Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Al Haines. Thanks to Dave Maddock for the Lilypond work.
D'RI AND I
A TALE of DARING DEEDS in the SECOND WAR with the BRITISH.
Being the Memoirs of Colonel Ramon Bell, U.S.A.
BY IRVING BACHELLER, author of "Eben Holden."
TO MY WIFE
This is a tale of the adventurous and rugged pioneers, who,
unconquered by other foes, were ever at war with the ancient
wilderness, pushing the northern frontier of the white man farther
and farther to the west. Early in the last century they had
striped the wild waste of timber with roadways from Lake Champlain
to Lake Ontario, and spotted it with sown acres wide and fair; and
still, as they swung their axes with the mighty vigor of great
arms, the forest fell before them,
In a long valley south of the St. Lawrence, sequestered by river,
lake, and wilderness, they were slow to lose the simplicity, the
dialect, and the poverty of their fathers.
Some Frenchmen of wealth and title, having fled the Reign of
Terror, bought a tract of wild country there (six hundred and
thirty thousand acres) and began to fill it with fine homes. It
was said the great Napoleon himself would some day build a chateau
among them. A few men of leisure built manor-houses on the river
front, and so the Northern Yankee came to see something of the
splendor of the far world, with contempt, as we may well imagine,
for its waste of time and money.
Those days the North country was a theatre of interest and renown.
Its play was a tragedy; its setting the ancient wilderness; its
people of all conditions from king to farm hand. Chateau and
cabin, trail and forest road, soldier and civilian, lake and river,
now moonlit, now sunlit, now under ice and white with snow, were of
the shifting scenes in that play. Sometimes the stage was overrun
with cavalry and noisy with the clang of steel and the roar of the
The most important episodes herein are of history,--so romantic was
the life of that time and region. The marriage is almost literally
a matter of record.
A good part of the author's life has been spent among the children
of those old raiders--Yankee and Canadian--of the north and south
shores of the big river. Many a tale of the camp and the night
ride he has heard in the firelight of a winter's evening; long
familiar to him are the ruins of a rustic life more splendid in its
day than any north of Virginia. So his color is not all of books,
but of inheritance and of memory as well.
The purpose of this tale is to extend acquaintance with the plain
people who sweat and bled and limped and died for this Republic of
ours. Darius, or "D'ri" as the woods folk called him, was a
pure-bred Yankee, quaint, rugged, wise, truthful; Ramon had the
hardy traits of a Puritan father, softened by the more romantic
temperament of a French mother. They had no more love of fighting
than they had need of it.
[Transcriber's Note: The chapters in the original text were numbered,
but had no titles.]
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
D'RI AND I
I COULD NOT TELL WHICH OF THE TWO GIRLS I LOVED THE BETTER
HE WOULD HAVE FOUGHT TO THE DEATH IF I HAD BUT GIVEN HIM WORD
"COME, NOW, MY PRETTY PRISONER"
"WE 'LL TEK CARE O' THE OL' BRIG"
WE WERE BOTH NEAR BREAKING DOWN
"THEN I LEAVE ALL FOR YOU"
From a letter of Captain Darius Hawkins, U. S. A., introducing
Ramon Bell to the Comte de Chaumont:--
"MY DEAR COUNT: I commend to your kind offices my young friend
Ramon Bell, the son of Captain Bell, a cavalry officer who long ago
warmed his sword in the blood of the British on many a
battle-field. The young man is himself a born soldier, as brave as
he is tall and handsome. He has been but a month in the army, yet
I have not before seen a man who could handle horse and sword as if
they were part of him. He is a gentleman, also, and one after your
own heart, I know, my dear count, you will do everything you can to
further the work intrusted to him.
"Your obedient servant,
From a letter of Joseph Bonaparte, Comte de Survilliers,
introducing his friend Colonel Ramon Bell to Napoleon III of
"He has had a career romantic and interesting beyond that of any
man I have met in America. In the late war with England he was the
master of many situations most perilous and difficult. The scars
of ten bullets and four sabre-thrusts are on his body. It gives me
great pleasure, my dear Louis, to make you to know one of the most
gallant and chivalrous of men. He has other claims upon your
interest and hospitality, with which he will acquaint you in his
own delightful way."
D'RI AND I
A poet may be a good companion, but, so far as I know, he is ever
the worst of fathers. Even as grandfather he is too near, for one
poet can lay a streak of poverty over three generations. Doubt not
I know whereof I speak, dear reader, for my mother's father was a
poet--a French poet, too, whose lines had crossed the Atlantic long
before that summer of 1770 when he came to Montreal. He died
there, leaving only debts and those who had great need of a better
legacy--my mother and grandmother.
As to my father, he had none of that fatal folly in him. He was a
mountaineer of Vermont--a man of steely sinews that took well to
the grip of a sword. He cut his way to fame in the Northern army
when the British came first to give us battle, and a bloody way it
was. I have now a faded letter from Ethan Allen, grim old warrior,
in which he calls my father "the best swordsman that ever straddled
a horse." He was a "gallous chap" in his youth, so said my
grandmother, with a great love of good clothes and gunpowder. He
went to Montreal, as a boy, to be educated; took lessons in
fencing, fought a duel, ran away from school, and came home with
little learning and a wife. Punished by disinheritance, he took a
farm, and left the plough to go into battle.
I wonder often that my mother could put up with the stress and
hardship of his life, for she had had gentle breeding, of which I
knew little until I was grown to manhood, when I came to know also
what a woman will do for the love of her heart. I remember well
those tales of knights and ladies she used to tell me as we sat
together of an evening, and also those adventures of her own
knight, my good father, in the war with the British. My love of
arms and of a just quarrel began then.
After the war came hard times. My father had not prospered
handsomely, when, near the end of the summer of 1803, he sold his
farm, and we all started West, over rough trails and roadways.
There were seven of us, bound for the valley of the St.
Lawrence--my father and mother, my two sisters, my grandmother,
D'ri, the hired man, and myself, then a sturdy boy of ten. We had
an ox-team and -cart that carried our provision, the sacred feather
beds of my mother, and some few other things.
[Illustration: D'Ri and I.]
We drove with us the first flock of sheep that ever went West.
There were forty of them, and they filled our days with trouble.
But for our faithful dog Rover, I fear we should have lost heart
and left them to the wild wolves. The cart had a low cover of
canvas, and my mother and grandmother sat on the feather beds, and
rode with small comfort even where the roads were level. My father
let me carry my little pet rooster in a basket that hung from the
cart-axle when not in my keeping. The rooster had a harder time
than any of us, I fancy, for the days were hot and the roads rough.
He was always panting, with open mouth and thoughtful eye, when I
lifted the cover. But every day he gave us an example of
cheerfulness not wholly without effect. He crowed triumphantly,
betimes, in the hot basket, even when he was being tumbled about on
the swamp ways. Nights I always found a perch for him on the limb
of a near tree, above the reach of predatory creatures. Every
morning, as the dawn showed faintly in the tree-tops, he gave it a
lusty cheer, napping his wings with all the seeming of delight.
Then, often, while the echo rang, I would open my eyes and watch
the light grow in .the dusky cavern of the woods. He would sit
dozing awhile after the first outbreak, and presently as the flood
of light grew clearer, lift himself a little, take another peep at
the sky, and crow again, turning his head to hear those weird,
mocking roosters of the timber-land. Then, shortly, I would hear
my father poking the fire or saying, as he patted the rooster:
"Sass 'em back, ye noisy little brat! Thet 's right: holler. Tell
D'ri it's time t' bring some wood fer the fire."
In a few minutes the pot and kettle would be boiling and the camp
all astir. We had trout and partridge and venison a-plenty for our
meals, that were served in dishes of tin. Breakfast over, we
packed our things. The cart went on ahead, my father bringing the
oxen, while I started the sheep with D'ri.
Those sheep were as many thorns in our flesh that day we made off
in the deep woods from Lake Champlain. Travel was new to them, and
what with tearing through thickets and running wild in every slash,
they kept us jumping. When they were leg-weary and used to travel,
they began to go quietly. But slow work it was at best, ten or
twelve miles a day being all we could do, for the weather was hot
and our road like the way of the transgressor. Our second night in
the woods we could hear the wolves howling as we camped at dusk.
We built our fire near the shore of a big pond, its still water,
framed in the vivid green of young tamaracks. A great hill rose on
the farther side of it, with galleries of timber sloping to the
summit, and peopled with many birds. We huddled the sheep together
in a place where the trees were thick, while father brought from
the cart a coil of small rope. We wound it about the trees, so the
sheep were shut in a little yard. After supper we all sat by the
fire, while D'ri told how he had been chased by wolves in the
beaver country north of us.
D'ri was an odd character. He had his own way of expressing the
three degrees of wonder, admiration, and surprise.
"Jerushy!"--accented on the second syllable--was the positive,
"Jerushy Jane!" the comparative, and "Jerushy Jane Pepper!" the
superlative. Who that poor lady might be I often wondered, but
never ventured to inquire. In times of stress I have heard him
swear by "Judas Priest," but never more profanely. In his youth he
had been a sailor on the lake, when some artist of the needle had
tattooed a British jack on the back of his left hand--a thing he
covered, of shame now, when he thought of it. His right hand had
lost its forefinger in a sawmill. His rifle was distinguished by
the name of Beeswax,--"Ol' Beeswax" he called it sometimes,--for no
better reason than that it was "easy spoke an' hed a kind uv a
powerful soun' tew it." He had a nose like a shoemaker's thumb:
there was a deep incurve from its wide tip to his forehead. He had
a large, gray, inquiring eye and the watchful habit of the
woodsman. Somewhere in the midst of a story he would pause and
peer thoughtfully into the distance, meanwhile feeling the
pipe-stem with his lips, and then resume the narrative as suddenly
as he had stopped. He was a lank and powerful man, six feet tall
in his stockings. He wore a thin beard that had the appearance of
parched grass on his ruddy countenance. In the matter of hair,
nature had treated him with a generosity most unusual. His heavy
shock was sheared off square above his neck.
