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Title: How Canada was Won - A Tale of Wolfe and Quebec
Author: Brereton, F. S. (Frederick Sadleir), 1872-
Language: English
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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.

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[Transcriber's Note: Every effort has been made to replicate this
text as faithfully as possible, including obsolete and variant
spellings and other inconsistencies. Text that has been changed to
correct an obvious error is noted at the end of this ebook.]



  How Canada was Won

  A Tale of Wolfe and Quebec

  BY
  CAPTAIN F. S. BRERETON

  Author of "With Wolseley to Kumasi" "Jones of the 64th"
  "With Roberts to Candahar" "A Soldier of Japan"
  "Roger the Bold" &c. &c.

  _ILLUSTRATED BY WILLIAM RAINEY, R.I._

  LONDON: BLACKIE & SON, LIMITED
  THE COPP CLARK COMPANY, LIMITED
  TORONTO


[Illustration: STEVE AND MAC CAPTURING THE FRENCH GUNS]


  _Copyright, 1908, in the United States, America,
  by H. M. Caldwell Co._

  _Published simultaneously in Great Britain and
  the United States._



Contents


   CHAP.                                   Page

      I. THE CAMP ON THE RIVER                9

     II. FRENCH OUTLAWS AND ROBBERS          25

    III. FLIGHT BY NIGHT                     43

     IV. STEVE MAKES A SUGGESTION            61

      V. JULES LAPON IS DISAPPOINTED         79

     VI. LEFT IN CHARGE                      97

    VII. THE ALLEGHANY RAIDERS              115

   VIII. A QUESTION OF TERRITORY            133

     IX. GEORGE WASHINGTON SPEAKS           152

      X. STEVE AND HIS BAND OF SCOUTS       174

     XI. HELD UP!                           194

    XII. GENEROSITY TO THE FOE              215

   XIII. A TRAITOR IN THE CAMP              238

    XIV. STEVE MEETS AN OLD ENEMY           254

     XV. OFF TO QUEBEC                      275

    XVI. THE RETURN OF THE HURONS           296

   XVII. DOWN THE MIGHTY ST. LAWRENCE       315

  XVIII. THE ATTACK ON LOUISBOURG           334

    XIX. WOLFE MAKES HIS LAST ATTEMPT       359

     XX. THE PLAINS OF ABRAHAM              379



Illustrations


                                                             Page

  STEVE AND MAC CAPTURING THE FRENCH GUNS      _Frontispiece_ 220

  "THE INDIAN WAS UPON HIM, HIS KEEN TOMAHAWK GLEAMING
  IN HIS HAND"                                                 36

  "'COME NEARER THAT I MAY KILL YOU EASILY,' HE SAID"          65

  "STEVE RESTED HIS BARREL IN THE FORK OF A DWARFED
  TREE"                                                       125

  STEVE AND MAC DISCOVER THE WOUNDED FRENCH OFFICER           235

  "WHEN HE CAME TO HIMSELF AGAIN, HE WAS BEING
  CARRIED ON THE SHOULDERS OF FOUR INDIANS"                   253

  "WE SEEK A PALE FACE WHO HAS BROKEN AWAY FROM
  THE CITY"                                                   312

  "IN ANOTHER SECOND HE HAD BAYONETTED THE FRENCHMAN"         349


  MAP OF CANADA AND OUR AMERICAN COLONY IN 1755               137

  MAP OF THE TRIANGULAR ROUTE BETWEEN CANADA AND
  OUR AMERICAN COLONY, 1755                                   335

  MAP OF QUEBEC IN 1759                                       365



Chapter I

The Camp on the River


"Waal? What did yer see? Clear, I reckon."

Jim Hardman looked up swiftly as a couple of tall figures came
silently into the clearing in the centre of which the camp fire
burned, and he paused for a moment in the task which occupied him.
He was squatting on his heels, after the fashion of the Indians and
of all backwoodsmen, and was engaged in cleaning the long barrel
of his musket, turning the weapon over with loving care, as if it
were a child to whom he was devoted. Indeed Jim had no more faithful
friend or servant. For this long musket had been his companion on
many and many a hunting and prospecting expedition during the past
twenty years. He scarcely ever laid it down, but carried it the day
long, usually ready in his hands, or when the times were peaceful and
quiet, slung across his slender shoulders. Jim could tell tales of
how this faithful weapon had brought down buffalo and deer and many
another animal, and had helped him to gather the stores of skins in
exchange for which he obtained those few luxuries which his simple
nature needed. In his more communicative moods he could narrate how
the bullets which he had moulded with the aid of a hot camp fire and
a supply of lead had been directed against men, against the fierce
Indian inhabitants of this Ohio valley, who for years past had waged a
ceaseless and pitiless warfare against all white invaders of their old
hunting grounds.

Indeed, "Hunting" Jim, as he was styled and known by all the
backwoodsmen in those parts, had need to care for his weapon, for
without it he would be lost, and his life would be at the mercy of the
first redskin who crossed his path.

"Waal?" he repeated, in his backwoods drawl, as he vigorously rubbed
at the shining barrel. "Reckon we're through 'em. There ain't a one in
sight. Ef there is, Steve and Silver Fox'll know all about 'em."

He looked with approval at his weapon, and getting to his feet he
slung it across his shoulders. Then he stepped softly across to the
fire, and bending over it, pushed the long ramrod suspended over
the embers a little farther on to the forked sticks which held it.
A couple of pieces of bear meat were skewered upon the rod, and had
been frizzling there for the past quarter of an hour. Now, as they
were placed right over the heat they set up a low-voiced but merry
tune, while an appetizing odour assailed the nostrils of the two
who had come to the camp. One of these two was without doubt a Red
Indian, for he was decked elaborately after the custom of his race;
his face was freely daubed with paint, which gave him a hideous and
cruel appearance that a feathered head-dress served to increase. He
was a tall, broad-shouldered man, with long, sinewy arms and legs, and
gave one the impression that he was in perfect condition and trained
to stand the utmost hardship. He nodded to Jim, and took his place
in front of the fire, squatted on his heels, and stared silently at
the embers. A minute later he opened his lips and spoke in the Indian
tongue, his gaze still fixed on the fire.

"My brothers can sleep and eat in peace and contentment," he said,
in tones which were dignified and not unmusical. "Silver Fox and the
pale-face youth whom you call Steve, but known to us as Hawk, for
his eyes are keen, keener even than are mine or my brother's,--have
been through the forest and have watched the river. Our enemies have
gone, vanished into the woods. We know this for certain, for we came
upon their track. They were journeying towards the head waters of the
river."

It was a long speech for Silver Fox, and having delivered it, he
felt for the buckskin bag in which he carried his precious store of
tobacco, filled his pipe and set fire to the weed by taking one of the
burning sticks in his long, thin fingers and lifting it to the bowl.

Meanwhile his companion, who had emerged with him from the thick
forest which surrounded the camp, advanced to the fire, sniffed
appreciatively, and glanced at the meat which frizzled over the
flames, in a manner which showed that the sight was a pleasant one.
Then he slipped his musket from his shoulders, and stood for a moment
to his full height, thoughtfully regarding Silver Fox and Hunting
Jim. He, too, was tall and lissom. From the top of his coon-skin cap
to the bottom of his soft moccasins he measured a good six feet. He
was dressed in a leather shirt elaborately fringed, as was the habit
with all hunters, while his legs were encased in fringed leather
leggings and in soft moccasins, all of which he had manufactured from
skins he himself had obtained. Stephen Mainwaring looked a typical
backwoodsman, and as the sun struck upon his well-developed figure,
upon his open face, all tanned with long exposure to the wind and the
weather, and upon his strong brown arms and hands, even his bitterest
enemy would have been forced to admit that he was a fine young fellow,
that there was as much strength in his face, in that square, resolute
chin, and in those steady, fearless-looking eyes as could well be
found, and that his whole appearance gave promise of honesty, a
sterling good nature, and a temper which was not to be easily ruffled.
Had there been any doubt on the last point Steve's joviality on this
fine summer's morning would soon have set the matter at rest. He might
only that moment have risen from his blanket, so fresh and gay was
he, and no one would have dreamed that he and Silver Fox had been
tramping the forest since night had fallen, scouting for an enemy
whom they and their comrades had good cause to fear. He sat down
suddenly, dragged off his soaked moccasins, and his coon-skin hat,
which glistened with the heavy dew that had fallen upon it, and placed
them close to the embers. Then he turned a jovial face to Jim.

"Waal, I reckon you can smoke that ere pipe of yours with ease and
comfort, Jim," he sang out, imitating exactly the drawl of the
huntsman. "Reckon Silver Fox and I can eat jest all we're able to get
our fingers on, and can then put in a bit of sleep. There ain't no
Injuns this side of forty mile away."

He laughed merrily as Jim looked severely at him, and taking the
ramrod in his hand, turned it so as to expose the farther side of the
meat to the heat.

"All's clear," he went on suddenly, in his natural tones, speaking in
a manner which showed that though he looked a typical backwoodsman he
had had an education, and as regards his conversation, was fit to mix
with the gentry of New York, or those of Boston or Charlestown, or
even with those of London itself.

"That's a lad for yer, Judge," said Jim, scowling playfully at Steve,
and then turning to one of the other figures standing or sitting about
the camp. "This Hawk gets born out in the settlements and gets took
straight away right into the backwoods. He larns to sit a scrawny pony
when he's no higher than a dozen piled-up dollars, and to shoot a gun
when he ain't got the strength to stand up to the jar one of these
muskets gives. Reckon I've seen him knocked endways with the kick many
and many a time."

He looked for an answer, and waited while the broad-shouldered
backwoodsman whom he addressed sat up and stared thoughtfully back at
him and then at Steve, who squatted by the fire. "Judge" Mainwaring,
as he was usually styled, was a big-boned, burly man, bearded and as
rugged as the oaks which grew in the wood. His eyes were deep-set and
thoughtful, and he had the air of a man who reflects, who says little,
and that only after due consideration. Indeed Judge Mainwaring had a
reputation for wisdom in the backwoods. No man was more respected in
the neighbourhood of the Mohawk country, and there was no more skilful
hunter, no more courageous Indian tracker than this big man. He spoke
seldom, and then always to the point, and in a manner which proved
that he had at one time been very different from these rough, honest
fellows of the backwoods with whom he now spent his days. Jim and his
comrades had had a talk about Tom Mainwaring or the Judge, many and
many a time, and had even endeavoured to worm some of his history from
him. But always without success.

"Reckon we'd better shut up," said Jim, after one of these many
conversations, when he and Judge and some five others had been
gathered at Tom Mainwaring's log hut in the backwoods. "He don't mean
to tell whar he's from, nor what he was, and small blame to him. He's
here, stout and plucky, a good shot, and jest the fiercest hater I
knows of them varmint of redskins. Reckon that's enough."

"And need he's had to hate them too," another had added. "Reckon Judge
don't care for much after the boy, than to get even with them varmint."

That was indeed the case. No one knew Tom Mainwaring's history, or
could even conjecture where he came from, what calling he had followed
or what his fortunes had been. To the many questions with which he had
at first been bombarded he had replied shortly and with perfect good
temper, but in such a manner that none of those who were so curious
were any the wiser. Yes, he knew Boston, and New York, and London.
He had lived in all three, and he knew France. That was as far as he
could or would go, and the settlers who had picked their holdings in
the Ohio valley, to the south of the giant lakes of Erie and Ontario,
had to be content. He had come to them one fine spring time, a silent
man, bringing a wife and a young son on the back of the one horse
which he led. He had set up his log hut like the rest, and had fished
and shot, and exchanged his pelts for the few necessaries required by
these pioneers of the American forests beyond the Alleghany Mountains.
His wife was French, that they knew for a fact; while Judge, and in
due course Steve also, could speak the language fluently. But where
he came from, why this educated man, who lacked nothing, not even
dollars, for it was an open secret that he had abundant means,--should
come to the backwoods and there bury himself and his wife and boy none
could imagine. But it was apparent that, whatever the reason was, Tom
Mainwaring had no need to be ashamed of it. His honest dealings with
others, his high principles, and the manner in which he had devoted
himself to the education of his boy had proved over and over again
that whatever the mystery, there was nothing about it that could call
a blush of shame to his cheeks.

As to his undying hate of the Indians, that was easily explained.
After all, he did not differ very much in that from the few neighbours
who surrounded him. But he had undoubtedly more cause for hatred.
That same mystery which was for ever a source of wondering curiosity
to these rough pioneers of the forest, took Tom Mainwaring over the
Alleghany mountains once in a while in the direction of the American
coast. Perhaps he went to New York, perhaps to Boston, and it was
even possible, seeing that on occasion he had been absent for six
months, that he had been to England--wherever he went, one of these
journeys had caused him to leave his wife and child in the care of
friendly neighbours, and during his absence these unhappy people had
been raided by the relentless Indians, the women of the party had been
killed, while Steve and one other who happened to be picking berries
in the forest, had alone escaped.

"Reckon that air enough to set any man who is a man agin the varmint,"
Jim had said long ago. "Judge ain't been the same sence he come back
to find the boy alone, and the wife killed and scalped. He's got
kinder hard and fierce, and don't them Injuns know it! And now that
Steve's got big and grown, and able to look for hisself, the log hut
ain't no more use to Judge. Reckon he's happier on the trail."

"There's a lad for yer, Judge," repeated Jim. "Listen to his sauce.
He ain't no respect for his betters now that he's got the knack of
shootin'."

"It's his spirit, Jim," replied Tom Mainwaring, looking with kindling
eye at Steve, and relaxing so far as to smile. "He can use his tongue
as well as he can shoot. So all is clear, Steve?"

"Yes, all clear, father. Silver Fox and I trailed round the camp far
out, and never came upon a track till early. That hunting tribe that
got on to our trace yesterday has given the matter up, and there's
no one to harm us anywhere near. We struck a party of Mohawks up the
river. They're watching the borders."

"And good need they'll have, too," said Tom with emphasis. "I think
there was never such a time as this for raids and murders. We have to
thank the French and their Indians for that."

There was silence for a while in the camp, Steve nodding to Silver Fox
and chatting in low tones as soon as the meat was cooked, while Jim
and Tom stared at the embers, both engrossed with their own thoughts.
And while the two at the fire discuss their breakfast of bear's
meat, and the two sturdy backwoodsmen stare at the embers and think,
let us take a closer look at the camp to which we have already been
introduced, and at its surroundings.

It was pitched in a small natural clearing on the Mohawk river, a
little before its junction with the Hudson, at the mouth of which New
York is situated. Not the New York of to-day, with its regular streets
and avenues, its towering buildings, well-named "sky-scrapers,"
its gigantic hotels, its tenement dwellings and its mansions where
millionaires hide from the inquisitive eyes of the people; but the
New York of the year 1756, with many Dutch among the inhabitants, who
still clung to the city which had once been theirs, but at that time
belonged to the English. New York with its smaller and, compared with
modern days, unpretentious dwellings above which the only thing that
towered was the steeple of the church. South and west of the camp
where Steve and his comrades rested was Albany, an up-country Dutch
settlement, which boasted many wealthy and aristocratic Dutch, and
offered always a means whereby the hunters and trappers of English
descent could barter the pelts which they had collected during the
previous winter. It was whispered, too, that here, in this quiet
Albany, tenanted by Puritan Dutch, French _voyageurs_, and _coureurs
de bois_, the backwoodsmen and trappers of that portion of Northern
America then owned by France, and now known as Canada, were able to
sell the loot obtained from the numerous English settlements which
they and their Indian helpers had attacked and captured.

For there was war between the colonial French and the colonial
English, and for some little time now the two nations had been engaged
in a cruel frontier struggle. In Europe, however, France and England
were outwardly at peace, so far as those in America knew, though
the spring of the year above mentioned saw England's patience at
last destroyed, and a formal declaration of war made. Still, these
backwoodsmen had no notion of that, nor had the numerous French
_voyageurs_ and soldiers who had come across Lake Erie and had marched
down into the valley of the Ohio. That was the disputed ground, where
the bold English pioneers had settled their log huts and taken up
holdings, believing themselves to be on British soil. And now hordes
of French, accompanied by their priests and by thousands of Indians,
were pushing south and west, were expelling the British colonists, and
too often were exterminating them.

No wonder Hunting Jim and Judge Mainwaring and their comrades took
precautions against surprise. They were in a country which was overrun
by enemies, and since they had set out from their settlement ten days
before, they had observed the greatest caution. The huge birch bark
canoe in which they had paddled down the Mohawk had never left the
centre of that stream, save when night had fallen, and always two of
the party had had their eyes glued on the tree-covered banks. In rear
of them, piled high in a second canoe, which was attached to the one
they paddled, were their pelts, a big store of valuable skins, for
which they hoped to obtain a good exchange. It was guarded by one of
the two Mohawk Indians who accompanied them, and who sat at the stern,
musket in hand.

And so for ten days they had travelled, their camp settled in some
clearing at night, sometimes without a fire, for the smoke or the
glare would have brought a host about them, and always with two of
their number out in the woods keeping careful guard. But now they were
safe. It was seldom that French _voyageurs_ had penetrated into the
English settlements as far as this, while their Indian allies stood
in fear of the six united tribes of redskins situated hereabouts, and
known as the Iroquois.

About the camp trees clustered thickly, pines and oaks, maple and
birch, while scattered here and there amongst the trunks were
whortleberry and cranberry bushes, honeysuckle, wild rose trees and
bracken. In many and many a spot the scarlet tupelo and the sumac
grew bright against the green, with purple asters and balm, and the
delicate blue flower of the gentian to keep them company.

A narrow exit led to the Mohawk river, glistening in the sun, and
reflecting the deep green of its forest boundaries in deep pools,
where the stream ran sluggishly, and where the surface was broken
every now and again by the sudden rising of a fish. Wild rice grew
in banks at the water's edge, while clusters of the resin plant and
of wild lilies could be seen by those who cared to look for them. No
wonder that Steve Mainwaring looked fresh and jolly, for these were
the surroundings in which he had passed his seventeen years, without
a care, save the loss of his mother, which he was too young at the
time to realize, and with that spice of danger about him which has
drawn men of every race and creed to such parts. Steve knew the forest
by heart, could tell the difference between the sharp call of the
chickadee and the blue bird, and the howl of fox or wolf. No Indian
was more conversant with the secrets of nature than he, and none
was more at home in the heart of these forest wildernesses. It was,
indeed, his home, and he was never happier than when on the trail.

"Reckon ef we get away within an hour we'll fetch up at Albany before
the dark comes," said Jim at length, as he watched Steve and Silver
Fox eating. "We'll give yer that time for a smoke, young feller, and
then strike camp. Jest raise Mac and that 'ere Talkin' Baar."

He nodded across the camp to the far corner where two figures lay
beneath blankets, sleeping lightly. That they were easily roused was
clear, for as Steve and his companion had come into the clearing
they sat up, only to snuggle under their blankets again. But as Jim
called out the name of Talking Bear, one of the figures started into a
sitting position, followed by the second.

"We'll be on the road in an hour," explained Jim. "Reckon you two have
had a sleep, and ken help me and Judge to get the canoes afloat and
the pelts packed into 'em. Rouse yerself, Mac. Never did see such a
man for sleep."

"And, faith, niver did Oi set eyes on a man what spoke so much. Sleep
did ye say? Sure it's these last two hours Oi've been lyin' alongside
of Talking Bear, wid me eyes tight shut, thrying to get off and drame.
But ye talk so much, Huntin' Jim. Ye'd kape a regimint awhake, so ye
would."

The Irishman roused himself with a growl, and throwing off his
blanket, strode over to Jim and shook his fist in his face, a broad
grin setting his lips wide asunder, and showing a set of strong teeth
which were somewhat blackened with constant use of his pipe. He was
short and sturdy, and in spite of the severeness of his hunting dress,
which was identical with those worn by his comrades, he presented a
comical appearance. His skin cap had fallen off, and showed a shock
head of very brilliant red hair, continuing down his cheeks to his
chin, where it ended in a straggling beard of the same vivid colour.
Indeed, Mac was not good-looking, but he had a pair of genial,
kindly eyes, and was a merry fellow, whose jests and laughter kept
the spirits of his fellows from falling. Once upon a time he had
worn a uniform, and had fought for his country. Then he had come to
America, and by degrees had drifted to the Alleghany settlements, from
which his fondness for danger and adventure had attracted him to the
backwoods. And here he was, boon companion to Jim and the Judge, a
staunch man in the fight, as merry and as light-hearted as a child.

"Will ye niver larn to keep yer tongue in betwixt yer teeth, Huntin'
Jim?" he asked, severely, shaking his fist within an inch of the black
bowl which Jim held between his teeth. "Begorra! Take a lisson from
the Judge. Reckon he's that silent folks can sleep and take their
rest. Git up wid yerself and lind a hand."

He made a sudden dive at Jim's shoulder, and swung him to his feet,
for Mac was very powerful. Then, still shaking his fist at the
grinning backwoodsman, he hustled him down to the banks of the river.
And from there their laughter and their shouts came back to the camp,
while Steve watched their antics. Then Silver Fox handed him his
tobacco, and soon they were smoking and staring at the embers, now and
again exchanging words in the Mohawk language. Presently a shout from
Mac told that the canoes were laden, and at the summons Silver Fox
and his brother, a painted and bedecked Indian like himself, gathered
their blankets about their shoulders, took up their muskets, and
trailed off down to the bank, leaving Steve and his father to stamp
out the fire, to look round for any forgotten trifle, and then to
follow.

"Talkin' Baar's turn for the canoe with the pelts," said Jim, taking
the lead. "Me and you'll paddle, Judge, while this 'ere critter of
yours and Silver Fox keeps an eye on the banks. Hop in easy thar. Mac,
I quite forgot you war there. Slip in in front of me. Now, off we go."

They pushed out into the river, and took to their paddles. That
evening, just before darkness fell, they pulled into the shore where
the township of Albany was situated, and having found a suitable spot,
made for the land. A fire was soon blazing, and within a little while
they were eating. When the moon got up that night and rode high in the
heavens above them, it looked down upon a silent camp, upon the dying
embers of a fire, and upon five silent figures stretched on the ground
and hidden beneath their blankets. Within a few feet of their heads
stood one solitary figure, erect and motionless, swathed in a blanket.
The long barrel of a musket stood up stark against the moon, while
the brilliant light showed up the features of Talking Bear, alert and
watchful, as careful here of the safety of his pale-face brothers as
he would have been in the heart of a hostile country.



Chapter II

French Outlaws and Robbers


"We won't waste no time in gettin' rid of them pelts," said Hunting
Jim, early on the following morning, as the little party sat about
their fire, which was close to the bank of the Hudson river and within
a few yards of the nearest house. "I don't reckon Albany's much of a
place fer us jest now. There's the French up by Lake George, and a
Dutchman I struck at sunrise, a chap as round as a barrel; guessed
that they or their Injuns might hop in here any time. What do yer say,
Judge?"

"We need not fear them," was the calm answer, given after more than a
minute's silence. "They will hardly dare to raid this place, for at
the present time they are doing their utmost to conciliate the Dutch
and win them over to their own side. The same may be said of the
Indians. You see, boys, we colonists are far more numerous than the
French, though they are far better led and organised. Our people seem
to devote all their time to squabbling amongst themselves."

"While the poor white critters out in the woods gets scalped by
fifties and hundreds. Reckon that's a shame," growled Jim. "But about
these pelts."

"Lave it to Steve," burst in Mac, putting his strong fingers through
his shock head of tousled hair. "He's our shopman, so he is, and faith
he'll get as big a price as any. Bigger, me bhoy, so lave it to him."

"You're right, Mac. Steve's the boy," Jim agreed, with a nod, while
Tom Mainwaring smiled approvingly as his son's name was mentioned.
"Yer see, that thar feller Schiller's as hard as a stone I reckon,
and when it comes to a deal with me, or you, Mac, he jest twists us
kinder round his finger. He knows we ain't got no other market, and so
he jest offers what'd be a fair price for a dozen of the skins. Then,
if we looks disgusted, as like as not he'll put a little extry to his
price as a kind of bait. Reckon he's 'cute. He knows we've got to take
his stuff or well nigh starve before we reach another settlement. I've
felt often that I was being robbed by the skunk, but what air a man to
do? Refuse did yer say, Mac?"

"That's so, me bhoy. Indade ye wouldn't be giving the pelts away, so
ye wouldn't."

"Then jest you try that 'ere game," exclaimed Jim, somewhat hotly.
"That chap Schiller's got the broadest back and the coolest temper
I ever saw. It's what he offers or nothing. If you ain't pleased,
he jest gets up from his chair and starts to walk into his house.
Reckon a fellow can't stand that. He's got to soften and give way. But
Steve's the boy. Steve, will yer trade with this 'ere Schiller?"

"Ready and willing, Jim," was the tall lad's eager answer. "I did it
last time, and I'll try again on this occasion. But mind you, you must
back me up."

"We'll do that," sang out Jim. "Then bring them pelts along."

They went to the pile of skins, and each taking a load, marched into
the town of Albany, leaving Tom Mainwaring and the Indians to guard
the camp. And a strange procession they made as they came along the
wide street, past the prosperous Dutch houses and the well-dressed and
comfortable-looking owners. Not that they attracted much attention,
for hunters and trappers were a common sight in the streets of Albany
in those days, and pelts often exchanged hands there.

To the trapper, the tough and hardy woodsman who had been scouring
the forest during the winter and late summer before, hunting game
and caring for the skins, this visit to Albany was one of no small
importance. This expedition and the stores he would obtain were a
source of interest and expectation during the long cold months, and
the trade he could do was of no small importance. For each skin meant
so much in the way of powder, so much lead, or perhaps a new musket.
With the goods he obtained he went back to his log hut, and by dint of
great care managed to eke them out over the winter. As for the trader
who took the pelts, he found an eager market for them in New York, and
made a huge profit over the transaction.

Bearing their pelts on their shoulders, with their muskets in full
evidence, and the blades of their keen tomahawks glittering beneath
their belts, the three trappers marched down the street sturdily,
their heads in the air, looking what they were, a thoroughly
independent and hardy trio. And presently they came to Hans Schiller's
house, and saw the negro servants of the trader bustling about the
place. Dropping their pelts on the stone flagging of the _stoep_,
Steve and his comrades squatted down on the steps.

"Hi, there, my black lady," sang out Jim, "reckon we want that Dutch
master o' yours. Fetch the boy along."

The negro servant giggled, stared with open admiration in her big eyes
at the sturdy backwoodsman, and then departed into the house. They
heard her call out in broken Dutch, and soon a heavy tread within
showed that someone was coming.

"Now, Steve, reckon you've got to best this 'ere Schiller," said Jim
in a warning voice. "Yer did the trade for us last year, and there
ain't a doubt as he was more liberal than ever before. See what yer
can do this time. H-hush! it's the old gal. He's trying the same old
game."

As he spoke an exceedingly fat and unwieldy woman waddled to the open
door of the house and pushed her head out. She looked calmly, almost
contemptuously at the trio seated on the _stoep_, and then called out
in very broken English.

"Hans Schiller," she called, "there's mens here." Then turning again
to the trappers she cried, "Vot for yo vant?"

Steve tapped the piled-up skins. "Pelts for exchange, madam," he said,
with a little bow. "We are waiting to see Hans Schiller. Ah, here he
is. Fill up your pipes, boys."

Steve had been to Hans Schiller before, and had gone all through
the excitement of trading with him. He remembered that on the last
occasion he was constantly interrupted by Jim or by Mac, and thought
that a pipe might help them to remain silent.

"That's the sort, boys," he said. "And just remember, a man can trade
best when he's left to himself. Keep a hold on your tongues. Howd'y
Mr. Schiller? It's a fine summer."

The Dutchman, who had just emerged from the doorway, thrust out a hot
and very fat hand, and allowed Steve to grip it, wincing as the strong
fingers squeezed him.

"Stop! These men are wild beasts," he exclaimed beneath his breath,
and in somewhat better English than his wife boasted. "He squeeze
my hand so last time, and the others always the same. Good day,
gentlemens. You vant me? Ah, you have some skins. That is sad, ver
sad."

He cast a swift look at the piled-up pelts as he exchanged a handshake
with Jim and Mac; and Steve, who watched him carefully, noticed that
a covetous look came over his fat face. But Hans was quick to smother
it.

"Ver sad indeet," he repeated, shaking his bald head. "You come to
Albany ver late. All the trapper come and gone perhaps month ago. I
hab bought many skin this summer."

"Then we'll not trouble you, Mr. Schiller," said Steve quickly, giving
Jim a knowing wink. "We came straight to you because we have always
been here. But if you've already bought as much as you want--why,
mates, we'll get on further."

It was ludicrous to watch the expression on the various faces. Mac,
with the quick wit of his race, grasped Steve's meaning and intention
in an instant, and puffing clouds of smoke from his pipe, rose to his
feet and shouldered one of the bales. But Jim possessed a somewhat
slower intelligence in such matters. He was no trader, and knew
nothing of the subtleties of bargaining. His mouth opened wide in his
consternation.

"Thunder!" he began. "Blest ef the lad----"

"Jim, what are you waiting for?" asked Steve suddenly. "Can't you
hear? Mr. Schiller's bought all he wants, and now we're off down the
town to the other folks. Bustle up. We want to get out of this as soon
as possible."

"Not so quick, frens," exclaimed Hans, putting a restraining hand on
Steve's shoulder and speaking in somewhat anxious tones. "I can buy
more if they are good. Sit down and let me see them. Gretchen!"

The three trappers returned to their seats, and the trading was
begun. Steve had a very good notion of the value of the skins, and he
knew that high prices were to be obtained for them in New York. He was
also aware that the trapper as a rule bore all the fatigue and risk of
getting the pelts, and was miserably rewarded. He was not avaricious,
but at the same time he knew the needs of his comrades, and, unlike
them, had the courage to face a possible failure in the negotiations.

"I shall be ruint! Indeet, you will take all that I hab," grumbled
Hans, when all the skins were displayed, and Steve had demanded more
than double the amount of powder, lead, and other commodities which
the Dutchman offered. "I shall be ruint! Nod anoder dollar's worth do
you hab. Dat is all. De last cent."

Steve smiled one of his easiest smiles and looked coaxingly at the
trader.

"Come, Mr. Schiller," he said pleasantly, "don't let it be said that
you lost such a chance. This is the finest lot of skins that you have
seen, that you admit. A pity if you let it go to the others farther
down the street. Come now, make another offer."

Not for one moment did he become flurried or lose that air of
confident assurance which he had worn from the very first. And after a
little while the deal was settled and the trio rose to go.

"Reckon you're the 'cutest feller as ever I set eyes on," said Jim, as
they trudged back to the camp, half a dozen of the Dutchman's negro
servants in their wake bearing sundry bales and boxes. "That 'ere
deal war the finest as ever I listened to, and, shucks! ain't you a
cool 'un! I didn't jest dare to look at yer too often, nor at Mac nor
Hans. I jest sat and smoked, gripping at me pipe ter keep meself from
splitting with laughter. Reckon it war better nor an Injun palaver,
and that 'ere Hans knew he was beat. Yer watched him give a gasp when
you was for movin'?"

"I did," answered Steve. "You can be sure that Hans Schiller lives and
grows fat on his earnings. He need never stir out of his house till
late in the summer. Then he floats down the Hudson in a flat-bottomed
boat, and trades his skins at New York for dollars. A few of those buy
the stuff he needs for trading with the trappers, and back he comes,
with a sack and more of dollars, and with nothing to do but smoke his
pipe all through the winter."

"We've had some friends enquiring after us," said Steve's father when
the three had returned to the camp. "A couple of Indians have been
questioning Silver Fox and Talking Bear. See them over there."

They swung round, and looking in the direction he indicated, caught
sight of a couple of feathered heads peeping from behind the trees.

"I don't like them fellers," said Jim quickly, staring at the heads
till they were withdrawn. "What air they after?"

"What do they and their sort generally want?" was Tom's rejoinder.

"Scalps and lead, and sich things as we've jest brought here," Jim
answered swiftly. "Reckon we'll have to keep an eye round for them
varmint. What do yer say, Silver Fox?"

He suddenly broke into the Mohawk tongue, which all understood, and
for a little while all joined in an earnest and low-toned conversation.

"They ain't after no good, I'll swear," said Jim, with emphasis.
"Reckon we'll have to go careful, mates."

"Then I vote that we give it out that we are staying here till
to-morrow or the next day," broke in Steve. "That will make them
keep a careless watch upon us perhaps, and to-night we can slip away
unseen."

It was a good suggestion, and brought a grunt of approval from Jim.

"It air a good idea, young feller," he said, as he smoked his pipe.
"Jest get out something to eat and pass it round. After that we'll put
in a sleep, as if we was fixed to stay here best part of a week. Ef
any one comes axin' questions, jest tell 'em what we've arranged."

At such a time all knew well that they could not be too careful,
for though a large number of French and their Indian allies would
not have ventured to Albany, seeing that this was undoubted British
territory, and the Dutch were partisans of the colonists, still the
sleepy little trading town was just the place where a roving band
of small dimensions might take up its quarters, or rather in its
immediate neighbourhood, sending some of their scouts into the town
to gather information. And a small band, such as Steve and his friends
comprised, with their store of powder and other trade goods, would be
a very valuable capture. They could not therefore be too careful, and
in order to make it appear as if they were intending to stay for a day
or more, Steve and Silver Fox lay down to sleep, while Tom and the
others lounged about the camp.

"Reckon I'll stroll along the houses," said Jim, after a while. "Maybe
I'll see some more of these 'ere fellows."

He rose to his feet without another word, and was on the point of
leaving the camp when Steve sat up.

"I'll come too, Jim," he cried out. "I can't sleep, and a little
exercise will do me good."

"Then hop along, young 'un. One of these days, when you've grown older
and ha' got more larnin', you'll find it's a wise man who puts in
sleep when he's the chance. Pick up that 'ere gun. Yer never knows
when a bullet won't be useful."

They left their friends lolling about the camp, and strolled into the
town. There were one or two stores to be found, and they hung about
these for a little while, staring with all a backwoodsman's curiosity
at the goods displayed for sale.

Then they strolled on again till they reached the far end of the
street.

"Reckon ther's one of them skunks a watchin'," said Jim, suddenly
stopping and calmly filling his pipe. "Jest you walk on, Steve, while
I get a light. It'll give me a chanst to turn round."

He sought for his tinder and steel, and began to strike the flint,
turning his back to the wind and to his young companion, who strolled
on. Two minutes later he had come up to Steve again.

"Jest stroll on as we air, easy like," he said in low tones. "I war
right. One of them redskin varmint's got his eyes on us."

"Then we'll slip into the wood up here, as if for a stroll, and when
we're hidden we'll turn and watch. What do you say, Jim?"

"That's the ticket, lad. Easy does it."

A little while later the two were making their way through the wood,
which grew densely close up to the houses at this end of Albany.
They threaded their way in amongst the trees in single file, each
unslinging his musket as he stepped out of sight of the road. When
they had gone a quarter of a mile Jim came to a sudden halt.

"Jest take cover, Steve," he said softly. "I'll get ahead, so as to
let that Injun guess we're still movin'. When he comes along, stand up
in his way. That'll put a stop to his little game for to-day at any
rate, and'll let him see as we're awake."

A moment later the crash of brushwood being swept aside told that Jim
was pushing on into the wood, making far more noise then he would
otherwise have done. Steve took his stand in a dense mass of bush,
and stepping on to the trunk of a fallen tree, kept a careful watch
on the track which they had just covered. And very soon he caught a
fleeting glimpse of a feathered head, and of the tip of a barrel.
Within three minutes a painted redskin suddenly came into full view,
his eyes glued on the track. He was stepping along at a rapid pace,
his nostrils distended, his feet making not a sound as he trod, and
all his senses engaged in tracking those who had preceded him. As
he came opposite the bush, Steve stepped out without so much as a
rustle and confronted the man, causing him to come to a sudden stop.
For once the coolness of an Indian was upset. He gave a low grunt of
astonishment, and in a twinkling his musket was presented at Steve's
head. For just one brief instant our hero stared into the barrel, and
then, quick as thought, he ducked. There was a loud report, a tongue
of flame and smoke spurted almost into his face, and his coon-skin cap
was lifted from his head and carried into the bush behind. Then, long
before he could use his own weapon, the Indian was upon him, his keen
tomahawk gleaming in his hand. Lucky it was for Steve that the stock
of his musket caught the blade of the Indian's weapon, for had it not
done so, his head would have been crushed by the blow. But though
taken unawares, fortune was on his side, and an involuntary movement
warded off the blow. Then he dropped his musket, grasped the Indian's
arm, and in an instant they were rolling on the ground in a death
struggle, the redskin making frantic efforts to strike with his
tomahawk, while Steve gripped the red-painted throat with his fingers,
and clung there with all his strength. Not a cry did either give. It
was one of those silent and desperate contests which the backwoods had
often seen, and nothing but the gasping breaths of the combatants told
what was happening.

[Illustration: "THE INDIAN WAS UPON HIM, HIS KEEN TOMAHAWK GLEAMING IN
HIS HAND"]

"Reckon that war a close shave, young 'un," said Jim, in his quiet
voice, some few minutes later, staring at Steve as he lay breathing
heavily on the ground. "That 'ere varmint was out to kill, and didn't
reckon as you'd get a grip of his throat so early. Take a word from
Jim. When you've got the best of an Injun, never feel safe till he's
dead. There ain't nothing in this world to touch 'em for cunnin'. He
knew you was holding his tomahawk arm, and in another half minute he'd
have been strangled. So he dropped his blade and used his two hands to
shake yer off. Lucky I come along."

Jim had indeed arrived just in the nick of time, and it was well for
Steve that his tomahawk had put a sudden end to the contest.

"Reckon it'll be a case of walk quick," said Jim, after a few moments'
silence. "We can hide this here critter for a few hours, maybe a day
or more. But they'll find him sure enough, and then there'll be a
howl. Best get back to the camp." He then picked the dead man up,
and stepping some yards away into the thickest bush, placed the body
beside a fallen trunk.

"They'd find that as easy as walk," he said, as he returned, "but
we'll put 'em off the trail. Come along, young 'un. We'll get back to
the camp."

"And what about the other Indian?" said Steve suddenly. "He's watching
there, isn't he?"

"Reckon that's so, Steve."

"Do you think that he and this man were alone, Jim?" asked our hero.

"You ain't so 'cute by half as I thought yer," was the answer. "Reckon
there's a band of 'em that has made Albany their station. Like as not
they've wiped out a power of small trading trappers. These here chaps
air their scouts."

"Then let's find the band and take a look at them. Look here, Jim,
we'll make through the wood till close to the camp, and pick up the
tracks of these scouts. Then we'll----"

It was comical to watch Jim as he grasped his young companion's
intentions. He swept his skin cap from his head, and darted a keen
look at him.

"That air 'cute," he said. "Reckon I withdraws what I've said. That
air the movement for us."

Without further conversation they struck off into the forest, Steve
following closely in the wake of the hunter, and neither making
so much as a sound. Presently, when they judged that they were
approaching their own camp, they came to a halt.

"I've been thinkin' of that 'ere gun shot," said Jim. "But these trees
has made it safe. Reckon no one at this end has heard the sound. Let's
divide."

A quarter of an hour later, when they came together at the same spot,
Steve was able to report that he had come upon a trail in the forest,
and that the marks showed plainly that it had been used by two men at
least, and probably by half a dozen.

"It's been in use for a couple of months, I should say, Jim, and I
think that quite a number must have been along it. There are fresh
marks of two moccasined feet."

"Then we'll strike along it and see where it takes us, young feller,"
was the answer. "We've dropped upon somethin' as may save our scalps.
Jest strike off for it. I seed that other varmint keepin' watch on the
camp. He ain't got a thought that his brother has gone to the happy
huntin' grounds. That 'ere shot never come to his ears, or else he'd
have been looking into the matter by now. Reckon the strong wind and
the trees drowned it."

They stood for a few moments preparing their muskets, each powdering
the pan afresh, and looking to the flint, for a misfire might have
disastrous consequences. Then Steve led the way, and in a little while
they had struck into the trail which he had found. An hour's fast
walking took them some six miles into the forest, when, seeing that
the trail still went on, they broke into a dog trot, which both were
well able to keep up for hours at a time. As it happened, however,
another hour took them to some rising ground, where the forest grew as
thick as ever, and where other tracks, many of them quite fresh ones
too, told them that they were in the immediate neighbourhood of a camp.

"That air the whiff of terbacca," said Jim, raising his voice barely
to a whisper, and sniffing at the air like a dog. "We're makin' up
wind, Steve, and ef I ain't right, why----"

"It's smoke," answered Steve with conviction. "Let's get on."

Stealing forward with their bodies close to the ground, it was not
long before the two came in sight of the camp. It was similar to any
other trapper's camp in its surroundings. There was a fire in the
centre of a narrow clearing, and three or four rough skin shelters
were erected under the shadow of the trees. Lounging round the fire
were some twenty redskins, while a squaw was busily engaged in tending
some cooking pots which swung over the flames.

"This air a find," whispered Jim, squeezing Steve's arm. "These here
critters has come to stay, and I reckon there ain't any other redskins
within miles, or else this camp would ha' been discovered long ago. A
hul tribe might camp under the noses of these fat Dutchmen without a
one bein' the wiser."

"And just look at their stores," whispered Steve, pointing to a number
of barrels and sacks and bales piled up beneath one of the skin
shelters.

"The critters!" growled Jim. "That air the trade of many a small band
of trappers same as us. Reckon them chaps has plenty of scalps. Look
thar!"

This time there was an unusual amount of emphasis in his words, while
his long brown hand shot out, and a finger pointed to the other side
of the camp, where one solitary figure was seated. Steve followed his
finger, saw the man and watched with dilating eyes as he rose and
turned towards them. He was a pale face, a white man like themselves,
tanned and weather-beaten, and some twenty-five years of age. He was
decked as an Indian, and resembled them exactly, save for the fact
that his face was not painted.

An exclamation of dismay burst from Steve. He crouched still lower
in the bushes, and then silently withdrew, fearful lest this white
man should see him. Jim, too, slid silently away, and very soon the
two were speeding back to their own camp at a fast trot, their senses
fully alert and their thoughts occupied with the white man and the
band of Indians whom they had just discovered. A little later they
turned to the left, crept undetected into the town, and strolled in
the most casual way into the camp. No one looked up as they entered,
but all had been anxiously awaiting them, that was evident, for the
eyes of their comrades stole across in their direction, their long
absence having roused the fears of the others.

"Air dinner ready?" asked Jim casually. "Then suppose we set down to
it."

"We're in a muss," he said some little while later, as all squatted
about the fire. "One of them critters that was watchin' followed us
through the town and into the wood. It war almost a case with Steve.
But we dropped the man. After that we struck the track at the back of
this camp, and come upon the band. Boys, there air twenty of 'em at
least, and wuss than all there's a Frenchman leadin'. It's that 'ere
Jules from over the water."

An exclamation of amazement and dismay burst from the listeners, for
Jules Lapon had won an unenviable reputation during the past three
years. During that period hundreds of peaceful settlers and backwoods
people had been butchered by the Red Indians, hounded on by the
French, and in many cases French colonists and regular soldiers had
been with them. Bands of desperadoes had ranged the forests, and of
these there was none more cruel, more successful and more feared than
that of Jules Lapon, a young Frenchman who had settled some years
before within a few miles of Tom Mainwaring's quarters. No wonder that
the small band of trappers stared aghast at Jim for some few minutes.
Then they found their voices, and began to discuss their future
movements.

"Reckon there ain't any doubt as to what's to be done," said Jim. "Ef
we stay here till the winter falls, they'll still be waitin'. These
here Dutchmen can't give no protection, so we're bound to look to
ourselves. We'll have to git, and the sooner the better."



Chapter III

Flight by Night


As the dusk came and settled down upon the peaceful town of Albany,
it found the little band of trappers seated about their camp fire,
smoking heavily and discussing the question of their flight in earnest
and low-pitched tones. They had already taken their evening meal, and
were ready to set out at any moment. But so far there was not a sign
of preparation. To the casual or the curious onlooker, the little
party seemed to have every intention of remaining overnight, more
particularly as the sky was overcast, and the rude leather shanty
which they had been busily erecting showed that they expected rain,
and had prepared a shelter.

"You wouldn't think that there was a question of danger or of our
clearing out, boys," said Judge Mainwaring, as he stared round at his
comrades. "This town of Albany looks as peaceful as possible, and
yet----"

"And yet the facts are clear," burst in Steve. "I suppose that if
Albany were filled with Englishmen it would be a different matter."

"That it would, young 'un," chimed in Jim, taking the stem of his
black pipe from between his teeth. "And there ain't no sayin' that
these Dutchmen wouldn't help us ef we went to 'em. But they ain't here
to fight. Reckon they're fer trade. Ef it was our own people, why we'd
get 'em together, and them varmint out in the woods would soon be
scattered."

"As it is there is no chance of doing that," said Tom Mainwaring
quietly. "I've been thinking this out, boys. If we went to the Dutch
I doubt very much that they would move to help us. They are traders,
as Jim says, and though I believe they are certainly on our side and
opposed to the French and their Indians, yet at the present time even
that is not too certain. We've got to depend on ourselves. We might
wait here for a week, but this rascal Lapon will wait also, and he
will watch us like a hawk. We must move, and this very night too, for
at present they think no doubt that we do not know of the existence of
this band. If we wait they may suspect us----"

"There's the scout we killed," ventured Steve.

"True, there is the scout. They will find him by to-morrow morning,
and then they will watch us all the closer. It will rain soon, and we
must move."

"Hold hard," said Jim suddenly. "We've got to git, that's as clear as
this fire, but thar's that 'ere redskin watchin'. It 'ud take him an
hour perhaps to get back to his camp and then the hull lot 'ud be down
on us."

That was a point which none had considered, and for a little while
they sat staring into the embers, doubtful how to act. In these days
of peace, when the neighbourhood of Albany is as secure as that of New
York or of London, and when the banks of the Hudson and the Mohawk and
the country adjacent are comparatively thickly populated, it is hard
to believe that a party of trappers could be in danger of attack. But
in the year 1756 it was very different. Thick forest spread over the
land, with very few settlements, and still fewer log huts. In time
past many and many a pioneer and trapper had forced his way far on
into the valley of the Ohio, that promised land, and had there erected
his rough shelter. But there were competitors in the field. France
was not content with that huge stretch of America to the north of the
St. Lawrence and the great lakes. She was pushing south, building
forts and peopling the land. For some years, as the reader will have
already gathered, these hardy French soldiers and _voyageurs_, with
their fierce Indians, had been pressing south and west, exterminating
the helpless British colonists. The man who dared to step outside the
towns and plunge into the forests took his life in his hands. Bands
of desperadoes wandered hither and thither, and the old calling of
the trapper was almost extinct. It was therefore not so wonderful to
find danger threatening Steve and his friends on the very outskirts of
Albany.

"Oi'd loike to hear what Silver Fox and Talkin' Bear has to say,"
sang out Mac, thrusting his red head into the full light of the fire.
"They have sat there loike two logs of wood, and sure they've not yit
opened their mouths. Let thim spake and we'll listen."

"Then what shall we do, Fox?" demanded Jim, breaking into the Mohawk.
"You know what's happening."

"It will rain to-night, my brothers," was the answer, "and we must go.
But this scout must die before we venture from the camp. Talking Bear
and Silver Fox will see to this matter."

He glanced round at each one of the party, grunted and nodded to his
countryman.

"It is well spoken, brother. He must die," was the short answer.

"Then we'll turn in," said Jim.

One by one the white men of the party stood up, looked about them and
then crept into the "shanty," for rain had already begun to fall. And
soon Silver Fox joined them, while outside, swathed in his blanket,
motionless, stood Talking Bear, guarding the camp during the first
hours of the night. His figure was hardly distinguishable even against
the dull light of the fire, but all knew that the Indian watcher
had his eyes on him. And so two hours passed, till the embers were
drenched, and the night was very dark. Not till then was there a
movement in the tiny shanty. Steve sat up beside Silver Fox, returned
the pressure of his hand and slipped from the cover. Crawling across
the camp he touched Talking Bear, and in an instant they had changed
places. Steve was now the sentry, swathed in a blanket, tall and
erect. Almost at the same instant there was the hoot of an owl away in
the forest.

"Them 'ere critters has jest the finest eyes," growled Jim. "Reckon
though that they heard somethin'. There goes Silver Fox. We'll give
him an hour."

But less than half an hour had passed before the silence of their camp
was disturbed. First came the loud hoot of an owl, and then away in
the forest was heard the sound of a conflict. Branches snapped, there
was a dull thud, and then silence again.

"We have failed. The scalp of this scout who watched the camp hangs at
my belt, but he had two others with him. They are gone."

Silver Fox had made not so much as a sound on his return, and his
voice was the first thing that warned the occupants of his presence.
They sat up with a start while various exclamations burst from them.

"There is not a moment to be lost," said Tom, with decision. "We must
pack and paddle for our lives. That band will never rest till they
have the scalps of every one of this party."

There was unusual bustle in the camp at once, the members of the party
going about their work with method and in perfect silence. Mac and
Steve soon had the leather shelter stripped and folded, and by the
time they had carried it down to the canoes, the others had placed
all their goods in the smaller one. Then they took their places, and
at a word from Tom they pushed out from the bank, Steve sitting in
the second canoe, his musket across his thighs and his eyes glued on
the bank. The five in the leading canoe grasped their paddles and
used them with a will, Tom setting the time, and pushing the water
back with lusty arms which aided not a little in their progress. They
swung up the centre of the stream, turned to their left and entered
the Mohawk. Morning found them many miles on their way, still paddling
steadily up the centre of the river.

"It were well to consider, my brothers," said Silver Fox, speaking
for the first time since they had left Albany. "The sky is clearer,
and the rain no longer falls. At present the mist hides us, but in a
little while the warmth will suck it up and then we shall be seen."

"And yer think them critters is after us?" demanded Jim.

"They left their camp within the hour of our departure," was the slow
answer. "They are now well on their way."

Jim had had no need to ask that simple question. As an old and
experienced trapper he knew well enough that the alarm must have
reached the camp of the enemy within a very little while of their own
departure, and it needed no consideration to tell him that they would
make up the Mohawk river.

"They kin tell as we ain't got no business towards New York," he
growled, "and this here route air the only one that's left. Reckon
the varmint air well on the road. They'll have canoes hid somewhere's
within reach, and it won't be long afore they're out on the river.
Boys, we've got to choose between holdin' on to those paddles or
takin' to the woods."

"Lose all our stores!" demanded Mac, indignantly. "Sure if we take to
the forest we'll have to lave these canoes and the things, and for
what is the use of that? Arrah! Lit's kape to the paddles, and if they
follow we'll use our guns."

"You forget one thing," said Tom Mainwaring, in his quiet and judicial
tones. "We have paddled through the night. These rascals have been
walking and running. Their arms will be unwearied. They will certainly
overhaul us. There is nothing for it, I fear, but to strike across to
the south bank, hide our canoes and stores as well as we are able, and
then take to the trail."

There was, indeed, little else to be suggested, and it was with sad
hearts therefore that the little party turned the bows of the canoe
towards the far bank. It was lighter now, though the mist still hid
them, an occasional gust of wind blowing a portion of it away, for all
the world as if it were a curtain, and disclosing something of their
whereabouts, the surface of the silent river, the far bank, or the
forest on that side for which they were making.

"Steady a minute. Stop!"

It was Steve's voice which broke the silence, and as they craned
their necks to look back at him, they saw the long figure of the young
trapper stretched in the small canoe, his musket still across his
thighs and one hand upon it. The other shaded his eyes, as if the mist
worried him.

"Stop!" he called again in the lowest tone. "Wait while I come up with
you."

There was a paddle beside him, placed there to enable him to steer
if occasion should make that necessary, and while his friends backed
water, he drove his paddle into the river and swung his canoe round
till it lay alongside the other. To have endeavoured to bring it up
directly would have been useless, for a short tow rope connected the
two.

"You said that they would have canoes somewhere within reach," he
said. "I overheard it, and I believe I have seen the very spot. The
wind blew the mist aside suddenly, and I saw a tiny inlet. It is
blocked with weeds and osiers, and they too were disturbed by the
wind. I am sure that I got a glimpse of the bow of a canoe."

"Jupiter! That's a find," burst out Jim, while Tom and Mac nodded
approvingly. "Reckon we'll git across to them boats and break 'em up.
Boys, that air our ticket."

He plunged his paddle into the water, followed by the others, and
would have swung the canoe round had not Steve still clung to the side.

"One moment, Jim," he said easily and quietly, for he had inherited
his father's quiet and judicial manner. "Supposing you smash their
canoes. What then?"

Jim gasped. "What then! Why, they're fixed, young 'un. Thought you was
'cute. They ain't got no way left of followin', unless they runs like
dogs along the bank, and for that we don't care nothin'."

"That is, supposing they have no other canoes," answered Steve
quickly. "But is that likely. They know that if their boats are
discovered they are helpless. It seems to me that they may very well
have divided them. That's what we should do. In that case they would
still have a chance of reaching us."

"That 'ere lad air doin' his best to get even with the Judge,"
exclaimed Jim with a shake of his head. "Reckon, boys, that what he
says air true as gospel. Them critters will never have put all their
boats in one place. We'd best make for the forest straight."

Once more he would have swung the canoe away from Steve, but the lad
still clung to the side.

"We might try a surprise," he said eagerly. "These men will follow us
right away to the settlement, for Jules Lapon lives near there. We
can't go on like this for the next ten days, and if we don't stop them
they will be close to us before to-day is past. Let us wait and have
it out with the rascals."

This time there was no attempt to break away from him. All stared
eagerly into his sun-tanned face, while an exclamation burst from Jim.

"The boy has an idea," said Tom. "Out with it, Steve."

There was no time to waste, for even as they had hung in the stream,
drifting with the current, the mist had lifted still further. The sun
would be up very soon, and at any moment it might be clear from shore
to shore. Steve leaned over the side of his canoe and spoke swiftly
and in little more than a whisper.

"I've been thinking it over as we came along," he said. "We've no
chance unless we can stop them now, for they are many, and will follow
closely, and never give us a moment's rest. We shall be shot down and
scalped one after another. I thought of their boats and what we might
do. Then I suddenly caught sight of the bows of the one of which I
spoke. Listen! This wind and the rustling of the leaves will have
drowned the sound of our paddles. Even if the redskins are now on the
far bank I doubt whether they have heard us. But they are not there.
We have come faster than a man can walk, and you must remember that
they will have had to make their way through the forest. Let us get
over to their boats, slip ashore without leaving tracks, and hide up
under cover. Once we're there one of us can slip back to this bank
with our canoes, and can hide them, just leaving the bows of one to
show, as if by accident."

