True to the Old Flag (Historical Novels - American Cycle) - G. A. Henty - E-Book

True to the Old Flag (Historical Novels - American Cycle) E-Book

G. A. Henty

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G. A. Henty was a great writer of historical adventure novels. This collection contains action and adventure tales set on the North American Continent, covering the period from the times of settlement to the wars for independence. Table of Contents: True to the Old Flag: A Tale of the American War of Independence With Wolfe in Canada: The Winning of a Continent Captain Bayley's Heir: A Tale of the Gold Fields of California With Lee in Virginia, A Story of the American Civil War Redskin and Cowboy: A Tale of the Western Plains Dorothy's Double: The Story of a Great Deception In the Heart of the Rockies: A Story of Adventure in Colorado

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G. A. Henty

True to the Old Flag (Historical Novels - American Cycle)

Tale of the American War of Independence, With Wolfe in Canada, Captain Bayley's Heir, With Lee in Virginia, In the Heart of the Rockies…

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Table of Contents

True to the Old Flag: A Tale of the American War of Independence
With Wolfe in Canada: The Winning of a Continent
Captain Bayley's Heir: A Tale of the Gold Fields of California
With Lee in Virginia, A Story of the American Civil War
Redskin and Cowboy: A Tale of the Western Plains
Dorothy's Double: The Story of a Great Deception
In the Heart of the Rockies: A Story of Adventure in Colorado

True to the Old Flag: A Tale of the American War of Independence

Table of Contents
Preface.
Chapter I. A Frontier Farm.
Chapter II. An Indian Raid.
Chapter III. The Redskin Attack.
Chapter IV. The Fight At Lexington.
Chapter V. Bunker's Hill.
Chapter VI. Scouting.
Chapter VII. In The Forest.
Chapter VIII. Quebec.
Chapter IX. The Surprise Of Trenton.
Chapter X. A Treacherous Planter.
Chapter XI. The Capture Of Philadelphia.
Chapter XII. The Settler's Hut.
Chapter XIII. Saratoga.
Chapter XIV. Rescued!
Chapter XV. The Island Refuge.
Chapter XVI. The Great Storm.
Chapter XVII. The Scout's Story.
Chapter XVIII. The Siege Of Savannah.
Chapter XIX. In An American Prison.
Chapter XX. The War In South Carolina.
Chapter XXI. The End Of The Struggle.

Preface.

Table of Contents

MY DEAR LADS:

You have probably been accustomed to regard the war between England and her colonies in America as one in which we were not only beaten but, to some extent, humiliated. Owing to the war having been an unsuccessful one for our arms, British writers have avoided the subject, and it has been left for American historians to describe. These, writing for their own countrymen, and drawing for their facts upon gazettes, letters, and other documents emanating from one side only, have, naturally, and no doubt insensibly, given a very strong color to their own views of the events, and English writers have been too much inclined to accept their account implicitly. There is, however, another and very different side to the story, and this I have endeavored to show you. The whole of the facts and details connected with the war can be relied upon as accurate. They are drawn from the valuable account of the struggle written by Major Steadman, who served under Howe, Clinton, and Cornwallis, and from other authentic contemporary sources. You will see that, although unsuccessful,—and success was, under the circumstances, a sheer impossibility,—the British troops fought with a bravery which was never exceeded, and that their victories in actual conflict vastly outnumbered their defeats. Indeed, it may be doubted whether in any war in which this country has been engaged have our soldiers exhibited the qualities of endurance and courage to a higher degree.

Yours very sincerely, G. A. HENTY.

Chapter I. A Frontier Farm.

Table of Contents

"Concord, March 1, 1774.

"MY DEAR COUSIN: I am leaving next week with my husband for England, where we intend to pass some time visiting his friends. John and I have determined to accept the invitation you gave us last summer for Harold to come and spend a few months with you. His father thinks that a great future will, ere many years, open in the West, and that it is therefore well the boy should learn something of frontier life. For myself, I would rather that he stayed quietly at home, for he is at present over-fond of adventure; but as my husband is meditating selling his estate here and moving West, it is perhaps better for him.

"Massachusetts is in a ferment, as indeed are all the Eastern States, and the people talk openly of armed resistance against the Government. My husband, being of English birth and having served in the king's army, cannot brook what he calls the rebellious talk which is common among his neighbors, and is already on bad terms with many around us. I myself am, as it were, a neutral. As an American woman, it seems to me that the colonists have been dealt with somewhat hardly by the English Parliament, and that the measures of the latter have been high-handed and arbitrary. Upon the other hand, I naturally incline toward my husband's views. He maintains that, as the king's army has driven out the French, and gives protection to the colony, it is only fair that the colonists should contribute to its expenses. The English ask for no contributions toward the expense of their own country, but demand that, at least, the expenses of the protection of the colony shall not be charged upon the heavily taxed people at home. As to the law that the colony shall trade only with the mother country, my husband says that this is the rule in the colonies of Spain, France, Portugal, and the Netherlands, and that the people here, who can obtain what land they choose and till it without rent, should not grumble at paying this small tax to the mother country. However it be, I fear that troubles will come, and, this place being the head and focus of the party hostile to England, my husband, feeling himself out of accord with all his neighbors, saving a few loyal gentlemen like himself, is thinking much and seriously of selling our estate here and of moving away into the new countries of the West, where he will be free from all the disputation and contentious talk which occupies men's time here.

