Part 4 out of 6
Mrs. Wilson had long since gone to England, and her husband, having made
arrangements for the disposal of his property, now determined to join
her. Fortunately he possessed means, irrespective of his estate in
America. This had come to him through his wife, and his own fortune and
the money obtained by the sale of his commission had remained invested
in English securities. While determined on this course for himself, he
left it to his son to choose his own career. Harold was now nearly
eighteen, and his life of adventure and responsibility had made a man of
him. His father would have preferred that he should have returned with
him to England, but Harold finally decided upon remaining. In war men's
passions become heated, the original cause of quarrel sinks into
comparative insignificance, and the desire for victory, the
determination to resist, and a feeling of something like individual
hatred for the enemy become predominant motives of the strife.
This was especially the case in the American war. On both sides there
were many circumstances which heightened the passions of the combatants.
The loyalists in the English ranks had been ruined by the action of
their opponents--many had been reduced from wealth to poverty, and each
man felt a deep passion of resentment at what he regarded his personal
grievance. Then, too, the persistent misrepresentations both of facts
and motives on the part of the American writers and speakers added to
the irritation. The loyalists felt that there were vast numbers
throughout the colonies who agreed with them and regarded Congress as a
tyrannical faction rather than the expression of the general will. In
this, no doubt, they were to some extent mistaken, for by this time the
vast majority of the people had joined heart and soul in the conflict.
Men's passions had become so stirred up that it was difficult for any to
remain neutral; and although there were still large numbers of loyalists
throughout the States, the vast bulk of the people had resolved that the
only issue of the contest was complete and entire separation from the
Harold had now entered passionately into the struggle. He was in
constant contact with men who had been ruined by the war. He heard only
one side of the question, and he was determined, so long as England
continued the struggle, to fight on for a cause which he considered
sacred. He was unable to regard the prospects of success as hopeless; he
saw the fine army which England had collected; he had been a witness of
the defeat of the Americans whenever they ventured to stand the shock of
the British battalions; and in spite of the unsatisfactory nature of the
first campaign, he could not bring himself to believe that such an army
When the company was disbanded he decided to continue to serve as a
scout, but, sharing in the general disgust in the army at the incapacity
of General Howe, he determined to take ship again for Canada and take
service under General Burgoyne, who was preparing with a well-appointed
army to invade the States from that side.
When he communicated his determination to Peter Lambton the latter at
once agreed to accompany him.
"I've gone into this business," the hunter said, "and I mean to see it
through. Settling down don't suit me. I aint got any friends at New
York, and I'd be miserable just loafing about all day doing nothing. No,
I'll see this business out to the end, and I'd much rather go with you
than anyone else."
Jake was of the same opinion. Accustomed all his life to obey orders and
to the life on his master's plantation, he would not have known what to
do if left to his own devices. Captain Wilson pointed out to him that he
could easily obtain work on the wharves of New York or as a laborer on a
farm, but Jake would not listen to the proposal and was hurt at the
thought that he could leave his young master's side as long as Harold
continued in the war.
Accordingly, the day after Captain Wilson sailed for England the three
comrades embarked in a ship for Halifax, whence another vessel took them
to Quebec. They then sailed up the river to Montreal and took service as
scouts in General Burgoyne's army.
For political reasons General Burgoyne had been appointed to the command
of the expedition which had been, prepared, and General Carleton,
naturally offended at being passed over, at once resigned the
governorship. His long residence in Canada, his knowledge of the
country, of the manners of its inhabitants and the extent of its
resources, and his acquaintance with the character of the Indians,
rendered him far more fit for command than was General Burgoyne. In
military knowledge and experience, too, he was his superior, and had he
retained a command the fate of the expedition would probably have been
The army under General Burgoyne consisted of 7173 men, exclusive of
artillerymen. Of these about half were Germans. The Canadians were
called upon to furnish men sufficient to occupy the woods on the
frontier and to provide men for the completion of the fortifications at
Sorrel, St. John's, Chamblee, and Isle-aux-Noix, to furnish horses and
carts for carriage, and to make roads when necessary. A naval force was
to go forward with him on the lake. The Indian question had again to be
decided. Several tribes volunteered to join the British. General
Burgoyne hesitated, as General Carleton had done before, to accept their
services, and only did so finally on the certainty that if he refused
their offers they would join the Americans. He resolved to use them as
little as possible. He knew that their object in all wars was murder and
destruction, and although he wished to conquer the Americans, he did not
desire to exterminate them.
On June 16, 1777, General Burgoyne advanced from St. John's. The naval
force had preceded the army and opened a way for its advance. The troops
were carried in a flotilla of boats, and under the protection of the
fleet passed Lake Champlain and landed at Crown Point.
Harold and his companions had joined the army a fortnight previously,
and as they crossed the lake with the fleet they could not but
remember their last expedition there. At Crown Point they were joined
by 1000 Indians, who marched round the lake, and at this place General
Burgoyne gave them a great feast and afterward made a speech to them,
exhorting them to abstain from all cruelty, to avoid any ill-treatment
of unarmed combatants, and to take as prisoners all combatants who
fell into their hands.
But while thus exhorting the Indians to behave with humanity and
moderation, the general took a most ill-judged step, which not only
did the English cause great harm, but was used by the Americans with
much effect as a proof of the cruel way in which England warred
against the colonists. He issued a proclamation threatening to punish
with the utmost severity all who refused to attach themselves to the
British cause, and at the same time he magnified the ferocity of the
Indians; pointing out with great emphasis their eagerness to butcher
those who continued hostile to the mother country, whose interests
they had espoused.
This proclamation was naturally construed by the Americans as a threat
to deliver over to the tender mercies of the Indians to slay, scalp, and
destroy all who ventured to resist the authority of the king.
The Americans had fallen back on the approach of the British, and upon
the landing being effected, the scouts were instantly sent forward.
Among the Indians who had joined at Crown Point were the Senecas--among
them their old friend Deer Tail.
The scouts received no particular orders and were free to regulate their
own movements. Their duty was to reconnoiter the country ahead and to
bring in any information they might gather as to numbers and positions
of the enemy.
Finding that Peter and his companions were about to start, Deer Tail
said that, instead of waiting for the feast, he would take five of his
warriors and accompany them.
It was at Ticonderoga that the Americans had prepared to make their
first stand. The place lies on the western shore of the lake a few miles
to the northward of the narrow inlet uniting Lake Champlain to Lake
George. It was to reconnoiter the fort that the party now set out. News
had been brought that the Americans had been executing great additional
works, and the British general was anxious to learn the nature of these
before he advanced.
It was certain that the enemy would on their side have sent out scouts
to ascertain the movements of the royal army, and the party proceeded
with the greatest care. They marched in the usual fashion--in Indian
file; the Seneca chief led the way, followed by one of his braves; then
came Peter, Harold, and Jake; the other Senecas marched in the rear.
When they came within a few miles of the fort their progress was marked
with profound caution. Not a word was spoken, their tread was noiseless,
and the greatest pains were taken to avoid stepping on a twig or dried
stick. The three scouts when they left St. John's had abandoned their
boots and had taken to Indian moccasins. Several times slight murmurs
were heard in the forest, and once a party of four American frontiersmen
were seen in the wood. The party halted and crouched in the bushes. The
Senecas turned toward Peter as if asking if an attack should be made,
but the latter shook his head. A single shot would have been heard far
away in the woods and their further progress would have been arrested.
Their object now was not to fight, but to penetrate close to the
When the enemy had passed on the party continued its way. As they neared
the fort the caution observed increased. Several times they halted,
while the Seneca, with one of his braves, crawled forward to see that
all was clear. At last they stood on the edge of a great clearing.
Before them, just within gunshot range, stood the fort of Ticonderoga.
Peter Lambton was well acquainted with it, and beyond the fact that the
space around had been cleared of all trees and the stockades and
earthworks repaired, little change could be seen.
As he was gazing the Indian touched his shoulder and pointed to a high
hill on the opposite side of the narrow straits. This had been cleared
of trees and on the top a strong fort had been erected. Many cannon were
to be seen along its crest, the roofs of huts, and a large number of
men. Halfway up the hill was another battery and a third, still lower
down, to sweep the landing.
"They've been working hard," the hunter said, "and the army'll have a
mighty tough job before it. What do you think of that, Harold?"
"It is a very strong position," Harold said, "and will cost us a
tremendous number of men to take it. The fort cannot be attacked till
that hill has been carried, for its guns completely command all this
For some time they stood gazing at the works, standing well back
among the trees, so as to be screened from all observation. At last
"Look at that other hill behind. It is a good bit higher than that which
they have fortified and must be within easy range both of it and the
fort. I don't see any works there--do you?"
Peter and the Seneca chief both gazed long and earnestly at the hill and
agreed that they could see no fortification there.
"It won't do to have any doubt about it," Peter said. "We must go round
and have a look at it."
"We shall have to cross the river," Harold remarked.
"Ay, cross it we must," Peter said. "That hill's got to be inspected."
They withdrew into the wood again and made a circuitous deviation till
they came down upon the river, two miles above Ticonderoga. They could
not reach the water itself, as a road ran along parallel with it and the
forest was cleared away for some distance. A number of men could be seen
going backward and forward on the road.
Having made their observations, the scouts retired again into a thick
part of the forest and waited till nightfall.
"How are we to get across?" Harold asked Peter. "It's a good long swim,
and we could not carry our muskets and ammunition across."
"Easy enough," the scout said. "Didn't you notice down by the road a
pile of planks? I suppose a wagon has broke down there, and the planks
have been turned out and nobody has thought anything more about 'em.
We'll each take a plank, fasten our rifle and ammunition on it, and swim
across; there won't be any difficulty about that. Then, when we've seen
what's on the top of that 'ere hill, we'll tramp round to the other end
of the lake. I heard that the army was to advance half on each side, so
we'll meet 'em coming."
When it was perfectly dark they left their hiding place and crossed the
clearing to the spot where Peter had seen the planks. Each took one of
them and proceeded to the river side. Peter, Harold, and Jake divested
themselves of some of their clothes and fastened these with their rifles
and ammunition to the planks. To the Indians the question of getting wet
was one of entire indifference, and they did not even take off their
hunting shirts. Entering the water the party swam noiselessly across to
the other side, pushing their planks before them. On getting out they
carried the planks for some distance, as their appearance by the water's
edge might excite a suspicion on the part of the Americans that the
works had been reconnoitered.
After hiding the planks in the bushes they made their way to Sugar Hill,
as the eminence was called. The ascent was made with great
circumspection, the Indians going on first. No signs of the enemy were
met with, and at last the party stood on the summit of the hill. It was
entirely unoccupied by the Americans.
