to be done was to make
certain the scoundrel yet remained here; that has now been
ascertained, and I will go for the weapon while you stand watch. We
mustn't be in too much of a hurry, or we may spill the soup."

Jerry was satisfied to act as sentinel, and I walked leisurely back to
the shore, believing that much time must elapse before we would get
the desired opportunity.

Arriving at the shore I spent some minutes searching for the canoe, so
well had we hidden her, and once getting the musket and ammunition in
my possession I strolled down to the beach where I could have a view
of the bay.

Only the single small vessel was in sight, and I was on the point of
turning away, thinking it useless to gaze long at her, when something
in the rig of the craft struck me as being familiar.

I looked again; laid down the weapon and gazed yet more intently,
until finally there was no longer any question in my mind.

The vessel was none other than the Avenger! If Darius was yet on board
why had he left his post of duty? If anything had happened to him, why
had Jim Freeman taken it upon himself to leave the lower bay?

The more I tried to solve the problem the stronger became the
probability, in my own mind, that some serious disaster had overtaken
our comrades, and I ran at full speed, giving little heed as to
whether the advance might be heard by Macomber, until I was come to
where Jerry remained crouching in the grass, his eyes fixed upon the
dwelling.

"You're makin' a terrible row!" he said angrily, never looking around.
"Fortunately the cur has just gone inside, or he might have heard
you."

"Jerry!" I said, speaking with difficulty because of heavy breathing
after having run so fast. "The Avenger is close at hand; she is the
craft we saw! Something must have gone wrong!"

Jerry turned his head very quickly now, forgetting for the instant
his desire to make a prisoner of Elias Macomber.

"What do you think can have happened?" he asked, and I replied
impatiently:

"That we shall only find out by boarding her. Come to the beach at
once!"

"But what about our work here?" and now it was the pungy that went
from his mind, leaving there only the great desire to accomplish the
purpose for which he had come.

"Never mind that now! It may be we won't want to fool around here on
his account! Come quickly, Jerry, for she was close at hand before I
started!"

It was actually necessary to shake the lad before I could arouse him
to a full sense of the situation; but once that had been done, he
followed me readily enough, even urging that I move faster.

The pungy was no more than half a mile away when we reached the shore,
and we launched the canoe without delay, paddling straight out in her
course.

As she came up I could see Darius at the tiller, with Jim beside him,
and the other two fellows lounging forward.

Nothing had happened to the crew, that much seemed certain, and I was
at my wits' end to account for the Avenger being apparently heading
for home.

When we were come within hailing distance I shouted, never thinking
that I might be heard by those on the Jenkins plantation:

"Why are you coming back? What has happened?"

"Where is Bill Jepson?" Darius cried.

"With the fleet."

"When did you leave him?"

"Yesterday. What is the matter?"

"Come aboard an' I'll tell you," the old man replied as he threw the
pungy up into the wind, and we did not waste many seconds in going
over the rail.

"Now what is it?" I asked impatiently when I stood facing Darius.

"The Britishers are gettin' under way, an' it kind'er looked as if the
oyster business wouldn't be any good after they'd left moorin's. If
there'd been any wind, you'd be seein' 'em by this time. What brought
you ashore at Hog Point?"

"Elias Macomber is there, living with Jenkins the planter. We stopped
on our way up thinking to get some provisions, and not only saw the
cur, but heard him say he was waiting for the Britishers, to whom he
could give a lot of information."

While I had been speaking Darius brought the pungy into the wind
again, and she was standing directly away from the man we had been so
eager to capture.

"Here!" Jerry cried sharply. "You must heave to till we get that
villain."

"How many people do you reckon are in the house?" Darius asked as he
twisted off a large piece of tobacco.

"We've only seen Macomber and Jenkins."

"Don't know anythin' more about the situation?"

"We haven't had time to learn anything more; but it don't stand to
reason there are other men."

"They've both of 'em got wives, who'd fight if it come to a pinch. No,
lads, the best you could count on in the way of time would be a full
day, an' we can't afford to waste an hour."

"But it wouldn't be wastin' time if we finally caught him," Jerry
cried hotly.

"That's where I don't agree with you, lad. The son of a sea-cook can't
give the Britishers any very valuable information, whereas we can tell
the commodore that which may be the means of savin' our whole fleet.
I'd like to lay Macomber by the heels as well as you would; but I
don't believe in usin' a salmon to catch a sprat. We'll run across him
some day; but jest now its our duty to get up the river in short
order. We'll try the canoe with a little bigger canvas, an' if she
sails faster than the pungy you shall go ahead, for an hour now is
worth a full day next week."

I was not convinced that the business of catching the traitor before
he could give his information to the Britishers, was less important
than that of carrying to the commodore word of preparation for
departure on the part of the fleet, more particularly since not a
vessel had as yet hove in sight; but when it came to arguing a point
with Darius I generally got the worst of it, therefore I held my
peace, although it went sadly against the grain to do so.

Jerry did not give in so readily; but insisted on heaving to the
vessel, declaring that he and I would do the work alone, while the
Avenger went on up the river.

"You'll do nothin' of the kind, lad," Darius said emphatically.
"There's no tellin' what Joshua Barney will decide on when he hears
the word I have for him, an' I don't count to leave you down here at
Hog Point to be gobbled up by the Britishers, for you're already under
suspicion of havin' had a hand in Bill Jepson's desertion."

"What do you mean?" I asked in surprise.

"Jest what I said. The officer from the Severn declared that you two
lads could tell what had become of Bill."

"I had actually forgotten that we aided a deserter," I cried. "Tell us
what happened after we left the Avenger?"

"Well," Darius said slowly, stopping to twist off a huge piece of
tobacco, and otherwise trying to make his yarn a long one so that we
might round Hog Point in the meanwhile. "We run over to the Delaware
shore, as I counted on doin', tryin' to find a boat; but it was no go.
We didn't see anythin' that would float, an' of course we couldn't
fool 'round there very long after sunrise, else the Britishers would
see us, so I made up my mind that the best plan was to face the music
right soon.

"We ran down for the Narcissus; but was hove to by the Severn, an' a
lieutenant with four marines came aboard. Bless your heart, lad, but
they did search the pungy from stem to stern, even shovelin' the
oysters over as if thinkin' we might have Bill under 'em. Then the
officer went on board, an' that little nincompoop of a midshipman
boarded us. 'Where's your crew?' he squeaked, an' I said innocent
like, 'They're all aboard, sir.' 'You're a liar!' says he, 'when I was
here last there were five lads on deck, an' now I see only three.' 'Oh
the other fellows have gone home,' says I. 'They only came out with us
for a lark.' 'Where's your boat?' says he. 'She belonged to them,'
says I. 'You're a liar,' says he. 'Yes, sir,' says I, which same was
true, an' off he goes madder'n a wet hornet.

"Then the lieutenant comes aboard after I saw a lot of 'em on the
quarter-deck talkin' fit to kill, an' he asks me when you went home. I
told him you lived on the Delaware shore, an' you skipped when the
pungy got near shore. 'You're a liar,' says he, an' I agreed with him
same's I had with the midshipmite. 'The boys have helped a deserter
from the Narcissus,' says he, 'an' have carried him to the mainland.
I've a mind to seize your vessel.' I tell you what it is, lads, 'bout
that time I thought the Avenger was a goner, for Britishers in
American waters are mighty apt to do whatever comes into their minds."

"Well, did that settle it?" I asked as Darius ceased speaking, much as
though his story had come to an end.

"No, we had three or four officers come aboard later, an' I ain't
certain but that we'd lost the pungy if signals hadn't been sent up on
the flag-ship, which I took to be a command to prepare for gettin'
under way. Leastways, them as was botherin' us scuttled over to their
own craft in short order, an' then there was a heap of knockin' about
in gigs an' barges, with nobody givin' any attention to us. We'd been
hove to half a musket shot from the ship, an' when I saw they had
other fish to fry an' plenty of 'em, I run close aboard as I yelled
like a countryman, 'Any orders for us, sir?' It was quite a long spell
before anybody answered, an' I'd sung out two or three times, when
that little midshipman squealed, 'You are to go about your business
with that pungy, an' we'll overhaul you again when we have more time!"

"Then you started for the Patuxent the best you knew how," I said,
thinking I understood just what should have been done under the
circumstances.

"I wasn't such a bloomin' fool," Darius replied. "We run down to the
Narcissus bold as lions, an' I told 'em we'd brought some more
oysters; but they threatened to fire into us if we didn't sheer off,
an' then I coaxed for 'em to take what cargo I had, offerin' to sell
at six cents a bushel, till they must have thought I was a stark
natural fool."

"But why didn't you get away when you had the chance?" Jerry asked in
surprise.

"I didn't want 'em to think I was anxious to go, an' meanwhile I had
my eye on what they was doin', which told plain as the nose on your
face that the signals were as I had thought. I almost cried when I
said I'd have to run all the way to Baltimore to sell the oysters, an'
the best I got from them was more threats. Then we could steer
straight up the bay without givin' rise to suspicion that we was jest
naturally hankerin' to come."

"You played a fine trick on 'em!" I cried, filled with admiration at
the old man's method of getting away from unpleasant neighbors. "It
couldn't have been done better."

"I'm not so certain of that," Darius replied, but I could see that he
was pleased by the praise. "I didn't have time to think up anythin'
different, for the whole business come about so sudden like.
Howsomever, we've got news that Joshua Barney needs to hear, an' our
cruise to the lower bay will pay if we can get to Nottingham half a
dozen hours ahead of the Britishers, which seems to be a settled thing
with this wind."

Then I told him that the commodore felt convinced the enemy would
advance sooner than was generally believed, and he said in a tone of
admiration:

"There's a man for you! He can smell more'n the most of folks can see,
an' when he says it's in his mind that a thing is so or so, you can
set it down as comin' mighty near to bein' a fact."

Then the old man asked concerning our interview with the commodore,
and by the time we had come to an end of our story Hog Point was so
far astern that there was no longer any thought in my mind of
returning.

I was trying to make the best of the situation, when Jerry said
fretfully:

"It was a big shame that we couldn't have taken Elias Macomber when he
was there ready to drop, like a ripe peach. We might have walked right
up to that house when we first saw him, an' the thing could have been
done."

"But we mightn't have walked back again, if there had happened to be
two or three more in the building than we counted on. Never mind,
Jerry, we'll have the traitor before we're many weeks older, and
what's more, we'll take him ourselves, never asking any man for
assistance."



CHAPTER X.

A CHANGE OF BASE.


When we were come near Benedict I was not minded to pass it for the
third time without stopping to see my mother, and I said to Darius:

"There seems to be no good reason why Jerry and I should not visit our
homes, leaving you to continue on with the news. We can take the
canoe, and paddle up the river to-night."

"It is your place to remain aboard the Avenger," the old man said
almost sharply.

"What can we do more than would be done by you?" Jerry asked in
surprise.

"Nothin', so far as sailin' up the river is concerned; but with the
news we're takin' to the commodore, it is more'n likely there'll be a
quick change, when you might be needed."

"There can't be anything very serious happen 'twixt now and to-morrow
morning," I persisted, yet holding to my scheme. "We wouldn't be more
than twelve hours behind you under any circumstances."

"Not if everything was in your favor; but how if you met a boat-load
of Britishers such as we captured the other night? It ain't safe to be
foolin' 'round the river alone just now, an' that's a fact."

"Meaning that there is more of fear in your mind lest we come upon
spies of the enemy, than expectation Commodore Barney might need our
services?" I asked, and the old man finally admitted that perhaps such
was the case.

Then, in my pigheadedness, I declared we would stop in the village,
and he gave proof of what he could do when things did not go exactly
to his liking.

"I shall stop you from leavin' the pungy!" he said doggedly, without
looking towards us.

"Do you mean to say, Darius Thorpe, that you'd prevent us from goin'
ashore?" Jerry cried hotly.

"That's exactly the size of it, lad. I never'd let a shipmate of mine
run his nose into danger when there was nothin' to be made by so
doin'."

"But how would you stop us?" Jerry asked, his anger rapidly giving way
to mirth as he pictured to himself Darius, the man whom we had hired
to help us in the fishing, setting himself up to say what we should or
should not do.

"I'd knock you down, with a belayin' pin if it was handy, but if not,
with my fist, knowin' Joshua Barney would uphold me in bringin' back
at any price the same crew I took away."

I felt certain that the old man believed it his duty to do exactly as
he had said, in case we persisted in going contrary to what he thought
was prudent, and I also came to realize that to his mind the danger
was great, otherwise he never would have spoken in such a strain.

However, I did not let him know what was in my mind; but stood well
forward when we sailed past Benedict, as if I was too angry to have
further speech, and, probably, acted like a sulky school-boy thinking
that I was upholding my dignity.

When we had run past the village, however, and there was no longer any
possibility Jerry and I would attempt to go ashore, Darius humbly
asked us to come aft, and once there he explained in a friendly way
why we, who had virtually bound ourselves to serve under Commodore
Barney, should report to him before attending to pleasure or personal
matters. He also made it plain that at this time, when we knew beyond
a peradventure the enemy was about to make an attack, it was
absolutely necessary every American who had agreed to aid in the
defense, should be ready for duty at a moment's notice.

In fact, he showed us so clearly that he was in the right and we
wrong, that I was ashamed of having given way to the sulks, and told
him so, whereat he said:

"Then we'll drop the whole thing right out of our minds, an' now that
it's over, I'll bet you two or three cents' worth of silver spoons
that we'll be in Benedict on service, sent there by the commodore,
before four an' twenty hours have passed."

I would have asked him how that might be, but just then Jim Freeman
sung out for me to have a look at the cable, which was considerably
chafed, and I did not get an opportunity of continuing the
conversation.

Again we came up to the fleet in the night; but Darius did not hold
any long parley with the occupants of the guard-boat who hailed us,
simply saying as he steered the Avenger straight for the Scorpion:

"Private service for the commodore."

We ran alongside the schooner, made the hawser fast ourselves, since
the single militiaman standing guard at the top of the cabin
companion-way did not see fit to aid us, and while this was being done
Darius leaped on board the vessel, saying in a loud tone:

"We're come on board to report to the commander."

"You can't see him now," the soldier said stiffly, presenting his
musket as if intending to use it in case the old man persisted in
advancing.

"Now look here, you lop-sided lobster," Darius cried at the full
strength of his lungs, "you report to the commodore that the Avenger
is alongside, or there'll be trouble 'twixt you an' me."

It is not probable the old man expected that he could bully the
sentinel, who had had his orders as a matter of course; but by bawling
so loudly that he could have been heard on every craft of the fleet,
he awakened Joshua Barney, which was exactly what he aimed at doing.

"Who's kickin' up this row?" the commodore asked sternly as he poked
his head above the hatchway.

"The crew of the Avenger, sir, come to report."

"Get below here at once," and the commander spoke as if impatient to
hear that report.

I had counted that Darius should go alone to the interview; but he
insisted on being accompanied by Jerry and me, therefore we followed
him into the cabin.

The old sailor did not spend much time in saluting; but in the fewest
words possible told what he had learned, and the commodore did not
appear surprised by the information.

"It tallies with what I have already heard," he said grimly. "How long
will it take the enemy to run up to the mouth of the river?"

"They should be there to-morrow night, for there are some fast sailers
in the fleet, sir."

"Find the swiftest canoe in the fleet; put on board rations for
twenty-four hours, getting them from this schooner, and run down the
river without delay. If your own crew is not huge enough to insure
quick work, call on for what men you need. Can you leave in thirty
minutes?"

"In five, sir, if we knew where to find the canoe. We're ready, an'
I'll keep the same crew."

The commodore ran on deck, hailed the guard-boat, spoke a few words in
a low tone, and returned to us, saying as he did so:

"Rout out my cook, and tell him what you want. Say that I give him
five minutes in which to have your provisions on deck. If necessary,
in order to learn all which should be known here, send a portion of
your crew back with the boat, and do the remainder of your work
ashore. In case I am not here when you get back, report to Lieutenant
Frazier, and take his orders as you would mine."

All this the commander had said hurriedly, as if the moments were
precious, and, having come to an end, he began writing at the table,
giving no more heed to us than if we never had an existence.

We left the cabin without delay, and while Darius went forward to have
speech with the commodore's cook, Jerry and I clambered on board the
pungy to let Jim and his friends know of the new duty to which we had
been assigned.

"Its a case of keeping on as spies," I said, after repeating the
commander's words. "You're to be ready at once; but who's to look
after the Avenger is something that hasn't been told us."

There was no time to say anything more, for at that point the
guard-boat came alongside, having in tow a long canoe which looked as
if a single stroke of the paddle might send her on a long voyage.

"Here is the swiftest craft on the river, and her owner's heart will
be broken if you allow the Britishers to get hold of her," the officer
in charge of the boat said as he passed me the painter of the canoe.

"Do you know what we are to do with the pungy?" I asked.

"My orders are to anchor her further up stream after you have gone.
Don't leave anything valuable aboard, for there's a good chance you'll
never see her again."

"We don't own anything valuable, except the pungy herself, and I fancy
she wouldn't be very precious save to two lads like Jerry and me who
may never own one again if anything happens to her," I said with a
laugh, for, strange to say now, when we were about to set off on the
most dangerous portion of our work, I failed to feel the slightest
fear.

At this moment Darius and the commodore's cook came on deck, each
bearing in his arms a certain amount of cooked food, and this the old
sailor threw without care into the bottom of the new canoe, himself
following with the utmost haste.

"Come on, lads, if you count on gettin' any sleep this night," he
cried impatiently as he took up one of the paddles.

"Are we to go without weapons?" I asked.

"We shan't need them. If we meet the Britishers it will be in such
force that half a dozen of the best rifles ever made would do us no
good, and there will be none others on the river with whom we shall
want to interfere."

"But we might run across Elias Macomber," I urged, not minded to go
empty-handed on such a perilous voyage.

"It is too late to fool around with spies now," Darius said sharply.
"They've done us all the mischief possible, an' it's a case of
standin' before an open enemy."

I had no desire to argue further within hearing of the commodore, and
scrambled down into the boat, where my comrades were seated ready to
begin the voyage.

Now indeed was Darius the leader of the party, and after the
conversation in regard to the muskets, I was prepared to obey him
without a murmur.

It is a large canoe which will carry six people comfortably, without
sign of being overloaded, yet the boat we were in did it, and I would
not have hesitated to put in a couple more had it been necessary,
while she paddled as easily as a craft half her size.

"It's a great little boat," Darius said approvingly as we began the
voyage with a burst of speed which absolutely surprised me. "I reckon
we could show our heels to the best that can be found on the river."

"Where are we goin'?" Jim Freeman asked, impatient to know more
regarding our purpose.

"That's what I can't say, lad. We'll run down till we see somethin' of
the Britishers, even though we come off the Tangiers again; but I'm
thinkin' we'll do well if we make Hog Point this trip."

Jim would have asked more questions; but that Darius cut him short by
saying gruffly:

"There's a decently good reason for believin' that the enemy may show
himself any minute now, an' if we don't want to get into trouble it'll
be safe to hold our peace. There'll be plenty of time for
tongue-waggin' later."

It can be fancied that we remained silent after such a remark and the
old man kept four of us at the paddles constantly, himself doing twice
as much work as any other, while the helmsman occupied that post only
in order to rest himself, the steering blade being shifted from one to
the other accordingly as we grew tired.

For the fourth time we passed Benedict without making a stop, but on
this occasion I made no protest, and when we had run a mile further
down the river we came upon a pungy belonging to our village, the
master of which was evidently doing his best to get all the speed
possible out of the craft.

"Better put back!" he shouted nervously, and Darius gave the word to
cease paddling as he asked:

"What's the news?"

"The Britishers are comin' this way thicker'n spatter, an' I made up
my mind it was time to get under cover."

"Where were the foremost ships when you saw them?"

"Less'n a mile below Hog Point; it looked like there was more'n a
hundred vessels."

"You'd better not count on stoppin' long at Benedict," Darius cried as
he motioned for us to take up the paddles again, and before the
captain of the pungy had time to ask a question, we were beyond
earshot.

"It may be the fleet that's bound for Baltimore," I suggested, not
being prepared at that time to believe the enemy would attempt to take
large vessels far enough up the river to disturb our fleet.

"I allow some of 'em are headin' Baltimore way," Darius replied
grimly; "but you'll find that a good many of the fleet will make a
try at stirrin' up Joshua Barney."

I knew the old man believed all he said, because from this out when we
were come to a bend in the river we would steer the canoe close up to
the bank, and slow down until he made certain that the next reach did
not have in it any of the enemy's craft.

In this cautious manner we ran down stream perhaps five miles below
Benedict, when, on rounding a bend, we saw no less than four armed
vessels, with a dozen or fourteen barges, not more than a mile away.

"Back water, lads!" Darius cried sharply, swinging the canoe's stern
around with the steering paddle. "Here's where we find our work. I'd
like it better if you wasn't so nearly fagged out; but I reckon we can
make five miles more before you give in."

He had turned the canoe while speaking, and we were running up stream
in less than two minutes after having sighted the Britishers.

"Five miles should bring us to Benedict," I suggested.

"Ay, lad, an' that's where we'll make the first stop."

"But do you count that the enemy will get as far up as the village?" I
asked in surprise mingled with no little consternation, for this was
bringing the war home to us with a vengeance.

"Some of the ships may find the bottom; but they'll get a few of 'em
there. Take the helm, Amos, an' I'll pull at the paddles."

Thus far, since we took service under Commodore Barney, all of Darius'
predictions had turned out to be correct, therefore I was fully
prepared to believe all he said regarding the danger which threatened
my native village.

The old man would not allow us to indulge in conversation after the
retreat was begun.

"Don't waste your breath by talkin'," he said peremptorily. "We'll
need all our wind to take us to Benedict, an' once there I'll give
some of you a chance for tongue-waggin'."

Within two miles of the village we passed the pungy we had met while
going down stream, going by her as if she was standing still, and
Darius shouted:

"Keep right on up the river! The Britishers won't stop this side of
Benedict, an' you can only save your vessel by joinin' Barney's
fleet."

"If all I've heard be true I'm as like to lose her where he is as in
most any other place," the captain cried, looking here and there
anxiously as if believing it possible he might find a few puffs of
wind lying around loose.

I was in good shape when we arrived finally at the village, because of
having remained at the steering paddle; but the other fellows were
well-nigh exhausted, and when we ran the bow of the canoe up on the
shore, not one of them made a move toward changing his position.

"Get your wind, lads, as soon as may be, for we'll pull half a mile or
more up-stream before settlin' down here for any length of time," the
old man said, leaping ashore smartly as if he had just awakened from
the most refreshing slumber, and while hurrying up the bank he added
sharply, "Stay where you are, all hands, until we finish this
business."

What it was he counted on finishing I could not so much as guess, and
my companions were too weary to speculate upon the matter just at that
moment.

We saw him speak with this or that person who came out of the shops or
buildings as he appeared, and immediately it was as if he had
disturbed a colony of ants. Men and women began running hither and
thither in terror, and not a few carried with them household goods of
such small value that it was a sheer waste of time to lug them around.
In a twinkling the entire village was in a commotion, and no one
appeared to have time to spend on us who had brought the disagreeable
news.

Darius remained beyond our range of vision perhaps ten minutes, and
then he appeared with the four Byard brothers trailing behind him,
whereupon Jerry, who had no particular love for these lads, asked
fretfully:

"What do you reckon he counts on doin' with that trash? If he needed
more of a crew, it strikes me he might have found better material."

We soon learned what purpose the old man had in mind, for on nearing
the place where our canoe was drawn up, the Byard family went a short
distance down stream in which direction their own craft was moored,
and began making her ready for a voyage.

"One of you lads must go to the commodore with news of what we have
seen," Darius said, speaking quick and sharp as if to prevent us from
holding any parley on the subject. "The Byards are to be paid for
paddlin' the best they know how from here to Nottingham, makin' no
stop on the way, an' he who goes will only need to act as helmsman."

"Are the remainder of the party to stay here?" I asked, not minded to
take myself out of the way when so much of excitement might soon be
witnessed.

"Sure. We who stay will be ready to make the quickest trip on record,
once we've found out all that's to be known. Who will go to the
commodore?"

No one replied, and by this time the Byards had their canoe afloat.

"We'll draw lots," Darius said after finding that neither of us was
willing to volunteer for the service. "The one who pulls the shortest
twig starts without delay or grumblin', an' I'm free to tell you that
those who stay behind with me are like to have the toughest night's
work they ever put in."

While speaking he had been breaking into bits a small twig, and five
of these he held in his clenched hand.

"Make your choice quickly, for we can't waste many seconds over this
business," the old man cried impatiently, and we obeyed his command, I
hoping most sincerely that the lot would fall to some other than
myself, for I was willing to risk the hard work in order to remain
with the leader.

It was Jim Freeman who drew the short twig, and his face was pulled
down very long when he found that he had been selected.

"Into the canoe with you!" Darius cried, "an' listen well to what I
say. Tell the commodore that we came upon the advance ships of one
fleet five miles below Benedict, and are waitin' here to make certain
what they will do. He is to give these Byard boys three dollars for
takin' you to Nottingham. Make the best time possible, for the fate of
all our vessels in the river may hang on you're gettin' there
quickly."

The Byards dug their paddles deep in the water as if determined to
obey orders as promptly as possible, and in twenty seconds from the
time Darius ceased speaking the canoe was around the bend of the
river, Jim waving us a mournful adieu as he disappeared from view.

"Joshua Coburn is to go with me to hide the boat further up-stream,"
the old man said with the air of a general giving his commands. "The
others may stroll around the village; but in half an hour every one
must be here on the shore to meet me."

I gave no heed to my companions; but ran at full speed toward home,
answering curtly the greetings from the neighbors as I passed, and
soon I was where every fellow longs to be--in mother's arms.

She, good soul, had heard from those who saw us, that we passed the
village more than once; but never a word of complaint because I had
not stopped to see her.

The first question was whether I had come to Benedict under orders of
the commodore, or if I was taking time to visit her which should be
devoted to some other purpose.

I speedily soothed all such fears, and frightened her by saying that
Darius believed the Britishers would make a halt at the village.

At first it was my belief that she should take the children and go far
into the thicket; but she, good soul, soon convinced me that such a
course would be unwise, since it was not known how long the enemy
would remain, and she could not stay in the forest very many hours
with the young ones.

"We will wait here, Amos dear. The British cannot be so barbarous as
to make war upon the helpless. If you or father was near at hand, and
I could go to you, the situation would be far different."

Then she insisted that I should tell her all I had been doing, and by
the time that long story was come to an end I had need to join Darius
on the shore, having stayed the full length of the furlough he gave
us.

It was not certain but that I could see my mother again before we went
up river, therefore our parting was not as sorrowful as it would have
been had I known all the perils which were to be encountered ere I
looked upon her dear face again.

The village was in even a greater state of confusion and bustle than
when I first passed through it. A full half of the people were on the
point of running away, taking with them as many household belongings
as could be carried or transported in carts or boats. A large number
stood on the streets undecided what course to pursue, and asking each
person they saw for advice, while not a few were apparently bent on
following the example set by my mother.

I was appealed to for the latest news by a full score before I could
reach the rendezvous; but to all I had the same reply, that I was in
government service and could not delay.

I was the last of our party to arrive at the shore; the other lads
were standing near Darius, looking uncommonly glum, and I could well
understand the reason for the sadness.

"Did you hide the boat?" I asked, and the old man replied:

"Ay, a little better than half a mile up stream, where we can come at
her conveniently in a hurry. We have just been talkin', however, about
takin' stations on the opposite bank, where it will be possible to see
what is done without gettin' in the way of the enemy."

That seemed to me a very good idea, for there might be many chances
against our slipping away after the British had landed, and I urged
that the change of base be made without delay.

It was if Darius had only waited for my opinion. Immediately after I
gave it he led the way along the road which followed the course of the
river.

Within an hour we had the canoe hidden on the opposite shore, and were
seeking for some spot directly across from the village where we could
see all that was done.

It was some time before we found exactly what we wanted, and then it
was in the midst of a small clump of trees on a gentle rise of the
land, a full two hundred feet from the shore.

Here, by trimming away some of the branches, we could have a full view
of the river and settlement, in addition to being at a safe distance
from the enemy, who would hardly land on that side of the stream.

"We've got into position none too soon," Darius said as he pointed
over the trees on the opposite shore, where we could see the upper
spars of what appeared to be a reasonably large vessel moving through
the water slowly. "Within ten minutes we shall know whether it's a
case of watchin' 'em come to anchor an' landin', or takin' to our
heels to gain the canoe before they can get that far up the river."



CHAPTER XI.

THE BRITISH FORCES.


After we were in a position to see all that might be going on
immediately opposite, and for a mile or more down the river, we could
make out the spars of several ships which appeared to be at a
stand-still, and at once the question was raised as to whether they
were aground or at anchor.

"You lads shall stay here, never venturin' to leave the hidin'-place
unless the Britishers themselves drive you out, an' I'll take a little
trip down stream to see what is goin' on. If the enemy has come into
the river without a pilot, I'll go bail that more than one of his
vessels has taken the ground."

Then the old man stole softly through the underbrush, and we gave but
little heed to his departure, so intent were we on the wondrous
panorama spread out before us.

