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Title: Rabble in Arms: A Chronicle of Arundel and the Burgoyne Invasion

Date of first publication: 1939

Author: Kenneth Roberts (1885-1957)

Date first posted: Oct. 10, 2017

Date last updated: Oct. 10, 2017

Faded Page eBook #20171004

This ebook was produced by: Mardi Desjardins, Cindy Beyer & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at http://www.pgdpcanada.net


“A rabble in arms, flushed

with success and insolence.”


            Gen. Burgoyne to Lord Rochfort,

            describing American troops before








Booth Tarkington


without whose generous guidance


the Chronicles of Arundel


would still be unwritten

“I despise my Countrymen. I wish I could say I was not born in America. I once gloried in it but am now ashamed of it. The Rascally Stupidity which prevails, the Insults and Neglects which the army have met with, Beggars all description. It must go no farther. They can endure it no longer. I am in Rags, have lain in the Rain on the Ground for 40 hours past, & only a Junk of fresh Beef & that without Salt to dine on this day, rec’d no pay since last December, & all this for my Cowardly Countrymen who flinch at the very time when their exertions are wanted, & hold their Purse Strings as tho they would Damn the World, rather than part with a Dollar to their Army.”

Col. Ebenezer Huntington to his brother, 1780.

    “Benedict Arnold’s country and the world

owe him more than they will ever liquidate;

and his defection can never obliterate the

solid services and the ample abuse which

preceded it.”

—Rev. J. F. Schroeder; Life and Times of Washington.

We are starving, and unless something very efficacious for the supply of the army is done very speedily, we must disband or turn freebooters—an evil of almost as much magnitude as the first. You have much influence with members of Congress. I entreat you to make them sensible of the risk to which they are exposing their country, and of the double risk to which they expose themselves; for it begins to be a prevailing sentiment, both in the army and in the country, that a party among them has been bribed to drive things into confusion.”

Gen. St. Clair to Joseph Reed, 1780.

“I see nothing before us but accumulating

distress. We have been half our time without

provisions and are like to continue so. We

have no Magazines nor money to form them.

And in a little time we shall have no Men,

if we had Money to pay them. We have

lived upon expedients until we can live no

longer. In a word, the history of the War

is a history of false hopes and temporary

devices, instead of system and economy.”

—George Washington to Cadwalader, 1780.


Arnold displayed more real military genius and inspiration than all the generals put together, on both sides, engaged in the war, with the most undaunted personal courage.”

—Charles Knight; History of England, Vol. I, p. 430.


It was Cap Huff who said that no business or profession, not even the managing of a distillery, can provide the profusion of delights to be encountered in a good war. I have not found it so; and for my part I want no more of such delights as the powder-blackened faces of the men who died beside us aboard the row-galleys on Lake Champlain, the painted masks of the greasy Indians that laid us by the heels, and the dreadful labours we endured before we stopped the British. Unfortunately I have others to consider; and it is for their sakes that I recall the burdens of those nightmare days.

In the beginning I must say that this is no book for those who swear by old wives’ fables, holding all Americans brave, all Englishmen honourable and all Frenchmen gallant. It cannot please such innocents as are convinced that men in public office always set the nation’s welfare above their own, nor those that think all soldiers patriots. It will disappoint the credulous who cherish the delusion that patriotism burns high in every breast in the hour of a country’s peril. In it there is small nourishment for romantics possessed to hear how courage and ability bring greater recognition than mediocrity and bluster, how virtue always triumphs, and how cowards meet a fitting retribution. Those who crave such poppycock must turn to fairy tales for undeveloped minds; for I am obliged to deal with facts and write what I conceive to be the truth.

. . . My father’s letter was delivered to me in our London lodgings, early on a March evening in 1776. When the letter arrived, my brother Nathaniel and I were on the point of setting out for Ranelagh, the occasion being a special entertainment at that resort of fashion because of somebody’s birthday: the Queen’s, it may have been, or that of one of the King’s innumerable royal relatives in Germany.

We had learned that upon such anniversaries it was usual for the King himself to visit Ranelagh, and that on this account dukes and generals and statesmen who wished to be seen in the train of royalty would be there, making a show that brought women off the street, shopkeepers hunting for new mistresses, shopkeepers’ wives looking for adventure, and young bucks out to make themselves disagreeable to as many people as possible.

We had never been to Ranelagh, Nathaniel and I; and Nathaniel was eager to go, not only because he might see famous folk, but because he could write familiarly about the place to his college classmates in Boston.

When, therefore, Nathaniel caught sight of the name “Capt. Asa Merrill” written above the red seal on the letter’s back, he said, “Put it by, Peter, until we get to Ranelagh. We’ll never be there if you wait to translate it now!”

He was impetuous, my brother was: airy and a little English in his speech from having attended Harvard College, where he had associated with the Boylstons and the Doanes and the sons of other codfish aristocrats. It was like him to speak of translating my father’s letter: a little disrespectful, certainly; yet not far from the truth; for my father was a bad speller, able to spell almost any word in several different fashions, all of them wrong.

I thrust the letter into my pocket, letting Nathaniel have his way, which I may have done too often for his own good.

The truth was that a large part of my thoughts revolved around Nathaniel—not only because he was my mother’s favourite and because he had always looked to me for help and guidance during his younger days, but because I saw in him the instrument by means of which our family might, through its shipping interests, become a power in our Province of Maine, just as had the Hancocks and the Derbys and the Bowditches in Massachusetts, and the Palmers in Connecticut.

He was not cut out for a mariner, to my way of thinking, having an aversion to loneliness and a leaning towards the society of his equals. There is as much of one, on a long cruise, as there is little of the other; and I knew from observation that if he were forced to be a seaman against his will, he would not be the first in that situation to take to the bottle.

This very sociability of his, however, fitted in with my purpose; for men as well as women took to him immediately on meeting him; and what was more important, he wore well, which is not often the case with those who seem companionable at first sight. Consequently I could ask no better agent for the handling of our freights in some likely port—Canton, say, or Malaga, where fortunes may be made quickly by a shipowner working in conjunction with an agent who has no other interests to serve. It was for this reason that I had interceded with my father to send Nathaniel to Harvard; and now that he had received a proper education, topping it off with a course under me in carrying and disposing of cargoes, I had high hopes for him and the future. My father had a knack of getting stout brigs built, and I knew how to sail them: we had our own shipyard in Arundel—and so, if Nathaniel expressed a wish to do a thing, I humoured him, after the fashion of an older brother who has built fond dreams around a younger.

We walked over to the muddy Strand; then off up the river to the gardens and rotunda of Ranelagh.

It was well we walked; for by the time we had covered two-thirds of the mile that separated these winter pleasure-grounds from the central portion of London, the coaches of the pleasure-seekers were so wedged together in the roadway that their occupants, we thought, would be hours in reaching their destination.

. . . I might say here that people have spoken to me, often, as though it were something astonishing for two Americans to be in London at a time when we were at war with England; but their wonderment is due only to their lack of understanding.

England considered herself not at war, but almost at peace with her American colonies, and merely annoyed and disgusted by the rebellious hypocrites with which New England, according to the belief of most Englishmen, was entirely populated.

Why it was that the English regarded us as hypocrites for refusing to submit to their tyranny, I have never exactly understood; but that was the fact of it. We were rebellious, praying hypocrites; and that belief, I fear, will never be allowed to die in stubborn Albion.

At all events, England reasoned that hypocrites would succumb more readily to force than to justice; and while she stabbed at the rebels with one hand, she held out an olive branch with the other; and on all sides there was constant expectation that the olive branch would be gratefully accepted—either through poverty or timidity.

All through London was a sprinkling of Americans—a thousand of them, maybe: wealthy and influential persons who had come to England to escape lawless English-haters in America. I had avoided them, my feelings being what they were; for I wanted no arguments with any man until I got my father’s specie safely home; but I am bound to say they were fine people except as regards their admiration for England.

There were even Englishmen who sympathised with our rebels, as I well knew from my repeated readings of Dr. Price’s book on Civil Liberty—a book that had come to seem as valuable to me as the other small volumes I carried on all my voyages: the Bible, Tristram Shandy, Don Quixote, Roderick Random and Gulliver’s Travels: books which, if read with care and fully digested, will give a man more learning than he can get from a score of colleges put together.

Dr. Price’s book had recently been published in London, and had been widely read by the English, though it maintained that England could commit no greater folly than to seek to keep our liberty from us. Consequently even a rebellious American could live peaceably in England, provided he was judicious in his speech, and kept his mouth shut when tempted to speak impulsively—which, after all, is a requisite of peace everywhere.

. . . The English are easily satisfied with their own belongings, I have found, and still more easily amused by matters amusing to no one else; so I was prepared to be disappointed in the Ranelagh rotunda, concerning which every Londoner is perpetually speaking, as though it were something more magnificent than anything in Egypt or Greece. But when I found myself under that great inverted bowl and looking up into it, I was amazed and full of admiration. Its airy space was so enormous that the throng of finely dressed folk who strolled slowly about its floor had the dwarfed look of ants moving aimlessly on the bottom of a vast round box. The roof was supported by a tremendous eight-sided column, hollow. Within the column a bright fire flamed and danced, so that the place had warmth.

All around the room were arcades, a table set in each one; and above the arcades were boxes, similarly equipped with tables. At one side of the main entrance was an elevated platform, and over it a sounding board; and on the platform was an orchestra of fifty pieces, all playing away for dear life. The place was filled with the gay and stirring sound, though there was nothing happening save hundreds of people walking slowly around and around, staring at each other.

It had cost us a guinea to get into this pleasure resort, which seemed to me enough to pay for a night’s entertainment; but Nathaniel, who had little regard for money, never having had to earn much of it, was of a different mind.

As we stood at the entrance, staring about us, Nathaniel plucked at my sleeve and pointed to an arcade-box done out in red brocade.

“The royal box!” he exclaimed.

He dragged me across the circular floor; and after a moment’s hesitation he walked boldly to the box beside the royal enclosure and made as though to enter. A lackey jumped up in it, his nose in the air, and said, “Resarved for Lard Germain.”

Nathaniel popped into the adjoining box, and almost before I knew what had happened he had dropped into a seat at its table and pushed me into a chair across from him.

A waiter came in and stared at us angrily. But Nathaniel, who was skilled at aping the English, turned to him haughtily and said, “What is it you want, fellow?”

On this the waiter became ill at ease, and mumbled that the box was reserved.

Nathaniel seemed pained. “I won’t be spoken to in such a way!” He looked at me with haughty astonishment. “Do you suppose the clown doesn’t know who I am! Throw five shillings on the floor for him, Sir Peter! Not another farthing, mind! And have him bring us a bit of ham, eh, Sir Peter? And a quart of rack punch, by Ged!”

The waiter, at once obsequious, took the five shillings I tossed him and darted from the box with such alacrity that he tripped over the curtains.

“Look here!” I said to Nathaniel. “You’ll get us into trouble if you call me Sir Peter; and we can’t be spending like a couple of dukes.”

Nathaniel smiled at me affectionately. When he smiled, he was difficult to resist; for his brown eyes twinkled, and his curly, close-cropped hair seemed to curl more tightly. “The ham’s a shilling a plate,” he said, “and the punch seven shillings a quart. Only two dollars, Peter, for sitting in a box beside the box that’s next to the box where sat the King of England, and having an experience your grandchildren will be bragging about a hundred years from now!”

What he said was probably true; for a king is a king, even though weak in the head. Therefore I made no further protest and we listened to the orchestra and watched the throngs parading slowly around and around, like a school of pollock following one another’s tails in and out of a cove in the Arundel River, each one goggle-eyed with brainlessness.

How the paraders could imagine they were taking pleasure was beyond me; for the entire gathering had the air of despising everything and every one. Yet for Nathaniel and myself it was as exciting as a play at Drury Lane; and as the evening went on it became more so.

Our platter of ham had arrived, and the bowl of rack punch; and the thinness of the slices of ham was something remarkable—something that proved the carver a master craftsman, both with knife and niggardliness. As soon as Nathaniel saw the ham before him, he examined it with an air of incredulity; then said, “Peter, where’s Father’s letter?”

As I fumbled in my pocket for it, I was conscious of a perfume so sweet and so arresting that I looked up suddenly, as if the scent of violets that filled the air had been a hand laid upon me to gain my attention. My eyes went beyond Nathaniel, and encountered, standing before the adjoining box, which we had been told was Lord Germain’s, a lady in a dress of pink brocade, and a tall, languid gentleman in black.

The lady was beautifully slender and rounded. A small pink turban bound her head, and from under it two half moons of golden hair curved down, lying tight upon her cheeks and concealing her ears. Her eyes were blue, the blue of a summer sea in the morning; and beneath her eyes was a faint dust of freckles that gave her the look of being too young and innocent to be in such a place as this.

Beautiful as she was, it was her companion that caught and held my eye. He was all in black satin: black coat, black knee breeches, black vest and stockings and shoes; but he wore a white wig; and at his throat was a cascade of white lace. In this white frame was set a placid, olive-tinted face: a face that seemed to slumber, because of the way in which its eyelids drooped. There was no look of weariness to him, despite these drooping lids: merely a sort of quiet relaxation: a kind of suspended animation.

Even as Nathaniel took the letter from me, I heard the girl in pink speaking to the lackey in the next box. I could not hear the words; but her voice was soft and sweet; and when the answer came, she turned a little doubtfully in our direction.

It was then that Nathaniel, having opened the letter, picked up a paper-thin slice of ham and held it before his face, so that he appeared to be reading the letter through it. Since the orchestra ceased playing at that moment, his words must have been clearly heard by the lady and her escort.

“Dated from Arundel in the Province of Maine,” Nathaniel announced. “My dear sons:—I hope while you are in England you will go to Ranelagh and learn how to cut one ham into slices so thin there’ll be a slice for every man in the army.”

I reached over and took the letter from him none too gently. He winked at me and whisked the slice of ham into his mouth. The lady’s escort raised a sleepy eyelid at my sudden movement; but the lady herself stared frankly, as if fascinated by what Nathaniel had said.

I looked at the letter, and saw Nathaniel had been joking. The words that met my eyes were not about ham, but were ominous, and so not difficult to read, despite my father’s dreadful spelling:

“The winter finds us well, and still something to eat and it is the hoap of your mother and me that these Fue lines find you the saim. I have a change of hart about your staing in England until the rebellion should be over, as it now appeers God knows when that will be. Thare is talk on all sides that America must be a sepperate country by itself. Those who are suspecktit of wishing to come to a peaceabil arraingment with England are in danger of losing thare property, thare hoams and thare verry lives. Thare are some who suspect us because you still remane in England. Tharefour if you can come saif home with the speshie, I would say come. I will leave it to Peter’s judgment. God knows we need the speshie. Thare is no money to be had anywhere, only paper money not worth mutch. Everyboddy is pore except those who become ritch out of our distress, and thare is no money to provide our army with powder or unaforms or pay. The British burnt Falmouth, leaving near 2000 women and children without rooves, cloathes or food for the winter whitch was a hard one. Steven Nason is hoam from Quebeck, where Nathianel Lord was killt, and 18 men from Arundel captivatit by the British, among them Noah Cluff, who workt in our shipyard. Steven says the men not killt or captivatit will go on fiting, even if they fite with nothing but axes. . . .”


I stared at the thin paper of the letter and at my father’s small handwriting, straight and regular, but somewhat trembly. The orchestra was playing again, a rollicking air that the young bucks liked to sing—The World Turned Upside Down. I seemed to smell the lilacs that flank our front door in Arundel and to hear the babble of my sisters, as I so often heard it when they were young, playing with their dolls in the crotches of the gnarled apple tree beside the kitchen. Dimly I heard Nathaniel singing beneath his breath:

What happy golden days were those

  When I was in my prime!

The lasses took delight in me,

  I was so neat and fine;

I roved about from fair to fair,

  Likewise from town to town,

Until I married me a wife

  And the world turned upside down.

Phrases came out from the letter, striking into the back of my eyes, so that they ached a little. “. . . still something to eat . . . losing their property, their homes and their very lives . . . some who suspect us because of you . . . the British burned Falmouth . . . the men not killed will go on fighting. . . .”

Nathaniel stopped his humming and leaned toward me anxiously. “What’s the matter? It’s not bad news, is it?”

Before I could answer, a figure loomed close beside us. It was the white-wigged man in black, and he bowed to us profoundly, as though we were personages.

“You forgive this intrusion, I hope,” he said to me. His voice was almost a whisper, and he raised his eyelids with difficulty, as if they were weighted. “My niece, a countrywoman of yours——”

He stopped, so that it was easy to see he was by nature a silent man. Behind him the girl in pink gazed indifferently at the throng of people who moved slowly before us, circling and circling the arcaded hall in time to the strumming of the orchestra.

“So she’s American!” I exclaimed. Nathaniel craned around the edge of the box to look at her.

The man in black bowed and gave us a sleepy smile. “We could not avoid hearing when you read your letter through the ham. My niece, Marie, she said you were Americans and might permit us to share your box.”

Our reply made it plain we would feel privileged to have their company; whereupon he turned and beckoned to his niece. She came to us with a pretty air of being modestly confused by the lack of ceremony in such a meeting, and with her came a sharp, penetrating fragrance of violets that seemed, like a single glass of fine wine, to stimulate and sharpen all my senses.

“You’re most obliging to permit this intrusion,” she said, taking the chair we offered her. “Your kindness—I said to my uncle you’d be kind, being Americans—we had asked for a box near the King; but they’re occupied, all of them.”

“Well,” I said, “what’s your loss is our gain!” I thought guiltily of the manner in which Nathaniel had forced his way into the box, which might readily belong to these very people; and I attempted to atone by making a flowery speech. “Indeed, ma’am, there’s only one trouble with having you in this box. If the King sets eyes on you, he’ll want to steal you into his own: then we shall be bereft.”

She had a way of lifting blue eyes and staring hard into a man’s face: then smiling suddenly, a sweet, tremulous smile. This she did to me when I had finished my blundering speech and sat there, feeling hot and foolish. Yet, oddly, at her smile there flashed into me a little doubt that she was as young and innocent as she appeared. From the first day I went to sea my father had told me again and again: “Be sure you see what you look at, whether it’s clouds or a lee shore or a man’s face: there’s nothing so useful to a sea captain.” So I looked at her carefully. It seemed to me there were hints about her mouth that might emphasise themselves into hard lines upon occasion; and that her blue eyes were amazingly cool in their scrutiny of Nathaniel and me.

“What good fortune!” she said. “What pleasure to meet with Americans in such a nest of—such a nest of——” She looked helplessly at us, seemingly at a loss for a word.

Thinking to test her sympathies, I offered her the word “Lobsterbacks,” which was one that New Englanders had used freely for many years when speaking of the English.

She seemed prettily shocked, and looked at me roguishly. “Such a word!” Then she accepted it. “In such a nest of lobsterbacks: yes! I feared when we came here a few days since, that I would be the only American in the entire country. My uncle, you see, is Canadian: Mr. Leonard.”

Mr. Leonard bowed to us and smiled. Already we had come to take his silence for granted, just as did his niece, who was quick to supply the words he seemed to find such difficulty in saying.

She nodded brightly at him, explaining him to us as she might have explained a bit of jewellery, unable to speak for itself. “A true Canadian, disgusted with the actions of these terrible English.”

Her own name, she added, was more formidable than her uncle’s. “It’s French, and you may find it troublesome. Marie de Sabrevois. You must say it, please.” I did so, and found nothing difficult about it.

“But,” she told us, “I’m not at all French, in spite of my name. I’m entirely American—entirely. When you read a portion of your letter through the ham—and that was droll—I heard your home is in the Province of Maine.”

“Arundel,” I said.

“Yes: I do not know that place.” She mispronounced it prettily. “You know Albany, perhaps? Or Poughkeepsie and New York?”

We shook our heads.

“That’s where I have lived,” she told us. “In all those places. Also a very little in Quebec, with my father. He was a fur merchant, my father was. A great fur merchant.” She sighed unhappily. “He is dead: killed by the English. That’s why I am here in England—to settle his affairs.” She lowered her voice and leaned across the table to me, very sweet and intimate. “I’m sure it’s the same with you as with me. You’re eager to go home and be away from these terrible people—these terrible English!”

“Yes,” I said.

Nathaniel coughed delicately behind his hand, a polite gesture he had acquired at Harvard College. “You’ll find worse places to be than here; worse people, too.” He made it plain he thought I had received enough of the lady’s attention, and wished some for himself. “We can’t go home, anyway. We sold our ship.”

Marie de Sabrevois looked at him curiously. “Your ship? You own a ship?”

“It was my father’s,” he told her. “Peter was captain and I was supercargo. We’d been to South America and the Spanish ports, and when we came up to England we had a letter from my father saying that fighting had broken out; that we should sell the ship as well as the cargo, so his investment might be safe from seizure. Now we must stay until the war’s over, and that won’t be long.”

“What makes you think so?” I asked, remembering my father’s letter.

Nathaniel smiled. “What’s the use of going over that again? Our country’s got no money to fight England with, and no generals, and not many men.”

“You don’t know what we’ve got,” I told him. “One thing we haven’t got is a lot of rake-hells and nincompoops to direct our affairs.”

Nathaniel turned to Mademoiselle de Sabrevois. “You see how it is. Peter thinks all English aristocrats must be rake-hells or nincompoops.”

“Don’t misquote me,” I said. “I don’t think they must be; but I think most of them are. I can prove it by Dr. Price’s book.”

“Your book!” Nathaniel exclaimed, laughing. “You can prove almost anything out of your book!”

“Yes,” I said, “I can. Almost anything. No matter what bad thing I say about England, it can be proved out of Roderick Random or Dr. Price.”

I drew Dr. Price’s thin book from my side pocket, where I always carried it in case an Englishman took it into his head to force offensive misstatements on me. Since Price himself was an Englishman, I could quote from him without being condemned myself.

“Listen,” I told Nathaniel. “Price says this: ‘An abandoned venality, the inseparable companion of dissipation and extravagance, has poisoned the springs of public virtue among us.’ That’s the opinion of one wise Englishman: that his country has been brought to the brink of ruin by dissipation and extravagance.”

“The trouble with Price, probably,” Nathaniel said carelessly, “was that his dinner wasn’t resting well when he wrote his book.”

I looked at Marie de Sabrevois. Her face was blank, as if she heard nothing of what we were saying, but I knew she had missed none of it. I could see she had heard worse things than I could ever say to Nathaniel, so I spoke to him sharply. “Before you discredit a man like Price, just bear in mind that every great man in England has a mistress or two. They brag of it. The country’s sprinkled with illegitimate noblemen and generals, and they even brag of that. What’s more, if there’s a decent woman in polite society, you mightn’t know it from those you there hear talked about.”

I had it in mind to speak even more frankly; but then I saw Mademoiselle de Sabrevois staring over the top of her feather fan at a group of ladies and gentlemen who had detached themselves from the ever-circling crowd before us and were advancing to the box beside us—Lord Germain’s.

The leader of the group was tall, with a white, contented face that had a sort of sheep-look to it. He was as tall, almost, as the silent Mr. Leonard; and he switched himself gently from side to side as he walked, which increased the self-satisfaction of his manner. He wore a white wig, and a suit of pale blue satin, and there was a showy ribbon of blue watered silk across his breast.

Clinging to his arm was a short, plump lady, young and vivacious, who took quick, tripping steps. She stared adoringly into the sheep-face of her escort, gabbling all the while in a way that did nothing to alter his blandness. She hopped up into the box like a gorgeous little tropical bird, casting a quick glance in our direction, as did some of the others in the party.

On that I looked at Marie de Sabrevois, and found her face hidden behind her fan—a singular thing, I thought, since I had never known a beautiful woman to be annoyed by the scrutiny of strange men.

“Do you know who that is?” I asked.

She seemed almost angry at my question. “How should I know who it is?” she retorted sharply. “We’ve been in England only a few days, my uncle and I!” Then she smiled and was sweet again, adding, “But I’d like to know.”

It seems to me my dislike of Marie de Sabrevois crystallised at that moment. I trust my feelings sprang not wholly from vanity, though it is true that I perceived her to be a woman who never in this world could possess any interest whatever in so outspoken and plain a young man as myself. Moreover, she seemed to me artificial—over-sweet, like the pink-frosted cake my mother makes. I stole one of them as a boy, and ate it all, and was sick for two days.

“Well,” I said, “the next box is Lord Germain’s, we were told. There’s no doubt the tall man in blue is Lord Germain. It’s he who has charge of sending troops to America, and I understand has something to say in planning what they shall do, once they’re there.”

Above the music of the orchestra we could hear the gabbling of the new arrivals. “Stop your teasing, Peggy!” a man’s voice said. “I’ll wager you’ll be eaten by lions or chased by savages if you persist in going to that wilderness. Stay in London where you’ll be safe.”

“Shafe!” a woman cried. Her speech was slurred, as if from liquor, and I knew it was the tropical bird. “Shafe! You know nothing about it, Mel! ’Tisn’t a wilderness: it’s like a regatta on the Thames! I shaw it all on the map. Jack showed it to me. After you leave Quebec, you come to lakes, beautiful lakes, and then to Hush’n River; and before you know it, you’re in New York. Ain’t you, my lord?”

I looked at Nathaniel, to make sure he heard. “Listen to that!” he said. “Just a pleasure jaunt from Quebec to New York!”

Another voice cut in—an arrogant voice: the voice of the man who had been called “my lord,” and certainly, therefore, the voice of Lord Germain. “She’s quite right, Mevil. If she wants to join Burgoyne, I’ll be the first to say yes. The rebels won’t bother her! They’ll run like sheep when they see the regulars. You heard what Jack said about them: they’re beggars—rabble! Officered by shoemakers: butchers: barbers!”

A burst of incredulous laughter greeted the words.

“ ’Pon my soul, it’s true!” Germain went on. “Not one of their officers, not even the best of ’em, but could be bought for a dollar a day! Peg’ll be as safe over there—safer—than she’d be walking in Hyde Park. Don’t let me hear any further talk about it’s not being safe!”

Nathaniel eyed me drolly. “I don’t believe it!” he declared. “Officers from our section, they wouldn’t sell out for less than a dollar and a half a day!”

I looked at him. “That doesn’t strike me as being funny,” I told him. “I can tell you something funnier.”

“Indeed!” Nathaniel said, eyeing me in his most indulgent Harvard manner.

“Yes, indeed! The gentleman you just heard—the gentleman who has charge of the war against our people—the gentleman who thinks we’ll run like sheep and can all be bought—fifteen years ago there wasn’t a man in England who didn’t consider him a coward and a traitor. He was courtmartialled for disobeying orders at the Battle of Minden, and was adjudged unfit to serve the King in any military capacity whatever. So now they let him make war on America!”

“Oh, well,” Nathaniel said lightly, “it goes to prove the English know how to take a joke, after all.”

We were silent, the four of us. Not only was I angry at Germain, but I was worried by Nathaniel, with his apparent liking for the English—worried by the thought that some day his careless words would surely be misinterpreted, and bring trouble on him and others.

At the moment, however, what he said brought him no trouble at all, but something quite different. Marie de Sabrevois slid her eyes around toward him: then, with her gaze upon his, smiled slowly and sweetly. The effect was immediate. Nathaniel’s air of carelessness disappeared: his glance returned hers warmly. Nay, he seemed to need to memorise every soft curve and faint freckle of her pretty face. Then, when she looked toward me, he watched her as though his very life depended on missing no syllable of what she said.

“Did you hear them speak of Burgoyne—of the one they called Jack?” she asked me. “We’ve heard about him and his army, and it does not amuse us. Have you heard about it yet?”


“I think it must be true, what Germain was saying,” she murmured, lifting sad eyes to mine. “The troops under Burgoyne are the best and bravest in the entire British army, and with them are going the most skilful officers. Our poor Americans will be able to do nothing against them. There’ll even be Hessian troops with Burgoyne: great fighters.”

“Hessians! Do you mean Germans?”

She nodded. “Under a general as fine as Frederick the Great, I’m told. And they say Indians will fight with him too: five thousand of them! It means the end of the war, you shall see! I mean, I’m afraid that’s what it means.”

The thought of so powerful and deadly an army howling and roaring down on our small towns and our defenceless people gave me a shivery feeling along my spine. But I sought not to believe such a thing possible. “Five thousand Indians!” I cried. “Why, there aren’t that many anywhere in the east! They’d have to use western Indians! They wouldn’t dare! That means”—I hesitated, thinking of the black forests that rise up from the opposite bank of our river in Arundel, and of my mother and my three sisters in the very shadow of the pointed pines—“that means we’ve got to go home.”

“Home?” Nathaniel asked. “But Father said we were to stay.”

“Not in this last letter,” I said with some sharpness, and was sorry I had spoken; for Nathaniel was immediately indiscreet.

“Ah! So he wants us to come home,” he said. “I suppose your plan’s for us to take the first ship we can get?”

Marie de Sabrevois leaned over the table, so we were enveloped by a wave of violet perfume from her laces. “Splendid!” she whispered, and there seemed to be admiration in her eyes. “Splendid! If you and your brother can go safely, it’s your duty to do so.” Again she glanced up at Nathaniel; and his eyes clung to her almost as though he were bewitched. “Perhaps I haven’t told you, but my uncle is returning to America in a few days. He will return safely: safely. If I thought otherwise, I wouldn’t let him go. If you should wish to go by his ship, he could arrange it easily, I’m sure. It would be a great privilege for him to have the company of such pleasant gentlemen.”

Mr. Leonard bowed without speaking.

“What ship is that?” I asked. “What makes it safe?”

“A French ship,” she said quickly. “One of the French ships that carry French officers to America. They’re saying in Paris that Congress will give a fine commission to any Frenchman who owns a sword and uniform—especially to those with titles who can find nothing to do in France; so they’ve begun to hurry over, each one expecting to be placed in command of the entire American army. These gentlemen consider themselves too important to risk travelling by vessels that aren’t safe, quite safe.”

Never once, while Marie de Sabrevois was speaking, did Nathaniel take his eyes from her. When she had finished, he cleared his throat and said, in a husky whisper: “Shall you go with your uncle?”

She looked up at him slowly, and as slowly looked away again—a glance that must, I was sure, have set the blood to pounding in his throat. “No,” she said. “No. I cannot go back yet. Not yet. I have property in France that must be settled. My poor father has died.” She sighed pathetically. “And so my uncle must return without me; for I have a ward—a little friend—a young girl, at school in—in Canada. It was this army of Burgoyne’s that changed all our plans. While I attend to my property here, my uncle must return to my little ward and take her to a safe place before soldiers lay waste the country.” She raised her eyes to Nathaniel’s again, a sweet and candid glance.

I had a thought that schools in Canada, for the most part, were convent schools, and that the little ward of which the lady spoke was, in all likelihood, a Papist. That being so, the lady herself might even be a Papist; and to me the thought of Nathaniel entangled with a Papist was repellent.

For one thing, we have suffered from French Papists in the Province of Maine, and a man who follows after one of them is thought to be lost to his family and friends, and already damned. For another thing, I had already seen Nathaniel and the lady exchange soft speeches beneath their breaths—speeches in which, I told myself, a meeting might have been arranged. Nathaniel had often proved himself quick-witted, and certainly the lady had found him pleasing; and I had come to know that two such people can, in a few whispered words, lay plans enough to wreck a dozen lives.

I may say that I have prejudices; nevertheless I hope that I have always been a man of open mind; and suddenly this chance meeting seemed to me fortunate. If Mr. Leonard had a ship that was to sail soon, my brother and I were precisely in need of such a means of transportation. More, Mr. Leonard looked to be a man as resourceful and trustworthy as he was silent; and Marie de Sabrevois would not be upon his ship.

Impulsively I pushed back my chair from the table, bowed, and held out my hand to Mr. Leonard. “We’re indebted,” I said. “Indebted for the chance to go with you. When is it you sail for America?”


We were driven in state to our lodgings by these new acquaintances of ours; and it was settled, when they left us, that Mr. Leonard would come for us, four mornings thence, and that we would set off together on our homeward travels.

As their coach clattered away toward the dim lights of the Strand, leaving behind it the heady perfume of violets, it seemed to me that Nathaniel’s sigh was almost ecstatic. He was silent, too, climbing the stairs to our rooms; and this was unlike Nathaniel, who had something gay to say, usually, of every one we met.

At length, knowing that the sharper the break between Nathaniel and his enchantress, the sooner he would recover from his tender thoughts, I spoke my mind about her. “At Drury Lane the other night,” I reminded him, “you had no patience with the actresses who played the parts of Goneril and Regan. They were unreal, you said. No woman of position, you maintained, could be so hard.”

“Did I?” Nathaniel said indifferently.

I strove to speak mildly. “Nathaniel, you know I have your own good at heart, always; and this that I say is said for your own good. There was something about the lady we met to-night——”

The glance he shot at me was scornful. I hesitated, fumbling for words.

“So she put you in mind of Goneril and Regan?” he asked, with exaggerated politeness.

“If I’m not mistaken,” I said, “she has much in common with them.”

Nathaniel studied a picture on the wall, and laughed; and I thought best to ignore his manner of doing it.

“There’s something behind that girl’s face,” I persisted. “For all her softness and sweetness, I’ll warrant she’s hard and bitter underneath.”

Nathaniel softly whistled The World Turned Upside Down to show his lack of interest in my opinion. When I would have said more, he stopped me with an airy wave of his hand. “Never mind, Peter,” he said. “Never mind. I liked her.”

I saw, then, that he believed me to be jealous of him, and that whatever I might say would only nourish that belief. I felt myself burdened by a singular discomfort; for I longed to express myself more forcefully about Marie de Sabrevois; yet was unwilling to do so for fear the very expressing might cause a breach between Nathaniel and me.