"Well, my fine fellows," laughed the scout, "I reckon ye've been doing a
grist of work, and ye might jest as well have been sitting down quietly
smoking yer pipes. What on arth possessed ye to leave this hill
In point of fact General St. Clair, who commanded the Americans, had
perceived that his position was commanded from this spot. He had only
3000 men under him, and he considered this number too small to hold
Ticonderoga, Mount Independence, and Sugar Hill. The two former posts
could afford no assistance to the garrison of a fort placed on Sugar
Hill, and that place must therefore fall if attacked by the British. On
the other hand, he hoped that, should the attention of the English not
be called to the importance of the position by the erection of works
upon it, it might be overlooked, and that General Burgoyne on his
arrival might at once attack the position which he had prepared with so
Having ascertained that the hill was unoccupied, Peter proposed at once
to continue the march. Harold suggested to him that it would be better
to wait until morning, as from their lofty position they would be able
to overlook the whole of the enemy's lines of defense and might obtain
information of vital importance to the general. Peter saw the advantage
of the suggestion. Two of the Indians were placed on watch, and the rest
of the party lay down to sleep. At daybreak they saw that the delay had
been fully justified, for they had now a view of the water which
separated Ticonderoga from Mount Independence, and perceived that the
Americans had made a strong bridge of communication between these posts.
Twenty-two piers had been sunk at equal distances, and between them
boats were placed, fastened with chains to the piers. A strong bridge of
planks connected the whole. On the Lake Champlain side of the bridge a
boom, composed of great trees fastened together with double chains, had
been placed. Thus, not only had communication been established across
the stream, but an effectual barrier erected to the passage of the
fleet. Fully satisfied with the result of their investigations, the
party set out on their return.
THE SETTLER'S HUT.
Before starting they stood for a minute or two looking over the forest
which they were to traverse. To Harold's eyes all appeared quiet and
still. Here and there were clearings where settlers had established
themselves; but, with these exceptions, the forest stretched away like a
"Tarnation!" Peter exclaimed. "We'll have all our work to get through
safely; eh, chief?"
The Seneca nodded.
"What makes you say so?" Harold asked in surprise. "I see nothing."
Peter looked at him reproachfully.
"I'm downright ashamed of ye, lad. You should have been long enough in
the woods by this time to know smoke when you see it. Why, there it is
curling up from the trees in a dozen--ay, in a score of places. There
must be hundreds of men out scouting or camping in them woods."
Harold looked fixedly again at the forests, but even now he could not
detect the signs which were so plain to the scout.
"You may call me as blind as a bat, Peter," he said with a laugh, "but I
can see nothing. Looking hard I imagine I can see a light mist here and
there, but I believe it is nothing but fancy."
"It's clear enough to me, lad, and to the redskins. What do you
"Too much men," the Seneca replied sententiously.
For another minute or two he and Peter stood watching the forest, and
then in a few words consulted together as to the best line to follow to
avoid meeting the foe who, to their eyes, swarmed in the forest.
"It's mighty lucky," the hunter said as they turned to descend the hill,
which was covered with trees to its very summit, "that they're white men
and not redskins out in the woods, there. I don't say that there's not
many frontiersmen who know the way of the woods as well as the redskins.
I do myself, and when it comes to fighting we can lick 'em on their own
ground; but in scouting we aint nowhere--not the best of us. The redskin
seems to have an instinct more like that of an animal than a man. I
don't say as he can smell a man a mile off as a dog can do, but he seems
to know when the enemy's about; his ears can hear noises which we can't;
his eyes see marks on the ground when the keenest-sighted white man sees
nothing. If that wood was as full of redskins as it is of whites to-day,
our sculps wouldn't be worth a charge of powder."
"You are not going to follow the shores of the lake, I suppose?"
"No," Peter said. "They'll be as thick as peas down there, watching for
the first sight of our fleet. No, we must just keep through the woods
and be as still and as silent as if the trees had ears. You'd best look
to the priming of yer piece before we goes further, for it's likely
enough you'll have to use it before the day's done, and a miss-fire
might cost you yer life. Tell that nigger of yourn that he's not to open
his mouth again till I gives him leave."
With a long stealthy tread the party descended the mountain and took
their way through the woods. Every hundred yards or so they stopped and
listened intently. When any noise, even of the slightest kind, was
heard, all dropped to the ground until the chief had scouted round and
discovered the way was clear. Once or twice they heard the sound of
men's voices and a distant laugh, but they passed on without seeing
those who uttered them.
Presently they again heard voices, this time raised as if in angry
dispute. The Seneca would, as before, have made a long _detour_ to avoid
them, but Peter said.
"Let's have a squint at what's going on, chief."
With redoubled caution they again advanced until they stood at the edge
of the clearing. It was a patch of land some hundred yards wide, and
extending from the shore of the lake nearly a quarter of a mile inland.
In the center stood a log hut, neatly and carefully built. A few flowers
grew around the house, and the whole bore signs of greater neatness and
comfort than was usual in the cabins of the backwood settlers.
The point where the party had reached the edge of the wood was
immediately opposite the house. Near it stood a group of some twenty
men, one of whom, apparently their leader, was gesticulating angrily as
he addressed a man who stood facing him.
"I tell ye, ye're a darned royalist--ye're a traitor to the country, and
I've a mind to hang ye and all belonging to ye to the nearest bough."
"I tell you," the man answered calmly, but in the still air every word
he said could be heard by those at the edge of the forest, "I hae
naething to do with the trouble ane way or the ither. I am a quiet
settler, whose business only is to mak a hame for my wife and bairn;
but, if you ask me to drink success to the Congress and confusion to the
king's troops, I tell you I willna do it; not even if you are brutal
enough, but this I canna believe possible, to carry your threats into
execution. I hae served my time in a king's regiment. With the bounty I
received instead o' pension on my discharge I settled here wi' my wife
and bairn, and no one shall say that Duncan Cameron was a traitor to his
king. We do no harm to anyone; we tak no part for or against you; we
only ask to be allowed to live in peace."
"That ye shall not," the man said. "The king's troops have got Injuns
with 'em, and they're going to burn and kill all those who won't take
part with 'em. It's time we should show 'em as we can play at that game,
too. Now ye've either got to swear to be faithful to the States of
America or up you go."
"I canna swear," the settler said firmly. "You may kill me if you will,
but, if you are men, you will nae harm my wife and girl."
"We'll just do to you as the redskins'll do to our people," the man
said. "We'll make a sweep of the hull lot of you. Here, you fellows,
fetch the woman and girl out of the house and then set a light to it."
Four or five men entered the house. A minute later screams were heard
and a woman and child were dragged out. The settler sprang toward them,
but three or four men seized him.
"Now," the man said, stepping toward the house, "we'll show 'em a
As he neared the door a crack of a rifle was heard and the ruffian fell
dead in his tracks. A yell of astonishment and rage broke from his
"Jerusalem, youngster! you've got us into a nice fix. Howsomever, since
you've begun it, here goes."
And the rifle of the hunter brought down another of the Americans.
These, following the first impulse of a frontiersman when attacked, fled
for shelter to the house, leaving the settler, with his wife and
daughter, standing alone.
"Ye'd best get out of the way," Peter shouted, "or ye may get a bit of
lead that wasn't intended for ye."
Catching up his child, Cameron ran toward the forest, making for the
side on which his unknown friends were placed, but keeping down toward
the lake, so as to be out of their line of fire.
"Make down to 'em, Harold," Peter said. "Tell 'em they'd best go to some
neighbor's and stop there for a day or two. The army'll be here
to-morrow or next day. Be quick about it, and come back as fast as ye
can. I tell ye we're in a hornets' nest, and it'll be as much as we can
do to get out of it."
A scattering fire was now being exchanged between the redskins behind
the shelter of the trees and the Americans firing from the windows of
the log house. Harold was but two or three minutes absent.
"All right, Peter!" he exclaimed, as he rejoined them.
"Come along, then," the hunter said. "Now, chief, let's make up round
the top of this clearing and then foot it."
The chief at once put himself at the head of the party, and the nine men
strode away again through the forest. It was no longer silent. Behind
them the occupants of the hut were still keeping up a brisk fire toward
the trees, while from several quarters shouts could be heard, and more
than once the Indian war-whoop rose in the forest.
"That's just what I was afeared of," Peter muttered. "There's some of
those darned varmint with 'em. We might have found our way through the
whites, but the redskins'll pick up our trail as sartin as if we were
driving a wagon through the woods."
Going along at a swinging, noiseless trot the party made their way
through the forest. Presently a prolonged Indian whoop was heard in the
direction from which they had come. Then there were loud shouts and the
"One of the red reptiles has found our trail," Peter said. "He's with a
party of whites, and they've shouted the news to the gang in the
clearing. Waal, we may, calculate we've got thirty on our trail, and, as
we can hear them all round, it'll be a sarcumstance if we git out with
As they ran they heard shouts from those behind, answered by others on
both flanks. Shots, too, were fired as signals to call the attention of
other parties. Several times the Seneca chief stopped and listened
attentively, and then changed his course as he heard suspicious noises
ahead. Those behind them were coming up, although still at some distance
in the rear. They could hear the sound of breaking trees and bushes as
their pursuers followed them in a body.
"Ef it was only the fellows behind," Peter said, "we could leave them
easy enough, but the wood seems alive with the varmint."
It was evident the alarm had spread through the forest, and that the
bands scattered here and there were aware that an enemy was in their
midst. The dropping fire, which the pursuers kept up, afforded an
indication as to the direction in which they were making, and the
ringing war-whoop of the hostile Indians conveyed the intelligence still
Presently there was a shout a short distance ahead, followed by the
sound of a rifle ball as it whizzed close to Harold's head and buried
itself in a tree that he was passing. In a moment each of the party had
sheltered behind a tree.
"It's of no use, chief," Peter said. "We'll have the hull pack from
behind upon us in five minutes. We must run for it and take our chances
of being hit."
Swerving somewhat from their former line, they again ran on; bullets
whisked round them, but they did not pause to fire a shot in return.
"Tarnation!" Peter exclaimed, as the trees in front of them opened and
they found themselves on the edge of another clearing. It was
considerably larger than that which they had lately left, being three
hundred yards across, and extending back from the lake fully half a
mile. As in the previous case, a log hut stood in the center, some two
hundred yards back from the lake.
"There's nothing for it, chief," Peter said. "We must take to the house
and fight it out there. There's a hull gang of fellows in the forest
ahead, and they'll shoot us down if we cross the clearing."
Without a moment's hesitation the party rushed across the clearing to
the hut. Several shots were fired as they dashed across the open, but
they gained the place of refuge in safety. The hut was deserted. It had
probably belonged to royalists, for its rough furniture lay broken on
the ground; boxes and cupboards had been forced open, and the floor was
strewn with broken crockery and portions of wearing apparel.