The first craft to heave in sight was an armed brig, the decks of
which were brilliant with red uniforms and glittering weapons, and
immediately astern of this vessel were a dozen or more barges, and
two pungies.

Then came boats filled with soldiers, one astern of the other until it
surely seemed as if every craft in the Chesapeake had been brought
here to make up the procession, which was more imposing than anything
I had ever seen.

It was the glittering, fanciful side of war, which would be
transformed into something hideous immediately the actual work was
begun, for then one lost sight of the pomp and parade, seeing only the
ominous stains of blood, and unable to hear aught save the shrieks of
the dying and the groans of the wounded.

Then, to our great surprise, we found that the Britishers were making
preparations to take possession of the village. The armed brig was
moored stem and stern in the channel where her full broadside could be
brought to bear upon the settlement, and the three barges, each having
on board a twelve-pounder, were rowed up to the beach on which no less
than four hundred soldiers, with weapons ready for use, stood as if to
repel an attack.

"They are makin' a mighty lot of fuss." Jerry said with a laugh. "A
corporal's guard could capture Benedict without turnin' a hair, an'
yet look at that crowd!"

It was truly astonishing that so many men should have been brought to
take possession of our little village. Boat-load after boat-load came
up the river, landing their living cargoes in the cove where we lads
had always kept our canoes, and before the disembarkation had been
concluded, the shore of the river was literally covered with soldiers,
marines, and, strangely enough, companies of negroes who were decked
out in uniforms of the British army.

Since that day I have seen statements made by the enemy's officers to
the effect that five thousand men were landed at Benedict, and for
what purpose we lads were unable to imagine.

I had never seen such a throng of people before; the town was
over-run, and the woods above and below seemed to be packed full of
armed men.

Fortunately for us, none attempted to come on our side of the river;
but all stood in something approaching a military formation as if
expecting an immediate attack.

As a matter of course all us lads were greatly alarmed lest our
families should come to harm amid such a gathering; but we could not
have afforded them any relief had we been at home, and it was
necessary to choke back our anxieties as best we might, though it was
difficult at times to prevent the tears from coming into a fellow's
eyes.

The troops and guns had been landed before Darius returned, and, what
seemed to me strange, no other vessels of any size had put in an
appearance. There were pungies, barges and row-boats enough to
entirely choke up the river; but nothing larger than the armed brig
which had first arrived.

When the old man came back we learned why the fleet had apparently
shrunken to such small proportions as compared with the size of the
army.

"Nearly every vessel is aground," he said when he approached our
hiding-place with every evidence of having traveled long and rapidly.
"The river is black with 'em from here to the point, an' some are
likely to stay quite a spell on the mud unless mighty quick work at
lighterin' is done. I allowed the Britishers had better sense than to
run ships up here where there's about half water enough to float 'em."

"But what is the meaning of their landing so many men?" I asked.
"There are twice as many as would be needed to capture the whole of
Charles and Calvert counties."

"It's Washington they're aimin' at," the old man said confidently,
"though why they've stopped here I can't figger out, unless it is that
so many of the ships are aground. Whoever is responsible for this end
of the Britishers' movement has made a big blunder."

"Will they do any harm to the townspeople, think you?" I asked
anxiously.

"It don't stand to reason they would. There may be some plunderin' by
the rank an' file; but that's to be expected. You're thinkin' of your
mother an' the children, eh? Well, don't worry; they won't come to
harm, an' on that I'll go bail."

"There's no tellin' how soon some of that crowd will come over here,"
Jerry suggested. "There ain't room enough on that side of the river
for all hands of 'em, an' they'll begin to spread out pretty quick."

"That won't bother us any, for we're goin' to pull up stakes," Darius
replied quietly.

"Are we to join the fleet?" I asked.

"It's the proper thing just now, I reckon, seein's there ain't likely
to be anythin' new around here till the enemy pushes on up the river,
which will be when he has floated some of his vessels."

Even after making this statement Darius appeared to be in no hurry to
move on. He sat amid the foliage watching the throngs on the opposite
side of the river until half a dozen officers came down close to the
water's edge, having in their midst one in civilian's garb.

"There's a friend of yours," the old man said quietly as he motioned
toward the group, "an' you can eat my head if I don't guess what's
up."

My face flushed with answer as I looked in the direction indicated,
and there saw in earnest converse with the Britishers, Elias
Macomber, the traitor.

"He has joined his friends without losin' any time. I wish I could get
my fingers around his throat for a couple of minutes!" Jerry cried,
shaking his fist in impotent rage.

"An' I reckon you'll soon have that chance, lad," Darius said, calm
and serene as a summer's morning. "Watch out now, an' you'll get an
idee of the whole business, which will go to show that you didn't lose
anythin' much when you left him at Hog Point. It wouldn't surprise me
a little bit if he's had a good share in sendin' the ships aground,
for he couldn't have told within ten feet, of the water to be found in
the channel."

I failed to understand very much of what the old man referred to; but
kept my eyes fixed on the opposite shore, and saw that Elias was
making ready to embark in a canoe, which was hauled up near at hand.

"He's goin' back to see how many vessels are aground," Jerry
suggested, and Darius added placidly:

"You'll find that he's bound up river spyin', an' we count on goin' in
the same direction."

Now I understood! Elias was to reconnoiter the river for his very good
friends, and we could catch him on his return, as we had done once
before.

I was near to crying aloud with joy when I realized that once he set
out as Darius predicted, nothing could save him from our clutches,
therefore I literally held my breath as he took his seat in the canoe
and pushed off.

Just for one instant my heart sank within me, for it seemed as if he
was bound down river; but it appeared that he was simply making a
flourish to exhibit his skill with the paddle, and then he pulled up
stream, thereby doing Jerry and me the greatest possible favor.

"Yes, he's our meat," Darius said with an odd smile as I looked at him
questioningly. "He'll go somewhere near the fleet, to make certain it
yet remains at the place where he made his escape, an' we won't press
the villain. Give him plenty of time to get well away from his
friends."

Then the old man settled back amid the foliage as if counting on
remaining quite a while, and I no longer thought of anything save the
pleasing fact that we would once more present to Commodore Barney the
miserable renegade.

Darius soon learned that it would not be well to prolong his halt; we
could see the soldiers pointing toward the thicket in which we were
hidden, as if suggesting it as a pleasant camping place when the day
was so hot as to bring perspiration to a negro's face, and a few
moments later some of the lighter boats were pushed out from the
shore.

"I reckon it's time for us to make a move," Darius said as he arose to
his feet lazily. "We may as well be movin' toward the canoe, though I
had counted on stoppin' here till it was a bit cooler."

According to my way of thinking we had no more than time enough in
which to get away, for now at least an hundred soldiers were coming
across, and in case we were discovered lurking amid the underbrush
there would be such a hue and cry that we could not hope to escape.

Darius, however, would not move one whit more quickly because of my
urging; in fact, it seemed much as if he walked the slower to test my
nerves, and instead of parleying with him further, Jerry and I went
ahead at full speed, having due care, of course, to caution.

It pleased me when the old man was obliged to quicken his pace to a
run, for before we were well out of the thicket the foremost of the
boats had gained the shore.

We pressed on rapidly until coming to where our canoe was hidden, and
there we halted, not wanting to embark until Elias had had plenty of
time in which to get well up the river, for, to me at least, his
recapture was more important than the task of carrying information to
the commanding officer.

Lying within the shade of the trees, and so far up river that we could
neither see nor hear the swarm of soldiers which had lighted upon
Benedict, we took things easy for a couple of hours, keeping sharp
watch, however, to make certain that no craft passed us, and then
Darius gave the word to get under way.

By this time it was night, but the young moon and the stars in a
cloudless sky, lighted up the water-way clearly, and we had no fear
that Macomber could give us the slip, unless he returned by land.

We paddled leisurely, for our news was not of such a nature that an
hour or two sooner or later would make a difference so far as
Commodore Barney's plans were concerned, and had gotten such a
distance on our journey that I began to fear the traitor had struck
across the country, when we hove him in view half a mile or more
ahead.

He was still running up the river, but I questioned if he intended to
take any chances on being discovered, for such as he would rather
manufacture information out of his head than encounter danger.

Darius, who had been using one of the paddles, now took the helm, and
the canoe was swung inshore where she would be partially hidden by the
shadows of the foliage, for we did not care to start in open chase
because he would probably take to the woods on discovering us, and
then our chances of making the capture would be small indeed.

When our quarry rounded a bend in the river, shutting himself out from
view, we bent all our energies to the paddles, sneaking inshore
immediately we opened him up again, and thus we rapidly lessened the
distance until at the third turn of the shore we were less than thirty
yards astern.

"Now give it to her, lads!" Darius said sharply. "Put all your
strength to the blades, an' we'll heave him to in short order!"

As we rounded the bend, the water foaming from the boat's bow much as
it would have done from the stem of a ship under full sail, Macomber
was but a short distance ahead, and Darius cried:

"Push her along, lads! Now's our time!" Then, bringing the paddle to
his shoulder as if it had been a musket, he shouted, "Drop that oar
mighty quick, Macomber, or I'll fire!"

The traitor, thus receiving the first intimation that an enemy was
near at hand, glanced backward quickly, and, seeing the supposed
weapon leveled full at him, threw down his paddle with an exclamation
of mingled fear and anger.

We shot up alongside him like an arrow from the bow, all hands of us
reaching out to grasp the gunwale of his canoe, and as we thus made
fast Darius grasped the fellow by the throat.

"You may as well give in quietly," the old man said, tightening his
grasp until it would have been impossible for the man to make the
lightest outcry. "If you flounder about much all hands will go into
the water, an' once there I give my word that you won't come to the
surface, for we don't count on losin' you the second time."

The scoundrel was as meek as any lamb, and when Darius told me to
fasten his arms together with my belt, he held them out obediently.

I took a double turn around his elbows, and Darius ordered him to step
into our canoe, which he did without hesitation, but once there,
seated on the flooring of the boat with his back against the old man's
knees, he glowered at us like an angry cat.

"We reckoned you wanted to see Barney's fleet, when you put off from
Benedict, an' it ain't jest right to make you paddle a heavy canoe so
far," Darius said grimly. "You're goin' back with us, Master Macomber,
an' this time you'll stay."

"Not very long," the reptile said with a snarl. "Admiral Cochrane
declares that he'll destroy Barney's fleet Friday, an' dine in
Washington Sunday. So you see I'm not likely to stay with you any
great while after the British come up the river."

"That is as may be; now I'm countin' that when your admiral gets as
far up the river as Nottingham, if he ever does, you'll be somewhere
else, for we've taken you in charge."

"My time will come, an' then I'll pay off a good many old scores,"
Macomber cried with a look on his face which was not pleasant to see.

"If it does you any good, keep right on thinkin' so," Darius replied
mildly, "an' in the meantime we'll keep our eyes on you. Give way,
lads, the sooner we're with the fleet now, the better it will be."

We had no more than settled well to work when Darius ordered us to
cease paddling, as he half rose to peer steadily ahead, and, quite
naturally, all of us glanced in the same direction.

A canoe carrying four men was coming down stream, and while I was
asking myself if we might not have come upon more British spies, the
old man settled back with a sigh of relief.

"It's the Byard boys goin' home," he announced, and then, as the other
canoe came within hail, he gave them information of what was happening
at Benedict.

"It don't look as if we'd better go back there," Sam Byard said
thoughtfully when Darius had come to an end of his news. "I reckon the
Britishers might make trouble for us, eh?"

"They'd be apt to if it was known you'd just come from our fleet," the
old man replied with a laugh. "The best thing you can do is to turn
around an' follow us. Did you get your money?"

"Oh yes, the commodore handed that over all right."

"Where is Jim Freeman?" I asked.

"The commander allowed it wouldn't be many hours before all hands of
you came back, so he went aboard the pungy to keep ship."

"There!" Darius said triumphantly. "You can see how near Joshua Barney
comes to the truth when he makes a guess! I believe he could stay at
Nottingham without ever gettin' a report from anybody, an' tell just
what the enemy was doin'."

"He'll have a chance to see what they're doin', as soon as some of the
ships can be floated!" Macomber said with a laugh which was not
pleasant to hear.

"Which is more'n you can say for yourself if there's any danger of the
Britishers comin'," Darius retorted. "You're our meat, Master Traitor,
an' will stay in the same keepin' till we've settled our part of what
you call old scores."

Then the word to buckle down to the paddles once more was given, and
the Byard boys pulled their craft around to follow in our wake.

An hour later we were alongside the Scorpion again, and this time it
was not necessary to parley with those on the guard-boat, for, on
recognizing us, they sheered off, leaving our canoe to go where we
pleased.

Neither did the guard on the schooner hesitate to arouse the
commodore, and within one minute after arriving, Darius was explaining
to the commander all that had taken place at Benedict.

"It must be they counted on coming further up the river," the
commodore said half to himself when the story was come to an end, and
Darius took it upon himself to add:

"I allow there wouldn't have been any stop if the fleet hadn't gone
ashore; then the men were landed to prevent you from makin' an
attack."

"That seems reasonable; but they'll be here soon enough, for it is to
this place they must come in order to strike the direct road to
Washington."

Then it was that Darius bethought himself of what Macomber had said,
and he repeated the words, adding in conclusion as he laid his hand on
the prisoner's shoulder, for as yet we had not left the canoe:

"We've brought this cur back, sir, an' hope he won't find it as easy
to slip away a second time. He left Benedict to spy on you, as we saw
from the other side of the river, so we gathered him in."

The commodore looked at the man as one would at a snake, and then said
curtly:

"You'll have to keep him on board your vessel, Darius. Our facilities
for taking care of prisoners are not what they should be. Do
whatsoever you will with him, so that we can make certain of putting
our hands on him when the matter is to be settled. You had better take
up your quarters on the pungy, and if you're needing provisions, my
cook will supply you until rations are dealt out."

Then the commodore turned on his heel, returning to the cabin, and we
pulled around the fleet hunting for the Avenger.

Not until after getting speech with the officer in charge of the
guard-boat did we find the craft, and when we came alongside Jim
Freeman acted as if beside himself with joy. One would have said that
we had been separated a full year by the way he welcomed us, and when
his eyes fell on Elias Macomber it was as if he had lost his senses.

Well, we took the prisoner aboard the pungy, securing him in the hold
by lashing his hands behind him, and making them fast to a ringbolt,
thus giving him a chance to sit down; but he could neither stand nor
stretch out at full length.

"It won't be none too comfortable; but it's the best we can do now,"
Darius said to the prisoner as if apologizing for not making him more
secure. "At all events, I reckon you'll be here in the mornin', an'
then we may make a change."

The main hatch was put on and fastened down with the bar, after which
we went into the cuddy, ready for anything in the way of provisions
that Jim could set before us.

He was not overly well supplied, having been on board only a few
hours, but we contrived to make a hearty meal, and while eating Jim
heard all we could tell him regarding the occupation of Benedict by
the British forces.

It was past midnight when we turned in, so tired that all hands fell
asleep within two minutes after making ready, and it seemed to me that
I had not fairly closed my eyes when we were awakened by a vigorous
pounding on the side of the vessel.

Darius had his head out of the companion-way before it was possible
for me to get on my feet, and I heard a strange voice cry sharply:

"It is the order of the commodore that every vessel in the fleet move
up to Pig Point without delay. Rations will be served there at noon
to-morrow."

Then I heard the sound of oars as the messenger-boat was pulled to the
next craft, and Darius said hurriedly:

"Lads, I'll admit that there are a good many vessels in this 'ere
fleet what can sail clean around the Avenger; but let's show the
commodore that there's no crew under him who will obey orders more
smartly. Turn out lively, my bully boys! Jim, you an' Dody get home
the anchor, an' the rest of us will tail on to the halliards!"

Darius had a willing crew if there was any opportunity to win the
praise of the commander, and he was not yet at an end of giving his
orders when we began work.

I venture to say that within sixty seconds from the time we were
hailed, the Avenger was making way, rubbing past this craft and that
as she literally forced a passage through the fleet, and all this
before any signs of life could be seen on the other vessels. Even the
Scorpion was yet lying idly at her moorings.

"That's what I call a good start, lads," the old man said when we were
well clear of the flotilla, and the pungy forged ahead in good style
under the force of a fairly strong night breeze. "We're first under
sail, an' it'll go hard if we don't come to anchor off Pig Point ahead
of any one else."

"Why do you suppose this move is being made?" I asked, for it smacked
much of running away from the enemy, to retreat so far up stream, and
Darius had made us believe that Joshua Barney never retreated.

"The commander has got some good plan in his head, an' it'll come out
before we're many days older," the old man replied confidently.

"But surely we're tryin' to get away from the enemy," Jerry
suggested.

"Ay, it has that look just now, I'll admit; but you'll see some big
scheme in it very soon, or I'm a Dutchman, which I ain't."

"There's a boat dead ahead, with four men rowin' an' one steerin',"
Jim Freeman, who had stationed himself in the tow as a lookout, came
aft to report.

"Some smarty who's tryin' to make the anchorage first," Darius
growled; "but with this wind we can sail two miles to his one, so it
won't be that craft which will beat us in."

By this time we were well up with the boat, and to our surprise it was
Commodore Barney himself who hailed:

"Sloop ahoy! Pass a line, and I'll come aboard."

He got the line smartly enough, and when he came over the rail Darius
saluted, as he said:

"We counted you were aboard the Scorpion, sir."

"That schooner won't get off for ten minutes or more, and I allowed
that the other vessels would be handled in the same leisurely fashion,
so, I pulled ahead, thinking to be at the rendezvous before the
flotilla was well under way. You lads obeyed orders smartly."

"It's a way they have, sir," Darius said with a grin, as he looked
over the rail to see that the commodore's boat was being towed where
she would be the least drag on the pungy.

Then it was that I tried to play the host, by asking the commander if
he would go into the cabin.

"It isn't a very nice place, sir; but it's clean, and you may be able
to get some sleep."

"I'll venture to say it's as good a sea-parlor as I, or any other man,
deserves, lad; but I'm not needing sleep just now, therefore will stay
on deck."

Then he fell to pacing the starboard quarter, as if he had been on his
own ship at sea, and we lads gathered well forward in order that he
might see we understood somewhat of the respect due a commander.



CHAPTER XII.

SUSPENSE.


It is now in my mind to set down what may be dry reading for some who
chance to see this labor of love on which I am engaged, and yet if any
one desires to know exactly why it was the Britishers could destroy
the capital of our country, and come off very nearly scot-free, it is
absolutely necessary to become familiar with all our means of defense
at this time.

Therefore it is that I shall copy that which was published many years
later, by Mr. Lossing in his "War of 1812," and in so doing the reader
will ask how it is that I am writing this poor apology for a tale in
the year of grace 1814, and yet putting into it facts which were made
public many years later?

The answer to the riddle is not as puzzling as it would seem. I am now
man grown, with children of my own. Many years ago I put together this
story, and to-day, desiring that my own boys may read it, I am running
over the leaves to add here or there that which may make plain what
I, a lad of seventeen years, overlooked at the time, or believed to be
of little importance. How strange it is that the same thing appears
entirely different when viewed from the standpoints of a man and a
lad!

This is what Mr. Lossing says concerning the time of which I wrote
when everything was fresh in my mind, and the sense of a wrong done
this country by England still rankling deep in my heart:

     "On the 6th of August (1814) the small British squadron in the
     Chesapeake was reinforced by a fleet of twenty-one vessels
     under Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane, the senior commander on
     the American station. These were soon joined by another under
     Commodore Sir Charles Malcolm. These vessels bore several
     thousand land troops commanded by General Ross, an Irish
     officer, and one of Wellington's most active leaders.
     Washington and Baltimore appear to have been chosen objects of
     attack simultaneously. A part of the British naval force, under
     Sir Peter Parker, went up the Chesapeake toward Baltimore, and
     another portion, under Captain Gordon, went up the Potomac.

     "At that time Commodore Barney, with a flotilla of thirteen
     armed barges and the schooner Scorpion, with an aggregate of
     about five hundred men, was in the Patuxent river. His vessels
     had been chased out of the Chesapeake, and blockaded in St.
     Leonard's Bay. Of this confinement they were relieved by some
     artillery under Colonel Henry Carbery, with which he drove away
     the Loire, the blockading frigate, when the released flotilla
     went up the Patuxent, first to Benedict, and then to
     Nottingham, that it might be within co-operating distance of
     both Washington and Baltimore.

     "Seeing this, the British determined to capture or destroy it,
     and on the 18th of August a force of a little more than five
     thousand men, composed of regulars, marines, and negroes went
     up the Patuxent, and landed at Benedict with three cannon,
     under cover of an armed brig. Most of the other large British
     vessels were below, some of them aground, and all too heavy to
     ascend the comparatively shallow stream.

     "Barney, then at Nottingham, promptly informed the Navy
     Department of the movement, and of a boast of the British
     admiral that he would destroy the American flotilla, and dine
     in Washington on the following Sunday. General Winder, by
     direction of the War Department, immediately ordered General
     Samuel Smith's division (the Third) of the Maryland militia
     into actual service. He also called upon General John P. Van
     Ness, commander of the militia of the District of Columbia, for
     two brigades, to be encamped near Alexandria; and he sent a
     circular letter to all the brigadiers of the Maryland militia,
     asking for volunteers to the amount of one-half their
     respective commands.

     "By his orders, his adjutant-general, Hite, issued a stirring
     appeal to the citizens to come forward, 'without regard to
     sacrifices and privation,' in defense of the national capital.
     Winder also asked General Stricker, of Baltimore, to send to
     Washington his volunteer regiments of infantry and his rifle
     battalion.

     "The veteran patriot, General Smith, promptly responded to the
     call of the government. He at once issued a division order, in
     which he gave notice of the invasion, and directed the whole of
     General Stansbury's brigade to be held in readiness for active
     service, adding, 'the third brigade is now under the pay of the
     United States, in its service, and subject to the Articles of
     War.' That corps General Smith declared to be 'the finest set
     of men he ever saw.' They paraded at four o'clock the same day,
     and on the following morning General Stansbury left Baltimore
     for Washington with thirteen hundred of his corps. Another
     force, under Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Sterett, consisting of
     the Fifth Regiment of Baltimore Volunteers, Major Pinkney's
     rifle battalion, and the artillery companies of Captains Myers
     and Magruder, left Baltimore on the evening of the 20th, and
     joined Stansbury on the evening of the 23d.

     "With wise precaution, General Smith ordered the Eleventh
     brigade and Colonel Moore's cavalry to hold themselves in
     readiness to march to Baltimore at a moment's warning, for it
     seemed probable that the enemy would strike at both cities
     simultaneously.

     "The British in the meantime had moved up the Patuxent from
     Benedict, the land troops being accompanied by a flotilla of
     launches and barges that kept abreast of them. The naval forces
     were under the command of the notorious marauder, Cockburn.
     They reached Lower Marlborough on the 21st, when Barney's
     flotilla, then in charge of Lieutenant Frazier and a sufficient
     number of men to destroy it if necessary, moved up to Pig
     Point, where some of the vessels grounded in the shallow water.

     "For the defense of Washington the whole force was about seven
     thousand strong, of whom nine hundred were enlisted men. The
     cavalry did not exceed four hundred in number. The little army
     had twenty-six pieces of cannon, of which twenty were only
     six-pounders. This force, if concentrated, would have been
     competent to roll back the invasion had the commanding officer
     been untrammeled by the interference of the President and his
     Cabinet."

All that was written when the facts of the case were well known, and
now the story shall be taken up as I wrote it when a boy.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was not all plain sailing from Nottingham to Pig Point, for the
water was shallow, and there were many places where it was necessary
to handle even a pungy very tenderly in order to avoid taking the
ground.

While Darius was not well acquainted with the stream, he had a
sailorly eye for bad places, and never made the mistake of trying to
jump the little vessel where she was likely to be held hard and fast.

Many times were we forced to take to the canoe in order to pull the
Avenger's nose around more sharply than could be done by the helm, and
when it came to such labor of pulling and hauling the commodore lent a
hand as if we had been his equal in station.

And we did work lively, for a fact, hoping to have our anchor down
before any other craft could arrive, therefore no one complained when
Darius called on us for labor which might have been saved at the
expense of three or four minutes in time.

The commander was even more eager than were we, to arrive at the
appointed rendezvous speedily, and we could readily guess that some
big change was to be made in the general plans, although what it might
be we came far from guessing, since all of us, save Darius Thorpe,
believed he was simply running away from the enemy.

Well, we succeeded in doing as we wished in regard to beating out the
remainder of the fleet, for when we came to anchor off the point and
snugged everything down Bristol fashion, there were no signs that a
single craft was following.

Commodore Barney was chafing because of the delay, as could be seen by
the way in which he paced the deck, rubbing his hands from time to
time as he gazed down stream in vain for some token of the laggards.

"It's only a deep water sailor who obeys smartly, Darius," the
commander said, halting in his nervous walk to face the old man, and
Jerry and I, who were seated on the main-hatch, pricked up our ears,
for it seemed positive we were to learn somewhat of future doings.

"These younger men know too bloomin' much, that's what's the matter
with them," Darius said in reply. "I'll go bail that half the crowd we
left at Nottingham believed they knew better'n you when the start
should be made, an' stopped to curl their hair before makin' sail."

Commodore Barney laughed heartily at the old man's growling, and then
said suddenly:

"I count on leaving you second in command under Frazier, and it may be
as well for you to understand matters in case I don't get a chance to
speak with you at any length after the Lieutenant arrives."

"You count on _leavin'_ me, sir? Does that mean you're goin' away
right soon?"

"Ay, when my force comes up. There is no question but that the enemy
is making the attack on our flotilla to cover his designs on
Washington. He can have the fleet if he comes thus far. I hope by
daylight to be on the march for the Wood Yard, where Winder is
encamped, and count to take with me all the men that can be spared,
for force enough will be left behind to destroy the fleet in case the
enemy appears. Lieutenant Frazier is to be in charge of those who
remain here, and you will act as his second in command. This is my
plan: You shall have seventy men or more, and as soon as we leave you
will make every craft ready for the torch; see to it that there are
combustibles on board in sufficient quantity to insure a clean job
when fire is applied. After that has been done, you will wait for the
British. Once it becomes certain that you cannot save the fleet, start
your fires, and put out for the American army, which will likely be
near Washington by that time."

"We've got some good boats with us, sir," Darius said thoughtfully.

"Ay, my old shell-back, and that is why I am determined that they
shall not be of service to the enemy. You who remain behind will have
more danger to face than those who move in advance, and because of
that it is necessary you keep the force well in hand. See to it that
every order, however trifling, is obeyed on the instant, and in event
of any disposition to shirk a command, or to loiter after the word has
been given, deal with the culprit as you would on shipboard. Quick
work is the only thing which will save you from being killed or made
prisoners."

When the commander spoke this last word the thought came to me that I
had, for the moment, entirely forgotten Elias Macomber, and I was
puzzled to know what could be done with him while we were destroying
the fleet, if it so chanced we were forced to such an extremity.

I spoke with Jerry about it; but he had no suggestion to offer, save
that I had better refer the matter to Joshua Barney.

"He's forgotten all about Macomber, as we did, an' now is the time to
find out what we shall do with him. It would hurt me mighty bad to let
the cur join his British friends simply because we couldn't take care
of him."

This last idea nerved me to do that which I would have shrunk from at
any other time, and, approaching the commander, I asked:

"What is to be done with our prisoner, sir? Jerry and I couldn't help
hearing what you said to Darius, and we don't want to let such as him
have a free foot after capturing him twice."

"Don't fear for that, lad," the commodore said with a kindly smile.
"Give your man breakfast now, so that he may be in condition to march,
and when you see that we are ready to set off, bring him to me. I
will see to it that he has a care-taker who won't wink at an escape."

Then the commander fell to pacing the deck again, and I called Jim
Freeman and Dody Wardwell into the cuddy that they might cook
breakfast for all hands, including Elias Macomber.

Jerry insisted that the cur ought to be sent on his way with an empty
stomach; but to that I would not have agreed even though the commodore
had failed to give especial orders to the effect that he be fed.

By the time our cooking operations were well under way, the foremost
of the fleet began to heave in sight, and from that moment Joshua
Barney had something more to do than pace the Avenger's deck.

We learned very soon that the Scorpion had run aground, which fact
delayed several of the smaller boats, since Lieutenant Frazier called
upon many of the men for assistance; but all reports ran to the effect
that the fleet would unquestionably be at the rendezvous by early
dawn.

We drew lots to see who should feed the prisoner, and Josiah Coburn
selected the unlucky slip, which was a great relief to me, for I
question if I could have put food into the villain's mouth with any
very good grace.

We were yet at work on the breakfast when my father came aboard, the
barge to which he was drafted having been the third to arrive, and it
made me feel mighty good when he complimented us on our smartness in
handling the Avenger.

We two went well forward where we might converse privately, and I did
not think I was betraying any confidences when I told him of the
commodore's plans. He was in nowise surprised, and said as one would
if talking to a particular friend:

"I guessed that something of the kind might be in the wind when the
word was given to get under way. It would have pleased me better,
Amos, if you had been detailed to go with the advance."

"Why so, sir?" I asked, secretly rejoicing because he was treating me
as if I had been of his own age.