"Thunder! The lad's got it, Judge. Reckon you ain't in it with Steve.
Boys, he's told us what to do."

Jim sat up stiffly in his astonishment, while Silver Fox, who could
understand English, gave a grunt of assent.

"He was always a calculating, thoughtful youngster," said Tom, a note
of triumph in his voice. "The lad has suggested a brilliant plan."

Trappers were in the habit of making up their minds in a rapid manner.
Often enough there was no opportunity for discussion, and even when
there was they were not over talkative. Jim was perhaps the exception.
But now there was no need for chatter, and little time for delay. The
paddles plunged into the stream again, Steve pushed out from the large
canoe, and in a trice they were surging through the stream in the
direction of the opposite bank. A little later they were in sight of
it, and were paddling along beneath the overhanging trees.

"Jest about here?" asked Jim, his voice hardly a whisper, while his
hand pointed to the bank.

Steve stood up carefully in his frail support. His eyes were glued on
the bank and for some minutes he remained without movement, while the
canoes slid along through the water. Then, suddenly, his hand went
up. There was a bank of reeds and osiers, with a patch of wild rice
clinging to the edge, and a gust of wind happening to blow across the
water at that moment all saw the nose of an Indian canoe. Standing
still higher Steve was able to get a better view than his comrades,
and caught sight of four other canoes, all nestling in the osiers.

"We can't land here," he sang out softly. "The bank is bare of brush
and all trampled. Backwater and strike higher up the river."

Round swung the canoes and paddles sent the water frothing alongside
the frail vessels, for excitement was high, and all were eager to get
under cover.

"Them 'ere varmint might come along any time," said Jim impatiently.
"Reckon this air a find!"

"We can land there," whispered Tom, pointing to the bank. "There is a
rock, and perhaps deep water beside it."

A few strokes of the paddles settled the question. There were quite
three feet of water beside the rock, which was bare and brown. It ran
up on to the bank for some ten feet, and then gave place to dense
forest.

"Step ashore," said Jim, huskily. "Gently. Don't let the canoe strike
agin the rock, nor a paddle splash it. Them varmint'd spot it in a
jiffy. Talkin' Baar, reckon you're the one to git over to the other
bank."

In rapid tones he explained the movement required of him to the silent
Indian, speaking in the Mohawk tongue. There was a nod of approval,
and without a word the feathered redskin took up his paddle again and,
pushing out from the rock, made off across the river, the smaller
canoe with its load of stores trailing after him. In a little while
he was lost in the mist, while none could hear the dip of his paddle.
But presently, as the sun rose and sucked up the vapours lying like a
pall over forest and river, Steve and his comrades could see just the
tip of a canoe protruding from a thick mass of bush which clothed the
opposite bank.

"Reckon a baby Injun'd spot that," said Jim. "To look at it you'd say
as the wind or the wash of the water had shook it loose from the mud
and floated it out. These critters will see it right off, and will try
to slip over without a sound, so as to fall upon our party. Reckon
there'll be a surprise. Now, what's the ticket?"

"Let the boy tell us," whispered Tom, looking proudly at Steve. "We
owe this movement to him, and I think we all agree that he has had
good experience of the forest and of these Indians. Now, lad, where
are we to take up our stations?"

For answer Steve placed his musket on the rock, and, stepping softly
across it, swung himself into a tree, a branch of which overhung their
position. They watched him as he clambered up still higher and waited
patiently for him to descend.

"I vote that we divide," he said, as he dropped on to the rock again.
"When the enemy arrive and see the canoe over yonder they will be
all keenness to cross. They will think that we are lying hid in the
forest, and will guess that once they are out in the river they will
be seen. But remember that our canoes are supposed to be hidden away.
If we were over yonder, lying up in the bushes, we should keep under
cover and watch, hoping to escape discovery. These Indians will reckon
that, and I think will paddle down the far side, staring into the
bank. As soon as they get opposite our canoes, they will paddle in
with a rush."

"Thet air reason," exclaimed Jim. "What then?"

"My argument proves that they will be careful to get aboard on this
side without making too much noise. They will try to let it appear
that they have not seen our canoe. They will enter their own and push
out stealthily, for they are cunning."

"Cunnin'!" Jim clenched a huge brown fist, and would have growled out
something more had not Tom's warning hand restrained him.

"That will be our time. The bank of osiers is big, and they have
hidden up their canoes almost in the centre. So there will be room for
one gun in that direction. Then this tree commands their boats, and
has the advantage of being very thick. Supposing we divide forces, two
going into the reeds, and three into the tree? The three can swing
themselves up without leaving a trace, while the two who make for the
reeds can wade through the water."

"The boy is right. Even you or I could not have made better
suggestions," exclaimed Tom. "Let us get into our places."

At any moment now the enemy might put in an appearance, and fearful of
being discovered the whole party went to their places at once, Steve
swinging himself into the tree after his father and Silver Fox, while
Jim and Mac lowered themselves very silently into the river, which
came to their waists, and wading along entered the reeds. There they
took up a position which enabled them to command the canoes, while
they could see, and be seen by, their friends. And as they crouched
in their lairs the sun rose higher and higher, while the heat grew
greater. The air over forest and river became motionless, what breeze
there had been dying down entirely. Not a leaf stirred, while the
hundreds of birds which had heralded the morning with their bright
song seemed to have gone to roost again.

"Hist! That bird flew from down stream," whispered Tom, suddenly, as a
pigeon darted over the water and flew past their hiding place. "We can
expect the enemy. Watch the banks carefully."

But half an hour passed without another disturbance, and though all
strained their ears nothing could be heard. From his leafy perch
Steve saw Jim crouching in the osiers, and noticed that the cunning
backwoodsman turned towards the far bank, leaning in that direction
in a listening attitude. But evidently he heard nothing, for within a
minute he was engaged with the near bank, his eyes peering between the
osiers and the reeds. This was not the first time that Steve had been
pursued by the redskins, and his adventurous life in the woods had
taught him to maintain his coolness. But on this occasion, do what he
would, his heart would thump heavily against his ribs, while his pulse
throbbed in an unusual and disturbing manner. He stood in the lowest
fork of the tree, his back supported by the trunk, his musket in his
hands, and his eye roaming hither and thither. His lips were slightly
parted, and there was a determined look on his sun-browned features.
He felt no actual fear, only unusual excitement, and a vague wonder as
to what would be the end of this conflict. All through the night as
he lay in the canoe he had been thinking the matter out. He and all
his comrades were well aware of the evil reputation of Jules Lapon's
band, and to Steve it had become abundantly clear that, strive as
they might, they could not hope to reach their journey's end without
molestation. The enemy were too many. They travelled light, while he
and his friends carried stores, to which they were absolutely bound to
cling, for without them they could not exist through the winter. Then
surely it would be better to meet this band of rascals now, while they
too were fresh, and do their best to beat them.

"I am sure it is the right movement," he said to himself. "We have
a good chance of taking them by surprise, and an ambush is just the
thing to upset these redskins. If we can kill a few the rest may give
up the attempt. What is that?"

He started and leaned forward to look at Jim. The old trapper had
turned right round and was again staring at the far bank. Steve saw
him grip his musket barrel, and then signal to those in the tree. A
second later he had swung round once more, and was looking to the
opposite bank. Then Steve saw something of what was happening. A
minute earlier the tip of the bows of their own canoe was alone
showing, a bait to catch the enemy. But now the whole canoe was in
sight, and there was Talking Bear, stripped of his blanket, his paddle
in his hand, pushing out into the river with all his strength. And
after him floated the canoe laden with the precious possessions for
which they were being hunted.

Steve was dumfounded. He stared with wide-open eyes at the redskin,
and then swung round to Jim. The trapper crouched in the osiers like a
wild cat, and as Steve looked he signalled with his hand to those in
the tree. His long finger shot out, and for a few seconds he pointed
to the forest on their own side, warning them as well as he could by
means of sundry waves and nods to be in full readiness. Then he turned
to the river and repeated the signals.

"They're both sides of the Mohawk," gasped Tom. "Look there."

Stealing through the forest, and making for the canoes as rapidly as
was possible were four painted redskins, while away on the far side
a hurried glance shewed Steve the hideous heads of two more of their
enemies. Had there been any doubt on the matter it was set at rest
within a very few seconds, for the peace of the river was suddenly
startled by a sharp and loud report, which sent the birds soaring from
the branches. A bullet flew from the far side of the river and long
before the report had died down Talking Bear crumpled up as if he had
been struck on the head with an enormous hammer, and sprawled out in
the bottom of the canoe. Then the war whoop of the redskins burst from
the trees, that whoop which had set hundreds of white men and women
trembling. Some twenty heads burst from the trees on the farther bank,
and in a trice one of the painted warriors had leaped into the water
and struck out for the drifting canoes.

"He will get aboard and row them back," thought Steve, the meaning
of it all flashing across his brain. "Then they will embark, and no
matter how many of the men on this side are killed, the others will be
able to reach us."

It was clear, in fact, that on the possession of those two helpless
canoes depended the result of this momentous engagement. If they were
taken the little band of trappers would have the whole howling band
about them within a very few minutes, and then what chance would they
stand?

Steve did not hesitate. There was a stout twig growing close by his
hand, and in an instant his musket dangled from it by means of the
sling. His tomahawk flew from his belt to his mouth, where he gripped
it between his teeth. Then, light and active as a cat, he dropped
on to the rock beneath, his moccasins making not a sound, and ere
his father could gather his intentions the gallant young fellow had
entered the water.



Chapter IV

Steve makes a Suggestion


Two strides from the rocky bank took Steve into deep water, where he
struck out for the drifting canoes, his long and powerful strokes
cleaving a path for him through the river. Behind him he left his
father and Silver Fox dumfounded at his sudden action, and almost
inclined to follow. But they had another matter to occupy their
attention, for Steve had been very wary. He had soon realised that the
enemy were in two parties, and guessed that the four redskins making
for the hidden canoes were unaware of the presence of the trappers.
It was important that they should still remain in ignorance, and,
mindful of this, the young fellow had made not a sound as he departed.
The bush and the thick leaves of the tree had hidden him from the
keen eyes of the enemy, while his presence in the water was hidden by
the thick bank of osiers. So careful had he been, in fact, that the
redskins had no suspicions, and as their brothers on the far bank set
up their hideous war-whoop, the four who were stealing towards the
canoes sent back answering whoops, and thinking that longer caution
was unnecessary, they dashed towards the bank of reeds.

Crash! They were met with a volley, aimed from the tree and the reeds,
and hardly had the reports died down when Jim's voice was heard.

"Two of the varmint's down," he bellowed. "After the others."

Like a hound let loose from the leash this active trapper threw down
his musket and dashed through the reeds, his tomahawk in his hand,
while Mac went bounding after him, his coon-skin cap fallen from his
head, and his red hair blowing out behind him.

"Afther thim, the blackguards!" he cried, waving to Jim.

"Steady! Take the man to the right," shouted Tom suddenly, swinging
his smoking musket over his shoulder and reaching out for the weapon
which Steve had suspended to the tree. Up went the heavy stock to his
shoulder, the barrel poked out through the leaves and for one brief
second followed the crouching figure of one of the redskins, who was
making off through the forest. A loud report startled the silence, and
as Tom dropped the barrel the Indian leaped into the air, a discordant
shriek burst from his lips, and in a second he was rolling over and
over in the long grass and brambles for all the world like a rabbit
which has been shot when bolting.

"My brother has the eye of a hawk, even as has his son," said Silver
Fox, busily ramming down a fresh charge and powdering the pan of his
long musket. "Three of our number picked out one of these enemies,
and he died at once. Another was struck by a single bullet, and he
lies there, close to the reeds. The fourth will be slain within a
little while. Listen, my brother, there is noise on the far side of
the river."

There was indeed a commotion. For a little while the twenty or more
warriors over there had kept up their awful whooping, and as their
comrades on the near side had responded, the shouts and whoops became
even greater. But now that the rifles of the trappers had spoken
so suddenly and unexpectedly, the babel became even worse. Painted
redskins showed up openly on the bank, frantically waving their
muskets, while two stood in the water ready to reinforce the man who
was swimming out to the drifting canoes.

"They are as much startled and taken aback as are we," said Tom
Mainwaring. "Keep steady here, Silver Fox, and let us see what we can
do for the young hawk. My son will reach the canoes almost at the same
time as that redskin, and a bullet from us might help. Ah, they are
firing." While he spoke he rammed fresh charges into the two muskets
with feverish energy, his eyes all the time roaming from the surface
of the river to the figures on the far bank. As he had said, it seemed
more than likely that Steve would reach the canoes as soon as the
redskin, for his long powerful strokes were taking him through the
water at a rapid pace, and as if fortune had decided to help him a
slight breeze which had since got up came sweeping along the river and
drifted the two craft towards him.

"Stay here, my brother," whispered Silver Fox suddenly. "There are
others who are attempting to reach the canoes. Silver Fox will help
the young Hawk."

He dropped from the tree as light as a feather, and when Tom looked
down there was the Indian stealing along through the trees, his musket
trailing and one hand busily engaged in sweeping the ground before
him. This redskin had not lived the life of his race for nothing. He
knew that even in the excitement of all that was occurring there would
be ears on the far side of the river listening for sounds of an enemy,
and he was well aware that a broken branch, the crushing of some
piece of brittle drift wood, would give the enemy on the far shore
an inkling of what was happening. To him it was as simple as playing
to creep through the forest like a snake. Even Tom, who knew his
intentions and the direction he had taken, could not follow his track.
There was not even a swaying branch to show where he was.

Meanwhile Steve had made good progress, and was within a few strokes
of the canoes. Could he reach the one in which Talking Bear lay before
the Indian came up with it? No! There was a commotion in the water
on the far side of the frail craft, a red hand gripped the gunwale,
and as he looked the hideous painted face of the Indian came into
full view. His leg was thrown over the edge, and in a twinkling he had
taken his place, panting with his exertions, the water dripping from
his body and streaming from his scalp-lock and his feathered headdress.

[Illustration: "COME NEARER THAT I MAY KILL YOU EASILY," HE SAID]

"Come nearer that I may kill you easily," he said, gripping his
tomahawk and leaning towards Steve. "Come nearer, pale face, for if
you would flee I will dive in after you."

Steve made no answer, and indeed took little notice of the man.
Without pausing in his course, he surged nearer to the canoe, and then
suddenly dived beneath the water as if he were making for the farther
side. And very fortunately for him the rain of the previous night had
coloured the river a deep brown, so that it was almost impossible to
detect the whereabouts of anyone beneath the surface. The Indian stood
upright for a moment, staring into the water. Then he leaned one hand
on the far side of the canoe, and waited, his keen tomahawk poised in
the air, ready to strike the instant the pale face appeared.

"He will come up just beneath me," he said in guttural tones. "I will
see how far I can cleave this pale face. Pah! who but a pale face
would attempt such a manoeuvre? By taking his eyes from me for even a
second he throws his life away. His scalp is mine and shall hang from
my belt ere his comrades have time to fire at me. Ah! That was one of
their bullets."

A look of scorn passed across his ferocious features as a missile sent
from Silver Fox's weapon screamed past his ear. A miss was a miss to
this redskin warrior. He had no time for sentiment, for consideration
as to how near he had been to losing his life.

"Surely the pale face will rise," he exclaimed, his equanimity
somewhat upset by the fact that Steve had not yet appeared. "It is
long since he dived. His breath cannot last much longer. Ah! Perhaps
he turned back towards the bank when under the water."

He swung round to the other side, his draggled feathers and hair
swishing a cascade of water on to the surface of the river. But there
was no sign of Steve, nothing to tell where he had got to, nothing but
the frantic calls of his comrades on the bank.

"Look behind you. Look to the smaller canoe," they bellowed, for
their keen eyes had been watching the contest, and not a movement had
escaped them. "Dive! Leave the canoe!"

The Indian started, swung his head round, and then stood as if
transfixed. For the cunning of a redskin had for once been outmatched
by the astuteness and coolness of a pale face. Steve knew well enough
that the man who reached the canoe first would have the game in his
hands, and realised that were he to venture to the surface on either
side of the craft taken possession of by the Indian he would be
immediately tomahawked. An instant before he plunged beneath the
water a better plan had flashed across his brain.

"There is a spare musket in the store canoe," he said to himself. "If
I can only reach it."

Two strokes beneath the surface took him under the larger canoe and
away to the stern of the smaller one. He rose silently to the surface,
and as the redskin peered into the river, expecting him to rise at any
instant, our hero gripped the gunwale, lifted his head and shoulders
clear of the stream and groped with one hand for the musket. It was
there, just where he had left it, and in a very little while he had it
to his shoulder. It was not the place he would have chosen for a shot,
for it is no easy matter to hang to a frail canoe with the gunwale
tucked as it were beneath one arm, and lift a heavy musket to the
shoulder. However, Steve was not the lad to miss such an opportunity,
particularly when the safety and lives of his companions depended on
his success. He steadied himself with an effort, brought the barrel
in a line with the Indian, and as the latter threw his hands over his
head and leaped for the water, he took a steady pull on the trigger.
Instantly a frantic cheer burst from the near bank, while Steve slid
from the store canoe and clambered into the other.

"Well done, boy! Bravely done, Steve. Look out for those other
redskins. Paddle in if you can."

"Git yer fire iron filled," bellowed Jim. "Yer can't paddle away from
the critters. Ram in a charge."

But the backwoodsman had forgotten that Steve had been under the
water. Everything on him was thoroughly drenched, and no doubt some
moisture had leaked into his powder horn. He looked down at it, saw
that it was useless to reload, and then plunged a paddle into the
water.

"Cover me with your guns," he shouted. "If they come up I will club
them with the butt. My powder is saturated. Ah, here come the bullets."

Something screeched past his nose, and as he listened he heard the
mass of lead thud with a dull and heavy sound against a tree on the
bank. Then followed a dozen shots, one of which penetrated the side
of the canoe, while a second chipped a big corner from the end of his
paddle. A third lodged on the rock by which he and his comrades had
disembarked, and, ricochetting from it, flew off into the forest with
a scream which was even more disconcerting than was the sound made by
the bullets which had been so near to striking him.

"Bend low! Keep under as much as you can," shouted Tom. "Now, boys,
pick off some of those rascals."

The burly backwoodsman had taken his stand beside a small tree,
keeping the trunk between himself and the enemy, and now his musket
shot up to his shoulder; he took a steady aim at one of the figures
on the far bank and calmly pulled the trigger; for Judge Mainwaring
was not the man to lose his accustomed coolness, even though his only
son was in danger. Jim and Mac followed his example, while Silver
Fox stared for a moment at the foremost of the two redskins swimming
towards Steve. He dropped his musket suddenly, fell on his face and
slid down the steep bank into the water. None of those on the far side
saw his figure as he carried out the movement, and the wary native
gave them no opportunity after that till he had covered many yards.
Then as his head popped up from the surface the enemy on the farther
side set up a deafening howl, shouting warnings to their brother.

"Keep up the firing," said Tom, coolly. "Silver Fox will settle that
fellow and Steve will get clear. Hah! I doubt whether they are in time
to warn the rascal."

"They ain't," responded Jim, shortly. "He don't hear. The water's in
his ears and I reckon he ain't a notion what's happening."

It appeared indeed that this was actually the fact, for in spite of
the bellows of the redskins on the far bank their comrade still forced
his way through the water, evidently unaware that he would soon have a
second opponent to deal with. Suddenly the water swirled in front of
him, a hand shot out of the muddy depths and the fingers closed about
the tomahawk which the man carried between his teeth. Then, as the
draggled feathers of Silver Fox's head-dress emerged from the water, a
blade gleamed in the air. There was a dull crash, a shrill cry and the
contest was over. Silver Fox was swimming back to his friends, the
third Indian having meanwhile retreated to the other bank.

"Jest keep on pepperin' the varmint," sang out Jim. "They've given us
a good chance, and I reckon we've made a few of the critters sit up.
Keep at it, boys, so that they can't fire too strong at Steve and Fox."

Five minutes later Steve steered the leading canoe into the gap made
in the big bed of osiers, and having pulled in the second, with its
precious store of trade goods, leaped lightly ashore.

"I rather fancy we have had the best of that little action," he said
with a smile. "Talking Bear is the only one who has suffered. He was
hit in the head, and must have been killed instantaneously.

"That's one to them 'ere varmint, then," growled Jim. "How many air we
to put down on our side?"

"The two who swam out, and three others on the far bank, that makes
five," said Tom, counting them on his fingers.

"Sure, have ye forgotten the others?" asked Mac. "There was two kilt
by the first volley, and one that Tom fetched over with Steve's gun."

"There was that," admitted Jim, grimly. "Then there was the other
fellow. He skipped through the forest at a powerful rate, and I doubt
that we should ha' got him ef it hadn't been for this here Mac. Tell
'em how you worked it, lad."

Thus called upon, the short and sturdy Irishman pulled his cap from
his head and flushed as red as his own hair.

"Sure, Oi've a way of runnin'," he said. "Whin this redskin took off
through the forest Oi wint afther him as quick as Oi was able."

"And?" questioned Tom.

"And that's all. Sure Oi was up wid him before ye could wink, and thin
we rushed at one another. Thrust an Oirishman to pick up a bhit of
sthick whin a row's in the air. Oi caught holt of a fallen branch as
Oi ran, and when he jumped at me wid his tomahawk, faith I laid him
flat with the branch. He's kilt."

Very carefully did the little band check off the number of the slain,
their pleasure damped by the thought that only nine had fallen. For
the reader must recollect that these constant conflicts between pale
face and redskin were waged without mercy. To expect it from any of
the unfriendly tribes was to expect something which no redskin had
ever possessed. These inhabitants of the forest wildernesses were
trained to ferocity. The history of their tribal wars, of their
contests with French and English colonists, is one long tale of
atrocities, of frightful cruelties, of sudden attacks upon absolutely
defenceless settlements, of merciless butchery of women and children,
and of unheard of tortures practised on any who might happen to be
spared for a while. Was it wonderful that the white man, with his
natural inclination to peace and goodwill, and his abhorrence of
unfair fighting and of torture, should be driven in time to fight as
did these redskin fiends? Mercy on their part to a fallen enemy was a
mistaken virtue. Clemency was rewarded in the majority of cases by the
foulest treachery. The redskin who was set free to return to his tribe
after an unsuccessful attack too often would turn upon his deliverer
when danger was unsuspected, and within an hour of receiving kindness
from him, would murder him and his defenceless family, and make off
through the woods, triumphant at the thought of scalps so easily
obtained.

No. This was always war to the death. A wounded man was as good as
dead, for no quarter was asked for or given. Every additional man
brought to the ground was an advantage to the weaker side, and a
greater inducement to those who had lost him to wreak vengeance on
those who had brought about his downfall. Such was the barbarous
nature of forest warfare when Steve went on the trail.

"Jest nine of the skunks," said Jim, staring across at the farther
bank. "That leaves the critters jest about twenty. Reckon we ain't out
of this here muss yet."

"But we are better off by far," cried Tom. "Supposing the division of
these redskins had been the other way. Supposing there had been some
twenty-five on this side, and only four on the other."

"We hadn't a chance. Reckon we should ha' been wiped clean out by
this," said Jim, with emphasis. "Yer can't shoot down twenty-five,
however well yer may be posted. They'd have rushed us, most likely,
and then it would have been all up. As it air we're well out so far,
and I say as we owe it to this here Steve and to Silver Fox. Ef this
young feller hadn't slipped into the river and swum to the canoes,
them varmint would have been over here by now. I reckon it war a 'cute
idea to get a hold of that musket and shoot. How'd yer come to do it,
Steve?"

"Well, I didn't see a chance of getting possession of the canoes in
any other way," said Steve modestly. "If I had come up alongside after
diving, he would have killed me."

"As easy as you'd kill a fly," cried Jim. "You may take that as
sartin."

"Then I thought of the gun, and struck out under the water in the
direction of the smaller canoe."

"There was never a more astonished Indian," interrupted Tom. "Steve,
you've done well. All here agree with what I say. I'm glad you've
shown such 'cuteness. It does credit to my teaching, and I've done my
best to let you learn the life of a backwoodsman. But let us talk of
something else. We are not cut of the mess yet, by a long way. But we
have a litt'e time in which to breathe and look round. What will those
rascals do now, and how are we to get away up the river?"

He turned to Jim, as the most experienced of the hunters, and waited
patiently for him to answer. It was, indeed, a question which required
consideration, and even an experienced hunter and trapper, such as
Hunting Jim undoubtedly was, could not come to an instant decision.

"Reckon it air one of them points as wants a deal of figuring," he
said, as he scratched his head and stared across the river. "Yer may
bet as them critters is watchin'. They've got under cover, 'cos they
found as our firin' was better'n they thought. But they're thar. Them
bushes covers the hul crowd of 'em. Suppose we get to work at their
canoes first of all, and that'll give me a chanst to think out this
here matter."

Setting Silver Fox to watch the opposite side of the river, the four
trappers crossed to the osiers, taking good care to keep well out of
sight. They found the five canoes lying side by side, and at once drew
their tomahawks with a view to cutting holes in the sides and bottoms.
In fact, they were about to commence on the work when Steve gave a
sudden exclamation.

"Suppose we wait a little, father," he said eagerly.

"Wait! Supposin' them critters cross higher up?"

It was the wily Jim who asked the question, staring at Steve with
a grim smile on his lips. "Ah. Them varmint wants to make us think
they're stayin' over yonder. Them bullets came close."

Three reports rang out from the far bank as he spoke, and the shots
flew through the osiers, stripping a shower of flat leaves from the
reeds.

"Perhaps they guess we are about to destroy their canoes," whispered
Tom. "But I admit that they are likely to attempt to swim across
unseen, and come down upon us. We should make nothing of such a
crossing, and you may be sure that they would not. They would cut
down a few reeds to carry their muskets and their powder, and would
soon get to this side. If they try that game, we must slip away at
once, and we can rely on Silver Fox to give us a warning. Look for
yourselves. The river runs without a bend for a very long way, and our
look-out would detect any such movement."

"That air right. Reckon you've put it square, Judge," said Jim.
"What's this young Steve got to say? You was supposin'."

"I suggested that we should leave these canoes for a time. At any
moment we can destroy them, for a few slashes with a tomahawk will do
all that is required."

"That air so. What then?"

"One moment," answered Steve. "Supposing we were to get aboard our
canoes and put out into the river, what would happen?"

"Happen? Reckon you'd soon hear from them ere critters. Ef yer think
of doin' a thing like that, Steve Mainwarin', why you ain't the son
of Judge here. Ef yer want to get killed so badly, best paddle clean
across an' invite them fellers to wipe the hul party out properly. It
ain't in reason," he went on, hotly. "Ef we was aboard, all packed
together, they'd pick us off like birds."

"If they could see us," ventured Steve, smiling at Jim's excitement.

"Ef they could see us! Thunder! Do yer think there's a redskin as
wouldn't be able, even at night. 'Sides, the moon'll be up soon after
the night comes, and with the light they'd have, shootin' would be
easier. Jest shake yerself, Steve."

He looked severely at the young trapper, and then turned as Tom broke
in upon the silence which had followed the old backwoodsman's words.

"You wait a little, Jim," said the burly Englishman. "Steve has given
us a hint more than once in the past twenty-four hours. Try him again.
I'll be bound he's got something under that hunting cap of his. He's a
regular young conspirator. What is it, Steve?"

"Just this. We are stranded here I take it. We cannot move into the
river, for the Indians would shoot us down. They cannot easily cross,
for we have their canoes, and I am sure that they have no others
hidden along the river. That is why they sent four men along this
side, with instructions to paddle the whole lot across. Until the
night comes they can do very little. But once it is dark they will
send half their number over, and then we shall be in danger of attack.
So it comes to this. They can afford to wait, and, in fact, must do
so. We cannot. If we wait they will be across before the night is an
hour old, and then with a party on either side, even though they have
no canoes, they will have us."

Tom nodded emphatically, while Jim scratched amongst the osiers with
the soft toe of his moccasin.

"That air so," he drawled. "Then what's the ticket?"

"We must move. I thought that with these canoes to help us we might
manage to get away. Now, Jim, don't open your mouth as if you would
like to swallow me. Do you think these reeds would keep out a bullet
if piled fairly close together?"

For a second the trapper looked closely at the osiers, feeling them
with his hand. He tore one out by the roots, and then gripped it
between his teeth.

"They're soft and pulpy inside," he said, a light gathering on his
face. "Reckon, as they stand, a bullet would rip through 'em as if
they was only cotton. See that! Ain't I right?"

Another series of reports had suddenly rung out from the far side, and
again the leaden messengers tore through the osiers.

"Jest as ef they was cotton," he repeated. "But ef yer was to pile
'em close together, then I reckon a bullet would find it hard to get
through. Steve, you ain't such a duffer as I thought, not by a long
way. What're yer after?"

"Just this," laughed Steve, for his nimble brain had hit upon a plan
which might help the whole party. "We have five canoes here. We can
break up two of them, and by jamming the sides into two of the others
can raise the gunwales from the water. Then we can pack them with
reeds. They'll take a lot without sinking, for these stalks are very
light and buoyant. Once we're ready we can float them out between us
and the redskins, and then they can fire till they're tired."

Jim threw his cap in the air, and, unmindful of the fact that the
action immediately brought a shower of bullets, danced and capered
in the reeds. He was a queer and light-hearted trapper. For all his
sagacity and cunning, he was but a boy, and behaved like one when
anything out of the way happened.

"Cap'n," he cried, gripping Steve by the hand. "I ain't fit to lead
this party no longer. Reckon you've won the place. Boys, we air goin'
ter do as Steve says, and get the laugh on them critters."



Chapter V

Jules Lapon is Disappointed


Steve Mainwaring had suddenly leaped higher in the estimation of his
comrades, and even Tom Mainwaring, who was apt to look upon his son
with the proud eye of an indulgent father, now regarded him with eyes
which shone with strange enthusiasm. For Steve had done well. Even
when he was only a little mite he had shown courage, and as he grew
bigger and stronger, and mastered the ways of the backwoodsmen and
the habits of the Indians, amongst some of whom he was often thrown,
his elders had seen that he was a promising pupil, while the redskins
themselves had christened him the Hawk, no small compliment from such
a race. Then Steve had a great advantage. While learning the ways of
the backwoods, he had had an excellent education from his father,
which added something to his astuteness. And now, little by little,
these grizzled veterans of the forest were beginning to discover his
worth. They had already found in him a lad who could barter their
pelts far better than they could. Hitherto they had been always able
to rely upon his sagacity, his courage, and his shooting, and now----

"Cap'n," repeated Jim again, pushing his coon-skin cap back from
his bald head and gripping Steve's hand. "That 'ere plan air 'cute.
Thunder! One of these here redskin skunks wouldn't ha' thought of it,
and when they see us come out from the bank, why----"

The thought was too much for the old hunter. He stood staring into
Steve's face, taking closer stock of the lad perhaps than he had
ever done before, for familiarity with a person often makes us slow
to discover virtues, which, after all, are only buried beneath the
surface. Good points, which are hardly skin deep, and which have
escaped our notice hitherto, only become apparent when some unusual
incident brings them prominently before our eyes.

"That air a lad to be proud of, Judge," he said, wiping the
perspiration from his forehead. "Reckon he's lain quiet up to this,
or else we should ha' found him out. He's got a bit of your way of
stayin' quiet, and openin' his mouth only when he's axed a question or
when there's need for a lawyer or a cap'n. It's sartin he's got the
hang of this matter, and I votes that he leads till we're home agin.
'Twon't do no harm to us. What do yer say, red head?"

Mac doubled an enormous fist, shook it in Jim's face and grinned, a
grin which set his lips back from his teeth, and exposed a cavity
reaching almost from ear to ear. It was the grin of a man who has
suddenly heard good news, and who has had a load taken from his mind.

"Red head! Bedad, 'tis mesilf as will choke the loife out of ye,
Huntin' Jim. 'Twould be aisier for ye to stand out there and ax some
of thim varmint to put a bullet into ye, so it would. Red head!"

The knuckles of his tanned and brawny fist rested against Jim's nose,
but provoked not a movement.

"Waal, what do yer say?" Jim growled, his eyes flashing.

"Say? Sure that Oi'll be onaisy if Steve don't take over the place.
Faith, 'tis his idea, and a man should have the chanst of carryin' it
out."

"It is an honour, and one which the boy will appreciate," said Tom,
solemnly. "Steve, we appoint you the captain. Give your orders."

"Yes, give the orders, lad," cried Jim, his kindly features lighting
up with real pleasure, while he continued to stare at this tall young
hunter, noticing his good looks, his fearless and alert appearance,
and the good temper which lurked in every line of his sun-tanned face.
"You've settled about them canoes. Git along with the job."

Steve was somewhat overcome at the turn events had taken, but a glance
at his father and at his old companions soon assured him that they
were in earnest, and would support him.

"I feel too young for the task," he said, "but I grant the experience
will be a fine one, and may some day be of the utmost use to me. Then
we'll set to work. Take your hunting knives and slit two of the canoes
down through the centre of the bow and stern. Mac, get along and
cut a few vine tendrils, and keep that red head down. The redskins
couldn't miss you."

There was a roar at that, a hearty laugh which showed that Steve's
plan had encouraged the whole party, and had shown them a method by
which they might extricate themselves from a very awkward and serious
predicament. And to hear this young fellow commence his command by a
little good-humoured banter delighted them.

"Arrah, now, Masther Steve. Is that the way ye'd reward me?" cried the
jovial Mac, as he powdered the pan of his heavy musket. "Have a care,
me bhoy. 'Tis yerself as will be howlin' for mercy if Mac gets a holt
of ye."

Steve waved him away, and while the Irishman went to get the tendrils,
he and the others splashed through the oozy bed of the river, pushing
their way through the reeds till they came to the canoes hidden there
by their pursuers. Every now and again a report rang out on the far
side of the river, and a bullet whistled through the reeds, but
fortunately without hitting any of them, though some came very near.
Indeed, on one occasion they were in the greatest danger, for one of
the enemy, suspecting that they were amidst the reeds, crept higher
up the far bank, till he could get a full view of the nose of the
canoe which had first caught Steve's eye. He reckoned that if the pale
faces were there they would be in amongst the craft, and levelling his
barrel to what he thought must be the correct position, he fired.

"Thunder!" exclaimed Jim, as Tom's skin cap leaped into the air, spun
round, and flew in amongst the reeds. "Them 'ere varmint kin shoot.
Jest a moment while I talk to that critter. Get out of these reeds."

They crept to the bank and lay down under the bushes, while the active
trapper clambered into a tree and stared across the river. Presently
they saw his barrel come to the horizontal position, where he held it
till something caught his eye. Then the stock went to his shoulder,
his brown cheek fell closer to it, and his eye squinted along the
sights. There was a sharp crack on the far side, a spurt of flame
and smoke issued from the bushes, while a bullet ploughed into the
reeds, and thudded heavily against the bank. At the same instant
Jim's piece spoke, and as his comrades looked they saw the barrel of
a gun suddenly emerge from the cover opposite. It seemed to leap into
the air, and after it came the painted face and then the body of an
Indian. He stood stock still for an instant, staring at the reeds, and
then with a hideous yell fell face foremost into the river, his death
bringing loud whoops from his friends.

"Reckon that'll make 'em a bit careful," said Jim, clambering down
and reloading. "Them skunks had got to think that we couldn't shoot.
They'll see now that some of us know the business-end of a musket.
Them orders, Steve?"

"Let us tackle the canoes and make ready."

Once more they crept into the reeds, their hunting knives in their
hands. A few slashes cut through the strong sinews with which the ends
of the craft were sewn, while Steve divided the huge strip of birch
back along the centre. Another canoe was served in the same manner,
when they found themselves in possession of four pieces as long as
their own canoe, or almost so. And now they threw themselves on a
third canoe, erecting their strips along the side, and pegging them
in position with pieces cut from a tree, while Mac made all secure by
piercing the strips and lashing them firmly with vine tendrils. The
work came happily to their hands, for backwoodsmen were skilled in the
manufacture of canoes.

"That 'ere ship air ready," said Jim at length. "We can fill her till
the water comes above the gunwale of the canoe, and she won't sink."

"And if we care to carry out the same work with these other two, we
can have two ships floating side by side, and they at least should
keep out the bullets," said Steve. "What do you think?"

"Think! Ain't you the cap'n?"

"Then we'll do it. Let's get along with the job."

While Steve and Jim began to construct a second craft which would hold
a pile of reeds, Mac and Tom crept through the osiers, cutting bundles
away with their hunting knives. They kept steadily at the work till
they had cut down the greater part of the bed, leaving a thick outer
fringe to hide them from the enemy. The leaves were then lopped off,
and the stems piled into the first of the special craft constructed,
till they reached to a point above the high sides provided.

"Float her now and see whether she is top heavy," said Steve. "That
was a good idea of Mac's to put a few rocks at the bottom."

Very carefully they pushed the strange craft into the water till she
floated close beside their own canoe. Then they tested her stability
by pressing the load over to either side.

"As steady as you could wish," said Steve. "Her gunwale is a couple
of inches above the water, so she will ship very little. Now for the
second."

Within an hour they were ready, the two craft laden with reeds being
lashed firmly together and floated to the far side of their own canoe.
There was still a little to do. At Tom's suggestion Mac cut a couple
of stout boughs, and these were attached to the stem and stern of the
nearest craft, and the other ends to the stem and stern of the canoe
in which they would take their places.

"If a bullet does happen to come through, it will drop in the water,"
he said. "Again, we might find it convenient to set fire to the reeds
in the outer one, and make use of the smoke as a covering. The wind
is blowing right across to the far side of the river, and the reeds
happen to be well soaked after last night's rain. There would be
little danger of the covering being burned too soon."

"A grand idea," cried Steve. "What do you say, Jim?"

"That Tom and Steve air mighty 'cute, and don't want no teachin'.
Judge, I guessed as yer had somethin' in that big head of yours. That
'ere idea air almost better'n Steve's. Set fire to the reeds we will,
and a fine smoke them Injuns'll see. Reckon they'll be choked."

He went off chuckling to bring in Silver Fox, the latter having
meanwhile kept an eagle eye on the far bank.

"They have moved a little," he said slowly. "The enemy have spread up
and down the bank, and watch us like hawks. Do my brothers think to
paddle away? Surely there will be few of us to whom a bullet will not
come."

"And supposing we wait till it is dark?" asked Steve.

"Then our scalps will hang at their belts. A little sooner will make
no difference. Silver Fox is ready."

"And supposing again that we move off now and have some cover, for
instance, this, and set fire to the reeds in the outer canoe?"

Steve pointed to the strange craft which they had prepared, and waited
eagerly for the answer, for Silver Fox was a cunning Mohawk, and if a
thing could pass his eyes and meet with approval, then it was good. He
strode towards the growing reeds, tore one up by the roots and bit it,
just as Jim had done. Then he turned gravely to the party.

"The pale faces are great and brave foes," he said. "They press on and
on into the forests, which were the hunting grounds of the Indian, and
they forget the defeat they have suffered, the dead they have left.
Nothing can or will stop them. They die like buffalo, fighting for
their lives. Their cunning is at first as nothing to the cunning of
the Shawnees and other foes, and so their scalps hang in many and many
a wigwam. But death and loss have taught them. They have become men of
the river and forests themselves, and their cunning is great. Surely
the Great Father must have aided them, for how else could they have
thought of such a device. Silver Fox has spoken and is ready."

He walked to the tree at the foot of which Steve and Tom had
reverently laid the body of poor Talking Bear, and looked closely into
his face. Then he stooped, took the belt, the tomahawk, and the bullet
pouch of the fallen redskin, and strode down the bank.

"Farewell, my brother," he said. "You have been a faithful friend,
a kind companion, and a mighty fighter. The wigwam will know you no
more, and the men of the war parties will miss your strong arm. These
I take so that all may keep your memory."

It was a very simple little ceremony, but affecting for all that, and
caused Steve to gulp down something which seemed to fill his throat.
For the lad, though a skilful hunter, was not hardened to the ways
of the Indians and the pioneers of the forest. A life was a life, a
friend a friend to be mourned after his death and thought of often.

And so they turned away from the silent figure, leaving the still
form of the painted warrior lying there in his blanket, shaded by
the foliage of a mighty tree, which has long since been felled to
make way for the iron road which now bears the rapid conveyance of
this bustling century. Who of those thousands who pass along the line
and look out of the windows at the fascinating scenery of the Mohawk
think of the days of which we write, or ever paint in their own minds
the birch canoes which then were paddled over the silent waters, and
the painted faces which stole through the forests, hunting the pale
faces, the sturdy fathers of a sturdy race which now fills the land of
promise?

"Ready?" asked Steve, taking the lead. "Then, father, show us the way,
please, and take the paddle right astern. I will take that in the
bows, while Mac can use the one in the centre. Jim, we'll pile the
muskets just in front of father, and you will get in a shot if there
is an opportunity. One moment. Break up those spare paddles, Mac."

All stepped quietly into their places, while Steve waded into the
water and steadied the canoe, pushing the one which held their stores
well behind him. When all was in readiness, he waded still farther in
and sprinkled a little powder on the reeds which filled the strange
craft farthest away. A few strokes of his steel against the flint set
the powder fizzling, and in a minute one of the reeds, which happened
to be drier than the others, was well alight. Using this as a match,
he went all along the load, firing it at close intervals. Then he
came back to the stern and made ready to push the canoes out. And
meanwhile the flames had done their work. Licking round the portions
of the outside layer of reeds, which happened to be dry, they soon set
them ablaze, and then began to ignite the damper portions. A cloud of
dense black smoke rose above the reeds, and, caught by the wind, went
billowing out across the river. Almost at once fierce whoops came from
the far shore, and there was a commotion amidst the forest cover.

"Shout and dance, me beauties," laughed Jim grimly. "Set to at one of
yer war dances, if that'll do yer good. Reckon them 'ere varmint has a
notion we're burnin' their canoes. That's what all the rustle's about."

"They will slay us with the torture should it chance that we fall into
their hands," said Silver Fox gravely. "This is a sore blow to our
enemies."

"Then they have worse to follow," chimed in Steve. "I fancy that when
they see us floating away up the river they'll be more than a trifle
angry. Paddles out. Ready? Then, here we go."

He pushed slowly till there was way on the canoes, and then with one
vigorous push sent the whole lot surging against the barrier of reeds
which hid the party from the enemy. And as he pushed for the last
time, he leaned his full weight on the sides of the canoe, and with a
dexterous movement clambered aboard.

"Get hold of the paddle and make ready to swing round," sang out Tom.

"We come out bows on, remember that, and shall have to face their
fire. There goes the first musket."

They were out. The canoes had burst through the reeds into the open
river, and for a minute perhaps Steve looked at the opposite bank. He
saw a figure suddenly stand erect and emerge from behind a tree, and
watched as the barrel of a musket was levelled at him. There was a
loud report, a bullet whisked over his head, and smoke gushed from the
forest. Then there was a deafening explosion just behind him, and for
a few seconds he experienced the deafness and pain which are felt when
a weapon is discharged close to one's ear. But his eyes held to the
far bank, and once more he had need to praise Jim's shooting.

"That 'ere redskin ain't too careful," growled the trapper. "Ef he'd
put his iron jest a bit lower, he'd have plugged Huntin' Jim as sure
as I'm standin'. Reckon he ain't fit to try again."

It was true. The unerring eye of the trapper had fastened upon the
Indian as he levelled his musket, and Jim seldom made a mistake. He
was one of the hardy pioneers versed in Indian warfare who had learned
that it is better to hold one's fire and keep one's finger from the
trigger rather than send a bullet wide of the mark.

"Yer can't afford to miss, Steve," he had often remarked, when the
young trapper was out on some excursion with him. "Some of these days
yer may run into a crowd of them redskins, and then you'll know that
the man as can shoot has a chance of keepin' his scalp. Reckon the
chap as don't know how ain't fit to wear haar."

"Round with her. Paddle!" shouted Steve. "That's better. Now they can
fire till they are tired of the game. Whew! Doesn't it sound queer to
hear the bullets striking."

Indeed it did. As the paddlers forced the strange craft up the river,
their course was followed by frantic whoops and by a perfect hail of
bullets. As fast as twenty men could fire and load again the muskets
sent their contents at the floating target, and time and again the
leaden messengers crashed into the reeds, many passing through the
outer pile and lodging in the centre of the second one, proving that
Steve's suggestion was a good one. Occasionally a bullet would hit the
mark somewhere near the top, and a shower of shredded reed would be
scattered over the party. Then, too, numbers of missiles flew astern
and ahead, for the smoke upset the aim of the enemy.

And so for an hour Steve and his friends paddled up the river,
confident now of their security from bullets. As they progressed the
howling band ran abreast of them on the bank, and one or two of the
redskins actually entered the water in their frantic eagerness to come
up with the pale faces. But Jim put a stop to that. The smoke hid
him entirely from the sight of the enemy, while he himself had a good
view of the bank, and was well protected by the reeds. He stood in the
canoe, a pile of muskets at his feet, and just the top of his head
showing above the barrier. Then, every now and again, he straightened
himself a little more, his weapon went to his shoulder, and a shriek
told that the eye of the trapper had not erred. Indeed his good
shooting, the pace at which they paddled, and perhaps a failure in
ammunition soon resulted in a lull in the contest. Only an occasional
bullet now plunged into the reeds.

"We can say good-bye to them very soon," said Steve suddenly, craning
his head round the barrier. "A couple of miles up, Swan creek runs
into the stream, and that should stop them. They will have to swim or
climb, and in either case we can draw away from them. When I give the
word, cut away the canoes and upset them. A few blows with a tomahawk
will make them useless, and send them to the bottom. Is that right,
father?"

He appealed to Tom, for as yet this position of leader was strange to
him, and he felt somewhat abashed and modest, considering the age and
experience of his comrades. However, he had nothing to fear, for Tom
nodded energetically, while the garrulous Jim burst forth with a reply.

"Jest you recollect as you're the cap'n," he laughed. "When yer give
an order, why, let it be an order. No hankey pankey, lad. If Mac
don't set to and follow your words, why, pass him along to me. I'll
make short work of the feller."

"Bedad!" growled the Irishman. "Huntin' Jim, there'll be trouble for
ye sooner than ye expect. Will ye be quiet and listen to what the
cap'n's sayin'?"

They were a merry party now. Merry and light-hearted, as in truth they
had a right to be, for every minute lightened their danger. Indeed,
hardly an hour had passed when they came abreast of the creek of
which Steve had spoken. It was wide and shallow, and cut into a big,
sweeping hollow formed in the side of a long rocky ridge.

"There ain't a redskin as would attempt to swim it," said Jim with
decision, "and ef they make round behind the cliff, why, Steve, you
and me and Tom and Mac'll be at home long before they come out on the
far side. Reckon they'll give it up and get back to their huntin'
grounds. Boys, when we're back at the settlement we'll send the news
round, and there won't be another party making this side of the fall
for Albany. Murderin' cut-throats like them ought to be hounded down,
and ef they was our way----"

"We should root them out," said Tom, quietly, "No body of
self-respecting settlers would put up with such a state of things.
Against such a band we of the settlement are secure. But it will not
be always so."

He shook his head dubiously, while Jim and Mac nodded in agreement.

"Reckon the thirteen States has got to put aside their baby squabbles
and put their backs to this work ef we air to stay at the settlement,"
exclaimed Jim. "Trappers ain't powerful enough to stop the journeys of
the French and Injuns."

How true his words were likely to prove the reader will be able
to learn. For the time had come long since for concerted action.
France had set a covetous eye on the valley of the Ohio, on the
smiling forest country lying to the west of the Alleghany Mountains,
and resistlessly, unchecked as yet, she had poured into the land.
There had been no concerted movement to check her. The thirteen
States which then constituted our American colonies made no combined
movement against the enemy. For the most part they were absolutely
apathetic. And while they sat at their ease, surrounded by comfort and
security, hundreds and hundreds of the log huts and settlements of
their brothers were being ravaged by the French and their relentless
Indians. The guns and the courage of thousands of trappers and hardy
backwoodsmen were insufficient now to stem the torrent.

"The times are bad. There is trouble ahead," said Tom, thoughtfully.
"Let us hope it will pass by and leave our settlement undisturbed. But
I fear that that is too much to hope for. There is Jules Lapon."

Yes. There was Jules Lapon, leader of the most reckless and cruel
bands of Indians, and a near neighbour now of Tom and his friends.

"Well, we won't think of him and the troubles now," sang out Steve
cheerily. "We're well out of shot, and can cut the canoes adrift. Let
us get free of them and push on towards home."

They hacked through the creepers which bound the ends of the boughs to
their own canoe, and then cut holes in the two craft which they had
so deftly prepared, ripping the sides and throwing the reeds out into
the river. A few minutes later the canoes which had proved so useful
were sweeping along, hopelessly injured, and long before Steve and his
friends had turned round the bend of the cliff they had disappeared
under the water.

They dug their paddles into the stream now with a vengeance, and
sent their craft surging up the Mohawk, the echo of discordant yells
and whoops still coming to their ears. But they were secure from
pursuit, and never even troubled to look behind them. Turn and turn
about they struggled at the paddles, and in the course of seven days
found themselves at the end of their river journey. They had reached
the lake which emptied into the river, and their coming was greeted
by a tribe of Mohawk Indians. Then for two days they trudged through
the forest, the Mohawks helping to carry their stores. Above their
heads the branches grew in one long, continuous arch, hiding the
sun. Steve led the way, his record with this tribe of hardy warriors
now vastly increased after his recent exploits. His eye followed the
numerous blazes on the trees, slashes cut with Jim's tomahawk, and the
trappers' sure method of marking a path.

"The last stage, I think," said Tom, on the evening of the second day,
when they came in sight of water.

That evening there was a serious palaver round the camp fire, and
Silver Fox and his friends were rewarded with a portion of the stores.
On the following day when Steve and his friends stepped into a canoe
which had been hidden in the forest and pushed out on to this new
strip of water, the Mohawks waved a farewell to them from the bank.

"Health and strength go with you, our brothers," cried Silver Fox,
his features wearing their usual impassiveness. "Call should there be
danger, and Silver Fox and his friends will surely come."

Steve watched them as they dived into the forest, and then stared
down the river. They were on the Alleghany now, and a strong stream
was bearing them down to their own beloved settlement. Indeed, the
following day was hardly three hours old when all gave a shout of
recognition.

"Thar's the place. And thar's Jimmy!"

It was Jim who waved his cap and shouted, while a faint huzza came
back from the shore. They put the nose of the canoe towards a break in
the forest, and very soon Jim and Mac were greeting their wives, while
Tom and Steve looked on in silence. They unpacked the canoes, pulled
them up, and separated, Steve and his father making for their own
humble but comfortable log cabin.



Chapter VI

Left in Charge


"Marse Steve, Marse Steve, I'se that glad to see you. I'se prayed and
prayed offen, and sometimes I think you never come home agin. Och,
honey, I'se glad you'se back agin."

The black boy who acted as Tom's housekeeper wept with joy as the two
sturdy trappers stepped into the hut. He was busy superintending the
roasting of a wild turkey which hung to a string dangling over the
cabin fire, and the return of his masters was entirely unexpected.

"I'se that glad, Marse Mainwaring and Marse Steve. Sammy wonder and
wonder when yo gwine to come to de log cab'n agin. Sholy yo stay here
now fo' ever."

The faithful fellow looked up at them through his tears while he still
gripped both by the hand.

"There, there, Sammy," said Tom at length, touched by the warm welcome
which the honest fellow had given them. "Let us have something to eat,
and afterwards we'll lie down and take the best rest we have had for
many a long day. We've been hunted, lad. Hunted by redskins."

Sammy's mouth opened wide at that, and he stared still harder at his
master. Then he let his hand fall, and began to bustle about the
table, chattering as he prepared a meal for them.

"Yo's sit down and eat and rest, Marse Mainwaring and Marse Steve," he
said, giggling between the words. "Den yo'se lie down, and Sammy watch
to seen no Red Injun come near to hurt yo. Marse Steve?"

"Well, Sammy."

"To'morrer p'raps yo sit outside'r the door and speak to Sammy? P'raps
yo tell us all what's happ'nd?"

"Perhaps," answered Steve. "Now, hurry up with that turkey. Father and
I have not had a peaceful meal for many a day. As for sleep, I fancy
we have seldom had both eyes closed."

It was wonderful the way in which they settled down at the log hut
which Tom had made his home. As if he had not been away from the place
for even an hour, Tom strode across to the fireplace, and, taking his
musket in his hand, spilled the powder from the pan, and blew the last
of the grains away. Then he laid the weapon across the buck horns
nailed to the logs, stringing the powder horn to one of the antlers,
and the bag of bullets opposite. His coon-skin cap went still higher,
while his damp moccasins were placed a few inches from the embers.
Steve followed suit, and very soon the two were discussing the wild
turkey.

Some three weeks later, as Steve and Sammy were engaged in
manufacturing maple sugar, Tom came and sat on a log close by and
watched them carefully. They had three large iron cauldrons dangling
over log fires, while a fourth, a smaller one, hung over a separate
fire placed some yards from the others. And here they were making a
store of sugar to last them throughout the winter. Very early that day
Sammy and Steve had been out in the forest, and having blazed certain
of the maples, had set their jars beneath the slashes to catch the
sap. And now they were boiling the latter down, throwing fresh sap
into the larger cauldrons as the bubbling mass threatened to overflow
the sides. It was a long process, and for some hours now they had been
engaged in the task. They had boiled and boiled the mass till their
store of sap was reduced to a third of its former volume, and now that
third was placed in the smaller cauldron. Tom watched as they lifted
the latter from its iron support and poured its contents into stone
vessels to crystallise and cool.

"Steve," he called out. "Steve, I'm going away. I'll be back in a
couple of months if nothing turns up to stop me."

Steve was not surprised. His father had gone away from the settlement
on some business on several occasions before, while he had remained to
keep house.

"Very well, father," he said. "I'll stay here and look out for your
return. It will be winter almost by the time you come back."

"Almost, lad. About the Indian summer, I fancy, Steve."

He looked closely at his son as he called him again.

"Steve, my lad, these are uncertain times, and--and I might not have a
chance of coming back. If I should not, there is a lot that you should
learn in the next few years. Things you have never dreamed of. If I am
not back in a year, if anything happens to me, just go to this address
and hand in this letter. There it is. Now, I'm going."