My discomfort became even greater on the following evening. During the afternoon Nathaniel had left me at my father’s agents and strolled off on private business of his own. I returned to our lodgings, expecting to find him there; but our rooms were empty. He might, I thought, have met a friend and dined with him. Later I told myself, though with some misgivings, that he must have gone on, after dinner, to a play. But as midnight passed, and then one o’clock, my misgivings became almost a panic. I visualised him beaten by footpads; run through by one of the young English bucks who were as free with their swords and their tempers as they were with their morals and other people’s money. I saw him, in my mind’s eye, trampled into the mud of the turbulent, roaring Strand, or floating in the filthy waters of the Thames.

I must have fallen asleep around two. An hour later I wakened to see Nathaniel undoing his stock before the mirror, as unconcerned as though just back from an afternoon stroll in Hyde Park.

I lay for a while and watched him. I seemed to see, about his face, a little heaviness that was new to me. From time to time, as he laid off his garments in the candlelight, he smiled the fixed and foolish smile with which one contemplates, when alone, a pleasure more agreeable than amusing. Even before I caught from him a faint, elusive perfume of violets, I knew he had been with Marie de Sabrevois.

I coughed and moved a little beneath the bed-clothes, to let him know I was awake; but the only sign he gave of hearing me was to compose his face at once, as though the pleasant scene he contemplated was too sacred to be enjoyed before another. Seeing that he had no intention of saying anything, I coughed again and asked him mildly enough whether he had enjoyed his evening. Nathaniel, rapt, at that moment, in examining in the mirror an imaginary something on his cheek, nodded and mumbled, and I took his mumble for assent.

“I suppose,” I said, still good-naturedly, “I suppose you wouldn’t want to tell me about it.”

Nathaniel looked at me briefly over his shoulder, at that, and as briefly answered “No.”

The next night I took him to a play; but two nights later, the night before we were to depart, Nathaniel again escaped me while I superintended the packing of our specie, and again he disappeared. This time I knew with whom he was engaged; and I was in a ferment, but not at all surprised, when he was absent on this private business until four in the morning. He was flushed when he came back: a little excited; but beyond what showed in his face, he kept his feelings to himself. Not a word would he say to me.

As I lay and raged at him silently in the dark, I thanked God we were leaving; for if ever I had seen a woman who seemed to me as dangerous as she was beautiful, it was Marie de Sabrevois.

. . . I was glad indeed when, a few hours later, our breakfast eaten and our belongings packed, there was a noisy whipcracking and clattering outside our lodgings. Here at last, I said to myself, was Mr. Leonard, bringing the means of escape from the blue-eyed girl who, in four short days, had come to loom so ominously in our lives.

When I threw up the sash to look down into the street, my gladness was abruptly tempered; for two conveyances stood before our door. One was a dark green post-chaise which must, of course, be Mr. Leonard’s; but behind it stood an empty sedan chair that had a fluffy and feminine look about it.

It was no surprise, therefore, when Nathaniel, uttering a muffled exclamation, turned from the window and ran from the room, and when I saw, close beside the placid, olive-tinted visage of Mr. Leonard at the window of the chaise, the pretty face of Marie de Sabrevois.

When the hustle and bustle of our departure was mostly over, and the driver and postilion had lashed our heavy boxes to the rack, she emerged from the chaise, a dainty perfumed figure in blue velvet and brown fur, and bade us farewell then and there, kissing her uncle affectionately and looking up at us pathetically from under the fringe of fur around the edge of her blue velvet bonnet. Her good-byes to me were cordial enough; but there was more than cordiality in the way her little hand lingered in Nathaniel’s, and the manner in which her eyes clung to his.

“I wish you all good fortune,” she said, including both of us in her glance, though I knew she spoke for Nathaniel’s ears alone. “We shall meet again. I feel it. No doubt you’ll go bravely off to Canada to struggle against Burgoyne’s army, and it might be we’ll encounter each other on the road. My little friend—my little ward—I must make sure that she is taken to friends in Albany or New York if there should be need, and there are not many roads from Canada to Albany.” She smiled at both of us, as innocent and trustful as a kitten.

“But won’t your uncle see to that?” I asked her.

She shrugged her shoulders. “I hope so,” she said, “but Ellen is an innocent! You cannot imagine what an innocent she is! She was taken by the Indians when she was little, and so she is learning to live all over again. She is like a wild creature, and I fear she will not make the journey unless I’m there to make it with her. Her teachers, too, will be reluctant to let her go without me, for fear she might come to some harm.”

“You’re as kind as you are beautiful!” Nathaniel said huskily.

She touched his sleeve lightly. “No, no! There’s nothing kind about picking up a waif in the street and seeing she’s properly clothed and educated.”

The glances that passed between them seemed to me sickening. “We must be going,” I told Nathaniel.

“See,” she said, ignoring me and drawing an envelope from her velvet muff, “I’ve written a letter that perhaps you’ll carry with you, in case you go to Canada.” She handed it to Nathaniel, who took it fumblingly and stared at her like a fool. Then she added: “It’s a small world, and it might readily happen you could do a kindness for my little ward, somehow or somewhere. Some day I might even be in St. John’s myself—or across the river from it. I have—I have property there. And you must pass through St. John’s to reach Albany.”

“You’ll be in St. John’s!” Nathaniel whispered.

Her eyes caressed him. “I’m delaying your departure,” she said softly, “so you must see me to my chair.” Her blue eyes slid towards me, almost maliciously.

On that I clambered, growling, into the chaise and settled myself beside Mr. Leonard, expecting to find him annoyed at the delay. Yet he was not. “A fine young man, your brother,” he whispered faintly, as if half asleep.

“Yes,” I said; but what I thought was that Nathaniel would be better off for a good rope-ending to rid his mind of foolish matters, like this admiration for the English and this parting softness of his for a Frenchified lady like Marie de Sabrevois.

The sedan chair swayed past, a white handkerchief fluttering at the window. A moment later Nathaniel climbed in with us, somewhat too unconcerned and matter-of-fact; and with him came the heavy odour of violets. Mr. Leonard tapped his stick against the front of the chaise, the driver cracked his whip smartly, and we lurched towards Westminster Bridge and the Dover road.

. . . Three days later, in the harbour of Boulogne, we boarded the privately-owned ship-rigged sloop-of-war Beau Soleil—a fast vessel with a great cabin equipped to house six passengers in separate berths—though the word “great” could be applied to it only as a sort of French politeness.

Already there were two Frenchmen aboard, Captain Gallette and Captain La Flamme, bound for America to obtain the highest possible rank under the gentleman they called Vasington. They had taken the best berths for themselves, so that we tucked ourselves in where we could.

That evening a third Frenchman unexpectedly arrived—a colonel, a most courteous and highly-bred gentleman. Distinction and affability seemed clearly stamped all over him; and we were nearly a week, such was his surface polish, in seeing the meanness and arrogance and selfishness that lay beneath that cultured exterior. He had enough names and titles to equip the officers of an entire regiment, some of them being Chevalier Mathieu Alexis Roche-Fermoy. He had three swords and a whole trunkful of uniforms; and the best berth, of course, was conceded to be his, as by an act of God. Consequently there was no berth for M. La Flamme save the poorest of all, which, we were at once made aware, was galling to the pride of a French gentleman. In fact, Captain La Flamme said openly that Nathaniel and I, being Americans, were without birth or breeding or military ability, and so entitled to no precedence whatever. He wished, in short, to have one of our cabins.

When we did not see fit to accede to his demands, he took it for granted that we could not be so ill-bred as to take offence at the remarks he had made about us. He turned polite and amiable again, so that we found it impossible not to be friendly with him; and in no time at all we were joining him in a glass of wine and helping him to write a letter to Congress—a letter in which he spoke highly of himself and asked for the rank of brigadier general in the American army.

We found all of these Frenchmen pleasant to be with, though it seemed to me they spent a large part of their time in speaking of their honour and breeding, and at the same time boasting of their amours and planning how to take advantage of somebody—preferably of an American.

Yet we became even intimate during our long voyage, nor could it have well been otherwise, considering the smallness of the great cabin, in which we ate our meals and played piquet, and tried to be deaf to the petulant outbursts of the Frenchmen when we caught them pressing their advantages too closely, which they were prone to do.

There was a dreadful sameness to our food, and to our games as well; for though we played to help the Frenchmen pass the time, their object seemed to be to inconvenience us to the utmost, and to ruin us if possible, whether by fair means or foul. Thus there was a deal of talk in the cabin; more than a little bickering, and a vast amount of bragging from our companions, who were scornful of bragging not done by themselves. Indeed, they were scornful of all the faults of others, even when these same faults were also their own, and usually in a higher degree.

But I should not imply that the entire ship’s company of passengers thus became intimate, bickered, bragged and played cards: Mr. Leonard seemed to stand outside, like a spectator at a play, looking on sleepily and with interest, but never taking the stage himself.

A more reticent man I never met than Mr. Leonard appeared to be at this stage of my acquaintance with him. He was polite, monosyllabic, benevolent-looking and miraculously self-effacing—so much in the background that one actually forgot his presence.

There are silent people about whom one puzzles and speculates, but the silent Mr. Leonard was not of that sort. He made his shadowiness so inconsequential that he was disregarded: when he did speak, we were mildly surprised to be reminded that he indeed possessed a voice; and as his infrequent use of it was always upon the most insignificant of occasions, nobody took the bother, so far as I recall, to make the slightest response.

In a word, we forgot him, even while he was in our company; he seemed to be a piece of luggage that one had somewhere about, through habit, and not because one had any use for it.

I cannot say as much for the Frenchmen, for all their acts seemed designed to prevent us from forgetting them, and at last this even became the case with the captain of the vessel, who had set his course for Newport, but was more in danger, according to my reckoning, of running us into the Bay of Fundy. Like the other Frenchmen, he was polite when we protested mildly; but he believed nothing we said until at length, on our twenty-ninth day at sea, we sighted land—a lone rock about the size of a whale’s back, and far, far beyond it the loom of the main.

The captain hunted on his chart for a similar rock near Newport; but he could not find one, and for a good reason. The rock was Boon Island, which lies north-north-east of the Isle of Shoals and not far from Arundel. Since this showed the captain to be a hundred and thirty-six miles off his course, he was not only willing but eager to have me take the wheel and run the Beau Soleil for a port I knew well—that of Old York in Maine: a snug harbour with a narrow curving entrance, as if specially created for pirates and smugglers.

It was off York that the war, which, for all we had seen of it, might have been on another planet, suddenly came close.

We were running in fast on a brisk south-west breeze when we sighted a heavy-laden row-boat wallowing towards shore. An oar was upended in it for a mast; and on the mast was a sail made from two jackets, the oar being pushed through the sleeves. We ran past her, and saw she held nine men, five of them flat on the bottom and in no condition to take an interest in us. Of the other four, three were bailing weakly, using their shirts as sponges.

The helmsman was a man with arms so long that they were all over the boat, like the feelers of an octopus—clutching a steering-oar, trimming his makeshift sail, and pulling the faces of his unconscious crew out of the bilge-water. He seemed hardly to notice us as I brought the Beau Soleil into the wind to leeward of him, and backed her fore-topsail, though I found this to be his habit—to pay small attention, seemingly, to his immediate surroundings because of his interest in the sky, which he turned his head to watch, unceasingly.

When the boat was safe under our counter, her crew sat there, looking up at us, and we saw that the five men in the bottom were badly off from thirst, their lips being black, and the tongues of two so swollen that they protruded.

Seeing them unable to move, Nathaniel went down into the boat, and made fast a rope to the men, one by one, and we took them aboard.

Their cheeks were cracked from exposure to the sun and the salt water, and their thirst such that the croak of a crow was musical by comparison with their voices.

We greased their faces and gave them wet cloths to suck. The helmsman was David Hawley, a Connecticut privateer captain from Bridgeport, who had been captured in March by the British frigate Bellona and carried to Halifax and imprisoned. He had escaped with eight members of his crew and had been a week at sea, in which time he estimated they had rowed and sailed five hundred miles.

When we asked him whether he would go privateering again, he scanned the sky carefully and felt tenderly of the back of his neck—not because it pained him, but because this, too, was one of his habits. “No,” he said. “No. I’m done with privateering. I’m cured. ’Tisn’t enough to destroy their property. It’s them that matters.” He sucked at his wet cloth and smiled at us grimly. “It’ll take some little time,” he added, “to pay ’em back for the way they treated us at Halifax.”

We arranged with the captain of the Beau Soleil to carry all nine of them to Newport in return for Hawley’s pilotage, and knew, somehow, that in one short hour we had made a better friend in Hawley than we had made among all our French companions in a month.

Our one regret, as we prepared to go ashore in York, was that we had not become better acquainted with our silent companion, Mr. Leonard; but when we began to speak of this to him, he surprised us by saying in his unnoticeable way that he would like to accompany Nathaniel and me as far as Arundel. When he made sounds of acquiescence, he at once resumed his silent blandness—became again almost the shadow of a man.

We, thinking ourselves happy to have him with us, promptly forgot him in the bustle of departure, and were almost perplexed to find him beside us in the coach. In this forgetfulness he seemed to encourage us, so that we came to treat him as an inconsidered trifle—one which the winds of chance had blown across our paths.


It was early May when our heavily-laden coach bumped and lurched from the shade of the dense forest between York and Wells to skirt the long marshes and the tumbled sand dunes that showed us we were nearly home at last.

Nowhere is spring so vivid and refreshing as on the coast of Maine in May. The dunes are brilliant green and gold against the smooth blue ribbon of the ocean; and up from the marshes drift the sweet odours of young grass and newly-turned earth. Maples, shamed by their long nakedness, blush a little; while willows, wakening from their winter’s sleep, clothe themselves in a fragrant gauze of green. Over everything there seems to hang a web of song from the black-birds, robins, bobolinks and plovers that nest along the marshland.

I am impatient for my home, always, when I reach that strip of sea and marsh and ragged dunes; and on this occasion there was such an activity along the road that I was doubly impatient; close, even, to leaping from our clumsy coach and running the remainder of the way.

There were carts, loaded with provisions and livestock, creaking southward along the awful road—carts bound, our driver said, for Boston to feed the army.

There were knots of men with muskets, packs on their backs and kettles tied to their belts with string—shoeless, some of them; disreputably clad, and all moving south.

In Wells, where the inland road turns off from the sea road, there was a sizable crowd of men and women, simple country folk, before Littlefield’s Tavern, listening to a behemoth of a man who stood on the steps bellowing at them. His face was round and red: his garb a loose smock of dirty brown cloth, with a high pointed hood that gave him a look of a person from another world. The smock was belted at his waist, and below it were Indian leggings ending in moccasins the size of a punt.

From time to time he would hesitate in his bellowing to rub his face with a hand like a bundle of sausages. At this rubbing movement, a man who sat near by, dressed similarly, would make a quiet remark, at which his hulking companion would cough portentously, and resume his bellowing.

I recognised the quiet one as Steven Nason, a man who owns all the land at the mouth of our river, and maintains a tavern and garrison house behind the dunes across from Cape Arundel—a tavern which for food and cleanliness is the equal of any I know.

Unable to pass because of the crowd, we sat and listened to the bellower. “Look here, now!” he bawled. “We got eleven men agreed to go back to Canada, but that ain’t enough! We got to have twenty! What’s the matter with you, anyway? You’re rebels, all of you, just the same as me and Steven! If the British ain’t drove out of Canada, they’ll come down here and hang every damned rebel there is, and that means the whole kit and caboodle of you! Ain’t it better to go off on a nice long trip, that you’ll get paid for making, and get a uniform to wear, and free rum, and learn to talk French? Ain’t it better than getting hung? I hope to die if it ain’t!”

In the midst of his bellowing, his eye fastened on mine. He hesitated, lost the thread of his discourse, rubbed his red face with his vast hands as if to clear it of cobwebs: then came lumbering to us through the crowd.

He pushed his head and shoulders in at the open window of the coach, and darted his eyes from our faces to the packages at our feet. “Where you from, brother?” he asked. “What’s your name? Where you live, and what’s your father do?” His breath was so redolent of rum that a whole distillery seemed to me to be crowding into the coach with us.

Before I could answer, his head and shoulders were withdrawn from the window even more suddenly than they had been inserted. Beyond him I saw Steven Nason, his hand still clutching the bawler’s shoulder. “Cap,” Nason said, “you got to be more careful around here! I know these people. They’re from Arundel.”

“Where they been?” Cap demanded belligerently.

Nason pushed him to one side, gave a glance to sleepy-looking Mr. Leonard, and shook hands with Nathaniel and me. “I’m glad you’re back,” he said. “We need people like you. These people around here, they won’t fight unless you guarantee ’em half a dozen cows bounty, and sometimes not even then.” He smiled at us apologetically. “It’s made Cap Huff kind of fretty. He’s peaceable enough when he’s marching or fighting.”

He looked over his shoulder at Huff, who stood glowering at us. “Or when he’s drunk,” Nason added. “When you get to know him better, these little ways of his won’t mean a thing to you! Not a thing!”

He stepped back and motioned our driver to go ahead. “We’ll be over to see you later!” he shouted as we creaked onward.

So the last five miles of our travels were thoughtful ones, and we were happy indeed when our coach rolled along the edge of the plateau that lies above the marshy, winding valley of the Arundel River, and we caught at last the smell of oak chips and marsh mud that rises from the shipyards at the river’s edge.

From the look on Mr. Leonard’s face, when we bumped to a stop before our front gate and the door flew open to reveal my sister Jane, her hands upraised and her eyes saucer-like with amazement, I could see he had expected no such house as ours.

That is the way of it with Englishmen and Frenchmen, I have found, to say nothing of people from Virginia and New York and Boston. They think we are savages in our Province of Maine, living in log huts with dirt floors, dipping our fingers into one iron pot for our dinners, and talking a strange and unrecognisable language; whereas the truth is that most of us learn our English out of the Bible through being made to read it aloud when young; and we live about as well as any one anywhere—some of us poorly, and some of us in style, but all of us sensibly and quietly.

. . . It is for the sake of folk who know nothing of us that I tell here a few things about this howling wilderness in which we Maine men live. Half the wars that are made would never be fought if those who have the directing of affairs, like Lord Germain, should know the truth about the people and the country where the fighting must be done.

Our Province of Maine, then, is larger than all of England; it has fine harbours and rivers and mountains; tremendous rich forests, and a wealth of game. Our people are willing and enduring—friendly people when treated properly, but the very devil when put upon and their rights disregarded: as much so as Virginians, though the Virginians have talked the world into thinking bravery and honour are almost exclusively restricted to Virginia. Maine men can fight, too, if properly led; for it was mostly men from Maine who sailed to Louisburg, in 1745, and took that granite fortress from the French—as handsome a piece of fighting as any soldiers ever did anywhere.

Nor are our towns to be sneezed at. Falmouth was as beautiful as any seaport I know before the British captain Mowat sailed up to its unprotected and undefended wharves and set the place ablaze. It is true our towns are poor, because of the wars our people fought for England against the French and Indians for so many years; and there is a deal of rum drinking in them, and over-much prying from behind curtains at the doings of others. We do not have the palaces and churches and statues to be seen in so many English towns. But neither do we have the trulls and rakes and footpads and debtors’ prisons and diseases with which English towns are cursed; so all in all I think our towns are better than most.

Our home in Arundel stands at the double curve in the river, a mile and a half from its mouth, on the same land where my great-great-grandfather settled when he removed from Ipswich because of being deprived of his vote by that town as a punishment for harbouring a Quaker.

It is a square house of two stories, painted red, with three gables protruding from each side of the four-sided roof. Perched on the top is a cupola with windows on all four sides, from which my father can look down into the shipyards behind the house and shout at any shirking adze-man or carpenter. From this vantage-point, too, he can train his glass on the mouth of the river, and know what vessels are making port, and how they are progressing with their loading and unloading as they lie at anchor beyond the bar.

Our river is small—so small that we build our vessels parallel to its course and slide them in sideways. Yet it is large enough to accommodate a brig of two hundred tons, which is as big as a man needs, no matter to what part of the world he wishes to sail. I can stand on one side of our river and shoot a duck as she rises from under the opposite bank; and in the spring of the year, after the salmon have stopped running, I can sit on the ways of our shipyard and cast a line entirely across the stream, as the tide turns upward, and take sea-run trout from their feeding-places under the edge of the foam that comes slipping along the shore, fresh from the ocean; so, in more ways than one, the very smallness of our river is an advantage.

Our house is large, as are the houses of most of our Maine shipbuilders. The rooms above and below stairs are plastered; and painted on the plaster are imaginary scenes, done by one of the Germans who travel periodically through our section, coming from the German settlements on the Kenebec—scenes showing merchant brigs breaking bulk in the lee of ruined castles, and scantily-clad people performing on musical instruments in the vicinity of heathen temples. Over the mantels in the dining-room and the front room is woodwork carved with jack-knives by two of the best workers in our shipyard; while over the dining-room mantel is a painting of my mother, done the year after she and my father were married, by John Smybert in Boston—excellently done, too, although my mother declares there is a little something wrong with the mouth.

We have nothing so elegant as Benjamin Pickman in Salem, whose house has a codfish carved on every stair-rise in the front hall; but our silver is good, some of it made by Paul Revere in Boston, and our feather beds cannot be beat anywhere, unless there is some place where goose feathers are softer than in Arundel.

Under the house is a dry cellar, stored with crocks of mincemeat made from properly cooked bear meat and venison—which is to say scarcely cooked at all—mixed with French brandy and the red eating apples from the tree that shades our kitchen windows: also smoked goose-breasts, hams, smoked eels, dried apples, dried corn, and cucumbers in brine, as well as tubs of pigeon, plover and partridge breasts packed in melted fat, so they can be eaten when fresh meat is scarce in the winter.

. . . It was my middle sister Jane who saw us first; and her scream was one to wake the dead. It brought my mother out of the kitchen, my father up from the shipyard, and Judith and Susanah down from the bedrooms. There was warmth in their welcome, and more; but there was a quietness about all of them that I had never before seen.

Instead of hurrying us into the front room, as they always did when I returned from a voyage, they stood in a row, looking at us, as though they thought to find in our faces the answer to a question they feared to ask.

“They treated you well in England?” my father inquired, after all the family had shaken hands with Mr. Leonard and had our explanation of the convenience he had been to us.

“It was wonderful!” Nathaniel exclaimed. “It was an education, the time we spent there.”

My father continued to stare at me.

“They treated us well enough,” I admitted, “but the only good thing I have to say of ’em is that they’re careful in money matters. The government’s a pack of blundering fools! If our ships and trade are going to be regulated by corrupt incompetents three thousand miles away, we might as well take to cobbling shoes.”

My father smiled sourly. “We didn’t know,” he said. “We didn’t know! We had a letter from Nathaniel, speaking highly of the English. It got around. Somebody saw it—somebody opened it. It’s easy to be misunderstood these days. Some of the best folks are Loyalists: some of the finest: but mostly they keep their mouths shut. We didn’t know—we didn’t know——”

Nathaniel laughed. “No great harm in seeing the good side of the English, I guess.”

“Well,” my father said, studying him, “outside of having all your property seized and being driven up to Halifax to live, there’s no great harm in it, unless somebody takes it into his head to tar and feather you.” He shot a quick glance at Mr. Leonard, whose eyes were almost hidden by their heavy lids. Mr. Leonard concealed whatever lack of interest he may have felt in our personal affairs by coughing pleasantly and making my father a slight bow, very polite.

“Don’t fret about Nathaniel,” I told my father. “He’s only being contrary, as he was taught at Harvard.”

My father sighed. “Let’s go into the front room,” he said, “where we can all sit down and have a thimbleful of something to better days.”


My mother sat on the sofa, with Nathaniel’s hand in hers; and my father made a little small talk with Mr. Leonard, while my sisters mixed flip after their usual custom: Judith holding the pitcher of beer and stirring, Susanah adding the rum and the sugar, and Jane holding above it the red-hot poker from the kitchen stove, so to plunge it, hissing and rumbling, into the mixture.

“Look here,” I said to my father, when I had a tumbler of the flip in my hand and half of it into me, “we saw Steven Nason in Wells. He said he’d be over later. In case there’s anything we ought to know before he comes, you’d better let us hear it.”

My father nodded slowly, his eyes straying from me to Mr. Leonard, who rose to his feet at once. “Perhaps I may go to my room,” he said. “I am not as young as I once was; and this journey——”

We protested; but he was firm, in his smiling, silent way; and so my sister Jane took him to his room—the south-east room, facing down river. This was our best room, and the walls were painted with hunting scenes by a painter from the German settlement at Dresden on the Kennebec. He must have been colour-blind; for he painted a yellow sky on the hunting scenes; but we liked the yellow sky, all of us, and the room was called the yellow room, which shows that one can become accustomed to anything, no matter how strange it may be.

“It’s just as well,” my father said, when Mr. Leonard was gone. “Let him get rested up. He’s all right, of course, being such a helpful friend of yours; but we’ll all feel more comfortable with him out of sight and sound. You get in the habit of being cautious after what’s happened.”

“Happened where?” Nathaniel asked.

My father drank his flip, shivered a little, went to the window and looked both up and down the road: then resumed his seat. “I don’t know whether you heard what happened to the Bostonians that sympathised with England when the English left Boston six weeks ago.”

“We’ve heard nothing,” I said. “Nothing.”

“They had to pack themselves aboard sloops and schooners and pinks,” my father said, “men, women and children—thousands of ’em—not a stitch of extra clothes or a mite of food or furniture or anything—and put to sea in one of the worst storms of the year. Taken to Halifax, they were, and pushed ashore to live as best they could; and every last scrap of their property in Boston seized by our folks. Every last scrap!”

We stared at him.

“Over at York,” he went on, “Judge Sayward, Judge of Probate, talked too much. You ought to do things according to Constitutional forms, he said: not go against law and order the way our folks were doing. They mobbed him—manhandled him! He can’t go out of his house. He isn’t allowed to leave town. Folks won’t speak to him. Folks won’t speak to his family. He just sits and shakes for fear they’ll mob him again.”

“You mean he wasn’t allowed to say what he thought?” Nathaniel demanded.

My father smiled grimly. “Why, no! He was allowed to say what he thought, but he was encouraged not to keep on saying it.”

Nathaniel tossed his head. “Well I’ll be damned if I’d let——”

“They got close to home when they came after Adam McCulloch,” my father interrupted. All of us knew Adam McCulloch. He was another shipbuilder who lived almost within spitting distance of us. “Adam thought we could never whip such a powerful nation as England, and he said so. So the mob came down here and stood in front of his house.”

My mother held Nathaniel’s hand against her breast. “We could see them from the window,” she whispered.

“What did they do?” Nathaniel asked.

“Not much,” my father said. “They stood there and made a noise like a gale growling in the rigging of a ship. Then the leaders pounced on the front door and talked to Adam. He had to crawl. He had to crawl in writing. He had to apologise to all friends of America. He had to ask humbly for forgiveness, and promise never to do it again, and generally squirm around on his stomach.”

“But,” Nathaniel protested, “you used to think there was nothing so foolish as for us to try to fight England.”

My father ignored him and went on. “Dr. Alden over in Biddeford sent some lumber to Boston to be sold to the British troops for barracks. Cap’n John Stackpole carried it down. A mob from Biddeford and Saco and Arundel took the two of ’em before a magistrate and made ’em write out a paper saying they were sorry and wouldn’t do it again. Alden and Stackpole had to get down on their knees and ask the mob’s pardon. Down on their knees!”

“But——” Nathaniel said.

“There’s no ‘but’ about it, son! You remember Dr. Ebenezer Rice, who lived in the village? He thought the rebellion could never succeed. He thought every one who took part in it would be hung. Well, he’s gone.”

“Gone where?” I asked.

My father shook his head. “Nobody knows. Some say he went to live in the woods, where he can’t hear about the war. Some say he was——” My father stopped; then cleared his throat and repeated, “Nobody knows. It’s considered dangerous to talk about it, even.”

Nathaniel raised his eyebrows. “You said somebody opened one of my letters. Who did it? How could any one open a letter?”

“You’ve been away a long time,” my father said. “Too long. When you’re away too long, you’re apt to lose the feel of your own people, just as you lose the feel of a ship when you’re too long ashore.

“Same with us that live in big houses and have servants. We only talk with others like ourselves, who have comfortable homes and plenty to eat. We forget what poorer people think, and it’s next to impossible to make ourselves think the way they do. You’ve been away so long you’ve forgot how some people feel about England. There never was anything like it! They’re all a-boil inside. They won’t have the English back! They just won’t have ’em back! They say England wants to run this country the way a man runs a mill: wants to use it for nothing but making money for the owner: regards the people in it as no better than mill-stones, to be worn smooth for England and then thrown into the creek.”

“It’s the truth,” I said. “The English think we’re just rabble! They call us that—rabble! I’ve heard ’em!”

“What’s that got to do with my letter?” Nathaniel persisted.

“Why,” my father explained patiently, “those that hate England feel every one’s got to think the way they do. Every one’s got to. They’re watching all the time to make sure nobody thinks different. Knowing I had two sons in England, they watched me. They watched your mother and your sisters, too. When they couldn’t find out what they wanted to know, they opened letters.”

He took his spectacles from his pocket and perched them on his nose: reached into a compartment of his desk to draw out a soiled square of paper.

“Here,” he said. “They opened this one, and right away they read this that Nathaniel wrote:

“ ‘There’s no place like London, with its fine theatres and palaces, and soldiers parading in the park. It’s a city that makes you feel at home. Peter and I went down to Salisbury and saw where great-great-grandfather Merrill lived before he went to Ipswich a hundred and fifty years ago. We found Merrills living there still—relatives. Long ago their name was DeMerle. They were Huguenots who came from Auvergne—Place de Dembis—at the time of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. One of them, Sir Peter, was a captain in the English army, and was knighted in 1634.’ ”

My father folded the letter and looked at Nathaniel over his spectacles.

“What’s wrong with that!” Nathaniel demanded indignantly, “Damn ’em! Who gave ’em the right to open my letters!”

“Right or no right, they opened this one,” my father said. “Then they called me before the Committee of Safety and questioned me.”

“About what?” Nathaniel asked.

“About you and Peter.”

“What did they want to know?”

“Whether you were well disposed to the cause of Liberty, after being in England and finding there was no place like London.”

“Liberty!” Nathaniel exclaimed. He laughed. “Where’s the liberty in having your letters opened! It’s almost enough, I should think, to make you want never to see this place again!”

My mother cried “Oh, Nathaniel!”

My father shook his head. “No,” he said, “no! I’ve lived here all my life. It’s part of me. It’s in my blood. This land we’re on was granted to your great-grandfather Peter Merrill by the town of Arundel for killing an Indian. My roots are in it. I can’t leave it. The smell of the sea and marshes and meadows is sweeter here than anywhere else in the world.”

My sister Susanah put her handkerchief to her lips and went suddenly from the room.

“What did you tell the Committee?” I asked, feeling somewhat choked myself.

“I told ’em,” my father said slowly, “that you were well disposed. They didn’t believe me. They—well—the men on these committees aren’t the sort of people you’d expect to find running things. So we’ve been watched—all of us. We’ve had some trouble buying necessities. Shopkeepers don’t like to sell to folks under suspicion: they might be suspected themselves. Some of ’em will, but they expect us to accept Congress money at par, when they make change for us, even though it’s worth less than the paper it’s printed on. We can’t complain, because if we did, it would mean we were spreading reports about the currency; and instead of being ruined gradually, we’d be ruined quick. Talking against the currency’s worse than having sons in England.”

The room was silent except for the soft sound my mother’s hand made against Nathaniel’s.

My father hesitated: his next words seemed irrelevant. “There’s been a drought. The crops last year were terrible, on account of so many men being away in the army. Theodore Lyman speculated in corn last fall, and now he’s selling it at two dollars a bushel to those in the village.”

Theodore had been clerk in the store of Waldo Emerson, a rich man and a kind one, but dead almost three years.

“Two dollars a bushel!” I cried. “Why, the damned robber!”

“Yes,” my father said, “but he charges us three dollars specie, and won’t sell to us except secretly. Theodore’s smart.”

“We’ll see about that!” I said. “We’ll see about that! I’ll step over to call on Lyman after supper.”

My father shook his head. “Don’t do it! Lyman’s a rich man. In a few months he’ll be richer, because he’s marrying Waldo Emerson’s daughter.”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “Waldo Emerson only had one daughter. She’s a baby.”

“Not quite,” my mother said. “She’ll be fourteen years old some time this year.”

“Keep away from Lyman,” my father said. “He does favours for the Sons of Liberty. We’re under suspicion, and we haven’t got any rights. Folks can assault us or blackmail us or slander us, and we haven’t any standing in the law courts. We can’t buy land or sell it, or make a deed of gift, or make a will, even, while we’re under suspicion.”

I looked at Nathaniel, feeling as though the veins in my neck would burst the fastenings of my muslin neckcloth. Nathaniel stared moodily at his knuckles. I knew the best way to handle him was to let him alone, so I waited for him to speak first; but I told myself that if he said the wrong thing, I’d wait no longer.

Twilight was on us, and from the meadows came the sweet piping of baby frogs—a plaintive chorus that seemed to hold us, speechless, in a spell. The spell was broken by a violent thumping on the front door.

“That must be Nason,” I told Nathaniel. “If you can’t make up your mind, get upstairs. I’ll talk to him. I’ll—I’ll tell him you’re sick.”

“What do you think I am!” Nathaniel exclaimed. “My mind’s made up.”


My sister Susanah opened the door while my mother and my sister Judith slipped away to the rear of the house. A moment later Steven Nason stood on the threshold of the front room, looking in at us in a friendly enough fashion; and over his shoulder I saw the round red face of Cap Huff—the hulking man who had bellowed at the crowd in Wells, and pried into our coach. They had pulled off their brown smocks, and wore decent coats of dark green cloth.