"Indeed, cousin, times have sadly changed since you were staying here with us five years ago. Then our life was a peaceful and quiet one; now there is nothing but wrangling and strife. The dissenting clergy are, as my husband says was the case in England before the great civil war, the fomenters of this discontent. There are many busybodies who pass their time in stirring up the people by violent harangues and seditious writings; therefore everyone takes one side or the other, and there is neither peace nor comfort in life.

"Accustomed as I have always been to living in ease and affluence, I dread, somewhat, the thought of a life on the Indian frontier. One has heard so many dreadful stories of Indian fights and massacres that I tremble a little at the prospect; but I do not mention this to John, for as other women are, like yourself, brave enough to support these dangers, I would not appear a coward in his eyes. You will see, cousin, that, as this prospect is before us, it is well that Harold should learn the ways of a frontier life. Moreover, John does not like the thought of leaving him here while we are in England; for, as he says, the boy might learn to become a rebel in his absence; therefore, my dear cousin, we have resolved to send him to you. An opportunity offers, in the fact that a gentleman of our acquaintance is, with his family, going this week West, with the intention of settling there, and he will, he tells us, go first to Detroit, whence he will be able to send Harold forward to your farm. The boy himself is delighted at the thought, and promises to return an accomplished backwoodsman. John joins me in kind love to yourself and your husband, and believe me to remain,

"Your Affectionate Cousin, "MARY WILSON."

Four months after the date of the above letter a lad some fifteen years old was walking with a man of middle age on the shores of Lake Huron. Behind them was a large clearing of about a hundred acres in extent; a comfortable house, with buildings for cattle, stood at a distance of some three hundred yards from the lake; broad fields of yellow corn waved brightly in the sun; and from the edge of the clearing came the sound of a woodsman's ax, showing that the proprietor was still enlarging the limits of his farm. Surrounding the house, at a distance of twenty yards, was a strong stockade some seven feet in height, formed of young trees, pointed at the upper end, squared, and fixed firmly in the ground. The house itself, although far more spacious and comfortable than the majority of backwood farmhouses, was built in the usual fashion, of solid logs, and was evidently designed to resist attack.

William Welch had settled ten years before on this spot, which was then far removed from the nearest habitation. It would have been a very imprudent act, under ordinary circumstances, to have established himself in so lonely a position, so far removed from the possibility of assistance in case of attack. He settled there, however, just after Pontiac, who was at the head of an alliance of all the Indian tribes of those parts, had, after the long and desperate siege of Fort Pitt, made peace with us upon finding that his friends, the French, had given up all thought of further resistance to the English, and had entirely abandoned the country. Mr. Welch thought, therefore, that a permanent peace was likely to reign on the frontier, and that he might safely establish himself in the charming location he had pitched upon, far removed from the confines of civilization.

The spot was a natural clearing of some forty acres in extent, sloping down to the water's edge, and a more charming site could hardly have been chosen. Mr. Welch had brought with him three farm laborers from the East, and, as time went on, he extended the clearing by cutting down the forest giants which bordered it.

But in spite of the beauty of the position, the fertility of the soil, the abundance of his crops, and the advantages afforded by the lake, both from its plentiful supply of fish and as a highway by which he could convey his produce to market, he had more than once regretted his choice of location. It was true that there had been no Indian wars on a large scale, but the Indians had several times broken out in sudden incursions. Three times he had been attacked, but, fortunately, only by small parties, which he had been enabled to beat off. Once, when a more serious danger threatened him, he had been obliged to embark, with his wife and child and his more valuable chattels, in the great scow in which he carried his produce to market, and had to take refuge in the settlements, to find, on his return, his buildings destroyed and his farm wasted. At that time he had serious thoughts of abandoning his location altogether, but the settlements were extending rapidly toward him, and, with the prospect of having neighbors before long and the natural reluctance to give up a place upon which he had expended so much toil, he decided to hold on; hoping that more quiet times would prevail, until other settlers would take up land around him.

The house had been rebuilt more strongly than before. He now employed four men, and had been unmolested since his return to his farm, three years before the date of this story. Already two or three locations had been taken up on the shores of the lake beyond him, a village had grown up thirty-five miles away, and several settlers had established themselves between that place and his home.

"So you are going out fishing this morning, Harold?" Mr. Welch said. "I hope you will bring back a good supply, for the larder is low. I was looking at you yesterday, and I see that you are becoming a first-rate hand at the management of a canoe."

"So I ought to be," the boy said, "considering that for nearly three months I have done nothing but shoot and fish."

"You have a sharp eye, Harold, and will make a good backwoodsman one of these days. You can shoot nearly as well as I can now. It is lucky that I had a good stock of powder and lead on hand; firing away by the hour together, as you do, consumes a large amount of ammunition. See, there is a canoe on the lake; it is coming this way, too. There is but one man in it; he is a white, by his clothes."

For a minute or two they stood watching the boat, and then, seeing that its course was directed toward the shore, they walked down to the edge of the lake to meet it.

"Ah, Pearson! is that you?" Mr. Welch asked. "I thought I knew your long, sweeping stroke at a distance. You have been hunting, I see; that is a fine stag you have got there. What is the news?"

"About as bad as can be, Master Welch," the hunter said. "The Iroquois have dug up the tomahawk again and are out on the war-path. They have massacred John Brent and his family. I heard a talk of it among some hunters I met ten days since in the woods. They said that the Iroquois were restless and that their chief, War Eagle, one of the most troublesome varmints on the whole frontier, had been stirring 'em up to war. He told 'em, I heard, that the pale-faces were pushing further and further into the Injun woods, and that, unless they drove 'em back, the redskin hunting grounds would be gone. I hoped that nothing would come of it, but I might have known better. When the redskins begin to stir there's sure to be mischief before they're quiet again."