It was not the backwoods fashion to take long in preparing for a
journey, and so it happened that Tom Mainwaring set out for the
Alleghany within half an hour of his conversation with Steve. They
parted some ten miles from the log hut, Tom turning his face for the
coast, while our hero stepped back to the settlement. And there for a
little more than a month he went on quietly with the usual routine. He
fished and shot and laid in a store of corn and dried bear's meat for
the coming winter, the grinning Sammy looking after the log hut when
he was away. Now and again, too, Mac and Jim would come over and spend
an evening with him, while Steve would return the visit. For within
ten miles of the hut there were some fifteen families, and it was the
custom for all to visit one another.

And so the days passed uneventfully till one bright morning in late
September, when there was a crispness in the air which denoted the
coming winter. A shout from Sammy brought Steve to the door of the log
hut.

"Marse Steve," he cried. "There's people sure on the water. They's
comin' dis way."

Two canoes were being paddled down the river, and as Steve looked they
turned towards the bank, with the evident intention of putting in at
the rough landing stage where his own canoes lay.

"They are strangers," said Steve at once, shading his eyes from the
slanting rays of the sun. "There are three white men in the first
canoe, and three Indians in the second. I think that they have come
from the French settlements."

He went to the buck horns over which his gun was suspended, and slung
the weapon across his shoulders. Then he took his bullet pouch, his
powder horn and tomahawk, and issued from the hut. By this time the
strangers had landed, and as Steve walked down towards them the three
white men moved towards a giant tree which grew within a few paces of
the bank, a tree which stood alone amidst a host of blackened stumps;
for when Tom had first come to the place virgin forest covered the
land, and he had expended much labour in clearing it.

"What can they be doing?" wondered Steve, seeing the three halt at the
foot of the tree and lift an object against the trunk. "They seem to
be nailing something to the tree."

A few minutes later he arrived within a couple of yards of the group,
and at once unslung his rifle, for with a start he recognised one of
the strangers. It was Jules Lapon, dressed now in the hunting costume
worn by French and English backwoodsmen alike.

"Bon jour, monsieur," said Jules, swinging round and greeting
Steve with a cool and satirical smile. "I wish you a fine day and
prosperity. You will be pleased to look at this notice, and afterwards
you will take steps to move."

He pointed to the tree and stood aside, watching Steve with an
expression which boded little good, and which seemed to combine malice
and triumph. Our hero stepped closer and stared at the strip of tin
which the Frenchman had pointed out. It was nailed to the bark of
the tree, and bore in high relief the arms of France, while beneath,
stamped on to the metal, were the following words, in the English
language:

"In the name of Louis XV., King of France and of the Continent beyond
the sea, we, Louis Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm-Gozon de Saint-Véran,
Captain-General of the Forces in North America, and others of the
King's servants, renew our possession of this land. We warn all who
are not good and faithful subjects of France to depart peacefully and
without delay."

There was a date and a rough signature underneath, while at the foot
of the tree lay a leaden disc, with a somewhat similar inscription,
destined to be buried there so that there might not be wanting
evidence in the future to prove the aims and aspirations of France
and her king. Nor was this the first time that Steve had looked at
such a disc. Some while before he had come upon another, nearer the
great lakes, and he had heard that the French had placed many more in
different parts.

"You will observe his Majesty's wishes," said Jules Lapon, with an
irritating smile of triumph which brought a flush of anger to Steve's
cheek. "The orders are that you depart peacefully and without delay.
You will go this evening. To-morrow I and my Indians will come to your
hut and the place will be France. Comprenez vous? Bien!"

Steve could have struck the rascally Frenchman, so great was his
anger. Moreover, when he recollected that it was this same ruffianly
foreigner who but a few weeks before had hunted himself and his
friends with his band of cut-throats, he felt that he would be almost
justified in shooting him where he stood. Then, too, there was this
preposterous demand. For three miles on either hand the land belonged
to Tom Mainwaring. He had paid dues for it to a land company, and he
had settled the place. His labour had cleared the forest till there
was sufficient open space to grow corn. The hut was his, the bank
of the river, and a stretch on the far side lying opposite the hut.
Steve's gorge rose at the thought that a Frenchman should order him
to give up his own belongings, and it was with difficulty that he
restrained himself. He bit his lip, stared at the tin placard, and
then swung round on the Frenchman, a cool smile on his lips.

"You are joking," he said in French, causing Jules to start backwards
in surprise. "Surely you are playing with me, just as you and your
band of Indians played with our hunting party in the neighbourhood of
Albany. That was a sad joke, monsieur. I fear that we were too much in
earnest."

It was Steve's turn to laugh, for there was no doubt that the
Frenchman was utterly taken aback. He staggered, flushed to the roots
of his hair, and gripped at his tomahawk.

"You lie," he gasped. "I lead a band of redskins near Albany! You lie,
I say!"

"You say so, monsieur," replied Steve calmly, with a smile which
maddened Jules. "Yes, it is you who say that, and I hear. But my eyes
are good. I know that you led that band. It was I who saw you in the
camp which you had hidden in the forest."

"You saw the camp, and I was in it? And you say that it was near
Albany? Monsieur is mad, or he does not know how to tell the truth."

Jules mastered his rage and mortification and made a bold attempt
to deceive the young colonist. After all, he thought, it was more
than possible that this Steve might have seen him there. But then
Frenchmen were much alike, and the glimpse he had obtained could have
been but a glimpse after all: and besides, Jules reflected, at that
time he was dressed as an Indian.

"Does monsieur think that I am a bird?" he demanded brazenly. "I have
lands to look to across the river, and how can I be there and at
Albany?"

"I hardly think you could be in two places so far apart, at one and
the same time," answered Steve, his temper well in hand now. "After
all, it is sufficient for me to know that you were in that camp in the
woods at Albany, where Hunting Jim and I saw you distinctly. That was
a long chase, Monsieur Jules, and I fancy it must have been somewhat
of a surprise to you and your men to come across so small a band
prepared to make a fight of it. Your men must have been discontented.
I believe we killed ten at least."

This time he left no doubt in the Frenchman's mind that his rascality
was discovered, and as Steve looked down at him he saw a gleam of
malice light up the eyes of the ruffian, a gleam which seemed to
say, "I will kill you at the first opportunity, Steve Mainwaring."
Then Jules Lapon suddenly changed his intentions, a smile of triumph
wreathed his face, and he pointed to the placard on the tree.

"After all, monsieur, it is not a question of men who have been
killed, or of my presence at Albany," he said easily. "It is a
question of this notice. You have read it?"

"I have."

"Then you will obey?"

"If I do not? Supposing I stay?"

"Monsieur, you see this whistle?" Jules took a whistle, made of horn,
from his belt, and held it before Steve's eyes. "You observe that
little toy, monsieur? Ah. Now I will tell you. Supposing you are so
rash as to stay, I shall blow that whistle, and within an hour the far
shore of the river will be darkened by the boats of my friends."

"Cut-throat Indians, monsieur," said Steve.

"You will be careful to describe my friends properly," cried Jules,
making an obvious effort to control his anger. "I was saying that the
Indians would come. They would hound you and your friends out of this
settlement, and, after that, who can keep a check upon them?"

He shrugged his shoulders and looked significantly at his two comrades.

"Only the men with the guns," answered Steve. "I know your Indians,
monsieur, and I know also that they have ravaged our settlements
cruelly. But for all your threats, I will not give up my father's
property. He was here long before the French had advanced south of
Lake Erie. He paid for this land, and he has expended labour upon it.
It is his. No king of France or his servants shall demand it of him or
of me."

Steve looked the three Frenchmen calmly in the eyes, and then stepped
up to the tree. Plunging his hunting knife under the sheet of tin, he
levered it from the bark, and, tearing it free of the nail, threw it
into the river.

"That is what I think of your demand and of your placard, Jules
Lapon," he said, "and I promise that if you come with your Indians
and drive me away, I and my father will hound you off the place. For
a time we English may be beaten back. But, mark my words, we shall
regain our own again, and you will be defeated."

There was a shout as he went to the tree and tossed the inscription
into the water. Then no sooner had he spoken than Jules sprang at him
with an oath.

"You defy us. You defy me!" he shouted. "Then listen to this, you
Englishman. Go now. I will give you a minute. If you are not then out
of sight I will shoot you. Yes, I will shoot you as I had hoped to do
up on the Mohawk. And after that I shall live in your cabin."

He threw all secrecy to the winds, and lifting his musket presented
it at Steve's head. Indeed, for an instant or two it looked as if he
would have shot him down on the spot.

"You see that I am ready," he shouted, as he looked along the sights.
"Run for your life."

Steve was cornered. To turn and obey the command given him was the
most natural thing under the circumstances, and it may be wondered
that he did not do so. But he knew the methods of the backwoods, and
was well acquainted with the reputation of this Frenchman.

"He will shoot me as I walk," he thought. "I will stay and face him.
After all, one can dodge a bullet sometimes if one keeps one's eye
on the weapon. Monsieur, I will stay here. Get into your canoe and
retire," he said sternly. "I also will shoot you if you do not lower
that musket."

There was a shout of surprise and anger from the two who accompanied
Jules, and they at once sprang forward and lifted their muskets,
levelling the barrels at Steve's head. And there for a moment they
stood, Steve holding his ground stubbornly, while the Frenchmen looked
along their sights as if they were about to shoot at the defenceless
figure standing before them. Then the scene was unexpectedly
interrupted.

"That air enough. Put them shootin' irons down. Do yer hear?" A gruff
voice suddenly burst from the edge of the forest, some twenty paces
away, and the tall gaunt figure of Hunting Jim appeared amidst the
leaves, the autumn tints matching strangely with the colour of his
hunting shirt and his leggings. "Drop yer guns, and git!"

No wonder that the Frenchmen started, that Steve swung round with
a cry of delight. For not a sound had warned the disputants of the
approach of the trapper. He stood there, outlined grimly amidst the
leaves, for all the world as if he had sprung out of the ground. His
musket was gripped in his hands, while the long shining barrels of
two other weapons protruded from the trees on either hand.

"Yer see, we ain't quite alone," he said hoarsely, "and ef them guns
ain't down in a jiffy--ah! that air well for yer. Now Jules Lapon,
murderer and robber, I reckon you can git, you and the hul crowd. Ef
we had shot yer down as yer stood, we'd have done what was right, and
p'raps we'd have saved a hangman a bad job one of these days. Git,
that's the order!"

The tables were suddenly turned with a vengeance. Steve, standing
there bravely with three barrels presented at him, suddenly found
himself looking into three very startled faces. The Frenchmen stepped
backward involuntarily, and lowered their weapons as Jim began to
speak. Then, unable to face the guns which were directed at them, they
glanced at one another swiftly, turned, and made off at a run to their
canoe.

"Stop! Jest drop them muskets. That air the ticket. Now put yer knives
and tomahawks down, and Jules Lapon, you as wanted to get our scalps
over by Albany, jest hook that ere whistle out'er yer belt. Now yer
can go, and jest remember this. When we meet again there won't be no
warnin'. It'll be shoot at sight. Don't ax fer nor expect no favors."

Jim watched with a grim smile of triumph as the three disconsolate
Frenchmen put down their weapons and embarked. Then he and his
comrades emerged and took up their stations beside Steve, staring out
at the canoe as it stole away from the bank. More than a minute passed
before Steve turned to look at those who had come so opportunely to
his help. Beside the lanky form of Jim was Mac, his beard flaming
in the sun, his broad hand gripping the stock of his musket, and a
look of bitterness on his usually jolly features. On the other side,
impassive as was his custom and the habit of his race, his head thrown
forward and the feathers of his head-dress trailing down over his
shoulders, was Silver Fox, alert and vigilant, his eye following every
movement of the Frenchmen.

"Bad cess to the blackguards," cried Mac, a note of unusual bitterness
in his tones. "They kin hunt me and you, Jim, and young Steve here
too if they like, but faith whin they come to huntin' the women and
childer it makes me blood boil. For why can't they lave us alone? What
have we done to the bastes to set thim agin the whole of us?"

"You've got land," answered Jim shortly. "That's what you've got.
You've gone and put yer broad carcass in the way of this here King of
France. Steve, reckon this placard air worth keepin'."

He stepped to the bank of the river, waded in a little way and
recovered the plaque, the sun glancing from the bright tin having made
its position clear to those standing on the shore.

"Best keep it, lad," he went on. "It'll mind yer of a time when yer
was precious near to death, and of the pluck as a youngster kin show.
Reckon you stood up to them 'ere skunks as well as any man could ha
done."

There was a murmur of approval from the others, while Steve shook his
head.

"I wasn't going to be frightened by a canoe full of Frenchmen," he
said doggedly. "This place is ours, and if this king wants it let him
come and take it. The best man will hold it in the end. But I suspect
it is not his Majesty of France. Louis XV. can have no great use for
our little holding. But Jules Lapon has. He owns the ground on the far
side next to father's, and with ours thrown in he'd have the whole of
the river banks for three miles either way."

"You've hit it, Steve. It air that skunk as brought this bit of tin
along, and it air him as wants the place," cried Jim, staring out
across the river at the fast-retreating canoes. "What is more, lad,
he's goin' to have it for a time. Me and Mac and Silver Fox guessed as
there was somethin' up, and ever since daylight we've had our eyes on
the varmint. There was a lot too much movement amongst the Injuns, and
we reckoned it didn't mean good to us. Them critters has nailed their
bits of tin at three other places along this bank, and they air going
to take the land whether we want it or not."

"Do you actually mean that they will drive us out of the place?" asked
Steve.

"That air so. There's news comin' slowly through that the French and
their Injuns is movin' on and drivin' the British before 'em. There's
tales of settlements attacked and taken, men and women scalped,
and children carried off by them redskin devils. We've heard the
same before, and I don't know how it is that we along here at this
settlement have escaped so long. But reckon these fellers is out on
the war-path agin, and, lad, we've got to git."

Go! They must leave the place where Steve had lived ever since he was
a tiny little fellow. The log cabin which was his home must be given
up to these Frenchmen and their allies! The thought was a cruel one,
and it is not to be wondered at that an exclamation of bitterness
escaped him.

"Faith, Steve, me lad, it's hard to think on, so it is," said Mac,
coming to him and placing a sympathetic hand on his shoulder. "Hasn't
Mac and the loikes of him settled peaceful here? hasn't the wives
and the childer made homes for all of us, so they have? But ye've
to choose what's the best. To see these thavin' damons here in our
very own places, or to see ivery mother's son of us, and the women
and childer too--God bless the darlints!--scalped and kilt by these
fellers. Sure, Steve, better to see the settlements burn, to put fires
to ivery roof and watch 'em flare, than have them fellers settin' in
our doorways, or scalpin' all of us. Och, but it's a sore time for us,
a sore time, and we'll have to foight before we get back what's our
own. Bedad! Ye'll know soon, Steve, darlint. 'Tis you and me, and Jim
and Silver Fox, and ivery one of us, as'll take our muskets and go out
to foight the blackguards."

"Mac's jest talkin' sense. Reckon it air as he says, Steve," cried
Jim. "Yer was near bein' wiped clean out jest now, and if yer wait
it'll be a case with yer. Best get back to the hut and take what yer
want. You've a bit of a pony, and I fancy you'll be able to take
most of yer things. Then set fire to the place. We'll cross to the
Alleghanies, and then we'll take service with the regiments which are
bein' formed."

Steve stood looking at his rough but honest-hearted friends for some
few minutes, and then his eyes roamed across the peaceful stretch of
the river to the far bank, under the shade of which Jules Lapon and
his comrades were paddling. Then the whistle which the French leader
had dropped caught his attention, and he stared at that, too, for a
little while.

"Father would do the same," he said aloud, but addressing no one in
particular. "Yes, he would go, after firing the hut. There is no other
course open. We have often talked over the possible coming of the
French, and decided that we should have to retire unless supported by
troops. But they are nowhere here. We have only ourselves to rely on.
We must go."

He led the way to the log cabin, and at once set about packing the
most valuable of his and Tom's possessions. Sammy led out the old pony
which was usually employed in dragging timber, and roped the articles
to his back, big tears welling up in his eyes as he did so. When all
was ready Steve took a brand from the fire, looked once more upon his
old home, the cabin in which he had lived sixteen happy years, and
then fired the shingles. There was an air of resolution on his face as
he did so, and he stood to windward watching the flames as they caught
hold and licked round the logs with the same expression. Then, as the
roof fell in and huge tongues of flame flared up into the air, he
turned away with a smile.

"I will help to build a mansion where that happy home was," he said.
"Come Jim and Mac, and you too, Silver Fox, old friends, we will go
where we can be of use to our country, and one of these days we will
settle again in these parts, when the French have been driven into
Canada."

"When they have been sent neck and crop out of North America," growled
Jim. "Pick up yer traps, Steve. The other folks air waitin' for us way
up there back of the rise."

Sammy took the rope bridle of the laden animal, and the trappers and
their Indian friend fell in behind. And thus did Steve leave his home,
not to return again till many an adventure had befallen him, and not
till many and many a man had fallen in the contest which was about to
break out with a ferocity which was almost unexampled.



Chapter VII

The Alleghany Raiders


Sad and heavy of heart were the settlers whom Steve and his friends
met at the top of the divide which ran between the valley in which
they had lived and the forest region beyond, stretching right away to
the Alleghany mountains; for each one of the forty or more persons
of whom the party consisted had just lost home and belongings. Men,
women, and children had been forced to turn out of their log cabins
and take to the woods.

"It air a shame and no mistake," said Jim as the men of the party
gathered about Steve's pony and discussed the matter. "But there's
jest one thing that makes it easy so to speak."

"Easy! Yer don't call it an easy thing to have to fire the hut
that took so long to build, do yer, Huntin' Jim?" cried one of the
trappers, Pete Jarvis by name, his brows contracting as his bitterness
increased. "Yer don't say as it's an easy thing fer a man what's fifty
and more to turn his back on what he's given years of his life to
make, to steal like a skunk out'er these woods, where he's trapped
and shot, and with his wife and children take the trail back to the
west. Yer don't think that, Huntin' Jim. It's hard enough to break a
man's heart."

"It air all that and more, chum," was Jim's consoling answer.
"Neither me nor you, nor Mac, nor Steve, the young Hawk as he's known
hereabouts, likes havin' to git at the word of them 'ere Frenchies.
But fer all that I'm right. Ef it war winter where should we be?"

"'Tis then the poor childer would suffer, so they would," burst in
Mac. "Sure, 'twould be the death of many a one, the poor darlints.
Jim's right, so he is, Pete. We're lucky afther all."

Pete scratched his head at that, for the matter had never crossed his
mind before. He had looked at this sudden exodus from a different
point of view, and he was filled with bitterness and wrath. Still, now
that he came to review the case, he saw that Jim was right.

"That air true," he admitted. "We've got a heap to be thankful for,
and now that you've put it before me, why I'm downright glad that the
time has come now, and not later. Still, boys, it air hard."

"It is, more than hard," agreed Steve. "But we still have something to
be thankful for. We've been hearing tales of other settlements, and
they have not even been able to leave. The Indians gave no warning.
The French did not trouble to come along with their ridiculous bits
of tin, but raided the places, burnt the huts, and massacred the poor
settlers."

"And why ain't they done it here?" demanded Jim eagerly, clenching a
big brown fist. "I'll tell yer, Steve, and you too Pete. It's 'cos
that feller Jules Lapon air in these parts. Reckon he wanted them
huts and crops. He don't want to walk in and find the hul place burnt
by his Injuns. So he sends along and gives us the warnin' to quit,
knowin' that once we've took the trail he can send the hul crowd of
his Injun varmint after us. Waal. He ain't a goin' to get the huts,
'cos we've put fire to 'em, and the crops got served the same way. Ef
we look after ourselves reckon he and them ugly red critters won't
have such an easy time of it. We'd best get the business settled up."

There was, indeed, little doubt that the danger which had suddenly
burst about the heads of the settlers was a real one, and that now
that the Indians had risen in those parts, the party might be followed
and attacked. For the past four or five months tales of massacres
of English colonists had come to the ears of Steve and his friends.
All along the border-line huts and settlements had been raided, too
often suddenly and without any warning, and hundreds of unfortunate
men, women, and children had been killed and scalped. An Indian war
of the most ferocious description had been raging here and there on
the eastern slopes of the Alleghany mountains, and in many places
the enemy had burst over that range and had annihilated settlements
on the far side. Marching with the Indians, egging them on, and
sometimes vying with them in their cruel practices, were scores of
French _voyageurs_ and settlers, and even many young officers from
the regular forces; whilst behind these leaders, stimulating them
with promises of land, and aiding them with money, guns, and powder,
were the authorities living in Quebec. It was really a matter for
wonder that Steve and his friends had not been disturbed before,
for they had carved out from the virgin forests a most valuable
settlement, and one which may be said to have stood in the direct
line of the French advance. It may have been that they owed their
security from interference so far to the fact that the land nearest
to them was owned by Jules Lapon, and he happened to be away in other
parts murdering and slaying, and taking stores from any party of
trappers who happened to stumble across his path. Or this ruffian
may have purposely kept his Indian allies away, having determined to
obtain possession of such a valuable clearing. Whatever the cause, it
happened that this particular settlement had escaped till now, and had
been left so long without interference that many who lived there were
beginning to hope that the impending storm might after all pass over
their heads. And now, with scarcely any warning, the cloud had burst.
They had been ordered to quit, and to leave all that they possessed.
It was more than hard. It was cruel to think that these hardy
trappers, the pioneers of the land, had no one to look to for help,
and must needs pack up hastily and fly for their lives at the bidding
of a French monarch whose name had barely come to their ears.

"It does not help us to look upon the hardship of our case, boys,"
said Steve, as the men stood about him, dressed in their hunting
shirts, their coon-skin caps, their fringed leggings and moccasins.
"We ought to feel glad that we and the women and children are alive,
and our business now is to make arrangements for our journey. Which
way do we make?"

"Due west," answered Jim, with an emphatic wag of his head. "Up there
somewheres on the Alleghanies we'll hit upon colonial troops. There
ain't many of 'em, but they'll be enough to keep these redskin skunks
away, and any of us as has a mind to can take on service with 'em. Ef
we was to make north and west, up towards Albany----"

"Reckon that air out of the question," interrupted Pete. "I'm farthest
over in that direction, and Silver Fox here can tell you that an army
could not get through. West air our only way."

This was, in fact, the only direction in which the little party could
make, for Silver Fox had brought information that roving bands of
Indians were on the war-path between the settlement and Albany.

"Then we will turn west," said Steve. "We have got to protect
ourselves, and I should say that the best way would be to send the
women and children and half the men ahead, while we others wait and
cover the retreat. I suppose we shall make for the old trail?"

"That air what we'll do," replied Jim. "Now, as we're all here,
supposin' we pick out those who air to stay. Married men goes in
advance ef possible. Mac, guess you'll lead. You're a good trapper and
woodsman, and yer know that it'll want a 'cute man to see that the
way's clear. Me and Steve and a few others'll take the rear."

With such matter-of-fact individuals, accustomed to acting swiftly
and in sudden emergencies, it took only a few minutes to arrange the
details of their flight, and very soon the party chosen to go in
advance had moved off through the forest, Mac leading and searching
closely for the blazings on the trees which would tell him that he had
come across the trail which led to the mountains. After him went the
married men, with their wives and children. The ponies, upon the backs
of which the children and some of the women were mounted, were placed
in line, and, being thoroughly well trained to work in the forest,
stepped one after another along the track. Their rear was brought up
by Sammy, leading the lanky pony upon which all Tom's and Steve's
possessions were packed.

"Guess we'll give 'em a good hour's start," said Steve. "Jim, I'll
make back and keep an eye on the river with Silver Fox. If all is
right I'll strike once on the trunk of a tree. If they are following
you will hear two blows."

He and the Indian slipped away from the little band of backwoodsmen,
and within an hour were looking down upon the river which they had so
recently left. It was black with canoes which were passing to and fro,
while a number were drawn up in front of the bank where Steve had had
his encounter with Jules Lapon. Above the tops of the trees hung a
dense pall of smoke, a dozen other columns shewing where the settlers
had fired their huts.

"They will follow to-morrow, Hawk," said Silver Fox, when he had
looked at the scene for some little while. "They think that they will
easily come up with us. In two days they will surround our party and
we shall have to fight. It would be well to ambush them."

That set Steve thinking, and for an hour he lay there in the bracken
staring down at the river. Then he got to his feet, picked up a fallen
branch and struck the trunk of a massive tree a heavy blow, repeating
the blow again some two minutes later.

"They will hear that," he said. "Now we will return, Silver Fox. Have
you ever been on this trail?"

"Once, Hawk," was the answer.

"Do you remember the hills lying a day's march from this? There is a
gap."

The Indian suddenly came to a stop, for they were returning by now,
and stared into Steve's face. "The Hawk is sharp," he said, with a
flash of his keen eyes. "Silver Fox remembers that gap. There we will
lay an ambush."

They trudged on through the forest and presently came up with Jim
and his comrades. Then, with two men scouting in the woods on either
side, and the same number in rear and in front, the tiny little party
of stern men strode on after the fugitives in advance. And when the
morning of the second day broke they struggled up to the rising
ground which Steve had mentioned to Silver Fox. It was a rugged and
precipitous ridge, with trees growing thickly up to its foot, and
thick, long scrub running to its summit. As Steve clambered to the top
he saw that it stretched for some miles on either hand, and he knew
that to cross it at any other spot would be a difficult task, for he
and his father had often hunted in the district.

"It is just the place for us," he said to Jim, as the trapper and some
of his comrades gathered about him. "From the forest down below the
Indians who are pursuing will be able to get a glimpse of our party
after it has climbed over this ridge, for the land rises again, and
you can see for yourself that it towers above this place. Now what
do you say to this? We send on the best of the horses, with all the
women and children, and instruct them to get ahead to that piece of
open country to which I am pointing. Meanwhile, we will lie here and
prepare a nice little ambush."

"While the women and children draw the varmint into it," cried Jim,
with every sign of satisfaction. "Steve, you air 'cute. I 'lowed that
many a day ago, but here yer air agin. Boys, that air a plan that's
worth workin'."

The spot was, in fact, an ideal one for an ambush, and Steve had had
it in his mind's eye the whole of the previous two days, for he was
well acquainted with the district. As he had said, this steep rocky
ridge cut across the course of the fugitives, running for many miles
on either hand. In many places it was almost unclimbable, and at this
point it happened to be less severe, so much so that many a colonist
making east into the promised land, the valley of the Ohio, had
followed the blaze marks of those who had gone before him, and had
clambered over the rise where others had found a road. It was the most
natural thing, therefore, for this party of fugitives to take the same
track, and indeed it was the only course that they could take. The
Indians would know this, so Steve argued, and there was little doubt
that by now they were within a few miles of the ridge. What would
happen when they came up to it?

"They will climb over and wipe the whole lot of us out," our hero had
said to himself. "We must stop them here if at all."

Then, as he tramped through the forest on the previous day, he had
recollected that in approaching the ridge from the Ohio valley one
caught a glimpse every now and again of the track far in advance, for
the country to the west rose again, less sharply to be sure, but to a
greater elevation. A party making their way over that second rise in
the land would be instantly detected by the Indian pursuers, who would
imagine that all their pale face enemies were there.

"It is our only chance," said Steve, as the men gathered about him.
"Our scouts in rear have not yet signalled, so we know that the enemy
are not yet up with us, though they were on our trail last night. Then
we have plenty of time. In an hour the ponies, with the women and
children, will be on the high ground beyond, and when the Indians see
them----"

"They'll come streamin' up this ridge like hounds," growled Jim. "This
air the place to stop 'em. You place the boys, my lad."

Very rapidly and coolly Steve told the trappers off to their posts,
cautioning them that there was not to be a sound till he fired his
musket. Then he himself took cover close to the edge of the track
and waited. Presently two slim figures appeared down below, flitting
between the trees, and the trappers left behind as scouts began to
climb the ridge.

"A hundred of the varmint full on the trail," whispered one as he lay
down beside Steve. "We watched 'em till half an hour ago, and then me
and Stubbs come along at a dog trot. They'll be in sight in less than
no time. Reckon they'll spot the rest of our party. They air right up
there on the high ground beyond, and yer can sight 'em ploddin' along
beside the ponies."

[Illustration: "STEVE RESTED HIS BARREL IN THE FORK OF A DWARFED
TREE"]

"Hist! That air one of the skunks."

Jim, who happened to be next to Steve, lifted a warning finger and
then pointed below. A painted redskin, hideous in his feathered
war-gear, slipped like a shadow from the trees and stood in the open,
staring up over the ridge to the high land beyond. They saw him turn
and call softly, and then, one by one, some hundred of his comrades
flitted up to his side and stood staring at the white fugitives
beyond. Some danced with joy and brandished their tomahawks, while one
of their number turned and addressed them.

"My children, these pale faces are ours," he said. "Within the hour
their scalps shall hang at our belts. Climb the rise and enter the
trees. Do not make a sound till they are enclosed by us. Then rush
upon them and slay."

He pointed to the ridge, and, leaping forward, led the way up the
steep ascent. And as the whole party followed, their eyes fixed upon
their leader or upon the summit of the rise, some twenty ponderous
muskets went to as many stout shoulders, and sights were levelled upon
the redskin demons clambering up the track. Steve rested his muzzle
in the fork of a dwarfed tree and aligned the sights on the feathered
chief who led the party. And there he waited, his cheek well down
on the stock, his eye glued to the sights, and his finger pressing
ever so gently on the trigger. He was as steady as the fork in which
his weapon rested, for Steve was a hardened fighter by now, and he
knew that the lives of all the women and children depended on the
coolness and courage of himself and his comrades. He allowed nothing
to frighten him, and where many would have pulled the trigger out of
sheer excitement and inability to put up with the suspense any longer,
he crouched there waiting, waiting.

"About thirty yards I make it," he said to himself at last. "I'll give
him another two seconds. That will get the others up a little closer.
We want our bullets to strike more than one of the ruffians."

Suddenly there was a loud report, a spurt of flame lit up the shadow
in which he lay, while the leader of the Indians threw his hands
into the air, howled in the most diabolical manner, and then fell
backwards, to go sliding and bumping down the track till a fallen
tree arrested further progress. A second later a volley came from the
surrounding bushes, from behind rocks and boulders, while a storm of
bullets plunged into the very centre of the huddled enemy. When the
smoke blew away, Steve and his friends looked down upon an almost
deserted track, cleared of Indians save for the bodies which lay prone
on the hill-side or which rolled and slid down towards the bottom.
Here and there in amongst the bushes on either hand the crash of a
bough told that the enemy was there, but those sounds lasted only a
few seconds, and presently figures flitted in amongst the trees down
below.

"Them critters won't come to a stop till they've reached the river,"
laughed Jim, his face lighting up with joy. "Reckon they'll run till
they've come back to that 'ere Jules Lapon of theirs. Steve, reckon
you've jest saved us."

He stepped over to the young trapper and gripped him by the hand. "It
war your idea agin what brought us through," he said, "and it air you
as'll lead us out of this country. Boys, you've heard tell of our trip
up to Albany, and of how young Steve got on to the idea of them boats
and reeds. Waal, this here notion of an ambush air his. Ain't he fit
ter lead us?"

There was a shout of approval.

"He air all that," shouted Pete. "Hawk has made his name, and air real
keen and 'cute. Reckon I don't want no better leader, no more do any
of the others."

"Then, cap'n, you'll take on the command as before," said Jim easily.
"We air out of the muss with them 'ere beggars. What air we to do now?"

"Push on as fast as we are able," was our hero's answer, when he had
recovered from his embarrassment. "We will march with scouts out
behind and in front and on either side. I am hoping to reach the
mountains in four days."

The party pressed on after those in advance, and in due time came up
with them. And thus, taking the utmost precaution against attack from
the Indians, they marched through the forest in the direction of the
Alleghany mountains. Now and again they came upon an open space,
where the blackened logs spoke of a settlement which had been fired.
And often enough there were signs of the struggle which had taken
place. The bodies of murdered colonists lay among the grass, while
such relics of the former inhabitants as a tiny shoe, a rag doll, or
a wooden horse, caught the eyes of the men of the party and caused
them to grind their teeth and clench their fists. Men swore into their
beards, and in low tones vowed that they would repay the authors of
these massacres.

And so in time they came to the mountains, climbed the long and weary
foot hills, and at length struggled to the top, still surrounded by
the ever-present forest.

"We ain't far from white folks, cap'n," said Jim as the party began to
descend the far slopes. "Pete reports as he's dropped on fresh fires,
where the embers air quite warm; and there's been a hul lot of men
about stampin' the ground with hard-soled boots."

"Reckon there's men up there," suddenly exclaimed one of the trappers,
pointing to a high peak distinguishable above the forest trees.
"They've been watchin' us, and the sooner we let 'em know who we air
the better it'll be. They might be shootin' into us."

Steve at once sent off a couple of the backwoodsmen to speak to the
strangers, and in a little while his messengers came back with four
trappers similar to themselves. They were hardy-looking men, bearded
and bronzed, and dressed in the customary hunting shirt and leggings.

"Reckon you air lucky folk," said one, addressing Steve. "There's been
few come through safely since the French set them Injuns on. Have yer
had a muss with 'em?"

"We beat them back at the range," answered our hero. "We set a trap
for them, and they walked into it. That's the last we saw of them. But
we have passed many a ruined and burnt-out settlement."

"Ay, there's many of 'em, more's the shame. Ef we up here get news of
the comin' of the Injuns, why, we goes down and does what we can. But
it ain't often like that. They come down upon the settlements like a
hawk, and every one's wiped out. There ain't many settlements left.
They say as all the backwoods huts air fired and men scalped, and that
the bigger settlements just near the Alleghany range have also been
fired. Then some of the varmint have been over the range, and they've
wiped out big farms and hul villages. It makes a man swear to hear
it all, and to know that we can do nothing to prevent the murders.
But what can you expect when George has only a thousand men, same as
us, to look after four hundred miles of frontier? Why, there's Injuns
out all along the line from Western New York State right away down to
North Carolina."

Steve and his friends were indeed amazed at this statement. They
knew that an Indian war had been raging along the frontiers of the
thirteen States, but having been so cut off in the forests, little
news had come to their ears. They had learned that various expeditions
had been sent against the French and their allies, and that these
had for the most part been defeated or had failed to effect their
object. They knew too that massacres had taken place here and there.
But this was indeed news. It was terrible to learn that all along
this frontier, extending over some four hundred miles, farms and
settlements had been exterminated, that bands of Indians had ravaged
the possessions of the colonists, and had even carried their war over
the Alleghanies, wiping out the huts of the pioneers, which may be
called the first line of defences, then firing the settlements which
were not so far advanced, and which formed a second line, and finally,
throwing themselves upon a third and final line, that formed by the
more prosperous and more settled villagers on the eastern slopes of
the Alleghanies.

"But how have they been allowed to do all this?" demanded Steve,
indignantly. "Surely there are men in the colonies! Why, if this
sort of thing is allowed, the Indians will reach the coast, and will
massacre at Charlestown and other places."

He swung round on his companion, his face flushed and his eyes
flashing with indignation. Then he suddenly observed that a fifth
stranger, dressed as a hunter like the rest, but with something about
him which attracted more than usual attention, had joined the group,
slipping up to it unheard and unseen from the forest. He was tall and
lithe, some twenty-four years of age, and his keen blue eyes fixed
themselves on Steve's figure.

"Excuse me," he said, speaking with the voice of a man who had been
brought up in a town, "excuse me, sir, but what you say is hardly
likely to occur now. A year ago it seemed more than possible. But
perhaps you have not heard. At last the English Government is tired
of this massacre and this bullying. War has been declared, and troops
are coming to help us. You may ask why the colonies have not done
more. Pooh! They call a blush of shame to the cheek of every honest
and patriotic colonist. While the shrieks of these unhappy settlers
ring almost in their ears and almost within hearing of the coast
towns, these comfortable stay-at-home planters and traders and country
gentlemen sit in their council rooms and squabble. They set aside
all thought of assisting their hapless brothers and sisters, while
they heckle their unfortunate governors. But I must apologise again.
You must understand that I feel the position bitterly, for I have
had a hand in these troubles since the very commencement. Allow me
to introduce myself. I am George Washington, colonel commanding the
irregulars who have been given the task of defending four hundred
miles of frontier."

So this young and determined-looking man was George Washington, of
whom every trapper and hunter had heard. Steve regarded him with open
admiration, and then, stepping up to him, shook hands eagerly.

"It is a lucky day for us, then, Colonel," he said. "I am Steve
Mainwaring."

"Cap'n Steve, known as the Hawk amongst the Injuns," burst in Jim,
stretching out a big brown paw to grip that of the colonel. "Cap'n
Steve, Colonel, and as sharp and 'cute a fighter as ever I see.
How'dy?"

"I am glad to meet you, gentlemen," said the young colonial officer.
"You will come to our camp, where we will endeavour to make you
comfortable."

He took Steve by the arm and led the way through the forest. And very
soon the fugitives were in the middle of the hutted encampment where
George Washington and his men had their quarters. Huts were allotted
to the various families, while the colonel took Steve to his own log
house.

"Come with me, Steve," he said with a friendly smile. "I am rather
lonely, and it will be nice to have a companion to chat with. Besides,
I want to hear all about the backwoods and the troubles you have had
with the French and the Indians."

He led the way to an unpretentious hut, and very soon Steve was
stretched on a rough wooden form, staring at the embers and chatting
quietly with George Washington, even then a hero, and destined to
become one of the greatest of American citizens.



Chapter VIII

A Question of Territory


"Never before has this fine country seen such troubles," said Colonel
George Washington, as he sat puffing at his pipe and looking across
the wooden flooring of his hut at Steve's long and active figure. "You
have had fighting, you tell me. You will see more. We are only just
entering upon the struggle. Tell me, Steve, what do you propose to do?"

That was a question which our hero found some difficulty in answering.
But at length he rolled over on the form and sat up to look at his
host.

"What do you advise?" he asked. "I have a letter here which I wish
to deliver at Charlestown, and I should like to find out what has
happened to my father. After that I shall join some band of scouts,
and fight the French and their Indians. I suppose they mean to drive
us all out of the country, and take it for themselves?"

There was an emphatic nod in answer to his question, and then for a
while the two sat staring at the fire, each busy with his thoughts.

For who could doubt that the total extermination of the British
colonists was intended? The French were rapidly pushing south and
east, and in front of them ran a swarm of their Indians, massacring
and slaying, and steadily pushing back the British settlers. To
understand the position of affairs, and the facts which had led up to
the moment when Steve and his friends arrived at the camp where George
Washington and his small army had settled themselves on the Alleghany
Mountains, it would be well for the reader to study a map of North
America, and trace for himself the possessions held by the French and
the English. For it must be remembered that these two nations, each
jealous of the other, and often at war with each other, had sent their
settlers and pioneers to this huge continent of North America. To
describe how the first of those settlers landed, how they fought their
way from the coast and conquered the forests, would be to enter upon a
subject which would need abundant space and more attention than can be
given here. But the history of those days is filled to repletion with
tales of gallant deeds, of perseverance against great suffering and
difficulty, and of final and glorious success. It will be sufficient
perhaps if we say, when dealing with the British colonies, that
Quakers and Puritans, together with others from England and Wales,
also Scotchmen and Irishmen, found their way to the eastern shores
of North America, and having dealt with the Indians, finally founded
states, thirteen in number, stretching from New England in the north
to infant Georgia in the south.

Let the reader glance down the eastern coast of the map, and he will
trace these thirteen States without difficulty, and will notice that,
while each has easy access to the sea, where the coast naturally
limits further extension in that direction, to the west there is a
huge sweep of country running right across to the Pacific coast, but
broken here and there by mountain and river and vast inland lakes.
Then let him take those States in their order from the north, and
ascertain what reason there was why each one should not extend to the
west till her people flooded the whole continent.

It may be admitted at once that abundance of time was one of the
main requirements for bringing about such a state of affairs, for
colonies do not grow in a day, and putting aside all natural barriers,
and those erected by the hostility of the old inhabitants, whom the
colonists will in course of time drive from their own country, many,
many years must pass before the tide of immigrants flows across the
land. For those who come first naturally select suitable places
nearest the coast, while those who come later settle within reach of
their friends, exchanging commodities with them. Later arrivals are
forced farther and farther away, till in time the settlements are
found miles and miles from the coast. Look at North America to-day.
She has added many states to those thirteen which existed in the days
when Steve sat in the log hut with George Washington. Her people
have overflowed the country, they have pushed the Red Indian back
steadily, and to-day they swarm in almost every part. The virgin
forest of that day, the haunt of the buffalo and the hunting grounds
of the Indian, now resound to the clang of the hammer, to the crash
of the train, and to the hum and roar of a thriving population.
Thousands come to the land every year to swell the throng, and paucity
of population is no longer a source of anxious thought for the
governments of the various States.

But it was in the year 1756. All told, the colonists of those thirteen
States did not exceed a million and a half, while each one of the
States may be said to have been of the size of England. It will be
realised at once that it was all that such a population could do to
colonise the neighbourhood of the coast, and that if the western
border was to extend, thousands must come out to the country. As a
matter of fact, however, few though the colonists were, their farms
extended a considerable distance from the coast, and save in the
towns, where they lived close together, the settlers were separated
by wide intervals. They placed their huts for the most part in the
fertile valleys, clinging to the rivers, thus having at hand the means
of getting their corn and produce to the coast. And slowly, as the
land was taken up, settlers took their farms farther and farther away,
till some barrier arrested further progress. Such a barrier existed,
and a glance at the map will show the position of the Alleghany
Mountains, extending from Pennsylvania down to Georgia. It was not,
of course, an obstacle which could not be surmounted, but it was for
all that an obstacle which turned the would-be farmer back, for the
simple reason that, with such a range stretching between him and the
coast, there was no possibility of his getting his produce to market.
Moreover, on the far side of that range Indians inhabited the forests,
and they were an enemy to be reckoned with and feared.

[Illustration: CANADA and OUR AMERICAN COLONY in 1755.]

Thus it happened that from Pennsylvania south to Georgia there was
every inducement to the young colonies to be satisfied with what land
they already possessed, while to the north, where the natural barrier
of the Alleghany Mountains did not exist, there were other barriers,
none the less formidable, which held the State of New York and those
of New England in check. Stretching between them and the unknown west
lay the country inhabited by the Iroquois, consisting of six nations
of Indians who had banded themselves together for purposes of offence
and defence, and who were friendly to our colonists. To think of
snatching their hunting lands from them, was to think of a relentless
and fearful war, which might damage the prosperity of the colonies.
Farther north there ran the huge river St. Lawrence, with the French
and their so-called Christian Indians for ever ready to sweep over the
frontier.

It will be realized then, that there was reason why the young States
should not extend, but in dealing with them, one must not forget the
host of trappers and hunters belonging to each State, who, like the
Indians, steadily and surely pushed on away from the settlers. For
where there were villages there was little game, and it was upon
the latter that they depended for a livelihood. And so it happened
that, while the colonies proper came to an end at the slopes of the
Alleghany mountains, the trappers clambered over the range, and
descended into the country beyond. And in course of time, when their
numbers had increased and they had driven the Indians back after many
a battle, they too formed settlements, adventurous farmers joined
them, cleared the forest, and lived the dual life of farmer and
trapper. Then the restless spirit of the hunters took them on again,
till the forests west of the mountains harboured many and many a
gallant trapper, till their solitary log huts were seen in the valley
of the Ohio, on the banks of the Monongahela, the Alleghany, and the
Kenawha.

Those were the men who knew that Indians still existed, who hunted
the bison and the bear, and fought the bloodthirsty native of the
forests in his own manner and with bitter determination. It was
these hardy fellows, men of Tom Mainwaring's stamp, trappers such
as Jim and Mac and Pete, who carried old England's banner into new
lands, and who were the very first to come in contact with the French
and their Indians. Their occupation of this valley of the Ohio won
claims for England which France could not deny and which we could not
repudiate, and though up to this date the various States had for the
most part stood aside, apathetically watching while these honest and
brave pioneers were driven back, their huts fired and their people
massacred, yet the time was now come when they and the Government in
England were to recall the fact that this valley of the Ohio was ours
by right of conquest, that it had been won by the toil and blood of
the trappers.

There remains but one other point to explain with regard to the
colonies. It may be asked why these million and a half souls looked
on so calmly while the unfortunate pioneers and trappers were hunted
and massacred, why they sat at home while the Indians swarmed to the
western slopes of the Alleghanies and over the crest, slaughtering and
destroying the settlements? It must be a matter for marvel that they
remained for the most part inert and unshaken, even while the third
line of defences was ravaged, and the bloody war brought to their very
farms and mansions.

There were many reasons for this state of affairs, and it may be said
of the Southern States that it was so long now since their fathers
and their grandfathers had driven the redskins over the Alleghany
Mountains that they had forgotten that the Indians existed. There were
no longer raids in their direction, and no fear of massacre. Then
again, those who managed the affairs of the scattered population of
these various States were more than inclined to sink patriotism and
all thought of their fellow-States in acrimonious discussions amongst
themselves, in petty squabbles over some matter which was of the
smallest actual importance, and in for ever harassing their governor.
They fought amongst themselves, squabbled with their neighbours as
to boundary lines, and wrangled while their countrymen were being
massacred, and even their own security threatened.

In the north it was entirely different. The States of New York and
New England had French and French Indians on their borders, and
they had never forgotten the bitterness of former wars, nor did the
ever-present fear of an incursion help to dull their memories. We
shall see that it was to these Northern States in particular that we
are indebted for men and money, and for the initiative which first
roused the States to a sense of their duty, and the home Government to
the need for a leader and active opposition to the aims of France.

Having given some idea of the thirteen States and their condition in
and about the year 1756, let us turn to France and her possessions in
North America. And perhaps it will be of interest to go as fully into
this part as into that concerning our own colony. Let the reader run
his finger from the northernmost tip of the island of Newfoundland
along the northern shore of the St. Lawrence, and he will pass over
the route which the gallant Jacques Cartier, of St. Malo, followed
in the years 1535-36, when on a voyage commissioned by Francis I.
This bold sailor was the first known European to ascend the mighty
St. Lawrence river, a river which is of huge proportions, and which
is fed by the most gigantic reservoirs. Look at the five huge lakes,
Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, which cover a space
larger than that covered by the whole of Great Britain, and consider
that these five drain steadily into this St. Lawrence river, and you
will perhaps have some idea of the vastness of this gigantic waterway.

This Jacques Cartier cast anchor off the Isle of Orleans, which he
named the Isle of Bacchus, for it was well covered with vines, and
lay near the river St. Croix, within sight of the position where the
city of Quebec now stands. He met with a friendly reception from the
natives, and afterwards sailed up the river to Montreal, where an
Indian town was then situated. Having done more than any other white
man was known to have done, he erected a cross at St. Croix, claimed
the land for his master and for France, and duly returned home, having
completed his second voyage to these parts, a voyage commissioned,
as has been said, by Francis I., with the object of discovering a
short route to the Indies and new countries not yet discovered and
appropriated by the Spanish or the Portuguese.

Monsieur Roberval was the first lieutenant to take up his residence
in the newly-found country. It is quite unnecessary to follow his
unimportant doings there, or the fate of the immigrants who went to
join him. But it may be stated that progress was exceptionally slow,
that colonists were few and far between, and that for many years the
French population of New France was extremely small. Sometimes the new
possessions met with favour from the French court, and for a while a
new impetus was given to colonising. And gradually the interior of the
country was opened up, or rather, some superficial knowledge of it was
gained from the reports of discoverers and hunters. For here, as in
the Ohio valley, the chief inducement to the hardy pioneers to push
on was the desire to obtain furs, for which there was always a ready
sale.

But it must not be thought that their journeys took them so far that
nothing more was left to discover. Other men of the same venturesome
turn of mind were to appear upon the scene, Champlain amongst the
most noteworthy. Then, too, we must direct our attention to Nova
Scotia, the French Acadie, which attracted the eyes of the colonists
in 1604. We find that expeditions landed here and founded settlements,
and later we hear of gentlemen adventurers coming to this fertile
Acadie, there to seek their fortunes. In course of time, too, to be
precise, in the year 1625, Jesuit missionaries sailed for New France,
and we find them hereafter dominating the affairs of the colony,
ever pushing forward and boldly entering the country of the Indians.
Indeed, the history of Canada is filled with accounts of these
gallant missionaries, who struggled often alone into the forests, who
were murdered and tortured by the redskins, and who yet pressed on,
endeavouring always to bring the heathen Indian under the influence of
their religion.

Cardinal Richelieu also appears upon the scene, the great Richelieu
who dominated France, and we find him forming a trading company and
arranging to send out artisans.

It is interesting at this time to remember that England had colonists
at Massachusetts Bay, and that this country was ambitious of
obtaining more lands, and even of ousting the French. Indeed, in
the year 1628 Kirk appeared in the St. Lawrence off Quebec, and
though he did not take the place, Champlain, then the governor, had
the mortification of hearing that, in his descent of the river he
had captured four armed vessels and eighteen transports, which were
conveying those artisans whom the great Richelieu had selected. This
was a serious set back to the colonists, and was increased tenfold
in the following year, for Kirk again appeared upon the scene, and
summoned Champlain to surrender. That was the first occasion when the
broad banner of England floated over the fort of St. Louis, and the
site whereon the city of Quebec now stands. However, on returning
home, Kirk discovered that the war with France was at an end, and as
a result the treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye was signed, and Charles I.
handed back to France her possessions on the St. Lawrence, and Port
Royal, in Acadie.

During all these years the progress of New France had been slow, and
on the mighty St. Lawrence her colonists were lost in the immensity
of their new possessions. In Acadie they had fared little better, and
though Port Royal was handed back to them and they enjoyed peaceful
possession of the country, it was not for a great number of years, for
our fleets captured the province in 1654, and in our hands it remained
till 1667, when Charles II. gave it back to Louis XIV.

We pass over those years in Canada with the mention of few events,
amongst the most important of which was the danger which the colonists
now encountered from the Iroquois. They had a deadly feud with these
men from France, and we hear of their canoes ascending the Richelieu
and lying off Quebec itself, taunting the small garrison. These
uneventful times, however, produced scores of gallant men desirous of
pushing on into the mysterious west, and the names of Etienne Brulé
and of Nicolet loom large in the list. For a while the invasion of the
Iroquois kept these spirits close to the forts at Montreal and Quebec,
but when the Indian trouble had subsided, the Mohawks having been
dispersed, these gallant men pushed on again. They were found on the
great lakes, and to north and south of them. Hunters pushed into the
wilderness in search of skins, _coureurs de bois_, often the younger
sons of men of position in France, blazed their tracks through the
forests, intent upon discovery. And with one or other were to be found
the ubiquitous priest, bolder and more persevering than any perhaps.
The tales of these wanderers fill one with wonder and admiration,
and the history of these years of discovery teach us that the French
were wonderful hunters and explorers. They took to the forests as a
duck does to water. Often enough they associated with wandering bands
of Indians, learned their language and lived with them for months
and even years at a time, dressing in their hunting costumes. The
fascination of the wilderness cast such a spell over the colonists
that at this period, when men were sorely needed in the settlements,
when the hold which France had on her fine possessions was none of the
securest, scarcely a young colonist, be he habitant or the son of a
man of consequence, could be persuaded to remain. Threats of severe
punishment could not keep them. They broke from home ties, took their
ponderous muskets, their bullet and their powder pouches, and went off
into the forests, content to hunt and wander into a country which was
entirely strange, and to indulge in a life of freedom and adventure,
where hardship was the order of the day, and where only the strongest
and boldest survived.

But it must not be supposed that the governing powers at Quebec, in
their endeavours to retain these young men, entirely muzzled the
desire to make fresh discoveries. They fostered the idea, selected
suitable men, and equipped expeditions. Frontenac, whose name has
secured an honoured place in the history of Canada, sent Jolliet to
find that great water of which the French had heard, though it had
been but vaguely mentioned. This intrepid explorer finally launched
his canoe on the waters of the giant Missipi (as it was then spelled),
and with Marquette, a bold Jesuit, paddled down the stream. René
Robert Cavalier, Sieur de la Salle, completed this important work of
exploration, and with Tonty and Father Membré sailed down the long
stretches of the Mississippi till he reached the Gulf of Mexico. This
momentous voyage opened the eyes of the French very wide indeed, for
the travellers could tell of fertile lands stretching from the great
lakes to the gulf in the south, and of a huge expanse of country which
would give refuge one of these days to millions of wanderers pressed
out of their own native lands by the overcrowding there. However,
beyond building a few forts, nothing more of consequence was done
till we arrive at a period in which New France, now generally styled
Canada, made rapid strides under the able leadership of her governors
and the careful attention of Louis Quatorze.

There were perhaps three thousand souls in the colony prior to this
period, and it was obvious that many more were required if France was
to retain her rights there. The astute young king was the first to
recognise this, and we find him sending emigrants in large numbers,
emigrants who had been carefully selected. They consisted of young men
of the peasant class, called _habitants_, and of officers and younger
sons, for the most part unmarried. Then ship loads of peasant girls
and demoiselles were dispatched to the colony, and every inducement
offered to these men and women to marry and settle down. Indeed, young
men who failed to take notice of these inducements were harried and
taxed till they fell in with the wishes of their king. In addition
to these emigrants, men of some family were persuaded to go to the
colony, and from these smaller "gentilhommes" a Canadian noblesse was
formed, seigneurs were selected from amongst them, and a form of
feudal life commenced in the backwoods. The seigneur had a huge grant
of uncleared forest, he built his log hut or cabin, and a rough fort
to protect him against the Indians. And about this fort gathered his
_habitants_, tilling the land he allotted them, and paying their rent
in kind, a portion of corn, a few bear skins, fresh salmon from the
lake, or other commodities. Allegiance they gave to their seigneur for
the simple reason that these seigneuries were scattered and widely
separated, and self-support was their only policy, for otherwise they
would have fallen victims to the first redskin marauders.

And thus we find the possessions of France slowly being peopled, till
in the year when Steve and his friends reached the Alleghanies, the
colonists numbered some 60,000 souls, exclusive of some ten thousand
living in Acadie, once French but now English, though the _habitant_
who had filled that smiling land was French by birth and intensely
French in thought and sympathy. We find Cape Breton, an island just
north of Nova Scotia, a possession of France, with the formidable
fortress of Louisbourg situated upon it, and its ramparts bristling
with cannon. Hunters and _coureurs de bois_ had sailed across the
lakes, and knew every foot of their shores, while soldiers and agents
of France had built forts and trading posts in numerous places, had
erected stockades at certain points on the Mississippi, and were
slowly progressing in a scheme which promised soon to allow the men
descending this mighty Mississippi to join hands with men of their
blood at New Orleans, settled some time ago by the French.