"Because those who remain to destroy the fleet will be in great
danger. You cannot begin the work until the enemy is close upon you,
otherwise it might be said that valuable property had been sacrificed
needlessly, and your risk will be greater than mine."

"That is as it should be, sir," I replied, forgetting that I had ever
been weak-kneed or lukewarm in the cause. "For mother's sake you
should be the one to go home, if both cannot."

"You have ever been a good boy, and a dutiful son, Amos. I shall pray
that God will spare your life, whatever He may will shall become of
me."

Then my father kissed me, and I never remember of his having done such
a thing before, after which he went over the rail hurriedly, as if not
caring to look me in the face.

It was not a particularly cheerful conversation which we had had, and
yet I was wondrously heartened because of it. The possible danger was
very far from my mind as I dwelt upon father's words and his good-bye.
It was as if I had suddenly come to know him in a different fashion
than ever before.

Commodore Barney used the Avenger as his flag-ship while we were
waiting for the Scorpion, and our deck was literally crowded with men
who had been summoned to receive orders. He even ate breakfast with
us, doing the greater portion of the eating holding converse with one
or another, and it can well be fancied that we were proud because of
having made possible such an honor for our pungy.

The day was just breaking when the Scorpion, attended by all the other
laggards, came up the stream. The schooner was anchored alongside our
pungy, and the commodore and Lieutenant Frazier had a private
interview in the cabin of the larger vessel, after which word was
given for the men to disembark.

The captain of each vessel had received orders to go ashore with so
many men, therefore we saw no confusion when the final moment arrived.

Jerry and I made ready the canoe in order to take Elias Macomber out
of the vessel, and, seeing us thus engaged, Lieutenant Frazier said as
if in surprise:

"I thought all you lads had been ordered to remain behind?"

"So we have, sir," I replied, and then I explained what we would do,
whereupon he called for a couple of men from the Blushing Susan to
attend the prisoner, we going with the party to make certain he was
delivered up in good order.

Commodore Barney had not forgotten the matter, as could be seen when
he came forward with the cur, and he handed Elias to a man from
Nottingham, with this injunction:

"You are answerable for him until we arrive at General Winder's camp.
If he attempts to escape, shoot him without compunction; but give him
fair treatment so long as he obeys orders."

Then the commander nodded to us, as if we were old acquaintances, and
the march was begun, every man stepping out briskly, as if it pleased
him to aid in the defense of the national capital.

It really gave me a sensation as of homesickness, to be thus left
behind. Although sixty or seventy men yet remained, they were so
scattered among the fleet that it seemed as if we of the Avenger were
the only ones left to watch the enemy.

"You may as well take up your quarters on the schooner," Lieutenant
Frazier said to Darius when the detachment was lost to view in the
distance. "All of her crew are gone, therefore we shall have plenty of
room."

"I shipped with the boys, an' I reckon I'd best stay with 'em, sir,
though I thank you kindly for the offer," Darius replied, and the
Lieutenant added quickly:

"I meant the invitation for the entire crew of the pungy. Some of them
can do the cooking while we stay here, which won't be very long I'm
thinking."

And thus it was we made a change of quarters, which neither pleased
nor displeased me even though the cabin was decidedly finer than our
cuddy, because I had come to have a certain affection for the shabby
pungy which cost us so much labor in the buying.

According to Lieutenant Frazier's laying out of the work, there was
nothing for us of the Avenger to do save care for the schooner, and
prepare the meals.

Six men were sent down the river in canoes, to watch and report the
movements of the enemy, that we might have timely warning of their
near approach, and the remainder of the party which had been left
behind were set about getting ready for the destruction of the fleet,
if that should become necessary.

One may think that Jerry and I had no reason to feel badly if our
pungy should be burned, since we had the guarantee from Commodore
Barney which would insure our receiving much more money than she cost
us, and yet we did feel badly, because it then seemed to us as if we
could never get another craft quite so much to our liking. A fellow
cannot live on board a vessel many months, sailing her in all kinds of
weather, and depending upon her for a livelihood, without having a
certain sentimental attachment for the fabric different from that felt
for all others of its kind.

However, I had quite persuaded myself that the British would not come
so far up stream simply in order to destroy the flotilla, for it did
not seem as if the outlay would be repaid by the result, whichever way
it might be viewed. I had it in mind that when they learned how
shallow the river was above Nottingham, the plan would be abandoned,
therefore I felt comparatively secure from harm as we idled away the
hours.

The fact that Darius was so uneasy should have convinced me of the
full danger, for the old man was not one who borrowed trouble. He
fretted because he was forced to remain with the boats, instead of
acting as spy, and nothing save the fact that Joshua Barney had placed
him second in command could have kept him at Pig Point when it seemed
to him that he might be able to accomplish much elsewhere.

When the first of those who had been sent down stream returned, I also
began to feel uneasy in mind. The report came that the entire force of
Britishers was embarking on barges and small boats, with half a dozen
6-pounders and as many mortars, which showed that it was expected we
would make some resistance, and it angered me to hear the men talking
as if we were to do no more than set the flotilla on fire when the
enemy hove in sight.

"It seems to me that we might worry them some," I said to Darius, when
he had spoken in much the same tone as the others. "Forty or fifty men
posted along the shores would make them a little trouble, I reckon."

"Ay, lad, an' effect about as much as so many wasps. We might shoot
down a few men; but could not even delay the advance, an' what would
be gained? Their five thousand soldiers would make it mighty warm for
our people on the shore, an' when it came to killin', I'm thinkin'
they'd be able to do the most execution."

Before he ceased speaking I understood how foolish had been my words;
but I was burning with such a desire to inflict some injury upon
those to whose account could be laid the destruction of our property,
that I was not really responsible for the speech.

It was on the evening of the day when Joshua Barney left us, that I
began to be sensible of the suspense in which one would necessarily be
at such a time. If the enemy came upon us suddenly, it might be
possible for them to capture all hands of us, as well as carry away
the boats, and this last would be considered more of a disaster than
the first.

Twenty of our men were posted at different points on both sides of the
stream to act as sentinels, and the remainder distributed among the
fleet in such a manner that the flames could be started in very short
order.

Neither Lieutenant Frazier nor Darius proposed to turn in on this
night. They were to keep on the move from one sentinel to another, in
order to make certain each man was doing his duty, and we lads were
ordered to have a meal prepared for them at midnight.

Shortly after sunset another of our people came up the river with the
report that a portion of the enemy's force had started and it began to
seem as if a night attack had been determined upon.

It can well be fancied that we of the Avenger had very little desire
for slumber, although, had we been so disposed, all of us might have
had a good night's rest, and also had the midnight meal ready when it
would be required.

We paced to and fro after the lieutenant and Darius had left, speaking
only in whispers, as if it might be possible the enemy could hear us,
and each moment expecting that the alarm would ring out.

The suspense was to me most painful, and I said to Jerry:

"Almost anything is better than this. I wish we were not so well aware
of their coming."

"If the fleet is to be burned, an' we know the enemy has started to
come up here, I can't see what is to be gained by waitin'," and my
partner spoke in a tone of petulance. "We shall do no good stayin'
here, and it may be that some of us could be of service elsewhere."

"It's no use for you fellows to grumble," Jim Freeman said with a
laugh, he having come up just in time to hear the useless words. "The
orders are to wait till the Britishers show themselves, an' I reckon
neither Lieutenant Frazier nor Darius would like to take the
responsibility of doin' anythin' else. You two will make a good thing
out of this business, in case the Avenger is burned, eh?"

"We've got a guarantee for more than she cost; but at the same time
I'd rather have her than a better one," Jerry said promptly, and I put
my hand in his, for he had spoken that which was in my heart.

Then we fell to talking for at least the tenth time of how the work of
destruction would be accomplished, and while we were thus engaged
Darius came alongside.

"You lads can turn in," he said as he clambered over the rail.
"Mitchell has just come up the river with the news that the Britishers
are makin' camp less'n two miles below. We shan't see 'em to-night;
but they're likely to be here mighty early in the mornin'."

"Some of us must stay up to do the cooking," I replied, thinking of
the meal the lieutenant had ordered.

"I'll call you in case Frazier don't change his mind about it, but I
reckon he'll be willin' to wait for breakfast."

"Are you going to stay on board?"

"I shall be here off an' on; just now we're goin' to inspect each
craft, so's to make certain the flames can be started quickly, for
there's no longer any chance but that the fleet must be destroyed."



CHAPTER XIII.

BURNING THE VESSELS.


It seemed to me much like disastrous defeat to burn the flotilla on
the approach of the enemy, without making any effort whatsoever to
defend it, and for the time I believed that Darius and all those who
bragged so much about Commodore Barney's fighting qualities, were
making idle talk, otherwise he would have attempted to hold his own,
no matter how great the odds against him.

At the time I failed to realize that our fleet of small boats amounted
to nothing, as compared with either city which the British was
threatening, and that the commodore never showed himself to be a
better fighter than when he allowed the enemy to spend their time with
a lot of boats of little value, while he was marching his men across
country to aid in the defense of Washington.

One can readily fancy that we lads were not much inclined for sleep
when Darius brought word that we might turn in.

It was definitely known that the British were only two miles away, and
would make no prolonged halt until after striking a blow at our fleet.
In fact, it was possible they might approach within an hour, the halt
having been called only to make us believe they would not attempt to
do any mischief during the night.

We gathered aft, but with no desire to go below, and stood there
leaning far out over the rail with eyes and ears open for some token
of the coming foe.

It was possible to distinguish even in the gloom a boat which was
pulled from one craft to another, stopping only a few seconds at each
vessel, and we knew the lieutenant and Darius were making their
rounds.

Again we questioned the wisdom of waiting until the enemy was close at
hand before beginning the work of destruction, never realizing how
important it was to keep the Britishers at the task of destroying the
fleet so long as possible that the defenders of Washington might have
opportunity to make ready; but we actually grew impatient because the
torch was not applied at once.

Before Lieutenant Frazier brought the inspection to a close, one of
the men who had been sent to spy out the enemy's movements, came
aboard the Scorpion to make a report. From him we learned that the
British were really encamped for the night, and there seemed little
possibility any move would be made before daylight.

Even with this assurance we lads had no desire for slumber, and were
on deck listening and watching when Darius returned.

"Why didn't you turn in?" he asked almost sharply, and I replied,
striving to speak in such a tone as would give him to understand that
we were not to be dictated to regarding our individual actions while
off duty.

"We prefer to remain awake. Even though the enemy was not so near, I
question if either of us would care to go into the hot cabin, unless
orders were given to the effect that we must do so."

"Well, I have it in mind to get forty winks when I'm able. We may be
kept on the move pretty much all the time after leavin' here, an' it
stands a man in hand to bottle up what sleep he can."

"I thought you counted on moving around all night?"

"So I did before we knew that the Britishers had settled down for a
spell; but now there's no need of more watchers than are already on
duty," the old man said as he disappeared through the companion-way
hatch, leaving me fully sensible of the fact that I had proven myself
a prig and a fool by trying to assert my right to do as I pleased.

We could see boats moving slowly to and fro a short distance down the
river, and thus knew, the guard having been largely increased, that if
an enemy came our way during the hours of darkness, he must be seen by
the sentinels some time before we on the schooner could distinguish
him in the gloom.

Then Jim Freeman and his friends followed Darius' example, by going
into the cabin, and but for what had passed between the old man and me
I would have gone with them. As it was, I felt bound to remain, and
Jerry, understanding the situation, although he refrained from
speaking of it, stayed with me like the true friend that he always has
been.

Before midnight my eyes grew heavy with slumber, and I said to my
partner, as I led him well forward where we could not be overheard in
case any of those in the cabin were awake:

"It would seem as if you and I were left to look after the schooner,
and surely some one ought to be on duty, even though the spies have
reported that the enemy has encamped for the night."

"Well, that's about what we're doin', ain't it?" Jerry asked, and I
fancied he was trying not to laugh.

"Yes, and yet I'm getting mighty tired. I propose that we stretch out
on the deck a few minutes, just to rest our legs."

"Won't that be deserting our post?" Jerry asked gravely.

"I don't think so, because we can hear all that is going on, and while
it is so dark there isn't much chance of seeing anything."

"But suppose we fall asleep?"

"I'll see to it there's no chance of that," I replied, finding it hard
work to repress a yawn, and then Jerry's mirth could be controlled no
longer.

"What are you laughing at?" I asked sharply.

"At you, Amos! You haven't made a bloomin' success of it whenever
you've tried to put on airs over Darius; somehow he always contrives
to get the best of you. If you hadn't pulled him up with a sharp turn,
we'd be below havin' a good snooze with the other fellows; but now
we're ashamed to go, consequently we'll camp on deck."

I was angry, and yet I knew he had spoken only the truth. However, it
seemed too late to mend matters, and without making any reply I laid
down under the rail, fully determined to be more of a gentleman in the
future.

There had been in my mind a promise not to close my eyes in slumber
that night; but no sooner was I at full length on the deck than I
crossed over into dreamland, and knew nothing until the report of a
cannon, seemingly near at hand, brought me to my feet very suddenly.

"What's happening?" I cried loudly, and from the after rail Jim
Freeman replied:

"The enemy are comin' into position. They began to show up nearly half
an hour ago; but I thought there was no need to waken you till the
work was begun."

Those who had turned in, as sensible fellows should have done, were
awake and on the alert in due season, while I who believed the safety
of the schooner devolved upon myself, slept until the Britishers were
ready to begin operations.

The day had dawned, although it was a full half-hour before the sun
would show himself. Down the stream, within long range of our fleet,
were eight or ten barges, each carrying a cannon, drawn across the
river in such manner as to make the flotilla a good target, and the
gun which had aroused me was evidently fired for the purpose of
testing the position.

I ran aft to where Jim and his friends stood, asking eagerly:

"What are our people going to do?"

"The word has just been given to start the blaze, and the lieutenant
believes that we can hold the Britishers in check until the vessels
are well afire. We're to form on the shore, and oppose the force which
you see yonder."

Gazing in the direction of Jim's outstretched finger, I could make out
a line of red-coated men on the southerly shore some distance below
the barges, and it was not difficult to guess that they intended to
move up, once an action was begun, to where they could fire at us from
the bank.

The British commander evidently believed we would fight to prevent the
fleet from being destroyed, and, therefore, was forcing his men to
perform a great deal of unnecessary work.

Looking around at the boats and vessels of our fleet I could see that
the work of destruction had already begun. From the hatch of the
Avenger, which craft was lying thirty or forty yards further up stream
than the Scorpion, a thin thread of blue smoke was ascending lazily on
the clear air, and on five or six other pungies the same ominous token
of approaching ruin could be seen.

Then it was that I saw little knots of our men pulling for the
northerly shore, and, on gaining the bank, stave in the hulls of their
canoes to such purpose that the little craft could not again be made
serviceable.

I understood then that each squad was under orders to land immediately
the task assigned them had been performed, and wondered if the
schooner was to be reserved until the last.

"Does the lieutenant count on saving the Scorpion to hold the
Britishers in check?" I asked of Jim, and for reply he pointed toward
the main hatch, from out of which Darius was just emerging.

"Have your canoe ready!" the old man cried, addressing Dody Wardwell,
who was holding the painter of a small craft which lay under the
stern. "I allow that we'll need to leave here in mighty quick time,
for when the fire starts it'll run from stem to stern like a flash."

[Illustration: As we pulled away I glanced back at our fleet and saw
that the vessels were well on fire.]

Even as Darius spoke I saw a curl of flame from the forward hatch, and
then a long, glowing tongue leaped up toward the cordage.

While I stood watching it, fascinated by the eager lapping of the
destroying element, the enemy opened fire from the barges, sending
solid shot amid the fleet which had already been deserted. At almost
the same moment that line of red, which had been motionless, could be
seen flashing here and there amid the foliage, telling that the
advance of the land force had begun.

Glancing back at our fleet after making certain that the Britishers
were coming toward us, I saw that the vessels were well on fire,
although unquestionably many of them might have been saved had efforts
been made immediately to that end.

"In five minutes more salt won't save 'em," Darius said in a tone of
satisfaction. "Them bloomin' red-coats started a little too late. Come
on, lads! It looks as if we were the last to leave the fleet, an'
there isn't overly much time on our hands. Into the canoe with you!"

We obeyed the order without delay, more particularly since the flames
were already coming out of the Scorpion's after companion-way, and
while paddling for the shore I saw that our people were drawn up in
line ready to meet the enemy in case it became necessary to prevent
them from interfering with the work of destruction.

"Are we the only ones to go unarmed?" I asked, noting that all of
those ashore appeared to have weapons in their hands.

"I reckon we'll find what may be needed when we join our people,"
Darius replied. "The guns an' ammunition were taken out of the vessels
last night, for powder ain't a nice thing to have around when you're
foolin' with fire."

It must be borne in mind that while we were thus speaking the cannon
on the barges were being served with spirit, and more than one solid
shot had gone crashing through a burning vessel; but none had come
near enough to us to cause any particular alarm.

When we were ashore I saw that there would be no scarcity of weapons
among us, and, in fact, several of the men were forced to carry two
muskets because of the supply which had been left behind by those who
marched away under the immediate command of Commodore Barney.

We lads succeeded in getting a good outfit, with quite as much
ammunition as could be carried comfortably, and by the time we had
taken our places in the line, the enemy's shots were beginning to come
dangerously near some of us.

A cannon ball cut down a sapling within four feet of where Lieutenant
Frazier was standing, and another crashed among the splintered canoes
on the bank, while from the distance came those sounds which told of
bullets striking amid the foliage.

The soldiers were almost within effective range, and the shot from the
barges was by no means comforting, while we could accomplish nothing
by remaining idle.

I wondered why the retreat was not begun, if we were to make one, and
felt as if I had a personal grievance against the lieutenant because
he failed to give that order which would permit of our getting away
from such a disagreeable situation.

"Growin' uneasy, lad?" Darius asked with a grin, as I involuntarily
ducked my head when a solid shot passed over us.

"It strikes me that we can't do any great amount of good by standing
here," I replied irritably.

"The lieutenant is a reg'lar little man who believes in obeyin'
orders, no matter what happens. Joshua Barney left word that we were
not to move from here till all the vessels were well afire, an' here I
reckon we'll stay quite a spell longer."

"But they are all burning," I said, turning to look at the fleet, each
craft of which appeared to be enveloped in flames.

"Yes, they've started well; but if I was the one who had been left to
decide when there was no longer a chance of savin' 'em, I'd hold here
a spell longer, as the lieutenant is doin'."

"Do you believe it possible that we could save the schooner now?" and
I pointed toward the Scorpion, along whose spars the flames were
creeping rapidly.

"Two or three hundred men might do it if they set to work this minute,
though it would be a tough job," the old man said as he gazed at the
flames which were already sending forth heat enough to render our
position too warm for comfort, and at that instant a musket ball came
humming past the end of his nose, causing him to spring backward very
suddenly.

"Growing uneasy, Darius?" I asked, and the old man laughed
good-naturedly as I thus passed him some of his own coin.

"It's gettin' warm all around; but I reckon we've come mighty nigh to
the limit set by the commander."

Then it was that the man next beside me cried aloud as he held up his
right hand from which the blood was beginning to flow from a bullet
wound.

I was too angry to be frightened just then, for it seemed as if
Lieutenant Frazier was remaining too long under fire, and a moment
later came the welcome command.

I dare venture to say that, with the exception of Lieutenant Frazier
and Darius, every man moved more readily and quickly than he ever did
before, until we were a good mile from the scene of destruction,
striking directly across the country for Upper Marlboro.

Now and then it was possible to catch glimpses of the flames, which
towered above the tops of the nearby trees; but we heard nothing of
the enemy, which seemed to me strange until I mentioned the fact to
Darius when he came up, after loitering in the rear with the
lieutenant as if to show his contempt for the Britishers.

"I allow there's plenty of sense in their stayin' where the fleet is
burnin'," the old man said quietly. "They saw only a few men leave
when it had been said that Joshua Barney had five hundred with him.
Now what more natural for them to suppose that we are tryin' to lead
'em into an ambush--for the Britishers still believe we fight in Injun
fashion? Then again, it ain't likely the foot soldiers are carryin'
rations, havin' the boats with 'em, an' it would be poor judgment to
send a lot of men into the woods empty-handed, so to speak."

"Then you do not believe we shall be pursued?"

"If we are it'll be a fool trick," the old man replied, and then he
fell back to the rear in response to a signal from the lieutenant.

After he had thus given his opinion, which I believe to be shared by
Lieutenant Frazier, it was in my mind that we would tramp leisurely
across the country until coming up with Commodore Barney's force; but
immediately we appeared to be out of danger word was given to quicken
the pace.

Now it was that the officer and Darius marched in advance, the former
having given the word that we were to keep close at his heels, and
during two hours I traveled faster than I ever did before. It seemed
as if the musket, which had seemingly been a feather's weight when we
started, weighed more than twenty pounds at the end of the second
hour, and I was so nearly winded that it was as if I could go no
further without first taking some rest.

Jerry was no less fatigued than I, and did not hesitate to say he
believed the lieutenant was making us march thus fast simply to
gratify some foolish whim.

Then we were come to Upper Marlboro, after fording the stream, and the
pleasure I felt at being allowed to sit down that I might rest my
aching feet was so great that it cannot properly be described.

While Jerry and I were grumbling because of what seemed to us unseemly
haste, Jim Freeman, who had been lying down a short distance away,
came over to where we were sitting, his eyes bulging as if he had
seen two or three ghosts at the very least.

"What do you suppose?" he said excitedly.

"I heard the lieutenant telling Darius that a big force of Britishers
was marchin' up from Nottingham on the west side of the river, bound
for Washington!"

"How did he know that?" Jerry asked sharply.

"A man who was sent back by Commodore Barney on a scout, got here
about the same time we did, an' he reported to the lieutenant. But
that ain't all; some of the folks livin' 'round here say that a small
force--near three hundred--landed on the west side of the river after
the enemy went into camp last night, an' is mighty near this place
now!"

"'Cordin' to that it would seem as if we come pretty close to bein'
surrounded!" Jerry exclaimed.

"That's just what Darius said," Jim replied, "an' the lieutenant told
him he'd been afraid all along that we'd run into some such kind of a
muss. Commodore Barney warned him to be on the watch for what appears
to be happenin', an' it begins to look as if we might have trouble
mighty quick."

"There can't be a great deal of it for the Britishers, if their
smallest force is three hundred, for they'd make short work of us," I
said with an inward quaking. "I've been blaming the lieutenant for
making us march so swiftly, and now I wish he had pushed us on twice
as fast."

I had hardly more than ceased speaking when the command was given to
fall into line once more, and the men obeyed eagerly, for the word had
been passed around that our small force was in most serious danger.

Every man among us was tired, I venture to say, yet we literally
over-ran the lieutenant, who was setting the pace, and pressed forward
like a flock of sheep pursued by dogs.

It was nearly noon when we arrived at what is known as the Wood Yard,
where General Winder had encamped and thrown up some slight
entrenchments, and where Commodore Barney was to have joined him; but
now the place was deserted, save for one man whom I remembered having
seen on our fleet.

As we soon came to know, he had been sent back from Long Old Fields by
the commodore to quicken our movements, and both Jerry and I heard
that which he said to the lieutenant when we came up.

It seems that the American troops from all quarters were hastening to
Washington, and Commodore Barney had given orders that we hurry
forward with the least possible delay.

"The commodore told me to say that unless you kept your men moving
night and day you would be captured, for no less than three British
forces are known to be on the way here from the Patuxent," so the
messenger said, and Lieutenant Frazier asked if he knew what body of
the enemy was coming up the Potomac.

"A portion of the British fleet under Captain Gordon is already to be
seen from High Point," the man replied, and then he withdrew some
distance with the lieutenant as if to give him private instructions.

There is no need for me to set down the fact that our small force was
in a state of the greatest excitement. From no less than three sources
we had learned that the enemy was so near as to make capture seem
certain, and our only hope of safety was to press forward at the best
possible speed until arriving at Washington, where we were told the
commodore had already arrived.

It was a good deal like being out of the frying-pan into the fire, for
in case we contrived to elude those who were close in the rear, we
must come face to face with a yet larger body of the enemy when we did
our feeble best toward defending the city.

I was getting quite a big taste of warfare, and it was by no means to
my liking, although I had by this time come to understand that I must
not put such ideas into words lest my companions accuse me of showing
the white feather.

We had marched eleven miles with only one halt of fifteen minutes, and
now, instead of going into camp as had been supposed, we were to press
forward, marching night and day, for a distance of at least fourteen
miles; but even though it had been twice as far I would have gone on
with at least a show of cheerfulness, so great was my fear of being
taken prisoner.

We halted at the Wood Yard half an hour, and then were going ahead
once more; but at a less rapid pace, for we could not be expected to
travel many hours at the same speed which had been kept up since
leaving the burning fleet.

We ate as we marched, munching the corn-bread and bacon as best we
might, and falling out of line to get a drink of water whenever we
came to a brook or spring.

At the end of the first hour we were halted for ten minutes, and then
the advance was continued until it seemed to me that I could not put
one foot before the other.

"I suppose I shall hold out as long as the rest of you do; but it
seems as if I'd got to drop down right here," Jerry said to me as we
trudged along side by side on as fatiguing and dispiriting a march as
I have ever known since. "It's better for a fellow to kill himself by
walkin', than be sent back to a prison on board one of the British
ships."

I tried to cheer the dear lad, although I myself was needing
encouragement most woefully, and perhaps I succeeded somewhat by
saying:

"Our fathers would set us down as cowards and drones, if the men went
in with the report that we couldn't travel twenty-five or thirty miles
without knocking under."

"You're right, Amos!" and Jerry stepped out briskly. "We should be
able to do more of this kind of work than Darius, who has spent all
his life aboard ship, an' yet there he is, humpin' along chipper as a
sparrow."

I turned to look at the old man, who was in the rear, marching in good
order, and acting as if on some pleasure excursion which he hoped
would not come to an end too soon. It shamed me to see him so jolly
when I was feeling so sore.

From that moment, whenever I felt as if it was impossible to take
another step, I looked at Darius, and forced myself to forget
weariness or hunger.

It was nearly sunset when we were come to Long Old Fields, where a
portion of General Winder's army had encamped the day previous, and
here we were met by another messenger from the commodore.

This last man had as large a store of fresh provisions as could be
hauled by one mule, and within five minutes after coming up with him
we were getting supper, giving no heed to anything save the fact that
we had food in plenty for at least one meal.

Later, Darius told me that the second messenger repeated orders for us
to press forward without unnecessary delay; but when our hunger was
appeased the lieutenant gave the word that we would be allowed to
remain in camp a full two hours, and this was no sooner made known
than the majority of us stretched our tired bodies on the ground for a
time of sleep.

Jerry and I lay side by side, and when we were first in the proper
position for sleeping I spoke to my comrade, but he made no reply. The
dear lad had actually fallen into slumber at the very instant his head
touched the ground.

Perhaps I remained awake while one might have counted twenty; but I am
confident it was no longer than that, and then I closed my eyes, not
to open them again until conscious of a heavy blow on the soles of my
feet.



CHAPTER XIV.

AT WASHINGTON.


The first thought in my mind, on being aroused from deep slumber by a
heavy blow on my feet, was that the enemy had come upon us, and a
battle had been begun while I remained unconscious.

Springing up quickly, my eyes hardly half-open, I made ready to defend
myself with no other weapons than those provided by nature, but
nothing more formidable confronted me than Darius Thorpe, whose mouth
was stretched wide in a grin, as if he saw something exceeding comical
in thus disturbing a fellow's slumbers.

"This is no time for horse-play!" I cried indignantly. "Having but two
hours for rest, it would seem that such jokes might be dispensed
with."

"I don't allow that I'm jokin'," the old man replied gravely, the
smile disappearing from his face as he understood that I was
thoroughly angry. "You have used up your allowance of time in
sleepin', an' now it's a case of gettin' into line."

"I haven't had a five-minutes nap!" I cried, firmly believing that I
spoke the truth.

"It's a good two hours since we came to a halt, but even though the
time wasn't up, we'd have to get into motion, for another messenger
has arrived from the commodore, an' there won't be any more loafin'
'twixt here an' Washington."

"What is the news?" I asked, beginning to be ashamed of myself because
of having lost my temper.

"General Ross, commandin' the British forces on land, has arrived at
the Wood Yard, an' the chances are that, with troops accustomed to
long marches, he will push on without much of a halt. Even if we were
not needed in Washington, it would stand us in hand to move mighty
quick."

Then Darius continued his task of awakening the sleepers, and I made
ready for another march when it seemed as if the word to halt had but
just been given.

When we set out again all of us from the Avenger were side by side,
and, although it may seem childish to say so, the fact that I had
friends at either hand gave me renewed strength of body as well as of
mind.

It is not well that I make any further attempt at following step by
step what was supposed to be a hurried movement to reinforce our
comrades of the flotilla, but which in reality was neither more nor
less than a hasty retreat. It is enough if I say that late in the
night following the day when Commodore Barney's fleet was destroyed,
we arrived at the marine barracks in Washington, where was the force
which had accompanied our commander.