The color had somewhat left Mr. Welch's cheeks as the hunter spoke.

"This is bad news, indeed, Pearson," he said gravely. "Are you sure about the attack on the Brents?"

"Sartin sure," the hunter said. "I met their herder; he had been down to Johnson's to fetch a barrel of pork. Just when he got back he heard the Injun yells and saw smoke rising in the clearing, so he dropped the barrel and made tracks. I met him at Johnson's, where he had just arrived. Johnson was packing up with all haste and was going to leave, and so I said I would take my canoe and come down the lake, giving you all warning on the way. I stopped at Burns' and Hooper's. Burns said he should clear out at once, but Hooper talked about seeing it through. He's got no wife to be skeary about, and reckoned that, with his two hands, he could defend his log hut. I told him I reckoned he would get his har raised if the Injuns came that way; but, in course, that's his business."

"What do you advise, Pearson? I do not like abandoning this farm to the mercy of the redskins."

"It would be a pity, Master Welch, that's as true as Gospel. It's the likeliest clearing within fifty miles round, and you've fixed the place up as snug and comfortable as if it were a farm in the old provinces. In course the question is what this War Eagle intends to do. His section of the tribe is pretty considerable strong, and although at present I aint heard that any others have joined, these Injuns are like barrels of gunpowder: when the spark is once struck there's no saying how far the explosion may spread. When one band of 'em sees as how another is taking scalps and getting plunder and honor, they all want to be at the same work. I reckon War Eagle has got some two hundred braves who will follow him; but when the news spreads that he has begun his work, all the Iroquois, to say nothing of the Shawnees, Delawares, and other varmint, may dig up the hatchet. The question is what War Eagle's intentions are. He may make a clean sweep down, attacking all the outlying farms and waiting till he is joined by a lot more of the red reptiles before attacking the settlements. Then, on the other hand, he may think himself strong enough to strike a blow at Gloucester and some other border villages at once. In that case he might leave the outlying farms alone, as the news of the burning of these would reach the settlements and put 'em on their guard, and he knows, in course, that if he succeeds there he can eat you all up at his leisure."

"The attack upon Brent's place looks as if he meant to make a clean sweep down," Mr. Welch said.

"Well," the hunter continued thoughtfully, "I don't know as I sees it in that light. Brent's place was a long way from any other. He might have wished to give his band a taste of blood, and so raise their spirits, and he might reasonably conclude that naught would be known about it for days, perhaps weeks to come. Then, again, the attack might have been made by some straggling party without orders. It's a dubious question. You've got four hands here, I think, and yourself. I have seen your wife shoot pretty straight with a rifle, so she can count as one, and as this young un, here, has a good idea, too, with his shooting-iron, that makes six guns. Your place is a strong one, and you could beat off any straggling party. My idea is that War Eagle, who knows pretty well that the place would make a stout fight, won't waste his time by making a regular attack upon it. You might hold out for twenty-four hours; the clearing is open and there aint no shelter to be had. He would be safe to lose a sight of men, and this would be a bad beginning, and would discourage his warriors greatly. No, I reckon War Eagle will leave you alone for the present. Maybe he will send a scout to see whether you are prepared; it's as likely as not that one is spying at us somewhere among the trees now. I should lose no time in driving in the animals and getting well in shelter. When they see you are prepared they will leave you alone; at least, for the present. Afterward there's no saying—that will depend on how they get on at the settlements. If they succeed there and get lots of booty and plenty of scalps, they may march back without touching you; they will be in a hurry to get to their villages and have their feasts and dancing. If they are beaten off at the settlements I reckon they will pay you a visit for sure; they won't go back without scalps. They will be savage like, and won't mind losing some men for the sake of having something to brag about when they get back. And now, Master Welch, I must be going on, for I want to take the news down to the settlements before War Eagle gets there, and he may be ahead of me now, for aught I know. I don't give you no advice as to what you had best do; you can judge the circumstances as well as I can. When I have been to the settlements and put them on their guard, maybe I shall be coming back again, and, in that case, you know Jack Pearson's rifle is at your disposal. You may as well tote this stag up to the house. You won't be doing much hunting just for the present, and the meat may come in handy."

The stag was landed, and a minute later the canoe shot away from shore under the steady stroke of the hunter's powerful arms. Mr. Welch at once threw the stag over his shoulders and, accompanied by Harold, strode away toward the house. On reaching it he threw down the stag at the door, seized a rope which hung against the wall, and the sounds of a large bell, rung in quick, sharp strokes, summoned the hands from the fields. The sound of the woodman's ax ceased at once, and the shouts of the men, as they drove the cattle toward the house, rose on the still air.

"What is the matter, William?" Mrs. Welch asked as she ran from the house.

"I have bad news, my dear. The Indians are out again, and I fear we may have trouble before us. We must hope that they will not come in this direction, but must be prepared for the worst. Wait till I see all the hands and beasts in the stockade, and then we can talk the matter over quietly."

In a few minutes the hands arrived, driving before them the horses and cattle.

"What is it, boss?" they asked. "Was that the alarm bell sure enough?"