That evening, as he lay on his elbow in the firelight, D'ri had
just entered the eventful field of reminiscence. The women were
washing the dishes; my father had gone to the spring for water.
D'ri pulled up suddenly, lifted his hat of faded felt, and
listened, peering into the dusk.
"Seems t' me them wolves is comin' nearer," he said thoughtfully.
Their cries were echoing in the far timber. We all rose and
listened. In a moment my father came hurrying back with his pail
"D'ri," said he, quietly, as he threw some wood on the fire, "they
smell mutton. Mek the guns ready. We may git a few pelts.
There's a big bounty on 'em here 'n York State."
We all stood about the fire listening as the wolves came nearer.
"It 's the sheep thet brings 'em," said my father.
"Quite a consid'able number on 'em, tew," said D'ri, as he stood
cleaning the bore of his rifle.
My young sisters began to cry.
"Need n't be scairt," said father. "They won't come very near.
'Fraider of us 'n we are o' 'em, a good deal."
"Tow-w-w!" said D'ri, with a laugh. "They 'll be apt t' stub ther
toes 'fore they git very nigh us."
This did not quite agree with the tales he had previously been
telling. I went for my sword, and buckled its belt about me, the
scabbard hanging to my heels. Presently some creature came
bounding over the brush. I saw him break through the wall of
darkness and stop quickly in the firelight. Then D'ri brought him
down with his rifle.
"Started him up back there 'n the woods a few mild," said D'ri.
"He was mekin' fer this 'ere pond--thet 's what he was dewin'."
"What for?" I inquired.
"'Cause fer the reason why he knowed he would n't mek no tracks 'n
the water, ner no scent," said D'ri, with some show of contempt for
The deer lay floundering in the briers some fifty feet away. My
father ran with his knife and put him quickly out of misery. Then
we hauled the carcass to clear ground.
"Let it lie where 't is fer now," said he, as we came back to the
fire. Then he got our two big traps out of the cart and set them
beside the carcass and covered them with leaves. The howling of
the wolves had ceased. I could hear only the creaking of a dead
limb high above us, and the bellow of frogs in the near pond. We
had fastened the trap chains and were coming back to the fire, when
the dog rose, barking fiercely; then we heard the crack of D'ri's
"More 'n fifty wolves eroun' here," he whispered as we ran up to
him. "Never see sech a snag on 'em."
The sheep were stirring nervously. Near the pen a wolf lay kicking
where D'ri had dropped him.
"Rest on 'em snooked off when the gun hollered," he went on,
whispering as before.
My mother and grandmother sat with my sisters in the cart, hushing
their murmurs of fear. Early in the evening I had tied Rover to
the cart-wheel, where he was growling hotly, impatient of the leash.
"See?" said D'ri, pointing with his finger. "See 'em?--there 'n
the dark by thet air big hemlock."
We could make out a dim stir in the shadows where he pointed.
Presently we heard the spring and rattle of a trap. As we turned
that way, the other trap took hold hard; as it sprang, we could
hear a wolf yelp.
"Meks 'em holler," said D'ri, "thet ol' he-trap does, when it teks
holt. Stay here by the sheep, 'n' I 'll go over 'n' give 'em
somethin' fer spraint ankles."
Other wolves were swarming over the dead deer, and the two in the
traps were snarling and snapping at them. My father and D'ri fired
at the bunch, killing one of the captives and another--the largest
wolf I ever saw. The pack had slunk away as they heard the rifles.
Our remaining captive struggled to get free, but in a moment D'ri
had brained him with an axe. He and my father reset our traps and
hauled the dead wolves into the firelight. There they began to
skin them, for the bounty was ten dollars for each in the new
towns--a sum that made our adventure profitable. I built fires on
the farther side of the sheep, and, as they brightened, I could
see, here and there, the gleaming eyes of a wolf in the darkness.
I was up all night heaping wood upon the fires, while D'ri and my
father skinned the wolves and dressed the deer. I remember, as
they worked, D'ri calmed himself with the low-sung, familiar music
Li too rul I oorul I oorul I ay.
They had just finished when the cock crew.
"Holler, ye gol-dum little cuss!" D'ri shouted as he went over to
him. "Can't no snookin' wolf crack our bones fer _us_. Peeled
'em--thet 's what we done tew 'em! Tuk 'n' knocked 'em head over
heels. Judas Priest! He can peck a man's finger some, can't he?"
The light was coming, and he went off to the spring for water,
while I brought the spider and pots. The great, green-roofed
temple of the woods, that had so lately rung with the howl of
wolves, began to fill with far wandering echoes of sweet song.
"They was a big cat over there by the spring las' night," said
D'ri, as we all sat down to breakfast. "Tracks bigger 'n a
griddle! Smelt the mutton, mos' likely."
"Like mutton?" I inquired.
"Yis-sir-ee, they dew," said he. "Kind o' mince-pie fer 'em. Like
deer-meat, tew. Snook eroun' the ponds efter dark. Ef they see a
deer 'n the water they wallop 'im quicker 'n lightnin'; jump right
in k'slap 'n' tek 'im."
We were off at sunrise, on a road that grew rougher every mile. At
noon we came to a river so swollen as to make a dangerous ford.
After dinner my father waded in, going hips under where the water
was deep and swift. Then he cut a long pole and took my mother on
his shoulders and entered the broad stream, steadying himself with
the pole. When she had got down safe on the other side, he came
back for grandmother and my sisters, and took them over in the same
way. D'ri, meanwhile, bound up the feather beds and carried them
on his head, leaving the dog and me to tend the sheep. All our
blankets and clothing were carried across in the same manner. Then
I mounted the cart, with my rooster, lashing the oxen till they
took to the stream. They had tied the bell-wether to the axle,
and, as I started, men and dog drove the sheep after me. The oxen
wallowed in the deep water, and our sheep, after some hesitation,
began to swim. The big cart floated like a raft part of the way,
and we landed with no great difficulty. Farther on, the road
became nothing better than a rude trail, where, frequently, we had
to stop and chop through heavy logs and roll them away. On a steep
hillside the oxen fell, breaking the tongue, and the cart tipped
sidewise and rolled bottom up. My rooster was badly flung about,
and began crowing and flapping as the basket settled. When I
opened it, he flew out, running for his life, as if finally
resolved to quit us. Fortunately, we were all walking, and nobody
was hurt. My father and D'ri were busy half a day "righting up,"
as they called it, mending the tongue and cover, and getting the
cart on its wheels and down the steep pitch.
After two days of trail travel we came out on the Chateaugay road,
stopping awhile to bait our sheep and cattle on the tame grass and
tender briers. It was a great joy to see the clear road, with here
and there a settler's cabin, its yard aglow with the marigold, the
hollyhock, and the fragrant honeysuckle. We got to the tavern at
Chateaugay about dusk, and put up for the night, as becomes a
Next afternoon we came to rough roads again, camping at sundown
along the shore of a noisy brook. The dog began to bark fiercely
while supper was making, and scurried off into a thicket.
D'ri was stooping over, cooking the meat. He rose and listened.
"Thet air dog's a leetle scairt," said he. "Guess we better go 'n'
see whut 's the matter."
He took his rifle and I my sword,--I never thought of another
weapon,--making off through the brush. The dog came whining to
D'ri and rushing on, eager for us to follow. We hurried after him,
and in a moment D'ri and the dog, who were ahead of me, halted
"It 's a painter," said D'ri, as I came up. "See 'im in thet air
tree-top. I 'll larrup 'im with Ol' Beeswax, then jes' like es not
he 'll mek some music. Better grab holt o' the dog. 'T won't dew
fer 'im to git tew rambunctious, er the fust thing he knows he
won't hev no insides in 'im."
I could see the big cat clinging high in the top boughs of a birch
and looking calmly down at us. The tree-top swayed, quivering, as
it held the great dun beast. My heart was like to smother me when
D'ri raised his rifle and took aim. The dog broke away at the
crack of it. The painter reeled and spat; then he came crashing
through the branches, striking right and left with his fore paws to
save himself. He hit the ground heavily, and the dog was on him.
The painter lay as if dead. Before I could get near, Rover began
shaking him by the neck. He came to suddenly, and struck the dog
with a front claw, dragging him down. A loud yelp followed the
blow. Quick as a flash D'ri had caught the painter by the tail and
one hind leg. With a quick surge of his great, slouching
shoulders, he flung him at arm's-length. The lithe body doubled on
a tree trunk, quivered, and sank down, as the dog came free. In a
jiffy I had run my sword through the cat's belly and made an end of
"Knew 'f he got them hind hooks on thet air dog he 'd rake his ribs
right off," said D'ri, as he lifted his hat to scratch his head.
"Would n't 'a' left nothin' but the backbone,--nut a thing,--an'
thet would n't 'a' been a real fust-class one, nuther."
When D'ri was very positive, his words were well braced with
We took the painter by the hind legs and dragged him through the
bushes to our camp. The dog had a great rip across his shoulder,
where the claws had struck and made furrows; but he felt a mighty
pride in our capture, and never had a better appetite for a meal.
There were six more days of travel in that journey--travel so
fraught with hardships, I wonder that some days we had the heart to
press on. More than all, I wonder that the frail body of my mother
was equal to it. But I am writing no vain record of endurance. I
have written enough to suggest what moving meant in the wilderness.