Nason was a big man, though not as wide as his companion. He looked slow and a little thick-witted, like many of our Arundel seafaring people, who move and think as quickly as any one if the need arises. There was nothing slow about his eyes, however. They seemed to leap from our clothes to our faces and back again, and to miss nothing in the leaping.

My father bustled around, lighting the whale-oil lamps. “Come in, Steven,” he said. “How’s your wife? I guess she’s glad to have you back from Quebec.”

Nason smiled and came into the room. Behind him his clumsy ox of a companion bent down his head and edged sideways through the door, as if fearful of wedging himself there.

“Yes, come in,” I said, anxious to get in the first blow if there were blows to be struck. “What’s this they’ve been doing to my father?”

“Your father?” Nason asked. He stared at me as if puzzled, while Cap Huff eyed the pitcher of flip and scoured the corners of his mouth with a tongue like a red ear of corn.

My father stood up, his face gray. “It means nothing to Steven, Peter,” he said. “He’s just down from Quebec.”

“I guess I can make it mean something to him.”

“Now, Peter!” he protested. “First thing you know you’ll be in trouble yourself.”

Cap Huff cleared his throat noisily. “That thing on the table looks something like a pitcher.” His eyes became more protuberant. “Ain’t it maybe a pitcher?”

Nathaniel jumped up and gave each of them a tumbler of flip, and when he had refilled our own glasses, Cap Huff was holding out his glass to be filled again.

“Now,” I said, “I want to tell you about my father. These damned midwives here——”

“By God, that’s right!” Cap Huff bawled, surprisingly. “That’s what they are! Half of ’em don’t care whether we win or not, as long as they can go on making a dollar! That’s all they think of! Money!”

“Cap,” Nason said, “I’d like to have you put a curb on your tongue. Those from this town that went up Dead River and down the Chaudière with us weren’t midwives, and there’s plenty more like ’em. Just bear that in mind.”

“I think your friend’s right,” I told Nason. “Theodore Lyman’s been charging my father three dollars specie for a bushel of corn. If they must accuse some one of being a public enemy, why not accuse Lyman?”

Nason stared at the ceiling. “He’s a Patriot,” he said. “He’s planted a row of elms to celebrate the Battle of Bunker Hill.”

“He’s a hell of a Patriot!” I said.

Cap Huff hitched his chair forward, and his voice was hoarsely eager. “Three dollars? He charges three dollars for a bushel of corn? Whereabouts does he live?”

Nason eyed him suspiciously, but spoke to me. “I heard about your father. It was too bad, but it appears to me it was his own fault. If he hadn’t thought the war was going to be over soon, or if you hadn’t thought so, you’d have come home before this, wouldn’t you? And if he thought the war was going to be over soon, he didn’t think it was because we were going to win it, did he?”

“Well——” I said, and stopped. He was right, and there was nothing I could say.

“It’s all right so far as I’m concerned,” Nason said. “I wouldn’t think we could ever whip the English, either, if I didn’t know they’d blunder into trouble sooner or later. But people in Arundel don’t look at it like that.”

“Not anywhere they don’t,” Cap Huff growled.

“It’s pretty serious business,” Nason went on. “If we get whipped, all rebels are like to be hanged; so those in charge of things aren’t going to let anybody even talk about being whipped. If they do any hanging they’ve got to hang us all, because we’re all going to hang together. Everybody’s got to be a Patriot or get out. There’s some sense in it, too. If it came to hanging, and there were Loyalists still living everywhere, the Loyalists would probably help to hang every one else, wouldn’t they?”

“But my father——” I protested.

Cap Huff wagged his head. “You got to meet a few Tories before you know how people feel about ’em. Why, over around Albany there’s so many of ’em that they go prowling through the woods, skinning Patriots and making saddlebags out of the skins to sell in New York. That’s why we ain’t going back to Quebec by way of Albany. Winooski River and St. John’s: that’s the route we got to take, on account of those damned Loyalists or Tories or whatever you want to call ’em.”

“But my father’s no Loyalist!” I told them. “Why, he’s no more of a Loyalist than I am.”

The two men were silent, staring into their empty tumblers. Nathaniel looked in the pitcher and laughed: then went to the dining-room and took the rum bottle from the sideboard.

I knew what was on their minds, so I added hastily, “I’ve been aching to get home and fight the British ever since I heard Burgoyne was going to use Hessians and Indians against us.”

Nason and his huge companion stared at me, their mouths wide open.

Nathaniel added a tot of rum to all our tumblers. “I’m with Peter,” he said. “I’ll go wherever Peter goes. That ought to settle my father’s case.”

What he said made me feel better than any amount of rum. For months I had worried about his perverse admiration for the British, and then been in a stew for fear he might become infatuated with Marie de Sabrevois; and finally I had been near sick at what might happen to my father and mother and sisters if he persisted in his determination to be what he called logical about everything. Now he had committed himself; and my relief was such that I could have forgiven even Theodore Lyman.

“There you are,” I said to Nason, who was peering into my face as though he doubted his own senses. “If any one in this family’s a Loyalist, you’re a Loyalist yourself.”

“Burgoyne!” Nason whispered, as though my words were slow in reaching his brain. “Burgoyne! And he’ll use Hessians!”

“And Indians. Five thousand Indians. God knows where he’ll get that many, but they say he’s got ’em!”

Cap Huff got up and moved his great arms backward and forward, as if his coat bound him. “Did you say Burgoyle or Burgloyd? Who in God’s name is Burgloyd?”

“Burgoyne,” I repeated. “He was a general at Bunker Hill. He writes plays and poetry. They say in England he’s an illegitimate son of Lord Bingley, but that’s not so.”

“How do you know he ain’t?” Cap demanded hoarsely. “All the Englishmen we’ve seen so far, they’ve all acted as if they was illegitimate sons—not Bingley’s, of course, but somebody’s. And you know what the Bible says about——”

Nason’s voice cut sharply into Cap’s. “Hold your tongue! You’re in a decent house!”

“What if I am!” Cap muttered. “Ain’t the Bible a decent book? And ain’t it the truth, what I say about Englishmen? Ain’t it the simple truth?”

Nason ignored him and took me by the lapel of my coat. “Five thousand Indians! How could Burgoyne—where could Burgoyne—who told you so?”

“All England knows it. He was supposed to sail for Quebec soon after we sailed from France. Part of his troops, we heard, would sail with him, the rest to follow through the month, and in May.”

“Troops?” Nason said. “You mean regulars?”

“Five thousand regulars was what we heard. Five thousand regulars and three thousand Hessians.”

“And they’re going to Quebec?”

“Yes,” I said. “That’s why I felt we had to get home quick. They figure on landing in Quebec and marching down the Hudson to join Howe. Everybody in England seems to know about it. The idea is to split the colonies in two—cut off New England from the rest of the country, and then smash the rebellion by smashing New England. If they’re going to turn Western Indians loose on these settlements, there’s got to be something done about it, hasn’t there?”

A silence fell on us—a silence so profound that the shrill sweet piping of the baby frogs grew and grew until it seemed to come not only from out-of-doors, but from the cornices of the room in which we sat: even from the fireplace, and from the chairs and sofa and pictures.

Nason looked up at Huff, and on his lips there was a sick smile. “We’ll waste no more time,” he said. “We’ll set off to-morrow with what men we’ve got. Send Doc Means back to Wells to tell the rest of the men to be at Littlefield’s Tavern at noon to-morrow, ready to march.”

“By God, Stevie!” Cap Huff said, and his voice rumbled like thunder in our dimly-lighted front room, “not even Arnold could stop that number of men with what he’s got.”

“Arnold?” I asked.

“General Arnold,” Nason said. “The one we serve under: the one that got us to Quebec safe. There isn’t another man in the world could have done it. He was wounded when we stormed the city. If he hadn’t been—if he hadn’t been——”

“If he hadn’t been,” Cap Huff declared, “we’d be sitting on top of that damned big rock this minute, swigging cider and brandy.”

“How many men has he got?” I asked.

Nason’s laugh was one of exasperation. “We’ve had a little trouble getting men,” he said. “That’s why Cap and I came home—to get twenty scouts. When we left Quebec, the end of March, Arnold had two hundred and eighty-six effectives. That’s the kind of general Arnold is! Two hundred and eighty-six men, and he had the British bottled up in Quebec!”

“Bottled up!” Cap Huff bawled. “Bottled up and scared to death! Had the strongest city in the world surrounded, by God, with two hundred and eighty-six men! Surrounded and damned near starved, and the garrison afraid to take off their breeches when they went to bed, ever since January, for fear Arnold would climb over the wall with his two hundred and eighty-six men and club ’em to death with icicles!”

“That’s about right,” Nason agreed. “He’s a great man—a great man! There isn’t anything he can’t do! If they’ll send him enough men and let him alone, he’ll take Quebec this spring just like this!” He tossed off the remainder of his rum and rose to his feet to tap Cap Huff on the chest. “I want word taken back to Wells that we’re marching in the morning. Tell Doc Means. Have him start right away.”

“What about us?” I asked Nason.

He stared blankly, seeming to have forgotten our conversation. “Well, what about you?”

“Aren’t you going to take us with you for the army?”

Nason scratched his chin as if in doubt. “This is for scout duty. A man has to be handy with an axe. He has to know how to shoot.”

“Nathaniel and I worked in the shipyard when we were boys,” I said. “We can lay a tree on a peg, both of us. I can trim a beam with an adze so you’d think it was planed. As for shooting, I’ll go out with you to-morrow morning, and if I can’t fill a hogshead with plover in fifteen minutes, I’ll eat the hogshead.”

Nason nodded slowly. “I guess maybe you can. I forgot, seeing you in good clothes, you’d been brought up around here. To tell you the truth, though, you probably wouldn’t get any pay. Cap and I haven’t had any for three months.”

“Well, if you can get along, we probably can,” I told him.

Nason seemed uncomfortable. “There’s one more thing. It’s important. I’m bound to tell you; but you’ll have to swear not to tell. When you hear it, you may not want to go; but whether you go or not, you’ve got to keep quiet about it, or you might get us shot. It’s against the law.”

“Well, what is it?” I asked.

“You swear, both of you?” He looked from Nathaniel to me.

We said we did.

“Well,” he said, “smallpox is bad in Canada. Bad! It’s hard to dodge. Nearly everybody gets it. There’s no use taking men to Canada for scout duty unless they’ve had the smallpox. They’d be busier dying than scouting. All that go with us must take the smallpox by inoculation.”

“Where must we take it?” I asked.

Cap Huff cleared his throat importantly. “I got my own doctor with me. He can fix you up in a jiffy.”

Nathaniel came to stand close beside me. “You mean we’d take the smallpox right here: right in this room?”

“You’d just get inoculated with scrapings from a mild case,” Nason said. “Doc Means took some nice scrapings. You won’t break out for a week.”

“Break out?” Nathaniel asked. “Will we have scars on us?”

Cap Huff helped himself from the rum bottle. “Listen,” he said, “I’d ruther have this kind of smallpox than one flea, and everybody’s got to have fleas some time. You’ve had ’em, ain’t you?”

He went to the outer door, opened it, and, to our astonishment—for we hadn’t suspected that our two guests had been accompanied by a third guest who waited outside—we heard him speaking to some one.

Immediately there walked in as mild-looking and helpless-appearing man as I had ever seen. He was certainly sixty years old, and maybe even seventy. His hair was white and his face a fresh pink, in spite of its thinness; and perhaps because his eyes were a faded blue, there was an air of childish innocence about him: a trustful, useless look. He was, I thought, somewhat insecure on his feet: he seemed to waver a little in his walk. The fact is, my own youthful vanity in my strength and agility led me to feel a certain compassion for his feebleness. Since that time I have found that there were few who were not similarly affected by Doc Means; but the truth of the matter is that he was about as feeble as a young wildcat.

It was not Doc Means’s feebleness, however, that upon our first meeting impressed us most poignantly and instantly. It was his smell. With his very entrance the room was filled with an acrid, penetrating odour that made the eyes water.

Nason and Huff, apparently inured, seemed not aware of anything unusual; but Nathaniel, unprepared, uttered a muffled sound of surprise and protest, opened a window wide and remained near it.

For a moment I did not myself attribute the odour to its true source, and was puzzled. “What’s that smell?” I asked.

“What smell?” Cap Huff asked blankly. He turned his head from side to side, sniffing. “Everything smells all right to me.”

“Maybe,” Nason said, “it’s Doc’s asafœtida bag.”

“Yes, I guess that’s it,” Cap agreed. “I remember I used to smell it some when I first got to know him. If you can learn to stand it at all, the more you get to know him, the more you get over it.” He looked at us patronisingly. “Doc has to wear an asafœtida bag around his neck on account of his health. It ain’t nothing to worry about, so just roll up your sleeves.”

We rolled up our sleeves, and Doc Means wavered forward to stare placidly at our upper arms with weak blue eyes. With a trembling hand he dusted at my biceps, as if to free them of a non-existent web: then turned to Nathaniel.

I considered him careless as well as helpless; for in the dusting, he scratched me, which was not pleasing, since his finger-nails were less clean than some I had seen. In my own mind I set him down as a doddering old fool and wondered how such a man as Nason could seem to set store by him. Indeed, I thought the man little better than half-witted; for when he had fumbled at Nathaniel’s arm, he appeared to forget about us and stood staring at the rum bottle out of eyes that seemed half blind.

“Pour yourself a glass of rum if you like,” I said.

He shook his head and spoke in a flat, weak voice. “I don’t touch it, hardly ever,” he said. “What kind is it?”

He picked up the bottle and smelled of it, looking at it inquiringly. Then, as if the more readily to smell it, he poured a glass half full. “What kind is it?” he asked again. “I seldom touch it.” And with that he lifted the glass and the rum vanished. He set down the glass, shaking his head. “Not any more,” he said in a faint voice. “It don’t have a good effect on me—likely to cause distress in me.”

He looked at Nason meekly. “Cap says you want me to be off for Wells.” He turned and moved toward the door, walking with that wavering gait which was not a limp, and suggested decrepitude, not lameness.

“Here,” I said, “why doesn’t he give us the smallpox?”

“He gave it to you,” Nason said. “You got scratched.”

I looked at my arm. There was a red welt across it. On Nathaniel’s there was a similar welt. Thereupon I stared hard at Doc Means and wondered if I had made a mistake about him.

Doc Means blinked at us. “Good-bye all,” he said in a whispering voice. He opened the door and went out droopingly.

. . . Nason watched him go: then turned to us. “There’s just one more thing: your requirements. Living isn’t any too easy in Canada, and you’ll need the requirements: yes, and some old clothes to have the smallpox in. Repeat the requirements, Cap.”

Cap looked up at the ceiling with eyes a little crossed and made his recitation in a high, artificial tone. “Each man enlisting for scout duty expected to serve for period three years an required equip self an’ be constantly provided with good firearm ramrod worm priming-wire brush bayonet scabbard belt cutting-sword tomahawk or hatchet a pouch containing cartridge box that’ll hold at least fifteen rounds hundred buckshot jack-knife tow for wadding six flints one pound powder forty leaden balls to fit firearm knapsack blanket canteen or wooden bottle capacity one quart provisions for three days.”

He lowered his eyes and spoke naturally. “Get yourself a tow-cloth coat like what we had on. You can drop things down inside it—things like chickens or wine-bottles. Mine’s outside. It’s kind of ripe, but it’ll do for your womenfolks to get a pattern off of. You get the brown colour into it by putting it to boil with brown ears of corn.”

“Well,” I said, “that’s all right. We’ll be ready, but it’s got to be understood, before we go, that there’s to be no more talk in this town about my father or any other member of my family being a Loyalist.”

“I’ll send Cap to see somebody,” Nason said.

“Yes,” Cap agreed hoarsely, “there’s a few people I ought to see: Maybe I’ll have to start a little later than you, Steven, but I can catch up with you in no time.” The two of them eyed us solemnly as they moved toward the door; and their minds, I could see, were already on other matters.

The door closed behind them: then opened again, and the moist red face of Cap Huff peered around the door-jamb. He spoke to us in a whisper so harsh it set the fire-irons to vibrating. “I’ll tend to Theodore Lyman for you! Where’d you say he lived?”


By six o’clock the following morning our new belongings were laid out on the front steps in the brilliant sunlight, so we could see what we had and what we lacked.

Early as the hour was, our unnoticeable, quiet guest, Mr. Leonard, had departed, saying no more than that he had a mind to see something of the country, and might not soon return, and that if he did not return, he would write to us; but the truth is that as Nathaniel and I looked over what Nason had called our requirements, we had already forgotten the existence of this shadowy companion of ours.

My mother and sisters sat on the iron benches beside the door, sewing at our tow-cloth smocks, and between thrusts of their needles doubtfully eyeing our piles of clothes. My father stood by the front gate, whisking flies from our bay mare Bessie with a willow shoot; while Zelph and Pristine, our two negro servants, bobbed in and out of the house and kept up a meaningless conversation as if to ease the silence that hung about us.

I call them servants; but in reality they were slaves, Zelph having been bought in Wells for fifty-three dollars to keep me from falling in the river when I was young, and Pristine having been bought for forty dollars to help my sisters around the house and make a wife for Zelph.

Even they were silent at last, and in the stillness the singing of the bobolinks, as they sank fluttering on to the flat land at the bend of the river, seemed almost to pierce our ears with a metallic shrillness.

When I looked up at the two negroes, standing together on the top step, I saw they were staring down the road that curves at our front gate, and stretches straight away toward the ocean.

I turned to look. At the crest of the rise in the road, where it cuts through the tall pines that have sprung up in this section since the Indian troubles ended, I saw a straggling knot of people, men and women, with Steven Nason striding along at their head. The men had muskets over their shoulders.

“Hurry up,” I told my mother. “Here they come.” I gathered my belongings in a pile, so to stuff them into my blanket and knapsack.

“Put all of it in the chaise,” my mother said. “We’ll take it as far as Wells for you.”

“No,” I said. “We’ve got to carry it. I want people to see us carrying it.”

My mother nodded and smiled brightly: then bent her head over the smock as though she found trouble in seeing where to thrust her needle.

“Let Pristine finish that,” I urged her.

“No,” she said. “No! I want to do it myself!”

The little company came up to our front gate with a gabbling of voices and a clatter of accoutrements. I recognised Thomas Bickford, who had gone to school with Nathaniel and was regarded as a paragon by all the mothers in Arundel, because he was tall and handsome and polite beyond all reason, even to persons his own age, and so should have been hated by all young men, but was not. He had wished to go to Harvard College with my brother, so that he could be a minister; but his oldest brother Eliakim would not hear of it, and made him go to sea instead. Also I recognised Thomas Dorman, a cousin of Tom Bickford; and Paul Durrell, whose father and mother had been captured by Indians when they were young. The others I did not recognise; but all of them had womenfolk with them—sisters, they may have been, or cousins, with a mother or two thrown in for good measure—in addition to a sprinkling of fathers and small brothers.

Nason opened the gate and came into the yard. His wife was with him, carrying his canteen and powder horn over her arm and clinging to him by a finger hooked through one of the loops of his belt. She was a thin, dark girl, no bigger than a ten-year-old boy. She wore sea-boots and breeches, like a man, and a blue handkerchief bound around her head in place of a hat, with almost nothing to show she was a woman except the smallness of her waist and a string of glittering brownish beads around her throat. Yet I knew that for all her size, she was a seaman and a good one, able to navigate better than most masters who sail out of our river.

“Almost ready?” Nason asked.

His wife smiled at my mother and sisters and came to look at our piles of clothes. “They’ve got too much, Steven,” she said at once.

“Weed it out,” he told her.

She went down on her knees on the bottom step, and reached among our clothes with both hands, tossing a shower of stockings, shirts and other odds and ends into the front hall between Zelph and Pristine.

“They’ll need those things, Phœbe!” my mother protested.

“You’d be surprised what you don’t need if you haven’t got it,” Phœbe said.

“But there’s others might need ’em,” my father ventured.

“That’s right,” Phœbe agreed cheerfully, “only it’s better to be able to carry what you’ve got than to throw away what you need because you’ve made yourself sick trying to lug what you don’t need.”

Nason cast a sharp eye over the piles that Phœbe had left untouched. “Roll ’em up and come ahead.”

“Can’t we put all those things in the chaise for a few miles?” my mother asked.

“Of course,” Nason said. “Throw ’em in.”

I took my smock from my mother and struggled into it; then strapped on my knapsack and blanket. “I’ve got to carry ’em,” I said again. “I don’t want any misunderstanding in this town about where we’re going.” I gave Nathaniel his tow-cloth garment and helped him with the rest of his things.

“Get in the chaise,” I told my mother. “We can’t keep these men waiting.”

My mother looked at Phœbe. “You’d like to ride with us, wouldn’t you?”

Phœbe shook her head. “The time’s too short. I guess I’ll walk.”

“It’s too short!” my mother cried a little wildly. “It’s too short! I won’t ride! I’m going to walk with the boys.”

“It’s seven miles by the road,” my father said. “You’ll tucker yourself.”

“I’m going to walk!” my mother repeated. “Jane, get my shawl!”

We followed Nason out of the gate. My father began to shout for Zelph. “Zelph! Come here and take Bessie! I’m going to walk, too!”

We left him shouting. The little crowd disentangled itself from before our gate and straggled around the bend in the road. My mother walked between Nathaniel and me. My father, overtaking us, plodded silently at my right. My sister Jane had Nathaniel by the arm, and skipped a little as she walked beside him. Judith and Susanah attached themselves to Tom Bickford, staring over their shoulders at us so that we perpetually dodged their lagging heels.

As we went through the village, we were as far removed in appearance from anything martial as a lot of Spanish fisherwomen plodding up a beach. I looked at Nathaniel and caught him eyeing me sidewise, a bitter smile on his flushed, perspiring face. Something told me he was thinking, as was I, of the British regiments we had seen parading before the King in St. James’s Park, drums beating and bands playing, flags waving above them, and the sun glittering on the regular ranks of bayonets and on the brass buttons that flashed like sparks against their red coats.

A few people came out of the stores and the sawmill to watch us go by, but none of them did anything, barring Sammy Hill, the village idiot, who pointed at us and made uncouth sounds: then pretended to shoot himself and fell down in simulated death throes.

We crossed the river and mounted the hill beyond. As we trudged off to the southward through the thick pine forest, a meditative silence settled on most of us—a silence that may have been caused by a sudden blank foreboding of what lay before us.

My unaccustomed knapsack and the truck with which I was hung weighed heavily on me; and the others, I suspected, were in no better case, for there began to be complaints among them concerning their dryness: hoarse suggestions as to the quality of toddy to be had at Pike’s Tavern and the large size of the beer mugs at Storer’s Tavern.

Nason turned and eyed them coldly. “There’ll be no lally-gagging for liquor till we reach Littlefield’s Ordinary,” he announced. “The sooner you get there, the sooner you’ll get it, and the sooner we’ll get started on the road to St. John’s.”

In the moment the last words fell from his lips I had a picture in my mind of how Marie de Sabrevois had stood with Nathaniel before our London lodgings, her little hand resting on his sleeve and her blue eyes raised to his, telling him that some day she might be in St. John’s. I looked over at him quickly: caught his furtive glance across my mother’s head; and then I remembered another thing. It was immediately after Cap Huff had spoken of going to Canada by way of Winooski River and St. John’s that Nathaniel had agreed to go to the war with me. I cursed myself for a fool to have such thoughts—such petty and ungenerous thoughts; but in spite of all my cursing, they buzzed within my brain like the flies that followed us to light again and again and yet again on nose or cheek or neck.

The post-rider came up behind us, clopping westward for Portsmouth, his saddlebags and elbows a-flop as though he aimed in time to rise and fly. He made what he conceived to be an Indian whooping, howling dolefully and breaking the howls by slapping his hands briskly against his open mouth. “Ice was late going out of the lakes,” he shouted to us. “Six regiments got through to St. John’s a week ago!”

He flopped forward, leaving me agape at his mention of St. John’s at the very moment when the name of that distant town had come to fill my wandering mind with odd fancies about my brother.

When we passed the first log huts of Wells, the talkativeness came back to the women who walked beside us. My sisters gabbled to Tom Bickford. My mother reminded us of this and that: to air our blankets, lest the moisture cling in them and chill us into sleeplessness at night: to keep our feet dry: to read the Bible regularly and give thanks to Providence for all blessings; to drop wild cherries in our canteens against the flux.

She was interrupted by a suppressed exclamation from my father, who stared unbelievingly over his shoulder. When we turned to look, we saw our bay mare Bessie drawing close. From the chaise peered the anxious black face of Zelph, our negro servant. He wore an ancient suit of badly tanned mooseskin, fuzzy and brownish, so that he had the look of a small brown bear with a bad case of the mange. What was more remarkable than his garb, however, was the fact that beside him lay a pack and musket.

My father spoke to him sharply. “Zelph, where you think you’re going, and where’d you get that musket?”

“Cap’n Asa, sir,” Zelph said, “that musket was gim to me by Cap’n Steven Nason’s friend, Cap’n Huff. I’m goin’ to war, along with Cap’n Peter.” The mare Bessie breathed heavily, sniffing at my father’s shoulder and wrinkling her upper lip pleasurably.

My father dropped back to walk beside Zelph. “Zelph,” I heard him say, “I don’t believe you’re cut out for a soldier. It appears to me you’d do better to stay right in Arundel where you can take care of Pristine and the girls—and where we can take care of you.” He shook his head sadly. “Nobody’ll ever know, Zelph, how hard it is to make you work!”

“Cap’n Asa,” Zelph said, leaning forward in his seat to speak confidentially, “Cap’n Huff said that was the nice thing about a war: there ain’t any regular work to do—only wear a uniform and walk around a lot, and camp out. Cap’n Huff, he said I’d make a real good soldier. He said I was twice as good a soldier, right now, as any of them York troops that went to Quebec.”

Steven Nason, hearing the talking, had come back to investigate; and at these words of Zelph’s, he spoke to him even more sharply than had my father. “Did Cap Huff ask you to join the army?”

Zelph made a dignified reply. “Cap’n Nason, Cap’n Huff never said a word to me, only come along after you set out, an ast was there anything to eat in the house. I brung him a punkin pie, Cap’n Nason, an he et it all.” Zelph made two turkey-like motions with his head to give us an idea of the rapidity with which Cap had demolished the pie. “Nen he ast who made that pie, an I said I made it.”

“Then what?” Nason asked.

“Nen he breathed sort of loud and kind,” Zelph said, “so’s I told him about being scairt somebody’d think I was an Englishman, an I ast him how much a man had to pay to get into the army.”

“You were scared of being taken for an Englishman!” Nason exclaimed. He stared from Zelph to my father and back again.

Zelph nodded. “I was listenin yesdy,” he told Nason frankly. “I was listenin outside the winder when you was in the house talkin. I wouldn’t choose to be mistooken for a Englishman, Cap’n Nason, nor for a Tory, on account of how they’re hated around here.” To my father he added, “I wouldn’t be no good around here no more, Cap’n Asa, not till the war’s over, on account of never knowin when I might be mistooken for an Englishman. Meks my hand tremmle, jest thinkin bout it, Cap’n Asa, so’s I’d drop dishes—bus’ ’em all over the place! In the army, they won’t be no dishes to drop.”

My father and Nason eyed Zelph distrustfully; but it was Nason’s wife, Phœbe, who settled the matter. She had come back to walk with her husband, and now she nudged him sharply with her shoulder. “Steven,” she said, “don’t fly in the face of Providence! This boy knows how to make rabbit stew and fish chowder! There’ll be times when a good fish chowder’ll be more help to you than all the powder and generals and sharpshooters in the world.” She laughed and added, “When anybody thinks war consists of a lot of nice walks, it’s high time he completed his education.”

Nason stared hard at Zelph and nodded grimly; so Zelph, grinning happily at the vacation in store for him, slapped Bessie on the rump with the ends of the reins and clumped past our little column to escape the crowds of townsfolk who stood at the Wells crossroads, watching our approach.

In spite of the poverty of the town and its people, the place had a gala air, for two red blankets hung from upstairs windows of Littlefield’s Ordinary; and farmers, flushed and noisy with rum, stood in the doorway, shouting encouragements at the militia company drawn up across the road.

Some of the militiamen wore no shoes; but they might have looked worse; for all of them had muskets, and they wore red handkerchiefs around their necks to provide a flavour of uniformity. Also there was a man thumping on a drum, and a number of women and children and old men standing around with food on bark trays and in milk pails; and in front of the crowd was a barrel of beer on a wooden horse.

Sitting on the steps of the Ordinary was Doc Means, fumbling helplessly with a number of clumsy parcels, each one thrust into the leg of a woollen stocking for protection. He was tucking the bundles into his brown smock, only to remove them and tuck them in elsewhere, as if hopeful of so disposing them that they would interfere neither with his comfort nor his appearance. The odour of his asafœtida bag was powerful—so powerful that it rose piercingly above the scent of dust and crushed grass and unwashed bodies and stale beer from the inside of the tavern.

While we stacked our muskets and packs and made free with the beer, Nason had a word to say to Doc Means. “Doc,” he said, “we’ve got a long trip ahead of us. You’ll never make it with any such load as you’ve got there.”

Doc Means’s blue eyes were meek. “Those things might come in pretty handy,” he said mildly. “They don’t weigh as much as one goose, and I’d hate to say how far I could carry a goose, if I wanted to use it when I got where I was going.”

“Maybe,” Nason said, “we could divide ’em up, if you’re set on taking ’em.”

“No,” Doc Means said faintly. “No. I couldn’t spare none of ’em. When you want one of ’em, you’re like to want it quick.” Baffled, he removed the bundles from his smock; and to watch him was like watching a magician remove from a hat more things than the hat could possibly hold. Plaintively he added, “If only they was as soft as a goose—even as soft as a frozen goose—I wouldn’t have no trouble.”

Phœbe Nason sat on the step beside him, looking, with her tightly-bound head and her sea-boots, like a sympathetic boy. She reached for Doc’s parcels and piled them beside her on the step. “What are they, Doc?” she asked. “Asafœtida bags?”

Doc’s glance wandered over the shouting, milling crowd in front of the ordinary; then returned to rest on the brown beads at Phœbe’s throat. He shook his head. “I don’t recommend asafœtida bags,” he said gently. “The reason I wear one myself is because it gives me more room in case I get in a crowd. Crowds ain’t good for my rest, and rest is the most important thing you can get. People don’t bother you if you wear an asafœtida bag—not unless they’re real used to you.”

Phœbe nodded thoughtfully. “I didn’t know, from the smell around here, but what you were trying to carry enough asafœtida bags for the whole army. What is it you’ve got in these bundles?”

Doc pawed weakly at them. “Medical supplies,” he said. “Medical supplies and my medical liberry. This here’s my Culpeper’s Herbal. It tells you how to make medicine out of any kind of plants or leaves. This here’s my book by Tryon, that tells you how to cure yourself by not eating nothing. This here’s my Almanac. It tells you what’s the most favourable time to do things and take things. This here’s my Venesection Mannekin and my trigger-lancet, and my hazel wand for finding minerals and water. And this here’s my Digby’s Sympathetic Powder.”

Phœbe picked up the bundle that held the Almanac; stared at it, back and front; then eyed Doc Means doubtfully. “What does your Almanac say about to-day?”

Doc took it from her and dropped it carefully into his smock. “To-day?” he asked gently. “It says to-day is the most favourable day there is for embarking on any enterprise.”

Phœbe fingered her brown beads and squinted at the sky through one of them. Then she pounced on another bundle and had it out of its protective stocking before Doc Means could prevent her. “Digby’s Sympathetic Powder!” she said. “I never heard of it. What’s it for?”

Doc would have taken back the bundle, but Phœbe moved it beyond his reach and unknotted the string that bound it. “What’s it for?” she repeated.

Doc sighed. “It’s the greatest remedy there is. It’s good for everything. There ain’t anything, hardly, that it won’t cure. It’s so powerful that if you got stuck with a bayonet, I could cure you by rubbing the bayonet with Digby’s Sympathetic Powder.”

“Did you say you could do it by rubbing the bayonet?” Phœbe asked.

Doc nodded, and the watery blue eyes that he raised to Phœbe’s were as innocent and helpless as those of a new-born babe surfeited with milk.

Phœbe had the bundle open by now. Nason and I, peering over her shoulder, saw it held a yellowish powder. Before Doc could stop her, she placed a pinch of it on her tongue. While she tasted it, she stared pensively at Doc; and Doc’s eye again roamed over the noisy throng that pressed around the beer barrel.

Strangely, then, Phœbe laughed. “Here!” she said. “I’ll show you what to do!” She replaced the Digby’s Sympathetic Powder in its wrappings, took the Almanac from Doc’s smock, and neatly knotted together the stocking that held the two. Then she pushed one of the bundles under the belt of his smock, so that the two of them hung snugly against his back, a little below the level of his belt. “There!” she said. “Do the same with the other two, and you’ll find ’em no harder to carry than that goose you spoke of.”

Doc rose waveringly to his feet to paw delightedly behind him. Phœbe went to Nason and hooked her finger in his belt. “Well, Steven,” she said, “the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll get back.” Together they went to the man with the drum, who had drunk so much beer that he had trouble finding his drumsticks.

The drum rolled twice in such a way that a thickness came into my upper chest—a thickness like wool, that seemed to keep the air from passing into me. The crowd fell silent, except for a drunken man inside the ordinary, who kept bawling that even though a lobster pot should be coopered around his head and shoulders, he could whip King George without half trying; and the faces around me grew vacant, as is the habit of New Englanders when their feelings are in danger of becoming noticeable.