Look again at the map for a moment, and see what such a line of forts
meant. It cut the northern continent into two unequal parts, leaving
France the major portion lying to the west, as well as that wide tract
between the Mississippi and the Alleghanies. It was this portion,
commencing with the valley of the Ohio, which they determined to
occupy, despite the fact that our hunters and pioneers had penetrated
its forests years before, and it was this same valley in which their
own Indians were now camping, having harried and massacred far and
wide, and set fire to all the settlements not only in the valley, but
as far as and beyond the Alleghany range.

History repeats itself, and it is strange to consider that the
constant forward movement of these persevering French was copied years
afterwards by those gallant men who opened up the great west of North
America to the thirteen colonies, that the work of exploration carried
on in Canada by hunters, by _coureurs de bois_, and by the restless
and bold spirits of the young noblesse was repeated on the far side
of the Alleghanies. Not that our trappers, even at this date, when
the French were doing their utmost to oust the British from the Ohio
valley, had been backward. They had done much, and a glance at the map
will show the reader that they had a station on Lake Ontario, Oswego
by name, which was well in advance of their own frontiers, and which,
in fact, was a bitter thorn in the side of the French. But adventurous
though our trappers were, they had not penetrated so far perhaps into
the wilderness as had the French, for the simple reason no doubt
that ways of communication were less frequent and difficult to come
across. A French trapper might enter his canoe at Quebec, and there
was water to take him hundreds of miles into the heart of the country,
to the farthest bays and creeks of the giant lakes. True, there were
mighty falls, as witness those of Niagara, but a canoe could be
carried. There were "portages" where canoes must be taken from the
water, the stores piled upon the backs of willing Indians, and the
whole outfit carried to some point above the falls. But these did not
altogether bar the great waterways, and on this account prospecting
and exploration was easier for the French. And thus we find them at
the period of this impending conflict masters of the St. Lawrence,
with strong places at Quebec, Montreal, Niagara, and Frontenac, not
to mention the huge and elaborately defended fortress at Louisbourg
on Cape Breton Island. We hear of their soldiers and trappers, with
thousands of Indians south of the great lakes, of their forts on the
Mississippi and on the river Richelieu and on Lake Champlain. In
fact, these energetic men, in spite of their paucity of numbers, were
swiftly surrounding the British, cutting off the thirteen States from
the smiling interior of America, and aiming no doubt at their final
extermination. We shall see, however, that even an apathetic people
may at last see their danger, and that England was not to be so easily
driven from a colony which had been founded by her hardy sons.



Chapter IX

George Washington speaks


George Washington, the young colonel of colonial troops, was one
of the few men who may truly be said to have taken an active and
patriotic interest in the thirteen States as a whole in those eventful
months when Steve and his friends fought Jules Lapon and his Indians
in the forest, or hunted and trapped along the river at the risk
of losing their lives. Young though he was, this courtly colonial
gentleman, whose name at this day is held in honoured memory by
Americans and Englishmen alike, had already taken an active part
in the events which had slowly and insensibly led up to a conflict
between the French and the English. Steve looked at him as he lolled
on the rough wooden form, and could scarce credit the fact that he was
speaking with George Washington, openly spoken of at that period as
the colony's chief champion, and well known to be one of the first to
have crossed swords with the enemy.

"What do you advise me to do, Colonel?" he asked, as he refilled his
wooden pipe. "I must work, of course, or else I shall starve, and
the work I want is something in connection with scouting. Then there
is my father. I do not fear that anything has happened to him, but
am naturally anxious that he should learn that I have crossed the
Alleghanies."

"You have a letter for Charlestown; is that not the case?" asked the
Colonel. "I can have that delivered for you, and I will make a point
of warning all the men stationed at the crossings over this range that
they are to stop your father and tell him what has happened. If you
consent to that, then I have work for you."

He pulled at his pipe and stared across at the young trapper between
half-closed lids.

"He is just the lad we want," he was saying to himself. "He is called
the Hawk, and I know that no Indian would give him such a title if he
were not worthy of it. He has friends, too, who will help him. Yes,
he has come in the nick of time. Well," he went on, speaking aloud,
"what do you say to this proposition? I will take care that your
father is warned, and I have work for you, work which is of the utmost
importance, and which every patriotic man would eagerly undertake."

"Then you may put my name down for it, Colonel," said Steve quickly.
"I have seen enough of these Frenchmen to make me sure that every
trapper will have to fight if he wishes to get back his possessions.
They have robbed us all in the most barefaced manner, and I for one
mean to get back what they have taken. Then, they say that these
enemies are determined to drive us altogether out of the country. That
means that England is in danger of losing her colony, and every man,
or lad for the matter of that, should take a hand in defending the
country."

"Would that all would think in the same way," sighed the Colonel. "I
am surrounded by apathetic people, by farmers who are still almost
ignorant of the turn affairs have taken, by planters and traders whose
relatives have been massacred by the Indians, and who yet are content
to continue planting and trading without a thought or care for the
unhappy people who have sought a home on the far side of this mountain
range. Excuses are everywhere. Men will not turn out to fight because
they have crops to look to, because they have wives and a home, or
with better reason, because they have lost all sense of patriotism,
and the national danger does not alarm them. It is maddening to think
that there are hundreds and thousands who could help us, whose fathers
were patriotic to the backbone, and who would have responded at the
first call. I can only think that prosperity has killed all thought
of the nation, and that they will not be roused till the French are
at their doors. There, Steve Mainwaring, you have my opinion of the
southern States. They are mostly apathetic, though the men could
fight, ay, and would fight if only they could be brought to the
point. Look at Pennsylvania, too. Her council will not move a step to
help the colony, simply for the reason that they are for the most part
Quakers, and hostile to even the thought of war. Would they fight, do
you think, if they heard the war whoop of the Indians?"

He looked across at Steve, and flushed red with indignation.

"If they did not they would have little chance afterwards," was our
hero's scathing answer. "They would be cowards if they did not do all
that was possible."

"And yet they are not that," said George Washington slowly. "It is
simply apathy which keeps them at home. They seem to have no interest
in the struggle. Now, look at the north. There are men, if you like!
They are Puritans for the most part, but they do not forget the
Indians, and they have already helped with men and money. There have
been stirring times, I tell you, Steve, and there is stern fighting
before us. I'll let you know how we stand at the present moment,
and what has happened in the past, for I expect that you are fairly
ignorant. News does not travel far or fast in the backwoods."

Steve and his friends had, in fact, only a superficial knowledge of
the events which had led up to the then position of affairs, and he
listened with interest as George Washington told of how the French had
commenced upon a course of intrigue and invasion which was destined to
despoil the thirteen States. It was De la Galissonière who had first
cast covetous eyes on that no-man's land in the valley of the Ohio,
and who in 1749 had sent an expedition to the valley with instructions
to nail up proclamations stamped in tin, claiming the land for France.
He argued that once this had been done he could pour settlers into
the country, who would quickly oust the British, for it must be
remembered that the latter were few in number, and for the most part
very scattered, preferring to pitch their farms alone, and not to
live, as did the French, always in communities. And while this process
of filling the debatable and coveted land was in course of completion,
agents were engaged with the _habitants_ in Acadia (Nova Scotia),
undermining their loyalty to King George of England, and preparing
them for revolution. This was perhaps one of the most disgraceful
events of this period, for these humble and hitherto contented people
were dominated by these agents, who gained an ascendency over them by
detestable means.

It was Shirley of Massachusetts and Dinwiddie of Virginia, both
far-seeing governors, who first bestirred themselves in the matter.
They realised the schemes of the French, and the patriotic and
energetic young colonel who sat opposite to Steve, the famous George
Washington, was sent on a mission to the commander of Fort Le Boeuf,
which the French had erected some twenty miles south of Lake Erie.
That was in the year 1753, and when George Washington, after a most
arduous journey, returned to Williamsburg, he brought no satisfactory
answer with him. He had met with politeness. That was all. The French
would not retire, and showed every disposition to remain in the
country south of Lake Erie. Dinwiddie, who was at this time the moving
spirit, had in the meanwhile obtained the sanction of the English
Government to oppose force by force, and to do his utmost to arrest
the invasion of the French.

It is interesting at this time to remember that France and England
were at peace in Europe, for after the war of the Austrian
succession, and the battles of Dettingen and Fontenoy, the peace of
Aix-la-Chapelle was solemnly signed. And yet we find our Government
giving its sanction to a movement in America destined to drive the
French out of the country, while we know that France, in spite of the
peace, was steadily, if not feverishly, pressing her colonists into
the valley of the Ohio, and flagrantly abusing the peace which existed
between the nations. However, such conduct on our part was certainly
to be commended, for we were not the invading party, and were merely
attempting to protect our own interests. We were not desirous of an
open rupture with France, our hereditary enemy, for the simple reason
that we were not ready. Our Government was weak, its colonial policy
vacillating, while its chief minister was altogether unsuited to
our needs. But, whatever the condition of those at home, there were
strenuous men in America, and we find Dinwiddie despatching a second
mission of forty backwoodsmen, under Ensign Ward, to erect a fort
at the junction of the Alleghany and the Monongahela rivers, in the
Ohio valley. They were driven back by French _voyageurs_ and soldiers,
who promptly erected a fort at this chosen spot, a fort well known in
following years as that of Duquesne.

And now we come to more stirring times, times in which George
Washington took an active part. As he sat opposite to Steve, he
modestly related how he had been sent with 150 men to destroy this
Fort Duquesne, how he had fallen in with a party of Frenchmen, and how
they had exchanged fire, with the result that the French leader and
some of his men were killed and wounded, while some twenty-two were
taken prisoners. This may be said to be the first occasion when blood
was shed in this historic conflict, and bearing in mind what has been
written with regard to the apathy of the various southern States, it
is only fair to mention that Washington commanded Virginians, and that
it was Dinwiddie, a Virginian governor, who persuaded his legislature
to vote £10,000 for the cause, and thereby enabled him to take active
steps to oppose the French.

But the men whom Washington now had under his command were hopelessly
few, though reinforcements had brought their strength to 350, for
the French had been preparing for the struggle for a long while,
and had more than a thousand men at Fort Duquesne. They advanced on
Washington, who retired to Great Meadows, and threw up entrenchments,
aptly named Fort Necessity. And there he was attacked in force, while
a deluge of rain descended on the two opposing forces. After nine
hours of gallant resistance, the French were still all round the
improvised defences, and being in almost as miserable a condition as
the colonials, they proposed a capitulation, which the young colonel
refused. Later, when his ammunition was exhausted and some hundred of
his men lay killed or wounded, he consented to discuss terms, which
were at length agreed upon, for they were sufficiently honourable and
lenient.

Such an open rupture, it may be easily assumed, caused unusual
excitement, and the presence of the French and their murdering Indians
in the backwoods of the Ohio valley practically drove our trappers and
pioneers back across the Alleghany range. A few hardy and courageous
men, however, still clung to their huts, and we have already made the
acquaintance of some of these. The excitement, and obvious intentions
of the French were not sufficient even yet to rouse the thirteen
States to concerted action, though Virginia, having quarrelled with
Dinwiddie till he was almost frantic, and having voted him twenty
thousand pounds for purposes of military defence, but saddled with
some impossible proviso, at length withdrew the proviso, and granted
the money free. There was little stir in the other States. Men from
New York State were under arms, and some from Carolina. Pennsylvania,
with a large German population, stirred not a finger. It is wonderful
and amazing indeed to remember that these people inhabiting the
various States and displaying such suicidal apathy, were the sons
of a race which had shown wonderful pluck and perseverance, and
themselves the originators of that following race of men who fought
and bled for their country so manfully, whose blood flows in the veins
of descendants who are justly proud of their forefathers, and who,
in place of apathy, show to a wondering world great patriotism and
activity, the power to fight and work with equal determination.

We leave the conflict at Great Meadows, and the year 1754 with
England and France still at peace in Europe, but preparing for an
inevitable war in the backwoods. Those following months saw a new
French expedition sent to Canada under a new governor, and feverish
preparations pushed on for the coming war. As to England, she at
length saw the necessity for sending help, and despatched troops to
America, while her fleets sailed, each captain having no doubt secret
instructions to attack and capture the French expedition. Indeed, in
the summer of 1755 two French vessels were captured off Nova Scotia.

Meanwhile Braddock, the chosen leader of our troops, had arrived at
Alexandria, opposite the site of the present city of Washington,
and plans for the coming campaign were discussed, while Johnson, a
young Irishman, who had lived much in the backwoods, and who knew
the Indians as well as did Steve, was given the task of travelling
amongst the six tribes who composed the Iroquois, and endeavouring
to counteract the subtle influence of the French. For these astute
enemies of ours were not content to have their own Indians following
them. They aimed at suborning the six tribes who had hitherto been
favourable to the English colony.

Now let the reader glance again at the map for an instant. He will see
that the river St. Lawrence forms one side of a triangle, of which the
Mohawk river, uniting with the Oswego, forms a second, the Hudson,
Lake George, and Lake Champlain, with the river Richelieu, completing
a line which makes the third. The latter two sides formed the readiest
means of attacking the French, for there was a waterway in either
case, while on every hand there was virgin forest, through which the
task of escorting an army was very great. The council which met at
Alexandria, and which consisted of British officers and governors of
the various States, decided that Fort Duquesne was the key of the
whole position, and should be attacked in force, while to divert the
attention of the French an expedition should make for the chain of
lakes running northward from the Hudson, and a second for Acadia,
where the _habitant_ subjects of King George were in practically open
rebellion.

It is not possible to give in detail the various incidents which
befell these three expeditions, but a few words will suffice to
describe what happened. Braddock's force, consisting of regulars from
England, and of a few rangers from New York, Virginia, Maryland,
and Carolina, marched for Fort Duquesne through the woods, and
after meeting with great difficulties and serious delays at length
came within a dozen miles of the fort. What followed will for ever
be an illustration of the futility of attacking a guerilla force
as if it were a European army encamped in the open, or drawn up in
serried ranks to oppose the coming of the enemy. Braddock's men were
met after they had crossed a river by a fierce and stinging fire
which belched from the thick forest and brush. Occasionally a blue
or white uniform was seen, or the feathered head of an Indian, and
at these our guns were discharged with some effect. Indeed, for a
while the French flinched, and but for the courage of their officer
might have fled. They rallied, took up their stations in the bush,
and kept up a constant musketry fire upon our columns drawn up in
close order in the open. Then the Indians crept through the forest
to either flank, and presently our hapless men were being raked by
a stinging hail of bullets. Pack animals dashed madly amongst them.
The war-whoop of the Indians deafened the combatants and increased
the disorder. At this moment, when the British were standing their
ground with magnificent courage, replying to a fire delivered by an
invisible foe with searching volleys, a little common-sense might
have gained the day for us and sent the Indians and the French in full
flight to their fort. But there was no one in authority possessed of
that common-sense. The Government of that day had done as those of
following Governments have done without fail. They had sent a British
officer to command, who knew nothing of the backwoods and the men who
inhabited them, who was ignorant of Indian warfare, despised cover,
and thought that there was no glory in a fight in which the combatants
did not stand shoulder to shoulder, in the full blast of the cannon.
An order to the men to break ranks and take cover might have altered
the sad event entirely. But our soldiers were kept in the open, and
at length, after facing a terrible fire for two hours, they fled on
seeing Braddock mortally wounded.

"It was the most terrible experience of my life," said George
Washington as he sat in front of Steve. "Those gallant but ill-led
men stood as firm as rocks, and were slaughtered like sheep. The few
Virginian backwoodsmen we had with us took cover and did their best
to hold the enemy, but were too few to make any effect upon them.
We fled, and our flight became a rout. A panic seized the men, and
nothing could hold them. Let us pass on from that battle, for it is
not pleasant to have to reflect upon it, while I can assure you that
the effect of such a disastrous defeat was felt throughout America,
and even in Europe. As to its effect in the valley of the Ohio, you
should know that very well. No doubt you saw something of the Indians
and of the French."

"We were attacked by one band, under a rascal named Jules Lapon,"
answered Steve. "But we beat them off handsomely, and won our way
through from Albany in safety. I believe that we owe our security from
interference at our settlement to that same Jules Lapon, for he had
land next to ours."

"And carefully kept others from stealing it, even his majesty Louis
XV. of France. But I will proceed. As I have said, I was one of those
unfortunate ones who took part in the Braddock expedition, and I was
saying that the effect was disastrous in the valley of the Ohio. The
Indians swept on, and though I was left to protect the frontier, how
much use was I when I had some four hundred miles to watch and a
bare thousand men to help me? No wonder the Indians pushed on, and
thousands of our settlers were massacred. But to proceed. The French
captured papers with the baggage of Braddock which told them plainly
what other movements were taking place, and they at once made ready to
oppose these attempts on their frontier. Shirley started from Albany
with some 1500 men, and made his way by the Mohawk river to Oswego,
where he prepared to march on Fort Niagara. But the French put all
thought of such an attempt out of his mind by throwing reinforcements
into Fort Frontenac, which, as you know, is on the opposite side of
Lake Erie, only some fifty miles away. Shirley had nothing left
but to increase the defences of Oswego, and returned, having left a
garrison of 700 men.

"The third expedition was under Johnson, a man who knows the Indian
better perhaps than any other white man. He also set out from Albany,
with 6000 provincial soldiers, 4500 of whom came from Massachusetts.
All were amateurs in the art of war. A few were backwoodsmen, but
the majority were farmers, mechanics, or fishermen. As for Johnson
himself, he was wholly unused to the command of men, and innocent of
that organising ability without which a force cannot be victualled
satisfactorily. In addition, I must tell you that the men he had were
unused to discipline, and very apt to act and think for themselves.
But I will not give you all the details. Johnson reached the bend of
the Hudson, _en route_ for Crown Point, the French station at the foot
of Lake Champlain, and left 500 men there to build a fort known now
as Fort Edward. Then he pressed on across the twelve miles of virgin
forest which stretched between him and Lake George. Arrived there he
commenced to build Fort William Henry.

"Meanwhile the French had poured reinforcements into Crown Point, for
it must be remembered that they had captured Braddock's papers, and
knew that this movement of Johnson's was afoot. Their scouts told them
of the arrival of the British, and they at once made arrangements to
attack. Stealing down the long strip of water which runs parallel
with Lake George, known as Wood Creek, they landed from their canoes
at a point which struck the road between Fort Edward and Fort William
Henry in the centre, and, believing that there were no cannon at
the latter fort, they prepared to attack it. Meanwhile Johnson had
heard of their coming, and sent out a force to find the French and
drive them back. This force fell into an ambush, and very nearly met
the fate which had befallen poor Braddock. However, they extricated
themselves and retired on the fort, where the contest was continued.
And here the New England farmer and backwoodsman showed his mettle. He
took cover cleverly, for the fort as yet existed only in name, and was
a mere barricade. He searched the woods with his bullets, and, aided
by our guns, caused considerable loss to the enemy. Then, gathering
heart, the sturdy provincials leaped over the barricades and charged
down upon the French with clubbed musket and tomahawk. That gallant
charge drove the enemy from the field, and resulted in the capture
of their leader. It was followed by another success, for part of the
French force, consisting of Canadians and Indians, had retired from
Fort William Henry into the woods to the place where their ambush had
been laid, their intention being to loot and gather scalps. Here they
were pounced upon by a small force sent from Fort Edward and utterly
routed. Thus, you will observe, what had very nearly been a disaster
ended in a fine victory for our arms, and in a measure helped to
lighten the depression caused by Braddock's defeat."

Colonel George Washington sat up to look at Steve, and remained for
some minutes lost in thought. No doubt he was passing in review those
eventful days during which he had marched with Braddock. He had given
Steve some idea of what had occurred, though he had not completed the
tale. For a fourth expedition was attempted that year. Two thousand
staunch rustics, enlisted from Massachusetts, sailed from Boston
harbour for Nova Scotia, their object being to capture Fort Beauséjour
which the French had built on debatable land on the isthmus connecting
Canada and Nova Scotia. It was from this post, the headquarters of the
intriguers, that agents and soldiers worked to undermine the loyalty
of the _habitants_ of Acadia, for France was determined to recover
this lost province. However, the gallant peasants from Massachusetts
brought their designs to an end, for they sat down outside the fort,
and despite attacks from Indians and Acadians outside, they pressed
the siege so strenuously that the place was surrendered. Then the
troops marched across to the north shore of the isthmus and took Fort
Gaspereu without meeting with opposition.

The end of this momentous year of 1755 found France and England still
ostensibly at peace, for there had been no declaration of war as yet.
The winter brought some abatement to Indian ravages on the British
frontiers, but the French had the best of the position. The valley of
the Ohio was theirs, right up to and over the Alleghany range. They
had a formidable force at Fort Duquesne, at Frontenac, and at Niagara.
Their defences at Crown Point were improved, and now they were hard
at work erecting Fort Ticonderoga at the very foot of Lake Champlain,
not more than forty miles from Fort William Henry. As to Nova Scotia,
it was in our possession now, but the very formidable fortress of
Louisbourg on Cape Breton Isle dominated the position, and offered a
haven to French ships, and a base from which the strongest expeditions
could set out.

"There is little else to tell you, Steve," said George Washington,
sitting up suddenly to shake the ash out of his pipe and refill the
bowl with best Virginian. "Still, as I think over all the events
which have happened, I see one or two other points which may help to
enlighten you. Nova Scotia, for instance, that old French Acadie, you
might well consider to be still a thorn in the flesh, in spite of the
reduction of Fort Beauséjour; for Louisbourg lies very close to it,
and there were thousands of disaffected _habitants_ to be dealt with.
But they are no longer in need of consideration, for they have been
deported. Yes, cruel though the act seems, it was necessary, in my
opinion, for they were a menace to our safety, and were so obviously
French in interest and sympathy that it was necessary to remove them.
And now to complete my tale. Oswego has fallen, and the French have
wiped the station out of existence. Then France has made a descent
on Minorca, and that taken in conjunction with her attitude here has
caused our government to declare war, and to show that it will support
us, it has voted £115,000 with which to carry on this conflict.
General Abercromby and Colonel Webb have taken up commands, and I
hear now that the Earl of Loudon has arrived in the colony. Meanwhile
colonial troops have been enlisted for the coming campaign, and after
gathering at Albany report says that they are now reinforcing Forts
William Henry and Edward, where they will strengthen the defences and
make ready for an advance by road or lake upon Fort Ticonderoga. But
it is already late in the season, and I doubt that anything will be
done before the advent of 1757. We want more men and money, and very
much stronger support from home, and I hear that there is a prospect
of receiving it; for rumour says that a new ministry will be formed,
and Pitt will come into power. Then this campaign will be pressed on,
and we may hope to beat the French. For here again I have a little
information.

"Knowing how relatively few their men are, you would expect France to
pour troops into Canada," said the young colonial leader, as he looked
across at Steve. "Well, she has done so up till recently, and has sent
a fine commander in the person of Montcalm. But European conquest has
distracted her attention, and it is a fact that she has joined a
coalition with the object of attacking Frederick of Prussia. She has
dropped her active colonial policy for the shadow of European glory,
and, mark my words, she will bitterly rue her determination. She has
progressed rapidly in this campaign, her woodsmen and Indians press
at our doors, and our middle and southern States still sit apathetic,
playing into the hands of our enemies. There will never come such
another opportunity. The task before these Frenchmen is easier at this
moment than ever before, and never again can she expect such good
fortune. And yet she has suddenly changed her policy. She has banished
all thought of these vast stretches of unclaimed land, and would
rather humble the power of Frederick of Prussia than become a power in
North America. I tell you she will repent the action. It is England's
turn to profit now, for we have suffered bitterly.

"But I have told you all the facts now, and will again return to
my proposition. Steve Mainwaring, report tells me that you are a
practised scout and backwoodsman, and, moreover, I can tell that
you have had a good education. A man of your class is wanted in the
neighbourhood of Fort William Henry, a leader of scouts who can keep
our generals informed of the movements of the French. The winter is
almost upon us, and the next few months will see little movement in
other parts. But on Lake George a serious attack from the French
is possible, for they can come over the ice. Will you take service
with the colonials and enlist a band of scouts to act in that
neighbourhood?"

There was silence for a few minutes, while Steve looked back at the
Colonel, a man after his own heart, tall and active, with fearless
kind eyes which looked straight into his. Then he sat up suddenly,
sprang to his feet, and gripped the hand held out to him.

"I will go gladly, sir," he said. "I will take service till such time
as this contest is ended."

"Good! That is excellent. Then we can go further. You will be gazetted
as captain," said George Washington, "and I may say that I have
been authorized to act in this manner, for our leaders are eager to
discover the right man. You will receive a bounty on being gazetted,
and will draw sufficient in pay and allowances to keep you. To your
men you can offer a bounty of six dollars, and twenty-six shillings a
month pay, besides rations and clothing."

"I accept the terms willingly, Colonel," answered Steve promptly. "I
think I can guarantee that I shall be able to enlist ten men at least.
The money will be little inducement to them, for they have a good deal
more to fight for. As to the clothing, they will prefer to keep to
their hunting costumes. All will be trappers born and bred."

"Then you can enlist them up to forty in number. And now, Steve, for
your orders. When can you be ready?"

"In a week, I think," was our hero's answer. "That will give the men
time to settle their families."

"And when can you march?"

"When you order, sir."

"Then you will set out in ten days' time, and meanwhile I will send on
a letter to Fort William Henry, intimating what I have done. Now join
me at my evening meal."

Ten days later Steve set out from the mountains, seventeen of the
trappers who had fled from the settlement accompanying him. Jim and
Mac and Pete were there, while Silver Fox, wrapped in his blanket,
taciturn and silent, strode on in advance, his keen eyes noting
everything, his nostrils agape as if he already scented the smoke from
the camp fires of the Shawnee Indians, hereditary foes of his race,
with whom he hoped to meet before the conflict was ended.

And so with the encouraging cheers of George Washington's ragged
soldiers ringing in their ears, the party set out, Steve their
acknowledged leader, and turned their faces for Albany. They plunged
into the forest within a few minutes, and stole along, a silent band,
clad in moccasins and trapper's leather. Icy blasts occasionally
reached them, while leaves of every tinge and shade slid from the
trees and pattered in their faces. The winter was at hand, and before
Steve and his band had reached their destination the frosts had
commenced and some snow had fallen. Little did they care for the cold.
These hardy huntsmen entered Fort William Henry ruddy and browned
by exposure, their honest faces displaying their enthusiasm and the
eagerness which all felt to commence the contest. Nor were they kept
long impatient. For the French were close at hand, and, indeed, had
come within sight of the fort that very morning.

"I am glad to see you," said the commander, as he shook Steve's hand.
"You will find your own quarters, and draw your rations as do the
others. To-morrow you will see what the French are doing. A dozen of
our poor fellows were ambushed and slaughtered yesterday."

Steve saluted and returned to his men. That evening their arrangements
were completed, and as the first streak of dawn lit up the gloomy
forest surroundings of Fort William Henry, he and his men stole from
the fort in single file, and, passing the sentries and outposts,
disappeared one by one amongst the trees and brambles. They were alone
again, dependent on their own courage and exertions, and conscious
of the fact that a remorseless enemy might pounce upon them at any
moment.



Chapter X

Steve and his Band of Scouts


"The first thing that we have to do is to muster our forces and divide
up the work," said Steve, when his party of trappers and hunters who
were to act as scouts had left Fort William Henry a mile or more
behind them. "Without organisation we shall be nowhere. We cannot live
out here and do good work unless we rest, and if we wish to live we
must not dream of resting all together. There would be a very sad tale
to tell if we were so careless."

He called gently to Jim and Mac, who happened to be in rear of him,
and at a signal from the latter the band of scouts gathered about
their young leader, flitting noiselessly amongst the trees. As for
Steve, looking tanned and weather-beaten, and as fine and independent
a young leader as could well be found, he leaned against the
lichen-covered trunk of a small oak, from which the leaves had long
been shed, and kicked his snow-shoes from his feet.

"Make yourselves easy, boys," he said. "We'll discuss matters."

"One minute, Cap'n," answered Jim, shouldering his musket and facing
round. "Now, boys, you ain't forgot what we've been talkin' about. Get
into yer places, jest to let the Cap'n see as you know what's wanted.
Hem! Form line! Pete, you're a foot or two out in yer calculations.
Jest hop back a piece; and Mac, didn't I tell yer back there in the
fort that an old soljer such as you air should know better how to
range up with the company?"

Steve was amazed, and watched with a twinkle of amusement in his
steady eyes as the band of backwoodsmen shambled into line, a line
remarkable rather for its broken appearance and for its irregular gaps
than for regularity. For the lusty and courageous backwoodsmen who
till that day knew no master, who had fought and hunted in their own
manner, without direction from any one, and more often than not with
themselves alone to look to for leadership and advice, had little or
no notion of discipline. They scoffed at leaders as a general rule,
and at formation of any description. And in consequence the argument
which had induced them at length to conform to Jim's wishes had waxed
hot and furious.

"We've been settin' our heads together, Cap'n," said Jim, as he ran
his eye down the ragged line of staunch backwoodsmen and scowled
at Mac and a few others who did not show that amount of interest
in the movement which pleased him. "We've seen what them chaps air
like way back at the fort, and we reckoned that after all a bit of
discipline air wanted. Yer see, supposin' we was called together all
of a sudden, and them skunks of redskins war close handy, waal, if
we hadn't any idea of order, where should we all be? Reckon the most
of us would be jawin' and tellin' the others what to do. Waal, that
ain't the thing to keep scalps on our heads. We want to collect quick
as a flash and wait for a command. Ef you don't happen to be handy,
then me or Mac or Pete, jest in that order, ef it's agreeable to you,
'll take over the post of leader for the time, and there won't be
no--no--what's the word boys?"

"Confusion," suggested Steve quietly, suppressing the smile of
amusement which was on his lips and stepping into his snow-shoes
again. For all of a sudden he realized that these men who had
so willingly placed themselves under his command were serious,
desperately serious, and meant to do their utmost to get even with the
enemy and wrest back from him the possessions which they had lost.
The fine fellows were ready to sacrifice some of their much-cherished
independence with the one object of making success more assured. He
ran his eye down the rank of stalwart trappers, and noted Jim's slim
proportions, his tall, wiry figure. Then Mac's flaming red beard
caught his attention, and he looked with open approval at the sturdy,
short figure of the Irishman, who stood at attention, his musket to
the shoulder, his eye fixed on his leader. A glance, in fact, was
sufficient to show that he alone of the whole company present had had
some experience of drill and discipline. There, too, was Pete, his
bulky figure bursting almost from his hunting shirt, his head and ears
swathed in a huge coon-skin cap. Of the others, tall and short, slim
or more sturdily built, there was not one who had not the appearance
of a hardy backwoodsman. There was a keen look in every face, and if
he had not known it before, the manner in which this band had slipped
from the fort that morning and made their way into the forest told him
that all were skilled in such work, that every man had had experience
and could be counted on to act with the stealth and cunning of the
oldest Indians. Though all with the exception of Mac lounged on their
muskets in the most unmilitary style, Steve felt gratified at this
the first sign of some attention to discipline. He swept his eye
along the line again and let it rest on Silver Fox for the space of a
second. The Mohawk warrior stood behind the line of men, resting upon
his firearm, the fringes of his moccasins trailing into the snow at
his feet. There was a look almost of scorn on his sharply-chiselled
features, a look which seemed to say that he of all the party thought
such a movement unnecessary.

"With men of my race such a thing is unnecessary, Hawk," he said in
his slow, gutteral tones. "With us there is a leader, and when danger
comes on the sudden the chirrup of a bird, the call of a wild cat, or
the screech of an owl brings all together. Then he who speaks is the
chief. If others dare to open their lips they die. With these comrades
other methods are wanted perhaps. If so they are good. These are
all brave men, and are here to fight and not to play. Silver Fox is
satisfied."

"And I too," cried Steve, as he strode down the ranks and passed a
word with every man. "Boys, you have done me the honour of accepting
me as your leader, and I will do my best for you. I think that we all
have the same cause for coming here. We have something to win back
from the French and their Indians, and we have a king who asks for
our help. I am glad to see that you are prepared to obey some sort of
discipline, for it will certainly help us in case we should ever get
into a tight place. It will be of service too when we are in action,
and I for one have come here to fight, to do my best to drive back the
French and their Indians."

There was a general shuffling of snow-shoes at his words, a restless
movement along the ragged line which told that the men approved. Had
regular soldiers been there they would have tossed their caps on to
their bayonets and cheered. But these backwoodsmen knew well that a
shout might bring a hornet's nest about their ears, and more than
that, custom had taught them to be taciturn as a rule, to be silent
and thoughtful, given to deeds and not to words.

"And we're all here to do the same," burst in Jim. "Reckon me and you,
Cap'n, and every boy here, has a bone to clean with them 'ere French,
and ef we hadn't er guessed as you would most likely show us some
fightin', why----"

"Sure ye know we'd not have been here," sang out Mac, his long
friendship with Steve and Jim overcoming all discipline. "But Hawk'll
show us the way, bhoys, and remimber, ivery one of ye, that till
we can drive these men back to their own counthry there'll be no
peace for us, their murtherin' Indians will be rhunnin' over our
sittlemints, and our wives and childer, God kape the darlints! will be
back there where we've lift 'em, waitin' and longin' for their homes."

There was a low growl from the ragged rank at that, and the
backwoodsmen instinctively gripped the barrels of their ponderous
muskets. There was now a stern look in their eyes, a look which boded
ill for the enemy.

"Then we are all agreed," sang out Steve. "Now for ways and means. I
propose that we live out of the fort. Men there are dying daily from
infectious disease, while those who form the garrison have little to
do but grumble. Let us take up our quarters out here in the forest. We
are used to roughing it, and know well how to provide against severe
weather."

"Seth Shorter! Where air yer, Seth? Ah, then step forward and speak
up," sang out Jim at this moment. "Now, Cap'n, Seth here has been born
and brought up close to these lakes, and I reckon he'll know every
inch of the ground. Ef we're to live out in the forest, he's the boy
to say where. As for livin' out, why we're all for that, for who'd
want to stay in there at the fort?"

He pointed a contemptuous finger in the direction of Fort William
Henry where they had spent the previous night, and where even that
short experience had taught them that life in the British stronghold
was not one altogether to be desired. For, as Steve had said, men died
fast from disease, while the hours hung terribly heavy for all who
formed the garrison.

"Now, Seth, where air this camp of ours to be?" demanded Jim,
slouching up to the sturdy backwoodsman who had been called upon, and
slapping him upon the shoulder with his gloved hand. "Where air the
place, lad?"

"Thar ain't a doubt where we should camp," came the ready answer.
"It's like this, Cap'n and mates. Here's Wood Creek running down
from the foot of Lake Champlain, and alongside of it thar's Lake St.
George, which is a good deal bigger. Waal, up thar, at the foot of
Champlain, there's Crown Point, one of them Frenchie's forts, and
below that they've Ticonderoga building. Between Lake St. George and
Wood Creek thar's a tidy strip of land and wood, and ef thar's a place
as I know, why---"

"You are acquainted with that," interrupted Steve, eagerly. "Well?"

"Waal, thar's a bit of a stretch o' rocky ground at the foot of that
strip o' land, and thar ain't a tree on it for quite a bit. All
round's forest, same as this, and then thar's the frozen lakes. Now,
Cap'n, I've shot and trapped over that 'ere place scores o' times, and
me and a mate once did a winter's outin' thar, trappin' and collectin'
pelts. We was, as you might say, jest as this 'ere party air. We was
lookin' for a campin' ground whar we could live in spite of weather,
and whar we could have a show ef them red-skinned varmint comed along."

"And yer found it?" asked Jim eagerly.

"You bet. That thar rocky ground has got a kind of nose on it. It
kicks up into the air all of a sudden, jest a hundred feet perhaps,
and right at the top it dips jest as sudden. That dip air about the
size to take this party, and with a few trees across the top and
a lacing of reeds the snow'll lie and form a roof which looks as
natural--waal----"

"As possible," suggested Steve.

"Right, Cap'n. As natural as possible I reckon. From that ere place a
few of us chaps could hold up a hundred and more of the varmint ef we
had a supply of victuals."

"Then we'll make for it and inspect," said Steve promptly. "How far is
it from the fort?"

"A matter of five mile perhaps, mate, I mean Cap'n."

"The same, my lad," laughed Steve. "We are all mates on this trail.
But one word before we move. You are all more experienced than I am,
and since you have decided to follow some sort of discipline, I will
say nothing more about it, but leave the matter to you alone. But once
we have our quarters we will divide into watches, and select hunters
and scouts. Now, Seth, just give us a lead."

The trapper shuffled over the snow at once, his musket flung over his
shoulder, and without seeming to take note of his position strode
off at right angles to the course which they had been following. As
promptly his comrades divided into parties, which had been arranged by
Jim and Mac, and while some trailed off after Seth and Steve, others
moved away like ghosts into the forests to act as flanking guards.
And as Steve cast his eye to right and left he caught sight of their
figures every now and again, silently flitting between the trees, each
man listening intently, noting every little sign, and still keeping
in touch with the main party. Ten minutes later the hoot of an owl
brought the trappers together.

"Thar's been redskins and Frenchies here," said one of the band, as
he pointed to a narrow track in the snow. "They passed last night, I
should reckon."

"And blazed a fresh trail," added Steve swiftly. "Look over there."

His sharp eye had seen a white clip in the side of a tree some
distance away, and closer inspection and a little search showed that
he was not in error.

"The Hawk has an eye of which the finest chief might be proud," said
Silver Fox. "These men passed in the afternoon of yesterday. There
were ten of them."

"And one was less accustomed to shoes than the others," said Steve
swiftly. "He was a pale face."

"He was. The Hawk can read the signs as I have already learned. One
was a pale face, and he led. They went towards the fort, blazing a new
track. They returned across the ice."

There was an exclamation at that from some of the trappers who up till
lately had been unacquainted with Silver Fox. But Jim silenced the
doubts of his comrades promptly.

"How's that, chief?" he asked in the Mohawk, which all the party
understood. "How did you get that reckonin'?"

"Ask the Hawk," was the curt answer. "He read these signs, and he knew
how they returned."

"It is easy to guess at their track back, but one cannot say
absolutely for sure," smiled Steve. "Look at the tracks of their shoes
here, boys. Well, there are no return traces. Yesterday they made in
the direction of Fort William, and I guess that they were back at
their own quarters before night fell. Remember how cold it was and how
it began to blow in the early afternoon."

"It did that," exclaimed one of the men. "The snow was sweeping over
the ice on the lakes."

"Just so, and the clouds of snow hid them well. They slipped from the
forest on to the ice, and with the wind behind them were almost blown
back home, while their traces were covered. Here, in the forest, where
the full force of the wind was not so much felt, their tracks are
pretty clear. They are home again, boys, and we can do nothing with
them to-day. But another time----"

"We'll remember that they've blazed a path," said Jim curtly. "We'll
set a watch on this place."

Once more the band separated and plunged on through the silent forest,
and within a little while they found themselves on rising ground which
finally led up to a hollow, some fifty feet long, by twenty broad, and
some fifteen deep. Its opening faced directly north, in the direction
of the French position, while its back was walled in by a mass of
rock and frozen earth. For roof it had the sky, now overcast and
treacherous-looking, save at the extreme rear, where a mass of snow
was supported by the branches of a fallen tree.

"The only one as grew up thar," explained Seth, pointing to it. "Me
and my mate felled it and dropped it inter position, whar it formed
a roof over our heads. Now ef we was to do the same right along, and
place a wall in front, there'd be a fort ter be proud of, and room in
plenty for every man."

For some few minutes the members of the band closely inspected the
hollow and its surroundings, Steve noting with much satisfaction that
the slightly elevated position of the mound gave those who occupied
it a perfect watch-tower from which they could in clear weather see
the frozen surfaces of Lake St. George and Wood Creek, while the trees
stood back so far that there was little or no cover for an attacking
enemy. It was just the place for an armed camp, for it was within
reach of their friends, occupied an advanced position, and, owing
to its nearness to Fort William Henry, could easily be victualled.
For a little while he stood on the edge of the hollow staring out at
the wind-swept and dark frozen surface of the long lake to the left,
known as St. George, and then at the still more slender strip to the
right, Wood Creek, on the banks of which many a little skirmish had
taken place between colonials and French Indians. _La petite guerre_,
as the French named these conflicts, had been the order for many a
month past, for the enemy were bold, and too often their Indians and
_coureurs de bois_ had pounced upon the colonials as they gathered
firewood, or looked for food in the forests. Steve and his party, with
such a commanding position, might well hope to put a stop to many of
these unexpected attacks.

"We have found the very place, Cap'n," exclaimed Jim, with some
emphasis, as he stared around. "On a quiet night I reckon we could
easily hear folks on the ice, and ef we was held up badly, why a
charge of powder buried under the rocks and fired with a train would
make a boom as would come to the ears of those in the fort."

"We'll occupy it and take possession at once," answered Steve readily.
"Call the men round."

An hour later fourteen figures could be seen slouching away from the
mound across the snow in the direction of Fort William Henry, while
their comrades, with Steve, slipped their gloves from their fingers,
and, slinging their muskets, made for the forest. A few words, in
fact, to these intensely practical men had set them in motion. While
three stood on the mound keeping a sharp look out, the others went to
drag the longest boughs they could find in the forest, where hundreds
lay on the ground. Then the fourteen who had made back for the fort
carried a note from Steve asking for stores of every description.
Indeed, as the night began to fall this portion of Steve's following
came trailing back, dragging an improvised sledge, on which they had
loaded cases of salted meat, dried bear's flesh, bacon, and beans,
besides rum, lead, and an ample supply of powder.

Meanwhile those who had remained had gathered a huge stock of boughs,
and had easily contrived to place the longest across the top of the
hollow. Others had been laid crosswise on these, and on the top of all
a thick covering of brambles, reeds, and pine branches had been strewn.

One of the backwoodsmen had detached himself from his fellows, and
while they laboured at the roofing of their fort he had set to work
with knife and tomahawk. He was an expert, it seemed, for in a little
while he had a number of blocks of frozen snow collected at the very
mouth of the hollow. And with these and a number of loose rocks
he soon contrived to erect a rough fireplace, with a wide chimney
overhanging it, which ran up the sloping back of the hollow, and
finally pushed its white top through the rough roof above. It was a
neat job, and one to be proud of, and this trapper longed to see the
chips which he had set in the grate below fired, and send long tongues
of flame up the chimney.

"You'd have the hul howling lot of varmint round us in a jiffy,"
growled Jim, as he watched the man lay the wood in the grate. "Reckon
thet fire'll have to get started when it snows hard, and after that,
when it's light, nothing but chips as dry as a bone'll have to get
throwed on it. Even then, thar ain't any sayin' as a redskin wouldn't
spot the smoke."

"With care, it will be well," said Silver Fox, as Jim turned to him as
if to ask for his decision. "See, my brother, behind the smoke there
will be the sky, and it is clear and white. If dry chips are used
there will be a little white smoke perhaps, but none that is dark. We
can keep fire within the fort once it has been set alight. Truly, you
pale faces think of strange things. Where my brothers and I would have
set our wigwams in the thickest forest, there seeking protection from
the snow and keen winter winds, you come hither and burrow like foxes.
You make one big wigwam where we should have seen no opportunity of
doing so, and as I look on and smoke you erect a fort which is strong
against attack, which is a watch-tower from which you can see every
foot of the lakes, and which also is a comfortable lair in which the
firelight can be seen, and where we may huddle about the warmth, and
smoke and think. Truly there is no understanding you men who have come
so strangely from over the water."

The tall Indian brave wrapped his blanket still closer about his
figure, and gazed out at the huge panorama stretched before him.
There lay the glistening surface of the two lakes, now clad with ice
from end to end, and fringed all about by continuous forest, which
grew up to the banks and cast there a deep shadow, which looked
black against the white of the ice. And away in the distance the
faint reflection from another long expanse of frozen water, Lake
Champlain, called after that famous Frenchman who had done so much
for New France, and who had founded Quebec. It, too, was clad in a
garment of white, snow hanging to the trees, and in the dull wintry
green of the pines, which grew thickly there. For background there
was the blue haze of the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains, now
the favourite haunt of thousands of holiday-seeking Americans. And
still farther to the north, buried in the dull horizon and behind it,
lay the Richelieu river, with its few forts, and its _seigneuries_,
where the _gentilhommes_ of this new colony, the lately-constructed
noblesse, sat in their palisaded houses watching as their _habitants_
cooked their food or went a-hunting. Then it was that these noblesse
might don doe-skin leggings, shirt, and moccasins, and clad in the
thick fur coats, with hoods, worn by the Indians of Canada, and with
thick mittens slung about their necks, might venture into the forest
with the _habitants_ and enjoy all the excitement of the chase. Yes,
they could hunt and fight, but work, never! Each one was the seigneur,
and the lords of Old and New France never blistered their palms nor
dirtied their fingers.

"We're almost ready," said Steve, as he stood beside the tall Silver
Fox, staring out at the scene below. "What we want now is a wall of
snow here in front. How are we to set about building it?"

"It's as easy as fallin'," answered Jim at once. "Look up there,
Cap'n."

He pointed to the leaden sky above, and held his hand up for a minute.

"Wind's from the north, Cap'n," he said, "and it's goin' to snow.
To-morrow things'll be properly covered, and ef we jest build a wall
of branches at the face of this nest, waal, it'll be covered afore the
mornin'. Reckon this place'll be lookin' jest natural when the light
comes again."

"Then set the men to work," cried Steve, hurrying off to where a pile
of branches and small tree trunks had been dragged. "It will be dark
in an hour, and if it is going to snow, as I can well believe, why, we
may just as well make all snug beforehand."

Less than an hour later there was an erection of boughs and branches
against the face of the hollow, to which the finishing touches were
given as the darkness fell. By then snowflakes were silently flitting
to the ground, powdering the rough roof above the hollow, and resting
upon the caps and shoulders of the trappers. A little later it was
dark, and through the flakes the distant twinkle of a dozen or more
lights could be seen.

"Ticonderoga," said Steve, as he sheltered his face from the snow.
"To-morrow we shall hope to know more about its position and about the
movements of its garrison. Now, what about sentries?"

"Reckon we can all turn in and be comfortable, Cap'n," answered Jim
promptly. "There ain't no need for look-outs to-night. The snow'll
keep every livin' soul under cover. It's coming thicker. See for
yerself. The lights have gone, and the darkness is deeper."

One by one the gallant little band crept into the cosy little nest
which they had prepared, a strip of blanket being dropped over the
small opening which had been left amongst the branches. Then pipes
were produced and filled, while the backwoodsman who had so diligently
built fireplace and chimney, used flint and steel with a will, and
watched with all the pleasure of a child as the sparks caught hold and
the flames licked round the wood. Soon there was a bright blaze, while
smoke soared up the chimney.

"There ain't no red-skinned varmint as'll be able to see that, I
reckon," growled Jim, as he snatched a blazing ember from the fire and
lit his pipe, passing the brand round the circle when he had finished
with it. "It air snowin' hard, and the best brave livin' couldn't see
more'n a dozen yards. Get to work with supper, boys, then a yarn or
so, and we'll put in the best sleep we've had for many a night past."

Could the French commander at Ticonderoga have clambered to the top of
their hollow and peered down at the band lounging below, he would have
been more than a little disturbed. For the firelight which lit up the
quaint quarters of Steve's command, was reflected from every face, and
showed a collection of trappers, every one of whom was a man indeed.
They sat for the most part with their muskets close beside them, or
across their knees, for the habit had grown upon them these last few
months. And as they yarned, the tale falling now from this one, and
then from the lips of others of the band, stories of fierce border
fights came to the ear, stories which all knew to be true in every
detail. Wiry backwoodsmen recounted how they had left civilization to
become pioneers in the wilderness, how fortune had smiled upon them,
how the land had been cleared, the crops sown, the hut erected, and
the store of pelts increased, till the prospect for the future was
rosy. And then the French had come, they and their so-called Christian
Indians. Wives and children had been slaughtered, men had been slain
and scalped, huts fired, and the future utterly wrecked. That was the
moment when the forebodings of the French commander would have been
greatest, for every bronzed face below looked exceedingly grim and
determined, while often enough there was a bitter word on the lips of
those who had lost dear ones. Hands gripped the ponderous muskets,
while fingers fidgeted about the flint locks or felt for powder
pouches. Yes, these men had much with which to refresh their memories,
and each and every one was determined to come to hand-grips with the
French, and to fight till the day when the enemy was beaten and they
and their friends restored to their possessions.

"Time to turn in," said Steve at last. "Boys, we'll take it in turns
to keep the fire going, and to-morrow we'll tell off a couple to act
as cooks. Good-night! Let's hope we shall see something of the enemy
soon."

There was a chorus of good-nights, then blankets were produced, and
very soon the firelight showed only recumbent figures.

"There's a sight for yer," was Jim's exclamation on the following
morning, as he rose from his blanket and pushed his head through the
narrow outlet. "Ain't that a pictur?"

Steve pressed past him and gave a cry of amazement, for though he knew
the forest well, and had seen many a winter, he had never looked on
such a scene. Far and wide the country was white, and glistening in
the rays of a winter's sun. Trees and lakes and mountains all had the
same thick covering, save in a few odd places, where the green of the
pines broke through, or where the snow had tumbled from the treetops.
As for the lakes, they were a vast expanse of the whitest snow, laid
out most wonderfully at their feet, a long expanse which stretched
up to the banks, clambered up the trees, and ran on over the forest
unbroken. Unbroken? No, for suddenly Steve's arm shot out, and he
pointed in the direction of Ticonderoga.

"Critters," said Jim with a sniff of approval. "Injuns, I reckon, and
those are guns trailin' out behind 'em. Cap'n, it looks as ef they
war off on some expedition. There'll be two or three hundred of the
fellers."

It was true enough. Straggling across the surface of Lake St. George
came a small force of Indians and Frenchmen, while in rear trailed
a couple of guns mounted on sledges. The head of the expedition was
turned towards the foot of the lake, and, as it advanced, those who
looked could not be sure whether the force were intended for an attack
upon Fort William Henry, or whether they were themselves the object of
the enemy.

"There can no longer be a doubt," said Steve, some ten minutes later.
"Those fellows must have seen us, or gained news of our coming. They
are marching for this side of the lake, and before very long we shall
have their cannon playing on us. Call the boys."



Chapter XI

Held Up!


It was with very mixed feelings that Steve and his band of hunters and
scouts watched the coming of the French and their Indians, for as the
light grew stronger and they were able to see somewhat better, they
made out that two hundred at least of the enemy were marching across
the snow-clad lake.

"And there air the guns, boys," said Jim, as if he had been
calculating their chances. "Up here we've a fort so to speak, and
it'll take them braves a time to storm it. The French'll lead 'em, and
they air the ones we must keep a watch on. Ef them gunners get the
range, and can pop in a few shots, there'll be a muss."

"If we are good enough to allow them to keep at the game," said Steve
slowly. "Granted that they get the range, and make out the front
face of this place, well, we must do something to prevent them from
knocking us to pieces."

"A sortie, Cap'n?" asked Pete, standing beside his young leader, and
looking unusually bulky and formidable on this clear, frosty morning.
"Ef that's the order, you can put me down. A bit o' runnin' would
suit me. It's cold here for fingers and toes."

"We will see," responded Steve, still with his eyes fixed on the
advancing enemy. "Meanwhile, I vote that we select our cooks and get
some breakfast. A man can do better when he's had a meal. Stir the
fire, boys, and who are the ones to look to our food?"

He stepped inside the shelter again, and ran his eyes round the men
whose figures were lit up still by the fire, for now that a heavy fall
of snow had covered their rough roof and the front wall, it was very
dark inside. There were twenty-seven men in all, for he had obtained
several recruits at the fort on the previous day. Seth and another at
once put their hands up.

"I ain't been trappin' and fightin' all these days without knowin' a
bit about a cooking pot," said the former with a grin. "Put me and
Adam here on to the job, Cap'n, and we'll do our best. A man can't do
more."

"'Cept fight and pull a trigger whenever there's critters to be shot,"
laughed his comrade. "That air a bargain, ain't it, Cap'n? We cook for
the company, and we does our share with the muskets. 'Twouldn't be
fair to bring us out here to do what chaps from the coast and towns
could manage just as well."

"You may take my word for it. You shall have a full share of the
fighting," laughed Steve. "Get to at breakfast then, while we discuss
the other matter."

A little later all were seated about the fire once more, discussing
a savoury stew of bear's meat, which had been left simmering most of
the night. And as they sat and ate, Silver Fox, vigilant as always,
crouched in the opening to this the strangest of forts, and watched
the enemy.

"They are out of sight, Hawk," he said at length, turning and crawling
to Steve. "The forests cover them for a while. Soon they will be here."

"Then now is the time. Get to work," cried Steve.

The band broke up at once, and leaving their muskets, crept for the
most part through the opening. For they had work to do outside, and
now was their opportunity to accomplish it while the trees hid them
from the enemy. Gathering outside, they piled a wall of snow at the
foot of the barrier which filled in the front face of their fort,
while some inside took stout stakes and rammed them through the
interlaced branches and their thick covering of snow till apertures
were left through which a man might thrust a musket barrel and take
good aim. Moreover, these openings were at such a height from the
floor of the fort that those who made use of them could see to fire
over the wall which those outside were busily erecting.

"They are for use if we are driven inside," said Steve, as he watched
the men at work. "Now, boys, run the wall as far out on the right as
you can, and make openings in it also. We must do all we can to upset
the calculations of the enemy, for it would not do for us to fire from
the opening of our retreat in the first instance."

Using their hands for the most part, or a thick bough, the trappers
swept the deep snow which lay on the rocky ridge into a wall some
three feet high, and now that that portion directly in front of the
hollow was completed, they pushed on with the work to the right of
the fort, where the hummock or rock ran on without interruption,
presenting a ledge some ten feet wide, which was perfectly level. To
the left the rock fell away suddenly just outside the hollow, and it
would have been impossible to erect even a narrow wall.

"Reckon that air a good idea of yours, Cap'n," said Pete, as he beat
the snow with his hands to make it bind firmly together. "When them
critters gets out'er the trees and makes for the hollow, the snow'll
puzzle 'em a little, and they won't be properly sure whereabouts the
mouth of the hollow lies. Chances air that not a one of 'em's ever
set foot in it. They've likely enough looked up here a score of times
jest in the ordinary way of scoutin'. But that won't help 'em much,
particular when the hul place is changed by the snow."

