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Title: The Boy Scouts at the Battle of Saratoga - The Story of General Burgoyne's Defeat
Author: Carter, Herbert
Language: English
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“It is the courier, George Preston!” said Dan in a whisper as the canoe
                         swept around the bend.
                                                              _Page 269_



                             The Boy Scouts
                       At the Battle of Saratoga


                 The Story of General Burgoyne’s Defeat

                           By HERBERT CARTER
                               Author of
                “The Boy Scouts Through the Big Timber.”
                  “The Boy Scouts In the Blue Ridge.”
                   “The Boy Scouts’ First Camp Fire.”
                    “The Boy Scouts In the Rockies.”
                     “The Boy Scouts On the Trail.”

                            Copyright, 1909
                         By A. L. BURT COMPANY



                                CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE
  I. The Camp in the Woods.                                            1
  II. The Missing Messages.                                           17
  III. The Spiked Cannon.                                             38
  IV. The Dam Across the Creek.                                       55
  V. The Suspicious Tory.                                             75
  VI. The Bend of the Walloomsac.                                     90
  VII. Clipping the Left Wing.                                       109
  VIII. The Night on the Road.                                       128
  IX. Unfurling the Flag.                                            148
  X. Clipping the Right Wing.                                        173
  XI. The Old Hut.                                                   190
  XII. The Real Ira.                                                 209
  XIII. The Midnight Fire.                                           227
  XIV. The Drawn Battle.                                             240
  XV. The Chance Meeting.                                            255
  XVI. The Bitter and the Sweet.                                     270



                             The Boy Scouts
                       At the Battle of Saratoga



                               CHAPTER I.
                         THE CAMP IN THE WOODS.


The sunset had brought to a close the hottest day of the season (June,
1777). With the fading of the light a cool breeze came in from Lake
Champlain, sweeping across the big promontory, near the foot of which a
single tent was pitched. As the wind rustled in the tree tops above the
canvas shelter, its occupants arose from the rude beds of fir boughs,
and sought the outer air. This act revealed their number and
character—three lads, not far from eighteen years of age, whose rugged
faces, brawny muscles and rude clothing suggested, as was the fact, that
they had been bred to a frontier life.

“I say, Dan,” the tallest of the group remarked as he yawned and
stretched himself to his full height, “ain’t it ’bout time that feller
we are waitin’ for hove in sight?”

“He’s got an hour longer, Late,” the boy answered, “an’ may show up in
that time. General Schuyler,[1] when he tole me to find you an’ Joe an’
come up here, said: ‘Pitch your tent on that big point to the left of
the Narrows, an’ wait three days for the feller I’ve sent to watch
Burgoyne’s fleet that’s comin’ down to attack Fort Ticonderoga. He’ll
jine ye by that time, an’ tell ye what to do.’ That’s plain ’nough even
for your thick head to understand, an’ as we ain’t been here three days
till it’s pitch dark, I say thar’s an hour for him yet.”

“It’s queer the general didn’t tell you who it was,” commented the third
lad, who had been spoken of as “Joe.” “I wonder you didn’t ask him.”

“You’ve said that six or seven times already,” Dan retorted somewhat
sharply, “an’ I’ve told ye as often that it wasn’t my style. I always
leave it for the general to tell me what he thinks I orter know, an’
leave unsaid what he’d rather keep to himself. Whosomever this feller
is, he’ll be likely to explain, an’ I can wait without worryin’ over
it.”

“That’s ’cause your habit for askin’ questions wasn’t ever fully
developed,” Late broke in with a chuckle. “But we shan’t have to wait
long ’fore we at least see the feller, for, if I’m not mistook, thar he
comes now down the lake,” and he pointed to a dark object which was
approaching.

“He’s in a canoe, an’ a youngster like ourselves,” Dan added a moment
later.

“I don’t know how you make that out,” Late cried. “I can only see that
it’s a boat of some kind.”

“That’s ’cause your eyesight was never fully developed,” Dan retorted
with a grin. “I can see him well enough. But since he’s a-comin’ we
better get to hustlin’ an’ have supper ready. If he’s traveled far he’ll
be hungry, an’ we may make a good impression by showin’ we are liberal
providers. I’ll start the fire, an’ Joe can get the water, while you,
Late, bring up those fish we caught this mornin’.”

For the next half hour the campers were too busy with their preparations
to give more than an occasional glance up the lake at the approaching
boat. But what they saw confirmed Dan’s words. The newcomer was a lad of
about their own age, and was able to handle a canoe with the grace and
skill of an Indian.

At length, however, the potatoes were baked, the fish broiled, and the
corn-cakes done to a turn. Then Late spoke:

“We are ready, an’ he’s nearly here. Let’s go down to the shore to meet
him.”

His comrades followed him without a word. Clambering down the steep bank
to the water’s edge, they waited in silence the arrival of the voyager.
He could see them standing there, and, though several rods away, paused
in his paddling long enough to raise one hand and wave it above his
head. They returned the salutation; but refrained from the cheer all
longed to give. They were not sure of being alone in the forest, and,
with that caution which comes to all accustomed to a frontier life, made
no noise that might attract the attention of an enemy.

Two minutes later the canoe touched the beach, and its occupant leaped
out. For an instant he stood there, running a keen eye over the three
lads whom he knew would be his associates in the hazardous work of
reporting the movements of a hostile army. They, in their turn, gazed
critically at the one who was for a time to be their leader.

He saw three youths, rough, uncultured, and yet as stout of heart as the
great trees among which they had lived, as keen as the steel of the
knives that graced their belts. They, on their part, beheld a lad a
trifle older than themselves, taller by an inch than Late, and as
stalwart in frame as he, yet a lad whose studious face suggested the
school; whose air of refinement seemed more in keeping with the town
than the woods; and whose every movement told of one accustomed to
command.

The brightening of his and their faces told that he and they had alike
been pleased with what they saw; then, before the stranger could speak,
the waiting lads picked up the canoe, and started toward the camp with
it. The newcomer added his own strength to the burden, and almost
noiselessly they ascended the promontory, dropping the boat aside the
tent.

“I am here at last,” the unknown lad now said in a low and pleasant
voice. “Have you waited long for me?”

“Three days, lackin’ a few minutes,” Dan replied, acting as spokesman
for the party.

“Then you were here at the earliest moment suggested by the general,”
the first speaker said heartily. “I like that. It shows that he has
given me assistants who can be relied upon for promptness. The silence
in which you met me proves that you can be discreet. The supper you have
ready bespeaks your hospitality. They are all traits I
appreciate—especially the last, after my pull of thirty miles. Let us
eat and get acquainted.”

Sitting on the trunk of a fallen tree near the fire, which now was no
more than a bed of coals, he began to eat with that relish which long
exercise in the open air always imparts.

At once the entire party was engaged in the same agreeable task. As they
ate their conversation was, during a time, of little importance; but
when the keen hunger of the leader had been somewhat appeased, he paused
long enough between mouthfuls to say:

“I have your names, comrades; but which is which I do not yet know. I
wonder if I can pick you out,” and again he ran his keen eye quickly
from one to the other. Late laughed.

“My knife ’gainst yours that you can’t tell who I am on the first
guess,” he said.

“It would hardly be a fair wager,” was the reply, “for my knife is worth
more than yours. But I’ll venture a guess without a bet. You are Latham
Wentworth.”

“You’ve seen me somewhere ’fore now,” the crestfallen youth cried when
the laughter of his companions had subsided.

“No; but you gave yourself away when you made the bet. I have been told
that you are always ready to wager anything you possess, from the shoes
on your feet to the cap on your head.”

“I reckon that’s so,” he admitted, joining in the laugh at his expense.

“What is it the good book says ’bout ‘their works do follow them’?”
asked Dan at this point. “I guess that is true of the livin’ as well as
the dead, Late.”

“A remark that proves you are Daniel Cushing,” was the comment of the
newcomer. “You see I am nearly as well acquainted with you, as with
Wentworth.”

“It looks as if the general, or somebody, had sized us up ’bout right to
you,” young Cushing said curtly.

“There’s no chance for me to hide it, so I’ll admit I’m Joseph Fisher,
at your service,” that young man cried laughingly. “I’m quick to say it,
too, for fear you’ll show up some of my failin’s. But you haven’t told
us your own name, an’ the general didn’t, either. I think we orter know
that.”

“If you had put your last sentences first, your confession of your
identity would hardly have been necessary,” was the significant answer.

“Your demand is a fair one,” the lad replied, “and though it was my
first thought to withhold my real name, you shall know it, but you must
never call me by it, nor use it between yourselves when I am absent. It
is not, in fact, to be spoken aloud. You will understand later why I
make this strange request.”

With these words he drew from the bosom of his hunting-shirt an iron
cross, which evidently was attached to a chain about his neck. Taking
hold of the top above the horizontal bar, he gave it a vigorous twist.
It came off, showing that the lower portion was hollow, and contained a
tiny paper. This he took out, and passed to Daniel Cushing, who sat
nearest him.

“Read, and then pass it on,” he directed.

The parchment was so small, that only a few words could have been
written on it. These Dan slowly spelled out, and then exclaimed:

“I understand, sir. It shall be as you say, an’ you’ll find that Dan
Cushing never yet broke his word.”

He handed the paper to Late, who, after a little effort, mastered its
contents, and then cried:

“I never dreamed of such a thing, sir. You are right. ’Twon’t do to
whisper the name even to each other, lest the woods hear us. But ’twill
be a pleasure to serve under you, sir.”

Joe now had his opportunity to peruse the writing, and, being a better
reader than his companions, quickly gathered the meaning of the brief
lines. Running over to the leader, he seized his hand and shook it
vigorously.

“I deem it an honor to serve under you,” he declared, “an’ you’ll find I
can keep a secret, if I am always eager to solve one. But what are we to
call you?”

“For the present I am to be known to you, as I shall be to the British,
as Ira Le Geyt,” was the smiling reply.

“The Tory!”

“The spy!”

“The renegade!”

These three exclamations escaped the lips of the hearers in sheer
amazement.

“Tory, spy, and renegade,” was the quiet reply. “Do you fear that I
can’t play the part?”

“Not that, sir,” Dan answered hastily. “It’s the danger you run. ’Spose
some one happens into the camp who knows the real Ira, or what if he
happened to show up? You’d be in a tight place.”

“General Schuyler has the real Ira where he can’t make any trouble,” was
the reply, “and I have the young Tory’s entire outfit in yonder
canoe—rifle, clothes, commission as a scout in Burgoyne’s army, and, as
you have seen, his iron cross, the token by which he was to come and go
among the Indians. Some say that in form and feature we are not unlike.
I hope, therefore, to pass myself off for him. Of course there is a
risk, but I am willing to take that for the sake of the Cause.”

The last declaration was made modestly, almost reverently, and a few
moments of silence followed. Then the lad went on:

“This reveals my plan, and shows why I need you. As a trusted scout at
the British headquarters, I hope to learn enough about the commander’s
movements to keep our officers between here and Fort Stanwix fully
posted. But some other must carry the news. That is to be your work. At
regular appointed places just outside the British lines, one or more of
you will always be in waiting. To you I will come with everything our
men should know. I hope, too, we may be able to delay, if not thwart
altogether, many of the red-coats’ plans.”

“Will they soon be here?” Joe asked.

“Some time to-morrow,” Ira (as we shall now call him) replied. “I have
kept just ahead of the fleet since it started down the St. Lawrence. At
noon it was becalmed thirty miles up the lake. But a breeze sprang up,
as you know, at sundown, and it must be under way again. The British
will come slowly; but by daylight we ought to see the first vessels from
this headland.”

“I don’t s’pose you know how many there are?” questioned Dan.

“Vessels? yes,” was the answer. “There are sixty-one in all, frigates,
schooners, sloops, and transports. But the number of the troops I have
not yet got at clearly enough to make a report. That will be our task as
they land. We’ll stay here to-night, and early in the morning move camp
to the place I have chosen as our rendezvous while the enemy is in this
locality. Then we will return here, or to some other place where we can
watch the landing.”

For some time longer they discussed the exciting situation, and then
sought their rude beds within the tent.

Nothing disturbed their slumbers during the night hours; but with the
first light of the morning all were astir. Ira had been the first to
awake, and, rising, he hurried away to the edge of the promontory and
looked up the lake. The next instant he wheeled about, and went back to
the camp rapidly.

“Quick!” he cried in a low tone. “The fleet is not over five miles away,
and we must be on the move. It won’t do to stop here even long enough to
get breakfast.”

His companions needed no other warning. Springing up they aided in
emptying the canoe of its contents, after which the light craft was
carried some distance into the forest, and hidden in a dense thicket.
Returning to the camp they speedily took down the tent, packed it and
all their belongings into four bundles, and, shouldering these, hastened
off toward the west under the guidance of their chief.

With the directness of one who knew where he was going, he led them to a
narrow ravine a mile away. Entering this, he descended to a small brook,
which with a noisy murmur ran through it. Along the bank he traveled
until the ground was so wet and soft that walking became difficult. It
was clear they were now on the edge of a great swamp. Beneath a huge
maple he paused.

“Mark this tree,” he said in a low voice to his followers, “and for two
reasons: We must here enter the stream in order to reach the place where
we shall make our camp. See, between those two limbs is a small cavity.
Every day after I enter the British lines one of you must come here and
look into the hole. When it is impossible for me to visit you at the
rendezvous, I shall put my messages in there.”

While speaking he had pulled off his boots. His companions removed
theirs, and in single file they began the descent of the brook. Denser
and denser grew the underbrush, until with great difficulty they forced
their way between the branches which overhung the tiny stream. For a
quarter of a mile they struggled through the tangle, and then it
abruptly ended at the edge of a small pond, near the middle of which was
a tiny island. Here Ira spoke again:

“Do you see that big hemlock on the island nearly opposite us?” and as
the lads nodded assent, he went on, “Keep a straight line for that, and
you’ll find the water shallow enough for wading.”

He continued the journey, and a minute later all had gained the island,
where they found the ground firm and dry, while the trees were large and
far enough apart to let in the bright sunshine. A carpet of thick grass
added to the beauty of the spot, while a sparkling spring gurgled at the
foot of a great bowlder.

“This is fine!” exclaimed Joe, dropping the pack from his shoulders.
“How did you find it?”

“No one would think of looking for us here,” Late said contentedly, “an’
that trail down the brook hides every trace of our steps. A dog couldn’t
follow us.”

“Wood an’ water right at hand, an’ fish in the pond,” added Dan with a
quick glance around him. “Sure ye didn’t make it to order, Ira?”

The lad leader laughed.

“I fancy some people would say I found it by chance. I prefer, however,
to believe that I was led to it, and to a dozen other places between
here and the Hudson fully as good, by the same kind Providence that is
watching over our Cause, and will eventually give us the victory.”

“’Twon’t hurt us to think so,” young Cushing replied cheerily.

Then the little party fell to making camp. In a short time the tent was
pitched, beds of fir made, and breakfast cooked. Quickly breaking their
fast, they began the return to the lake.

In a half hour they reached it, to find the advance vessels of the
British fleet at anchor in the large bay just above the promontory where
they had first camped. Two boats, loaded with soldiers, soon came
ashore.

From their hiding-place the lads watched these men, only to learn that
their object was to select and arrange a camping ground. Hardly was
their task finished when the work of landing the men was begun.

Soon it was proceeding so rapidly, and at so many different places, that
the young scouts were obliged to divide forces in order to count the
troops. Four stations were, therefore, selected, covering the entire
bay, and from these the lads kept account of the constantly increasing
numbers.

It was not until late on the afternoon of the second day that they were
able to come together again to compare notes. Then a little mental
reckoning enabled Ira to say:

“We are now ready for my first report. I shall never send written
messages to our officers unless I am forced to do so. There will then be
nothing to fall into the enemy’s hands should you be captured. Late, you
are to go to Fort Ticonderoga, and say to General St. Clair[2] that
General Burgoyne has landed and is now encamped near the great
promontory at the foot of the lake. He has with him eight thousand
British and Hessian troops, four hundred Indians, and forty cannon.
Should he give you any message for me, put it in the big maple. Dan, go
to Fort Edward and deliver precisely the same message to General
Schuyler. Both of you are to return to our island camp as soon as
possible. Joe will be there when you arrive. I shall stay there
to-night, and early in the morning will enter the British camp.”



                              CHAPTER II.
                         THE MISSING MESSAGES.


The sun had been up a full half hour the next morning when Joe awoke.
Raising his head he looked about him. He was alone. Springing to his
feet he hastened to the door. The camp-fire had been built; the
breakfast was slowly cooking; but Ira was nowhere to be seen.

A low splash, as though some one was wading across the pond, reached his
ears. The tent faced south, while the approach to the island by the way
of the brook was from the east. He was obliged, therefore, to step
outside his shelter in order to obtain a view of the direction from
which the sound came.

The moment he did so he found it difficult to suppress the cry of alarm
that rose to his lips, for there, not more than two rods away, was a
stranger, who, having just put on his huge boots after wading over to
the island, looked up in time to catch sight of him. Instantly bringing
his rifle to his shoulder the intruder called out in loud, gruff tones:

“Stand where you are, youngster. Any attempt on your part to get a gun
will force me to fire.”

Seeing his words had the required effect, he came a little nearer, and
continued:

“Your companion ran away when I came up. Is it he, or you, who has my
iron cross?”

For an instant Joe could do no more than stare at the speaker. Could it
be that the real Ira Le Geyt had escaped from the hands of General
Schuyler, and in some way traced out the lad who was intending to
personate him in the British camp?

“Who be ye?” he finally questioned, using the time he gained thereby to
examine the newcomer carefully.

He certainly resembled the other Ira. This fellow did not appear to be
quite so tall; he was more stout; his hair was a shade or two darker;
his nose was more prominent; and he looked older.

There was a greater difference in his dress. He wore high top-boots, an
English hunting suit of costly material, a belt of polished leather,
containing a brace of pistols and a silver-handled knife, while on his
back was a huge knapsack, apparently filled to overflowing.

Scarcely had Joe learned all this, when the answer to his query came in
an angry voice:

“Who am I? You ought to know. Again I ask, have you my iron cross?”

This settled matters with the listener. Here was the real Ira, and the
thing to do was to outwit and capture him, call back his friend, and
then their plans might go on as arranged. With this object in view he
edged slowly along towards the intruder, saying innocently:

“I never saw you before, an’ I’ve nothin’ belongin’ to you, sir, but—”
and with a tremendous bound he caught his antagonist’s gun, tearing it
from his grasp. Flinging it away, he seized the owner by the body,
pinning his arms to his sides, and then finished his sentence, “I’ve got
you.”

To his surprise there was no struggle. Instead, a voice he knew well
cried out laughingly:

“Well done, Joe; but you must admit I as neatly fooled you. I guess I
shall be able to play my part at the British quarters.”

“It looks like it, I swaney,” Joe said a little sheepishly. Releasing
his prisoner, he stepped away a few feet and looked him over again, this
time more critically.

“It beats anythin’ I ever heard of,” he at length declared. “Though I
knew you were goin’ to rig up in some way, I thought the real Ira had
stolen a march on us, an’ got into camp—leastwise, you seemed like the
real Ira to me, though I’ve never set eyes on him. Unless the red-coats
know him better than I do, they’ll take you for him, sure.”

“Of course it is possible more than one of the British officers may know
Le Geyt,” the lad said thoughtfully, “or some person come into the lines
who has seen him. But I think the risk is small. His visits to this part
of the state have not been frequent, and, while his name is familiar,
his face and form are not. I flatter myself I have a make-up that quite
resembles him, and believe I can successfully carry out the part. Let us
have breakfast, and then I will be off.”

As he spoke he dropped his pack beside the gun, and, going to the fire,
helped himself to the smoking food. Joe followed his example, and they
ate almost in silence.

The meal finished, Ira removed his huge boots, and, adding them to his
bundle, started down the brook. His comrade followed as far as the great
maple, and from there watched, as he, after resuming his foot-gear,
walked slowly toward the British camp.

He would have been greatly excited had he witnessed what befell the
traveler a few moments later. Emerging from the ravine, he had gone but
a few rods when a stalwart Indian leaped from a thicket and grasped him
by the shoulder. The next instant a half-dozen more surrounded him.
Though offering no violence, it was clear they intended to make him a
prisoner.

Instead of being disturbed by this mishap, the captive seemed to rejoice
over it. He smiled pleasantly, laid his hand gently on the shoulder of
the man who first seized him, and who was apparently the chief of the
party, saying in the native tongue:

“My brother, you are from the great camp by the lake.”

A grunt of assent came from the captor.

“Take me there at once,” the prisoner continued with some show of
authority. “I have important business with General Burgoyne, the
commander.”

His words were not without their effect. Releasing him, the Indian said
in a tone of inquiry: “Ira Le Geyt?”

“Ira Le Geyt,” the youth repeated, and at the same moment he drew from
the bosom of his coat the iron cross.

At sight of the bit of metal the chieftain gave a peremptory order to
his men to fall in behind him, and then, side by side with the captured
lad, strode away towards the encampment.

They were not long in reaching the first outpost. To the guard the
Indian uttered the two English words, “King George,” and was allowed to
pass with his entire party.

Once within the lines the chief sent his followers to their quarters,
and then led his companion swiftly across the enclosure to the tent of
the commander, which he entered without ceremony.

“General! Ira Le Geyt!” he said, and then vanished.

Two men turned to face the newcomer; one in the uniform of a
major-general, the other in the garb of a private citizen, for their
backs had been toward the entrance, while they were giving undivided
attention to a rude map or chart which was spread out upon the camp bed.

“I beg your pardon for this intrusion, General Burgoyne,” the young
scout began, bowing low before that officer, “It was due to my
conductor, one of your Indians, who ran on me in the forest.”

“It is all right, Master Le Geyt,” the commander replied good-naturedly.
“Indeed, your coming is most timely. My companion, who, by the way is
Master George Preston, a courier who came from Quebec with us, and is to
go on to New York with a message for General Clinton from Lord Germain,
and I, were trying to trace out on this map the best route for him to
follow down the river. Perhaps you, who, I am informed, are familiar
with this entire region, may be able to help us. Would you advise him to
take the east or west side?”

Ira stepped to the bed, ostensibly to examine the map, which proved to
be a crude and inaccurate affair, but really to gain time in which to
think over the situation. Here was work for him immediately. If this man
had a message for General Clinton from Lord Germain, the War Secretary
in London, it was altogether too important to be allowed to reach its
destination. But how should he prevent it, and obtain possession of the
paper?

He cast a furtive glance at the courier to ascertain the kind of man he
had to deal with. The look was hardly reassuring. Clearly George Preston
was not a man to be easily thwarted. Forty years of age, nearly a giant
in strength and stature, with a face that suggested courage,
resourcefulness, and faithfulness to duty. It was certain he had been
selected for the task assigned him because he could be thoroughly relied
upon.

All this the lad took in during the brief minute he stood silent, and at
once decided upon a plan which he believed would enable him to
accomplish his purpose. Then he said in answer to the question asked
him:

“Both, sir. He better make directly for the river from here, and,
crossing it, go down the west side until below Albany. Then, recrossing
it, follow the east side to his destination. In this way he will escape
the main forces of the enemy, and so lessen his chances of being
captured.”

“That is what I told you, Master Preston!” exclaimed the general in
triumph. “I need the aid of Clinton too badly to run any risk of your
message failing to reach him. Take the safer way, even though it
involves a longer journey. Twenty-four hours delay in the delivery of
the letter is nothing, if it in the end reaches the general.”

“My chief objection to the plan lies in this:” the courier said quietly.
“It is unlike the route laid out for me in St. John. I had rather obey
the letter, as well as the spirit, of my orders.”

“A good practice, truly,” General Burgoyne replied heartily, “and one
that proves you are the man for this work. But our friends in St. John
did not know what might arise, and therefore left you to your own
judgment. I am exceedingly anxious that you use every precaution
possible to carry Lord Germain’s message safely through the enemy’s
lines.”

“You cannot be more anxious than I,” Master Preston said calmly, “and I
have something more to say, provided our friend here is all he claims to
be. It may be over-caution on my part, but if I recollect rightly, he
has nothing but the word of that Indian to back him,” and he gave the
officer a glance which caused him to flush slightly.

“Master Le Geyt answered so fully the description I had received of
him,” the general replied somewhat haughtily, “that I was at once
satisfied he was all he claimed to be. Nor is the Indian’s word of so
little value as you seem to think. He must have known the young man, or
he would never have brought him here. But since you have your doubts, he
can, I am sure, show what will convince us that he is as trustworthy as
yourself,” and he glanced confidently at the youth.

“I thank you, General Burgoyne, for so much confidence in me,” Ira
replied, “and I commend the caution of Master Preston. He has a perfect
right to demand full proof of my identity before giving me any
information which might be of value to an enemy. I will then, with your
permission, hand him my credentials first,” and, ripping open the lining
of his coat, he took out two slips of paper, which he gave to the
courier.

“The first is my commission as a scout from the general here,” he
explained. “The second is from our good friend, Lord Germain, and bears
his official seal. You will see that he vouches for my loyalty, and
suggests that General Burgoyne employ me during this campaign. I believe
it was this paper that led the general to send me the other, though he
had never seen me.”

“I also had a personal note from the Secretary, giving me a description
of you, and setting forth in detail how you could be of special service
to me,” the commander hastened to add. “Are you satisfied, Master
Preston?”

“I ought to be,” the latter declared, “and to prove it I will now make a
disclosure, general, which I have up to this time withheld, even from
you.”

As he spoke he took a small package from his coat pocket, and opening
it, brought to view three papers.

“This,” he said, “is the letter to Sir Henry Clinton; this is my
passport into any and all of our army lines; and this is the document I
wish to show you. You will notice, General Burgoyne, that our friends at
St. John were not in ignorance of the best route for me to follow in
going to Yew York, and also will understand the real reason why I hold
for the path they have marked out.”

Unfolding the paper with these words of explanation, he showed his
companions a carefully prepared route of the entire distance he was to
travel. Each day’s journey was laid out; every stopping place, with the
name of his host, was written down, and, now and then, beside a name was
a peculiar mark.

“Note these references,” he continued, “are concerning those men who are
to give me special tidings as to the number and position of the rebels
in their vicinity. James Graham of Hubbardtown, where I make my first
stop, will tell me the latest news about Fort Ticonderoga; William
Erskine will report as to the condition of affairs about Fort Edward.
The other men will in turn post me about matters in their neighborhood,
so that when I reach my destination I expect to be the bearer of
information to General Clinton which will greatly aid him in despatching
a force up the river to join you at Albany.”

Before he finished speaking Ira had read and fixed in his memory the
names of the men who were to assist the courier. He knew some as rank
Tories, but there were others who had the reputation of being friendly
to the Cause, and, therefore, were allowed to come and go freely in the
encampments near them. This revelation of their true character he
regarded of sufficient value to repay him for all the risk he had run in
entering the British camp.

“I had not thought of that, Master Preston,” the commander admitted.
“The additional information you gain may be worth the chances you take
in following that route. It is clear the authorities at St. John
believed it would be. But I advise you to travel only in the night, and
lay quietly in quarters during the day.”

“Precisely what I have planned to do, general. Leaving here to-night I
count, unless I lose my way, to reach the house of Master Graham before
sunrise. After that I shall have no trouble, for, if need be, a guide
can be furnished me from station to station.”

“And you may have a guide to Master Graham’s door,” the young scout said
modestly. “That is, if you are willing to accept my humble services.”

“I certainly am, and thank you for the favor,” the courier answered
heartily. “It removes the only anxiety I had about this first stage of
my journey. We will start about nine o’clock, if that suits you.”

“Perfectly.”

“And you, General Burgoyne, can have your letter to Sir Henry ready by
that time?” he asked.

“Yes; but I hope you have some safer place than your pocket for it and
those other papers,” the general replied, as Master Preston began to
wrap up the documents he had exhibited.

“Don’t borrow any trouble on that score, my dear sir,” the man replied
with a peculiar smile. “I may be captured, and my garments picked to
pieces, but I assure you the missives will not be found,” which
declaration was credited by one, and doubted by his other hearer.

An orderly now appeared, saying that General Fraser was without and
desired an interview with the commander.

“Show him in,” was the reply of that officer, and then, turning to his
other visitors, he added, “I shall be busy during the remainder of the
day, but an half-hour before you begin your journey I will be glad to
see both of you here. The tent at the right, Master Le Geyt, has been
prepared for you,” and then he turned to greet his subordinate, who had
already entered.

“I shall spend some hours in a much needed rest,” the young scout
announced to his companion, when they were outside; “but will join you
at sundown, if you so desire.”

“I will call for you when I come to report to the general,” Master
Preston replied, and then hastened off to his own quarters.

Ira left his tent but once during the day. That was just after dinner,
and for a stroll in the forest. He was absent about two hours, and on
his return brought a fine string of trout he had caught.

“A present for the general,” he said to the courier, whom he chanced to
meet soon after he entered the lines.

“I wish you had taken me with you,” the latter cried enthusiastically as
he inspected the speckled beauties. “If there is anything I enjoy more
than running the lines of the enemy, it is angling, and you have the
finest catch I have ever seen in this country.”

“Then that shall be a bond between us,” was the hearty response. “I knew
of a pool a mile or two from here, and could not resist the temptation
to pull out a string. You’ll be here in a few hours?”

“Yes,” said Master Preston, strolling on, apparently unsuspicious that
his new acquaintance had been out of the camp for any other purpose than
that of fishing.

Their interview with General Burgoyne during evening was brief. He gave
a letter he had prepared for General Clinton, to Master Preston, who
asked to be excused for a few moments. Somewhere in the outer darkness
he concealed it about him, for when he returned he said:

“I’ve put it with the others, sir, and promise you that it shall not
fall into any hand than that for which it is intended.”

Ten minutes later he and his guide had left the encampment, and were
gliding swiftly and noiselessly through the forest toward Master
Graham’s.

Several times the heavy step as of some belated traveler caused them to
shrink back under the cover of the dense brush until it had ceased. Now
and then came the cry of some wild beast to startle them, but they kept
steadily along the trail until nearly midnight. Then they had arrived at
a small brook, which crossed the path at right angles, and here Ira, who
was in the lead, stopped.

“Our journey is half done,” he announced. “We may as well halt here, and
have something to eat.”

On a rock beside the stream, amid darkness that could almost be felt,
surrounded by a silence that seemed oppressive, the two in silence
partook of the food they had brought with them. Quenching their thirst
from the rivulet, they were about to resume their tramp, when came the
hoot of an owl from the rear. It was repeated at a short distance down
the trail, and a moment later sounded nearer yet, but from up the brook.

“Can it be we are followed and surrounded?” the courier asked
apprehensively in a low tone.

“It is a singular circumstance,” his companion admitted in a whisper.
“There it is again,” and, listening, they heard the cries again in
precisely the same order. Then came the sharp snap of a twig as though
some one was approaching.

“The way is open to the right,” Ira continued in the same low tone.
“Quick! we may yet escape.”

He led the way down the stream, going as rapidly as the darkness and
underbrush would permit, his comrade keeping close at his heels. After a
while the ground became soft and miry, and the bushes were so dense as
to render progress exceedingly difficult.

“We must take to the brook,” Ira said to his companion. “Pull off your
boots!”

“But is it necessary?” the courier asked. “Can’t we wait here awhile,
and then go back to the trail?”

“Listen!” was the answer. Through the stillness of the night came to
their ears the sound of footsteps.

“I have it,” the young scout whispered to Master Preston. “We’ll take to
the stream here, and keep it down a few rods to where another brook
joins it, which last we’ll follow. It will enable us to work toward the
old trail, and at the same time throw our pursuers off the track.”

Stepping into the water a moment later, they waded slowly and cautiously
along to the tributary of which Ira had spoken. Entering this they began
its ascent. During a half hour they kept on, pausing occasionally to
learn if they were still followed, but no sound broke the stillness of
the forest.

“Those fellows have lost our trail; can’t we leave the brook now?” the
courier at length asked, becoming tired of his slippery and uncertain
footing.

His companion’s answer was also a question:

“What’s that ahead of us?”

Master Preston stepped beside his guide, and then replied:

“It is a fire of some kind!”

“A camp-fire,” was the rejoinder. “I can now see a tent beyond.”

“What shall we do?”

“Keep straight on. Whoever may be there are probably fast asleep at this
hour.”