“Get your packs on,” Nason said. His voice had a flat sound, as if he spoke from the depths of a heavy fog. I saw him press Phœbe’s shoulder, and heard him clear his throat. “We’ll go alone from here,” he added. “No stragglers—neither women nor boys. We’ve got to go fast—and alone.”

My father helped me with my blanket-cord, and I saw my mother go around behind Nathaniel and fumble with the straps of his knapsack, but to no good purpose, since tears filled her eyes and splattered on her dress. The militia company lined up raggedly and presented arms.

“Come along,” Nason said.

My feet seemed turned to rock; I could do nothing but stare at my mother: see nothing but the slender streaks of moisture her tears had left on her gray dress. Doc Means wavered past me, looking as though half the town of Wells were fastened to his aged back. My father’s words came out loud above the sudden gabbling of the crowd: “—no worse than a voyage to Cadiz, and not near as long.”

A moment later, without knowing what had happened, or how, I had my hand on Nathaniel’s shoulder and we were going rapidly around the first bend in the narrow mountain road, headed north.


Our route lay through the New Hampshire town of Rumford, now called Concord, though its early name will always be remembered because Benjamin Thompson lived there, but could not stomach our cause, so went to live in England and became Count Rumford, a celebrated man of science. From Rumford we would bear to the north-westward along the forest trails: first up the Merrimac a little way: then over to the Connecticut and up it to the trail that leads to the Winooski River, which flows into Lake Champlain about midway of its eastern shore.

It was just beyond Rumford that Cap Huff caught up with us.

He was riding a dappled gray mare which, in spite of being large, looked almost shrunken because of the way Cap Huff towered over her and bulged out on either side. He had a huge bundle lashed to the pommel of his saddle, and another to the cantle, so that he could not swing himself down when he reached us, but seized the mare by the ears and fell to the ground with a clatter.

“So it’s you, is it?” Nason said. “Where’d you get that horse?”

“Look here, Stevie!” Cap Huff complained. “No matter what I have, you look at it as if I’d got it in some underhand way. That horse was a gift!” Righteousness seemed to ooze from his round red face.

“A gift?” Nason asked. “Who was it given to, and when?”

“To me!” Cap Huff declared virtuously. “You remember that Theodore Lyman—the one that planted the elms and charged Pete Merrill’s father three dollars for——”

“Certainly I remember him!” Nason interrupted. “What’s he got to do with it?”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you,” Cap said patiently. “That horse was a gift from Theodore Lyman, and so were there these other odds and ends.” He pointed to the pack on the pommel; then busied himself slapping the dust from his arms and shoulders, though it seemed to me he did it more to avoid Nason’s eye than for cleanliness.

“So Theodore Lyman made you a lot of presents, did he?” Nason said. “That’s something new for Theodore.”

Cap hummed a tune and stared up at the cloudless sky, apparently hunting for signs of weather.

“What kind of presents did he give you?” Nason persisted.

Cap closed his eyes, held up a huge hand and ticked off items on his outspread fingers: “Ten gallons rum, twenty pounds powder, five fry-pans, ten pounds glass beads, one gross awls, three dozen pocket knives, one hundred fish hooks, thirty papers needles, ten gallons rum.”

“You counted the rum once before,” Nason said.

Cap continued to be patient with him. “Yes. He gave it to me twice—the second time because I kind of hinted. That makes twenty altogether.

“Now look here,” Nason protested, “I want you to be careful! We’re liable to get into trouble if you let people give you things this way. What in God’s name did you want to take that horse for!”

“Stevie,” Cap said earnestly, “there’s nothing like a horse for trading purposes. You give me a horse, and I’ll guarantee to swap it for anything in reason. If there ain’t anything to swap it for, I can eat it. Yes, and for every man that’s got into trouble over borrowing a horse, there’s a thousand good men have died for lack of one.”

There were times, during the next two weeks, when it seemed to me there might be something in what Cap said.

It was on the following morning that Nathaniel began to complain of having smallpox symptoms—a headache and a pain under his arm. I went looking for Doc Means and found him at the head of our little column, staggering along weakly at Nason’s elbow—and that was one of the most singular of the many singular things about Doc Means. Old as he was, and half dead with fatigue as he always seemed to be, he somehow contrived to waver along with the leaders rather than with the rear guard—and that, too, in spite of the bundles stored about his person.

Not only could he travel as fast as any one, but seemingly he could travel longer. He was given to staggering off the path to hunt for moose tracks, for which he had almost a passion; and when he came stumbling and lurching back, his stumblings and lurchings carried him past the rest of us and up to the head of the column again.

No matter how early I unrolled myself from my blanket in the morning, Doc Means was puttering about the camp, searching with watery blue eyes for traces of animals that might have been near us during the night, or poking feebly at the fire—though the very feebleness of his poking seemed to set it roaring unaccountably. And at night, too, if I waked and sat up for a smell of the weather, there would be Doc, peering around the fire into the darkness, or fumbling with one of the leaves, roots or berries he was perpetually pocketing during the day’s march.

When I told him about Nathaniel, he came wavering back with me, and looked Nathaniel up and down. “So you got the symptoms, have you?” Doc asked helplessly.

Nathaniel nodded and gulped, nor could I blame him; for smallpox is a cruel disease, threatening its victims not only with death, but with disability, blindness, pain, disfigurement and social ostracism. It was true we had deliberately taken it mildly, to protect ourselves from catching it naturally in all its severity; but for all we knew the mildness might, through some unforeseen accident, become violent.

All the men of our little company gathered around us with serious faces—expecting, no doubt, to see heroic remedies applied to Nathaniel. Doc Means stared from Nathaniel to them and back again in such a futile manner that I had misgivings as to what our fate might be in the hands of such a doctor.

“I’m glad you got it,” Doc Means said faintly. “You couldn’t have picked out a better day to be took sick—not unless you picked out to-morrow. According to the Almanac, the next few days are the best days out of the whole year to get anything in.” He moved closer to Nathaniel and scrutinised his eyes. “Where’s that pain under your arm, and how much of a pain is it?”

Nathaniel felt of his right side. “It’s sharp,” he said. “Sharp.”

Doc Means shook his head sadly. “Well,” he said, “you ain’t got it! You was scratched on the left arm; and if you had a pain, there’s where it would be: under your left arm: not under your right. That’s the way with most of these inoculated cases: they ain’t sick at all, only because of being scairt, or because a doctor makes ’em sick.”

Cap Huff stopped him when he started to waver away. “If he ain’t got the symptoms,” he protested, “he ain’t far from having ’em. If I was you, Doc, I’d give him a few pukes.”

Doc Means shook his head. “I don’t take any stock in ’em,” he said mildly. “Anybody that wants to take a puke can take one; but there ain’t no reason for doing so: not as I know of.”

There was some murmuring among the men; for it was common knowledge that those who inoculated themselves with smallpox were supposed to physic themselves heavily, both up and down. As for Cap, he became noisy at once. “No reason?” he shouted. “No reason? Nobody never heard of a doctor that set up a smallpox hospital without puking his classes when inoculated! Ain’t there a reason for it? Answer me that!”

“That’s so the classes won’t forget they’re sick,” Doc Means said. “How’s a doctor going to make a living if his patients ain’t aware of being sick? If you ain’t aware of being sick, you ain’t going to bother with a doctor, are you?” He sighed. “The trouble with a puke,” he added feebly, “is that it makes you feel sicker than what you are. What I say is, if you don’t feel sick, you ain’t sick.” He turned suddenly to Nathaniel. “How’s your side? How’s your headache?”

“Headache?” Nathaniel asked. He seemed surprised. “Headache? Why, it’s not so bad as it was.” He kneaded his side sheepishly. “Neither’s the pain. I guess maybe they’re gone.”

“That’s right,” Doc Means said. “Well, you’d still have ’em if you’d took a few good pukes.” He went wavering off again, leaving the rest of us to follow; and in spite of Cap’s grumbling, we found ourselves heartened by Doc’s stubborn refusal to doctor us.

In another day, however, Nathaniel’s symptoms came on in earnest, and those of some of the other men as well. Doc Means professed himself delighted at the symptoms and at once halted and fumbled in his smock until he found what he called his dowsing rod. It was a Y-shaped branch, and he grasped it by its two arms, gripping it tightly, with its stem pointed straight upward. He faced this way and that. The rod turned downward suddenly, at which Doc grunted and seemed to lose his balance. He pitched forward as if abruptly pushed, and staggered a few feet from the path. With a violent movement of his arms he threw his rod from him.

Grumbling to himself, he picked it up and tucked it back in his smock: then led us confidently from the path and through the thickets. I doubted the worth of Doc’s manœuvres; but despite my doubts we came out on a hillside sloping to the south, and at its foot saw a spring of ice-cold water: the headwaters of a winding brook; so that there was more in Doc’s dowsing rod than met the eye.

Nason sent Cap pelting back toward Rumford on his gray mare to buy or borrow a fresh cow; and the rest of us pitched our camp and went to work. In an hour’s time we had chopped trees for a three-sided cabin, long enough to hold bed-places for all of us, and open on the front. It had a bark roof that overhung the open side by a matter of four feet, so that we could be protected from the weather and yet have the warmth of the fires ranged the whole length of the rude structure.

“There!” Doc Means said benevolently when the work was finished. “Anybody’d be altogether too dirty for my gizzard that didn’t think this was a terrible nice place to have the smallpox in.” To me he added, soothingly, “You and your brother got your inoculation the same day as those in Wells, so the whole company ought to be bustin out pustulin before to-morrow night.”

When Cap Huff returned, early the next morning, dragging a protesting black and white cow at the end of a long halter, the symptoms had set in on all of us, and we were a silent and thoughtful crew. As for me, my head felt as though a bushel of dirty potatoes had been stuffed into my skull; and my muscles could have been no lamer if Cap’s cow had trampled me.

Cap staked the cow near the spring at the foot of the hill: then climbed the slope to stand in front of our cabin and stare at us, his thumbs hooked in his belt and his huge hands slapping comfortably against his barrel of a stomach. Doc Means stumbled out from behind the camp and stood beside Cap, regarding us with moist blue eyes in which I thought I saw pride in our melancholy condition.

“You want to go to work on that cow,” Cap told Doc. “She’s fresh, and she ain’t afraid to let go of her milk. I had mebbe a quart this morning, with some rum in it, but it’s kind of wore off.” He smacked his lips. “You better feed these boys right away, because I’d ought to have a little more before I start off to the westward. Half milk and half rum makes a nice drink.”

Nason got up from where he had been sitting in the sun, whittling deadfall triggers, and came to look at Cap. “You’re going to the westward?” he asked. “What’s the matter with staying right here?”

Cap’s fingers tapped rapidly against the front of his tow-cloth smock. “Stevie, I got a lot of trading to do, off to the westward.” He glanced over his shoulder and added, in a lower tone, “I picked up a few things in Rumford.”

“I told you to get a cow,” Nason said. “I don’t recall asking you to pick up anything else.”

“Stevie,” Cap said patiently, “we’re fighting a war. When you’re fighting a war, you’re entitled to be helped. If folks ain’t eager to help, or don’t know how, then they ought to be kind of helped to help.” He stared at Nason defiantly and added, “We’ve got to find some way of getting from Allen’s Landing to St. John’s, ain’t we—nearly the whole length of Lake Champlain?”

“Certainly,” Nason said.

“All right!” Cap retorted triumphantly. “Allen’s Landing ain’t nothing but a little woodchuck-hole of a place, and if we was forced to borrow boats there, or anything else, we might get into trouble, on account of having no other place to go until our borrowing was completed. Rumford’s a big town, though, Stevie—a rich place, with twenty roads running out of it. I wouldn’t want to see a nicer town to borrow things in, on account of nobody knowing which way you went. What’s more, we don’t ever have to go back to Rumford again.”

Seeing that Nason continued to eye him with disapproval, Cap affected a bluff and hearty manner, slapping Doc Means on the back and jovially ordering him to milk the cow so that all of his patients might be nourished.

Doc Means blinked at him and shook his head. “No,” he said, “they ain’t got no appetite.”

“No appetite!” Cap bawled. “Well, why don’t you do something about it? They’ll starve if they don’t eat!”

Again Doc Means shook his head. “I ain’t found it so. They don’t need nothing, only a cup of warm milk now and then, with maybe a pinch of Digby’s Sympathetic Powder in it.”

“Warm milk!” Cap whispered, aghast. “Warm milk! Why, they’d die of weakness!”

“Why would they?” Doc Means asked plaintively. “Don’t a bear lie in a tree for four months, not eating nothing? You show me a bear that ever starved to death in the winter, and I’ll eat the whole of him, hair and claws included.”

Cap stared at Doc as if he considered him demented. “You got to do something for ’em,” he protested. “You got to bleed ’em, anyway. Every last one of these men, they ought to have three pints of blood drawed out of ’em.”

“Who said so?” Doc asked helplessly.

Cap was indignant. “Who said so? Why, all the doctors say so.”

Doc sighed. “Yes, they do. That’s right. That’s why I ain’t going to do it.”

Cap stared at him. “That’s a hell of a reason, that is!”

“It’s the best reason in the world,” Doc said. “The doctor you want to foller is the one that thinks different from the rest of ’em. Look at these doctors all around everywhere. Look at these surgeons we got in the army. Do you know how they got to be doctors?”

“Certainly,” Cap said. “Certainly. They got to be doctors by doctorin.”

“Nothing of the sort!” Doc cried. “They got to be doctors by holding a doctor’s horse and sweeping out his office! Most of ’em never even saw a childbirth and wouldn’t want to. They couldn’t even help a weasel be delivered! Doctors! Look at the best doctors we got in the army—Levi Wheaton and John Morgan and William Shippen—there ain’t no better army doctors than those fellers. They’re regular doctors, and everybody says they’re fine ones. Do you know how they treat sick folks?”

“Listen,” Cap said, “I ast you a civil question, and I expect a civil reply.”

“By Grapes!” Doc said. “You talk like a doctor! You don’t know, so I’ll tell you! According to them, all diseases are inflammatory, and to get rid of the disease you got to get rid of the inflammation. So when they find a sick man, they bleed him first and then feed him tartrate of antimony, epsom salts and calomel. They don’t leave nothing inside the feller—no blood, no food, no courage, no nothing! They ain’t as sensible as what a dog is!”

Cap made an effort to speak, but Doc stumbled close against him, silencing him by his very closeness. “If I bled you right now, and then gave you a dose of tartrate of antimony and calomel, d’you know what you’d feel like? You’d be sick abed for three days! You’d be sicker than these here smallpox patients.”

“I s’pose,” Cap said contemptuously, “I s’pose you consider yourself qualified——”

Doc interrupted him. “Now when a dog’s sick, he crawls under the barn and stays there, don’t he? He don’t bleed himself and fill himself up with all kinds of gurry guaranteed to rip his inside to pieces. He lays there and sleeps, and don’t eat nothing; and when he comes out, he’s cured. If you was sick, that’s the kind of medicine I’d give you, too—let you sleep, and not give you nothing to eat. There’s some sense to treatment like that.”

“I s’pose,” Cap sneered, “I s’pose there ain’t no doctor that knows so much as you! I s’pose you know better’n all of ’em.”

“No,” Doc said temperately. “I read about a feller down in Virginia—Doctor Siccary. He says the best food there is for any one is tomatoes. He says if you can eat enough tomatoes, you won’t never die. That feller Siccary, he sounds all right. Then there’s Thomas Tryon, over in——”

“Tomatoes!” Cap bawled. “Tomatoes? Love apples? Why, they’re rank poison! Any doctor’ll tell you that!”

I saw fit to put in a word. “It’s true that most doctors say they’re poison,” I told Cap, “but those of us who’ve sailed to Spain know it’s not so. The Spaniards use tomatoes on everything they cook, nearly, and every Arundel mariner that’s sailed there has tomatoes planted in his garden, and has ’em made into ketchup for winter use.”

“They’re poison!” Cap insisted angrily. “Any damned fool knows love apples is pure poison!” Then he eyed Doc craftily. “If doctors ain’t no good, and all their ideas is so wrong, what you want to carry a medical liberry around with you for?”

“So to find out what the best doctors recommend, and then do different,” Doc said promptly.

Enraged at Doc’s stubborness, Cap would, I think, have taken our treatment into his own hands if Nason had not interfered and ordered him away to the westward, reminding him that the citizens of Rumford might be on his trail. So Cap, grumbling to himself, loaded his supplies on the back of his gray mare, frequently pausing to drink from the snout of a kettle in which he had mixed two quarts of rum and a quart of warm milk; and we all felt more at peace when he hoisted himself clumsily into the saddle and went lurching off towards Lake Champlain, bawling a French song in a thick, hoarse voice.

Due, perhaps, to the thimbleful of Digby’s Sympathetic Powder that Doc had put in our milk, we were able to be on our feet and move around on the following day. Some of us, even, were hungry; but both Doc and Nason seemed deaf to our hints that we were able to eat.

Nason had us set rabbit snares in the lowland at the foot of the hill, so that we might have fresh meat when our illness was over; and twice a day he drilled us—in the morning in the English fashion; and in the afternoon in the Indian fashion. In the first we formed straight ranks and held in our stomachs, very military, shouldering oak saplings in place of muskets. In the second we learned how to break from single file into double and shelter ourselves behind trees, facing outward, so that no enemy could take us in the rear.

For the most part we lay and listened to Doc Means, who gave us repeated assurances of how healthy he proposed to keep the lot of us after we should reach Canada, provided we kept away from regular doctors and went without food occasionally—a piece of advice to which even he, in after days, sometimes referred sardonically.

He took pleasure in quoting to us from his medical library and calling attention to some of the drawbacks connected with the remedies that had come to his notice.

He had learned by heart, out of his books, a cure for everything on earth that anybody could name, from warts to fright; and the only one with which he seemed to find no fault was the fright-cure. This led me to say to myself that even though there should be small chance of being benefited by this fright-cure, I would get Doc to mix me some of it if ever we were threatened with a battle. What was more, I could tell from the look in the eyes of many of the others that the same thought was passing through their minds.

Unlike many of the panaceas of the day, Doc’s fright remedy was easily compounded. There was, he told us, an infallible means to prevent being struck by lightning, and also a cure for those who have been struck; but since for the preventive he lacked the skin of a seal, we would have to take our chances during thunderstorms. There were many wart cures, he said, but the one recommended by the most enlightened doctors was to hunt for a shooting star, and then, as soon as possible after seeing one, to pour vinegar on the hinge of a door. And thus he pointed out that it was difficult to cure warts in the woods.

The fear remedy, however, was not so difficult. Its chief ingredients, according to Doc, were gunpowder and pepper, mixed with rum, and flavoured with the smallest trace of Digby’s Sympathetic Powder. We had the gunpowder and the rum, while Doc had the Digby’s Sympathetic Powder. We could, he said, get along without the pepper, and even without the gunpowder too; for it was the Digby’s Sympathetic Powder and the rum that were the two necessary ingredients. The gunpowder and the pepper, he assured us, only made the remedy more lasting in its effects.

“It stands to reason,” Doc said, “that the farther you can keep away from doctors, the healthier you’ll be. Look at what these doctors call for in their most expensive medicines—snake skins, slow worms, red coral, ambergris, gold leaf, Venice treacle, vipers, oil of stones, rape of storax, camel’s hay, the bellies of skinks——”

“You mean skunks, don’t you?” Nason asked.

“No,” Doc said mildly, “I mean skinks.”

Nason’s voice was sceptical. “What’s a skink?”

“How would I know?” Doc asked helplessly. “How would any one know? There ain’t none in New England, and there ain’t no camel’s hay, neither. What I say is, these doctors that tell you to use skinks’ bellies and camel’s hay in medicines, they don’t know what they’re talking about, and a feller that don’t know what he’s talking about ain’t worth listening to. He ain’t no good, and he wa’n’t never no good, and he won’t never be no good.”

Unconventional as were Doc’s medical beliefs, he really was an expert with a saw and knife, and able to take off a leg or an arm before, almost, the patient could scream. But to my mind the most singular of his powers was the ability to rub a sprain or a rheumatic joint in such a way that the pain, in no time at all, was relieved; and this ability or gift, he declared, was due to the fact that he was a Seventh Son, so that his touch was a guarantee of good fortune.

Since his childhood, he said, persons contemplating matrimony or a sea voyage or a hunting trip would come for miles to touch him, knowing well that they would be fortunate because of the touch. It was this gift, he said, that had made him willing to go to war; for so many had gone to fight, and so many were afraid of being hanged if they guessed wrongly which side they should take in the Rebellion, and so many were in danger of losing all their small savings through the increasing worthlessness of the currency, that his house was over-run, day and night, with people who wished to touch him for good luck.

They would walk from York, even, and Kittery and Scarborough, he said, arriving at his house at two and three o’clock in the morning, or at dawn or supper-time or any time at all, and pound on the door and shout until he got out of bed and allowed himself to be touched. Then, as like as not, he would be obliged to provide them with food or a drink of rum, or with enough money to buy food; and all this touching and waking up at night and feeding people had come to be so tiring and annoying to him that he thought going to war would give him a quieter life, and he would get more sleep.

Whatever it was that gave him his singular power, it did us more of a service than all his talk of fright remedies and wart cures; for it cured Joseph Marie Verrieul and made him our friend, which turned out to be a matter of importance to me.

. . . As Doc had predicted, our symptoms, except for a few insignificant pustules, vanished in two days, and for the next week we lived comfortably on fish chowders made of trout and milk and hard bread that Zelph baked, and on messes of greens that he was indefatigable in gathering. On the seventh day we were hard put to it, even, to find a pustule, which proved to be fortunate; for it was toward sundown of that chilly gray day that we heard a bellowing from the north-westerly end of the meadow—the bellowing of a raucous voice singing a French song about rolling a ball.

“Behind our house there is a pond,” the song ran, “Roll on, my ball, roll on: Three beautiful ducks are bathing themselves in it: roll, roll, my rolling ball: Roll on, my ball, roll on.”

“There’s Cap!” Nason said.

It was indeed Cap and his dappled gray mare; but he was not riding the mare: he was leading her; and on her back, slung across the saddle like a sack of meal, was the body of a man.

“Come get him!” Cap bawled at us.

“Has he had the smallpox?” Nason called.

Cap stopped the horse and went to the man’s head. “Hey!” he shouted in a voice to make a corpse jump, “have you had the smallpox?”

The man just hung there.

Cap shouted again and shook him; finally crouched beside him and examined his face; first on one side: then on the other.

“He’s got a pit under his ear and two on his forehead,” he finally roared.

“Go ahead and get him,” Nason told us.

We took him off the horse, laid him beside the fire and perceived him to be a young man, about Nathaniel’s age, but painfully thin. His eyes were sunken, and his cheeks had fallen in, so there was something about his head that put me in mind of a bird’s skull. Yet his face, under the grime and tear-streaks on it, was a fine, smooth brown, and his eyebrows were thin and arched, so that even in his pitiful condition there was something of distinction to him.

Cap, breathing heavily, stared at him as if puzzled. “Picked him up in the woods,” he told us. “There he was, all alone, a thousand miles from anywhere, just lying beside the path like he was dead.” He shook his head, adding: “No food; no blanket; not even any money.”

“How do you know he didn’t have any money?” Nason asked.

Cap, seeming not to hear him, caught Doc Means by the shoulder. “What’s the matter with him?”

Doc blinked. “I’d say he was starved,” he said. “Starved and tuckered.” Almost hopefully he added, “Maybe I’ll find something else the matter with him when there ain’t so many folks around, and I get a chance to look at him.”

Tom Bickford pointed to the young man’s knees. The breeches over them were sadly torn; and under the holes the skin was raw. We saw, then, that his palms were raw as well.

“Well, now!” Doc said, “that boy must have been anxious to get somewhere! He’s been crawling!”

He knelt stiffly to fumble at the boy’s legs. “Ankle,” he said. “Sprained.” He pawed at him again: then sank back on his heels to look up at us. “Both ankles!” he said. “Both ankles sprained.”

We poured a little rum and milk down his throat, and peeled off his Indian leggings and moccasins, while Doc Means began to feel, knead, and poke the two sprained ankles. In a minute or two the young man groaned, and we trickled more rum and milk into his mouth. Doc Means worked on, pulling at the stranger’s heels and twisting his toes; and in half an hour the boy was sitting up, taking all the rabbit stew we would give him: clamouring for more, too, and filling out under our very eyes.

His name, he said, was Verrieul—Joseph Marie Verrieul, and he had been in the army on Dorchester Heights. When the British left Boston, his regiment and nine others had marched for New York. By the time he reached New London, he was, as he put it, very much beat out. Consequently he signed aboard a privateer brig that sailed from New London on the night of his arrival.

“A privateer!” Cap Huff shouted. “What about your regiment?”

Verrieul smiled up at Cap so artlessly that Cap’s bellow fell off into what, by comparison, was a murmur. That was Verrieul’s way—to smile happily and confidingly at every one, whether friend or enemy; nor was his smile something put on for the moment, to attain his ends. He was perpetually happy within: eager and full of enthusiasm: ready for anything, like an amiable dog; and it seemed impossible to be with him, or to look at him, even, without feeling towards him as one would feel towards a friendly puppy.

“But I tell you I was beat out—very much beat out,” he told Cap. “I was doing nothing in the army: nothing! Merely sitting and freezing, and of no use to any one. On a privateer, I thought, I would be active, alert! Better that, I think, than to go away in the woods, like many in my regiment, and lie hid. What do you think?”

Cap growled noncommittally and gave him a spoonful of rum and milk.

He had been so unfortunate, Verrieul continued, as to encounter bad weather, and water poured through the deck-seams of the brig, both day and night. For nearly two weeks he had been unable to dry his clothes or to eat warm food, so that he had been troubled with gurry sores. They had sighted no prizes, and to make things worse, the mate had knocked him down and kicked him. When, consequently, the brig had put into Boston two weeks ago, he had been overcome by a depression that filled him with a desire to visit his friend Dr. Wheelock for consolation and advice.

“And did you visit him?” Nason asked.

“Visit him?” Verrieul asked. “No! How could I arrive at Hanover, considering what happened to me?” He pointed to his ankles, at which Doc Means still fumbled. “I was proceeding alone along the path to Hanover, happy at my approaching reunion with the Revrint Doctor, when I stepped on an insecure stone and suffered a wrench in one ankle. The path was rough; so when I went on, I fell often, and at length I wrenched the other also.” He drew a deep breath. “Then I was indeed unhappy, not only for myself, but for thinking of the pain it would cause the Revrint Doctor if he should learn I had died like this: crawling in the forest; of no use in the world. He would have been sad to think that after he had laboured so industriously to give me learning and usefulness, all his efforts had come to nothing through one small misstep of mine.”

Cap breathed heavily through his nose. “If I was you,” he said, “I wouldn’t lose no sleep worrying about how this Doctor, or anybody else for that matter, might take sick on account of worrying about me. People down my way, they got troubles of their own, and they spend all their time worrying about themselves. What leads you to think this Doctor might lie awake nights, wringing his hands over your whereabouts? Did you owe him some money, maybe?”

Cap, I saw, was being facetious after his own manner, partly in relief at Verrieul’s recovery, and partly to keep the boy’s tongue wagging.

Verrieul stared from Cap to the rest of us, as if a little hurt at Cap’s words; then turned to Cap again. “You must understand,” he said, “that my case was unusual. From the manner in which you shower kindnesses on me, I can see you find me pleasing; and that was even more the case with the Revrint Doctor. For three years there was no pupil regarded with as much warmth by the Revrint Doctor as was unworthy Joseph Verrieul.”

“You don’t say!” Cap remarked. “Well, well! Maybe that’s a compliment for the Doctor, and maybe it ain’t! Who is this Revrint Doctor, if we might make so bold as to ask?”

“The Revrint Doctor Wheelock?” Verrieul exclaimed. “You don’t know him? Truly, I thought he knew everybody in the world! He writes letters to all neighbourhoods—to General Washington and great sachems everywhere.”

“His letters to me must have got lost,” Cap said. “Where’s he live and what’s he do?”

“He is president of the seminary in Hanover! You have heard of it: the Indian school? We call it Dartmouth College.”

“Indian school?” Cap asked quickly. “You’re an Indian?”

“No, no!” Verrieul said. “I am an American, descended from French people. My father was lieutenant-colonel, living in Sillery. Now he is dead. I was at school in France for two years: then I am discovered by the Revrint Doctor Wheelock! A fine man! A man with a large, warm heart, wholly confident of my future. He paid the cost of my studies in the seminary, out of his own pocket; because, you see, I have nothing myself.”

He smiled at us again, a confiding, engaging smile; and Cap, staring at him, opened his mouth to say something, but closed it again without speaking.

“You met Indians at this Indian school?” Nason asked.

Verrieul laughed. “Met them! They’re my brothers! Lewis Vincent from Caughnawaga, and Joe Gill, the son of the sachem of St. Francis: they are brothers to me. It was I who went with Kendal to Caughnawaga as an interpreter when he founded the school. Kendal and James Deane and I, we are very much loved in Caughnawaga.”

Nason spoke to him rapidly in a language that had a peculiar click and catch beneath and between the words.

“Well, of course!” Verrieul exclaimed. “It was the first I learned—Abenaki. Now I speak many, including Chippeway. All the western nations speak Chippeway. I learned it when I travelled with James Deane to the westward.”

He said this simply, but there was pride in his manner of saying it that made it sound like a boast. Yet the name James Deane meant nothing to any of us; and our ignorance must have shown in our faces; for Verrieul quickly enlightened us. “He studied at Dartmouth also. He lived among the Oneidas from boyhood, placed there by his father, a minister, for the purpose of becoming a missionary. His family is a great family. He has an uncle, Silas Deane: a great man. James Deane speaks Iroquois better than the Iroquois themselves. There is nothing at all—nothing—that the Oneidas would not do for James Deane. I have travelled with him. It was he who taught me to speak the Iroquois language better than most.

“Then I am good at Huron—very good. Of course, there is little difference. They are about alike, Huron and Iroquois speech. Lewis Vincent is a Huron. Maybe you have heard of Payne’s Tavern in Hanover?”

We stared at him, fascinated by the activity of his mind and his talent of speaking highly of himself without giving offence.

“It was Payne’s Tavern,” he told us, “that caused the battle last year between the Revrint Doctor Wheelock and the townspeople, and the battle had its beginning because Lewis Vincent and unworthy Joseph Verrieul were unfortunately affected by liquor obtained there.”

“You mean you got drunk with this Huron?” Cap asked.

Verrieul made a slight movement with one hand, a gesture expressive of a faint distaste. “Observers said that Lewis and I temporarily lacked our usual good judgment,” he admitted. “If the Revrint Doctor had not loved me greatly, I think it would have gone hard with Lewis, because he danced naked in the halls of the college, very noisy. It was I who went to the Revrint Doctor and explained such lack of discernment; and because of my explanation, he placed the blame on Payne and his Tavern.” There was an angelic look on Verrieul’s thin brown face. “So that will show you,” he continued gently, “how I am situated with Lewis Vincent. Lewis Vincent has made me his brother. I have learned from him to speak very nicely in Huron. I have made orations in the tongue. Last year I made an oration to Lewis Vincent on the wickedness of drinking—an oration so powerful that Lewis wept and for over three days refused to think, even, of liquor.”

Doc Means, who had been gently kneading Verrieul’s ankles, sat back on his heels. “Move your feet,” he told the boy. “See how they feel.”

“Why!” Verrieul said, “there’s no pain in them: only some stiffness!”

Doc Means puttered about him, making him comfortable; so the rest of us took our bowls and spoons and sat before the long fire in the dusk to eat our rabbit stew.

For the first time, then, Cap Huff mentioned his trip to the westward. “Stevie,” he said uneasily, “how long is it going to be before we can move? Something’s happened up north. The lake-shore’s thick with deserters, hiding in the brush and saying nothing to nobody.”

Nason stared at him, frowning. “Deserters? Deserters from where?”

“There’s no telling. You can’t catch ’em. They act as if all hell was after ’em.”

Nason’s reply was both short and sudden. “We’ll move to-morrow. We’ll burn the clothes and the cabin after breakfast, and then we’ll wash up and go.” He looked doubtfully at Verrieul, who was lying back, his eyes closed, a thin seraph in the firelight. “You’ll have to put this young man on your horse and carry him to the first settlement, so he can have help until he’s able to start for Hanover.”

“There’s nothing to hinder him making his own way,” Doc Means said. “I’ll have him walking by morning.”

At the weary weakness of Doc Means’s voice, Verrieul opened his eyes to stare solicitously at him. Then he smiled fondly at everybody. “I’m in no hurry to return to Hanover,” he said. “I’ve taken a notion to go along with you for a time. It might be I could be useful to you.”

It was apparent to all of us that he could indeed be useful; but how useful he was to be, we could not dream. Nor had we even a slight suspicion that our meeting with Joseph Marie Verrieul was the last piece of good fortune that was to come our way for many a long day.


At Allen’s Landing, where the Winooski River flows into Lake Champlain, there was, as Cap had surmised, little besides a sawmill and a gristmill, and a store run by one of the Allens that are almost as plentiful in the Hampshire grants as are Starks in New Hampshire. Here we found ourselves the owners of two canoes for which Cap Huff, during his absence from our smallpox camp, had arranged to trade his horse and frying pans. They were ancient relics, the bark gone in patches and the pitch over their seams black and broken with age, so that they looked to me about as seaworthy as corn-cribs.

