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A Soldier of Virginia by Burton Egbert Stevenson

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I turned from her without replying,--I could trust myself no further. Not
that I blamed her for hating me,--for she loved her son and I was the
shadow across his path,--but she was pressing me further than I had
counted on. I snatched up my hat as I ran along the hall and out the
great door toward the river. Spring was coming, the trees were shaking
out their foliage, along the river the wild flowers were beginning to
show their tiny faces, but I saw none of these as I broke my way through
the brush along the water's edge,--for perhaps even now he was asking
Dorothy to be his wife, and she was yielding to him. The thought maddened
me,--yet why should she do otherwise? What claim had I upon her? And yet
I had builded such a different future for her and me.

I had walked I know not how long when I came out suddenly upon the road
which wound along the bank and finally dipped to the ferry, and here I
sat down upon a log to think. If Dorothy accepted him, I could no longer
stay at Riverview. I must go away to Williamsburg and seek employment in
the campaign, if only as a ranger. It must soon commence, and surely
they would not refuse me in the ranks. As I sat absorbed in bitter
thought, I heard the sound of hoof beats up the road and saw a horseman
coming. I drew back behind a tree, for I was in no mood to talk to any
one, and gloomily watched him as he drew nearer. There seemed something
strangely familiar about the figure, and in an instant I recognized him.
It was Willoughby Newton. In another moment he had passed, his face a
picture of rage and shame. He was riding away from Riverview in anger,
and as I realized what that meant, I sprang forward with a great cry of
joy. He must have heard me, for he turned in the saddle and shook his
whip at me, and for an instant drew rein as though to stop. But he
thought better of it, for he settled again in the saddle, and was soon
out of sight down the road.

I had not waited so long, for settling my hat on my head, I set off up
the road as fast as my legs would carry me. It seemed to me I should
never reach the house, and I cursed the folly which had taken me so far
away, but at last I ran up the steps and into the hall. As I entered, I
caught a glimpse of a well-known gown in the hall above, and in an
instant I was up the stairs.

"Dorothy!" I gasped, seizing one of her hands, "Dorothy, tell me, you
have told him no?"

I must have been a surprising object, covered with dust and breathless,
but she leaned toward me and gave me her other hand.

"Yes, Tom," she said very softly, "I told him no. I do not love him, Tom,
and I could not marry a man I do not love."

"Oh, Dorothy," I cried, "if you knew how glad I am! If you knew how I
was raging along the river at the very thought that he was asking you,
and fearing for your reply; for he is a very fine fellow, Dorothy," and
I realized with amazement that all my resentment and anger against
Newton had vanished in an instant. "But when I saw him ride by like a
madman, I knew you had said no, and I came back as fast as I could to
make certain."

Somehow, as I was speaking, I had drawn her toward me, and my arm was
around her.

"Can you not guess, dear Dolly," I whispered "why I was so angry with
him last night? It was because I knew he was going to ask you, and I
feared that you might say yes."

I could feel her trembling now, and would have bent and kissed her, but
that she sprang from me with a little frightened cry, and I turned to see
her mother standing in the hall below.

"So," she said, mounting the steps with an ominous calmness, "my daughter
sees fit to reject the addresses of Mr. Newton and yet receive those of
Mr. Stewart. I perceive now why he was so deeply concerned in what I had
to tell him this morning. May I ask, Mr. Stewart, if you consider
yourself a good match for my daughter?"

"Good match or not, madame," I cried, "I love her, and if she will have
me, she shall be my wife!"

"Fine talk!" she sneered. "To what estate will you take her, sir? On
what income will you support her? My daughter has been accustomed to a
gentle life."

"And if I have no estate to which to take her," I cried, "if I have no
income by which to support her, remember, madame, that it is from choice,
not from necessity!"

I could have bit my tongue the moment the words were out. Her anger had
carried her further than she intended going, but for my ungenerous retort
there was no excuse.

"Am I to understand this is a threat?" she asked, very pale, but
quite composed.

"No, it is not a threat," I answered. "The words were spoken in anger,
and I am sorry for them. I have already told you my intentions in that
matter, and have no purpose to change my mind. I will win myself a name
and an estate, and then I will come back and claim your daughter. We
shall soon both be of age."

She laughed bitterly.

"Until that day, then, Mr. Stewart," she said, "I must ask you to have no
further intercourse with her. Perhaps at Williamsburg you will find a
more congenial lodging while you are making your fortune."

My blood rushed to my face at the insult, and I could not trust myself
to answer.

"Come, Dorothy," she continued, "you will go to your room," and she
pushed her on before her.

I watched them until they turned into the other corridor, and then went
slowly down the stairs. As I emerged upon the walk before the house, I
saw a negro riding up, whom I recognized as one of Colonel Washington's
servants. Some message for Dorothy from Betty Washington, no doubt, and I
turned moodily back toward the stables to get out my horse, for I was
determined to leave the place without delay. But I was arrested by the
negro calling to me.

"What is it, Sam?" I asked, as he cantered up beside me.

"Lettah f'um Kuhnal Washin'ton, sah," he said, and handed me the missive.

I tore it open with a trembling hand.

DEAR TOM [it ran],--I have procured you an appointment as lieutenant in
Captain Waggoner's company of Virginia troops, which are to make the
campaign with General Braddock. They are now in barracks at Winchester,
where you will join them as soon as possible.

Your friend, G. WASHINGTON.

"Sam," I said, "go back to the kitchen and tell Sukey to fill you up on
the best she's got," and I turned and ran into the house. I tapped at the
door of my aunt's room, and her voice bade me enter.

"I have just received a note from Colonel Washington," I said, "in which
he tells me that he has secured me a commission as lieutenant for the
campaign, so I will not need to trespass on your hospitality longer than
to-morrow morning."

There was a queer gleam in her eyes, which I thought I could read aright.

"Yes, there are many chances in war," I said bitterly, "and I am as like
as another to fall."

"I am not quite so bloodthirsty as you seem to think," she answered
coldly, "and perhaps a moment ago I spoke more harshly than I intended.
Everything you need for the journey you will please ask for. I wish you
every success."

"Thank you," I said, and left the room. My pack was soon made, for I had
seen enough of frontier fighting to know no extra baggage would be
permitted, and then I roamed up and down the house in hope of seeing
Dorothy. But she was nowhere visible, and at last I gave up the search
and went to bed.

I was up long before daylight, donned my old uniform, saw my horse fed
and saddled, ate my breakfast, and was ready to go. I took a last look
around my room, picked up my pack, and started down the stairs.

"Tom," whispered a voice above me, and I looked up and saw her. "Quick,
quick," she whispered, "say good-by."

"Oh, my love!" I cried, and I drew her lips down to mine.

"And you will not forget me, Tom?" she said. "I shall pray for you every
night and morning till you come back to me. Good-by."

"Forget you, Dolly? Nay, that will never be." And as I rode away through
the bleak, gray morning, the mist rolling up from hill and river
disclosed a world of wondrous fairness.

Which brings me back again to the camp at Winchester,--but what a
journey it has been! As I look back, nothing strikes me so greatly as
the length of the way by which I have come. I had thought that some
dozen pages at the most would suffice for my introduction, but memory
has led my pen along many a by-path, and paused beside a score of
half-forgotten landmarks. Well, as it was written, so let it stand, for
my heart is in it.

CHAPTER XIII

LIEUTENANT ALLEN SHOWS HIS SKILL

The days dragged on at Winchester, as days in camp will, and I accepted
no more invitations to mess with the officers of the line. Indeed, I
received none, and we provincial officers kept to ourselves. Major
Washington had returned to Mount Vernon, but I found many of my old
friends with the troops, so had no lack of company. There was Captain
Waggoner, who had got his promotion eight months before, and Peyronie,
recovered of his wound and eager for another bout with the French. He
also had been promoted for his gallantry, and now had his own company of
rangers. There was Captain Polson, for whom a tragic fate was waiting,
and my old captain, Adam Stephen. And there was Carolus Spiltdorph,
advanced to a lieutenancy like myself, and by great good fortune in my
company. We began to chum together at once,--sharing our blankets and
tobacco,--and continued so until the end.

Another friend I also found in young Harry Marsh, a son of Colonel Henry
Marsh, who owned a plantation some eight or ten miles above the Frederick
ferry, and a cousin of my aunt. Colonel Marsh had stopped one day at
Riverview, while on his way home from Hampton, and had made us all
promise to return his visit, but so many affairs had intervened that the
promise had never been kept. The boy, who was scarce nineteen, had
secured a berth as ensign in Peyronie's company, and he came frequently
with his captain to our quarters to listen with all his ears to our
stories of the Fort Necessity affair. He was a fresh, wholehearted
fellow, and though he persisted in considering us all as little less than
heroes, was himself heroic as any, as I was in the end to learn. We were
a hearty and good-tempered company, and spent our evenings together most
agreeably, discussing the campaign and the various small happenings of
the camp. But as Spiltdorph shrewdly remarked, we were none of us so
sanguinary as we had been a year before. I have since observed that the
more a man sees of war, the less his eagerness for blood.

From Lieutenant Allen I kept aloof as much as possible, and he on his
part took no notice whatever of me. Some rumor of my affair with him had
got about the camp, but as neither of us would say a word concerning it,
it was soon forgot in the press of greater matters. Whatever Allen's
personal character may have been, it is not to be denied that he labored
with us faithfully, though profanely, drilling us up and down the camp
till we were near fainting in the broiling sun, or exercising us in arms
for hours together, putting us through the same movement a hundred times,
till we had done it to his satisfaction. We grumbled of course, among
ourselves, but at the end of another fortnight the result of his work
began to be apparent, and Sir Peter Halket, when he inspected us just
before starting for Fort Cumberland, as the fortification at Will's Creek
was named, expressed himself well pleased with the progress we had made.

For the order to advance came at last, and after a two weeks' weary
journey along the road which had been widened for the passage of wagons
and artillery, we reached our destination and went into quarters there.
The barracks were much better appointed than were the ones at Winchester,
for this was to be the rendezvous of the entire force, and the
independent companies which Colonel Washington had stationed here the
previous summer had been at work all winter clearing the ground and
building the fort. They had cleared a wide space in the forest, and on a
little hill some two hundred yards from Will's Creek and four hundred
from the Potomac, had erected the stockade. It was near two hundred yards
in length from east to west, and some fifty in width, but rude enough,
consisting merely of a row of logs set upright in the ground and
projecting some twelve feet above it, loopholed, and sharpened at the
top. There were embrasures for twelve cannon, ten of which, all
four-pounders, were already mounted. Though frail as it could well be, it
was deemed sufficient to withstand any attack likely to be brought
against it. A great two-storied barrack for the officers of the line had
been erected within the stockade, and two magazines of heavy timber. The
men were camped about the fort, and half a mile away through the forest a
hundred Indians had pitched their wigwams. And here, on the tenth of May,
came the Forty-Eighth under Colonel Dunbar, and General Braddock himself
in his great traveling chariot, his staff riding behind and a body of
light horse on either side. We were paraded to welcome him, the drums
rolled out the grenadiers, the seventeen guns prescribed by the
regulations were fired, and the campaign was on in earnest.