Noiselessly they advanced.

“We are in a pond,” the courier whispered an instant later.

“That’s a fact,” his companion agreed, “and that is Boulder island. I
know where we are now. I don’t think we have anything to fear, still
we’ll keep our guns ready for immediate use.”

The next moment they gained the shore of the island, and stopped in
front of the fire, at the tent door. The canvas dwelling was empty.

Ira laughed loudly.

“This is a joke on us!” he exclaimed. “See! there are the fellows’
fishing rods. They were doubtless out hunting when night came on, became
separated, and are trying to find each other and their camp. We’ve run
away from men who had no thought of pursuing us,” and again he laughed
heartily.

Before his comrade could speak a cry came from the main shore.

“Hello there! Who are you in our camp?”

“I ought to know that voice,” the young scout said to the courier. Then
he replied:

“Is that you, Joe?”

“Yes, but who are you?”

“Ira Le Geyt.”

“Hurrah!” came back across the little pond. “We’ll jine ye in a minute.”

There was a noise as of splashing water for a moment, and then two young
lads came into the dim light of the camp-fire.

“Glad to see you, Ira,” they both exclaimed, shaking hands with him, and
he introduced his companion to them.

“Master Preston, this is Joe Fisher and Late Wentworth, two friends of
mine, who are of the right sort.”

When the courier had acknowledged the introduction, his guide continued:

“Was it you who were hooting like owls up where the stream crosses the
Hubbardtown trail?”

“Yes,” Late replied. “We were separated, an’ tryin’ to come together
again. Why do you ask?”

“We thought it was some one who wanted to hem us in on the trail, and so
took to the brook,” the young scout explained, “and here we are, three
or four miles out of our way.”

“Well, ye better stay until mornin’,” Joe said. “You are both welcome to
our shelter an’ fodder, such as it is. Ain’t that so, Late?”

“I reckon,” his camp-mate replied, “an’ if we don’t turn in soon,
mornin’ will be here ’fore we get a wink of sleep.”

“I leave it to you, Master Preston,” Ira said. “Shall we go on, or
stay?”

“Go on,” he answered. “I must reach my destination before light, if it
is possible.”

“Very well,” his guide replied, stooping to pick up the big boots he had
thrown down upon reaching camp.

The courier bent over for the same purpose, but before he could recover
himself, Late and Joe seized and threw him to the ground. Ira came to
their aid, and in a few moments the man was bound and disarmed.

“What does this mean?” he demanded with an ugly glance at the young
scout.

“That I want the papers you carry,” Ira replied quietly.

“Find them then,” he retorted with a grin.

His clothing was examined, his boots, hat, belt, the stocks of his
pistols and gun; but the important papers could not be found.



                              CHAPTER III.
                           THE SPIKED CANNON.


“We’ll put him in the tent, and make further search in the morning,” Ira
said at length.

The three scouts lifted their prisoner, and, carrying him into the tent,
laid him gently on the fir boughs.

“I would loosen your bonds if it were safe to do so, Master Preston,”
Ira said; “but as it is, you will have to make yourself as comfortable
as possible under the circumstances.”

“I have been in a worse fix,” he replied shortly.

“You may both lie down and get what sleep you can,” the lad then said to
his comrades.

“You are the one to sleep; we’ll take turns watching the prisoner,” Late
said stoutly.

“No,” their leader answered decisively. “You will have a long journey
to-morrow and need the rest, while I can sleep after returning to the
encampment.”

They yielded reluctantly, and were soon slumbering soundly. Ten minutes
passed, and the courier was so quiet the lone watchman thought he too
must be asleep; but suddenly he tried to raise himself, saying:

“Look here!”

“What is it?” Ira asked kindly. “Can I do anything for you?”

“Yes,” the captive answered. “Tell me whether you are really Le Geyt, or
some one who is personating him.”

“What difference does that make to you?”

“Much. If you are Le Geyt, you are a low, contemptible traitor, and when
I get the chance I’ll crush your life out as I would that of a snake.”

“I don’t blame you for feeling that way,” Ira replied with a slight
laugh. “I should in your place. But what if I am not Le Geyt?”

The courier struggled until he had raised himself slightly on one elbow,
and looked straight at his captor for a moment. Then he continued:

“If you are some Yankee personating him at General Burgoyne’s
headquarters, I say it is the boldest scheme I ever heard of, and I have
only the profoundest respect for you. To be outwitted by such a man
isn’t half as bad as having a sneaking traitor get the best of you.”

“That is where the shoe pinches, is it?” the young scout asked with
another laugh. “Well, I’ll let you judge as to my real character by this
night’s work.”

Silence reigned for some time, to be broken again by Master Preston, who
said, as if he had been thinking over the events of the night:

“We are not far from the British camp?”

“What makes you think so?”

“You were not gone long enough from the encampment during the afternoon
to have traveled very far and also caught that string of fish.”

“You are a good reasoner, Master Preston.”

“I believe we haven’t been very far from the camp at any time to-night,”
the prisoner went on a moment or two later in tones of disgust. “I
wonder I didn’t suspect you were leading me in a circle.”

“The circle was too large, and you were not familiar enough with the
locality to see the change in our course,” Ira explained. “You can’t be
blamed, I assure you. The way you have hidden the letters I know you
carry, is proof you are nobody’s fool.”

The compliment evidently pleased the prisoner, for he laughed silently,
and then remarked significantly:

“You haven’t found them yet, have you?”

Ira made no answer, and in a few minutes the prisoner was sleeping
soundly notwithstanding his uncomfortable situation.

The little camp was astir early, for Dan Cushing arrived at dawn from
Fort Edward. He looked the prisoner over, heard the story of his
capture, and then turned to Late.

“When did you get back?” he asked.

“Yesterday about noon,” his friend replied.

“Any special news at Ticonderoga?” he next inquired.

“Nothin’, except General St. Clair has over three thousand men,” was the
reply. “Colonel Seth Warner has come with his regiment from Bennington.”

“And General Schuyler is gettin’ reinforcements all the time,” Dan
announced. “Give him a little more time, an’ he’ll have ten thousand men
at his back, ’nough to drive the red-coats back into Lake Champlain.”

“He must have the needed time before Burgoyne reaches him,” Ira
declared.

“That is what the general told me to tell you,” the lad continued. “He
will leave the road open to Fort Edward until General St. Clair finds
out whether he will have to retreat from Ticonderoga. If he does, he is
to destroy bridges, and cut down trees across the way to hinder the
red-coats as much as possible. I carried that order to him before comin’
back, else I’d been here sooner.”

“You’re here in time,” the leader replied, “though I shall have to send
you back to the fort in a few hours. I want our prisoner in the custody
of General Schuyler, rather than that of General St. Clair. I shall feel
safer. And all three of you will make none too strong a guard. He must
not be allowed to escape under any circumstances. Shoot him down should
he attempt it. But we’ll have breakfast first, and then search him again
for those missing messages.”

In a half-hour they and their prisoner had eaten. Then the latter was
stripped to the skin, and every rag of his clothing examined. Then his
boots and weapons were again inspected, lest some secret cavity had been
overlooked. But the search was as fruitless as the previous one. It was
evident that the captive enjoyed their discomfiture.

“It matters little,” Ira finally declared. “As long as he is a prisoner
he cannot deliver the letters, and that will answer our purpose. It is
possible, too, that the general may find a way to make him disclose
their hiding place. At noon you are to begin your journey. Take the west
trail to the river, and keep on to the fort. When you go, I’ll start for
the British camp. Until then Dan and I will sleep.”

The noon-day sun, therefore, looked down upon a deserted island. The
three boys with their prisoner had gone over to the western shore of the
little pond, and from there struck through the forest towards the Hudson
river; while Ira re-crossed to the brook, and, descending that to the
larger stream, retraced his steps to the point where the latter met the
Hubbardtown trail. From this point he began his journey back to the
lake. He took such a roundabout route as a precautionary step. Should he
meet any one who knew him, it would be supposed he was returning to the
encampment directly from Master Graham’s house.

On his arrival he found General Burgoyne too busy with his arrangements
for breaking camp on the morrow to give him more than a passing notice.

Greeting him pleasantly, the officer remarked:

“I trust that you made a safe journey, Master Le Geyt.”

“I did, and left Master Preston in good hands,” he replied, an answer
which satisfied the unsuspecting commander.

By easy stages the army crept down toward Ticonderoga until only Sugar
Loaf Mountain[3] stood between it and the fortress. Here a halt was
called that the engineering corps might examine the hill with a view to
placing a half-dozen cannon on its summit.

With some anxiety Ira went over to the officer who was watching his men
as they clambered up the steep sides, measuring distances, and selecting
the surest footing.

“It is a difficult place to carry guns, captain,” he said, as he stood
by the officer’s side. “The enemy have always regarded such a feat as
being impossible.”

“It may be for them, but not for us,” the Britisher replied loftily.
“Before night I shall have my cannon yonder on that level spot you see
below the big tree. From there it will be an easy task to run them over
on the south side.”

“The fort will then be at your mercy,” the young scout suggested.

“Yes,” the captain replied with much satisfaction. “As soon as I have
the guns in place, the general will throw his army about the fortress,
and it will have to surrender, or be blown to pieces. The cannon isn’t
yet made that can throw a shot six hundred feet straight up in the air
to harm us.”

“That is so,” the lad admitted, and turned away with a heavy heart.

From his tent door he could watch the work of the engineers. A derrick
was made of a tree some distance up the precipitous side; a pair of
horses was attached to one end of the rope, and a gun drawn up to a
level spot which had been cleared away a few feet below the tree. Then
the tackling was carried to another improvised derrick farther up the
hill, and again the horses swung the cannon toward the summit. It was a
slow task, often beset with unexpected hindrance; but within two hours
the first gun was lying on the level spot which the captain of the corps
had designated.

“If one cannon may be put there, six can be made to follow,” muttered
Ira as he saw the end of the task. “It is only a question of time. The
officer was right; before night he will have his battery where it can be
put in place. I must get word to General St. Clair, and let him and his
men slip away before they are surrounded.”

The opportunity came to him unexpectedly. About dusk General Burgoyne
sent for him.

“Master Le Geyt,” he said, when the young scout was in his presence, “I
want you to go below the fort and keep watch over the road the enemy
would take if they should attempt to retreat to-night. Select as many
men with you as may be needed, and in case you discover any suspicious
movement, report promptly to General Fraser. He has his division ready
for immediate pursuit the moment we know the Yankees are trying to
escape us. Before another night I shall have a force where they cannot
leave the fort however great their desire.”

Concealing the exultation he felt at this order, the lad replied
promptly:

“I will make arrangements to leave camp at once, general, and shall need
but one other man, provided we may have horses. There are two routes by
which the Yankees can leave the fort; my comrade can watch one, while I
look after the other, and the first to detect any movement of the enemy
will report at once to General Fraser.”

“Very well. Go to Colonel Baume; he will furnish you with horses and
man, and you can be off by the time it is fairly dark.”

“Yes, sir,” and the lad hurried away.

Twenty minutes later he rode out of the lines, accompanied by a stolid
Hessian whom he had chosen as his attendant. They went down the south
road until arriving at another running westward. Here he stationed his
comrade, saying to him in his own tongue:

“Stay here until I return, unless the Yankees come along in full force,
in which case you are to ride to camp as fast as your horse will go, and
tell your colonel. Do you understand?”

He grunted an assent, and Ira rode off to the east, saying to himself:
“You’ll see no Yankee force to-night, my good fellow.”

A mile further on he came to a farm-house, up to which he rode boldly,
and dismounted. Three rapid knocks on the door brought an immediate
response.

“I’ll join you in a moment,” a voice said, and soon a stalwart form
stepped from the darkness within into the darkness without. Approaching
the horseman, he peered into his face an instant, and then exclaimed:

“Ho, Ira! It is you! Well, what is up?”

“I must go into the fort to-night,” the rider explained in low tones. “I
will leave my horse here. What is the password?”

The man placed his lips to the lad’s ear, and whispered the information
he desired.

“All right,” he replied. “I will be back in a few hours.”

He then gave the reins of his steed into the farmer’s hands, and,
passing around the house, crossed an open field to the nearest thicket,
into which he plunged. When he emerged from the timber he was near the
fortress. Boldly approaching the sentinel, he replied to the challenge
by giving the password, and in a few minutes was in the presence of
General St. Clair.

The officer’s greeting was a warm one. Grasping the newcomer by the
hand, he exclaimed:

“I am glad to see you——” here he hesitated a moment, and then went on
with a grimace, as though the name was a disagreeable one to him—“Ira;
but I fear your coming means bad news for me. What is it?”

“I had no time to find my messengers,” he began, “so came myself. The
engineers of Burgoyne have succeeded in hoisting six of their best
cannon up the north side of Sugar Loaf Mountain. To-morrow morning they
will be run across to the south edge, and the fort will be at their
mercy. You must retreat to-night.”

“If I do, it means leaving my cannon and stores for the enemy,” the
general growled, more to himself than to his visitor. “Tell me how they
did it? I thought such a plan impossible.”

Rapidly the young scout described the methods used to accomplish the
feat, and added:

“I also have another item of news. General Fraser’s division is in
readiness to pursue you, if you attempt to leave the fortification. I
have been sent here to see that you do not get away,” and he and the
officer laughed. “The general has orders to put his troops in your rear
in the morning.”

“Hum! hum!” the commander muttered. “That does look as though I must
move quickly, if I am to save my men for future fighting,” and he
relapsed into deep thought.

In silence Ira waited. At length the general spoke.

“If I could have until to-morrow night, I believe it might be possible
to slip away with men, guns, stores, everything. Is there any way by
which the movements of the red-coats could be delayed, say for
twenty-four hours?”

It was a full minute before the lad replied: Then he said slowly: “If
those cannon on the mountain were disabled, they would have to spend
another day hoisting up a second battery, and in all probability General
Fraser would not be sent to your rear until the guns were in position.”

“Exactly,” broke in the officer eagerly, “if those guns can be spiked
to-night, I am likely to secure the delay I need. Now the question is,
can it be done? Are those cannon under guard?”

“I think not,” his visitor replied. “The British camp is so close to the
foot of the hill, and as you are not supposed to know that the guns are
on its summit, they have not deemed such a precaution necessary.”

“It is worth trying,” the commander said half to himself. “If I can only
find a man who is willing to undertake the job,” and again he relapsed
into deep thought.

“I will undertake it, general.”

“You?”

“Yes. I believe I can do it without much risk. Once I climbed that hill
from this side, just for the pleasure of saying I had accomplished the
feat. I am sure I can do it again. Give me the implements needed; say
nothing to any one, and I will make the attempt. Two cries of a
night-hawk from the south edge of the mountain, twice repeated, will be
token that I have succeeded. Three cries, unrepeated, is that I have
failed. There will be time for you to slip away with your men if I am
obliged to report a failure.”

During several minutes they discussed the matter, General St. Clair
offering to send others to perform the task, and the lad insisting that
he be allowed to try it. In the end the officer yielded, and, with a
hammer and files in his pockets, the young scout left the fortress.

There was no difficulty in gaining the steep side of the mountain. It
was there the hazardous work began. For some moments Ira studied the
rocks as best he could in the darkness. Finally he gave an exclamation
of delight. He was certain he had hit upon the place where he began his
ascent several months previous.

Up the cliff, using hands and feet in every crevice he could find,
grasping narrow ledge, or projecting root as he came to them, stopping
to rest at intervals, he clambered slowly on. A half-hour passed, and
then the toiler’s efforts were rewarded. He gained a ledge from which he
found safe footing to the summit.

Drawing a deep breath of relief, he sped noiselessly to the opposite
side. Finding the guns unguarded, he commenced the work which he
believed meant so much to his friends in the fort. Wrapping a bit of
cloth about a file, and placing his folded handkerchief over the top to
deaden the sound, he drove it into the touch-hole of the nearest cannon.

The task accomplished, he listened attentively. There was no token that
his work had attracted the attention of any one in the British camp six
hundred feet below. Congratulating himself on such supposed fact, he
moved on to the next gun, and set firmly a second file. Again he
listened, but could hear nothing.

“The sound does not reach the camp,” he said to himself, and as rapidly
as possible disabled the other four cannon. Straightening up from the
labor, he found himself face to face with the captain of the engineer
corps, who demanded:

“Who are you? What are you doing here?”

Rejoicing that he had not yet been recognized, Ira, with quick wit,
replied:

“I am watching the guns.”

“I was not aware we posted any guard here to-night,” the officer said
sharply. “Unless you can give a better reason for being here I shall run
you through,” and there could be heard a certain rustling which told
that he was drawing his sword from its scabbard.

“The general sent me,” the lad replied, not thinking it worth while to
explain what general.

“Oh!” the officer stammered. “I—I didn’t think a sentinel was necessary
here. I received no orders to that effect.”

“That is nothing to me,” was the cool reply.

This answer appeared to anger the engineer.

“I am sure I heard a hammering up here,” he declared.

“Very likely. I was pounding on the guns. A man must do something to
keep himself awake.”

The answer apparently satisfied the officer, for he turned to retrace
his steps down the mountain side. After going a few paces, however, he
paused to say:

“You may tell the general that I came up here myself to see if the guns
were all right.”

“That is fair,” the young scout agreed, wondering if the officer had
recognized him.

He stood motionless until every sound of footsteps had died away. Then
he hurried across the summit and gave utterance to the cries which told
the listening Yankee general that he had succeeded in his undertaking.

But that gratified officer little fancied that the lad was even then
mentally asking if it was safe for him to return to the British camp.



                              CHAPTER IV.
                       THE DAM ACROSS THE CREEK.


Ira did not stop to debate the question there on the mountain top. He
had a more difficult problem, which was, how to descend in safety to the
plain below.

Down the slanting shelf to the face of the cliff, he slowly groped his
way; and then lowered himself inch by inch down the rocks. Sometimes he
was forced to cling with his hands to a bush or sapling while he swung
to and fro in search of a footing. Often he was forced to guess what was
below him, and, at a venture, drop himself down where he believed he
would find a crevice large enough for his feet. It was many minutes, and
to him it must have seemed hours, before he gained a place from which he
could descend without danger.

Once at the foot of the hill he ran quickly through the woods, to the
place where he had left his horse. The farmer answered his summons
quickly, and the lad was astonished when once within the house, to learn
that it was only a few minutes past midnight.

“I will sleep until three o’clock, Master Lewis, if you don’t mind
calling me at that time.”

“I can do that much for one who has been through what you have,” the
farmer replied with a significant glance at his guest’s clothing.

Ira smiled. “My garments are a bit soiled and torn,” he admitted, “but I
hope they will look a little better before I go back to camp.”

Then a woman’s voice could be heard from the next room. “Let him go into
the front chamber, pa, and send his clothes here by you. I will clean
and mend them while he sleeps.”

“Thank you, good mistress,” the lad cried. “It is a case where a woman’s
hands can help me out of an awkward fix. Under your skilful fingers I
shall be able to return to the British encampment without a trace of the
work I have done this night for the Cause.”

Nor was he disappointed. It would have required sharp eyes, indeed, to
have discovered any evidences of mountain climbing upon his clothing
when he dressed himself a little before dawn.

A sharp ride down the road brought him to the place where he had left
the Hessian. He found the fellow fast asleep in a thicket, his horse
hitched to a near-by tree. Waking him, he asked in well-feigned anger:

“Hey, there, Hans, how long has this been going on?”

The trooper arose, rubbed his eyes sleepily, and stammered:

“I—I had only just laid down, sir. I knew it was most morning, when the
Yankees wouldn’t be likely to come now, and I was so tired.”

“How many times did I ride back here during the night, then?” Ira
demanded sternly.

The man looked puzzled for a moment, and then answered boldly:

“Three times, sir. I saw you every time.”

The young scout laughed heartily. “There is an old saying in our
language, Hans, to the effect that ‘a lie well stuck to is as good as
the truth.’ It may prove so in your case. Mount, and we’ll ride back to
camp.”

The sun was rising when they passed the pickets, and the first person
they saw beyond the guards was the captain of the engineer corps. He was
viewing his work of the previous day. Seeing the horsemen, he crossed
the enclosure to meet them. Understanding his purpose, and eager for the
interview, Ira reined his horse down to a walk. They soon met, and the
officer was the first to speak.

“You have taken an early ride this morning, Master Le Geyt,” he said.

“It was an all-night job,” the scout replied in a friendly tone. “Hans
and I have been five or six miles out into the country doing special
work for the king. I am on my way now to report to the general,” and,
putting spurs to his horse, he, followed by his attendant, rode to the
tent of the commander.

There he gave his steed over to the care of the trooper, who went off to
his own quarters. Watching him, while he stood waiting to be admitted to
the presence of General Burgoyne, Ira saw that the engineer halted and
held quite an extended conversation with him.

“It is certain he thought he saw me on the hill,” the lad muttered; “but
he won’t be so sure of it after talking with the Hessian. On finding
that the guns have been spiked, he’ll be in such a muddle that there’ll
be nothing said about our meeting.”

This prophecy was not quite correct. There was a single exception. The
engineer did mention the affair to Ira himself. Calling on him that
evening, after the second battery had been hoisted up on the mountain,
he first enjoined the utmost secrecy, and then said:

“I had a peculiar experience last night in connection with that first
battery. About ten o’clock I was enjoying a smoke, when I heard a
muffled click, click, up the mountain side. Wondering what was going on,
I climbed up, and found a fellow of about your size standing by the
cannon. When I asked his business, he said he was guarding the guns;
that the general had sent him there. I was certain then that it was you,
and felt quite sore because I had failed to post a guard. Hoping to put
myself right with the commander, I said that he should tell the general
I was up there to see that the cannon were safe. He promised to do so,
and I returned to the camp. The first inkling I had that it wasn’t you,
came when I saw you and the Hessian riding into the lines. I never once
suspected it might be some blasted Yankee, until my men reported that
the guns had been spiked. To think that I talked with the rascal, and
yet he was sharp enough to hoodwink me, fairly makes me boil. Why, I one
time had my sword drawn, and could have run him through, but yet let him
go. Don’t tell any one that I have been such a fool.”

“You may be sure I shan’t mention the incident to a single soul,” was
the truthful promise.

Elated as Ira was at his own escape from detection, he rejoiced even
more because General St. Clair had gained the delay in the movements of
the enemy which he had so much desired. General Burgoyne, when he found
he could not command the fort until a second battery had been placed on
the hill, countermanded the order given General Fraser to advance his
division to the rear of the Continentals.

It was not until a Tory, living on the Hubbardtown road, came into the
camp in the small hours of July fifth, with the startling tidings that
the Yankees were running off bag and baggage past his house, that a new
order was issued for the waiting forces to move. As the bearer of the
news offered to act as guide, the young scout was not disturbed, and,
therefore, it was not until after sunrise that he knew pursuit had been
made. He waited in much anxiety for the outcome, and was filled with
dismay when at noon a report came that General Fraser had overtaken and
defeated the retreating Yankees, capturing enormous quantities of
ammunition and stores.

He learned the real facts about the battle, however, a little later, and
from the lips of Dan Cushing. He had gone to meet his aids in a deep
cave on a rocky hill a mile or two below the British encampment, and
arrived there just in time to meet Dan, who had come from where the
engagement took place.

“Don’t you worry, Ira, ’bout the braggin’ those red-coats are doin’ in
the camp,” the boy began. “They’ll make a mole-hill look like a mountain
any time, ’specially if it’s in their favor. Now, the facts are these,
an’ I have them from some of the fellers who were in the fight: General
St. Clair left Colonel Seth Warren’s regiment in the rear to look out
for the British if they came chasin’ down after him. He was on the
Hubbardtown and Castleton road when General Fraser overtook him. To give
the main portion of the forces a chance to escape, the Colonel turned
and pitched into the red-coats. What’s more, he would have whipped them,
had not a reserved force of Hessians come up in the nick of time. That
turned the tide in the British favor, and our men had to run, but they
got away as did the others ahead of them. Our people are tearin’ up the
bridges, an’ droppin’ great trees ’cross the road as they go, an’ I’m
thinkin’ General Burgoyne will go mighty slow ’tween here an’ Fort
Edward.”

“I have a scheme in mind that will do more to hinder him than destroying
bridges or felling trees,” the leader said when the story was finished;
“but we can’t carry it out until we are several miles below here, near
our next meeting-place. When you move down to it, provide yourselves
with pick-axes, shovels, and iron bars. I’ll get a day off in some way,
and though we will have as hard and as big a job as we ever undertook, I
doubt if we’ll ever do another turn that will mean more for the Cause,”
and with this mystifying statement he hurried away.

A week passed. During that time General Burgoyne garrisoned the
abandoned fort at Ticonderoga, and moved his main force down the
Hubbardtown road. His progress was necessarily slow, since he was
compelled to clear the way, and rebuild bridges before he could make any
headway. At length he arrived at a passage between two hills, so narrow
and so completely blocked with logs and bowlders, that it was evident
his engineering corps had at least a two-days task to remove the
obstruction. Here his patience became exhausted, and he sent for Ira.

“Master Le Geyt,” he said when the young scout was in his presence, “I
am tired of this snail’s pace at which I am obliged to crawl. Is there
not some other route I could follow, and so get rid of these obstacles
the rebels have thrown in my way?”

The guide shook his head. “Not without a long detour which would consume
more time than clearing the way,” he declared. “There is a big swamp on
ahead, and the only hope of getting through it is to keep along this
road.”

“Is there not at least some way we can get around these hills?”
continued the exasperated commander. “Even if we are twenty-four hours
doing it we shall save time. Captain Howell of my engineering corps
declares it will take two days, if not longer, to remove these latest
obstructions we have encountered.”

It suddenly occurred to Ira that here might be his opportunity to get a
few hours to himself, as he had been hoping to do, therefore he replied
quickly:

“I might take a tramp around the hills and see. It’s worth looking into,
sir.”

“I wish you would, and take Captain Howell with you. He can readily
reckon the length of time required to clear the way.”

This was something on which the lad had not counted; but if disturbed by
it, he gave no sign.

“Very well, sir,” he replied. “I will see the captain at once, and get
away as soon as I can.”

“It is odd,” he said to himself while searching for the officer, “that I
should for the second time be forced to fool that man. But I must do it,
if I’m to accomplish the job on hand, and it’s time it was attended to.”

He had formed no definite plan of action when he found the captain, and
they began their tramp together through the forest. It was just after
noon, and they went to the eastward, as the hill on that side of the
road seemed more likely, from its shape, to have a pass through it.

This proved to be a fact. After walking two miles they arrived at a
narrow valley, through which ran a small brook. Following this they came
into some lowlands, over which they made their way to the road at a
point where it wound into a swamp heavily wooded.

“We are beyond the great barricade,” the captain announced as they
stepped out upon the road.

“Yes,” his companion admitted. “Do you think the route we have come over
is feasible for the army?”

“It can be made so with less trouble than is possible on the other road.
But let us go into the swamp a short distance; so far as I can see the
way is open.”

“But you can’t see very far,” Ira replied. “Two rods away the road
twists entirely out of sight. To my mind, it is just the place where the
Yankees would be likely to put in their obstructions thick and fast.”

“We can at least look at it.”

They were soon at the turn, and found, just beyond, was a huge pile of
fallen trees. Over these they clambered and continued on to the next
bend, where was a second collection of fallen timber.

“I wonder if it is like this throughout the entire swamp?” the officer
growled as he and his comrade made their way with difficulty over the
second pile of hewn trees to the clear road beyond.

“I believe so,” the young scout answered.

This surmise proved correct; over more than a score of such stacks of
timber they were forced to crawl before arriving at the lower edge of
the swamp. By this time the sun had set, and with a shrug of his
shoulders the captain said:

“I’m too tired to go back over those barricades to-night. Isn’t there
some place on this side where we can find shelter?”

His guide was silent a moment as though thinking, and then replied:
“Yes. Come on!”

Instead of continuing on the road as the officer had expected, the lad
struck into the woods on the left, where the ground was still of a
swampy nature. But, leaping from log to log, he led the way with a
rapidity that made it difficult for the Britisher to keep pace with him,
and impossible to carry on any conversation.

After traveling for a few rods they lost sight of the road, and then,
instead of decaying logs, they found trees which had been felled so that
they lay end to end, clearly to furnish a firm footing for any who
wished to go deeper into the forest. If the engineer noted the
singularity of this circumstance, he had no chance to comment upon it,
for Ira was still a rod or more in the lead. At length, however, he
stopped and allowed the captain to come up with him. They were then on
the edge of a sluggish creek of considerable width and depth.

“What does this mean?” the captain demanded. “What have you come here
for, jumping from log to log like a frog? We cannot ford this stream.”

“We don’t need to,” his guide replied. “We’ll go down a bit,” and as he
spoke the lad bent over, searching with his hands until he found a rope.
Pulling on this, he drew out from under the overhanging bushes, a small
canoe.

“Get in,” he said, holding it steady for his companion to embark.

“You have been here before,” Captain Howells remarked as he sat down in
the light craft.

“Certainly, or I should not have known the way.”

As he stepped in, cast off the rope, and took up the paddle, the young
scout added:

“Of course I wasn’t sure of finding the boat here. Some one else might
have used it, or a freshet carried it away. There was a risk in coming;
but this course will take us to the nearest house where we can pass the
night, so I concluded to run the chances.”

He was already paddling down the stream, which soon turned sharply to
the eastward, and a little farther on plunged into a narrow gorge with a
low, hollow sound that could now be plainly heard.

“There are falls ahead,” the engineer cried in some alarm.

“Yes; but we shall not go over them. Look on the right side, and you
will see a log cabin at the foot of the south cliff. We shall stop
there.”

In another moment he dexterously swung the canoe into a little basin
just below the hut, exclaiming:

“Here we are!”

Springing out, he steadied the craft while his comrade leaped ashore.
Securing the boat he led the way into the building, saying:

“This was built a few years ago by a half-crazy old fellow who gained a
livelihood by hunting and fishing. Since he died it has been public
property for those who know of it. I have been here now and then with
others on ’coon hunts. We’ll gather some fir boughs for a bed, and it
won’t be a bad place in which to pass the night.”

From their knapsacks they carried they first satisfied their hunger, and
then collected the material for beds. In doing this it was necessary to
approach near the place where the creek made its downward plunge, and
Ira said carelessly:

“How easy it would be to dam the stream here.”

“Yes; but if you did that it would flood the whole swamp.”

“How deep?”

“That would depend on your dam. As the water is now standing on the
surface nearly everywhere, you would get nearly a foot of water for each
twelve inches dam.”

“Four feet here then, would give the same depth through the forest?”

“Practically, unless there is some other place where the water can run
off.”

“You are up in all these things,” the young scout continued with a
laugh. “I fancy you can tell to an hour, how long it would take for the
water to rise until it overflowed the dam again.”

“Not exactly,” the engineer confessed, “since I do not know the exact
dimensions of the swamp. But the stream is deep, and the land low. It
would fill fast, and in a few days be impassable.”

“There isn’t much stuff here with which to make a dam,” Ira said in a
careless tone.

“Oh, yes there is,” the captain insisted. “Give me a half-dozen men, and
in a day I could build all that would be needed.”

“I’d like to know how you would do it,” Ira cried.

“No trouble at all,” retorted the officer, warming up to his subject.
“Do you see this big tree? I’d cut that down so it would fall across the
gorge. Then I’d go on the other side, and fell the big hemlock. It could
be done in such a way that it would interlock with the other, and the
two trunks, when trimmed, would give you the timbers against which you
could place your barricade. That I would build of posts, driving them
side by side across the bed of the stream. It won’t take many, and after
stuffing the cracks with leaves and moss from the forest, I would pack
in dirt and stones from the hillside until it was water-tight. I wish I
never had a harder job than that.”

His comrade shook his head. “It is all in knowing how,” he commented.
“What would be easy for you, would be hard for some one else.” And then
the discussion was dropped for the time. But after they were lying on
their rude beds, Ira suddenly raised his head to ask:

“I say, captain, suppose the Yankees should catch on to this thing.”

“What thing?” the officer asked, quickly rising.

“Why, building a dam across the creek here. It would not only flood the
swamp, but the road as well. We couldn’t get the army along until the
waters subsided.”

“Bet your life we couldn’t,” the engineer replied. “It is a great
scheme; but then a Yankee would never think of it,” and he settled back
on his bed.