"Just what I thought," answered Steve. "If we were to open fire from
behind the wall erected just in front of the hollow, the smoke would
give our position away to them at once, and they would soon send their
cannon balls plumping into the place. As it is, we can crawl away
behind the wall till we are well to the right, and there----"

"Reckon cannon balls don't do much harm against rock, Cap'n," burst in
Jim. "The only thing now is to be careful that them critters don't see
us at work as they come out of the trees. Best call some of 'em in."

By now the wall which Steve had planned was almost completed, and
he at once followed Jim's advice. The majority of the trappers were
directed to lie down behind that portion which stood in front of the
hollow, while the red-bearded Mac, Pete, and four others went on with
the projection to the right, for there it would not matter much if
they were seen. However, it is no easy matter to drag guns through a
forest where the ground is rough and covered deeply with snow, and
an hour more had passed before the head of the enemy's force emerged
from the screen of trees which had hidden them from Steve and his men,
and which had equally hidden the band of trappers from the French and
their bloodthirsty Indians. When they did at length emerge, filing out
from the mottled background one by one, Steve's men were in readiness.
Those who were advancing to attack them could see only an eminence,
getting steeper as it neared the top, and then suddenly erecting a big
hummock, in which lay the hollow so strangely converted into a fort.
Many had looked at this spot before, just as they did at other parts
of the surrounding country in their daily search for stragglers and
woodcutters from Fort William Henry. They had a general idea of its
conformation, but the heavy fall of snow upset their calculations.
They stared at the rise, looking in vain for the hollow and for sight
of the trappers.

"Strange," exclaimed their leader, a tall French officer, who was
wrapped in a fur coat, and whose head and ears were muffled in a thick
skin cap.

"We had information that they went there last night. Our scout told us
that they were busy cutting wood and roofing in some hollow. He saw
that it was about to snow, and fearful of losing his way in the storm,
he made back to the fort. But the same storm will have kept these
trappers here, unless--unless."

"Unless they should have crept away this morning," said his subaltern
quickly. "I will give an order to the Indians. The Hurons will tell us
whether they are there or not."

A nod told him that he had his captain's permission, and within a
minute a dozen blanketed forms had slid ahead of the force. Steve saw
them toss their blankets to their comrades, and then, like hounds on
the trail, their heads went closer to the snow-covered ground, their
shoulders bent, and, separating, the Huron Indians went off across the
snow at the edge of the forest at a pace which would have taxed the
strength of the strongest European.

"Them cusses'll make round the place within a quarter of an hour, and
ef a fox had made out, I reckon they'd know," growled Seth, as he
watched from an embrasure. "My advice is lie low and puzzle 'em. Give
'em a chance to crawl nearer."

Steve gave a low whistle at once, while he lay at full length staring
through an embrasure at the enemy below. And within a little while Jim
and Pete and Mac were beside him. They came crawling along the cleared
ground behind the wall, and presently were seated beside their young
leader. As for the French and their Indians, they had seen not so much
as a sign of the movement. For Steve was 'cute, and had the advantage
of possessing trained trappers. When building their wall not a man had
dared to step to the outside of it. They had taken the snow and thrown
or swept it to their front, so that on the outside there was not so
much as a mark. Then the two hours' labour had enabled them to run the
wall some thirty yards to the right, while behind it there was a rough
gallery, along which any man could crawl unseen.

"Now, boys," said Steve, as they threw themselves at his feet, "I
propose that we take Seth's advice. We'll lie still as foxes till they
begin to think that we have gone. Let them send their Indians up here,
and all wait till I give a signal. That will be the best way in which
to meet them. And in any case we all fire from the extreme right of
the wall, unless they get so close that a rush is possible. Then we
will collect. Has every man plenty of ammunition?"

"Heaps, Cap'n," answered Jim, "and the boys know what's to happen.
In case they don't, we'll give 'em a warnin'. All are to wait for the
signal."

They went crawling back to their stations on hands and knees, and
presently Steve joined them at the extreme right of the wall. Here,
within a space of ten yards, the whole band was collected, each man
stretched full length on the rock and snow, his eye to a loophole, his
head well hidden by the wall of snow, and his musket ready beside him.
All were wrapped in rough fur coats, for the most part made of skins
which they themselves had collected. Big, warm coon-skin caps covered
their heads and ears, while each man had a pair of sack gloves secured
to his neck by long strips of doe skin, so that he might discard the
covering at any moment and move from his position without losing his
gloves. Indeed this was a plan generally adopted in Canada and America
in those days, and one which we know was made use of by the Japanese
in their recent war with Russia.

Meanwhile the enemy had halted on the fringe of the encircling forest,
and stood there about the guns, within six hundred yards of their
object. And as they stood the twelve Huron Indians stole softly away
over the snow, till at length they had completely covered the circle.
There was a movement then amongst their comrades, and presently the
teams of men hauling the guns strained at the tackle, and dragged the
ponderous weapons into the forest. At the same time a hundred of the
Indians broke from the ranks with wild whoops, and began to move
towards the mound.

"They know as well as we do that we're here," growled Jim, as he
stared through his loophole. "Them critters'll come within range jest
to tempt us. But they won't dare to rush right up. Trust 'em for that.
They ain't much good at chargin', and no Injun's goin' to throw away
his life for nothin'."

"The French will give them a lead perhaps," said Steve. "When they
find that we do not move, and their own Indians will not approach
closer, it is probable that they will come themselves to see whether
we are actually here."

"Jest because no Frenchie, and no white man for the matter of that,
who ain't had experience hisself can believe the 'cuteness of the
Injuns, Cap'n. Some of 'em who air new to the backwoods and to the
trail, reckon they're mighty 'cute theirselves when they've been a
month only in the country. They don't reckon that nothin', not even
the print of a bird escapes the eye of a brave. Ef they do give the
Injuns a lead, why----"

"It's our turn, boys," sang out Mac. "Sure, haven't we suffered?
Haven't our people been shot down and scalped. Haven't the women and
childer been driven from their homes. Sure, now's the toime of our
loives."

"If all goes as we hope," Steve ventured. "There are the guns to be
thought of."

They continued chatting in low voices while the hundred or more
Indians discarded their blankets or coats, and with muskets at the
trail came sidling up towards the mound on their snowshoes. Presently
the smooth and unbroken expanse of snow below which had met the eyes
of the trappers early that morning was scored and seamed by hundreds
of marks and lines, the prints of the snowshoes. The figures of the
Indians, too, dwarfed before by the distance, were now far clearer,
for they were within two hundred yards of the hollow. Steve and his
friends watched as they gathered together for a while and discussed
matters. Then one of the Hurons, a gigantic fellow, broke from his
comrades and came stalking up the rise, his musket over his shoulder,
his tomahawk in his hand, and a wily and determined look on his
sharply-cut mahogany features.

"It air an old trick that," growled Jim. "Maybe he's given offence
to some of his tribe. Perhaps he ain't been so forward in the battle
as he should ha' been. So he's took the first opportunity of doin'
somethin' out o' the way to prove as he ain't a coward. Ef he walks
right up, as he well may do----"

"Not a man must move," said Steve sharply and with decision.
"Recollect that we are placed high above them, and that the ground
slopes very steeply, even from the front face of the wall, so that if
a man wishes to look over and see us he must actually reach the wall.
Not a man must lift a finger till that Indian actually sees us and
shouts. Then it will be time."

A whispered warning was passed down the ranks, and all squinted
through their loopholes, watching the hulking figure of the Indian as
he ascended. It appeared indeed as if he was determined to sacrifice
himself, and would actually clamber up to the wall and over it in his
eagerness to be killed or to discover the enemy. He advanced without
a waver till within forty yards of Steve and his men, and then, for
the first time, they saw him hesitate. He paused, looked round at
his comrades, now too far away to support him, and then deliberately
lifted his musket to his shoulder, pointed the barrel at the mound
above him, and pressed the trigger, sending a bullet thudding into the
snow. When the smoke blew away, he was still there, standing now to
his full height, his eagles' feathers trailing to his waist, his scalp
locks, with which his leggings were fringed, fluttering in the wind,
and his hideously painted face turned towards the hollow.

"Listen pale faces," he called out in his sing-song style, as if he
were addressing a meeting of braves. "I am here to summon you to come
down and be our prisoners. I swear that no harm shall befall you."

He was silent for a while, and stood staring up at the hummock as if
expecting an answer.

"Ef only I might," whispered Jim, his face aglow at the thought, and
his huge brown fist clenched. "Ef only I dared shoot the skunk where
he stands. Harm! As ef we didn't all know that an Injun's word ain't
worth a row of chips. As ef one of them critters could ever keep his
fingers off a white man when he got the chance! Don't me and every
boy here know well that a man might jest as well, ay, and better, far
better, too, put a barrel to his head and draw a trigger rather than
fall a prisoner. None of yer Indian prisoners fer me. Huntin' Jim ken
tell a tale or two o' pale face men and women, and children, too, the
villains has burned and tortured to death by inches!"

"Hush! He's going to speak again," whispered Steve, nudging the irate
backwoodsman. "Perhaps he thinks after all that we are not here."

"Thinks, Cap'n! He knows jest as well as you or me. He ain't a fool.
None of them varmint air."

"You do not speak, pale faces," came the sing-song voice again.
"Listen, all who lie hidden before me. I give you one more invitation
from the white men who lead us. Descend and there shall be no harm."

Once more he waited, while many a hand went to the muskets and many a
face scowled at the tall Indian.

"Then, listen again," he went on. "I and my brothers know that you
are there, hiding like foxes. If you will not descend, then show
yourselves, fight like men, and let it be a combat with tomahawks.
See, I am here, the Giant Oak, known throughout the great lakes for
strength and endurance. I have fired my shot, and here I will wait
for your leader to come forth and do battle with me."

Silence. The silence of the grave alone greeted the brave who had
dared to come so close to the hollow. As Steve stared down at him, he
saw that the Indian was making good use of every second, for his keen
eyes searched every foot of the snow-clad slope above him, looked into
every tiny hollow, and sought to discover a footmark, something to
tell him the exact position of the men whom his experience told him
were there. But nature had done her work well enough. The heavy fall
of snow had covered every trace, and the astuteness of the trappers
had done the rest. The man looked baffled and desperate. He caught at
his powder horn, charged his musket, primed the lock, and once more
sent a bullet thudding into the snow. Then, jeering aloud and throwing
every sort of insult at the heads of the hidden enemy, he turned and
slid down the hummock, watched by many a pair of eyes.

"And lucky for him," said Jim. "Now there'll be a bother. They'll put
their heads together, and there'll be a palaver. The French'll try to
make 'em charge, and likely enough the critters will come a little
closer. Then, ef they haven't moved us, them Frenchies'll try a rush."

"When we shall break the silence," said Steve. "Look, there are the
guns."

Jim was an old Indian fighter, and what he had prophesied took place.
For while the Indians gathered together, and could be seen talking
and being harangued by some French officers, the two guns which had so
long been out of sight suddenly appeared at the edge of the forest,
and this time within an easy three hundred yards' range. There they
were dismounted, and Steve's men watched the gunners ram in their
charges and train the weapons on the slope.

"A combined movement," said Steve easily, a determined smile on his
lips. "They will endeavour to distract our attention while their
comrades charge. Ah, there go the Indians. Pass the word. Let every
man remember that not a trigger is to be drawn till I give the signal."

It was just as well that he reissued the warning, for it is hard work
for men itching to retaliate and suffering under the knowledge of many
cruel wrongs, to lie and listen to the patter and thud and whistle
of large calibre bullets without sending their own leaden messengers
back. However, the backwoodsmen knew what was wanted, and they lay
like logs as the Indians drew nearer and nearer, firing as they came.
Often and often those trained shots, who had lived their lives in
the woods, could have picked off one of their old enemies. But they
refrained, though many a growl escaped them. Then came the guns. A
column of smoke belched of a sudden from the fringe of the forest,
and a ball thudded against the rocky wall behind, bringing down a
mass of frozen débris. A second missile struck the very summit of the
hummock, was caught as it were by the snow, and with all the venom
taken out of it and its pace retarded, went rolling down the far side.

"Jest a little gentle play," smiled Jim grimly. "Let 'em send their
cannon balls. Reckon they won't hurt us. But them Frenchies air
gettin' ready to charge."

It was as he said, for as Steve looked through the round opening made
in the bank of snow, he saw some fifty dark figures emerge from the
trees beside the guns, and throw off their heavier clothing. They
were French regulars for the most part, as was shown by their blue
and white uniform. But there was a sprinkling of _coureurs de bois_
amongst them, bold men of the forest, who had long ago demonstrated
their capacity for this class of work.

"We'll not be in a hurry," said Steve. "It is harder work to charge up
a hillock, which after all may be untenanted, than it is to dash up
while bullets swish past, and while the shouts and cheers of comrades
help to keep up one's courage. Not a shot, boys, till you hear my
musket. Ah, here they come, and the guns are starting again."

He had watched the French gunners sponging out their pieces, and
now crouched a little lower as a ball came hurtling overhead with a
scream, and expending all its force against the soft cushion of snow
lying on the hummock above, dropped backwards like a stone, and fell
with a thud at his feet.

"Sure, 'tis one of thim bhoys as could give ye a gentle little knock,
so it would," sang out Mac, while the trappers laughed heartily. "I'll
be afther axing ye, Mr. Frenchie down there, to aim to the rhight a
bhit, for Mac here don't like thim pellets, and there's Huntin' Jim as
is afeared of the beauties."

There was another laugh at that, a low, noiseless laugh for these men
knew that sounds travelled easily and far on such a frosty day. Then
all fixed their eyes on the gathering of Frenchmen below, and watched
as they advanced towards the hillock, taking their time, for they
wished to have all their breath for the more difficult part of their
task.

"Ef they'd only hurry," growled Jim. "They're delayin' so much that it
makes me jumpy. 'Sides, it's goin' to snow agin, and that'd help 'em."

Indeed, as he spoke, a few flakes came sidling noiselessly through
the air, while the clear sparkling light was rapidly shut out by the
masses of heavy clouds which were gathering above. Heavy snow might,
indeed, be expected, and would help to hide the attackers as they
came. Nor were the French slow to recognise that fact. While the guns
went on with their bombardment, pitching balls now to the right and
then to the left, and on one occasion clean into the hollow, the party
who had gathered and moved out to storm the hillock halted and shouted
to one another. Ten minutes later as the snow-flakes came tumbling
heavily and the wind whirled them across the white expanse below, the
Frenchmen started again, and, raising loud shouts, dashed forward as
fast as their snow-shoes would carry them. Arriving at the steeper
part of the hillock they kicked their shoes away, and in a trice were
scrambling up, their muskets slung over their shoulders and tomahawks
or cutlasses in their hands.

It was a tense moment for all behind the wall, and even the oldest
trapper there felt his heart thumping against his ribs and his pulses
throbbing with unusual force. Steve's men lay as if they were dead,
each man stretched behind a loop-hole, and every muzzle held just
within the opening. The dark figures below became a little more clear
amidst the whirling snow-flakes, their shouts grew rapidly closer, and
far sooner than Steve had expected they were within easy range. But
still he held his hand till only thirty yards divided the combatants.

Bang! Crash! His own piece bellowed noisily, and in an instant a
volley burst from the defenders, spitting flames and smoke and leaden
bullets into the Frenchmen. There was a shout of consternation, and
some dozen of the attackers fell backwards and went sliding down the
steep sides of the hill, carrying an avalanche of snow with them, till
they reached a more level portion, where their bodies came to a rest.
Behind them they left many a dark stain on what had been a beautifully
white carpet, stains which the falling flakes did their utmost to
cover, as if they were ashamed of this handiwork.

"We have drawn their fire. We have the birds. Charge, mes enfants!"

A slim, short officer, dressed in blue and white uniform, and minus
his hat, which had been shot from his head, stood erect for an
instant, waving his sword and the pistol he carried in his other hand.
Then, turning to face the wall from which the stinging hail of bullets
had come so suddenly, he leaped at it, and in a little while was
desperately striving to clamber over it.

"Men on the extreme right reload muskets," sang out Steve. "The others
use clubbed muskets or tomahawks."

There was no time for more, for the remainder of the attackers had now
joined their leader and were already within a few paces of the wall.
As Steve leaped to his feet and swung his ponderous musket butt over
his shoulder twenty of the enemy were within a couple of yards of
him, and in an instant the pistol of the leader was pointing at his
head, there was the flash of powder in the pan, a sharp report, and a
strange feeling under his cap. The cap rose of a sudden, spun round,
and fell at his feet, while Steve grabbed for one brief instant at his
scalp and at the locks of hair which had been so neatly shorn from it.
Up went his butt, he swung it over his head and brought it down with a
crash which broke the Frenchman's guard, wrenched his sword out of his
hand, and sent him rolling backwards doubled up like a ball.

"On to 'em, boys. See the Cap'n. Drive 'em back same as he did."

It was Pete's voice which burst in on the babel of shouts which had
broken from attackers and defenders, while the burly backwoodsman
himself leaped over the wall, his musket swinging over his head and
the butt swaying this way and that, clearing a path on every side.

"Up and over the wall," shouted Steve. "Now, send them back."

It was all over in less than a minute, even before the men told off to
load their muskets had accomplished that task. One desperate onslaught
of the backwoodsmen had sent the Frenchmen rolling, sliding, and
tumbling down the steep slope till they were out of sight behind the
falling bank of snow. Only their voices could be heard, the cries and
moans of the wounded, that and the deep voice of the two cannon which
had ceased their fire for one instant as the combatants came to hand
grips, and which opened again now, the gunners having learned that the
attack had been beaten off.

Thud! One ball struck the rock a foot above Steve's head and covered
him with splintered rock and snow. Then came the second. They could
hear the whirr of the ball as it rushed through the air, the sound
rising to that high-pitched shriek which has made many a recruit, ay,
and many an old soldier too, bend his knees and his head and look
uncomfortable. Crash! It hit that face of the hollow which had been
filled in with branches, thudded against the rocky wall beyond, and
then----

There was a terrible explosion, which seemed to shake the hillock, and
which threw Steve and his men in all directions. The roof which they
had placed over their little fort disappeared amidst the snow-flakes,
while the wall in front was shattered, the branches being sent over
the wall of snow on to the slope below.

"One to them," said Steve, sadly, as he picked himself up. "That ball
must have struck the keg of powder we left in the hollow. Listen to
their cheers. They guess that they have damaged us severely. Let us
see how many of the men are hurt."

One by one the trappers picked themselves up till only two still lay
on the ground.

"Jest stunned and knocked silly, Cap'n," said Jim. "Reckon we're in
luck this time. But it air not goin' to snow all day, and when it
clears them fellers'll knock us to pieces."

"If they are allowed to continue practice with the guns," answered
Steve swiftly. "Boys, the French guns must be put out of action. I am
going to spike them, and I want a volunteer. Settle amongst yourselves
who is to come, while I get something with which to plug the vents of
the cannon."

He pulled his ramrod from its fastening and dived into the dismantled
hollow, where a minute's search produced an axe. There was a boulder
near at hand and very soon he had cut two six-inch lengths off the
rod. By then Mac stood beside him, his snowshoes in his hand, his
beard and hair red and flaming against the background beyond.

"Ready and willin', Cap'n," he said.

"Then come," answered Steve easily. "Boys, we'll be back by the
morning."

He waved his hand to his comrades, slung his musket, and strode away
to the left. A minute later he and Mac had disappeared round the
shoulder of the hillock, their dark figures being swallowed up in a
whirl of flying flakes.



Chapter XII

Generosity to the Foe


A blinding whirl of snow hid Steve and Mac from friends and foes alike
as they slid from the hummock and made for the back. There was not
a sound from their snow-shoes as they progressed, and only distant
shouts and whoops from the French and their Indians broke the silence
of the wintry day, those and the deep boom of the cannon which now
plied their iron shot more rapidly. For the gunners had found the
range, and though the snow made accurate aim totally out of the
question, yet they took pains not to lose the direction, and in the
next quarter of an hour half-a-dozen balls thudded into the hollow.

"The sooner we can put a stop to that the better," said Steve as he
halted at the bottom of the hillock. "Up to now we have had luck, but
a shot might hit a number of the men, and already the odds are great.
How far are we from the forest, Mac?"

"Sure, Oi've no idea, Cap'n. 'Tis mesilf as is scared wid the snow.
There's no sayin' where we are."

"There are the guns," answered Steve in a whisper, "and so long
as they continue to fire we shall have something to give us the
direction. I am sure we are making straight for the forest, and if my
calculations are right we should be amongst the trees in a very few
moments."

They slid along over the snow again, Steve leading the way. Then
a dull wall cut across the white ground in front of him, and with
a smothered exclamation of satisfaction he realized that they had
reached the friendly shelter of the forest. By then both were covered
with snow, and were with difficulty distinguishable at ten paces.

"We have everything in our favour," Steve whispered, halting for a
while. Now, I propose that we make round towards the guns and watch to
see how many are serving them. If few----"

"Sure we'll rush 'em," burst in Mac, his red beard trembling, so
greatly was he excited. "Give the word, sor, and bedad, 'tis mesilf as
will charge all alone. Them Frenchies'll never stand."

"Perhaps not. But we must make sure. We must drive them off and allow
sufficient time in which to spike the guns. Now, look here, Mac. If
we charge them, hold your fire whatever you do. Use the butt or your
tomahawk. If they bolt, then sit down and watch for their return. I
shall use my axe to drive in the spikes."

There was no need for further arrangement, and so they set off again,
this time turning sharp to their left in the direction of the guns.
For the cannon still bellowed at intervals, and on one occasion, when
the wind blew the whirling flakes aside for a moment, Steve saw the
flash distinctly. In a little while the two were bent almost double,
for they were within earshot, and presently they halted behind an
enormous oak, for the guns were in sight, half-a-dozen dim figures
working about them, sometimes in view and sometimes blotted out
altogether by the snow. But there were others there also. As Steve
and Mac stared at the place, endeavouring to make out the precise
surroundings, they became aware that other figures were silently
gathering, that the space behind the guns was being filled by a
company of blanketed men, from whose scalp locks fell a crest of
trailing feathers. The red and white and blue painted faces showed up
through the storm, and soon there could not be a doubt that the Indian
allies of the French were there. Suddenly a tall figure appeared
amongst them and a voice was heard.

"Your chief," said the French officer in his own tongue. "Good. You
can understand me and tell your friends. The snow falls heavily,
chief."

"It falls," was the response, in passable French.

"And hides us from these pale faces. Now is the time for Hurons to
strike with their tomahawks. Let them climb to the back of this
hummock and fall upon the pale faces from there. We who have just been
beaten back will attack from the front."

There was a minute or more of delay while the Huron chief turned to
his comrades. Then he swept round and faced the French officer.

"It is well," he said. "In a short while we shall be there. Will you
and your men crawl forward now and wait for our shouts. Then charge,
and it may happen that you will find us in possession and these men
all slain and scalped."

The officer nodded curtly, and then as Steve and Mac looked on, the
band of Indians tossed their blankets aside as formerly and went off
in single file. Steve was still gaping with astonishment and dismay as
the figure of the last disappeared in the forest.

"They are off to surprise the back of the fort," he whispered. "The
question now is, whether we ought to return so as to warn our friends,
or whether we should stay."

For a little while the two stared into each other's eyes, for the
dilemma was a genuine one, and a decision not to be easily arrived at.
Then Mac pushed his tangled moustache from his mouth, scattering the
tiny icicles which had gathered there.

"Warn 'em I Sure ye couldn't, me bhoy; thim Injuns'll be in position
long before we could get up to 'em. A trapper can't cover the ground
quicker than they, and ye may be sure that they'll slip along as
though the gintleman himsilf was behint 'em. The bhoys must look to
thimsilves. Be chanst they'll have set a watch for our return."

"Then we must leave it like that," answered Steve. "There are too many
about here just now, but already the French are moving off. Give them
a little while and we'll charge."

They crouched behind the friendly shelter of the oak and watched
as the minutes fled by. The French officer waited to see the last
of the Indians disappear, and then went off through the snow, his
feet splaying out in a manner which showed that he was unused to
snow-shoes. They heard his whistle and then the murmur of voices
growing fainter. Meanwhile the guns continued their thunder, though
the men who worked them could only have guessed at the position of the
trappers. Still they were cunning fellows, for they had taken care
to provide themselves with a signal which pointed always towards the
spot where the hollow lay. They had laid one of the long sponging rods
between two forked branches, bolstering up the leading end with lumps
of snow till the man who stood beside it had it pointing true. It was
a wise precaution which they had taken before the snow commenced to
fall, and now Steve watched as the direction was taken from it.

Five minutes later a man who was dressed as a trapper slipped up to
the men, spoke a few words, and was gone. Once more the guns belched
forth their flame and shot, and then to Steve's joy all but four of
the gunners threw off their mittens, snatched up the firelocks piled
near at hand, and went off after their friends.

"They have word that the attackers are nearly in position, and that
they are not to fire again for fear of hitting their friends,"
whispered Steve. "Now is the time, Mac. Not a shout, not a sound,
remember, till we have the guns. Ready? Then come along."

His axe was gripped in his hand now, while his musket was slung over
his shoulder. He slipped like a ghost from behind the oak, and slid
across the snow towards the guns. He was within four yards of them
when one of the four gunners who had remained, and who up till then
had been staring out into the snow, swung round, looked at him for
a moment, and then gave a cry of amazement. He seized one of the
sponging rods and whirled it above his head, while his comrades at
once drew their cutlasses.

"On them boys! Cut them down! There are only four!" shouted Steve, in
French. "Charge and we have got them!"

Whether or not the Frenchmen believed that there were more of the
trappers behind it would be difficult to state; but the man who had
first seen Steve and Mac started back at his words, and lowered his
rod. Then as Steve rushed in he swung it up again, whirled it round
once, and then struck a tremendous blow which lost all its force in
the snow. For Steve had had his eyes open, and, moreover, was as agile
as a cat, even with snow-shoes on his feet. He leaped to one side, and
then ran in, striking the gunner between the eyes with the shaft of
his weapon. Almost at the same instant a cutlass blade swished over
his head as a second gunner made a wild cut at him, and striking the
barrel of the musket swinging on his back, cut a deep grove into it.

"Ye baste!" shouted Mac, as he brought the butt of his musket against
the soldier's head. "Stand back will ye. Will ye dare to sthrike the
Cap'n. Ha! So ye're still there. Now, bedad, that's koind of ye, so
'tis."

The red-headed Irishman rushed at the third man with a bellow of
rage, lifting his musket as he ran. Then quick as a flash he swung
the ponderous weapon at the Frenchman, throwing it so truly that it
struck him full in the face and across the chest and sent him to the
ground with a thud which could be heard a dozen yards away. And there
he lay, the Irishman standing over him, his hair the one prominent
feature, for his cap had been jerked from his head. As for the other
Frenchman, he bolted as Steve ran to attack him, and was soon out of
sight. Our hero at once rushed to the nearest gun, slipped one of his
improvised spikes into the vent, and then drove it home with his axe
head. Meanwhile Mac had raced forward a few yards, and turning in the
direction of the hollow placed one of his capacious hands to his mouth:

"Boys! Jim!" he shouted with all the force of his lungs.

"Ahoy!" came back. "Is that the Cap'n?"

"It is. Boys, kape a watch on the back of the fort. The bastes are
wantin' to rush ye; and they're comin' up in front, too!"

There was a distant shout of thanks heard clearly through the frosty
air, and almost instantly a musket spoke. Then the whoops of the
Indians broke forth, while the French, who were attacking the front of
the hillock, joined in the chorus.

"Don't spoike the secind gun, sor," called out Mac, all of a sudden.
"Sure we'll turn it on the ruffians ef they come to attack us. Here's
powder, and, bedad, here's the bags of bullets with which they charge
the craturs."

The Irishman had seen service before, and doubtless he had had some
instruction in the loading of guns. He ran the sponge rod down the
muzzle of the one which had not yet been spiked, wiped it out, and
introduced a charge, while Steve poured a handful of powder over the
vent. In another minute they had depressed the sights, and our hero
stood beside the gun, panting after his exertions, and holding the
muzzle of a pistol taken from one of the Frenchmen across the vent.
Meanwhile the musket shot which had been fired from the neighbourhood
of the hummock where Steve's men lay had been followed by many sharp
reports, and by the din set up by the combatants. Sometimes the flash
of the powder could be seen, for the fall of snow was not so heavy
now as it had been. Dim figures could be discerned here and there,
and presently some dashed towards the guns; for the man who had run
for his life as Steve and Mac charged had returned with some comrades
determined on capturing the guns again. They arrived within sight of
the place to find all in readiness, and the instant they caught sight
of Steve, standing ready to receive them, they bolted back again, and
darting to the right till out of range of the weapon, went shouting
for their friends.

"Get that sponging rod under the edge of the sledge, Mac," sang out
Steve, a smile of confidence on his lips. "Ten chances to one they
will rush us from another direction, and we must be ready to slew the
gun round and fire. Yes. Here they come, this time from the right."

As quickly as possible the rod was thrust under the runner of the
sledge which carried the gun, and with a heave Mac slewed it round
till the muzzle pointed towards the spot from which the French were
coming. He dug it again into position, and then waited, ready to move
the sights still further if necessary.

"Jest a little lower wid the muzzle, sor," he sang out. "That's the
way. Give 'em the charge rhight in their faces, and thin, bedad, we'll
be for lavin'."

He stood on the tips of his moccasins peering into the distance, and
then shuffled a little to one side in his snow shoes, wrenching the
rod as he did so, and again slightly altering the aim of the gun.
Figures had sprung up again on the sudden, and some twenty Frenchmen
could be seen coming towards the gun as fast as the snow and their
shoes would allow them. A musket spoke sharply, a flash illuminated
the front of the enemy for an instant, and a heavy ball struck the
runner of the sledge, glanced from it and very neatly severed the
sling which held Steve's musket to his shoulders. Then came another
shot, crisp and clear, the missile clipping a bough above the heads
of the two gallant backwoodsmen standing beside the gun, and bringing
a cloud of frozen snow about their ears. It was time to fire. Steve
leaned over the breach, placed the pan of his flint lock close to the
vent and pulled the trigger. Then he and Mac turned, and after Steve
had driven his second spike home and so rendered the gun useless,
darted off into the forest unmindful of the shouts they left behind
them, knowing only that their use of the gun had resulted in terrible
loss to the enemy.

"They have no thought of pursuing us," gasped Steve, some minutes
later as they halted deep in the forest. "I think the discharge must
have worked havoc, and thoroughly upset them. Listen to the others.
Jim and the boys were just in time to catch the Indians, and I have a
shrewd idea that they have beaten off their attack. Can we help in any
way?"

"Hilp! Sure 'tis oursilves as will want hilp if them fellers catch a
sight af us. Cap'n, we'd best lie hid here till the fightin's over,
when we can follow the inimy and see that he returns home."

"And that he does not take his guns with him," exclaimed Steve. "After
all, they could very easily bore out the vents again if they took
them back to Ticonderoga, and then we might have them firing at us
again. Let us return a little way, Mac, till we get a good sight of
the weapons. With our muskets we should be able to keep the enemy away
from them. Lucky for me that I picked up one of the French muskets
when we left. Mine had a deep dent in the barrel, where that man's
cutlass struck it, and I doubt whether it was fit to be used."

They looked to the loading and the priming of their firearms, and then
turning away from their old tracks, for the enemy might even now be
following, they struck off on another trail which brought them in a
roundabout way to the guns. By now the snow had ceased to fall, so
that before very long they caught sight of the two cannon, standing
black against the white background beyond. Close to the runners of the
sledges on which they were mounted lay two of the gunners whom Steve
or Mac had struck down, while the third was sitting up on his elbow,
and engaged in wiping the blood from his eyes.

"Sure, 'tis sorra he'll be that he's aloive, so he will," said Mac,
indulging in a dry chuckle. "'Tis the Frinchman himsilf as will have a
head that's fit to burst. Sure the man's dizzy."

"And well he might be," answered Steve. "Poor fellow, your musket
gave him a hard blow, and there is no wonder if he does feel dizzy
and ill. Don't fire, Mac. The man is harmless, and we are not here to
injure such as he. Listen to that. Cheers!"

"Cheers it is, sor. Them's Jim and Pete and the ithers. Sure they've
beaten off the blackguards."

Wild shouts of triumph came across the snow-clad clearing and into
the forest, and there could not be a doubt but that they were those
of their comrades. Musket shots followed, and then cheer upon cheer,
while Steve fancied he could even distinguish Jim's voice. But
presently something else occupied his attention. Out of the tail of
his eye he caught sight of a figure flitting through the trees away on
his left.

"Hu-u-ush! Indians!" he whispered, pulling Mac by the sleeve of his
hunting shirt. "Down, or they will see us. They are returning from the
hillock."

"And would give all they have and a deal more, too, the bastes! if
they could take us with thim," answered the Irishman, dropping on
to his face behind a friendly tree and peering round at the enemy.
"They're makin' for the guns, sor. Will ye allow thim to carry the
weapons away?"

Steve gave an emphatic shake of his head.

"Indians or French are the same in this case, Mac. They are enemies.
If I can prevent it they shall not take the guns. But perhaps they
are only returning for their blankets. Count them. I fancy some have
fallen."

They lay full length in the snow and watched as the silent band of
discomfited Indians swept by them, gliding over the snow as if their
shoes were parts of themselves. But the men who now returned wore a
different appearance from those who had such a short while before
made through the forest to attack the back of the hillock. This band,
gliding so swiftly through the gaps between the trees in single file,
was composed of men who had met with deep disappointment, and showed
it. Their heads were bent. Some looked ashamed, while there was an
air of savage fury on more than one of the clear-cut faces. More than
ten of their original number were missing, while amongst the tall,
copper-coloured braves who now filed along on their way to the open,
were a dozen at least who had been wounded. There could be no doubt
that that was the case, for behind them they left the trace of their
snow-shoes and dark stains here and there which told their tale only
too truly.

"I was right. They are making for the guns so as to get their
blankets," whispered Steve. "Lucky for us that they did not come this
way, or stumble upon our trail. Even a beaten brave notes every mark
in the snow, and if even one suspected that we were here they would
turn and pounce upon us. Listen, Mac. If they or the French try to
take the guns, fire your piece and shout. Then move away to right or
left, loading as you go, and fire again. They will then think that
there are many of us."

A glance at the Irishman was sufficient to show that he had grasped
his leader's meaning. Steve saw him look to the priming of his musket,
and then slowly and cautiously get to his feet.

"They'll do what they can to help their friends," he said. "Look, if
ye plaze, sor. There's a French sodjer, and he's givin' thim an order."

A man had suddenly come into sight as Mac spoke, and Steve watched him
advance to meet the Indians, who were now engaged in recovering the
blankets which they had left beside the guns. He spoke to them, made
signs with his hands, and then snatched up one of the ropes which were
attached to the sledges. For a minute, perhaps, the Indians stared at
him, for this was a task which none of them cared to undertake. It
was not real fighting, and, therefore, perhaps derogatory to them.
However, a word from their chief set matters right, and in a little
while a dozen had harnessed themselves to the tackle.

Crack! Steve's musket sent a leaden messenger at the group, a
messenger which was no respecter of persons. It struck the muzzle of
the rearmost weapon, with a resounding clang, glanced from it and
passed through the calf of one of the Indians.

"Hit! One to you, sor," called out Mac. "Listen to the baste shoutin'.
Bedad, Mac here will thry himsilf."

He put his musket to his shoulder, while the group about the guns
suddenly divided. The shot had taken them utterly by surprise, for
they had no notion that the enemy was behind them. Halting where they
were, they looked at their chief, while the wounded man hastily tied a
strip of cloth about his leg.

"A shot from behind, my brothers," said their chief. "It is some
straggler who has been lying in the forest. We will return and slay
him." He dropped the tackle and without another look or word strode
off in the direction from which the bullet came. A dozen of his
comrades followed his example, and ere Mac had time to sight, the band
was clear of the guns, and already entering the forest.

Crack! For a second or two the smoke which had belched from the
weapon hid the Indians from view, but a gust blew it rapidly aside,
and when Steve looked there was the Indian chief lying full length in
the snow, while the braves who had turned from the guns to support
him stood dumbfounded, staring at his recumbent figure. For this was
hardly the kind of warfare which met with their approval. These fierce
Hurons, a portion of the so-called Christian Indians whom the French
had induced, to the number of many thousands in all, for many tribes
had come from Canada, to become their allies, were accustomed to fall
upon unsuspecting enemies and butcher them in their sleep if possible,
or at least before they had time to more than grasp a weapon. True,
these braves could fight and fight courageously, as they had proved
many a time; but they were little use when asked to assault a fort
or to attack an enemy in the open. Their forte was the tracking of
enemies in the forest, the stealthy following up of stragglers,
wood-cutters, and the small parties sent to shoot meat. It was in
expeditions of such a nature that they shone, for their backwoods
knowledge, their natural cunning and stealth, enabled them to creep
up without observation and wreak a fierce and terrible vengeance on a
foe fewer than themselves in number, and more often than not utterly
unsuspicious of danger. And here they were exposed in the open, a
thought that was hateful to every one, and being fired at by unseen
muskets aimed by men of whose presence they had had no notion.

As the chief fell they gathered about him with grunts of
consternation, which were increased to howls of anger as Steve lifted
his ponderous weapon again, sighted, and sent a bullet into their
midst. With one exception they turned tail and fled.

"Hold!" cried the brave who had kept his ground, a tall and
fine-looking Indian. "Are my brothers so easily scared? Will they
suffer a chief to be slain and not retaliate? Surely we are children,
for we run when but few men are there to fire at us. Follow, Hurons.
Let us take these men who have fired, and to-night they shall burn
over our fires while we watch them writhing."

It was a cheerful proposition for Steve and Mac to listen to, but one
at which every brave who heard picked up heart and courage. Why,
after all, should they retire from this field without prisoners,
without one or more of these pale faces on whom to wreak their
vengeance? Besides, they were not children. The very mention of such
a word, the scoffing tones of their comrades, were enough to rouse
them to desperation. They turned again, their war-whoops rang shrilly
through the forest, and in a moment a stream of the painted braves was
charging towards Steve and Mac.

"Take them coolly," said our hero, leaning his musket barrel in the
fork of a tree. "Are you ready? Then fire."

Their shots rang out in rapid succession, and two of the charging
braves threw up their hands and fell, laughing hideously, for no brave
worthy of the name could die with a groan on his lips. He must laugh
as if the pangs of death were nothing but an enjoyment.

"Now let us run," whispered Steve swiftly. "Perhaps our shots will
bring help from the hillock. If not, we have a start, and may be able
to get away. Throw your musket on one side and come along."

Tossing their weapons on to the snow, the two set off as fast as
their legs would carry them, their pace being improved by the very
fact of their having discarded their muskets, for the muskets then
in use weighed perhaps three times as much as the present magazine
rifle. Behind them came the Indian braves, in single file now, silent
as hounds on the trail, their eyes shining strangely and a look of
ferocity and rage on every face. Two hundred yards farther on Steve
turned for an instant. He and Mac had not increased their lead, but at
the same time they had not lost ground. The issue of this chase was
still in doubt, for he and the Irishman might still reach the hillock
before the Indians came up with them. On the other hand, a lucky shot
from one of the braves might bring the chase to an end very summarily.
As if to remind him of that fact, there was a sharp report behind,
a report which went reverberating through the forest, and a bullet
chipped a foot or more of frozen bark from a tree within a few inches
of the fugitives. A second later Steve caught a glimpse of a figure
some few yards in front of them. It was Jim, Hunting Jim, the fringe
of his shirt and leggings blowing in the wind.

"Jest keep on towards the hillock, Cap'n," he said swiftly as Steve
came abreast of him. "Yer know what's wanted. Draw them varmint into
this here trap."

There was no time for more. Steve and Mac held on their course,
darting over the frozen snow as if the danger were even greater. And
after them came the Indian band, their nostrils agape, their fingers
gripping the tomahawks which they hoped to use very shortly. But their
hopes were doomed to disappointment, for within a minute they had run
into the circle of trappers whom Jim had brought with him. There
was a shout, a musket spoke out sharply, and then with a cheer the
trappers threw themselves upon the braves.

"That war a find and no mistake," said Jim some ten minutes later
as Steve stood gasping beside him. "I reckon Injuns was never so
surprised in all their mortal lives, onless it was the fellers
way back there at the divide when we were on the trail from the
settlement. Waal, we wiped 'em out, and with what we killed before I
guess as they won't be so keen on comin' our way again. There's twenty
down at least, and half as many French. Boys, our Cap'n's given us a
bit o' fightin'."

There was a smothered cheer at that, while the men gathered round
their young leader.

"We must move again," said Steve sharply. "I thank you all for having
come just in the nick of time. And now let us be moving. I want some
of you to go down and see that the guns are not taken. If they are
there get to work at the tackles and pull the weapons back to the
hillock. We can draw the spikes with a little trouble, and then,
boys----"

"He's the lad fer us," sang out Pete. "He ain't thinkin' of givin' up
our fort, not even if five thousand of the Frenchies wants to come and
attack us. He's goin' to put in guns, so as he can fire back the iron
pills they've been sendin' us. Take it as done, Cap'n. Them guns'll be
in position afore the night comes."

"Then you will look to it," responded Steve, smiling as the men
crowded about him with another cheer. "Now there is other work. Jim,
take some of the men and follow the enemy as far as the lake. Mac and
I will return for our muskets and then scout round to make sure that
not an Indian or Frenchman is left."

The party of trappers separated into three small bands at once,
Steve watching Jim and Pete march their men away to carry out his
instructions. Then he and Mac returned on their old trails, this time
at a more reasonable pace, and having discovered their muskets dived
into the forest and scouted there so as to make sure that none of the
enemy were left. Now and again a far-off musket shot came to their
ears, as the rearguard of the retreating force fired at the trappers,
and on three or four occasions they came upon the dead bodies of
Frenchmen or Indians who had fallen. But for the shots there was
silence everywhere, the silence of the virgin forest, till a faint
sound came to Mac's ears.

"Sure, it's a groan, so 'tis," he whispered. "Listen to it, sor. It'll
be the ghost of one of them poor craturs."

The superstitious Irishman trembled, while beads of perspiration burst
out on his forehead despite the lowness of the temperature. He looked
scared, and turned appealingly to Steve.

"Nonsense!" exclaimed the latter, emphatically. "Don't talk such
rubbish. It must be some injured man. Listen, and then we shall get
the direction."

[Illustration: STEVE AND MAC DISCOVER THE WOUNDED FRENCH OFFICER]

They stood still for some five minutes, and then at last the same
moaning sound came to their ears. Steve promptly turned to his right
and set off at a a rapid pace, Mac following with the same scared look
on his wrinkled features.

"Tracks of Indians," said Steve suddenly, as he came across the marks
of snow-shoes. "They were carrying a wounded man. Look at the spots of
blood. Keep your musket handy, Mac, and use it if there is need."

Some fifty yards farther on the two suddenly burst into a tiny
clearing, and discovered there the figure of a man, lying propped
against a tree, where he had undoubtedly dragged himself, as the marks
in the snow plainly showed. He turned as Steve came forward, and the
latter recognised him. It was the tall Frenchman who had commanded the
attacking party. He was pale and wan, and evidently in great pain.

"Monsieur, I am your prisoner," he said bravely. "I was hit in the
thigh, and I think my leg is broken. The Indians who were carrying me
tossed me aside for fear that I should delay them."

Mac and Steve were on their knees at once, tending to the wounded
officer. "We will make a litter and carry him out on to the lake,"
said Steve. "Find a dozen of the boys, Mac, and hurry. We must get
back before the night comes."

Half an hour later the gallant French officer was lying in a litter
constructed with the help of an Indian blanket and two stout poles,
and was being conveyed by four of Steve's trappers, a relay of men
following behind. Their muskets were slung across their shoulders,
while one of the hunters strode ahead with a white rag tied to his
ramrod. And so they passed through the forest and came to the lake,
where, a mile away, the retreating force could be seen.

"Fire a round and wave the flag," shouted Steve. "That will call their
attention."

A little later a dozen French soldiers returned, their arms also
slung, while a lieutenant was in command of the party.

"You are our prisoner, colonel," said Steve to the wounded officer,
"but we know that you are wounded, and will be better cared for by
your own friends. We release you on your oath that you will take no
further part in the war."

"Monsieur, I gladly give that promise, and call all here to witness
it," came the answer, while the poor fellow feebly pressed our hero's
hand. "Messieurs, you are brave and generous. I give you a thousand
thanks. To you, monsieur, I say that I am for ever indebted. If ever
you should be in need of help and I am present, call on Colonel St.
Arnould de Prossen. He will help you to the utmost of his ability."

The parties saluted, the French with formality, the trappers in their
own rough and ready manner. Then they turned from one another and
went on their different ways, the French overjoyed at such handsome
treatment, the trappers pleased to have been of service. As for Steve
he little thought that he would soon have need of French help. He
little dreamed that the time was near at hand when it would take the
influence of a man stronger even than Colonel de Prossen to save him
from death. He made back for the hillock, and that night there was no
prouder commander than he, for he and his men had come well out of
their first engagement.



Chapter XIII

A Traitor in the Camp


"To Captain Steve Mainwaring, His Majesty's Regiment of Scouts."

An Indian climbed up the steep rise of the hillock on the day
following the French attack and presented a note to our hero. Steve
turned it over in his gloved hand, looked at the writing, and then
opened the missive.

"You have done well, and I congratulate you," ran the letter from the
Commander of Fort William Henry. "Your messenger reached us late last
night and explained the heavy firing which we had heard. For your
information I now beg to tell you that I have suspicions that news is
leaking out of this fort. The French have become acquainted with our
dispositions within a few hours of our making them. There is treachery
somewhere, and I look to you to discover who is the rascal. You will
take steps to clear up this mystery, and will report in due course.
I am sending you this day a further store of provisions, powder, and
shot to suit the captured cannon."

There was the usual official ending to the letter and the signature
of the Commander of Fort William Henry. Steve read it through again,
folded it, and dismissed the Indian. Then he called Pete and Jim and
discussed the matter with them.

"Ef there was fifty traitors and bearers of news it wouldn't surprise
me," said Pete. "I ain't got no opinion of them colonists and reg'lars
at Fort William Henry. No opinion at all. They ain't fer the most part
fit to watch for Frenchmen, and much less for Injuns. What air the
use of expecting 'em to be any good, when them critters the Frenchies
could slip through trappers sich as we air? How do yer mean to get
about the business, Cap'n? It seems no easy matter. You've got a
mighty wide strip of country to watch, and ef it's one man bearin' the
news, as seems probable, why, he can go any way, and slip in between
us."

The question was a more than usually difficult one, and for a long
while Steve sat and smoked, staring out through the exit of the fort,
for the damage done by the exploding powder had now been more or
less repaired. News was leaking out of the British fort, news which
might be of importance. It was feared that the French, who were in
great strength at Ticonderoga, might select some clear, fine night to
start out from their fort, and time their march so as to arrive near
Fort William Henry early in the morning. The commander who had sent
Steve the message knew very well that he was sadly lacking in many
respects, particularly in scouts, and the fear of this descent of the
French weighed upon him. And now, in some way or other, he had learned
that news was leaking, that plans he made to resist a French attack
were promptly conveyed to the enemy.

"We have got to stop the leakage whatever happens," said Steve
suddenly, "for if the French are always to know what our people are
doing, they might easily take them unawares and slaughter the whole
garrison. My idea is to take advantage of snowy and overcast weather."

"Snowy weather! Steve--beg pardon--Cap'n, that ain't like you,"
exclaimed Jim, somewhat sadly. "How on airth air a man to see sech a
skunk when it's thick? It ain't possible. Ef there's one thing sartin
it is that thick weather ain't the time to turn out and hunt."

"Not if we have to hunt a wide strip of land, Jim," answered Steve
drily. "But we shall not have to do that. This fellow makes use of
Lake St. George. Steady, Jim. I know you have your own ideas. So have
I. Listen to them and then laugh as much as you like."

The tall trapper subsided at Steve's words, while Pete grinned.

"Fill up yer pipe, Huntin' Jim," he said with a laugh. "Reckon you've
got to sit tight while the Cap'n says his say. This here's a palaver.
When he's done, you can get to it with yer tongue. An old hoss like
you air worth paying some attention to. So's Steve. He air a good 'un."

Jim was mollified. A smile wreathed his thin lips and wrinkled his
mahogany features. He sat down on a lump of frozen snow, kicked off
his snowshoes, and rammed a plug of tobacco into his pipe.

"Right there, Pete," he said. "Reckon when all's said and done that
an old trapper air worth consultin' when it comes to a fix and
there's time to think. But he ain't as good always when there's a
muss and something's got to be done right away at once. Then it's the
youngsters who air worth attendin' to. They air quicker like with
their brains, and chaps like Steve here gets ideas like a flash. He's
done it before."

"I was speaking of the lake, then," said Steve, with a smile, for he
knew Jim well by now, and was aware of his impetuous nature. "I said
that in my opinion this man, for we will take it for granted that
one only is employed in the work, comes and goes over the ice, and
most likely has a rendezvous somewhere near Fort William Henry, where
he meets the rascal who gives away the information which the French
require."

"Gives, Cap'n!" exclaimed Pete, with an oath. "Gives air a polite
word, I guess. Chaps what act as traitors don't give much. They sell.
I can't make out how a man, who's worth calling sich, can 'low hisself
to do a dirty trick like that. It's selling country and friends, and
p'raps wife and children, and all for a little gold."

"Mean men are employed in mean trades, Pete," answered Steve. "It
may even be that this rascal who sells news from Fort William Henry
is a Frenchman in disguise, an English-speaking ruffian with French
sympathies. Any way, I fancy that is how the news leaks out. There
is someone in the fort who sneaks into the forest and meets a French
messenger. That messenger makes his way over the ice, of that I am
sure, for the simple reason that when we came through the forest on
our way here there was only one track, a fresh one, you will remember,
which had been used by several men. This sort of business is done by
a single messenger as a rule, and even supposing that I am wrong in
saying that the man does not make use of the forest, he will not do
so in future for fear of running into our scouting parties. He will
also choose snowy weather, for our look-out station here gives us the
opportunity of seeing anyone who leaves the fort at Ticonderoga."

"Blest ef he ain't a judge like his father," burst in Jim, smoking
furiously. "Get on with it, Steve."

"There is really nothing more. We shall send out scouts every day,
and night, too, when the weather is fine. When it comes on snowy,
we'll send men down close to Fort William Henry, while a few of us
will station ourselves across the lake and watch. The man who comes
from Ticonderoga will cut over the ice in a direct line, for he has a
long journey, and will take the shortest route. Look out there for
yourselves. That line I speak of will pass the point which pushes out
from this side of the lake. A line of watchers stretched for a quarter
of a mile across that line ought to see something."

For a little while the trio stared out at the frozen and snow-covered
surface of the lake, that lake at the head of which stood the French
fort of Ticonderoga, while at its foot was Fort William Henry. And as
they looked, Jim and Pete agreed to the full with what Steve had said.

"Reckon you're right, Cap'n," said the former. "This chap'll be
caught somewheres within hail of that point ef he's caught at all.
Waal, we've given them Frenchies and their varmint a knock already,
and we'll let 'em have another. Give us a fill of yer 'bacca, Steve.
Mine's done. Now, let's have some orders. It's time we shook down to
reg'lar business."

It took only a little while to arrange the duties for the whole band.
They were divided into two sections, each of which was to act as a
rule independently of the other. They were to take night duty week by
week, and when away from the fort, as it had now come to be called,
were to scour as much of the country as possible, so as to prevent
French parties from pouncing upon the woodcutters who were sent every
day from Fort William Henry. This arrangement would always allow half
the band to garrison the place, while the boom of one of the captured
cannon would quickly bring the other in, if that were necessary.
As to the weapons which had been captured, they had been mounted
on the front face of the hillock, and a little thought and skilful
handling by one of the band possessing some mechanical knowledge soon
removed the spikes which Steve had driven into the vents. Men were
told off from the two parties to act as gunners, and no sooner had
the arrangements been completed than Mac took these men in hand, and
commenced to drill them in their new duties. One other arrangement was
made.

"If snow begins to fall, those who are out scouting will make at once
for Fort William Henry," said Steve. "They will endeavour to hit upon
the meeting-place where this rascal sells his news, while those who
are resting here will file off to that point on the lake, and will
draw a line out from it. It will be cold work, boys, but it may bring
success, and thanks from our commander. I think, too, that it might
help if the men engaged in this last duty were dressed as Indians,
for then a Frenchman who happened to catch sight of one of our number
would not take fright so easily. You see, we have very few braves
working with us, and they seldom come even as far from the fort as
this. The French have, on the other hand, some hundreds of Hurons,
Micmacs, and other braves, and they make long excursions."

"It air a good thing that," agreed Pete. "What's more, there ain't
a one of us that can't dress as an Injun in quick time, and act the
part too. As for dress, there's plenty of the braves lyin' out in the
forest."

For a week the scouting work of the band of trappers went on without
incident. The two parties fell into their duties as if they were born
to them, and all agreed that their lot was infinitely more pleasant
than it would have been had they remained at Fort William Henry.
Thanks to the care which Steve had taken, the men had ample time for
rest and sleep, and either half of the band on their return from
scouting always found a good meal ready, that being one of the duties
of those resting in the fort.

"Reckon that 'ere attack and the way we beat 'em off has shook them
Frenchies and their Injuns up a bit," said Jim, one night as he sat
smoking in front of the cosy fire which blazed in the fort. "They've
had their own way for a precious long time, and it's kind'er taken
their breath away to have someone suddenly stop 'em. There ain't no
news from Fort William Henry, Cap'n?"

"Only that the commandant thinks that whoever has been sending news to
the enemy has been quiet this last week. It has been fine, Jim."

"Ay, and it'll snow afore many hours have gone. Jacob thar?"

"Waal, what air wrong? What's wanted?"

A bearded head, topped by a coon-skin cap of huge dimensions which
covered the ears, was thrust into the opening of the fort, while the
owner held the blanket aside with one of his thickly gloved hands.
The firelight shone upon his tanned face, and upon the hundreds of
tiny icicles which clung to his beard, his moustache, and eyebrows.

"Waal?" he repeated. "What's amiss?"

"Nothing, lad. But you air the boy on sentry go, as Mac calls it, and
it's reasonable to think that you've looked to the weather. What's it
doin'?"