"The Indians are out again," Mr. Welch said, "and in force. They have massacred the Brents and are making toward the settlements. They may come this way or they may not; at any rate, we must be prepared for them. Get the beasts into the sheds, and then do you all take scythes and set to work to cut down that patch of corn, which is high enough to give them shelter; there's nothing else which will cover them within a hundred yards of the house. Of course you will take your rifles with you and keep a sharp lookout; but they will have heard the bell, if they are in the neighborhood, and will guess that we are on the alert, so they are not likely to attempt a surprise. Shut one of the gates and leave the other ajar, with the bar handy to put up in case you have to make a run for it. Harold will go up to the lookout while you are at work."

Having seen that all was attended to, Mr. Welch went into the house, where his wife was going about her work as usual, pale, but quiet and resolute.

"Now, Jane," he said, "sit down, and I will tell you exactly how matters stand, as far as Pearson, who brought the news, has told me. Then you shall decide as to the course we had better take."

After he had told her all that Pearson had said, and the reasons for and against expecting an early attack, he went on:

"Now, it remains for you, my dear, to decide whether we shall stay and defend the place till the last against any attack that may be made, or whether we shall at once embark in the scow and make our way down to the settlements."

"What do you think, William?" his wife asked.

"I scarcely know, myself," he answered; "but, if I had quite my own way, I should send you and Nelly down to the settlements in the scow and fight it out here with the hands."

"You certainly will not have your own way in that," his wife said. "If you go of course I go; if you stay I stay. I would a thousand times rather go through a siege here, and risk the worst, than go down to Gloucester and have the frightful anxiety of not knowing what was happening here. Besides, it is very possible, as you say, that the Indians may attack the settlement itself. Many of the people there have had no experience in Indian war, and the redskins are likely to be far more successful in their surprise there than they would be here. If we go we should have to leave our house, our barns, our stacks, and our animals to the mercy of the savages. Your capital is pretty nearly all embarked here now, and the loss of all this would be ruin to us. At any rate, William, I am ready to stay here and to risk what may come if you are. A life on the frontier is necessarily a life of danger, and if we are to abandon everything and to have to commence life afresh every time the Indians go on the war-path, we had better give it up at once and return to Massachusetts."

"Very well, my dear," her husband said gravely. "You are a true frontiersman's wife; you have chosen as I should have done. It is a choice of evils; but God has blessed and protected us since we came out into the wilderness—we will trust and confide in him now. At any rate," he went on more cheerfully, "there is no fear of the enemy starving us out. We got in our store of provisions only a fortnight since, and have enough of everything for a three-months' siege. There is no fear of our well failing us; and as for ammunition, we have abundance. Seeing how Harold was using powder and ball, I had an extra supply when the stores came in the other day. There is plenty of corn in the barn for the animals for months, and I will have the corn which the men are cutting brought in as a supply of food for the cows. It will be useful for another purpose, too; we will keep a heap of it soaked with water and will cover the shingles with it in case of attack. It will effectually quench their fire arrows."

The day passed off without the slightest alarm, and by nightfall the patch of corn was cleared away and an uninterrupted view of the ground for the distance of a hundred yards from the house was afforded. When night fell two out of the four dogs belonging to the farm were fastened out in the open, at a distance of from seventy to eighty yards of the house, the others being retained within the stockade. The garrison was divided into three watches, two men being on the alert at a time, relieving each other every three hours. Mr. Welch took Harold as his companion on the watch. The boy was greatly excited at the prospect of a struggle. He had often read of the desperate fights between the frontier settlers and the Indians, and had longed to take a share in the adventurous work. He could scarcely believe that the time had come and that he was really a sharer in what might be a desperate struggle.

The first watch was set at nine, and at twelve Mr. Welch and Harold came on duty. The men they relieved reported that all was silent in the woods, and that they had heard no suspicious cries of any kind. When the men had returned to their room Mr. Welch told Harold that he should take a turn round the stockade and visit the dogs. Harold was to keep watch at the gate, to close it after he went out, to put up the bar, and to stand beside it ready to open it instantly if called upon.

Then the farmer stepped out into the darkness and, treading noiselessly, at once disappeared from Harold's sight. The latter closed the gate, replaced the heavy bar, and stood with one hand on this and the other holding his rifle, listening intently. Once he thought he heard a low growling from one of the dogs, but this presently ceased, and all was quiet again. The gate was a solid one, formed of strong timbers placed at a few inches apart and bolted to horizontal bars.

Presently he felt the gate upon which his hand rested quiver, as if pressure was applied from without. His first impulse was to say, "Is that you?" but Mr. Welch had told him that he would give a low whistle as he approached the gate; he therefore stood quiet, with his whole attention absorbed in listening. Without making the least stir he peered through the bars and made out two dark figures behind them. After once or twice shaking the gate, one took his place against it and the other sprang upon his shoulders.

Harold looked up and saw a man's head appear against the sky. Dim as was the light, he could see that it was no European head-gear, a long feather or two projecting from it. In an instant he leveled his rifle and fired. There was a heavy fall and then all was silent. Harold again peered through the bars. The second figure had disappeared, and a black mass lay at the foot of the gate.

In an instant the men came running from the house, rifles in hand.

"What is it?" they exclaimed. "Where is Mr. Welch?"

"He went out to scout round the house, leaving me at the gate," Harold said. "Two men, I think Indians, came up; one was getting over the gate when I shot him. I think he is lying outside—the other has disappeared."

"We must get the master in," one of the men said. "He is probably keeping away, not knowing what has happened. Mr. Welch," he shouted, "it is all safe here, so far as we know; we are all on the lookout to cover you as you come up."

Immediately a whistle was heard close to the gate. This was cautiously opened a few inches, and was closed and barred directly Mr. Welch entered.