The morning of the next day, the general held his first levee in his
tent, and all the officers called to pay their respects. He was a
heavy-set, red-faced man of some sixty years, with long, straight nose,
aggressive, pointed chin, and firm-set lips, and though he greeted us
civilly enough, there was a touch of insolence in his manner which he
made small effort to conceal, and which showed that it was not upon the
Virginia troops he placed reliance. Still, there was that in his
heavy-featured face and in his bearing which bespoke the soldier, and I
remembered Fontenoy and the record he had made there. In the afternoon,
there was a general review, and he rode up and down with his staff in
front of the whole force, most gorgeous in gold lace and brilliant
accoutrement. Of the twenty-two hundred men he looked at that day, the
nine Virginia companies found least favor in his eyes, for he deemed them
listless and mean-spirited,--an opinion which he was at no pains to keep
to himself, and which had the effect of making the bearing of his
officers toward us even more insulting.

As we were drawn up there in line, the orders for the camp were
published, the articles of war were read to us, and in the days that
followed there was great show of discipline. But it was only show, for
there was little real order, and even here on the edge of the
settlements, the food was so bad and so scarce that foraging parties were
sent to the neighboring plantations to seize what they could find, and a
general market established in the camp. To encourage the people to bring
in provisions, the price was raised a penny a pound, and any person who
ventured to interfere with one bringing provisions, or offered to buy of
him before he reached the public market, was to suffer death. These
regulations produced some supplies, though very little when compared to
our great needs.

A thing which encouraged me greatly to believe in the sagacity of our
commander was the pains he took to engage the good offices of the
Indians,--such of them, that is, as had not already been hopelessly
estranged by the outrages committed upon them by traders and
frontiersmen. Mr. Croghan, one of the best known of the traders, had
brought some fifty warriors to the camp, together with their women and
children, and on the morning of the twelfth, a congress was held at the
general's tent to receive them. All the officers were there, and when the
Indians were brought, the guard received them with firelocks rested.
There was great powwowing and smoking the pipe, and the general gave
them a belt of wampum and many presents, and urged them to take up the
hatchet against the French. This they agreed to do, and doubtless would
have done, but for the conduct of some of the officers of the line.

The Indian camp, with its bark wigwams and tall totem pole, had become a
great place of resort with certain of the officers. They had been
attracted first by the dancing and queer customs of the savages, and had
they come away when once their curiosity was satisfied, little harm had
been done. Unfortunately, after looking at the men they looked at the
women, and found some of them not unattractive. So, for want of something
better to do, they set about debauching them, and succeeded so well that
the warriors finally took their women away from the camp in disgust, and
never again came near it. Other Indians appeared from time to time, but
after begging all the rum and presents they could get, they left the camp
and we never saw them again. Many of them were Delawares, doubtless sent
as spies by the French. Another visitor was Captain Jack, the Black
Rifle, known and feared by the Indians the whole length of the frontier.
He had sworn undying vengeance against them, having come home to his
cabin one night to find his wife and children butchered, and had roamed
from the Carolinas to the Saint Lawrence, leaving a trail of Indian blood
behind him. He would have made a most useful ally, but he took offense at
some fancied slight, and one day abruptly disappeared in the forest.

Never during all these weeks did the regulars get over their astonishment
at sight of the tall warriors stalking through the camp, painted in red,
yellow, and black, and greased from head to foot, their ears slit, their
heads shaved save for the scalp-lock with its tuft of feathers; nor did
they cease to wonder at their skill in throwing the tomahawk and shooting
with the rifle, a skill of which we were to have abundant proof erelong.

It was not until four or five days after his arrival with General
Braddock that I had opportunity to see Colonel Washington. I met him one
evening as I was returning from guard duty, and I found him looking so
pale and dispirited that I was startled.

"You are not ill?" I cried, as I grasped his hand.

"Ill rather in spirit than in body, Tom," he answered, with a smile.
"Life in the general's tent is not a happy one. He has met with
nothing but vexation, worry, and delay since he has been in the
colony, and I believe he looks upon the country as void of honor and
honesty. I try to show him that he has seen only the darker side, and
we have frequent disputes, which sometimes wax very warm, for he is
incapable of arguing without growing angry. Not that I blame him
greatly," he added, with a sigh, "for the way the colonies have acted
in this matter is inexcusable. Wagons, horses, and provisions which
were promised us are not forthcoming, and without them we are stalled
here beyond hope of advance."

He passed his hand wearily before his eyes, and we walked some time
in silence.

"'Tis this delay which is ruining our great chance of success," he
continued at last. "Could we have reached the fort before the French
could reinforce it, the garrison must have deserted it or surrendered to
us. But now they will have time to send whatever force they wish into the
Ohio valley, and rouse all the Indian tribes for a hundred miles around.
For with the Indians, the French have played a wiser part than the
English, Tom, and have kept them ever their friends, while to-day we have
not an Indian in the camp."

"They will return," I said. "They have all promised to return."

Washington shook his head.

"They will not return. Gist knows the Indians as few other white men do,
and he assures me that they will not return."

"Well," I retorted hotly, "Indians or no Indians, the French cannot hope
to resist successfully an army such as ours."

For a moment Washington said nothing.

"You must not think me a croaker, Tom," and he smiled down at me again,
"but indeed I see many chances of failure. Even should we reach Fort
Duquesne in safety, we will scarce be in condition to besiege it, unless
the advance is conducted with rare skill and foresight."

I had nothing to say in answer, for in truth I believed he was looking
too much on the dark side, and yet did not like to tell him so.

"How do you find the general?" I asked.

"A proud, obstinate, brave man," he said, "who knows the science of war,
perhaps, but who is ill fitted to cope with the difficulties he has met
here and has still to meet. His great needs are patience and diplomacy
and a knowledge of Indian warfare. I would he had been with us last year
behind the walls of Fort Necessity."

"He has good advisers," I suggested. "Surely you can tell him what
occurred that day."

But again Washington shook his head.

"My advice, such as I have ventured to give him, has been mostly thrown
away. But his two other aides are good men,--Captain Orme and Captain
Morris,--and may yet bring him to reason. The general's secretary, Mr.
Shirley, is also an able man, but knows nothing of war. Indeed, he
accepted the position to learn something of the art, but I fancy is
disgusted with what knowledge he has already gained. As to the other
officers, there is little to say. Some are capable, but most are merely
insolent and ignorant, and all of them aim rather at displaying their own
abilities than strengthening the hands of the general. In fact, Tom, I
have regretted a score of times that I ever consented to make the
campaign."

"But if you had not, where should I have been?" I protested.

"At least, you had been in no danger from Lieutenant Allen's sword," he
laughed. "I have heard many stories of his skill since I have been in
camp, and perhaps it is as well he was in wine that night, and so not at
his best. How has he used you since?"

"Why, in truth," I said, somewhat nettled at his reference to Allen's
skill, "he has not so much as shown that he remembers me. But I shall
remind him of our engagement once the campaign is ended, and shall ask my
second to call upon him."

Washington laughed again, and I was glad to see that I had taken his mind
off his own affairs.

"I shall be at your service then, Tom," he said. "Remember, he is one of
the best swordsmen in the army, and you will do well to keep in practice.
Do not grow over-confident;" and he bade me good-by and turned back to
the general's quarters.

I thought his advice well given, and the very next day, to my great
delight, found in Captain Polson's company John Langlade, the man of whom
I had taken a dozen lessons at Williamsburg. He was very ready to accept
the chance to add a few shillings to his pay, so for an hour every
morning we exercised in a little open space behind the stockade. I soon
found with great satisfaction that I could hold my own against him,
though he was accounted a good swordsman, and he complimented me more
than once on my strength of wrist and quickness of eye.

We were hard at it one morning, when I heard some one approaching, and,
glancing around, saw that it was Lieutenant Allen. I flushed crimson
with chagrin, for that he guessed the reason of my diligence with the
foils, I could not doubt. But I continued my play as though I had not
seen him, and for some time he stood watching us with a dry smile.

"Very pretty," he said at last, as we stopped to breathe. "If all the
Virginia troops would spend their mornings to such advantage, I should
soon make soldiers of them despite themselves. Rapier play is most useful
when one is going to fight the French, who are masters at it. I fear my
own arm is growing rusty," he added carelessly. "Lend me your foil a
moment, Lieutenant Stewart."

I handed it to him without a word, wondering what the man would be at. He
took it nonchalantly, tested it, and turned to Langlade.

"Will you cross with me?" he said, and as Langlade nodded, he saluted and
they engaged. Almost before the ring of the first parade had died away,
Langlade's foil was flying through the air, and Allen was smiling blandly
into his astonished face.

"An accident, I do not doubt," he said coolly. "Such accidents will
happen sometimes. Will you try again?"

Langlade pressed his lips together, and without replying, picked up his
foil. I saw him measure Allen with his eye, and then they engaged a
second time. For a few moments, Allen contented himself with standing on
the defensive, parrying Langlade's savage thrusts with a coolness which
nothing could shake and an art that was consummate. Then he bent to the
attack, and touched his adversary on breast and arm and thigh, his point
reaching its mark with ease and seeming slowness.

"Really, I must go," he said at length. "The bout has done me a world of
good. I trust you will profit by the lesson, Lieutenant Stewart," and he
handed me back my foil, smiled full into my eyes, and walked away.

We both stared after him, until he turned the corner and was out of
sight.

"He's the devil himself," gasped Langlade, as our eyes met. "I have never
felt such a wrist. Did you see how he disarmed me? 'Twas no accident. My
fingers would have broken in an instant more, had I not let go the foil.
Who is he?"

"Lieutenant Allen, of the Forty-Fourth," I answered as carelessly
as I could.

Langlade fell silent a moment.

"I have heard of him," he said at last. "I do not wonder he disarmed me.
'Twas he who met the Comte d'Artois, the finest swordsman in the French
Guards, in a little wood on the border of Holland, one morning, over some
affair of honor. They had agreed that it should be to the death."

"And what was the result?" I questioned, looking out over the camp as
though little interested in the answer.

"Can you doubt?" asked Langlade. "Allen returned to England without a
scratch, and his opponent was carried back to Paris with a sword-thrust
through his heart, and buried beside his royal relatives at Saint
Denis. I pity any man who is called upon to face him. He has need to be
a master."

I nodded gloomily, put up the foils, and returned to my quarters, for I
was in no mood for further exercise that morning. What Allen had meant by
his last remark I could not doubt. The lesson I was to profit by was that
I should stand no chance against him.