Just then we were too tired and foot-sore to give any heed to our
friends who had been impatiently awaiting the arrival of us who had
been left behind on a dangerous duty. We only asked permission to lie
down anywhere in order to rest our aching limbs, and this we were able
to do, as a matter of course.

When morning came, however, and we were awakened by the bustle and
confusion which would naturally arise when five or six hundred men are
quartered in four buildings forming a square, we gave little heed to
the stiffness of joints and blistered feet which remained as mementoes
of that long march, as we greeted those for whom we had greater or
less affection.

The first person whom I saw was Bill Jepson. He had been searching
through the barracks for Jerry and me, and I really believe the old
fellow was heartily pleased at seeing us once more.

"Well, my bullies, how about that famous ship Avenger, Amos Grout
commander, and Darius Thorpe general supercargo?" Bill cried in a
voice of thunder as he shook hands with each of us in turn, beginning
with me, and ending with Dody Wardwell.

"What there is left of her might be found at the bottom of the
Patuxent, if you hunted long enough," I replied, feeling a bit
saddened by the loss of the pungy, and not having had time before to
think very much about her fate.

"The whole fleet went up, eh? Tell me about it," and Bill seated
himself on the edge of a bunk as if expecting to hear a long yarn.

There wasn't much to be told, as is known by any one who has had the
patience to read what has been set down here; but I gave him a full
account of all we had done, and wound up by complaining of the long
march we had been forced to take.

"Don't let a little thing like that distress you, matey, for unless
the Britishers whip us out of our boots here in Washington, I'm
thinkin' we'll have to scratch gravel a good many times before this
'ere war is ended. Where's Darius?"

We could give him no information concerning the old man, save to say
that he was with us when we went to sleep the night previous,
whereupon Bill said with a laugh:

"I reckon he's tellin' the commodore how this little business should
be carried on, though he claims that the man never lived who could
give Joshua Barney points."

I had no particular desire to hear about the commodore or Darius,
therefore I asked if he knew anything concerning Elias Macomber, and
as I mentioned the name Bill burst into a hearty laugh.

"Know anythin' about him, lad? I reckon I do, seein's I helped lodge
him in jail, an' how the hound whined for a chance to escape! He
promised me more dollars than I could carry in my hat, if I'd give him
five minutes the start; but so long's he didn't let on where he'd get
the coin, or how it might be passed over to me, I couldn't make any
dicker."

"Then there's no need to worry any more about his getting away," I
said to myself, whereat Bill Jepson looked grave, and I made haste to
say:

"One might think from the look on your face that you believed his
chances for escape were good?"

"He'll stay where he is while we hold possession of the city, an' of
that you may be certain, lad; but in case the British----"

"You are not thinking that the enemy can take Washington?" Jerry cried
in amazement.

"Ay, lad, an' if the truth was known, I'm not the only one who is
believin' much the same thing."

"But all the people in this country would come here to defend the
city!" I exclaimed, thinking for the moment that Bill Jepson was
trying to play upon our fears.

"They haven't done it so far," and the sailor looked grave again. "As
near as I can hear we've got about seven thousand men near about, an'
more'n three-quarters of 'em are so green that it would be dangerous
to let the cows have a whack at 'em."

"Have the Britishers a larger force?" Jim Freeman asked.

"No, lad, not quite so many when you come to number 'em up; but they
are all trained soldiers, every one the match for three of ours in a
reg'lar battle, no matter how well the Americans can fight. Then
again, what with the President an' all the big bugs takin' a hand,
we've got too many commanders. Leave the whole business to one
man--say Joshua Barney, for example--, an' I believe we could hold our
own."

To us youngsters who had come expecting to aid in a successful defense
of the city, this kind of talk was not particularly cheerful, and I
would have welcomed any change in the conversation; but Bill Jepson
had used his eyes to good advantage during the short stay in
Washington, and was determined that we should receive the benefit of
what he had seen and heard.

"Last night Mr. Monroe, the secretary of state, sent a despatch to the
President, an' I saw a copy of it while on duty at the commodore's
quarters. It read like this: 'The enemy are advanced six miles on the
road to the Wood Yard, and our troops are retiring. Our troops were on
the march to meet them, but in too small a body to engage. General
Winder proposes to retire till he can collect them in a body. The
enemy are in full march to Washington. Have the materials prepared to
destroy the bridges.' That was signed with Mr. Monroe's name, lads,
an' after so much, he wrote, 'You had better remove the records.' Now
do you think I'm so far out of the way in sayin' that there's a good
chance of our gettin' the worst of it?"

Just at that moment, to my great relief of mind, my father appeared in
the doorway of the barracks, and I sprang to meet him.

How good it was to see his dear face once more! What a sense of relief
came over me because he was near! I was yet so young as to believe
that no harm could come to a fellow while his father was near, and on
the moment all the fears which had been aroused by Bill Jepson passed
out of mind.

It is not necessary for me to set down that conversation between my
father and me while it related to the dear ones at home, or our own
two selves; but when we had spoken our fill on such matters it was but
natural we should come back to the situation in which our troops were
placed, and, greatly to my surprise, I found that my father despaired
of success in much the same measure as did Bill Jepson.

"We can only do our best, lad, and for your mother's sake we'll pray
that both of us may go back to Benedict; but if only one, then it
should be you, who have promise of so many more years of life than I."

We were yet speaking of matters much too private to be set down in a
story like this, when the command came for all the men of Commodore
Barney's force to fall into line, and on the instant we understood
that we were to join the small army led by General Winder.

I know not how it was we were so confident as to our destination,
except that the general and our commander had been long in
consultation before this day; but certain it is we felt positive all
of us were about to retrace our steps.

And now, while our men are scurrying to and fro making ready for
another march before having recovered from the one just ended, let me
set down here what I afterward read in print, for it will serve to
explain why we did not do that which the country expected, and even
demanded:

"Winder's situation was an unenviable one.[A] With a comparatively
strong foe on his front, ready to fall upon him or the capital he was
expected to defend, he had only about twenty-five hundred armed and
effective men in camp, and many of these had been from their homes
only three or four days. They were undisciplined and untried, and
surrounded and influenced by a crowd of excited civilians, to whose
officious but well-intended information and advice the general was
compelled to listen. In addition to this intrusion and interference of
common men, he was embarrassed by the presence and suggestions of the
President and his Cabinet ministers, the most of them utterly ignorant
of military affairs. Better would it have been for Winder and the
country if these civilians, from the President down, had kept away
from the camp and the field, and prudently preserved silence."

[A] Lossing's "War of 1812."

As a matter of course, we of the rank and file knew very little
concerning the trials of the officer who was charged with the defense
of the city; but we did understand that our force was not sufficient
in either discipline or numbers to cope with that which we must meet,
yet I did not hear a word of grumbling or fear as we made ready for
the march.

It was as if a full knowledge of the danger served to inspire us with
courage.

We set out within ten minutes after the order had been received; but I
did not see Commodore Barney until we had retraced our steps to Long
Old Fields, and there we found the small army throwing up a slight
breastwork, as if believing that an attack was imminent.

"This looks as if you an' I might see more of war than may be
pleasant," Jerry whispered to me as we stood in line waiting to be
dismissed. "It is all very well to fight when you're on board a good
vessel; but runnin' around on shore, marchin' here till you can do no
more than move, an' then marchin' back again, is a little better than
I hanker after."

"It's too late to talk like that," I replied, smiling as I remembered
how eager my partner had been to go as a soldier when I was hanging
back. "We're like to see an hundred times worse than this before we're
many hours older."

"Ay, an' there's never one here, save you, Amos, who shall have an
inklin' of the fact that I'm growin' mighty sick of my bargain."

Then we were dismissed, to find such tents and rations as General
Winder's force could spare us, for our baggage-train was yet on the
road, and while we were thus engaged Jim Freeman shouted to us.

"Darius has got a tent for our crowd; it's close by the commodore's,
an', what's better, the old sailor has been rummagin' 'round till he's
got all the grub we'll need for some time to come."

"Where are Dody and Josiah?" I asked.

"Holdin' down the tent till we can take possession; there's so much
pullin' an' haulin' after rations an' quarters, that it ain't safe to
leave anything alone."

I supposed that we would be ordered to aid in throwing up the
breastworks, therefore it stood us in hand to learn where we belonged,
before the labor was begun, and without delay we followed Jim.

Indeed we had been fortunate in having Darius to care for us, since,
thanks to him, none at Long Old Fields, save the officers, were
quartered as well as we.

In a few moments the canvas tent, strewn with our belongings, had
quite a home air, and we lost no time in making an attack on the store
of provisions which the old sailor had gathered for us.

We were eating hurriedly, lest we should be ordered to take up the
picks and shovels before our hunger could be satisfied, when Darius
came in looking thoroughly fagged and worn out.

"But for you we'd been without a shelter to-night," I said as he threw
himself on the ground near me.

"An' that would have made little difference, lad, for the open air in
a summer's night is ahead of any canvas house. Howsomever, the tent
serves as a place where we can keep our belongings without fear some
of these clodhoppin' imitations of soldiers will get away with 'em."

"I suppose we shall be called upon to take a hand in throwing up
breastworks?" I suggested, and a more cheerful look came over the old
man's face than I had seen since word was given to fire the fleet.

"We who have just come in will be allowed to take it easy, if the
Britishers don't interfere, till mornin', when, if there's time left
us, we'll turn to at throwin' dirt."

All of us lads settled back with a certain sense of comfort and
satisfaction difficult to describe. There were many in that small army
who were hungry, because of the delay and confusion in sending out
supplies, and yet more who would lie down with nothing to shelter them
from the heavy dew, while we were well protected, and with a goodly
food supply, all of which spoke well for the forethought and ability
of Darius Thorpe.

"I'm goin' to turn in, if so be we've got nothin' to do till mornin',"
Jim Freeman said as he suited the action to the words, and Josiah and
Dody followed his example.

I was not minded to close my eyes in slumber until after having heard
from the old sailor all he could tell, although it goes without saying
that I was tired enough to be able to sleep standing up.

"Have you heard anything new since we arrived?" I asked, and Darius
replied in a low tone, as if afraid his words might be overheard by
some one on the outside:

"The commodore says we shall have a battle within eight an' forty
hours, an' you know how well he can smell out such things. It seems
certain we can't meet the enemy here, unless more men are sent, an',
as I take it, we shall march hither an' yon till we come to the fight
fit for nothin' but to turn in."

"Where are the British now?"

"The main body is at Upper Marlboro; but there are a couple of columns
movin' about in a way that betokens mischief for some of us 'twixt now
an' mornin'."

"What have you been doing? I didn't see anything of you after we
started back for this place."

"I came on ahead, ridin' part of the way, with the commodore, an'
we've been on the move pretty much ever since. General Stansbury is at
Bladensburg, an' General Winder counts on goin' there to-morrow for a
conference, leavin' our commodore in command here."

"But what have you been doing to tire you so thoroughly?" I persisted.

"Nothin' exceptin' tag around at Joshua Barney's heels, an' he's a
reg'lar tiger at walkin', whereas it puts me in bad shape."

"Why not lie down while you may, and get some sleep?" I asked.

"Because I'm under orders to go back to the commodore. You lads turn
in, an' I'll creep under cover whenever it's possible."

Having thus evaded my question as to what he had been doing, the old
man went out of the tent, leaving Jerry and I gazing at each other,
but not daring to speak the thoughts which were in our mind.

If Commodore Barney and Darius Thorpe were so anxious as to what might
be the result of our meeting with the enemy, surely we two lads,
ignorant of everything pertaining to warfare, save marching, had cause
for alarm.

We sat facing each other a full ten minutes without speaking. It was
possible to hear the laborers as they threw up the slight breastwork
which could be of but little service save to mark our position, or the
hum of conversation as the idlers paced to and fro near the tent, and
all these sounds was token that we were a tiny part of the living
machine with which nations waged war.

"There's no sense in sittin' here like a couple of dummies," Jerry
finally said. "We'd best be gettin' all the sleep we can, an' then
we'll be the better prepared for what is before us."

It would have pleased me well to find my father and have a talk with
him; but I did not feel warranted in leaving my comrades at such a
time, therefore I acted at once upon Jerry's suggestion.

It was not a difficult matter to fall asleep, after the long march,
and until late in the night I enjoyed a most refreshing slumber, when
the entrance of Darius awakened me.

"What is the time?" I asked.

"Near to midnight."

"Have you been working all this while?"

"Movin' around with the commodore, that's all," Darius replied, as he
laid down beside me, and a moment later his heavy breathing told that
the weary old man was resting after nearly twenty hours of labor.

Try as I might, it was impossible to close my eyes in sleep
immediately. My thoughts would stray back to Benedict, and the more my
mind dwelt upon mother and the children the less inclined did I feel
for slumber.

I twisted and turned while my tent-mates slept more or less noisily,
until by the cries of the sentinels I knew it was two o'clock in the
morning, and then the idea that in a few hours I must be at work with
no chance for rest, caused me to feel drowsy.

Save for the measured tread of the sentinels, and their calls from
time to time, the silence of the encampment was profound, and I was
idly saying to myself that it seemed difficult to fancy one was in the
midst of more than two thousand men, when suddenly came a sharp cry
from a distance, followed by another and another until the long roll
of the drums rang out on the night air like distant thunder.

"What is it?" I cried, as Darius sprang to his feet.

"The call for all hands," the old man said as he groped around for his
musket and ammunition. "The Britishers have shown themselves, hopin'
to take us by surprise, most like. Move lively, lads, for Joshua
Barney's followin' must be the first in line."

How we contrived to arm ourselves and get out of the tent into the
midst of a throng of apparently bewildered men, I know not; but
certain it is we found ourselves there following Darius, who was the
only one I saw that evidently had his wits about him. Left to
ourselves we would have wandered aimlessly around the encampment, as
did many hundred of the men; but the old sailor, who surely should
have been born a soldier, led us to the proper place as if he had
always served his country on land instead of water.

We found our people from the flotilla in fairly good formation, ready
to repel an attack, while the raw militia were scurrying to and fro
like frightened sheep, and such fact made me feel proud that I was a
member of "Barney's seamen."

"You've done well, lads," the commodore said approvingly, while he
moved to and fro in front of us to make certain that we were all
there. "We'll show these landsmen before this little scrimmage is
over, that we old shell-backs are not web-footed when it comes to
obeying orders."

Then it was that I began to understand why those who served under
Joshua Barney were so proud of, and had such confidence in, him.
There was in the ring of his voice, in his way of looking at a
fellow, and his every movement, something which bespoke him a friend,
and from that moment, I became as ardent an admirer of the fighting
captain as ever was Darius Thorpe.

Of a verity I believe a full fifteen minutes elapsed before all our
people were in line of battle, which spoke badly for what might happen
in case the enemy planned a surprise, and then we learned that the
alarm was a false one.

"Some weak-kneed sentinel was frightened at his own shadow," the
commodore said, speaking quietly to his men. "But it hasn't done us
any harm to be routed out in short order, for now we can see how
necessary it may be to know our stations. Turn in, my hearties, and
get what rest you can before we stand up in front of the red-coats to
give them a lesson which they're needing."

Then we went back to our tent; but not to sleep. There is a mighty lot
of excitement in turning out at night to be shot at, and Darius was
the only member of our party who felt inclined to lie down.

We sat under the canvas talking in whispers, lest we disturb those
near at hand, and the old sailor was soon giving good proof that he
had sailed over into dreamland.

Of what did we talk? I can't really tell; but you might put yourself
in our places, and say if you would not naturally speak of those most
dear when you knew beyond a peradventure that within a few hours at
the most you would be standing face to face with death.

When the day broke we stole softly out of the tent that Darius might
get all the sleep possible, and, building a small fire, toasted the
strips of bacon which made up the greater portion of our rations.

Then all hands sat around the tent to prevent any one from awakening
the old man without good and sufficient cause, until sunrise, when
word was passed from one to another that orders had been given to load
all tents on the baggage-wagons, for the army was to move within an
hour.

Then it was that we felt obliged to call Darius, and he came up on his
feet at the first word, having all his wits about him at the moment of
awakening, as is the habit of sailormen.

"Goin' to move, eh?" he said, when we told him of the order. "Then I'm
thinkin' the next halt will be at whatsoever place General Winder has
picked out for a battle-field. Look after the tent, lads, while I get
a word with the commodore."

He marched off in the direction of headquarters, and we set about the
task, I observing while passing among the militia, that the men as a
rule were looking mighty glum, which augured ill for their
performances if indeed a battle was near at hand.



CHAPTER XV.

BLADENSBURG.


If I would tell all that was done in and around Washington by our
people, and then have space in which to set down that which we lads
were able to accomplish after the British had worked their will, very
much of what then seemed highly interesting to us of the Avenger, must
be passed over with but few words.

Perhaps it is well that it should be so, for we moved here and there
without apparent aim or purpose until every man and officer was on the
verge of exhaustion, and then, when it required no slight effort
simply to remain on our feet, we were forced to meet the British army,
which had advanced by short stages to the end that the men should be
in the best physical condition for that struggle which decided the
fate of the nation's capital.

We had no sooner struck our tents than word was brought that the
President was on his way from the Potomac to review our troops, and at
such information Darius grumbled loud and long, therefore we lads
knew full well that Commodore Barney was opposed to such
monkey-shines, otherwise the old sailor would not have dared to voice
his complaints so stoutly.

When we might have been resting preparatory to the extraordinary
fatigues that were before us, all our little army were forced to
remain in line a good two hours, when President Madison was ready to
begin the review, after which we marched and countermarched in front
of him when three men out of every four were unable to understand the
words of command.

It was a most ridiculous performance, as can well be fancied, and if
the chief magistrate of the land was well pleased with the result, it
is more than can be said for the officers in command.

By the time this mockery of a review had come to an end, scouts
arrived with information that the main body of the enemy was still
resting comfortably at Upper Marlboro, whereupon we were allowed to
remain in line while the general sent couriers to the different
commanders under him, directing them to move in the direction of the
British camp.

We remained on parade from shortly after sunrise until ten o'clock in
the forenoon, when we were as tired as if from a long march. Then we
were dismissed; but since all the tents had been carried away in the
baggage-wagons, there was nothing for us to do save lounge around in
the open field exposed to the burning rays of the sun.

Nothing more was done in the way of throwing up breastworks, therefore
we who had been the last to leave the fleet, were not called upon to
handle pick or shovel.

An hour before noon General Winder, escorted by a troop of Laval's
cavalry, left the encampment, and it was reported that he had gone to
hold a conference with General Stansbury at Bladensburg.

All our rations, save what each man had held back in his pockets, were
with the baggage-train, therefore we did not make a very hearty meal
at noon, and perhaps it was as well, for while we were eating the
small amount of food at our disposal two companies of Maryland
militia, under command of Major Peter, came into camp on the double
quick, with every evidence of terror on their faces.

Immediately the long roll was sounded, and as we fell into line once
more, expecting to see the enemy advancing, word was whispered around
that Major Peter, scouting in the direction of Marlboro on the Wood
Yard road, had skirmished with the Britishers, and been driven back.

Commodore Barney and General Smith, who had command of the militia in
the absence of General Winder, set about making preparations for
battle, and Major McKenney was sent in hot haste to inform our
commander of the position of affairs.

We remained under arms, and in momentary expectation of being engaged
in a life or death struggle, until near sunset, when General Winder
arrived, and without loss of time we were headed for Washington at a
sharp pace, thus being forced to march over the same ground three
times without having seen the enemy once.

We arrived for the second time at the capital about midnight, and were
posted near the Eastern Branch bridge, there to get such repose as
might be possible while we did guard duty on that side of the city.

In order to show that my grumbling had good foundation, I am going to
set down here a portion of General Smith's report, as I heard it read
a week later:

"The arrival at the Eastern Branch bridge terminated the four days of
service of the troops of this District. They have been under arms,
with but little intermission, the whole of the time, both night and
day; have traveled, during their different marches in advance and
retreat, a considerable tract of country, exposed to the burning heat
of a sultry sun by day, and many of them to the cold dews of the
night, uncovered. They have in this period drawn but two rations, the
requisition therefor in the first instance being but partially
complied with, and it being afterward almost impossible to procure the
means of transportation, the wagons employed by our quartermaster for
that purpose being constantly impressed by the government agents for
the purpose of removing the public records when the enemy's approach
was known, and some of them thus seized while proceeding to take in
provisions for the army."

On that night after our arrival we heard that the British were
advanced within two miles of Long Old Fields. We who comprised the
command under General Winder were worn and dispirited; Laval's
horsemen were exhausted, and Stansbury's men at Bladensburg were tired
out by long marches, lack of sleep and scarcity of food.

As if to make bad matters worse, our general fell from his horse near
about daybreak, and really was not fit to remain in the saddle,
although he pluckily kept on duty, not the least of which were many
conferences with the President and members of his Cabinet.

At sunrise, after our force had indulged in less than two hours'
sleep, Laval's scouts brought in positive information that the British
General Ross was marching directly toward Bladensburg; half an hour
later messengers came from General Stansbury with the word that the
enemy was in his front, and urging that reinforcements be sent at
once.

It was a case of making another march without breakfast, and, for the
matter of that, we had had no supper the night previous.

There was more than one grumbler when we obeyed the summons to "fall
in;" but the men under Commodore Barney held their peace after our
leader urged that we act "like patriots, and not like children who had
come out expecting to enjoy a holiday."

Well, off we posted for Bladensburg, a good eight miles from where we
had halted, and I for one hoped that the battle, since there must be
one, would be on at once, for it seemed better to be shot at than worn
down by apparently aimless running to and fro.

We of the flotilla arrived near Bladensburg shortly after noon, and
were stationed about a mile from the village on the Washington road.
There we found two eighteens and three 12-pounders, all ship's guns,
mounted on carriages, which had been drawn to the spot by the marines
from the navy yard, and with these we were supposed to hold our
position, having no other support than a crowd of raw militia in front
of us.

Our force, meaning those under Commodore Barney's command, numbered,
as I have already said, about five hundred, and although we had no
knowledge of military tactics, we knew enough to obey our officers to
the best of our ability, which was considerably more than could be
said for very many of the troops near at hand.

I cannot set down that which followed, in proper fashion so that it
could be understood by those familiar with the game of war; I only
know what happened near my comrades and myself, for the crew of the
Avenger had taken good care to stand side by side at this time when
one or all of us might meet death through the medium of British lead.

For myself, I can say this: that when I looked around at the mass of
men--five thousand strong I have since heard--, and saw them wrangling
over this trifling matter or that, openly disputing some command, or
boldly leaving an assigned position to take up one which pleased them
better, I had more fear of what might come to us through the cowardice
or ignorance of our own people, than regarding the ability of the
enemy to cut us up.

Darius made his preparations for the conflict by stuffing a huge piece
of tobacco into his mouth, after which he proceeded to read us a
lecture on behavior while under fire.

"Remember this," he said with the air of one who knows it all, "it
isn't every bullet that finds its billet, an' the toughest time is
just now, when we're waitin' for what all hands know is bound to come.
Think of the folks at Benedict, an' kind'er figger out what they'd
say if you went home after showin' yourselves cowards under fire.
There are worse things than bein' killed or wounded in battle, an' the
hardest is to live knowin' every youngster on the street has the right
to call you a white-livered sneak what ran away when danger came.
Stand here behind Joshua Barney, for I warrant he won't give you a
chance to get in front of him, an' you'll be doin' about right."

When the old man had come to an end of his instructions, we would have
conversed among ourselves, speaking much, no doubt, of the folks at
home; but he sternly bade us hold our tongues, thinking that we would
not be heartened by such talk, and straightway began to tell us a yarn
of how he and Bill Jepson had fought under Commodore Barney, when the
enemy was a ship of thirty-two guns, and they in a schooner carrying
only twelve 10-pounders.

The yarn had not yet come to an end when a commotion among the men in
front of us caused me to crane my neck to look in the direction many
were pointing, and there I saw the lines of red marching directly
toward us in perfect order, as if on parade.

At almost the same moment the enemy began to throw rockets among our
people, and these, exploding, hurled bullets' in every direction.

Within two minutes from the time I first saw the Britishers, no less
than five men near me were stricken down, and the sight of the gaping
wounds, together with the moans of the sufferers, gave me a sensation
of faintness which was well-nigh overpowering.

"Stand steady you lads from the Avenger!" Darius cried sharply,
warned, no doubt, by the sight of our pale faces that we were growing
sick in more ways than one. "Somebody must get hurt, else the battle
would never be over, an' we're here to spoil the Britishers' fun,
which we shall do mighty soon. Joshua Barney is only waitin' for the
proper time, an' when he gives the word to begin work, there'll be a
change of tune."

At that moment, and before a gun had been fired, the militiamen in
front of us broke into a run toward the rear, many of them throwing
down their muskets as they took part in a most disgraceful retreat.

For the credit of our flotillamen, and the marines, I must set it down
that not one of them wavered when the retreat was begun, and after the
last of the cowards was in the rear I heard the commodore shout:

"Now's your time, lads! Give it to 'em hot an' strong, but make every
charge count!"

Then our ship's guns were discharged, and the faintness left me as I
saw the missiles cut down long lanes in the red-coated ranks; the
smell of burning powder must have got into my brain, for from that
moment I knew nothing save that my musket was to be loaded and
discharged as rapidly as possible.

Men fell around me by the score, yet I gave no heed to the evidences
of suffering. Once, a man shot through the head, pitched forward
directly into my arms, covering me with blood as he sank dead at my
feet, and yet, unused though I was to such scenes, it caused me no
other feeling than that of anger because he had spoiled my aim.

I knew nothing of what was going on immediately in front of me, save
that the red line, now broken by many a gap, was before my eyes; that
it advanced, fell back and advanced again, sending among us such a
shower of bullets that the buzzing in the air was like unto a swarm of
angry bees.

Once Jerry tried to say something to me, but I pushed him back
petulantly, so strong a hold had the fever of battle upon me. My
musket barrel grew hot to the touch, and it was no longer possible to
charge it properly. Without compunctions I exchanged weapons with one
of the dead men at my feet, and continued the work, shouting aloud in
vengeful joy when I saw an enemy fall by my hand.

Darius cried out in my ear; but I heard him not, nor did I heed the
fact that he wanted to speak with me. I was insane with the scene of
carnage, the salty odor of blood, and the choking, stifling fumes of
burning powder.

Then, suddenly, Darius pulled me back by the coat-collar, forcing me
to run with him, and as we went swiftly past our guns toward the rear,
I asked what he was doing.

"The word had been given to retreat!" he cried. "Do the best you can
with your legs, lad, for there'll be no quarter given if we are taken.
We of the flotilla, with the marines, have borne the brunt of this
whole battle for the last half hour, an' we've left our mark on the
red-coats, even if we are turnin' tail now!"

"But the commodore?" I cried, now getting back a portion of my
scattered senses.

"Wounded ten minutes ago, an' taken off the field, I hope. It was in
my mind to help him; but he ordered me to go back to duty, an' I went,
for when Joshua Barney gives the word, even though he's half dead,
it's safest to obey without makin' much talk. Captain Miller of the
marines was shot down at about the same time."

Then I had sense enough to see that all my comrades of the Avenger
were close about me, none of them appearing to be hurt, and while we
ran to save ourselves from being made prisoners, let me set down that
which was written less than a week after the battle of Bladensburg,
for, as it turned out, we had fought a regular battle.

"No troops remained in line, except the party under Commodore Barney,
and two detachments on his right, that were well posted. Having been
so roughly handled, the enemy made no attempt to advance directly in
front of the seamen and marines, but, after forcing the troops on
their right from the field, by a demonstration in that direction, they
prepared to turn the rear of Barney in order to surround him.

"While these movements were going on in front, a party of light troops
had been thrown out on the enemy's right, and the militia having
abandoned the ground, they were also beginning to close upon the
Americans that stood. By this time Commodore Barney, Captain Miller,
and several other officers were wounded, and, victory being impossible
against odds so great, an order was given to commence a retreat.

"The defense had been too obstinate to admit of carrying off the guns,
which were necessarily abandoned. All the men retired, with the
exception of the badly wounded; among the latter, however, were
Commodore Barney and Captain Miller, who both fell into the enemy's
hands.

"Of the marines, nearly one-third were among the casualties, and the
flotilla-men suffered considerably, though in smaller proportions. The
people of the flotilla, under the orders of Barney, and the marines,
were justly applauded for their excellent conduct. No troops could
have stood better, and the fire of both artillery and musketry has
been described as to the last degree severe."

Jerry, who reads each day what I write, says that by putting down the
account of what we of the flotilla did, I am blowing my own horn; but
I do not so consider it, since the fact is a matter of history, and if
we won praise on that disastrous day, then we should boast of it to
the end that the picture may not be so black.

And now to return to us of the Avenger who were fugitives, without any
idea of where safety might be found.

Strange to say, not one of us had been wounded, while many a better
man close beside us had met his death.

Darius took it upon himself to lead our party, and right willing were
we to have him act as commander, though I question if he really knew
where he was going when we left the bloody field.

There is no shame in my heart when I set it down that we ran from the
enemy, and did our level best at that game; the order to retreat had
been given after we had done all that might have been expected from
well seasoned troops, and to have remained longer would have been a
useless sacrifice.

By instinct, rather than deliberation, Darius led us southward, close
on the heels of several hundred men, all of whom were quite as eager
as we to keep out of the enemy's clutches.