Not so with his comrade. He appeared uneasy about something, and sat up.
Then he arose and went to the door, fumbled with the bar that fastened
it, as though making it more secure; in reality to remove it entirely.
After this he went to the window and looked out.

“What’s the matter?” the officer asked sleepily.

“I can’t get it out of my head about those Yankees coming here to-night
to build that dam,” was the reply. “I was now looking out to see if we
could jump through the window if they should appear.”

“Oh! that is all right. But how about getting up the sides of the gorge.
Can we do that?”

“Yes, after a fashion. It is better than taking to the swamp in the
night-time. I shall go that way, if needs must.”

Ira now returned to his bed and lay down, but tossed restlessly about,
which uneasiness his companion soon shared. At length they both dozed,
but only to be awakened within a short time by the sound of voices on
the river below them.

“There is the hut! Be careful, and keep well in to the bank, or we shall
go down the falls!” one voice exclaimed.

“Hello! there’s another canoe. Some one else is here!” another cried.

“Hush! The red-coats may have a guard here, and we will be able to
capture them,” a third said in a lower tone.

Both sleepers were now awake; but Ira, for reasons of his own, kept
quiet, and breathed heavily. The next instant the captain leaped to his
feet, and came noiselessly over to him. Shaking the lad vigorously, he
whispered:

“Quick, Master Le Geyt! The Yankees have come, and we must run for it!”

The young scout arose, and the officer, running to the open window,
jumped out, evidently expecting his companion to follow, as he ran
toward the hill. At its foot he paused, and looked back. Several dark
forms were near the cabin, and in another instant the door was burst
open.

“There they go,” some one shouted, and then two or three guns were
discharged.

One of the bullets whistled dangerously near the Britisher’s head, and,
believing he had been seen, he clambered on as stealthily as possible.
Gaining the summit, he stopped again and listened. There were shouts to
be heard, and lights at the hut; but no sound of any one following, and,
concluding that his comrade had been killed or captured, the engineer
plunged on down the other side of the ridge, disappearing in the thicket
at its base.

Could he have looked back, it would have been possible to see Ira
shaking hands heartily with the six persons who came into the building,
three of whom were his own comrades, and the others no less loyal to the
Cause. Had he remained in hearing he would have heard Dan Cushing’s
explanation:

“We were at the lower edge of the swamp-road, waitin’ for you, Ira, when
we saw you comin’ along with that British officer. We hid until you came
up, an’ heered him ask you ’bout a place to stay all night. I caught
your sign ’fore you took to the swamp, an’ followed to the creek,
findin’ the note you put in the tree ’fore the captain jined ye. When
that had been read we knew what to do, an’ that red-coat has gone over
the ridge as if the devil was after him!”

All laughed, and then Ira said:

“Let him go. He has done us a good turn, for he gave me some ideas about
dam-building which we’ll make use of to-morrow.”

They were at the task early in the morning, following many of the
suggestions of the British engineer. One of the men who had accompanied
the lads had some practical knowledge of dam-building, however, and
neatly hewed two edges of the posts before they were driven into place,
thus securing joints that were almost water-tight. Heavy moss from the
forest, and gravel brought in baskets from the hill-side, made up the
filling, and before the workers sought their well-earned rest they knew
that the water was rising.

The dam in the forest, which indirectly was to hinder the advance of the
British army for days, had become an accomplished fact.



                               CHAPTER V.
                          THE SUSPICIOUS TORY.


At dawn on the following morning one thing was clear to every occupant
of the old hut: The water was rising so rapidly that they would soon be
compelled to vacate the building. Therefore, after breakfast, they
looked about for a place in which to build a new shanty. After
considerable discussion it was decided to put the structure on the
heights across the creek.

There were two reasons for such decision. If the cabin was built there,
it would be above the reach of the rising waters; and a small party at
that point might protect the dam in case the British sent down a force
to destroy it.

“It may be that Captain Howell will ask General Burgoyne to let him lead
a company down here for the double purpose of rescuing me and preventing
the building of a dam,” Ira said laughingly. “If so, we better be
prepared for it. With the river between you and them, five on the hill
could drive off any force he is likely to bring with him.”

“There are seven of us,” Late said quickly.

“True,” the lad admitted, “but there will soon be only five. When you
have moved the stuff, I shall set off for the encampment, taking Dan
with me as far as the swamp-road, for I count on sending him to Fort
Edward with a report.”

An hour later the site for the new shelter had been selected, and the
goods carried over. Then Ira and Dan embarked in one of the canoes, and
paddled off up the swelling stream. The water had risen so high that the
voyagers were able to push the light craft through the forest to a place
where young Cushing could step directly out upon the highway. As he did
so, he gazed over the increasing waters and said:

“Give us another twenty-four hours, Ira, an’ this road will be covered.”

“It looks so,” the latter replied, “and I think, by picking my way, I
can push up the swamp to the north side.”

“You surely can by goin’ back to the creek, an’ runnin’ on that till it
turns to the west. Hide your boat somewhere up that way, an’ you can
come down to us any time you’ve a mind.”

“Very-well,” Ira answered; “but now for the message to General Schuyler.
Here is a rough drawing of the road, the swamp, and the dam. I have
written no description, and it will mean nothing to any one but you. Do
you understand it.”

“It’s clear as a bell,” the lad admitted a moment later.

“Then you can explain it to the general. Tell him why we built the dam,
and what we hope to accomplish by it. Give us two days more, and I see
no way for the red-coats to pass the swamp while the dam holds.”

“That’s ’bout the size of it,” Dan replied grimly, “an’ no one will see
it quicker than the general. ’Twas a lucky minute when it popped into
your head, Ira,” and with this compliment he swung down the roads
towards the fort.

Ira watched until he was out of sight, and then paddled leisurely back
to the creek. Up this he went to its westward bend, and, leaving it,
glided through the woods as long as he found any depth of water. Then,
picking up the light craft, he carried it to a point where the land rose
into something like a hill.

“The water can’t rise much farther than this,” he thought, glancing back
over the route he had followed.

Concealing his burden among the bushes, he strode on towards the camp,
arriving there a little before noon, and going directly to the tent of
the commander.

“Master Le Geyt!” exclaimed that officer as he saw his visitor, “I had
decided you were in the rebels’ hands.”

“Hasn’t Captain Howell come back?” the young scout asked, eager to learn
all he might about that officer before telling the story of his
prolonged absence.

“Yes,” the general replied; “but he can explain nothing.”

“How is that?”

“Last night he crawled over the barricade on which his corps was at
work, and fell unconscious among the men. They brought him into camp and
called the surgeon. He examined him, finding one leg broken. Evidently
he had crawled many miles in that condition, and was nearly exhausted.
When did you part with him?”

“Has he not been able to tell you any thing?” asked the lad, giving no
heed to General Burgoyne’s question.

“He has been in a delirium ever since, and we can get nothing from him
save fragments of a story. He has spoken of the Yankees, your capture,
and his fall. We could only suppose that you two had run against some of
the rebels during the tramp; that you had been captured, he got away,
and was injured during his flight. We shall have to depend on your
report to straighten matters out.”

“There is not much to tell,” the lad replied. “We stopped in an
abandoned hut for the night, and were awakened by the sound of voices.
He jumped from the cabin window and got away; but half a dozen rebels
entered the building before I could escape. I stayed there until this
morning, when they let me go, deciding, perhaps, that I was not worth
keeping.”

“You were fortunate indeed. I presume, then, you discovered no road
around the rebel barricades?”

“No,” Ira replied. “They increase rather than diminish in number, and
below here a few miles is a huge swamp, which, for some reason, is
flooding rapidly. By the time we arrive there I believe it will be
well-nigh impassable.”

“What a way in which to fight!” exclaimed the officer in disgust. “If
they would only come out in the open and give me a chance I would soon
scatter them like chaff before the wind. But here they are blocking the
way, exhausting my stores, forcing me to change all my plans of
campaign; it is enough to make a saint angry!” and by this time he had
worked himself into such a rage that the hearer was glad, on the plea of
being tired, to retire to his own quarters.

When he next saw the general the latter was in a better mood. He had
sent for the scout, and when Ira entered the tent he found there a young
fellow, scarcely older than himself, to whom the officer at once
introduced him.

“Master Le Geyt,” he said, “this is Master Bowen, a courier like
yourself, which is a bond that ought to make you fast friends. He has
come from Quebec bringing me good news. In a short time Colonel St.
Leger is to leave that city for Oswego. From there he will march against
Fort Stanwix,[4] and, capturing that, sweep down the valley of the
Mohawk, driving the rebels before him, until he joins me at Albany. Now
how large a force remains at Fort Stanwix?”

Startled as Ira was by these tidings, he nevertheless replied calmly:

“The last I knew, General Burgoyne, there were two hundred men in the
fort. Of course I can’t tell you whether any reinforcements have been
sent there within a week or two.”

It was the number that caught the general’s ear.

“Do you hear that, Master Bowen?” he cried. “Only two hundred men there,
and how large a force did you say St. Leger has?”

“Seven hundred regulars, and one thousand Indians,” the courier
answered.

“Seventeen hundred in all!” the officer announced with exultation. “We
shall hear great things from him I do not doubt, and the rebels, being
caught between our two forces, must be crushed to powder. Ha! ha!” and
he laughed loudly.

For some time he discussed the matter with his young visitors, and then
dismissed them. Ira took Master Bowen, as a matter of courtesy, to his
own tent, where he bade him make himself at home.

“I shall have to come and go on my regular duties,” he explained; “but
you are welcome to all I have so long as you remain with us.”

“It will be but a few hours,” the courier replied. “The authorities in
Quebec are eager to know what progress our army is making, and as soon
as the general can prepare his report I shall start on my return. I hope
it may be some time to-night. I can then reach the lake, where I have a
sailboat, in time for the morning breeze.”

For reasons of his own Ira stuck close to his new friend during the rest
of the day, and when the hour came for the latter to depart, asked
permission of the general to accompany him a mile or two on his way.

“Certainly,” that officer replied. “I said you would be fast friends,
and the fact that you are loath to part with him proves it. Go as far as
the lake, if you wish.”

“Thank you,” the lad replied, and he and the courier left the lines
together.

When they had traveled no more than two miles on the trail Ira bade his
acquaintance good-bye, and turned back towards the camp. He did not
enter it, however. Passing to the eastward, he hurried through the hills
to the place where he had left his canoe the day previous. Carrying the
boat to the waters, which had risen many inches since he was there, he
embarked and pulled with feverish haste down to the dam. Landing, he
climbed up to the new Shelter and, arousing the inmates, astonished them
by his sudden appearance and startling news.

“Quick, Late and Joe,” he began. “You must go down to the fort at once.
I am sending both, for it may be that General Schuyler will want you to
go on to Fort Stanwix. Tell him that a Colonel St. Leger with seven
hundred regular troops and one thousand Indians will land at Oswego
about August first. His purpose is to capture the fort, and then to
sweep down the Mohawk valley to Albany, where he hopes to join forces
with Burgoyne. As I have said, if he wants you to go to the fort with
the tidings, do so. I can get along for a while with one helper. Should
you meet Dan on his way back, let him return to the fort with you, learn
the general’s plans, and bring me word. I must know what is going on
entirely along our lines, if I am to do my work here intelligently. Tell
Dan I will be here the second night from this to hear his report.”

While the messengers were preparing for their journey, he turned to the
three men who, after helping build the dam, had remained to help guard
it, saying:

“Captain Howell got back to the camp, but with a broken leg and in a
high fever. His condition is such that he is not likely to take any
interest in military affairs for several days. Therefore the British
officers know nothing about the dam, and it is safe. You may go back to
your homes, if you so please.”

Ira waited until the five continentals had disappeared down the south
ridge. Then he closed the cabin, went back to his canoe, and began his
return to the encampment.

Entering the enclosure from the same direction he had departed a few
hours previous, his absence created no suspicion, and soon after
midnight he was sleeping soundly in his own bed.

During the following day the engineers succeeded in removing the
obstructions from the narrow pass, and the entire army advanced among
the hills to the margin of the swamp. Here they were again stopped, not
only by great barricades, but by a flood over the road-bed to the depth
of at least three feet deep. The uncertain footing either side the way,
the many turns in the road-bed, the numerous barricades, and the depth
of the water, all forced the impatient commander to halt, while he sent
forth men in every direction to learn, if possible, the cause of the
flood.

It created no surprise when Ira joined that company which went to the
north end of the great swamp, and when they, wearied by a long tramp and
fruitless search, turned to retrace their steps, no one noted that he
lagged behind.

When night fell he was far enough in the rear to make his way to the
hidden canoe and paddle off among the trees towards the creek. Once in
this watercourse, he made rapid progress, and soon was in the cabin
listening to Dan’s tale.

“First,” he said, “I’ll tell you ’bout my own trip. After leavin’ you I
struck out pretty smart for the fort. Reachin’ it, I found the general
away, so had to wait till the next mornin’ ’fore I could see him. He
understood your plan at once, an’ was mighty tickled with it. He told me
to say that in two weeks we could let the water off, an’ ’low the
red-coats to come on as fast as they might. He’d be ready for them.”

“What are they doing?” Ira asked eagerly. “Are they strengthening the
fort?”

“No,” was the answer. “The general has chosen Bemis Heights, ’cross the
Hudson, as the place to get in his work, and Kosciusko, that Polish
officer, is plannin’ the fortifications. It’s there our troops will
fight it out with Burgoyne.”

“General Schuyler counts on abandoning Fort Edward, then?” Ira remarked
musingly.

“Yes, when the British get near enough to chase him. He’ll keep just out
of their way till he’s enticed them ’cross the river. Then he’ll wallop
’em.”

“What forces has he now?” was the next query.

“His own, an’ General St. Clair’s,” Dan replied, keeping tally on his
fingers. “Then there’s General Benjamin Lincoln with the New England
troops, General Nicholas Herkimer an’ eight hundred militia, Colonel
Daniel Morgan with his rifle corps, and Colonel Benedict Arnold with
twelve hundred regulars, more than ten thousand men in all. We’ll whip
the red-coats yet, Ira.”

“I hope so,” was the hearty rejoinder. “Now tell me what has been done
about Fort Stanwix.”

“I was on my way back,” the lad explained, “when I met the boys an’ went
to the fort with them. The general was quite stirred up by the news;
but, noddin’ to me, said, ‘Tell Ira there’s time to get plenty of
reinforcements up there.’ Then, turnin’ to Late and Joe, he went on,
‘I’ll have General Herkimer an’ his troops on the way to-morrow, an’
Colonel Arnold with his regulars shall follow.’ He looked at me agin,
an’ asked, ‘Did you take that in, Dan?’ An’ when I said, ‘Yes, sir,’ he
continued, ‘Put that in your report to Ira, too, an’ give him my love,’
all of which I’ve done accordin’ to orders.”

“Exactly, Dan. No one could have done it better,” his companion replied
almost gleefully. “But I must be off, or we’ll have a troop of
Britishers looking me up. I’ll drop in on you as often as possible.”

“Don’t worry ’bout me,” was the reply. “I can stay here a week alone, if
it means in the end some good work for the Cause.”

Before arriving at the British encampment the young scout met half a
dozen soldiers who were looking for him. The explanation that he had but
just got out of the swamp was deemed sufficient to account for his
delay, and the entire party went back together.

Two weeks later a heavy thunder-storm raged. The rain literally fell in
torrents for hours. The first effect was to swell the flood in the
swamp; but on the following day it subsided with great rapidity. In a
single day the road-bed could be seen above the water, and General
Burgoyne, with much delight, ordered his corps of engineers to begin the
work of clearing away the obstructions.

Ira at once surmised that the dam was gone, and that night received the
full particulars from Dan.

“First the rain swelled the creek,” he said, “an’ poured over the dam
with a noise like thunder. Then trees, uprooted by the wind, came down,
and went agin the timbers with a deafenin’ crash. They piled up for a
while, and then, all at once, the strain became too great. The dam gave
way, an’ water, trees an’ timbers went down the gorge together. I took
the liberty to scurry off to the fort as soon as it happened, an’ told
the general. He said ’twas all right. Let the army come ’long as fast as
they could, he was ready for them.”

“It will be some days before they reach there,” Ira said, curtly.

In this he was correct. It was more than a week before the British army
reached Fort Edward, and then they found it, as they had the fort at
Ticonderoga, abandoned. General Schuyler, with all his forces, stores,
and guns, had crossed the Hudson to Bemis Heights.

On the river bank that night Dan and Ira had a brief interview.

“We are here at last,” Ira began.

“Yes, but it took you twenty-four days to come twenty-six miles,” the
other retorted drily. “I reckon it is the most remarkable journey on
record.”

A few days after General Burgoyne had established his head-quarters in
the abandoned fort, he sent for his young scout.

“Here is some one you will be glad to meet, Master Le Geyt,” was his
greeting. “A relative of yours, I believe.”

Ira’s face blanched as he turned to meet a man he had never seen before.
At a loss for words, he could only gaze at the fellow, a tall, gaunt man
of sixty years or more, who promptly asked:

“Be you Ira Le Geyt?”

“Yes.”

“Son of Hiram Le Geyt over on the Mohawk?”

“Yes.”

For a moment the questioner gazed at him from head to foot, and then
blurted out:

“You don’t look like him!”



                              CHAPTER VI.
                      THE BEND OF THE WALLOOMSAC.


Not a little startled by the words of the stranger, Ira glanced at
General Burgoyne to see what impression they had made upon him. Seeing a
look of amusement, rather than suspicion, on the officer’s face, he grew
bolder; but was still at loss what reply to make, when he saw a piece of
paper lying upon a table in front of the general, on which a name was
written in an irregular, scrawling hand.

Instantly the lad recognized it as that of a zealous Tory in an
adjoining state, of whom he had heard much. In a twinkling he understood
that it was the name of the man before him, who had sent it in to the
British commander when he sought an interview.

The glance, the reading, the conclusion, were as a flash, and the next
minute he was gazing smilingly at the visitor, as he said:

“I am surprised that you don’t know me, Uncle Horace; but then, it is a
long time since we met.”

“Do you know me?” the stranger exclaimed, every line of doubt on his
face changing to an expression of delight.

“Of course I do,” the young scout replied confidently. “You are Horace
Lyman of Bennington, who——”

“Who married your ma’s sister,” the Tory interrupted. “It’s queer you
look so different than you did when over at my house, but, as you say,
that is some time ago.”

“It must have been before father and I went to Europe,” Ira went on
boldly.

“So it was, and a year over there must have changed your looks, though I
begin to see the old face now. How is your pa and ma, and the younger
children?”

“All well when I last heard from them,” was the reply. “How is Aunt and
Cousin Fred?”

“Your aunt is poorly, very poorly,” Master Lyman answered. “Sometimes I
think she is a little bit out here,” and he touched his forehead, “for
she persists that the rebels will in the end gain their independence.
But Fred, he’s all right, physically and mentally. He has done some good
work in the last week or two, about which I have been telling the
general, and now he wants to enlist in the king’s service. That is one
reason why I am over here to-day.”

“And I have promised to give the matter my consideration,” General
Burgoyne remarked, as though growing impatient with his visitors’ family
affairs. “If you will take a turn about the fort for an hour or two,
Master Lyman, I will then tell you what I can do in regard to both
matters you have spoken about,” and he bowed him from the room.

Turning to Ira, he said:

“Before I give your relative a definite reply, I must talk with you
about the revelation he has made, and the favor he desires. You have
been in Bennington, Master Le Geyt?”

“Yes, sir, two or three years ago.”

“Do you know where is located the inn known as the ‘State’s Arms’ house?
I mean its position in the village, and its relation to the other public
buildings?”

“Yes, sir. It stands on the summit of the hill, near the church,” and
the young scout rapidly described the town, its surroundings, and its
approaches, wondering all the while what could be his commander’s reason
for this information.

“I learn through your uncle,” the general said, “that the rebels are
gathering large quantities of ammunition and stores there. He believes I
can make an easy capture of them. Your cousin Fred, as you call him, has
been keeping watch over the doings in the town and the neighborhood. Now
in your judgment, how large a force of men would be necessary to make
the raid on Bennington?”

“Would it not be better for me to go back with Uncle Horace, and look
around?” Ira suggested, hoping to gain time in which to warn the people
of the danger that threatened them.

“I was going to ask that of you,” the general replied. “According to
your relative, the stores are still being brought in, and it will be
well for us to defer our raid until they have finished the work. But
there is another part of Master Lyman’s tale which greatly interests me.
He declares that there is an opportunity for me to secure from the
neighboring farms, horses in sufficient numbers to equip a regiment of
cavalry. If this can be done, it would give me a great advantage over
the rebels. I would, therefore, like to have you spend a few days in
that locality looking carefully into the matter. In such task you may
find occasion to employ your cousin, and thus learn whether he can be of
further value to us as guide, courier, or staff officer. It is the
latter position your uncle desires for him.”

“When does Uncle Horace intend to return home?” questioned the scout,
still thinking how he could serve his friends and save the stores.

“To-morrow. I believe.”

“I will be ready to go with him,” Ira said, rising to take his leave.

“May fortune favor you,” were the parting words of the general.

Though the lad saw Master Lyman upon the walls of the fort, he did not
think it wise to seek another interview with him. Something might arise
in their conversation to awaken the suspicions of the Tory as to his
identity. When in Bennington, some months previous, he had, by the
merest chance, learned of the royalist, and that he had a son Fred, who
was as ardent a supporter of the king as the father. This information
had served him a good turn; but while he really meant to accompany the
man to Bennington, he had no intention of putting himself in a position
where either husband, wife, or son would be likely to discover he was
not the real Ira.

Leaving it, therefore, for General Burgoyne to explain to the visitor
the plans which had been decided upon, the young scout went into his own
tent to devise, if possible, some way by which the purpose of the
British commander could be thwarted.

When night came he slipped out of the fort, and went over to the place
where he had arranged to meet Dan Cushing. He found the boy in waiting,
and after a brief conversation with him, did what he had not expected to
do when he left the British camp. At the risk of being seen by some
sharp-eyed picket, or more alert Indian, he, in company with Dan,
crossed the river and entered the Continental lines.

For an hour he and his comrade were closeted with General Schuyler, and
then the two lads came forth, Ira to make his way back to his quarters
in the fort, and Dan to mount a horse when, after a long detour to the
south of Fort Edward, he was to ride toward Bennington.

Not far from nine o’clock the following day Master Lyman and Ira Le Geyt
left the fort, and, taking the nearest route for Bennington, rode
leisurely along.

“I am sure you will find Fred of great help to you in this work,” Master
Lyman said, “and a good word from you will surely give him the place he
wants on the general’s staff.”

“He prefers that to the position of scout or courier?” the latter
questioned, more to keep up appearances than for any other reason.

“Yes,” the Tory replied emphatically. “If he is only a scout or courier
he must wear his ordinary dress, but if put on the general’s staff, with
the rank of a lieutenant or captain, he would have the regular uniform,
and that is what Fred wants. Ever since he was in Quebec last fall he
has just been about crazy to get on some regimentals.”

“And yet he might be of more service in ordinary clothes,” Ira said
grimly.

“Yes, and run a bigger risk. The reason Fred sticks for a place on the
staff of the general is, that there won’t be as much danger, as in the
regular service. There’ll be more honor and less fighting.”

“I’ve known others to choose the humbler place because it called for
more dangerous work,” the young scout said in the same grim tone.

The Tory looked at him sharply. “Do you question Fred’s courage?” he
demanded.

“How can I, until I see it put to the test?” was the demure response. “I
was merely thinking of the difference between Fred’s view and mine. I am
a scout because it gives me an opportunity to render a greater service.”

The Tory scowled, but made no reply, and soon the conversation turned to
other matters. At noon they ate dinner with a friend of Master Lyman’s,
of whom the latter declared: “He is as true a servant of the king’s as I
am,” a fact of which Ira made mental note for future use.

At nightfall they were within a few miles of their destination, and by
pushing on could have reached it before a very late hour; but Master
Lyman evidently had another plan in mind. As they arrived at a road
leading northward, he said:

“A mile or so beyond is the home of James Earle. I promised to stop on
my way back from the fort and tell him what I had seen and heard. We’ll
go there for the night.”

“It is for you to say,” his comrade replied, turning his horse to follow
his leader.

A tract of woodland could be seen just ahead, and as if to pass through
it as rapidly as possible, the Tory spurred his horse to a canter. As he
disappeared beneath the shadow of the trees, Ira suddenly reined in his
own steed, and, turning toward the road they had left, uttered the cry
of a night hawk. Almost immediately it was repeated at no great distance
in the rear, and, apparently satisfied, the lad dashed away after his
companion.

In a few minutes the two had arrived at Master Earle’s house, where they
were warmly received, and provided with a hearty supper. When the meal
had been eaten, the travelers and their host went into the front room of
the house, leaving the women to clear away the table. Soon the two
Tories were busily engaged discussing the situation and condition of the
British army, and its prospects of success. Both were confident that in
a few days they would hear of the overwhelming defeat of the
Continentals.

Ira, left to himself, sauntered across the room to an open window, and
looked out. The night, although there was no moon, was not very dark,
and his sharp eyes detected a party of horsemen, just leaving the forest
below the house, and coming rapidly up. He did not seem to be alarmed,
however, at his discovery, and waited for the sound of the horses’ hoofs
to reach the ears of the men behind him. But they were so engrossed in
conversation as to hear nothing until the approaching riders were almost
opposite the dwelling. Then, springing to their feet in alarm, both
cried:

“What is that?”

As if arousing from a revery, Ira exclaimed:

“I declare, Master Earle, you have more visitors!”

The farmer was at his side in an instant, and, with a glance at the
coming troopers, turned and ran toward the kitchen, crying:

“Quick, Master Lyman! They are rebels, and we must hide!”

But he and his friend gained the back door too late to escape. The lad
followed in time to see both fall into the hands of four stalwart men,
who were lying in wait. Two others seized the young scout as he
appeared, and then the commander of the company, a long, lank,
grizzly-bearded man, not far from the age of the Tories, came forward.

“What does this mean, Sam Adams?” Master Earle demanded. “It is an
outrage to treat men this way in a free country.”

“We ain’t free yet,” the lieutenant retorted, “that is, we ain’t free of
red-coats or Tories, though we are likely to be before a great while.
Howsomever, if you want to know by whose authority I have arrested you
and Squire Lyman, I’ll say the Committee of Safety sent me for that
purpose, and they’ll tell you what’s wanted. But who’s that young chap?”

“He’s my nephew, Ira Le Geyt,” Master Lyman replied quickly. “He was
going home with me for a visit.”

“Ira Le Geyt,” repeated the officer slowly. “Seems to me I’ve heard that
name before, though I can’t tell where. But I’ve no orders to take him.
Let the lad go, men, and we’ll hope the next time we see him he will be
in better company.”

Then he gave orders to bring horses from the barn for his prisoners, and
shortly the entire party rode away.

Ira, left alone with the women, tried to soothe them by saying:

“General Burgoyne will send an army down here as soon as he hears of
this, and tired as I am, I will be off at once if I can have a fresh
horse.”

A small boy went to the barn with the scout, showing him which animal to
take, and within fifteen minutes after the horsemen had departed, Ira
was following them toward the main road. Arriving there, he found Dan
Cushing in waiting, and, after heartily greeting each other, both
started for the village, Dan saying as they rode along:

“When I left you last night, Ira, I pushed straight on to Bennington,
arriving at Captain Park’s house before he was up; but he wasn’t slow
after readin’ General Schuyler’s letter. First he gave me a fine
breakfast, after which he said I was to go to bed an’ get some sleep.
Then he hurried off to consult with the town committee. They must have
hustled, for when I awakened a little after noon, the captain told me
there were already four companies of militia in the village, guarding
the stores, an’ that a messenger had been sent off to Derryfield, New
Hampshire, after Colonel John Stark to take command of the troops, which
are expected to number two thousand by to-morrow night.”

“They mean business, don’t they?” his comrade interrupted; “but go on,
Dan, with your story.”

“The rest is soon told. Captain Park sent me down the road to be on the
lookout for you an’ the Tory. He thought the old feller would stop at
Master Earle’s, because the two are great cronies. I got to the
cross-roads an hour ’fore you did, put a red rag on the bush so you’d
know I was ’round, an’ then hid in the woods. I heerd an’ answered your
signal, then went back to town for the troopers. There’s only one thing
more to tell you. The Safety Committee want to see you when we get into
town. They’ve got something to talk over with you.”

“I expected it,” Ira replied. “Where am I to find them?”

“At the captain’s, where we’re to stop. They thought you would be tired,
an’ so agreed to be right there when you arrived.”

In less than an hour the two lads were at their destination, and when a
servant had taken their horses, both entered the huge kitchen of the
mansion to find themselves face to face with twelve men, whose resolute
countenances said more plainly than words that they were not to be
trifled with when the enterprise they were engaged in was a righteous
one. The men were seated around a long table, and Dan, stepping in
advance of his comrade, announced:

“Governor Wentworth, this is the feller ’bout whom General Schuyler
wrote, an’ who is now known as Ira Le Geyt.”

The twelve committeemen turned their eyes upon the newcomer, and he on
his part gazed earnestly at them. Several he knew by sight, though he
had no personal acquaintance with them; the others were strangers, save
him at the foot of the table. As Ira’s glance fell on this man he
recognized him as a citizen whom he had met when on a former visit to
the town, and he understood by the look given him, that the recognition
was mutual. A slight shake of the head, however, gave this patriot to
understand that the lad did not wish to be known, and then Ira listened
to the governor, who now said:

“Though unknown to us, young man, we cannot doubt your faithfulness to
the Cause we represent. The endorsement of General Schuyler alone is
sufficient for us, and when to that is added the service you have
already rendered, I, speaking for the others, may say that besides our
welcome, you have our gratitude.”

“He is not unknown to me,” broke in the committeeman at the other end of
the table. “Although not at liberty to declare his name, I can vouch for
his patriotism. No one of us loves the Cause more than he.”

“No one ever yet doubted your word, Master Whipple,” the chairman
replied, “and we shall not do so now. Still, does not the work this
young man has voluntarily taken upon himself tell, as no other words
can, of love for country?” and he looked around upon his companions in a
way which told he believed the matter of the young scout’s standing was
settled.

As no one contradicted him, he turned again to Ira, asking:

“What can you do for us, my young sir?”

“In the matter of the coming raid?” the lad questioned. “I cannot
prevent it, sir.”

“We would not have you do that,” was the quick reply.

“I am glad,” the boy went on; “but I think I can control the time of
that raid, and the size of the raiding force. At least, I am to report
to General Burgoyne on those two points, and have reason to believe my
words will have weight with him.”

“How long can you wait before making that report?”

“Two or three days.”

“Forty-eight hours will answer our purpose,” the governor declared.
“Within that time we expect Colonel Stark will be here, and prefer to
have him look over the field to decide on a plan of defense before your
report is carried to the British commander.”

“I know the colonel personally, and would say you cannot have a more
brave leader,” Ira replied. “I shall be glad to take to the general any
report the colonel may suggest.”

“We congratulate ourselves that we have the outcome of this raid within
our own hands,” the chairman added, “and we promise that you shall carry
back an accurate list of the stores held by us, as well as of the cattle
and horses we have collected. General Burgoyne will have no reason to
suppose that you have been otherwise than busy during the time you have
been away from him.”

“It will be good bait,” one of the company remarked laughingly as the
meeting broke up.

The young scout went over to Master Whipple. “May I ask a favor of you?”
he inquired.

“Certainly,” was the hearty reply.

“Will you, then, see Colonel Stark before I meet him, and ask that he
know me now only as Ira Le Geyt? Should my own name reach the ear of any
Tory, no matter who he may be, my usefulness in the British camp would
be over.”

“And your life would be in danger,” suggested his hearer.

“That is a small matter,” was the calm reply; “but we cannot just now
afford to lose the advantage which comes by having a friend amid the
enemy.”

“I rather think not,” Master Whipple said emphatically, “and if you are
willing to stay there, we should use every precaution to keep your
secret. I will see the colonel as you desire.”

The next morning Ira was on the street with Captain Park, when his
attention was called to a lad not far from his own age, who was
loitering around the building in which the arms and ammunition of the
Continentals were stored. There was something in his appearance that
seemed familiar, and after looking at the fellow a few seconds, it
suddenly flashed upon the young scout that he was Fred Lyman. It was the
resemblance to his father that had made the lad’s face seem familiar. To
make sure that his surmise was correct, he asked the officer by his
side, the name of the youth.