Nason and Verrieul, however, commended Cap’s judgment in acquiring them. They were North canoes, Verrieul said, made by Indians far to the north-west, beyond the Grand Portage on Lake Superior; so they must have been brought here and abandoned by traders. To me they seemed unwieldy things, too large for any use; but Verrieul said No: they were snug and tidy, easy to handle by comparison with the great Master canoes, which were forty feet long, and needed fourteen men to paddle: yet they were heavy enough for lake travel, unlike the twenty-foot half-canoes to which eastern pork-eaters like ourselves are accustomed. They were nine paces long, and two paces wide, each one constructed to accommodate eleven men—a look-out in the bow, a steersman standing in the stern, six middlemen with paddles on the three thwarts amidships, and three passengers.

Following Verrieul’s instructions, we peeled bark from yellow birches and laid it over the rents in these dilapidated hulks, stitching it in place with what he called wattape—the fine roots of red spruces; after which Nason and Verrieul daubed the seams with melted pine pitch. It was like a miracle to see these bargains of Cap’s changed, almost in a moment, from wragged wrecks into trim and glistening craft.

Yet Verrieul’s face grew longer when we tried them in the water; for with six men sitting high on the thwarts, the canoes moved so skittishly that even a landsman could see we were like to end our days on the bottom of Lake Champlain. We must have practice, Verrieul said, in balancing ourselves. He had no sooner said it than Cap bawled to us from the shore that he had learned from the settlers at Allen’s Landing that a fleet of bateaux, loaded with supplies, had passed north the day before.

“There ain’t enough supplies here to feed a sick peewit!” Cap shouted. “We better catch up with those bateaux, Stevie, and find some food before the troops get ahead of us! You know how soldiers are, Stevie: never thinking of nothing but food!”

He kept up his bellowing and complaining until Nason beached the canoes and ordered us to get our packs aboard so that we could set off after the supply-boats.

Since this gave us no time to perfect ourselves in balancing, there was nothing to do but eliminate the need for it; and this we did by lashing a block to the bottom of each canoe and stepping a mast in it—a mast with a single yard, so we could lie in the bottom of the canoe and sail ourselves.

When Cap lumbered down to join us, and stowed himself into the after part of our canoe, between Verrieul and Nathaniel, who tended the tacks of our rude sail while I handled the steering paddle, he was in a bitter humour; for the suddenness of our departure had cut him short in some of his trading ventures. He had been forced, he said, to exchange some of the choicest of his supplies for a bundle of paper money corded up like old love letters, hundreds of dollars worth of it. It was all the fault of Congress, he said recklessly. Congress had taken a hand in financial matters, and printed money whenever any one needed some, which was about as sensible as a man promising to marry every girl he saw. In such a case, he said, the girls soon got to know that his promises didn’t mean anything, and he couldn’t even get a howdy-do out of them, let alone anything more comforting; and that was the way with Congress money. The people were learning that it didn’t mean anything, and in no time at all they would be refusing to sell even a squash pie for anything less than two thousand dollars in Congress money.

Nason, who had taken Tom Bickford to handle the steering oar of his canoe, shouted to us to get along. “Keep going,” he said, “till dark, or till your seams open up.”

So, to the tune of Cap’s grumbling, we slid out into the lake on a fair wind, set a course between the point of Grand Isle and the high shores of Valcour Island, and were off on our long journey to the northward—a journey that we hoped, as do all those who go off to war, would bring us nothing but comradeship and gay adventure, and perhaps a little glory.

I am not much of an admirer of fresh water; for to me it seems weak and treacherous, always, becoming suddenly angry over nothing and tossing up hysterical imitations of waves. So furious are these, and at the same time so devoid of substance, that a vessel may readily fall through them from lack of support, and sink. Yet if I should be condemned to spend a part of my life on fresh water, I could put up with Lake Champlain better than with most; for though its water has a muddy look, its rugged shores are full of coves and grown up to handsome timber; and beyond its eastern shore bulk the Green Mountains of the Hampshire Grants, as satisfying a mountain-wall as a man can see anywhere.

When Cap had indiscreetly aired his opinions of the financial abilities of Congress, he seemed to cast about in his mind for other things at which to grumble; and at length, in a hoarse and angry voice, he questioned Verrieul concerning the Indians who might be used against us by the English—provided we had heard correctly in London from Marie de Sabrevois.

“You want to listen to this, Cap’n Peter,” he told me, while Verrieul pondered. “You never can tell when information about these red weasels might come in handy.” Cap was a profane man, and put no curb on his tongue where Indians were concerned when he was with me; though when Nason was present, he sometimes contented himself with looking distant and haughty when red men were mentioned.

“Weasels?” Verrieul asked quickly. “Which ones do you call weasels?”

“All of ’em!” Cap replied promptly. “They’re all a lot of dirty, thieving, red weasels! Cut your throat quick as a wink, and can’t hold their liquor!”

“How about your friend Natanis that I have heard you speak of?” Verrieul asked. “How many throats has he cut?”

Cap was indignant. “Don’t get the wrong idea about Natanis,” he said. “He’s a friend. He’s different, Natanis is. Stevie saved his life once. We’ve all kind of helped each other a few times.”

“But dirty, eh?” Verrieul asked.

“I told you he was different,” Cap growled. “He really ain’t an Indian, except for having an Indian father and mother and a red hide. He don’t even drink, the poor ignorollamus; he don’t understand nothing about pleasure at all!”

Verrieul nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, that’s a strange thing about Indians. We find them peculiar because, although they are called savage, they are often as civilised as white men, and sometimes more so.”

“Like hell they are!” Cap said. “How are they?”

“Because,” Verrieul said, “in every Indian nation, even the worst, there are many good men, and more honest ones, and even some that are merciful towards their enemies, which is against all common sense. White men, being civilised and not at all savage, avoid common sense as much as possible; but all Indians, whether good or bad, are taught to have a high regard for common sense. Those that are merciful, therefore, are merciful in spite of their teachings; whereas white men, who are for ever taught to be merciful, are often the opposite.”

Cap muttered and scratched his head. “I don’t see no sense to what you say! Why is it against common sense to be merciful to an enemy?”

“Look,” Verrieul said. “We’re making war against the English. We make war against them in order to kill them, do we not?”

“For sure we do!” Cap admitted.

“That’s why Indians fight, too,” Verrieul said. “To kill their enemies. They can’t understand it, many of them, when they’re asked to go out and kill enemies, and are then told it’s cruel to kill them when the opportunity presents. The way to kill enemies is not to be merciful to them, they say, but to kill them.”

“They’re a lot of dirty, underhand red stinks,” Cap said.

“There’s another thing,” Verrieul told us. “The nations change a good deal. It depends on the Manitousiou—m’téoulin—or whatever a nation calls the man whose words it finds most acceptable. Sorcerer, maybe, you’d call him; or maybe magician. Shaman, the western nations say. The nations are almost like trading companies: under good men they’re better than under bad men. And as the years go on, they learn how to do things better. Even the Montagnais have learned to make leggings that don’t fall apart every time the wind blows. I guess we were pretty bad three hundred years ago. I guess we were dirty, and superstitious, too, maybe; and maybe even cruel. The Revrint Doctor Wheelock told me that when the Holy Catholic Church tortured people, it thought up worse tortures than any Indian ever imagined. Catholics have changed, the Revrint Wheelock said, and so have the Indians. They’re better than they were a hundred and fifty years ago—better than they were when the Jesuit fathers first lived among them.”

“Just a lot of red stinks!” Cap repeated.

“One thing I quickly learned when I travelled with James Deane,” Verrieul said, seeming not to hear Cap’s words, “was that if you live with Hurons, you’re sure that Hurons are the kindest people on earth, and Iroquois the most terrible; whereas if you live with Iroquois, you feel that no man ever had truer friends than the Iroquois, and that Hurons are wild beasts.”

“Buzzards!” Cap remarked. “Red buzzards!”

“Well,” Verrieul said, “if they’re buzzards, how do you account for the white children who have been captured by Indian nations, and liked them so well they refused to go back to live with white men again?”

“Listen!” Cap said. “When a man gets used to buzzards, he ain’t going to where there’s buzzards he ain’t used to, is he? He likes the buzzards he’s got used to now better than the buzzards he used to be used to, don’t he? Don’t it stand to reason? You answer me that!”

“Now I have become confused,” Verrieul smiled apologetically. “But in spite of what you say, Captain Huff—or maybe not in spite of it—I don’t know which—James Deane is no buzzard. It is true, though, that after he had spent some years with the Oneidas, it was with great difficulty he was persuaded to come to Hanover with the Revrint Doctor Wheelock. The Sachem of St. Francis, Joseph Gill: he was a white captive, and so was his wife. He’s a wise man—no buzzard at all; but he wouldn’t go back to live with white people, nor his wife either; by no means! In Dartmouth there are three from Caughnawaga, all grandchildren of white captives who would never go back among white people—the grandson of Mr. Stacy from Ipswich, and the grandson of Mr. Tarbull from Groton, and the grandson of Eunice Williams from Deerfield.”

Cap Huff reached back and touched me on the knee. “You don’t want to take too much stock in what he says, Cap’n Peter.” He looked at Verrieul indignantly. “You’re like all the rest of these friends of the Indians! Ask ’em something straightforward and honest about the red weasels, and they tell you everything but what you want to know. All I want to know is which of these red buzzards we’ll have to fight; and the answer I get is a lot of talk about white men that want to be Indians!”

That was Cap Huff’s way when the talk turned on Indians. He would ask for information about them; but it seemed impossible for him to believe anything he heard, or even to listen to the information for which he asked. It was plain to be seen that Verrieul would have answered Cap’s questions as well as he could if Cap had let him; but the more Verrieul tried, the louder Cap grumbled and swore, so that Verrieul finally had to give it up.

. . . Thanks to our blanket sails and a fair wind, we camped that night on Isle La Motte, near the Canadian end of the lake, not only to rest our cramped muscles, but also to pitch our canoes once more; for the constant movement of these large canoes cracks off the pitch, so that they must be re-pitched each day.

We were eager to get forward. Our pork was gone, and there was not enough corn meal among all of us to nourish a chickadee. We had nothing to give substance to the fish Zelph cooked for us: they were watery and tasteless; no more filling than slush. Therefore we were restless and up with the false dawn, and afloat again soon after, hastening north between rocky shores that drew constantly closer together, and watching eagerly for the supply-boats of which Cap had learned.

So intently did we peer ahead into the faint mists that rose from the surface of this narrowing lake that without knowing how it happened, or when, we saw that the lake was a lake no longer, but had become a broad brown river that swept us along between banks as flat as those behind us had been steep and rocky. We had come to Canada at last.

The river was the Richelieu, though Verrieul said it was also known as the Iroquois River, because it was the pathway followed by the Iroquois when they went north, as they often did in the old days, to wage war on the Montagnais.

This river, said Verrieul, ran straight north and emptied into the St. Lawrence at Sorel, the town at the end of the tremendous wide place known as Lake St. Peter, and that was how we would go: through St. John’s, a matter of thirty miles from Lake Champlain: then on twice as far again to Sorel, through water a little broken: then down the St. Lawrence to Quebec.


Whenever Cap Huff spoke of Quebec, which he often did, he smacked his lips. “It ain’t much to look at,” he told us, “but after we’ve reported to Arnold, we’ll scout out around Sillery.” He lowered his voice to a hoarse whisper. “There’s a place out in Sillery that’s got brandy in the cellar that’ll surprise you! Take maybe a third of a bottle, and for three days afterward you won’t remember none of the worst things you ever done. That’s the nice thing about it!”

But the closer we had come to Canada, the more silent Nathaniel had grown, almost as though his mind were busy with something that would not let him rest. His increasing quiet, I felt, was somehow due to Marie de Sabrevois; to something she had said to him in London, or to something in the letter she had given him—the letter Nathaniel had never mentioned to me. I became almost certain of this when I heard him asking Cap Huff how long we would stay in St. John’s.

“Stay?” Cap asked. “We’ll stay long enough to get some food. We’ll buy us a couple of young pigs, maybe, and a barrel of that cider with brandy in it.” His answer seemed comforting to Nathaniel, and I made up my mind not to let him out of my sight in St. John’s.

We were half-way between the lake and St. John’s when we caught sight of the bateaux we were pursuing. They were abreast of a long, low island in the river—an island with a wealth of alders on it. This low and swampy island, Verrieul told us, was the Isle aux Noix—a gloomy place, almost a swamp, but used for military camps by French armies and Indian war parties since time out of mind. We were to know it better soon; and even now there was a singular thing about it that caught our attention.

There were open fields on the island, and amidst them we saw a white house—a house with eaves that curved upwards as if warped in the damp air of the place. The singular thing of which I speak lay in the actions of the people who were working in the fields. As soon as we came in sight, they ran like frightened rabbits, and vanished; so that the whole island, as we passed, might have been deserted.

Cap Huff scratched his head in bewilderment. “By Gosh!” he said, “that don’t look right! These Frenchmen up here in Canada, they like us. Leastways, they always have. It was them as learned me my French songs, and how to drink cider with brandy in it! What’s got into ’em, I’d like to know?”

He was clearly aggrieved as we drew up towards the hindmost bateau—a sort of scow with a swivel gun mounted bow and stern; and the greeting we received was not calculated to calm him. A man in the stern pointed his swivel at Cap’s stomach, and warned us off.

“Where you from and where you going?” he shouted. “What’s your business?”

I ran off to larboard to let Cap talk to him. “Detachment of scouts for General Arnold,” Cap bawled. “Going to Quebec! What you want to be so damned military about?”

The man in the stern stared at us: then swung his swivel gun to one side and jerked his head by way of inviting us to come closer.

“Where you been?” he asked, as I laid the canoe alongside him. “You been in jail or something?”

“We been coming over the trail from Maine,” Cap said.

“You must have laid up somewhere if you ain’t heard the news,” the man said. “You ain’t going to see Quebec this trip.” By way of afterthought he added grimly, “Nor any other trip, neither, the way things look now.”

Cap breathed heavily. “You mean they licked Arnold?”

“Arnold? No, not Arnold! They ain’t got around to him, yet! Arnold left Quebec when Wooster came down there to take command, in April. There wasn’t any room for Arnold after Wooster got there, the damned old woman, so Arnold went back to Montreal and took command there.” He stared at us balefully, muttering “damned old woman” under his breath.

“Who’s a damned old woman?” Cap demanded.

“Wooster! He’s out now. They threw him out. He was an old woman. General Thomas tooken his place.”

“Thomas!” Cap growled. “Thomas! I never heard of him! Where do they get all these generals I never heard of! They must grow ’em on bushes! Why didn’t they leave Arnold where he was? There wasn’t anybody as good as Arnold!”

The scow-man snorted. “Brother, save your breath! Don’t ask why! There ain’t nobody knows why anybody does anything up in this hell-hole! If ever there was a pack of half-wits running things, it’s here and now! Congressmen running an army! Hell!” He spat furiously into the water.

“Say, brother,” Cap warned him, “you better be careful how you talk about Congress! There’s a law against it!”

The man laughed bitterly. “Wait till you been up here a few hours before you start telling me how to talk about Congress! Wait till you begin to look around for food! That’s my job, carrying food! We carry in half enough to feed them that’s here. Half enough! There ain’t money to buy more! Congress ain’t got none! No money and no brains, neither—sending men up here without giving ’em no way to keep alive! And more men to come, too: four regiments! Four more regiments, under Sullivan, due to leave Albany any day; due to come up here and holler for food that nobody ain’t got!”

Nason’s canoe, with Doc Means staring helplessly at us over the high curved bow, came up astern. Tom Bickford swung her alongside; and the middlemen laid their paddles across our gunwale to keep the bark sides from chafing.

Cap Huff twisted himself so violently in the bottom of the canoe, in order to meet Nason’s eye, that I held him down for fear he might upset us all. He sat there, rigid with rage, and bawled hoarsely at Nason: “No food, he says, Stevie! No food, by God, and we can’t go to Quebec! This is a hell of a war!”

Nason seemed to ponder the words, and the rest of us were silent, staring at the dark forests through which this broad stream relentlessly hurried us.

It was the man at the swivel gun who broke the silence. “I should say it was a hell of a war!” he cried, “thanks to your damned New Englanders!”

We transferred our attention from the forests to him. He fingered his gun uneasily, and spoke defensively. “That’s what it was: your damned New Englanders! Three weeks ago they were sitting outside of Quebec, pinching their pennies and stealing each other’s food, same as ever. Then, by God, Carleton opened the gate and popped out at ’em; and the New Englanders, they’re running yet! Left their guns and camp kettles: left all their ammunition and medicines: left the food in the kettles, even, so’s they could run their heads off! Some of ’em ran all the way around Montreal, so Arnold wouldn’t catch ’em; and some of ’em ran through the woods, all the way back to New England! You’ll find some of ’em up around Lake Superior, still running, prob’ly! Look at these folks on shore, the way they act! They won’t have nothing to do with us, since your damned New Englanders started running!”

Cap rubbed his face with his huge hands, as if to clear it of insects. “You’re a liar!” he said. “If they did any running, they did it because the Yorkers started it! Where you from? New York?”

The man slapped his swivel gun and laughed derisively. “New York? Not me! I’m from a real place! I’m from Pennsylvania.”

“All right, brother,” Cap said. “When you’re talking to us, don’t be so damned free about New Englanders! We been up in this Quebec country before: with Arnold. If we’d had half enough food then, we’d ’a’ been well fed! Nothing to eat for a month but squirrel-hair and rock-tripe! None of our folks did any running, brother! A few, maybe; but none to speak of. If there’s been any done since, I’ll bet you a bottle of rum to an eel skin it was started by Yorkers, headed by Lieutenant Colonel Donald Campbell of the New York line!”

“Say!” the Pennsylvanian exclaimed, “come to think of it, it was Campbell they were all cussing!”

Nason shouted at his middlemen. They let go of our canoe and dug in their paddles with such force that the water sucked and swirled. As Tom Bickford swung the craft into midstream with his long steering-paddle, Nason spoke quietly to Cap Huff. “Drive your men! If we can’t reach Quebec, we’ve got to leave the river at St. John’s and get somewhere—and get there quick!”


St. John’s is a sort of seaport in the middle of nowhere, for vessels can sail to it from Champlain; but beyond it there are falls and quick water, difficult for even canoes to pass. Montreal lies to the west, and Sorel and the broad St. Lawrence to the north, and Albany to the south, so it is well situated for a prosperous trading town. Ordinarily, I have no doubt, it looks pleasant enough, with its broad fortified enclosure containing barracks and a shipyard and various small buildings on the westward bank, and a winding road along the river, with farms and a large house or two fronting on it; and on the eastern side a ridge of high land with more farms and an imposing manor house.

But when we ran our canoes toward the landing on that cold May afternoon, St. John’s looked to have been struck by a plague and an earthquake combined.

There was a half-finished vessel in the shipyard—a brig or schooner—and not a soul near it, so that it had the appearance of a skeleton. The whole place looked dead. Shutters covered the windows of such houses as we could see, and boards were nailed across the fronts of warehouses and barracks, as if they had been gutted by a violent wind and hastily repaired.

The road that paralleled the landing was littered with rubbish. Amid the rubbish, around small fires, sat groups of men so furtive and so dejected in appearance that they might have been beggars out of the filthy slums of London.

Not only were they thin and unshaven, but they were half-clothed, all of them: some with bundles of muddy cloth tied around their feet in place of shoes: some in coats with gaping seams through which the linings hung: some with breeches sadly torn and draggled: some even coatless, and in ragged shirts as dark as the gray clouds that drifted across us from the eastward.

As we stared at them, two men a little better dressed came out from the nearest warehouse and walked quickly to the landing. Their clothes were travesties on uniforms: but uniforms they must have been; for though the men were swordless, they wore the brass gorgets of officers at their throats.

“Where’s the provision boats?” one of them asked us.

“An hour behind,” Nason said.

“How much this time, and what is it you’re carrying?”

Nason shook his head. “We aren’t with ’em.”

“Not with ’em!” the officer shouted. “Then you got to keep away from here! Orders are, no more men received in this section unless provided with rations! That’s what’s been holding Sullivan and Wayne in Albany, damn it, and here you come, contrary to orders! My God! There’s two hundred and eighty smallpox cases—soldiers they call themselves—lying in huts here with nothing to put in their stomachs! I say you can’t come ashore!”

Nason looked down at the swift brown water of the river for a time, while the rest of us stared dumbly at this cheerless town. “We’ll feed ourselves,” he said at length. “We——”

“Feed yourselves!” the officer cried. “What with! What’re you going to eat in place of food? This army’s supposed to be getting six tons of pork a day, and we’re getting less than two!”

“We’ve got to get through to Arnold,” Nason said patiently. “He sent me back to Maine from Quebec on purpose to get these men to do scout duty.”

The officer’s face changed a little. “Scout duty? It’s a pity you couldn’t have been here sooner, to do some scouting on a few of the weasels Arnold’s got under him!”

Nason seemed lost in a contemplative silence; but at length he cleared his throat and spoke softly. “Weasels? Who would that be?”

“That would be Bedel and Butterfield, just to name two of ’em!” the officer said sharply. “You don’t mean to say you haven’t heard what happened at the Cedars!”

“Look here,” Nason said, “I’m going to take these men through to Arnold! Do we come ashore here, or do we have to land back a piece and dodge around you?”

The officer spat violently. “Well, everything’s in a mess, anyway, and I guess you won’t make it much worse. Come ahead.”

We drew our canoes from the water, and overturned them to make shelters for our muskets and packs, while the two officers stood watching us. Nason placed guards over our baggage: then turned to the officers. “What’s this about the Cedars? Was it because of something that happened at Quebec?”

One of them walked away: the other stared moodily at the ground. Then the man in motion must have changed his mind, for he turned and came back to us, his face as red as an Indian blanket. When he spoke, there was both venom and despair in his voice. “A mess! A dirty damned mess!” When he saw all of us silent, watching him, he spoke more calmly.

“Quebec! No, it wasn’t because of Quebec! The Cedars was worse than Quebec, some ways, if anything could be worse! You know where the Cedars is?”

Nason shook his head.

“It’s thirty miles above Montreal, at a bend in the St. Lawrence. Before Arnold came up from Quebec, Colonel Moses Hazen was in charge at Montreal. You know Hazen?”

Again Nason shook his head.

“Hazen lives across the river, in Iberville,” the officer explained. “You can see his house: the big one over there, on the high land.” He pointed toward the opposite bank, and we saw the house he meant: an imposing place, with what might have been the smaller houses of retainers scattered along the ridge near it, but not too near.

“Oh, yes,” the officer said angrily, “he’s got quite a place: quite a place! Farmers; and nuns to teach the farmers’ children, and everything! He owns a mill here, and a tavern at Chambly, and sells rum that ain’t fit for nothing but poisoning Indians. Quite a feller!”

I was amused at his bitterness; and the officer, doubtless seeing my amusement, hastily added: “Some damned fool made him an American officer; but if you ask me, I think he’s neither flesh nor fowl nor good red herring. He changed sides once so he wouldn’t lose his property, and if you ask me, he’s ready to do it again. Anyway, it was Hazen that ordered four hundred of our men up to the Cedars, so’s nobody could come down the river and attack Montreal. He put Colonel Bedel in charge of ’em. Timothy Bedel. Hazen likes him, and if you ask me, that accounts for everything.” He stared at us defiantly, as if expecting contradiction.

“Well, sir,” he went on, “there was some English and Indians up the river, and two weeks ago they did come down. Forty regulars and two-three hundred Indians there were, against Bedel’s four hundred; and Bedel in a fort with two twelve-pounders. Bedel got word they was coming, and just drifted off to Montreal! Ran away, by God!”

“Anybody shot him yet?” Cap Huff asked.

“Listen,” the officer said. “Bedel left a major in command of the Cedars. Butterfield. Major Butterfield. The British and the Indians, they came down the river and the British major sent word to the fort. ‘Kindly surrender,’ he says, ‘as we got business elsewhere, and no time to waste on this annoying place.’ ”

Cap Huff laughed hoarsely.

The officer fixed him with an angry stare.

“You can laugh,” he said, “but that’s what Butterfield did! Yes, sir: that’s what he did! He surrendered! Never fired a gun! Had four hundred men and a fort, and he surrendered to two hundred and fifty! Every last one of the four hundred was took prisoner! The Indians stripped ’em and killed a few. Scalped ’em! Chopped ’em up the way you would a halibut! They say the men were crazy at Butterfield—wanted to kill him.”

Nason made a little clicking noise with his tongue, such as a man makes when he learns of a friend’s misfortune.

“That must have tickled Arnold,” Cap Huff said.

The officer sighed. “God knows! It was only last week this happened. No word’s come through yet. We heard the British warned Arnold not to attack ’em, or they’d turn the prisoners over to the Indians and let every last one of ’em be butchered; but maybe ’tain’t true.”

We stood there silently beside our overturned canoes, above us the heavy gray skies of Canada; behind us, squatted over their miserable fires, the dejected and unkempt soldiers who waited for the scant provisions that must be hurried to a hungry and frightened army. If this was war, I thought to myself—this muck of hunger and distrust and disease and raggedness and cowardice—it was different from all my imaginings: so different that a little would be enough for me.

I looked at Nathaniel, fearing to find in his face some sign of regret for our situation; but he was fingering his pocket and staring across the river to the small farm-houses here and there along the ridge. There was something in his mind, I could see, besides the war: something important enough to veil the darkness of the prospect before us; and what that something was, I was sure I knew.

At length Nason laughed as if he cared nothing for what he had heard; but to me his laugh had a false and hollow sound. “We’ll soon know what happened,” he said. “We’ll soon know! We’ve got to have food to get us to Montreal, and when we’ve got it——”

The officer interrupted him. “You might get it across the river in Iberville, from one of the French farmers, but only if you’ve got hard money. Since the retreat from Quebec, the French won’t touch Congress money. They’ve turned against us, the lousy frog-eaters! That’s why we’re in such a hell of a mess! There ain’t a cent’s worth of hard money in sight anywhere, and none of us can buy anything. When Greaton’s men went up to Montreal from Sorel the other day, to help Arnold, the only thing they could get to eat was thirty loaves of bread the Commissioners bought for ’em out of their own pockets.”

“I’ve got a little hard money,” Nathaniel said suddenly. “I think I can go across the river to those farms, yonder, and pick up enough corn meal to get this detachment to Montreal.”

There was relief in Nason’s voice. “Good! I won’t forget it! Buy what you can and get back here with it as soon as possible. You’d better take Verrieul to do the talking.”

“He won’t need Verrieul,” I said. “I’ll go with him. I’ve got some hard money, too, and I can speak a little French: enough to get food.”

That was how Nathaniel and I happened to cross the brown waters of the Richelieu together, and set off up the slope toward the small farms on the high land. We may have looked fraternal enough, being similar in height and appearance; but there was little brotherly love in the way Nathaniel pressed his lips tight together and stared straight ahead. When we were out of sight of the canoes, he spoke with what might have been indifference. “There’s no need of our staying together. We’ll probably get more if we go separately.”

“Now, look here,” I told him, “we haven’t any time to waste. I know what’s in your mind. When you got into the chaise in London, that woman with the French name gave you a letter to carry with you to Canada. Do you think I didn’t take note of that, Nathaniel, or that I’ve forgotten it?”

Nathaniel’s colour heightened. “Well, what of it?”

“This,” I said. “I think your mind’s on that letter now, more than on your duty. To be frank about it, Nathaniel, I’m afraid that if I don’t come with you, you might go out of your way to deliver that letter. As matters stand, I am with you, and our business is to get through to Montreal the straightest and quickest we can.”

Even as I spoke, it came to me, with something of surprise, that my brooding over Marie de Sabrevois and the fear of how she might affect my brother had made me reluctant to speak her name openly; and when Nathaniel, a moment later, also showed an unwillingness to speak her name, I knew there was more than a little in what I suspected of his feeling for her.

“I know our business as well as you do,” he said. “I admit I’ve got a letter to deliver. It’s one she wrote that little ward of hers she spoke of. It’s a matter for you not to interfere in, I take it.”

I looked at him shrewdly. “Why is it you’ve fingered that letter in your pocket so much? Why is it that for days you’ve heard little that was said to you? Why is it you’ve been all along more bent on getting to St. John’s than on getting to Quebec?”

“What’s wrong in such a note?” he asked testily. “A note of affection from a kind woman to a young girl! ’Tisn’t a wickedness, is it?”

“We’re wasting time,” I told him again. “This country’s British, even if we are in it. My mind’s made up: if anybody wants to know where you’ve been in this town, and who you’ve seen, I propose to be able to tell him.”

Nathaniel faced me. “What is it you’re hinting at?”

“I’m hinting at nothing. You saw, in Arundel, how much trouble can spring from next to nothing nowadays. Well, I want no more trouble of that sort. If you want to present your letter, hurry up about it, because I’m going with you.”

Nathaniel’s glance filled me with discomfort; for it seemed to me to hold contempt as well as anger. But at last, seeing that his displeasure had no effect on my stubbornness, he fumbled in his pocket and drew out a crumpled envelope addressed:

Ellen Phipps,

   Château de St. Auge,

      Iberville contre St. Jean.

Along the ridge opposite the St. John’s fort there were, in addition to Hazen’s house, a number of small farm-houses, but only one that might be called a château—and if it was indeed a château, then Hazen’s big house, not far distant, was a royal palace. It was an affair of rough boards plentifully daubed with whitewash, capped with a roof of hand-split shingles. Its eaves curved upward as if warped by the heat and the moisture of this flat country.

With one accord we turned our steps towards it, whereupon another suspicion that had crept into my mind in London was confirmed; for cut in the wood above the entrance was a cross. In addition, there was another taller cross planted before the house: a cross with an amazing collection of objects attached to its upper portions—bottles, hammers, roosters, gun-rammers and a score of other things. When I thumped on the door, it was opened by a spectacled nun who looked at us with a face as blank as a shuttered window.

“Hold up the letter for her to see,” I told Nathaniel, “but don’t let her have it.”

He held it up, and I said “Est-elle ici?”

The nun adjusted her spectacles and stared at the envelope: then, with a movement so quick that Nathaniel almost fell backward, she snatched at it. Nathaniel put it behind him, and raised his eyebrows appealingly, whereupon the nun sourly said “Entrez!”

She left us in a room that had high-coloured pictures of saints on the walls, and was furnished with four stiff chairs covered with horsehair. We were uncomfortable, for more reasons than the chairs accounted for, and waited in silence, not looking at each other, until, at length, another older woman, with an even more expressionless face, came silently into the room, and with her a girl no older than my sister Jane.

The woman, I thought, affected a nunnish air without being a nun; for her gray gown clung to her figure, but was fastened at the waist with a common leather strap, very ostentatious, as if she advertised her sanctity. The girl with her seemed, in a way, half a nun herself; for her dress was severe and simple, made from a rough gray material, better fitted, I thought, for potato-sacking than for wearing. At her throat and wrists were bands of black, which gave her garb the look of a uniform, and not a gay uniform either.

In spite of the dullness of her garments, she had the cheeriest look of any girl I had ever seen. Her hair was dark brown—so dark as to seem almost black; and it curled in tight little curls around her forehead and ears and the nape of her neck, a cap of crinkly, glistening, chestnut-coloured fleece. I was filled with curiosity, the moment I saw her, to know whether the ringlets were soft, or whether they would be harsh to the touch; and I think my curiosity was not unusual; for when the lady had looked at us almost sleepily, she said, “Sit down, Ellen”; and as she did so she passed her hand gently over the girl’s tight mass of brown curls. Ellen sat down at once, prim and obedient, and looked up at us out of brown eyes so bright that they seemed to glitter as the brown brass of my sextant sometimes glitters when I look across it at the sun. Yet there was nothing hard about those eyes. Although they glittered, they seemed both warm and soft, like the finest Lisbon sherry.

The lady regarded us. “You have a letter for Ellen?” she asked. “I am Madame St. Auge. I will take it, please.”

Nathaniel gave her the envelope. When she had glanced carelessly at the name on it, she turned it over and looked thoughtfully at the seal; then fingered the square of paper dreamily, while Ellen’s round brown eyes stared at it as if she expected it to burst into speech.

“Yes,” Madame St. Auge said. “The writing is that of a dear friend. From where do you bring this letter?”

“From London,” Nathaniel said. He coughed. “We were in London until the end of March. She—I met her——” He coughed again, seeming to have trouble with his throat.

Madame St. Auge’s eyes darted from his face to mine, and fell again to the letter.

“Yes,” she said, “yes.” She broke the seal and gave the contents one swift glance. She smoothed the letter on her knee, then, and made a cooing sound. I could see there were only a few lines on the page, written large, so that much of the paper was wasted. “A sweet note,” she murmured to Ellen. “Like herself; sweet, my dear!” Then she read it aloud.

“My darling Ellen; I send you my love by a kind gentleman who may see you before I do. I shall come to you as soon as I return. Pray assure the good Madame St. Auge that all goes well here, but that I long to see you once more, never again to leave you. To M. Montgolfier I send my respects, and to you eight thousand kisses. The gentleman who brings this to you will, I am sure, assist you in any possible way, if the opportunity should arise.”

Nathaniel looked at me reproachfully, and I could not meet his eye. I was ashamed of the curious broodings that had been mine concerning him, and Mademoiselle de Sabrevois and the letter; and I wanted to tell him that I was sorry, and to ask his pardon; but I suppose that I have always had a stiffness, both in mind and manner, that makes such matters awkward for me.

At all events, I sat saying nothing; and then, abruptly, I began to think again about this letter. The surface of it was simple, kind and sweet; but there were three words in it that all at once repeated themselves to me, and gave me odd thoughts. “Eight thousand kisses.”

Then, too, why was this harmless letter so brief? The woman who wrote it professed a deep affection for her ward, and had few opportunities to communicate with her. I thought so much love might have been more copious in expression: more ample of news.

And those eight thousand kisses? Lovers and mothers and tender women writing to children send a thousand kisses, or ten thousand kisses; they do not send two thousand or six thousand or eight thousand, though I could admit the possibility that here and there five thousand might be sent. Eight thousand was a number I misliked.