There is but one more color in the scenes of that journey. The
fourth day after we left Chateaugay my grandmother fell ill and
died suddenly there in the deep woods. We were far from any
village, and sorrow slowed our steps. We pushed on, coming soon to
a sawmill and a small settlement. They told us there was neither
minister nor undertaker within forty miles. My father and D'ri
made the coffin of planed lumber, and lined it with deerskin, and
dug the grave on top of a high hill. When all was ready, my
father, who had always been much given to profanity, albeit I know
he was a kindly and honest man with no irreverence in his heart,
called D'ri aside.
"D'ri," said he, "ye 've alwus been more proper-spoken than I hev.
Say a word o' prayer?"
"Don't much b'lieve I could," said he, thoughtfully. "I hev been
t' meeting but I hain't never been no great hand fer prayin'."
"'T wouldn't sound right nohow, fer me t' pray," said my father, "I
got s' kind o' rough when I was in the army."
"'Fraid it 'll come a leetle unhandy fer me," said D'ri, with a
look of embarrassment, "but I don't never shirk a tough job ef it
hes t' be done."
Then he stepped forward, took off his faded hat, his brow wrinkling
deep, and said, in a drawling preacher tone that had no sound of
D'ri in it: "O God, tek care o' gran'ma. Help us t' go on careful,
an' when we 're riled, help us t' keep er mouths shet. O God, help
the ol' cart, an' the ex in pertic'lar. An' don't be noway hard on
June was half over when we came to our new home in the town of
Madrid--then a home only for the foxes and the fowls of the air and
their wild kin of the forest. The road ran through a little valley
thick with timber and rock-bound on the north. There were four
families within a mile of us, all comfortably settled in small log
houses. For temporary use we built a rude bark shanty that had a
partition of blankets, living in this primitive manner until my
father and D'ri had felled the timber and built a log house. We
brought flour from Malone,--a dozen sacks or more,--and while they
were building, I had to supply my mother with fish and game and
berries for the table--a thing easy enough to do in that land of
plenty. When the logs were cut and hewn I went away, horseback, to
Canton for a jug of rum. I was all day and half the night going
and coming, and fording the Grasse took me stirrups under.
Then the neighbors came to the raising--a jolly company that
shouted "Hee, oh, hee!" as they lifted each heavy log to its place,
and grew noisier quaffing the odorous red rum, that had a mighty
good look to me, although my father would not hear of my tasting
it. When it was all over, there was nothing to pay but our
While they were building bunks, I went off to sawmill with the oxen
for boards and shingles. Then, shortly, we had a roof over us, and
floors to walk on, and that luxury D'ri called a "pyaz," although
it was not more than a mere shelf with a roof over it. We chinked
the logs with moss and clay at first, putting up greased paper in
the window spaces. For months we knew not the luxury of the glass
That summer we "changed work" with the neighbors, and after we had
helped them awhile they turned to in the clearing of our farm. We
felled the trees in long, bushy windrows, heaping them up with
brush and small wood when the chopping was over. That done, we
fired the rows, filling the deep of heaven with smoke, as it seemed
to me, and lighting the night with great billows of flame.
By mid-autumn we had cleared to the stumps a strip half down the
valley from our door. Then we turned to on the land of our
neighbors, my time counting half, for I was sturdy and could swing
the axe to a line, and felt a joy in seeing the chips fly. But my
father kept an eye on me, and held me back as with a leash,
My mother was often sorely tried for the lack of things common as
dirt these better days. Frequently our only baking-powder was
white lye, made by dropping ash-cinders into wafer. Our cinders
were made by letting the sap of green timber drip into hot ashes.
Often deer's tallow, bear's grease, or raccoon's oil served for
shortening, and the leaves of the wild raspberry for tea. Our
neighbors went to mill at Canton--a journey of five days, going and
coming, with an ox-team, and beset with many difficulties. Then
one of them hollowed the top of a stump for his mortar and tied his
pestle to the bough of a tree. With a rope he drew the bough down,
which, as it sprang back, lifted the pestle that ground his grain.
But money was the rarest of all things in our neighborhood those
days. Pearlash, black-salts, West India pipe-staves, and rafts of
timber brought cash, but no other products of the early settler.
Late that fall my mother gave a dance, a rude but hearty pleasuring
that followed a long conference in which my father had a part.
They all agreed to turn to, after snowfall, on the river-land, cut
a raft of timber, and send it to Montreal in the spring. Our
things had come, including D'ri's fiddle, so that we had chairs and
bedsteads and other accessories of life not common among our
neighbors. My mother had a few jewels and some fine old furniture
that her father had given her,--really beautiful things, I have
since come to know,--and she showed them to those simple folk with
a mighty pride in her eyes.
Business over, D'ri took down his fiddle, that hung on the wall,
and made the strings roar as he tuned them. Then he threw his long
right leg over the other, and, as be drew the bow, his big foot
began to pat the floor a good pace away. His chin lifted, his
fingers flew, his bow quickened, the notes seemed to whirl and
scurry, light-footed as a rout of fairies. Meanwhile the toe of
his right boot counted the increasing tempo until it came up and
down like a ratchet.
Darius Olin was mostly of a slow and sober manner. To cross his
legs and feel a fiddle seemed to throw his heart open and put him
in full gear. Then his thoughts were quick, his eyes merry, his
heart was a fountain of joy. He would lean forward, swaying his
head, and shouting "Yip!" as the bow hurried. D'ri was a
hard-working man, but the feel of the fiddle warmed and limbered
him from toe to finger. He was over-modest, making light of his
skill if he ever spoke of it, and had no ear for a compliment.
While our elders were dancing, I and others of my age were playing
games in the kitchen--kissing-games with a rush and tumble in them,
puss-in-the-corner, hunt-the-squirrel, and the like. Even then I
thought I was in love with pretty Rose Merriman. She would never
let me kiss her, even though I had caught her and had the right.
This roundelay, sung while one was in the centre of a circling
group, ready to grab at the last word, brings back to me the sweet
faces, the bright eyes, the merry laughter of that night and others
Oh, hap-py is th' mil-ler who
lives by him-self! As th' wheel gos round, he
gath-ers in 'is wealth, One hand on the
hop-per and the oth-er on the bag; As the
wheel goes round, he cries out, "Grab!" Oh,
ain't you a lit-tle bit a-shamed o' this, Oh,
ain't you a lit-tle bit a-sham'd o' this, Oh,
ain't you a lit-tle bit a-sham'd o' this--To
stay all night for one sweet kiss? Oh, etc.
[Transcriber's note: A Lilypond (www.lilypond.org) rendition of
this song is at the end of this e-book.]
My mother gave me all the schooling I had that winter. A year
later they built a schoolhouse, not quite a mile away, where I
found more fun than learning. After two years I shouldered my axe
and went to the river-land with the choppers every winter morning.
My father was stronger than any of them except D'ri, who could
drive his axe to the bit every blow, day after day. He had the
strength of a giant, and no man I knew tried ever to cope with him.
By the middle of May we began rolling in for the raft. As soon as
they were floating, the logs were withed together and moored in
sections. The bay became presently a quaking, redolent plain of
When we started the raft, early in June, that summer of 1810, and
worked it into the broad river with sweeps and poles, I was aboard
with D'ri and six other men, bound for the big city of which I had
heard so much. I was to visit the relatives of my mother and spend
a year in the College de St. Pierre. We had a little frame house
on a big platform, back of the middle section of the raft, with
bunks in it, where we ate and slept and told stories. Lying on the
platform, there was a large flat stone that held our fires for both
cooking and comfort. D'ri called me in the dusk of the early
morning, the first night out, and said we were near the Sault. I
got up, rubbed my eyes, and felt a mighty thrill as I heard the
roar of the great rapids and the creaking withes, and felt the lift
of the speeding water. D'ri said they had broken the raft into
three parts, ours being hindmost. The roaring grew louder, until
my shout was as a whisper in a hurricane. The logs began to heave
and fall, and waves came rushing through them. Sheets of spray
shot skyward, coming down like a shower. We were shaken as by an
earthquake in the rough water. Then the roar fell back of us, and
the raft grew steady.
"Gin us a tough twist," said D'ri, shouting down at me--"kind uv a
twist o' the bit 'n' a kick 'n the side."
It was coming daylight as we sailed into still water, and then D'ri
put his hands to his mouth and hailed loudly, getting an answer out
of the gloom ahead.
"Gol-dum ef it hain't the power uv a thousan' painters!" D'ri
continued, laughing as he spoke. "Never see nothin' jump 'n' kick
'n' spit like thet air, 'less it hed fur on--never 'n all my born
D'ri's sober face showed dimly now in the dawn. His hands were on
his hips; his faded felt hat was tipped sideways. His boots and
trousers were quarrelling over that disputed territory between his
knees and ankles. His boots had checked the invasion.
"Smooth water now," said he, thoughtfully, "Seems terrible still.
Hain't a breath uv air stirrin'. Jerushy Jane Pepper! Wha' does
He stepped aside quickly as some bits of bark and a small bough of
hemlock fell at our feet. Then a shower of pine needles came
slowly down, scattering over us and hitting the timber with a faint
hiss. Before we could look up, a dry stick as long as a log fell
rattling on the platform.
"Never see no sech dom's afore," said D'ri, looking upward.
"Things don't seem t' me t' be actin' eggzac'ly nat'ral--nut jest
es I 'd like t' see 'em."
As the light came clearer, we saw clouds heaped black and blue over
the tree-tops in the southwest. We stood a moment looking. The
clouds were heaping higher, pulsing with light, roaring with
thunder. What seemed to be a flock of pigeons rose suddenly above
the far forest, and then fell as if they had all been shot. A gust
of wind coasted down the still ether, fluttering like a rag and
shaking out a few drops of rain.
"Look there!" I shouted, pointing aloft.
"Hark!" said D'ri, sharply, raising his hand of three fingers.
We could hear a far sound like that of a great wagon rumbling on a
"The Almighty 's whippin' his hosses," said D'ri. "Looks es ef he
wus plungin' 'em through the woods 'way yender. Look a' thet air
The cloud-masses were looming rapidly. They had a glow like that
"Tryin' t' put a ruf on the world," my companion shouted.