“Fred Lyman,” was the prompt answer. “His father and Master Earle are
confined in one of the rooms of the store-house, and doubtless he is
hanging around there hoping to get into communication with them.”

“I am not sure but it would be wise to put him into the room with them,”
said the young scout as he eyed the fellow again.

“He has never shown any qualities that has made us consider him
dangerous,” was the laughing reply of the officer, and they passed on.

That night, to the surprise of every one, Colonel Stark arrived in town.
His early arrival was explained by his own words:

“Five minutes after your message was brought to me, I was on my way
here. Call your committee together. The sooner we come to an
understanding about matters the better.”

The result of that secret session was to give the experienced officer
absolute control of the defense of the town. The next day he looked over
the village and its immediate surroundings, and then sent for Ira.

“How are you, Ira Le Geyt?” was his greeting, with special emphasis on
the name. “How is—well, my friend General Schuyler?”

“There is nothing the matter with him, or me, colonel,” was the lad’s
laughing reply.

“I wish he was as sure of whipping Burgoyne, as I am of the force the
Britisher may send down here. But now to business. Come with me!”

He led the way to the Heights, where was a bend in the Walloomsac river,
and into which, on the left, a smaller stream entered. Calling the
attention of his companion to these features, the officer asked:

“Do you suppose you can induce the red-coats to make an encampment
here?”

“Let me understand you perfectly, colonel, and I will make every effort
to put the British forces where you want them.”

“Advise General Burgoyne to send a thousand men,” the officer explained.
“Before they get here I’ll have my skirmishers hanging around them, and,
finding he is going to meet with opposition, the commander will
naturally look for some place in which to entrench himself. Show him
this spot, and let him make his stand here. That is your part; I’ll take
care of the rest.”

“It shall be done, if it lies within my power,” the young scout
promised.

Half an hour later, with a complete list of the Continental stores, and
a rough outline of the village and the surrounding hills in his pocket,
Ira, accompanied by Dan Cushing, rode toward Fort Edward.



                              CHAPTER VII.
                        CLIPPING THE LEFT WING.


When the lads arrived at the cross-road leading to Master Earle’s, Ira
gave his horse to Dan, and sent him to the farm to exchange the animal
for the one he had left there.

Dan appeared so dull, and knew so little about affairs in Fort Edward,
whence they supposed he had come, that the inmates of the house at
length decided he was some half-witted fellow who knew enough to bring
their horse home, and but little more.

“You better follow him down to the main road, and make sure he turns the
right way,” Mistress Earle said to her eldest son, a boy of a dozen
years. Therefore he, unnoticed by Dan, came down the road, and was near
enough, when the latter joined his comrade, to recognize Ira.

Surprised at seeing the young scout there, the boy stood staring after
the horsemen until they had disappeared from view down the Fort Edward
road.

Then he turned toward his home to make known the wonderful discovery;
but getting a glimpse of a horseman coming from the direction of
Bennington, he waited that he might see who he was. The surprise he had
felt on seeing Ira Le Geyt, was deepened upon beholding in the third
rider none other than his friend Fred Lyman. When he was within hearing,
he cried:

“Hello, Fred! Your cousin, Ira Le Geyt, is just ahead of you.”

“What’s that?” young Lyman asked, reining in his horse.

“I say your cousin, Ira Le Geyt, has just gone down the road. Don’t you
remember that ma told your folks about him when she let you know my pa
and your pa had been captured by the rebels?”

“Yes; but she said he had gone back to the fort to get help.”

“That is what she thought—what I thought until just now,” the boy
explained, and he quickly told of his discovery.

“I don’t understand it,” the young Tory said in a puzzled tone. “It
looks as if he had been in Bennington ever since night before last, and
if that’s so, I don’t see why he didn’t come out to our house.”

Discuss the matter as the boys would, neither could explain the mystery,
and finally Fred said:

“I’ll overtake him and find out,” and, whipping up his horse, he trotted
rapidly down the road in the trail of the two scouts.

They must also have ridden fast, for it was not until the two were
breaking their fast beside a wayside spring, that young Lyman came up
with them.

He was clattering down a small hill when he first caught sight of them,
and would have been glad to stop and reconnoiter a little, for he
recognized them as the two lads he had seen at Bennington, in company
with the rebels. But his horse had seen the other animals, and with a
loud whinny dashed on toward them.

The young scouts heard the noise of the horse’s hoofs before he came
into view, and were on their feet, rifles in hand, ready for any
emergency the moment he appeared. Recognizing the rider, Ira exclaimed:

“It is Fred Lyman! What can he be doing here? We must stop him and find
out.”

“We won’t have to do that,” Dan replied. “He’s trying to hold up his
beast. Perhaps he has been trying to overhaul us.”

In another moment the young Tory drew up within a few feet of the lads,
eyeing them somewhat suspiciously. They, on their part, looked sharply
in return, but waited for him to speak.

“Hello! are you Ira Le Geyt?” he asked at last.

“That is what they call me,” the young scout replied pleasantly, “and
you are my cousin, Fred Lyman?”

The newcomer leaped to the ground and gazed at the speaker earnestly
before he spoke, and then it was to use almost precisely the same words
his father had a few days previous in the British camp:

“You don’t look like him.”

“Well, you look like cousin Fred,” Ira replied, “though you may have
grown a little since I last saw you,” (and he added under his breath,
“but it is mighty little, for I saw you only yesterday”).

“I have grown lots since you visited us,” young Lyman declared with
evident pride, “but see here, Ira, where have you been all the time
since the rebels captured father?” and there was an angry tone in his
voice.

But the young scout was not to be caught in that way.

“In Bennington,” he replied truthfully.

“I thought I saw you there hob-nobbing with the rebels.”

“One must sometimes appear friendly with the enemy, if he wants to learn
all he can about them,” the lad answered meaningly. “See here!” and he
drew from his coat the list of the Bennington stores and his rude map of
the village, handing them without hesitation to the young Tory, as he
added, “Does that look as if I had been idle?”

“No,” Fred admitted with some reluctance; “but why didn’t you go back to
the fort after the soldiers? You might have had them here by this time,
and rescued pa and Master Earle.”

“Because my orders were to obtain all the information about the goods
and the town, that I could, and I am in the habit of obeying General
Burgoyne’s commands,” was the reply, with a slight emphasis on the last
three words.

“Well, you might have come to the house and seen us, so’s to explain
what you were doing.”

“When with the enemy it is sometimes wisest to ignore your best
friends,” Ira retorted, stating another general truth, and leaving it
for his hearer to make the application.

Lyman was for the time silenced, and the young scout in his turn became
questioner.

“How is it that you are here, Fred?” he began. “On your way to the
fort?”

“Yes, I, too, have important news for General Burgoyne,” he replied with
a show of pride.

“What has happened since I came away?” was the next query, and in a tone
which implied, “not a great deal.”

Stung by the tone rather than the words, the young Tory replied sharply:

“You needn’t think you know everything, Ira Le Geyt. I learned this
morning that Colonel John Stark has arrived and is to take charge of the
Yankee forces.”

“He came last night, and I had a long talk with him this morning.”

“There’ll be two thousand militia in the village before night, and the
general ought to know that,” young Lyman added, but not quite so
confidently.

“Two thousand, two hundred and fifty,” Ira added quietly. “Anything
else, Fred?”

“No,” he at length drawled.

“Hardly necessary for you to take a long ride down to the fort for that
news, seeing that I have gathered it already,” the young scout said
curtly. “Have dinner with us, and then you may go back home. I promise
that by day after to-morrow, if not before, General Burgoyne will have
an army in Bennington.”

“But I wanted to see the general,” Fred confessed. “I’m going to ask him
if he will give me a place on his staff. Do you know anything about
that, cousin Ira?” and there was an eagerness in his voice which showed
how much he coveted the position.

“Uncle Horace spoke of it,” Ira replied, “and I’ll tell you what I
advise.”

“What?” the listener asked eagerly.

“Go home now, and when the king’s soldiers march out of Bennington
loaded with plunder, follow them. Put in a claim that you were the one
who first discovered that the rebels were gathering stores. Your father
will swear to it, I’ll back him up, and the general will be so
good-natured, because of the victory, that he’ll give you anything.”

“A captain’s commission?”

“Perhaps a major’s.”

“I reckon I’ll ask for a colonel’s,” the young Tory declared. “What I
have done is worth it,” and he fastened his horse to a tree, after which
he went toward the food.

Ira introduced Dan, adding:

“He is my right hand in the special work I am doing,” and then all
chatted merrily together as they ate.

An hour later Fred shook hands with his companions, and started back to
town. As he rode over the brink of the hill, he cried:

“I’ll see you later, boys.”

The scouts glanced at each other, and Ira remarked:

“We got rid of him more readily than I expected. He might have made us
much trouble had he gone on to the camp.”

“He’ll be dreamin’ of that colonel’s commission,” Dan added laughingly.

They resumed their journey, and after a time, Ira said:

“Fred’s coming has given me an idea, Dan.”

“I take it that it’s a good one,” was the confident reply.

“That you go with me into the fort as Fred Lyman, and stay there while I
go back to Bennington with the British forces. Somehow I can’t get over
the idea that we shall need a friend to the Cause there while I’m gone.
Something might happen, you know, that should be reported to General
Schuyler immediately.”

“If you say that’s the thing to do, I’m ready. You’ll find I’ll make a
good cousin,” and he laughed to himself as though the idea was a
pleasing one.

They fell to discussing the details of this new plan while riding slowly
along, for now they did not care to reach the vicinity of the fort until
after nightfall. A mile or two further on Ira rode into the woods, where
he waited until Dan had made a long detour and crossed the river to
General Schuyler’s headquarters to acquaint him with what was
transpiring in Bennington, as well as to tell him of the arrangements
made for the former, under the name of Fred Lyman, to enter the British
lines.

He was so long delayed that Ira had grown impatient, and on his
appearing cried:

“I thought you would never come!”

“Lay it all to the general,” the lad replied. “He hated to let me go
into the fort wuss than pizen.”

“What did he say?” Ira asked, as he remounted his horse.

“That ’twas bad ’nough to have you thar without riskin’ another life.”

“What did you say?”

“That I entered the service to risk my life, an’ I might as well do it
thar, as anywhere.”

“Then he let you go?”

“Nope. Not till I had said, ‘Let us s’pose a case, general. S’posin’ the
first Britishers sent to Bennington get whipped, as they will, an’ the
commander sends back for reinforcements. How be you goin’ to know it in
time to send a force to wallop them? Howsomever, if I’m thar in the
fort, you’ll get the news mighty soon, an’ can ’range to beat the
red-coats out the second time. I reckon that is what Ira is providin’
for, though he hasn’t said so.’ Then he shook his head, sayin’ kinder
proudly, I thought, ‘You don’t fool that boy a great deal. Go ahead,
Dan,’ an’ ahead I came.”

Ira laughed softly to himself as they galloped on to the fort. Arriving,
they were allowed to enter, and, late though it was, sought General
Burgoyne at once.

“My cousin, Fred Lyman, general,” the young scout said, presenting his
companion.

The officer looked at the boy searchingly, and said:

“I like your looks, Master Lyman. I believe you want a place on my
staff?”

“I did,” the lad began slowly, “but now that I’ve been workin’ with Ira,
I’m thinkin’ I’d like a job suthin’ like his.”

The general laughed. “You shall have it,” he promised. “Train him,
Master Le Geyt, so he can take your place when you are away. He will
have the same pay.”

Then he gave his undivided attention to the papers the young scout had
spread out. The list of goods greatly interested him.

“Such a haul will mean everything to us,” he muttered, and then turned
to the plan of the village. After a moment he called an orderly, saying:

“Tell Colonel Baum to come here.”

When the Hessian arrived Ira explained the drawing to him, and for some
time the two officers discussed the paper in German. At length General
Burgoyne remarked in English:

“You understand the situation, colonel?”

“Perfectly,” he replied in the same language. “With this young man to
guide me, I see no reason why I may not make a successful raid.”

“When can you start?”

“At dawn.”

“How many men had he better take?” the commander asked of the scout.

“The rebels will make some pretense of a defense,” Ira replied
carelessly. “I would take enough to give them a good drubbing. Say one
thousand.”

“A larger force than I had supposed necessary,” General Burgoyne added
musingly. “Still, as you say, Master Le Geyt, we better have enough to
teach the Yankees a lesson.” Then to his subordinate he said:

“There are the two companies of Loyalists, Colonel Baum, who have asked
permission to go on this raid. You could take them, and five hundred of
your own men, making up the thousand with a squad of Indians. They would
be useful in scouring the surrounding country.”

“It shall be as you say, general,” the colonel replied.

“Here are your orders,” continued Burgoyne. “Seize those supplies; scour
the country; test the disposition of the people; levy contributions on
the towns, and last, though not least, bring back with you twelve or
thirteen hundred horses.”

His subordinate repeated the orders, and then hurried away to get his
troops ready for their long march by sunrise.

To the waiting scouts the general said:

“Go to your own quarters for a few hours’ rest. But you, Master Le Geyt,
will hold yourself ready to guide Colonel Baum and his forces to
Bennington to-morrow. Master Lyman, you will remain here to guide a
second force to the same town should such a movement be necessary.”

At dawn the two lads stood side by side, watching the soldiers as they
marched out of the gates. First went the trained Hessians, moving as
perfectly as a piece of machinery; then came the Tories, trying to
imitate the regulars in their military precision, but making poor work
of it; finally came the Indians, straggling and sullen because they had
been placed in the rear.

“The colonel should reverse the order of march,” Ira said in a low tone
to Dan, as he noted the scowling faces of the savages.

“It isn’t the only mistake he’ll fall into ’fore he gets back,” was his
comrade’s reply. Then he asked, “What day is it?”

“The thirteenth of August,” was the reply. “But why do you ask?”

“The thirteenth,” Dan repeated. “I thought so; it means bad luck for the
expedition,” and he looked straight into the face of his companion.

Both smiled, and as Colonel Baum and his staff now came riding by, Ira
mounted his own horse and joined them.

For a distance of ten or twelve miles the army advanced quietly; then
they came upon a party of skirmishers, who, after some sharp firing on
both sides, retreated toward the town. A mile farther on the advance
guard, while passing through a wooded country, ran into a small
ambuscade, from which was poured a deadly fire. These Yankees were soon
driven back; but not until a score or more officers and men had been
killed or wounded.

“I had no idea the rebels would be so bold,” Colonel Baum said to Ira.
“If this keeps on we shall be disabled before gaining the town.”

“Why not send the Indians on ahead,” the scout suggested. “They ought to
be able to smoke out the Yankees, and drive them from their holes.”

“I’ll try it,” the officer replied, and ordered the savages to the
front, a position they were now reluctant to take, for it began to
appear as if the enemy would make a stout fight.

The only result was to change as targets the Hessians to the Indians,
and so many of the redskins were shot down that the entire company
became demoralized, falling back upon the rear troops.

Disheartened by these unexpected circumstances Colonel Baum sought out a
safe halting-ground for the night, and sent back for reinforcements. Ira
offered himself as the messenger, but received the reply:

“No, I need you here. You know the ground before us, and to-morrow I
must have you select some place where I can entrench, and wait for
troops from the fort to come up.”

Next day the skirmishers were no less vigilant, and it was under a
harassing fire that the Hessian commander pushed forward past Mount
Anthony, to the bend in the Walloomsac river, where, at the suggestion
of his guide, he went into camp.

Before nightfall he had thrown up light entrenchments, and for the first
time within twenty-four hours rested in fancied security, believing he
could hold out any length of time against an enemy which he was now
convinced outnumbered him two to one.

During the night a score or more Tories from the neighborhood joined his
force, among them, to Ira’s surprise, Master Earle, Horace Lyman, and
his son Fred. All were hearty in their greetings, and the young scout,
taking the young Tory into his own tent, asked:

“How did Uncle Horace and Master Earle escape from the Yankees?”

“They were set free,” Fred replied. “Father thinks it was because they
had no spare men for guards. The rebels are so afraid of being whipped
by the king’s troops that they are turning out to the last man.”

“It looks that way,” Ira replied curtly.

When the sun rose on the morning of the fifteenth, it disclosed the
Continental forces gathered on the opposite bank of the river and along
the road to Bennington. Believing an attack near at hand, Colonel Baum
arranged his forces in three lines, the Indians first, behind them the
Tories, and his own troops in the rear. With the first skirmishing the
redskins, unaccustomed to fighting pitched battles, began to slip away.
Alarmed by this fact, the commander, knowing his young scout was
familiar with the savage tongue, sent him off to stay, if possible, the
flight of the fugitives, and, if unsuccessful in that, to go down the
road toward the fort and hasten the coming of reinforcements.

This enabled Ira to refrain from fighting against his friends. He was an
interested spectator, however, of what took place on that day and the
next.

Content with an occasional skirmish, Colonel Stark allowed the first day
to pass without decisive action, in the hope that another regiment of
militia, which was hourly expected, might arrive. But early on the
morning of the sixteenth he decided to wait no longer. Calling his men
together he addressed them in words which have since become memorable:

“There are the red-coats. We must beat them to-day, or to-night my wife
sleeps a widow.”

He then sent detachments on both flanks to gain, if possible, the
British rear. He led the front attack himself, and after two hours broke
the line of the few remaining Indians, who fled, crying:

“The woods are full of Yankees!”

The center of the attack now fell upon the Tories, who were driven back
upon the Hessians, and the entire British force, yielding slowly, was at
length pushed across the stream on their left.

Colonel Baum now attempted to retrieve himself by heading a new attack
in person, but with no better success. He was mortally wounded, his
troops routed, and his artillery captured.

Meanwhile a reinforcement of five hundred Hessians, under
Lieutenant-Colonel Breyman, was coming to his aid. The messenger, asking
for help, had reached the fort promptly, but for some reason the second
force of regulars was not started for Bennington until the following
morning, and Dan Cushing had ample time to get word to General Schuyler
of the new movement. Therefore when Colonel Breyman left Fort Edward,
Colonel Seth Warner, with a force of fresh militia, was close at his
heels.

After the defeat of Baum the Continentals broke ranks in order to
plunder. The watchful Ira succeeded in getting word to Colonel Stark
that British reinforcements were to be expected at any minute. In vain
that officer tried to rally his men, and Colonel Breyman, finding the
Continentals unprepared for a second fight, would have made short work
of them but for the arrival of Colonel Warner and his men.

The battle that now followed lasted until sunset, when the enemy fell
back, and were pursued by the victorious Continentals until dark.

It was a straggling force of less than one hundred that finally reached
Fort Edward, for the British loss numbered nine hundred and thirty-four,
including one hundred and fifty-seven Tories. The guns, ammunition
wagons, tents, baggage, and one thousand stand of small arms belonging
to the red-coats, were left in the hands of the victors.

The next morning Ira and Dan walked over the scene of the conflict. In a
thicket across the little brook they found the body of Fred Lyman.
Apparently he had been in hiding when struck in the back by a stray
bullet. Farther down the Heights were the bodies of Horace Lyman and
James Earle. Both had been slain during the battle.

“There will be no need for you to go back to the fort with me,” Ira said
a little later to his comrade. “The young Tory is dead.”

“But Dan Cushing is very much alive,” that lad retorted, “and is ready
to take your report to General Schuyler.”

“I can give it in a sentence,” his companion said. “Tell him Burgoyne’s
left wing has been clipped at Bennington.”



                             CHAPTER VIII.
                         THE NIGHT ON THE ROAD.


We will now follow Latham Wentworth and Joseph Fisher in their long
journey to Fort Stanwix. When they left General Schuyler they found the
quarterly-sergeant, and went with him to secure the supplies which would
be needed. This sergeant, named Wilson, was a talkative fellow, and as
he aided them in making up their packs, asked:

“Has any one told you about the latest act of the Continental Congress,
lads?”

Receiving a negative reply, he went on:

“We only got the word a few days ago. It seems that on June 14th
Congress passed this act, I saw a copy and remember every word:
‘Resolved, that the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen
stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars white
on a blue field, representing a new constellation.’ So we have a
national banner at last, and I hope, before the next fight with the
red-coats, that we’ll have them floating above all our fortifications.”

“I wonder how it would look?” Late asked of himself, half-closing one
eye, and gazing in the air as if viewing the flag from a distance.

“Fine,” the sergeant declared. “I’ll show you,” and he drew from his
coat-pocket a piece of paper. Unfolding it he showed the boys a
miniature flag, drawn in its proper colors. There were seven red and six
white stripes, and the stars on the union were arranged in a circle.

“There!” he exclaimed, “isn’t she a beauty? I drew this myself, and at
the first chance I’m going to show it to the general, in the hope that
he’ll let me make one.”

“We’ll get ahead of you by making one for Fort Stanwix,” Joe remarked
sportively, never dreaming that his words would come true.

The boys were ready for their long tramp, and, bidding Master Wilson
good-day, they left the fort, turning their faces westward. Gaining the
Hudson river, at that point where the Mohawk flows into it, they crossed
over to the northern bank, and plunged into the great forest, intending
to avoid the settlements as much as possible, lest their hurried trip to
the fort awaken needless alarm throughout the valley.

Scarcely had the scouts disappeared amid the foliage when an old man, of
gigantic size, with hair that fell upon his shoulders and a beard that
came nearly to his knees, arose from a thicket on the easterly side of
the river, and, wading across, plunged into the forest on the trail of
the boys. Like them, he was armed with a rifle and knife, and carried a
pack upon his back. He muttered to himself while striding vigorously
along:

“I’ll catch you yet, you young devils! I’ll catch you yet!”

His rapid gait told of a strength quite unusual for one of his years,
and it was clear he would prove no mean antagonist for the lads whom he
was following.

The scouts started late in the day, and by the time they had traveled
ten miles the shades of night were falling fast.

“It’s time to go into camp,” Late suggested.

His comrade agreed to this, and selecting a cleared space beside a small
stream, they erected a shelter of bark and brush, made a bed of fir
boughs, and sat down to eat their supper.

Owing to this labor, and the noise they had made while at work, neither
of the boys heard the sound of footsteps, nor did they suspect that a
man stood behind a huge tree a few rods away, watching and listening
while they ate and talked.

“Think we better keep guard to-night, Late?” Joe asked.

“Hardly worth while,” the former replied. “I sleep light, you know, an’
any noise out of the ordinary will waken me. We ain’t far enough away
from the fort yet for Indians or red-coats to bother us, an’ we’ll have
all the watchin’ we need when farther up country, so I guess we’d better
turn in tonight.”

“We must have come at least ten miles,” Joe continued.

“All of that.”

“Then we have ten times as many before us yet. Can we do it in four
days?”

“I’d like to make it in three,” Late declared. “We can’t get to the fort
any too soon, an’ my long legs are good for the thirty-odd miles a day.
How is it with yours?”

“I reckon they’ll hold out.”

“We’ll start early, make brief stops, an’ travel late, if need be; but
we must deliver the message to Captain Swartwout by Saturday night.”

At these words the listener behind the big tree leaned out sufficiently
from his place of concealment to shake his fist at the boys, after
which, as he shrank back into the gloom again, he muttered to himself:
“Perhaps you will, youngsters; but not if David Daggett can prevent it.”

He still stood there when the lads stretched themselves out upon the fir
boughs, and fell asleep. Then, smiling grimly, he slipped the pack from
his back, sat upon it with his back against the tree, and waited.

An hour passed; the heavy breathing of the occupants of the shack told
the old man that the young scouts were sleeping soundly. He arose
cautiously, leaned his rifle against the pine, drew the hunting knife
from his belt, and, gripping it between his teeth, slowly crept on all
fours toward the camp.

Gaining it, he paused and listened. A loud snoring told him that the
lads were unconscious. Again he smiled, and creeping noiselessly to the
open end of the rude shelter, he gazed at the sleepers. They lay with
their feet toward him; and far enough apart for him to crawl between
them, a feat he accomplished so stealthily that they were not disturbed.

Then, rising to his knees, he took the knife from his teeth with his
left hand, clutched the handle firmly with his right, and raised it
aloft, intending to plunge it rapidly into first one and then into the
other.

But before the weapon could descend Late moved, and the man, lowering
the blade, shrank back a little, waiting for the boy to sink into
slumber again.

Instead of quieting down, Late stretched out one of his long arms,
striking the intruder in the face, and knocking him over. Both lad and
man were on their feet in an instant, one seeking to grapple with the
other, but the stranger, too quick for the young scout, arose and
disappeared in the darkness.

Joe, aroused by the brief struggle, sprang up crying loudly:

“What is it, Late?”

“Some one crept in here to steal or to kill,” was the reply as the
speaker darted out of the shack to peer through the gloom, hoping to see
or hear something of the fugitive.

But all was still, and, satisfied that the intruder had made good his
escape, he turned to Joe, “I awoke suddenly, an’ felt, rather than saw,
a man on his knees ’tween you an’ me. I swung my arm ’round an’ knocked
him over, an’ ’fore I could grab him he vanished. If it wan’t for the
ache in my arm where I whacked him, I should think I’d been dreamin’.”

“I don’t ’spose it’s safe to light a torch,” his companion whispered.

“No, it might give him the very chance he’s waitin’ for, an’ we better
have our guns ready, in case he sends a bullet this way.”

They seized the rifles and sat motionless a long while, but the forest
was as silent as if they alone were in it. At length Late stepped softly
out under the trees until he could get a view of the stars, when he went
back to his comrade, saying:

“It isn’t much more than midnight now, Joe. Lie down an’ get what sleep
you can. I’ll call you in ’bout two hours to take a spell of standin’
guard.”

In such manner they spent the remaining hours of the night, and when it
was light enough, made a thorough search of the woods all around the
encampment, but not the slightest evidence could they find that any one
had been in that vicinity.

“We’ll have to give it up,” Late finally said, “an’ get breakfast so’s
to be off. But I swaney, my arm is still lame where I struck some one or
something last night. I know ’twasn’t a nightmare.”

Half an hour later the boys were moving westward again, and not until
the sun was directly overhead did they halt. Perhaps they might not have
stopped just then, but, on coming into a little clearing, the lads
caught sight of an old man cooking fish near the river bank. A canoe was
drawn up near him, in which was the usual outfit of a voyager. He
clearly was not suspecting any danger, for his rifle lay in the boat,
and he made no effort to reach it on seeing them. Instead he cried
cheerily:

“Good day, lads. Come along and have a bite with your uncle David. There
are fish enough for three, and you are as welcome as if you had caught
and cooked them yourselves.”

Holding their guns ready for instant use the boys advanced, and he,
noting their caution, laughed merrily.

“Put up your shooters, youngsters, for David Daggett never yet hurt a
human being, white or Indian. It isn’t his mission,” and then, lowering
his voice as though he was imparting a profound secret, he continued,
“Don’t you know who it is? Haven’t you heard of me before?”

Being told by the young scouts that they had never seen or heard of him
before, and, therefore, could not know what his mission might be, he
seemed disappointed.

“Never heard, eh? I thought the whole world knew of me. I am David
Daggett, and my mission is to reckon up the birds of the forests. I have
traveled miles doing it, and do you see that one flying across the
river? He makes exactly twenty thousand I have counted. It’s slow work,
lads, but David Daggett will some day be able to tell just how many
birds there are in the Mohawk valley.”

The young scouts could but believe that the old man was crazy. They laid
down their rifles, threw off the packs, and partook of the food which
he, with a liberal hand, gave them. When, however, the boys would have
contributed their share to the noon-day meal, he stopped them.

“No, no,” he said. “You are my guests now,” and, with a cunning glance,
“though no one knows where I get my money, I always have enough to buy
food for myself and my friends.”

While they were eating he told them many things about the birds which
flew through the clearing. Evidently he knew the names and was familiar
with the habits of all the feathered visitors, and as each passed, he
counted it, adding ten to his number before the meal was at an end.

When the lads, thanking him for his hospitality, arose to resume their
journey, he asked:

“Were you going up the river, my sons?”

“Yes,” they replied.

He seemed lost in thought during a dozen seconds or more, and then said:

“I like you, lads. You don’t make fun of the old man and his whims as
some do, so I’ll carry you a piece up the river, though I’ve just come
down stream. Get into the canoe; it will be a sight easier than
tramping, and save you many a mile around the great swamp.”

Joe turned to Late, waiting for him to decide. Both knew of the swamp
not far away, and understood that the old man was correct. It would be
easier, and much time might be saved by paddling up the stream a few
miles. They were two to one, and it was broad daylight. Surely there
could be no risk in accepting Master Daggett’s invitation, therefore
Late said:

“All right, sir; but let Joe and me take the paddles. We know how to
handle them, an’ oughter be willin’ to do that much in return for your
favor.”

The old man made no protest to this proposition, and during two hours or
more the boys drove the light craft up the river until arriving at a
considerable waterfall.

“We’ll have to land here,” the bird missionary said, “and carry the boat
around.”

“We can hardly ask you to take us any farther,” young Wentworth replied.
“We are now beyond the swamp, an’ you have saved us a good five-mile
tramp, so we’ll thank you again for your kindness, an’ push on afoot.”

“Not by any means,” Master Daggett declared. “It makes no difference
where I am. I find birds, birds, everywhere. I have counted seventy-two
since we came up the river. I’ll see more above the falls. We’ll go on
together until night.”

The boys could not persuade him to any other course, therefore they
carried their packs above the falls and returned for the canoe, the old
man walking by their side and assuring them he had not found such
pleasant companions for many a day.

“I cannot bear to part with you,” he declared. “We’ll go on together as
long as you can get along with the old man.”

The voyage above the falls differed greatly from that below. There the
course had been through an unbroken wilderness; now they occasionally
passed small clearings, in which were the cabins of hardy settlers; but
they made no stops, and when the day was nearly spent entered again a
long tract of forest. After having paddled another mile they came to a
series of rapids, where a portage became necessary.

To their urging that he accompany them no farther, the old man grew
indignant.

“I shall stay with you to-night,” he declared. “We’ll go around the
rapids, and then make camp. You’ll have to land on the south bank for
the portage, because the north side is impassable, except by making a
long detour.”

Believing this statement to be correct the boys steered the canoe to the
southern shore, and disembarked. The lads carried their packs around the
rapids, while Master Daggett remained by the boat. Returning in a few
minutes, they waited for him to shoulder his own traps, when they lifted
the light craft and followed the old man up the bank. Traveling somewhat
slower than he did, they had a chance to talk over the situation.

“We must get rid of him,” Late said in a whisper.

“Yes,” Joe agreed. “Let us cross over to the other bank for our camp,
and then we can slip away in the mornin’ ’fore he wakes up.”

“A bright idea,” was the reply.

Therefore when they arrived at the upper end of the rapids, young
Wentworth, turning to Master Daggett, said carelessly:

“There’s a better place for a camp across the river, Uncle David. Why
can’t we go over there for the night?”

“Because I don’t want to,” the old man growled. “I never spend the night
on the north side of the river. It gives me rheumatism.”

“An’ Late an’ I never camp on the south side; it gives us the chills and
fever,” Joe retorted, thinking the separation with the old bird
missionary might as well come then as in the morning, “so we’ll get you
to set us across.”

For a moment the old man glared at him angrily, then said curtly:

“All right. Stow in your traps. I’ll leave mine here, for I shall come
back after taking you over.”

Pleased with their success the young scouts put their packs into the
light craft, and stepped in themselves. The owner of the canoe followed,
taking up the paddle.

“I’ll row the boat across,” Late said, reaching for the oar.

“Sit where you are,” was the stern command. “I can handle this craft
without any of your help.”

Apparently Master Daggett was in a surly mood, but the lads cared little
for that, so long as he granted their request. With a vigorous stroke
the old man sent the boat into the middle of the stream.

“See!” he cried. “I can whirl it around and around and around,” and as
he spoke he set the canoe spinning with a rapidity that made his
companions dizzy.

“Now we’ll go down the rapids,” he shouted, and drove the craft straight
toward the falls.

Satisfied that the old man had suddenly gone mad, the lads sprang up to
wrest the paddle from him, when, with a loud yell, he leaped on the
gunwale, overturning the boat.

The water was deep, and the young scouts sank, as a matter of course.
Joe was the first to get his head above the surface, only to find Master
Daggett on the lookout for him. Seizing the boy by the neck, the crazy
man forced him beneath the water again, shouting:

“Now you shall drown! Now you shall drown!”