However, seeing that Nathaniel was fumbling for words, I thought it wise to say a few myself. I said them somewhat at random, but not altogether. During our voyage, my musings had sometimes occupied themselves a little with the quiet figure that had been our companion for a time; and just at this moment I recalled rather sharply that we had first encountered that figure in Marie de Sabrevois’s company. An impulse decided me to mention him.

“Well,” I said to Madame St. Auge, “it was a pleasure to meet the lady, and her uncle, also. It was due to Mr. Leonard that we were able to leave England when we did. I hoped he might arrive here before us, even.”

“Leonard?” she asked. “Leonard?” then she smiled. “Ah, Lanaudiere!” The word was no sooner out of her mouth than her face seemed to stiffen. “Your English names!” she protested. “They’re difficult for us! I do not know that name you spoke! I do not know that gentleman! We have no knowledge of him.”

Here, at least, was something—not much, but a sign, perhaps: an indication. I fixed the name firmly in my mind: Lanaudiere. It was possible that a Lanaudiere might somehow be connected with Marie de Sabrevois, and in no praiseworthy manner. At all events, Madame St. Auge had made a slip. That was clear from the volubility of her protests. She was frightened, too, at having made it; but I knew I could gain nothing by letting her see I had noticed her mistake.

“Too bad,” I said, “too bad! If you should ever meet Mr. Leonard, please to tell him we inquired for him. And now about that letter: as she says, of course, we’d be happy to assist this young lady in any possible way; but we’re in the army and not our own masters.”

“Ah, yes,” she said slowly. “You are a part of that poor army. Yes, yes! I understand! It is something we know little about, this terrible war. We hear sad tales: sad tales! These poor Americans! Without food and without medicines! I hope they can return safely to their homes and those who love them.”

Nathaniel found his voice at last. “She said in her letter,” he interrupted, “that she’d come here when she returned. Do you know when that’ll be?”

Madame St. Auge shook her head.

Nathaniel’s face was scarlet. I could see he was sorely tried at the need of speaking before me; but there was no way around it. “I’d like to leave a message for her,” he said. “Could I write a message for her?”

I’d already risen. “There’s no time, Nathaniel!” I protested. “We’re supposed to be getting food. We can’t be all day finding a sack of meal!”

He turned on me with a sort of desperation. “There’s nothing to keep you here! I’m not a child, to be told what to do and what not to do! You can get corn meal without me, can’t you?”

“You need corn meal?” Madame St. Auge asked.

“Enough to get seventeen men to Montreal,” I told her. “We ate our last this morning. I could pay you in hard money.”

“Yes, yes!” she said. “Of course I will spare one sack. It is high, now: fourteen dollars. But for you I will spare it. First I will get paper for your brother, and then the sack shall be brought.”

“Fourteen dollars hard money for one sack of corn!” I exclaimed.

“Yes,” she said sadly. “It is the war!”

She bustled from the room, leaving Ellen looking up at the two of us out of her great brown eyes—and pretty sights we must have been: Nathaniel, so absent that he stared through her as if she were a shadow; and I frowned horribly because of the outrageous price of the corn meal.

Madame St. Auge bustled back with the paper and ink for Nathaniel: then ran from the room again. Nathaniel drew the chair vacated by Madame St. Auge into the farthest corner of the small room. Kneeling before it, he used the seat as a desk, ignoring us but, I was sure, hating us for being near him.

As for Ellen, she said nothing, but continued to stare at me out of eyes that seemed to have a golden fire burning deep within. It was foolish, I thought, to cause her embarrassment because we were disturbed; so I put the corn out of my mind and sat on the floor near her chair. “I have a sister,” I told her. “She’s your age, but her hair is black and straight.”

“How nice!” she said. “If I had straight hair, then it wouldn’t tangle, and there’d be no need to cut it off, like this.” She bent her head and shook it, so that her curls danced. They seemed to have a look of softness, but there was no way of being sure. “I have a brother, too,” she added. “An Indian.”

I looked at her hard, but she seemed serious. I was at a loss how to reply.

“His name is Joseph,” she went on. “Two months ago he came to visit me. He brought me a young fawn, a basket of cranberries, and a lump of maple sugar bigger than my head. Madame St. Auge would not allow me to speak with him until he had washed his face. It was painted black around the eyes and mouth, and red elsewhere. It was different from the way he used to paint himself, but not better, I think.”

Nathaniel flashed an impatient look over his shoulder at her, at which she opened her eyes wide at me, and made a slight mouth, as if she regretted having disturbed him.

“He’s not really your brother,” I protested. “How could you have an Indian for a brother!”

“Yes, he is really my brother. His name is Phipps, like mine. Joseph Phipps. What is strange about my brother becoming an Indian, any more than for a Frenchman to become a Canadian?”

She looked at me inquiringly, so I admitted there was something in what she said. She nodded violently, and her curls bobbed. “We were captured at the same time, Joseph and I, and my mother too—all of us, at the siege of Fort William Henry, where my father was killed. He was an officer of the English army. My mother was sold to a French gentleman in Quebec. He was a kind gentleman, so he gave the Indians a little more than they asked, and I was thrown in for good measure. I was small, three years old, only; and so not worth much. Joseph was never sold. He remained in St. Francis and became an Indian. He has done very well at it. When he came to see me, he had forty brooches in his shirt, and ten bracelets on each arm: also a robe of black squirrel skins.”

I had a thought that this girl was laughing at me: yet her eyes held nothing save a sort of kindness, as though she talked for the purpose of keeping me amused.

“Where is your mother?” I asked.

She picked up a fold of her gray dress and pleated it carefully. “She died. That was how it happened I was placed in a convent in Montreal by my dear aunt. She placed me in the same convent which she had attended, as a young lady. The nuns were sweet to me: very kind: like mothers, almost.”

I cleared my throat. “So you enjoyed being in the convent?”

“Oh, yes!” she said. “It was pleasant. Of course, it’s an opportunity, being allowed to come with Madame St. Auge to work among these poor habitants of Iberville. I’m grateful that my dear aunt learned about it and so made it possible for me to come here. But I miss the good sisters in Montreal. It was my only home, the convent. It’s possible to be homesick for even a convent, if you have no other home.”

She stared at me and I stared back at her. I felt a quick stirring in my chest, as though a vein had somehow opened and closed again.

Now where, I wondered, would Marie de Sabrevois have learned that Hazen, a landowner in this far-off place, had decided to employ nuns to teach the children of the farmers on his estate.

“I don’t understand,” I said. “Your father was an Englishman, and your mother, too, I gather. Yet your aunt is American.”

Ellen smiled. “She would not be pleased to hear you say that! She is the sister of the gentleman—the French officer—who bought me from the Indians. He died, also, last year; and when he died, my dear aunt took me from the convent and sent me here to Madame St. Auge.”

“So she’s French,” I said, “and her brother died last year. Did her father die last year, too?”

Ellen shook her head. “Only her brother, whom she loved greatly.”

I felt a little glow within me. Here was something else! Certainly when we had met Marie de Sabrevois in the rotunda of Ranelagh, she had told us she was American. So, too, had the reticent Mr. Leonard. I distinctly remembered hearing him call her “a countrywoman of yours.” And she had spoken, too, of the death of her father. I tried to recall whether she had told us when he died. It seemed to me she had either said or implied he had died within the year. I was sure she had said he was a fur merchant, and that she was in England to settle his affairs. That lady, I was positive, would have let no grass grow under her feet when it came to settling an estate in which she had an interest. I looked hard at Ellen Phipps and wondered how much she had in common with this aunt of hers—this aunt who was so free with misstatements. If I was any hand at reading character, she had little in common with her, but I had heard that one could never tell about a woman.

“Why did your aunt take you from the convent to send you here?” I asked her suddenly.

She raised her eyes and started to speak. Then the golden light in them seemed to dim and waver like a candleflame blown by the wind, and she was silent.

I knew what had happened. My words had sent a wave of homesickness over her—truly a pathetic homesickness, considering that its origin was a barren convent smelling, no doubt, of plaster and candles and dyed cloth! I knew, too, that she was no more like Marie de Sabrevois than a yacht is like a prison hulk.

I was filled with a deep compassion for this lonely girl, and with anger at those with whom her lot was cast—a half-savage brother so senseless as to stick his shirt full of brooches; an aunt willing to push a motherless child about, from pillar to post; and a goat-faced duenna who welcomed the opportunity to charge hungry men fourteen hard dollars for a sack of corn meal.

Nathaniel, I saw, had finished his letter and was folding it; so I got to my feet, wondering what I could say to this girl with the brown curls. Seemingly she expected me to say nothing; for she was looking down at her coarse gray dress and carefully flattening the crease she had so recently made.

Outside there was a scuffling, which proved to be Madame St. Auge and the spectacled nun dragging a full meal sack between them. I counted out the fourteen dollars, and then shouldered the sack. My hat, I found, was still on the floor; but the girl Ellen brought it to me and put it on my head.

“Be careful your hat doesn’t drop in the mud,” she said. “I hope you’ll have a pleasant journey to Montreal.”

Because of the bulky burden on my left shoulder, I could see nothing of her; but I had the feeling that she nodded cheerfully; and certainly a faint fragrance came to me from her brown curls.

I would have liked to say something kind to her; but I could think of nothing; and I well knew I was a grotesque spectacle, with my hat askew and a flour sack weighing me down—too grotesque for her to care whether I spoke or not. Therefore I felt only relief when Nathaniel pushed me before him through the doorway, and we stood beneath the dull Canadian sky once more.


St. John’s had been bad enough; but when we had stumbled from dawn to noon across the flat plains of Canada on roads made mostly of logs, crossed the broad St. Lawrence at Longueuil and tramped up and down the muddy streets of Montreal until we came to the iron gates of the Château Ramezay, we knew that St. John’s had been nothing.

It was not so much the look of Montreal that made us hate the place, as it was the feel of it, and the gloom of the Americans we met wherever we turned. The city was a rich one, with fine residences and a wealth of warehouses; but the people we passed on the street had sour faces that grew sourer when they looked at us. Some spat as they passed. Others grinned contemptuously, and their mutterings were venomous, so that Cap Huff stewed and bubbled profanity beneath his breath, as if there had been a fire under him, and he a kettle filled with thick and simmering soup.

On every street were American soldiers, recognisable as soldiers because they had bayonets in scabbards, most of them, or dented kettles banging against their hips, or the tattered remnants of blankets made fast to their shoulders—though I would have taken them for beggars if Nason had not stopped a few for questioning.

They were the raggedest men I had ever seen anywhere, and I have seen plenty of ragged ones, especially in Spanish ports, where the beggars wear clothes that must have been old when Columbus was a boy.

These Americans were shoeless and stockingless, many of them, with breeches seemingly made of dirty rags and ribbons, and coats good for nothing except to cover a few of the gaping holes in their shirts, or, in the case of those without shirts, to conceal a small part of their nakedness. They were emaciated, too, with sores on their faces and legs; and their dull eyes held little except dejection. They jumped at small sounds, staring furtively over their shoulders, so that a person who looked at them too long became depressed himself.

They were searching for food, they nearly always told Nason; and when he asked them where their companies were, they sometimes said they were hunting them; or that their enlistments had expired and they were trying to get home—though most of them, I think, were lying. When we went on, they slunk away, peering into alleys and up at windows like hungry cats.

When at last we came to the Château Ramezay, a low, solid, steep-roofed building behind a tall iron fence and iron gates, we found more of these scarecrow soldiers. They sprawled in the open field across from headquarters like flattened bundles of rags, as dead men lie after a battle, or sat on the curbstone of the sidewalk, staring at nothing with lacklustre eyes. Some held up kettles to passers-by, begging for food.

At the gates of the Château were two real soldiers, sentries in blue uniforms faced with red; and on either side of the heavy double doors were two more. They looked out of place, somehow, like bright patches on an ancient mainsail.

“Stack your arms,” Nason told us, “and keep tight hold of what flour you’ve got left. Cap and I, we’ll go in and report. You’re not to move till we come out.” He tapped me on the arm. “You’d better come in with us. If the general’s there, I guess he’ll want to hear what you’ve got to say.”

We went in past the sentries, and found ourselves in a long stone hallway hung with Indian robes: some made of pieced-together wolfskins, and some of racoon, with a few beaver and two or three squirrel robes, one black, the most valuable that Indians make.

On one side of the hallway was a large room in which sat half a dozen men, business men seemingly, and evidently waiting for some one. They stared at us as we came in; then went back to glowering at the floor or fondling their chins. In the room across the corridor was a young man in a plain blue uniform, as serious and busy as a dog burying a bone. He may have been nineteen years old, but he had the ponderous gravity of an English butler contemplating the insignificance of all mankind. He came out to us, carrying papers in his hand, and walking very slow and cool, the picture of importance.

“You’ll have to wait outside,” he said, speaking with a southern accent. “The general’s given orders that if there’s food for distribution to unattached soldiers, the word’ll be announced at sundown.” He dropped his head a little forward and peered at us, and there was a movement of the muscles over his jaws, which gave him a determined air.

Cap Huff cleared his throat with the sound of a studding-sail ripping from its booms. To Nason he whispered hoarsely, “Tell the major we ain’t hungry.”

The young man looked doubtfully from Huff to Nason. “Not major,” he said. “Captain. Captain Wilkinson: aide to General Arnold.”

Nason nodded. “If the General can spare a minute,” he said, “we’d like to see him, Captain. Nason’s my name. I’ve got some scouts for him—and some information. I guess he’d better have the information right away. I guess I’d say something to him about it, if I was you.”

Captain Wilkinson stared at us, his jawbones moving angrily. As he stared, a closed doorway at the end of the hallway burst open with a bang. “I can’t promise, Doctor,” a voice said. It was not a loud voice, but there was a quality to it that gave me a shivery feeling between my shoulder-blades. It was high-pitched, so that it carried far, and there was a sort of suppressed shrillness to it as though it would cut like a knife, if unleashed, through the stone walls that surrounded us.

An officer popped from the open doorway and wheeled to look back into the room, as if impatient at the slowness of the man for whom he waited. Even before Nason told me who he was, I knew that this was General Arnold.

“I can’t promise,” Arnold said again in his high-pitched, suppressed voice, “but if you say they’ll die unless they have medicines, we’ll get medicines somehow! They’re our men and I’ll look out for ’em!”

He was stocky, and had tremendous broad shoulders. At first sight he seemed to be short, but he had a way of standing, poised a little forward, with his head thrown back and his chest rounded out, that made him seem to tower head and shoulders above the man who followed him out of the door—a slender, worried-looking man who must have been at least as tall as Arnold.

The general took the slender man by the arm and turned him toward us. “You understand the situation,” he said in that strange penetrating voice that seemed to send ripples across the fur robes that hung along the walls. “We’re destitute: we’re paupers; but if there’s medicine to be had, I’ll get it for you. You’ll hear from me before noon to-morrow. I’ll come to the hospital myself!”

He flung a quick nod at Wilkinson. “I’m to see Doctor Senter to-morrow. Hospital. Eleven o’clock.”

He clapped the slight young man on the shoulder, urging him toward the door, but stopped to look in at the room where the half-dozen business men sat. “What’s all this?” he demanded, as if exasperated. “Captain Wilkinson, couldn’t these gentlemen have been attended to? You know I promised to inspect the waterfront before dark—promised the Commissioners.”

Captain Wilkinson stepped close to him and whispered with an air of enormous secrecy and importance. Arnold whirled to look at us; then nodded abruptly and turned back to the roomful of men. “Gentlemen,” he said, “tell your business to my aide, Captain Wilkinson! I can’t spare a moment from my duties until two o’clock to-morrow morning.” Then, to Nason, he added: “Come back here!” As he hurried down the hallway, I saw he limped a little.

We followed him into a low-ceilinged room and stood in a row before his desk, like schoolboys. I had the impression that we were surrounded by a sea of documents. On the desk were piles of letters and papers, each batch held down by a horseshoe. On other tables around the room, and in corners, there were more stacks of them weighted with horseshoes. Fastened to each horseshoe was a label to tell what was beneath it, all neat as pie. The walls were bare, except for a rude map.

For a moment Arnold, standing beside the desk, seemed to have forgotten us; for he lifted one of the horseshoes, picked up a letter and examined it with a look of distaste. He replaced it carefully, dropped the horseshoe on it and threw back his head to stare at Nason out of cold blue eyes.

“Well,” he said harshly, “you’ve been long enough! I trust the results have justified your little vacation!” He came to stand immediately before Cap Huff, who breathed noisily, disturbed by the scrutiny. In spite of Cap’s great bulk, Arnold’s eyes seemed to peer into his from the same level; and that was a strange thing about Arnold: the oftener I saw him, the larger he appeared; whereas most men shrink a little on close acquaintance. “It’s Saved From Captivity!” Arnold said politely. “I can see you’ve not been starved on your trip, Saved From Captivity.”

Cap Huff said nothing: merely shuffled his feet uneasily; and it was plain to be seen that his admiration for this handsome, swarthy general was such that he was weak and speechless before him. It was evident, too, that Arnold took pleasure in Cap’s embarrassment; for he pursed his lips somewhat, as if to conceal a smile; and in the pursing his face seemed to lift and lengthen—to become narrower and less swarthy.

He turned to me and looked me up and down; and I thought to myself that if he was trying to discomfit me, he would have a hard time doing it because of my London practice in seeming unconscious of the supercilious stares of Englishmen. “Don’t tell me,” he said to Nason, “don’t tell me this is the sole result of two months’ holiday!”

Nason shook his head. “No sir; but if it was we might have done worse. This here’s Cap’n Peter Merrill of Arundel. He sailed from England the last of March, and he’s got information. Anyway it was information to us.”

“Captain? Captain of what?”

“Brig Orestes,” I said. “Of Arundel. One hundred and eighty-eight tons.”

“What were you doing in England?”

“The war overtook us. My father sent orders to sell the vessel.”

Arnold glanced from me to Nason. I saw Nason nod. “All right,” Arnold said quickly. “That’s all right! You enlisted with Nason, did you?”

“Three years,” Nason said.

“Why, that’s all right!” Arnold repeated. “I can use you. What kind of a rig on your brig?”

“Jackass,” I told him.

“That’s what I sailed. I find they handle better than a full rig. What’s your information?”

I told him, as clearly and briefly as I could, what I had heard in London about Burgoyne’s army; about the Hessians and Indians.

While I talked, Arnold watched me with pale eyes that had the look of expanding and contracting, almost like those of a cat watching a bird.

“Let’s see about this,” he said, when I had finished. “General Thomas thought his troops were stampeded by only two regiments from Halifax, but they may have come from England. They may have been the first of Burgoyne’s army! Yes, sir: what you say may be possible, in spite of the part about the Indians. That part’s not true. There aren’t five thousand Indians to be had for fighting, not by any one, anywhere. But the rest of it might be possible.”

“There’s no doubt about it,” I said. “I heard Germain tell a lady she could join Burgoyne in Canada.”

“What lady was that?” Arnold asked quickly.

“I don’t know, sir. A lady they called Peg—a friend of Burgoyne’s. A lady who’d heard you could row from Quebec to New York as easy as attending a regatta on the Thames.”

Arnold nodded. “That’s right! That’s the way they talk! It’s what they’d do, too: send Burgoyne to command a Canadian army. He’s a cavalryman. Put him in these forests and he’d be like a hen in the middle of the St. Lawrence. That’s the British of it: they always do the wrong thing first.”

“Yes, sir,” I said, happy to find his opinion coinciding with my own.

The general stared at us. His mind, I could see, was miles away. Then he darted his head forward, his lips compressed so that his face looked round and puffy. “How’d you come?” he demanded. “When were you in St. John’s?”

“This morning,” Nason said. “We got there last night and came on this morning.”

“Who was there?” Arnold asked. “Had General Sullivan come through? Did you see the new regiments? Wayne’s and Irvine’s regiments?”

“They hadn’t got there,” Nason said. “A man on a provision-boat said they’d just left Albany. There wasn’t anybody in St. John’s but two lieutenants and nearly three hundred cases of smallpox.”

Arnold’s face darkened. He laughed an abrupt, scornful laugh. “A smallpox garrison! I might have known it! If we could fill our haversacks and cartridge boxes with smallpox, we could whip the world!”

“There was a vessel on the stocks in St. John’s,” I said. “A third finished. Maybe seventy tons.”

Arnold nodded absently. Behind his pale eyes I could almost see his mind leaping about, examining from every side the information we had brought. Meanwhile we stood before him, waiting; stood so long that Cap Huff, overcome by the stillness, gasped twice and then sneezed explosively. At this Arnold became conscious of us once more.

“That’s good!” he said. “You’ve done well! Nason, you’ve done well! How many men have you brought?”

“Seventeen,” Nason said. In a low voice he added, “They’ve all had the smallpox.”

Arnold seemed not to hear. He scratched a few lines on a sheet of paper. “Here’s your billeting order. I’ve got to go! I’ve got things to do—inspection—meet the Commissioners—write reports—write General Schuyler—write General Washington—write Congress—make lists. I’ll tell you what you do: come back here at midnight. No: at one o’clock in the morning. Bring three or four of your best men. I’ll put ’em to work. Have you got anything to eat?”

Nason’s reply was dubious. “Enough for supper, I guess.”

“Good!” Arnold said. “There’s nothing but dried peas to be had around here. When you run out of food, I can get you some dried peas. They’re not so bad when you make rubbaboo out of ’em. I’ll give you the order to-night.” He herded us to the door. “If I’m a little abrupt,” he said, “you’ll have to overlook it. A million things to do, and no time for doing them. Everything that’s done, I have to do myself. There’s nobody to obey orders.”

He paused, and added, “Burgoyne, eh? Hessians and Indians, eh? Well, we’ll see about that!”

Then he left us, hurrying down the hall and shouting for Wilkinson. A moment later he tore open the front door and leaped down the steps; and behind him, to my way of thinking, there was the restless quiet that follows when a squall has passed over a vessel, leaving it safe but shaken.


It was nearer two o’clock than one when Captain Wilkinson came out from headquarters and found the seven of us sitting around a small fire we had kindled on the opposite sidewalk, the night being overcast and as black as the inside of a stove, and therefore cold. The general, he informed us, very secret and impressive, was now able to see us. When he had given us the message, he moved his jawbones so that an enormous pulse seemed to throb slowly and angrily in the lower part of his face. “Don’t you know,” he added, “you oughtn’t to light a fire close to headquarters like this?”

Cap Huff heaved himself to his feet. “Why not?” he asked hoarsely.

Captain Wilkinson looked at him patronisingly. “Why not? Why, because it isn’t military. It isn’t dignified.”

Cap Huff seemed to mull over this explanation for a time; and at length he appeared to find reason in it—which surprised me; for to me it seemed no explanation at all. None the less, Cap said to the young man, in as mealy a voice as I ever heard, “Well, it ain’t, now that you speak of it. It certainly ain’t dignified! I’ll have it stopped right away.”

On that Captain Wilkinson turned away with a satisfied air, and we followed him into headquarters. As we went, I thought to myself that no matter how military Captain Wilkinson might be, he was no woodsman, since he walked with his toes turned out, and with a gingerly deliberateness, as though he trod on ostrich eggs.

The general was writing when we crowded into his office and lined up before his desk. The four men we had brought, according to orders, were Nathaniel, Verrieul, Tom Bickford and Doc Means; and in that dim office, lighted only by the four candles on Arnold’s paper-strewn desk, the seven of us, in our shapeless tow-cloth smocks, must surely have displayed little of soldierliness or ability. Yet this general, in his bright uniform of blue and buff, seemed to find nothing strange in our appearance; for when he had finished his writing, he waved his letter to dry it and looked up at us as if what he saw gave him actual pleasure. “Well, well!” he said, “I haven’t smelled an asafœtida bag since I worked for the Lathrops in New Haven. Who’s wearing it?”

Cap Huff pushed Doc Means forward. “This is Doc Means. He’s a good deal more useful than he smells.”

“You’re a doctor?” Arnold asked.

Doc Means wavered weakly before him, looking helpless. “Well,” he said, “I wouldn’t like to say I was a regular doctor—not from what I know about some of ’em.”

Arnold laughed. “We won’t go into that! I’ve sold drugs myself!” To Nason he said impatiently: “Who are the others?”

It seemed to me there was pride in Nason’s voice. “This here’s Nathaniel Merrill, brother to Cap’n Peter. He went to Harvard College, and he can talk like an Englishman so you wouldn’t know the difference. He’s been supercargo with Cap’n Peter. Next to him’s Tom Bickford of Arundel. He’ll catch fish where they aren’t any, and track deer across solid rock. He wanted to go to Harvard and be a minister, but he had to go to sea on account of his family.”

“Seaman or officer?” Arnold asked.

Tommy smiled his polite smile. “I can navigate, sir, but I never had a vessel of my own. First mate, I was.”

Arnold’s eyes glittered in the candlelight, and he hitched himself forward in his chair to look at Verrieul. “And what does this young man do? Something unusual, I hope.”

“Well, you might say so,” Nason admitted. “His name’s Joseph Marie Verrieul, and he went to Dartmouth College. He speaks French, Iroquois, Abenaki and Chippeway, and can make orations in all of them.”

“Not Dartmouth College!” Arnold protested. “Why, it was only ten years ago that I contributed the profits of a sea-venture towards the establishment of that institution! Surely such an investment can’t be showing a return!” He laughed silently; and in the wavering glow his rounded face took on a lean, satirical look. He was pleased with Nason’s men: no doubt of that; and I feel free to admit I would have counted myself fortunate if, in an hour of need, I could have had them on any vessel of mine.

Arnold’s laugh died quickly, “All right,” he said. “You’re scouts, all of you. I sent Nason to Arundel to get good scouts, and I believe he’s got ’em. I’ve heard a lot, up here, from Pennsylvanians and Virginians and Jerseymen, about what cowards New Englanders are: how they’re no good, and not to be depended on. Personally being one myself, I don’t hold with their ideas.”

He eyed us from under thin, arched brows. Cap Huff cleared his throat with the sound of a brig rubbing barnacles from a wharf.

“Yes,” Arnold went on. “They say you New Englanders are cowards—ignorant bumpkins who never do as you’re told; and I must admit I come across a few answering to that description—a few! I’m just back from clearing up a mess two of ’em made! Bedel and Butterfield!”

The very thought threw him into a passion. He made a whishing sound between his teeth, leaped to his feet to glare at us; then threw himself into his chair once more.

“Heart-breaking poltroonery!” he exclaimed. “Shameful! By God, I can’t believe it yet! Two weeks thrown away, trying to salvage four hundred soldiers, surrendered by those two capons—those two she-rabbits!” He thumped the desk and seemed about to burst with rage.

Surprisingly, he laughed. “Well, fortunes of war! That’s done—all a part of the mess behind us! What I started to say is this: I’ve had enough to do with New Englanders, to know they’re all right, taking ’em by and large—all right! If you men do scout duty, you’ll work under my orders, and I expect those orders to be obeyed. If any one feels he can’t obey orders, he shouldn’t hesitate to say so. There’s plenty that can’t in this army! Probably there’s no help for it, only I don’t want any of ’em! I’d rather have ’em attached to Hazen, who has trouble obeying orders himself!”

He seemed to be listening for a reply. I was glad when Nason said quietly: “You don’t need to send these men to Hazen, General! I’ve been watching ’em. They’re all right.”

From the manner in which Cap Huff heaved himself about, he had something to say. He prefaced his words with an explosive cough. “Hazen? Colonel Hazen? Seems like I heard that name before! Who was it lied to Schuyler about what he’d find in Canada when he started up to take Montreal? Wasn’t that Hazen?”

Arnold glowered at Cap. His face was dark, and the name seemed to irk him. “Hazen!” he said contemptuously. “Yes, that was Hazen—always a thorn in the flesh! Always the starting-point of trouble and disaster! It seems as if there can’t ever be an army without a Hazen in it!”

He jumped up from his desk and went to stand beside the rough map on the wall. The broad St. Lawrence swept diagonally across it; Quebec in the upper right-hand corner, and in the lower left the monstrous divergence of river channels around the high land of Montreal. Half-way between the two was the broad oval of Lake St. Peter, with the Richelieu River extending straight downward from the western end until it merged with Lake Champlain.

“You don’t know it yet,” he told us, “but scout duty’s apt to bring you strange orders. Your orders’ll be between you and me. What you hear from me is our business—yours and mine: nobody else’s! There’ll be times when you’ll be supposed to know what’s going on; but if you try to find out what’s going on in Canada, you’re going to hear wild tales. You want to be careful what you believe. Don’t believe too much. I don’t like to see people misled; so if you’re still of a mind to serve under me, I’ll supply you with your first batch of information, just to make sure you start to stock the right goods.”

He ran his finger along the line of the St. Lawrence, from Quebec down to the edge of the map, west of Montreal. “That’s a roadway, the St. Lawrence is,” he said. “The roadway between the English and the Indians. If we have to get out of the road, the Indians can join the English when they please and where they please, and raise hell with our people.”

He turned and faced us. “We’re in a mess! We’re in as bad a mess as ever was! There’s such a mess here, and in Sorel and St. John’s, and up and down the river, that no man can comprehend it all. We’ve got an army, thanks to General Washington; but thanks to Congress it’s got nothing to eat, nothing to wear, nothing to put in its guns. There never was an army as sick as this army. It’s rotten with smallpox. Half the men are inoculating themselves; and those that don’t inoculate themselves are catching it from those that do. We’ve got no money. We’ve got no officers worth their salt.”

He reached over and slapped a pile of letters on his desk. “Here’s letters from forty officers, begging leave to resign their commissions and go home! Forty officers! Forty puling nanny-goats. We’ve got Commissioners from Congress here, trying to help us win the war—Commissioners with no money and no knowledge of war! There’s one good thing about ’em—they know enough not to try to get help from France! At least they can see the danger in that! They told Walker that rather than call in the assistance of France, they’d come to a reconciliation with England on any terms. They’re fine gentlemen; but a mule knows more about discipline and the need of it! They encourage suggestions and letter-writing, these Commissioners do! Letter-writing! They think you can fight a war with letters!

“If a lieutenant doesn’t like a captain’s orders, he’s free to write to the Commissioners and tell ’em about it; and the Commissioners generally write to the captain and tell him not to do it again. If a captain or a major or a colonel doesn’t like my orders, he writes to the Commissioners and complains, and the Commissioners ask me to explain the matter to them so they can write home and explain it to their wives, maybe, or maybe to Congress. Smallpox is a curse to this army, God knows; but it’s less of a curse than the Commissioners of Congress! We’re handsomely supplied with Commissioners, but not at all with contractors, commissaries or quartermasters. Not one of these have we got! I do duty for all!

“So there you are: no food, no blankets, no shoes, no tents, no medicines, no surgical instruments, no nails, no powder, no bullets, no pay, no credit, no reputation; and above all, no discipline. That was Wooster’s fault! He let ’em get out of control before Quebec—no more fitted to command men than a dressmaker!”

He muttered under his breath, and I caught the word “midwife.” He shrugged his shoulders and snapped his fingers, as if to snap Wooster out of his life. “After Wooster came the panic, and then the Commissioners. And now the bulk of the army’s at Sorel—tattered, hungry, frightened, sick, helpless, headless!

“General Thomas came to replace Wooster, but he no sooner started to take hold at Sorel than he came down with smallpox. The Commissioners brought along one of their damned foreign generals—Baron, he calls himself: Baron De Woedtke; but he’s too busy drinking to bother with such a small matter as discipline!

“Men whose time has expired are going home. They won’t stay to help us. They’ve had a bellyful of war and sickness and hunger and disappointments. They wouldn’t stay if you told them the British might destroy us next week!

“As for the Canadians, the weaker we get, the more insolent they grow. Two months ago they were our dear friends. To-day they’d cut our throats if they had half a chance! And on top of everything, you tell us the British have sent thousands of their own troops against us, and other thousands of Hessians as well: as fine an army as ever left England! It may not be true, but probably it is! Thousands of the best-trained, best-armed soldiers in the world, and we with nothing to oppose ’em but a starved and naked rabble! That’s how badly off we are! Can you men stay here and keep up your courage? Can you do as you’re told under these circumstances?”

Cap Huff cleared his throat with a sound of ripping canvas. “In case anybody thinks he can’t,” Cap said, “Doc Means’s got a sure cure for fear: pepper and gunpowder, mixed with molasses and maybe some rum.”

“You got to have a touch of Digby’s Sympathetic Powder added to it,” Doc Means reminded him in a low voice.

Arnold nodded. “There’s another side to the picture. General Sullivan’s coming up from Albany with four regiments—good regiments: none better, General Schuyler writes me. Properly handled, four healthy regiments can hold the St. Lawrence against all the ministerial troops that England can send against us. It’s got to be done! We’ve got to hold as much of this country as is needed to prevent communication between the English and the Indians to the west.

“If they turn loose the Indians on us, God only knows what’ll happen! With four fighting regiments, properly officered, we can hang on here all summer! Hang on till winter! It can be done! Then when Carleton has to move back on account of the ice, we can take the city!

“Lee could do it! I asked Congress to send Lee up here to take command; but he was the best man for the place, so of course Congress sent him elsewhere!

“Well, it can still be done! I can do it myself! Give me the men and the money for supplies, and I’ll guarantee to do it!”

There was a clipped, penetrating shrillness to Arnold’s voice that sent shivers along my spine; and deep inside me I felt that what he said was the truth: that given half a chance, he would somehow find a way to bring victory out of ruin.