CHAPTER XIV

I CHANCE UPON A TRAGEDY

As the first weeks of May passed, we slowly got into shape for the
advance, and I began to realize the magnitude of the task before us. Our
march to Great Meadows the year before, arduous as it had been, was mere
child's play to this, and I did not wonder that on every hand the general
found himself confronting obstacles well-nigh insurmountable. And each
day, as though to cover other defects, the discipline grew more exacting.
Arms were constantly inspected and overhauled; roll was called morning,
noon, and night; each regiment attended divine service around the colors
every Sabbath, though neither officers nor men got much good from it that
I could see; guard mount occurred each morning at eight o'clock; every
man was supplied with twenty-four rounds and extra flints, and also a new
shirt, a new pair of stockings and of shoes, and Osnabrig waistcoats and
breeches, the heat making the others insupportable, and with bladders for
their hats.

On the sixteenth, Colonel Gage, with two companies of the Forty-Fourth
and the last division of the train, toiled into camp, very weary and
travel-stained, and on this day, too, was the first death among the
officers, Captain Bromley, of Sir Peter Halket's, succumbing to
dysentery. Two days later, we all attended his funeral, and a most
impressive sight it was. A captain's guard marched before the coffin,
their firelocks reversed, and the drums beating the dead march. At the
grave the guard formed on either side, and the coffin, with sword and
sash upon it, was carried in between and lowered into place. The service
was read by Chaplain Hughes, of the Forty-Fourth, the guard fired three
volleys over the grave, and we returned to quarters.

There was a great demonstration next day to impress some Indians that had
come into camp. All the guns were fired, and drums and fifes were set to
beating and playing the point-of-war, and then four or five companies of
regulars were put through their manoeuvres. The Indians were vastly
astonished at seeing them move together as one man, and even to us
provincials it was a thrilling and impressive sight. And on the twentieth
happened one of the pleasantest incidents of the whole campaign.

The great difficulty which confronted our commander from the first was
the lack of means of transport. Of the three thousand horses and three
hundred wagons promised from the colonies, only two hundred horses and
twenty wagons were forthcoming, so that for a time it seemed that the
expedition must be abandoned. Small wonder the general raved and swore
at provincial perfidy and turpitude, the more so when it was
discovered that a great part of the provision furnished for the army
was utterly worthless, and the two hundred horses scarce able to stand
upon their feet.

Let me say here that I believe this purblind policy of delaying the
expedition instead of freely aiding it had much to do with the result.
Virginia did her part with some degree of willingness, but Pennsylvania,
whence the general expected to draw a great part of his transport and
provision, would do nothing. The Assembly spent its time bickering with
the governor, and when asked to contribute toward its own defense, made
the astounding statement that "they had rather the French should conquer
them than give up their privileges." Some of them even asserted that
there were no French, but that the whole affair was a scheme of the
politicians, and acted, to use Dinwiddie's words, as though they had
given their senses a long holiday.

Yet, strangely enough, it was from a Pennsylvanian that aid came at last,
for just when matters were at their worst and the general in despair,
there came to his quarters at Frederick a very famous gentleman,--more
famous still in the troublous times which are upon us now,--Mr. Benjamin
Franklin, of Philadelphia, director of posts in the colonies and sometime
printer of "Poor Richard." The general received him as his merit
warranted, and explained to him our difficulties. Mr. Franklin, as
Colonel Washington told me afterward, listened to it all with close
attention, putting in a keen question now and then, and at the end said
he believed he could secure us horses and wagons from his friends among
the Pennsylvania Dutch, who were ever ready to turn an honest penny. So
he wrote them a diplomatic letter, and the result was that, beside near a
hundred furnished earlier, there came to us at Cumberland on the
twentieth above eighty wagons, each with four horses, and the general
declared Mr. Franklin the only honest man he had met in America. We, too,
had cause to remember him, for all the officers were summoned to the
general's tent, and there was distributed to each of us a package
containing a generous supply of sugar, tea, coffee, chocolate, cheese,
butter, wine, spirits, hams, tongues, rice, and raisins, the gift of Mr.
Franklin and the Philadelphia Assembly.

There was high carnival in our tent that night, as you may well believe.
We were all there, all who had been present at Fort Necessity, and not
since the campaign opened had we sat down to such a feast. And when the
plates were cleared away and only the pipes and wine remained, Peyronie
sang us a song in French, and Spiltdorph one in German, and Polson one in
Gaelic, and old Christopher Gist, who stuck in his head to see what was
toward, was pressed to pay for his entertainment by giving us a Cherokee
war-song, which he did with much fire and spirit. We sat long into the
night talking of the past and of the future, and of the great things we
were going to accomplish. Nor did we forget to draft a letter of most
hearty thanks to Mr. Franklin, which was sent him, together with many
others, among them one from Sir Peter Halket himself.

The arrival of the wagons had done much to solve the problem of
transport, and on the next day preparations for the advance began in
earnest. The whole force of carpenters was put to work building a bridge
across the creek, the smiths sharpened the axes, and the bakers baked a
prodigious number of little biscuits for us to carry on the march. Two
hundred pioneers were sent out to cut the road, and from one end of the
camp to the other was the stir of preparation.

So two days passed, and on the afternoon of the twenty-fourth, Spiltdorph
and myself crossed the creek on the bridge, which was well-nigh
completed, and walked on into the forest to see what progress the
pioneers were making. We each took a firelock with us in hope of knocking
over some game for supper, to help out our dwindling larder. We found
that the pioneers had cut a road twelve feet wide some two miles into the
forest. It was a mere tunnel between the trees, whose branches overtopped
it with a roof of green, but it had been leveled with great care,--more
care than I thought necessary,--and would give smooth going to the wagons
and artillery. We reached the end of the road, where the axemen were
laboring faithfully, and after watching them for a time, were turning
back to camp, when Spiltdorph called my attention to the peculiar
appearance of the ground about us. We were in the midst of a grove of
chestnuts, and the leaves beneath them for rods around had been turned
over and the earth freshly raked up.

"What under heaven could have caused that?" asked Spiltdorph.

"Wild turkeys," I answered quickly, for I had often seen the like under
beeches and oaks as well as chestnuts. "Come on," I added, "perhaps they
are not far away."

"All right," said Spiltdorph, "a wild turkey would go exceeding well on
our table;" and he followed me into the forest. The turkeys had evidently
been frightened away by the approach of the pioneers, and had stopped
here and there to hunt for food, so that their track was easily followed.
I judged they could not be far away, and was looking every moment to see
their blue heads bobbing about among the underbrush, when I heard a sharp
fusilade of shots ahead.

"Somebody 's found 'em!" I cried. "Come on. Perhaps we can get some yet."

We tore through a bit of marshy ground, up a slight hill, and came
suddenly to the edge of a little clearing. One glance into it sent me
headlong behind a bush, and I tripped up Spiltdorph beside me.

"Good God, man!" he cried, but I had my hand over his mouth before he
could say more.

"Be still," I whispered "an you value your life. Look over there."

He peered around the bush and saw what I had seen, a dozen Indians in
full war paint busily engaged in setting fire to a log cabin which stood
in the middle of the clearing. They were going about the task in unwonted
silence, doubtless because of the nearness of our troops, and a half
dozen bodies, two of women and four of children, scattered on the ground
before the door, showed how completely they had done their work. Even as
we looked, two of them picked up the body of one of the women and threw
it into the burning house.

"The devils!" groaned Spiltdorph. "Oh, the devils!" and I felt my own
blood boiling in my veins.

"Come, we must do something!" I said. "We can kill two of them and reload
and kill two more before they can reach us. They will not dare pursue us
far toward the camp, and may even run at the first fire."

"Good!" said Spiltdorph, between his teeth. "Pick your man;" but before I
could reply he had jerked his musket to his shoulder with a cry of rage
and fired. An Indian had picked up one of the children, which must have
been only wounded, since it was crying lustily, and was just about to
pitch it on the fire, when Spiltdorph's bullet caught him full in the
breast. He threw up his hands and fell like a log, the child under him.
Quick as a flash, I fired and brought down another. For an instant the
Indians stood dazed at the suddenness of the attack, and then with a yell
they broke for the other side of the clearing. Spiltdorph would have
started down toward the house, but I held him back.

"Not yet," I said. "They will stop so soon as they get to cover.
Wait a bit."

We waited for half an hour, watching the smoke curling over the house,
and then, judging that the Indians had made off for fear of being
ambushed, we crossed the clearing. It took but a glance to read the
story. The women had been washing by the little brook before the cabin,
with the children playing about them, when the Indians had come up and
with a single volley killed them all except the child we had heard
crying. They had swooped down upon their victims, torn the scalps from
their heads, looted the house, and set fire to it. We dragged out the
body of the woman which had been thrown within, in the hope that a spark
of life might yet remain, but she was quite dead. Beneath the warrior
Spiltdorph had shot we found the child. It was a boy of some six or seven
years, and so covered with blood that it seemed it must be dead. But we
stripped it and washed it in the brook, and found no wounds upon it
except in the head, where it had been struck with a hatchet before its
scalp had been stripped off. The cold water brought it back to life and
it began to cry again, whereat Spiltdorph took off his coat and wrapped
it tenderly about it.

We washed the blood from the faces of the women and stood for a long time
looking down at them. They were both comely, the younger just at the dawn
of womanhood. They must have been talking merrily together, for their
faces were smiling as they had been in life.

As I stood looking so, I was startled by a kind of dry sobbing at my
elbow, and turned with a jerk to find a man standing there. He was
leaning on his rifle, gazing down at the dead, with no sound but the
choking in his throat. A brace of turkeys over his shoulder showed that
he had been hunting. In an instant I understood. It was the husband and
father come home. He did not move as I looked at him nor raise his eyes,
but stood transfixed under his agony. I glanced across at Spiltdorph, and
saw that his eyes were wet and his lips quivering. I did not venture to
speak, but my friend, who was ever more tactful than I, moved to the
man's side and placed his hand gently on his shoulder.

"They died an easy death," he said softly. "See, they are still smiling.
They had no fear, no agony. They were dead before they knew that danger
threatened. Let us thank God that they suffered no worse."

The man breathed a long sigh and his strength seemed to go suddenly from
him, for he dropped his rifle and fell upon his knees.

"This was my wife," he whispered. "This was my sister. These were my
children. What is there left on earth for me?"

I no longer sought to control the working of my face, and the tears were
streaming down Spiltdorph's cheeks. Great, gentle, manly heart, how I
loved you!

"Yes, there is something!" cried the man, and he sprang to his feet
and seized his gun. "There is vengeance! Friends, will you help me
bury my dead?"

"Yes, we will help," I said. He brought a spade and hoe from a little hut
near the stream, and we dug a broad and shallow trench and laid the
bodies in it.

"There is one missing," said the man, looking about him. "Where is he?"

"He is here," said Spiltdorph, opening his coat. "He is not dead. He may
yet live."

The father looked at the boy a moment, then fell on his knees and
kissed him.

"Thank God!" he cried, and the tears burst forth. We waited in silence
until the storm of grief was past. At last he wrapped the coat about the
child again, and came to us where we stood beside the grave.