Late got his head into the air just in time to see this attack, and swam
to his comrade’s assistance. But the old man caught him by his hair with
a grip as of iron, crying at the full strength of his lungs:

“I’ll drown you both, you young devils! I’ll drown you both!”

At this instant Joe succeeded in freeing himself from the grasp of the
madman, and, nearly choked though he was, sprang upon the old fellow’s
shoulders, forcing him beneath the surface.

This proved to be a fortunate move, for, finding himself in danger of
drowning, Master Daggett let go his hold of Late, and, by a tremendous
effort threw Joe off his back, swimming vigorously for the southern
shore. The boys, still believing him crazy, made no attempt at pursuit;
but struck out for the opposite bank.

“Quick!” Late cried as soon as he was out of the water. “If we hurry
down below the falls we may save our packs.”

“But we’ve lost our guns,” Joe added, following his comrade as rapidly
as his wet garments would permit.

They found, despite the statement of the old man, that there was a fair
trail around the rapids on that side, and were soon at the lower end.
But, rapidly as they moved, the lunatic outstripped them, and not only
secured the packs, but began dancing about with, his rifle in hand,
crying:

“I’ll shoot if you attempt to come over here! I’ll shoot you!”

The boys watched him in silence a few minutes, and then Joe exclaimed:

“This is a pretty fix! Our rifles are lost, the food is gone, we are wet
to the skin, night is comin’ on, I’d like to know what we are goin’ to
do?”

“Go back to the upper end of the falls and build a fire. Dry our clothes
and camp out till mornin’. Then fish up the guns, an’ go our way!” his
comrade said sharply, fumbling to see if the flint and steel were still
in his pocket.

When they gained the higher bank it was to find that Master Daggett had
been equally active, for he stood on the opposite side, still
threatening to shoot them.

“We’ll get out of range before building a fire,” Late said as he led the
way into the woods.

They soon came to a small clearing in which was a huge oak tree.

“Here’s a good place,” Joe cried.

“Yes,” his companion admitted.

They soon had a fire built under the tree, on the branches of which they
hung their outer garments. The inner clothing they took off, wrung out
and put on again, standing near the blaze to “dry out,” Joe meanwhile
scolding.

“Talk ’bout gainin’ time by takin’ to the canoe. I guess we’ll know
better than listen to a madman again.”

“I’m not so sure he is a madman,” Late said with emphasis.

“Why?” his companion asked in surprise.

“There’s too much method in his actions. Think it over. He’s managed to
rob us of our guns an’ packs, an’ put us in a place where we may easily
be shot down. I suspect he’s the fellow who visited us last night, an’
don’t believe that we have seen the last of him.”

“That may be,” Joe replied after a time of thought, “an’ we’ve got
nothin’ but our knives to fight him with. It looks dubious, Late.”

The hours passed drearily. The garments dried slowly; there was nothing
to eat; they could not sleep while half-clad, and there was the danger
that the enemy would appear. Therefore they spent the time gathering
fuel, and in keeping guard lest they be surprised. As the night grew
older a cool breeze sprang up, and the boys began to feel uncomfortable.

“We shall have to put on our clothes, even if they are not entirely
dry,” Late at length said, leaning over to feel of the garments.

Just as he stretched out his hand the sharp crack of a rifle rang out,
and a bullet whistled close to his head. Then came a second report, and
Joe, who appeared to be the target, dodged behind the huge oak.

His comrade joined him, and from behind this shelter they peered into
the darkness mystified by the rapid firing. Then, from the rear could be
heard a third report, and a ball buried itself in the tree-trunk.

“We are surrounded!” Late exclaimed in a low tone. “Quick! We must run
before they have time to re-load. It’s our only hope of escape!”

Hatless, bootless, without breeches, coat or vest, the two scouts fled
into the darkness, running as they never had before.

During a short time they heard the sound of footsteps, as of some one in
pursuit, and then the noise grew fainter and fainter until it finally
died away. The boys halted beneath a great pine, panting heavily.

“We are as safe here as anywhere,” young Wentworth declared, “and may as
well stay where we are until mornin’.”

His comrade made no answer for a full minute, when he said:

“I don’t understand those three shots. Where could old Daggett have
found any one to help him?”

“I don’t know,” was the reply, “but there must have been three in the
party. No one had time to re-load.”

Slowly the moments passed, and then Joe spoke again:

“What shall we do in the morning?”

“Go back, an’ see if they have taken our clothes.”

“And if they have?”

“Keep on without them.”

The thought was not pleasing, and yet they could devise no other plan.
If the hours had been long and dreary at the camp-fire, they were now
tedious. Yet the young scouts made the best of a bad matter, and at the
coming of day crept back to the clearing, only to find it deserted.
There, in the slumbering coals, were the charred remains of their boots,
their garments, and their guns.

When Late’s eye fell on the stockless barrels of the weapons, he
exclaimed in anger:

“Old Daggett was the only one here last night! See, Joe, he fished out
our rifles, and cleaned and re-loaded them before attacking us! After
driving us away he burned everything, and cleared out.”

To confirm this supposition they went back to the river, and looked over
to the opposite side where they had last seen their enemy. His traps
were gone. The great forest had swallowed him and them.

During a moment only did the discomfited lads stand there inactive.
Then, turning their faces for the third time westward, hungry, footsore,
unarmed, scantily clad, yet undaunted, they set out through the forest
toward their destination.



                              CHAPTER IX.
                          UNFURLING THE FLAG.


After traveling a mile or two the young scouts came to a break in the
forest, where the big trees gave place to low bushes covered with wild
berries.

“Here is our breakfast,” Late said, helping himself to the sweet,
delicious fruit. Joe followed his example, and not until their keen
appetites were somewhat appeased did the boys resume their journey.

“I don’t s’pose blueberries are very lastin’,” Joe muttered as they went
on, “but they are better than nothin’.”

“They’ll last until we get somethin’ more substantial,” his companion
replied, as he turned sharply into a rough cart path.

“Where does this lead to?” Joe asked.

“I don’t know any more than you do,” was the answer; “but it will bring
us to a settlement of some kind, where we can get help.”

“What if the owner is a Tory?”

“Then we’ll be Tories,” was the decisive response. “We need food, arms,
and clothes, an’ some friend or foe must furnish them.”

Latham was evidently fast approaching a desperate mood.

Before many moments they arrived at a cultivated field, and saw below
them a valley of considerable size, in which were a large house, barns,
cabins, and other outbuildings.

“Quite a place,” Late exclaimed as he and his comrade halted.

“Yes, an’ whoever lives there ought’er be able to furnish us with
everything we need. But how are we goin’ to find out whether the people
are for the colonies or the king?”

“By those chaps there,” was the reply, and the speaker pointed to two
small boys, who, with baskets on their arms, had just clambered over a
wall farther down the hillside. “They are goin’ berryin’. Draw back so
they can’t see you till they get here. We don’t want to scare them to
death.”

The young scouts drew back from the brink of the slope until hidden from
view of the approaching lads, and waited. Five minutes later the
youngsters came in sight, but were so busy wrangling over some matter as
not to take heed of the half-clad strangers until almost upon them. Then
their first inclination was to run away; but under the assurance of Late
that they would in no way be harmed, the children drew nearer, staring
with wondering eyes at the sorry objects they beheld.

“Who lives down there?” Joe asked.

“Father,” the elder of the boys replied.

“Yes, but what is his name?”

“Hiram Le Geyt.”

The scouts looked at each other in dismay an instant; then Late asked:
“Have you a brother Ira?”

“Yes, but he’s serving the king,” the younger lad said proudly.

“Is your father at home?”

“No,” the other boy replied, evidently eager to impart information as
well as his brother; “he has gone to Oswego to see Colonel St. Leger.
He’s going to show him the way down here so he can lick the rebels.”

“I understand,” the tall scout said grimly. “Who is at home?”

“Ma and Grandmother, Lucy, Jane, Hiram, and me,” the lad explained.

“And Grandpa,” added the younger boy quickly.

“Yea, and Grandpa,” was the prompt assent. “I forgot him, he’s away so
much.”

It would have been well for the questioner if he had asked more about
“grandpa,” but another matter seemed more important just then.

“I wonder if we could get some old clothes down there?” he asked.

“And something to eat?” Joe added, perhaps because he thought that was
fully as important.

“I reckon so,” both boys replied. “Ma’s awful good to the poor.”

The scouts laughed. “That fits us,” Joe cried, and they started down the
slope almost on the run. They arrived at the big barn first, and entered
it to find a negro at work. He stared at them a moment in amazement, and
then asked gruffly:

“Who be ye? What ye doin’ here?”

“We were comin’ up the river last night, an’ our boat capsized,” Late
explained. “Can’t you go to the house an’ get us some clothes an’ food?
Tell Mistress Le Geyt we know Ira, who is with General Burgoyne.”

After a little persuasion the servant went off with their message. He
was absent some time, but finally appeared with his arms full of old
clothing.

“Missus says ye are to get inter these, an’ then come to the house,” he
said. “She wants to talk with ye.”

The boys put on the garments, finding that they fitted fairly well, and
then, conducted by the negro, went to the dwelling. Showing them into
the living room, the colored man said curtly:

“Sit down. Missus will be here soon.”

Five minutes later a woman of about forty years entered, and with a
smile said:

“Caesar tells me you are friends of my eldest son Ira, who is with
General Burgoyne. May I ask your names?”

Her visitors told her in turn. “Latham Wentworth and Joseph Fisher,” she
repeated. “I don’t recall the names; that is, I don’t recollect that Ira
ever spoke of you. How long have you known my son?”

“Only a few weeks,” Late answered. “We met him first up at Lake
Champlain, while he was waitin’ for the army to arrive.”

“We work under him,” Joe added. Then a bright thought came to his mind.
“He carries an iron cross that can be taken apart, so he can hide his
papers in it,” he continued. “He shows it to the Indians, an’ they let
him come an go ’mong them.”

“I know now that you are indeed his friends,” she cried joyously, “for I
gave him that cross myself. It is an heirloom in our family. But how do
you happen to be here? Cæsar said you were capsized on the river.”

“We would not tell every one, good Mistress Le Geyt,” Late said in a low
but significant tone, “but we do not mind tellin’ you that we are sent
up country on a special mission.”

She nodded her head in a way that indicated she understood him, and
said:

“Please come with me.”

She led them out into a great hall, where on a rack of deer horns were
several rifles and fowling-pieces. Seeing that her visitors noticed the
arms, she said as they passed:

“We have quite an arsenal. It is because all our men folks are fond of
gunning; my husband, Ira, grandpa, and even the younger boys have their
own favorite weapons.”

Coming to the great staircase, they ascended and entered a large
chamber, where, spread out on the bed, were two costly hunting suits,
and beside it two pairs of hunting boots, scarcely worn.

“I must apologize for sending those old garments out to you,” she said.
“They might do for strangers, but not for friends of my boy’s. Those on
the bed are much more suitable, and by the time you have put them on,
breakfast will be ready,” and she left them to themselves.

“We shan’t know ourselves,” Joe cried as he began to put on the finer
garments.

“No, an’ it’s all due to that happy thought of yours regarding the iron
cross. What do you s’pose she’d say if she knew our Ira wasn’t her Ira?”

“Hush!” his comrade cautioned. “Some one is goin’ down the hall, an’
might hear you. But I do feel a little ’shamed to impose on so fine a
woman as Mistress Le Geyt seems to be.”

“I don’t know ’bout that,” was the low reply. “One enemy robs us;
another makes it good. Sort of evens up things, it ’pears to me. Though
I confess I wish it was Master Le Geyt we were imposin’ on, instead of
his wife.”

A bell now rang loudly at the foot of the stairs, and, taking it for the
signal to come to breakfast, the young scouts hastened down to the lower
hall where they found their hostess waiting. She led them into a large
dining-room, saying:

“Sit down, and Matilda will wait on you. I shall have to ask you to
excuse me for a while, as I have some household duties that must be
attended to.”

After thus speaking she left the apartment by another door, and in
another moment a negress came in to attend to their needs.

Fried chicken, vegetables, bread, pie, cheese, and coffee were furnished
them in abundance by the waitress, who seemed delighted at their
enormous appetites.

“Ye makes me think of Master Ira,” she declared. “He’s always mighty
hungry when he’s been on a long tramp.”

At length they could eat no more, and arose to leave the table, when the
hall door was suddenly thrown open, and David Daggett strode in,
followed by four stout negroes.

“Seize those rebels,” he said to the men. “Stand still, you young
devils,” he cried to the surprised lads, “or I’ll fire,” and he leveled
a pistol at each.

In another minute they were surrounded, dragged from the room into the
hall, carried bodily up the stairway, and thrust into a back chamber,
whose windows were covered with heavy shutters securely fastened on the
outside. Then the door was closed and locked.

“I have you at last,” an exulting voice called from without. “You may
fool Sarah, but you cannot fool David.”

In the gloom the prisoners gazed into each other’s faces for some time
before either uttered a word. Then Joe exclaimed:

“I never heard of a thing like this afore, Late! Here you an’ me have
put ourselves right into that old man’s hands. I reckon he’s the grandpa
those boys told about.”

“I reckon he is,” his comrade replied. “Do you s’pose they’ll take these
clothes from us?”

“I hope not. I never had such a good suit before.”

The day passed; night came, as the prisoners could tell by peering
through the cracks in the window shutters.

“Will they starve us?” Joe asked. “I’m as hungry as when we first came
here.”

“So’m I,” Late replied. “I wonder if there’s any way out.”

He went from window to window, examining carefully and trying the
shutters in turn. Neither alone, nor with Joe’s help could he move them.

“We are here to stay,” he said in a despondent tone.

But he was mistaken. About midnight a key was thrust into the lock, the
bolt turned back, and the door opened. There stood the negro they had
seen at the barn in the morning, with a candle in his hand.

“Come,” he said in a hoarse whisper.

They followed him down the stairs and into the dining-room, where they
found an abundance of food on the table.

“Eat,” he said grimly.

Without a word they obeyed, and when their hunger was appeased, he led
them back to the hall in front of the rack of arms.

“Take two,” he directed. Each lad took a rifle, with horn and pouch, and
followed him again, this time through the front door into the yard.

Leading them around to the barn, he showed them two horses, saddled and
bridled.

“They’re yourn,” he announced. “Go down that lane to the road. Turn to
the left, and you’ll be at Little Falls ’fore mornin’. Here’s a note
from Missus.”

He thrust the paper into Late’s hand. Then the lads mounted and rode
slowly away. A half-mile beyond the house they came to the road of which
the negro had spoken. Turning into this they galloped along as rapidly
as the rough way and darkness would permit. At dawn the tiny settlement
was in sight. Pausing to rest the panting steeds, they opened and read
Mistress Le Geyt’s letter.

  “My dear guests,” it began, “I regret greatly that my father, David
  Daggett, imprisoned you. He is not quite himself, and insists that you
  are rebels. No persuasion of mine can convince him you are Ira’s
  friends. He declares he saw you come from the lines of the enemy, and
  followed you all the way up the river. I suspect your misfortunes were
  due to him, and, as far as possible, make restitution. Cæsar will fix
  your room so that it will look as if you made your own escape. Tell
  Ira, when you see him, that I did all I could in your behalf, for his
  sake. Your friend,

                                                        “Sarah Le Geyt.”

“Look here, Late,” Joe exclaimed after they had read the note, “these
horses are goin’ back to that woman! The clothes an’ guns I’m willin’ to
keep in the place of those that crazy old David burned; but I won’t take
anything more.”

“I reckon that’s the proper figure,” his companion said after a little
thought. “We can send them back from the settlement. It’s less than
forty miles to the fort, an’ by hard walkin’ we can fetch there ’fore
midnight. Can’t you write a note tellin’ her why we send the horses
back?”

“I’m not much at writin’,” Joe replied; “but I can fix up somethin’.
Guess we can get what’s needed on ahead here.”

The young scouts were more fortunate than they had expected. At the
falls they met a man who wanted to go down the river to his home, a few
miles below Hiram Le Geyt’s. He readily consented to take the animals
back, and deliver their letter to the mistress. Therefore Joe, with some
suggestions from Late, wrote:

  “Good Mistress Le Geyt: We are rebels, so we send back your horses. We
  keep the other things ’cause your father destroyed ours. We can’t tell
  you how we came to know ’bout Ira. Thank you for all you did for us.
  We’ll be kind to the next Tory we meet, for your sake. Good-by.

                                                         “Late and Joe.”

“I feel better,” the latter said, when the man, who was taking back the
horses, had disappeared. “It don’t seem as though we’d imposed on that
woman quite so much.”

“I was wonderin’ if she’d have been so kind to us had she known we were
rebels,” his comrade said. “Howsomever, we’ve ben purty square with her,
seein’ she’s a Tory.”

A few moments later they set out for the fort, striking off through the
forest, as their custom had been, instead of following the regular
trail, a fact which saved them from another encounter with David
Daggett, for he, with a half-dozen servants at his heels, had come in
hot pursuit.

But they, ignorant of all this, tramped steadily along mile after mile,
stopping but once for a brief rest, and about nine o’clock that night
delivered their message to the commander of the fort, Captain Abraham
Swartwout.

He rubbed his hands gleefully when they told of reinforcements on the
way.

“I can hold out until they get here, even if St. Leger sweeps down on me
with his whole force,” he declared. “I don’t like that Indian business,
though. It means burning and butchering all the way from Oswego here.
Some one ought to go up along the road, warning the settlers, and
telling them to come in here with their families for protection.”

“We will go,” the young scouts said in the same breath. “General
Schuyler told us to remain as long as we could be of any service to
you.”

“Well, rest to-night and to-morrow,” the captain replied, “for you need
it. Monday morning I’ll send you out for the double purpose of warning
the settlers, and watching the movements of the red-coats. I’ll arrange
a set of signals by which you can let me know what is going on outside,
without coming into the fort. You’ll run less risk of being discovered
and shot down;” then he called an orderly who took them first to the
mess room, where they were given supper, and then to the barracks. In an
hour both were sleeping soundly.

The following day the young scouts “did nothin’ but sleep and eat,” as
Late expressed it, but immediately after breakfast on Monday they went
to the commander’s quarters. He received them kindly and led the way to
one of the bastions. From there he pointed out a tall tree on a hill
opposite, asking:

“Do you see that big pine?”

“Yes, sir,” the lads replied.

“It is across the river, and likely to be beyond the lines of the enemy
when they are besieging the garrison. Here are four strips of cloth,
red, black, white, and green, each of which will have a different
meaning when tied in the top of that tree. The white will be taken that
reinforcements are close at hand; the red, that they have been
discovered and are about to be attacked; the green, that they need help;
the black, that they have been defeated. The red and white will tell me
that the Indians are deserting the British; the red and green, that the
British are about to be attacked in the rear; the red and black, that
they have been defeated; while the white and green will signify that
they are advancing on the fort; and the white and black that they are
preparing to give up the siege.”

The boys repeated these instructions until they had them fixed in mind,
and then Joe said:

“You can’t see these colors in the night, captain. We might want to
signal then.”

“These are only for the day; we will have another arrangement for the
night,” he replied. “Can either of you hoot like an owl?”

“Yes; both of us,” Late replied.

“Then one hoot takes the place of the white, two of the red, three of
the green, and four of the black. From that you can make up your
combinations,” the officer explained. “These cries are to be given from
the tree, and the man stationed on this bastion will be prepared to
report them promptly to me.”

“Very well, sir, we’ll do our best to keep you posted on all outside
movements,” Late promised, “an’ should anything occur that you ought’er
know, which can’t be reported by signals, we’ll bring it in to you at
the risk of our lives.”

“Let it be something very important, then,” Captain Swartwout replied
with a smile, after which he led the young scouts to the great gate of
the fort, where he bade them Godspeed.

During several days they were busy among the settlements for many miles
around. In some cases their warnings were promptly heeded, and the
people fled to the fort in time to escape the Indians, who in a few days
were scouring the entire region in search of victims. Others delayed too
long, and fell a prey to the merciless foe. Before arriving at Oswego,
the young scouts themselves were compelled to turn back before the
advance guard of the enemy.

By exercising great caution, however, they kept just out of reach, and
yet near enough to make out the movements of the enemy.

One night, as they stealthily avoided a small party of Indians that had
made camp on the banks of Wood Creek, the young scouts became aware that
some one else was engaged in the same work as themselves. Eager to learn
who he was, they followed his trail for some distance through the brush.
At length the man emerged into an open space, where the moonlight fell
upon him, and with suppressed exclamations of surprise both lads
recognized their old enemy, David Daggett.

“I wonder what he is doin’ here?” Joe whispered in his comrade’s ear.

“We’ll find out,” Late replied in the same cautious manner.

Therefore when Daggett moved on, they kept as close to his heels as was
possible with safety to themselves. Having passed the Indian camp, he
walked rapidly, with the air of one who knows where he is going.

“He’s bound for the British army,” Late said, speaking scarcely above
his breath. “Probably he has a message of some kind. I wish we could
find out what it is.”

Fortune soon favored them, and in a way they little expected. A
half-mile farther on the old man was hailed by a picket. To the call,
“Who goes there?” he answered, “A friend,” and received the customary
direction: “Advance, friend, and give the countersign.”

This Master Daggett could not do, and for some time he parleyed with the
guard, trying to persuade the man to allow him to pass.

“I’m a loyal subject of the king,” he cried, “and have come with
important news for your commander. Let me go on!”

But the sentinel was firm. Then the Tory grew angry.

“I’ll show,” he screamed, “that you have no right to stop me. Your own
commander will come to let me in,” and he drew from his pocket a small
silver bugle. Putting this to his lips, he sounded a few sharp, shrill
notes. Twice he repeated the call, and then, restoring the instrument to
his pocket, calmly folded his arms and waited.

A moment later the captain of the guard, followed by a squad of
soldiers, came running down to the post where, finding the sentinel with
his gun trained on an old man who stood a few rods distant with folded
arms, he demanded:

“What does this mean? Who blew those bugle notes?”

Before the picket could speak Master Daggett answered:

“I did,” he said. “It is a call to your commander. Step one side,
please, and wait. He’ll be here in a moment.”

“More likely it was a call to the enemy,” the officer cried angrily.
“Here, boys, seize that fellow and bring him into camp.”

“That command will cost you your commission, young man,” the old Tory
said sternly. “And, soldiers, unless you want to go to the guard-house,
you’d better keep your hands off.”

“Seize him, boys; we’ll find a way to put a stop to his nonsense,” the
officer cried, running forward at the head of his men; but before he
could touch the old man, a stern voice in the rear cried:

“Let that man alone, and go back to your stations!”

They knew the voice and obeyed, leaving the triumphant Tory face to face
with their commander and a second man in the dress of a civilian.

“Hello, colonel! Hello, Hiram!” was Master Daggett’s salutation. “I
thought those bugle notes would fetch you.”

“Why did you call, father?” the man in plain clothes asked.

“Because yonder numskull wouldn’t let me in,” was the angry reply, “and
now I won’t go in for anybody. If you want to hear my news, you’ll have
to get it here.”

“The picket was only obeying orders,” Hiram Le Geyt said in a soothing
tone. “Come up to the colonel’s tent. You can give us your tidings
there.”

“I won’t! I won’t!” screamed the old man, jumping up and down. “Let
General Herkimer come with his eight hundred men and reinforce the
garrison, if he wants to. Let him camp at Oriskany, where he can be
surprised before morning and defeated, for all of me. I would have given
you the chance of your life, but you are all fools, fools, fools! Not
one of you knows enough to strike a good blow for the king. I’ll leave
you alone, and let the rebels walk right by you.”

He had now worked himself into such a passion that he pulled his hair,
tore his whiskers, and stamped upon the ground in a fury.

It was Colonel St. Leger who pacified him. He laid his hand on the old
man’s arm, saying:

“It is men like you, Master Daggett, that I need. You must advise me,
yes, lead my troops to the place where I can destroy that Yankee force.
Come with me, and we will arrange for the forced march which will be
necessary if we are to reach Oriskany before sunrise.”

The soothing words, the gentle touch, calmed the raging man, and soon he
followed the officer and his son-in-law into the lines.

As the three disappeared the young scouts arose from their hiding-place,
and crept off down the creek. For three miles they moved in silence, and
then, coming to a place where the trail emerged into another, both
paused.

“Go and signal the fort,” Late said to his comrade in a whisper. “I will
warn General Herkimer,” and he hastened along the trail leading
southeasterly.

Joe gained the great pine, and, climbing into its branches, gave the
hoots which told the listening sentinel that the approaching
reinforcements were to be attacked. Then he slipped to the ground,
intending to follow his comrade to Oriskany, when he was seized by two
Indians. A desperate struggle followed, but at length the lad succeeded
in breaking away from his captors, and ran toward the fort.

The report of a rifle rang out, and the fugitive spun around like a top
until he fell to the ground. The lad regained his feet in an instant,
however, and sped on, but his right arm hung limply by his side.

“I must get into the fort,” he thought as he ran into the river.
Crossing it, he hurried on, and ten minutes later was pounding at the
great gate. The guard heard him, and called the officer of the night,
when he was taken in and put under the surgeon’s care.

No one warned General Herkimer of the foe, and at sunrise he was on the
move anxious to traverse the six miles which separated him from the
waiting garrison. While passing through a dense wood he was suddenly
attacked by a heavy force of the enemy, who poured in a terrific fire
from both sides, cutting down his men like swaths of grass. A terrible
hand-to-hand fight ensued. General Herkimer seemed to be everywhere,
gallantly directing his men. At length he fell, mortally wounded.

“Here, boys,” he called to two men near him, “pick me up, and place me
against yonder tree.”

They did so, and then, taking his pipe from his pocket, the brave
commander filled and lighted it. Puffing slowly away, he directed his
men in a struggle which, owing to the superior numbers of the enemy,
seemed hopeless. But unexpected help was at hand. After Captain
Swartwout heard from the lips of the wounded scout the full particulars
of the proposed attack he said:

“St. Leger will not come here until after that battle. I may as well
have a hand in it,” and, therefore, leading an hundred picked men, he
hurried toward Oriskany. Falling upon the rear of the red-coats just as
they were about to claim a victory, he put them to flight.

Before they could realize the weakness of the reinforcements and rally
again, he, with the wounded hero and the remnant of his gallant force,
beat a safe retreat to the garrison.

That evening he sat beside the cot of Joe Fisher, telling him of the
events of the day.

“Then Late did not find the general,” the lad said sadly. “I wonder what
happened to him?”

“I fear he fell into the hands of the British,” the captain replied.

“Were they badly whipped?” asked the lad.

“Not so but that they have been able to surround the fort,” the officer
replied. “We are hemmed in at last.”

“Then there will be a battle here?” the boy continued.

“It looks like it.”

“You must have a banner, captain!” exclaimed Joe, sitting up.

“What do you mean?” the officer asked.

Eagerly the scout told him of the Act of Congress, and, describing the
appearance of the miniature flag he had seen, he continued:

“Can’t we have one made, Captain Swartwout, to float from the highest
bastion?”

“We will,” the commander replied. “I have a tailor in the fort. He shall
make it to-night under your directions, and we’ll unfurl it at sunrise.”

A few moments later the tailor was at work. Sheets were cut for the
white stripes, bits of scarlet cloth joined to form the red, and the
blue ground for the stars was made from a cloak belonging to the
captain. At sunrise, amid the cheers of the men and a salute of thirteen
cannon, it was swung to the breeze from the highest staff.

Colonel St. Leger saw and gazed in wonder at it for some time. Then he
sent for a prisoner whom some of his Indians had captured the previous
day.

“What does that mean?” he demanded.

The captive, a lad of perhaps eighteen years, looked at the floating
banner and replied with a grin:

“That? Why, it’s the new flag of a new nation!”

With a great oath the enraged officer cried:

“It is the first and the last time it will ever confront a British army,
for I shall carry it away with me.”



                               CHAPTER X.
                        CLIPPING THE RIGHT WING.


The young prisoner in the British camp, as the reader may have surmised,
was Latham Wentworth. How he came to be there is easily explained.

After parting with Joe at the junction of the trails, he traveled with
the same caution as when coming down Wood Creek, lest he might happen
upon straggling Indians. After a time, however, he believed there was no
longer any danger of falling in with the savages, and carelessly
advanced regardless of noise. Then, from the top of a small hill, he saw
the glimmer of fires in the Continental camp and, increasing his speed,
took the most direct line through the woods.

A small party of Indians, however, separated from the main force earlier
in the day, had wandered so far east of the garrison as to be attracted
by the same camp-fires.

Unconscious of danger, Late continued on his course until, before he had
heard anything to cause alarm, five savages leaped upon him. One seized
his rifle; two threw him to the ground; a fourth clapped his hands over
the captive’s mouth to prevent an outcry, while the remaining Indian
proceeded to tie the lad’s hands behind him. Then they picked him up and
hurried through the woods for some distance. Finding, however, they were
not followed they soon put the prisoner on his feet, and, compelling him
to keep pace with themselves, carried him to their encampment. Thrusting
him into a wigwam they placed a guard over him and the young scout was
left alone until morning.

On the following day, when the Indian encampment was changed to the
vicinity of Fort Stanwix, Late was taken along as a matter of course,
and, later, brought with other prisoners to Colonel St. Leger for his
personal inspection.

By the side of the colonel stood David Daggett and Hiram Le Geyt, and
immediately the old Tory saw Late he gave vent to a cry of delight.

“We’ve got you at last!” he shouted. “We’ve got you at last!” and then
to the commander and his son-in-law he told how he had followed the
prisoner and his comrade on their journey from the Hudson to the fort.
The attempt to kill them, the overturning of the boat at the falls,
driving the half-clad boys into the woods, the destruction of their
property, their visit to the farm, and his further pursuit, were all
rapidly related. Then he continued:

“The young devils have more lives than a cat. I couldn’t kill them. But
now that you have this one, why not string him up to the nearest tree?”

“I could hardly do that,” the colonel replied. “He is not a spy.”

“Yes, he is,” Master Daggett shouted. “He was caught because of hanging
around your encampment trying to spy out what was being done.”

“He may be a scout, or courier, but hardly a spy,” the officer
persisted.

“But is his entering my house, deceiving my wife, and running off with
my property, to pass unnoticed?” interrupted Hiram Le Geyt. “The very
clothes he wears belong to me!”

Colonel St. Leger was silent for a moment, and then said:

“I cannot condemn and hang him, according to military rules; but I might
turn him over to the Indians. They would make short work of him.”

“That is it. Let them kill the fellow at the stake!” cried the old Tory
in glee. “I’ll go and watch the flames as they curl around him. Ah! it
will be a great sight to see him sizzle and burn.”

“He deserves the fate,” the younger Tory said angrily. “Let the savages
have him, I say.”

The British commander, naturally more humane than his Tory friends,
appeared to be shocked by the cruel proposal. He hesitated to give an
order which would send the lad to the stake; but finally said:

“Let him go with the other prisoners now. I will decide later what is to
be done with him.”

On the next morning when the young scout, unmindful of the terrible fate
which might be his, declared that the banner floating over the fort was
the flag of a new nation, the officer in his wrath sent for the men who
had made the capture, and turned the lad over to them.

“He is your prisoner. Do what you please with him,” he said.

Therefore back to the Indian encampment Late was taken, and a day or two
after a council was summoned to decide his fate. The terrible slaughter
of the savages during the battle of Oriskany, and the fact that the
captive had been found in the vicinity of that place, may have had
something to do with the sentence imposed. He was condemned to the
stake.

Just before sunset, surrounded by a score of braves, he was taken across
the river and tied to a small tree, whose branches had been trimmed away
for that purpose. Around him the fagots were piled, and the death dance
was begun.

Pale, but unflinching, the heroic lad watched the grotesque dancing, at
the ending of which he knew the flames would be kindled. It was not the
form of death he would have chosen, but, after all, it would soon be
over, and what difference did it make? He had long since given his life
to the Cause, and if this was the method by which the sacrifice was to
be made, he would die like a man.

The dance was at an end, and two of the savages, taking brands from a
fire which had been kindled near-by, came toward the helpless boy. In
another instant they would have kindled the wood about him; but at the
critical moment a great shout was raised, and some one, darting out from
the thicket, dashed across the little clearing to push aside both braves
with one sweep of his strong arms.