"Swingin' ther hammers hard on the rivets."
A little peak of green vapor showed above the sky-line. It loomed
high as we looked. It grew into a lofty column, reeling far above
the forest. Below it we could see a mighty heaving in the
tree-tops. Something like an immense bird was hurtling and
pirouetting in the air above them. The tower of green looked now
like a great flaring bucket hooped with fire and overflowing with
darkness. Our ears were full of a mighty voice out of the heavens.
A wind came roaring down some tideway of the air like water in a
flume. It seemed to tap the sky. Before I could gather my
thoughts we were in a torrent of rushing air, and the raft had
begun to heave and toss. I felt D'ri take my hand in his. I could
just see his face, for the morning had turned dark suddenly. His
lips were moving, but I could hear nothing he said. Then he lay
flat, pulling me down. Above and around were all the noises that
ever came to the ear of man--the beating of drums, the bellowing of
cattle, the crash of falling trees, the shriek of women, the rattle
of machinery, the roar of waters, the crack of rifles, the blowing
of trumpets, the braying of asses, and sounds the like of which I
have never heard and pray God I may not hear again, one and then
another dominating the mighty chorus. Behind us, in the gloom, I
could see, or thought I could see, the reeling mass of green
ploughing the water, like a ship with chains of gold flashing over
bulwarks of fire. In a moment something happened of which I have
never had any definite notion. I felt the strong arm of D'ri
clasping me tightly. I heard the thump and roll and rattle of the
logs heaping above us; I felt the water washing over me; but I
could see nothing. I knew the raft had doubled; it would fall and
grind our bones: but I made no effort to save myself. And thinking
how helpless I felt is the last I remember of the great windfall of
June 3, 1810, the path of which may be seen now, fifty years after
that memorable day, and I suppose it will be visible long after my
bones have crumbled. I thought I had been sleeping when I came to;
at least, I had dreamed. I was in some place where it was dark and
still. I could hear nothing but the drip of water; I could feel
the arm of D'ri about me, and I called to him, and then I felt him
"Thet you, Ray?" said he, lifting his head.
"Yes," I answered. "Where are we?"
"Judas Priest! I ain' no idee. Jes' woke up. Been a-layin' here
tryin' t' think. Ye hurt?"
"Guess not," said I.
"Ain't ye got no pains or aches nowhere 'n yer body?"
"Head aches a little," said I.
He rose to his elbow, and made a light with his flint and tinder,
and looked at me.
"Got a goose-egg on yer for'ard," said he, and then I saw there was
blood on his face.
"Ef it hed n't been fer the withes they 'd 'a' ground us t' powder."
We were lying alongside the little house, and the logs were leaning
to it above us.
"Jerushy Jane Pepper!" D'ri exclaimed, rising to his knees. "'S
whut I call a twister."
He began to whittle a piece of the splintered platform. Then he
lit a shaving.
"They 's ground here," said he, as he began to kindle a fire,
"ground a-plenty right under us."
The firelight gave us a good look at our cave under the logs. It
was about ten feet long and probably half as high. The logs had
crashed through the side of the house in one or two places, and its
roof was a wreck.
"Hungry?" said D'ri, as he broke a piece of board on his knee.
"Yes," I answered.
"So 'm I," said he, "hungrier 'n a she-wolf. They 's some bread
'n' ven'son there 'n the house; we better try t' git 'em."
An opening under the logs let me around the house corner to its
door. I was able to work my way through the latter, although it
was choked with heavy timbers. Inside I could hear the wash of the
river, and through its shattered window on the farther wall I could
see between the heaped logs a glow of sunlit water. I handed our
axe through a break in the wall, and then D'ri cut away some of the
baseboards and joined me. We had our meal cooking in a few
minutes--our dinner, really, for D'ri said it was near noon.
Having eaten, we crawled out of the window, and then D'ri began to
pry the logs apart.
"Ain't much 'fraid o' their tumblin' on us," said he. "They 're
withed so they 'll stick together."
We got to another cave under the logs, at the water's edge, after
an hour of crawling and prying. A side of the raft was in the
"Got t' dive," said D'ri, "an' swim fer daylight."
A long swim it was, but we came up in clear water, badly out of
breath. We swam around the timber, scrambling over a dead cow, and
up-shore. The ruined raft was torn and tumbled into a very
mountain of logs at the edge of the water. The sun was shining
clear, and the air was still. Limbs of trees, bits of torn cloth,
a broken hay-rake, fragments of wool, a wagon-wheel, and two dead
sheep were scattered along the shore. Where we had seen the
whirlwind coming, the sky was clear, and beneath it was a great gap
in the woods, with ragged walls of evergreen. Here and there in
the gap a stub was standing, trunk and limbs naked.
"Jerushy Jane Pepper!" D'ri exclaimed, with a pause after each
word. "It's cut a swath wider 'n this river. Don't b'lieve a
mouse could 'a' lived where the timber 's down over there."
Our sweepers and the other sections of the raft were nowhere in
We left the logs, and walked to Cornwall, and took a sloop down the
river. It was an American boat, bound for Quebec with
pipe-staves. It had put in at Cornwall when the storm began. The
captain said that the other sections of our raft had passed safely.
In the dusk of the early evening a British schooner brought us to.
"Wonder what that means?" said the skipper, straining his eyes in
A small boat, with three officers, came along-side. They climbed
aboard, one of them carrying a lantern. They were armed with
swords and pistols. We sat in silence around the cockpit. They
scanned each of us carefully in the light of the lantern. It
struck me as odd they should look so closely at our hands.
"Wha' d' ye want?" the skipper demanded. "This man," said one of
them, pointing to D'ri. "He's a British sailor. We arrest him--"
He got no farther. D'ri's hand had gone out like the paw of a
painter and sent him across the cockpit. Before I knew what was
up, I saw the lank body of D'ri leaping backward into the river. I
heard a splash and a stroke of his long arms, and then all was
still. I knew he was swimming under water to get away. The
officers made for their boat. My blood was up, and I sprang at the
last of them, giving him a hard shove as he was climbing over, so
that he fell on the boat, upsetting it. They had business enough
then for a little, and began hailing for help. I knew I had done a
foolish thing, and ran forward, climbing out upon the bowsprit, and
off with my coat and vest, and dived into the dark water. I swam
under as long as I could hold my breath, and then came up quietly,
turning on my back in the quick current, and floating so my face
only was above water. It had grown dark, and I could see nothing
but the glimmer of the stars above me. My boots were heavy and
dragged hard. I was going fast with the swift water, for at first
I had heard a great hubbub on the schooner; but now its voices had
grown faint. Other sounds were filling my ear.
After dark it is weird business to be swimming in strange
water--the throne of mystery, of a thousand terrors. It is as if
one's grave, full of the blackness of the undiscovered country,
were pursuing him and ever yawning beneath his body. And that big
river is the very tiger of waters, now stealing on pussy-footed,
now rushing with cat-like swiftness, hissing and striking with
currents that have in them mighty sinews. I was now companion of
those cold-mouthed monsters of the river bottom, many of which I
had seen. What if one should lay hold on me and drag me under?
Then I thought of rapids that might smother me with their spray or
dash me to hidden rocks. Often I lifted my ears, marvelling at the
many voices of the river. Sometimes I thought I heard a roaring
like that of the Sault, but it was only a ripple growing into
fleecy waves that rocked me as in a cradle. The many sounds were
above, below, and beside me, some weird and hollow and unearthly.
I could hear rocks rolling over in their sleep on the bottom, and,
when the water was still, a sound like the cropping of lily-pads
away off on the river-margin. The bellowing of a cow terrified me
as it boomed over the sounding sheet of water. The river rang like
a mighty drum when a peal of far thunder beat upon it. I put out
my hands to take a stroke or two as I lay on my back, and felt
something floating under water. The feel of it filled me with
horror. I swam faster; it was at my heels. I knew full well what
my hand had touched--a human head floating face downward: I could
feel the hair in my fingers. I turned and swam hard, but still it
followed me. My knees hit upon it, and then my feet. Again and
again I could feel it as I kicked. Its hand seemed to be clutching
my trousers. I thought I should never get clear of the ghastly
thing. I remember wondering if it were the body of poor D'ri. I
turned aside, swimming another way, and then I felt it no more.
In the dead of the night I heard suddenly a kind of throbbing in
the breast of the river. It grew to a noisy heart-beat as I
listened. Again and again I heard it, striking, plashing, like a
footfall, and coming nearer. Somehow I got the notion of a giant,
like those of whom my mother had told me long ago, striding in the
deep river. I could hear his boots dripping as he lifted them. I
got an odd fear that he would step on me. Then I heard music and
lifted my ears above water. It was a voice singing in the
distance,--it must have been a mile off,--and what I had taken for
a near footfall shrank away. I knew now it was the beat of oars in
some far bay.
A long time after I had ceased to hear it, something touched my
shoulder and put me in a panic. Turning over, I got a big mouthful
of water. Then I saw it was a gang of logs passing me, and quickly
caught one. Now, to me the top side of a log was as easy and
familiar as a rocking-chair. In a moment I was sitting comfortably
on my captive. A bit of rubbish, like that the wind had sown,
trailed after the gang of logs, I felt it over, finding a straw hat
and a piece of board some three feet long, with which latter I
It must have been long past midnight when I came to an island
looming in the dark ahead. I sculled for it, stranding on a rocky
beach, and alighted, hauling the log ashore. The moon came out as
I stood wringing my trouser legs. I saw the island rose high and
narrow and was thickly wooded. I remember saying something to
myself, when I heard a quick stir in the bushes near me. Looking
up, I saw a tall figure. Then came a familiar voice:--
"Thet you, Ray? Judas Priest!"