"Nothing. Jest cold as ever it was. But it's cloudy. There ain't so
many stars. Suppose it'll snow afore midnight."

"Then sing out when the first flake falls," called Jim. "Now, shut
that 'ere door, Jacob, and quick with it. The wind comes in like a
knife, and we're warm and smokin'."

The bearded face at the opening grinned, a grin denoting disgust
rather than merriment.

"You was always like that, Huntin' Jim," Jacob growled. "Just wait
till it's your turn for sentry go. I'll be the boy then to sit snug in
thar and smoke, and I won't let you know it, oh no, of course I won't."

He was gone, and they heard his feet scrunching the frozen snow
outside. The blanket fell into its place, and the men inside lounged
again, spreading their hands to the flare, smoking and gossiping, for
your trapper was not always the silent person he is sometimes painted,
but a garrulous individual, fond of company, and making the most of it
when he had the opportunity. A little later blankets were produced,
and the whole party lay down with their feet to the fire, over which
a huge iron pot of stew was left simmering.

"It air snowin'. Jest rouse yerselves and come out. It'll liven some
of yer outside, for the wind air like a knife."

Jacob's bearded face appeared again, and he roused the trappers with
no gentle hand. They sprang to their feet, rubbed the sleep from
their eyes, and prepared to depart. Ten minutes later saw them all
filing from the fort, all save two who were to act as guard. They were
dressed in their usual hunting costumes, under which all wore the
thickest and warmest garments that they could procure for otherwise
they could never have endured such exposure. And now, in addition,
each had an Indian blanket wrapped round him, while an eagle's crest
was secured to the warm fur caps which all wore.

"We shall pass," said Steve, as he inspected his comrades in the
firelight. "Now, one word more before we go. This must be the work of
one man to-night. We shall be spread out over the ice, and should the
Frenchman come, he will probably be seen by one only of our number.
That one must pounce upon him promptly. Come along."

He turned to the doorway and went out, the band following close upon
his heels. It was snowing outside, but not so hard as it did on the
day when the Indians and French attacked them. It was, in fact, just
the night that a man would choose for an expedition such as that of
meeting a rascal from the British force, and buying information from
him, for the snow would act as an excellent cloak, while it was not
so thick as to prevent a man from making progress in it. Then again,
though the wind was cold, it was not blowing strongly, and what there
was came from the south.

Steve stepped over the snow wall which had been left in front of the
fort, and gaining the steep slope beyond it, promptly slid down, his
snowshoes scattering the white particles in a fine spray on either
side. One by one the band followed, floundering down to the bottom.
Then they moved off in single file, and very soon had plunged into
the depths of the silent forest. Three miles took them to the bank of
Lake St. George, when they struck out on to the ice, here clear of
snow, for the wind had been in the opposite direction, and had swept
it away. Their faces were now turned to the north, and they kept on in
that direction for half an hour. Then Steve halted. It was still very
dark, and snowing a little. But all were glad to find that the forest,
which clad the point below them, sheltered them from the keen wind,
and that it was considerably warmer.

"We will spread now," said Steve. "If you find that you are getting
cold, swing your arms round your head. Don't beat them against your
sides, for the sound would carry."

"It air likely, too, that some of the boys will fall asleep with
this cold and standin' still," whispered Jim. "Steve, supposin' yer
order the men to beat up and down past one another. That'll keep 'em
lively, and it'll make it more sartin that no one can get through."

There were twelve in all, and their young leader at once adopted the
suggestion.

"We'll divide again into two parties," he said. "Jim, you will have
command of the five out farthest, making with yourself six. I'll
command the other half. We will spread out for a quarter of a mile
from this bank, you posting yourself at the farthest point. The men
will be at intervals of about forty yards, and as soon as they are in
position they will commence to beat to and fro, each couple exchanging
places. In that way the ground will be thoroughly patrolled.
Understand?"

"Right, Cap'n."

"Then take your men. This fellow may be along at any moment."

Within ten minutes the twelve watchers were in position, and for four
long and weary hours the men continued to patrol the snow-covered
ice. But trappers were used to such work, and made light of the
exposure, though the wind was so cold, even here in the shelter, that
untrained men would quickly have succumbed. However, Jim's idea helped
not a little, for the men patrolled backwards and forwards without
cessation, walking at a brisk pace, which kept their blood circulating
and their extremities warm. And as they watched, the snow still fell
silently and gently, sometimes almost ceasing altogether. The sky
overhead was still overcast, but not so much as before, and that added
to the reflection from this vast expanse of white made it possible for
all the men to see a few yards in all directions, and to retain their
relative positions. A deathly silence hung over the lake, broken only
by an occasional crash, as the wind sent a mass of snow tumbling from
the trees in the forest. Then the sound would reverberate down the
long expanse of ice, and go rolling away to the mountains far beyond.

"It looks as if we were going to be disappointed, Jim," said Steve,
as he walked along the line to speak to the hunter. We have been in
position four solid hours, and have seen nothing."

"Which don't say as there ain't nothin' to be seen, Cap'n," was the
answer. "I reckon it's somewhere's about three in the mornin', and a
good hour for this feller to be returnin'. P'raps he slipped past here
before we turned out of the fort. He may have made so far through the
forest, and then dropped on to the ice when the snow commenced. Give
him another two hours, and then we may as well get back to the fort
and curl up in front of the fire. It's cold here. Them chaps down at
Fort William Henry would ha' been asleep or frozen long ago."

They separated again, and another half hour passed without
interruption. Then, suddenly, from the lower end of the lake there
came a shout, then a second, and almost immediately afterwards the
report of a rifle, heard very clearly at that distance, for the ice
acted as a sounding-board. At once all was excitement amongst the
waiting trappers. They lifted their coon-skin caps so as to make sure
that they would hear even the slightest sound, and ranged up and down
at an even faster pace. They were on the qui vive, and determined to
catch anyone who attempted to pass them.

"Chances air that Pete and the other boys have come upon the meeting
of these varmint," said Jim, as he drew close to Steve. "They've
likely as not shot one of 'em, and will be followin' the other.
Supposin' we extend a little."

The movement was carried out promptly, Steve stationing himself on the
far extremity of the line. An hour later, when the excitement had died
down and the trappers were beginning to murmur that there was little
use in staying, for the man, if he actually existed, must have already
passed, or have been shot lower down the lake, Steve thought he caught
sight of a figure flitting across the snow quite a distance out on the
lake. He could not be certain, but as it would not do to miss even
a chance, he hurriedly set off in the direction, trusting that the
trapper stationed next to him would be careful to notice that he had
gone, and would follow on his traces. Dashing ahead at his fastest
pace, it was not long before he came upon the marks of snowshoes, and,
thanks to the increased light out there on the lake, made sure that
two men had passed. Then he set off after them, sweeping over the snow
at a rate which would have taxed the endurance of an Indian, for
Steve was an old hand with snowshoes. A quarter of an hour later he
again caught sight of a figure, and within a few minutes made out a
second, in advance of the first. The time for action had arrived. He
took one swift glance behind him, and thought he saw the dull outline
of one of the trappers following in his wake. Then he started forward
again, and soon was within easy distance of the last of the figures.

"Halt, there!" he shouted, as he lifted his musket to his shoulder.
"Throw your hands up, both of you, and return at once."

There was an exclamation, a shout of alarm, and almost instantly the
two men threw themselves on their faces in the snow. Then there was a
short interval, followed by the loud report of a musket. A splash of
flame illumined the darkness, while a leaden ball raced past Steve's
head, and went humming into the distance. He was down in an instant,
and having waited to make sure of the position of the enemy, he took
careful aim and fired. Instantly there was a loud scream, one of the
dark figures started up, staggered, and fell again, to roll over and
over in the snow. Then something else happened. A dozen shots were
fired from a spot some little distance to the right, while Indian
war-whoops broke on the air.

"They must have had friends waiting for them," thought Steve, as he
busily reloaded. "Where is Jim? He and the men should be here by now.
Ah! That must be their fire."

[Illustration: "WHEN HE CAME TO HIMSELF AGAIN HE WAS BEING CARRIED ON
THE SHOULDERS OF FOUR INDIANS"]

He swung round suddenly, for more shots had rung out behind him,
shots which he made sure came from the muskets of his friends. But
in a moment he found that he was mistaken. A series of loud reports
answered the last discharge, and the flashes told him that the muskets
were aimed in his direction.

"Surrounded! The Indians have got between me and my friends," thought
Steve. "I must creep away, and make the best of a bad position."

He knelt up stealthily, saw no one in his immediate neighbourhood, and
commenced to creep on hands and knees. But he was not allowed to go
very far, for one of the two dusky figures which he had been following
rose at once, and strode back a few paces. There was the loud ring of
a ramrod as the man drove in a bullet, and then came the report, the
crash of which rang in Steve's ears. Stars flashed in front of his
eyes, and the snow over which he was creeping turned to a blood-red
hue. He fell all of a heap, and lay there for some few seconds, while
the shouts of the combatants rang in his ears. Then he revived a
little, staggered to his feet and fell again, this time with a crash
which left him senseless. When he came to himself again he was being
carried on the shoulders of four Indians, the snow had ceased, and the
lights which twinkled in the distance were those of Ticonderoga. Steve
was a prisoner.



Chapter XIV

Steve meets an Old Enemy


Steve Mainwaring was a prisoner, and as he realised that fact a
thousand misgivings filled his mind. For to be taken by the French and
their Indians was not a fate which even the boldest of the British
courted.

"It may mean torture," he thought. "The French are not always able to
control their Indians, and even if they were always capable of doing
so, there are the backwoodsmen. We have heard what they are, and the
fugitives from our settlements have given us many a tale of their
ferocity."

No one, in fact, could guess in those rough days what pains were
awaiting him if he fell into the hands of the French, and if there had
not been sufficient evidence already, there was to be abundance in the
near future. But that was hardly required. The thousands of unhappy
settlers who had been driven from the forests and the backwoods were
full of tales of brutality, of cruelty on the part of French pioneers
and Indians alike. And it was a known fact that even if the French
were kindly disposed and desirous of treating their prisoners well,
they often had to stand aside and look on helplessly while the braves
who were their allies wreaked a terrible vengeance on the unhappy
people who had been captured. This was the price which New France had
too often to pay for the allegiance of these monsters.

"I have been taken in fair fight, and am a prisoner of war," Steve
said to himself. "That in itself should gain fair treatment for me.
But what is the use of worrying? I am cold, and have a severe pain in
my side. I suppose I have been wounded. Brothers, have you a blanket
with which to cover me? My blood runs cold with the frost and my
wound, and in a little while I shall be frozen."

He spoke the last aloud, addressing himself to the Indians who carried
him, and speaking in the Mohawk tongue. All four instantly came to a
halt, there was a grunt from the leading man on the right, and then
Steve was gently laid on the ground.

"Cold, brother?" said the leader, a fine specimen of a brave, if the
faint light could be trusted. "We will give you a covering and see
to your comfort. Tell us, how comes it that you speak our tongue, or
rather, that of the Mohawks? Have you lodged in their wigwams?"

Steve answered with a nod. "I have lived and hunted with them," he
said feebly, for he was very weak. "They are firm friends of mine, as
are others of the Iroquois nation. They call me Hawk."

At that there was another grunt, a grunt which denoted approval and
the small amount of astonishment which the brave would permit himself
to express.

"Hawk. Yes, we have heard of you. Then you were the chief of those
whom we attacked a week ago?"

"I was. The fight was a fair and open one. The Hurons attacked boldly,
but were unfortunate. Those who fell were as brave as those who lived
to return to Ticonderoga."

This time all the bearers nodded their approval and grunted. For
these Indian braves, with all their faults, with all their ferocity
and their barbarous customs, had one redeeming virtue. They were
brave, and they respected bravery. It was the one great virtue after
which all strove, and if an enemy could speak well of their conduct,
then he was for the time being a friend. More than that, these wild
men of the backwoods, who had come so many miles to aid the French,
were accustomed, like other Indian nations, to make much of their
prisoners, provided they had fought with courage. A prisoner with
them was a man who had already shown fortitude, and who, by becoming
a prisoner, threw down the gage to his captors as it were, and boldly
asserted that if they were bold, he was still bolder, that if they
and their brothers could support hardship and pain amounting to the
acutest agony, he could support the fiercest pains which they his
captors could design. In fact, a prisoner was wont to boast loudly of
his own superiority, to defy his captors to make him flinch, and when
the time for the ordeal came, to endure hours of the most diabolical
torture, and finally the pangs of death without so much as a groan,
if possible with a smile of triumph on his quivering lips. And till
the time for torture arrived he was a brother and a man, deserving of
respect and attention, not a beast to be goaded and bullied and loaded
with chains.

"Our brother is weak," said the brave. "He shall have a covering at
once, and we will carry him with all comfort and care. The Hawk is
our friend. We have heard of him. There are braves with us who met
the Hawk and his brothers on the Mohawk river and down in the great
valley beyond. Yes, of a truth, the Hawk is known to us as a man of
bravery and energy." He went off over the snow at a swinging pace, and
presently his tall figure appeared again, while in his hands he bore a
huge rug of bearskin.

"This will keep the warmth in you, Hawk," he said kindly. "We will
wrap you in it till you are completely covered. Then your blood will
run again. You have lost much, brother. See, it is frozen on your
shirt."

Steve had not felt the place before, but was glad to hear the news,
for he reckoned that if there had been severe bleeding from his wound,
as seemed to have been the case, for he was very weak, the frost had
arrested further hæmorrhage, and perhaps saved his life. He submitted
while the Indians wrapped him in the skin rug, and then felt himself
lifted on their shoulders again. Very soon he was in a comfortable
glow from head to foot, and that, combined with his weakness and
weariness, caused his eyes to close, and he fell asleep. An hour or
more later a light flashed in his face, for the dawn had not yet
broken, and on looking round, he found that he was in a big hut, the
walls of which were constructed of whole timbers. The light flashed
from a candle lamp hanging to the rafters, and showed beside the
walls and roof of the hut, the figures of the four Indians standing
about him, and some twelve French soldiers and as many backwoodsmen,
the irregulars on the side of France. Someone was speaking in the
background, and for a time he listened to the words. Then some
familiar note in the voice struck on his ear, and he found himself
wondering who was speaking, wondering why the voice caused his heart
to flutter so and his pulses to beat.

"One captured, you say? Only one? Peste! Is this carrying out my
orders?"

There was a bang as the speaker's hand came down upon a table which
stood close to one of the walls.

"That is so, monsieur. One only was taken," came the answer, and by
dint of craning his head, Steve saw that it was a regular who spoke,
dressed in the familiar uniform of the French line, but now swathed in
warm furs, which, however, did not cover the chevrons, which showed
that he was a sergeant. "One only, monsieur," he repeated, as if
excusing himself.

"And for this fine capture you paid well no doubt. What was the price?
Come, I am asking you."

The voice was very calm now. There was a note of satire in it, and
those who listened could tell that the man who spoke was angry, that
his calmness was only the prelude to an outburst of temper. The
sergeant felt that, too. He drew himself up at attention, clapped his
pike close against his shoulder, and looked askance at his commander.

"The price, monsieur. There was one killed by this prisoner, and three
others who fell within the five minutes which followed. Yes, four were
killed altogether, one of these being a messenger."

"Ah! I hear. But there were three messengers. That was the
arrangement, friend, for if one were fool enough to be captured or
killed, then there were two left. You follow, sergeant? You give me
news of one of these fine fellows. I have been roused in haste, and
have come here expecting other news. You do not bring it. You have
only one beggarly prisoner to show. The whole tale, man. Let me have
it."

This time the speaker's rage got the better of him, and he thumped on
the table as an excited Frenchman might be expected to do, leaning far
over it till his face was within an inch of the sergeant's. Not till
then did Steve catch sight of his features, and when he did so, he
fell back with a scarcely suppressed groan. It was Jules Lapon, the
very man who had hunted him and his friends out of house and home.

"The whole tale, monsieur? You have heard it already, unless----"

"Unless what? Speak fool. I am but just out of my bed, and have
gathered nothing, save the fact that you have returned without a
single messenger."

"Then the news is still bad," came the faltering answer. "One
messenger was killed within four miles of this, while the hunter who
accompanied him as guide escaped unharmed. They were set upon near the
British fort, and they alone escaped. The other two messengers are
therefore accounted for. They were surrounded and attacked by hunters,
just as the two who escaped were suddenly followed and fired on at
this end of the lake. We put the enemy's numbers down at a dozen, and
of those we captured one. He is here, monsieur."

The sergeant having unburdened himself of a disagreeable tale,
endeavoured to distract his angry commander's attention from himself
and his failure to the prisoner, and succeeded. Jules Lapon scowled at
him for a little while, drumming with his fingers on the table. Then
he cleared a path for himself by savagely sweeping the soldiers aside,
and in a moment was standing over the prisoner.

"Bring a light and let us see the fellow," he growled. "Come, it is so
dark in this hole that one cannot see. Are you sure, sergeant, that
he is one of the enemy? You have done so well that perhaps you have
half-killed and then captured one of our own side. Mistakes are made
in the darkness."

"By white men, perhaps, monsieur," came the answer, an answer which
caused Jules to writhe. "Indians were with us, monsieur, and they are
not often in error."

"The lamp, man! Hold it higher, and pull that skin from his head. Ah!"

He started back as if he had been shot, and gripped instinctively at
the tomahawk which was thrust in his belt. For a moment he looked
thoroughly frightened, and then of a sudden his features assumed an
expression of triumph and hate and of the most diabolical malice all
intermingled till those who watched him were amazed and horrified. As
for Steve, he was utterly bewildered. He knew well that the meeting
between himself and this Jules Lapon would hardly prove a pleasant
one, for the relations between them were somewhat strained. He and his
friends had, in fact, obtained two consecutive victories over this
Frenchman and his band of Indians, and no doubt those successes had
roused the ire of Jules. But the tables were turned now, and had been
for some time. For if Jules had lost at first, he was the conqueror
now. He had turned Steve out of house and home, the settlement where
the hunters had lived so happily was his, by right of conquest if by
no other right, and now, to crown all, here was the Hawk his prisoner,
wounded and completely in his hands. Then why so much triumph and
hate?

"Ah. Then this is your prisoner. The only one you say, sergeant?"

The voice had become calm again. This Jules Lapon was now speaking in
even tones suggestive of kindness.

"That is true, monsieur. The only one. He is the Hawk, the leader of
those men whom we attacked a week ago. It is a fine capture."

"You have done well, sergeant. This man is of more value even than
that news could have been. He is wounded, you say?"

"There is a bullet lodged in his ribs, Monsieur. He bled much, and is
weak, so that we were forced to carry him. But he may have recovered
now, and will stand if we lift him to his feet."

At a sign from the sergeant, the Indians raised their prisoner, and
stood looking at him critically, wondering whether this pale face, of
whom they had heard before, would fail now, or whether he would have
sufficient courage to overcome his weakness. But they had little need
to fear the result, for though Steve was weak, as weak and weary as a
tired child, he had a determined spirit, and moreover felt intuitively
as if this was the supreme moment of his life, as if his future, his
safety in fact, depended upon his courage now. He set his teeth,
placed his feet well apart, and stood erect, his face towering above
that of Jules.

"The Hawk thanks the braves who carried him," he said, as steadily as
he could. "They treated him honourably, and though he has no gift to
make, he gives them thanks a thousand times."

"He is a man. We are satisfied," was the answer.

"He is more. He is a spy!"

Jules darted forward with a cry of delight, and snatched at Steve's
skin cap, to the top of which was attached an eagle's crest.

"Tell me, sergeant," he said, swinging round with an air of triumph,
"this prisoner was captured out on the ice. Had he a blanket?"

"Not when captured, monsieur. But all who supported him were dressed
so. They had the appearance of Indians."

"Then this Hawk is a spy," shouted Jules. "He and his men came in this
direction with one object. They came to spy, and in order to help them
they dressed as Indians, knowing well that they would pass as such
with a crest and a blanket about them, so long as the snow fell. This
is a most important capture. See that this man is guarded well, and at
dawn march out a firing party."

The sergeant brought his pike to his shoulder smartly as Jules swept a
path to the door and departed. Steve watched him go, and then stared
at the Indians and the soldiers and the backwoodsmen about him. He
was too weak to take in the full significance of that last command,
but vaguely wondered whether the firing party could be meant for him,
and whether he was to be executed. And as he wondered, he listened
to the chatter of those about him. It was evident that many of the
backwoodsmen, rough and brutal men as many were, who had become
tainted with the cruelty of the Indians, approved of the sentence.
They crammed tobacco into their pipes and smoked furiously, while they
acclaimed the decision of their leader with many an oath and with many
a glance at the prisoner. Some of the regulars were of their opinion
also, but not so the sergeant.

"Disguise! Spy!" he cried, some minutes later, having talked the
matter over with some of his comrades. "This brave lad whom we have
taken had no more idea of spying here than I have of setting a watch
at Fort William Henry. I'll be bound that he and his friends knew of
the messengers going to the English fort, and set a trap for them.
They guessed that an Indian dress might help their plans, and adopted
it. Why, the same is done here amongst ourselves. Even this commander
of ours, who shouts into one's throat, and orders all as if they were
dogs, dresses as a brave, ay, and goes out with a following of Hurons."

"Which does not alter the case as it stands, friend of the three
stripes," answered one of the trappers. "This leader of ours, a
backwoodsman like ourselves, fights in the garb that best suits him,
chancing capture. This fool here decks himself out in feathers, and is
captured. Both run the same risk. One is taken and shot as a natural
course, while the other, the smarter man, you understand, lives to
fight another day. As to shouting down a man's throat, there are some
dull dogs who want a deal of that, and still remain dull."

For a little while it looked as if the two would come to blows, for
the sergeant strode over to the trapper who had spoken, a flush of
anger on his face. But evidently he thought better of the matter,
turned to the Indians, and in a little while was accompanying Steve
out of the hut. Borne on the shoulders of the braves, the prisoner was
transferred to a second hut, where he was placed on a low couch.

"Whatever happens you shall have food and some attention, friend,"
said the sergeant. "I will leave the Indians to see to your wound,
while I myself get you some victuals. Cheer up. You have still a
friend or two left in the world."

He smiled kindly at our hero, and, taking a lamp, went out of the hut,
speaking a few words to the Indians as he went. The latter at once set
about tending to Steve's wound, for these sons of the lake and forest
were for the most part excellent surgeons. One placed a jar over the
fire, and blew at the embers till the flames roared round it. A second
crept from the hut, to return some ten minutes later with some soft
fleecy material, while beneath his arm he carried a bundle wrapped in
bark. Opening the last, he disclosed a heap of dried leaves, which he
commenced to pound between two stones, while some he even chewed. A
little water was added to the mass, and the whole worked into a soft
brown paste.

"The Hawk will let us see and tend this wound, well knowing that
we have had experience," said the chief who had already shown his
friendly spirit. "We will carry you close to the fire, so that you
will feel no cold. That is well. The Hawk has won our favour. He
does not flinch at the prospect of a death which would be an eternal
dishonour to even the most cowardly brave. Fear not. There are men
here who will see that this indignity is not allowed. If die you must,
there are other and nobler ways of taking the life of a prisoner."

Little did the fine fellow know what pangs he was causing our hero,
for to Steve, if he were condemned to die as a spy, shooting would be
infinitely preferable to the death by torture which the Indians would
inflict. He knew their customs well, and he told himself over and over
again that it would be better far to stand for one brief minute and
face the muskets than to be feasted for a day or more by these braves,
to be petted and praised by them, knowing full well that all the while
their preparations were being completed for the orgie of the morrow,
when all their diabolical ingenuity would be called into play to
provide a slow death for him, which in their opinion was alone worthy
of a warrior. Ugh! The very idea made him shiver.

"You are cold. Cover our brother with the skin again," said the chief.
"Now, let us remove the shirt, and see what harm has come to him."

Very gently they cut the leather shirt away and removed his clothing
till the wound was uncovered. By then the water in the jar placed over
the fire was comfortably hot, and with some of this and a portion of
the fleecy material the chief bathed the place till the nature of the
injury could be seen.

"Ah! The bullet struck beneath the arm, Hawk, and ran round the ribs.
It is here. I feel it beneath my fingers."

The chief ran the tips of his fine fingers over the ribs, and traced
the direction of the bullet from the entrance wound to the spot where
the hard mass could be felt to move under the skin.

"Some water, brother," he demanded. "Nay, hotter than that. Heat it
till it bubbles."

He sat patiently beside Steve while the jar was placed on the fire
again. And presently, when the water was boiling, he strode over to
it, and plunged the blade of his keen hunting knife deep into the
contents.

"The Hawk has felt pain before," he said. "He will not flinch. The
bullet shall be within my hand in less time than it takes to count the
fingers. Lie so. Now, Hawk."

Steve shut his teeth again, and never so much as winced as the keen
blade, wielded by a dexterous hand, cut down on the bullet. It was
extracted in a few seconds, and when Steve opened his eyes, there it
was in the chief's hand.

"Good," grunted the brave. "The worst is done. We will dress the wound
now."

Once more he had recourse to the jar of water. A wide piece of doe
skin was steeped in the boiling water first, and then, having been
wrung out, was made the receptacle for the brown paste already
prepared. The skin was then folded round, screwed up at the ends, and
again plunged into the water, and left there for a couple of minutes.

"It is ready," said the chief. "Squeeze the mass dry, and bring the
skin to me."

Up to that moment the wound had been smarting, particularly that
portion where the Indian had made use of his knife. But a minute
later, after the hot brown paste had been applied and covered by a
pad of the fleecy material, the pain disappeared, and Steve felt huge
relief. He was carefully bound up with long strips of doe skin, his
shirt replaced, and in a little while he was lying back on the couch,
expressing thanks to the Indians.

"Here is the food, and you look as if you could enjoy it," said the
sergeant, entering a little later. "Come, drink this stuff. It is hot
and steaming, and will put warmth into your body."

The kind-hearted fellow sat down and watched his prisoner eat and
drink. Then he propped his head up on the couch, drew the rug well
over him, and sat staring thoughtfully at his figure till Steve's eyes
closed and he slept.

"A fine lad, and one who fights stoutly for a lost cause," murmured
the sergeant, as he watched the sleeper. "To look at him as he lies
there, one could take him for one of our country, though he is bigger
and stouter than we are built. And he speaks French, too. Yes, I
remember that. It struck me as strange when I heard him answer this
Jules Lapon. Can it be that he is partly French, his mother perhaps
being one of our land? There have been many such marriages, and often
they have turned out well."

For a little while he lapsed into silence again, till his eye caught
the gleam of a long, thin streak of light which was pushing its way
through a chink in the roughly fashioned door. It was dawn, the hour
for the firing party, and the sergeant rose at once to his feet.

"We shall see," he said aloud, as he moved towards the door, but still
kept an eye on Steve. "This lad is a brave one, and I am taken with
him. That is strange now, for up to this an Englishman has been to me,
as to all my comrades, just an Englishman, fit to be slain if need be.
I have pitied them often, to be sure, for it is hard to see them given
over to these braves. But it is necessary to keep the Indians in good
temper, and, therefore, what is necessary should not be grumbled at.
Why is it that this young Hawk has gained my goodwill?"

He was of a reflective turn of mind, this French sergeant, and stood
again with his hand on the latch of the door, staring hard at Steve
and thinking aloud.

"Peste take it! Why is this? Ah! It must be this Jules Lapon. I have
hated him ever since he came to us, and more so now that he is our
commandant in the absence of the colonel. He is a hard man, or else he
would never order the execution of a white prisoner without some sort
of trial. I doubt that he has the power. The colonel could intervene,
if only he were not chained to his bed with a broken thigh. _Mon
Dieu!_"

He strode across the floor of beaten and frozen earth, and shook the
sleeper vigorously. His face was flushed, and there was an air of
excitement about him.

"Pardon, monsieur, but I wish to ask a question. Monsieur, you are
awake, and I ask pardon for disturbing you. But this is a matter of
importance."

Steve opened his eyes wearily, and acknowledged the presence of
the sergeant somewhat peevishly, for he had been enjoying a most
refreshing and dreamless sleep. He rubbed his eyes, stared at the
sergeant, and then caught sight of the streak of light penetrating
through the door. Then his senses returned with a rush, and he
remembered.

"The dawn, sergeant," he said. "Then this Jules Lapon will carry out
his purpose. I am ready. Help me to get to my feet."

"Not now, monsieur. I am about to go for the firing party, but wish
to ask an important question. Tell me, was it you who aided monsieur
le colonel, Colonel St. Arnould de Prossen, till a week ago the
commandant of this force?"

He waited for the answer eagerly, as if his own life depended on it,
and gave a cry of joy as Steve replied that it was he who had found
the unfortunate soldier, and who had had him carried on to the lake
and handed over to his friends.

"Then rest easy, monsieur. I go to the colonel, and we shall see if
this firing party assembles. Sleep again. Have I not said that you
have many friends? Even the Indians would save you now, not because
they wish to reserve you for torture, but because you have shown
bravery and much honour to themselves."

He pressed Steve gently back on to the couch, and raced from the hut.
A few minutes later he was knocking at the door of his colonel's
quarters, thumping on the logs with an energy which brought shouts
of anger from within, and very soon afterwards the squat figure of a
French soldier servant came to the door.

"Peste!" he exclaimed. "Are you mad, sergeant, to come and beat so on
the commandant's door? Go away before it is light enough for me to
recognise you. Go, I say, or I shall know you, and then there will be
trouble."

"Give way. I have important information for the colonel. Let me pass,"
gasped the sergeant, thrusting the man aside and pushing his way into
the hut. A moment or two later he was confronting the wounded officer,
and for some ten minutes the two were closeted together, much to the
amazement of the soldier servant.

"There, there, Armand, you must leave us," said the colonel, as his
valet rushed in after the sergeant with the intention of ejecting the
intruder. "Our friend has news for me. Withdraw. Come again when I
knock, and have no fear. Our friend is in his sober senses."

"I am glad that you have come to me, sergeant," he said, at the end
of their interview. "Glad to think there are some here who have kind
hearts still after all this bitter warfare. Not for worlds would I
have this lad injured, for he behaved with noble generosity to me. Go
now, summon your firing party, and march the squad to the hut where
this prisoner lies. If any dare give you an order to proceed with
this unjust and cruel execution, show this note. Though I am wounded
and incapable at the moment, I am still nominally, if not actively,
in command, and I will have my orders obeyed. Go, and I will follow
presently."

Half an hour later Steve awoke to the fact that men were gathering
outside the hut in which he lay. He could hear the tramp of their
boots on the frozen ground, and the ring of their muskets as they
stood at ease. The voice of the sergeant came to his ears as he gave
the commands. "Attention! Shoulder your pieces! Stand steady there,
lads, for Monsieur Jules Lapon comes to inspect you."

The door was thrown open, a gust of freezing air swept the apartment,
and there was Jules, muffled in furs, his face haggard and weary as if
he had some great weight on his mind which had kept him wakeful since
the arrival of the prisoner, two bright, hectic spots on his cheeks
and staring, blood-shot eyes which seemed to denote a fever. And
despite the cruel smile now on his lips, it wanted no acute observer
to see that this young man, with all his bravado, was hesitating as to
his course of action, not out of compassion for the prisoner, but for
fear of what might happen to himself. However, the sight of Steve's
calm face settled the question.

"You are ready, sergeant?" he asked curtly. "Good. Then bring out the
prisoner. There is a wall yonder, where you will set him up and shoot
him promptly. He is a dog and a spy, and should thank us for giving
him bullets instead of a noose."

"He will certainly not thank you for his life, monsieur. The lad is
too proud and too brave for that. He would not ask it of me, and much
less of you."

The words, spoken in the coldest and most cutting tones, caused Jules
to swing round and face the open. He flushed to the roots of his hair,
and then turned deathly pale, while, like the coward and bully he was,
his lips at once commenced to frame lies and excuses. For his superior
was there. Four soldiers stood before him, bearing a bed, on which,
warmly covered with skins, lay the long figure of the colonel.

"Have you no heart, man?" demanded the colonel fiercely. "Do you
not know that this prisoner was the leader of those men whom we
attacked last week? Yes, you know that, I see. Then it is also in your
knowledge that it is to that gallant youth that I owe my life. And yet
you would shoot him! You are suspended, monsieur. You will retire to
your hut till I can send you out of the fort. Sergeant, you will carry
monsieur the prisoner to my hut, where he will remain till completely
recovered. Tell off one of the men to wait on him."

The colonel fell back on his pillow, waved to his bearers, and was
gone without deigning to glance again at Jules Lapon. Then the
sergeant's voice was heard.

"Ground arms, my lads. Now pile them against the hut. Good. Enter now
and fetch monsieur. You will carry out the colonel's orders."

In a minute Steve was being conveyed across the open, while Jules
Lapon looked on as if dazed. Then he turned, rushed across to his own
dwelling, and broke the door open with a furious kick. He was beaten.
At the very last minute the life at which he had been aiming for so
many months now, for some subtle reason of his own, was saved, and
the prisoner, in place of standing up before the muskets of a firing
party, was being quartered in the colonel's own hut. Jules ground his
teeth with fury, and filled the bowl of his pipe with savage energy.



Chapter XV

Off to Quebec


"You have to thank a very fine and robust constitution, and the
open-air life which you have lived for your excellent progress,
monsieur," said the French colonel one morning, some six weeks after
Steve had been taken prisoner, as the two sat in front of a cozy log
fire in the speaker's hut, "and I have to thank fortune--bad fortune
for you, perhaps, monsieur--that some weeks of what would have been a
weary time for me have passed so very pleasantly. It is the fortune
of war, good for me, bad for you, and in either case to be taken
philosophically."

"For myself, I admit that I am sorry to have been taken prisoner,"
replied Steve with a smile, "but then I might have been in the hands
of Monsieur Jules, instead of in yours, colonel, and then----"

"Monsieur Steve would not have been here. You have not forgotten the
firing party and the wall. Yes, that wretch would have had you shot,
for he has some spite against you. Tell me, Monsieur Steve, have you
ever done this compatriot of mine an injury, other than defeating him
in the course of this war?"

Steve shook his head emphatically. "None," he said.

"Then there must be some other reason for his enmity. You speak French
like a native, monsieur, while you are an English colonist born and
bred. That is curious."

"My mother was French," explained Steve. "She was a Mademoiselle
Despelle before her marriage. More than that I do not know, for she
died when I was an infant, and my father has always been very reticent
about such matters. It is to him that I owe my knowledge of French,
for he speaks the language like a native."

"And your name is Mainwaring. Monsieur Steve Mainwaring. Yes, there
must be some other reason for this Jules to have such spite against
you, and I shall endeavour to unravel the cause. Meanwhile, monsieur,
allow me to warn you most solemnly. For the moment this man is at
Crown Point, and therefore harmless; nor will he have a post of
authority again while I am able to prevent it. Still, beware of him,
monsieur. He is dangerous. And now to give you some information. In a
month perhaps the ice will have broken. Even now there are signs that
the end of this terrible winter is coming, and as soon as the spring
puts in an appearance you and I will go to Quebec, where I can promise
a welcome. For I do not forget that I owe my life to you. Monsieur
will be a prisoner on parole till the end of the war, while I--well,
I am a lame dog, and of little further use, I fear, and besides, I
have given my word to you--I am on oath not to fight again during the
course of this conflict."

The tall colonel looked down woefully at his thigh, still heavily
bandaged, and then glanced at the crutch which lay beside his chair,
and which up till then he had never dared to use. Then he sighed,
brushed a tear away, and smiled.

"I spoke of accepting fortune good or bad philosophically," he said.
"_Bien!_ I will act up to my words, but my fighting days are done."

It was only too true, and none but those who have seen the keen
soldier struck down in his prime can realise what this gallant colonel
must have felt. For his prospects were brilliant; he was in command of
one of the most important advanced posts, and had everything before
him. Then a chance ball had fractured his thigh, and here he was,
one leg some two inches shorter than the other, lamed for life, and
unfitted for further service. But he did not permit his disappointment
to take the place of his gratitude to the young man who had befriended
him, who had discovered him deserted in the forest and restored him to
his friends, and to this colonel alone Steve owed his comfort during
the last few weeks. For his wound had proved to be a severe one, and
was followed by some amount of fever. However, he was practically
recovered now, and for quite a time had constituted himself nurse to
the colonel. As to his friends, Jim and Pete and the others, he had
been able to send them a few brief lines, telling them of his safety,
and promptly a note had come back, scrawled on a dirty piece of paper,
and conspicuous for its brevity.

"You ain't dead yet, cap'n, and whilst there's life there's hope. Look
out fer a rescue."

That was all. There was a blurred letter at the end which might have
been Jim's signature, or Pete's, or even Mac's. But the words were
clear enough, and somehow they gave Steve much comfort.

"I am sure they will do something for me," he said, when he had
read the note, "but rescue here is hopeless, for there are too many
Indians. Then, when I reach Quebec I shall be still further away,
so that there is little hope of seeing them there. On the way up
though----"

He considered the matter for a few seconds, for he had learned from
the colonel already that when he was removed from Ticonderoga it would
be by water.

"No, I will send them no information of the move," he said. "It would
not be fair to do so, and besides, I shall be travelling with a man
who is unfit to fight. No, I fear that they will be able to do nothing
for me, and I shall have to rely on myself alone."

With that Steve had to banish all thought of help from his friends,
and resigned himself to a long imprisonment in Quebec. A few weeks
later the frosts broke up, the sun melted the ice, and ere long the
green of a gorgeous country began to be seen again.

"We will make for the headquarters of our Government," said the
colonel, now promoted to a chair outside the hut, where he could
bask in the spring sunshine and listen to the twitter of the birds.
"Anything will be better than to remain here, unable to stir a foot,
while others are active and busy. For you, Steve, I fear it means
removal from friends. But then it is inevitable."

Ten days later Steve and the colonel were carried by road to Crown
Point, at the foot of Lake Champlain, and from there were conveyed
by canoe to the reaches of the Richelieu river. An escort of Indians
paddled beside them, and swept their own craft along at a pace which
very soon brought them to the mighty St. Lawrence. They turned into
the river, and in due course sighted the promontory on which the city
of Quebec is built, then a small and straggling place made up of
private residences and churches, and of numerous batteries, barracks,
and forts. As Steve's eyes rested on what is now, and was even then,
a queen of cities, bathed in the spring sunshine, he realized what
Wolfe and many another was to realize after him, namely, that this was
no trading place, a mart given over to business men and the trade
of the country. It was a stronghold devoted to the military and to
the church, for the predominant features were barracks and batteries,
spires and belfries, all clinging like flies to the steep cliff.

"A jewel than which there is none more beautiful in the crown of
France," said the colonel, as he pointed out the various places to
Steve. "Quebec is the most regal-looking city I have ever seen, and I
never know whether she looks best as we see her now, with the spring
sunshine smiling on her, or in the winter, when she is clad in her
mantle of white. Monsieur, this struggle between our two nations may
end in victory for England, but whatever happens, this jewel I am
showing you will never fall. Quebec is impregnable. Look east and west
and you will see why I am so confident."

It seemed indeed as if no other opinion could have been given, for
as Steve approached this fair Canadian city he, too, declared to
himself that nothing but starvation could cause it to surrender. For
Quebec stands on a steep promontory, as has been described, and has
to its immediate east the river St. Charles, and beyond that again a
long ridge continuing for some six miles and ending abruptly in the
beautiful falls of Montmorency, at that time of the year in their
full grandeur, for the melted snow and ice had added to the volume of
the river. This ridge, which was the southern extremity of an upland
plateau, fell sheer into the river, and a glance at it was sufficient
to discover the obstacles which would at once confront any foe bold
or rash enough to attempt to clamber to the top. Standing on that
same ridge on many a day after, Steve looked down upon the garden of
Canada, the Isle of Orleans, which the first navigator of the mighty
St. Lawrence had called the Island of Bacchus.

To the west Quebec is even more strongly protected by natural
obstacles, for the ridge on the edge of which the fair city is built
runs westward for many miles, falling almost perpendicularly into the
river, while the St. Lawrence, just opposite the town, is suddenly
constricted by a projecting spit of land, known as Point Lévis, which
narrows the bed till it is barely three-fourths of a mile across, a
distance which the French rightly considered could be commanded by
their batteries.

"This will be your prison, Steve," said the colonel, kindly, as the
canoes made in for the wooden stage, "and I think that you could
come to no more charming spot. I shall take you to see Montcalm, our
military leader, and shall advise you to give him your promise not
to attempt an escape. No. Do not refuse, I beg of you," he went on,
seeing Steve pull a long face. "After all, you can but try it for a
time, and can then formally declare your intention not to remain on
parole any longer. It will make all the difference to you just now,
for if you give your word, you will be allowed much liberty, and
you will be therefore out in the open. On the other hand, you will
be placed in confinement, which will be irksome, to say the least of
it, and not the best thing for your health. Then, too, consider the
circumstances. Miles and miles of forest now lie between you and your
friends, and there is not the smallest chance of your getting down to
them, or they up to you, for the country swarms with our backwoodsmen
and Indians. Such an attempt would be sheer madness. You must wait,
my lad, and, later, if your friends beat us back, perhaps it will be
worth your while to withdraw your parole and make that attempt of
which all prisoners dream. There, I am honest with you, am I not? If
matters were in my hands I should aid you to escape."

He laughed heartily, patted Steve on the back, and then held out
his hand for our hero to help him ashore. For Steve had become
indispensable to the wounded colonel, and was more like his son than
anything else.

"I suppose you are right, colonel," said the lad some little while
later, when they were ascending the steep hill. "I will give my parole
and try the arrangement for a time."

A little later they were ushered into the presence of Montcalm, a
soldier whose memory is still kept green, and who, though an enemy of
ours, was undoubtedly one of the bravest and most honourable of foes
Englishmen have ever met. He shook hands gaily with Steve, asked
after his wound, and gripped his hand again when the colonel had told
him how this prisoner had saved his life.

"Monsieur," said Montcalm, swinging round and regarding Steve with
shining eyes, "such an act of generosity should earn for you your
freedom. But I dare not give it, and I must ask you to reconcile
yourself to captivity here. You will give me your word?"

"I will, general. For the present and until further notice I promise
not to attempt an escape, and to obey any orders as to my behaviour
which you may choose to give."

"Good! Ha, ha, monsieur le colonel. You hear him? You hear this young
officer? _Bien!_ He promises not to escape till he warns us. Truly,
you English are droll! But I understand, monsieur, and I know how
honourably you will keep your promise. Now for quarters. You will be
posted with the colonel, at his express wish, and will be allowed the
same rations as our captains. As for pay, perhaps monsieur le colonel
will permit you to draw on him, and afterwards you can refund. I
hope you will find the time pass pleasantly. There are many here to
entertain you."

That indeed proved to be the case, for Quebec in those days was filled
with young officers, and with a sprinkling of wealthy men. Balls and
routs were of frequent occurrence, and for a time Steve was a lion at
these entertainments, thanks again to the honesty of the colonel, who
had told his tale everywhere.

"We hear, monsieur, that our beloved colonel owes his life to you,"
said one of the numerous ladies then resident in the city. "Tell us
your story of this venture."

Steve bowed in courtly manner, a trick which he had learned since his
arrival, flushed to his hair, and looked embarassed.

"Madame must know, surely," he answered, desperately. "I saw the
colonel speaking with her a little while ago, and she is good enough
now to admit that she has heard this tale."

"True, monsieur. But it is your version that I require," was the
laughing answer. "Come, monsieur, I will not permit you to disappoint
me."

Thus pressed, Steve shuffled uneasily, admitted that there might be
truth in the colonel's tale, and then blurted out his own explanation,
as if he had need to make an excuse for performing what had been a
very generous action.

"You see, madame, I was there," he said. "I chanced upon the colonel,
and could I leave him to die? I brought him in, and since we did not
desire to be troubled with a wounded man, why--well, we took him to
his friends."

There was laughter at that, for some half-dozen other people had
gathered, amongst them the colonel, who leaned on his crutch.

"You hear that, monsieur le colonel?" called madame, with a laugh,
catching sight of the wounded officer. "I thought I should like to
hear what this prisoner of yours had to say as to your rescue. You
should listen to him. Ladies and gentlemen, I declare that these
English are naive. Monsieur tells me that having chanced upon our
wounded friend he brought him back to his friends for one reason only.
Guess at it, if you please. No. You cannot, mon colonel. Very well,
monsieur has the effrontery to say that he feared you would be a great
trouble to them. He would not be bothered with so useless a person as
our colonel."

There was loud laughter at that, laughter which sent Steve flying from
the group, his cheeks aglow, while the gallant and merry colonel who
had so befriended him stood leaning on the back of a chair, shaking
his crutch after him.

"Ah! Let me catch the rogue," he called out, and then, "Madame. It
is like the lad. Honest as the day. He says what he means whenever
possible, and at other times keeps silent lest he should give offence.
Despite what he says, I know him to be a brave and a generous lad."

Many and many a time in the months which followed did Steve take rod
and line and cross to the river St. Charles. He was even given the
use of a gun and a canoe, and permitted to go on the St. Lawrence, or
even into the forest on the southern bank. But he was always careful
to return before dusk, and made a point of reporting his arrival.
And while he was a prisoner only in name, and the weeks grew into
months, the reader may wonder what had been happening in other and
more familiar quarters, for the war with France was now more than ever
a fact, and the two nations were preparing for the struggle which both
knew well must end in victory for one, and the consequent mastery of
this huge continent.

Steve had gone to Fort William Henry in the winter of 1756, and the
spring of 1757 found him in Quebec. It will be remembered that he had
taken part in more than one of _les petites guerres_ at the foot of
Lake St. George. These conflicts had been of frequent occurrence, and
throughout the winter they continued, Jim and his friends, as well
as those in Fort William Henry, often sending out small parties to
attack the French. The winter months passed, in fact, without other
incident, save for one attempt made by the garrison of Ticonderoga. On
March 18, 1757, they descended over the ice of Lake St. George, hoping
to take the garrison of Fort William Henry by surprise. They were
easily driven back, and retired to their own fort, having accomplished
nothing. Elsewhere nothing of moment occurred, so that this long
winter season may be described as being barren of incident.

Meanwhile the British Government had determined to support the
colonial troops, and regiments had been collecting at Cork, in
Ireland, preparatory to sailing for America. On the eighth of May
some hundred sail set out with these reinforcements, and finally
arrived at Halifax, in Nova Scotia, which the Earl of Loudon, now
in command of our forces in America, had recently reached with his
troops. Of these he had now under his immediate command some eleven
thousand, and with them he hoped to be able to attack and capture the
very formidable fortress of Louisbourg, which, it will be remembered,
had been erected at great cost on Cape Breton Isle, just north of
Nova Scotia. But information now came to hand that there were seven
thousand Frenchmen in Louisbourg, two-thirds being regulars, while
Indians swarmed in the vicinity. This formidable force, added to a
French fleet of no mean proportions, was considered too powerful for
the troops under Loudon's command, and in consequence the idea of an
attack on Louisbourg was given up, and on August 16 Loudon embarked
with the bulk of his troops, leaving the 27th, the 28th, the 43rd, and
the 46th regiments as a garrison for Nova Scotia.

Valuable months had been wasted, and the projected descent on the
formidable French fortress had ended in fiasco. But Loudon cannot be
blamed alone for such a result. If reinforcements had been collected
earlier and despatched without delay, they would have reached Cape
Breton Isle before the French fleet put in an appearance. It was this
delay, together with the prompt crossing of the Atlantic by the French
fleet, which caused the expedition to be countermanded. But we lost
far more than valuable time and money in this useless movement. By
withdrawing his troops from America proper to Halifax, Loudon left
the disputed country south of the great lakes and west of the line
drawn north from the Alleghany mountains almost denuded of men. There
were some three to four thousand to hold this huge country, a force
insufficient even to keep back the French in the neighbourhood of Lake
St. George, if they wished to press south in that direction.

It may readily be seen that Loudon was guilty of a serious error in
thus denuding an important stretch of country, and it may equally
be anticipated that the French were quick to take advantage of the
withdrawal of our soldiers. Montcalm had been busily gathering Indians
from far-off portions of Canada, Indians attracted to the French after
their victory at Oswego. These, with numerous regulars and Canadians,
he poured down the Richelieu river, massing them at Ticonderoga, till
he had nearly 8000 there. Some forty different Indian tribes were
represented, and if the native element had been cruel and bloodthirsty
before, it promised to be even more so now. For these sons of Canada
who crowded the huts at Ticonderoga were pure savages, vastly
impressed by the French, and more than ever eager to join in this
fray now that they had heard the tales of their brethren who had been
already engaged.

On the British side General Webb, who had been left in command in
this area, had some 1600 troops in Fort Edward, while Munroe had
two thousand five hundred in Fort William Henry, or encamped in its
immediate neighbourhood. This latter force was surrounded by the huge
numbers at the disposal of Montcalm, and prepared to defend itself
as well as possible. The French had forty guns, and made no active
attempt upon the place till these were in position. Then, at a range
of two hundred yards, they opened such a fire that the fortifications
were splintered and flying in fragments before many hours had passed.
Munroe and his men made a gallant defence, but their ammunition soon
began to run out, while some of their cannon burst. They attempted two
sorties, which were repulsed, and waited in vain for some action on
the part of Webb and his men at Fort Edward. But no one came to help
them, and finally, when some hundred and fifty of the defenders had
fallen, Munroe agreed to surrender, further resistance being useless.
Terms were arranged, the garrison to march out with the honours of
war, and to proceed under escort to Fort Edward, there to remain till
they should be exchanged.

What followed will for ever be a stain on the annals of New France
and a warning to all who employ the help of such ruffians as the
Indians had already proved themselves to be. The numerous braves
with Montcalm, accustomed to murder all their prisoners, seemed to
think that these men who had surrendered were theirs, with whom they
thought they could do as they wished. They were already nearly out of
hand, and as an earnest of what was coming, the miscreants promptly
slaughtered a dozen or more unfortunate fellows who from illness
or wounds had been left in the hospital. On the following morning
the British troops were to set out under escort, and seventeen more
unfortunate and helpless men were slaughtered by the Indians in the
sight of Canadian officers, who did not even venture to remonstrate.
Indeed, the Canadians engaged in this war looked upon the methods
and desires of the Indians with favour. They considered that the
scalps of the enemy were the natural reward for the services of these
miscreants, and there is not a shadow of doubt that at the surrender
of Fort William Henry they were, with few exceptions, if not actively
sympathetic with the Indians, at least callous onlookers at a tragedy
to which energy on their part could have put a summary end. Be that as
it may, the march had no sooner begun than the Indians got completely
out of hand. Montcalm, in place of drawing a cordon of his regulars
around the prisoners, endeavoured to arrest the excitement by his
own unaided efforts. Almost at once the war-whoop sounded, and in
a few seconds the howling demons were busy amongst the prisoners,
tomahawking them, or dragging them into the forest to slaughter at
their leisure when opportunity offered. It was a horrible exhibition
of cruelty and inhumanity, and it is a wonder that, seeing the
helpless methods adopted, Montcalm and his officers contrived to save
a single one of the unfortunates who had surrendered to them. Perhaps
a hundred were slain, and some six hundred carried off, of whom about
half were returned on heavy payment. The remainder were taken away by
the Indians on the following day, and who knows what happened to them?
Suffice it to say that this disgraceful and cruel affair shocked all
who heard of it, and raised such a storm of feeling in the breasts
of all who boasted British blood, that "Remember Fort William Henry"
became the cry of our soldiers in the future, and when the opportunity
came they remembered. The trigger finger which in days before might
have been steadied and withdrawn pressed sternly and without mercy
in the future. The Canadian who begged for his life, had to beg most
earnestly before he was sure that his captor would be merciful. For
bitterness had entered into this war, and the British were face to
face now with the fact that it was one of life and death, one which
aimed at their very existence in America.

Another summer had gone and still the war was not ended, while the
French may be said to have been victorious all along the line. They
held the Ohio valley securely, their Indians and trappers still
ranged the forests along the Alleghany border, while their troops
occupied Ticonderoga, whither they had retired after the capture
and destruction of Fort William Henry. In other quarters also they
predominated, for Louisbourg constantly threatened Nova Scotia, while
the island of Cape Breton on which it was erected, offered immediately
in the neighbourhood of the huge fort a most excellent harbour to a
French fleet which was ever ready to descend upon our American ports.

England wanted fresh troops, new and more enlightened leaders, and
a far more energetic policy if she was ever to raise her head from
the mire and despondency into which she had fallen. She wanted one
paramount general at home, to rouse the people in England from their
lethargy, to stimulate their zeal in the cause of the American
colonists, and to reinforce our men already in the field not by
driblets, but by a big army capable of coping with the difficulties
which stared us in the face. That able leader appeared early in the
year 1758, when Steve had been almost twelve months a prisoner.
The great Pitt came into power, and the nation at once felt the
change which he exerted. There was enthusiasm now, where there had
been apathy before, and men spoke of the end of this campaign with
confidence, forgetting that but a few months gone by the utter loss
of America had been prophesied. New energies were concentrated in the
conflict, money was voted with a freer hand, and the best that England
and her American colony could give in brains and generalship was
sought for.

Ticonderoga was to be attacked, and Abercromby was to command, for it
was urgently necessary that this route to Canada should be opened and
the defeat at Fort William Henry wiped out. Then Fort Duquesne, for
some time a stinging thorn in our side, was selected for an expedition
which Brigadier Forbes was to lead to glory. Amherst was selected
for the most important of the expeditions, that to Louisbourg, in
which operation the fleet was to help also. With Amherst Lawrence and
Whitmore were to act as Brigadiers, while James Wolfe was selected
in the same capacity. At home preparations were made to capture or
destroy the provision fleets preparing to sail from France to Canada,
and Hawke and Osborn did excellent service in this respect.

In fact, thanks to Pitt's energy, England showed her teeth during
this spring of 1758, and took up the struggle in a manner which
thoroughly alarmed Montcalm and his forces. There was less gaiety now
at Quebec, for matters wore a serious aspect. Preparations were even
made to resist an attack by the British, while all prisoners, of whom
there were many, who had hitherto enjoyed considerable liberty, were
confined to the fort and placed under a guard.

"I offer you many apologies on behalf of the commandant, monsieur,"
said the officer who brought the orders to Steve. "But you will
understand. There are certain necessary preparations. Work is going on
in the batteries which you must not see. You will remain in this fort,
and will leave it at the risk of your life. Also, you will confine
yourself to the front face of the fort, and will not venture to walk
along the other walls. I wish to warn you formally that the sentries
are under orders to fire the instant they detect an attempt at escape.
Pardon, monsieur. It is unpleasant to have to speak so to such a
friend as you are."