"Friends," he said, "does either of you know the burial service? These
were virtuous and Christian women, and would wish a Christian burial."

Spiltdorph sadly shook his head, and the man turned to me. Could I do it?
I trembled at the thought. Yet how could I refuse?

"I know the service," I said, and took my place at the head of the grave.

The mists of evening were stealing up from the forest about us, and there
was no sound save the plashing of the brook over the stones at our feet.
Then it all faded from before me and I was standing again in a willow
grove with an open grave afar off.

"'I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord,'" It was not my
voice, but another ringing up to heaven from beside me. And the voice
kept on and on until the last amen.

We filled in the shallow grave and covered it with logs and rocks. Night
was at hand before we finished.

"You must come with us," said Spiltdorph to the stranger. "The doctor at
the fort will do what he can for the child. If you still think of
vengeance, you can march with us against the Indians and the French who
set them on."

He made a gesture of assent, and we set off through the forest.

"Stewart," asked Spiltdorph, in a low voice, after we had walked some
time in silence, "how does it happen you knew the burial service?"

"I have read it many times in the prayer-book," I answered simply.
"Moreover, I heard it one morning beside my mother's grave, and again
beside my grandfather's. I am not like to forget it."

He walked on for a moment, and then came close to me and caught my
hand in his.

"Forgive me," he said softly. "You have done a good and generous
thing. I can judge how much it cost you," and we said no more until we
reached the fort.

The news that the Indians had pushed hostilities so near the camp created
no little uproar, and a party was sent out at daybreak to scour the woods
and endeavor to teach the marauders a lesson, but they returned toward
evening without discovering a trace of them, and it was believed they had
made off to Fort Duquesne. The Indians whom we had killed were recognized
as two of a party of Delawares who had been in camp a few days before,
and who, it was now certain, had been sent as spies by the French and to
do us what harm they could. Wherefore it was ordered that no more
Delawares should be suffered to enter the camp.

We turned the child over to Doctor Craik, and took the man, whose
name, it seemed, was Nicholas Stith, to our tent with us, where we
gave him meat and drink, and did what we could to take his mind from
his misfortune. He remained with us some days, until his child died,
as it did at last, and then, finding our advance too slow to keep pace
with his passion for revenge, secured a store of ball and powder from
the magazine, slung his rifle across his back, and disappeared into
the forest.

In the mean time our preparations had been hurried on apace. It was no
light task to cut a road through near a hundred and fifty miles of virgin
forest, over two great mountain ranges and across innumerable streams,
nor was it lightly undertaken. Captain Waggoner brought with him to table
one night a copy of the orders for the march and for encampment, which
were adhered to with few changes during the whole advance, and we
discussed them thoroughly when the meal was finished, nor could we
discover in them much to criticise.

It was ordered that, to protect the baggage from Indian surprise and
insult, scouting parties were to be thrown well out upon the flanks and
in front and rear, and every commanding officer of a company was directed
to detach always upon his flanks a third of his men under command of a
sergeant, the sergeant in turn to detach upon his flanks a third of his
men under command of a corporal, these outparties to be relieved every
night at retreat beating, and to form the advanced pickets. The wagons,
artillery, and pack-horses were formed into three divisions, and the
provisions so distributed that each division was to be victualed from the
part of the line it covered, and a commissary was appointed for each. The
companies were to march two deep, that they might cover the line more
effectively. Sir Peter Halket was to lead the column and Colonel Dunbar
bring up the rear. An advance party of three hundred men was to precede
the column and clear the road.

The form of encampment differed little from that of march. The wagons
were to be drawn up in close order, the companies to face out, the
flanking parties to clear away the underbrush and saplings, half the
company remaining under arms the while, and finally a chain of sentries
was to be posted round the camp. Sir Peter Halket, with the Forty-Fourth,
was to march with the first division; Lieutenant-Colonel Burton with the
independent companies, provincials, and artillery, was to form the
second; and Colonel Dunbar, with the Forty-Eighth, the third.

I confess that when I had become acquainted with these orders, they
seemed to me most soldier-like. A copy of them lies before me now, and
even at this day, when I scan again the plan of march, I do not see how
it could be improved. I admit that there are others who know much more
of the art of war than I, and to them defects in the system may be at
once discernible. But at the time, these orders gave us all a most
exalted opinion of our general's ability, and I remembered with a smile
the gloomy prophecies of Colonel Washington. Surely, against such a
force, so ably handled, no army the French might muster could avail, and
I awaited the event with a confidence and eager anticipation which were
shared by all the others.

CHAPTER XV

WE START ON A WEARY JOURNEY

The twenty-ninth of May dawned clear and bright in pleasant contrast to
the violent storm which had raged the day before. Long ere daybreak, the
camp was alive with hurrying men, for the first detachment was to march
under command of Major Campbell, and the sun had scarce risen above the
horizon when the gates were thrown open and the troops filed out. Six
hundred of them there were, with two fieldpieces and fifty wagons of
provision, and very smart they looked as they fell into rank beyond the
bridge and set off westward. The whole camp was there to see them go, and
cheered them right heartily, for we were all of us glad that the long
waiting and delay had come to an end at last.

All day we could see them here and there in the intervales of the forest
pushing their way up a steep hill not two miles from the camp, and
darkness came before they passed the summit. Three wagons were utterly
destroyed in the passage, and new ones had to be sent from camp to
replace them, while many more were all but ruined. Spiltdorph and I
walked out to the place the next day and found it an almost perpendicular
rock, though two hundred men and a company of miners had been at work
for near a week trying to make it passable. We could see the detachment
slowly cutting its way through the valley below, and I reflected gloomily
that, at so slow a rate, the summer would be well-nigh gone before the
army could reach its destination. Indeed, I believe it would have gone to
pieces on this first spur of the Alleghenies, had not Lieutenant
Spendelow, of the seamen, discovered a valley round its foot.
Accordingly, a party of a hundred men was ordered out to clear a road
there, and worked to such purpose that at the end of two days an
extremely good one was completed, falling into the road made by Major
Campbell about a mile beyond the mountain.

On the seventh, Sir Peter Halket and the Forty-Eighth marched, in the
midst of a heavy storm, and at daybreak the next day it was our turn.
Under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Burton, all of the independent
companies and rangers left the camp, not, indeed, making so brilliant an
appearance as the regulars,--who stood on either side and laughed at
us,--but with a clearer comprehension of the work before us and a hearty
readiness to do it. It was not until the tenth that the third division
under Colonel Dunbar left the fort, and finally, on the eleventh, the
general joined the army where it had assembled at Spendelow camp, five
miles from the start.

Our tent that night was a gloomy place, for I think most of us, for the
first time since the campaign opened, began to doubt its ultimate
success. We soon finished with the food, and were smoking in gloomy
silence, when Peyronie came in, and after a glance around at our faces,
broke into a laugh.

"Ma foi!" he cried, "I thought I had chanced upon a meeting of our
Philadelphia friends,--they of the broad hats and sober coats,--and yet I
had never before known them to go to war."

"Do you call this going to war?" cried Waggoner. "I'm cursed if I do!"

Peyronie laughed louder than ever, and Waggoner motioned him to the pipes
and tobacco.

"By God, Peyronie!" he said. "I believe you would laugh in the face of
the devil."

Peyronie filled his pipe, chuckling to himself the while, and when he had
got it to drawing nicely, settled himself upon a stool.

"Why, to tell the truth," said he, "I was feeling sober enough myself
till I came in here, but the sight of you fellows sitting around for all
the world like death-heads at an Egyptian feast was too much for me. And
then," he added, "I have always found it better to laugh than to cry."

Waggoner looked at him with a grim smile, and there was a gleam in
Spiltdorph's eyes, though he tried to conceal himself behind a cloud of
smoke. Peyronie's good humor was infectious.

"Let me see," continued the Frenchman, "when was it the first detachment
left the fort?"

"The twenty-ninth of May," answered Waggoner shortly.

"And what day is this?"

"The eleventh of June."

"And how far have we come?"

"Five miles!" cried Waggoner. "Damn it, man, you know all this well
enough! Don't make me say it! It's incredible! Five miles in thirteen
days! Think of it!"

I heard Spiltdorph choking behind his cloud of smoke.

"Oh, come," said Peyronie, "that's not the way to look at it. Consider a
moment. It is one hundred and fifty miles to Fort Duquesne, so I am told.
At five-thirteenths of a mile a day, we shall arrive there nicely
in--in--let me see."

"In three hundred and ninety days!" cried Spiltdorph.

"Thank you, lieutenant," and Peyronie bowed toward Spiltdorph's nimbus.
"I was never good at figures. In three hundred and ninety days, then. You
see, we shall get to Fort Duquesne very comfortably by the middle of July
of next year. Perhaps the French will have grown weary of waiting for us
by that time, and we shall have only to march in and occupy the fort."

Waggoner snorted with anger.

"Come, talk sense, Peyronie," he said. "What's to be done?"

Peyronie smiled more blandly than ever.

"I fancy that is just what's troubling the general," he remarked. "I met
Colonel Washington a moment ago looking like a thunder-cloud, and he said
a council of war had been called at the general's tent."

"There was need of it," and Waggoner's brow cleared a little. "What
think you they will do?"

"Well," said Peyronie deliberately, "if it were left to me, the first
thing I should do would be to cut down Spiltdorph's supply of tobacco and
take away from him that great porcelain pipe, which must weigh two or
three pounds."

"I should like to see you do it," grunted Spiltdorph, and he took his
pipe from his lips to look at it lovingly. "Why, man, that pipe has been
in the family for half a dozen generations. There's only one other like
it in Germany."

"A most fortunate thing," remarked Peyronie dryly; "else Virginia could
not raise enough tobacco to supply the market. But, seriously, I believe
even the general will see the need of taking some radical action. He may
even be induced to leave behind one or two of his women and a few cases
of wine, if the matter be put before him plainly."

"Shut up, man!" cried Waggoner. "Do you want a court-martial?" And we
fell silent, for indeed the excesses of the officers of the line was a
sore subject with all of us. But Peyronie had made a good guess, as we
found out when the result of the council was made known next day.

It was pointed out that we had less than half the horses we really
needed, and those we had were so weak from the diet of leaves to which
they had been reduced that they could do little work. So the general
urged that all unnecessary baggage be sent back to the fort, and that as
many horses as possible be given to the public cause. He and his staff
set the example by contributing twenty horses, and this had so great
effect among the officers that near a hundred were added to the train.
They divested themselves, also, of all the baggage they did not need,
most of them even sending back their tents, and sharing the soldiers'
tents for the remainder of the campaign. Enough powder and stores were
left behind to clear twenty wagons, and all the king's wagons were
returned to the fort as being too heavy. A deprivation which, I doubt
not, cost some of the officers more than any other, was that of their
women, who were ordered back to the fort, and only two women for each
company were allowed to be victualed upon the march, but in this
particular the example set by the general was not so commendable as in
the matter of the horses. Three hundred lashes were ordered to any
soldier or non-commissioned officer who should be caught gaming or seen
drunk in camp, but these rigors did not affect those higher up, and the
officers still spent half the night over the cards or dice, and on such
occasions there was much wine and spirits drunk.