He went back to his desk and settled himself in his chair. “But if we had forty fighting regiments, and they shouldn’t be properly handled,” he added—“if they should be commanded by officers of mean abilities, no education and little experience, they’d do us no good. Such officers cannot understand the precautions necessary to successful defence. We’d have to retreat! We’d have to give up all that General Montgomery won for us, and leave the gate open for our enemies to attack us from the north!

“What would happen to all of us if we had to retreat, God only knows: yet it’s something we have to prepare for. With no money, no food, no ammunition, I’ve got to seize enough supplies from the people of this city to get us safe home, in case the worst comes to the worst. I’ve got to seize supplies and give my personal receipts for them!” He laughed harshly. “My accounts’ll be in a tangle for the next thousand years; but it’s got to be done! That’s as much as I can tell you; and if you don’t like the sound of it, go down to Sorel and join Hazen! I want no man unless he’s willing. And I want no schoolgirls, unable to hear the truth without flinching!”

He looked up at Nason suddenly. “What’s that you say?”

Nason seemed to have the solidity of a rock as he stood rigidly before the desk, staring down into Arnold’s glittering eyes. “Nothing, I didn’t say anything. I was just going to ask you for that order for peas.”


“You came as a scout, but you’re a ship man,” Arnold told me, “and I’ve got a ship man’s job for you. You’re to go back to St. John’s, number the timbers of that vessel on the stocks, and take her to pieces. Then send the timbers to Crown Point.”

The words were scarcely out of his mouth before I began to wonder about Nathaniel: whether it would be better to have him with me in St. John’s where I could keep him under my eye, or whether he’d be better off elsewhere, far removed from Ellen Phipps and other reminders of Marie de Sabrevois.

I might have saved myself the trouble of wondering; for Arnold had his own plans for all of us. “Take Bickford with you,” he added, “and if you need more workmen, requisition any stray soldiers that can’t account for themselves. If they don’t want to work, handle ’em the way you would on shipboard. If anybody tries to make trouble for you, you’ll have to squirm out of it the best you can. I’ll leave the details to you; but whatever happens, get that vessel to Crown Point. Here’s your authority.”

He reached for a sheet of paper and drove his pen across it. The window was palely flushed with a Canadian dawn, and in that light his swarthy face was haggard; but the pen scratched on as briskly as though he were fresh from sleep.

Even as I read my orders, he was instructing Nathaniel and Verrieul to get Canadian clothes for themselves and set off on foot down the St. Lawrence to find out, if possible, whether any troops from England had arrived in the river, and where they were; and in the next breath he was telling Cap Huff and Doc Means to report to Major Scott and help him in the requisitioning of supplies to be used in case of a retreat.

To Nason he said: “See to your men, and come back here at nine o’clock in the morning. Your friend Natanis ought to be back from Caughnawaga by then; and I’ll have something that will keep both of you busy.” With that he winked at Nason, a most ungeneral-like wink. “Take ’em away,” he said. “I’ve got work to do.”

He picked up his pen, flipped a horseshoe from a pile of correspondence, and before we were through the door the quill was scratching across a sheet of paper as though he had merely been diverting himself with us, and now intended to make up for lost time.

. . . That was how Tom Bickford and I came to find ourselves tramping south beside the shallow rapids of the Richelieu River, bound again for the dreary settlement we had left two days before.

There was no change in St. John’s that I could see, except that the sun was shining; but it seemed to me, somehow, that there was less sadness and desolation to the place than when we had first entered it. I could not account for this feeling until I found myself thinking about the coarseness of the dress that the girl Ellen Phipps had worn; and I realised then that a strange town, contemptible at first sight, will frequently be made to seem downright pleasant by the knowledge that one interesting acquaintance lives there.

At the landing where Nason had brought us ashore there lay two provision barges; and the same dilapidated lieutenants who had met us were overseeing the unloading of a mighty heap of boxes, sacks and barrels. They jumped when I spoke to them; and one of them said “My God! I thought you were De Woedtke! What you want?”

I reminded him of our previous arrival in canoes, and showed him the order Arnold had given me. When he had read it, he stared at me curiously and asked: “Ain’t you the man that owned to having some hard money?”

I said I was, whereupon he took me by the elbow and moved me away from the soldiers who were dumping the provisions ashore. “What you need,” he said mysteriously, “is a pail of beer and a slab of ham, cooked over some hot coals about ten minutes.”

I was lost to know what he was driving at, but saw it would be an inexpensive way to obtain his good will; so the four of us went around to the back door of a dirty tavern that had boards nailed across the windows. From the far bowels of the tavern, when we entered, there came a strange guttural rumble, punctuated with noisy hiccups, almost like distant war-whoops. The lieutenant, whose name was Hersom, made signs at an angry-looking Frenchwoman; and she, having accepted four shillings from me, bit each one suspiciously; then drew four pails of beer and set four slices of ham over an open fire—slices about the thickness of a hatch-cover, and about as juicy.

The rumble came clearer to our ears. It was the rumble of a voice speaking partly in English and partly in German; and not ceasing, apparently, except when its owner paused to drink or to hiccup.

“That’s De Woedtke,” Hersom said. “Somebody in Sorel sent him down here yesterday, with an aide-de-camp, so’t everything would be ready for Sullivan.” He raised his eyebrows at me. “Heard about that? Sullivan’s coming to-morrow. He’ll be at Isle La Motte to-night. Here to-morrow. Four regiments!”

De Woedtke’s voice rumbled on and rumbled on, exploding now and again into a shrill, racking hiccup.

“Yes, that’s him,” Hersom said. “That’s him, telling his aide-de-camp how Frederick the Great used to do it. Got kicked out of Frederick the Great’s army, he did, on account of being the one that told him about the death of a pet nephew. He’s in command of us. Trained under Frederick the Great, he says he was. I don’t know anything about this Frederick the Great; but if De Woedtke’s a sample of those he trained, he never trained anybody to do anything but talk and drink! Anyway, De Woedtke’s a general. Congress made him a general. Prob’ly he began to tell Congress about himself, and they made him a general to shut him up. If you want to do things right, you’d better report to him and tell him you’re planning to take the vessel to pieces.”

“Suppose,” I said, with an ear to the hiccups of this foreign general, “suppose he told me not to do it?”

“Then you couldn’t do it,” Hersom said. “And you needn’t worry about his not wanting you to do it. Our generals are all the same! None of ’em wants you to do anything that any other general wants!”

I chewed at my ham and remembered how Arnold had spoken of those in Canada who found it impossible to obey orders. “In that case,” I told Hersom, “I’ll be damned if I tell him! I’ve got to get that vessel to pieces and loaded on to barges.”

“I just thought I’d tell you,” Hersom said.

When we had finished our ham, Hersom showed us where to find black paint. By nightfall we had numbered every timber on the half-finished vessel.

. . . We slept beneath her keel, the night being a little foggy, but nothing to cause us trouble; and on the following morning, after we had drawn a piece of sour beef from Hersom for breakfast—a piece that looked and tasted like anchor-rope fresh out of Liverpool Harbour—we went hunting for assistants.

Out beyond the shipyard we found six men sitting around a fire. Their breeches were worse than dilapidated, and they had sailcloth wrapped around their lower legs and feet. Only one of them had a tied queue; it was tied with a snake skin. They looked bristly and dirty, as if they had lived in caves for years.

“Here,” I said, “where you men going?”

They sat silent, peering stupidly at a kettle on the fire.

“All right,” I said. “Since you’re going nowhere, just hurry up with that kettle so you can step over to the shipyard and give us a hand dismantling a vessel.”

One of the men turned and eyed me. “Not us, brother. You got the wrong men! We’re York troops. Our time’s up. We’re going home.”

“Well,” I said, “just give me a hand with this vessel first. General Arnold wants it shipped to Crown Point, where it’ll be some protection to your people down York way.”

“To hell with General Arnold,” the same man said calmly. “It don’t matter a damn to us what he or any other general wants.”

I had it in mind to reach down and get him by the collar, so to haul him up where I could take an unobstructed swing at his ear; and then it occurred to me that these men were, after all, able to account for themselves, whereas Arnold had said to use men who couldn’t.

“Shall we start on ’em, Cap’n Peter?” Tom Bickford asked hopefully.

“No,” I said. “We don’t want to make trouble if we can avoid it.” Then I made another appeal to these York troopers. “Here, this I’m asking you to do is to help your country. Seems as if you’d be willing to do that without any urging.”

“Well, we ain’t,” the spokesman said. “That’s all we heard since we left York: some old woman with a sword and a cocked hat saying, ‘Now, my brave men, forward for your country!’ We ain’t as big fools as we look. Don’t you suppose we knew he didn’t give a damn about anything except getting promoted? We never got no food or powder or pay, excepting paper money that wa’n’t good for nothing but wadding. We never got no decent treatment when we was took sick. What’s more, we ain’t never seen no officers yet that knew what they was talking about—just a pack of he-schoolma’ams, squabbling over which one got into the army first. To hell with it!”

“Look here,” I said, “we can knock that vessel to pieces in no time. There’ll be free beer all round, and I’ll get you a ride to Crown Point on the barge.”

“Beer?” the spokesman asked. “How much beer?”

The others, too, looked interested. “A quarter barrel a day?” one asked.


“ ’Tain’t enough,” he said instantly. But I saw that this was merely a hopeful form of speech, and that my point was carried, whereupon I ventured to speak somewhat decisively in order to make a good impression at the outset.

“Listen to this,” I said. “You’ll get a quarter barrel, and drink it after work. What’s more, you’ll toe the mark and do as I say, or Tom Bickford and I, we’ll knock your teeth out through your ears.”

They growled and grumbled as they ate their kettleful of stew; but when it was gone they followed us to the shipyard peaceably enough. When, indeed, they had started on the demolition of the skeleton vessel, and had worked up a sweat, they became even amiable, so that I think one of their troubles had been an insufficiency of work, which is enough to make any man discontented with his lot.

. . . The morning was less than half over when there was distant shouting near the centre of the town. A man ran past us, bawling to some one unseen. Boys, barefooted, appeared from nowhere, with dogs capering and barking alongside, to run yelling after the man.

The whole settlement seemed to ooze people—women and girls; Canadian Frenchmen in bob-tailed summer jackets and battered stove-pipe hats, all with long queues hanging down their backs, and with the customary half-sour, half-doltish look that seemed peculiar to them. On the Iberville side, too, people came out of the farm-houses and moved in little knots along the Richelieu.

The banks, as far as we could see, seemed, in a moment’s time, to be lined with people; and while we stared at them, wondering, there was a babble of voices and scattered shouts. From upstream came a faint sound of drums and fifes.

Two canoes slid into our line of sight, gliding slowly over the Richelieu’s brown surface. They were paddled by Indians, and in each of them sat six grinning soldiers, soldiers in fine blue uniforms with white facings, white belts crossed over their chests, and white vests and breeches. Their muskets slanted outward, three to a side, very neat and military looking.

As the canoes slipped along between the people clustered at the water’s edge, there arose a ragged, welcoming cheer that spread and solidified until the soldiers in blue and white seemed to float on a river of cheering. Behind the first two canoes came another two; then two more, each with six soldiers in it; then a lumbering great bateau, packed solidly with soldiers in blue and white. Bayoneted muskets stood upright between their knees; and above their heads the bayonets glittered like a small forest of steel.

The ringleader of the ragged York troopers, balanced on a plank high in air, glanced down at me contemptuously. “Sullivan’s brigade!” he said, and spat copiously through the vessel’s ribs.

A second bateau, filled with men in blue and white, followed the first, and close behind the second was a third. The men in them laughed and stamped their feet, and in time to the stamping they shouted “QueBEC! QueBEC! QueBEC-BEC-BEC!” From the next bateau came the stirring rattle of drums; and blue- and white-clad fifers shrilled into Yankee Doodle.

Above me one of the York troopers yelled horribly, waving his ragged hat above his head. Unexpectedly the ringleader capered on his plank, bellowing “Sullivan! Sullivan!” in a cracked voice. In a moment all six were shouting and hurrooing, and dropping one by one from their perches.

“By God!” the ringleader bawled, glaring at me furiously, “we’ll show ’em!” He turned and ran like a madman toward the river; and Tom Bickford and I ran after him.

Bateau after bateau came downstream between banks so packed with people that the whole of Canada seemed to have crowded into St. John’s; and the unending welcoming clamour was sweeter, even, than the rolling of the drums. These Canadian French folk, clapping their hands and leaping for joy, were the same ones who had despised and spurned us when we were weak and hungry; so it was clear that they would be happy to join us if they thought we were strong enough to whip the English.

It seemed as though there would never be an end to the bateaux laden with men in blue and white—Anthony Wayne’s regiment, they proudly announced; but there was, and then the river was alive with bateaux bearing soldiers dressed in dark blue with red facings. These were Pennsylvania troops—the First Pennsylvania; and jostling along behind them came bateaux filled with men in brown and buff, and with others in gray trimmed with blue, every man’s musket tipped with a bayonet. Their uniforms were handsome and new, and each soldier’s hair properly clubbed and neatly tied just so. Even their women, who came last of all in the bateaux that carried the baggage, were decked out in bright colours and stylish sunbonnets; and though they were noisy, like most camp women, they were none of them drunk, not that I could see.

Nowhere—not in St. James’s Park even—had I seen regiments better equipped or more soldierly. When they clambered ashore, they formed ranks like veterans and went swinging off to the old British barracks as if they owned Canada; and I, watching them, was filled with pride and confidence.

Over two hundred bateaux were packed along the banks of the Richelieu when this beautiful new brigade was all ashore; and not only were there thousands of men, gay in their regimentals, but the waterfront was ablaze with sentry-fires; and between the fires were piles of stores under guard—cannon, ammunition, provisions: everything that had hitherto been lacking for the success and wellbeing of our people in Canada.

There was only one unpleasant aspect to the business: I found myself wishing that Nathaniel could be with me to see these fine regiments; and it dawned on me that I would never have had such a wish unless, deep in my heart, there still remained dark doubts about him. I told myself that he was safe, since a task had been set for him by Arnold, and he had gone uncomplainingly off on it with Verrieul; and then, remembering how Nason had told Arnold that we were all right, all of us, I still felt doubts, and hated myself for feeling them.

. . . The six York troopers came back to work when the new regiments had landed, though I had expected never to see them again; and they were in a state of excitement over what they had seen.

“By gravy!” the ringleader said, “if we’d had equipment like that, we’d ’a’ tooken Quebec to pieces and throwed it in the river!”

“That’s what these men ought to do,” I said. “I don’t believe you could find better troops than these, not even in England.”

“They ain’t any better’n we were!” he said defensively. Then his eyes dropped to his frayed and stained garments of breeches, untied at the knees, and his hand fumbled at the dirty growth of whiskers that made his face haggard and fearsome. Later, when I called him and one of his companions to go with me to get the quarter barrel of beer, they had scraped the bristles from their cheeks and tied their breeches, and their hair was combed and clubbed. They seemed to stand straighter, too, and to have less the look of whipped animals.

The change in their appearance was a miracle, almost. I began to feel that war was not so bad; that it might be over before we knew it, so that Nathaniel and I could be starting back for Arundel before summer had set in. It would be pleasant, I thought, to sit in the stuffed chair beside the table in our sitting-room in Arundel, wearing my light blue coat and my cameo pin and a ruffled shirt, and to speak with an air of modesty to callers about the great things we had done in Canada.

So near to over did our troubles seem that I began to figure on my next cruise. When we built a new vessel, I decided, it would be a barquentine instead of a brig; and I would carry Tom Bickford with me as first mate.

Not even the change of wind that brought rain that night, together with clouds of mosquitoes and black flies and midges, could dampen our optimism.

I have no means to tell how terrible these stinging insects of Canada were. In moist weather, when the wind was right, they blanketed the lowland all up and down the Richelieu as fog-particles blanket the sea. Their faint shrill wings made a perpetual whining around us. The midges stung like hot needles; mosquitoes lanced us till our arms ached from brushing them off; but worst of all were the black flies, which crawled beneath our hat bands or inside the collars of our shirts or behind our ears, biting so gently that they were never felt, but so villainously that our blood ran down from the punctures they made. Moreover, whenever they bit, swellings began, and we saw men with eyes swollen shut from the poison of these damnable insects, or necks puffed out larger than their heads, or ears standing out like diseased growths.

Thanks to the hoods of our smocks, and to lying in the smoke of a smudge, we came through the night without being eaten alive. The morning was only half over when a squad of men in blue and white came swinging down the river road. At their head was a brisk young lieutenant who halted them smartly when they were abreast of us; then came up to eye us doubtfully.

“Who’s in charge here?” he asked.

I told him I was.

“Well,” he said, “General Sullivan wants to know what’s being done with these ship timbers.”

“They’re being dismantled on orders,” I said. “On the orders of General Arnold.”

“Well, General Sullivan’s in command here,” the lieutenant said. “He wants it stopped.”

“I take my orders from General Arnold,” I told him mildly.

“You’ll have to go up and talk to General Sullivan,” the lieutenant said.

Seeing there was nothing to do but go, I told Tom Bickford to stay where he was, in spite of hell and high water. Then I went splashing back with the lieutenant and his squad of men.

. . . Headquarters, in the square stone building of a mill owner, was in a turmoil, smelling of steamy wet clothes, and seething with people waiting to see General Sullivan. Officers blundered through the rooms as if half out of their wits, all of them mud-spattered and swollen with insect bites.

For five hours I stood on one foot and then on the other in the hallway before the general was able to take notice of me; and in that time I heard a world of cursing from impatient young officers over the dreadful conditions that existed everywhere. Even if I had been deaf I would have learned that these new regiments would waste no time in hastening forward to make themselves masters of Quebec; nor could I escape hearing that General Thomas, commanding all the forces in Canada, was lying blind and raving in Chambly, dying of the smallpox, so that it was only a matter of hours before General Sullivan must succeed to the position.

I was taken in to see him at last, and found him a tall, florid man with a tuft of hair sticking out on each side of his face, in front of his ears, so that he looked something like a good-natured wildcat—the sort called a looservee by the Canadians. From the set of his lips I judged him to be stubborn; and it was written all over him that he was determined to be well liked, even though he had to kick people into liking him. It was plain to be seen, too, that he was highly elated by the importance of the position in which he now found himself.

“Who’s this?” he asked, mopping his sweaty red face. “What’s the trouble here?”

The lieutenant spoke for me. “This was the man in charge of those ship timbers, General.”

“Ah, yes!” the general said. “I remember it now. Well, sir: what’s your idea, interfering with ship timbers that we might make into a finished vessel and use for our own purposes?”

I liked nothing about this general—neither his enormous self-satisfaction, nor his genial condescension, nor his cat-like face; but since he was a general and I a captain, I had to be more than civil. “Sir,” I said, “I had orders from General Arnold to send them to Crown Point where they could be used in case of a retreat.”

“A retreat!” the general exclaimed. “In case of a retreat! Don’t you people talk about anything but retreat, for God’s sake? There’s to be no retreat before an enemy no person has seen!” He laughed, and may have thought he seemed jovial when he did so; but to me he seemed like a politician making a speech on a subject he knew little about.

“My orders——” I began; but he stopped me by banging his desk with the flat of his hand.

“I cancel ’em!” he said. “We can’t afford to send ship timbers away from here before we know whether we need ’em or not! That’s why I’m here—to rectify the blunders that have been made—to recover the ground our former troops so shamefully lost! I don’t want the word ‘retreat’ mentioned in this army!”

I knew enough about discipline to keep my mouth shut; and when the general had mopped his red, shiny face once more, he beamed on me as though what he had said was a sort of joke between us. “Here,” he continued, “I take it you’re regularly on scout duty, aren’t you? Well, I’ll put you to doing something more useful than stealing ships! Go around this section and find out what they’re saying—what the Canadians are saying about us: how they feel. That’s valuable! That’s what we need to know! Tell General De Woedtke what you learn, and he’ll tell me.” He coughed importantly. “That’s all!”

I saluted and went out, feeling as though I had been kicked. Once outside, I stole a glance at the lieutenant to see whether he considered the general’s orders as foolish as they seemed to me. Apparently he didn’t, and had no further interest in me or my affairs, so I saluted him even more civilly than I had saluted the general, and made myself scarce.

We had more beer that night, Tom Bickford and I and the York troopers; and by the time it was half gone we had agreed that Sullivan’s orders applied to no one but myself, and that the rest of them were free to do what Arnold wanted done.

“He ain’t got no control over us!” the ringleader of the York troopers declared virtuously. “You let him get a dozen rods out of town on the road to Sorel, and we’ll have these timbers aboard a bateau before you could kiss a duck!”

As for investigating the feelings of the French, I already knew how the French felt, and so did every one else with any sense. And when it came to reporting those feelings to the drunken sot De Woedtke, I knew there was no need to tell De Woedtke anything, because he wouldn’t remember whether I had or not. The only thing for me to do was to keep out of sight as much as possible, so that I might not be subject to discipline, or to more of Sullivan’s orders.

So the matter was arranged to every one’s satisfaction: even to mine; for as I gave Tom Bickford beer-money against the days to come, I thought, as I had thought several times before, that my new orders, foolish though they were, would at least give me an opportunity to see whether there was anything I could do for the girl Ellen Phipps.


It was one thing, I found, to contemplate seeing Ellen Phipps, but another thing to do it; for the truth was that I was no sooner in a canoe, headed across the river to Iberville and the whitewashed Château de St. Auge than I realised I could never talk with Ellen until I had provided Madame St. Auge with a reason for my presence.

I walked slowly up the hillslope from the river, then back to the river again, trying to think what to say, and at the same time trying to look as though I knew what I was doing. The more I walked, the more uncomfortable and like a fool I felt; and so, in desperation, I went boldly up to the door and pounded on it, trusting to something I had learned in storms at sea: that no matter what a captain may beforehand plan to do, he will surprise himself by behaving differently and more effectively when the emergency is actually upon him.

The same spectacled nun answered my knock; and when I asked for Ellen Phipps, she slammed the door in my face. I stood there, perspiring somewhat and saying to myself that now I would not let them keep me from seeing the girl, even though I had to sit on the doorstep for a week. Almost immediately, however, the door opened again and Madame St. Auge stood there in her gray dress, staring at me, her eyes slipping and roaming about me, darting from my face to my feet, off into space behind and back to my clothes again.

“You asked to see Ellen?”

“Yes,” I said, and was suddenly elated with what popped into my head. “About her brother.”

“About her brother?” Madame St. Auge asked. “Tell me what it is, please, and I will tell it to her.”

“Your pardon,” I said. “I think I must tell her myself.”

Madame St. Auge folded her hands over the heavy leather strap that belted her gray gown, and contemplated my shoes long and silently. At length she raised expressionless eyes to mine. “I am sorry. It is not possible. You will have to tell me.”

“Not possible!” I cried. “You mean she’s ill? What is it you mean?”

“She is not here,” Madame St. Auge said. “She has gone away.”

The woman’s behaviour puzzled me, and I only half believed her. “Where’s she gone? When did she go? How did she go?” I demanded, surprised at my own persistence.

Madame St. Auge’s reply was both calm and cold. “You will excuse if I do not answer your questions. It is not our custom to reveal such information without excellent reason.”

“Of course,” I said, “of course, and quite rightly, too. But there’d be no harm, now, in saying when she’ll be back, would there?”

“When she’ll be back?” Madame St. Auge repeated. “When she’ll be back?” Her voice seemed to me unnecessarily loud, almost as if she wanted it to carry all the way across the Richelieu and into General Sullivan’s headquarters.

At the thought I cast a glance over my shoulder. Within a few paces of me, just turning off from the path as if to escape me by going around to the rear of the château, was Marie de Sabrevois.

I knew her at once, even in her dress of sober blue and her stylish little sunbonnet of gray silk, all very different from the billowing pink gown in which I had first seen her; but what was more remarkable was that she recognised me as well, notwithstanding my shapeless tow-cloth smock.

In spite of the dislike for her that had grown and grown in me since our London meeting, I was pleased at coming across a friendly face in this dreary settlement; and my pleasure was increased when she turned back into the path again and came to me with an exclamation of surprise. “To think,” she cried, “that we should meet here! Here of all places! Now how does it happen you’re here?”

“It just happens,” I said. “I was ordered to come here, and so I came.”

“You were ordered to come here to this house?” she asked. She laughed, as if at the thought; and her blue eyes clung to mine with a singular intentness.

“No,” I said. “I was ordered to come to St. John’s. Having come here, it occurred to me—I had some time to spare—I thought that Ellen——” Beneath her fixed stare I became uncomfortable.

Madame St. Auge’s voice was cold in my ear. “He has a message for Ellen. A message about her brother.”

“Indeed!” Marie de Sabrevois exclaimed. “Some one sends you to her with a message about her brother? Who?”

Both women seemed to be looking at me suspiciously; and I felt the more uncomfortable. I had put myself in a false position, which prevented the ordinary processes of conversation that might have taken place between Mademoiselle de Sabrevois and myself, wherein I would have inquired about her voyage, and told her of Nathaniel’s and mine. And being in that false position of my own contriving, I stood conscious of a tensity between these women and myself, and wondered how it had come about that I seemed to be a liar. Nevertheless I perceived that I had lied: not to them, but to myself when I persuaded myself that my errand to Ellen was in the hope that I might be of service to her. I wanted to see her again, and that was the whole truth about what brought me.

Yet I wondered also about another thing, and that was why the mere mention of a message for Ellen’s brother made these two rigid with some unguessable suspicion of me.

I hastened to clear myself of that suspicion. “Madame St. Auge is mistaken,” I said. “I didn’t say I had a message to Ellen from her brother or about her brother. I only said I wished to talk to her about her brother, which is true, because my wish was to talk with her about anything whatever.”

At that Mademoiselle de Sabrevois gave me a shrewd look, and unexpectedly smiled up into my face as though we were the best of friends. To Madame St. Auge she said: “But we have many things to talk over, this gentleman and I—more important things than Ellen’s brother; and a doorstep’s no place for such conversation!”

She nodded to me gaily. “Come, we’ll walk here on this quiet road. It’s pleasanter than the dark house.” She was right; for the country was fresh and green in the warm June sun after the rain of the day before. There was a smell of young grass and moist earth all around us, and the tremulous, halting songs of a million robins. It eased me, too, to be freed of the cold stare of Madame St. Auge, which I could feel on my back as we left the château behind us.

Marie de Sabrevois slipped her hand beneath my arm and looked up at me under the brim of her sunbonnet. Her eyes were wide and blue, and I found myself wondering, as I stared down into them, how she was able to open them so wide and keep them open so long without the need of blinking to keep them from drying up. It occurred to me, too, that there was a look about them as if the blue lay close to the surface, as does the blue in a doll’s eye; and in the same moment I had a quick sharp memory of Ellen Phipps’s brown eyes, and the gleam of gold deep within them.

“Now you must tell me everything!” she said, and her voice was prettily commanding. “When you arrived, and for what! I’m dying to know!”

“Lord!” I said. “There’s nothing interesting to be had out of me. Anyway, you must have had it all from Nathaniel.”

She stared up at me, silent, but with that same watchful intentness I had seen before, so that I almost thought she had failed to hear me.

“You had a letter from him, didn’t you?” I asked. “I saw him write it.”

She nodded. “Of course. Yes, of course I had his letter. A friendly letter, it was. It was thoughtful of him to write. You must tell him how much we appreciated his kindness, Madame St. Auge and I.”

Up to now I had thought that this girl, this Marie de Sabrevois, had perceived that I disliked her, and so, naturally, had mirrored my dislike. But when she spoke of Nathaniel’s letter as “friendly,” I knew she considered me a dolt. “Friendly!” I said to myself. “Friendly!” for God’s sake! If I knew Nathaniel at all, it was a letter that smelled of scorched paper from the fiery words he had put in it. Still, if she thought me a dolt, let her continue to think so.

“After all,” I reminded her, “there was no need of his carrying your message to Ellen Phipps. You might as well have brought it yourself. You were here almost as soon as we were.”

“But there was no way of telling!” she explained. “I might have arrived here a year from now instead of day before yesterday. It was only luck that my affairs were so soon settled.”

“You got here day before yesterday? You must have seen General Sullivan’s brigade come in.”

She raised her eyebrows. “I saw soldiers. It’s hard for me to tell one from the other.”

“You haven’t seen many of our men, then. You must have come by way of Quebec.”

She nodded, almost absently. “Yes. It’s not difficult. With a little money, a person does as he likes. And it saved me a difficult journey. I was glad not to be obliged to travel by way of Albany and all the way up the lake to reach my little Ellen.”

“And Burgoyne’s troops,” I asked her. “Did you see them? Have they arrived yet?”

“Heavens above!” she cried. “How should I know! I had a thousand things to do in the city without racing about looking for troops! There were soldiers, of course, as there always are in Quebec: but mercy knows whose they were!”

“Well, now,” I told her, “it was a pity you didn’t remember that your country’s at war with England. Not many Americans have the good fortune to pass through Quebec these days; and it’s too bad that those who do shouldn’t bring out as much valuable information as possible.”

She struck her hands together, her eyes fixed on mine almost piteously. “Lud! What a fool I was! You mean there would have been real value in such information as I might have brought?”

I saw there was nothing to be got in that direction, and inside myself I damned her. For what I damned her, I was not exactly sure; but I had a persistent feeling that she deserved damning. She deserved it for meddling with my brother Nathaniel, if for nothing else; for if she was not a lady who had seen a thing or two in her day, I had never known one; and I could not bear to think what might happen to Nathaniel if she set her mind to him.

“Surely,” she said, “surely you don’t mean that those soldiers across the river, in St. John’s, haven’t yet learned whether Burgoyne’s troops have landed in Canada!”

“Well,” I said, “that’s something I don’t need to bother my head about. What worries me is why a mystery should be made out of Ellen Phipps! Anybody’d think it was a crime to ask where she’s gone and when she’s coming back—and worse than a crime to know about her brother.”

She laughed lightly. “There’s no mystery to it. You see, Ellen went to tell her brother she expects to go soon to Albany—to tell him and to bid him farewell. That’s why we questioned you about her brother, you see. We were afraid he might have sent word he was going elsewhere, so that Ellen might have her journey for nothing.” Her blue eyes were wide and frank.

“So that was all!” I hoped my voice sounded both innocent and relieved. “There was no secret about it, then.”

“No, no!” she cried. “Nothing could be more absurd!”

“Then when did she go, and when is she coming back?”

Marie de Sabrevois raised her hands and eyes in mock despair. “She went yesterday morning. She’ll return when her errand is done—to-morrow, it may be; or the day after.”

“Well,” I said, “it seems strange to me that you no sooner arrive here than you let her go running off alone to such a wilderness as St. Francis must be—you, who have been so eager to see her for months and months. Strange, too, that you let her go just after Sullivan’s troops had come. Didn’t you know the roads would be crowded with horsemen and supply carts—crowded and difficult!”

She sighed and looked up at me a little sadly. “It’s quite safe. Quite safe, because she went to Three Rivers; and it’s at the convent she’ll stay. The nuns, you know, will send a canoe across to St. Francis to bring back her brother. But I’m not surprised it seems strange to you! When she felt she had to go, I longed to go with her, but I was exhausted from my voyage—exhausted! Even this little walk has quite overcome me! You see, I’m not strong, and fear me I must return to Madame St. Auge’s already!”

She sighed pathetically; but to me she looked as though she had known nothing of exhaustion for many a long year. She was as shapely and elastic as a sleek young cat; and sleek young cats have extraordinary powers of endurance.

“I wonder you didn’t send word for Ellen’s brother to come here?” I said, as if absently.

She made a quick response. “No: it would be unsafe for him to travel through American troops—through our troops. They mightn’t understand that he isn’t really an Indian, and might not believe him friendly to our cause.” Then she added softly, “I’m glad you take this interest in Ellen. I’m sure you’ll help us on our way to Albany if you should have the chance.”

She could not help knowing, as well as I, that I was a nobody in the army, and little able to help Ellen Phipps or any one else. I wondered what lay behind those clear blue eyes; but there was no way, so far as I was able to see, of finding out.

“Your uncle,” I said, “should be able to make everything easy for you. I had expected him to be here before now.”

“My uncle?” she asked, and seemed surprised. “You haven’t heard from him? You didn’t know? Poor man, he’s got a broken leg, and cannot travel.”

“A broken leg!” I said to myself. “A broken leg! You’ve got an answer for everything, as slick as a whistle!” To her I only nodded gravely and said I was sorry to hear of Mr. Leonard’s misfortune. Then I asked her: “When shall you go to Albany, ma’am?”

“As soon as we can. As soon as I’ve got a little of my strength back after the long sea journey.” She coughed delicately, to let me see how weak she was.

And then, as we had reached the door of the château again, I found nothing more to do but bid her a polite farewell and cross the river to the shipyard, speculating helplessly concerning many things—why she should take no interest in military matters, when in London she had spoken so knowingly of them: why she should have permitted Ellen Phipps to go to Three Rivers at such a time as this: above all whether Mademoiselle de Sabrevois would have been as guarded in her speech and as overcome by exhaustion if I had been Nathaniel.


Sullivan’s troops had moved north to redeem what Sullivan called the shameful blunders that had hitherto been made by American troops in Canada. After they left, St. John’s became a sort of outdoor madhouse. Half-clothed and leaderless soldiers, remnants of the regiments that had fled from before Quebec a month ago, appeared from nowhere and wandered from farm to farm, begging for food. Frantic supply-officers squabbled day and night over a pitiful mixture of supplies, each officer declaring that he and he alone must have the food, since the men of his regiment were most in need of it. The place was a soup of rain and mosquitoes and mud and rumours of smallpox, enough to make any man wonder whether anything worse could happen.

What it was that happened to me, however, was the last thing I would have expected.