Harold looked round. Several of the party were bleeding from
"Now to the windows," Peter said as he barred the door. "Pile up bedding
and anything else that ye can find against the shutters, and keep
yerselves well under cover. Don't throw away a shot; we'll want all our
powder, I can tell ye. Quickly, now--there aint no time to be lost."
While some began carrying out his instructions below, others bounded
upstairs and scattered themselves through the upper rooms. There were
two windows on each side of the house--one at each end. Disregarding the
latter, Peter and Harold took post at the windows looking toward the
forest from which they had just come. The chief and another Indian
posted themselves to watch the other side. At first no one was to be
seen. The party who had fired at them as they ran across the open had
waited for the coming up of the strong band who were following, before
venturing to show themselves. The arrival of the pursuers was heralded
by the opening of a heavy fire toward the house. As the assailants kept
themselves behind trees, no reply was made, and the defenders occupied
themselves by piling the bedding against the shutters, which they had
hastily closed. Loop-holes had been left in the walls when the hut was
first built; the moss with which they were filled up was torn out, and
each man took his post at one of these. As no answering shot came from
the house the assailants became bolder, and one or two ventured to show
themselves from, behind shelter. In a moment Harold and Peter, whose
rifles would carry more truly and much further than those of the
"Two wiped out!" Peter said, as the men fell, and shouts of anger arose
from the woods. "That'll make them careful."
This proof of the accuracy of the aim of the besieged checked their
assailants, and for some time they were very careful not to expose
themselves. From both sides of the forest a steady fire was maintained.
Occasionally an answering shot flashed out from the house when one of
the enemy incautiously showed an arm or a part of his body from behind
the trees, and it was seldom the rifles were fired in vain. Four or five
of the Americans were shot through the head as they leaned forward to
fire, and after an hour's exchange of bullets the attack ceased.
"What are they going to do now?" Harold asked.
"I expect they're going to wait till nightfall," Peter said. "There's no
moon, and they'll be able to work up all round the house. Then they'll
make a rush at the door and lower windows. We'll shoot down a good many
on 'em, and then they'll burst their way in or set fire to the hut, and
there'll be an end of it. That's what'll happen."
"And you think there is no way of making our way out?" Harold asked.
"It's a mighty poor chance, if there's one at all," the hunter replied.
"I should say by the fire there must be nigh a hundred of 'em now, and
it's likely that, by nightfall, there'll be three times as many. As soon
as it gets dusk they'll creep out from the woods and form a circle round
the house and gradually work up to it. Now let's cook some vittles;
we've had nothing to eat this morning yet, and it must be nigh eleven
o'clock. I don't see why we should be starved, even if we have got to be
One of the party was left on watch on each side of the house, and the
others gathered in the room below, where a fire was lit and the strips
of dried deer flesh which they carried were soon frying over it. Harold
admired the air of indifference with which his companions set about
preparing the meat. Everyone was aware of the desperate nature of the
position, but no allusion was made to it. The negro had caught the
spirit of his companions, but his natural loquacity prevented his
imitating their habitual silence.
"Dis bad affair, Massa Harold," he said. "We jess like so many coons up
in tree, wid a whole pack ob dogs round us, and de hunters in de
distance coming up wid de guns. Dis chile reckon dat some ob dem hunters
will get hit hard before dey get us. Jake don't care one bit for
himself, massa, but he bery sorry to see you in such a fix."
"It can't be helped, Jake," Harold said as cheerfully as he could. "It
was my firing that shot which got us into it, and yet I cannot blame
myself. We could not stand by and see those ruffians murder a woman
"Dat's so, Massa Harold; dere was no possinbility of seeing dat. I
reckon dat when dose rascals come to climb de stairs dey'll find it are
bery hard work."
"I don't think they will try, Jake. They are more likely to heap
brushwood against the door and windows and set it alight, and then shoot
us down as we rush out. This hut is not like the one I had to defend
against the Iroquois. That was built to repel Indians' attacks; this is
a mere squatter's hut."
After the meal was over Peter and the Seneca chief went upstairs, looked
through the loop-holes, and talked long and earnestly together; then
they rejoined the party below.
"The chief and I are of opinion," Peter said to Harold, "that it are of
no manner of use our waiting to be attacked here. They'd burn us out to
a sartinty; we should have no show of a fight at all. Anything's better
than that. Now, what we propose is that, directly it gets fairly dark,
we'll all creep out and make for the lake. Even if they have formed
their circle round us, they aint likely to be as thick there as they are
on the other side. What they'll try to do, in course, is to prevent our
taking to the forest; and there'll be such a grist of 'em that I don't
believe one of us would get through alive if we tried it. Now they'll
not be so strong toward the lake, and we might break through to the
water. I don't say as there's much chance of our getting away, for I
tell you fairly that I don't believe that there's any chance at all; but
the chief, here, and his braves don't want their sculps to hang in the
wigwams of the Chippewas, and I myself, ef I had the choice, would
rather be drownded than shot down. It don't make much difference; but,
of the two, I had rather. Ef we can reach the lake, we can swim out of
gunshot range. I know you can swim like a fish, and so can Jake, and the
Indians swim as a matter of course. Ef we dive at first we may get off;
it'll be so dark they won't see us with any sartainty beyond fifty
yards. When we're once fairly out in the lake we can take our chance."
"And is there a chance, Peter? Although, if there is none, I quite agree
with you that I would rather be drowned than shot down. If one were sure
of being killed by the first shot that would be the easiest death; but
if we were only wounded they would probably hang us in the morning."
"That's so," the hunter said. "Waal, I can hardly say that there's a
chance, and yet I can't say as how there aint. In the first place, they
may have some canoes and come out after us; there's pretty safe to be
some along the shore here. The settlers would have had 'em for fishing."
"But what chance will that give us?" Harold asked.
"Waal," the hunter replied, "I reckon in that case as our chance is a
fair one. Ef we dive and come up close alongside we may manage to upset
one of 'em, and, in that case, we might get off. That's one chance. Then
ef they don't come out in canoes, we might swim three or four miles down
the lake and take to land. They couldn't tell which way to go and would
have to scatter over a long line. It's just possible as we might land
without being seen. Once in the woods and we'd be safe. So you see, we
have two chances. In course we must throw away our rifles and ammunition
before we come to the water."
"At any rate," Harold said, "the plan is a hopeful one, and I agree with
you that it is a thousand times better to try it than it is to stop here
with the certainty of being shot down before morning."
The afternoon passed quietly. A few shots were fired occasionally from
the wood, and taunting shouts were heard of the fate which awaited them
when night approached.
A vigilant watch was kept from the upper windows, but Peter thought that
it was certain the enemy would make no move until it became perfectly
dark, although they would establish a strong cordon all round the
clearing in case the besieged should try and break out. Harold trembled
with impatience to be off as the night grew darker and darker. It seemed
to him that at any moment the assailants might be narrowing the circle
round the house, and, had he been a leader, he would have given the word
long before the scout made a move.
At last Peter signaled that the time had come. It was perfectly dark
when the bars were noiselessly removed from the door and the party stole
out. Everything seemed silent, but the very stillness made the danger
appear more terrible. Peter had impressed upon Harold and Jake the
necessity for moving without making the slightest noise. As soon as they
left the house the whole party dropped on their hands and knees. Peter
and the Seneca chief led the way; two of the braves came next; Harold
and Jake followed; the remaining Indians crawled in the rear. Peter had
told his comrades to keep as close as possible to the Indians in front
of them, and, grasping their rifles, they crept along the ground. As
they led the way Peter and the Seneca carefully removed from before them
every dried twig and threw it on one side.
The distance to be traversed from the hut to the water was about two
hundred yards, and half of this was passed over before they encountered
any obstacle. Then suddenly there was an exclamation, and Peter and the
Seneca sprang to their feet, as they came in contact with two men
crawling in the opposite direction. They were too close to use their
rifles, but a crushing blow from the Seneca's tomahawk cleft down the
man in front of him, while Peter drew his long knife from its sheath and
buried it in the body of his opponent.
The others had also leaped to their feet, and each, as he did so, fired
at the dark figures which rose around them. They had the advantage of
the surprise; several scattered shots answered their volley, then, with
their rifles clubbed, they rushed forward. For a moment there was a
hand-to-hand fight. Harold had just struck down a man opposite to him
when another sprang upon him; so sudden was the attack that he fell from
the shock. But in an instant Jake buried his knife between his
opponent's shoulders and dragged Harold to his feet.
"Run for your life, Massa Harold. De whole gang's upon us!"
And indeed the instant the first shot broke the silence of the woods a
babel of sounds arose from the whole circuit of the clearing; shouts and
yells burst out from hundreds of throats. There was no further use for
concealment, and from all sides the men who had been advancing to the
attack rushed in the direction where the conflict was taking place. This
lasted but a few seconds. As Peter had expected, the line was thinner
toward the lake than upon the other sides, and the rush of nine men had
broken through it. Shouts were heard from the woods on either side
extending down to the water, showing that the precaution had been taken
by the assailants of leaving a portion of their force to guard the line
of forest should the defenders break through the circle.
At headlong speed the little band rushed down to the water's side,
dropped their ammunition pouches by its edge, threw their rifles a few
yards into the water, to be recovered, perhaps, on some future occasion,
and then dived in. The nearest of the pursuers were some thirty yards
behind when they neared the water's edge. Swimming as far under water as
they could hold their breath, each came to the surface for an instant,
and then again dived. Momentarily as they showed themselves they heard
the rattle of musketry behind, and the bullets splashed thickly on the
water. The night, however, was so dark that the fire could only be a
random one. Until far out from the shore they continued diving and then
"We're pretty well out of range, now," Peter said, "and quite out of
sight of the varmints. Now we can wait a bit and see what they do next."
The enemy were still keeping up a heavy fire from the shore, hallooing
and shouting to each other as they fancied they caught a glimpse of
"There must be two or three hundred of 'em," Peter said. "We've fooled
'em nicely, so far."
By the crashing of the bushes the fugitives could hear strong parties
making their way along the shore in either direction. An hour passed,
during which the fugitives floated nearly opposite the clearing.
"Hullo!" Peter exclaimed presently. "There's a canoe coming along the
lake. I expect they got it from Cameron's."
As he spoke a canoe appeared round the point. Two men were standing up
holding blazing torches; two others paddled; while two, rifle in hand,
sat by them. Almost at the same moment another canoe, similarly manned,
pushed out from the shore immediately opposite.
"I wish we had known of that canoe," Peter said; "it would have saved us
a lot of trouble; but we had no time for looking about. I suspected them
settlers must have had one laid up somewheres. Now," he went on, "let's
make our plans. The canoes are sure to keep pretty nigh each other.