I was filled with joy at the sight of D'ri, and put my arms about
him and lifted him off his feet, and, faith! I know my eyes were
wet as my trousers. Then, as we sat down, I told him how I had
taken to the river.
"Lucky ye done it!" said he. "Jerushy Jane! It is terrible lucky!
They 'd 'a' tuk ye sartin. Somebody see thet jack on the back o'
my hand, there 'n Cornwall, 'n' put 'em efter me. But I was bound
'n' detarmined they 'd never tek me alive, never! Ef I ever dew
any fightin', 't ain't a-goin' t' be fer England, nut by a side o'
sole-leather. I med up my mind I 'd begin the war right then an'
"That fellow never knew what hit him," I remarked. "He did n't get
up for half a minute."
"Must 'a' swatted 'im powerful," said D'ri, as he felt his
knuckles. "Gol-dum ther picturs! Go 'n' try t' yank a man right
off a boat like thet air when they hain' no right t' tech 'im. Ef
I 'd 'a' hed Ol' Beeswax, some on 'em 'd 'a' got hurt."
"How did you get here?" I inquired.
"Swum," said he. "Could n't go nowheres else. Current fetched me
here. Splits et the head o' the island--boun' ter land ye right
here. Got t' be movin'. They 'll be efter us, mebbe--'s the fust
place they 'd look."
A few logs were stranded on the stony point of the island. We
withed three others to mine, setting sail with two bits of
driftwood for paddles. We pulled for the south shore, but the
current carried us rapidly down-river. In a bay some two miles
below we found, to our joy, the two sections of the big raft
undergoing repairs. At daybreak D'ri put off in the woods for home.
"Don't like the idee o' goin' int' the British navy," said he. "'D
ruther chop wood 'n' ketch bears over 'n St. Lawrence County.
Good-by, Ray! Tek care o' yerself."
Those were the last words he said to me, and soon I was on the raft
again, floating toward the great city of my dreams. I had a mighty
fear the schooner would overhaul us, but saw nothing more of her.
I got new clothes in Montreal, presenting myself in good repair.
They gave me hearty welcome, those good friends of my mother, and I
spent a full year in the college, although, to be frank, I was near
being sent home more than once for fighting and other deviltry.
It was midsummer when I came back again. I travelled up the river
road, past our island refuge of that dark night; past the sweeping,
low-voiced currents that bore me up; past the scene of our wreck in
the whirlwind; past the great gap in the woods, to stand open God
knows how long. I was glad to turn my face to the south shore, for
in Canada there was now a cold welcome for most Yankees, and my
fists were sore with resenting the bitter taunt. I crossed in a
boat from Iroquois, and D'ri had been waiting for me half a day at
the landing. I was never so glad to see a man--never but once.
Walking home I saw corn growing where the forest had been--acres of
"D'ri," said I, in amazement, "how did you ever do it? There 's
ten years' work here."
"God helped us," said he, soberly. "The trees went over 'n the
windfall,--slammed 'em down luk tenpins fer a mild er more,--an' we
jes' burnt up the rubbish."
April was near its end. The hills were turning green, albeit we
could see, here and there on the high ledge above us, little
patches of snow--the fading footprints of winter. Day and night we
could hear the wings of the wild fowl roaring in the upper air as
they flew northward. Summer was coming,--the summer of 1812,--and
the war with the British. The President had called for a hundred
thousand volunteers to go into training for battle. He had also
proclaimed there would be no more whipping in the ranks. Then my
father told me that, since I could have no peace at home, I should
be off to the war and done with it.
We were working near the road that day Thurst Miles came galloping
out of the woods, waving his cap at us. We ran to meet him--my
father and I and the children. He pulled up a moment, his horse
lathered to the ears.
"Injuns!" he shouted. "Git out o' here quick 'n' mek fer the
Corners! Ye 'll be all massacreed ef ye don't."
Then he whacked the wet flank of his horse with a worn beech bough,
and off he went.
We ran to the house in a great panic. I shall never forget the
crying of the children. Indians had long been the favorite bugbear
of the border country. Many a winter's evening we had sat in the
firelight, fear-faced, as my father told of the slaughter in Cherry
Valley; and, with the certainty of war, we all looked for the red
hordes of Canada to come, in paint and feathers.
"Ray," my father called to me, as he ran, "ketch the cow quick an'
bring 'er 'long."
I caught her by the horn and brought her to the door quickly.
Mother was throwing some clothes into a big bundle. Father met me
with a feather bed in his arms. He threw it over the back of the
cow and bound it on with a bed-cord. That done, he gave me the
leading-rope to tie about her horns. The hoofs of the flying horse
were hardly out of hearing when we were all in the road. My mother
carried the baby, and my father his sword and rifle and one of the
little ones. I took the three older children and set them on the
feather bed that was bound to the back of the cow. They clung to
the bed-cord, their hair flying, as the old cow ran to keep up with
us, for at first we were all running. In a moment we could hear
the voices of people coming behind. One of the women was weeping
loudly as she ran. At the first cross-road we saw Arv Law and his
family coming, in as great a hurry as we, Arv had a great pike-pole
in his hand. Its upper end rose twenty feet above his head.
"What ye goin' t' dew with thet?" my father asked him.
"Goin' t' run it through the fust Injun I see," said he. "I 've
broke the lock o' my gun."
There was a crowd at Jerusalem Four Corners when we got there.
Every moment some family was arriving in a panic--the men, like my
father, with guns and babies and baskets. The women, with the
young, took refuge at once in the tavern, while the men surrounded
it. Inside the line were youths, some oddly armed with slings or
clubs or cross-guns. I had only the sword my father gave me and a
mighty longing to use it. Arv Law rested an end of his pike-pole
and stood looking anxiously for "red devils" among the stumps of
the farther clearing. An old flint-lock, on the shoulder of a man
beside him, had a barrel half as long as the pole. David Church
was equipped with axe and gun, that stood at rest on either side of
Evening came, and no sign of Indians. While it was growing dusk I
borrowed a pail of the innkeeper and milked the cow, and brought
the pail, heaped with froth, to my mother, who passed brimming cups
of milk among the children. As night fell, we boys, more daring
than our fathers, crept to the edge of the timber and set the big
brush-heaps afire, and scurried back with the fear of redmen at our
heels. The men were now sitting in easy attitudes and had begun to
"Don't b'lieve there's no Injuns comin'," said Bill Foster. "Ef
they wus they 'd come."
"'Cordin' t' my observation," said Arv Law, looking up at the sky,
"Injuns mos' gen'ally comes when they git ready."
"An' 't ain't when yer ready t' hev 'em, nuther," said Lon
"B'lieve they come up 'n' peeked out o' the bushes 'n' see Arv with
thet air pike-pole, 'n' med up their minds they hed n't better run
up ag'in' it," said Bill Foster. "Scairt 'em--thet's whut's th'
"Man 'et meks light o' this pole oughter hev t' carry it," said
Arv, as he sat impassively resting it upon his knee.
"One things sure," said Foster; "ef Arv sh'u'd cuff an Injun with
thet air he 'll squ'sh 'im."
"Squ'sh 'im!" said Arv, with a look of disgust. "'T ain't med t'
squ'sh with, I cal'late t' p'int it at 'em 'n' jab."
And so, as the evening wore away and sleep hushed the timid, a
better feeling came over us. I sat by Rose Merriman on the steps,
and we had no thought of Indians. I was looking into her big hazel
eyes, shining in the firelight, and thinking how beautiful she was.
And she, too, was looking into my eyes, while we whispered
together, and the sly minx read my thoughts, I know, by the look of
Great flames were now leaping high as the timber-tops at the edge
of the clearing. A dead spruce caught fire as we were looking.
The flames threw over it a lacy, shimmering, crackling net of gold.
Then suddenly it burst into a red, leaping tower. A few moments,
and the cavern of the woods, along the timber side, was choked with
fire. The little hamlet had become a spring of light in the
darkness. We could see the stumps and houses far afield, as if it
had been noonday. Suddenly we all jumped to our feet. A wild yell
came echoing through the woods.
"There they be!" said Asher Eastman, as he cocked his gun. "I tol'
As a matter of fact, he had told us nothing of the kind. He was
the one man who had said nothing.
Arv Law stood erect, his pike-pole poised in both hands, and we
were all ready for action. We could hear the rattle of many hoofs
on the road. As soon as the column showed in the firelight, Bill
Foster up with his musket and pulled the trigger. I could hear the
shot scatter on stump and stone. Every man had his gun to his eye.
"Wait till they come nearer," said Asher Eastman.
The Indians had halted. Far behind them we could hear the wild
hallooing of many voices. In a moment we could see those on
horseback go galloping off in the direction whence they had come.
Back in the house a number of the women were praying. My mother
came out, her face whiter than I had ever seen it before, and
walked to my father, and kissed him without ever saying a word.
Then she went back into the house.
"Scairt?" I inquired, turning to Rose, who now stood beside me.
"I should think I was," she whispered. "I 'm all of a tremble."
"If anything happens, I 'd like something to remember you by."
"What?" she whispered.
I looked at her beautiful red lips. She had never let me kiss them.
"A kiss, if nothing more," I answered.
She gave me a kiss then that told me something of what was in her
heart, and went away into the house.
"Goin' t' surround us," said Arv Law--"thet 's whut 's th' matter."
"Mus' be ready t' rassle 'em any minute," said Asher Eastman, as he
sidled over to a little group.
A young man came out of the house and took his place in line with a
big squirt-gun and a pail of steaming-hot water.
The night wore on; our fires burned low. As the approaching day
began to light the clearing, we heard a sound that brought us all
to our feet. A burst of bugle notes went chasing over the
timber-land to the tune of "Yankee Doodle." We looked at one
another in surprise. Then there came a thunder of hoofs in the
distance, the ragged outline of a troop of cavalry.