Harold told him what had happened.

"I thought it was something of the sort. I heard Wolf growl and felt sure that it was not at me. I threw myself down and crept up to him and found him shot through the heart with an Indian arrow. I was crawling back to the house when I heard Harold's shot. Then I waited to see if it was followed by the war-whoop, which the redskins would have raised at once, on finding that they were discovered, had they been about to attack in force. Seeing that all was quiet, I conjectured that it was probably an attempt on the part of a spy to discover if we were upon the alert. Then I heard your call and at once came on. I do not expect any attack to-night now, as these fellows must have been alone; but we will all keep watch till the morning. You have done very well, Harold, and have shown yourself a keen watchman. It is fortunate that you had the presence of mind neither to stir nor to call out when you first heard them; for, had you done so, you would probably have got an arrow between your ribs, as poor Wolf has done."

When it was daylight, and the gate was opened, the body of an Indian was seen lying without; a small mark on his forehead showed where Harold's bullet had entered; death being instantaneous. His war-paint and the embroidery of his leggings showed him at once to be an Iroquois. Beside him lay his bow, with an arrow which had evidently been fitted to the string for instant work. Harold shuddered when he saw it and congratulated himself on having stood perfectly quiet. A grave was dug a short distance away, the Indian was buried, and the household proceeded about their work.

The day, as was usual in households in America, was begun with prayer, and the supplications of Mr. Welch for the protection of God over the household were warm and earnest. The men proceeded to feed the animals; these were then turned out of the inclosure, one of the party being always on watch in the little tower which they had erected for that purpose some ten or twelve feet above the roof of the house. From this spot a view was obtainable right over the clearing to the forest which surrounded it on three sides. The other hands proceeded to cut down more of the corn, so as to extend the level space around the house.

Chapter II. An Indian Raid.

Table of Contents

That day and the next passed quietly. The first night the man who was on watch up to midnight remarked to Mr. Welch, when he relieved him, that it seemed to him that there were noises in the air.

"What sort of noises, Jackson—calls of night-birds or animals? If so, the Indians are probably around us."

"No," the man said; "all is still round here, but I seem to feel the noise rather than hear it. I should say that it was firing, very many miles off."

"The night is perfectly still, and the sound of a gun would be heard a long way."

"I cannot say that I have heard a gun; it is rather a tremble in the air than a sound."

When the man they had relieved had gone down and all was still again, Mr. Welch and Harold stood listening intently.

"Jackson was right," the farmer said; "there is something in the air. I can feel it rather than hear it. It is a sort of murmur no louder than a whisper. Do you hear it, Harold?"

"I seem to hear something," Harold said. "It might be the sound of the sea a very long way off, just as one can hear it many miles from the coast, on a still night at home. What do you think it is?"

"If it is not fancy," Mr. Welch replied, "and I do not think that we should all be deceived, it is an attack upon Gloucester."

"But Gloucester is thirty-five miles away," Harold answered.

"It is," Mr. Welch replied; "but on so still a night as this sounds can be heard from an immense distance. If it is not this, I cannot say what it is."

Upon the following night, just as Mr. Welch's watch was at an end, a low whistle was heard near the gate.

"Who is there?" Mr. Welch at once challenged.

"Jack Pearson, and the sooner you open the gate the better. There's no saying where these red devils may be lying round."

Harold and the farmer instantly ran down and opened the gate.

"I should advise you to stop down here," the hunter said as they replaced the bars. "If you did not hear me you certainly would not hear the redskins, and they'd all be over the palisade before you had time to fire a shot. I'm glad to see you safe, for I was badly skeared lest I should find nothing but a heap of ashes here."

The next two men now turned out, and Mr. Welch led his visitor into the house and struck a light.

"Halloo, Pearson! you must have been in a skirmish," he said, seeing that the hunter's head was bound up with a bloodstained bandage.

"It was all that," Pearson said, "and wuss. I went down to Gloucester and told 'em what I had heard, but the darned fools tuk it as quiet as if all King George's troops with fixed bayonets had been camped round 'em. The council got together and palavered for an hour, and concluded that there was no chance whatever of the Iroquois venturing to attack such a powerful place as Gloucester. I told 'em that the redskins would go over their stockade at a squirrel's jump, and that as War Eagle alone had at least 150 braves, while there warn't more than 50 able-bodied men in Gloucester and all the farms around it, things would go bad with 'em if they didn't mind. But bless yer, they knew more than I did about it. Most of 'em had moved from the East and had never seen an Injun in his war-paint. Gloucester had never been attacked since it was founded nigh ten years ago, and they didn't see no reason why it should be attacked now. There was a few old frontiersmen like myself among 'em who did their best to stir 'em up, but it was no manner of good. When the council was over we put our heads together, and just went through the township a-talking to the women, and we hadn't much difficulty in getting up such a skear among 'em that before nightfall every one of 'em in the farms around made their husbands move into the stockade of the village.

"When the night passed off quietly most of the men were just as savage with us as if it had been a false alarm altogether. I p'inted out that it was not because War Eagle had left 'em alone that night that he was bound to do so the next night or any night after. But in spite of the women they would have started out to their farms the fust thing in the morning, if a man hadn't come in with the news that Carter's farm had been burned and the whole of the people killed and scalped. As Carter's farm lay only about fifteen miles off this gave 'em a skear, and they were as ready now to believe in the Injuns as I had tried to make 'em the night before. Then they asked us old hands to take the lead and promised to do what we told 'em, but when it came to it their promises were not worth the breath they had spent upon 'em. There were eight or ten houses outside the stockade, and in course we wanted these pulled down; but they wouldn't hear of it. Howsomever, we got 'em to work to strengthen the stockades, to make loop-holes in the houses near 'em, to put up barricades from house to house, and to prepare generally for a fight. We divided into three watches.