They'll most likely think as we've gone down the lake and'll not be
looking very sharply after us at present. It'll never do to let 'em pass
us. Now Jake and I and two of the Injuns will take one canoe, and the
chief and three of his braves the other. We must move round so as to get
between 'em and the shore, and then dive and come up close to 'em. Now,
Harold, do you swim out a bit further and then make a splash so as to
call their attention. Do it once or twice till you see that they've got
their eyes turned that way. Then be very quiet, so as to keep 'em
watching for another sound. That'll be our moment for attacking 'em."
They waited till the two canoes joined each other and paddled slowly out
from the shore. Then the eight swimmers started off to make their
_detour_, while Harold swam quietly further out into the lake. The
canoes were about three hundred yards from shore and were paddling very
slowly, the occupants keeping a fixed look along the lake. There was
perfect quiet on the shore now, and when Harold made a slight splash
with his hand upon the water he saw that it was heard. Both canoes
stopped rowing, the steerers in each case giving them a steer so that
they lay broadside to the land, giving each man a view over the lake.
They sat as quiet as if carved in stone. Again Harold made a splash, but
this time a very slight one, so slight that it could hardly reach the
ears of the listeners.
A few words were exchanged by the occupants of the boats.
"They are further out on the lake, Bill," one said.
"I am not sure," another answered. "I rather think the sound was further
down. Listen again."
Again they sat motionless. Harold swam with his eyes fixed upon them.
Every face was turned his way and none was looking shoreward. Then,
almost at the same instant there was a shout from both boats. The men
with torches seemed to lose their balance. The lights described a half
circle through the air and were extinguished. A shout of astonishment
broke from the occupants, mingled with the wild Seneca war-yell, and he
knew that both canoes were upset.
There was a sound of a desperate struggle going on. Oaths and wild cries
rose from the water. Heavy blows were struck, while from the shore arose
loud shouts of dismay and rage. In two minutes all was quiet on the
water. Then came Peter's shout:
"This way, Harold! We'll have the canoes righted and bailed in a minute.
The varmin's all wiped out."
With a lightened heart Harold swam toward the spot. The surprise had
been a complete success. The occupants of the canoes, intent only upon
the pursuit and having no fear of attack--for they knew that the
fugitives must have thrown away their rifles--were all gazing intently
out on the lake, when, close to each canoe on the shore side, four heads
rose from out of the water. In an instant eight hands had seized the
gunwales, and, before the occupants were aware of their danger, the
canoes were upset.
Taken wholly by surprise, the Americans were no match for their
assailants. The knives of the latter did their work before the
frontiersmen had thoroughly grasped what had happened. Two or three,
indeed, had made a desperate fight, but they were no match for their
opponents, and the struggle was quickly over.
On Harold reaching the canoes he found them already righted and half
emptied of water. The paddles were picked up, and, in a few minutes,
with a derisive shout of adieu to their furious enemy on the shore, the
two canoes paddled out into the lake. When they had attained a distance
of about half a mile from the shore they turned the boats heads and
paddled north. In three hours they saw lights in the wood.
"There's the troops," Peter said. "Soldiers are never content unless
they're making fires big enough to warn every redskin within fifty miles
that they're coming."
As they approached the shore the challenge from the English sentinel
came over the water:
"Who comes there?"
"Friends," Peter replied.
"Give the password."
"How on arth am I to give the password," Peter shouted back, "when we've
been three days away from the camp?"
"If you approach without the password I fire," the sentinel said.
"I tell ye," Peter shouted, "we're scouts with news for the general."
"I can't help who you are," the sentinel said. "I have got my orders."
"Pass the word along for an officer," Harold shouted. "We have
The sentry called to the one next him, and so the word was passed along
the line. In a few minutes an officer appeared on the shore, and, after
a short parley, the party were allowed to land, and Peter and Harold
were at once conducted to the headquarters of General Burgoyne.
"What is your report?" asked General Burgoyne, as the scouts were
conducted into his tent.
"We have discovered, sir, that the Americans have strongly fortified
Mount Independence, which faces Ticonderoga, and have connected the two
places by a bridge across the river, which is protected by a strong
boom. Both positions are, however, overlooked by Sugar Hill, and this
they have entirely neglected to fortify. If you were to seize this they
would have to retire at once."
The general expressed his satisfaction at the news and gave orders that
steps should be taken to seize Sugar Hill immediately. He then
questioned the scouts as to their adventures and praised them highly for
The next day the army advanced, and at nightfall both divisions were in
their places, having arrived within an hour or two of each other from
the opposite sides of the lake. Sugar Hill was seized the same night,
and a strong party were set to work cutting a road through the trees.
The next morning the enemy discovered the British at work erecting a
battery on the hill, and their general decided to evacuate both
Ticonderoga and Mount Independence instantly. Their baggage, provisions,
and stores were embarked in two hundred boats and sent up the river. The
army started to march by the road.
The next morning the English discovered that the Americans had
disappeared. Captain Lutwych immediately set to work to destroy the
bridge and boom, whose construction had taken the Americans nearly
twelve months' labor. By nine in the morning a passage was effected, and
some gunboats passed through in pursuit of the enemy's convoy. They
overtook them near Skenesborough, engaged and captured many of their
largest craft, and obliged them to set several others on fire, together
with a large number of their boats and barges.
A few hours afterward a detachment of British troops in gunboats came up
the river to Skenesborough. The cannon on the works which the Americans
had erected there opened fire, but the troops were landed, and the enemy
at once evacuated their works, setting fire to their store-houses and
mills. While these operations had been going on by water Brigadier
General Fraser, at the head of the advance corps of grenadiers and light
infantry, pressed hard upon the division of the enemy which had retired
by the Hubberton Road, and overtook them at five o'clock in the morning.
The division consisted of fifteen hundred of the best colonial troops
under the command of Colonel Francis. They were posted on strong ground
and sheltered by breastworks composed of logs and old trees. General
Fraser's detachment was inferior in point of numbers to that of the
defenders of the position, but as he expected a body of the German
troops under General Reidesel to arrive immediately, he at once attacked
the breastworks. The Americans defended their post with great resolution
and bravery. The re-enforcements did not arrive so soon as was expected,
and for some time the British made no way.
General Reidesel, hearing the fire in front, pushed forward at full
speed with a small body of troops. Among these was the band, which he
ordered to play.
The enemy, hearing the music and supposing that the whole of the
German troops had come up, evacuated the position and fell back
with precipitation. Colonel Francis and many others were killed and
two hundred taken prisoners. On the English side 120 men were
killed and wounded.
The enemy from Skenesborough were pursued by Colonel Hill, with the
Ninth Regiment, and were overtaken near Fort Anne. Finding how small was
the force that pursued them in comparison to their own, they took the
offensive. A hot engagement took place, and after three hours' fighting
the Americans were repulsed with great slaughter and forced to retreat
after setting fire to Fort Anne and Fort Edward.
In these operations the British captured 148 guns, with large quantities
of stores. At Fort Edward General Schuyler was joined by General St.
Clair, but even with this addition the total American strength did not
exceed forty-four hundred.
Instead of returning from Skenesborough to Ticonderoga, whence he might
have sailed with his army up to Lake George, General Burgoyne proceeded
to cut his way through the woods to the lake. The difficulties of the
passage were immense: swamps and morasses had to be passed, bridges had
to be constructed over creeks, ravines, and gulleys. The troops worked
with great vigor and spirit. Major General Phillips had returned to Lake
George and transported the artillery, provisions, and baggage to Fort
George and thence by land to a point on the Hudson River, together with
a large number of boats for the use of the army in their intended
descent to Albany.
So great was the labor entailed by this work that it was not until July
30 that the army arrived on the Hudson River. The delay of three weeks
had afforded the enemy time to recover their spirits and recruit their
strength. General Arnold arrived with a strong re-enforcement, and a
force was detached to check the progress of Colonel St. Leger, who was
coming down from Montreal by way of Lake Ontario and the Mohawk River to
effect a junction with General Burgoyne.
General Burgoyne determined to advance at once. The army was already
suffering from want of transportation, and he decided to send a body of
troops to Bennington, twenty-four miles to the eastward of the Hudson
River, where the Americans had large supplies collected. Instead of
sending light infantry he dispatched six hundred Germans--the worst
troops he could have selected for this purpose, as they were very
heavily armed and marched exceedingly slowly. Several of the officers
remonstrated with him, but with his usual infatuated obstinacy he
maintained his disposition.
On approaching Bennington Colonel Baum, who commanded the Germans, found
that a very strong force was gathered there. He sent back for
re-enforcements, and five hundred more Germans, under Lieutenant Colonel
Breyman, were dispatched to his assistance. Long, however, before these
slowly moving troops could arrive Colonel Baum was attacked by the enemy
in vastly superior numbers. The Germans fought with great bravery and
several times charged the Americans and drove them back. Fresh troops
continued to come up on the enemy's side, and the Germans, having lost a
large number of men, including their colonel, were forced to retreat
into the woods. The enemy then advanced against Colonel Breyman, who was
ignorant of the disaster that had befallen Baum, and with his detachment
had occupied twenty-four hours in marching sixteen miles. The Germans
again fought well, but after a gallant resistance were obliged to fall
back. In these two affairs they lost six hundred men.
In the meantime Colonel St. Leger had commenced his attack upon Fort
Stanwix, which was defended by seven hundred men. The American General
Herkimer advanced with one thousand men to its relief. Colonel St.
Leger detached Sir John Johnson with a party of regulars and a number
of Indians, who had accompanied him, to meet them. The enemy advanced
incautiously and fell into an ambush. A terrible fire was poured into
them, and the Indians then rushed down and attacked them hand to hand.
The Americans, although taken by surprise, fought bravely and
succeeded in making their retreat, leaving four hundred killed and
wounded behind them.
Colonel St. Leger had no artillery which was capable of making any
impression on the defenses of the fort. Its commander sent out a man
who, pretending to be a deserter, entered the British camp and informed
Colonel St. Leger that General Burgoyne had been defeated and his army
cut to pieces, and that General Arnold, with two thousand men, was
advancing to raise the siege. Colonel St. Leger did not credit the news,
but it created a panic among the Indians, the greater portion of whom at
once retired without orders, and St. Leger, having but a small British
force with him, was compelled to follow their example, leaving his
artillery and stores behind him.