"Soldiers!" said Arv, as he raised his pike.
"The British?" somebody asked.
"Dunno," said he. "Ain' no Injuns, I don't b'lieve."
A troop of cavalry was approaching at a gallop. They pulled up a
few rods away and jammed into a big crescent of rearing, trampling
horses. We could see they were American soldiers. We all lowered
"Who are you?" one of them shouted.
"Citizens," my father answered.
"Why are you armed?"
"To fight Injuns."
A chorus of laughter came from the cavalry.
They loosed rein, letting their horses advance.
"My dear man," said one of them, a big shako on his head, "there
ain't an Indian 'tween here an' St. Regis. We thought you were
British, an' it's lucky we did n't charge in the dark; we 'd have
cut you all to pieces before we knew who you were,"
A body of infantry was marching down the pike. They were the
volunteers of Captain Darius Hawkins, on their way to Ogdensburg,
with an escort of cavalry from Sackett's Harbor. The scare was
over. Women came out, laughing and chattering. In a few moments
they were all in the road, going home--men, women, and children.
I enlisted with Captain Hawkins, and hurried to the house, and
packed my things, and bade them all good-by.
I followed the camp and took my place in the ranks at Ogdensburg.
We went immediately into barracks--a structure long and low and
weather-stained, overlooking the St. Lawrence. There was a fine
level field in front of it, and a flag waving at the top of a high
staff. The men cheered lustily that afternoon as they passed it,
where stood General Jacob Brown, his cocked hat in his hand--a
splendid figure of a man, My delight in the life of a soldier began
that hour, and has never left me.
There was a lot of horse-play that night, in which some of the
green boys were roughly handled. They told me, I remember, that
all new recruits had to fight a duel; but when they gave me the
choice of weapons I was well content. I had the sure eye of my
father, and the last time I had fenced with him, there at home, he
said my arm was stronger and quicker than his had ever been.
Indeed, I was no sooner tall enough to swing a sword than he began
teaching me how to use it. In the wood back of the barracks that
night, they learned I was not a man to be fooled with. The tall
sergeant who stood before me saw his sword go flying in the gloom
the second thrust he made at me, and ran for his life, amid roars
of laughter. I had no lack of friends after that day.
It was a year of surprises in the Northern army, and D'ri was the
greatest of all. That long, wiry, sober-faced Yankee conquered the
smartness of the new camp in one decisive and immortal victory. At
first they were disposed to poke fun at him.
"Looks a little tired," said the sergeant of the guard.
"Needs rest--that's what's matter o' him," said the captain.
"Orter be turned out t' grass a leetle while," the adjutant
The compliments he failed to hear soon came to him indirectly, and
he had much to put up with. He kept his temper and smoked
thoughtfully, and took it ail in good part. The night after he
came they put him on guard duty--a greenhorn, with no knowledge of
any orders but gee and haw. They told him he should allow nobody
to pass him while on duty, but omitted to mention the countersign.
They instructed him in the serious nature of his task, adding that
his failure to comply with orders would incur the penalty of death.
D'ri looked very sober as he listened. No man ever felt a keener
sense of responsibility. They intended, I think, to cross the
lines and take his gun away and have fun with him, but the
countersign would have interfered with their plans.
D'ri went to his post a little after sundown. The guard was
posted. The sergeant, with his party of six, started back to the
guard-house, but they never got there. They went as far as D'ri.
He stood with his gun raised.
"Come another step," said he, "an' I'll let the moonlight through
They knew he meant it, and they stood still.
"Come for'ard--one et a time," said D'ri, "Drop yer guns 'n' set
down. Ye look tired."
They did as he commanded, for they could see he meant business, and
they knew he had the right to kill.
Another man came along shortly.
"Halt! Who comes there?" D'ri demanded,
"Friend with the countersign," he replied.
"Can't fool me," said D'ri. "Come up here 'n' set down 'n' mek
yerself t' hum. Drop yer gun fust. Drop it, er I 'll drop you."
He dropped his gun promptly and accepted the invitation to sit
down. This last man had some arguments to offer, but D'ri stood
sternly and made no reply.
At eleven o'clock Captain Hawkins sent out inquiries for the
sergeant of the guard and his relief. He could find nobody who had
seen them since dark. A corporal was also missing. The captain
sent a man to look for them. He got as far as D'ri and sat down.
They waited for him in vain. The captain stood looking into the
darkness and wondering about his men. He conferred with Adjutant
Church. Then he set out with two men to go the rounds. They got
as far as D'ri.
"Halt! Who comes there?" he demanded.
"Grand rounds," was the answer of the captain.
"Lay down yer arms," said D'ri, "an" come up here 'n' set down."
"Haven't time," said the captain, failing at first to grasp the
"You tek time, er I 'll put a hole 'n yer jacket," said D'ri.
One of the privates turned quickly and ran. D'ri sent a shot after
him, that only grazed a leg, and he kept on. Then D'ri gave all
attention to his new prisoners. They could see no amusement in
dodging bullets; they threw their arms on the side-hill and sat
down with the others.
The captain swore as he submitted,
"Don't rile yerself," said D'ri; "you need rest."
"No, I don't, nuther," said the captain.
"Ye'll hev t' hev it, anyway," said D'ri.
"This beats h--!" the captain answered, with a laugh.
A feeling of alarm began to spread. The adjutant was standing in a
group of men at headquarters soon after midnight. They were ears
under in the mystery. The escaped soldier came running toward them
out of the dark. He was breathing heavily; his leg was bleeding
"Wall, what is it?" the adjutant demanded.
"D'ri!" the man gasped, and dropped down exhausted.
"D'ri?" the officer inquired.
"D'ri!" the man repeated. "It's thet air man they call D'ri. He's
roped in everybody thet come his way. They 're all settin' on the
hill up there beside him. Won't let a man move when he gits him."
The adjutant snickered as he spat an oath. He was made of iron,
that man Church.
"Post a guard around him," said he, turning to an officer. "The
dem fool 'd tek the hull garrison ef we did n't. I 'll go 'n' try
t' pull him off his perch."
"He 'll lay ye up," said the returned private, baring his bloody
leg. "Eff ye try t' fool with him ye'll limp. See what he done t'
The adjutant swore again.
"Go t' the hospital," he commanded.
Then he strode away, but he did not return that night.
The moon was shining as the adjutant came, in sight and hailed the
group of prisoners.
"What ye settin' there fer?" he shouted.
"You 'll know 'n a minute," said one of them.
"Halt! Who comes there?" D'ri demanded.
"Don't ye purten' t' be my friend," D'ri answered. "'T won't work.
Come up here 'n' set down."
"Stop foolin', man," said the adjutant.
"I ain't a-foolin'."
"He ain't a-foolin'; he means business," said one of the prisoners.
"Don't ye tamper with me. I 'll teach you--" the adjutant
"Ain't a-goin' t' tamper with ye a minute," said D'ri. "If ye
don't set down here quick, I 'll put a hole in ye."
"Lunatic! wha' d' ye mean?"
"I mean t' turn ye out t' grass a leetle while," D'ri answered
soberly. "Ye look tired."
The officer made at him, but in a flash D'ri had knocked him down
with his musket. The adjutant rose and, with an oath, joined the
"Dunno but he 'll tek the hull garrison 'fore sunrise," he
muttered. "Let 'em come--might es well hev comp'ny."
A little before daylight a man sick in the hospital explained the
situation. He had given D'ri his orders. They brought him out on
a stretcher. The orders were rescinded, the prisoners released.
Captain Hawkins, hot to his toes with anger, took D'ri to
headquarters. General Brown laughed heartily when he heard the
facts, and told D'ri he was made of the right stuff.
"These greenhorns are not nice to play with," he said. "They're
like some guns--loaded when you don't expect it. We 've had enough
And when the sick man came out of hospital he went to the
After we had shown our mettle the general always had a good word
for D'ri and me, and he put us to the front in every difficult
We had been four months in Ogdensburg, waiting vainly for some
provocation to fight. Our own drilling was the only sign of war we
could see on either side of the river. At first many moved out of
the village, but the mill was kept running, and after a little they
began to come back. The farms on each side of the river looked as
peaceful as they had ever looked. The command had grown rapidly.
Thurst Miles of my own neighborhood had come to enlist shortly
after D'ri and I enlisted, and was now in my company.
In September, General Brown was ordered to the Western frontier,
and Captain Forsyth came to command us. Early in the morning of
October 2, a man came galloping up the shore with a warning, saying
that the river was black with boats a little way down. Some of us
climbed to the barracks roof, from which we could see and count
them. There were forty, with two gunboats. Cannonading began
before the town was fairly awake. First a big ball went over the
house-tops, hitting a cupola on a church roof and sending bell and
timbers with a crash into somebody's dooryard. Then all over the
village hens began to cackle and children to wail. People came
running out of doors half dressed. A woman, gathering chips in her
dooryard, dropped them, lifted her dress above her head, and ran
for the house. Unable to see her way, she went around in a wide
circle for a minute or two, while the soldiers were laughing.
Another ball hit a big water-tank on top of the lead-works. It
hurled broken staves and a big slop of water upon the housetops,
and rolled a great iron hoop over roofs into the street below,
where it rolled on, chasing a group of men, who ran for their lives
before it. The attack was an odd sort of comedy all through, for
nobody was hurt, and all were frightened save those of us who were
amused. Our cannon gave quick reply, and soon the British stopped
firing and drew near. We knew that they would try to force a
landing, and were ready for them. We drove them back, when they
put off, and that was the end of it.