"Well, just as I expected, about eleven o'clock at night the Injuns attacked. Our watch might just as well have been asleep for any good they did, for it was not till the redskins had crept up to the stockade all round and opened fire between the timbers on 'em that they knew that they were near. I'll do 'em justice to say that they fought stiff enough then, and for four hours they held the line of houses; every redskin who climbed the stockade fell dead inside it. Four fires had been lighted directly they attacked to enable us to keep 'em from scaling the stockade, but they showed us to the enemy, of course.

"The redskins took possession of the houses which we had wanted to pull down, and precious hot they made it for us. Then they shot such showers of burning arrows into the village that half of the houses were soon alight. We tried to get our men to sally out and to hold the line of stockade, when we might have beaten 'em off if all the village had been burned down; but it were no manner of good; each man wanted to stick to his wife and family till the last. As the flames went up every man who showed himself was shot down, and when at last more than half our number had gone under the redskins brought up fagots, piled 'em against the stockade outside, and then the hull tribe came bounding over. Our rifles were emptied, for we couldn't get the men to hold their fire, but some of us chaps as knew what was coming gave the redskins a volley as they poured in.

"I don't know much as happened after that. Jack Robins and Bill Shuter, who were old pals of mine, and me made up our minds what to do, and we made a rush for a small gate that there was in the stockade, just opposite where the Injuns came in. We got through safe enough, but they had left men all round. Jack Robins he was shot dead. Bill and I kept straight on. We had a grapple with some of the redskins; two or three on 'em went down, and Bill and I got through and had a race for it till we got fairly into the forest. Bill had a ball in the shoulder, and I had a clip across the head with a tomahawk. We had a council, and Bill went off to warn some of the other settlements and I concluded to take to the water and paddle back to you, not knowing whether I should find that the redskins had been before me. I thought anyway that I might stop your going down to Gloucester, and that if there was a fight you would be none the worse for an extra rifle."

Mr. Welch told the hunter of the visit of the two Indian spies two nights before.

"Waal," the hunter said, "I reckon for the present you are not likely to be disturbed. The Injuns have taken a pile of booty and something like two hundred scalps, counting the women and children, and they moved off at daybreak this morning in the direction of Tottenham, which I reckon they'll attack tonight. Howsomever, Bill has gone on there to warn 'em, and after the sack of Gloucester the people of Tottenham won't be caught napping, and there are two or three old frontiersmen who have settled down there, and War Eagle will get a hot reception if he tries it. As far as his band is concerned, you're safe for some days. The only fear is that some others of the tribe, hurrying up at hearing of his success, may take this place as they go past. And now I guess I'll take a few hours' sleep. I haven't closed an eye for the last two nights."

A week passed quietly. Pearson, after remaining two days, again went down the lake to gather news, and returned a day later with the intelligence that almost all the settlements had been deserted by their inhabitants. The Indians were out in great strength and had attacked the settlers at many points along the frontier, committing frightful devastations.

Still another week passed, and Mr. Welch began to hope that his little clearing had been overlooked and forgotten by the Indians. The hands now went about their work as usual, but always carried arms with them, while one was constantly stationed on the watch-tower. Harold resumed his fishing; never, however, going out of sight of the house. Sometimes he took with him little Nelly Welch; it being considered that she was as safe in the canoe as she was in the house, especially as the boat was always in sight, and the way up from the landing to the house was under cover of the rifles of the defenders; so that, even in case of an attack, they would probably be able to make their way back.

One afternoon they had been out together for two or three hours; everything looked as quiet and peaceable as usual; the hands were in the fields near the house, a few of the cows grazing close to the gate. Harold had been successful in his fishing and had obtained as many fish as he could carry. He stepped out from the canoe, helped Nelly to land, slung his rifle across his back, and picked up the fish, which were strung on a withe passed through their gills.

He had made but a few steps when a yell arose, so loud and terrible that for a moment his heart seemed to stop beating. Then from the cornfields leaped up a hundred dark figures; then came the sharp crack of rifles, and two of the hands dashed down at full speed toward the house. One had fallen. The fourth man was in the watch-tower. The surprise had been complete. The Indians had made their way like snakes through the long corn, whose waving had been unperceived by the sentinel, who was dozing at his post, half-asleep in the heat of the sun. Harold saw in a moment that it was too late for him to regain the house; the redskins were already nearer to it than he was.

"Now, Nelly! into the boat again—quick!" he said. "We must keep out of the way till it's all over."

Nelly was about twelve years old, and her life in the woods had given her a courage and quickness beyond her years. Without wasting a moment on cries or lamentations, she sprang back into the canoe. Harold took his place beside her, and the light craft darted rapidly out into the lake. Not until he was some three or four hundred yards from the shore did Harold pause to look round. Then, when he felt he was out of gunshot distance, he ceased paddling. The fight was raging now around the house; from loop-holes and turret the white puffs of smoke darted angrily out. The fire had not been ineffectual, for several dark forms could be seen lying round the stockade, and the bulk of the Indians, foiled in their attempt to carry the place at a rush, had taken shelter in the corn and kept up a scattering fire round the house, broken only on the side facing the lake, where there was no growing crop to afford them shelter.