Steve bowed, and thanked the officer, saying that he fully understood
the necessity for the order.

Two months later, when the spring weather had fully set in and the
river was entirely free of ice, an Indian entered the courtyard of the
fort in which Steve was located. There were always numbers of braves
hovering about the batteries and barracks, and the presence of this
one was therefore not remarkable. Steve had not even seen him, for he
was leaning on the wall staring out at the green woods on the Isle of
Orleans. Suddenly the tinkle of some metal instrument attracted his
notice, and he swung round to catch sight of the Indian trudging past
him, and of a tomahawk which had fallen on to the stone paving of the
courtyard.

"Stop," he called out in the Mohawk tongue. "Stop, brother, you have
dropped your tomahawk."

Picking it up Steve followed the Indian and handed the weapon to him.
Then only did he look into his face. It was Silver Fox, painted and
daubed as a Huron Indian, cool and absolutely unruffled as of yore.

"Greeting, chief. Silver Fox delights to look into the eyes of the
Hawk. Read this, and be ready to-night. I have spoken."

He took his tomahawk, grunted his thanks, and passed on, leaving a
tiny note in Steve's hand.

"My lad, my dear, dear lad," ran the note, which our hero carefully
opened when out of sight of the sentry, "we have tracked you to the
fort at Quebec, and have completed our arrangements for a rescue. Be
ready to-night. Listen for a voice beneath the front wall where you
are accustomed to walk. Your father."

A rescue! That very night, too! Steve thrust the note into his pocket
and straightway commenced to whistle merrily, for he was tired of this
captivity, and longed to be free again, fighting and hunting with his
friends in the forest.



Chapter XVI

The Return of the Hurons


Steve was filled with delight at the idea of rescue. A thousand
thoughts flashed through his mind, a thousand memories of the old
days, which seemed now so very long ago, for despite the easy terms of
his imprisonment, the time had dragged heavily.

"To-night! To-night!" he said over and over again to himself as he
paced backwards and forwards. "And father is there. Where can he have
been, and how comes it that Silver Fox has managed to get into Quebec?
He seems to know the place, too, and is in no hurry to depart."

He had purposely walked in the opposite direction to that taken by
the chief, but now he watched him out of the corner of his eye.
Silver Fox was dawdling idly in the courtyard, as many another Indian
had done on that and on previous days. He strolled along the wall,
looked out at the magnificent prospect spread out before him, at
the rolling waters of this, one of the mightiest of rivers, at the
green slopes of the Isle of Orleans, and at the blue and green vista
beyond, the forest-clad southern bank which stretched right away
across the much-debated frontier to America, the colony filled with
the hardy sons of Old England, and with fugitives from many parts of
the world. Silver Fox halted for quite a little while and filled his
pipe meditatively, striking flint and steel with great deliberation,
and puffing languidly as if he had nothing in the world to occupy him,
nothing to fear, and only desired to remain there and think and watch
the lovely country below. For half an hour at least he leaned against
the granite parapet, and then Steve saw him walk softly along some
dozen paces, turn his head to the place where the sentry was placed,
and then deliberately point below.

"A signal undoubtedly," thought Steve. He dropped his hand to show
that he was watching, and then turned away again, while the Indian
chief daubed in the colours of the Hurons struck flint and steel again
as if his tobacco had not been lit sufficiently, and then sauntered
calmly from the courtyard. Half an hour later our hero ventured to the
same spot and carelessly looked over. Down below, some thirty feet
perhaps, was a narrow path running between the wall of the fort and
another wall which hemmed in the courtyard of a private residence.

"That is where I am to expect them," he thought. "Well, it is a good
place, for the path is little used, and at night time it is densely
dark. Now how am I to get here without upsetting the sentries?"

He thought for a little while, and then suddenly walked across the
courtyard, clambered up the flight of steps which led to the room
which had been allotted to him as his quarters, and promptly took off
some of his clothing. A minute later he had thrown himself on his
couch, where he lay half on his face, feigning illness. An hour or
more later there was a step outside, and the guard, whose duty it was
to make a round of the rooms occasionally, looked in at the door.

"Ha! Monsieur sleeps," he said gently, for he was a good fellow, and
Steve had always been pleasant with him. "Monsieur is tired. I will be
careful not to wake him."

He tip-toed away down the passage, and would soon have been out of
hearing had Steve remained silent. But that was the last thing he
wished to do. He desired to attract the attention of the man, and
promptly gave a groan as if he were in agony.

"Did I hear correctly? Was it monsieur who groaned?"

The guard stopped abruptly, and brought the stock of his ponderous
musket with a clatter to the ground, the jar being instantly followed
by a second groan.

"Surely, it must be monsieur. What ails you, if you please, Monsieur
Steve?" he asked, coming back to the room. "You are ill and in pain.
What is the matter?"

Steve was not the one to sham as a rule, but he knew that he could
not very well remain in the courtyard that night unless he had some
plausible reason. He was not ill. In fact, he had never felt better
or more energetic in his life. But he was 'cute, as Hunting Jim had
already observed, and he was determined to manufacture some complaint.

"It is nothing," he answered, letting another feeble groan escape him.
"I do not feel very comfortable. I have pain here. Perhaps monsieur
would speak to my servant and ask him to bring me something warm to
drink."

Steve placed his hand over his stomach and rolled on to his face
again, for he was fearful that his healthy colour would betray
him. The guard trailed his musket promptly, and went off at a run,
bellowing for the soldier who had been detailed to wait on the
prisoner.

"Quick," he cried, accosting the servant in the courtyard, "Monsieur
is ill. I discovered him lying on his couch, groaning horribly. He
desires something warm to drink. Run to the kitchen and see if you can
obtain some milk."

A little later Steve was sitting up and sipping the warm milk, while
his servant looked on sympathetically.

"Pardon, monsieur," he said, "but the pain will be better shortly.
Monsieur looks well, and I am sure that this is only a little matter;
for think, monsieur was in the courtyard two hours ago and I heard him
whistling as if he had not a care in all the world, and as if he were
with his own friends again."

Steve winced at the words, knowing that they were only too true. But
a man who wishes to escape must act the part he has selected to the
utmost of his ability, and he did so promptly.

"You are right, Jean," he said. "It is only a little thing. Some food
has upset me. In a little while I shall be better. You are a good
fellow to come so quickly. Now leave me, for I think I can sleep, and
perhaps later the sentries will allow me to have some exercise."

"Truly, monsieur. They are asking kindly after you already, for
monsieur is a favourite. I will go to them, and you will walk when you
feel inclined."

He went out of the room, closed the door, and slipped silently down
the passage.

"He is better," he cried gaily as he came to the guard-house.
"Monsieur makes light of his pains. Another would be groaning and
groaning, till one would imagine he was on the point of death. But our
prisoner sips his milk and asks to sleep, so that he may trouble no
one. Ah, yes, and he wishes to know if he may walk in the courtyard
later, just to exercise, you understand."

"Certainly," came the answer. "Let monsieur walk if he wishes, though
one would have thought that it would have been better were he to keep
his bed till to-morrow. But there, these English are strange. They
walk and walk, just for exercise as they say. Surely a man is better
and lives longer when he rests, and rests often."

Steve did not long remain on his couch. In a little while he was
seated at the table with which he had been provided, and was engaged
in writing. To the commandant he scribbled a few lines thanking him
for his constant courtesy and kindness, and stating deliberately that
he was tired of being a prisoner, and intended to escape if possible.
Then he wrote a short note for his servant, enclosing a handsome
amount of money and many thanks for his attention. Also he gave him
instructions to make his adieus to a number of friends in the garrison.

"Now I am ready," he thought. "It is dark now, and must be about
seven o'clock. I shall wait till ten, and then go out. If they are
suspicious I will return and then creep out again."

He threw himself on his bed and dozed for a long while, till a step
outside roused him. He sat up then to find Jean standing over his
couch.

"Monsieur is better?" he asked. "Then he will sleep, and to-morrow I
will come later than usual to rouse him. Monsieur has no pain?"

"Pain! You are a wonderful physician," answered Steve heartily. "I
declare that I never felt better in all my life. What is the night
like, Jean?"

"Fine, monsieur, but somewhat dark. It is also crisp, and cold for
this time of the year."

"Then it is just the night to brace me up. I shall have a stroll,
Jean, and then turn in. Yes, wake me late to-morrow, and, by the way,
I am hungry."

Jean was delighted with his master, and promptly produced food.

"You are a strange person, monsieur," he said with a grin of
satisfaction. "You are ill and in great pain at one moment, and then,
behold! after a little sleep you are well again and wish to eat and to
walk."

"You forget. There was the warm milk, and Jean gave it to me," smiled
Steve. "But I am hard. I have roughed it in the forests ever since I
was a little fellow, and have had very little illness."

He sat down at the table and ate a hearty meal. Then he lit his pipe
and strolled into the courtyard, passing a few words with the sentries.

"He is a fine young fellow, this monsieur," said one, to his comrade,
when Steve had passed on. "If all are like him we shall have but a
poor chance. Jacques, can you tell me why it is that our prisoner has
never attempted an escape?"

"Perhaps he is afraid, comrade. Men have been shot for that in the
last few months."

"Afraid! Not he!" came the answer. "It is this way, Jacques. Monsieur
is a man of honour, though he is only a youngster. He has been on
parole up till lately, and that is why he has made no attempt. As
to why he does not go now, well, I will give you the reason. He is
no fool, comrade. Understand that. He is no fool, I say, for he
knows that the sentries here are old soldiers and keep a good watch.
Besides, could a cat escape from this place, and if it did, where
is it to go? Nowhere! Unless a prisoner is tired of life and throws
himself into the river. That would be better than to be butchered
by the red villains whom we have hanging about the place. Tobacco,
Jacques? Help yourself, but be gentle, please, for I have but my
slender pay and allowances, and a smoke is a luxury."

They stood together chatting for a while, and then separated to patrol
the courtyard, passing Steve on each occasion and noticing that he was
walking up and down rapidly, as was often his custom.

"_Vraiment!_ These English make me smile," laughed one of the men, as
he met his comrade opposite the guard-house. "One would think that
monsieur earned his rations by walking this place. Now, if I were
he----"

"You would draw the rations first and sleep, leaving another to do
the walking," was the laughing answer. "Peste take these English.
It is because they are so energetic that they still keep up their
opposition. Others would have given in long ago after suffering so
many defeats."

They stood together chatting for a time, their talk turning upon the
surrender of Fort William Henry and the massacre which followed. Then
they shook their heads and agreed that such a catastrophe would have
ruined their own cause, while, strangely enough, it had made the enemy
even more determined.

And while they chatted Steve gradually approached the wall, and
finally halted at the spot where Silver Fox had given his signal. It
was absolutely dark down below, and though he peered into the black
shadows, even his trained eyes failed to see any object. He was in the
act of withdrawing his head when there was a movement below, and the
faint bark of a dog. Then someone whispered.

"Steve? Is that you, lad? Then catch this tackle."

Something swished in the air, a bright object shot up from the black
abyss, and the prisoner gripped an iron hook, to which a stout rope
was attached. To place the hook in position was the work of a second,
and within a minute he was down at the bottom of the wall, with his
hand gripped firmly in that of his father.

"Come. They will discover that you are gone in a very few seconds
perhaps, and then there will be a noise. Ah! The sentries are calling."

Steve clutched at his father's sleeve, and allowed himself to be led
away through the darkness. They ran along the narrow path, darted out
into one of the roads which ascend the cliff, and soon afterwards were
making their way along another path.

"They're at it! Listen to 'em shoutin'."

Steve suddenly heard a well-remembered voice speaking a foot or two
behind him, and with a gasp of surprise realised that Hunting Jim was
one of the party. But he had no time to greet him, and, indeed, little
opportunity of doing so, for Judge Mainwaring hurried him on at a
rapid pace, shouts from the fort having plainly shown them that the
escape was already discovered. In fact, the sentries who had been so
eagerly discussing the English nation and their idiotic absurdities,
as they were pleased to call several of their customs, were smart
fellows, in spite of all their chatter. Steve had been gone less than
a minute when one of the men became suspicious.

"_Ma foi_, but I believe this monsieur has given us the slip already,"
he suddenly exclaimed. "I cannot see him. Jacques, get along and
report if he is there."

The last-named ran along the courtyard, and presently his voice was
heard. "He is nowhere to be seen," he cried. "Had we not better fire
so as to give the alarm?"

"Fire! And so wake the whole garrison! Not for worlds. Get across to
monsieur's quarters, and report if he is there. It is possible that he
entered while our backs were turned."

It was not long ere the sentry returned with the news that Steve's
room was empty, and then, indeed, the alarm was sounded. The sentries
shouted to the sergeant of the guard, and the sergeant, having
promptly turned his guard out and interrogated the sentries, roused
the officer in command of the fort. A cannon was then fired, a signal
agreed upon beforehand to mean that a prisoner had escaped, and very
soon the garrison was acquainted of the fact.

"Now to the left," whispered Steve's father when they had run the
better part of a mile and were on the outskirts of the city. "That is
excellent. We are now on the plains of Abraham, and in a little while
should be in safety."

Breaking into a fast walk, the fugitives kept straight ahead for
another mile, till they came to a dip in the ground. There was the
reflection of a fire hanging over the dip, and presently Steve caught
sight of a native wigwam of large proportions. His father gave a cry
of delight, and in a few seconds they were all inside. A smothered
greeting welcomed them, and at once Steve was gripping the many hands
held out to him, for there were now seven persons crowded into the
wigwam, and a lantern which hung to one of the roof poles shone on
their painted faces, and enabled the rescued prisoner to see them. Not
that he easily recognised these friends, for they were all heavily
daubed with paint and decked out in all the feathers and finery of
the Huron Indians. However, he was sure of his father, the huge,
raw-boned chief who stood beside him, holding him affectionately by
the shoulder, for the voice betrayed him at once. But for that, Steve
would have passed him by without recognition, for the Judge had shaved
his beard, and now presented a smooth face, than which there was none
more noticeable for the power and reserve which it expressed.

"You ain't forgot me, Cap'n, I hope," burst in one of the men, painted
hideously to represent a fox. "You ain't quite forgot Pete, as took up
quarters with yer 'way back thar down by Lake St. George."

"Nor me, if ye plaze, Masther Steve, Cap'n, beggin' yer honour's
pardon," said someone else, pushing to the front and holding out a
huge paw, which was painted now, but which at other times was freckled
and tanned to a colour that matched that of an Indian. It was Mac, a
grin stretching from ear to ear, clean shaven, and with his brilliant
locks cut back to form the conventional scalp lock of the Hurons,
and dyed; yes, Mac boasted hair of the blackest jet now, and but for
his speech, his huge grin, and his squat, powerful figure, was quite
unrecognisable.

"You've took the Cap'n aback," cried Jim, pushing Mac aside. "It ain't
likely as he'd recognise an old pal in a beauty sich as you air. Why,
Mac, you was never so good-lookin' in all yer life before, and ef
you'll take a bit of advice from me, why, you'll stick where yer air.
Jest take to bein' a brave for the rest of yer natural existence."

That brought a still wider grin to the broad face before Steve, a grin
which seemed to sever it into two complete portions, and which showed
a most excellent set of teeth.

"Bad scran to ye now, Huntin' Jim, ef I don't take ye by the neck
this instant and scalp ye. 'Tis yerself that's uncommon handsome
to-day. Stand up and let the Cap'n see ye."

He retired into the background, and gave Steve an opportunity of
setting eyes on the tall trapper who had been such a staunch friend.
He, too, was decked as an Indian, and in his case the disguise was
perhaps even more natural than in that of the others. For Jim was
tall and wiry. He was trained by constant wanderings in the forest
to the very last ounce, and his muscles, though small and not of
Mac's proportions, stood out like whipcord. Then, too, his sharp and
intelligent features helped in the deception, while the habits which
this old hunter had learned in the fifty years of his busy life had
given him that imperturbable look common to the Indians.

"You was never so surprised in all yer life, Cap'n, I reckon," he
said. "You was mighty sick of roostin' up there in the fort, and no
doubt thinkin' of having a turn for liberty yerself. Then Silver Fox
come into the fort, and I'll bet what yer like that he walked about as
ef he'd been thar many a time, and as ef he wasn't on no account to be
hurried. He's that cool, he's like an icicle."

"He is a gallant fellow, and I thank him. Chief, I owe a lot to you as
well as to these other friends. But who is the stranger?"

A tall Indian had stood in the background looking on at the scene with
a half-suppressed air of contempt on his finely chiselled features,
for your Indian could not understand the need for such warmth and
such hand-shakings over a meeting. Silver Fox beckoned to him.

"This is my brother, Hawk," he said, "this is Flying Bird, a Mohawk
once, and later a Huron. He is now again one of our tribe."

"And thereby hangs the tale of your release, my boy," broke in Mr.
Mainwaring. "The story is soon told. This Flying Bird was born in the
same wigwam as our old friend Silver Fox, and would have been there
to this day had not the village been raided. The Hurons made a sudden
descent, and Flying Bird was carried away. He was then seventeen, and
almost a brave. He was spared, and became one of the Hurons, marrying
into the tribe. Now he has lost his wife, and taking advantage of the
fact that the Hurons were marching into the country adjacent to that
in which the Mohawks lived, he made a journey to find Silver Fox. He
came in the nick of time. I had just returned to find you a prisoner,
and the band of scouts which you had formed near Fort William Henry
about to be disbanded. They had been fortunate in escaping from the
fort before the surrender, and of course there was little left for
them to do.

"Well, we made plans to meet again at the breaking of the winter, and
two months ago we gathered at Silver Fox's village. His brother had
returned to Canada for the cold months, so as to allay suspicion, and
we fell in with him ten days ago south of the St. Lawrence. As to how
we reached that part, why, the movements of our troops are beginning
to worry the French, and they are concentrating at the threatened
places, leaving the upper reaches of the Richelieu and the country
to the west of that river almost denuded of trappers and Indians. We
slipped through, and----"

"And here you are, father. What is the next move?"

"We wait here for a week perhaps, till the hue and cry for you is
over. Then we take to the river, capture some sort of craft, and sail
for Nova Scotia."

Everything had, in fact, been carefully mapped out, and so far the
plans of the rescue party had gone without a hitch. But there was
a great deal still to be done, and many dangers would have to be
faced before Steve and his friends could hope to reach safety again.
However, they were not the men to flinch at the thought of danger.
Indeed, they rather enjoyed the prospect and the novelty of their
present position, and on the following morning eagerly scanned the
city and its neighbourhood for signs of searchers.

"Fortunately for us they have very few Indians at their beck and call
just now," said Mr. Mainwaring, "for they have sent them down to
Ticonderoga and to the country about Louisbourg. There are a few lazy
fellows still remaining, the ne'er-do-wells of the various tribes, and
there is of course this small party of Hurons."

He smiled at Steve, and proceeded.

"You see, there was need for a party to lie close to Quebec, for it
would have been impossible to spirit you away from the city in the few
hours we had at our disposal. You will see why shortly, for the river
will swarm with canoes, and what Indians there are will be sent off
in search of your tracks. We had to have some arrangement whereby we
could take up our quarters near the city, and Jim settled the matter
very quickly."

"Thar warn't nothin' in it," growled the trapper. "We wanted to lie up
here, and Flyin' Bird gave us the word that all the redskin varmint
was off to other parts. Waal, Cap'n, we fixed it up that we should
be a kind of deputation of Injuns from the Huron tribe come back to
complain of the favouritism shown to other redskins. That air a likely
tale, for these braves air always rowin' among theirselves. Flyin'
Bird's seen the commandant, they've had a palaver. We're here waitin'
for a proper palaver with this officer, and I reckon when he's ready
we won't be so anxious to get our grievance to his ears. But there
ain't no hurry. The French know how to deal with redskins, and they've
larned long ago that time ain't anythin', that ef yer hurry matters
yer show unnatural weakness and anxiety. So this officer'll wait a
while, and when he sends, he won't find no one to greet him."

"And meanwhile we are fairly safe from interference," chimed in Mr.
Mainwaring. "The Hurons are accustomed to stand aloof from other
braves, and therefore we are hardly likely to have visitors. If some
come, Flying Bird will entertain them."

Daylight showed that the authorities at Quebec were determined to
retake their late prisoner if possible. Canoes filled with soldiers
and trappers swarmed on the river, and the steep shore all along on
either side of the city was closely scrutinised. Then a strong party
was sent out along the banks of the St. Charles river, for that was a
likely direction for a fugitive to take. Once a party of trappers even
came to the Huron wigwam lying in the hollow.

"We seek a pale face who has broken away from the city," said their
spokesman, addressing Flying Bird, who alone appeared to meet them.
"Have you seen traces of him. He broke away last night."

"Then his trail will have been stamped out by the coming and going of
the people," was the curt answer. "Here, however, there may be traces,
my brothers. I have not looked for them, but if they are here surely
you who are accustomed to the forest and the trail should be able to
discover them. For us, we are resting. We require favours before we
will help your countrymen."

Flying Bird remained seated all the while, smoking placidly. The
Frenchmen stared at him doubtfully, muttered words beneath their
breath, and moved away.

"Let the dog sit there and rot if he will," growled

[Illustration: "WE SEEK A PALE FACE WHO HAS BROKEN AWAY FROM THE
CITY"]

one. "These Indians are either completely out of control, and far too
eager even for our hot bloods, or they are sulky and will not stir a
finger. Let the dog sit and smoke."

They moved away in none of the best tempers, for these trappers and
the French in general were more than beginning to see that the price
they had to pay for the use of their numerous tribes of ruthless
savages would prove heavy in the end. Already they knew that it had
roused the British from their apathy. There were tales even then in
Quebec that the backwoodsman and the regular who fought for England
had a new battle cry, that bayonets were more vengeful and terrible
than ever before.

A week later the hue and cry had died down, and the party made ready
to escape. Flying Bird sauntered off towards Quebec early in the
morning, his musket over his shoulder, and a fishing line strung to
his belt. Entering a canoe down by the stage, he paddled out into the
river, rounded the promontory to the west of Quebec, and sent his
craft along parallel to the steep cliff, at the top of which lay the
Plains of Abraham. His comrades above saw him occasionally, for he had
paddled to the far shore, and was diligently fishing. He was there at
dusk, and those who had the curiosity to look at him from the city saw
that he was pulling up his line and preparing to return home.

"It will be dark by the time he is over this side of the river," said
Steve's father, "and by that time we shall be near him. You can find
this trail, Silver Fox?"

"On the darkest night, Chief."

"Then we will go. Pick up your traps, boys."

The party filed out of the wigwam, leaving their late home standing,
and, with the Indian leading, strode off towards the edge of the
cliff. Steve had been decked as a Huron, and he took his place
third in the line. They reached the edge, and without the smallest
hesitation the Indian chief scrambled over it.

"Be careful, brothers," he cautioned them. "The way is steep. A fall
would end in death."

One by one in quick succession they lowered themselves over the edge,
and gripping boulders and grass and the roots of bushes, finally
reached the bank below. The canoe was there, and they stepped into it
silently. Jim pushed off from the shore, and in a little while they
were shooting down the centre of the river, hidden in the darkness,
from which they watched a hundred and more twinkling lights which
glimmered from the windows of the fairy city of Quebec.



Chapter XVII

Down the Mighty St. Lawrence


"We ain't out er the wood by no means," said Jim, when the canoe had
shot past the city and had lost the lights behind a promontory of the
Isle of Orleans, "cos there's the journey back. Judge thinks as we'd
best make down stream for the sea, and cut out to Halifax or some
other place, wherever our chaps may be. There's talk of an expedition
to Louisbourg, and, of course, that's somewheres at the mouth of the
river. Now, ef it was me alone----"

"You'd make up stream, or even enter the Richelieu," burst in Mr.
Mainwaring, "and for the simple reason that you have never even seen
the ocean, nor even a big ship. You are at home in the forest, and
feel that you could more surely reach friends in that way."

"Thet's the case, Judge, in a nutshell."

"But I happen to know that the forests south of this are swarming with
Indians. We had the utmost difficulty in making to the north, and we
have to remember that the escape of the prisoner will within a couple
of days be associated with the disappearance of the band of Hurons.
That will rouse the French, and they will send urgent messages down to
the neighbourhood of Ticonderoga. No, my friends, I have good reason
to know that Frontenac is almost deserted at this moment, so that we
might escape that way. Even then there would be a very long strip of
forest to traverse, and many enemies in it. The mouth of the river
is our easiest way, for once clear of the neighbourhood and safe on
a suitable vessel, no one can catch us. And French vessels down the
stream will be deceived by our hoisting a French flag, while the mouth
itself is patrolled by our fleet."

Mr. Mainwaring had, in fact, supplied himself with all the available
information before venturing on this hazardous journey to Quebec,
for an intelligent man, such as he was, knew very well that such an
expedition was fraught with much danger, and that if not carefully
planned in every detail, it would very likely end in disaster. The
reader will remember that Pitt had come into power, and that one of
the chief items of his programme against the French was to be an
attack on the formidable fort of Louisbourg. Our ships were on the way
there from Halifax already, and it was clear that safety lay in that
direction for Steve and his friends if only they could descend the
river.

"I can see that it will be easier to make down by the water than to
march miles and miles through the forest, scouting every foot of the
way," Steve said. "What about a suitable boat, father? We shall want
something bigger than this canoe, for this would never live down at
the mouth. I understand that it is like an open sea there, and that it
is often very rough."

"It is swept by sudden gales, even in the summer," was the answer.
"As for a boat to take us to our friends, there is one lying down at
the tail of this island, and just within sight of Quebec. She lies, I
should say, eight or ten miles from the city, so that any commotion
aboard will not be seen or heard. That is the vessel we are going to
capture, Steve. How we are going to do it is another matter. We must
discuss that. Meanwhile we shall paddle down beside the island till
about a mile from the end, and there we shall tie up."

Accordingly the paddles were kept moving gently, for the stream was
strong here, and it was hardly necessary to urge the canoe along. Half
an hour later the signal was given, and they turned the nose of the
bark canoe into the bank, and Silver Fox made her fast there to some
overhanging branches.

"Guess we can put in a sleep," said Jim, yawning widely. "The nights
are getting very short now, so it won't be long before we are up and
doin'. Who'll take the watch?"

"I will," answered Steve promptly. "Turn in all of you and sleep. I
will rouse you an hour before it is light. By the way, shall we settle
this question of the capture of the boat to-morrow?"

"Onless you've got somethin' fixed already, Cap'n. Blest ef you ain't
now. I knows that by yer voice. Spout it out, boy, and let's know
what it is. He was always like this when cap'n of the band, Judge.
Kind er suggestin' a discussion when he'd got the hul thing settled in
his own mind. Spin it out, Steve."

"There is nothing in it, only I thought we had better settle the
matter now. We shall be dull and sleepy in the early morning. I fancy
our best plan is to be that Huron party out fishing. There are plenty
of Indian canoes about on the river every day, and often enough the
men are fishing. We can do the same, and gradually drift down to the
boat. But have we lines aboard?"

"You bet. There's half a dozen in Flyin' Bird's pouch."

"Then I will bait a couple now and fish. We must have a few fish with
us, and when we get opposite the boat we will offer some to the men
aboard. Thus we shall have an excuse for hanging on to the boat, and a
couple can clamber aboard. If the rest of us cannot do the same---"

"You've said enough, Steve, so you have," cried Mac, opening his
capacious mouth for the first time for many an hour. "If others cannot
follow, why, me name's not Mac. Sure, we'll be rhunnin' over the decks
afore you can count yer fingers."

"Then pass the lines and get to sleep."

Steve sat in the centre of the canoe while the hours of darkness
passed. On either side of him sprawled his companions, lying packed as
closely as possible, for a bark canoe is never of great dimensions,
and though this was a large one, it gave little room for men who
wished to sleep. In addition, a craft of this sort was very liable
to capsize, particularly when manned by novices. But Steve and his
friends had learned to manage these canoes when they were very young,
and could move about in them, spear fish over the side, and even sleep
in them with the utmost security.

Almost before he was prepared for it, Steve saw a streak of white
break across the black sky towards the east, and knew that dawn would
not be long in coming. In half an hour it was beginning to get light,
and he at once roused his companions.

"Time's up," he called out softly. "Rouse yourselves and rub the sleep
out of your eyes. Now, I vote for a meal before we start. Then, if
there is trouble, we shall be able to struggle on for a long while
without wanting food."

They followed his advice with eagerness, for the night's adventure had
sharpened their appetites. But very soon the meal was ended, and there
being nothing further to wait for, they cast off from the branches,
paddled well out into the river, and then, taking in their paddles,
drifted down the stream, each one of the party, with the exception of
Jim, who steered with the tip of his paddle, having a line overboard.

"There yer air," he said some minutes later. "Best not look all
together, lest they should get suspicious. Thar's the boat, boys, and
a bonny one she seems. I reckon she's ten times bigger'n this."

"Forty times," answered Mr. Mainwaring. "She is quite a large craft,
and not far short of eighty tons. If so, there are few of larger
size that ever venture up the river. That is a peculiarity about the
French. I believe they have seldom brought a boat of more than a
hundred tons up to Quebec. And yet there must be sufficient water,
though there are shoals here and there, and the passage is considered
dangerous. She will suit us well, boys. In a little while we shall be
exchanging our rôle of Huron Indians for that of a sailor. Lucky it is
for us all that one of our numbers has sailed a boat before."

"We ain't aboard yet, Judge," said Jim, rather suddenly. "Steve,
you've lived a year in these parts. What do yer make of them critters
away over thar under the island? You others keep on fishin'. 'Twon't
do to seem curious."

Steve raised his head slowly, drew in his line, and threw it out from
the other side of the canoe. The movement gave him the opportunity
of looking in the direction Jim had indicated, where he saw a large
ship's boat pulling out from the tail end of the island. She was
manned by six sailors, and swept through the water at a rapid pace. In
addition, the white coats of four passengers proclaimed that they were
regulars from the French garrison, while an equal number of Indians
crouched by the thwarts. In the stern sat a man who was huddled in a
cloak, for the early morning was chilly.

"I should say that she is a patrol, probably ordered to search all
vessels and boats which come south of the island. Perhaps her crew
have directions to turn all back who come so far. I don't like the
look of those fellows, but we must not appear to be alarmed. Go on
fishing, all of you, and just see that your muskets are handy. Flying
Bird, be ready to answer them."

He addressed the Indian in Mohawk, and then tossed his line again,
pulling up a fish a moment or two later quite coolly and leisurely.
Meanwhile his comrades went on with their fishing, without even
turning their heads, for they were one and all trained men, who
knew by experience that the simple turning of a head was sometimes
sufficient to cause suspicion. They betrayed not the slightest
curiosity, but pulled in their fish or rebaited their hooks with
wonderful unconcern. Jim still steered the canoe languidly, glancing
now and again at the strangers, while Steve was able to keep his eyes
on them without appearing to do so.

"They are making direct for us," he said suddenly. "I will turn round
for fear that they might recognise me. I was a prisoner so long, and
quite free to move about that the majority of the troops in Quebec
know me."

Suiting the action to the word, he swung round and dropped his line
in on the far side. Presently a hail came over the water, while the
splash of paddles could be heard.

"Ef they order us back, why, we've got to obey," said Jim. "Better to
please 'em and put the critters off the scent than to run our heads
against a wall. Let the beggars sing out again before you answer them."

Flying Bird nodded curtly, for he had picked up a deal of English, and
could understand the drift of the conversation. He went on fishing
calmly, without even turning his head, till they were hailed again,
this time in the Indian language.

"Hi! Put about there and wait till we come up with you. Who are you,
and where are you from?"

In a little while the boat came seething alongside, where she lay,
held by an occasional stroke of the oars, while the man in the stern
repeated his questions. Steve did not dare to steal so much as a look
at him, while Jim suddenly ducked his head and turned, so that the
Frenchman could not see his face. For once again Jules Lapon's voice
was heard. Once again had this odious Frenchman come upon the scene
when least desired, and at the most inopportune moment. It was he
without a doubt, more sallow than of yore, his overbearing manners
almost as openly displayed as on the last occasion when Steve had
faced him.

"Where from, and who are you, Indians?" he demanded curtly, in the
Huron tongue. "We have orders to search all who come this way, and to
send them back if they have no good reason for coming."

"The chief can see what our business is," answered Flying Bird
steadily. "Does the Frenchman wish to be assured that these are
fish?"--and he held up one of their catch--"or does he suspect us of
other business? As to who we are, this is a party of Hurons from the
south country. We are awaiting a palaver with your big chief. That is
all."

He baited his hook and tossed it into the river, turning away at once
and ignoring the Frenchman. But Jules was a man of keen perception,
and possessed of a suspicious mind. Unknown to Steve, he had recently
come to Quebec to take up some duty there, and had almost instantly
heard of the escape of the prisoner whom he had cruelly ordered to be
executed down at Ticonderoga. A backwoodsman, such as he was, knew the
difficulties with which a fugitive would have to contend, and he had
at once assured himself that Steve must have friends who were helping
him, and that in place of making away from the neighbourhood of the
city at once, he was probably in hiding close at hand, awaiting a
favourable opportunity to escape.

"And this is just the party to help him," he said to himself as he
stared at the occupants of the canoe. "I will not let him slip through
my fingers if he is here. We will go a little closer, and then have
a look at the far side. It is distinctly suspicious that they should
have their faces turned away."

Very slowly the big boat was rowed past the canoe till she was above
her. Then she dropped down again, and drifted past while Jules Lapon,
standing at the tiller, and still wrapped in his cloak, carefully
scrutinized the painted faces before him. Jim's angular features he
passed without a second look, while Mac stared back at the Frenchman
with a boldness and an impudence which had the desired effect. He
went on to Steve, found nothing suspicious in his open face, and
passing Pete, Silver Fox, and Flying Bird in turn, came at length to
Mr. Mainwaring. Something in the strong face and in the huge build of
this brave seemed to strike him. He gave an exclamation, and, bending
forward, looked closer. Then his sallow cheeks were suddenly suffused,
he bent forward to take a closer view, swept his eyes along the
occupants of the canoe again, and stopped when he came to Steve.

"The prisoner," he shouted at the top of his voice. "Hurrah! I have
found him as I had hoped to do. Cover them with your muskets. Drop
those paddles and sit upright or we will fire."

Jules had indeed made a discovery of the utmost importance. But
he was a man who always found it hard to curb his passions or his
impetuosity. Had he done so now, he would first have warned his men
that he had made some discovery, and so have had them in readiness.
As it was, the four soldiers who sat in the boat did not understand
a word of Huron, and had no knowledge of what had passed. They had
been on this duty for the past six days, and were heartily tired of
it, particularly as this leader of theirs had already treated them to
more than one false alarm. They sat half asleep, lolling against the
thwarts, by no means pleased to be turned out at such an early hour
without their breakfasts. The sudden order took them absolutely by
surprise. They had not even powdered the pans of their muskets.

"Peste! Up with your muskets and cover them, fools!" shouted Jules,
seeing them hesitate. "I tell you that that is the prisoner. Shoot him
down if he moves a muscle."

"You will be good enough to seat yourself, Monsieur Jules. Jim, you
are our best shot, and will cover him."

It was Steve's voice which spoke, and at the order the heavy deckard
which the trapper carried went to his shoulder, and his eye squinted
along the sights.

"Covered," he growled, "and jest you watch it over thar. This here
gun's got a way of its own of goin' off sudden. Jest watch it or
you'll know why. It's shot many a varmint before, and it won't take
long to treat a skunk like you to a bullet."

"Mac, and you, father, and Silver Fox cover the soldiers and the
Indians. Now, messieurs, you know me perhaps. I am the prisoner, as
this Jules Lapon tells you, I am about to escape, and I advise you to
be satisfied with that statement. You,"--and he pointed to one of the
men,--"will oblige by throwing your musket overboard. Good! Now your
pouch and horn and your bayonet. That is excellent. Your comrades will
follow suit."

Long before those in the boat had recovered from their astonishment
every musket aboard the canoe was levelled at their heads. And one
by one the muskets and bayonets aboard the French boat were tossed
overboard, the Indians being compelled to follow the example set
them. So far not a shot had been fired, for the band of supposed
Hurons had been too quick for their enemies. But if eyes could have
fired bullets, then every one of the occupants of the canoe, and in
particular Steve and his father, would have been slain by Jules, for
this curiously bitter Frenchman glared at them furiously, and finally
turned his eyes on Jim. Up till then he had been too excited and too
angry to take note of the tall Indian who covered him with his weapon.
But now an uncomfortable feeling crept down Jules Lapon's spine. He
swore under his breath, tried to stare back at the squinting eye
of the man who levelled the sights, and then was suddenly overcome
by that strange sensation. His knees shook and his legs doubled up
beneath him. He crouched in the stern, his face hidden in his hands,
tears, induced partly by sheer terror and partly by mortification,
streaming down his cheeks and welling out between his fingers.

"Others has felt like that and weakened," growled Jim, lowering his
piece. "There's better men nor you has looked into a gun and felt ill
and sick. I've done it myself, and I knows that queer feelin' that
you've got. But fer all that I ain't never played the coward like you.
A leader's a man as should stand up to the worst, and face everything,
so as to show his men he's worth his salt. You ain't. Reckon you're
the biggest coward as I ever set eyes on."

The trapper spat derisively into the water, laid down his musket, and
commenced to fill his pipe.

"What next, Cap'n?" he asked, a grin on his hard features. "Thar's
work to be done. Beg pardon, Judge, but it seems natural like to turn
to Steve after being away thar at the hollow with him."

"And you could not do better. Let the lad lead us. I have perfect
confidence in him. Steve, what is the next move?"

For a little while there was no answer, for our hero was engaged in
looking closely at the boat which they had decided to capture, and
then over his shoulder at the river. There was not another boat in
sight, while, though he looked very carefully, no one seemed to be
stirring aboard the ship.

"We shall want men aboard that boat to manage the sails, for I know
nothing of seamanship, and Pete and Mac and Jim are the same. But we
are lucky. Here are the very hands we want."

He pointed to the sailors aboard the boat, at the stern of which the
discomfited officer sat, and at once a smile broke over the faces of
his friends. They saw his meaning in a flash, and the coolness of
their old captain amused them.

"Shucks! Ef he ain't the most----"

"Jest the slimmest, 'cutest, cussedest chap as ever you or me set eyes
on, Pete," burst in Jim. "No wonder that 'ere Frenchie thar has dug
his head into his hands. Reckon it makes him kind er faint to look at
him."

"I said that we should need sailors. There they are. Monsieur Jules,
you will be good enough to come aboard this canoe and bring your
soldiers with you. My men, you have nothing to fear. We are merely
about to change places with you."

At a nod from Steve, Jim and Mac dug their paddles into the water, and
presently they were alongside the boat. Jim leaped aboard at once,
took Jules Lapon by the shoulder with no very gentle hand, and lifted
him to his feet as if he were a babe.

"Ef you ain't able to hold yerself up, why, I'll sling yer across
to the canoe. Bah! Man, show some spirit. From all accounts yer can
be bold and hard enough when things air right and you've got a poor
prisoner to deal with. There's the cap'n thar as can tell a yarn about
yer."

The exchange of boats took only a few minutes, and very soon the party
of Hurons were seated in the one which had belonged to Jules, while
that worthy, with his soldiers and his Indians, was crouching in the
canoe. They were given a couple of paddles, and were ordered to row up
stream.

"If we see you turn, or if you shout, we shall follow," said Steve.
"It would be better for you to go quietly back to Quebec."

They watched as the Frenchman and his disconsolate crew paddled away,
and soon they were round the bend of the island, prepared to attack
the vessel which they hoped would take them to the sea.

"You have nothing to fear," said Steve to the sailors who still manned
the oars, "and I promise to set you free as soon as we can get along
without your services. How many are aboard the ship?"

"As well make the best of a bad job," came the answer. "There are two
only, monsieur, and you can climb aboard as soon as you like. You say
that we shall be set free, monsieur?"

"I give you my promise. We shall make this boat fast astern, and
tow her down. When you can be spared you shall take the boat and
sufficient arms and provisions and go. Is that a bargain?"

"You can count on us, monsieur, and our comrades aboard would prefer
such terms to the hard knocks which you are able to give."

A few words passed between the Frenchmen, they smiled at Steve and
his friends, and seemed to enter into the spirit of this adventure of
theirs as though it was as pleasant to them as service with their own
comrades.

"'Tis a poor heart which cannot make light of troubles, monsieur,"
laughed their spokesman. "A minute ago it seemed that we should be
shot. Now we are promised safety, and are commanded by one who speaks
kindly to us, and even says 'monsieur' when he gives us an order. That
is good. We welcome a change after that ruffian."

By now the boat was very close to the anchored ship, and presently she
struck against the counter, and one of the French sailors hung on with
a boathook.

"We shall trust you to go aboard and let your comrades know what is
happening," said Steve to the spokesman of the sailors. "Otherwise
shots might be fired and useless opposition shown. Get aboard, my lad."

"You can come up," shouted the man a little later, appearing at the
rail above with two strange faces beside him. "My comrades see the
wisdom of behaving quietly, particularly since I took the liberty of
promising them what you offered us. Is that correct, monsieur?"

"Perfectly. You will be rewarded also if you behave properly. Now make
the boat fast and place yourselves under the orders of monsieur here,
who is my father."

It was wonderful to see with what eagerness the French sailors sprang
to obey Mr. Mainwaring. For though the huge Englishman was dressed
as a Huron, and plentifully daubed with paint, yet he spoke perfect
French, and held himself as only a white man could do. But surely
never was there a stranger sight than this, a ship commanded by
Indians, and worked by pale faces.

"We shall have to make a change, Steve," said his father. "Just hunt
out some old clothes from the lockers down below. They will serve a
double purpose. We shall be more comfortable, and then, in case of our
meeting another ship sailing under French colours, we shall pass all
the easier."

That night, as the darkness began to get deeper, the ship was anchored
close in to the southern bank, and remained swinging to her cable
there till the dawn came again. Then she went on her course again.
And so, without incident, the sea was reached, the island now known
as Prince Edward Island sighted, and finally the bleak slopes of Cape
Breton Island.

"If monsieur would allow us to escape in the boat within the next few
hours we could reach our friends in Louisbourg," said the sailor who
had spoken for his comrades before. "The wind is fair for us, and we
should not have a long pull."

Steve and his friends at once agreed, the boat was pulled alongside,
and food and water lowered. Then Mr. Mainwaring presented each of the
six sailors with a small sum of money and sent them down to the boat.
They pushed off, waved their adieux, and put out their oars. Then the
tiller of the big ship was put up again, the sails filled, and she
bore away to the far end of the island. Rounding that, and giving the
land a wide berth, the party aboard saw a ship stealing along close to
the island. At her fore flew the fleur de lis of France, and sighting
the boat out in the offing, her head was turned and she came surging
out towards Steve and his friends.

"She is a big boat. It would be hard if we were to see the inside
of a French prison after all our trouble," smiled Mr. Mainwaring.
"But I doubt that she will have the courage to come far, for if my
information has been correct, the British fleet must be hereabouts.
They have been blockading the mouth of the river since the winter
broke up. Ha! Steve, what do I see?"

There was a white dot away in the far distance, a dot which might
have been a bird. But it held the same position steadily, except
for the fact that it grew gradually bigger, proving that it was a
ship approaching. And presently a huge eighty-gun frigate, with the
British ensign at her mast-head, came into clear sight and ranged up
alongside the captured Frenchman. A gun was fired, and hardly had the
boom been heard when a boat dropped from the side of the frigate, a
smart naval officer tumbled into it with his crew, and, being joined
by another individual, raced across the water. They were alongside in
five minutes, and a ladder being lowered the naval officer and his
companion came aboard.

"A party of seven. So far so good," exclaimed the officer, running his
eye over Steve and his friends. "Is this the ship we were to expect?"

"It is," answered Mr. Mainwaring promptly. "Allow me to introduce the
party, general. I am Mr. Mainwaring, though somewhat altered, I fear.
And here are my son, Hunting Jim, Mac, Pete, Silver Fox, and Flying
Bird, all old friends and staunch companions. I have to thank you for
picking us up. My friends, this is General Wolfe."

"Indeed, I fancy the term picking you up hardly meets the case. You
seem very well able to look to yourselves, and, if my observation is
correct, have been fairly comfortable."

The officer who spoke turned to Mr. Mainwaring, and then shook hands
with every one of the party, giving Steve an opportunity of inspecting
him closely without seeming to be rude. General Wolfe, whose name
was then prominently before the world, was a tall, gaunt man with
no other particular feature about him to attract unusual attention,
unless it was his hair, which, like Mac's, was decidedly red. He was
quiet, reserved, a typical officer and gentleman, and evidently one
accustomed to discipline and to be obeyed. Little did Steve think
as he watched this brigadier that Wolfe was to be the hero of this
conflict with France in Canada, and that he himself was to be closely
associated with him in the conquest of that fair city from which he
had so recently escaped.



Chapter XVIII

The Attack on Louisbourg


"You have turned up in the very nick of time, gentlemen," said General
Wolfe, as he surveyed the party standing before him on the deck of the
French vessel. "Our fleet and transports have arrived in these waters,
and we are about to attempt a landing on Cape Breton Island. After
that we shall lay siege to the fort of Louisbourg. Can I be of service
to you in any way?"

He swept his eye over each one of the group, smiling at the strange
appearance of Steve and his white friends, for they were now dressed
in the rough sailor clothing which they had found aboard, and for
the most part looked curious objects. Their paint and feathers had
disappeared entirely, but all clung to their fringed hunting shirts,
while rough trousers of sailcloth protected their legs, and French
sailor hats covered their heads where only a few days before there had
been scalp locks and the crests of eagles.

"Come, gentlemen, now that you are free, you have the world to choose
from. You can return to England, you can make for your old haunts
near Ticonderoga, where I am sure Hawk and his band of scouts will
be welcome, or you can remain here and help us a little. Personally,
I should be glad if that were your decision, for I am training a
number of the men of my brigade to fight in open order, making use
of cover as do backwoodsmen. I could not have better instructors than
yourselves."

[Illustration: The TRIANGULAR ROUTE Between CANADA and our AMERICAN
COLONY 1755.]

"You can put me down, then, general," sang out Jim, promptly, raising
his arm. "Only there's jest one condition of service I bargain for
after rations and pay are earned. I fight under my old cap'n. He's
here, and he's fit to lead a hul regiment."

"Pay and allowances will be the same as formerly. As to your
condition, that can be arranged if Mr. Steve Mainwaring wishes to take
up a commission again."

Steve promptly agreed to do so, and within a very few minutes the
general had obtained seven valuable recruits for his new regiment.

"You will be able to enter upon your duties almost at once," said the
general. "As I said, we are about to attempt a landing. Up to this the
sea has been too rough for such an expedition, but there is every sign
of its getting calmer, and should it do so, our boats will put out. We
will now return to the frigate, where the master-tailor can supply you
with suitable clothing, for, after all, I fear that we could not allow
you to take your places in our ranks in such dress as you now wear."

He walked to the rope ladder, swung himself down with wonderful
agility, and was followed by Steve and his friends and by the naval
officer. An order was then given, and the two men at the oars pulled
away for the frigate, a couple of sailors being left aboard the
captured vessel.

"We have lost a few of our ships since we sailed from Halifax," said
the general, "and as I expect that you have no further use for the
ship you captured, we will put her into commission at once. There is a
permanent Prize Board sitting, and they will inspect her and decide on
her value to-day. That money will be yours, gentlemen, for you are the
owners."

Some hours later as Steve walked the broad deck of the frigate, he
could hardly believe that he had so recently escaped from prison.
The days had flown since his father and his old friends came to his
rescue, and they had been so filled with incident. He felt strange on
this big vessel, and found it difficult to realize that he was again
under orders, holding a captain's commission, and about to take part
in the conflict between England and France.

"This is a very different affair from those up by Ticonderoga, Steve,"
said his father, coming up to him. "Look at the force we have; there
must be ten thousand men at least. I mean soldiers of course, and am
not counting the crews of the ships."

"Of the ships there are nearly two hundred," answered Steve, for he
had been busily counting them. Indeed, Mr. Mainwaring might well
observe that this was a big affair, for on this sunny June morning
those who patrolled the deck of the frigate could see numerous ships
of war, sloops, frigates, and transports, all cruising backwards
and forwards off Cape Breton Island. Boscawen, "Old Dreadnought,"
was the admiral in command, and his fleet had only recently reached
Halifax, where he had picked up the vessels remaining there, and had
brought them on with him. Amherst, whom the reader will recollect,
was in command of the troops, had now some twelve thousand men aboard
the ships and transports, for on his arrival at Halifax he had
strengthened his own force with the troops taken to this port by the
Earl of Loudon in the previous year. Nor had he a single regiment too
many, for the task before him was a formidable one.

Louisbourg, like Quebec, may be said to have been the stronghold of
the military, while, owing to its excellent harbour, it was also a
rendezvous for the French fleets. It consisted of private residences,
churches, and innumerable barracks and forts. In fact, it was a vast
fort, constructed at huge expense and pains, and designed by the very
best engineers of France. Seen from the edge of the harbour, its most
prominent features were the king's bastion and barracks, the hospital,
and the Recollects church nestling under the walls of the former.
There were fish stages and wharves, for Louisbourg was occupied by a
large number of men who looked to the sea for their living. In all
there were some four thousand inhabitants at this period, and these
consisted of the fisher folk above mentioned, of numerous priests, and
of many others whose business was connected in some way or other with
the military or with the navy.

This vast fortress undoubtedly existed for war alone, and the French
had made enormous efforts to make it impregnable. Once before the
gallant New Englanders had captured the place, but a shortsighted
English ministry had handed it back to France, whose ministers were
possessed of far keener perception. They realized that the struggle
between the two nations would break out again, and since it had come
into their hands after capture, they had spared no pains to complete
their preparations for offence and defence. There were four thousand
French and Canadian regulars behind the two miles of granite walls of
the fortress, making eight thousand defenders if the civil population
are counted. Four hundred cannon grinned from the embrasures, while
the store-houses contained ample ammunition and food for a year. Add
to these preparations against attack the natural defences of the
place, for the seas were rough, and the coast rocky for miles on
either side, save for an occasional cove capable of easy defence,
and the reader will be able to gather some idea of the difficulties
before our forces. In addition, the seven-mile circumference of the
harbour prevented all approach from the sea-side to the fortress, and
sheltered seven battleships and five frigates, which together added
five hundred and fifty guns and three thousand men to the strength of
the garrison.

"There will be a landing to-morrow," said General Wolfe that evening,
as he joined Steve and his father on the deck. "This sea is settling
down, I am thankful to say, for I am the worst of sailors, and if only
the wind will remain fair we shall embark during the night. You will
take part in the landing."

That night, in fact, it became known through the fleet that an
endeavour would be made to land in the early hours of the following
morning, and sunrise found the troops embarked in the ship's boats,
and hanging on to their sides awaiting the signal. Three spots had
been selected for the expedition to attack, and in consequence the
force at General Amherst's disposal was divided into three divisions.
The first and second of these were under the command of Brigadiers
Lawrence and Whitmore respectively, and they were to attack the two
coves nearest to the fortress on its west. Wolfe was in command of
the third division, with orders to row along the rocky coast till
he came to Le Coromandiere, which while being the most likely spot
for a landing, being easier than the former two, was at the same
time strongly defended by the enemy, who had trenches, rifle pits,
and strong barricades, with mounted cannon. It was four miles from
Louisbourg, so that it was some little while before the boats of this
division arrived near the cove. Meanwhile our fleet opened a terrific
fire on the fortress.

"Listen to that fer cannon," said Jim, who sat beside Steve, his
musket, now provided with a bayonet, set upright between his legs.
"I've never in all the course of my days heard the like of it. It's
thunder and worse."

"Our men are just giving the French in the fortress a taste of what
they have in store for them," laughed Steve. "But take a look at the
cove, Jim. Those are guns there, and there must be a large force of
men ready to receive us."

"Then the more the merrier, lad. I've fought behind trees many a score
of times. I've been shut in a fort with a couple of hundred redskin
varmint howlin' and firin' outside, but I've never in all my days
tried my hand at this sort of thing. Somehow we rangers think we're
better soldiers than air these here reg'lars. But I ain't so sartin.
No doubt when it's a war with braves, or a fight in the forest, we're
the best boys at the game. But out here, a job of this sort ain't done
by hanging behind trees and rocks. It wants a rush, and to make that
a man has to have downright pluck. Yes, I'm beginnin' to see that a
reg'lar has got heaps o' grit when he fights in his own way, and as
he's been taught. Whew! Did yer feel that?"

Steve did. It was the shot from one of the French batteries which, now
that the boats were within some hundred yards, opened on the flotilla
suddenly. The shot, round and grape, hissed and hummed through the
air, and striking the water for the most part, sent up cascades which
blew away in spray, drenching many of the occupants of the boats.
Had that cove been sheltered it is probable that Wolfe's division
would have suffered terribly, for there were twelve hundred Frenchmen
waiting for their attack, and they had many guns. But this barren,
rockbound coast gave little or no shelter, and it happened that a big
swell was running, which made correct aim impossible, and a hit more
a matter of chance than of skill. And so it turned out that little
damage was done. The bellow of the cannon was answered by a derisive
cheer, and at once the boats' crews bent to their oars and raced for
the narrow beach.

"Thunder! That air wuss nor bullets," sang out Jim, half rising to his
feet, for this was a weird and new experience for the hunter. "Reckon
another of them bangs and there won't be much of this crowd left to
fight. Cap'n, it air clean mad to keep out here in the open when
there's a bit of a rock thar that'll shelter us from them guns and
give a landing at the same time."

This time the trapper got to his feet, in spite of the shouts of the
ensign in command of the regulars aboard the boat, and as if to show
how right he was, there came the crash of a second discharge, round
shot and ball, hurtled about the boats, striking some of the men, and
splashing foam and spray everywhere.

"Look thar," cried Jim, in no way abashed by the gold lace and smart
uniform of the young officer. "Yer'll never set yer toe on the beach,
but yer'll get to hand grips with them ere Frenchies ef yer'll make
away where I'm pointin'."

The officer was on his feet in a moment, scanning the rock to which
the trapper had drawn his attention. Then he gave a sharp word of
command, which caused the tiller to be put over and the bows of the
boat to sheer off in that direction, while the crew, who had lain on
their oars and looked doubtfully about them after the last discharge
of cannon, bent to their work again with a will. Another boat near at
hand followed their example, and a third was not slow to do the same.
It became a race, and the water was churned into froth at the bows of
the boats.