Next came the fight on the ice in February--a thing not highly
creditable to us, albeit we were then but a handful and they were
many. But D'ri and I had no cause for shame of our part in it. We
wallowed to our waists in the snow, and it was red enough in front
of us. But the others gave way there on the edge of the river, and
we had to follow. We knew when it was time to run; we were never
in the rear rank even then. We made off with the others, although
a sabre's point had raked me in the temple, and the blood had
frozen on me, and I was a sight to scare a trooper. Everybody ran
that day, and the British took the village, holding it only
twenty-four hours. For our part in it D'ri got the rank of
corporal and I was raised from lieutenant to captain. We made our
way to Sackett's Harbor, where I went into hospital for a month.
Then came a galling time of idleness. In June we went with General
Brown--D'ri and I and Thurst Miles and Seth Alexander and half a
dozen others--down the river to the scene of our first fighting at
Ogdensburg, camping well back in the woods. It was the evening of
the 27th of June that the general sent for me. He was at the
mansion of Mr. Parish, where he had been dining. He was sitting in
his dress-suit. His dark side-whiskers and hair were brushed
carefully forward. His handsome face turned toward me with a
"Bell," said he, "I wish to send you on very important business.
You have all the qualities of a good scout. You know the woods.
You have courage and skill and tact. I wish you to start
immediately, go along the river to Morristown, then cut over into
the Black River country and deliver this letter to the Comte de
Chaumont, at the Chateau Le Ray, in Leraysville. If you see any
signs of the enemy, send a report to me at once. I shall be here
three days. Take Alexander, Olin, and Miles with you; they are all
good men. When your letter is delivered, report at the Harbor as
soon as possible."
I was on the road with my party in half an hour. We were all good
horsemen. D'ri knew the shortest way out of the woods in any part
of the north country. Thurst had travelled the forest from Albany
to Sackett's Harbor, and was the best hunter that ever trod a trail
in my time. The night was dark, but we rode at a gallop until we
had left the town far behind us. We were at Morristown before
midnight, pounding on the door of the Red Tavern. The landlord
stuck his head out of an upper window, peering down at us by the
light of a candle.
"Everything quiet?" I asked.
"Everything quiet," said he. "Crossed the river yesterday. Folks
go back 'n' forth 'bout the same as ever. Wife's in Elizabethtown
We asked about the west roads and went on our way. Long before
daylight we were climbing the steep road at Rossie to the inn of
the Travellers' Rest--a tavern famous in its time, that stood half
up the hill, with a store, a smithy, and a few houses grouped about
it, We came up at a silent walk on a road cushioned with sawdust.
D'ri rapped on the door until I thought he had roused the whole
village. At last a man came to the upper window. He, too,
inspected us with a candle. Then he opened the door and gave us a
hearty welcome. We put up our horses for a bite, and came into the
"Anything new?" I inquired.
"They say the British are camped this side of the river, north of
us," said he, "with a big tribe of Injuns. Some of their cavalry
came within three miles of us to-day. Everybody scairt t' death."
He began to set out a row of glasses.
"What 'll ye hev?" he inquired.
"Guess I 'll tip a little blue ruin int' me," said D'ri, with a
shiver; "'s a col' night."
Seth and I called for the same.
"An' you?" said the landlord, turning to Thurst.
"Wal," said the latter, as he stroked his thin beard, "when I tuk
the pledge I swore et I hoped t' drop dead 'fore I see myself tek
another drink. I 'm jest goin' t' shet my eyes 'n' hold out my
glass. I don' care what ye gi' me s' long es it's somethin'
We ate crackers and cheese while the landlord was telling of the
west roads and the probable location of the British. He stopped
suddenly, peered over my shoulder, and blew out the candle. We
could hear a horse neighing in the yard.
"Some one et the window," he whispered. Then he ran to the door
and drew the bolt. "Ain' much idee who 't is," he added, peering
out of the window. "By gosh! more 'n a dozen folks out here,
soldiers tew, most uv 'em on horseback. Come quick."
We followed him upstairs, in the dark, as they began to pound the
door. From the yard a light flashed up. They were evidently
building a fire so that they would have better shooting if we came
"May set the house afire," said the landlord.
He quickly unwound a big hose that ran up to a tank in the peak
"Plenty o' water?" D'ri whispered.
"Rivers uv it," said the landlord. "Tank's connected with the
reservoir o' the lead-works on the hill up there. Big wooden pipe
comes in the gable-end."
"Turn 'er on," said D'ri, quickly, "an' let me hev thet air hose."
The landlord ran up a ladder. D'ri stuck the hose out of the
window. The stream shot away with a loud hiss. I stood by and saw
the jet of water leap forth as big as a pikestaff. A man went off
his horse, sprawling as if he had been hit with a club. The jet
leaped quickly from one to another, roaring on man and beast.
There was a mighty scurry. Horses went headlong down the hill,
some dragging their riders. In the silence of the night, bedlam
had broken loose. The shouting men, the plunging horses, the
stream of water roaring on rock and road, woke the village. Men
came running from behind the house to see what had happened, then
rushed after their horses. Some fell cursing as the water hit
them. The landlord put his mouth to my ear.
"Mek fer yer hosses," he hissed.
We were below-stairs and out of the door in a jiffy. Two men fled
before us at the stable, scrambled over the fence, and went
tumbling downhill. We bridled our horses with all speed, leaped
upon them, and went rushing down the steep road, our swords in
hand, like an avalanche. They tried to stop us at the foot of the
hill, but fell away as we came near. I could hear the snap of
their triggers in passing. Only one pistol-shot came after us, and
that went high.
"Guess their ammunition 's a leetle wet," said D'ri, with a shout
that turned into laughter as we left the British behind us.
A party of four or five mounted and gave chase; but our powder was
a bit drier than theirs, and for a time we raked the road with our
bullets. What befell them I know not, I only know that they held
up and fell out of hearing.
Crossing a small river at daylight, we took the bed of it, making
our way slowly for half a mile or so into the woods. There we
built a fire, and gave the horses half the feed in our saddle-bags,
and ate our mess on a flat rock.
"Never hed no sech joemightyful time es thet afore," said D'ri, as
he sat down, laughing, and shook his head. "Jerushy Jane! Did n't
we come down thet air hill! Luk slidin' on a greased pole."
"Comin' so luk the devil they did n't dast git 'n er way," said
"We wus all rippin' th' air 'ith them air joemightyful big sabres,
tew," D'ri went on. "Hed a purty middlin' sharp edge on us. Stuck
out luk a haystack right 'n' left."
He began bringing wood as he sang the chorus of his favorite
Li toorul I oorul I oorul I ay, etc.
Thurst knew a trail that crossed the river near by and met the
Caraway Pike a few miles beyond. Having eaten, I wrote a despatch
to be taken back by Thurst as soon as we reached the pike. Past
ten o'clock we turned into a rough road, where the three of us went
one way and Thurst another.
I rode slowly, for the horses were nearly fagged. I gave them an
hour's rest when we put up for dinner. Then we pushed on, coming
in sight of the Chateau Le Ray at sundown. A splendid place it
was, the castle of gray stone fronting a fair stretch of wooded
lawn, cut by a brook that went splashing over rocks near by, and
sent its velvet voice through wood and field. A road of fine
gravel led through groves of beech and oak and pine to a grassy
terrace under the castle walls. A servant in livery came to meet
us at the door, and went to call his master. Presently a tall,
handsome man, with black eyes and iron-gray hair and mustache, came
down a path, clapping his hands.
"Welcome, gentlemen! It is the Captain Bell?" said he, with a
marked accent, as he came to me, his hand extended. "You come from
Monsieur the General Brown, do you not?"
"I do," said I, handing him my message.
He broke the seal and read it carefully.
"I am glad to see you--ver' glad to see you!" said he, laying his
hands upon my shoulders and giving me a little shake.
Two servants went away with D'ri and Seth and the horses.
"Come, captain," said my host, as he led the way. "You are in good
time for dinner."
We entered a great triangular hall, lighted by wide windows above
the door, and candelabra of shining brass that hung from its high
ceiling. There were sliding doors of polished wood on each side of
it. A great stairway filled the point of the triangle. I was
shown to my room, which was as big as a ball-room, it seemed to me,
and grandly furnished; no castle of my dreams had been quite so
fine. The valet of the count looked after me, with offers of new
linen and more things than I could see use for. He could not speak
English, I remember, and I addressed him in the good French my
mother had taught me.
The kind of life I saw in this grand home was not wholly new to me,
for both my mother and father had known good living in their youth,
and I had heard much of it. I should have been glad of a new
uniform; but after I had had my bath and put on the new shirt and
collar the valet had brought me, I stood before the long pier-glass
and saw no poor figure of a man.
The great dining-hall of the count was lighted with many candles
when we came in to dinner. It had a big fireplace, where logs were
blazing, for the night had turned cool, and a long table with a big
epergne of wrought silver, filled with roses, in its centre. A
great silken rug lay under the table, on a polished floor, and the
walls were hung with tapestry. I sat beside the count, and
opposite me was the daughter of the Sieur Louis Francois de
Saint-Michel, king's forester under Louis XVI. Therese, the
handsome daughter of the count, sat facing him at the farther end
of the table, and beside her was the young Marquis de Gonvello. M.
Pidgeon, the celebrated French astronomer, Moss Kent, brother of
the since famous chancellor, the Sieur Michel, and the Baroness de
Ferre, with her two wards, the Misses Louise and Louison de
Lambert, were also at dinner. These young ladies were the most
remarkable of the company; their beauty was so brilliant, so
fascinating, it kindled a great fire in me the moment I saw it.
They said little, but seemed to have much interest in all the talk
of the table. I looked at them more than was polite, I am sure,
but they looked at me quite as often. They had big, beautiful
brown eyes, and dark hair fastened high with jewelled pins, and
profiles like those of the fair ladies of Sir Peter Lely, so finely
were they cut. One had a form a bit fuller and stronger than the
other's, but they were both as tall and trim as a young beech, with
lips cherry-red and cheeks where one could see faintly the glow of
their young blood. Their gowns were cut low, showing the graceful
lines of neck and shoulder and full bosom. I had seen pretty
girls, many of them, but few high-bred, beautiful young women.