"They are all right now," Harold said cheerfully.

"Do not be anxious, Nelly; they will beat them off, Pearson is a host in himself. I expect he must have been lying down when the attack was made. I know he was scouting round the house all night. If he had been on the watch, those fellows would never have succeeded in creeping up so close unobserved."

"I wish we were inside," Nelly said, speaking for the first time. "If I were only with them, I should not mind."

"I am sure I wish we were," Harold agreed. "It is too hard being useless out here when such a splendid fight is going on. Ah! they have their eyes on us!" he exclaimed as a puff of smoke burst out from some bushes near the shore and a ball came skipping along on the surface of the water, sinking, however, before it reached it.

"Those Indian muskets are no good," Harold said contemptuously, "and the trade powder the Indians get is very poor stuff; but I think that they are well within range of my rifle."

The weapon which Harold carried was an English rifle of very perfect make and finish, which his father had given him on parting.

"Now," he said, "do you paddle the canoe a few strokes nearer the shore, Nelly. We shall still be beyond the range of that fellow. He will fire again and I shall see exactly where he is lying."

Nelly, who was efficient in the management of a canoe, took the paddle, and dipping it in the water the boat moved slowly toward the shore. Harold sat with his rifle across his knees, looking intently over the bows of the boat toward the bush from which the shot had come.

"That's near enough, Nelly," he said.

The girl stopped paddling, and the hidden foe, seeing that they did not mean to come nearer the shore, again fired. Harold's rifle was in an instant against his shoulder; he sat immovable for a moment and then fired.

Instantly a dark figure sprang from the bush, staggered a few steps up the slope, and then fell headlong.

"That was a pretty good shot," Harold said. "Your father told me, when I saw a stag's horns above a bush, to fire about two feet behind them and eighteen inches lower. I fired a foot below the flash, and I expect I hit him through the body. I had the sight at three hundred yards and fired a little above it. Now, Nelly, paddle out again. See!" he said, "there is a shawl waving from the top of the tower. Put your hat on the paddle and wave it."

"What are you thinking of doing, Harold?" the girl asked presently.

"That is just what I have been asking myself for the last ten minutes," Harold replied. "It is quite clear that as long as the siege is kept up we cannot get back again, and there is no saying how long it may last. The first thing is, what chance is there of their pursuing us? Are there any other canoes on the lake within a short distance?"

"They have one at Braithwaite's," the girl said, "four miles off; but look, there is Pearson's canoe lying by the shore."

"So there is!" Harold exclaimed. "I never thought of that. I expect the Indians have not noticed it. The bank is rather high where it is lying. They are sure to find it, sooner or later. I think, Nelly, the best plan would be to paddle back again so as to be within the range of my rifle while still beyond the reach of theirs. I think I can keep them from using the boat until it is dark."

"But after it is dark, Harold?"

"Well, then, we must paddle out into the lake so as to be well out of sight. When it gets quite dark we can paddle in again and sleep safely anywhere a mile or two from the house."

An hour passed without change. Then Nelly said: "There is a movement in the bushes near the canoe." Presently an arm was extended and proceeded to haul the canoe toward the shore by its head-rope. As it touched the bank an Indian rose from the bushes and was about to step in, while a number of puffs of smoke burst out along the shore and the bullets skipped over the water toward the canoe, one of them striking it with sufficient force to penetrate the thin bark a few inches above the water's edge. Harold had not moved, but as the savage stepped into the canoe he fired, and the Indian fell heavily into the water, upsetting the canoe as he did so.

A yell of rage broke from his comrades.

"I don't think they will try that game again as long as it is daylight," Harold said. "Paddle a little further out again, Nelly. If that bullet had hit you it would have given you a nasty blow, though I don't think it would have penetrated; still we may as well avoid accidents."

After another hour passed the fire round the house ceased.

"Do you think the Indians have gone away?" Nelly asked.

"I am afraid there is no chance of that," Harold said. "I expect they are going to wait till night and then try again. They are not fond of losing men, and Pearson and your father are not likely to miss anything that comes within their range as long as daylight lasts."

"But after dark, Harold?"

"Oh, they will try all sorts of tricks; but Pearson is up to them all. Don't you worry about them, dear."

The hours passed slowly away until at last the sun sank and the darkness came on rapidly. So long as he could see the canoe, which just floated above the water's edge, Harold maintained his position; then taking one paddle, while Nelly handled the other, he sent the boat flying away from the shore out into the lake. For a quarter of an hour they paddled straight out. By this time the outline of the shore could be but dimly perceived. Harold doubted whether it would be possible to see the boat from shore, but in order to throw the Indians off the scent, should this be the case, he turned the boat's head to the south and paddled swiftly until it was perfectly dark.

"I expect they saw us turn south," he said to Nelly. "The redskins have wonderful eyes; so, if they pursue at all, they will do it in that direction. No human being, unless he borrowed the eyes of an owl, could see us now, so we will turn and paddle the other way."

For two hours they rowed in this direction.

"We can go in to shore now," Harold said at last. "We must be seven or eight miles beyond the house."

The distance to the shore was longer than they expected, for they had only the light of the stars to guide them and neither had any experience in night traveling. They had made much further out into the lake than they had intended. At length the dark line of trees rose in front of them, and in a few minutes the canoe lay alongside the bank and its late occupants were stretched on a soft layer of moss and fallen leaves.

"What are we going to do to-morrow about eating?" Nelly asked.