Late had hardly more than understood that the newcomer was his friend,
Ira Le Geyt, when the latter, holding aloft his iron cross, poured forth
in the native tongue a torrent of words which held fixed the attention
of the Indian band. When the speech was ended, each savage brandished
his weapons, as he hurried across the river toward the camp with loud
yells, leaving the two lads alone.

Drawing his knife, Ira cut the cords that bound the young scout to the
tree, saying as he did so:

“I was just in time, Late.”

“That you were,” was the emphatic reply. “But how came you here?”

“It is too long a story to repeat now. I will tell you later, and you
can explain how you happened to be in this fix. But now I must go to the
British camp.”

“No, no,” his companion cried. “You mustn’t go there!”

“Why not?”

“Because Hiram Le Geyt and his father-in-law, David Daggett, are there.”

“Whew! I came pretty near getting into a bad scrape!” Ira exclaimed.
“Well, suppose we go into the forest, where we shall be less likely to
be disturbed.”

Soon they were sitting under the great pine, which Captain Swartwout had
pointed out as a signal station, and Late told his story, concluding by
saying:

“Where Joe is now I don’t know.”

“He must have sent word to the commander about the attack on General
Herkimer,” Ira said half to himself.

“How do you know? Have you heard anything about the battle?” Late asked
eagerly.

“Yes, I met two or three of the soldiers who had been separated from the
main body during the fight. Because you failed to see the general, he
knew nothing about the ambush, and walked directly into it. A hand to
hand fight followed, and the general himself was wounded; but with his
back against a tree, he lighted his pipe, and, puffing away, directed
his men in what seemed a hopeless struggle. Then came reinforcements,
the men who told me did not know where from, that attacked the British
forces in the rear, driving them back. It was then that the soldiers I
saw became separated from their companions, and all they could guess
was, that our army, having dispersed the red-coats, went on to the
Fort.”

“The reinforcements must have come from there,” Late declared, “and it
shows that Joe gave the warning. We’ll know about it later. But now tell
me how you happen to be here.”

“I’ll go back to the time you left me,” Ira said, and related all the
incidents already known to the reader, down to the defeat of Colonel
Baum at Bennington.

“When I got back to Fort Edward, I found General Burgoyne in an ugly
frame of mind. Baum’s defeat deprived him of the stores he so sadly
needed. No word had come from Clinton, and nothing had been heard from
St. Leger. In his desperation he decided to send me up here to hurry the
colonel down the valley. He is afraid to attack our forces at Bemis
Heights until he receives reinforcements. Of course I got word to
General Schuyler before beginning the journey, and he suggested a plan
which, judging from the flight of those Indians, will prove a success.”

“What did you say to them?” Late interrupted. “I never saw redskins run
as they did after your speech.”

“I told them,” his friend replied, “that Colonel Arnold was coming with
a large force, and would capture them all if they did not run away. The
cross was proof to them that my message was true. Before to-morrow
morning the entire Indian force will hear the news, and vanish like fog
before the rising sun. In two days St. Leger will have only his regulars
to confront our men.”

“And we’ll whip him as the patriots whipped Baum at Bennington,” Late
cried with a laugh.

“My only regret is that I cannot go to the colonel with the message I
had,” Ira said.

“What was it?”

“I was to tell him of Baum’s defeat, Clinton’s failure to meet
Burgoyne’s demands, and the latter’s critical condition before an
overwhelming force,” was the answer. “I hoped to discourage him so he
would go back into Canada.”

Late remained silent a few moments as though thinking the matter over.
Then he asked:

“Can’t you make up a report from General Burgoyne, bringin’ in all those
things, an’ advisin’ him to give up his campaign?”

“I can make up the report readily enough,” his companion admitted. “The
difficult thing is to send it in such a way that he will believe it
comes from his chief.”

“Give it to one of the Indians,” was the quick suggestion; “he can make
any explanation you have a mind to give him.”

Ira laughed. “What is that old saying?” he asked. “‘Two heads are better
than one’? I believe we can make the scheme work. It is getting too dark
to write the message to-night; but I will prepare it early in the
morning.”

They went back a little farther into the woods, built a temporary shack,
and, after partaking of some food Ira had with him, took turns in
sleeping and watching until dawn.

After breakfast young Le Geyt took from his pack the necessary writing
materials, and, “as General Burgoyne’s secretary,” so he said in sport,
wrote a letter to Colonel St. Leger, telling of the misfortunes which
his commander had experienced, setting forth the direful condition he
was in, and urging the colonel to come to his assistance; but adding,
“If, however, you find it impossible to do so within a few days, then,
to save yourself and men from capture, you had better abandon the
campaign and return to Quebec, for I hear the rebels are sending a large
force against you.”

This he read to his companion, who said:

“That’ll fix him. Once he gets them idees into his head, he’ll run away
faster than the redskins did.”

“I’ll go on to the Indian camp and find some one to carry this to
headquarters. Will you be here when I get back?”

“Somewhere in call,” Late replied. “But, say, how near is Colonel Arnold
and his men? Perhaps I ought to signal Captain Swartwout that they are
comin’.”

“I passed them near Little Falls, and, of course, traveled faster than
they can. To-morrow will be ample time to give warning of their
approach.”

“All right; but give me those lines an’ hooks I saw in your pack, an’
I’ll have some fish cookin’ when you come back.”

“I’ll leave my outfit here, and then you may help yourself to anything
that is needed.”

It was several hours before he returned to find that Late had kept his
promise, for half a dozen fine fish were ready to serve. As they were
eating them Ira related his experiences.

“Before I got to the Indian encampment, I saw a young brave slowly
crawling toward it. Watching him, I soon understood that he had been
wounded and was trying to get back to his friends, therefore I quickened
my steps to overtake him. Upon first seeing me he was alarmed; but when
I showed my cross and spoke in his own tongue, he dismissed all fears
and told me his story.

“He was in the battle at Oriskany and got a bullet in his body which for
a time rendered him unconscious. When he came to himself the fighting
was over, and, fearing he might be found and made captive, he crept into
a thicket near a small brook, staying there until his wound was
partially healed. Since then he had been endeavoring to get back to the
camp. I did not leave him until he was safe with his own people, for he
proved to be a chief of high rank. But the exertion had been too much
for him, and before his friends could do anything, he died.

“I saw my chance at once for getting the letter I carried into the hands
of the colonel. Watching for a favorable moment, I concealed it on the
person of the dead chief, and waited for it to be discovered. Within
half an hour it was brought to me with the question:

“‘What is it? Who is it for?‘

“Pretending to be surprised at the finding, I explained that it was a
message of some kind, and was intended for Colonel St Leger.

“‘It should be carried to him at once,’ I declared.

“Immediately a brother of the dead man hurried off to headquarters with
it. Fearing there might be an investigation into the circumstances
attending the discovery of the letter, I hurriedly visited the other
tribes in the encampment, learning that many of the savages had already
left for their villages, and that others were preparing to go. My
announcement to the Indian squad last night was clearly beginning to
bear fruit; but I added a little more seed as I went from band to band.

“Once I had gone the rounds, I left the encampment and sought the
shelter of the forest. Choosing a spot where I could watch the Indians,
I remained several hours, noting with no little pleasure that every few
minutes a squad of savages went away. More than two hundred must have
left while I sat there.”

“Didn’t the red-coats make any effort to stop them?” Late asked.

“Judging by the way the British officers were continually coming and
going, I should say they did,” was the answer; “and once I saw a
delegation of chiefs marching to Colonel St. Leger’s headquarters,
probably for a council with him. But the yeast is working, and he cannot
prevent the stampede which has already begun.”

“He’ll wonder where that redskin got the message,” young Wentworth said
with a chuckle of satisfaction.

“Yes, and who the white man was that came and went so suddenly. But I
can stand the mystery if he can,” was the laughing reply.

Next morning the Indian encampment was so nearly deserted that Ira
advised that the fact be signaled the fort. Climbing the great pine,
Late took from the lining of his coat the strips of cloth which had been
given him, and in a few moments the red and white colors were waving
gently in the light breeze.

Joe Fisher, who was now able to walk about, although his arm was still
in a sling, chanced to be on the bastion. Gazing carelessly toward the
big tree, as he had done many times before without discovering anything,
and without really expecting to see anything unusual this time, he was
astonished at beholding the bits of cloth waving in the air. Then he ran
down the wall, and across the parade to the captain’s quarters. Bursting
unceremoniously into the officer’s presence, he exclaimed:

“Captain, Late is alive, and has escaped from the red-coats!”

“How do you know?” the commander asked eagerly.

“Because there are signals on the tree. It is the red and the white,
which means that the Indians are deserting.”

“So it does,” admitted the captain. “I’ll go and see for myself.”

Man and boy soon stood on the bastion looking across the river, and
while they gazed the red cloth was drawn in, and the white left alone to
toss in the gentle wind.

“Reinforcements are comin’!” shouted Joe in his excitement.
“Reinforcements are comin’!”

His words rang through the garrison, and in an instant came back in
answer a mighty cheer.

“The signals are changing again, captain,” the lad cried. “See! Late has
put the black beside the white. It means that the red-coats are makin’
ready to run away!”

“In that case we’ll give them something to run from,” Captain Swartwout
declared, and immediately issued orders for all his force, save fifty
men, to prepare for a sally.

But before the little army could be made ready, Colonel St. Leger was on
the move. Rendered uneasy by the desertion of his allies, alarmed by the
tidings contained in the letter which had reached him so mysteriously,
he lost hope when a Tory came into camp with the report:

“Old Schuyler and his whole army are only a few miles away.”

The Britisher gave orders to raise the siege. The cheers of the soldiers
in the Yankee fort quickened his movements, and when the so-called
rebels rushed out from the great gate, he and his regulars were on the
run.

Reasoning that the small force in the garrison would not dare to make a
sally unless reinforcements were close at hand, St. Leger did not even
stop to skirmish with his pursuers; but hastened toward Oswego at a pace
which soon forced the daring patriots to abandon the chase. When Colonel
Arnold and his twelve hundred men arrived a few hours later, there was
no foe to fight.

But some time before the gallant colonel appeared, Ira Le Geyt, Late
Wentworth, and Joe Fisher were comparing notes and telling their
experiences under the walls of the fort. When the latter heard of the
victory at Bennington, he exclaimed:

“Well, if General Burgoyne’s left wing was clipped at Bennington, he has
lost his entire right wing here at Fort Stanwix.”



                              CHAPTER XI.
                              THE OLD HUT.


When Colonel St. Leger abandoned the siege at Fort Stanwix, he left
behind him two very angry men. One was old David Daggett, and the other
Hiram Le Geyt. The former, cherishing his hatred for Latham Wentworth,
had tried to keep informed of his fate; but the Indians who held him
captive were, for some reason, very reticent about what they were going
to do with the lad. So it happened the old Tory did not learn that the
young scout had been condemned to the stake, until the afternoon of the
proposed torture. He hurried toward the scene; but gained the bank of
the river just in time to meet the band of yelling Indians in full
flight.

Unable to speak their language, he could make out but little regarding
the reason for flight; but turned and followed them to their encampment.
There he met a brave who could speak a little English, and succeeded in
learning that a white man, with an iron cross, had suddenly appeared,
telling the Indians that there was no time for their cruel sport,
because a great army of Yankees were near at hand.

“It was Ira!” he cried, and retraced his steps to the stream, expecting
to meet his grandson on the way. Disappointed in this, he crossed the
river to the scene of the death dance. There was the tree that had been
used as a stake, the scattered wood, the severed cords, but no prisoner.

“I know who it was,” he muttered, after carefully examining the
clearing. “It was that other young devil, Joe Fisher. He not only in
some way learned about Ira’s cross; but has got one in imitation of it,
and just fooled those redskins to rescue the prisoner.”

In his rage he hurried back to Colonel St. Leger’s tent with the tale.

“A skilful trick,” was the only comment of that officer, who, now that
his anger had cooled, was secretly glad the young scout had been saved
from a terrible death.

“But you ought to send out men to find and make certain both are burned
at the stake,” Master Daggett growled.

“Look here, my friend,” the colonel replied, becoming tired of the
constant interference of his guest, “why don’t you search for them? When
you have located the lads, I’ll give you as many men as may be needed to
capture them.”

“A capital suggestion, colonel,” the half-crazy man cried. “I’ll do it.
Good luck to you, as well as to myself,” and he hurried away to the tent
he shared with his son-in-law.

Hiram Le Geyt was within, and listened eagerly to the story his
father-in-law poured forth while making ready for the tramp. He took the
same view of Late Wentworth’s rescue that the older Tory had; but it
suggested to him two possibilities which had not entered the former’s
mind. Had something happened to his son, and the talisman fallen into
rebel hands? The question awakened his fears, and he decided to visit
Burgoyne’s camp at the first opportunity. Then again, might not the
announcement of an approaching army of rebels so fill the Indians with
alarm, that they would desert Colonel St. Leger, leaving him with a
force too small to cope with the Yankees?

Like his son Ira, he was familiar with the language of the savages, and,
leaving his father-in-law to follow out his own whims, he hastened to
the encampment of the dusky allies. He found that the tidings of a
coming army had already spread among the savages like wild-fire, and
although none had yet started for their villages, there was an
uneasiness among the entire company which betokened grave disaster.

Doing what he could to allay the fears among the braves, he learned some
facts which greatly mystified him. The description which the warriors
gave of the person who had so suddenly come among them, did not accord
with the ideas he had formed of young Fisher’s appearance, while what
the Indians had to say about the man who had given them the friendly
warning, did tally well with the likeness of his own son. Could it be
that his father-in-law had made a mistake? If so, why had Ira set the
captive free? Where had he gone? Was the report of a great force, coming
to the rescue of the fort correct? Perplexed by the many questions which
were crowding into his mind, he turned abruptly on his heel and went
back to the British camp to talk the matter over with Colonel St. Leger.
He found the officer so little disturbed by the strange occurrence that
he was angered.

“If it was a Yankee trick to scare away that squad of savages and save
the youngster,” the colonel remarked, “it has been a success, and we can
afford to laugh because it was so cleverly done. If it was indeed your
son, he will in due time present himself here. Meantime we can afford to
await his coming, for I put no faith in the belief that the Indians will
run away.”

Colonel St. Leger changed his mind, however, the next day, for he had
barely eaten breakfast before a messenger arrived announcing that during
the night two bands of his allies, numbering over a hundred, had left
the camp.

“That’s bad!” he muttered; “but I’ll send an officer to bring them back,
and a little later will call the head men into consultation. Surely
there cannot be very much alarm come from an idle rumor.”

An hour later he received another shock. A young brave appeared bringing
a sealed note, addressed to himself. Tearing it open he read the few
lines, noted the signature of General Burgoyne, with which he was
familiar, and then demanded of the waiting Indian where he had got the
missive. As best he could in broken English, the savage told the story.
It was not plain to the officer, and he sent for Hiram Le Geyt to act as
interpreter. Then the facts came out.

A chief, wounded at Oriskany, had, assisted by a white stranger with an
iron cross, crawled into the encampment, but soon died from exposure and
suffering. While preparing him for burial the message had been found on
his body. When shown to the white man he knew nothing about it; but,
after looking it over, said it was for the British commander, therefore
he, the messenger, had brought it. The explanation involved so much of
mystery that the colonel asked:

“Is this white man still in the encampment?”

“He was when I left it,” was the reply.

“Bring him here,” was the command, and it was a stupid mistake on the
part of the officer. Had he sent an orderly, the latter would doubtless
have found and brought in the strange visitor. As it was, the warrior,
when he found Ira, was easily persuaded that the lad could go to the
commander alone, and he did not do so.

Meanwhile the colonel and his friend discussed the genuineness of the
message. The former, perhaps because its contents gave him a chance to
withdraw gracefully from an unpleasant situation, was firm in the belief
that his chief had sent the letter. Hiram Le Geyt felt positive the note
was a skilful forgery, designed by the rebels to frighten the officer
into an abandonment of the siege.

“It is absurd to think the general would send you such a message except
through the regular channel, an accredited courier,” the Tory declared.

“He may have done so,” the officer retorted.

“Then where is he? Why don’t he appear?” demanded Master Le Geyt.

“Because he is dead, injured, or captured,” replied the colonel calmly.
“Finding he could not deliver it himself, he gave it to the wounded
chief, who crawled miles, sacrificed his life, in fact, that he might
place it in my hands.”

“A pretty theory, but one no sane man would accept,” the Tory cried
angrily.

“What is your belief?” asked Colonel St. Leger, growing cool as his
companion grew angry.

“That the white man who helped the redskin into his camp hid the letter
on the dead body, a much more sensible view than your own,” sneered the
Tory.

“We shall soon know who is right. It cannot be long now before the
fellow is here.”

They waited an hour, and then an orderly was sent to the encampment to
learn the reason for the long delay. He returned with the word that the
white stranger could not be found, and that the Indians were rapidly
deserting.

During the entire day efforts were made to hold the Indians; but with
only partial success. After nightfall the red-men departed in such
numbers that barely an hundred were left at dawn. Then came the Tory
with his startling news that General Schuyler’s entire army was close at
hand, and Colonel St. Leger gave orders to abandon the siege.

In vain Hiram Le Geyt and David Daggett, who had now returned, argued.

“I am obeying the orders of my superior,” Colonel St. Leger declared
stiffly.

“But they are false,” both Tories cried in a rage.

“You must permit me to be my own judge,” was the withering reply.

Cheers from the Yankee fort interrupted the conversation, and when the
sally was made, the angry Tories were themselves forced to flee. But, as
soon as possible, they left the retreating army, and turned their faces
toward home.

Compelled to make a long detour because of Colonel Arnold’s forces, they
could not decide as to the number of soldiers, and were not certain but
that the entire army of the north was advancing to strengthen the fort.
For the first time they also were compelled to acknowledge that there
might be some truth in the message which had so mysteriously come into
the hands of the British colonel.

Once at home, Hiram Le Geyt discussed with his wife the incidents
connected with the use of the iron cross by the white lad, and while she
agreed with him that Joe Fisher and the stranger were probably one and
the same, yet she was fearful that it betokened some misfortune to her
son. She urged him to visit Burgoyne’s headquarters immediately, and,
therefore, on the morning following his arrival at the farm, he and his
father-in-law embarked in a canoe to journey down the river.

Soon after Colonel Arnold arrived at Fort Stanwix, the three young
scouts set out on their return to the Hudson. They traveled on foot,
taking the nearest way through the valley. Arriving at Little Falls,
they spent the night at the house of a well-known patriot, and early
next morning resumed their tramp. As they passed the lane leading to the
Le Geyt farm, Late asked Ira if he was going to stop and see his
“mother.”

“I’m afraid she wouldn’t be glad to see me,” he replied with a smile.

“I wonder if Hiram and David have come home yet?” Joe added, “or if they
are still with St Leger?”

“I shan’t run any risk to find out,” Ira declared. “You waste words,
lads, for dear as the old place is to me, I am not going to stop there
now.”

They all laughed and went on, little dreaming that at about the same
time the men of whom they had been speaking were setting off down the
Mohawk. Toward evening the coming of a severe thunder storm forced them
to seek a shelter of some kind.

“There is an old hut not far away,” Ira said. “I spent a night there on
my way to the fort. It is in fairly good repair, and will give us decent
refuge from the storm.”

While speaking he had turned into the woods, and was followed by the
other lads. A short walk brought them to the cabin, and just in time,
for hardly were they inside when the rain began to fall.

It was not a terrific storm, and soon resolved into a steady down-pour
of rain, which caused the young travelers to be thankful for so good a
shelter. They ate supper from the contents of their packs, and swept a
corner of the room, intending to make their beds on the hard floor.

Before lying down, however, Late made ready to close the door against
any chance intruders; but he stepped back quickly, exclaiming in a low
tone:

“David Daggett and some other men are comin’! Hark! don’t you hear their
voices?”

His comrades listened a moment, and Ira said:

“Quick! we must get into the loft!”

The next instant he had climbed up the rude pole to the floor above. Joe
followed, while Late delayed only long enough to throw up their guns and
traps, after which he also ascended. Pulling the pole up after him, he
covered the opening with a sort of trapdoor, and none too soon, for in
another minute the old Tory entered the cabin accompanied by three men.

“Feel in your pocket, Hiram, and see if your flint and steel are handy,”
Master Daggett said. “If there’s any wood here, we’ll build a fire to
dry our clothes.”

“Don’t bother, Master Le Geyt,” a strange voice replied. “I have mine
handy, and am sure there is enough stuff for a little blaze. Or there
was the last time I looked in here.”

Then the boys saw through the crevices of the floor the glare of a tiny
flame.

“We have it,” the same man added, “and here is the wood. Soon there’ll
be fire enough to dry us within as well as without,” and he laughed at
his own attempt to be witty.

“How fortunate we were to meet you, Captain Brant,” Hiram Le Geyt now
said; “but for you we shouldn’t have known of this shelter. But who is
your companion? You have not introduced him to us.”

“I haven’t had the time. When our canoes crashed into each other and
sank, it was all we could do to look out for ourselves, and while
running for the cabin there was no chance for introductions. But I am
now glad to present him to you. Hiram Le Geyt, this is Alexander
Turnbull; Master Daggett, Master Turnbull.”

While the men below were acknowledging the introduction and greeting
each other heartily, the lads above strove to get a view of the famous
Mohawk chieftain, and the no less famous British spy, who had so many
times escaped capture.

The blazing fire below gave them a full view of both men. Brant, a
stalwart Indian in civilized dress, and speaking English fluently;[5]
Turnbull, a little man, almost womanly in appearance, and yet known to
be brave with a facility for assuming disguises which so far had never
been detected.

The boys would have been glad to talk with each other just then, but
prudence forced them to remain silent, and, therefore, gave their
undivided attention to the conversation which followed.

“Are you from below, captain?” Hiram Le Geyt asked, as he was wringing
the rain from his garments that he might spread them in front of the
fire.

“Yes,” the Indian answered. “I was not pleased with St. Leger’s
movements at Oriskany, and went down to meet Burgoyne.”

“With what result?” the Tory asked eagerly.

“He sustains me; gives me a colonel’s commission, and hereafter I am to
have a voice in all campaigns where I and my men serve as allies.”

“It won’t help you any,” the Tory said bitterly.

“Why not?”

“Because St. Leger is already on his way back to Quebec,” was Master Le
Geyt’s reply, and he rapidly detailed the events which had led to the
Colonel’s flight.

“Did you see your son?”

“No.”

“He was up there.”

“How do you know?”

“Burgoyne told me he had sent him.”

The younger Tory was silent for a minute or two, and then he asked:

“Father, what do you make of that?”

“I can hardly believe it,” the old man gasped. “Why didn’t he make
himself known?”

“I don’t know,” Brandt answered bluntly, “unless it was a freak, such as
you have sometimes shown.”

Instead of being offended, the old Tory laughed.

“Hiram would hate to admit the boy was anything like me,” he said.

“Well,” the captain went on, “Burgoyne speaks in the highest terms of
the lad’s services, of his loyalty, his fidelity, and ability. When he
returned from Bennington, where the general sent him to spy out the
land, he brought with him a list of all the stores, and of every farm in
the vicinity where cattle and horses could be found. I saw it myself,
and told the general if he had given Ira command of the forces, instead
of Baum, he’d have brought everything back with him.”

“What did Baum do?”

“Allowed his force to be crushed, or nearly so. With St. Leger’s retreat
Burgoyne will feel that he is left alone.”

“Where is he now?”

“Across the Hudson making ready to advance on the rebels who are
entrenched at Bemis Heights. Now that the colonel has retreated I shall
get together my men and go to his help.”

“What is the outlook?”

Brant was silent for some time, as if thinking the situation over, then
said frankly: “I cannot tell. Now that the rebels have a new commander,
I believe Burgoyne has fair chance of success.”

“A new rebel commander?” cried David Daggett. “What has become of old
Schuyler?”

“He has been removed, and a man named Gates,[6] from New England, put in
his place.”

“Removed for what?” interrupted Hiram Le Geyt.

The Indian laughed. “It is a long story. Master Turnbull will tell it.”

To say that the three scouts in the loft were amazed at this revelation,
is a mild statement. Even in the darkness they gazed at each other with
an intensity which could be felt if not seen. Then, with ears strained
to catch every word, they listened to the tale of the spy.

“It has been my latest work,” Turnbull began, “and one I am proud of. We
may as well admit what we all know, that Schuyler is the ablest man the
rebels could have chosen for this northern campaign. Too able, as many
of us who were watching the movements of both armies, soon discovered,
and we decided he must be removed if Burgoyne was to win.

“I was sent into New England, as a good patriot of course, to stir up a
feeling against him, and raise a clamor for his removal. I claimed that
by allowing St. Clair to abandon Ticonderoga, and by evacuating Fort
Edward, he had left an open gate for the enemy to pour into the East. I
said nothing about his fortifying Bemis Heights, nor of the skilful way
in which he had maneuvered to delay his opponent until the latter’s
stores were exhausted. I dwelt only on what seemed to be grievous
mistakes. And I succeeded, the clamor was raised, and now the mighty is
fallen. Schuyler is down and out.”

The four men discussed the matter for some time, and all were agreed
that the work of Master Turnbull meant much for the king’s cause. Then
they stretched themselves on the floor and slept.

The boys in the loft followed their example, making as little noise as
might be when they laid down on the rough planks. The heavy rain on the
roof did much to drown the creaking of the timbers and the heavy
breathing of the sleepers.

They were awakened by the singing of David Daggett. There was not a
musical note in the old man’s voice; but he believed there was, and,
arising just as the sun was breaking through the clouds, he threw open
the door and screamed:

  “When I was young, I served the king.
  I thought it was the proper thing.
  When I was old and my hair was gray,
  On the king’s side I did stay.”

He was soon silenced. Captain Brant, and Master Turnbull, as well as his
own son-in-law, were aroused and striving to shut off the old Tory’s
clamor by the threat:

“If you don’t stop, we’ll duck you in the Mohawk.”

This commotion enabled the lads to make a change of position without
betraying their presence, and then they waited until the occupants of
the lower room had eaten and departed.

Just before leaving the younger Tory said to the older:

“Father, if Ira went up to Fort Stanwix, he will stop at the farm when
he returns. Likely he is there now, so we may as well go back. I hope,
since they are on their way up the river, that Captain Brant and Master
Turnbull will go with us, to be our guests for as long a time as
possible.”

“That’s right, Hiram,” the old man replied, and with such understanding
the four friends of the king left the hut, striking off through the
thicket toward the road that led to Master Le Geyt’s home.

Two minutes later the three scouts had descended from their hiding-place
and were making preparations for breakfast. While working they talked.

“It’s lucky for you, Ira,” Late began, “that those Tories decided to go
home.”

“Yes,” was the brief reply.

“I wish we had been outside the hut when those fellers came,” Joe said
half to himself.

“Why?” asked young Wentworth.

“We might have captured the whole gang,” the former explained. “It would
have been a great haul.”

“I should have been glad to put my hands on that spy,” Ira said grimly.

He had hardly more than spoken when the door was flung open, and Master
Turnbull stood before them.



                              CHAPTER XII.
                             THE REAL IRA.


“Excuse me, lieutenant,” he said looking at the leader of the little
party. “I think I left my knife here, and as it is a valuable one, I
came back for it.”

There was no question but that he had heard Ira’s remark, and it was
equally evident he knew who the young scout really was. He must also
have understood how dangerous was his position, yet he spoke as calmly
as if he had suddenly happened upon a party of friends, rather than
enemies.

While Late and Joe stood motionless in bewilderment, Ira showed himself
fully a match, both in coolness and politeness, for the spy.

“We have seen nothing of the weapon, Master Turnbull,” he replied, “but
perhaps it is here. Come in, and we’ll help you find it.”

“Thank you, lieutenant,” the fellow replied as he entered and advanced
to the corner where he had been sleeping. “It should be here,” he
continued, stooping down to look for it. “Yes, I have it,” he cried a
moment later, and came forward holding a beautiful dagger in his hand.
Passing it to Ira, he asked in a tone of pride:

“Did you ever see anything finer than that?”

The scout gazed at it admiringly. The scabbard was of fine leather,
curiously embroidered with threads of gold. The hilt was silver, and on
it the letters “A. T.” were engraved within a wreath of myrtle leaves
and flowers; the blade was of finest steel.

“A gift from my lady-love,” the owner explained with a laugh. “Do you
wonder I valued the toy enough to come back after it? I carry it in a
pocket in my waistcoat, as an extra weapon for a special time of need.
Somehow it slipped from its hiding-place last night, and I did not
discover it until I was a half-mile down the trail. Return it to me,
please, and I will rejoin my companions.”

“The weapon you may have,” Ira replied, passing it back to Turnbull;
“but I must insist that you stay to breakfast with us.”

With a shrug of his shoulders the spy replied:

“I suppose I must, if you insist upon it, lieutenant,” and he quietly
seated himself upon a short log which served as stool and awaited the
pleasure of his hosts.

“Late, take your rifle and keep watch against the return of the Indian
or Tories, while the rest of us eat,” the young scout commanded.

“You need not trouble yourself to do that,” Master Turnbull explained.
“I told my friends to go on, and I would overtake them. It will be an
hour or two before they think it worth while to turn back for the
purpose of hunting for me.”

“I do not doubt your word, sir,” was the reply; “but we will run no risk
of either surprise or capture.”

“Exercising your usual caution, lieutenant——but I will not speak the
other name, for it may be you do not care to have even your comrades
know it. Had I been as careful, however, I would not now be in your
power.”

“Why in the world didn’t you run away as soon as you caught sight of
us?” Joe asked bluntly.

“Because I preferred to be captured rather than lose my knife,” the spy
explained with a smile. “That may seem queer now; but you will
understand it later on in life.”

“When I get a sweetheart, I s’pose you mean,” the lad replied, with a
grin. “Well, it’s lucky for us you’ve got one,” and he turned his
attention to the food.

When he had finished the meal he changed places with Latham, while Ira
sat with his eyes fixed upon the prisoner.

“The more I think the matter over,” Master Turnbull said after a brief
silence, “the surer I am, lieutenant, that you have adopted my trade.”

“I have sowed no seed of discord against General Burgoyne,” Ira replied
in a meaning tone.

“No, but you would have done it had such a step been possible, or
necessary to your purpose. You know the old saying that ‘Everything is
fair in love and war?’” was the smiling reply.

“Yes, I presume so,” Ira said slowly; “but it comes a trifle harder to
admit it in this case, than in some others.”

“I understand,” the man replied with a show of sympathy; “but you have
this to console you, that every charge made against the general was
false.”

“That is something I readily acknowledge,” the lad said with a laugh;
“but you are a dangerous fellow to be at liberty, Master Turnbull, and I
shall be doing the Cause great service if I see that you are put where
it is no longer possible to do any harm.”

“I might have known you would take that view of it,” the spy said
gloomily, “and yet I have a proposition to make.”

“What is it?”

“I said you had taken up my trade,” he began, “for I venture to guess
you have been up country as Ira Le Geyt. You steered clear of Colonel
St. Leger’s headquarters, knowing there were those near-by who would
recognize you.”

Ira’s reply was a smile.

“I venture more,” the speaker continued. “It is that you have been the
Ira Le Geyt who for weeks has been a close adviser of General Burgoyne.
How you have brought it about, lieutenant, I don’t know. Where the real
Ira is I cannot say. But, if the disasters that have befallen my general
are due to you, the injury you have done the king is greater than any I
have worked against the colonies.”

“Thank you,” the scout replied. “That is no mean compliment, coming from
one who has been so uniformly successful in his work as yourself.”

“I see we understand each other,” the spy added. “Your work has offset
mine. Why not continue to let it do so?”

“What do you mean?”

“Let me go now, and I give my word of honor that I will in no way betray
you, either to the men I have just left, or to the general. In other
words, you may go on in your work unmolested by me, if you allow me to
continue mine.”

“You can afford to make such an offer,” Ira said with a smile. “I have
you where I can put an end to all your work. More than that even, for
once I deliver you into the hands of our commander, your life is not
worth a farthing. What gain have I personally in releasing you? I can
continue the work I am doing more successfully with you in our hands,
than at liberty.”

“Do not be so sure of that,” the spy returned quickly.

“I will run the risk anyway,” the scout answered decisively. “You must
go with us,” and ten minutes later the three lads and their prisoner
were moving rapidly down the trail.

Not until they were twenty-five miles below the old hut, did the little
party go into camp. A rude shack was the only shelter, and in this the
prisoner and two of the scouts were soon sleeping. It fell to Late’s lot
to stand the first watch. His time of guard duty had nearly expired when
he heard the spy moving restlessly. Going quickly to his side, the lad
found Turnbull sitting upright.

“What is the trouble?” he demanded.

“I want to have a talk with you,” the man said in a low tone. “Can’t I
come outside? I don’t want to awaken your comrades.”

Wondering what the fellow had in mind; but believing himself capable of
caring for him, Late said:

“All right! Come on! But understand that if you attempt to run away I’ll
let daylight through you.”

Master Turnbull made no reply to the threat; but, rising, followed Late
into the open air. It was starlight, not very dark, and quite warm.
Sitting on a rock, a rod or two from the shack, the prisoner began to
fan himself with his hat.

“My!” he cried. “I’m glad to get into the fresh air. It was so hot in
there, I couldn’t sleep.”

“Nevertheless, you’ll go back faster than you came out, if you don’t
hurry up an’ tell me what’s on your mind,” Late growled, beginning to
grow suspicious of the fellow.

“I want to get away,” he said, coming immediately to the subject in
hand.

“Of course you do,” the lad retorted. “I should if I was in your place,”
and he changed the position of his gun as token that he was not to be
trifled with.

The captive noted the movement, but was not disconcerted by it. “I can
make it an object for you to go to sleep, and let me steal away,” he
continued.

“Will you give me that dagger?” Late asked, although, as he afterward
explained to his companions, “I was mad enough inside to bite the
rascal’s head off. To think the fool thought he could bribe me.”

“No, I couldn’t do that,” the prisoner replied; “but I’ll give you
this,” and he drew a purse from his pocket, shaking it so that Late
could hear the clink of the gold.

“How much is that?” the lad asked, with well-feigned eagerness.

“See, they are all sovereigns,” Master Turnbull said, opening the purse
and dropping the coins into his hat one by one. “Ten,” he added. “More
money than you are ever likely to have again, and it’s all yours if
you’ll only be careless enough to let me get away.”

“Careless ’nough to let you get away,” the young scout repeated in a
voice loud enough to awaken his comrades. “I’ll show you I’m not to be
bought, you old fool, at any price,” and he advanced angrily toward the
spy with gun upraised, as if to strike him down.

But before he could do so Turnbull leaped to his feet and made a dash
for the nearest tree, evidently hoping to get that between himself and
his guard, and so effect his escape. But he was not quick enough.
Bringing his rifle to his shoulder, Late fired, and the fugitive fell
headlong to the ground. In another moment all three lads were bending
over what appeared to be a lifeless body.

“Get a torch,” Ira cried, thrusting his hand beneath the unconscious
man’s shirt.

When Joe came with a light, he added:

“He is not dead. His heart still beats. Help me, Late, and we’ll take
him to the shack.”

Gently they carried him to the shelter, and made careful search for the
wound.

“There it is on the back of his head,” Joe cried, holding the torch so
that his companions might see.

“The bullet has not shattered the bones,” Ira said a moment later. “It
was a glancing shot. He is only stunned. Bring some water, Late.”

They bathed the prisoner’s temples; forced liquid between his lips;
washed and bandaged the wound. When this had been done the man opened
his eyes, and, looking up into their faces, smiled faintly.

“I didn’t make it,” he said feebly.

“Hardly,” Late replied. “I’m sorry I had to do it; but you shouldn’t
have tried to run away.”

“I’m not blaming you,” he answered. “You’re of the right stuff even if
you are a rebel. But I ought to have known as much. Your leader don’t
select any other kind of men to help him.”

After a short time he sank into a troubled sleep, and, leaving Joe to
watch him, Ira and Late also laid down. A few hours later the former
changed places with the watcher, and thus the night passed. At dawn the
wounded man showed signs of fever, and was unable to walk.

“What shall we do?” Late asked.

“Make a litter and carry him,” Ira replied. “He must be taken where
he’ll have better care than we can give him here.”

Late and Joe hurried off to get material for a stretcher; but a moment
later the latter came hurriedly back.

“We have found a canoe that was hidden in a thicket on the river bank,”
he cried. “Late is putting it into the water, and will then come to help
you carry Master Turnbull. I would take hold, but don’t believe my right
arm is strong enough yet.”

“It isn’t,” his comrade said with decision; “but you can carry our guns
and other traps.”

Late returned speedily, and slowly he and Ira carried the prisoner to
the stream. Fortunately the boat was large enough to carry them all, and
embarking, they sailed rapidly down the current, escaping only by a few
minutes five horsemen who rode along the river bank in search of them.

One of the riders leaped from his animal and examined the ground near
the river carefully.

“What do you make out, captain?” one of his companions asked.

“The fellows found a canoe in those bushes, and, putting the wounded man
in it, have gone down the stream,” he replied.

“How long ago?”

“They are not a mile away.”

“Then we can head them off,” his comrade cried. “The river makes a bend
a few miles below. By riding straight across the neck we should be able
to cut them off.”

“Easily,” was the reply, and when the captain had remounted his horse,
all hastened back to the trail. Gaining it, they put spurs to their
steeds and galloped off in pursuit of their prey. Three hours later they
were near the river again.

“We must be ahead of the rebels,” the former spokesman said.

“I am sure of it, Hiram,” the eldest of the party replied.

“There they come,” Captain Brant cried five minutes later, pointing to
the bow of a canoe which was just coming into view. “We’ll hitch our
horses and be ready for them.”

Dismounting, they secured the animals behind a clump of trees, and then
crept cautiously along to the edge of the river, concealing themselves
behind some rocks.

Ignorant of the ambuscade, the occupants of the light craft paddled
rapidly on. They had made good progress, and in another hour would
arrive at a settlement where they could secure the aid the wounded man
needed. For some reason, however, which they could not themselves
explain, they hugged the south bank, and the river at that point was
quite wide.

Suddenly one of the hidden horses broke its halter and ran wildly
through the woods, startling the other animals until they neighed
loudly.

“There must be a squad of horsemen over there,” Ira cried. “Quick! pull
under cover of the right bank until we can look about us!”

Late obeyed hurriedly, and the canoe was turned toward the shore.

Crack! Crack! Crack! came the reports of three rifles, and the bullets
struck the water behind, ahead, and below the craft.

Then she glided under the cover of the overhanging trees, but as she
disappeared two more shots were fired from the ambush, a ball struck the
prisoner, who had raised himself to learn the cause of the firing, in
the breast, killing him instantly.

“He is dead!” Joe exclaimed, catching the spy in his arms as he sank
slowly back into the bow of the boat.

These words were heard on the opposite shore, and immediately old David
Daggett leaped upon the rock behind which he had been concealed.
Swinging his hat above his head, he shouted:

“Hurrah! We’ve killed one of them! We’ve killed one of them!”

Late seized his rifle and fired at the old man, muttering as he did so:
“I’ll fix you, you old Tory!”

His bullet, however, struck, not the old, but the younger Tory, Hiram Le
Geyt, who at that moment had sprung up to pull his father-in-law down
behind the barricade.

The occupants of the canoe could not tell whether he was killed, or only
wounded. But they heard Captain Brant’s voice directing two negroes to
carry their master into the woods where he would be out of range of the
flying bullets. Then Ira, without exposing himself, called to the
Indian:

“Captain Brant, one of your shots struck our prisoner, who was only
slightly wounded, in the breast, killing him instantly. We will leave
his body, and everything that belongs to him, in the canoe. You may take
possession of the craft at any time. We will not disturb you.”

Then he and his comrades, after securing the boat to the nearest tree,
leaped ashore and entered the forest. Before they were out of hearing,
however, the reply of the Mohawk chief could be heard:

“Thanks, lads! I’ll care for him as soon as I can leave my friend here,
who is, I fear mortally wounded.”

“That hardly sounds like the bloodiest chieftain in the valley,[7] does
it?” Ira said, as he and his companions hastened along. “Even he seems
to appreciate a thoughtful act.”

When opposite the next settlement, they called to a lad who was fishing
in the river, and he, coming across in a boat, ferried them over. There
they passed the night, and on the following morning hastened on down the
valley.

As they advanced Joe referred to the change in the commanders of the
Continental forces, asking:

“Will you report to this General Gates, Ira, the same as you did to
General Schuyler?”

“Certainly,” he answered. “He is now in General Schuyler’s place, and
should be treated precisely as was our former leader.”

“But Late and I don’t know him,” he objected.

“Neither do I,” was the reply. “But it will be easy to fix all that. You
will find General Schuyler, even though he has been relieved of command,
in the camp, doing all he can for the Cause which is dearer to him than
life.”

“It isn’t many men who would do that,” Late interrupted. “Do you
remember how it was with Colonel Stark? When he thought he had been
misused, he surrendered his commission and went back to his farm in New
Hampshire.”

“But he responded to the call from Bennington,” Ira replied, “and,
recognizing his mistake, will now go back to the regular army.”

“But our general don’t make such mistakes,” cried Joe in tones of
admiration. “He’s large enough to overlook any personal slight, for the
good of the Cause. Some day the people of the colonies will know the
truth, and count him one of their heroes.”

“Thank you!” Ira said with glistening eyes. “May we all live to see your
prophecy come true!”

At sunset they were in the vicinity of Bemis Heights, and had no
difficulty in locating the British camp.

“Well, lads, we’ll part here,” Ira said. “You will find Dan with our
army, and after you have reported to the general, he will show you the
place I have chosen as our rendezvous on this side the Hudson.”

“But is it safe now for you to enter the British lines?” Late asked
anxiously. “What if David Daggett should show up there within a few
hours?”

“He’ll hardly arrive as soon as that,” was the quiet reply, “though
doubtless he will appear later. Meantime I have the opportunity to
report to General Burgoyne, and learn the present condition of his
forces. It will probably be the last work I shall do as Ira Le Geyt,”
and he left them.

Before they gained the entrenchments of the Continentals, the two boys
met Dan Cushing.

“Where is Ira?” was his first question.

“Gone into the British encampment,” they explained.

“He ought not have gone there!” Dan cried.

“Why not?”

“’Cause General Gates has let the real Ira go; an’ also set free that
courier, George Preston,” was the startling announcement. “General
Schuyler, soon as he heard of it, sent me to meet you an’ stop Ira.
Those fellers will make straight for Burgoyne’s headquarters, an’ get
thar ’fore our Ira does. It means they’ll hang him soon as he shows up.”

For some moments his hearers stood as though stupefied, and then Late
gasped:

“What can be done?”

“I’ll tell you what I’m goin’ to do,” Dan said stoutly. “I shall follow
Ira into the British lines, if necessary, to save him, or hang with
him,” and he walked away toward the enemy’s encampment.

There was need for him, or some other friend, to take such an heroic
step, for before he had gained the nearest British picket post, the
young scout was in General Burgoyne’s tent, face to face with the real
Ira Le Geyt.



                             CHAPTER XIII.
                           THE MIDNIGHT FIRE.


Confident that he had ample time to report Colonel St. Leger’s flight to
his superior, and learn when and how that officer intended to engage the
Continentals, before any of his enemies could disclose his identity,
Ira, after parting with his lieutenants, walked rapidly on to the
nearest picket-post of the British camp.

Here his first trouble began. In no way could he convince the sentinel
that he had a right to pass through the lines. The fellow was a Hessian,
who could not read, and the scout’s paper, written both in English and
German, directing that he be allowed to go in or out of the camp at all
times, was of no avail. Therefore the captain of the guard had to be
summoned.

He knew Ira, and permitted him to pass the picket, but, to the surprise
of the lad, held him up at the guard tent until his arrival could be
made known to the commander of that division, General Fraser. At length
an order came for him to be allowed to report to the commander-in-chief,
and he went on, believing it was the nearness of the enemy that had
caused this unusual caution on the part of the British officers.

When he finally reached General Burgoyne, that officer, instead of
greeting him with his usual warmth, merely nodded towards a camp stool,
saying:

“Sit down, Master Le Geyt, I will hear your report in a short time,” and
then he left the tent, remaining away at least ten minutes.

On his return he gazed searchingly at the scout for an instant, and
then, with an apparent effort to control himself, said:

“I am ready to listen to anything you have to tell me, sir.”

His manner convinced the lad that something was wrong; but he was there
and must speak, therefore, acting as if he suspected nothing amiss, he
began:

“I believe, General Burgoyne, that you have heard of the battle of
Oriskany through Captain Brant, therefore know of its outcome, and I
need not dwell upon it.”

The officer merely bowed assent.

“The ill-feeling created there,” Ira continued, “soon showed itself
throughout the Indian encampment, so that when I first visited it some
of the warriors had departed, and before I came away a bare hundred of
the original force remained.”

“You are sure you said nothing to hasten their departure?” the general
inquired pointedly.

“I only told them that large reinforcements were on the way to
strengthen the fort, which was true, sir. I passed Colonel Arnold with
twelve hundred men as I went up country.”

“It makes a difference sometimes how even the truth is told,” the
commander said, and again he gave the scout a searching glance.

“Yes, sir,” the lad admitted; “but to continue my report, Colonel St.
Leger, finding himself deserted by his allies, and unable to stand
against the Continental reinforcements, decided to abandon the siege.
Retreating to Oswego, he has sailed for Canada.”

“What!” screamed General Burgoyne, and it was evident there was dismay
in his tones. “St. Leger gone without any order from me? Without sending
to me for a force sufficient to meet the rebels? Are you certain, sir,
that you are telling me the truth?”

Ira flushed a trifle; but answered gravely:

“It is as I have said.”

For the third time the commander gazed fixedly at his visitor, and then
remarked:

“I have a few questions to ask you, Master Le Geyt.”

With no little misgivings the lad replied simply: “Yes, sir.”

“Did you not tell me that you conducted the courier, George Preston, to
Master James Graham’s in safety?”

Instantly the question was asked the lad knew that in some way the
officer had obtained an inkling of his real character. There was nothing
to do but brave it out, therefore he replied promptly: “No, sir.”

“What then did you tell me?” thundered the enraged officer.

“I reported that I had made the journey, and left the courier in safe
hands.”

“Read that,” the general cried, pushing a letter towards him. It was on
a single sheet, and the words were written plainly.

  “General Burgoyne, Honored Sir:    I write this to make known to you
  the real character of your scout called Ira Le Geyt. He is a rebel. He
  delivered me into the hands of the rebels, and I have been imprisoned
  by them for weeks. But they did not find the papers I carried, and
  when this reaches you I shall be on my way down the river to deliver
  them. I trust it may be in time to secure the aid you desire. The
  bearer of this will tell you more about the young man. For the King,

                                                       “George Preston.”

“Pray tell me, are those statements true?” the general asked sternly.

“No man need incriminate himself,” Ira replied with a pale but resolute
face.

“Captain Howell declares that he saw you on Sugar Loaf Mountain the
night the guns were spiked, and that he has reason to believe you guided
him to the place where the dam was built, using information he gave you
to accomplish that purpose. Have you any answer to make to these
charges?” the general demanded.

The scout remained silent.

“How far you are responsible for the defeat of Baum at Bennington, and
the flight of St. Leger, which you now report, I probably shall never
know. But one thing is certain, sir. I have facts enough to hang you,”
and the enraged officer looked at the scout as if it would be a pleasure
to do it.

The lad returned the look without a token of fear; but made no answer.

“Possibly you think I do not know who you are,” General Burgoyne
continued after a moment; “but wait,” he stepped to the door of the tent
and spoke to some one who was evidently standing there to be summoned.

The false Ira arose to find himself face to face with the real Ira Le
Geyt. On one face there was a smile; on the other a frown. The look one
gave said: “I will kill you”; the look the other bestowed, said: “You
cannot do it.”

During a full minute the two stood there. Then the real Ira spoke.

“Give me that cross.”

Without a word the young scout drew it from his bosom and, unfastening
its chain from his neck, handed it to the rightful owner. He pulled it
apart, and taking a tiny paper from the hollow tube, passed it to the
general, who read:

                                             “Fort Edward, June 1, 1777.

  “To all officers of the Northern Army:

  “This is to certify that the bearer of this paper is Lieutenant Philip
  Schuyler Jr., my son. He will personate the Tory, Ira Le Geyt, at the
  headquarters of General Burgoyne. You may rely upon all information he
  sends you.

                                           “(Signed)    Philip Schuyler,
                                                   “General Commanding.”

Before any other could speak, the young Tory, his eyes flashing, said:

“It is as I have already told you, general. This fellow, with a squad of
soldiers, seized me while I was crossing the Hudson on my way to meet
you at Lake Champlain, and carried me to Fort Edward, where I was
imprisoned. They took not only papers, but my entire outfit, including
the clothes I had on. I did not understand why then, but learned later.
When your courier, Master Preston, was thrust into the dungeon with me,
he told me how an Ira Le Geyt, who was serving as a scout for your army,
had betrayed him into the rebels’ hands. Then I saw through the Schuyler
plan, and knew that as long as the son, using my name and wearing my
clothes, was at your headquarters, nothing but disaster would befall
you. I tried desperately to escape. I offered bribes to the guards; I
attempted to tunnel out of the fort, but failed. When the new commander,
Gates, came, I persuaded him I had been wrongfully confined for weeks,
and he ordered my release. I hastened here, too late, I fear, to be of
any service. But in justice to myself, I demand that the man who has
deprived me of my rights be properly punished.”

“Don’t fear about that, Master Le Geyt,” the officer replied with a
cruel laugh. “Out of justice to you, and because of injustice to me,
this fellow shall be hanged. I only wish I could string the father up
beside the son. In all my military career I never met with, or heard of,
so infamous a scheme as they have conceived and carried out. I can see,
as you have suggested, that all the disasters have come through this
young rascal. I will put him under guard to-night. To-morrow he shall be
tried and sentenced. Before another twenty-four hours have passed, he
will be executed.”

He called out, and a sergeant with four men entered and took the
prisoner away.

Within the stout walls of a log hut, which had been turned into a
temporary prison, Philip (for now he should be called by his right name)
was left to himself. Naturally he could not avoid dwelling upon the
horrible fate that awaited him, for his conviction and execution were
foregone conclusions. Many a man had been sent to the gallows by far
less evidence than could be brought against him. In the heart of the
British camp as he was, he might not look for rescue. There was little
hope of escaping through his own efforts.

He recalled all that he had been able to do, through the place he had
held in the British camp, for the Cause he loved. The stores at
Bennington on which Burgoyne depended for the sustenance of his army,
had not been secured, and in the attempt to obtain them that officer had
lost a thousand men. The reinforcements he ardently expected from New
York had not come, and they could not arrive now in time to save him.
St. Leger had been frightened away, and with him had gone the last hope
of the British commander for any addition to his forces. With his army
weakened, on short rations, and unable to retreat, he had but one
alternative, which was to face a foe that outnumbered him. From the
human point of view there could be but one outcome, defeat, and with
that defeat all the plans of Lord Germain, the war secretary in London,
would be shattered. Philip was satisfied. Remembering all he had helped
to accomplish, he could, if necessary, surrender up his life.

Philip Schuyler was calm when, on the following day, he faced his
accusers. He did not attempt to deny his identity, or make excuse for a
single act. He did not flinch when he was sentenced to be hanged
twenty-four hours later as a spy. When asked if he had anything to say
why sentence should not be pronounced upon him, he replied:

“I knew I ran a great risk when I consented to do the work I have done.
I am glad I was permitted to do so much. I only regret I could not
longer have escaped detection in order to accomplish more. I shall die
happy because I have surrendered my life for a Cause which I know, and
which every one of you gentlemen knows, to be holy.”

To his surprise he had a visitor during the afternoon. It was old David
Daggett. After assisting Captain Brant to carry Hiram Le Geyt back to
his home, the old man had again turned his face toward the Hudson to
learn something of his grandson Ira.

Arriving in the camp shortly before noon, he had found the lad, and
heard the story of his imprisonment, of the false Ira, and of the
latter’s sentence. He rubbed his hands in glee.

“I want to see him!” he cried. “I want to tell the young devil just what
I think of him. I’ll stay until to-morrow to see him die.”

To humor him, General Burgoyne gave orders that the old man be allowed
to visit the condemned lad.

There were other prisoners in the guard-house, and after his sentence
the young scout had been carried to a two-story house used as the
barracks for a company of soldiers. In one of the upper rooms of this he
had been placed in solitary confinement. There was a guard outside the
door, a company of soldiers below, and sentinels around the building.
Every avenue of escape was supposed to be closed, and the young
lieutenant awaited the hour of his death.

Here David Daggett came. When allowed to enter the room, he stood for a
time gazing at the prisoner, who arose to meet him, while a smile played
on his lips. Without being invited, he sat in the one chair the chamber
contained, and still stared at the lad. Then he laughed long and loudly.

“It just tickles me to see you,” he at length said.

“What is there about me that pleases you?” Philip asked.

“It makes me laugh to think how you will kick and squirm to-morrow, when
the rope is put around your neck,” was the cruel reply.

That the captive made no reply, seemed to anger him. “If I had my way
you wouldn’t hang!” he cried. “You’d burn! burn! burn! The Indians know
how to torture their victims, when they kill them at the stake. I wish
you might be scorched to pay for that fellow you saved at Fort Stanwix.
He ought to have died, and you ought to burn. Every rebel in the land
should be burned. I’ll tell the general to burn you—” and ran from the
room.

But when he went to General Burgoyne with his request, he was told that
the sentence of the prisoner could not be changed. He brooded over the
answer.

“I’ll change it,” he muttered, and with a cunning look in his eyes, he
went to the building in which the prisoner was confined, walking around
it again and again.

The structure had been intended for a shop, with living-rooms above. At
the rear was a small lean-to, once used as a stable. In this last a
large amount of rubbish had collected. The sharp eyes of the old man
took in all this, and his plan was formed. Late in the night he slipped
out of the tent he occupied in company with his grandson, and made his
way to the rear of the barracks.

“The soldiers can get out,” he muttered to himself; “but that young
rebel can’t. I’ll burn him, burn him up!”

Into the shanty, unobserved, he crawled. In the farther corner he pulled
some of the most inflammable material together, and then took out of his
pocket his flint and steel. Into the rubbish the tiny sparks fell.
Slowly the flame grew. He waited until it was under good headway, and
then slipped away to his tent.

Ten minutes passed, and then the alarm rang through the encampment.
“Fire! Fire! The barracks are on fire!” some one shouted, and others
took up the cry.

Ira Le Geyt awoke and called to his grandfather, but the old man
apparently slept soundly. Not until having been shaken vigorously did he
arouse himself, and then, rubbing his eyes, he asked innocently:

“What is it?”

“Some building is on fire,” his grandson explained and ran out.

David Daggett followed in the direction of the blaze his hands had
kindled. The lean-to was gone; one side of the house was a mass of
flames, and with an exulting cry on his lips: “The rebel will burn! the
rebel will burn!” he hastened to join the crowd that had collected
around the doomed building.



                              CHAPTER XIV.
                           THE DRAWN BATTLE.


Dan Cushing was not to be turned from his purpose even when he found
that his friend had already entered the British lines. His only question
was as to how he could get there? He had not been seen by the guard,
and, drawing back into the woods, he walked cautiously along to learn
how far it might be to the next picket. To his delight he discovered
that the sentinels were several rods apart, and each had been stationed
on a ridge, with a small hollow, running directly up into the
encampment, between them. Lying down in a thicket, he waited.

Slowly the minutes passed. Not until it was dark did he make a move.
Then, as noiselessly as an Indian, he crept into the hollow, and again
paused. No other sound than the regular tread of the soldiers as they
tramped to and fro on their beat came to his ears; but both were coming
toward him, and, hugging close to the ground, he remained motionless.

As he suspected, they did not enter the gully, but, on gaining the
opposite banks, called to each other, and then turned to retrace their
steps. Waiting until their footsteps had nearly died away, he arose and
ran swiftly, but without noise, up to the higher ground. He was beyond
earshot before the guards again hailed each other, and within the
enemy’s lines.

Unacquainted with the formation of the camp, it required some time for
him to locate the headquarters of the commander, and, when he had done
this, he was just in time to see a prisoner in the hands of four or five
soldiers brought forth and hurried to a log hut. Keeping far enough from
the squad to remain unnoticed, yet near enough to hear the conversation,
he learned beyond all doubt that the arrested man was his chief.

The arrest of the young scout, and the reason for it, soon became known
in that part of the encampment, and created no little excitement. It was
discussed in tents and barracks, and even at the guard-house, therefore
it became easy for the lad to ascertain two facts without in any way
attracting attention to himself. He learned that his friend was to be
tried the next morning as a spy, and that the general opinion was the
trial would be but a form; the condemnation and execution certain.

Perhaps this fact prevented the soldiers from taking the punishment of
the prisoner into their own hands. Dan, hearing their comments, realized
they were thoroughly angered with the lad who had so completely
hoodwinked officers and men for weeks, thwarting their purposes and
overwhelming them with misfortunes. But what seemed to anger them more
than all, was the identity of the lad.

“To think that that rebel general sent his own son into the tent of our
commander, and knew all about his plans before we did, is enough to make
the pope swear,” Captain Howell said to a group of officers. “I don’t
forget that the young rascal twice pulled wool over my eyes, and I’d
like the privilege of putting the rope around his neck.”

Private as well as officer seemed to entertain much the same ill-will
toward the prisoner, and it was evident nothing save the assurance that
he was to be summarily dealt with, kept them from taking his life.

After the excitement had subsided somewhat, and the encampment was
comparatively quiet, young Cushing made as careful an examination of the
building in which his chief was confined as he could and escape the
notice of the sentinels. The conclusion arrived at, was he could do
nothing immediately to secure the release of his comrade.

“I might slip back to camp an’ let the general know how things are
goin’,” he said to himself. “He may think of some way to help Philip
that don’t come into this head of mine.”

He gained the ravine and was nearly across, when he heard a sentinel
cry:

“Who are you down there? Speak, or I will fire.”

He neither spoke nor stirred.

Bang! went the gun, and the ball whistled so near his head he could not
help dodging. Fortunately he made no sound, but remained quietly where
he was.

Then came rapid footsteps toward the edge of the opposite bank, and the
picket there called out:

“What is it, Spencer?”

“I heard some one in the gully, and as he didn’t answer my challenge, I
fired,” was the explanation.

At that moment the captain of the guard, followed by a squad of men,
came running up.

“Why did you fire?” he asked.

Spencer told him.

“We’ll start the fellow out,” the officer said, and, turning to his men,
he ordered them to fire a volley into the ravine.

They obeyed; but centered their fire on a spot several yards beyond the
lad, and he was not injured. The bullets dislodged some animal, however,
that ran up the opposite bank, and, scudding by the sentinel on that
side, disappeared in the bushes beyond.

“It was a fox,” he cried. “Spencer mistook a fox for a man. Ha! ha!” and
the officer laughed loudly.

The men on the other bank joined in the mirth.

“I don’t care,” Spencer declared. “It shows I was looking out so sharply
that even a fox could not escape me.”

The laugh subsided; the squad returned to their stations; and the
pickets resumed their beat.

As soon as they had departed Dan hurried on, and in a few minutes gained
the road leading to Bemis Heights. Down this he ran until halted by
three hoots of an owl, twice repeated. Stopping suddenly, he gave the
same cry, and after a few seconds Late and Joe came out from the forest.

“We are glad to find you at last,” they said. “We have been looking for
you half the night.”

“I’m glad to run in with you,” he declared, without asking why they were
there. “Joe, will you go back to the fort an’ tell General Schuyler that
our Ira has been arrested. The Britishers have found out who he is, an’
to-morrow mornin’ he’ll probably be condemned an’ hanged. Whatever we do
must be done quickly. Late, come with me. We won’t give up hope of
rescuin’ him till we have to.”

In another moment they had separated, Joe hastening to the general with
his sad tidings, and Dan and Late hurrying back toward the British camp.
Before gaining the ravine Dan explained how he had entered the enemy’s
lines earlier in the night, and how he hoped to return.

“We shall have to move along slow an’ quiet like,” he added; “but I
believe it can be done.”

He was correct, and a half-hour later he and his comrade emerged from
the ravine within the British lines. To gain the hut in which their
friend was imprisoned was not difficult; but they decided it unwise to
run the risk of being found when dawn came, therefore the lads looked
about for a hiding-place. Attracted by the lean-to at the rear of the
barracks they crept into it.

In this place of concealment they heard enough of the soldiers’
conversation to learn the result of Phillip’s trial, and knew there were
yet twenty-four hours before he would be executed.

“We may be able to do a good bit in that time,” Dan whispered to Late.

They learned also, in the same way, that the prisoner had been brought
to the barracks and put in solitary confinement in one of its upper
rooms. They also saw David Daggett prowling about the building; but did
not know of his visit upstairs, or of the secret resolve he had made.

It was nearly dusk when two soldiers met near the door of the lean-to.
One said to the other:

“Have you heard the latest news about the spy?”

“No,” replied the other. “What is it?”

“A messenger came from the rebel camp under a flag of truce,” the first
explained, “and wanted to make an exchange. They offered four men—a
colonel, two captains, and a lieutenant—for him.”

“What did our general say?” the other soldier asked.

“He said: ‘Go back and tell your commander I would not exchange him for
your whole army.’”

“Good! I reckon the rebels will understand now that the young rascal
must pay the penalty for his misdeeds.” Then they passed out of hearing.

“It means that you and I have got to do something,” Dan said to his
comrade in a low tone.

“What?” asked Late.

“I have an idee,” was the answer, “but will wait a little later to see
whether ’twill work.”

An hour or two passed. Then Dan whispered: “Come, Late,” and he led the
way out of the building.

Going around to the rear end, he said in the same low tone:

“Boost me.”

That edge of the roof was not more than five feet from the ground, and,
catching hold of it, the lad waited for his companion to lift him up. In
another instant he was on top the shed.

“Give me your hands, Late,” he said in a hoarse whisper, and soon the
two were on the roof.

Lying at full length, the lads listened anxiously for any sound which
might betoken that their movements had been seen. Ten minutes passed,
and then they arose on all fours, creeping up the slanting roof to where
it joined the main building.

Just above their heads was an open window. Rising to their knees they
peeped in, only to find themselves looking into a small, unoccupied
room. Laying his hand upon his comrade in token that he was to follow,
Dan stepped into the chamber, Late joining him a moment later.

There was no furniture in the room. The young scouts stretched
themselves out on the bare floor, and again waited. During a long time
there was coming and going about the barracks; then loud conversation
below; but at length all was silent.

Dan went cautiously to the door. Lifting the latch slowly, he pulled,
and without further effort on his part the door swung open a few inches.
Through the narrow crevice the lad gazed. He could see little; but the
low tread of the sentinel outside of the prisoner’s door reached his
ears. Evidently a long passage was before him, and the soldier was at
the farther end.

Turning to his companion, Dan whispered in his ear, and then both,
removing their boots, went softly out into the hall. Inch by inch they
advanced until within a few feet of the guard.

Here they waited until he, in his efforts to keep awake, came down the
passage toward them. In another moment they had seized him as previously
planned, one by the feet, and the other by the throat.

There was a struggle; but it was brief and noiseless, for while one lad
choked the fellow, the other lifted him from the floor. Fortunately he
was not heavy, and could be easily subdued. When the Britisher had been
rendered helpless Late took him in charge, while Dan examined the door
of the room in which was the prisoner.

He could hardly believe his good fortune when he found the fastening to
be only a piece of iron thrust through the handle of the latch. Pulling
out the bar, he opened the door and entered. On a narrow bed against the
opposite wall the young lieutenant was quietly sleeping, but with the
first movement of his rescuer he was aroused, asking:

“Who is it?”

“Hush!” was the cautious reply. “Late and me have overpowered the guard.
Wait until we put him in your bed. Then we’ll be off.”

The lad went back to his comrade, and together they carried the soldier,
still unconscious because of having been choked so severely, into the
chamber. The lieutenant helped them bind the Britisher’s hands and feet,
and to muffle his mouth so that he could not cry out. Then all three
left the room, fastening the door behind them. Down the hall, into the
little room at its rear, and out of the window upon the roof of the
lean-to they went cautiously.

At this moment they heard footsteps not far away, and laid down on the
slanting roof. The intruder evidently crawled into the shed, and,
believing he had gone there for the night, the fugitives slipped down to
the lower edge of the building, when, swinging themselves to the ground,
they made off through the darkness.

The young scouts were at the mouth of the ravine when the cry of fire
startled them. Looking back they saw that the lean-to they had just left
was in flames.

During a moment they silently gazed at the burning building, and then
Dan said:

“The whole barracks will go.”

“I hope that guard may get out,” Late added.

“The fellow we heard crawling into the shed set fire to it, and I’ll
tell you who he was,” Philip said solemnly.

“Who?” Dan asked.

“David Daggett,” the lieutenant replied, and then told of the old man’s
visit and his wish that he might be burned at the stake.

“We saw him prowlin’ ’round the lean-to in the afternoon,” Dan
explained, “an’ that’s what he was plannin’ for. You’ve hit the nail on
the head, Ira—I mean Phil—this time.”

The rescued lad laughed.

“No more ‘Ira,’ please. It is ‘Phil’ for you always. I shall never
forget this night’s work of yours, nor will my father and mother,” and
his voice grew tremulous as he pronounced the last word.

Then they continued the flight. Possibly the glare of the fire through
the trees chained the attention of the guards. At least, they gave no
special heed to what was going on in the ravine below them, and the
fugitives passed through it unchallenged. Once outside it was only
necessary to walk rapidly for an hour, and they had arrived at the
Continental camp.

General Schuyler met his son as one come from the dead, while Joe’s
delight knew no bounds.

“I only wish I could have been thar to help in the rescue,” he said over
and over again.

Even General Gates, when introduced to the young lieutenant,
congratulated him on his escape, and said:

“I did not understand that the young Tory was held to secure your
safety. Had I known it, he would not have been allowed to go free.”

Early next day it became evident that General Burgoyne was preparing for
some desperate move. Before night he had advanced his lines within two
miles of the Continentals, and the skirmishing parties sent out from the
entrenchments of the latter reported that the British forces were
resting on their guns.

“It means that on the morrow he will attempt to force his way to
Albany,” General Schuyler said to General Gates.

“Well, if you really think so,” the officer replied indifferently, “you
may notify my subordinates to stand ready to stop him,” and at an early
hour he sought his bed.

Not another officer closed his eyes that night, and when the memorable
nineteenth day of September dawned it found the rival hosts confronting
each other.

The main body of the Continentals was on the right under General
Lincoln; the left under Poor; the center was mainly made up of Learned’s
brigade. Morgan’s riflemen and Dearborn’s infantry stood under Arnold,
who had returned from Fort Stanwix, on the heights, nearly a mile from
the river.

At ten o’clock General Burgoyne advanced his army in three columns; the
left consisting of artillery under General Phillips, and Hessians under
General Riedesel; the center and right were commanded by Burgoyne
himself, but covered by General Fraser and Colonel Breyman. The
Canadians and Indians were sent forward to occupy the Continentals in
front.

No order came from General Gates for his forces to advance, and Colonel
Arnold, growing desperate, rode off to the commander’s tent urging him
to allow the troops to engage the enemy, until he finally gave orders
for the Indians to be driven back.

Taking this as permission for a general charge, the Continentals rushed
like a mountain torrent upon the foe. Arnold, with Morgan’s assistance,
held Fraser while he was endeavoring to reach the American rear. Here
the fighting became desperate, but the patriots, encountering the
British under Burgoyne, and played on by Phillips’s guns, were, at three
o’clock, forced back into line. For four or five hours Colonel Arnold
had maintained the fight with the choicest English regiments. A lull now
occurred during which both armies drew breath.

“It’s been tough work, lieutenant,” Dan Cushing said to Philip Schuyler,
as he wiped the sweat from his brow.

“Yes,” the lad replied, “an’ our comrades are all right. When the
fightin’ ceased they went down into the ravine for a drink of water.
They’ll be back ’fore the lull is over.”

“They will have to hurry then, for the red-coats are coming again.”

“And here are the boys,” was the laughing reply as the lads arrived.

The Continentals kept within their camp until their foes were close upon
them, then, springing out, drove them back to the position they had
occupied earlier in the day.

It was, however, not an easy task, and night came by the time it was
accomplished, putting an end to the conflict. The Continentals withdrew
to their entrenchments; the British lay on the battlefield. Both parties
claimed the victory; but the British had failed to force their way to
Albany, while the Americans held their ground. It was, therefore, a
drawn battle, in which the losses of the Yankees were less than three
hundred, while those of the king’s troops were more than five hundred.



                              CHAPTER XV.
                          THE CHANCE MEETING.


On the following morning the British retreated to their old camping
ground, and thus each army occupied precisely the same position it did
prior to the battle, but with the difference that one was disheartened,
and the other was encouraged.

“It is clear we have Burgoyne in our power,” Colonel Arnold said to a
group of fellow officers, as he watched the movements of the red-coats.

For a brief time there was no response, and then Colonel Morgan replied
in a low tone:

“He would be, if Schuyler was our commander. When I remember that
General Gates did not appear on the field at any time yesterday, it
makes my blood boil.”

“It appears as if some one else is expected to do the work, while he
reaps the reward,” another said.

“He won’t reap the reward of my labors long, if he don’t get a move on,”
Colonel Arnold retorted with a frown. “I shall resign my commission
rather than serve under such an officer.”

The conversation was interrupted by the appearance of General Schuyler,
without uniform, however, suggestive of the fact that he was there
without rank or command. He greeted each member of the group with a
hearty shake of the hand, and asked:

“Which of you dare beard the lion in his den?”

“I do,” Colonel Arnold replied promptly.

“Suppose we all join,” the general continued, “it seems to me a wise
move. If we are agreed, Colonel Arnold as our spokesman may suggest the
plan to our commander.”

The officers looked meaningly at each other, and some shook their heads
as if to say, “We don’t understand how you can remain here and do all
you can to bring about a victory, when the entire credit of it will go
to another.”

If the ex-commander observed the looks and head-shakes, he gave no heed,
but added:

“As you all know, the enemy is in a condition which grows worse every
day. Counting his sick and wounded, there are nearly a thousand in the
hospital; many are deserting the ranks; provisions are becoming
exhausted; a few miles in their rear is an impassable wilderness, and we
proved yesterday that he cannot advance. Let us then send troops in
sufficient number to prevent foraging on the west, and to cut off
connection with his base of supplies on the east. Then, in a few days,
he must either fight or surrender.”

“The eye doesn’t need be more than half open to see that,” Colonel
Morgan replied.

“Since the general need not endanger his own head by issuing such an
order, I may be able to secure the permission,” Colonel Arnold said in a
tone of contempt, and he walked rapidly toward the headquarters of the
commander-in-chief.

How he presented the matter is not known; but an hour or two later it
was rumored about the encampment that he had been removed from command
of his regiment, for attempting to coerce a superior officer. When this
rumor crystallized into fact, the entire army was threatened with
insubordination. Only the most strenuous efforts of the division and
brigade commanders, ably assisted by Schuyler, their former
commander-in-chief, prevented open rebellion.

“This is terrible,” Lieutenant Schuyler said to his three scouts a
little later in the day. “To have our army demoralized in the face of
the enemy, is a good deal like throwing the victory away after it is in
our hands.”

“But, thanks to the efforts of the other officers, the worst seems to be
over,” Late replied.

“For the present, yes,” Philip admitted; “but the lightest breeze may
fan into a flame the smoldering fire, and who can tell what General
Gates will do next?”

“General Lincoln an’ General Poor have gone to his quarters for a
consultation,” Dan announced. “I’m hopin’ something may come from that.”

“So’m I,” Joe added.

Their hopes were gratified. An order was issued before nightfall for
skirmishing parties to be sent out on all sides of the enemy. Within the
hour the work was begun, and from that time the British were so hemmed
in that it was nearly impossible for any one to enter or leave their
lines without falling into the hands of the patriots.

One day Lieutenant Schuyler, at the head of a squad of men which
included Dan Cushing, Latham Wentworth, and Joe Fisher, was scouring the
woods to the westward of the English encampment. He soon found that his
chief work was not to capture soldiers seeking to enter the camp, but
those who were leaving it. Before noon so many deserters had fallen into
his hands that it required more than half his force to guard the
prisoners.

“If the other skirmishers are picking up as many fugitives as we,” the
lieutenant said when the latest captures had been sent within the
American lines, “Burgoyne’s whole army will be in our hands before the
month is out.”

“Here come some more,” Dan, who was on the right of the squad, said in a
low tone. Then, suddenly, he ran to the side of his leader. “There are a
half dozen Tories,” he added, “an’, will you believe it, one is old
David Daggett, while another, I reckon, is his grandson, Ira Le Geyt!”

The young lieutenant followed Dan to the other end of the line, where he
could better see the approaching men. “You are right,” he said a moment
later. “David and Ira are both there, and it is well worth our tramp out
here to capture them.”

He divided his followers into two parties, directing one to creep
cautiously through the forest to the rear of the royalists, while the
other, with himself at its head, moved back to a place where the thicket
offered a place of concealment.

Unaware of the ambush, the Tories advanced, discussing loudly the
reasons which led them to return home.

“When I found that the regular troops were put on short rations to
furnish the rest of us with something to eat, I thought I’d better go
home,” one man said.

“I believed it was time Ira and I went up to the farm to get food for
the others,” David Daggett added. “I tell the boy we’ve got enough there
to feed a hundred men for a week, and that’s something.”

“How will you get it down here?” another asked.

“Ira’s long head has found a way,” the grandfather explained. “If you
fellows want to join us in the venture, come on. All of us, working
together, ought to bring stores enough to supply a regiment for quite a
while.”

“I suppose the general will see we are given good prices for all we take
in,” a third man remarked.

Then David Daggett grew furious. Whirling around he shook his fist in
the face of the speaker, crying:

“Curses on your mean, stingy soul, John Tarbox! The man who at such a
time as this is not ready to give up all he has for the king, ought to
be kicked into the rebel camp, and I’d like to be the one to do it!”

Whether the men would have come to blows is uncertain, for at that
moment, the young lieutenant sprang out from the thicket and seized
Master Daggett by the shoulders. At the same instant Late and Joe
clutched Ira Le Geyt, while the remainder of the squad gave their
attention to the other Tories. A brief struggle ensued, but when the
second party of Continentals closed in upon the royalists, they yielded
to the inevitable by surrendering.

Owing to the surprise and excitement incident to the moment, David
Daggett did not at first recognize the leader of the skirmishers. When
he did, however, he gave way to the harshest epithets and the bitterest
invectives he could think of, ending by crying:

“You young devil, that is what I think of you!”

“Your opinion of me is so much better than mine of you, that it is
unnecessary for me to say a single word,” the young officer replied
calmly, ordering his men to fall in with their prisoners.

“What are you going to do with me?” Ira Le Geyt demanded. “Since you can
no longer personate me at General Burgoyne’s headquarters, I should be
allowed to go home, where my father, wounded by you or some of your men,
lies dangerously ill.”

“We must prevent that long head of yours from devising some means of
getting stores into the British camp,” Joe replied. “You ought to be
grateful to us for saving you from so strenuous a task.”

The young Tory frowned, and relapsed into silence. But not so with the
older one. His wrath had now given place to curiosity, and he asked:

“How did you escape from that building after I set it on fire?”

“Perhaps I got out before,” Philip answered with a smile. Then, to learn
whether the soldier he and his comrades had bound and left in his bed
was yet alive, he asked, “Didn’t the guard tell you how I got away?”

“He didn’t know anything,” the old man replied angrily. “Some men who
went up there found him bound and gagged, so brought him down. But when
it was possible for him to talk, he had nothing to tell. Never knew who
tied him, or when it happened. He was certain, though, that the door was
fastened on the outside, and it puzzled him to know how you got at him,
unless some one lent a hand.”

“I had good friends,” Philip replied, glancing with a smile at Dan and
Late, who were behind him.

The old prisoner failed to see the glance.

“They say the devil helps his own,” he retorted, “and he must have been
the one who helped you.”

Again Philip looked over his shoulder at his friends, and laughed
outright, while Joe, who was near enough to hear what old David had
said, remarked:

“Rather rough on you lads, ain’t he?”

At the sound of his voice the old Tory turned and, seeing both Late and
Joe, cried:

“You here, too, you young devils? It seems to be a good day for the
breed.” Then he sang:

  “Devils on ahead!
  Devils in the rear!
  If the devils were all dead,
  You rebels wouldn’t be here!”

Some of the soldiers laughed, others showed signs of anger, and the
lieutenant said warningly:

“If you keep that up long, Uncle David, my men will serve you as your
friends threatened to do at the old hut.” The song came to a sudden
close.

A half-hour later the prisoners were in the Continental camp, confined
with an hundred others who had been brought in that day. Then Philip and
his friends went to the mess-room for supper. While they were eating an
orderly came in, and, touching the lieutenant on the shoulder, said:

“General Gates wishes to see you at seven o’clock.”

The lad looked at his watch.

“I will go immediately,” he answered.

On entering the quarters of the commander-in-chief he was surprised to
find his father there. General Gates’s first words, however, explained
why the former commander was with him.

“Lieutenant Schuyler,” he said, “I sent for your father to consult with
him about a matter which gives me considerable anxiety. Ever since I
learned that the courier, Preston, whom I ignorantly set at liberty, had
papers for General Clinton in New York, I have been fearful lest that
officer should send a force up the river to the aid of General Burgoyne,
and attack us in the rear.

“I regard your father as altogether too sanguine when he declares it
impossible for Clinton to force his way up the river. It may be so, I
hope it is so; but that I may be certain there is no danger of such a
happening, I have decided to send a trustworthy messenger down the
Hudson to learn the exact condition of affairs there. Your father
suggested yourself as one who could perform the task to my satisfaction.
In my judgment you are rather young for such a trust; but there is some
truth in your father’s declaration that, ‘boys can sometimes pass
unnoticed where older messengers would excite suspicion.’ Therefore I
have decided to try you. Take as many friends as you think advisable;
tell my quartermaster to furnish you with horses and whatever else may
be needed, and get away to-night if possible. Go only far enough to make
certain we are safe from a rear attack for at least two weeks, and then
return with your report. Within that time we hope to overcome the enemy
in front of us.”

“I can be at Albany before daylight,” the lad said, and with a bow to
the commander and a whispered “good-by” to his father, he left the room,
but General Schuyler followed him.

“You will stop at our home, Phil?” the father said when they were out of
the building.

“Yes, for a few minutes.”

“Then assure your mother that my removal from command was due to no
fault of mine; that I hold enmity toward no one, and shall remain here
to do my full duty to our country.”

“I can tell her that, and also give her proof that you were removed
through the scheming of the enemy,” the boy answered, and then, as they
walked along, he told his father that of which Alexander Turnbull, the
spy, had boasted.

General Schuyler listened with the deepest interest, and when Philip had
concluded, exclaimed reverently:

“I thank the good Lord that He permitted you to overhear those
statements, my son. I did not dream that the Tories of this region were
back of the movement to oust me. No greater compliment could have been
paid, and I can now bear the seeming disgrace with more fortitude. In
time the world will know the truth, of that I am confident.”

“So am I,” the younger officer replied, laying his hand in his father’s
“and I can only hope to imitate the unselfish devotion to the Cause
which you, sir, are showing in an experience when many men would falter
in, if not wholly abandon, their efforts.”

Before nine o’clock Philip, accompanied by his three friends, all well
mounted and well armed, rode rapidly toward Albany. Two hours before
sunrise they had arrived at the town, and at one of the finest estates
on its outskirts drew rein. Phil, dismounting, pounded heavily on the
lodge gate with the stock of his rifle. Soon a voice cried:

“Who’s there?”

“Get up, Bill, and let us in,” the young officer replied.

“Ho! ’Tis you, Master Phil,” came the reply. “I’ll be there in a
minute.”

Then the bolts were shot back, the gate was thrown open, and the four
lads entered.

“We’ll go right to the barn with you, Bill, and turn in there for a few
hours,” the leader of the little party said. “I don’t care to disturb
mother until her usual hour for rising.”

“As you say, Master Phil,” the old servant replied, and in a few minutes
he had taken their horses, while the weary riders, throwing some
blankets on the soft hay, stretched themselves upon them and went to
sleep. They were aroused by a girlish voice calling:

“Phil! Brother Phil, where are you? Bill said you had come home.”

“Here I am, Susan,” Philip answered, and, rising, he went to the door of
the barn where he met his sister, who was a few years younger than
himself. After greeting her affectionately, he said: “I have three lads
with me. Will you tell mother? Then we’ll join you at the house.”

“Let me meet your friends first,” she said, waiting for them to come
forward. After they were presented, she remarked pleasantly:

“I’ve heard of you all through my father’s letters, and you will find a
warm welcome here.” Then she ran on ahead to announce their coming.

In a few minutes they were in the presence of Mistress Schuyler, who
received her son as only a fond mother can, and extended to the other
lads a most cordial greeting. A hearty meal was served a little later,
and then the daughter entertained the other boys while Phil and his
mother had a half-hour together, during which he delivered his father’s
message. With a heroism that matched her husband’s she sent back the
reply:

“Tell him we may be wronged, our best motives misunderstood, our most
earnest efforts unappreciated, but nothing can really disgrace us so
long as we are true to our duty.”

Changing horses at the stables, the four scouts continued their journey.
Down the west bank of the river they hastened, stopping occasionally at
the houses of well-known patriots, but hearing nothing of any
reinforcements for Burgoyne. Two days later they were at West Point,
closeted with its commander. When they had made known the purpose of
their long journey, he said:

“Return to your commander-in-chief with the assurance that he has
nothing to fear from any force General Clinton can send up the Hudson.
He has attempted that move already, and after capturing Fort Clinton and
Fort Montgomery, was compelled to turn back. Burgoyne has no hope of
succor from this quarter.”

Their mission accomplished, the young messengers, after a night’s rest,
set out on their return. Ten miles above the fort they halted in a
beautiful spot to allow their panting horses a breathing-time. The heavy
trees in their autumn foliage screened the travelers from any one on the
river, unless very near at hand, therefore it happened that a canoe,
sweeping around the bend a little below, was seen by them before its
single occupant became aware of their whereabouts.

While Late and Joe led the horses back farther among the foliage lest
they attract attention, the other two scouts concealed themselves behind
a large rock to watch the approaching voyager. At length Dan Cushing’s
keen eyes recognized him, and he whispered in greatest excitement:

“It is the courier, George Preston!”



                              CHAPTER XVI.
                       THE BITTER AND THE SWEET.


“Yes, it is the courier sure enough,” Philip said, “and he is probably
going to Burgoyne’s camp with a message from General Clinton. If we
could capture him, we might find out what Sir Henry proposes to do.”

“We wouldn’t unless we had better luck than when we caught him the time
before,” Dan replied grimly.

The lieutenant laughed. “You are right; but we’ll hope for better luck
this time.”

“How are you goin’ to get him?” Dan asked a moment later. “It don’t look
as if he was comin’ ashore right away.”

“Probably not for several hours,” Philip replied. “I suspect he passed
the night at the house of Beverly Robinson, near West Point, for he had
that Tory’s name on his list. Likely he is intending to take his dinner
with Isaac Neale, another Tory living five or six miles above us. We’ll
follow and see; if I’m correct, we’ll plan to seize him there.”

Master Preston was now opposite the lads, and paddled swiftly by,
unconscious of his danger. They waited until he had disappeared around a
bend in the river, and then went in search of their companions. Then it
was they arranged for Late and Joe to stay well in the rear with the
horses, while they kept the courier in sight.

Now and then a curve in the shore-line forced them to mount their horses
in order to keep pace with the voyager; but when they were come within a
half-mile of Isaac Neale’s house, the steeds were hidden in the woods
while all four scouts went up the trail on foot.

Snugly hidden behind one of the Tory’s barns, they watched Master
Preston as he came ashore and went up to the house.

“It lacks an hour of noon,” Philip said, looking at his watch, “and the
men are doubtless at their work. It is a good time to capture the
courier, and we’ll set about it at once.”

He gazed intently at the house. It was a two-story building, standing
bare and alone.

“I wish there were two more of us,” he added; “but we must do the best
we can. Joe is to take a station where he can watch the south and east
sides. Late is to stand guard over the north and west ends. Dan and I
will enter the house. Now!” and he led the way at full speed.

By the time Philip and his comrade were at the door, the other lads were
at their stations. The lieutenant and Dan entered without ceremony, to
find the courier in the act of ascending the stairs. Recognizing them
instantly, he ran swiftly, the scouts at his heels, into the nearest
chamber, the door of which he quickly closed and fastened.

Philip and Dan threw themselves upon the barrier, forcing an entrance
just in time to see Master Preston go out of the window. Dan ran back,
down the stairs and out of the main door; but Phil followed the
fugitive, intending to leap after him. But that act was unnecessary, for
Master Preston was already in the clutches of Late and Joe.

Philip noted that the man had been injured by the jump, and had lost not
only his hat, but the hair from his head.

“He wore a wig!” Philip cried in surprise. “There is where he hid his
letters,” and he hastened downstairs to where the prisoner lay.

“You have me this time,” the courier exclaimed as he caught sight of
Phil.

“And your papers,” the latter replied, picking up the wig to find a
pocket on the inside where was a small, thin, sealed package.

“That is what I meant,” Master Preston said with a groan. “Now you know
where I concealed the messages when you captured me before.”

“Where are you injured?” the young officer asked, stooping beside his
captive.

“He broke his leg when he jumped,” Late answered.

“When I struck the ground, you mean,” the courier added with a faint
attempt at a smile. “But for that I should have escaped.”

“Not much,” Joe interrupted, “for I had my rifle trained on you, an’ in
another minute would have fired.”

“Shall we carry him into the house?” Dan asked.

The women of the family had already gathered near, some crying
hysterically, others looking on with pale and frightened faces. The
eldest, Mistress Neale as her words proved, said somewhat timidly:

“Yes, take him into the house, good sirs, and I’ll send one of the girls
for her father, who is in the field. He will know just what to do.”

“Much as I regret it,” the leader of the squad replied gently, “I am
forced to ask you to delay sending for Master Neale.” Then to Joe, he
said, “Bring up the horses,” and to Late, “Keep guard here.”

Philip and Dan lifted the injured courier, carrying him up to the
chamber, where he was laid on the bed.

“I trust, Master Preston, that you will not be overlong in recovering,”
he said as he turned to leave the unfortunate fellow.

“A few weeks here will pass more pleasantly than months, perhaps, in the
dungeon of a fort,” Preston replied. “You are kind to leave me with my
friends.”

Before gaining the outer door, the boys heard him say to Mistress Neale,
who was striving to relieve his suffering:

“There goes the smartest Yankee I have fallen in with since I came to
this country. Burgoyne will be whipped, and it is largely due to him.”

“Who is he?” she asked.

“The son of General Schuyler,” was the answer.

The words could be heard in the yard, where the daughters of Mistress
Neale were still waiting. The eldest, a fair girl of sixteen or
seventeen years, turned and gazed at the young officer, who was mounting
his horse, with a look of admiration, and as he rode away said to her
younger sister:

“I don’t care if he is a rebel, he is handsomer than any British officer
I ever saw.”

Joe, who was nearer her than either of his comrades, heard the
confession, and it was a long time before he ceased teasing his chief
about the “Tory sweetheart.”

Four or five miles up the trail Philip opened the letter he had taken
from the wig of the courier. It read:

                                               “New York, October, 1777.

  “To General John Burgoyne,

  “Commanding His Majesty’s Army in Northern New York,

  “Honored Sir:—Your message, and also that of Lord Germain, reached me
  two weeks since by the hand of Master George Preston. He had been
  apprehended and held by the rebels for months, yet succeeded in
  keeping and at length delivering to me the messages entrusted to his
  care, an unusual exploit, for which he deserves the highest
  commendation. On receipt of them I immediately undertook to comply
  with your request and with the order of the war secretary, but, after
  reaching and capturing the forts known as Clinton and Montgomery a few
  miles up the river, I was compelled to abandon the enterprise. I
  regret greatly, therefore, to inform you there is no hope of my
  forcing the passage of the Hudson this season. I would suggest that
  you entrench yourself in some suitable place where you can maintain a
  defense during the winter, and doubtless in the spring I shall be able
  to come to your aid.

                     “I remain your obedient servant,

                                                         “Henry Clinton,

                   “Commanding His Majesty’s Army in Southern New York.”

Handing the missive to his companions in turn, Philip said:

“It would have done no great harm if we had not captured Preston.”

“It looks to me as though it would have discouraged Burgoyne a little
more,” Dan added.

“I guess he is blue enough now,” Late suggested.

“He is if matters have worked after the style they were goin’ when we
came away,” Joe added.

“Still, this letter confirms our report, and is from a source that
cannot be doubted,” Philip said cheerily. “General Gates need no longer
fear a foe in his rear.”

“An’ will have no excuse for not advancing,” Dan Cushing declared.

The lads finished their journey without other incident, and on the
evening of October sixth arrived at Bemis Heights. In a few minutes
later the commander-in-chief had heard their report and received the
letter from Sir Henry Clinton. The latter interested him greatly, and he
insisted on hearing a full account of how it came into his scout’s
hands.

“Your father was right, lieutenant,” he said graciously when the story
had been told. “I could not have sent one better fitted for the mission
than yourself. With no enemy to attack us in our rear, we can give our
undivided attention to those in front. I will soon issue an order for an
attack.”

But on the following morning such a step was unnecessary. At an early
hour, prompted by a threatened famine, General Burgoyne directed that a
foraging force, numbering fifteen hundred, break through the western
line of skirmishers and scour the surrounding country in search of food.
This movement was immediately detected by the Continentals, and,
mistaking it for the beginning of a general attack on the part of the
red-coats, they prepared for battle.

Leaving the breastworks they dashed down the hill upon the enemy’s
front. It was an attack which the British could not withstand, and they
gave way before it. Rallying, however, a little later, they drove the
assailants back.

To and fro they struggled, sometimes the British, sometimes the patriots
having the best of the contest. So evenly balanced were the contending
forces that the same cannon changed hands five times. Finally the
patriots succeeded in holding the piece, and their colonel leaping upon
it cried:

“I now dedicate this to the American cause.” Then he ordered it wheeled
around, and, having been loaded with British ammunition, it was
discharged again and again into the ranks of its former owners, becoming
an important factor in driving them from the field.

At the same time an extraordinary flank movement was being executed.
General Fraser, with the finest corps of the English army, fell upon the
left of the Continentals. Colonel Morgan’s riflemen drove the attacking
party back, and they in their turn charged impetuously upon the British
right. During the entire day there was no hotter fighting than that
which centered at this point.

Upon the heights stood an interested spectator. It was Colonel Arnold,
who, though deprived of his command, had not yet left the encampment. As
he watched the progress of the battle he could no longer restrain
himself. Mounting his horse, he rode at breakneck speed toward the left
field. General Gates immediately ordered one of his staff officers to
follow and recall the daring officer. But the aide could not overtake
him. Into the thickest of the fight, and on to the head of his regiment,
the impetuous colonel rode. His men recognized and received him with
cheers; then, rallying, they followed him in a charge before which the
red-coats wavered like grain before a tempest.

Colonel Morgan had already discovered that General Fraser was the
inspiration of the British forces, and, selecting some of his best
marksmen, he directed them to make the intrepid commander their special
target. Soon Fraser’s horse was shot under him; but he refused to retire
from the field. Mounting a fresh steed he again placed himself at the
head of his men, and a few moments later fell, mortally wounded.

This turned the tide of the battle. Though General Burgoyne in person
tried to rally his men, his efforts were vain. Driven from their
entrenchments by Arnold’s troops, they became demoralized and, after
firing a single volley, turned and fled.

In this last charge a bullet shattered Colonel Arnold’s thigh, and he
fell from his horse just as Major Armstrong, who had been sent to recall
him from the field, reached his side. He obeyed the order; but four men
carried him, and he left behind a shattered foe, and a victorious army.

Night fell, and the patriots remained in possession of the field. The
British fled, intending to cross the Hudson and return to Fort Edward.
Their loss was about seven hundred, while that of the Americans was but
one hundred and fifty.

General Gates, who had remained in the camp all day, then made a move
which is to his credit. Discovering, notwithstanding the heavy fog which
had set in, the attempt of Burgoyne to recross the river, he sent out a
force to prevent his escape. All the next day there was heavy
skirmishing, and then the harassed Britisher, leaving his baggage and
wounded, set out on a night march for Saratoga. On the ninth he encamped
on the heights north of the Fishkill. The patriots pursued, and on the
tenth arrived at the heights between Saratoga church and the river.

Then the fleeing general lost hope. His position was exposed to attack
on all sides; the roads to the north were impassable, and the woods
swarming with patriots. He had bread sufficient only for three days, and
no water. Surrender seemed inevitable.

On the thirteenth he called together his officers for council. While
they were deliberating grape-shot from the guns of the pursuers swept
across the table around which they were seated. Possibly it hastened
their decision. It was agreed to treat with the American commander for
honorable surrender.

It required three days for the two commanders to agree upon terms, but
on the sixteenth they were finally arranged, and on the seventeenth
articles were signed permitting the British to march out with the honors
of war, while on their part they surrendered artillery, arms, and
ammunition, agreeing not to re-enter the king’s service during the war.

General Burgoyne on that afternoon, in the presence of the two armies,
handed his sword to General Gates, who promptly returned it. Then the
entire British army, numbering nearly six thousand, filed off toward
Boston, from which port they were to embark for England.

The four young scouts watched the long line of prisoners as they filed
away, and Dan asked:

“What do you s’pose the king will say when he sees them come marchin’
home?”

“That the bottom has fallen out of his plans,” Philip replied with a
laugh.

“’Twon’t be so with our men,” Late added. “The news will put new fight
in ’em, an’ they’ll lick every red-coat that comes their way.”

“An’ the rest of the world will think we mean business,” Joe added
gleefully.

“I am confident it will secure for us the help of France, which means
that we shall gain what we are fighting for—our national independence,”
a voice behind them said.

Turning, the boys saw General Schuyler, who added: “In time to come, I
believe, it will generally be acknowledged that this battle of Saratoga
was one of the decisive battles of the world, and you, my lads, may be
proud because in it you have borne an honorable and important part.”

“Hurrah!” they all shouted, filled with enthusiasm at the thought.


Two weeks later General Schuyler and his son stood in the presence of
General Washington. During an hour they had been with him discussing the
details of the northern campaign, and now had arisen to depart. Taking
the father by the hand the brave commander-in-chief of the American
forces said:

“Never forget, sir, that at no time have I lost confidence in you, and I
shall not rest until I have secured your full vindication at the hands
of Congress.”

Then turning to the son he added:

“The part you have played in this notable victory has proved, my lad,
that you are the worthy son of a worthy sire. In my report to the
Congressional committee I shall recommend that you be given a captain’s
commission.”

“And what for my three comrades?” the young scout asked eagerly. “I
assure you they never once failed me, and two of them risked their lives
to save me from death. The other would have been with them in that
undertaking had not his duty called him elsewhere. If need be, give me
nothing, but bestow on them some evidence that you appreciate their
faithful work.”

“I leave it for their captain to make them warrant officers in his own
command,” was the smiling reply.

“They shall have, then, the highest places I can give them,” Phil said
stoutly, “and I can safely promise that you will hear good tidings from
them.”

A promise which was made good under General Lincoln when he took command
of the army in the south.


                                THE END.



                               Footnotes


[1]Major General Philip Schuyler, at this time commander of the army of
   the north, with headquarters at Fort Edwards, N. Y.

[2]Major General Arthur St. Clair, at this time commander of Fort
   Ticonderoga.

[3]Also called Mount Independence and Mount Defiance.

[4]Afterwards called Fort Schuyler. It was situated near the present
   city of Rome, N. Y.

[5]Joseph Brant, a Mohawk chief, who had been educated in England. His
   Indian name was Thayendanegea.

[6]Major-general Horatio Gates, he came from New England to succeed
   General Schuyler, but his estate was in Virginia.

[7]A little later Captain Brant with three hundred of his warriors swept
   through Mohawk valley committing some of the greatest atrocities of
   the war.



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                          Transcriber’s Notes


--Copyright notice provided as in the original—this e-text is public
  domain in the country of publication.

--Silently corrected palpable typos; left non-standard spellings and
  dialect unchanged.

--In the text versions, delimited italics text in _underscores_ (the
  HTML version reproduces the font form of the printed book.)

--Added a Table of Contents.





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