The moment I saw these two some new and mighty force came into me.
There were wine and wit a-plenty at the count's table, and other
things that were also new to me, and for which I retained perhaps
too great a fondness.
The count asked me to tell of our journey, and I told the story
with all the spirit I could put into my words. I am happy to say
it did seem to hit the mark, for I was no sooner done with our
adventure than the ladies began to clap their hands, and the Misses
de Lambert had much delight in their faces when the baroness retold
my story in French.
Dinner over, the count invited me to the smoking-room, where, in a
corner by ourselves, I had some talk with him. He told me of his
father--that he had been a friend of Franklin, that he had given a
ship and a cargo of gunpowder to our navy in '76. Like others I
had met under his roof, the count had seen the coming of the Reign
of Terror in France, and had fled with his great fortune. He had
invested much of it there in the wild country. He loved America,
and had given freely to equip the army for war. He was, therefore,
a man of much influence in the campaign of the North, and no doubt
those in authority there were instructed, while the war was on, to
take special care of his property.
"And will you please tell me," I said at length, "who are the
Misses de Lambert?"
"Daughters of a friend in Paris," said the count. "He is a great
physician. He wishes not for them to marry until they are
twenty-one. Mon Dieu! it was a matter of some difficulty. They
"Very beautiful!" I echoed.
"They were admired," he went on. "The young men they began to make
trouble. My friend he send them here, with the baroness, to
study--to finish their education. It is healthy, it is quiet,
and--well, there are no young gentlemen. They go to bed early;
they are up at daylight; they have the horse; they have boats; they
amuse themselves ver' much. But they are impatient; they long for
Paris--the salon, the theatre, the opera. They are like prisoners:
they cannot make themselves to be contented. The baroness she has
her villa on a lake back in the woods, and, mon ame! it is
beautiful there--so still, so cool, so delightful! At present they
have a great fear of the British. They lie awake; they listen;
they expect to be carried off; they hear a sound in the night, and,
mon Dieu! it is the soldiers coming."
The count laughed, lifting his shoulders with a gesture of both
hands. Then he puffed thoughtfully at his cigarette.
"Indeed," he went on presently, "I think the invasion is not far
away. They tell me the woods in the north are alive with British
cavalry. I am not able to tell how many, but, Dieu! it is enough.
The army should inform itself immediately. I think it is better
that you penetrate to the river to-morrow, if you are not afraid,
to see what is between, and to return by the woods. I shall
trouble you to take a letter to the General Brown. It will be
ready at any hour."
"At six?" I inquired.
"At six, certainly, if you desire to start then," he replied.
He rose and took my arm affectionately and conducted me to the big
drawing-room. Two of the ladies were singing as one played the
guitar. I looked in vain for the Misses de Lambert. The others
were all there, but they had gone. I felt a singular depression at
their absence and went to my room shortly to get my rest, for I had
to be off early in the morning. Before going to bed, however, I
sat down to think and do some writing. But I could not for the
life of me put away the thought of the young ladies. They looked
alike, and yet I felt sure they were very different. Somehow I
could not recall in what particular they differed. I sat a time
thinking over it. Suddenly I heard low voices, those of women
speaking in French; I could not tell from where they came.
"I do wish she would die, the hateful thing!" said one. (It must
be understood these words are more violent in English than they
seem in French.)
"The colonel is severe to-night," said another.
"The colonel--a fine baroness indeed--vieille tyran! I cannot love
her. Lord! I once tried to love a monkey and had better luck.
The colonel keeps all the men to herself. Whom have I seen for a
year? Dieu! women, grandpapas, greasy guides! Not a young man
since we left Paris."
"My dear Louison!" said the other, "there are many things better
"Au nom de Dieu! But I should like to know what they are. I have
never seen them."
"But often men are false and evil," said the other, in a sweet, low
"Nonsense!" said the first, impatiently. "I had rather elope with
a one-legged hostler than always live in these woods."
"Louison! You ought to cross yourself and repeat a Hail Mary."
"Thanks! I have tried prayer. It is n't what I need. I am no nun
like you. My dear sister, don't you ever long for the love of a
man--a big, handsome, hearty fellow who could take you up in his
arms and squeeze the life out of you?"
"Eh bien," said the other, with a sigh, "I suppose it is very nice.
I do not dare to think of it."
"Nice! It is heaven, Louise! And to see a man like that and not
be permitted to--to speak to him! Think of it! A young and
handsome man--the first I have seen for a year! Honestly I could
poison the colonel."
"My dear, it is the count as much as the colonel. She is under his
orders, and he has an eagle eye."
"The old monkey! He enrages me! I could rend him limb from limb!"
I could not help hearing what they said, but I did not think it
quite fair to share their confidence any further, so I went to one
of the windows and closed a shutter noisily. The voices must have
come from a little balcony just under my room.
"My dear sister, you are very terrible," said one of them, and then
the shutter came to, and I heard no more.
A full moon lighted the darkness. A little lake gleamed like
silver between the tree-tops. Worn out with hard travel, I fell
into bed shortly, and lay a long time thinking of those young
ladies, of the past, of to-morrow and its perils, and of the
farther future. A new life had begun for me.
The sun was lifting above the tree-tops when the count's valet
called me that morning at the Chateau Le Ray. Robins were calling
under my windows, and the groves rang with tournaments of happy
song. Of that dinner-party only the count was at breakfast with
me. We ate hurriedly, and when we had risen the horses were at the
door. As to my own, a tall chestnut thoroughbred that Mr. Parish
had brought over from England, I never saw him in finer fettle. I
started Seth by Caraway Pike for Ogdensburg with the count's
Mine host laid hold of my elbow and gave it a good shake as I left
him, with D'ri, taking a trail that led north by west in the deep
woods. They had stuffed our saddle-bags with a plenty for man and
I could not be done thinking of the young ladies. It put my heart
in a flutter when I looked back at the castle from the wood's edge
and saw one of them waving her handkerchief in a window. I lifted
my hat, and put my spurs to the flank with such a pang in me I
dared not look again. Save for that one thing, I never felt
better. The trail was smooth, and we galloped along in silence for
a mile or so. Then it narrowed to a stony path, where one had
enough to do with slow going to take care of his head, there were
so many boughs in the way.
"Jerushy Jane!" exclaimed D'ri, as he slowed down. "Thet air's a
gran' place. Never hed my karkiss in no sech bed as they gin me
las' night--softer 'n wind, an' hed springs on like them new wagins
ye see over 'n Vermont. Jerushy! Dreamed I was flyin'."
I had been thinking of what to do if we met the enemy and were hard
pressed. We discussed it freely, and made up our minds that if
there came any great peril of capture we would separate, each to
take his own way out of the difficulty.
We halted by a small brook at midday, feeding the horses and
ourselves out of the saddle-bags.
"Ain't jest eggzac'ly used t' this kind uv a sickle," said D'ri, as
he felt the edge of his sabre, "but I 'll be dummed ef it don't
seem es ef I 'd orter be ruther dang'rous with thet air 'n my hand."
He knew a little about rough fighting with a sabre. He had seen my
father and me go at each other hammer and tongs there in our
door-yard every day of good weather. Stormy days he had always
stood by in the kitchen, roaring with laughter, as the good steel
rang and the house trembled. He had been slow to come to it, but
had had his try with us, and had learned to take an attack without
flinching. I went at him hard for a final lesson that day in the
woods--a great folly, I was soon to know. We got warm and made
more noise than I had any thought of. My horse took alarm and
pulled away, running into a thicket. I turned to catch him.
"Judas Priest!" said D'ri.
There, within ten feet of us, I saw what made me, ever after, a
more prudent man. It was an English officer leaning on his sword,
a tall and handsome fellow of some forty years, in shiny top-hoots
and scarlet blouse and gauntlets of brown kid.
"You are quite clever," said he, touching his gray mustache.
I made no answer, but stood pulling myself together.
"You will learn," he added, smiling, with a tone of encouragement.
"Let me show you a trick."
He was most polite in his manner, like a play-hero, and came toward
me as he spoke. Then I saw four other Britishers coming out to
close in upon us from behind trees.
He came at me quickly, and I met him. He seemed to think it would
be no trick to unhand my weapon. Like a flash, with a whip of his
sabre, he tried to wrench it away. D'ri had begun to shoot,
dodging between trees, and a redcoat had tumbled over. I bore in
upon my man, but he came back at me with surprising vigor. On my
word, he was the quickest swordsman I ever had the honor of facing.
But he had a mean way of saying "Ha!" as he turned my point. He
soon angered me, whereupon I lost a bit of caution, with some
blood, for he was at me like a flash, and grazed me on the hip
before I could get my head again. It was no parlor play, I can
tell you. We were fighting for life, and both knew it. We fought
up and down through brakes and bushes and over stones--a perilous
footing. I could feel his hand weakening. I put all my speed to
the steel then, knowing well that, barring accident, I should win.
I could hear somebody coming up behind me.
"Keep away there," my adversary shouted, with a fairness I admire
when I think of it. "I can handle him. Get the other fellow."
I went at him to make an end of it.
"I'll make you squint, you young cub," he hissed, lunging at me.
He ripped my blouse at the shoulder, and, gods of war! we made the
sparks fly. Then he went down, wriggling; I had caught him in the
side, poor fellow! Like a flash I was off in a thicket. One of
the enemy got out of my way and sent a bullet after me. I could
feel it rip and sting in the muscle as it rubbed my ribs. I kept
foot and made for my horse. He had caught his reins, and I was on
him and off in the bush, between bullets that came ripping the
leaves about me, before they could give chase.
Drums were beating the call to arms somewhere. I struck the trail