On September 13 General Burgoyne, having with immense labor collected
thirty days' provisions on the Hudson, crossed the river by a bridge of
boats and encamped on the heights of Saratoga. His movements had been
immensely hampered by the vast train of artillery which he took with
him. In an open country a powerful force of artillery is of the greatest
service to an army, but in a campaign in a wooded and roadless country
it is of little utility and enormously hampers the operations of an
army. Had General Burgoyne, after the capture of Ticonderoga, pressed
forward in light order without artillery, he could unquestionably have
marched to New York without meeting with any serious opposition, but the
six weeks' delay had enabled the Americans to collect a great force to
On the 19th, as the army were advancing to Stillwater, five thousand of
the enemy attacked the British right. They were led by General Arnold
and fought with great bravery and determination. The brunt of the battle
fell on the Twentieth, Twenty-fourth, and Sixty-second regiments. For
four hours the fight continued without any advantage on either side, and
at nightfall the Americans drew off, each side having lost about six
hundred men. After the battle of Stillwater the whole of the Indians
with General Burgoyne left him and returned to Canada.
Hampered with his great train of artillery, unprovided with
transportation, in the face of a powerful enemy posted in an exceedingly
strong position, General Burgoyne could neither advance nor retreat. The
forage was exhausted and the artillery horses were dying in great
numbers. He had hoped that Sir William Howe would have sailed up the
Hudson and joined him, but the English commander-in-chief had taken his
army down to Philadelphia. Sir Henry Clinton, who commanded at New York,
endeavored with a small force at his command to make a diversion by
operating against the American posts on the Hudson River, but this was
of no utility.
Burgoyne's army was now reduced to little more than five thousand men,
and he determined to fall back upon the lakes. Before doing this,
however, it would be necessary to dislodge the Americans from their
posts on his left. Leaving the camp under the command of General
Hamilton, Burgoyne advanced with fifteen hundred men against them. But
scarcely had the detachment started when the enemy made a furious attack
on the British left. Major Ackland, with the grenadiers, was posted
here, and for a time defended himself with great bravery. The light
infantry and Twenty-fourth were sent to their assistance, but,
overpowered by numbers, the left wing was forced to retreat into their
intrenchments. These the enemy, led by General Arnold, at once attacked
with great impetuosity. For a long time the result was doubtful, and it
was not until the American leader was wounded that the attack ceased. In
the meantime the intrenchments defended by the German troops under
Colonel Breyman had also been attacked. Here the fight was obstinate,
but the German intrenchments were carried, Colonel Breyman killed, and
his troops retreated with the loss of all their baggage and artillery.
Two hundred prisoners fell into the hands of the Americans.
That night the British army was concentrated on the heights above the
hospital. General Gates, who commanded the Americans, moved his army so
as to entirely inclose the British, and the latter, on the night of
October 8, retired to Saratoga, being obliged to leave all their sick
and wounded in the hospital. These were treated with the greatest
kindness by the Americans. An attempt was now made to retreat to Fort
George or Fort Edward, but the Americans had taken up positions on each
road and fortified them with cannon.
Only about thirty-five hundred fighting men now remained, of whom but
one-half were British, and scarcely eight days' provisions were left.
The enemy, four times superior in point of numbers, held every line of
retreat and eluded every attempt of the British to force them to a
The position was hopeless, and on October 13 a council of war was held
and it was determined to open negotiations for a surrender. Two days
were spent in negotiations, and it was finally agreed that the army
should lay down its arms and that it should be marched to Boston, and
there allowed to sail for England on condition of not serving again in
North America during the contest. The Canadians were to be allowed to
return at once to their own country. On the 16th the army laid down its
arms. It consisted of thirty-five hundred fighting men and six hundred
sick and nearly two thousand boatmen, teamsters, and other
Never did a general behave with greater incompetence than that
manifested by General Burgoyne from the day of his leaving Ticonderoga,
and the disaster which befell his army was entirely the result of
mismanagement, procrastination, and faulty generalship.
Had Harold remained with the army until its surrender his share in the
war would have been at an end, for the Canadians, as well as all others
who laid down their arms, gave their word of honor not to serve again
during the war. He had, however, with Peter Lambton and Jake,
accompanied Colonel Baum's detachment on its march to Bennington.
Scouting in front of the column, they had ascertained the presence of
large numbers of the enemy, and had, by hastening back with the news,
enabled the German colonel to make some preparations for resistance
before the attack was made upon him. During the fight that ensued the
scouts, posted behind trees on the German left, had assisted them to
repel the attack from that quarter, and when the Germans gave way they
effected their escape into the woods and managed to rejoin the army.
They had continued with it until it moved to the hospital heights after
the disastrous attack by the Americans on their camp. General Burgoyne
then sent for Peter Lambton, who was, he knew, one of his most active
and intelligent scouts.
"Could you make your way through the enemy's lines down to
Ticonderoga?" he asked.
"I could try, general," Peter said. "Me and the party who work with me
could get through if anyone could, but more nor that I can't say. The
Yanks are swarming around pretty thick, I reckon; but if we have luck we
might make a shift to get through."
"I have hopes," the general said, "that another regiment, for which I
asked General Carleton, has arrived there. Here is a letter to General
Powell, who is in command, to beg him to march with all his available
force and fall upon the enemy posted on our line of communication.
Unless the new regiment has reached him he will not have a sufficient
force to attempt this, but, if this has come up, he may be able to do
so. He is to march in the lightest order and at full speed, so as to
take the enemy by surprise. Twelve hours before he starts you will bring
me back news of his coming, and I will move out to meet him. His
operations in their rear will confuse the enemy and enable me to operate
with a greater chance of success. I tell you this because, if you are
surrounded and in difficulties, you may have to destroy my dispatch. You
can then convey my instructions by word of mouth to General Powell if
you succeed in getting through."
Upon leaving headquarters Peter joined his friends.
"It's a risksome business," he went on, after informing them of the
instructions he had received, "but I don't know as it's much more
risksome than stopping here. It don't seem to me that this army is like
to get out of the trap into which their general has led 'em. Whatever he
wanted to leave the lakes for is more nor I can tell. However,
generaling aint my business, and I wouldn't change places with the old
man to-day, not for a big sum of money. Now, chief, what do you say?
How's this 'ere business to be carried out?"
The Seneca, with the five braves who had from the first accompanied
them, were now the only Indians with the British army. The rest of the
redskins, disgusted with the dilatory progress of the army and
foreseeing inevitable disaster, had all betaken themselves to their
homes. They were, moreover, angered at the severity with which the
English general had endeavored to suppress their tendency to acts of
cruelty on the defenseless settlers. The redskin has no idea of
civilized warfare. His sole notion of fighting is to kill, burn, and
destroy, and the prohibition of all irregular operations and of the
infliction of unnecessary suffering was, in his eyes, an act of
incomprehensible weakness. The Seneca chief remained with the army
simply because his old comrade did so. He saw that there was little
chance of plunder, but he and his braves had succeeded in fair fight in
obtaining many scalps, and would, at least, be received with high honor
on their return to their tribe.
A long discussion took place between the chief and Peter before they
finally decided upon the best course to be pursued. They were ignorant
of the country and of the disposition of the enemy's force, and could
only decide to act upon general principles. They thought it probable
that the Americans would be most thickly posted upon the line between
the British army and the lakes, and their best chance of success would
therefore be to make their way straight ahead for some distance, and
then, when they had penetrated the American lines, to make a long
_detour_ round to the lakes.
Taking four days' provisions with them they started when nightfall had
fairly set in. It was intensely dark, and in the shadows of the woods
Harold was unable to see his hand before him. The Indians appeared to
have a faculty of seeing in the dark, for they advanced without the
slightest pause or hesitation and were soon in the open country. The
greatest vigilance was now necessary. Everywhere they could hear the low
hum which betokens the presence of many men gathered together. Sometimes
a faint shout came to their ears, and for a long distance around the
glow in the sky told of many fires. The party now advanced with the
greatest caution, frequently halting while the Indians went on ahead to
scout; and more than once they were obliged to alter their direction as
they came upon bodies of men posted across their front. At last they
passed through the line of sentinels, and, avoiding all the camps,
gained the country in the Americans' rear.
They now struck off to the right, and by daybreak were far round beyond
the American army, on their way to Ticonderoga. They had walked for
fifteen hours when they halted, and it was not until late in the
afternoon that they continued their journey. They presently struck the
road which the army had cut in its advance, and keeping parallel with
this through the forest they arrived the next morning at Fort Edward. A
few hours' rest here and they continued their march to Ticonderoga. This
place had been attacked by the Americans a few days previously, but the
garrison had beaten off the assailants.
On the march they had seen many bodies of the enemy moving along the
road, but their approach had in every case been detected in time to take
refuge in the forest. On entering the fort Peter at once proceeded to
General Powell's quarters and delivered the dispatch with which he had
been intrusted. The general read it.
"No re-enforcements have arrived," the general said, "and the force here
is barely sufficient to defend the place. It would be madness for me to
set out on such a march with the handful of troops at my disposal."
He then questioned Peter concerning the exact position of the army, and
the latter had no hesitation in saying that he thought the whole force
would be compelled to lay down their arms unless some re-enforcements
reached them from below.
This, however, was not to be. General Clinton captured Forts Montgomery
and Clinton, the latter a very strong position, defended with great
resolution by four hundred Americans. The Seventh and Twenty-sixth
regiments and a company of grenadiers attacked on one side, the
Sixty-third Regiment on the other. They had no cannon to cover their
advance and had to cross ground swept by ten pieces of artillery. In no
event during the war did the British fight with more resolution.
Without firing a shot they pressed forward to the foot of the works,
climbed over each other's shoulders on to the walls, and drove the
enemy back. The latter discharged one last volley into the troops and
then laid down their arms. Notwithstanding the slaughter effected by
this wanton fire after all possibility of continuing a resistance was
over, quarter was given and not one of the enemy was killed after the
fort was taken. The British loss was 140 killed and wounded; 300
Americans were killed, wounded, or taken prisoners. The fleet attacked
the American squadron on the river and entirely destroyed it. Beyond
sending a flying squadron up the river to destroy the enemy's boats and
stores of provisions, nothing further could be done to effect a
diversion in favor of General Burgoyne.
Four days after Harold's arrival at Ticonderoga the news of the
surrender of General Burgoyne reached the place. Upon the following day
he suggested to Peter Lambton that they should visit the clearing of the
ex-soldier Cameron and see whether their interference had saved him and
his family. Upon arriving at the spot whence Harold had fired the shot
which had brought discovery upon them, they saw a few charred stumps
alone remaining of the snug house which had stood there. In front of it,
upon the stump of a tree, Cameron himself was sitting in an attitude of
They walked across the clearing to the spot, but although the sound of
their footsteps must have reached his ear, the man did not look up until
Harold touched him on the shoulder.
"What has happened?" he asked. "Who has done this ruin?"