We of Waggoner's and Peyronie's companies fared very well, for though
we gave up one of our tents, it was only to bunk together in the other.
There was no room to spare, to be sure, and Peyronie grumbled that
every time a man turned over he disturbed the whole line of sleepers,
but we put the best face possible on the situation, and had little
cause for complaint, except at the food, which soon became most
villainous. I think Spiltdorph had some twinges concerning his pipe,
for he was a conscientious fellow, but he could not decide to give it
up, and finally kept it with him, arguing artfully that without it he
must inevitably fall ill, and so be of no use whatever. Dear fellow, I
wonder what warrior, the envy of his tribe, smokes it now in his wigwam
beside the Miami?

It took two days to repair our wagons and get our baggage readjusted, and
finally, on the thirteenth, the army set in motion again, winding along
the narrow road through the forest like some gigantic, parti-colored
serpent, with strength barely sufficient to drag its great length along.
It was noon of the next day before we reached Martin's plantation, scarce
five miles away. Yet here we had to stay another day, so nearly were the
horses spent, but at daybreak on the fifteenth the line moved again, and
we toiled up an extremely steep ascent for more than two miles. The
horses were quite unable to proceed, so half the troops were ordered to
ground arms and assist the wagons. It was weary work, nor was the descent
less perilous, and three of the wagons got beyond control and were dashed
to pieces at the bottom. So we struggled on over hills and through
valleys, until on the eighteenth we reached the Little Meadows. Here the
army was well-nigh stalled. The horses had grown every day weaker, and
many of them were already dead. Nor were the men in much better case, so
excessive had been the fatigues of the journey, for on many days they
had been under arms from sunrise till late into the night.

It was here, for the first time since our departure from Fort Cumberland,
that I chanced to see Colonel Washington, and I was shocked at the change
in his appearance. He was wan and livid, and seemed to have fallen away
greatly in flesh. To my startled inquiry, he replied that he had not been
able to shake off the fever, which had grown worse instead of better.

"But I will conquer it," he said, with a smile. "I cannot afford to miss
the end. From here, I believe our advance will be more rapid, for the
general has decided that he will leave his baggage and push on with a
picked body of the troops to meet the enemy."

I was rejoiced to hear it, though I did not learn until long afterwards
that it was by Colonel Washington's advice that this plan was adopted. A
detachment of four hundred men was sent out to cut a road to the little
crossing of the Yoxiogeny, and on the next day the general himself
followed with about nine hundred men, the pick of the whole command. The
Virginia companies were yet in fair condition, but the regulars had been
decimated by disease. Yet though our baggage was now reduced to thirty
wagons and our artillery to four howitzers and four twelve-pounders, we
seemed to have lost the power of motion, for we were four days in getting
twelve miles. Still, we were nearing Fort Duquesne, and the Indians, set
on by the French, began to harass us, and killed and scalped a straggler
now and then, always evading pursuit. On the evening of the nineteenth,
the guides reported that a great body of the enemy was advancing to
attack us, but they did not appear, though we remained for two hours
under arms, anxiously awaiting the event. From that time on, the Indians
hung upon our flanks, but vanished as by magic the moment we advanced
against them.

In consequence of these alarms, more stringent orders were issued to the
camp. On no account was a gun to be discharged unless at an enemy, the
pickets were always to load afresh when going on duty, and at daybreak to
examine their pans and put in fresh priming, and a reward of five pounds
was offered for every Indian scalp. Day after day we plodded on, and it
was not until the twenty-fifth of June that we reached the Great Meadows.

I surveyed with a melancholy interest the trenches of Fort Necessity,
which were yet clearly to be seen on the plain. Our detachment halted
here for a space, and it was while I was walking up and down along the
remnants of the old breastwork that I saw an officer ride up, spring from
his horse, and spend some minutes in a keen inspection of the
fortification. As he looked about him, he perceived me similarly engaged,
and, after a moment's hesitation, turned toward me. He made a brave
figure in his three-cornered hat, scarlet coat, and ample waistcoat, all
heavy with gold lace. His face was pale as from much loss of sleep, but
very pleasing, and as he stopped before me, I saw that his eyes were of
a clear and penetrating blue.

"This is the place, is it not," he asked, "where Colonel Washington made
his gallant stand against the French and Indians last year?"

"This is indeed the place, sir," I answered, my face flushing; "and it
warms my heart to know that you deem the action a gallant one."

"No man could do less," he said quickly. "He held off four times his
number, and at the end marched out with colors flying. I know many a
general who would have been glad to do so well. Do I guess aright,"
he added, with a smile, "when I venture to say that you were present
with him?"

"It was my great good fortune," I answered simply, but with a pride I did
not try to conceal.

"Let me introduce myself," he said, looking at me with greater interest.
"I am Captain Robert Orme, of General Brad dock's staff, and I have come
to admire Colonel Washington very greatly during the month that we have
been associated."

"And I," I said, "am Lieutenant Thomas Stewart, of Captain Waggoner's
Virginia Company."

"Lieutenant Stewart!" he cried, and his hand was clasping mine warmly.
"I am happy to meet you. Colonel Washington has told me of the part
you played."

"Not more happy than am I, captain, I am sure," I answered
heartily. "Colonel Washington has spoken to me of you and in terms
of warmest praise."

"Now 'tis my turn to blush!" he cried, laughing, and looking at my cheeks
which had turned red a moment before, "but my blood has been so spent in
this horrible march that I haven't a blush remaining."

"And how is Colonel Washington?" I questioned, glad to change the
subject. "The last I saw him, he seemed most ill."

Captain Orme looked at me quickly, "Have you not heard?" he asked, and
his face was very grave.

"I have heard nothing, sir," I answered, with a sinking heart.
"Pray tell me."

"Colonel Washington has been ill almost from the first. His indomitable
will kept him on horseback when he should have been in bed. At last, when
the fever had wasted him to a mere skeleton, and he spent his nights in
sleepless delirium, he broke down utterly. His body was no longer able to
obey his will. At the ford of the Yoxiogeny he attempted to mount his
horse and fell in a faint. He was carried to a tent and left with two or
three guards. So soon as he recovered consciousness, he tried to get up
to follow us, and was persuaded to lie still only when the general
promised he would send for him in order that he might be present when we
meet the French. He is a man who is an honor to Virginia," concluded
Orme, and he turned away hastily to hide his emotion, nor were my own
eyes wholly dry.

"Come," I said, "let me show you, sir, how the troops lay that day," and
as he assented, I led the way along the lines and pointed out the
position held by the enemy and how we had opposed them; but my thoughts
were miles away with that wasted figure tossing wearily from side to side
of a rude camp cot on the bank of the Yoxiogeny, with no other nurses
than two or three rough soldiers.

"'Twas well done," said Orme, when I had finished. "I see not how it
could have been better. And I trust the victory will be with us, not with
the French, when we meet before Duquesne."

"Of that there can be no question!" I cried. "Once we reach the fort, it
must fall before us."

"Faith, I believe so," laughed Orme. "My only fear is that they will run
away, and not stay to give us battle. Our spies have told us that such
was their intention," and he laughed again as he saw my fallen face.
"Why, I believe you are as great a fire-eater as the best of us,
lieutenant."

"In truth, sir," I answered, somewhat abashed at his merriment, "I
decided long ago that since I held no station in the world, I needs must
win one with my sword, but if I can find no employment for it, I see
small hope of advancement."

"Well, do not repine," and he smiled as he shook my hand, "for if the
French do not wait to meet us here, we shall yet find plenty of fighting
before us. This is only the first stage in the journey, and Duquesne once
ours, we press forward to join forces with the expeditions which are
moving against Canada. If I hear more from Colonel Washington, I shall
let you know."

I thanked him for his kindness, and watched him as he rode away
across the plain. When he was out of sight, I turned back to join my
company, and I felt that I had made a new friend, and one whom I was
proud to have.

CHAPTER XVI

THE END IN SIGHT

The country beyond Great Meadows was exceeding mountainous, and we could
proceed only a few miles each day, and that with the greatest
difficulty. The horses were by this time well-nigh useless, and at every
little hill half the men were compelled to ground arms and take a hand
at the wagons. It was work fatiguing beyond description, and our sick
list grew larger every day, while those who remained upon their feet
were in scarce better plight.

On the evening of the twenty-sixth, we reached the pass through which had
come the party of French and Indians to attack us at Fort Necessity. They
must have thought for a time to oppose us here, for we came upon traces
of a camp just broken up, with embers still glowing in the hollow, over
which they had prepared their food. Both French and Indians had been
present, for the former had written on the trees many insolent and
scurrilous expressions,--which gave me a poorer opinion of them than I
had yet entertained,--and the Indians had marked up the number of scalps
they had taken, some eight or ten in all. Whatever their intention may
have been, the sight of our strength had frightened them away, and we
saw no sign of them as we descended into the valley on the other side.

We toiled on all the next day over a road that was painfully familiar to
most of us, and in the evening came to Christopher Gist's plantation.
Spiltdorph and I made a circuit of the place that night, and I pointed
out to him the dispositions we had made for defense the year before. The
French had burned down all the buildings, but the half-finished trenches
could yet be seen, and the logs which were to have made the breastwork
still littered the ground.

Beyond Gist's, it was a new country to all of us, and grew more open, so
that we could make longer marches. We descended a broad valley to the
great crossing of the Yoxiogeny, which we passed on the thirtieth. The
general was under much apprehension lest the French ambush us here, and
so advanced most cautiously, but we saw no sign of any enemy. Beyond the
river was a great swamp, where a road of logs had to be built to support
the wagons and artillery, but we won through without accident, and two
days later reached a place called Jacob's cabin, not above thirty miles,
as the bird flies, from Fort Duquesne. Here the rumor ran through the
camp that we were to be held till Colonel Dunbar's division could be
brought up from the Little Meadows, and there was much savage comment at
our mess that evening.

"Why," cried Peyronie, who voiced the sentiment of all of us, "'twould
take two weeks or more to bring Dunbar up, and what are we to do
meantime? Sit here and eat this carrion?" and he looked disgustedly at
the mess of unsavory beef on the table, which was, to tell the truth,
most odoriferous. "'Tis rank folly to even think of such a course."

"So the general believes," said a pleasant voice, and I turned with a
start to see a gallant figure standing by the raised flap of the tent.

"Captain Orme!" I cried, springing to my feet, and I brought him in and
presented him to all the others. We pressed him to sit down, and though
he laughingly declined to partake of our rations, against which, he said,
Peyronie's remark had somehow prejudiced him, he consented to join us in
a glass of wine,--where Waggoner found the bottle I could never
guess,--in which we pledged the success of the campaign.

"So we are not to stop here?" asked Peyronie, when the toast was drunk.