"There are four or five good-sized fish in the bottom of the canoe," Harold replied. "Fortunately we caught more than I could carry, and I intended to make a second trip from the house for these. I am afraid we shall not be able to cook them, for the Indians can see smoke any distance. If the worst comes to the worst we must eat them raw, but we are sure to find some berries in the wood to-morrow. Now, dear, you had better go to sleep as fast as you can; but first let us kneel down and pray God to protect us and your father and mother."

The boy and girl knelt in the darkness and said their simple prayers. Then they lay down, and Harold was pleased to hear in a few minutes the steady breathing which told him that his cousin was asleep. It was a long time before he followed her example. During the day he had kept up a brave front and had endeavored to make the best of their position, but now that he was alone he felt the full weight of the responsibility of guiding his companion through the extreme danger which threatened them both. He felt sure that the Indians would prolong the siege for some time, as they would be sure that no re-enforcements could possibly arrive in aid of the garrison. Moreover, he by no means felt so sure as he had pretended to his companion of the power of the defenders of the house to maintain a successful resistance to so large a number of their savage foes. In the daylight he felt certain they could beat them off, but darkness neutralizes the effect both of superior arms and better marksmanship. It was nearly midnight before he lay down with the determination to sleep, but scarcely had he done so when he was aroused by an outburst of distant firing. Although six or seven miles from the scene of the encounter, the sound of each discharge came distinct to the ear along the smooth surface of the lake, and he could even hear, mingled with the musketry fire, the faint yells of the Indians. For hours, as it seemed to him, he sat listening to the distant contest, and then he, unconsciously to himself, dozed off to sleep, and awoke with a start, to find Nelly sitting up beside him and the sun streaming down through the boughs. He started to his feet.

"Bless me!" he exclaimed, "I did not know that I had been asleep. It seems but an instant ago that I was listening"—and here he checked himself—"that is, that I was wide awake, and here we are in broad daylight."

Harold's first care was to examine the position of the canoe, and he found that fortunately it had touched the shore at a spot where the boughs of the trees overhead drooped into the water beyond it, so that it could not be seen by anyone passing along the lake. This was the more fortunate as he saw, some three miles away, a canoe with three figures on board. For a long distance on either side the boughs of the trees drooped into the water, with only an opening here and there such as that through which the boat had passed the night before.

"We must be moving, Nelly. Here are the marks where we scrambled up the bank last night. If the Indians take it into their heads to search the shore both ways, as likely enough they may do, they will be sure to see them. In the first place let us gather a stock of berries, and then we will get into the boat again and paddle along under this arcade of boughs till we get to some place where we can land without leaving marks of our feet. If the Indians find the place where we landed here, they will suppose that we went off again before daylight."

For some time they rambled in the woods and succeeded in gathering a store of berries and wild fruit. Upon these Nelly made her breakfast, but Harold's appetite was sufficiently ravenous to enable him to fall to upon the fish, which, he declared, were not so bad, after all. Then they took their places in the canoe again and paddled on for nearly a mile.

"See, Harold!" Nelly exclaimed as she got a glimpse through the boughs into the lake, "there is another canoe. They must have got the Braithwaite boat. We passed their place coming here, you know. I wonder what has happened there."

"What do you think is best to do, Nelly?" Harold asked. "Your opinion is just as good as mine about it. Shall we leave our canoe behind, land, and take to the woods, or shall we stop quietly in the canoe in shelter here, or shall we take to the lake and trust to our speed to get away? in which case, you know, if they should come up I could pick them off with my gun before they got within reach.

"I don't think that would do," the girl said, shaking her head. "You shoot very well, but it is not an easy thing to hit a moving object if you are not accustomed to it, and they paddle so fast that if you miss them once they would be close alongside—at any rate we should be within reach of their guns—before you could load again. They would be sure to catch us, for although we might paddle nearly as fast for a time, they would certainly tire us out. Then, as to waiting here in the canoe, if they came along on foot looking for us we should be in their power. It is dreadful to think of taking to the woods with Indians all about, but I really think that would be our safest plan."

"I think so too, Nelly, if we can manage to do it without leaving a track. We must not go much further, for the trees are getting thinner ahead and we should be seen by the canoes."

Fifty yards further Harold stopped paddling.

"Here is just the place, Nelly."

At this point a little stream of three or four feet wide emerged into the lake; Harold directed the boat's head toward it. The water in the stream was but a few inches deep.

"Now, Nelly," he said, "we must step out into the water and walk up it as far as we can go—it will puzzle even the sharpest redskin to find our track then."

They stepped into the water, Harold taking the head-rope of the canoe and towing the light boat—which, when empty, did not draw more than two inches of water—behind him. He directed Nelly to be most careful as she walked not to touch any of the bushes, which at times nearly met across the stream.

"A broken twig or withered leaf would be quite enough to tell the Indians that we came along this way," he said. "Where the bushes are thick you must manage to crawl under them. Never mind about getting wet—you will soon dry again."

Slowly and cautiously they made their way up the stream for nearly a mile. It had for some distance been narrowing rapidly, being only fed by little rills from the surrounding swamp land. Harold had so far looked in vain for some spot where they could land without leaving marks of their feet. Presently they came to a place where a great tree had fallen across the stream.

"This will do, Nelly," Harold said. "Now, above all things you must be careful not to break off any of the moss or bark. You had better take your shoes off; then I will lift you on to the trunk and you can walk along it without leaving a mark."

It was hard work for Nelly to take off her drenched boots, but she managed at last. Harold lifted her on to the trunk and said: