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Or The Winning of a Continent

BY G. A. HENTY [1894]

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Chapter 15
Through Many Perils.

Vocabulary 1:  sagacity

1.  The course Nat was taking was not parallel to that of the boats outside him. He was sheering gradually out into the lake, and, although the boat was travelling somewhat faster than its pursuers, James saw that its course would carry it across their bows at a dangerously close distance. The Indians were not long in seeing that the canoe was
outstripping them, and in each of the boats one of the redskins laid aside his paddle, and began to fire. The balls struck the water near the canoe, but no one was hit.

2.  "Let them fire," Jonathan said. "It ain't every man as can shoot straight from a canoe going at racing pace. The more they fires the better. They will only fall further behind."

3.  After firing two or three shots each, the Indians appeared to be of the same opinion, and resumed their paddles; but they had lost so much ground that the canoe they were in chase of shot out into the lake fifty yards ahead of the nearest. Some more shots were fired, and then the Indians began hastily to throw the fish, with which their canoes
were laden, into the water. After paddling two or three hundred yards farther, Nat laid in his paddle.

4.  "Out with them fish," he said. "You can leave one or two for supper, but the rest must go overboard. Be quick about it, for those canoes from the shore are coming up fast."

5.  The work was concluded just as the canoes with the Owl and his warriors came up with the others, which, having now got rid of their fish, again set out, and, in a close body, the ten canoes started in pursuit.

6.  "Paddle steady," Nat said; "and whatever you do, be careful of your blades. If one was to break now it would mean the loss of our scalps.  Don't gain on 'em; as long as the redskins on shore think as their friends are going to catch us, they won't care to put out and join in the chase; but if they thought we was getting away, they might launch
canoes ahead of us and cut us off. The nearer we are to them the better, as long as we are keeping ahead."

7.  For an hour the chase continued. The Indians, although straining every nerve, did not gain a foot upon the fugitives, who, although paddling hard, had still some reserve of strength. The sun, by this time, was touching the tops of the hills.

8.  "Now, cap," Nat said, "it's time to teach 'em as we can bite a bit.  They won't be quite so hot over it, if we give them a lesson now. Do you turn round and pepper them a bit.

9.  "Now, old hoss! You and I must row all we know for a bit."

10.  Turning himself in the canoe, resting his elbow on his knee to steady his rifle, James took as careful an aim as the dancing motion of the boat permitted, and fired. A dull sound came back, like an echo, to the crack of the piece, and a paddle in the leading boat fell into the water. A yell arose from the Indians, but no answering shout came back.

11.  The Indians were now paddling even harder than before, in hope of overtaking the canoe, now that it was impelled by but two rowers. But the scouts were rowing their hardest, and proved the justice of their fame, as the best paddlers on the lakes, by maintaining their distance from their pursuers.

12.  Again and again James fired, several of his bullets taking effect. It was now rapidly becoming dusk.

13.  "That will do, captain. We had best be showing them our heels now, and get as far ahead as we can, by the time it is quite dark."

14.  James laid by his rifle and again took his paddle, and, as all were rowing at the top of their speed, they gradually increased the distance between themselves and their pursuers. Rapidly the gap of water widened, and when darkness fell on the lake, the fugitives were more than half a mile ahead of their pursuers. The night was dark, and a
light mist rising from the water further aided them. When night had set in, the pursuing canoes could no longer be seen.

15.  For another half hour they paddled on, without intermitting their efforts, then, to James's surprise, Nat turned the head of the canoe to the western shore. He asked no question, however, having perfect faith in Nat's sagacity. They were nearly in the middle of the lake when they altered their course, and it took them half an hour's hard paddling,
before the dark mass of trees loomed up in the darkness ahead of him.  Ten minutes before, Nat had passed the word that they should paddle quietly and noiselessly. It was certain that the chase would be eagerly watched from the shore, and that any Indians there might be in the wood would be closely watching near the water's edge.

16.  Accordingly, as noiselessly as possible they approached the shore, and, gliding in between the overhanging trees, laid the canoe alongside a clump of bushes. Then, without a word being spoken, they laid in their paddles and stretched themselves full length in the canoe.

17.  James was glad of the rest, for, trained and hard as were his muscles, he was exhausted by the long strain of the row for life. He guessed that Nat would calculate that the Indian canoes would scatter, when they lost sight of them, and that they would seek for them more closely on the eastern shore. At the same time he was surprised that, after once getting out of sight of their pursuers, Nat had not immediately landed on the opposite shore, and started on foot through the woods.

18.  After recovering his breath, James sat up and listened attentively.  Once or twice he thought he heard the sound of a dip of a paddle, out on the lake, but he could not be sure of it; while from time to time he heard the croak of a frog, sometimes near, sometimes at a distance along the shore. He would have thought little of this, had not a slight pressure of Jonathan's hand, against his foot, told him that these were Indian signals.

19.  Some hours passed before Nat made a move, then he touched Jonathan, and sat up in the canoe. The signal was passed on to James, the paddles were noiselessly taken up, and, without a sound that could be detected by the most closely-listening ear, the canoe stole out again on to the lake. Until some distance from shore they paddled very quietly, then gradually the strokes grew more vigorous, until the canoe was flying
along at full speed up the lake, her course being laid so as to cross very gradually towards the eastern side.

20.  It was not until, as James judged, they must have been several miles from the point at which they had started, that they approached the eastern shore. They did so with the same precautions which had been adopted on the other side, and sat, listening intently, before they gave the last few strokes which took them to the shore. Quietly they stepped out, and the two scouts, lifting the canoe on their shoulders, carried it some fifty yards into the forest, and laid it down among some bushes. Then they proceeded on their way, Nat walking first, James following him so close that he was able to touch him, for, in the thick darkness under the trees, he could not perceive even the outlines of his figure. Jonathan followed close behind. Their progress was slow, for even the trained woodsmen could, with difficulty, make their way through the trees, and Nat's only index, as to the direction to be taken, lay in the feel of the bark of the trunks.

21.  After an hour's progress, he whispered:

22.  "We will stop here till daylight. We can't do any good at the work. We haven't made half a mile since we started."

23.  It was a positive relief, to James, to hear the scout's voice, for not a single word had been spoken since they lost sight of their pursuers in the darkness. The fact that he had ventured now to speak showed that he believed that they were comparatively safe.

1.  What did they throw out of the canoe?  ________________________

2.  How long did the chase continue before the sun went down?  _________________

3.  Which shore did they head to first?  _________________________

4.  How did Nat find his direction in the dark?  _____________________________

Vocabulary 2:  scrimmage

24.  "May I speak, Nat?" he asked, after they had seated themselves on the ground.

25.  "Ay, you may speak, captain, but don't you raise your voice above a whisper. There is no saying what redskin ears may be near us. I guess these forests are pretty well alive with them. You may bet there isn't a redskin, or one of the irregular Canadian bands, but is out after us tonight. The war whoop and the rifles will have put them all on the lookout.

26.  "They will have seen that we were pretty well holding our own, and will guess that, when night came on, we should give the canoes the slip. I guess they will have placed a lot of canoes and flatboats across the lake, opposite Crown Point, for they will know that we should either head back, or take to the woods. I guess most of the redskins near Crown Point will have crossed over at this point, as, in course, we were more likely to land on this side. I had a mighty good mind to land where we was over there, but there are sure to be such a heap of Indians, making their way up that side from Montreal, that I judge this will be the best; but we shall have all we can do to get free of them."

27.  "Why didn't you land at once, Nat, after we lost sight of them, instead of crossing over?"

28.  "Because that's where they will reckon we shall land, captain. That's where they will look for our tracks the first thing in the morning, and they will know that we can't travel far such a dark night as this, and they will search every inch of the shore for three or four miles below where they lost sight of us, to find where we landed. They would know
well enough we couldn't get ashore, without leaving tracks as they would make out, and they would reckon to pick up our trail fast enough, in the wood, and to overtake us before we had gone many miles.

29.  "Now, you see, we have doubled on them. The varmint in the woods will search the edge of the lake in the morning, but it's a good long stretch to go over, and, if we have luck, they mayn't strike on our landing place for some hours after daylight. In course, they may hit on it earlier; still, it gives us a chance, anyhow. Another thing is, we have twenty miles less to travel through the woods than if we had to start up there, and that makes all the difference when you've got redskins at your heels. If we don't have the bad luck to come across some of the varmint in the woods, I expect we shall carry our scalps back to Fort William Henry.

30.  "Now you had best sleep till daybreak. We shall not get another chance till we get into the fort again."

31.  With the first dawn of morning, they were on their way. Striking straight back into the woods, they walked fast, but with the greatest care and caution, occasionally making bends and detours, to prevent the redskins following their traces at a run, which they would have been able to do, had they walked in a straight line. Whenever the ground was soft, they walked without trying to conceal their tracks, for Nat knew
that, however carefully they progressed, the Indians would be able to make out their trail here. When, however, they came to rocky and broken ground, they walked with the greatest caution, avoiding bruising any of the plants growing between the rocks. After walking ten miles in this direction, they turned to the south.

32.  "We ought to be pretty safe, now," Nat said. "They may be three or four hours before they hit on our landing place, and find the canoe. I don't say as they won't be able to follow our trail--there ain't no saying what redskin eyes can do--but it will take them a long time, anyway.  There ain't much risk of running against any of them in the forest, now. I guess that most of them followed the canoe down the lake last night.

33.  "Anyway, we are well out from Lake Champlain now. When we have gone another fifteen mile, we sha'n't be far from the upper arm. There's a canoe been lying hidden there for the last two years, unless some tramping redskin has found it, which ain't likely."

34.  Twenty miles further walking brought them to the shore of the lake.  Following this for another hour, they came upon the spot, where a little stream ran into the lake.

35.  "Here we are," Nat said. "Fifty yards up here we shall find the canoe."

36.  They followed the stream up for a little distance, and then Nat, leaving its edge, made for a clump of bushes a few yards away. Pushing the thick foliage aside, he made his way into the centre of the clump.

37.  "Here it is," he said, "just as I left it."

38.  The canoe was lifted out and carried down to the lake, and, taking their seats, they paddled up Lake Champlain, keeping close under the shore.

39.  "We have had good luck, captain," Nat said. "I hardly thought we should have got out without a scrimmage. I expect as the best part of the redskins didn't trouble themselves very much about it. They expect to get such a lot of scalps and plunder, when they take the fort, that the chance of three extra wasn't enough inducement for 'em to take much trouble over it. The redskins in the canoes, who chased us, would be hot enough over it, for you picked out two if not more of them; but those who started from the fort wouldn't have any particular reason to trouble much, especially as they think it likely that those who were chasing us would get the scalps. When a redskin's blood's up there ain't no trouble too great for him, and he will follow for weeks to get his revenge; but, take 'em all in all, they are lazy varmint, and as long as there is plenty of deer's meat on hand, they will eat and sleep away their time for weeks."

40.  By night, they reached the upper end of Lake Champlain, the canoe was carefully hidden away again, and they struck through the woods in the direction of Fort William Henry. They were now safe from pursuit, and, after walking two or three miles, halted for the night, made a fire, and cooked some of the dried meat. When they had finished their meal, Nat said:

41.  "Now we will move away a bit, and then stretch ourselves out."

42.  "Why shouldn't we lie down here, Nat?"

43.  "Because it would be a foolish thing to do, captain. There ain't no saying what redskins may be wandering in the woods in time of war. A thousand nights might pass without one of 'em happening to come upon that fire, but if they did, and we were lying beside it, all the trouble we have taken to slip through their hands would be chucked
clean away. No, you cannot be too careful in the woods."

44.  They started early the next morning, and, before noon, arrived at Fort William Henry, where James at once reported, to Colonel Monro, what he had learned of the strength of the French force gathering at Crown Point.

5.  Did James and the scouts walk in a straight line?  _____________________

6.  How far did they walk to get to the shore of the lake?  __________________

7.  How long did they follow the lake shore before they came to the stream?  _________

8.  What time did they arrive at Fort William Henry?  _______________________

Vocabulary 3:  boughs, reconnoitre

45.  "Thank you, Captain Walsham," the commandant said. "I am greatly indebted to you, for having brought us certain news of what is coming.  I will write off at once, and ask for reinforcements. This is a serious expedition, and the colonies will have to make a great effort, and a speedy one, if they are going to save the fort, for, from what we hear of Montcalm, he is not likely to let the grass grow under his feet. I shall report the services you have rendered."

46.  As soon as Colonel Monro received the report James had brought him, he sent to General Webb, who, with two thousand six hundred men, chiefly provincials, was at Fort Edward, fourteen miles away. On the 25th of July that general visited Fort William Henry, and, after remaining there four days, returned to Fort Edward, whence he wrote to the governor of New York, telling him the French were coming, and urging him to send forward the militia at once, saying that he was determined to march himself, with all his troops, to the fort. Instead of doing so, three days later he sent up a detachment of two hundred regulars under Lieutenant Colonel Young, and eight hundred Massachusetts men under Colonel Frye. This raised the force at Fort William Henry to two thousand two hundred men, and reduced that of Webb to sixteen hundred.

47.  Had Webb been a brave and determined man, he would have left a few hundred men, only, to hold Fort Edward, and marched with the rest to assist Monro, when, on the morning of the 3rd of August, he received a letter from him, saying that the French were in sight on the lake. But, as he was neither brave nor determined, he remained at Fort Edward, sending off message after message to New York, for help which could not possibly arrive in time.

48.  Already, the garrison of Fort William Henry had suffered one reverse.  Three hundred provincials, chiefly New Jersey men, under Colonel Parker, had been sent out to reconnoitre the French outposts. The scouts, under James Walsham, were of the party. They were to proceed in boats down the lake.

49.  "I don't like this business, no way, captain," Nat said, as the company took their place in the boats. "This ain't neither one thing or the other. If Monro wants to find out about the enemy, Jonathan and I kin do it. If he wants to fight the enemy, this lot ain't enough; besides, these New Jersey men know no more about the forest than so many
children. You mark my words, this is going to be a bad business. Why, they can see all these boats halfway down the lake, and, with all these redskins about, they will ambush us as soon as we try to land.

50.  "Look here, captain; you know that I ain't no coward. I don't think no one can say that of me. I am ready to fight when there is a chance of fighting, but I don't see no good in getting myself killed off, when there ain't no good in it. So what I says is this: don't you be in a hurry, captain, with these boats of ours."

51.  "But I must obey orders, Nat," James said, smiling.

52.  "Yes, you must obey orders, captain, no doubt. But there's two ways of obeying orders. The one is to rush in front, and to do a little more than you are told. The other is to take things quiet, and just do what you are told, and no more. Now, my advice is, on this here expedition you go on the last plan. If you are ordered to land first, why land
first it must be. If you don't get orders to land first, just let them as is in a hurry land afore you. I ain't been teaching all these lads to know something about the woods, for the last six months, jest to see them killed off like flies, because a blundering wrong-headed colonel sends them out with two hundred and fifty plowmen, for the redskins
to see and attack jest when they fancies."

53.  "Very well, Nat, I will take your advice, and, for once, we won't put ourselves in the front, unless we are ordered."

54.  Satisfied with this, Nat passed quietly round among the men, as they were taking their places in the boats, and told them that there was no occasion for them to row as if they were racing.

55.  "I shall be in the captain's boat," he said. "You keep close to us, and don't you try to push on ahead. When we are once fairly in the woods, then we will do the scouting for the rest, but there ain't no hurry for us to begin that, till we are on shore."

56.  "Look at us," Nat grumbled in James's ear, as the boats started down the lake. "There we are, rowing along the middle, instead of sneaking along close to the shore. Does Parker think that the redskins are as blind as he is, and that, 'cause it's night, a lot of big boats like these can't be seen out in the middle of the lake? I tell you, captain, if we ain't ambushed as soon as we land, I will grant I know nothing of redskin ways."

57.  James had, in fact, before starting, suggested to Colonel Parker that it would be well to keep under the shelter of the bushes; but the officer had replied stiffly:

58.  "When I want your advice, Captain Walsham, I will ask for it."

59.  After which rebuff, James was more willing than he had hitherto been to act in accordance with the advice of the scout. Accordingly, as they rowed down the lake, the boats with the Royal Scouts, although keeping up with the others, maintained their position in the rear of the column.

60.  Towards daybreak, the boats' heads were turned to shore, and, when they neared it, Colonel Parker gave the order for the men to lay in their oars, while the three boats, which happened to be in advance, were told to advance at once and land. The boats passed through the thick curtain of trees, which hung down over the water's edge. A minute passed, and then three others were ordered to follow them.

61.  "Did you hear nothing?" Nat whispered to James.

62.  "No, I didn't hear anything, Nat. Did you?"

63.  "Well, I think I did hear something, captain. It seems to me as I heard a sort of scuffle."

64.  "But they never could surprise some thirty or forty men, without the alarm being given?"

65,  "It depended what sort of men they were," Nat said scornfully. "They wouldn't surprise men that knew their business; but those chaps would just jump out of their boats, as if they was landed on a quay at New York, and would scatter about among the bushes. Why, Lord bless you, the Indians might ambush and tomahawk the lot, before they had time to think of opening their lips to give a shout."

66.  The second three boats had now disappeared among the trees, and Colonel Parker gave the word for the rest to advance in a body.

67.  "Look to your firelocks, lads," James said. "Whatever happens, keep perfectly cool. You at the oars, especially, sit still and be ready to obey orders."

68.  The boats were within fifty yards of the trees when, from beneath the drooping boughs, a volley of musketry was poured out, and, a moment later, a swarm of canoes darted out from beneath the branches, and the terrible Indian war whoop rang in the air.

69.  Appalled by the suddenness of the attack, by the deadly fire, and the terrible yells, the greater portion of the men in the boats were seized with the wildest panic. Many of them jumped into the water. Others threw themselves down in the bottom of the boats. Some tried to row, but were impeded by their comrades.

70.  "Steady, men, steady!" James shouted, at the top of his voice. "Get the boats' heads round, and keep together. We can beat off these canoes, easy enough, if you do but keep your heads."

71.  His orders were obeyed promptly and coolly by the men of his company.  The boats were turned with their heads to the lake, as the canoes came dashing up, and the men who were not employed in rowing fired so steadily and truly that the redskins in several of the leading canoes fell, upsetting their boats.

72.  "Don't hurry," James shouted. "There is no occasion for haste. They can go faster than we can. All we have got to do is to beat them off. Lay in all the oars, except the two bow oars, in each boat. All the rest of the men stand to their arms, and let the boats follow each other in file, the bow of one close to the stern of that ahead."

9.  How many men did General Webb have at Fort Edward?  ___________________

10.  When were the French spotted on the lake?  _______________________

11.  Did Colonel Parker want James’ advice?  ______________________

12.  How many boats did Colonel Parker send in at a time?  _____________________

Vocabulary:  Bearn, flotilla, Guienne, Languedoc, La Reine, La Sarre, Roussillon

73.  The check, which the volley had given to the canoes, gave time to the men in several of the boats, close to those of the scouts, to turn.  They were rowing past James's slowly-moving boats, when he shouted to them:

74.  "Steady, men, your only chance of escape is to show a front to them, as we are doing. They can overtake you easily, and will row you down one after the other. Fall in ahead of our line, and do as we are doing. You need not be afraid. We could beat them off, if they were ten times as many."

75.  Reassured by the calmness with which James issued his orders, the boats took up the positions assigned to them. James, who was in the last boat in the line, shuddered at the din going on behind him. The yells of the Indians, the screams and cries of the provincials, mingled with the sharp crack of rifles or the duller sound of the musket. The work of destruction was soon over. Save his own company and some fifty of the provincials in the boats ahead, the whole of Colonel Parker's force had been killed, or were prisoners in the hands of the Indians, who, having finished their work, set off in pursuit of the boats which had escaped them.

76.  James at once changed the order. The front boat was halted, and the others formed in a line beside it, presenting the broad side to the approaching fleet of canoes. When the latter came within a hundred yards, a stream of fire opened from the boats, the men aiming with the greatest coolness.

77.  The canoes were checked at once. A score of the paddlers had sunk, killed or wounded, into the bottom, and several of the frail barks were upset. As fast as the men could load, they continued their fire, and, in two minutes from the first shot, the canoes were turned, and paddled at full speed towards the shore, pursued by a hearty cheer from the English. The oars were then manned again, and the remains of Parker's flotilla rowed up the lake to Fort William Henry.

78.  Several of the prisoners taken by the Indians were cooked and eaten by them. A few days afterwards a party of Indians, following the route from the head of Lake Champlain, made a sudden attack on the houses round Fort Edward, and killed thirty-two men.

79.  It was an imposing spectacle, as the French expedition made its way down Lake George. General Levis had marched by the side of the lake with twenty-five hundred men, Canadians, regulars, and redskins; while the main body proceeded, the troops in two hundred and fifty large boats, the redskins in many hundreds of their canoes.

80.  The boats moved in military order. There were six regiments of French line: La Reine and Languedoc, La Sarre and Guienne, Bearn and Roussillon. The cannons were carried on platforms formed across two boats. Slowly and regularly the procession of boats made its way down the lake, till they saw the signal fires of Levis, who, with his
command, was encamped near the water at a distance of two miles from the fort. Even then, the English were not aware that near eight thousand enemies were gathered close to them. Monro was a brave soldier, but wholly unfitted for the position he held, knowing nothing of irregular warfare, and despising all but trained soldiers.

81.  At daybreak, all was bustle at Fort Henry. Parties of men went out to drive in the cattle, others to destroy buildings which would interfere with the fire from the fort. The English position was now more defensible than it had been when it was attacked in the spring. The forest had been cleared for a considerable distance round, and the buildings which had served as a screen to the enemy had, for the most part, been removed. The fort itself lay close down by the edge of the water. One side and the rear were protected by the marsh, so that it could only be attacked from one side. Beyond the marsh lay the rough ground where Johnson had encamped two years before; while, on a flat hill behind this was an entrenched camp, beyond which, again, was another marsh.

82.  As soon as the sun rose, the column of Levis moved through the forest towards the fort, followed by Montcalm with the main body, while the artillery boats put out from behind the point which had hid them from the sight of the English, and, surrounded by hundreds of Indian canoes, moved slowly forward, opening fire as they went. Soon the sound of firing broke out near the edge of the forest, all round the fort, as the Indians, with Levis, opened fire upon the soldiers who were endeavouring to drive in the cattle.

83.  Hitherto James Walsham, with Edwards and his two scouts, was standing quietly, watching the approaching fleet of boats and canoes; Nat expressing, in no measured terms, his utter disgust at the confusion which reigned in and around the fort.

84.  "It looks more like a frontier settlement suddenly surprised," he said, "than a place filled with soldiers who have been, for weeks, expecting an attack. Nothing done, nothing ready. The cattle all over the place.  The tents on that open ground there still standing. Stores all about in the open. Of all the pig-headed, obstinate, ignorant old gentlemen I ever see, the colonel beats them all. One might as well have an old woman in command. Indeed, I know scores of old women, on the frontier, who would have been a deal better here than him."

85.  But if Monro was obstinate and prejudiced, he was brave, cool, and determined, and, now that the danger had come, he felt secure of his ground, and took the proper measures for defense, moving calmly about, and abating the disposition to panic by the calm manner in which he gave his orders. Nat had scarcely finished his grumbling, when the colonel approached.

86.  "Captain Walsham," he said, "you will take your company at once, and cover the parties driving in the cattle. You will fall back with them, and, when you see all in safety, retire into the intrenched camp."

87.  The company were already under arms, waiting for orders and, at the double, James led them up the sloping ground towards the forest, whence the war whoops of the Indians, and the sharp cracks of the rifles, were now ringing out on all sides. James made for the spot where a score of soldiers were driving a number of cattle before them, some hurrying the beasts on across the rough ground, others firing at the Indians, who, as their numbers increased, were boldly showing themselves behind the trees, and advancing in pursuit.

88.  As soon as they neared the spot, James scattered his men in skirmishing order. Each placed himself behind one of the blackened stumps of the roughly-cleared forest, and opened fire upon the Indians. Several of these fell, and the rest bounded back to the forest, whence they opened a heavy fire.

89.  Now the company showed the advantage of the training they had gone through, fighting with the greatest steadiness and coolness, and keeping well in shelter, until, when the soldiers and cattle had got well on their way towards the fort, James gave the order to fall back, and the band, crawling among the stumps, and pausing to fire at every opportunity, made their way back without having lost a man, although several had received slight wounds.

13.  How many provincials survived the attack?  ___________________

14.  How many men did General Levis have?  _____________________

15.  What did Monro order James and his men to do?  ________________________

16.  How many of James’s men died?  ____________________________

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