"No," and Orme set down the glass. "The suggestion was made by Sir John
St. Clair, and a council was held half an hour since to consider it. It
was agreed without debate that we could not afford the delay, as the
provision is running low, and so we shall press on at once."

"'Tis the wiser course," said Waggoner. "We have men in plenty."

"So the general thinks," said Orme. "He has learned that there is only a
small garrison at the fort, which can scarce hope to resist us. But 'twas
not to talk of the campaign I came here. I had a note this evening from
Colonel Washington, which I knew Lieutenant Stewart would wish to see."

"Oh, yes!" I cried. "What says he, sir?"

Orme glanced about at the circle of attentive faces.

"I see Colonel Washington has many friends here," he said, with a smile.
"He writes that he is improving, and hopes soon to join us, and implores
me not to neglect to warn him so that he can be present when we meet the
French. I shall not neglect it," he added.

"Captain Orme," said Peyronie, after a moment, "I am sure I speak for all
these gentlemen when I say we deeply appreciate your kindness in coming
here to-night. There is not one of us who does not love Colonel
Washington. We thank you, sir," and Peyronie bowed with a grace worthy of
Versailles.

"Nay," protested Orme, bowing in his turn, "it was a little thing. I,
too, think much of Colonel Washington. Good-evening, gentlemen," and we
all arose and saluted him, remaining standing till he was out of sight.

"A gentleman and a soldier, if ever I saw one!" cried Peyronie. "A man
whom it is a privilege to know." And we all of us echoed the sentiment.
So, the next morning, the order was given to march as usual, and we made
about five miles to a salt lick in the marsh, where we camped for the
night. The next day we reached a little stream called Thicketty Run, and
here there was a longer halt, until we could gain some further
information of the enemy. Christopher Gist, by dint of many gifts and
much persuasion, had secured the services of eight Iroquois, lazy dogs,
who up to the present time had done little but eat and sleep. But we were
now so near the enemy that it was imperative to reconnoitre their
position, so, after much trouble, two of the Indians were induced to go
forward, and Gist himself was sent after them to see that they really did
approach the fort and not try to deceive us. This was the fourth of July,
just one year since we had marched away from Fort Necessity. All the next
day we remained at Thicketty Run, waiting for the scouts to come in, but
they did not appear until the sixth.

The Indians returned early in the morning, bringing with them the scalp
of a French officer they had killed near the fort, and stated that they
had seen none of the enemy except the one they had shot, and that the
French possessed no pass between us and Duquesne, and had seemingly made
no preparation to resist us. Gist got back later in the day, having
narrowly escaped capture by two Delawares, and confirmed this story. Such
carelessness on the part of the French seemed incredible, as the country
was very favorable to an ambuscade, and the officers were almost
unanimously of the opinion that it was their purpose to abandon the fort
at our approach.

These reports once received, we again broke camp and advanced toward the
Monongahela. An unhappy accident marked the day. Three or four men who
had loitered behind were surprised by some Indians, and killed and
scalped, before assistance could be sent them. This so excited our
scouting parties that they fired upon a body of our own Indians,
notwithstanding the fact that they made the preconcerted signal by
holding up a green bough and grounding arms. The son of Chief Monakatuca
was killed by the discharge, and it was feared for a time that the
Indians would leave in a body. But the general sent for them, condoled
with them and made them presents, ordered that Monakatuca's son be given
a military burial, and, in a word, handled them so adroitly that they
became more attached to us than ever. Additional scouting parties were
thrown out to right and left, and every precaution taken to prevent
further mishap.

The next day we endeavored to pass a little stream called Turtle Creek,
but found the road impracticable, so turned into the valley of another
stream, known as Long Run, and on the night of the eighth encamped within
a mile of the Monongahela, and only about ten from the fort. Here General
St. Clair, who seems from the first to have feared for the result,
advised that a detachment be sent forward to invest the fort, but it was
finally judged best to send the detachment from the next camp, from which
it could be readily reinforced in case it were attacked. We were to ford
the Monongahela at Crooked Run, march along the west bank to the mouth of
Turtle Creek, ford it a second time, and advance against the fort. Both
fords were described by the guides as very good ones and easy of
passage, while if we attempted to advance straight ahead on the east bank
of the river, we should encounter a very rough road, beside passing
through a country admirably fitted by nature for an ambuscade. Colonel
Gage was to march before daybreak to secure both fords, and the men
turned in with full assurance that the battle so long deferred and so
eagerly awaited was not far distant.

That night it so happened that I was placed in charge of one of the rear
pickets, and I sat with my back against a tree, smoking lazily and
wondering what the morrow would bring forth, when I heard a horse
galloping down the road, and a moment later the sharp challenge of a
sentry. I was on my feet in an instant, and saw that the picket had
evidently been satisfied that all was well, for he had permitted the
rider to pass. As he reached the edge of the camp, he emerged from the
shadow of the trees, and I started as I looked at him.

"Colonel Washington!" I cried, and as he checked his horse sharply, I was
at his side.

"Why, is it you, Tom?" he asked, and as I took his hand, I noticed how
thin it was. "Well, it seems I am in time."

"Yes," I said. "The battle, if there be one, must take place to-morrow."

"Why should there not be one?" he questioned, leaning down from his
saddle to see my face more clearly.

"The French may run away."

"True," he said, and sat for a moment thinking. "Yet it is not like them
to run without striking a blow. No, I believe we shall have a battle,
Tom, and I am glad that I am to be here to see it."

"But are you strong enough?" I asked. "You have not yet the air of a
well man."

He laughed lightly as he gathered up his reins. "In truth, Tom," he
said, "I am as weak as a man could well be and still sit his horse, but
the fever is broken and I shall be stronger to-morrow. But I must report
to the general. He may have work for me," and he set spurs to his horse
and was off.

I turned back to my station, musing on the iron will of this man, who
could drag his body from a bed of sickness when duty called and yet think
nothing of it. All about me gleamed the white tents in which the
grenadiers and provincials were sleeping, dreaming perchance of victory.
Alas, for how many of them was it their last sleep this side eternity!

The hours passed slowly and quietly. Presently the moon rose and
illumined the camp from end to end. Here and there I could see a picket
pacing back and forth, or an officer making his rounds. At headquarters
lights were still burning, and I did not doubt that an earnest
consultation was in progress there concerning the orders for the morrow.

At midnight came the relief, and I made the best of my way back to our
quarters, crawled into the tent, whose flaps were raised to let in every
breath of air stirring, and lay down beside Spiltdorph. I tried to move
softly, but he started awake and put out his hand and touched me.

"Is it you, Stewart?" he asked.

"Yes," I said, "just in from picket. Colonel Washington reached camp an
hour ago, to be here for to-morrow's battle."

"To-morrow's battle," repeated Spiltdorph softly. "Ah, yes, I had forgot.
Do you know, Stewart, if I were superstitious, I should fear the result
of to-morrow's battle, for I had a dream about it."

"What was the dream?" I asked.

"No matter, we are not women," and he turned to go to sleep again.
"Good-night."

"Good-night," I said, and in a few moments his deep breathing told me he
was again in the land of dreams. It was long before my own eyes closed,
and my dreams were not of battle, but of a bench upon the river's bank,
and a figure all in white sitting there beside me.

CHAPTER XVII

THE LESSON OF THE WILDERNESS

"Wake up, man, wake up!" cried a voice in my ear, and I opened my eyes to
see Spiltdorph's kindly face bending over me. "I let you sleep as long as
I could," he added, as I sat up and rubbed my eyes, "for I knew you
needed it, but the order has come for us to march."

"All right," I said. "I'll be ready in a minute," and I ran down to the
brook and dipped my hands and face in the cool, refreshing water. A
biscuit and a piece of cold beef formed my breakfast. Our company was
striking tents and falling in for the march, and the camp was astir from
end to end. The sun was just peeping over the tree-tops, for that
fateful Wednesday, the ninth of July, 1755, had dawned clear and fair,
and all the day rode through a sky whose perfect blue remained unbroken
by a cloud.

We were soon ready for the road, and while waiting the word, Captain
Waggoner told me that the advance had begun some hours before. At three
o'clock. Colonel Gage had marched with two companies of grenadiers and
two hundred rank and file to secure both crossings of the river, for it
was believed that at the second crossing the French would attack us,
unless they intended giving up the fort without a struggle. An hour
later, Sir John St. Clair had followed with a working party of two
hundred and fifty men, to clear the road for the passage of the baggage
and artillery. And at last came the word for us.

The ground sloped gently down to the Monongahela, nearly a mile away. The
river here was over three hundred yards in width, and the regulars had
been posted advantageously to guard against surprise. The baggage,
horses, and cattle were all got over safely, for the water was scarce
waist-deep at any point, and then the troops followed, so that the whole
army was soon across.

Before us stretched a level bottom, and here we were formed in proper
line of march, with colors flying, drums beating, and fifes playing
shrilly. The sun's slant rays were caught and multiplied a thousand times
on polished barrel and gold-laced helmet and glittering shoulder-knot.
Every man had been instructed to put off the torn and travel-stained
garments of Osnabrig he had worn upon the march, and to don his best
uniform, and very fresh and beautiful they looked, the Forty-Fourth with
its yellow facings, the Forty-Eighth with buff. Nor was the showing made
by the Virginia companies less handsome, though perhaps a shade more
sober. Nowhere was there visible a trace of that terrible journey through
the wilderness. It seemed that this splendent host must have been placed
here by some magic hand, alert, vigorous, immaculate, eager for the
battle. I have only to close my eyes to see again before me that
brilliant and gallant array. The hope of a speedy ending to their
struggle through the forest had brought new color to the faces of the
men, and a light into their eyes, such as I had not seen there for many
days. While we waited, the pieces were newly charged and primed, and the
clatter of the cartouch boxes, as they were thrown back into place, ran
up and down the lines.

At last came word from Gage that he had secured the second crossing,
having encountered only a small party of Indians, who had run away at the
first alarm, and that the route was clear. The drums beat the advance,
and the army swept forward as though on parade. It was a thrilling sight,
and in all that multitude there was not one who doubted the event. I
think even Colonel Washington's misgivings must have melted away before
that martial scene. The broad river rolled at our right, and beyond it
the hills, crowned with verdure, looked down upon us. I do not doubt that
from those heights the eyes of the enemy's spies were peering, and the
sight of our gallant and seemingly invincible army must have startled and
disheartened them. And as I looked along the ordered ranks, the barrels
gleaming at a single angle, four thousand feet moving to the drum tap, I
realized more deeply than ever that without training and discipline an
army could not exist.

When we reached the second ford, about one in the afternoon, we found
that the bank was not yet made passable for the wagons and artillery, so
we drew up along the shingle until this could be done. Pickets were
posted on the heights, and half the force kept under arms, in case of a
surprise. Spiltdorph and I sauntered together to the water's edge, and
watched the pioneers busy at their work. I saw that my companion was
preoccupied, and after a time he ceased to regard the men, but sat
looking afar off and pitching pebbles into the stream.

"Do you know, Stewart," he said at last, "I am becoming timid as a
girl. I told you I had a dream last night, and 't was so vivid I cannot
shake it off."

"Tell me the dream," I said.

"I dreamed that we met the French, and that I fell. I looked up, and you
were kneeling over me. But when I would have told you what I had to tell,
my voice was smothered in a rush of blood."

"Oh, come!" I cried, "this is mere foolishness. You do not believe in
dreams, Spiltdorph?"

"No," he answered. "And yet I never had such a dream as this."

"Why, man," I said, "look around you. Do you see any sign of the French?
And yet their fort is just behind the trees yonder."

He looked at me in silence for a moment, and made as if to speak, but the
tap of the drum brought us to our feet.

"Come," he said, "the road is finished. We shall soon see what truth
there is in dreams."

We took our places and the advance began again. First the Forty-Fourth
was passed over and the pickets of the right. The artillery, wagons, and
carrying horses followed, and then the provincial troops, the
Forty-Eighth, while the pickets of the left brought up the rear. At the
end of an hour the entire force was safe across, and as yet no sign of
the enemy. Such good fortune seemed well-nigh unbelievable, for we had
been assured there was no other place between us and the fort suited for
an ambuscade.

Our company halted near a rude cabin which stood upon the bank. It was
the house of Fraser, the trader, where Washington and Gist had found
shelter after their perilous passage of the Allegheny near two years
before. We had been there but a few minutes when Colonel Washington
himself rode up.

"Captain Waggoner," he said, "you will divide your company into four
flank parties, and throw them well out to the left of the line, fifty
yards at least. See that they get to their places at once, and that they
keep in touch, lest they mistake each other for the enemy."

He was off as Waggoner saluted, and I heard him giving similar orders to
Peyronie's company behind us. It was certain that the general was taking
no chance of ambuscade, however safe the road might seem. We were soon in
place, Captain Waggoner himself in command of one party, Spiltdorph of
the second, I of the third, and Lieutenant Wright of the fourth. As we
took our places, I could see something of the disposition of our force
and the contour of the ground. The guides and a few light horse headed
the column, followed by the vanguard, and the advance party under Gage.
Then came St. Clair's working party, two fieldpieces, tumbrels, light
horse, the general's guard, the convoy, and finally the rear guard.
Before us stretched a fertile bottom, covered by a fair, open walnut
wood, with very little underbrush, and rising gradually to a higher
bottom, which reached to a range of hills two or three hundred feet in
height. Here the forest grew more closely, the underbrush became more
dense, and a great thicket of pea-vines, wild grape, and trailers
completely shut off the view.

So soon as the line was formed, the drums beat the forward, and the
head of the column was soon out of sight among the trees, St. Clair's
working party cutting the road as they advanced. We were nearing the
tangle of underbrush, which I thought marked the course of a stream,
when there came suddenly a tremendous burst of firing from the front,
followed by a great uproar of yells. My heart leaped, for I knew the
French were upon us.

"Close up, men!" shouted Waggoner. "Bring your party up here, Stewart!"

I obeyed the order, and the other two parties joined us in a moment.
Scarcely had they done so, when the thicket in front of us burst into
flame, and three or four men fell. The others, well used, for the most
part, to this kind of fighting, took at once to the trees, and we
gradually worked our way forward, keeping up a spirited fire till we
reached the shelter of a huge log, which lay at the edge of the ravine.
As I looked over it, I saw that the gully swarmed with Indians, firing at
the main body of the troops, who seemed wedged in the narrow road. I
could see no French, and so judged they were attacking on the other side.

"We've got 'em now!" yelled Waggoner. "Give it to 'em, men!" and we
poured a well-directed volley into the yelling mob.

Fifteen or twenty fell, and the others, affrighted at the unexpected
slaughter, threw down their guns and started to run. We were reloading
with feverish haste, when from the woods behind us came a tremendous
volley. We faced about to receive this new attack, for we thought the
French were upon us. But we saw with horror that we were being fired at
by the regulars, who had taken us for the enemy in their madness, and
were preparing to fire again.

"You fools!" screamed Waggoner. "Oh, you fools!" and white with rage, he
gave the order to retreat.

A moment later, as I looked around, I saw that Spiltdorph was not with
us.

"Where is he?" I asked. "Where is Spiltdorph?"

Waggoner motioned behind us.

"He was hit," he said. "He was killed by those cowardly assassins."

"Perhaps he is not dead!" I cried, and before he could prevent me, I ran
back to the log. Not less than twenty dead lay near it, and in an instant
I saw my friend. I dropped beside him, and tore away his shirt. He had
been hit in the side by two bullets, and as I saw the wounds, I cursed
the insensate fools who had inflicted them. I tried to stanch the blood,
and as I raised his head, saw his eyes staring up at me.

"The dream!" he cried. "The dream! Stewart, listen. There is a
girl--at Hampton"--A rush of blood choked him. He tried to speak,
clutched at my sleeve, and then his head fell back, a great sigh shook
him, and he was dead.

The Indians were pouring back into the ravine, and I knew I could stay no
longer. So I laid him gently down, and with my heart aching as it had not
ached since my mother died, made my way back to my company. "There is a
girl," he had said, "at Hampton." What was it he had tried to tell? Well,
if God gave me life, I would find out.

But every other thought was driven from my mind in my astonishment and
horror at the scene before me. Gage's advance party had given way almost
at the first fire, just as Burton was forming to support them, and the
two commands were mingled in hopeless confusion. The officers spurred
their horses into the mob, and tried in vain to form the men in some sort
of order. The colors were advanced in different directions, but there was
none to rally to them, for the men remained huddled together like
frightened sheep. And all around them swept that leaden storm, whose
source they could not see, mowing them down like grain. They fired volley
after volley into the forest, but the enemy remained concealed in the
ravines on either side, and the bullets flew harmless above their heads.

At the moment I joined my company, General Braddock rode up, cursing like
a madman, and spurred his horse among the men. I could see him giving an
order, when his horse was hit and he barely saved himself from falling
under it. Another horse was brought, and in a moment he was again raving
up and down the lines.

"What means this?" he screamed, coming upon us suddenly, where we were
sheltering ourselves behind the trees and replying to the enemy's fire as
best we could. "Are you all damned cowards?"

"Cowards, sir!" cried Waggoner, his face aflame. "What mean you by that?"

"Mean?" yelled Braddock. "Damn you, sir, I'll show you what I mean! Come
out from behind those trees and fight like men!"

"Ay, and be killed for our pains!" cried Waggoner.

"What, sir!" and the general's face turned purple. "You dare dispute my
order?" and he raised his sword to strike, but his arm was caught before
it had descended.

"These men know best, sir," cried Washington, reining in his horse beside
him. "This is the only way to fight the Indians."

The general wrenched his arm away and, fairly foaming at the mouth,
spurred his horse forward and beat the men from behind the trees with the
flat of his sword.

"Back into the road, poltroons!" he yelled. "Back into the road! I'll
have no cowards in my army!"

Washington and Waggoner watched him with set faces, while the men, too
astounded to speak, fell slowly back into the open. Not until that moment
did I comprehend the blind folly of this man, determined to sacrifice his
army to his pride.

We fell back with our men, and there in the road found Peyronie, with the
remnant of his company, his face purple and his mouth working with rage.
All about us huddled the white-faced regulars,--the pride of the army,
the heroes of a score of battles!--crazed by fright, firing into the air
or at each other, seeing every moment their comrades falling about them,
killed by an unseen foe. I turned sick at heart as I looked at them. Hell
could hold no worse.

Hotter and hotter grew the fire, and I realized that it was not the
French attacking us at all, but only their Indian allies. Not half a
dozen Frenchmen had been seen. It was by the savages of the forest that
the best troops in Europe were being slaughtered. Sir Peter Halket was
dead, shot through the heart, and his son, stooping to pick him up, fell
a corpse across his body. Shirley was shot through the brain. Poison was
dead. Totten, Hamilton, Wright, Stone, were dead. Spendelow had fallen,
pierced by three bullets. The ground was strewn with dead and wounded.
Horses, maddened by wounds, dashed through the ranks and into the forest,
often bearing their riders to an awful death. The Indians, growing
bolder, stole from the ravines, and scalped the dead and wounded almost
before our eyes. I began to think it all a hideous nightmare. Surely such
a thing as this could not really be!

Colonel Burton had succeeded in turning some of his men about to face a
hill at our right, where the enemy seemed in great number, and we of
Waggoner's company joined him. A moment later, Colonel Washington, who
alone of the general's aides was left unwounded, galloped up and ordered
us to advance against the hill and carry it. With infinite difficulty, a
hundred men were collected who would still obey the order. As we
advanced, the enemy poured a galling fire upon us. A ball grazed my
forehead and sent a rush of blood into my eyes. I staggered forward, and
when I had wiped the blood away and looked about me, I saw with amazement
that our men had faced about and were retreating. I rushed after them and
joined two or three other officers who were trying to rally them. But
they were deaf to our entreaties and would not turn.

As I glanced back up the slope down which we had come, I saw a sight
which palsied me. Colonel Burton had fallen, seemingly with a wound in
the leg, and was slowly dragging himself back toward the lines. Behind
him, an Indian was dodging from tree to tree, intent on getting his
scalp. Burton saw the savage, and his face grew livid as he realized how
rapidly he was being overtaken. In an instant I was charging up the
slope, and ran past Burton with upraised sword. The Indian saw me coming,
and waited calmly, tomahawk in air. While I was yet ten or twelve paces
from him, I saw his hand quiver, and sprang to one side as the blade
flashed past my head. With a yell of disappointment, the Indian turned
and disappeared in the underbrush. I ran back to Burton, and stooped to
raise him.

"Allow me to aid you, Lieutenant Stewart," said a voice at my elbow, and
there stood Harry Marsh, as cool as though there were not an Indian
within a hundred miles. "I saw you turn back," he added, "and thought you
might need some help."

I nodded curtly, for the bullets were whistling about us in a manner far
from pleasing, and between us we lifted Burton and started back toward
the lines.

"My left leg seems paralyzed," he said. "The bullet must have struck a
nerve. If I could get on horseback, I should be all right again."

And then he staggered and nearly fell, for Marsh lay crumpled up in a
heap on the ground.

"He is dead," said Burton, as I stared down in horror at what an instant
before had been a brave, strong, hopeful human being. "A man never falls
like that unless he is dead. He was doubtless shot through the heart. He
was a brave boy. Did you know him?"

"His name was Marsh," I answered hoarsely. "He was my cousin."

"I shall not forget it," said Burton, and we stood a moment longer
looking down at the dead.

But it was folly to linger there, and we continued on, I helping Burton
as well as I could. And a great loathing came over me for this game
called war. We reached the lines in safety, where Burton was taken to the
rear and given surgical attention. His wound was not a bad one, and half
an hour later, I saw that he had made good his assertion that he would be
all right once he was on horseback.

In the mean time, affairs had gone from bad to worse, and the men were
wholly unnerved. Those who were serving the artillery were picked off,
and the pieces had been abandoned. A desperate effort was made to retake
them, but to no avail. The Indians had extended themselves along both
sides of the line, and had sharply attacked the baggage in the rear. The
men were crowded into a senseless, stupefied mob, their faces blanched
with horror and dripping with sweat, too terrified, many of them, to
reload their firelocks. The general rode up and down the line, exposing
himself with the utmost recklessness, but the men were long past the
reach of discipline. After all, human nature has its depths which no
drill-master can touch. Four horses were shot under him, and even while I
cursed his folly, I could not but admire his courage. Nor was the conduct
of his officers less gallant. Throwing themselves from the saddle, they
formed into platoons and advanced against the enemy, but not even by this
desperate means could the regulars be got to charge. So many officers
fell that at last it was as difficult to find any to give orders as to
obey them, and when, as a last desperate resort, the general, putting his
pride in his pocket, yielded to Washington's advice, and directed that
the troops divide into small parties and advance behind the trees to
surround the enemy, there was none to execute the manoeuvre, which,
earlier in the action, would have saved the day.

It was plain that all was lost, that there was nothing left but to
retreat. We had no longer an army, but a mere mob of panic-stricken men.
The hideous yelling of the savages, as they saw the slaughter they were
doing and exulted in it, the rattle of the musketry, the groans and
curses of the wounded who fell everywhere about us, the screams of the
maddened horses, combined into a bedlam such as I hope never to hear
again. Toward the last, the Virginia troops alone preserved any semblance
of order. Away off to the right, I caught a glimpse of Peyronie rallying
the remnant of his company, and I looked from them to the trembling
regulars, and remembered with a rush of bitterness how they had laughed
at us a month before.

Of a sudden there was a dash of hoofs beside me, and I saw the general
rein up beneath a tree and look up and down the field. Colonel Washington
was at his side, and seemed to be unwounded, though he had been ever
where the fight was thickest.

"This is mere slaughter!" the general cried at last. "We can do no more.
Colonel Washington, order the retreat sounded."

And as the drums rolled out the dismal strain which meant disgrace for
him and the blighting of all his hopes, he sat his horse with rigid face
and eyes from which all life had fled. He had been taught the lesson of
the wilderness.

CHAPTER XVIII

DEFEAT BECOMES DISHONOR

But there was worse to follow, for scarce had the first tap of the drums
echoed among the trees, when the mob of regulars became a mere frenzied
rabble. The officers tried to withdraw them from the field in some
semblance of order, but the men seemed seized with mad, blind,
unreasoning terror, and were soon beyond all hope of control. They rushed
from the field, sweeping their officers before them, and carrying with
them the provincial troops, who would have stood firm and behaved as
soldiers should. I was caught in one edge of the mob, as I tried to
restrain the men about me, and flung aside against a tree with such force
that I stood for a moment dazed by the blow, and then I saw I was beneath
the tree where Washington and Braddock sat their horses, watching with
grim faces the frenzied crowd sweep past. The soldiers flung away their
guns and accoutrements, their helmets, even their coats, that they might
flee the faster, and I saw one strike down a young subaltern who tried to
stay them. They jostled and fell over one another as sheep pursued by
dogs. I saw a horseman, his head bandaged in a bloody cloth, trying to
make way toward us against this cursing torrent, and recognized Captain
Orme. But he was dashed aside even as I had been, and for a moment I
thought he had been torn from his horse and trodden underfoot. Torn from
his horse he was, indeed, but escaped the latter fate, for some moments
later he came to us on foot through the trees.

"Come, sir," he cried to the general, as he gained his side, "you must
leave the field. There is no hope of getting a guard from among these
cowards or persuading them to make a stand."

Braddock turned to answer him, but as he did so, threw up his hands and
fell forward into the arms of his aide. I sprang to Orme's assistance,
and between us we eased him down. His horse, doubtless also struck by a
ball, dashed off screaming through the wood.

"They have done for me!" he groaned, as we placed his back against a
tree. "Curse them, they have done for me."

Washington, who had left his horse the instant he saw the general fall,
knelt and rested the wounded man's head upon his knee, and wiped the
bloody foam from off his lips.

"Where are you hit?" he asked.

"Here," and the general raised his left hand and touched his side. "'Tis
a mortal hurt, and I rejoice in it. I have no wish to survive this day's
disgrace."

He cast his bloodshot eyes at the rabble of fleeing men.

"And to think that they are soldiers of the line!" he moaned, and closed
his eyes, as though to shut out the sight.

"We must get him out of this," said Orme quietly, and he turned away to
call to some of the Forty-Eighth who were rushing past. But they did not
even turn their heads. With an oath, Orme seized one by the collar.

"A purse of sixty guineas!" he cried, dangling it before his eyes, but
the man threw him fiercely off, and continued on his way. Orme turned
back to us, his face grim with anger and despair.

"'Tis useless," he said. "We cannot stop them. The devil himself could
not stop them now."

The general had lain with his eyes closed and scarce breathing, so that I
thought that he had fainted. But he opened his eyes, and seemed to read
at a glance the meaning of Orme's set face.

"Gentlemen," he said, more gently than I had ever heard him speak, "I
pray you leave me here and provide for your own safety. I have but a
little time to live at best, and the Indians will be upon us in a moment.
Leave them to finish me. You could not do a kinder thing. I have no wish
that you should sacrifice your lives so uselessly by remaining here with
me. There has been enough of sacrifice this day."

Yes, he was a gallant man, and whatever of resentment had been in my
heart against him vanished in that instant. We three looked into each
other's eyes, and read the same determination there. We would save the
general, or die defending him. But the situation was indeed a
desperate one.

At that moment, a tumbrel drawn by two maddened horses dashed by. One
wheel caught against a tree, and before the horses could get it free or
break from the harness, I had sprung to their heads.

"Quick!" I cried, "I cannot hold them long."

They understood in a moment, and, not heeding the general's entreaties
and commands that he be left, lifted him gently into the cart. Washington
sprang in beside him, Orme to the front, and in an instant I was clinging
to the seat and we were tearing along the road. It was time, for as I
glanced back, I saw the Indians rushing from the wood, cutting down and
scalping the last of the fugitives. I saw that Orme was suffering from
his wound, which seemed a serious one, and so I took the lines, which he
relinquished without protest, and held the horses to the road as well as
I was able. The tumbrel thundered on, over rocks and stumps of trees,
over dead men,--ay, and living ones, I fear,--to the river-bank, where a
few of the Virginia troops, held together by Waggoner and Peyronie, had
drawn up. It did my heart good to see them standing there, so cool and
self-possessed, while that mob of regulars poured past them, frenzied
with fear. And the thought came to me that never hereafter would a blue
coat need give precedence to a red one.

We splashed down into the water and across the river without drawing
rein, since it was evident that no chance of safety lay on that side.
Waggoner seemed to understand what was in the cart, for he formed his men
behind us and followed us across the river. Scarcely had we reached the
other bank, when the Indians burst from the trees across the water, but
they stopped there and made no further effort at pursuit, returning to
the battleground to reap their unparalleled harvest of scalps and booty.
About half a mile from the river, we brought the horses to a stop to see
what would best be done.

"The general commands that a stand be made here," cried Washington,
leaping from the cart, and Orme jumped down beside him, while I secured
the horses.

"He is brave and determined as ever," said Washington in a low tone,
"though suffering fearfully. The ball has penetrated his lung, I fear,
for he can breathe only with great agony, and is spitting blood."

Colonel Burton joined us at that moment, and between us we lifted the
general from the cart and laid him on a bed of branches on the ground.

"Rally the men here," he said, setting his teeth to keep back the groan
which would have burst from him. "We will make a stand, and so soon as we
can get our force in shape, will march back against the enemy. We shall
know better how to deal with them the second time."

We turned away to the work of rallying the fugitives, but the task was
not a light one, for the men seemed possessed with the fear that the
savages were on their heels, and ran past us without heeding our commands
to halt. At last we got together above a hundred men, posted sentries,
and prepared to spend the night. Darkness was already coming on, and
finally Captain Orme and Colonel Washington, after having searched in
vain for Doctor Craik, themselves washed the general's wound and dressed
it as best they could. They found that the ball had shattered the right
arm, and then passed into the side, though how deeply it had penetrated
they had no means of telling.

Despite his suffering, he thought only of securing our position, and so
soon as his wound was dressed, he ordered Captain Waggoner and ten men to
march to our last camp and bring up some provisions which had been left
there. He directed Colonel Washington to ride at once to Colonel Dunbar's
camp, and order up the reinforcements for another advance against the
French. He dictated a letter to Dinwiddie calling for more troops, which
Washington was to take with him, and forward by messenger from Dunbar's
camp. Though so shaken in body he could scarce sit upright in the saddle,
Washington set off cheerfully on that frightful journey. Orme and I
watched him until he disappeared in the gloom.

"A gallant man," he said, as we turned back to the rude shelter which had
been thrown up over the place where the general lay. "I do not think I
have ever seen a braver. You could not see as I could the prodigies of
valor he performed to-day. And he seems to bear a charmed life, for
though his coat was pierced a dozen times and two horses were killed
under him, he has escaped without a scratch."

We walked on in silence until we reached headquarters, where Colonel
Burton was also sitting, suffering greatly from his wound now he was no
longer on horseback.

"Lieutenant Stewart," he said to me, "I place you in charge of the
sentries for the night. Will you make the rounds and see that all is
well? I know the men are weary, but I need hardly tell you that our
safety will depend upon their vigilance. Guard especially against a
surprise from the direction of the river."

I saluted, and started away to make the round. The sun had long since
sunk behind the trees in a cloud of blood-red vapor, which seemed to me
significant of the day. All about us through the forest arose the chorus
of night sounds, and afar off through the trees I could catch the
glinting of the river. What was happening beyond it, I dared not think.
And then I came to a sudden stop, for I had reached the spot where the
first sentry had been posted, but there was none in sight.

I thought for a moment that in the darkness I must have missed the
place, but as I looked about me more attentively, I saw that could not
be. I walked up and down, but could find no trace of him. Could it be
that the Indians had stolen upon him and killed him with a blow of
knife or tomahawk before he could cry out? Yet if that had happened,
where was the body?

I hurried on toward the spot where the next sentry had been posted, and
as I neared it, strained my eyes through the gloom, but could see no
trace of him. I told myself that I was yet too far away, and hurried
forward, but in a moment I had reached the place. There was no sentry
there. With the perspiration starting from my forehead, I peered among
the trees and asked myself what mysterious and terrible disaster
threatened us. The third sentry was missing like the others--the fourth
had disappeared--I made the whole round of the camp. Not a single
sentry remained. And then, of a sudden, the meaning of their absence
burst upon me.

I hurried back to the camp, passing the spot where we had quartered the
men whom we had rallied, but who were not placed on sentry duty.

As I expected, not one was there.

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