To the best of my knowledge the British did not pursue; they had won a
victory, but in so doing received quite as much of a drubbing as was
needed, and officers as well as privates were willing to remain on the
hard-earned field.

I believe it was a full hour before Darius would allow us to slacken
the pace, and then we were well among the foremost of the fugitives.

By this time we were so nearly winded that it was impossible to
continue the flight without a breathing spell, and the old man allowed
us to halt when we were close upon the city.

We could see that our people were bearing to the west, in order to
give Washington a wide berth, and, when it was possible to speak
because of my heavy breathing, I asked Darius where he proposed to go.

"That's what I haven't rightly made up my mind on," the old man said
thoughtfully. "It stands to reason that the enemy will, sooner or
later, try to make as many prisoners as possible, an' I'm allowin'
that those fellows ahead are bound to have a hot time of it before
they're many hours older. If we could only get down the river!"

"But we can't, an' that much is certain," Jerry said petulantly.

"Perhaps you've got another scheme in your head, since the oyster
business turned out so well," and it is possible that I spoke
sharply, realizing with bitterness just then that but for my
partner's proposition to sell fish to the fleet I might never have
discovered I owed my country a duty, and, consequently, would not at
that moment be hunted down, or in danger of it.

"Perhaps I have," Jerry replied quietly, giving no heed to my
disagreeable manner of speaking.

"What is it, lad?" Darius asked curiously. "I take it that at such a
time as this a bit of advice, no matter from whom it comes, is well
worth listenin' to."

"Why not go straight into Washington, an' stay there till we find a
chance to slip down the river?"

"Into Washington?" Jim Freeman cried in alarm. "Why the Britishers
have promised to burn the town!"

"I know that, an' it ain't likely any of our people will go there
because of that same thing."

"An' yet you allow that we should stick our noses into the mess?"
Darius asked.

"Ay, because the Britishers never will suspect that any who took part
in the fight would go there. It should be possible to find a
hiding-place somewhere in the town, an' it strikes me we wouldn't be
in as much danger as if we kept with the crowd."

I began to think that there was more in Jerry's scheme than appeared
when he first suggested it, and Darius seemed to be considering the
matter very seriously.

"In the first place," my partner continued, warming to the subject
when he saw that we were interested, "it would be necessary to get
there before the Britishers took possession, an' it might be we could
pass ourselves off as fellows who had stayed in the town like cowards,
rather than take the chances of bein' shot."

"It's a pretty good scheme, lad, an' I for one am willin' to try it,"
Darius said abruptly as he rose to his feet. "If the others think as I
do, we'd better be movin'."

After the old man had thus spoken there was not one of us who would
have ventured to object, for he had shown that in any business of this
kind he knew more than all of us put together, therefore we made ready
to set out; but before the first step had been taken we saw coming
toward us from the direction of Bladensburg, a man riding a mule, and
waving his arms as if to attract our attention.

"Go on," I said petulantly. "We can't afford to hang around here very
long if we count on finding a hiding-place in the city, and that is
only one of the country people who wants to sell his mule."

"I reckon we'll wait a bit," Darius replied firmly. "Unless I'm way
out of my reckonin', yonder man was in the fight, an' has scooped up
one of the baggage-wagon mules to help him along."

"But our party is too big for safety now, and what will it be if we
allow every straggler to trail on behind? We might as well follow the
other fugitives."

All this I said like a peevish child, and no sooner had I ceased
speaking than Darius seized me by the shoulder, forcing me to turn
until I had a full view of the newcomer.

"Look at the man," the sailor cried sternly, "an' then say whether you
will allow every straggler to trail on behind us when the road is as
free to one as another?"

In an instant I was covered with confusion and remorse. The man to
whose company I had objected was none other than my own father, and as
he approached I could see that he was wounded in the right leg.

There was nothing I could say just then to show my comrades how deeply
I regretted having spoken in such a tone, therefore I ran forward to
greet him who, a moment previous, I had been eager to leave behind.

My comrades joined me as I saluted my father much more warmly than I
might have done but for the unkind words I had spoken, and in a few
seconds we heard all the story he could tell.

He had been wounded quite severely during the early part of the
battle, and went to the rear in search of the surgeons. Failing to
find those whose duty it was to be near the scene of action, and
unable to walk any further owing to loss of blood, he laid down under
one of the baggage-wagons which had been used to transport ammunition.

Here he bandaged his wound as well as possible, and was about to set
out once more in search of aid, when the final retreat was ordered.
Unable to walk, he would soon have been made a prisoner, or, perhaps,
in the heat of the moment, received worse treatment, when the idea of
escaping on one of the mules occurred to him.

Cutting the traces he rode off, taking a course to the north in his
ignorance of the country; but, discovering his mistake, he turned
about, and the first persons he saw were those of our party.

Without wasting any time we told him of Jerry's scheme, and he, having
nothing better to propose, agreed to make the venture, more
particularly because he stood sadly in need of some attention, since
the wound had been only rudely bandaged.

Darius claimed that he could treat it after a sailorly fashion,
provided we found clean water and cotton cloth, and declared that it
would heal as well after such treatment as if any save a skilled
surgeon had dressed it.

As a matter of course we kept the mule, for it was necessary my
father should ride, and after the delay needed in which to explain
matters, our little party started toward Washington, knowing full well
that we were going where it was certain the enemy would soon come.

Although I had agreed to Jerry's scheme, and was willing to do
whatsoever the majority of my companions decided was for the best, I
could not but believe that ours was as rash a move as fugitives ever
made, for of a verity it was thrusting ourselves into the jaws of the
lion.

Now that my father was with us, having his wound as proof that he had
taken part in the battle, we could no longer hope to pass ourselves
off as cowards who remained at home while others were fighting for us,
and in event of being captured in the city I believed we would receive
rougher usage than those taken prisoners on the battle-field.



CHAPTER XVI.

IN HIDING.


I question if my companions were any less uneasy in mind regarding our
seeking a refuge in the city about to be occupied by the British, than
was I; but no one ventured to say exactly what he thought lest it
serve to check our courage, and of a verity we needed that in
abundance if we were to make a success of Jerry's scheme.

Darius and I walked either side of the mule on which my father rode,
where we might be ready to give the wounded man assistance in case his
strength failed him suddenly; but neither of us dared discuss the
possibilities of the future.

When we were come nearly to the city my father asked me if we had any
money with which to purchase food, and I replied by showing him the
two silver coins remaining of the amount paid by the Britishers for
oysters.

Darius had the same number of pieces in copper, and Jim Freeman was
the capitalist among us, he having no less than two shillings.

We had funds in plenty for the purchase of such food as would satisfy
our hunger during two or three days, and the only matter which gave us
any uneasiness was regarding a shelter, which had now become
absolutely necessary since father joined us, for it went without
saying that he must not be seen.

When Jerry conceived the scheme we were attempting to carry into
execution, he believed, as did I, that Washington would be almost
wholly abandoned by the citizens, and, in fact, it was reasonable to
suppose that when the news of the defeat was brought to the city
nearly every one would seek safety in flight, therefore we counted on
being able to take shelter in any building which took our fancy.

While yet in the outskirts of the town, however, we understood that we
were mistaken. So far as I could see, the inhabitants remained within
their homes, probably under the belief that the enemy would behave
like civilized people rather than as barbarians, and our chances for
finding a hiding-place seemed small.

Having no acquaintance with the city, we walked on at haphazard until
having come within a short distance of a tavern near the Capitol, hard
by a large building which looked not unlike a rope walk.

It was in my mind that we could do no better than stop at the tavern,
trusting that our small store of money would suffice to pay for one
room in which all of us might gather; but to this Darius made most
decided objection.

"It is the last place for us to choose," he said decidedly. "Even if
the house is not taken as quarters by some of the officers, it will be
visited by the rank and file, and we might as well be in the open air.
Yonder smoke-house would suit our purpose better."

It seemed to me that in a city said to contain nine hundred buildings
we could do better than hide in a smoke-house, and so I said, claiming
that we would be in no more danger by making ourselves as comfortable
as possible under the circumstances, than if we huddled into some
corner.

Jim Freeman and Jerry seemed to be in my way of thinking; but Darius
declared that unless we could content ourselves with such a
hiding-place as was not likely to attract the attention of the enemy,
we might count him out of the scheme.

"But what can be done with the mule, if we take to the smoke-house?" I
cried, believing I thus had an argument which he could not well
answer.

"Turn him loose, of course. He is government property, and would give
stronger proof of our havin' been with the army than your father's
wound. Besides, should the soldiers hear him, an' you can't reckon on
keepin' that kind of a beast quiet, they'd be bound to have him out,
if only for the sake of sport."

Then Darius went toward his chosen place of refuge, leaving us to
follow or not as best pleased us, and the result can well be imagined.

We would not cut loose from the old sailor who, because of his
experience in such circumstances, was best calculated to advise and
aid, therefore we followed him meekly, but with many a mental
complaint.

When we were come to the rough building, which was hardly larger than
the cabin of the Scorpion, Darius lifted my father from the animal's
back as if he had been no more than a child, and carried him into the
place that was less inviting than the hold of the Avenger after we had
taken out a cargo of oysters.

Placing him in one corner where he might sit with his back against the
boards, the old sailor went outside and drove the mule in the
direction of the tavern, himself following until he was lost to view,
much to our surprise and disquietude.

"Now what is he about?" Jerry asked petulantly. "I thought we were to
stay here?"

"It seems that we are," I replied with a mirthless laugh; "but it
appears that Master Thorpe counts on being better lodged."

"Do you suppose he allows to stop at the tavern while we're to stay in
this smoke-house?" Jim Freeman asked in a tone of dismay, and I, sore
at heart because my advice had not been followed, replied bitterly,
thereby setting myself down for at least the twentieth time as a
simple:

"We can be certain he'll look after himself, no matter how we may
fare."

Then we stood waiting in silence until it should be certain that
Darius had really abandoned us, when my father said, striving to
suppress any evidence of the pain which he suffered:

"You lads are making a big mistake if you think Darius Thorpe would
leave you at such a time as this. He has ever had the name of holding
to a comrade, and he'll not steer another course while we're in so
much danger."

Five minutes later I was covered with shame because of my unkind
words, when we saw the old man returning with as much hay as he could
stagger under.

"Here's what will make our cripple a bit more comfortable," he said
cheerily as he thrust his burden through the narrow door. "Pile it
well up under him, an' I'll go back for the rest of the supplies."

None of us lads made any comment when Darius returned toward the
tavern; but that all hands were conscious of the same sense of shame
as had come over me, I understood by the expression on their faces.

When the old man joined us the second time he had in his arms the
larger part of a ham, some strips of cotton cloth, and a jug of water.

"How did you get all that stuff?" Jerry asked in surprise.

"Traded the mule. When I was drivin' the beast off it struck me that
he might be made to serve us a bit, so I drove a bargain."

"Did you give the people to understand that he was yours?"

"Not a bit of it, lad; I ain't tryin' that kind of business even when
I'm hungry. I told the truth; but claimed that the beast was under my
protection, an' I'd be willin' to leave him for the few things we
might need. It ain't certain but I'd got what I asked for without the
mule, though it was better to have a reg'lar trade made. Pitch into
the ham, and later, it may be we can get some bread."

We did not wait for the second invitation; but began chipping off bits
of the meat, eating greedily regardless of the fact that it was
uncooked, when I saw that Darius was making no effort toward getting
his share.

"Why don't you eat?" I asked as I gave my father a small handful of
the uninviting food.

"I'm the surgeon now, an' till this job is finished I reckon I can
contrive to get along without more in my mouth than a piece of
terbacco. It's mighty lucky I laid in a good supply before we left Pig
Point."

The true-hearted old sailor had provided us lads with a meal, and now
proposed to dress my father's wound before attending to his own wants,
which must have been greater than ours because he had performed more
work.

I resolved then and there, that however much against him might be
appearances, I would never believe him guilty of any mean act toward
his comrades, and in the future he should have the full half of
anything which might come into my possession.

Darius washed and bandaged father's wound; raised the bed of hay that
he might recline more comfortably; fastened the door in such a manner
that there would be no token on the outside of our occupancy, and not
until all this had been done did he give heed to his own necessities.

"We're not so bad off here as we might be," the old man said in a tone
of content as he whittled away at the small remnant of ham, while we
lads were stretched at full length on the hay. "I'm allowin' that
whatever happens, the Britishers won't look in a smoke-house for
American soldiers or sailors, an' we can stay here snug as bugs in a
rug, barrin' bein a little hungry, till Amos' father is in better
condition to travel."

"But it will be a long while before that wound is healed!" Jim Freeman
exclaimed in dismay.

"Yes, I reckon it'll be quite a spell, pervidin' the Britishers stay
in the city; but if they go it won't be a hard job to find a boat
that'll take us to the Patuxent. But there's little call to make much
talk about movin', for we can't leave one of the crowd, no matter what
happens to the rest of us."

By the time all this had been done it was sunset. The retreat from
Bladensburg had been begun about four o'clock in the afternoon, and we
were not so badly off to be in Washington and housed so soon after the
defeat.

The one distressing question was whether the enemy would make search
in the city for such as we?

After he had eaten all the scraps of ham remaining on the bone, Darius
set about making a more thorough examination of our refuge, beginning
with the small shutter at the top of the building which was used when,
the meat having been cured, it was desired to clear the place of
smoke.

"What are you doing up there?" my father asked when the old sailor
clambered on the logs to get at the shutter.

"Makin' sure we can keep a lookout in case things get too hot," Darius
replied with a laugh. "I'm allowin' this shutter can be swung open a
crack without its bein' noticed from the outside."

He had no more than opened the window when an exclamation burst from
his lips, and without delay I clambered up beside him.

From this point of vantage we had a fairly good view of what was going
on near about the Capitol building, and my heart beat fast and
furiously with fear as I saw the enemy advancing.

"There seems to be the biggest part of the British army," Darius said,
pointing in the direction of the burying-ground, where I could see the
soldiers bivouacking for the night; but nearer at hand were two
officers, evidently high in command--General Ross and Admiral
Cockburn, as I afterward learned--, with an escort of three or four
hundred men, riding directly toward us.

Within full view of our hiding-place was a dwelling standing near the
government building, and as we gazed I saw the flash of a musket come
from this house, when the horse on which the general was riding fell
dead, carrying the officer to the ground with him in what looked to be
an ugly fall.

"That's a fool trick!" Darius cried angrily when no other sign of
attack could be seen or heard. "A crazy man must have fired that shot,
which can do no other good than to make the enemy hot to inflict some
punishment!"

We saw a score or more of the escort rush to the assistance of the
officer, while the remainder of the soldiers were wheeled about to
face the dwelling.

I was confident that they would fire a volley into the house, and,
indeed, I could well have excused such a course, considering the
provocation; but instead of this a squad of men were told off to enter
the building, as we saw when the force ran forward on the double-quick
with fixed bayonets.

By this time, as may well be imagined, all our party, with the
exception of my father, were clinging to the timbers of the building
that a view might be had of what was going on outside, and Darius,
ever mindful of others, took it upon himself to keep our invalid
informed of what was being done.

"They've sent a squad of men to clean out the house, I reckon," the
old sailor said for father's benefit. "The officer ain't hurt so but
that he can mount a spare horse which a colonel has just brought him.
Now the two in command are pointin' out the different buildin's; looks
as if they were pickin' out their quarters. There's one thing certain,
fine birds like them won't want to sleep in a smoke-house, so we ain't
likely to be turned out right away."

I interrupted the report by exclaiming aloud in my excitement, for I
saw smoke issuing from the dwelling, which I afterward learned was the
home of Mr. Robert Sewall, and then it was I understood for what
purpose the squad had been sent.

"They've fired the house," Darius continued to my father, "an' without
givin' them who may be livin' there a chance to carry anythin' out.
Soldiers are stationed to prevent the people from tryin' to fight the
flames, an' it wouldn't surprise me if we saw a pretty hot time in
this town."

At this moment a squad of men was sent to the rope-walk, another to
the tavern hard by our place of refuge, and a third to the next
building, which from the sign on its front I knew to be the National
Intelligencer newspaper.

After what we had seen it was not difficult to guess the purpose of
these soldiers, and Darius said to my father:

"They're firin' the rope-walk now, an' it looks as if the whole city
might go."

"Surely the British wouldn't do so barbarous a deed!" my father
exclaimed. "War isn't carried on in that way these days."

"It seems to be goin' so now. There comes the smoke from the tavern,
an' men are stationed to prevent the people from savin' anything. How
about it, lads? If we had spent our last cent hirin' a room there, the
smoke would be forcin' us out by this time, an' we'd soon find
ourselves prisoners in the hands of such as stand ready to burn a city
where are mostly women an' children!"

"It's not certain but that we'll be forced out as it is!" I exclaimed.
"When the tavern barns get afire this smoke-house stands a good
chance of burning."

"It may be, lad; but the wind draws in on the other side, an' I'm
allowin' that this shanty, small as it is, won't come to harm, though
if it does go, we'll try to keep our upper lips stiff so the
villainous red-coats shan't have a chance to crow over us very much."

We saw the men comprising the escort now break ranks, each going,
apparently, where he pleased, and Darius cried in anger:

"It is to be a reg'lar sack of the city, such as we're told they had
in the old times, when men were reckoned as bein' little better than
brutes! Work like this will count big for the Britishers before the
other nations of the world! There goes a crowd of soldiers into the
little shop beyond the tavern; they're plunderin' it in piratical
style! See 'em throw the goods out into the street! The red-coats from
the encampment, scentin' booty, are comin' up by the hundreds!"

From where we were perched it was possible to see three shops, and by
the time the tavern was well afire no less than five hundred men had
robbed these, tramping into the dirt such goods as they did not want
to carry away, and then the buildings were set on fire.

Verily it was a barbarous sack of the city!

Then it was, when the flames from the buildings of which I have spoken
were mounting high in the sky, that I observed the commander order up
a full company of soldiers. It was possible to see, for although night
had come the fire lighted up surrounding objects as at noonday, that
he gave them orders at great length, after which they started off
toward the Capitol at full speed.

"They're goin' to burn the government buildin's!" Darius cried for my
father's benefit. "A hundred or more have been detailed to do the
work, an' the commanders are watchin' proceedin's like that chap, I
forget his name, who played on the fiddle while Rome was burnin'. An'
all this is bein' done by the high an' lofty Britishers, who count on
settin' the pace for the whole world!"

Jim Freeman and Dody Wardwell, who could not find perches near the
window that they might look out, now opened the door regardless of
consequences, and stood gazing at as cruel a scene as can well be
imagined.

Women and children, driven back by the red-coats, stood tearfully
watching the destruction of their homes, forced to see every cherished
article destroyed, and, more than that! I saw a soldier tear from the
hands of an old lady a small box which he opened, took some things
therefrom which I judged were pieces of jewelry, and threw the
remainder into the flames.

The smoke-house was as hot a place as I care to remain in very long
at a time, and as well filled with smoke as when put to the use for
which it was originally intended. Even Darius had doubts about the
small buildings escaping the flames, and said to my father:

"Keep watch for the first show of fire, Master Grout, an' we'll see
that you're posted as to what is bein' done outside. If we have to
leave here, it'll be a good idee to draw off toward the rope-walk;
there's no one near by that place, an' we may contrive to steer clear
of the enemy."

Now it was that long tongues of fire curled above the government
building, swaying this way and that in the wind like fiery serpents,
until the inflammable portion of the nation's Capitol was ablaze.

It seemed as if our smoke-house was completely surrounded by burning
buildings. Had the Britishers given any attention to such an
insignificant structure as we were concealed in, Jim and Dody must
have been discovered, for they gave no heed to hiding themselves as
they stood literally transfixed with horror at the terrible scenes.

Not until all the buildings were so enveloped in flames that there
could be no possibility of saving them, did the two officers ride
away, and then it was to go in the direction of their encampment.

I gave no further heed to the barbarians; but watched with a sort of
fascination the destroying element until Darius cried:

"There's more mischief afoot! See, a full regiment are under marchin'
orders!"

"What can they do now?" I asked helplessly. "Everything around here is
in flames; the entire city is ruined!"

"There's the President's house, an' a good many fine dwellin's at the
other end of the town," the old sailor replied. "Unless I'm way out of
my reckonin', you'll see more fire before there's less."

The barns of the tavern were now burning; but the wind drew in with
greater force, a draft having been formed by the flames, I suppose,
and while our refuge was as hot as it well could be, the more intense
heat was carried in the opposite direction.

"I reckon this 'ere smoke-house will stand while many a better
buildin' goes down," Darius announced. "We're gettin' the biggest part
of the heat from the stables now, an' I don't see any signs of fire on
these logs. You lads stay here with our invalid, an' I'll sneak 'round
outside a bit. There may be a chance to get somethin' in the way of
rations if the men break into more shops, as is likely."

Then the old man slipped down from his uncomfortable perch, stopped at
the door to warn Jim and Dody that they must not stray far away, and
disappeared behind the ruins of the tavern.

It gave me a certain sensation of loneliness to have Darius go at that
time. Although it was late in the day to make such a discovery, I had
come to understand of how much assistance he was to us lads, and how
helpless we would be without him; but, as a matter of course, I could
not presume to dictate as to his movements.

The one singular thing to me in this wanton work of destruction, was
the fact that not all the buildings in this portion of the city had
been given over to the flames. It seemed as if the British commander
had singled out certain dwellings to be burned, while the others were
unmolested, save in two cases where I saw soldiers bringing out
plunder which was valueless to them, and had been taken only in a
spirit of cruelty.

Perhaps an hour was spent by the enemy in our immediate vicinity, and
then that quarter of the city was deserted by all save the homeless
ones, or those who mourned over the loss of property.

The conflagration was still sufficient to light up the streets and
fields near by, therefore we could not venture out save at the risk of
being seen; but I question if any especial attention would have been
given us, except in the case of my father, had we gone boldly forth.

Had he not been with us I should have proposed that the moment was
come when we might be able to slip down the river unobserved, for who
would give heed to a party of lads when the capital city of the United
States was in flames? With my father, however, we were forced to
remain in hiding, for his wound was sufficient evidence that he had
taken part in the battle of Bladensburg, and this would insure his
being seized as a prisoner of war.

Jim and Dody, however, went across to where two shops were in flames,
and returned a few moments later with a piece of bacon which had been
trampled upon in the street, a bag of dirty flour, and, what was
better than all, three loaves of bread, the whole of which had been
thrown aside by the Britishers when they plundered the buildings.

It was quite a store for our empty larder, unsavory though the bread
and flour looked; but hungry lads, and particularly those who are
fugitives, cannot afford to be squeamish in regard to their food.

In less than half an hour after the regiment marched from the
encampment toward the upper end of the city, we saw the flames rising
in great volume, telling that there was no idea in the minds of the
victors to spare anything which could readily be destroyed.

As a matter of course, we did not then know what was being done; but
later we learned that the President's mansion, the Treasury buildings,
the Arsenal, and the barracks, where three thousand troops could be
quartered, were all laid in ashes under the orders of General Ross and
Admiral Cockburn.

Before midnight the conflagration in the portion of the city where we
had sought refuge, had so far subsided, because there was nothing left
for the flames to feed upon, that only glowing embers, and the
blackened walls of the Capitol could be seen; but the night was turned
into day because of the fires at the other end of the town.

We lads were weary with watching the wicked work; Jim and Dody had
toasted a large piece of bacon over the embers of the tavern; we had
partaken of a second meal rather because the food was at hand than
owing to hunger, and now all hands felt the need of sleep, even though
we were literally surrounded by enemies.

But Darius had not returned, and we could not give ourselves up to
slumber while he remained absent.

At first I fancied that he was watching the work of the Britishers;
but when my father began to show signs of alarm because the old sailor
did not return, my anxiety was great.

If any of the red-coats came upon him, they would suspect that he had
been among that company of seamen and marines who had inflicted so
much injury upon them during the day just passed, and it was not
difficult to understand that he would speedily be made a prisoner.



CHAPTER XVII.

MISSING.


I am minded to set down here what I afterward saw printed, concerning
the doings in other portions of Washington, the particulars of which
we were ignorant at the time.

"While the public buildings in Washington were in flames, the national
shipping, stores, and other property were blazing at the navy yard;
also the great bridge over the Potomac, from Washington city to the
Virginia shore.

"Commodore Thomas Tingey was in command of the navy yard, and, before
the battle, had received orders to set fire to the public property
there in event of the British gaining a victory, so as to prevent its
falling into the hands of the invaders. Tingey delayed the execution
of the order for four hours after the contingency had occurred.

"When, at half-past eight in the evening, he was informed that the
enemy was encamped within the city limits, near the Capitol, he
applied the torch, and property valued at about a million of dollars
was destroyed.

"The schooner Lynx was saved, and most of the metallic work at the
navy yard remained but little injured. The fine naval monument was
somewhat mutilated, but whether accidentally at the time of the
conflagration, or wantonly by the British, who went there the next day
to complete the destructive work, is an unsettled question.

"At the same time, the Long bridge over the Potomac was fired at both
ends. The Americans on the Virginia side thought a large body of
British troops were about to pass over, and fired that end to foil
them, while the British on the city side, perceiving, as they thought,
a large body of Americans about to cross over from the Virginia side,
fired the Maryland end of the bridge. The value of the entire amount
of property destroyed at Washington by the British and Americans was
estimated at about two million dollars."

While we awaited the coming of Darius Thorpe, and believing that the
city of Washington would be totally destroyed before the Britishers
had gratified their desire for vengeance, Jerry started a subject
which caused me to be more uncomfortable in mind than I had been
concerning the absence of the old sailor.

"The enemy are bent on burnin' all the government buildin's in the
city, even if they do no more, an' what about the jails?"

I was at a loss to fully understand the question; but my father
replied:

"They won't go so far as to burn the prisoners, lad. All that crowd of
evil-doers will be set at liberty, and I reckon they'll be the only
Americans who can rejoice because of the English victory at
Bladensburg.

"Then in that case," Jerry said grimly, "we can set it down as a fact
that Elias Macomber is paradin' the streets with his good friends the
British, boastin' of his suffering at the hand of the Americans."

I started up in very unpleasant surprise. Until this moment I had
given no heed to the cur whom we had captured twice, since we left the
burning fleet at Pig Point; but now I realized that my partner was
right. There could be no question but that Elias Macomber was a free
man once more, and all our efforts to bring him to justice had only
resulted in giving him an opportunity to pose as a martyr!

"Well, he's got a chance to pay off old scores now, if he only knew
it," Jim Freeman suggested. "How happy the villain would be if he knew
where he could find us in hidin'!"

"Don't talk about him," I said petulantly. "It makes me heartsick to
think that after all our work he is in fine feather, strutting around
the city as one of the best friends the British had in this section.
Speak of something else. What of Bill Jepson? Does any one know if he
came out of the battle alive?"

"I saw him not more than five minutes before the order was given to
retreat," my father said. "He had been sent back to the wagons for
ammunition, and appeared to be having a royal time."

"We'll hope he got away at the last, for if he's taken they'll hang
him as a deserter," I said, and then, finding it impossible to prevent
my thoughts from straying to our missing comrade, I added, "Darius
wouldn't have stayed away so long unless something serious had
happened. We ought to go in search of him."

"Where would you look first?" Jerry asked. "If the Britishers got
their hands on him we stand little chance of seein' the poor fellow,
for they'll keep him a close prisoner."

"It doesn't seem possible that we can accomplish very much," I said
with a long drawn sigh; "but we must do as he would if one of us was
missing."

"And what would that be?" my father asked.

"I wish I knew, sir. He surely would search for us, as we must for
him; but I am all at sea as to how the work should be begun."

Every member of the party was eager to be doing something, but so far
as having any plan in mind, they were all like me, and we sat there
staring at each other like a lot of frightened rabbits until I could
remain idle no longer.

"I'm going out somewhere!" I cried. "Almost anything is better than
sitting here in suspense, when it may be that he has simply fallen
into difficulties from which we might extricate him."

"But what of the British?" my father asked, and I replied recklessly:

"We must take our chances as to them, sir. It does not seem probable
that two or three lads would be looked upon by them with suspicion,
for there must be many wandering around the city this night."

"Who will go with you?"

"That's for me to do," Jerry said promptly. "The other fellows will
stay here with you, sir, and the door must not be opened without good
reason. Keep under cover while we are gone," he added to Jim, "an'
don't let one of the boys so much as stick his nose outside. Come on,
Amos, the longer we stand here talkin' about it the greater will the
danger appear."

Then he stepped outside quickly, and I followed his example, closing
the door behind me lest father should attempt to say something in the
nature of a farewell, which I knew would unnerve me, because I
believed it was exceedingly dangerous for any of our party to move
around the city.

When we were alone in the night, where the shadows were distorted by
the dancing glow of the live embers on every hand, Jerry said grimly:

"It was foolish to make any talk about what we would do toward findin'
Darius, while we were in the smoke-house, because we might have argued
till mornin' without comin' to any conclusion; but now that we've
started out I'd like to know how we're goin' to work?"

I could make no satisfactory reply to this question, and plainly told
him so. We had nothing to guide us on the search. The old man had
given us no idea of where he might go, and all we knew was that he
disappeared beyond the burning tavern.

"He wouldn't have followed the Britishers," I said after a long pause,
"therefore it seems foolish to look for him at the other end of the
city. If we only knew what he went after!"

"I reckon the first thing in his mind was to get food, and he might
have thought that could be done where the shops were bein' robbed."

"And then would come to his mind the question as to how we might get
down the river while father is unable to walk," I added, believing
that by thus trying to make out what Darius was most likely to do we
could hit upon a plan for the search.

"The only way we'd be able to leave this city by water, if we wanted
to get home, would be on the Potomac river, an' he'd need a stout
canoe for such a voyage."

We were not coming to any understanding by this line of thought,
therefore I harked back to the belief that he might have followed the
Britishers to the upper end of the city, and proposed, knowing of no
better course, to walk in that direction.

The day was beginning to dawn. No soldiers were to be seen on the
streets, and I began to believe that the invaders, wearied with their
work of destruction, had returned to the encampment near the
burying-ground.

We came upon the ruins of the President's mansion; the fire had eaten
out the interior of the building, but the walls were yet standing, and
near about, apparently having neither purpose nor business there, were
an hundred people or more, all gazing at the evidences of the most
approved method of making war by the British standard.

We mingled with these idlers to make certain Darius was not among
them, and then went toward the other ruins on a like errand, but with
no success.

It was sunrise, perhaps a little later, when we stood near the ruins
of the barracks, where a number of negroes were digging amid the
glowing embers with the hope of finding weapons which might be
restored to a condition of usefulness after being subjected to such
great heat.

One of these searchers for useless treasure straightened up as we
approached, and I saw that he was an old man, who looked as if he
might have been a gentleman's servant.

"Do you live here in Washington, uncle?" I asked, and the old darkey
replied:

"I'se ain't noways conditioned fur to answer dat question, sah, kase I
dunno whar massa am ter be foun' dese yere queer days wha' we'se
habin'."

"Who is your master?"

"Massa Clayton, sah. He's foolin' 'roun' wid some ob dem militious
men; but I ain't foun' out wedder he whipped de Britishers, or ef dey
done gone got de bes' ob him."

"I reckon you can say that he has got the worst of it up to the
present time, for your 'militious' men didn't make any great showing,"
I said with a laugh, and then there came into my mind the memory of
Elias Macomber. "Tell me, uncle, where did the American soldiers keep
their prisoners?"

"Right hyar, sah; I'se done seed de barracks jail many a time."

"Were you around here when the building was fired?"

"Yes sah, I stood right hyar when de ossifers rode up."

"Did they set the prisoners free?"

"Sure enuf, honey, more'n twenty ob dem, an' I'se tellin' you dat dem
white men was mighty glad fo' to get clear so easy like."

"Come on, Amos," Jerry said impatiently. "You can do no good talkin'
with the old darkey, for he doesn't know anything concerning our
business."

I recognized that fact fully, and yet I lingered to ask one more
question, never fancying of how much importance the answer might be to
us.

"Where do the British keep their prisoners? Surely they must have
brought in some since the battle, and these barracks would have been a
prime place for anything of the kind."

"Dey is pilin' de 'Mericans inter dat stone house back ob whar de
arsenal uster was 'fore it got set on fire las' night."

"Where is that, uncle?" Jerry cried excitedly, and the old darkey
replied as he pointed out the direction:

"Ober yander, sah, des whar you'se kin see de red roof."

Now it was that I understood what was in Jerry's mind, and only with
difficulty could I restrain myself from running forward at full speed.

If Darius had been captured, then it was in the "stone house" he must
be confined, and I believed our search would be at an end if we could
look into every portion of that building.

There were many loungers near about, and no one might say how many
were British spies or sympathizers, therefore we remained looking at
the men who were digging amid the ruins until feeling certain our
departure would not attract undue attention.

There were many lads of about our age idling on the streets, watching
simply from curiosity the movements of the enemy, and I said to myself
that if we were careful to do nothing which might cause suspicion, we
could walk wheresoever we pleased without fear of being taken for lads
who, under Commodore Barney, had given the invaders such good battle
for the possession of the hill at Bladensburg.

"Now we know where Darius is!" Jerry exclaimed when we were where
there was little danger our words would be overheard.

"How can you be so certain of that? He might have come to grief in
many another way than that of being gobbled up by the enemy."

"In any other case I'll warrant he'd have contrived to send some word
to us. I'm convinced he's in the 'stone house.'"

"In which event I'm afraid we can't be of much assistance to the poor
fellow. The Britishers will take good care that their prisoners don't
escape."

"I'm not so certain about that," Jerry replied stoutly. "In case we
have time enough, it should be possible to do somethin'. If we could
let him know that we're near at hand I'll go bail he'd cook up some
kind of a plan."

While thus talking we had been walking at a reasonably rapid pace
toward the ruins of the arsenal, and were now arrived so near that it
was possible to see the red-coated sentries pacing to and fro in front
of the building. At one side a number of soldiers were bivouacked,
probably that they might be on hand in case the prisoners attempted to
rise against the keepers, and here, there, everywhere were curious
ones--perhaps some interested as were we--gazing at the small building
where were so many brave fellows, most likely penned up like cattle.

"The greater number of those idlers must be townspeople, and since
they are allowed to loiter around the buildin' there's no good reason
why we shouldn't do the same," Jerry said as I came to a halt, and he
had hardly more than spoken before he stepped back very suddenly,
pulling me with him.

"What's the matter?" I asked in alarm, for at such a time one's fears
rise rapidly.

"Look at that fellow who is standin' on his tiptoes to look in at the
window!" my partner whispered, and obeying, I saw that miserable cur
whom we had twice captured, and who had contrived to escape us the
same number of times.

"Elias Macomber!" I cried involuntarily.

"Ay," Jerry replied, "an' now I can read you the whole riddle. Darius
came around this way when the prisoners were set free; Macomber saw
him, and gave information to the enemy, thus causin' the old man's
arrest. Now the villain is tryin' to get a glimpse of the sailor in
order to crow over him!"

I had no doubt but that the lad had come very near the truth in his
guessing; but I did not speculate upon it very long, for the question
in my mind was whether we could be of any service to the old man who
had served us so truly and faithfully.

"What's to be done?" Jerry asked as we stepped behind a clump of
bushes in a nearby garden where we might not be seen by the fellow who
would have rejoiced if he could have put us in the same place with
Darius.

At the moment Jerry spoke I had never an idea as to what might be
done; but I replied as if the plan was plainly mapped out in my mind:

"You shall go back to the smoke-house and tell father and the lads
what we have learned. Say that we may not be back until dark; but they
are to stay under cover no matter what happens, short of being
discovered by the British. I'll watch here till Macomber goes away,
for he isn't likely to play at that game all day, and you should be
back within an hour."

Jerry started off without stopping to argue the question, and I was
left alone to keep in view the man who could do us so much mischief if
he had an inkling that we were in the vicinity.

Twice he spoke with the sentinel, as if asking some favor, and each
time the man shook his head decidedly, therefore I concluded that the
cur had tried to enter the building that he might jeer such of the
prisoners as had been friends of his in the past.

Then he peered in at the window again, never making an effort to look
through any other, and I concluded that from such position he could
see the prisoner he had most reason to hate, which, of course, must be
Darius.

I did not dare remain in one position all the while, lest some one see
that I was spying upon the prison and grow suspicious as to my
motives, while Macomber was so intent upon gazing at his enemies that
I might have brushed past him without attracting attention.

Therefore it was that I paced to and fro, never taking my eyes from
the cur, however, and making certain there was a place of concealment
near at hand into which I could dart at a moment's warning.

Not until fully half an hour had passed did he abandon his fruitless
efforts, and then he walked in the direction of the British encampment
as if with some fixed purpose in his mind, which, I had no doubt, was
to ask for a permit to visit the prisoners.

Had he gone toward any other quarter of the city it would have pleased
me to see him go; but now I was sorely distressed in mind, for his
way led the same course Jerry must pursue when returning from the
smoke-house, and it would be the irony of fate if the two should come
face to face.

However, that was an evil which I could not mend, and, therefore, I
put the matter from my mind so far as possible, while I set about
doing the only thing which seemed to promise a chance to have speech
with our comrade.

I proposed to take Macomber's place at the window, and if it was
possible to see Darius inside, there was no question in my mind but
that I could contrive to attract his attention.

There was no little danger in making the attempt, because I might thus
arouse suspicion in the mind of the sentry, or be seen by an officer
who would insist on knowing why I was there; but it was the only way
by which I could have speech with Darius, if indeed he was a prisoner,
and I determined to take the chances.

I lounged across the street as if having no particular purpose in
view; walked past the end of the building twice, peering about me like
a simple, and then stepped up to the window.

One glance inside and I saw the man for whom I had been searching. He
was lying at full length on the floor, chewing tobacco most
industriously, and seated tailor-fashion beside him was Bill Jepson.

There were very many militiamen in the room; but these two old
shell-backs seemed to hold themselves aloof from the others, and I
could well understand that this exclusiveness was because of the
cowardice shown by many of the toy soldiers the day previous.

Neither Darius nor Bill seemed to be paying any attention to what was
going on around them, and I began to realize that it might not be as
simple a matter to attract their attention as I had supposed.

I did not dare do anything which would cause the sentry to be curious,
or be noticed particularly by those who were passing in either
direction, therefore the most I ventured was to drum idly on the glass
with the tips of my fingers, which was not a difficult task since the
iron bars were so far apart that I could thrust my entire arm between
them and the window-sash.

Darius was not as heedless to the surroundings as he appeared. No
sooner had I begun to tap ever so gently than he looked up, and after
one quick, meaning glance, rose leisurely to his feet, speaking softly
meanwhile to Bill.

The latter never so much as looked toward me; but the two moved here
or there as if weary with remaining long in one position, and all the
while they were approaching the window.

Then Darius leaned against the sash, with Bill facing the middle of
the room, as he talked with many gesticulations to his companion.

I noticed that the old man bent over as if weary, until his face was
very near the glass, and while Bill waved his arms as if in the midst
of a heated argument, I saw Darius' lips move.

"On the roof--to-night--bring rope--ten o'clock."

No less than three times were these words repeated, I reading them
from the motion of his lips, for as a matter of course he did not dare
to speak so loud that I could hear him.

Then I went through the same motions with _my_ lips, in order to make
certain there could be no mistake, and Darius nodded his head in token
that I had the words correctly.

Now it was my business to get away from the prison as soon as
possible, for Elias Macomber might return at any moment, and I backed
into the street while gazing at the top of the building, looking, most
likely, the greenest lad that ever visited a city.

While thus acting the simple I was making ready for whatsoever plan
Darius wanted to carry into effect, for I studied the outside of the
jail until I could tell within a foot of how much rope would be
needed.

The "stone house" was three stories in height, with an ordinary
pitched roof from which projected four chimneys--two at each end. From
the eaves to the ground I judged it was not less than thirty feet, and
from the eaves to the nearest chimney, measuring at whichsoever
corner you chose, was ten feet. To that length add three feet for a
turn around the chimney and two half-hitches, and one had the length
of rope Darius wanted--say forty-three or four feet.

I noticed that on the side of the roof nearest the street was a
trap-door or scuttle very nearly in the middle, well up toward the
ridge-pole, and it must be that our comrades would come through that,
since I saw no other way by which they could get outside.

Without doubt those two old shell-backs had made a careful survey of
the place within ten minutes after being imprisoned, and had a plan
for escape mapped out ready to be carried into execution, providing
any aid could be had from the outside.

By the time I had backed entirely across the street I had a picture of
the jail in my mind which could be recalled at any moment, and as I
turned to saunter away I came face to face with Jerry.

"Have you been over there?" he asked, motioning toward the "stone
house."

"Yes, and have the same as talked with Darius and Bill Jepson. Let us
get out of sight where we shan't be watched. I was afraid you would
run into Macomber; he started off some time ago, and I got it into my
head that he was going to the British encampment."

"I reckon that's where he was bound for. I kept my eyes open mighty
wide both goin' an' comin', therefore saw the cur while he was a long
distance away, otherwise we might have run into each other as you an'
I did."

"All right at the smoke-house?"

"Snug as bugs, an' your father is as chipper as a sparrow."

Then I led the way up what appeared to be a lane in the rear of some
dwelling, until we were where we could talk without danger of being
seen or heard.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE ESCAPE.


Jerry was thoroughly astonished, after I had told my story, because we
had had such plain sailing when there was nothing to start us on a
course for the missing comrade. We had gone out blindly, and by sheer
accident ran upon our man without trouble or delay.

"It heartens a fellow to have things happen this way," my partner said
in a tone of satisfaction. "There's no question but that we're in a
bad box, take it all around, for after the British get settled down in
the city they will most likely look about for such as us, therefore
our work must be done quickly, an' by your hittin' the nail square on
the head it looks as if we might pull through all right."

The future did not look so promising to me. Darius and Bill
undoubtedly knew that they could gain the roof of the "stone house"
during the night; but even then they were far from being free, and I
questioned if it would be possible for us to loiter around the
building after sunset without attracting the attention of the
sentries.

However, it was not for me to throw cold water, because a fellow needs
all his courage when he would do that which lay before us, and it was
well Jerry should feel confident as to the result.

Therefore it was that instead of discussing how we could set about
rendering the necessary aid, I began by questioning as to how the rope
might be procured, and, as a matter of fact, it was by no means a
simple matter to get one of the desired length.

"We've got to buy it, of course," Jerry said quickly, and as if it was
possible for us to make such purchases at any time.

"In the first place we haven't money enough," I suggested, "and
secondly, how many shops will you find open in this city?"

These questions were sufficient to let Jerry understand that it was
not all plain sailing before us, and after some reflection he said:

"Suppose we go back to the smoke-house? There we can talk it over with
the others, an' at the same time get something by way of breakfast."

There was plenty of time at our disposal, since Darius had set ten
o'clock that night as the hour when we could aid him, and I welcomed
my partner's proposition; but instead of going directly to the place
of refuge, I insisted on making a long detour to lessen the chances of
running across Elias Macomber.

That the cur had gone to the encampment hoping to get a permit to see
the prisoners, in order to gloat over their misfortune, I had no
doubt, and if he was successful I felt equally certain he would go to
the jail by the shortest route. In event of failure, however, and I
was positive he would fail, the villain might wander anywhere while
working off his disappointment, therefore it stood us in hand to be
exceeding cautious.

As it proved, however, we had seen the last of that miserable
British-lover, and after Jerry saw him on the street, he passed out of
our lives for many months.

I believed of a verity that we walked at least three miles, cutting
across lots here, or traveling many rods out of our course there,
until it seemed as if we had traversed every lane and obscure passage
to be found in the city. But we arrived safely at last, which repaid
us for all the extra work; we had seen no one who gave any heed to us,
and when we sneaked into the smoke-house from behind the ruins of the
tavern, I felt positive no one saw us.

It can well be supposed that our comrades gave us a hearty welcome,
and when I explained how much had been accomplished, they became quite
as certain of ultimate success as Jerry; but the question of
procuring a rope put the matter in a different light.

We counted every penny belonging to the party, and had less than three
shillings, while the length of rope we needed would cost three or four
times as much.

"It's certain we can't buy one, even though all the shop-keepers in
the city stood ready to wait upon us," I said after we had ascertained
the amount of capital on hand. "Now what is to be done?"

No one answered for many minutes, and then Jim Freeman proposed that
if we couldn't get what we needed in any other way, it would be
admissible to steal the rope, in view of the use to which it would be
put.

Dody Wardwell thought we might go to a shopkeeper who dealt in such
goods, and, telling the story, beg what was needed.

It was my father who solved the riddle.

"I don't believe we are warranted in stealing," he said, "no matter
what might be accomplished, neither do I think it safe to confide in
any stranger whom you should meet; but the begging proposition, if
carried out properly, comes nearer filling the bill than anything
else."

"What do you call doin' it properly?" Jerry asked.

"There must be oystermen in port, either here, at Georgetown, or
Alexander, and the chances are you would know some of them. Go round
the water front, and see what can be found. Then try the other towns,
and I'll guarantee you can strike an acquaintance somewhere. After
that everything is simple, for you may borrow a rope without fear that
information will be lodged against you."

"Come on, Amos!" Jerry cried, springing to his feet in excitement.
"Your father has hit upon the very plan, an' we were thick-headed not
to have thought of it at first!"

There was no time to be lost, more particularly in case we should be
forced to visit the two towns mentioned; but I believe that we would
really be forwarding the business if we delayed long enough to get
something to eat, and my comrades were of the same opinion.

Jim had tried his hand at making bread by mixing flour and water
together, and baking the stuff in an old tin pan over the embers of
the tavern ruins. It was possible to eat the mixture, and that was the
best that could be said, therefore we satisfied our hunger with raw
bacon and imitation bread, which did not require very many minutes.

Jim and both the other fellows were eager to go with Jerry and me; but
they would not be able to forward matters, and it seemed like taking
too many risks to make our party so large, therefore we decided that
they must stay in the smoke-house as before, a decision which was not
to their liking, although neither of the lads made any protest.

Then Jerry and I set out, after listening to such advice as my father
had to give, and began the search on the Eastern Branch.

There were but few vessels in port; the greater number of those that
remained when the enemy entered the Potomac had run up the river as
high as possible lest they be destroyed, and we did not find an oyster
pungy until we were well over toward Georgetown.

It was then near noon, and Jerry and I decided that if the captain of
the boat before us looked like an honest seaman, we would take the
chances of telling him so much of our story as might be necessary,
rather than run the risk of not finding another craft of the kind.

There were no sign of life on deck; but as we went over the rail the
companion-way hatch was opened a few inches, and some one cried:

"What's wanted? This vessel is hauled up for repairs, an' there's
nobody here but me--the keeper."

"Will you let us come below for a short time?" I asked, and the hatch
was closed very suddenly as the voice cried emphatically:

"No; my orders are to allow no company here."

"Let me have a try at the old idiot," Jerry said in a low tone as he
went toward the companion-way, and the voice from below replied, thus
showing that he could hear very well even though the hatch was closed:

"The 'old idiot' don't want any truck with boys, so keep off or I'll
make it hot for you!"

"Listen to me, shipmate, and then perhaps you'll sing a different
tune," I said, going close to the companion-way where it might not be
necessary to raise my voice. "We are a couple of oystermen from
Benedict, in trouble, and are looking for some one to lend a hand."

"Tell me your names?"

I gave the desired information, and added:

"We owned the pungy Avenger, which was burned at Pig Point when the
enemy came up the river."

The hatch was opened in a twinkling, and when we descended to the
cuddy I was both surprised and overjoyed by seeing Robert Hanaford, an
oysterman from St. Leonard's bay.

"Shut that hatch," he said nervously, and Jerry did as he was bidden.
"I got caught in the river, like a fool, an' am now expectin' the
bloomin' Britishers will burn the craft when they fall short of like
amusement in the city. Tell me how you happened to be here?"

I told him so much of our story as seemed necessary, and when I was
come to the retreat from Bladensburg, he said grumpily:

"I reckon you two lads an' Darius Thorpe are bigger fools than I am.
It was accident that brought me into this scrape, whereas you got into
a muss with your eyes wide open. Where's Darius?"

"The Britishers are holding him prisoner, and count on sending him
down to the fleet, I suppose."

"He'll rot there, unless he offers to serve the king, in which case,
seein's how the enemy needs good sailors, they'll give him a show that
a dog wouldn't welcome."

"Did you ever run across Bill Jepson from Baltimore?" I asked at
random, not knowing exactly how to lead up to the request for a rope.

"Ay, that I have, lad. Bill an' me run on this same pungy more'n two
years. I've heard it said that one of the king's press gangs gathered
him in."

Then I told the captain how we had helped Bill to desert, and wound up
the story by sayin:

"Bill is a prisoner with Darius, and will be hung when the Britishers
learn who he is. There's a show to help both the sailors out of the
scrape; but we're needing six or eight fathom of good manilla rope,
an' haven't got the money with which to buy it."

"How do you count on usin' it?" and Captain Hanaford leaned forward
in a manner which told that he was thoroughly excited.

Then I told him all we had accomplished that morning, and explained
what Darius proposed we should do, whereupon he cried heartily:

"Take anything I've got, lads, an' if it so be I can lend a hand,
count on me to the finish. I'll risk even the pungy to help a
sailorman out of a hole, an' a good deal more'n that when it comes to
bein' Bill Jepson who's in trouble!"

Now that we were assured of getting what was needed, there was no need
of great haste, and I told the captain the remainder of our story,
even to describing where father and the lads were hiding.

"Whether you get Bill an' Darius out of jail or not, you'll be wantin'
to go down the river, lad, so why don't you bring all hands aboard?
I've known your father this many a day, an' would like to do him a
good turn. We'd be a little crowded, I reckon; but some of you
youngsters can bunk in the hold, an' if the Britishers don't burn the
pungy, she'll be a sight better than a smoke-house."

"What about provisions, captain?" Jerry asked.

"I've got enough an' to spare, unless we're held here a couple of
weeks. I didn't count on doin' any fightin' in this 'ere war; but when
it comes to lendin' shipmates an' neighbors a hand, you'll find that
Bob Hanaford is willin' to go down to his last cent."

I realized what a blessing it would be if we could get father on board
the pungy, where he would have a comfortable bunk to lie in, and such
nursing as Captain Hanaford might give when we lads were absent; but
how to get him down to the boat was a puzzle.

"Supposin' you free Darius an' Bill to-night, what'll you do with
'em?" the owner of the pungy asked, and I replied mournfully:

"We hadn't got as far as that in our plans. Of course they must be
taken out of the city."

"An' the British fleet is loafin' down in the river somewhere 'twixt
here an' the bay," the captain added.

"Ay, but if we can get hold of a boat, it shouldn't be such a hard job
to slip by the vessels on a dark night."

"Would you leave your father behind?"

"Certainly not; he must go with us."

"Then you ought'er have him down here on the river before beginnin'
work. I'll tell you how it might be fixed, lad. Allowin' that there
ain't any more burnin' of houses to-night, I could help him through
the streets, if it so be he can make any fist at walkin'. The other
lads would set out on their own hook, an' it should be we'd come
together on this 'ere craft, unless the Britishers are overhaulin'
everybody that's aboard. I don't know how things may be runnin', for I
haven't been outside this cuddy since the fires began."

I told him that Jerry and I had not been interfered with on the
streets, and I believed he could go where he pleased, provided it was
not too near the encampments.

"Then I'll try it, lads, an' start for your hidin' place within an
hour. Can you give me the bearin's?"

The captain was reasonably familiar with that portion of the city, and
there was no doubt in my mind but that he could find the smoke-house
without any difficulty.

Then we overhauled his spare rope in the hold, selecting a length of
half-inch manilla which had been used no more than enough to make it
pliable, and carried it to the cuddy.

It would not be safe to lug the rope through the streets in the
daytime, lest some over officious person should insist on knowing what
we proposed to do with it. We would be forced to take a long walk in
order to fetch it; but that was of little consequence compared with
the additional security such a plan seemed to afford.

Then we separated, Captain Hanaford agreeing to be at the smoke-house
within an hour, and when Jerry and I went over the side of the pungy
it was with lighter hearts than when we came on board.

It is true that the most dangerous portion of the undertaking was yet
to be performed; but everything had turned so favorably for us since
we set out in search of Darius, that we could not but feel a wonderful
degree of courage regarding the remainder of the task.

Jerry was so well pleased that he would have talked about what we were
to do even on the street; but I insisted that we should hold our peace
until it was impossible any one could overhear us, and in silence we
made our way toward the place of refuge.

It is needless for me to attempt to describe the joy of our comrades
when we told them of the friend we had met, and the plans which had
been laid.

My father showed plainly by his face the relief of mind because of the
possibility that he might have different quarters.

"I haven't grumbled, because I knew you lads had about all you could
stagger under," he said when we told him that Captain Hanaford was
bent on trying to get him aboard the pungy. "I can't stay in this
place very much longer, without taking big chances of going under, for
the wound needs careful attention; but if I can be with Bob Hanaford
everything will come around shipshape, because he knows by experience
what a gunshot hurt is like."

"Do you think it will be possible to keep on your feet for such a long
distance?" I asked anxiously, because until this moment I supposed my
father was getting on as comfortably as a man in his condition could
reasonably expect.

"I'll manage that part of it, lad; the knowledge of what is to be
gained will keep me up."

Well, there is no good reason why I should try to set down all we said
while waiting for the owner of the pungy, and when he finally arrived,
having had little or no difficulty in finding the smoke-house, it was
as if a great and beneficial change was immediately apparent.

The captain's first act was to rebandage my father's wound, Jerry
getting him a supply of fresh water from the well at the ruins of the
tavern, and when that was done he set about making arrangements for
our moving, taking upon himself the entire direction of affairs, much
to my relief.

His first act was to explain to Jim, Dody and Josiah the location of
the pungy, sending them off at once, with explicit directions as to
the streets through which they should pass. The lads were to go into
the cuddy without loitering on deck, and keep the hatch closed and
bolted until his arrival.

Jerry and I were to stay in the smoke-house until it was time to begin
work in behalf of Darius and Bill, while the captain and my father
were to set out as soon as it was sufficiently dark to screen them
from view of the curious ones.

Jim and his friends started without delay, welcoming any change after
being shut in from the open air so long, and when they were gone the
captain announced that he would bring the rope to the jail shortly
before ten o'clock.

"I ain't sayin' but that you two lads could work the thing as well
without me; but I'm achin' to have a hand in settin' them two old
shell-backs free. You'll find that I won't be in the way, even if I
don't do any good."

It was a big relief to know that we were to have his assistance, and I
so gave him to understand.

After father had been made as comfortable as was possible under the
circumstances, we lounged around waiting for the night to come; but
never saying another word concerning what we hoped to do.

I for one was too nervous regarding the possible outcome to care about
holding converse even with friends, for there was in my mind a very
vivid realization of what would be the result in case we failed while
trying to get the sailors from the roof of the "stone house," or if
they were discovered when getting through the scuttle.

It seemed very much like death for all hands concerned if the
slightest slip was made, and when a fellow believes he stands near a
violent end he is not given to speech.

The moments dragged so heavily that it seemed to me the night would
never come. Once during this painful time of waiting Jerry spoke of
the possibility that Jim and his friends might lose their way, or be
taken in charge as suspicious persons; but I could not arouse myself
to feel any anxiety concerning them. My thoughts were with those two
old sailors in jail, and the part which the British sentries might
play while we were trying to effect their release.

Finally, after it was as if we had spent a full day in the
smoke-house, the sun went down, and it was yet quite light when
Captain Hanaford announced that he and my father might safely make the
start.

"We've got to steer a roundabout course," he said, "an' I reckon it'll
be plain sailin' from now till dark. Stay where you are, lads, an'
don't so much as poke your nose out till half-after-nine."

"How shall we be able to tell the time?" I asked, rather for the sake
of saying something, than because I wanted information.

"You will hear the sentinels at the encampment often enough to give
you a fair idee. Get there as near as possible to the hour set, an'
you'll find me close at hand."

Then he went out, my father leaning heavily on his arm, and Jerry and
I faced each other in the gloom, heeding not the fact that we had had
nothing to eat during nearly eight and forty hours, save the chips of
ham and the unsavory mess prepared by Jim; thinking only of what we
were to do, and the many chances against success.

It was Jerry who broke a long silence by saying with an attempt at
cheerfulness:

"I don't know of any reason why we should moon 'round here like a
couple of chumps. It won't help matters any, an' surely it don't
improve my courage."

Then I forced myself to take part in conversation, speaking of this or
that trouble or adventure in the past; but never once of what might be
before us in the future, and thus the time passed until we believed we
were warranted in setting forth.

With all due regard to prudence, we went by the most direct course to
the "stone house," never seeing a Britisher on our way, and it must
have been at least a quarter-hour before the time set, when we were
come to where it was possible to have a good view of the roof of the
jail.

The night was dark, with heavy, ominous looking clouds hanging low in
the sky; but yet we could have distinguished the form of a man on the
top of the building.

We were half hidden by the clump of bushes in the garden of the
dwelling where I had been screened from view of Elias Macomber, when
we saw a man approaching leisurely, and looking from side to side in
search of some one.

I recognized Captain Hanaford, and stepped out to meet him, asking how
he and father had managed to get along.

"He pulled through all right, lad, an' was lyin' in my bunk happy as a
cricket when I left."

"But you've forgotten the rope!" I exclaimed, and the captain opened
his coat to show me the line wound around his waist in such a fashion
that one might have come close upon him without suspecting that he
carried anything.

He stepped behind the bush to unwind it, and while he was thus engaged
I distinctly saw the form of a man emerge from the scuttle-hatch on
the roof of the jail.

"They're coming out!" I whispered excitedly, and then glanced
hurriedly around to learn where the sentries were stationed.

To my surprise I could not see a single person, save the soldier who
appeared at the corner once in every two or three minutes as he paced
his beat at the end of the building. It seemed extraordinary that
there should be no others in sight; but such was the fact, and surely
we had no reason to complain because the enemy was careless.

A few hours later I understood the reason for this seeming neglect of
the prisoners.

My comrades were ready for the work on hand immediately I gave the
alarm, and swiftly the three of us crossed over, I wondering if it
would be possible for us to throw the rope to the roof where the
sailors could catch it.

[Illustration: As soon as the line was made fast a man slipped down
quickly followed by another.]

As we neared the building I saw that Darius had already made
arrangements for getting one end of the rope into his possession.

A bit of cloth was swinging to and fro at the corner of the jail when
I arrived, and taking hold of it curiously, I saw that it was made
fast to a string formed of two or three strands of yarn.

The old sailor had unraveled their socks in order to procure that
which would enable them to haul up the rope.

There was no need of word or signal. Captain Hanaford made fast one
end of the half-inch manilla, gave the yarn-twine a jerk in token that
all was ready, and then we payed out on the rope to make certain it
went up without kinks.

In less than three minutes a man slipped down the line at a rate of
speed that must have heated his hands in great shape, and he was
hardly more than on the ground before the second prisoner followed.

We had effected the escape, and it now remained to get under cover in
the shortest possible space of time.

"It won't do to run; but you can keep close at my heels," the captain
said as he set off at a walk which fully equaled running, and we
followed very closely, I literally holding my breath as I tried to
realize that the task which had seemed so formidable a few moments
previous, had been accomplished with the greatest ease.



CHAPTER XIX.

THE UNEXPECTED.


There is little need for me to set it down that we neither slackened
pace nor halted until we were in the cuddy of the pungy.

Not a member of our party spoke until we descended the companion-way
stairs, and faced the lads and my father, who had lighted a candle as
a sort of welcome, and then Darius exclaimed:

"Well I'm blowed if you don't look kind'er cozy here! Who'd think this
crowd had been hob-nobbin' with the Britishers for the last two or
three days? Bob Hanaford, where did the lads run afoul of you, an' why
didn't you get your pungy down river before the enemy's fleet came
up?"

There was a deal of handshaking and congratulations before we settled
down to anything like rational talk, and then Jerry and I told how we
found the captain, and what had happened since Darius left the
smoke-house.

Then it was the old man's turn to give an account of his
misadventures, and this he did after refreshing himself with an
enormous piece of tobacco.

"I went out, leavin' you people in hidin', with the idee that if many
shops were to be robbed by the soldiers I might get somethin' to eat
out'er the general wreck. First off nothin' came my way, an' then I
ran square across a basket of ship's bread. Thinks I, this is good
enough for one trip, an' I gathered the stuff under my arm, puttin'
for the smoke-house under full sail without bein' noticed by the
red-coats, who were havin' too lively a time to give me much
attention. As luck would have it, the thought never came into my mind
that I had need to look for anybody but Britishers, an' before I was
halfway to port I struck up agin that sneak, Elias Macomber.

"Then it was I understood that the red-coats wasn't the only snags in
the road, an' I gave him one clip on the jaw that I counted would
knock him down an' out; but my calkerlations was wrong. Instead of
topplin' over as a decent man would have done after gettin' the full
weight of my fist, he began to screech an' yell fit to raise the dead.
My legs moved mighty lively jest then, for a blind man could have seen
what might happen; but the Britishers had me foul before I'd more'n
got well started. No less than six grappled me, an' I hauled down my
flag, 'cause there wasn't any sense in makin' a bad matter worse.

"Them soldiers must have had orders in advance to lug any prisoners
they might take, to the shanty back of the arsenal, for they steered a
straight course for the place without stoppin' to ask any man's
advice, an' what chafed me more'n everythin' else was that rat of a
Macomber, close at my heels, as he told what he would do now that his
friends had taken possession of the country. I contrived to give him
one kick on the shins which I'll guarantee he remembers this minute,
an' then he kept well back in the rear. That's the end of the yarn,
lads."

"But where did you meet Bill?" I asked.

"In the jail. He was brought up with a sharp turn durin' the retreat,
bein' so stuffy that he kept well in the rear, instead of pushin'
ahead as he might have done."

"Did Macomber succeed in getting into the prison?"

"He wasn't inside, an' that's a fact; but he stood at the window, an'
kept shoutin' all kinds of threats till one of the sentries drove him
away, havin' had too much of his yip."

"You saw me quickly enough."

"Well, you see, lad, I had my eye on the window, countin' to throw my
shoe through the glass when he showed his ugly face again, hopin' that
he'd get cut a bit, an', besides, I somehow had it in my head that you
an' Jerry would flash up sooner or later."

"But how did you contrive to come at the scuttle?" Captain Hanaford
asked.

"That was plain sailin'. Bill was one of the first put into the place,
an' knowin' he'd take a trip to the yard-arm when the Britishers found
out who he was, he naturally took advantage of the chance to snoop
'round a bit. We had the run of the whole buildin', seein's there
wasn't many of us, an' when he went in the prisoners didn't number
more'n twenty. He found a key in the door that led up to the attic,
which seemed to be a sort of store-room, an', thinkin' it might come
in handy if the others didn't know the lay of the land, he locked the
bloomin' place, havin' done so without bein' seen. When I came he
didn't know anythin' about the scuttle; but we figgered that if there
wasn't one, we could get up stairs an' pull bricks enough out of the
chimney to give us a hole. There wasn't any need of doin' that,
however, 'cause we found the hatch bolted on the inside, an' the rest
was easy. The only thing about the whole business which bothers me is,
why the Britishers didn't have a good look around before turnin' the
buildin' into a jail."

"The drubbin' they got at Bladensburg, even though they did win the
battle, confused them," my father said with a chuckle of satisfaction.

"It strikes me that we'd better get the pungy under way mighty soon,"
Captain Hanaford interrupted. "It can't be a great while before some
of the crowd sees the rope we left danglin' from the chimney, an' then
you may set it down as a fact that this city will be searched in a way
that won't be comfortable for us."

"But where'll you go, Bob?" Bill Jepson asked. "The British fleet is
in the river, an' to sail up stream strikes me as bein' dangerous, for
they can send light boats after us, an' this draft won't make much
fist of runnin' away from them in such a breeze as you've got now."

"I had an idee the wind was gettin' up," the oysterman said as he
opened the hatch a few inches, and at that instant a gust swept into
the cuddy bringing with it a full pail of water.

"A good, nice little thunder squall," the captain said in a tone of
content, "an' if it comes from the right quarter, we're in luck."

Darius was on deck in a twinkling, and I followed him, hoping that we
might be able to leave our mooring, for at such a time it would not be
a very difficult matter to get so far up stream as to baffle pursuit.

At the moment, however, it seemed as if our good fortune had deserted
us. The wind was drawing down the river with a force that shut off all
hope of sending the pungy against it, and the rain came in such
torrents that the deck was awash in short order.

"It's a case of stayin' where we are, or takin' the chances of runnin'
down river when you couldn't see a nigger under your nose," Darius
said as he and I re-entered the cabin wet to the skin, although we had
not been exposed to the fury of the tempest above two minutes. "I'm
willin' to run a good many risks; but puttin' this pungy under sail,
with half a dozen frigates somewhere on the course, is a little too
steep for me."

Captain Hanaford was exceeding anxious to be under way; but he
understood that nothing could be done while the storm raged with such
fury, and we sat in the darkness, discussing what might be done when
the morning came.

It was finally decided that we would take all the risk of going down
stream as soon as the tempest abated, for there were many creeks along
the shore where we might run under cover to avoid the fleet, or, if
the worst came, we could go on shore, abandoning the pungy.

In order that Captain Hanaford might be willing to take the chances of
losing his vessel, I showed him the guarantee we had received from
Commodore Barney, and promised that when we got the money from the
government he should share equally with us.

"I'm ready to do whatsoever is agreed upon without askin' you lads to
pay for my pungy in case I lose her," he said stoutly. "There ain't
any certainty I'd been able to keep her if you hadn't come aboard, for
if the Britishers will burn nigh on to a whole city, they won't stop
at a few oyster-boats, if there's any fun to be had in settin' 'em
afire. I don't jest hanker, though, to fool around with a lot of
frigates, an' that's a fact."

"We won't fool with 'em," Darius said decidedly. "It stands to reason
they must be below Fort Washington, else we'd heard the firin' when
they tried to come past. Now 'twixt here an' there we should find a
creek where a pungy like this could be hidden."

"I know of a place about eight miles from here," the captain said
thoughtfully, and Bill Jepson cried cheerfully:

"Then that settles the whole business. We'll get under way when this
'ere squall is over, and before daylight be where we can keep out of
sight till the fleet comes up. Once they're this side of us we shall
be in clear water."

But Bill was not calculating on the force of the "squall." I have seen
a good many summer storms; but never one to equal that on the night of
August twenty-fifth, in the year of grace 1814.

We could hear now and then ashore, even amid the howling of the wind
and the crashing thunder the rending of wood as houses were unroofed,
and from the terrible uproar which came later we believed the trees
growing near where we lay were being torn up by the roots, as was
really found to be the case when morning dawned.

The pungy rocked to and fro as if in the open bay, straining at her
hawsers until it became necessary to pass extra ones, otherwise she
would have been swept from her moorings.

Those of us who went on deck to do this work were wetted in an instant
as if we had jumped overboard, and at times it became necessary to
hold fast by the rail, otherwise we would have been literally blown
into the river.

There was no possibility of getting under way that night, and all
hands kept watch in the cuddy until day broke, when, and not until
then, did the storm abate.

The wind had aided the Britishers in working havoc. From the deck of
the pungy I saw no less than four houses, the roofs of which had been
torn off, and one negro shanty was in ruins. As far as we could see
the trees were uprooted, and the river ran so full of wreckage that I
wondered we had not been swamped off hand.

"We'll stay here a few hours longer, I reckon," Darius said to me as
he pointed toward the fragments of buildings and trees with which the
river seemed literally to be choked. "If this pungy struck fair on
somethin' like that yonder, she'd founder for a fact."

The veriest landsman who ever lived would have understood that it was
folly to think of getting under way just then, and my heart grew heavy
as lead in my breast, for I firmly believed that before another hour
had passed the enemy would be out searching for the prisoners who had
escaped, in which case all hands of us stood a good chance of seeing
the interior of that "stone house."

As we stood on deck, regardless of the possibility that some of the
enemy might come that way, a man ran down the street toward the
water's edge, waving his arms about and otherwise acting as if nearly
beside himself with joy or grief.

"What is the matter, friend?" Captain Hanaford cried at the full
strength of his lungs, and the man made quite a lengthy reply; but all
we could hear of it was this one exclamation:

"The British!"

"Are they comin' this way?" the captain demanded, screaming until his
face was crimson, and Bill Jepson suddenly dropped out of sight
through the companion-way.

"They've gone!" the man replied, and we could now hear his words more
distinctly because he was coming nearer each instant.

"Gone where?" Captain Hanaford cried impatiently. "Can't you tell us
what has happened?"

"The British have cleared out bag an' baggage--went durin' the storm!"

"What?" Darius screamed, and we looked at each other incredulously,
for surely it could not be possible that the enemy had evacuated the
city so soon.

"Come on board an' tell us what you know!" Captain Hanaford cried. "It
is of the greatest importance for us to learn exactly the situation of
affairs."

The stranger did not accept the invitation to come on board; but he
halted within easy speaking distance and thus told the story, which
seemed incredible:

"Last night the people livin' near the encampment were warned, on pain
of death, to remain within doors from sunset till sunrise. Those who
were curious enough to look out of the windows saw that the camp fires
had been increased, an' supposed reinforcements were comin' in; but
this mornin' neither hide nor hair is to be seen of the red-coats, an'
a planter comin' in from nearabout Long Old Fields, reports that the
soldiers are marchin' in the direction of Nottingham. An' that ain't
all, for the troops that stayed at Bladensburg after the battle, are
on the way to Upper Marlboro, 'cordin to the report of an old darkey
who came into town not half an hour ago."

Having thus unfolded his budget of news, the man hurried on to spread
the glad tidings, leaving us who were aboard the pungy in a state of
mingled bewilderment and joy.

"I can't understand it," Darius said after a brief pause, during
which we had looked at each other questioningly. "I'm goin' to take
the chances of findin' out for myself."

The old man went over the rail as he spoke, and I would have followed,
but that he said sharply:

"Stay where you are, lad. We ain't dead certain 'bout that yarn, an'
if it's a case of gettin' into trouble, it better be one than two who
pays for nosin' 'round a British camp."

Captain Hanaford felt certain the news must be correct, for our
informant had the appearance of being an honest man, and nothing could
have been gained by spreading such a story.

"We'll cook the best breakfast to be had, by way of rejoicin'," he
said, "an' after that's been done all hands shall come into a council
of war, to decide if we're to make the venture down the river."

"If the enemy has really evacuated the city, it is reasonable to
suppose that the fleet will go back down the bay," I said, thinking
myself very wise in such matters. "It strikes me that the way home
lies open before us."

My companions were of the same opinion, and a very merry party we were
on the oyster pungy that morning as we tried in vain to guess why the
enemy had left so suddenly, when there seemed to be nothing to prevent
him from taking possession of all the country round about.

Before the feast was ready to be eaten Darius returned, and a single
glance at his face was sufficient to show that the good news was true.

"They've gone, an' there's no mistake about it," he announced, as he
sprang over the rail lightly as any boy. "I went to the place where
the troops were encamped, before bein' willin' to believe they'd
turned tail so suddenly. Now I'd like to know if that very friendly
gentleman Elias Macomber, has been left behind, or if he followed the
force? If he's in this city I could make it mighty interestin' for
him."

"Never mind the sneak, Darius!" my father cried. "There is no need for
you to punish him, because if the British go away he'll find it very
uncomfortable around here, and that's enough to serve the cur out for
all he has done."

Darius did not appear to think that Macomber's misdeeds could be
atoned so easily; but he kept his opinion to himself, and joined us in
what was at the same time a feast of rejoicing and thanksgiving.

Not until the meal was come to an end did we begin the discussion as
to how we should get home, and then Captain Hanaford opened the
question by asking:

"Now, lads, are we to run up stream into the mud, or take our chances
of findin' the British fleet 'twixt here an' the bay?"

Darius immediately proposed that we strike out for the Chesapeake,
using the same argument I had, that since the retreat of the soldiers
there was little chance the vessels would make any effort at running
past Fort Washington.

Bill Jepson, who could not be blamed for feeling a bit nervous at
going any nearer a British vessel of war than was absolutely
necessary, believed that it would be safer for us to go back to
Benedict by land, keeping at a respectful distance in the rear of the
enemy; but his plan was not considered, because it would be impossible
for my father to travel on foot, and I, at least, was not disposed to
part company with him.

We spent a full hour discussing the situation, and then it had been
decided that we would run boldly down the river, nearly all of us
feeling confident that there were no longer any British vessels to
block our way.

There was nothing to delay us in making the start as soon as the river
should be clear of the tokens sent by the storm, except Darius' desire
to make systematic search for Elias Macomber; but to this all of us
objected so strongly that, much against his will, he was forced to
give over the idea.

For my part I had seen enough of the British-lover; we had captured
him twice, which was our full share of such business, and if we did
spend time hunting him down, providing he yet remained in the city,
what could we do with the villain? He had forfeited all rights of
citizenship in our section of the country, and I had no doubt that
wherever he went his sins would find him out. It was better we leave
him alone, from whatever standpoint I viewed it.

Captain Hanaford decided that the river would be clear of drift by
morning, therefore we were agreed to set sail then, and, as a means of
passing the time pleasantly, we lads went over to the "stone house" to
see how the old shell-backs managed to escape so readily.

We found the building open and abandoned. The enemy had taken the
prisoners away, and we were not hindered in going over it thoroughly.

When that inspection was ended, we viewed the ruins in the different
parts of the city, paid a visit to the smoke-house, and returned to
the pungy late in the afternoon, well satisfied to bring our visit to
the capital to the earliest possible close.

On that evening Captain Hanaford brought aboard a surgeon, who cared
for my father's wound, and, what was better, declared that he saw no
reason why it should not heal speedily, leaving him none the worse for
having received it.

We were eager to be under way, as may be supposed, and as soon as the
day dawned on the 27th of August, we cast off from the dock, feeling
that the good God had been very kind in permitting us to return to our
homes when so many had been left at Bladensburg to fill soldiers'
graves.

It was as if everything favored us at the start of the homeward
journey. The river was free from the drift of all kinds which had
covered its surface; the wind was blowing gently from the north, and
the day gave promise of being clear.

The pungy slipped along as if conscious that she, like ourselves, had
escaped from great dangers, and was longing for another cargo of
oysters in her hold.

Bill Jepson acted as if he had suddenly lost his senses. He sang the
wildest kind of songs, danced two or three hornpipes, and then
insisted on Darius joining him, while Jim Freeman furnished the music
by whistling fast and furiously. As a matter of fact, all of us, even
including my father, were disposed to be exceeding jolly now that we
were homeward bound with the belief that the enemy was no longer in a
position to annoy us.

We lads talked of the pungy we would buy when the government paid us
for the Avenger, and laid many a plan for the future when Jim, his two
friends, Jerry, Darius and I would begin oystering again, in a craft
capable of carrying three or four times the cargo we had been able to
squeeze into the old boat which had been sacrificed at Pig Point.

Then, when it was near noon, we had come within sight of Fort
Washington, and as we rounded the bend Captain Hanaford gave vent to
an exclamation of surprise and fear, which was echoed by Bill Jepson.

At some considerable distance down the river it was possible to see
the upper spars of seven vessels of war which were slowly approaching
the fortification from the southward.

"It's the British fleet!" Captain Hanaford cried as he shoved the
tiller hard down, thereby swinging the pungy's nose into the mud of
the eastern bank. "We were bloomin' fools to think that the enemy had
all run away!"

"It's the fleet under Captain Gordon, an' I can tell you just how
strong it is," Bill Jepson said as he rubbed his head nervously.
"There are two frigates of thirty-six an' thirty-eight guns; two
rocket ships of eighteen guns each, two bomb vessels of eight guns
each, an' one schooner carryin' two guns."

"The schooner would be enough to bring us up with a sharp turn,
therefore I hold that it don't make any difference how many frigates
are behind her," Darius cried. "The question is whether the fort can
prevent their comin' up the river?"

No one aboard could say what might be done by those in the
fortification, or how strongly it was garrisoned; but later I read the
following in one of the newspapers, and will set it down here so that
what happened while we were on the river may be the better understood.

"The only obstruction to the passage of the fleet on which the
Americans might place the least reliance, was Fort Washington, on the
Maryland side of the Potomac, about twelve miles below the national
capital. It was a feeble fortress, but capable of being made strong.
So early as May 1813, a deputation from Alexandria, Georgetown and
Washington waited upon the Secretary of War, and represented the
importance of strengthening the post.

"An engineer was sent to examine it. He reported in favor of
additional works in the rear, while he believed that the armament of
the fort, and its elevated situation, would enable a well-managed
garrison to repulse any number of ships of war which might attempt to
pass up the river. Nothing more was done.

"In July, 1814, when a British fleet and army were in the Chesapeake,
the authorities of Alexandria again called the attention of the
Secretary of War to the feeble condition of Fort Washington. The
secretary did not believe the enemy would push for the capital, and
nothing was done. The Alexandrians appealed to General Winder, who
recommended the strengthening of the post. Three of the banks in
Alexandria offered to loan the government fifty thousand dollars for
the construction of more defences for the District. The money was
accepted, but nothing was done to Fort Washington. When the battle of
Bladensburg occurred, and the seat of government was left to the mercy
of the invaders, Fort Washington was as feebly armed as ever, and its
garrison consisted of only about eighty men, under Captain Samuel T.
Dyson."



CHAPTER XX.

DODGING THE ENEMY.


As I have said, Captain Hanaford shoved his tiller hard over, throwing
the pungy around until her nose struck the mud, and it was a question
of getting her off the bank in the shortest possible space of time,
unless we were minded to lay there when the action began, for none of
us doubted but that an engagement was close at hand.

"It's a case of runnin' back up the river," Bill Jepson said
nervously, "An' the sooner we get about it the better."

Darius was not of the same opinion, as was shown when he said, after
waiting a moment to learn if any other had an opinion to express:

"I'm willin' to agree that we're bound to put back a bit, so's to be
out of the way when the iron begins to fly; but I don't hold that we
should run very far off until findin' out how things are goin' to
turn."

"You might settle that question after the pungy is afloat," my father
said grimly. "Just at present we're in a bad place if there's to be
any firing done, and when we're off the mud you'll have plenty of time
in which to discuss the situation."

"That's about the size of it," Captain Hanaford added emphatically,
and then he ordered us lads into the small boat that we might pull the
pungy's bow around.

Any one who has ever run an oysterman such as we have in the
Chesapeake, knows that when a craft of that build takes ground ever so
lightly, it is not a simple matter to float her, especially when
there's no cargo that can be shifted to bring the stern down and the
bow up.

We lads worked our prettiest with the paddles after making fast to the
vessel's nose, and, finding that we were making no headway, the three
able-bodied men began pushing with poles which are kept aboard for
such purpose, until she slid slowly into deeper water.

Then it was a case of clawing away from the fort, which was not easy,
since the wind that had brought us down so finely, now blew directly
in our teeth, and the pungy was a master-hand for sliding off when you
tried to tack.

As a matter of course it was necessary to stand over toward the
opposite shore, which was not a pleasant piece of business since it
carried us within view of the enemy; but we had no choice in the
matter.

"If we get back as far as Alexandria by sunset we'll be doin' mighty
well, unless you bring her around an' try to slide up," Bill Jepson
said grumblingly; but she did not make any better headway because of
his being disgruntled.

"We'll have to take things as they are, matey," Darius said grimly.
"If the old hooker won't carry us out of harm's way, we can take to
the shore at any time, which is a bit of consolation you'd better keep
pasted in your hat."

"This breeze will fine down within an hour," Captain Hanaford said as
if speaking to himself, "an' then it'll be a case of anchorin', no
matter where we----"

He did not finish the remark, for at that moment it was as if the
earth and sky had come together with one deafening crash; then
followed three or four reports like unto peals of thunder near at
hand, and those of us who chanced to be looking astern, saw the fort
actually leap into the air, while from the mass of earth and stone
came a shower of fragments such as literally obscured the light of the
sun for an instant, after which it fell upon us with a crash that
caused the pungy to rock to and fro like an egg-shell.

While one might have counted fifty I stood dazed, unable to understand
what had happened, and bleeding from a dozen scratches caused by the
fall of fragments which absolutely covered the deck of the pungy to a
depth of two or three inches. Then I understood that the fort had been
blown up, Captain Dyson believing he could not hope, with the small
force under his command, to withstand an assault from the fleet.

As we afterward came to know, his instructions from the War Department
were to the effect that he should destroy the fortification rather
than take the chances of its being captured by the enemy; but what
seemed strange to me then, and does now, was the fact that he had not
fired a single gun in defiance. Surely he might have discharged his
pieces once, in the hope of doing a little damage, before setting a
match to the magazine.

Of all our party in the pungy, not one escaped more or less severe
bruises or scratches, and the wonder is that the vessel was not sent
to the bottom off hand.

However, we were yet afloat, and the river was open for the passage of
the Britishers, therefore it may be understood that we could not
afford to spend many minutes in speculations upon what might or might
not have been done.

Within three minutes from the time of the explosion, Darius and Bill
Jepson were in the small boat making fast to the bow of the pungy, and
when Captain Hanaford shouted to ask what they counted on doing, the
old sailor replied:

"There's a creek half a mile further up stream, an' if you can get
any headway on this apple-bowed lugger, we may be able to hide before
the Britishers come in sight."

It was absolutely certain that we could not hope to escape by sailing,
because any four-oared boat in the British fleet would have overtaken
us in a twinkling, therefore, unless it might be possible to hide, we
were in a bad scrape, from which I saw no relief save at the expense
of abandoning the pungy.

How we worked to push the vessel through the water! Darius and Bill
plied the paddles with every ounce of strength in their bodies, while
we on deck trimmed the sails to a nicety, shifted everything movable
to bring her into better trim for sailing, and even swung the two long
sweeps outboard.

We five lads manned the enormous oars with which the pungy was
provided to help her around, or when she drifted too near inshore, and
I dare venture to say that we did quite as much toward forcing the
craft ahead as the two old shell-backs did by towing.

Fortunately for us, the Britishers did not appear to think it
necessary to move up the river swiftly, knowing full well that all the
towns above were at their mercy whenever they arrived; but the fleet
hove to off the ruins of the fortification while some of the officers
landed to ascertain the amount of damage done. It was this last which
gave us the opportunity of which we stood so sorely in need, otherwise
we were taken prisoners beyond a peradventure.

By dint of pulling and paddling we contrived to get the pungy into the
creek of which Darius had spoken, before the enemy came in sight
again, and then it was a case of hauling her so far inland that she
would be hidden from view by the foliage.

It can well be supposed that we did not waste any time at this last
work; the perspiration was running down our faces in tiny streams when
the craft was finally as far up the narrow water-way as she could be
taken, and then all hands were so exhausted that we threw ourselves on
the deck to regain breath and strength.

All the while that we had been in strenuous flight my father stood at
the helm, thus giving Captain Hanaford the chance to aid us, otherwise
the task would not have been accomplished so quickly.

But even when we were thus snug, unless, perchance, the Britishers
took it into their heads to search the river banks, our work was by no
means done.

It was now necessary that we should know if the enemy went up stream,
and after we had rested no more than five minutes, when a full hour
would have been hardly enough to put me in proper trim again, Darius
said:

"Come, Amos, you an' I will stand the first watch. Bill an' Jerry can
spell us in a couple of hours."

"What do you count on watching?" I asked curtly.

"The Britishers, of course. We'll paddle down to the river, an' lay
there till the fleet goes one way or the other."

It would have been a long watch had we remained on duty until the
entire fleet sailed in one direction; but as to that we were happily
ignorant, and I took my place in the canoe believing the enemy would
sail past our hiding place in a very short time.

We allowed the canoe to drift down the creek until we were come within
a few yards of the river, and then, well hidden by the undergrowth, we
made ourselves as comfortable as possible where we could command a
full view of the channel.

"It doesn't appear to be as easy to get back home as we counted on," I
said, by way of starting a conversation, and Darius replied
confidently:

"This 'ere stop won't put us back very much, though it'll make a power
of extra work, for I count to be slippin' down river within a couple
of hours at the longest."

Then the old man fell silent, and I was not disposed to wag my tongue,
because of looking ahead to the meeting with mother and the children,
which now seemed so near at hand.

We had been on watch an hour or more when the enemy appeared. The
schooner was leading the way slowly, being towed by boats, with the
men taking soundings every fifteen or twenty yards in order to show
the channel to the two frigates close astern, and another hour went by
before the three vessels had passed our hiding-place.

Then we watched eagerly, expecting to see the rocket-ships and
bomb-vessels appear; but they did not heave in sight, although it
seemed to me as if they should have been close behind the larger ships
in order to take advantage of the labor being performed by those on
board the schooner.

When half an hour had passed, and the river, so far as we could see in
either direction, was free from craft of any kind, Darius bestowed a
resounding slap upon his leg as he cried angrily:

"What an old fool I am, to be sure! In two years more, if I keep on
runnin' down hill, I won't be able to tell my own nose from somebody's
else, even when it's pulled."

"What's the matter now?" I asked in surprise.

"What's the matter, lad? Can't you see that only part of the fleet is
goin' up stream? If the other ships counted on leavin' anchorage
they'd been in the wake of the frigates. We're shut in here between
two ends of the British force, an' likely to stay quite a spell."

There could be no question but that he was right, and I sat staring at
him like a stupid, the dreams in which I had been indulging
disappearing like mist before the morning sun. Of a verity mother and
the children were further from me than when we had crouched in the
smoke-house at Washington with General Ross' army close at hand.

"What _can_ we do?" I asked at length.

"That's a question easier asked than answered," the old man replied as
if he had come to an end of his ideas. "While your father is wounded
beyond the power of walkin', we're anchored to the pungy, so to
speak."

"What would you do if he was in good shape?"

"It couldn't be such a terrible tough voyage to strike across the
country from here to Benedict, leavin' the pungy in the creek till the
Britishers get tired of foolin' around in the Potomac; but it's no use
to spend breath on what can't be done. Our crew will hang together,
whatever comes. Let's go an' report; it won't do us any good to stay
here."

We paddled slowly back to our comrades, and when we had told them the
situation of affairs they were in as much of a muddle as had been
Darius and I.

"There's no tellin' how long the frigates will stay 'round
Washington," Captain Hanaford said, and then, as a sudden thought came
to him, he added, "I'm gettin' the best of this scrape, I reckon. If
the pungy was where you lads found her, she'd fare badly when the
bloomin' Englishmen get where they can make mischief."

"I'll stay here and keep ship, while the rest of you walk across lots
to Benedict," my father suggested; but Darius refused to hear any such
proposition, declaring as he had when we were in the canoe, that our
party should hang together to the last.

"So far as bodily harm is concerned, we're safe here till the cows
come home," the old man said thoughtfully, "an' that oughter make us
feel reasonably good, seein's how, one spell, it looked a deal like
bein' killed, or stayin' in a British prison-ship. We're a mighty poor
crowd if we can't manage to lay still a week or two."

It did really seem as if we had reason to be ashamed of grumbling when
matters had been so much worse, and I mentally resolved that I would
make the best of the situation, even though we were forced to remain
in hiding a full month.