The man still remained with his head bent down, as if he had not heard
"We had hoped that you had escaped," Harold went on. "We were hidden in
the wood when we saw those ruffians drive your wife and daughter out,
and it was the shot from my rifle that killed their leader and brought
them down on us; and a narrow escape we had of it; but we hoped that we
had diverted them from their determination to kill you and your family."
Cameron looked up now.
"I thank ye, sir," he said. "I thank ye wi' a' my hairt for your
interference on our behalf. I heerd how closely ye were beset that
night and how ye escaped. They thought nae mair o' us, and when the
royal army arrived the next day we were safe; but ye might as weel ha'
let the matter gang on--better, indeed, for then I should be deed
instead o' suffering. This wark," and he pointed toward the remains of
the house, "is redskin deviltry. A fortnight sin' a band o' Indians
fell upon us. I was awa'. They killed my wife and burned my house and
ha' carried off my bairn."
"Who were they?" Harold asked.
"I dinna ken," Cameron replied; "but a neebor o' mine whose place they
attacked, and whom they had scalped and left for deed, told me that they
were a band o' the Iroquois who had come down from Lake Michigan and
advanced wi' the British. He said that they, with the other redskins,
desairted when their hopes o' plunder were disappointed, and that on
their way back to their tribes they burned and ravaged every settlement
they cam' across. My neebor was an old frontiersman; he had fought
against the tribe and knew their war-cry. He deed the next day. He was
mair lucky than I am."
"The tarnal ruffians!" Peter exclaimed; "the murdering varmints! And to
think of 'em carrying off that purty little gal of yours! I suppose by
this time they're at their old game of plundering and slaying on the
frontier. It's naught to them which side they fight on; scalps and
plunder is all they care for."
The unfortunate settler had sat down again on the log, the picture of a
broken-hearted man. Harold drew Peter a short distance away.
"Look here. Peter," he said. "Now Burgoyne's army has surrendered and
winter is close at hand, it is certain that there will be no further
operations here, except perhaps that the Americans will recapture the
place. What do you say to our undertaking an expedition on our own
account to try and get back this poor fellow's daughter? I do not know
whether the Seneca would join us, but we three--of course I count
Jake--and the settler might do something. I have an old grudge against
these Iroquois myself, as you have heard; and for aught I know they may
long ere this have murdered my cousins."
"The Seneca will jine," Peter said, "willing enough. There's an old feud
between his tribe and the Iroquois. He'll jine fast enough. But mind,
youngster, this aint no child's play; it aint like fighting them
American clodhoppers. We'll have to deal with men as sharp as ourselves,
who can shoot as well, hear as well, see as well, who are in their own
country, and who are a hundred to one against us. We've got hundreds and
hundreds of miles to travel afore we gets near 'em. It's a big job; but
if, when ye thinks it all over, you're ready to go, Peter Lambton aint
the man to hold back. As you say, there's naught to do this winter, and
we might as well be doing this as anything else."
The two men then went back to the settler.
"Cameron," Harold said, "it is of no use sitting here grieving. Why not
be up in pursuit of those who carried off your daughter?"
The man sprang to his feet.
"In pursuit!" he cried fiercely; "in pursuit! Do ye think Donald Cameron
wad be sitting here quietly if he kenned where to look for his
daughter--where to find the murderers o' his wife? But what can I do?
For three days after I cam' back and found what had happened I was just
mad. I couldna think nor rest, nor do aught but throw mysel' on the
ground and pray to God to tak' me. When at last I could think, it was
too late. It wad hae mattered naething to me that they were a hundred to
one. If I could ha' killed but one o' them I wad ha' died happy; but
they were gone, and how could I follow them--how could I find them? Tell
me where to look, mon--show me the way; and if it be to the ends o' the
airth I will go after them."
"We will do more, than that," Harold said. "My friend and myself have
still with us the seven men who were with us when we were here before.
Five are Senecas, the other a faithful negro who would go through fire
and water for me. There is little chance of our services being required
during the winter with the British army. We, are interested in you and
in the pretty child we saw here, and, if you will, we will accompany you
in the search for her. Peter Lambton knows the country well, and if
anyone could lead you to your child and rescue her from those who
carried her off, he is the man."
"Truly!" gasped the Scotchman. "And will ye truly gang wi' me to find
my bairn? May the guid God o' heaven bless you!" and the tears ran down
"Git your traps together at once, man," Peter said. "Let's go straight
back to the fort; then I'll set the matter before the chief, who will, I
warrant me, be glad enough to jine the expedition. It's too late to
follow the track of the red varmints; our best plan will be to make
straight for the St. Lawrence; to take a boat if we can git one; if not,
two canoes; and to make up the river and along the Ontario. Then we must
sell our boat, cross to Erie, and git fresh canoes and go on by Detroit
into Lake Huron, and so up in the country of these reptiles. We shall
have no difficulty, I reckon, in discovering the whereabout of the tribe
which has been away on this expedition."
The Scotchman took up the rifle.
"I am ready," he said, and without another word the party started
for the fort.
Upon their arrival there a consultation was held with the Seneca. The
prospect of an expedition against his hereditary foes filled him with
delight, and three of his braves also agreed to accompany them. Jake
received the news with the remark:
"All right, Massa Harold. It make no odds to dis chile whar he goes. You
say de word--Jake ready."
Half an hour sufficed for making the preparations, and they at once
proceeded to the point where they had hidden the two canoes on the night
when they joined General Burgoyne before his advance upon Ticonderoga.
These were soon floating on the lake, and they started to paddle to the
mouth of the Sorrel, down this river into the St. Lawrence, and thence
to Montreal. Their rifles they had recovered from the lake upon the day
following that on which Ticonderoga was first captured; Deer Tail having
dispatched to the spot two of his braves, who recovered them without
difficulty, by diving, and brought them back to the fort.
At Montreal they stayed but a few hours. An ample supply of ammunition
was purchased and provisions sufficient for the voyage; and then,
embarking in the two canoes, they started up the St. Lawrence. It was
three weeks later when they arrived at Detroit, which was garrisoned by
a British force. Here they heard that there had been continuous troubles
with the Indians on the frontier; that a great many farms and
settlements had been destroyed, and numbers of persons murdered.
Their stay at Detroit was a short one. Harold obtained no news of his
cousins, but there were so many tales told of Indian massacres that he
was filled with apprehension on their account. His worst apprehensions
were justified when the canoes at length came within sight of the
well-remembered clearing. Harold gave a cry as he saw that the farmhouse
no longer existed. The two canoes were headed toward shore, and their
occupants disembarked and walked toward the spot where the house had
stood. The site was marked by a heap of charred embers. The outhouses
had been destroyed, and a few fowls were the only living things to be
seen in the fields.
"This here business must have taken place some time ago," Peter said,
breaking the silence. "A month, I should say, or p'r'aps more."
For a time Harold was too moved to speak. The thought of his kind
cousins and their brave girl all murdered by the Indians filled him with
deep grief. At last he said:
"What makes you think so, Peter?"
"It's easy enough to see as it was after the harvest, for ye see the
fields is all clear. And then there's long grass shooting up through the
ashes. It would take a full month, p'r'aps six weeks, afore it would do
that. Don't you think so, chief?"
The Seneca nodded.
"A moon," he said.
"Yes, about a month," replied Peter. "The grass grows quick after
"Do you think that it was a surprise, Peter?"
"No man can tell," the hunter answered. "If we had seen the place soon
afterward we might have told. There would have been marks of blood. Or
if the house had stood we could have told by the bullet-holes and the
color of the splintered wood how it happened and how long back. As it
is, not even the chief can give ye an idea."
"Not an attack," the Seneca said; "a surprise."
"How on arth do you know that, chief?" the hunter exclaimed in
surprise, and he looked round in search of some sign which would have
enabled the Seneca to have given so confident an opinion. "You must be
a witch, surely."
"A chief's eyes are not blind," the redskin answered, with a
slight smile of satisfaction at having for once succeeded when his
white comrade was at fault. "Let my friend look up the hill--two
dead men there."
Harold looked in the direction in which the chief pointed, but could see
nothing. The hunter exclaimed:
"There's something there, chief, but even my eyes couldn't tell they
The party proceeded to the spot and found two skeletons. A few remnants
of clothes lay around, but the birds had stripped every particle of
flesh from the bones. There was a bullet in the forehead of one skull;
the other was cleft with a sharp instrument.
"It's clear enough," the hunter said, "there's been a surprise. Likely
enough the hull lot was killed without a shot being fired in defense."
Harold was deeply touched at the evidences of the fate which had
befallen the occupants of his cousin's plantation.
"If there are any more of these to be found," pointing to their remains,
"we might learn for a certainty whether the same fate befell them all."
The Seneca spoke a word to his followers and the four Indians spread
themselves over the clearing. One more body was found--it was lying down
near the water as if killed in the act of making for the canoe.
"The others are probably there," Peter said, pointing to the ruins. "The
three hands was killed in the fields, and most likely the attack was
made at the same moment on the house. I'm pretty sure it was so, for the
body by the water lies face downward, with his head toward the lake. He
was no doubt shot from behind as he was running. There must have been
Injuns round the house then, or he would have made for that instead of
The Seneca touched Peter on the shoulder and pointed toward the farm. A
figure was seen approaching. As it came nearer they could see that he
was a tall man, dressed in the deerskin shirt and leggings usually worn
by hunters. As he came near Harold gave an exclamation:
"It is Jack Pearson!"
"It are Jack Pearson," the hunter said, "but for the moment I can't
recollect ye, though yer face seems known. Why!" he exclaimed in changed
tones, "it's that boy Harold growed into a man."
"It is," Harold replied, grasping the frontiersman's hand.
"And ye may know me, too," Peter Lambton said, "though it's twenty year
since we fought side by side against the Mohawks."
"Why, old hoss, are you above ground still?" the hunter exclaimed
heartily. "I'm glad to see you again, old friend. And what are you doing
here, you and Harold and these Senecas? For they is Senecas, sure
enough. I've been in the woods for the last hour, and have been puzzling
myself nigh to death. I seed them Injuns going about over the clearing
sarching, and for the life of me I couldn't think what they were
a-doing. Then I seed 'em gathered down here, with two white men among
'em, so I guessed it was right to show myself."
"They were searching to see how many had fallen in this terrible
business," Harold said, pointing to the ruins. The hunter shook his
"I'm afeared they've all gone under. I were here a week afterward; it
were just as it is now. I found the three hands lying killed and sculped
in the fields; the others, I reckon, is there. I has no doubt at all
about Bill Welch and his wife, but it may be that the gal has been
"Do you think so?" Harold exclaimed eagerly. "If so, we may find her,
too, with the other."
"What other?" Pearson, asked.
Harold gave briefly an account of the reason which had brought them to
the spot and of the object they had in view.
"You can count me in," Pearson said. "There's just a chance that Nelly
Welch may be in their hands still; and in any case I'm longing to draw a
bead on some of the varmints to pay 'em for this," and he looked round
him, "and a hundred other massacres round this frontier."
"I'm glad to hear ye say so," Peter replied. "I expected as much of ye,
Jack. I don't know much of this country, having only hunted here for a
few weeks with a party of Delawares twenty year afore the Iroquois moved
so far west."
"I know pretty nigh every foot of it," Jack Pearson said. "When the
Iroquois were quiet I used to do a deal of hunting in their country. It
are good country for game."
"Well! shall we set out at once?" Harold asked, impatient to be off.
"We can't move to-night," Pearson answered; and Harold saw that Peter
and the Indians agreed with him.
"Why not?" he asked. "Every hour is of importance."
"That's so," Peter said, "but there's no going out on the lake to-night.
In half an hour we'll have our first snowstorm, and by morning it will
be two foot deep."
Harold turned his eyes toward the lake and saw what his companions had
noticed long before. The sky was overcast and a thick bank of hidden
clouds was rolling up across the lake, and the thick mist seemed to hang
between the clouds and the water.
"That's snow," Peter said. "It's late this year, and I'd give my pension
if it was a month later."
"That's so," Pearson said. "Snow aint never pleasant in the woods, but
when you're scouting round among Injuns it are a caution. We'd best make
a shelter afore it comes on."
The two canoes were lifted from the water, unloaded, and turned bottom
upward; a few charred planks, which had formed part of the roof of the
outhouses, were brought and put up to form a sort of shelter. A fire was
lit and a meal prepared. By this time the snow had begun to fall. After
the meal was over pipes were lit and the two hunters earnestly talked
over their plans, the Seneca chief throwing in a few words occasionally;
the others listened quietly. The Indians left the matter in the hands of
their chief, while Harold and Cameron knew that the two frontiersmen did
not need any suggestion from them. As to Jake, the thought of asking
questions never entered his mind. He was just at present less happy than
usual, for the negro, like most of his race, hated cold, and the
prospect of wandering through the woods in deep snow made him shudder
as he crouched close to the great fire they had built.
Peter and Jack Pearson were of opinion that it was exceedingly
probable that the Welches had been destroyed by the very band which
had carried off little Janet Cameron. The bodies of Indians who had
been on the war-path with the army had retired some six weeks before,
and it was about that time, Pearson said, that the attack on the
settlements had been made.
"I heard some parties of redskins who had been with the British
troops had passed through the neighborhood, and there was reports
that they were greatly onsatisfied with the results of the campaign.
As likely as not some of that band may have been consarned in the
attack on this place three year ago, and, passing nigh it, may have
determined to wipe out that defeat. An Injun never forgives. Many of
their braves fell here, and they could scarcely bring a more welcome
trophy back to their villages than the scalps of Welch and his men."
"Now, the first thing to do," Peter said, "is to find out what
particular chief took his braves with him to the war; then we've got
to find his village; and there likely enough we'll find Cameron's
daughter and maybe the girl from here. How old was she?"
"About fifteen," Pearson said, "and a fine girl, and a pretty girl,
too. I dun know," he went on after a pause, "which of the chiefs took
part in the war across the lakes, but I suspect it were War Eagle.
There's three great chiefs, and the other two were trading on the
frontier. It was War Eagle who attacked the place afore, and would be
the more likely to attack it again if he came anywheres near it. He
made a mess of it afore and 'd be burning to wipe out his failure if
he had a chance."
"Where is his place?"
"His village is the furthest of them all from here. He lives up near
the falls of Sault Ste. Marie, betwixt Lakes Superior and Huron. It's
a village with nigh three hundred wigwams."
"It aint easy to see how it's to be done. We must make to the north
shore of the lake. There'll be no working down here through the
woods; but it's a pesky difficult job--about as hard a one as ever I
took part in."
"It is that," Pearson said; "it can't be denied. To steal two white
girls out of a big Injun village aint a easy job at no time; but with
the snow on the ground it comes as nigh to an impossibility as
anything can do."
For another hour or two they talked over the route they should take
and their best mode of proceeding. Duncan Cameron sat and listened
with an intent face to every word. Since he had joined them he had
spoken but seldom; his whole soul was taken up with the thought of
his little daughter. He was ever ready to do his share and more than
his share of the work of paddling and at the portages, but he never
joined in the conversation; and of an evening, when the others sat
round the fire, he would move away and pace backward and forward in
anxious thought until the fire burned low and the party wrapped
themselves in their blankets and went off to sleep.
All the time the conversation had been going on the snow had fallen
heavily, and before it was concluded the clearing was covered deep
with the white mantle. There was little wind, and the snow fell
quietly and noiselessly. At night the Indians lay down round the
fire, while the white men crept under the canoes and were soon fast
asleep. In the morning it was still snowing, but about noon it
cleared up. It was freezing hard, and the snow glistened as the sun
burst through the clouds. The stillness of the forest was broken now
by sharp cracking sounds as boughs of trees gave way under the weight
of the snow; in the open it lay more than two feet deep.
"Now," Peter said, "the sooner we're off the better."
"I'll come in my own canoe," Pearson said. "One of the Injuns can
come with me and we'll keep up with the rest."
"There is room for you in the other canoes," Harold said.
"Plenty of room," the hunter answered. "But you see, Harold, the more
canoes the better. There aint no saying how close we may be chased,
and by hiding up the canoes at different places we give ourselves so
much more chance of being able to get to one or the other. They're
all large canoes, and at a pinch any one of them might hold the hull
party, with the two gals throwed in. But," he added to Harold in a
low voice, "don't you build too much on these gals, Harold. I
wouldn't say so while that poor fellow's listening, but the chance is
a desperate poor one, and I think we'll be mighty lucky ef we don't
leave all our scalps in that 'ere redskin village." The traps were
soon placed in the canoes, and just as the sun burst out the three
boats started. It was a long and toilsome journey. Stormy weather set
in, and they were obliged to wait for days by the lake till its
surface calmed. On these occasions they devoted themselves to hunting
and killed several deer. They knew that there were no Indian villages
near, and in such weather it would be improbable that any redskins
would be in the woods. They were enabled, therefore, to fire without
fear of the reports betraying their presence. The Senecas took the
opportunity of fabricating snowshoes for the whole party, as these
would be absolutely necessary for walking in the woods. Harold, Jake,
and Duncan Cameron at once began to practice their use. The negro was
comical in the extreme in his first attempts, and shouted so loudly
with laughter each time that he fell head foremost into the snow that
Peter said to him angrily:
"Look-a-here, Jake; it's dangerous enough letting off a rifle at a
deer in these woods, but it has to be done because we must lay in a
supply of food; but a musket-shot is a mere whisper to yer shouting.
Thunder aint much louder than you laughing--it shakes the hull place
and might be heard from here well-nigh to Montreal. Ef you can't keep
that mouth of your'n shut, ye must stop up the idee of learning to use
them shoes and must stop in the canoe while we're scouting on shore."
Jake promised to amend, and from this time when he fell in the soft
snow-wreaths he gave no audible vent to his amusement; but a pair of
great feet, with the snow-shoes attached, could be seen waving above
the surface until he was picked up and righted again.
Harold soon learned, and Cameron went at the work with grim
earnestness. No smile ever crossed his face at his own accidents or
at the wild vagaries of Jake, which excited silent amusement even
among the Indians. In a short time the falls were less frequent, and
by the time they reached the spot where they were determined to cross
the lake at the point where Lakes Huron and Michigan join, the three
novices were able to make fair progress in the snow-shoes.
The spot fixed upon was about twelve miles from the village of War
Eagle, and the canoes were hidden at distances of three miles apart.
First Pearson, Harold, and Cameron disembarked; Jake, Peter, and one
of the Indians alighted at the next point; and the Seneca chief and
two of his followers proceeded to the spot nearer to the Indian
village. Each party as they landed struck straight into the woods, to
unite at a point eight miles from the lake and as many from the
village. The hunters had agreed that, should any Indians come across
the tracks, less suspicion would be excited than would have been the
case were they found skirting the river, as it might be thought that
they were made by Indians out hunting.
Harold wondered how the other parties would find the spot to which
Pearson had directed them, but in due time all arrived at the
rendezvous. After some search a spot was found where the underwood
grew thickly, and there was an open place in the center of the clump.
In this the camp was established. It was composed solely of a low
tent of about two feet high, made of deer's hides sewed together, and
large enough to shelter them all. The snow was cleared away, sticks
were driven into the frozen ground, and strong poles laid across
them; the deerskin was then laid flat upon these. The top was little
higher than the general level of the snow, an inch or two of snow was
scattered over it, and to anyone passing outside the bushes the tent
was completely invisible.
The Indians now went outside the thicket and with great care
obliterated, as far as possible, the marks upon the snow. This could
not be wholly done, but it was so far complete that the slightest
wind which would send a drift over the surface would wholly conceal
all traces of passage.
They had, before crossing the lake, cooked a supply of food
sufficient for some days. Intense as was the cold outside, it was
perfectly warm in the tent. The entrance as they crept into it was
closed with a blanket, and in the center a lamp composed of deer's
fat in a calabash with a cotton wick gave a sufficient light.
"What is the next move?" Harold asked.
"The chief 'll start, when it comes dusk, with Pearson," Peter said.
"When they git close to the village he'll go in alone. He'll paint
Iroquois before he goes."
"Cannot we be near at hand to help them in case of a necessity,"
"No," Peter said. "It wouldn't be no good at all. Ef it comes to
fighting they're fifty to one, and the lot of us would have no more
chance than two. If they're found out, which aint likely, they must
run for it, and they can get over the snow a deal faster than you
could, to say nothing of Cameron and Jake. They must shift for
themselves and 'll make straight for the nearest canoe. In the forest
they must be run down sooner or later, for their tracks would be
plain. No, they must go alone."
When night came on the Seneca produced his paints, and one of his
followers marked his face and arms with the lines and flourishes in
use by the Iroquois; then without a word of adieu he took his rifle
and glided out from the tent, followed by Pearson. Peter also put on
his snow-shoes and prepared to follow.
"I thought you were going to stay here, Peter."
"No, I'm going halfway with 'em. I'll be able to hear the sound of a
gun. Then, ef they're trapped, we must make tracks for the canoes at
once, for after following 'em to the lake they're safe to take up
their back track to see where they've come from; so, ef I hear a gun,
I'll make back here as quick as I can come."
When the three men had started silence fell on the tent. The redskins
at once lay down to sleep, and Jake followed their example. Harold
lay quiet thinking over the events which had happened to him in the
last three years, while Cameron lay with his face turned toward the
lamp with a set, anxious look on his face. Several times he crawled
to the entrance and listened when the crack made by some breaking
bough came to his ear. Hours passed and at last Harold dozed off, but
Cameron's eyes never closed until about midnight the blanket at the
entrance moved and Peter entered.
"Hae ye seen the ithers?" Cameron exclaimed.
"No, and were not likely to," Peter answered. "It was all still to
the time I came away, and afore I moved I was sure they must have
left the village. They won't come straight back, bless ye; they'll go
'way in the opposite direction and make a sweep miles round. They may
not be here for hours yet; not that there's much chance of their
tracks being traced. It has not snowed for over a week, and the snow
round the village must be trampled thick for a mile and more, with
the squaws coming and going for wood and the hunters going out on the
chase. I've crossed a dozen tracks or more on my way back. Ef it
wasn't for that we daren't have gone at all, for ef the snow was new
fallen the sight of fresh tracks would have set the first Injun that
come along a-wondering; and when a redskin begins to wonder he sets
to to ease his mind at once by finding out all about it, ef it takes
him a couple of days' sarch to do so. No, you can lie down now for
some hours. They won't be here till morning."
So saying, the scout set the example by wrapping himself up and going
to sleep, but Cameron's eyes never closed until the blanket was drawn
on one side again and in the gray light of the winter morning the
Seneca and Pearson crawled into the tent.
"What news?" Harold asked, for Cameron was too agitated to speak.
"Both gals are there," Pearson answered.
An exclamation of thankfulness broke from Harold. A sob of joy issued
from the heart of the Scotchman, and for a few minutes his lips moved
as he poured forth his silent thankfulness to God.
"Waal, tell us all about it," Peter said. "I can ask the chief any
"We went on straight enough to the village," the hunter began. "It
are larger than when I saw it last, and War Eagle's influence in the
tribe must have increased. I didn't expect to find no watch, the
redskins having, so far as they knew, no enemies within five hundred
mile of 'em. There was a lot of fires burning and plenty of redskins
moving about among 'em. We kept on till we got quite close, and then
we lay up for a time below a tree at the edge of the clearing. There
were a sight too many of 'em about for the Seneca to go in yet
awhile. About half an hour arter we got there we saw two white gals
come outen one of the wigwams and stand for a while to warm
theirselves by one of the fires. The tallest of the two, well-nigh a
woman, was Nelly Welch. I knew her, in course. The other was three or
four years younger, with yaller hair over her shoulders. Nelly seemed
quiet and sad-like, but the other 'peared more at home--she laughed
with some of the redskin gals and even jined in their play. You see,"
he said, turning to Cameron, "she'd been captured longer and
children's spirits soon rise again. Arter a while they went back to
the wigwam." When the fires burned down and the crowd thinned, and
there was only a few left sitting in groups round the embers, the
Seneca started. For a long time I saw nothing of him, but once or
twice I thought I saw a figure moving among the wigwams. Presently
the fires burned quite down and the last Injun went off. I had begun
to wonder what the chief was doing, when he stood beside me. We made
tracks at once and have been tramping in a long circle all night. The
chief can tell ye his part of the business hisself."
"Well, chief, what have you found out?" Peter asked.
The Indian answered in his native tongue, which Peter interpreted
from time to time for the benefit of his white companions:
"When Deer Tail left the white hunter he went into the village. It
was no use going among the men, and he went round by the wigwams and
listened to the chattering of the squaws. The tribe were all well
contented, for the band brought back a great deal of plunder which
they had picked up on their way back from the army. They had lost no
braves and everyone was pleased. The destruction of the settlement of
the white man who had repulsed them before was a special matter for
rejoicing. The scalps of the white man and his wife are in the
village. War Eagle's son, Young Elk, is going to marry the white
girl. There are several of the braves whose heads have been turned by
the white skin and her bright eyes, but Young Elk is going to have
her. There have been great feastings and rejoicings since the return
of the warriors, but they are to be joined tomorrow by Beaver's band,
and then they will feast again. When all was quiet I went to the
wigwam where the white girls are confined. An old squaw and two of
War Eagle's daughters are with them. Deer Tail had listened while
they prepared for rest and knew on which side of the wigwam the tall
white maiden slept. He thought that she would be awake. Her heart
would be sad and sleep would not come to her soon, so he crept round
there and cut a slit in the skin close to where she lay. He put his
head in at the hole and whispered, 'Do not let the white girl be
afraid; it is a friend. Does she hear him?' She whispered, 'Yes.'
'Friends are near,' he said. 'The young warrior Harold, whom she
knows, and others, are at hand to take her away. The Iroquois will be
feasting to-morrow night. When she hears the cry of a night-owl let
her steal away with her little white sister and she will find her
friends waiting.' Then Deer Tail closed the slit and stole away to
his friend the white hunter. I have spoken."
"Jest what I expected of you, chief," Peter said warmly. "I thought
as how you'd manage to git speech with 'em somehow. If there's a
feast to-night, it's hard ef we don't manage to get 'em off."
"I suppose we must lie still all day, Peter."
"You must so," the hunter said. "Not a soul must show his nose
outside the tent except that one of the redskins'll keep watch to be
sure that no straggler has come across our tracks and followed 'em
up. Ef he was to do that, he might bring the hull gang down on us.
Ye'd best get as much sleep as ye can, for ye don't know when ye may
get another chance."
At nightfall the whole party issued from the tent and started toward
the Indian village. All arrangements had been made. It was agreed
that Pearson and the Seneca should go up to the village, the former
being chosen because he was known to Nelly. Peter and one of the
redskins were to take post a hundred yards further back, ready to
give assistance in case of alarm, while the rest were to remain about
half a mile distant. Cameron had asked that he might go with the
advance party, but upon Peter pointing out to him that his
comparatively slow rate of progression in snow-shoes would, in case
of discovery, lead to the recapture of the girls, he at once agreed
to the decision. If the flight of the girls was discovered soon after
leaving the camp, it was arranged that the Seneca and Peter should
hurry at once with them to the main body, while the other two Indians
should draw off their pursuers in another direction. In the event of
anything occurring to excite the suspicion of the Indians before
there was a chance of the girls being brought safely to the main
body, they were to be left to walk quietly back to camp, as they had
nothing to fear from the Indians. Peter and the Seneca were then to
work round by a circuitous route to the boat, where they were to be
joined by the main body, and to draw off until another opportunity
offered for repeating the attempt.
It was eight o'clock in the evening when Pearson and the Seneca
approached the village. The fires were burning high, and seated round
them were all the warriors of the tribe. A party were engaged in a
dance representing the pursuit and defeat of an enemy. The women were
standing in an outer circle, clapping their hands and raising their
voices in loud cries of applause and excitement as the dance became
faster and faster. The warriors bounded high, brandishing their
tomahawks. A better time could not have been chosen for the evasion
of the fugitives. Nelly Welch stood close to a number of Indian
girls, but slightly behind them. She held the hand of little Janet
Although she appeared to share in the interest of the Indians in the
dance, a close observer would have had no difficulty in perceiving
that Nelly was preoccupied. She was, indeed, intently listening for
the signal. She was afraid to move from among the others lest her
absence should be at once detected, but so long as the noise was
going on she despaired of being able to hear the signal agreed upon.
Presently an Indian brave passed close to her, and as he did so
whispered in her ear in English, "Behind your wigwam--friends there."
Then he passed on and moved round the circle as if intending to take
his seat at another point.
The excitement of the dance was momentarily increasing, and the
attention of the spectators was riveted to the movements of the
performers. Holding Janet's hand, Nelly moved noiselessly away from
the place where she had been standing. The movement was unnoticed, as
she was no longer closely watched, a flight in the depth of winter
appearing impossible. She kept round the circle till no longer
visible from the spot she had left. Then, leaving the crowd, she made
her way toward the nearest wigwams. Once behind these the girls stole
rapidly along under their shelter until they stood behind that which
they usually inhabited. Two figures were standing there. They
hesitated for a moment, but one of them advanced.
"Jack Pearson!" Nelly exclaimed, with a low cry of gladness.
"Jest that same, Nelly, and right glad to see you. But we've no time
for greeting now; the hull tribe may be after us in another five
minutes. Come along, pretty," he said, turning to Janet. "You'll find
somebody ye know close at hand."
Two minutes later the child was in her father's arms, and after a
moment's rapturous greeting between father and child and a very
delighted one between Nelly Welch and her Cousin Harold, the flight
"How long a start do you think we may have?"
"Half an hour, maybe. The women may be some time afore they miss her,
and they'll sarch for her everywhere afore they give the alarm, as
they'll be greatly blamed for their carelessness."
There had been a pause in the flight for a few seconds when the
Seneca and Pearson arrived with the girls at the point where Peter
and the other Indian were posted, two hundred yards from the camp. Up
to this point the snow was everywhere thickly trampled, but as the
camp was left further behind the footprints would naturally become
more scarce. Here Pearson fastened to the girls' feet two pairs of
large moccasins; inside these wooden soles had been placed. They
therefore acted to some extent like snowshoes and prevented the
girls' feet from sinking deeply, while the prints which they left
bore no resemblance to their own. They were strapped on the wrong
way, so that the marks would seem to point toward the village rather
than away from it. Both girls protested that they should not be able
to get along fast in these encumbrances, but one of the men posted
himself on either side of each and assisted them along, and as the
moccasins were very light, even with the wooden soles inside, they
were soon able to move with them at a considerable pace.
Once united the whole party kept along at the top of their speed.
Peter Lambton assisted Cameron with Janet, and the girl, half-lifted
from the ground, skimmed over the surface like a bird, only touching
the snow here and there with the moccasins. Nelly Welch needed no
assistance from Harold or Pearson. During the long winters she had
often practiced on snow-shoes, and was consequently but little
encumbered with the huge moccasins, which to some extent served the
They had been nearly half an hour on their way when they heard a
tremendous yell burst from the village.
"They've missed you," Peter said. "Now it's a fair race. We've got a
good start and 'll git more, for they'll have to hunt up the traces
very carefully, and it may be an hour, perhaps more, before they
strike upon the right one. Ef the snow had been new fallen we should
have had 'em arter us in five minutes; but even a redskin's eye will
be puzzled to find out at night one track among such hundreds."
"I have but one fear," Pearson said to Harold.
"What is that?"
"I'm afeared that without waiting to find the tracks they may send
off half a dozen parties to the lake. They'll be sure that friends
have taken the gals away, and will know that their only chance of
escape is by the water. On land we should be hunted down to a
certainty, and the redskins, knowing that the gals could not travel
fast, will not hurry in following up the trail. So I think they'll at
once send off parties to watch the lake, and 'll like enough make no
effort to take up the trail till to-morrow morning."
This was said in a low whisper, for although they were more than two
miles from the village it was necessary to move as silently as