"Steady! That's near enough. Over we go. Hurrah!"

A wild cheer burst from the men as they leaped into the surf, and with
their young officer and Steve ahead made for the shore.

"Make way for the other men and just get your breath, my lads," sang
out the officer. "Sit down and keep close to the rock. They cannot see
us here, and we shall be able to form up for a charge. Ha! Look at the
brigadier. He is following. Did anyone see his signals?"

He looked round anxiously, passing his eyes from face to face till he
came to Steve. The latter nodded, while a smile played on his lips.

"I fancy I did," he laughed. "The brigadier was in a hot place, and
saw that his men would be shot to pieces. I rather think I saw him
signal to the whole flotilla to retire."

This, in fact, was the case. General Wolfe, seeing the narrowness of
the beach, its difficult approach, and the batteries which commanded
it, had signalled for the flotilla of boats to retire at once, for he
was fearful of losing his men. But he was not the officer to allow a
breach of discipline of this sort to arouse his anger. His boat came
surging up to the rock upon which the first party had landed, and in
a trice he was being carried ashore on the shoulders of a stalwart
sailor.

"Well done! Well done, indeed, my lads. A very smart manoeuvre, which
may save the situation for us. Lucky none of you saw my signal."

There was a dry smile on his thin lips, and he looked at the young
officer directly, causing him to flush to the roots of his hair.

"Now we shall turn those gentlemen out, my lads. Will any one follow
me?"

There was a shout at that, a bellow of excitement, for the men had
been roused by the small losses already suffered, and were stung
by the fear of failure. In a trice they were lined up behind the
brigadier, who faced round to inspect them, a simple cane his only
weapon. And beside this gallant officer stood Steve and Jim, the
latter looking grim and determined.

"What reg'lars can do, so kin I," he growled. "But I 'low as this
fightin' in the open air enough to scare a chap as is used to the
forest. Let's get ahead with the charge. I'm warm and ready."

So were the men. Their blood was thoroughly up. They gripped their
muskets, and held the bayonets levelled with their chests. Then the
brigadier gave the word, and the troops, now all collected, save for
those who had been hit, or who had been drowned in the surf, gave a
shout and set off towards the intrenchments held by the French.

"Steady, boys. Here are some of their grenadiers. Let the left
flanking company get down and open fire. Steady. Drive them back, or
they will take us in the rear."

The brigadier brought the column to a halt for a few moments, while
the company selected sent out its riflemen, for a company of French
grenadiers had suddenly put in an appearance. However, the English
soldiers were not to be gainsaid on this particular day. There were
a number of defeats to be wiped out. The memory of Braddock's defeat
was still fresh, while Fort William Henry and its dastardly massacre
was always before them. Those skirmishers fired a hail of bullets into
the grenadiers sent down by the enemy to oppose the landing, and then,
finding that their powder was damped by the sea-water, for very few
of the men had escaped a drenching, they clapped bayonets to their
muzzles, gave a fierce shout, and heads down charged the enemy, the
long and terrible weapon, which they knew so well how to wield, held
well in advance.

Meanwhile the column, thanks to Jim's sagacity and to the sharpness
of the ensign and of the other two commanders of boats who had
followed to the spit of rock, lay out of range of the French cannon
and musketry fire. The enemy lying in their rifle pits and trenches
above could not see them, and were forced to remain idle while the
company of grenadiers they had sent down attempted the impossible task
of turning the invaders back. Nor did it improve their steadiness when
they saw these same grenadiers flying back for their lives, a draggled
and drenched crew of red coats charging after them, with bayonets
flashing in the June sun and shouts of triumph on their lips. For
that sight gave them an idea of what they might expect in a very few
minutes, and caused many to have doubts. Brigadier-General Wolfe did
not give them long before showing them his intentions.

"We will charge now," he sang out, standing there before the column
as cool as an iceberg, while he swished the air with his ridiculous
little cane. "There are batteries, with some hundreds of men to defend
them. We are about to take those batteries and to chase the French
back to the walls of their fort."

There was a shout from the officers, who had by now got their
companies into order, a shout which was taken up deliriously by the
men. The brigadier turned, waved a signal, and set off steadily
round the spit of rock. Then he broke into a trot, and as soon as
the companies swung round from the shelter, they wheeled so as to
face the enemy's position, opened out a little, preserving wonderful
steadiness in spite of the bullets and round shot hurtling about their
ears, and then broke into a fast run which very soon changed into a
most determined and furious charge. The men's blood was undoubtedly
up. All thought of personal safety was gone. They forgot the fact that
bullets were flying, forgot that they were drenched to the skin, and
that their powder was wet, for they had no need for it now. This was a
day for cold steel, and the thought of that, the determination to get
up to those batteries, to fling the French back and punish those who
had fired at the flotilla alone filled the minds of the men.

"It 'ud do a lot of trappers a power of good to see 'em," shouted
Jim, as with Steve beside him he swung out from the shelter of the
rocks. "This air fightin'! This I 'low would take all the grit a
backwoodsman's got, 'cos there's no cover. Air yer ready?"

He turned to find that Steve was not only ready, but was already
rushing away from him. For our hero had caught the infection spread by
these gallant fellows under Wolfe's command. He had no wish to kill.
He felt only a huge desire to be amongst the very first to reach those
batteries, come what might, and when he was there, not a Frenchman
would dare to remain. He would see to that. He was armed with a sabre
on this occasion, and dressed in the red coat and pantaloons of an
officer who had died on the voyage from England. He felt more than
ever now that he was an officer, to whom the men would look. And that
thought, as well as his own natural dash and gallantry, stimulated
him. He shouted with the loudest, swung his sabre above his head, and
then raced through the bullets and the cannon shot. A low wall of rock
stood in his way, and Brigadier Wolfe was in the act of scaling it.
With one leap Steve stood on the summit. Then he turned, caught the
brigadier by the arm and hoisted him up. The two were now ahead of the
charging column.

Brigadier Wolfe faced the tall young officer for a second, and
coolly shook him by the hand, gripping his left, for Steve had his
hilt in the right. The sight of such an act of coolness brought a
frantic shout from the men. Steve turned to look at them for one
brief moment, and noted the set expression of their faces, the grim,
determined looks, the gaping nostrils and the heaving chests. Then,
as the brigadier waved his cane, he faced the enemy again, and with a
shout went on at the head of the men. A huge Frenchman, armed with a
ponderous musket, suddenly shot up from behind a barricade, brought
his piece to his shoulder, and aimed at our hero. There was a flash,
the powder in the pan spluttered up into smoke, while the bullet swept
within an inch of Steve's head, thudding heavily on something just
behind him.

"Ef I don't get even with that ere chap, why, I ain't Huntin' Jim,"
shouted a voice at his elbow. "Jest wait a minute. Ha! Yer'd shoot
me down. That's jest to make yer remember that I ain't so soft as to
fall 'cos a bullet's happened to strike me."

[Illustration: "IN ANOTHER SECOND HE HAD BAYONETTED THE FRENCHMAN"]

It was Jim undoubtedly, all his old backwoods coolness gone, all
his cunning and his Indian ways forgotten in the excitement of this
moment. His eyes were wide open, his lips set close together, while
rage was written on every feature. The stolid hunter had been struck
through the fleshy part of one arm, and the sting of the wound had
served only to increase his excitement. With a bound he passed Steve,
and in another second he had bayonetted the Frenchman, bringing the
grenadier to the ground with a terrific crash. By then the head of
the column was up at the batteries, and for a few moments a desperate
hand to hand contest was fought, while the gunners endeavoured to
fire their charges of grape into the midst of the rear of the column.
However, English bayonets had before then driven the French off the
field, and on this occasion our gallant fellows were not to be denied.
They drove those of the enemy who dared to remain out of their rifle
pits with their murderous bayonets, broke down and shattered their
defence, and sent them racing for the fortress. Nor did that entirely
satisfy them. They broke into more open order, and with Jim and Mac
and Steve to lead, chased those fugitives to the very gates of the
fortress, till reinforcements poured out of Louisbourg, and until
the cannon of the fortress began to ply them with shot. Only then
did they deign to retire, showing a defiant face to the enemy, now
outnumbering them by many hundreds.

"Very gallantly done, lads," said the general, when the column was
again drawn up, and the wounded had been seen to. "I congratulate
officers and men on the brilliant dash which they have shown, and on
having won a most valuable landing-place for our army. To-night you
will have the place of honour in the general's published orders. Let
me not forget to thank those gentlemen who have so recently come from
a visit paid to the French in Quebec. Their gallantry and dash were
most stimulating, while I myself owe some help to their leader."

There was a shout at that, for long ago the men had been made
acquainted with Steve's history. But these men of the backwoods were
as yet strangers to the majority of the attacking party, who had but
lately arrived from England. They had heard many a time of their
particular methods of fighting in the forests, of their cunning and of
their value as scouts. It did them good to find that these same men
could stand in the open and deliver a charge when bullets and round
shot were flying, and when there was no cover to be obtained.

"I expect we shall soon have some of our old scouting work now," said
Steve that night, as he and Jim and Mac sat under a tent which had
been brought ashore, and discussed the action of the morning. "One of
the first duties of the general will be to see that the country round
about the fortress is clear, for there are many Indians about, and a
canoe can easily be paddled across from the mainland. While we are
scouting, the troops will be busily engaged in getting the guns ashore
and making ready for a proper siege. That will be slow work, and I for
one shall not care to take part in it."

Two mornings later our hero was sent for to the tent of Brigadier
Wolfe.

"You will at once be attached to my light companies," he said, as
Steve saluted. "Your friends will, of course, be with you, and you
will do all you can to give instruction. The men had about two weeks'
work at Halifax, but are, of course, very inexperienced. They are all
young and active, and picked as marksmen."

On the following day, therefore, Steve and his friends walked over to
the officer in command of these light infantry companies, and promptly
set to work. On his advice the men were at once taken away from the
camp, and divided into smaller parties, each of which was under one
of the backwoodsmen, for Pete and Mr. Mainwaring had now come ashore.
There was dense forest within easy reach, as well as some more open
ground, on which, however, it was possible to find cover. And here
for hours at a time the men were practised, till they were fairly
proficient. Then one half was set to fight the other, the men being
roused to such keenness by these methods that they hardly seemed to
notice any fatigue.

"They are the fellows who will help us to win this war," said the
brigadier a few days later, as he watched them at their work. "But now
for my news. The rough seas are delaying the landing of stores, and
until they are all ashore we cannot, of course, undertake to lay siege
to the fortress. Meanwhile the general has ordered me to march round
to the far side of the harbour and erect a battery there. I will take
these companies. We start at daybreak to-morrow."

It would be tedious to narrate how Steve and his friends accompanied
this expedition, and how, in spite of a galling fire from the
batteries and the ships, General Wolfe managed to construct his
earth-works and batteries at Lighthouse Point. It was a class of
warfare which, like the attack on the cove, was entirely new to them,
and all agreed in admiring the persistency and the cool bravery, not
to say recklessness, of the soldiers.

That battery, in spite of the heavy fire poured upon it, silenced
the French guns, and broke to pieces a battery on Goat Island in
the middle of the harbour. Its fire was soon followed by the bellow
of the huge siege guns which had now been brought ashore, and very
soon the din about the fortress of Louisbourg was such that men were
deafened, and Steve had never heard the like of it before. Sorties
were delivered, and were promptly met and driven back. The siege was
pressed vigorously, shot and shell pouring on the devoted place, while
the politest messages passed between besiegers and besieged. Then the
Canadians and their Indians outside our lines delivered their attack,
an attack which Steve and the light regiments, now employed as scouts,
were able to detect in good time and drive off easily.

And so a month passed, a month of endless cannonading, till the
fortress was shattered, and the walls and buildings flying in
fragments everywhere. The French were in desperate plight, and wisely
agreed to surrender, having fought most gallantly. Thus the formidable
fortress came into our hands, and Pitt's forward policy began to
bring a long-looked for success. We had captured a place for long the
greatest menace to our power in America, and with it had taken some
six thousand soldiers and sailors, thus reducing the enemy's strength,
while it set ten thousand of our own troops free to operate in other
quarters. As for the fortress itself, it was of no use to us, and some
two years later was torn to pieces and utterly dismantled. Hardly a
stone of that fine costly place can be seen to-day.

Steve did not long remain at Cape Breton, for scouts were required
at Ticonderoga, and an urgent message had been sent through to
General Amherst to ask for a supply. Steve and his friends were sent,
therefore, and arrived in the neighbourhood of Fort William Henry,
now reconstructed, only to hear the doleful tidings of a defeat,
the effects of which required even more than the crowning victory
at Louisbourg to counteract. For General Abercromby had made a most
hopeless and inexcusable failure of his long projected attack on
the French fort at Ticonderoga. Nor was this failure due to want of
careful preparation, to unsuitable troops, or to lack of courage.
Of the troops there were plenty and to spare. Had the attack been
delivered by the same troops again, properly led over ground which
had been carefully reconnoitred, there would have been a different
result, in spite of the stubborn and wonderful gallantry of the
French. But Abercromby made no use of the excellent scouting material
which he possessed. He made no use of the few guns dragged to this
part with infinite labour, but left them six miles in his rear. He
had six thousand troops, all burning to avenge the massacre at Fort
William Henry, and he launched his regiments one after another over
open ground in a frontal attack upon the _chevaux de frise_ which
the French had erected. Time and again gallant souls dashed forward,
only to be beaten down and slain by the bullets and cannon of unseen
marksmen and gunners. Why, the youngest subaltern, inexperienced
in war, would have ordered all further attacks to cease till he
had brought up his guns and smashed those formidable but flimsy
defences to pieces. Not so General Abercromby. He had shown no lack
of astuteness and organising ability up till now. But at this the
critical time in the actions of this expedition he ruined all by
his helpless and singularly unsuitable tactics, or, rather, by his
absolute disregard of the simplest of tactics.

That bitter defeat cost us two thousand men, for the most part men
of the regular regiments, though the colonial militia did their duty
admirably. Indeed, as has been said, there was never any lack of
bravery. The soldiers one and all were filled with the utmost courage
and zeal.

Steve and his little band soon found more work to do, for Bradstreet,
a popular and very dashing New England officer serving with
Abercromby, jumped at the news which Mr. Mainwaring was able to give.
Frontenac, a French port at the entrance to Lake Ontario, and almost
opposite the forts at Oswego which Montcalm had captured and burned,
had for a long time been of the utmost importance to the French. But
to meet Abercromby at Ticonderoga, and Amherst at Louisbourg, the
French had been compelled to denude it of its troops. Bradstreet at
once took advantage of this news. With Steve and Jim leading his
forces, he went by river and land, taking the Mohawk route, and after
a long struggle reached the lake. From there he paddled across to
Frontenac, captured the place, for there were only a hundred soldiers
to defend it, and promptly burned the forts and town, together with
some armed vessels lying off it, and enormous stores of food and
armaments, powder and ball, which had been collected there. In fact,
he delivered a blow of the utmost consequence, and one which helped
not a little to counteract the defeat we had received at Ticonderoga.
Let any reader who may happen to sail into Lake Ontario just glance at
the fine city of Kingston, and remember that it was there, on the site
which this city occupies, that Steve and his friends, with Bradstreet
in command, inflicted a blow on the French which was of the utmost
consequence, and which helped to make this eventful year of 1758 stand
out prominently in our annals.

To their success was added that of Forbes, sent against Fort Duquesne.
It will be remembered that it was here that Braddock had met with
defeat, and that the fort from its position was necessarily a thorn
in our sides. Forbes was faced with stupendous difficulties, not
the least of which was the terrible weather he met with. It seemed,
indeed, as if he would never reach his destination, for he had miles
of forest to traverse, and a host of undisciplined troops to deal
with. So certain did it appear that he would not persevere in his
attempt, that the French reduced their garrison. However, Forbes,
in spite of ill-health, was a man of bull-dog determination, and he
eventually reached the fort, took it, and changed its name to that
of Pitt. The thriving city of Pittsburg now occupies the site where
Duquesne stood.

One other item has to be mentioned in the description of this year's
doings. A gallant Moravian missionary, one Post by name, offered to
undertake a journey to the Ohio Indians, who, led by the French, had
for so long been harrying our Alleghany frontiers. This brave man
went not once only, but twice to these people, at the risk of almost
certain torture and death, and finally persuaded the fierce braves
to give up their alliance with the French, to cease their slaughter,
and to bury the hatchet with the six nations. For the tide of war was
changing. The tale of Frontenac, and of Louisbourg, had reached to the
farthest wigwams, and no Indian existed who did not desire above all
things to be on the winning side, the side to which most reward and
plunder would come.

Thus our generals found themselves with a huge weight off their
minds. Ticonderoga still existed, and it alone barred our advance up
those lakes, St. George and Champlain, to Canada itself. The winter
of 1758 found Pitt with another policy, pushing on his preparations
for carrying it out when the spring should have come to break up the
ice in the mighty St. Lawrence. Quebec was to be the objective, and
Brigadier-General Wolfe, the silent, active leader, was to command.
Nor was Steve to be left out of the expedition, for hardly had the
month of May, 1759, come when a message reached him.

"To Captain Steve Mainwaring," it read, "From General Wolfe. Please
make it convenient to travel to New York at the earliest date, and
from there join the fleet making for Quebec. I have urgent need of
your services."

Steve packed his clothing, took Jim and Mac and his father with him,
and set off at once, eager to see again the fair city in which he had
been so long a prisoner.



Chapter XIX

Wolfe makes his Last Attempt


"Listen to that, boys. There is music for you," said Mr. Mainwaring
some weeks after he, Steve, and the two trappers had set out for New
York. "Listen to our guns, and do not say after this that we shall be
too late. Quebec is not to be taken in a day. The city is one of the
very strongest, and has a big army to defend it. I said long ago that
we should be in time to see and take part in the crowning act of this
campaign."

"And you've stuck to that through thick and thin, Judge," chimed
in Jim, standing at the rail of the ship, and looking his old self
again, for the hunter was dressed at this moment just as he had been
on that day when we first made his acquaintance. Steve, too, was in
his trapper's clothing, looking taller and broader now after his many
months of campaigning, and bearing on his face more character perhaps
than ever before, for the anxieties of command had developed the
natural self-assurance which he had possessed from the first.

"I am delighted to feel that we are here at last, and in time, too,
father," he said. "I confess that I had doubts about reaching Quebec
before the city was taken, for we have been so long delayed. But
here we are, and, of course, the very first thing will be to seek an
interview with the general. I have my letter, and that should gain an
interview for me. As to the city being easily captured, I am sure that
our troops have their work cut out for them."

The little party was gathered on the deck of a small transport which
they had picked up at Louisbourg. For having arrived at New York in
accordance with the wish expressed in General Wolfe's letter, they had
taken the first trader for Louisbourg, and had had the huge misfortune
of running into big seas and nasty weather. Indeed, as if to make the
task of our general harder, this season proved to be an extremely late
one. Spring was very long in coming, and the expedition, which sailed
from England early in the year, was much delayed by contrary winds.
Even when it did arrive in the harbour of Louisbourg the seas were
encumbered with ice floes, and ice was floating thickly in the harbour.

The same difficulties had been encountered by the ship on which Steve
and his friends sailed, and when at length they reached Louisbourg
the fleet had sailed for Quebec some weeks before, while their own
arrival there was delayed further by having to await a transport. But
here they were at last, and within a few hours were landed at the huge
camp which the general had pitched on the western end of the Isle of
Orleans. Promptly they went to the quartermaster-general to report
themselves.

"Better late than never, gentlemen," he said, as Steve handed him his
letter, "and I can promise you a very warm welcome from our leader,
that is, as soon as he is recovered. He has very bad health as a
general rule, as you may know, and now I regret to say that he is
down with an attack of fever, and lies in bed over at the camp by
the Montmorenci. Now, I shall allot tents for you, and you will draw
rations in the ordinary course. You must find wood for yourselves, and
must appoint your own cook."

"That ain't no difficulty to men as has been cooking their own grub
all their lives," said Jim, with a laugh. "Reckon I'll take that 'ere
job till the time comes for fightin'. Then I'm off to try what a
charge feels like again. General, fightin' in the forest ain't nothin'
for excitement compared with the rush of these 'ere soldiers. A man
feels a man when he sees the enemy plain before him, and when he's
made up his mind to reach 'em and turn 'em out whatever their numbers."

"The kind of spirit which I fancy fills our gallant fellows," came the
smiling answer. "If I make no mistake you are Hunting Jim."

"You've struck it, General. That's me."

"Then I have heard of your dash at the landing on Cape Breton Island.
You will have other chances, my man, for Quebec has still to be
taken. Now I wish to warn you. Those guns are being fired from Point
Lévis, just opposite the city, and should you make in that direction
you will do wisely to keep well in rear of our batteries. The work
there is rather warm at times. As to your duties. You will, of course,
wait till you have seen the general. But there is much for you to
do. We have Rogers, a gallant colonial, and Stark, and others, too,
in command of bands of trappers and scouts like yourselves, and for
weeks they have been in the forests, meeting the French irregulars and
their Indians. There have been some very fierce encounters between
the different parties, and I am glad to say that our men have driven
the French and their allies back, and have penetrated even as far as
Montreal. You might very well join one of those bands."

"And what of the fighting here, sir?" Steve ventured to ask. "We
rather feared that we should arrive too late, for we have been very
much delayed. It is already September."

"And very soon we shall have to be returning, for the winter will be
upon us. But it will not come to that, I hope. Frankly, gentlemen,
we are face to face with what would appear to be an insuperable
difficulty. We have made attempts on the city without success, and
our leader is almost in despair. As to what we have actually done, we
brought our fleet right up the river, much to the amazement of the
French, who have never dared to do such a thing with their own ships.
That proves that our navy is very capable, and, indeed, we owe a
tremendous amount to it. We pitched our camp here promptly, while the
fleet lay off the island, and were almost at once in difficulties, for
the French sent down fire ships. However, our tars made short work of
the flaring ships, and, indeed, enjoyed the fun of towing them away.
Then we captured Point Lévis, and commenced to build batteries. Our
guns have been at work, just as you hear them now, almost incessantly
for eight weeks, and the lower parts of the city are crushed to
pieces. But still the garrison is there, with strongly entrenched
lines stretching east from the city to the Montmorenci, and known to
us as the lines of Beauport, while there is also a force watching
the ford which exists higher up the river Montmorenci. Our aim is,
of course, to get on to that plateau, and on one occasion we landed
troops below it, close to the falls, and failed to gain a footing
above, though our men made a gallant and very reckless charge, without
having received orders to do so.

"At the present moment we are contenting ourselves with a constant
cannonade, and with feints here and there, while our ships, some of
which have passed Point Lévis, and run up above the city, drift down
during the night, thus making the French think that we may attack
at any moment. Prideaux has captured Niagara, which has resulted in
a movement of Montcalm's troops, Bougainville having been sent with
1500 men to Cap Rouge, which, you know, is some seven miles west
of Quebec, at the end of the ridge which faces the river there, and
offers an insuperable barrier to us."

"The one on which we lay hidden for a week, or rather where my friends
took me after they had rescued me from prison," broke in Steve. "I
remember the ridge well. The heights above are known as the Plains of
Abraham."

"You recollect the ridge, sir? How do you mean?" demanded the
quartermaster-general suddenly, a faint flush spreading over his face.

"We descended to the river that way," came the answer. "There is a
rough path, which we scrambled down during the darkness. A canoe was
waiting for us at the bank, and we set off in her. After that we
captured a ship and----"

"Stop! One moment!"

To Steve's amazement the quartermaster-general came a step closer, and
stared at him with a curious expression of excitement.

"You clambered down that ridge, sir?" he asked. "Up to this we have
considered that an impossible feat. Are you sure?"

"Certain. I was a prisoner for some months, and was allowed great
liberty. I have scrambled down from the plains many a time, and could
clamber up again. What defences do they have there?"

"None. There are fifteen hundred men at Cap Rouge, as I have just
explained, and here and there are guards to watch the ridge. But
Montcalm believes, just as we have always believed, that to scale
those heights is impossible. You could clamber up? You are certain?
You could find a place?"

"I am positive," came the swift answer. "Give me a boat in which to
run up river and inspect, and I am sure I can find a place."

[Illustration: QUEBEC in 1759.]

By now there was little doubt of the excitement into which the officer
had worked himself. His face was red and white by turns, his hands
were clenched, and he strode to and fro as if he could not remain
still.

"I will do it," he said. "The general is ill, very ill, I fear,
though he is reported to be a little better this morning. But this is
important information, and he must have it at once. Be good enough to
accompany me."

He beckoned to Steve, turned, and strode to the river, where there was
a boat belonging to one of the men-of-war, fully manned, and at once
the officer stepped into her, Steve taking his place beside him.

"Pull for the Montmorenci, lads," he cried. "This is urgent business,
and your officer must excuse my taking his boat. Let one of your
number stay behind to tell him that the quartermaster-general was
compelled to borrow it."

The oars splashed and the boat put off into the river. Then she surged
over to the far shore, for the sailors could see that something urgent
was afoot. And presently the bows struck the far bank, and Steve found
himself walking beside the general to a hut situated in the English
camp.

"Tell the general I am here and wish to see him on the most urgent
business," said the officer. "I know he is ill, but this news cannot
wait."

A minute later Steve was gripping the feeble hand of his old
commander, who lay in a camp bed, prostrate with fever. But even
though he was ill and suffering he could remember old friends, and at
once greeted our hero.

"Our escaped prisoner," he smiled, somewhat wanly, "come at my
bidding, but very late, I fear."

"We were delayed, sir," answered Steve. "We feared that we should
arrive too late."

"Would that you had, my lad. But Quebec is still not ours, and I have
grave doubts about taking it. Montcalm has sixteen thousand men to
defend the place, to say nothing of the enormous natural obstacles
which aid him. I have seven thousand men, gallant fellows every one,
and finely equipped and disciplined. If it were possible they would
have captured the city for us by now. But it is not. I see no way out
of the difficulty."

"Knowing that, I ventured to bring this young officer with me," said
the quartermaster suddenly. "General, Steve Mainwaring was a prisoner
at large and knows every foot of the surroundings of Quebec. He can
tell you of a place where an attempt might be made."

Wolfe shot up on his couch as if he had been stung, and stared at our
hero with blood-shot eyes, which plainly showed the fever from which
he was suffering.

"You know of a place!" he cried eagerly. "Where? Where?"

"I mentioned that I had escaped down the cliff which falls from the
Plains of Abraham. There are several tracks down it, and one I often
used when I was a prisoner is known as the Anse du Foulon. Men could
climb there, General, if the place were pointed out to them."

"Will you find it? Will you lead the men there?"

The hollow eyes of the general stared at Steve eagerly, while the sick
man sat on the edge of his couch as if about to stand.

"I could," was Steve's emphatic answer, "I or any of the three friends
with me, one of whom is my father. If you will give us the order, sir,
we will carry out the duty, and will do our best to take a party to
the top so as to hold the place. Then others can ascend."

"You shall go at once. The quartermaster-general will make all
arrangements for me. You shall be taken aboard one of the sloops of
war, and sail up the river. That will allow you to get your bearings.
When you have identified the place come back to Point Lévis. I shall
be there, and we will make final preparations."

The general dismissed them with a nod, and as they left the hut they
heard him calling to his servant.

"A gallant gentleman, cursed with execrable health, but possessed
of wonderful spirit and ability," said the quartermaster-general.
"Captain, your news will do more for him than any amount of rest or
physic. Find this path for him, and our leader will be happy."

Indeed, our hero seemed to have arrived in the very nick of time, and
as a result perhaps of his news, the general was soon out of his bed,
and making his way from point to point, inspecting the batteries and
camps, infusing new spirit into the men, and causing the enemy many a
qualm. The news of a possible attempt on the Heights of Abraham was
kept a dead secret while Steve was engaged on his search, and every
effort made to harass the French. In order to carry out this programme
effectively the camp at Montmorenci was broken up, and the troops
brought to Point Lévis or to the Isle of Orleans. Then a garrison
was selected for these two posts, and all save a regiment of seven
hundred men secretly embarked upon the ships of the fleet, the men
who remained being posted close to Point Lévis. Thenceforward, for a
few days the French had many an alarm, for fleets of boats, filled
with troops from the camp at Orleans, or from that at Point Lévis,
put off from the bank as if about to make an attack, only, however,
to return as promptly, for it must be remembered that they were the
only available garrison now for those points. Ships opened fire on the
city from various stations, while the fleet massed up by Cap Rouge,
and so many feints were made that Bougainville was severely harassed.
As for Montcalm, the brave and able commander of the French, he saw in
all these feints a projected attempt on the mouth of the St. Charles
river, under the very shadow of Quebec, and disposed his troops
accordingly.

Meanwhile Steve, his father, and the two trappers had embarked on a
sloop, and having sailed during the night up to Cap Rouge, drifted
down river on the following day. Twice in succession they repeated the
performance.

"I am satisfied now that we have found the place," said our hero,
when sent for by the general. "From the river here the land looks so
different that at first we were a little uncertain. But we have picked
up our bearings, and there can be no doubt. It remains now only to
make sure that the enemy is not above, and if they are there, to get
such a hold that they cannot drive us down before reinforcements
arrive. May we have a canoe, General? and whenever you select the
night for the attack, we will slip ashore, find the path, and signal
to the men."

"We are ready now," came the answer, for Wolfe was nothing if not
eager and impetuous. "But the weather is against us. It is dull and
inclined to rain, and that, in my opinion, would spoil our chances. We
want a fine night. Return to the sloop, Steve, and when the hour comes
I will send for you."

Steve left the general stalking restlessly backwards and forwards in
front of his tent, looking wan and ill after his attack of fever. But
Wolfe was full of energy and determination. This coming attempt, he
felt, was to be his last. It was to be the one great stroke upon which
the success of the whole campaign depended, and nothing should cause
failure that care and attention beforehand could obviate. He went
aboard the fleet, and himself studied the face of that cliff up which
his battalions were to clamber. Then he published his orders, gave his
final instructions, and sent a short note to Steve.

"The weather is settled now, and the night will be fine," he wrote on
the twelfth of September. "Carry out your plan to-night. As soon as it
is dark make for the shore, and find this path. When you are sure that
you are near it lie close down by the water and listen. My men leave
three hours after it is dark. Show them a lantern as they pass you."

That was all. This General Wolfe, a keen organiser himself, was one
of those officers who had the happy knack of rapidly discovering the
good points of those who served him. Once assured of an officer's
discretion, he could give an order and leave it to the officer in
question to carry it out in every detail without interference. And
now he sent his final orders to Steve, intimating to him that on his
discretion depended the success or failure of the whole expedition.

"Then we will make our preparations," said our hero, when he had
read the note. "We already have a canoe, and I advise that we put
some provisions into her, for the troops may be delayed. We will go
alone, and will take knives and tomahawks. A musket might go off
accidentally, and in any case we shall be glad to be free of the
weight."

"Another o' Steve's 'cute ideas," cried Jim. "This 'ere game as we've
got air the biggest I reckon of any as we've ever tackled, 'cos, yer
see, ef we make jest the smallest mistake and the French hear us,
waal, what's the good of troops? They'll be down upon us at once."

"But not in force," answered Steve quickly. "Remember, Jim, that
Montcalm has the majority of his men either in the city or in the
Beauport lines. There are men at Cap Rouge, but only posts along the
cliff we are to climb. We will find the path, clamber up it, and leave
two at the top to watch. If a French sentry should come along and hear
the noise made by the men as they disembark, those two must silence
him. After that it will take only a few minutes to get some of our
fellows up, and then Montcalm will want an army. Our boys will not be
turned off the cliff by anything less. Jim, you and Mac will take that
post up at the top. Father and I will descend and give the signal."

Darkness had fallen barely more than a quarter of an hour when the
party of four prepared to leave the sloop. Those aboard her now knew
what was about to happen. Indeed, the English troops aboard the fleet
were aware of the attempt about to take place, and were already
silently embarking in the boats secured to the ships' sides. As to the
French, they still believed that an attack in force was impending at
the mouth of the St. Charles, or against the Beauport lines, for the
feints of the fleet at Cap Rouge had ceased entirely, while Montcalm
did not even suspect that the bulk of Wolfe's army was aboard. There
was a curious calm up the river, where there had been so much energy
a few days ago, while down stream, at Point Lévis, the guns thundered
even more loudly than before, and there was very obvious activity at
the camp on the Isle of Orleans. Indeed, perched as they were high up
in Quebec, and the ridge on either hand, the French could see every
movement of the English, unless cloaked by the darkness. Montcalm had
been an attentive watcher, and on this very night his charger stood
ready saddled, so that the commander might gallop along the Beauport
lines, wherever circumstances might call him. Little did Montcalm
think that it was towards the opposite direction that his horse's
hoofs would carry him.

"Good luck, boys. Remember we're waiting. Remember that every man
aboard the fleet looks to you to-night, and that every mother's son in
Old England will sing your praises if you are successful."

The captain of the sloop, a rough old sea dog, gripped each one of the
party by the hand as they prepared to step into the canoe. Then he
gave Steve a bag containing a dark lantern, flint, and steel.

"Light it ashore," he said earnestly. "Even the best lamp of this sort
might show a glimmer, and the French would see it. Get under cover
when you strike the flint, lad. Don't forget. Under cover."

There was a faint murmur from the men as Steve dropped gently into the
canoe, while the clatter of booted troops lowering themselves into the
boats of the fleet came softly to the ear.

"Push off," he whispered. "Out paddles. Jim, take post in the stern."

It was a silent party which floated down the mighty St. Lawrence, for
up above there might be many listening ears. The paddles dipped ever
so gently, while at the stern Jim sat stolidly, his nerves strung to
high tension, for this was new work again, his paddle deep in the
river, and his eyes following the faint line of the ridge.

"Put her in. We have floated far enough, and, I think, are nearly
opposite. H-u-u-s-h!"

There was a sound high up above the river, and close at hand, for the
canoe was now within a few yards of the bank. Then, startlingly loud
on this calm night came the voice of a sentry.

"_Qui va là?_ Who goes there? Reply or I fire."

"Be silent. We are a provision boat. You will show the enemy our
position."

Quick as thought Steve gave the answer in French, and at once the
figure which had stood dimly silhouetted against the clear sky and the
stars above disappeared.

"Paddle back a little," whispered Steve, when the man had gone. "Now
lie off the bank for a while, dipping your paddles gently. In a few
minutes we will drop down again."

They took their frail craft some two hundred yards up stream again,
making out into the river as they did so. Then, having allowed some
minutes to pass, they struck for the bank again, floated down without
using a paddle, and grounded noiselessly. There was no need now
for talking. Steve stepped softly ashore, and was followed by his
comrades. Together they lifted the canoe, and laid it on the bank some
yards from the brink. Then they turned their faces to the cliff, crept
over the grass, and between bushes and brambles till they were at its
foot, and then separated. Five minutes later they had gathered again
at the same spot.

"Struck it, Cap'n," whispered Jim, a thrill of excitement in his
usually even voice. "I jest hit nicely on it. Come."

On hands and knees now the four crept along at the foot of the cliff
till Jim stopped them. They turned to the left abruptly, and as Steve
felt the ground his fingers detected the hollow track which he had
used on former occasions when a prisoner at Quebec. They were on
it now, Jim leading still, and Mac in rear, clambering through the
darkness.

"H-u-u-u-sh! What in thunder air thet?"

Jim spoke in a whisper, and Steve, who followed closely after him,
squeezed up to his side. There was a mass of wood and earth clinging
to the face of the cliff, and entirely blocking a portion of the
zig-zag Anse du Foulon.

"Get round it," whispered Steve, when he had run his fingers over the
obstruction. "Quietly! I think I heard someone moving up above."

Creeping to the right, and making use of every possible stump and
rock, Jim clambered round the obstruction, and reached the path again.
Another minute and he had gained the summit of the cliff, here some
two hundred feet in height, and was stretched on the grass which clad
the edge. And there the four lay listening for some few minutes.

"There's a sentry or two 'way over thar," whispered Jim, after a
little while. "I can hear the tap of his boots, and what's thet?"

"A song. He is doing what many a sentry does to pass the hours of
darkness. Humming a little tune all to himself. It's company to a man
posted on such a lonely beat. Well, Jim, we'll go. Keep a bright
look-out."

Steve and his father slipped from the edge, past Mac and Jim, and
groped their way down the steep path. On any other occasion they would
have placed their heels against the earth and slid, for the path gave
little holding, while its steepness was lessened by the fact that it
ran zig-zag across the face of the cliff. But a slide now would bring
the sentries to that quarter, and so the two groped their way down
till they reached the bottom. Then Mr. Mainwaring unstrapped a blanket
which he had carried attached to his back, and he and Steve sat down
beneath it, dragging the edges close to the grass. The rasp of a flint
on steel followed, and within a few seconds the candle in their dark
lantern was alight.

"Close the dark slide now, Steve," whispered Mr. Mainwaring. "I will
take charge of the lamp while you watch. Then you can sing out when
I am to expose the light. Remember, lad, you are in command of this
little party."

He took the lamp and sat down close to the edge of the water, his
eye fixed on the dark figure of his son. As for Steve, he stood
like a rock, listening intently and watching the river. Ah! A voice
broke from the summit of the cliff, the sing-song tones of which he
recognised. It was the sentry again.

"Who goes there? Halt, or I fire!"

And almost at once, in the most excellent French, came the answer.
"Silence, fool, can you not see that we are provision boats floating
down to Quebec. Silence, I say!"

The sentry was satisfied. He shouldered his arm and strode off,
complimenting himself on his sharpness. As for the boats which he
had detected, they were, in fact, the leading craft of the flotilla
which bore our troops, and the officer who answered in such excellent
French was a Highlander, sent in advance for the very purpose, in
case the necessity to reply to a challenge should arise. The time had
come. Steve clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth, a signal
which his father instantly followed. There was the low squeak of the
moving slide, and then a pencil of light shot out from the bank, to be
extinguished in less than five seconds.

One, two, three, Steve counted the boats as they ran in to the bank
and grounded. He ran forward, greeted the officer in command, and then
turned to lead them. They reached the cliff, gained the track, and
commenced to ascend. Hark! Above the faint noise made by the boots of
this advance party, above the deep breathing of the men there came a
sharp challenge from above.

"Who is there? Ah! I hear men moving down below, and there are boats.
Fire!"

Then followed a sudden shriek, there was the sound of a conflict
above, and within a few seconds a body crashed on the path some yards
beneath the top of the ridge, rebounded, and fell with a sickening
thud to the bank below. At the same instant a shot was fired, while
shouts arose in the distance.

"Charge. Up with yer, boys. We've got 'em. There ain't more then a
score here. Up yer come, every one of yer."

Jim shouted the words, and as Steve clambered to the top, he came
across the trapper standing to his full height, jubilant at the
success of the leading party.

"Did yer hear that air varmint strike?" he asked coolly. "Yer did.
Then you've nothing more to fear. It air that fellow Jules Lapon,
who's come up against us this many times. Reckon he won't be troubling
no longer."

Steve had barely time in which to grasp his meaning before the first
of the men were up. And after them, struggling up the track and at a
hundred and more other spots, came the rest of the troops, excited
and eager, fiercely determined to win on this occasion. Reckless
of danger, staunch to a man, and with childish confidence in their
officers, these gallant fellows gained the heights, paused to gather
breath, and then fell into their companies. When the daylight came,
Montcalm looked with consternation to the Plains of Abraham. For Wolfe
was there with four thousand three hundred seasoned and determined
men, who stood eagerly awaiting the expected battle.



Chapter XX

The Plains of Abraham


The sun, rising in all its early autumn splendour on that eventful
thirteenth of September, 1759, looked down upon an historic scene
which England should never forget. The slanting rays pierced the
mists overhanging the side reaches of the St. Lawrence, and slowly
disclosed to view the promontory on which the city of Quebec was
built, now no longer that fairy place which Steve had known it, but
a mangled heap of ruins, with debris of fallen houses, convents, and
barracks choking the tortuous streets. The lower portions of the
city were gone, while above, where the cannon shot from Point Lévis
had failed to reach, the batteries and walls stood out prominently
on this fair morning, as defiant as ever, frowning upon the English
camp on the Isle of Orleans, and upon the two long plateaux on either
hand. There was turmoil in this upper city. Soldiers and civilians
were rushing aimlessly about, horsemen galloped from the walls with
frantic messages, while Montcalm, that gallant soldier, discussed the
situation with the Marquis Vaudreuil, governor of Canada.

The news had just reached the city, and as the French commander looked
towards the Plains of Abraham, spying them through his glass, he saw
that it was only too true.

"At last," he said, "they have outwitted us, these fine Englishmen and
their persevering leader. They are waiting for our soldiers. I must
go."

In his own heart Montcalm knew in what a desperate plight he and his
force were, for he had already learned that the enemy who had for so
long faced the city were trained men, veterans, determined to win.

"We have a breathing space," said General Wolfe, looking haggard
on this early morning as he stood surrounded by his officers. "Let
the men lie down and eat their rations. And send for Captain Steve
Mainwaring and those gallant friends who helped us last night."

He stood, his glass to his eye, watching the distant city and the men
bustling about the walls. Then he turned to his own battalions and
inspected them critically.

"They will not fail me," he said, in tones of the utmost confidence.
"Though they are but a few more than four thousand, they will beat
these French. But I must remember that there are enemies in front and
behind."

Wolfe was, in fact, in a precarious position, had the French but known
it, for by placing his army on the Plains of Abraham, within little
more than half a mile of the city, he had wedged his force in between
Montcalm's city garrison and the soldiers holding the Beauport lines,
and the force, now amounting to over two thousand, which held Cap
Rouge under command of Bougainville. These separate bodies of troops
might march to attack him at the same moment, and he would find
himself assailed in front and rear, a very serious position for so
small a force as he possessed. However, to the brave many things are
possible, and it happened that Wolfe's daring tactics on this occasion
threw the enemy into hopeless confusion. The guards along that
ridge where the Anse du Foulon had been ascended rushed with their
information to Quebec, shouted the alarm, and caused Montcalm hastily
to gather troops from the city and the Beauport lines, where he had
imagined the attack would be delivered. In the flurry of the moment no
one thought of Bougainville and his men, and while the fate of Canada
lay in the balance, this officer remained within six miles of Wolfe's
position, ignorant of what had happened, and expecting hourly an
attack in force on his own entrenchments. Not till the cannon roared
and the volume of musketry fire reached his ear did he gather what was
happening, and then it was too late. Even then it is doubtful whether
Bougainville would have been right in leaving the post entrusted to
him, for cannon were for ever booming in the neighbourhood of Quebec.

"Gentlemen, at such a time I can say little to show my appreciation
of your conduct," said General Wolfe as Steve and his comrades ranged
up before him and were closely surrounded by the officers. "I thank
you from the bottom of my heart, for you have given me and these fine
fellows of ours our opportunity. You shall see that we will take the
fullest advantage of it."

He shook them each warmly by the hand, and then turned to watch the
enemy. As for our hero, he went back to the ranks with burning cheeks,
feeling that there was nothing he would not do for his commander.

"There's goin' to be some of the old work to-day," said Jim, as he
munched at a hunch of bread which he had brought in his pocket.
"Cap'n, set an eye over thar to our left. Do yer see?"

"There are Indians and Canadian irregulars filing off into the bush,"
came the answer. "They will creep closer, and open fire from the
cover. Jim, we will collect a few of the rangers, and do our best to
hold those men in check."

A number of scouts and trappers attached to the regulars had returned
to camp two days before, and these had only now put in an appearance,
having crossed the river with the seven hundred troops left just above
Point Lévis. Steve at once went to their leader, pointed out that the
enemy were massing their irregulars in the bush to the left of our
troops, and asked if he would obtain orders to operate against them.

"Certainly," was the answer. "It is just the work for us."

The stalwart leader of backwoodsmen went off at a run to the general,
and very soon the trappers, with Steve, his father, Jim, and Mac,
were creeping into the bush. By now Montcalm had gathered some troops
together, and had massed them just outside the western wall of the
city. At ten o'clock he was ready, and advanced with some three
thousand five hundred men, to which some fifteen hundred irregulars
must be added, these hanging on to his right flank and making for the
thickets and bush and cornfields which lay on Wolfe's left flank.

"The men will load with two bullets, and will reserve their fire till
the enemy are at close quarters." The order, issued from the cool
leader of our men, went down the ranks, and at once there was the
ring and tinkle of ramrods as a second ball was pushed into place.
Men powdered their pans and looked to their locks carefully, and then
all eyes went to the enemy. They were less than half a mile away, and
already their cannon, three of which had been hurriedly brought into
position, were plying our ranks with their shot, while from the flank
came a hail of bullets, sent by unseen marksmen.

Never in all his after-life could Steve forget that morning and the
scene upon which he looked, for he lay at the edge of a scrap of
cover replying to the fire of the French irregulars. The French line,
consisting of regulars and militia, advanced steadily, firing when
they came into range. They were mixed together in a heterogeneous
mass, and their shouts and the clatter of their pieces filled the
air. Steve watched them closely, and noted that already they were
thrown into some confusion, though our troops had not yet fired a
shot, for their militia backwoodsmen, once they had fired, threw
themselves down on the ground to reload, causing gaps in the ranks.
But still they were coming, looking formidable, and as if determined
to succeed. Then he gazed at the English troops, and a glow of
enthusiasm suffused his cheeks. For our men have won the unstinted
praise of everyone for their action on that morning. They were formed
in a triple line, and lay on the ground, waiting, while the cannon
shot and bullets plunged in amongst them, killing and maiming many.
Here and there stood an officer, talking quietly to his men, joking,
laughing, keeping their temper in hand, as our officers have always
known how to do. But the time for action had come. Wolfe, calm and
patient, yet itching to commence operations, walked to the front of
the Louisbourg Grenadiers and lifted his cane.

They were up. As one man the English regiments scrambled to their
feet, lined up, and brought their pieces down to the charge.

"Remember orders. Men, hold your fire till the word is given."

The officers could be heard calling to the men while they dressed the
lines for the coming charge. Ah! Wolfe was advancing. Steve saw him
wrapping a handkerchief about his wrist, which had been shattered
by a ball. The French were close at hand now. Men could catch the
gleam of bayonets, and could see into one another's eyes. But there
was not a sound from the English. They still advanced, silent and
awe-inspiring. They were within forty yards when the signal was given,
officers stepped to the flanks of their companies, a loud command
was heard, and in an instant a line of flame spouted from the ranks,
while the crash of the muskets sounded more like the discharge of
cannon than of smaller weapons. Then, indeed, did our men shout. Their
voices deafened the air, for they cheered enthusiastically. As for
the French, they were thrown into instant confusion. Huge gaps were
torn in their ranks, while men fell in all directions. They stood
spellbound for the most part, while some of their militia fled, for
this was almost the first time in this momentous campaign that they
had stood face to face with our men.

"Load again. Ready. Present! Fire!"

The order went rolling down our thin ranks, and again Steve heard the
clink and ring of the ramrods. Then came a second rattling volley, the
bullets crashing into the French ranks. Hurrah! Our men were advancing
again. The bayonets were breast high, while the broadswords of the
Highlanders flashed in the sun. Another shout went down the ranks, and
then there was heard the clatter of bayonet on bayonet, the hoarse
cheers of Highlanders, and the frantic shouts of New England lads,
and men from Old England. The French held their ground for a moment,
bravely contesting the path. Then they turned, broke into small
parties, and for the most part fled, a few veterans here and there
standing shoulder to shoulder to the last.

But where was Wolfe? The Indians and Canadians were flying with their
comrades now, and Steve was no longer required on the flank. He slung
his musket over his shoulder, and went off at a run till a small
gathering of officers attracted his attention. Wolfe, the gallant,
lion-hearted officer had been hit in the wrist at the commencement of
the action, and afterwards in the groin and through the lung. He was
mortally wounded, and called to Lieutenant Browne. "Support me," he
cried, "lest my gallant fellows should see me fall."

The officer was too late, and arrived at the general's side to find
him on the ground. Then a Mr. Henderson and Colonel Williamson
arrived, while Steve came on the scene a second or so later. Together
they lifted the poor general and carried him to the rear, where they
laid him gently down again, for he was in great pain and almost
unconscious.

"They run! See how they run!" cried an officer.

The words seemed to rouse the dying man. "Who run?" he asked eagerly,
but with feeble voice.

"The enemy, sir. Egad, they give way everywhere!"

"Go one of you, my lads," said Wolfe, "with all speed to Colonel
Burton, and tell him to march down to the St. Charles river and cut
off the retreat of the fugitives to the bridge."

Those were almost his last words. Even as he lay dying this fine
officer thought of his duty and of his country. He turned on his
side, exclaimed, "God be praised, I now die in peace," and becoming
unconscious, he died within a few minutes. Wolfe had won fame indeed.
His last hours of life had been devoted to the welfare of his country,
and this crowning stroke had won Quebec, had wrecked the French power,
and given to England another colony, a gem which shines in our crown
as brightly as do any. Many and many a winter has come and gone since
Wolfe laid down his life on those Plains of Abraham, the maple leaf
has gladdened the eye with its wonderful autumn tints on many an
occasion, while thousands of our population have blessed the man who
helped to win us this fine province. Let England and her sons not
forget. It is to devoted heroes such as Wolfe and his officers and
soldiers that she owes in great part this flourishing empire over the
seas.

Montcalm, the brave commander of the French, was also wounded on this
field, and died on the following morning. An obelisk stands now on
the heights of Quebec in honour of these two men who won renown on
the Plains of Abraham, and pays its tribute to their bravery in the
following lines:

    Mortem Virtus, Communem
        Famam Historia,
    Monumentum Posteritas
           Dedit.

Canada was won, but was not altogether in our hands, for Vaudreuil,
the French governor, still had many troops and irregulars, not to
mention the murdering Christian-Indians, at his beck and call, while
there were garrisons on Lake St. George, and at Niagara and other
forts during this summer. However, Prideaux marched against the last,
and the place was taken, while Amherst, ascending Lake St. George,
found Ticonderoga deserted and blown up, and Crown Point destitute
of troops. The following year brought an attack on Quebec, then
garrisoned by English, who were for a time in desperate plight. But a
fleet ascended the river, and relieved them, while Amherst appeared
upon the scene, took his troops to Montreal, and so overawed the
French that they capitulated.

To describe all these actions, to tell of the gallant doings of
our soldiers and the daring enterprises of Rogers and many another
backwoods hero would be to occupy more space than is available. We are
more concerned with the doings of Steve Mainwaring, now a captain in
the British army, a post he had won by his gallantry. He fought his
way with his old comrades right through this eventful campaign, and in
the end returned to that settlement from which Jules Lapon had driven
him. As to Lapon, his strange enmity was explained by Mr. Mainwaring
on that very morning after Jim had struggled with the Frenchman and
had tossed him to the bottom of the famous Anse du Foulon.

"He is gone, Steve," he said. "Let us speak well of the dead, whatever
his faults. This misguided young man had a grudge against you and me,
a grudge which must have caused him many an hour of bitterness. He was
a connection of yours."

"A connection?" Steve lifted his head in astonishment. He knew well
that his mother had been French, but to hear that through her he was
related to this Jules Lapon was astounding.

"Yes, a connection," said Mr. Mainwaring. "Listen, lad. Your father is
the eldest son of a wealthy man living in England, a proud gentleman
who had his own aims and views for his son. He had arranged, when I
was only a boy, that I should marry the daughter of his old friend.
I travelled, and in due course spent some months in France. There I
met your mother and married her, much to my father's indignation.
He disowned me after settling a sum of money on me so that I should
not starve. As to your mother's parents, they were pleased with our
union, I believe, but not so a Monsieur Lapon, your mother's cousin,
and father of this unfortunate Jules. He was older than I, and for
years had been the accepted suitor. My marriage to your mother raised
his hate and anger, and for years he attempted to do me an injury. He
sailed for Canada, for he was a poor man, while I made for America.
There he discovered me, and before he died he set his son on my track.
There, my boy, the mystery is explained. Had this Monsieur Lapon been
wedded to your mother he would have been a rich man. Yes, rich, for
her father left her a big property. That will be yours, Steve, when I
am gone."

Steve took his pipe and went away to think over the matter. His
father's conversation had cleared up a mystery which had often
troubled him. Now he understood why at times his father found need
to absent himself. He had to go to France to look to the welfare of
this property which had come to him through his wife. And now, too, he
gathered why this unfortunate young Jules had followed him so often,
and with such bitterness. He was a disappointed man, who considered
that this English family had filched wealth from his own.

"And in the end his strange bitterness brought about his downfall,"
thought Steve. "He would have done better had he left us alone, and
settled peacefully in the country. But there. I know now why he had a
spite against me, and I forgive him."

In the course of years Mr. Mainwaring died, and Steve found himself
a rich man, the owner of many broad acres in America, and of more in
France and in England. But he never left his native country. The charm
of the backwoods held him a prisoner, while he could never forsake Jim
and Mac and Pete and many another trapper, now grown old and feeble
and dependent upon him. The storm of the American revolution, which
lost us one of our finest possessions, passed over his head like a
huge rumbling cloud, leaving him unharmed. For he remained a neutral,
in spite of threats and fines, declining to fight against his old
comrades-in-arms, though he was conscious that his fellow-colonists
had many grievances. When that struggle was ended, Steve made his way
up those historic lakes, St. George and Champlain, found the hillock
which he and Jim and their comrades had defended, and fought his
battles over again. That zig-zag path up the face of the ridge at
Quebec attracted his attention, and he clambered to the summit of the
Anse du Foulon. His steps took him to that spot where the gallant soul
of Wolfe had departed, and once again he saw the triple line of the
English, heard the roar of their double-shotted weapons, and watched
the charge of those gallant fellows. He was a lad again. The years
which had flown past since those momentous times were bridged for the
moment, and once again he was Captain Steve Mainwaring, fighting for a
noble cause, the friend and leader of a gallant band of trappers and
redskins.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Transcriber's Notes:

The transcriber made these changes to the text to correct obvious
errors:

  1.  p. 120, "If all is right, --> If all is right,
  2.  p. 127, embarassment -->  embarrassment
  3.  p. 136, separted --> separated
  4.  p. 184, tree." --> tree.
  5.  p. 229, "We will return --> We will return
  6.  p. 281, Levis --> Lévis
  7.  p. 300, own friends again. --> own friends again."
  8.  p. 372, Levis --> Lévis
  9.  p. 374, Levis --> Lévis
  10. p. 382, Levis --> Lévis

End of Transcriber's Notes]





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