My father did his best at cheering us by saying, and with a deal of
reason in his speech, that the enemy would not dare remain shut up in
the river very long, lest the American fleet come to the mouth of the
river and blockade him, or with a superior force, force him to
surrender.

"It's Captain Gordon of the Sea Horse, who is in command," Bill Jepson
said, "an' you can count that he won't be caught nappin'."

"Then we can reckon on bein' free to leave this creek within three or
four days at the outside, and after that it'll be a question of
dodging the Britishers into Chesapeake bay, which shouldn't be a hard
task."

Taking this view of the matter, and knowing we had provisions in
plenty, all hands began to look at affairs in a more cheerful light,
with the result that ours was soon a jolly party, with but one aim,
which was to make the time pass as pleasantly as possible.

During the remainder of that day we talked of all that had occurred
since Commodore Barney left Pig Point, and speculated upon the result
of an attack upon Baltimore.

That night we turned in without standing watch, and next morning came
a light, drizzling rain which forced us to keep under cover unless we
were willing to toddle around on the wet decks, which was not
particularly cheerful amusement.

By three o'clock in the afternoon we had talked until our tongues were
tired, and every topic of conversation was exhausted. Then we fell
silent, with none too pleasing thoughts for company, until Darius
sprang to his feet with an exclamation that aroused us all.

"What bloomin' idjuts we are to think we must needs wait here till the
Britishers come down the river!" he cried excitedly.

"I thought it was settled that we couldn't well do anything else,"
Captain Hanaford said in mild surprise.

"So it was; but the sun was shinin', with every prospect of a fair
night."

I looked at the old sailor in bewilderment. It seemed as if he had
suddenly taken leave of his senses, for there was nothing to be made
of his words.

"What's crawlin' over you, Darius?" Captain Hanaford asked. "Has
anythin' happened suddenly?"

"Yes, an' that's a fact! Here we are lyin' up here in a nasty storm as
if we was bound to stay, when it's only a case of haulin' the pungy
into the channel, an' lettin' her drift past the vessels below the
fort. I'll wager an apple against a doughnut that we'll go by slick as
fallin' down hill, 'cause it'll be darker 'n Sam Hill to-night; there
ain't any moon to break the blackness, an' unless we come plump on to
the enemy, they'll never be any the wiser."

I could see that the older members of the party believed as did
Darius; but to me it seemed like taking needless chances, when by
remaining in hiding a few days we might set sail without hindrance,
for if our pungy was seen, there could be little doubt but that she
would be sunk off hand.

However, it was not for me to start any argument with my elders who
understood such matters far better than did either of us lads, and I
held my peace, expecting that an argument would ensue.

To my great surprise no further word was spoken regarding the plan;
but Captain Hanaford pulled on his oiled-coat as he said curtly:

"It'll be a good two-hours' job to pull the pungy into the stream, an'
won't be handy work after dark."

Darius and Bill made ready to accompany him on deck, and, to my great
surprise, I found that these three, at least, believed the plan of
trying to drift past the British ships in the darkness one which
should be carried into effect.

I looked at my father; but he appeared to think all was as it should
be, and for the moment I was dumfounded at the idea of taking so many
and such great chances simply to save idling a few days.

When the men went on deck we lads followed, as a matter of course; but
never one of us was called upon to perform any part in the labor.

The creek was too narrow to admit of turning the pungy, therefore it
became necessary to tow her out stern first, and this the three men
did quite handily, with Darius and Bill Jepson in the boat, and
Captain Hanaford on deck, to keep the branches of the trees from
fouling with the rigging.

Half an hour before sunset the little vessel was at the mouth of the
water-way where she could be put into the stream with but a small
amount of labor, and Captain Hanaford ordered Jim Freeman and Dody
Wardwell to turn to at getting supper.

While the meal was being prepared the captain and the two old sailors
talked about the probable location of the enemy's ships, and when the
conversation was come to an end I learned that they counted on letting
the pungy take her own course, after rounding the point on which the
fort had been located.

It was to be a piece of blind luck all the way through, and I made up
my mind that if the vessel was afloat after we passed the ships, it
would be a sure case of interposition of that divinity which watches
over fools.

I seemed to be the only one, however, who was borrowing any trouble on
account of the proposed venture, and it can well be fancied that I
held my peace, although I did a power of thinking.

When supper had been eaten, and the last spark of fire in the
cook-stove extinguished lest it should be seen by the enemy, all
hands went on deck.

Of a verity the night was black enough, if that was the only thing
wanted to insure success. Standing at the tiller I could not even make
out the loom of the mainmast, and as for saying whether the pungy was
in the stream or the river, it was impossible.

Darius and Bill Jepson went about their portion of the task, however,
as if it was broad day.

The pungy was pulled out into the current, the old sailors came over
the rail, and we were fully committed to the venture.

I had supposed that some portion of the sails would be spread to give
us steerage-way if nothing more; but in this I was mistaken. A square
of white canvas could be more readily seen in the darkness than the
entire hull of the pungy, which was painted black, therefore we would
go through with only the empty spars to give an alarm, if so be the
enemy caught a glimpse of us.

We had hardly more than started when the rain began to fall heavily,
and Bill Jepson said with a chuckle of satisfaction:

"Everythin' is workin' our way. There ain't a barnacle aboard the
ships that'll stand up an' take all this water when he can keep
himself dry by seekin' the shelter of the rail."

"But suppose we run plump on to them?" I asked in a whisper.

"Then it'll be a case of doin' some tall an' lively hustlin', lad, an'
no man can say what ought'er be done till we're in the scrape."

"Can you make out the shore on either side?" I asked.

"Yes, by stoopin' low so's to sight the sky over the tree-tops, you
can contrive to get an idee of whether we're in the middle of the
stream; but you can't do much more."

"I might stand on my head without being able to tell which was land
and which water."

"I reckon that's true," Bill said with a laugh; "but when you've
knocked around at sea as long as I have, you'll learn to see through
ink, bottle an' all."

"Stop that noise!" Darius whispered harshly. "You're not even to
breathe loud from this out, an' walkin' across the deck will make
trouble with me for the man or lad who does it."

Thus it was that each fellow felt obliged to remain wherever he stood
when the order had been given. We could well understand the reason for
such caution, and were not disposed to go contrary to the command.

I peered into the gloom intently, hoping I might distinguish the
shadows of the trees ashore; but it was impossible, and from that
moment I remained with my eyes shut, as one involuntarily does when
the blackness is intense.

How slowly the time passed! I tried to get some idea of the minutes by
counting up to sixty, allowing that number of seconds had gone by; but
failed in so doing because my anxiety was so great that I did not keep
the reckoning.

It seemed as if an hour had fled, although the current should have
carried us among the fleet in less than half that time, when I was
startled by hearing a voice close by my side, apparently.

"It's a bloomin' nasty night, matey."

"Right you are," was the reply. "It's jest my luck to be muckin'
'round here when the lads from the other ships are havin' high jinks
in one of the Yankee cities."

Then it was that I realized we were within a few yards of a ship, and
by some stroke of good fortune had missed fowling her.

It surely seemed as if they must see us, although I could not make out
even a shadow of her, strain my eyes as I might, and in case we were
discovered, the end would come very rapidly, as I then believed.

From that moment it was as if I did not breathe, so fearful was I of
giving some alarm which would betray our whereabouts.

The pattering of the rain on the water raised no slight noise, and
this was favorable to us. Our tiller had been lashed, so that there
might be no possibility the rudder-head would creak in its socket,
and every rope was brailed to guard against its flapping.

Had ours been the ghost of a ship and those on board a phantom crew,
we could not have glided down stream more silently; but the danger
which had been ever present in my thoughts was that of coming in
collision with one of the ships.

We had already passed the first in safety; but there were three
others, and in fear and trembling I admitted to myself that we could
not hope to slip by them all.



CHAPTER XXI.

IN PORT.


The moments passed in silence, save for the hissing of the rain-drops
as they mingled with the water of the river, and I was saying to
myself that of a verity we must have drifted safely through the fleet
without touching a ship, when that came which I had been fearing.

Suddenly I felt a shock; then a noise as of wood grinding against
wood, and I knew we had fouled the enemy!

While one might have counted five the pungy rubbed against the side of
the ship, and then came the hail:

"Ahoy there! Ahoy!"

"What are you hailing?" a strange voice cried, and he who had first
broken the silence replied:

"There's a craft of some kind alongside, sir!"

Then it was as if a swarm of bees had been let loose. The enemy's ship
was alive with moving, buzzing beings, some of whom cried out this or
that order, and others called down maledictions on the head of the man
who had needlessly aroused them.

"There's nothin' here, sir. Sam was dreamin'," I heard the voice of a
sailor cry, and almost at the same instant came the rattling of
fire-arms as they were being handled, sounding so near aboard that it
seemed as if a portion of the enemy had leaped upon our decks.

"Make ready! Fire!" sounded the command, sharp and quick.

Then came a sheet of flame which lighted up surrounding objects until
we could distinctly see the deck of the bomb-vessel, and the eager men
thronging her deck.

This illumination was but as the lightning's flash, and then we could
hear the angry hum of the bullets as they swarmed above our heads.

We had been seen, and I believed that a broadside would follow in
short order, yet at the same time I realized that our good fortune had
followed us when it sent the pungy afoul of a bomb-vessel, instead of
a craft which had her guns ready trained for service.

Now had come the time, however, when we were to remain idle no longer.

I heard Darius call Bill Jepson, and knew by the noises which followed
that the two sailors were taking to the canoe in order to tow the
pungy, and at the same time Captain Hanaford cast off the lashing of
the tiller as he ordered us to run up the canvas.

Work? I have never moved so lively before nor since, as I did then
when I felt positive that within a very few seconds our deck would be
swept by grape and cannister.

At such moments of supreme danger one's senses are unnaturally acute,
and while I gave strict attention to all that was taking place aboard
the pungy, it became possible to understand what the enemy was about.

The other vessels of the fleet were making ready to take a hand in our
destruction. From every quarter we could hear cries of command,
mingled with the noise of men running to and fro, and just when the
pungy began to feel the effect of the canvas which was clapped on her
in such a hurry, a rocket went up, illumining the scene for ten
seconds or more.

Then it was I saw that we had passed three of the ships, having come
to grief on the last in the line, and had no time to take further note
of the surroundings when the guns of all four craft belched forth with
a mighty roar that caused the pungy to tremble, but the impact of the
shot did not follow.

Thus suddenly aroused, and in the intense darkness which had been
dispelled only long enough to dazzle a fellow's eyes, the gunners had
not been able to take accurate aim, otherwise we must have gone to the
bottom like a stone.

"They won't have time to try that game more than once again before
we'll be well out of their way," I heard Darius say, and I knew we
had sufficient speed to render useless the work of towing, otherwise
the two sailors would not have come aboard.

Now three rockets were sent up in rapid succession, and while the
light lasted I knew that the British gunners were taking aim at us;
but we had slipped so far down the river by this time that there were
some few chances in our favor, however closely they might shoot.

"Down on your faces!" Darius cried, and I dropped like a stone,
understanding that such an order had been given to lessen the chances
of our being hit; but at the same time the thought came to me that it
was better to be killed by a round-shot which would cut a man's life
short instantly, than mangled by a splinter.

Then came the flash of burning powder; the mighty roar of big guns;
the hurtling shot striking the water on every side, and the pungy
reeled and quivered as if she had struck a rock.

"One ball went home that time!" Darius cried, and I knew by the sound
that he had leaped to his feet, running with all speed into the cuddy.

From below I made out the tiny gleam of the match as Darius lighted a
lantern, and did not need to be told that he was gone to learn what
injury our vessel had received.

Immediately the cannon had been discharged Captain Hanaford was on
his feet, grasping the tiller as if it was possible to steer the pungy
while the blackness continued so dense that one might fancy he could
feel it, and then came the glare of more rockets.

This aided the helmsman of ours more than it did the British gunners,
since it gave him an opportunity to see exactly where his vessel was;
but as to that I gave no heed. All my mind was centered on the
distance between us and the enemy.

I could have cried aloud with joy, and am not certain but that I did,
on seeing that we were drawing away with more speed than I had
believed was in the clumsy craft, and, what was of greater importance,
the pungy was rounding a bend which, once passed, would put us beyond
reach of the guns.

The rockets had been fired just in the nick of time, otherwise we
would have gone ashore on the western bank.

For the third time we heard the thunder of the guns; but the shot must
have passed astern of us, for I did not hear either the splashing of
water or the splintering of our wood-work to tell where they struck.

Then Darius came on deck with an announcement that relieved me of
nearly all my fears.

"The pungy has a solid shot above the water-line well forward; but
there's no need of pluggin' it, for the ball didn't get through the
timber. I reckon we've done the trick, eh, captain?"

"We're off for a fact, an' unless we strike the mud 'twixt here an'
the bay, we've seen the last of that lot of Britishers."

Now it was that all hands of us were ordered forward to act as
look-outs, and the pungy danced along in the darkness, as if rejoicing
at her escape from a peril that had well-nigh proved her ending.

It is impossible for me to set down what we said or did when it was
seen that we had really escaped from as dangerous a venture as human
beings ever embarked in. I dare say we acted like a party of simples,
and certain it is that the older members of the crew were no less
boisterous in their rejoicings than we lads.

And now there remains but little more to be said, for the homeward
voyage was short.

At midnight the rain ceased falling; the clouds were partially
dispersed, and we had sufficient light to enable us to navigate the
little vessel without difficulty.

In four and twenty hours, without having come across an enemy, or
anything to cause alarm, we were in Benedict once more, Captain
Hanaford having sailed past his own home in order to land us, and well
was it for all hands that we did not arrive the day previous, because
not until then did the fleet under Admiral Cochrane, with the land
forces under General Ross, take their final departure, leaving the
little village looking as if a herd of cattle had been pastured there.

It only remains for me to say, since this story has nothing to do with
my movements after we were returned from service under Commodore
Barney, that in due time the government honored the commodore's
guarantee, thus enabling Jerry and me to purchase a pungy much larger
and better than the Avenger, and at the same time have quite a
substantial sum of money to give our parents.

And all this I have written in the cuddy of the new boat, which we
have named the "Joshua Barney," while Jim Freeman, Dody Wardwell,
Josiah Coburn, Darius and Jerry have discussed each portion as it was
set down, for we are shipmates in the oyster business, sharing the
profits as well as the work, until a stranger would find it difficult
to say which is the captain or which the cook.

Now that my portion of the work has come to an end, I shall copy here
that which will serve to wind up the yarn in proper shape.

Referring to the close of the battle of Bladensburg, a newspaper
writer says:

"The English sharp-shooters had straggled about, and were doing much
mischief; Barney's horse fell between two of the guns, pierced by two
balls; several of his officers were killed or wounded, the ammunition
wagon had gone off in the general confusion and retreat of the army;
the enemy began to flank out to the right, under cover of a thick
wood, and had nearly surrounded the commodore. His men were nearly
exhausted, having undergone a three-days' march without a regular
supply of provisions. He had received a wound in the thigh some time
before, and was faint from loss of blood, when he ordered a retreat,
which was effected in good order by the men and such officers as could
follow. He retired a few yards with the help of three of his officers
whom he had ordered away, and fell from weakness, in which situation
he was found by the enemy.

"General Ross and Admiral Cockburn came to him and tendered every
assistance. He was carried in a litter to the village of Bladensburg,
and the next day, in the company of his wife and son, was taken home
in a carriage. A week later he was formally exchanged for two British
colonels. The ball had been probed for by the English surgeons, but
without effect, and it was not found until after his death, which is
said to have been caused by the wound."

And now regarding the fleet which we dodged, Mr. Lossing says in his
"War of 1812."

"The British squadron appeared before Fort Washington on the 27th of
August, three days after the capture of the capital. Captain Dyson
either misunderstood General Winder's order, or was influenced by
mortal fear, for he blew up and abandoned the fort without firing a
gun. No doubt the British fleet could have been kept below by the
heavy cannon of the fort. Dyson chose not to try the experiment, and
for his injurious conduct he was dismissed from the service.

"The British squadron now had nothing to fear, and without
interference the frigates sailed on, anchoring off Alexandria on the
evening of the 28th. On the morning of the 29th it assumed a hostile
attitude a hundred yards from the wharves, and was well prepared to
lay every building in the town in ashes. The citizens sent a
deputation to Captain Gordon to ask upon what terms he would consent
to spare the town. He replied that all naval stores and ordnance; all
the shipping and its furniture; merchandise of every description in
the city, or which had been carried out of it to a place of safety;
and refreshments of every kind, must be immediately given up to him.
Also that the vessels which had been scuttled to save them from
destruction must be raised, and delivered up to him. 'Do all this,' he
said, 'and the town of Alexandria, with the exception of public works,
shall be spared, and the inhabitants shall remain unmolested."

"These were harsh and humiliating terms, and the inhabitants were
allowed only one hour for consideration. They were powerless, and were
compelled to submit. The merchandise that had been carried from the
town and the sunken vessels could not be given up to the invader, so
he contented himself by burning one vessel and loading several others,
chiefly with flour, cotton and tobacco. With these in charge, the
squadron weighed anchor and sailed down the Potomac."


THE END.


Good Fiction Worth Reading.

A series of romances containing several of the old favorites in the
field of historical fiction, replete with powerful romances of love
and diplomacy that excel in thrilling and absorbing interest.

       *       *       *       *       *

=A COLONIAL FREE-LANCE.= A story of American Colonial Times, By
Chauncey C. Hotchkiss. Cloth, 12mo. with four illustrations by J.
Watson Davis. Price, $1.00.

     A book that appeals to Americans as a vivid picture of
     Revolutionary scenes. The story is a strong one, a thrilling
     one. It causes the true American to flush with excitement, to
     devour chapter after chapter, until the eyes smart, and it
     fairly smokes with patriotism. The love story is a singularly
     charming idyl.

=THE TOWER OF LONDON.= A Historical Romance of the Times of Lady Jane
Grey and Mary Tudor. By Wm. Harrison Ainsworth. Cloth, 12mo. with four
illustrations by George Cruikshank. Price, $1.00.

     This romance of the "Tower of London" depicts the Tower as
     palace, prison and fortress, with many historical associations.
     The era is the middle of the sixteenth century.

     The story is divided into two parts, one dealing with Lady Jane
     Grey, and the other with Mary Tudor as Queen, introducing other
     notable characters of the era. Throughout the story holds the
     interest of the reader in the midst of intrigue and conspiracy,
     extending considerably over a half a century.

=IN DEFIANCE OF THE KING.= A Romance of the American Revolution. By
Chauncey C. Hotchkiss. Cloth, 12mo. with four illustrations by J.
Watson Davis. Price, $1.00.

     Mr. Hotchkiss has etched in burning words a story of Yankee
     bravery, and true love that thrills from beginning to end, with
     the spirit of the Revolution. The heart beats quickly, and we
     feel ourselves taking a part in the exciting scenes described.
     His whole story is so absorbing that you will sit up far into
     the night to finish it. As a love romance it is charming.

=GARTHOWEN.= A story of a Welsh Homestead. By Allen Raine. Cloth,
12mo. with four illustrations by J. Watson Davis. Price, $1.00.

     "This is a little idyl of humble life and enduring love, laid
     bare before us, very real and pure, which in its telling shows
     us some strong points of Welsh character--the pride, the hasty
     temper, the quick dying out of wrath.... We call this a
     well-written story, interesting alike through its romance and
     its glimpses into another life than ours. A delightful and
     clever picture of Welsh village life. The result is
     excellent."--Detroit Free Press.

=MIFANWY.= The story of a Welsh Singer. By Allen Raine. Cloth, 12mo.
with four illustrations by J. Watson Davis. Price, $1.00.

     "This is a love story, simple, tender and pretty as one would
     care to read. The action throughout is brisk and pleasing; the
     characters, it is apparent at once, are as true to life as
     though the author had known them all personally. Simple in all
     its situations, the story is worked up in that touching and
     quaint strain which never grows wearisome, no matter how often
     the lights and shadows of love are introduced. It rings true,
     and does not tax the imagination."--Boston Herald.

       *       *       *       *       *

=DARNLEY=, A Romance of the times of Henry VIII. and Cardinal Wolsey.
By G. P. R. James. Cloth, 12mo. with four illustrations by J. Watson
Davis. Price, $1.00.

     In point of publication, "Darnley" is that work by Mr. James
     which follows "Richelieu," and, if rumor can be credited, it
     was owing to the advice and insistence of our own Washington
     Irving that we are indebted primarily for the story, the young
     author questioning whether he could properly paint the
     difference in the characters of the two great cardinals. And it
     is not surprising that James should have hesitated; he had been
     eminently successful in giving to the world the portrait of
     Richelieu as a man, and by attempting a similar task with
     Wolsey as the theme, was much like tempting fortune. Irving
     insisted that "Darnley" came naturally in sequence, and this
     opinion being supported by Sir Walter Scott, the author set
     about the work.

     As a historical romance "Darnley" is a book that can be taken
     up pleasurably again and again, for there is about it that
     subtle charm which those who are strangers to the works of G.
     P. R. James have claimed was only to be imparted by Dumas.

     If there was nothing more about the work to attract especial
     attention, the account of the meeting of the kings on the
     historic "field of the cloth of gold" would entitle the story
     to the most favorable consideration of every reader.

     There is really but little pure romance in this story, for the
     author has taken care to imagine love passages only between
     those whom history has credited with having entertained the
     tender passion one for another, and he succeeds in making such
     lovers as all the world must love.

=CAPTAIN BRAND, OF THE SCHOONER CENTIPEDE.= By Lieut. Henry A. Wise,
U. S. N. (Harry Gringo). Cloth, 12mo. with four illustrations by J.
Watson Davis. Price, $1.00.

     The re-publication of this story will please those lovers of
     sea yarns who delight in so much of the salty flavor of the
     ocean as can come through the medium of a printed page, for
     never has a story of the sea and those "who go down in ships"
     been written by one more familiar with the scenes depicted.

     The one book of this gifted author which is best remembered,
     and which will be read with pleasure for many years to come, is
     "Captain Brand," who, as the author states on his title page,
     was a "pirate of eminence in the West Indies." As a sea story
     pure and simple, "Captain Brand" has never been excelled, and
     as a story of piratical life, told without the usual
     embellishments of blood and thunder, it has no equal.

=NICK OF THE WOODS.= A story of the Early Settlers of Kentucky. By
Robert Montgomery Bird. Cloth, 12mo. with four illustrations by J.
Watson Davis. Price, $1.00.

     This most popular novel and thrilling story of early frontier
     life in Kentucky was originally published in the year 1837. The
     novel, long out of print, had in its day a phenomenal sale, for
     its realistic presentation of Indian and frontier life in the
     early days of settlement in the South, narrated in the tale
     with all the art of a practiced writer. A very charming love
     romance runs through the story. This new and tasteful edition
     of "Nick of the Woods" will be certain to make many new
     admirers for this enchanting story from Dr. Bird's clever and
     versatile pen.

       *       *       *       *       *

=GUY FAWKES.= A Romance of the Gunpowder Treason. By Wm. Harrison
Ainsworth. Cloth, 12mo. with four illustrations by George Cruikshank.
Price, $1.00.

     The "Gunpowder Plot" was a modest attempt to blow up
     Parliament, the King and his Counsellors. James of Scotland,
     then King of England, was weak-minded and extravagant. He hit
     upon the efficient scheme of extorting money from the people by
     imposing taxes on the Catholics. In their natural resentment to
     this extortion, a handful of bold spirits concluded to
     overthrow the government. Finally the plotters were arrested,
     and the King put to torture Guy Fawkes and the other prisoners
     with royal vigor. A very intense love story runs through the
     entire romance.

=THE SPIRIT OF THE BORDER.= A Romance of the Early Settlers in the
Ohio Valley. By Zane Grey. Cloth, 12mo. with four illustrations by J.
Watson Davis. Price, $1.00.

     A book rather out of the ordinary is this "Spirit of the
     Border." The main thread of the story has to do with the work
     of the Moravian missionaries in the Ohio Valley. Incidentally
     the reader is given details of the frontier life of those hardy
     pioneers who broke the wilderness for the planting of this
     great nation. Chief among these, as a matter of course, is
     Lewis Wetzel, one of the most peculiar, and at the same time
     the most admirable of all the brave men who spent their lives
     battling with the savage foe, that others might dwell in
     comparative security.

     Details of the establishment and destruction of the Moravian
     "Village of Peace" are given at some length, and with minute
     description. The efforts to Christianize the Indians are
     described as they never have been before, and the author has
     depicted the characters of the leaders of the several Indian
     tribes with great care, which of itself will be of interest to
     the student.

     By no means least among the charms of the story are the vivid
     word-pictures of the thrilling adventures, and the intense
     paintings of the beauties of nature, as seen in the almost
     unbroken forests.

     It is the spirit of the frontier which is described, and one
     can by it, perhaps, the better understand why men, and women,
     too, willingly braved every privation and danger that the
     westward progress of the star of empire might be the more
     certain and rapid. A love story, simple and tender, runs
     through the book.

=RICHELIEU.= A tale of France in the reign of King Louis XIII. By G.
P. R. James. Cloth, 12mo. with four illustrations by J. Watson Davis.
Price, $1.00.

     In 1829 Mr. James published his first romance, "Richelieu," and
     was recognized at once as one of the masters of the craft.

     In this book he laid the story during those later days of the
     great cardinal's life, when his power was beginning to wane,
     but while it was yet sufficiently strong to permit now and then
     of volcanic outbursts which overwhelmed foes and carried
     friends to the topmost wave of prosperity. One of the most
     striking portions of the story is that of Cinq Mar's
     conspiracy; the method of conducting criminal cases, and the
     political trickery resorted to by royal favorites, affording a
     better insight into the statecraft of that day than can be had
     even by an exhaustive study of history. It is a powerful
     romance of love and diplomacy, and in point of thrilling and
     absorbing interest has never been excelled.


       *       *       *       *       *

WINDSOR CASTLE. A Historical Romance of the Reign of Henry VIII.,
Catharine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. By Wm. Harrison Ainsworth. Cloth,
12mo. with four illustrations by George Cruikshank. Price, $1.00.

     "Windsor Castle" is the story of Henry VIII., Catharine, and
     Anne Boleyn. "Bluff King Hal," although a well-loved monarch,
     was none too good a one in many ways. Of all his selfishness
     and unwarrantable acts, none was more discreditable than his
     divorce from Catharine, and his marriage to the beautiful Anne
     Boleyn. The King's love was as brief as it was vehement. Jane
     Seymour, waiting maid on the Queen, attracted him, and Anne
     Boleyn was forced to the block to make room for her successor.
     This romance is one of extreme interest to all readers.

HORSESHOE ROBINSON. A tale of the Tory Ascendency in South Carolina in
1780. By John P. Kennedy. Cloth, 12mo. with four illustrations by J.
Watson Davis. Price, $1.00.

     Among the old favorites in the field of what is known as
     historical fiction, there are none which appeal to a larger
     number of Americans than Horseshoe Robinson, and this because
     it is the only story which depicts with fidelity to the facts
     the heroic efforts of the colonists in South Carolina to defend
     their homes against the brutal oppression of the British under
     such leaders as Cornwallis and Tarleton.

     The reader is charmed with the story of love which forms the
     thread of the tale, and then impressed with the wealth of
     detail concerning those times. The picture of the manifold
     sufferings of the people, is never overdrawn, but painted
     faithfully and honestly by one who spared neither time nor
     labor in his efforts to present in this charming love story all
     that price in blood and tears which the Carolinians paid as
     their share in the winning of the republic.

     Take it all in all, "Horseshoe Robinson" is a work which should
     be found on every book-shelf, not only because it is a most
     entertaining story, but because of the wealth of valuable
     information concerning the colonists which it contains. That it
     has been brought out once more, well illustrated, is something
     which will give pleasure to thousands who have long desired an
     opportunity to read the story again, and to the many who have
     tried vainly in these latter days to procure a copy that they
     might read it for the first time.

THE PEARL OF ORR'S ISLAND. A story of the Coast of Maine. By Harriet
Beecher Stowe. Cloth, 12mo. Illustrated. Price, $1.00.

     Written prior to 1862, the "Pearl of Orr's Island" is ever new;
     a book filled with delicate fancies, such as seemingly array
     themselves anew each time one reads them. One sees the "sea
     like an unbroken mirror all around the pine-girt, lonely shores
     of Orr's Island," and straightway comes "the heavy, hollow moan
     of the surf on the beach, like the wild angry howl of some
     savage animal."

     Who can read of the beginning of that sweet life, named Mara,
     which came into this world under the very shadow of the Death
     angel's wings, without having an intense desire to know how the
     premature bud blossomed? Again and again one lingers over the
     descriptions of the character of that baby boy Moses, who came
     through the tempest, amid the angry billows, pillowed on his
     dead mother's breast.

     There is no more faithful portrayal of New England life than
     that which Mrs. Stowe gives in "The Pearl of Orr's Island."

       *       *       *       *       *

For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of price by
the publishers, A. L. BURT COMPANY, 52-58 Duane St., New York.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Commodore Barney's Young Spies - A Boy's Story of the Burning of the City of Washington" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home