I had gone to Hersom, on the waterfront, to pick up the day’s news along with the meagre rations I was allowed to draw for Tom and myself. News had suddenly become more important to us than ever, not only because we felt we had to learn something that might offset the horrible tales we heard of the smallpox—tales almost as sickening as the disease itself—but because all the fine new regiments we had seen arrive had been sent down the St. Lawrence by General Sullivan to capture Three Rivers, so to prevent British troops from passing that important post.

We were hoping to have word, all of us, that General Arnold would be sent to lead them in place of those who had started to do so—a General Thompson, who had appeared from God knows where, and of whom nobody seemed to know anything except that he was an Irishman; and Colonel St. Clair, who had been in the British army many years ago. We were suspicious of Thompson and St. Clair. Our troops, we knew, were not inclined to have the greatest of faith in Irishmen or Englishmen—especially in Irishmen or Englishmen of whom they had never heard. That was why we hoped that Arnold would be put in command of the new regiments. Not only would men follow him anywhere, and against any odds; but he alone, of all the high officers left with this stricken army of ours, was familiar with the country and the people. He knew how to lead, and where to lead; and we suspected he was the only one that did know.

As I stood in front of Hersom’s warehouse, I was thrown all aback to see Nathaniel come striding along the river road as if he well knew where he was going, and was in a hurry to get there. He had on a white jacket with a fringe at the edge, and brown leather breeches with brown stockings pulled over them and made fast below the knee with bands of red wool. There was even a long queue, half hair and half rope, hanging down his back; so that I doubted my own eyes for a moment. Then I saw the cap was cocked jauntily on the side of his curly brown hair; and not only did his clothes have a neat look, which was always a peculiarity of Nathaniel’s, but his skin was five shades lighter than that of any smoke-dried Canadian Frenchman, so I knew it had to be Nathaniel.

When I ran out and took him by the elbow, he clapped his arm around me, as affectionate as ever; but on the instant he seemed to lose all of his hurry and purposefulness, and sauntered towards the warehouse with me as idly as though he had nothing on earth to do.

“I was wondering whether I’d see you,” he said; and as soon as he said it, I knew he had hoped he wouldn’t.

“What are you doing here?” I asked him. “You were sent down the St. Lawrence, weren’t you?”

He laughed. “Always the same old Peter! You’re for ever bound to treat me as if I was still twelve and you fifteen!”

“Look here,” I said. “The last thing I heard, you were sent to get information. Did you get it?”

“Of course I got it! There’s only eight hundred British troops at Three Rivers—men from Halifax regiments.”

While this news didn’t explain Nathaniel’s presence, it was welcome; for it meant the fine new regiments sent forward by Sullivan would drive eight hundred men down river as easily as driving a flock of yellow-legs.

“Have you told Arnold?” I asked.

“Not yet. Where is he?”

“Not yet!” I exclaimed. “You haven’t told him yet? What in God’s name are you thinking about?”

“Don’t be a fool, Peter! I can’t tell him till I see him, can I? He’s here in St. John’s, isn’t he?”

“He’s in Montreal, and you know it!”

Nathaniel wagged his head at me. “Don’t get so excited! I was told he’d be here; and even if he isn’t, it’s no farther to Montreal this way than by the St. Lawrence—that is, not much.”

He might easily, I knew, be stating the case correctly; for the St. Lawrence swings to the southward just above the mouth of the Richelieu River, and runs almost parallel with the Richelieu. Thus it is little shorter to travel direct from Three Rivers to Montreal than to travel by way of the Richelieu and St. John’s. I had heard, too, that Arnold was racing over the country like a madman, striving to gather enough supplies for his wretched remnant of a garrison in Montreal; so the rumour might indeed have got abroad that he was in this God-forsaken town.

“Now, look here,” I said. “You knew Arnold’s headquarters were in Montreal, and that’s where you should have taken your information!”

Nathaniel made a little contemptuous sound. “You can’t build this mole hill into a mountain, Peter! The information I’ve got isn’t worth much. Verrieul stayed down the river to hear more news; and we decided I’d better take back what we’d learned, just to show we were working.”

“Nathaniel,” I said, “I don’t want to see you make a fool of yourself. You’re supposed to obey orders, always. What would Arnold say if he found you hadn’t come direct to him?”

Nathaniel shrugged his shoulders.

I looked at him straight. “Where were you going just now when I stopped you?”

“Where?” he repeated, and he laughed. “Why, I was hunting for Arnold.”

“Headquarters in this town,” I told him, “are in the square stone house you passed two hundred yards back. That’s where they are when there are any. What made you think you’d find Arnold down this way, provided you found him at all?”

Nathaniel made no answer.

“How did it happen you were laying your course with such assurance? If you’d asked any of our men, you’d have learned that De Woedtke’s supposed to be in command here, and you’d have learned his headquarters aren’t down this far. You haven’t come here to see Arnold at all, Nathaniel!”

Nathaniel stared at me. His eyes were hard. “I don’t know what call you’ve got to interfere with me!”

There was no question in my mind. He had learned Marie De Sabrevois was in Iberville, across from St. John’s, and he had come here to see her.

I put my hand on his shoulder. “I shouldn’t like to see my own brother shot for disobeying orders,” I said. “Turn yourself around and set out for Montreal.”

Nathaniel laughed. “Shot for disobeying orders! If everybody in this army that disobeyed orders was shot, there wouldn’t be any army! Anyway, I’m not disobeying orders. If we’d discovered anything new, maybe you might stretch a point and say I wasn’t exactly obeying orders; but the way things are, where’s the harm if I stay in St. John’s a few hours to get some rest?”

“Where’s the harm—after what Arnold said to us about obeying orders? You heard him speak of Butterfield and Bedel, didn’t you? You heard Steven Nason give his word to Arnold that he could depend on us?”

“Oh, for God’s sake,” Nathaniel cried, “I’m sick of hearing about Arnold! How Arnold marched to Quebec; how he did wonders at the Cedars; how he’ll raise hell with the British—Arnold, Arnold, Arnold—you’d think that damned horse-jockey was the only officer we had!”

“What was that?” I asked. “What was it you called Arnold?”

Nathaniel’s face and voice were sullen. “ ‘Horse-jockey’ was what I said. That’s all he was before the war—a cheap horse-trader and horse-jockey. Everybody knows it. That’s why he went to war—to make money out of it!”

“What in God’s name are you talking about?” I demanded. “Arnold’s a sea captain and shipowner—a man of property and position. His father before him was a sea captain and shipowner. His great-grandfather was Governor of Rhode Island—a gentleman of the highest character and distinction. Arnold himself is the same sort of person, Steven Nason says.”

“I don’t care what he says! Steven Nason’s an uneducated man, just the way Arnold is. Arnold could tell him anything, probably, and Nason’d believe him.”

“Don’t say anything you’d regret,” I told him. “Steven Nason may not have what Harvard College calls an education, but he can talk the Abenaki language, and drive a straight furrow, and keep a company of soldiers under control, and get along with his neighbours. He doesn’t believe everything he hears, like some educated dunces I’ve met; and he knows the difference between what’s good and what’s worthless, though that’s something colleges don’t seem to be able to teach. And to top it all off, he’s had a year of war. It’s hard to believe, but there’s those who’d prefer Steven Nason’s education to that of some who’ve spent four years in college and almost learned to read the Bible in Greek.” I eyed him severely, to let him know he could apply my words to himself if he so desired. Then, harshly, I asked him, “Who told you Arnold was a horse-jockey?”

Nathaniel’s smile was contemptuous. “A horse-jockey and a gymnast! That’s all he was—just a common gymnast. He used to travel around giving exhibitions. Anybody can tell you how he used to give exhibitions jumping over loaded ammunition wagons. That’s all this great general was—nothing but a circus performer!”

“My God!” I cried. “You’re mad! Wherever did you hear such tales for children! Somebody’s been stuffing you with fish-feathers! Who was it?”

“It’s common knowledge,” he said sullenly. “Everybody knows it, and you hear it everywhere.”

“I don’t hear it everywhere,” I said. “Is it some of the information you’ve been collecting for your commanding officer?” I took him by the arm, and would have said more; but the sound of a hoarse voice, bellowing from the river road, stayed me. It was a voice that roared unmelodiously a familiar song about three beautiful ducks and a ball that rolled and rolled and rolled interminably.

A moment later a fat white horse strained into sight from behind the warehouses, dragging a cart piled high with bundles. The cart thumped and bumped on the logs with which the road was paved. On top of the bundles sat two men, one of whom, a Canadian, slumbered deeply, resting precariously against the shoulder of Cap Huff, who rolled in his singing as though balancing himself against the thrusts of a heavy sea. He sang and rolled and whacked the rump of the white horse with the ends of the reins in time to his singing, and all the while he darted sharp glances at every one in sight. Seeing us, he bawled a hearty greeting.

When he had drawn up beside us, he eased the body of his companion down among the bundles, descended from the cart, peered solicitously into the brown face of the recumbent figure: then gave it an earnest slap with an open hand. The Canadian sat up with a start, looked around him and reached wildly for the reins.

“Liquor!” Cap said to us, jerking his head toward the Canadian. “You can’t depend on ’em! They keep drinking it. They got just that much sense.” He coughed virtuously, but the virtue was expended in the sound alone of the cough; for its spurting smell made one think a vast quantity of rum had been exploded into a gas too thick to disperse quickly.

He looked from one to the other of us, and finally his gaze focused on Nathaniel. “Oh, yes,” he said, “I remember! Well, you must have seen ’em! You must have seen the king’s troops Sullivan was talking about.”

“King’s troops?” Nathaniel asked. “What king’s troops? I didn’t see any king’s troops!”

Cap Huff rubbed his eyes with forefingers like two sausages. “Then Sullivan’s a liar,” he said calmly. “I kind of figured he was a liar! He wrote Arnold last night there was king’s troops between him and Three Rivers, ready to attack, and for Arnold to send down all his spare men and be damned quick about it. Arnold figured he was a liar, too, on account of not having heard from you. He said if there’d been troops, you’d have reported ’em.”

The blood seemed to leave my heart. I looked sharply at Nathaniel; but from the look of blank surprise on his face I knew my fears were groundless.

“I just came here from Three Rivers,” Nathaniel said slowly. “There weren’t any troops on the road: not any.”

Cap stared at him, shot a quick glance at me; then went to staring at him again. “Well, that’s interesting,” he said at length. “You don’t suppose it would interest Arnold, do you? Or do you have to tell everything to your brother first?”

“Aren’t you a little free with your tongue?” I asked him. “This boy was told he’d find Arnold here. He was just starting for Montreal when you came in sight.”

Cap grunted, “By God, he’d better! I’ve had about all I can stand for one day! Here, come along and show me a place to store these bundles. Your brother can take this cart back to Montreal, and carry word to Arnold that’ll make him bite somebody.”

I led him to the shipyard, where Tom Bickford had rigged a shelter, for although the marked timbers were safely on their way to Crown Point, the yard had come to seem like home to us. On the way Cap broke into a flood of cursing so profound that his voice cracked and became shrill. “You wouldn’t believe it!” he told us in a hoarse whisper. “You wouldn’t believe any man could be so rotten as that Hazen!”

Cap jerked his thumb at the cart. “See those bundles? They’re full of what this army ought to have, but hasn’t got: powder, bullets, buckshot, shoes, shirts, blankets, cloth for breeches, nails, stockings, rum. See ’em? On each one there’s the name of the feller it was taken from, and what’s in it, and how much the feller’s to be paid, all neat and regular. Me and Doc Means and Major Scott, we been rounding ’em up. Scott took three cart-loads to Chambly day before yesterday, and Arnold sent an order by him to Hazen, telling Hazen to accept ’em and take care of ’em. Last night I set out after Scott with this load; and when I got to Chambly nice and early, there was all of Scott’s bundles dumped beside the river, no guard over ’em nor nothing, and a feller walking away from ’em, sort of innocent-looking. A couple of the packages was broke open, so I ran after the innocent-looking feller and kind of looked in his breeches pocket. He was all stuffed full of stockings!

“Yes, sir! He’d been stealing! If I’d left this with the packages, he might have got this, even!” He worried a tin box from his breeches pocket, pried off the cover and sniffed at it. It was full of a dirty brown paste, seemingly made of rotted leaves. It had a sickish, unhealthy odour.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Opium. That old catamount Doc Means said it was the only drug worth a hoot, and if I saw some, to pick it up for him. I happened to come across this, so I picked it up.”

He stuffed it back in his pocket and stared at me indignantly. “When I saw that feller stealing stockings, I spoke to him pretty sharp, because if there’s anything I can’t stand, it’s a feller that’s dishonest. Well, sir: he wouldn’t pay no attention: said the packages didn’t belong to nobody.

“ ‘Not belong to nobody!’ says I. ‘They belong to the Continental Army: that’s who they belong to.’

“ ‘No,’ the feller says, ‘they don’t belong to nobody, because Colonel Hazen wouldn’t receive ’em when Scott brought ’em in. He made him dump ’em beside the river, and then he ordered Scott off to Sorel to help dig trenches. That’s how I know they don’t belong to nobody.’

“ ‘What’s your name?’ says I to the feller.

“ ‘You better ask Colonel Hazen,’ the feller says.

“With that I seen a light. Yes, sir! I seen it was high time I got away from Chambly before Hazen, the cold stink, made me dump my goods beside the river and ordered me off to Sorel, too. So I set off for St. John’s, and here I am!” He rubbed his face with his huge hands and began to toss the packages from the cart to the ground.

“How could Hazen do it?” I asked. “Is he half-witted, or is he a traitor?”

“Brother,” Cap said, “he’s a pig-nut! Look around at the officers in this army and you’ll see the greatest lot of pig-nuts there ever was! Some are good ones; but most of ’em ain’t nothing but pig-nuts!”

“Pig-nuts?” I asked.

“Pig-nuts,” Cap repeated. “It takes a sledge-hammer to crack a pig-nut, and when you get inside it, there ain’t nothing you care to use. Besides being like pig-nuts, most of the officers are like women in not being able to stand getting told they done something kind of wrong. You ever tried criticising a woman much? Arnold, he knows how to do things; and when he sees a pig-nut doing things wrong, he tells him. Tells him loud, so everybody hears it. The trouble is, you can tell a man with brains he’s wrong and he’ll try to fix things up; but you take and tell a pig-nut he’s wrong, and he’ll spend the rest of his life trying to have something heavy fall on you when you ain’t looking.”

“You mean Arnold’s spoken to Hazen?” I asked.

“Spoken to him!” Cap exclaimed hoarsely. “He damned hell out of him for not being willing to attack the English and Indians when they was on the run after the Cedars; and he damned two hells out of him for pushing Jerry Duggan out of the army. Duggan was the only American officer the Canadians would follow, but he was a barber. Canadians never shave nor fix up their hair. They never see no barbers, so they think they’re nice, and they took to Duggan. Hazen, he said he wouldn’t be in the same army with a barber. Made so much trouble for Duggan, he did, that Duggan had to resign. Duggan’s worth ten Hazens! Hazen’s the king pig-nut, and he hates Arnold because Arnold tells him to his face what he is, and because Arnold’s the only good general that’s been seen around here since Wolfe stopped a bullet.”

Absent-mindedly Cap lifted a board from one of the boxes and drew out a dusty bottle. It had been opened before; for he drew the cork with his teeth and helped himself freely to the contents. Then he coughed again, though I would have been glad if he hadn’t; and after that he passed the bottle to us.

While I was drinking, Nathaniel said to Cap: “If he feels that way about barbers, maybe he doesn’t like gymnasts, either.”

The cart was empty, except for the Canadian driver; and with no gentle hand I helped Nathaniel up into it.

Cap eyed him dubiously. “What was that? What is it he maybe doesn’t like, either?”

“Gymnasts,” I said dryly. “He means acrobats. Nathaniel heard that Arnold used to be a gymnast, but of course there’s nothing in it.”

“Oh, ain’t there!” Cap cried. “Well I hope to die if there ain’t! This feller Arnold can skate better than any Canadian that ever lived. Even with a hole shot through one leg he’s stronger’n quicker’n any other three men in the world! He’s the only feller ever I see that could jump all the way over an ammunition wagon without touching a hand to it.”

He moved closer to the cart and stared up into Nathaniel’s face out of bloodshot eyes. “If you don’t believe there ain’t nothing in it,” he added, “just take your time going back to Montreal! If you don’t get there quicker’n scat, that gymnast’ll jump all over you, and maybe you won’t like gymnasts any more than Hazen does!”

He hiccupped portentously: then slapped the white mare on the rump, a stinging, echoing slap; and the last I saw of Nathaniel, he was sprawled with the pig-tailed Canadian in the bottom of the cart, and the cart itself was bouncing around the turn in the river road on its way to Montreal.


If St. John’s had been a madhouse during early June, it became something far worse in the next few nightmare days.

First came the smallpox regiments, sent back from Sorel to die or get well—Greaton’s Massachusetts regiment and Poor’s New Hampshire regiment. For the most part they had inoculated themselves, so that some of them could walk, and some had to be carried; but in the regiments there were less than three hundred men able to be out of the hospital. They had the look of men dug out of graves, as they dragged themselves into town.

Hard on their heels came the reports that Sullivan’s new regiments had been hacked to pieces at Three Rivers. We had the news piecemeal, some from Ellen Phipps, who had been there when it happened; some from deserters, who pretended to be sick but weren’t, and were hopeful of making their way on foot through the wilderness that lay between St. John’s and Albany; and some from Canadians, who turned their coats with the news and now jeered at us openly.

They had gone down the river, those beautiful regiments, eager to fight and confident of smashing their way to Quebec through any force that might oppose them. In the dead of night they had landed a few miles from Three Rivers. General Thompson and Colonel St. Clair, who led the advance, had picked up a Canadian Frenchman as a guide, and the guide led them into a swamp, through which they struggled for hours, up to their thighs in mud and a tangle of roots that fairly wrenched their clothes from them.

They escaped from the first swamp only to stumble into a second. When dawn came, they were still far from Three Rivers; and at Three Rivers, rushed there the night before from Quebec, was not only the whole British fleet, but freshly arrived transports carrying a veritable army—an army that had somehow received word of the coming of the Americans, so that the men were trooping ashore, boatload after boatload, even as the Americans marched up to the attack.

Sullivan’s troops attacked, only to be overwhelmed by numbers; and when they broke and ran for their boats, the boats were gone. They took to the swamps, foodless and exhausted. General Thompson and Colonel Irvine were captured by the British; and when those that were left of these once-proud regiments at last struggled into Sorel, they were as destitute and as ragged and as dejected as the meanest men in that sorry camp.

. . . At the first report of the disaster, I had gone to the Château de St. Auge to urge Marie de Sabrevois to set out for Albany as soon as Ellen Phipps should return from Three Rivers. This time I was admitted without question; and when Marie de Sabrevois entered the small bare room in which I waited, my heart leaped, for Ellen Phipps was with her.

I knew from the strange and unexpected thumping beneath my smock that Ellen had been more in my mind than I had realised, and that I had feared she might come to some harm on her journey to Three Rivers. I would even have liked to say something of the sort to her, but since she hardly looked at me when she came in, and since her aunt was there, I felt somewhat fearful of speaking to her at all, and so did not.

Indeed, I had no time; for Marie de Sabrevois had no more than set eyes on me and nodded her golden head in greeting than she nearly gravelled me with a sudden question.

“Where’s your brother?” she asked, and there was a haughty look about her, as if she were provoked.

“I don’t rightly know,” I said. “He takes his orders from General Arnold. He might be in Montreal, and then again he might not.”

“Haven’t you seen him recently?” she persisted.

She and Nathaniel, I realised, must have met when she was journeying from Quebec to St. John’s. She must have expected to see him again on the day when Cap and I had sent him back to Montreal. Apparently my hesitation in replying told her what she wished to know; for she dropped the subject like a hot coal and turned to another. She was a smart woman: the smartest, I think, I ever knew.

“You had a message for Ellen’s brother, hadn’t you?” she asked. “You can tell her now, and she’ll see he gets it.”

I had clean forgotten Ellen’s brother as an excuse to ask for her, and for a second my mind churned like a mill-wheel in a freshet. Then I found an answer. “Yes,” I said, “we had word that Congress had resolved to raise three thousand Indians for service in Canada, and I thought Ellen’s brother might like to know about it.”

“Oh, indeed!” she said. “Three thousand Indians! Three thou—Who was it told you Ellen had a brother?”

“Why, Ellen told me,” I said. I looked at Ellen, hoping to have a glance from her, so that I could see whether the light in her eyes was, as I remembered it, like sunlight on my sextant; but she was busy creasing a fold in her coarse gray dress.

Marie de Sabrevois laughed. It was a pleasant laugh, musical and rippling; but my imagination found derision in it. I wished I had kept her in ignorance of how I had heard of Joseph Phipps.

If she had contempt for me, however, she let none of it show in her face, which was friendly and admiring. “Ellen’s brother would think twice, no doubt,” she said, “before joining those poor soldiers that ran from Three Rivers. Ellen saw them, running before the guns of the British ships. Tell him, Ellen.”

Ellen continued to crease the folds of her gray dress. In a low voice she told what she had seen from the house in which she and her nun-companion had taken refuge on their return journey—American troops, mud-stained, dog-tired, like sheep without a leader, bombarded by the British fleet whenever they came out from the swamps on to the river road. “They fought with their muskets against the ships’ cannons,” she said. “We could even hear the soldiers on the ships laughing when the Americans fired.”

“Poor men! Poor men!” Marie de Sabrevois sighed. “How could they be expected to stand against England’s finest regiments!”

“They’d have stood against them, and whipped ’em, too,” I reminded her, “if Arnold had led ’em, or if they hadn’t trusted one of these pig-tailed Frenchmen!” I waited eagerly for her reply, but she made none.

“Well,” I said at last, “that’s what I came to talk about. You spoke of going to Albany with Ellen, I wanted to tell you what had happened, in case you didn’t know about it, so you could get started. It wouldn’t be pleasant for either of you, would it, if you were caught in a retreat?”

“No, it would not,” Marie de Sabrevois said, “and it’s kind of you to have us in mind. When do you think we should start?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “As soon as you can.”

She nodded. “Yes, I can see you’re right. If there should be a retreat, the town might be burned or looted. We’ll do what you say.” Then, while I was racking my brains for a way to get a word with Ellen alone, she added musingly: “We’re both so sorry, my little girl here and I, that your brother is away; that we can’t see him whenever we wish—which would be often, of course. Do you think he’ll be coming back to St. John’s soon?”

“It’s war time!” I reminded her. “Men can’t come and go as they like, Mademoiselle de Sabrevois.” Then, with a grudging sort of gallantry I looked at her significantly and said, “Otherwise I have no doubt Nathaniel would be in St. John’s all the time.”

“Ah, you’ve noticed it too?” she asked with a sly air of amusement, and to my great puzzlement, she laughed a tinkling laugh and glanced at Ellen. “These young people!” she said, and added, “Well, I cannot see the harm. Ellen likes your brother very much—don’t you, Ellen?”

Ellen acquiescently murmured something inaudible to me. Her aunt smiled knowingly, gave me a merry glance, a look benevolent, as people do when they teasingly encourage an affair of young love. At that, Ellen blushed.

My heart suddenly felt weighted with enough buckshot to sink it to the pit of my stomach; and I thanked God I had not had the misfortune to become overly attached to this brown-haired girl. She had reminded me of my sister Jane, being so different in every way. That, I told myself, was probably why she had come to occupy so large a part of my thoughts. Certainly my interest was nothing more than brotherly; nothing more!

“Well,” I said cheerfully, “I’ll keep an eye out for Nathaniel. I guess we can probably contrive for Ellen to see him somehow.”

Ellen glanced up at me then with an odd expression; but since neither she nor her aunt had anything to say, I left the Château de St. Auge, wondering why Ellen’s look had touched a familiar chord in my memory. I was half-way across the river before I remembered having seen the same look on my sister Jane’s face when she was minded to thrust out her tongue at me.

In my heart I was not surprised that Ellen was attracted by Nathaniel; for I had often noticed that his cultivated voice and the crinkle in his brown hair made him sought after by every lady who saw him. We were supposed to look alike: yet seldom indeed did any woman ever give me a second glance when he was near; or at any other time, either, for that matter.

I was saved from overmuch thinking, however, by the voice of Cap Huff, which I began to hear long before I reached the shore. “Where the hell you been?” Cap shouted. “Get up to headquarters quick! Arnold’s in town! He wants you!”

. . . To hear Cap talk, Arnold was for ever in a passion over something or other; but the truth was that he was as kindly, forbearing and good-humoured a gentleman, under most circumstances, as I have ever seen—even under conditions that would drive the bulk of his critics into an apoplexy, especially those who have criticised him most bitterly.

When I rapped on the door of the dingy headquarters room in which I had talked to General Sullivan two weeks before, I expected to find Arnold in a rage over the defeat of the new troops and the supplies Hazen had refused to handle at Chambly, but the voice that bade me enter was a mild one. The General was alone in the room, writing at a rickety deal table. He cocked an eye at me as I came in, and said: “I’ll be only five minutes—this letter to Schuyler——” He went on writing, a half smile on his dark face, and his broad-shouldered figure crouched tensely over the table as if he intended to spring up the moment he had finished.

I have known hard workers in my day, but never a worker like Arnold. He could ride fifty miles; talk for hours at a council of war, cajoling the stubborn and bulldozing the weak-spined; then lead troops into battle and ride another fifty miles; and on top of it all sit down and write a dozen letters with a hand as steady and a brain as clear as though he had just risen from sleep.

I wondered, as I watched him, how any man could call him a horse-jockey, as Nathaniel had heard him called; for he was handsome, and there was a proud look to him—a look of distinction, that made it clear why he should be admired by such persons of breeding as General Schuyler and General Washington, and disliked by boors like Bedel and Hazen.

He pushed back from the table at last, folded his letter and gave it a thump with his fist.

“So you got the vessel off!”

“Thanks to Tom Bickford,” I said. “Tom did it. I had to stop.”

He wagged his head and looked distressed. “Poor Sullivan! He must have been in a state, pitchforked into this mess! What was it he set you to doing?”

When I told him, he raised his eyebrows. “Hardly necessary, was it? The Canadians are with us if we’re winning and against us if we’re losing. And wherever we lose an inch, Montgolfier contrives for every Canadian in the world to hear about it. I’ll say this for Montgolfier: he always makes that inch sound like a mile!”

The name Montgolfier struck me hard. That was the name in the letter Nathaniel had brought to Madame St. Auge from Marie de Sabrevois. I had it by heart. “To M. Montgolfier,” she had written, “I send my respects, and to you eight thousand kisses.”

“Who’s Montgolfier?” I asked.

Arnold growled a little. “He’s director of the Seminary of St. Sulpice in Montreal, and if he could arrange it, he’d have every last American strangled in his bed this night! He gets information from all parts of Canada and America: yes, and sends it out, too; but I’ll be damned if I know how! If I did——” He made a twisting motion with his fist: the motion of wringing a bird’s neck.

“At all events,” he went on, “it’ll be no loss to Sullivan if I set you to doing something else; and that’s exactly what I’ll do. De Woedtke was told to fortify this town, and the drunken sot hasn’t done it. To-day I laid out lines to the north. Works must be thrown up. We’ve got to have some sort of breastworks and trenches here in case of a retreat; but there don’t seem to be men to build ’em.

“Well, we’ve got to find men. They tell me deserters from Sullivan’s camp are going through here fifty a day. That’s your task. Round up deserters and put ’em to work. Here!” He reached for his pen and scribbled on a sheet of paper: then tossed it to me. It read:

“Capt. Peter Merrill has authority to employ unattached soldiers on fortifications. This is for the good of the Colonies, and Capt. Merrill is authorised to use all necessary force.

“B. Arnold, Brig. Gen.”

“There you are,” Arnold said. “Orders and commission, too. You’re a captain now. I’ve got no right to appoint officers. Only Congress can do that; but if I need officers, I don’t know how to get ’em unless I appoint ’em. Go ahead, now! Get men; and if they won’t work, beat ’em! I don’t propose to have my soldiers sacrificed because a lot of damned renegades refuse to take orders. You can work with Cap Huff. He——”

Outside the window Arnold’s black horse, tied to one of the posts beside the entrance, whinnied shrilly. Far off we heard the clatter of hoofs. Arnold went to the window. “Ho!” he said. “Here’s a friend of yours with something on his mind.”

The sounds of hoofs grew noisy and came to a scurrying stop. Arnold threw up the window. “Send him in here,” he shouted. “Come in here!”

It was Joseph Marie Verrieul, one-time student of the Revrint Doctor Wheelock at Dartmouth College, who opened the door. He smiled at Arnold confidingly. “They told me you might be here, or maybe at Sorel or Nicolet,” he said. “I’m glad you’re here, because I’m near beat out.”

“What’s your news?” Arnold asked.

“It’s the British,” Verrieul said, almost happily. “It was difficult to find out about them because of the cloud of Indians around them, most of them drunk. Oh, very drunk! It’s a good thing for unworthy Joseph Verrieul that he learned at Dartmouth College how to hold a quantity of liquor.”

“I’ll take your word for that,” Arnold said. “What about the British?”

“Yes,” Verrieul said, “the British. I thought it best to wait until I learned definitely about them. Now I know. They have just arrived at Three Rivers, all of them. They’re starting up stream at once, a great fleet. Sixty vessels, there are. A fine armament.”

“How many men?” Arnold asked. “How much of an army?”

“How much of an army?” Verrieul repeated vacantly. His eyes roamed around the room before they fixed on Arnold’s face. “There was never anything so fine. There’s nothing they haven’t got! A hundred and twenty-five thousand gallons of rum! Plenty for everybody. Cannons and muskets, everything polished, so the sun glitters on them, and the red coats.” As an afterthought he mumbled, “Silver facings on the Germans. Blue with silver lace and facings, all shining.”

Arnold slapped his desk sharply. “How many men?”

“Eight thousand, they say,” Verrieul said. His voice wavered. “I think ten thousand, counting Canadians and Indians.”

Arnold kicked his chair closer to the deal table, slid into it and picked up his pen. “Captain Wilkinson!” he shouted. “Captain Wilkinson!”

The door opened and Wilkinson’s grave face appeared, the muscles over his jaws working like the gills of a fish.

Arnold jerked his pen at Verrieul. “Take this boy out and get him some food and a place to sleep. He’s half starved.”

As the door closed behind them he raised an eyebrow at me without looking up. “Your orders are changed,” he said. “I want you to take this letter to General Sullivan. Sit right where you are.” His quill travelled over the paper with a faint sound of scratching.

I stared at the mosquitoes dancing helplessly against the dirty window-pane. A cold breeze seemed to blow across the back of my neck. Eight thousand troops—all shining—nothing they haven’t got! Eight thousand! The number of kisses Marie de Sabrevois had sent to Montgolfier, the man who received information from all parts of Canada and Europe! No: she had sent the kisses to Ellen Phipps: not to Montgolfier. Why had she dragged Montgolfier’s name into it? There was something wrong; but if Arnold didn’t know, neither did I.

Eight thousand troops! The end was not difficult to see, with sickness ranged against health, destitution against plenty, defeat against confidence, paper against gold!

I thought of our house at the bend of the river in Arundel. The mid-June run of pollocks would be on. All along the river road there would be fish-frames, with split pollocks on them, raising havoc with the scent of sweet-grass and new-cut hay. Swallows would be hovering before their clay nests under the eaves or the tool sheds in the shipyards, trusting to God knows what that nobody would lift a pole and knock their whole world to dust. We and the swallows, I dimly perceived, had much in common.

Eight thousand men! Cannon and muskets! Everything polished! And deserters going through, fifty a day! Where was Nathaniel, I wondered, and how would this news affect him? I could almost hear my mother’s voice saying: “Look out for Nathaniel.”

Arnold picked up his letter and flapped it before him, drying it. “You’ll have to read this,” he said. “In case anything happens to it, you’ve got to be able to repeat what’s in it.” He tossed it across the table and at once went to writing another. I ran my eye over the one he had given me. It was an appeal to Sullivan to retreat immediately from Sorel.

The British had at least ten thousand men, Arnold wrote; to risk a battle against such numbers would only result in the loss of everything. “I am content,” he told Sullivan, at the end, “to be the last man who quits this country, and fall, so that my country may rise. But let us not fall together.”

I read it again: then folded it and put it on the rickety deal table.

Arnold threw down his pen and dried his second letter. His face, when he spoke, was dark and sullen, with a queer lumpy look to it. “Sullivan doesn’t want to go! He wants to stay right where he is, and fight the British. He thinks they’ll do what he wants them to do; but they won’t! If he stays where he is, they’ll sail past him up the St. Lawrence. He can’t seem to realise the St. Lawrence turns south, beyond Sorel, so that for every mile the British sail, once they’re past him, they’re a mile in his rear as well!

“If they pass him before he starts to retreat, he’s lost—he and his men and his guns and his stores! We’re all of us lost—ruined! They’d capture every last man of us—every last man! There’d be nothing between them and Albany! All they’d need to do would be to go there, march down the Hudson, join Howe, cut Washington’s forces to pieces, and start hanging rebels. They’d have nothing to worry about except which of us to hang!”

He jumped to his feet, snatched his sword from the table and fastened it to his belt. “Well, they won’t do it, not if I have anything to say about it! I’m going back to Montreal. I’ll do what I can to protect Sullivan’s rear until I’m ordered out or wiped out. I can’t do much with three hundred men—not against ten thousand; but I might delay ’em a little!” He laughed, and a light seemed to glow behind the swarthiness of his face. “I’ll kick up a dust somehow!”

He pulled on his gauntlets. “Get a horse somewhere! Seize it if you have to! Take that letter to Sullivan; and on your way, stop at Chambly and give this”—he pushed his second letter to me—“to Colonel Hazen. He’s to move all his supplies and stores back here at once! At once!” He growled a little under his breath, so that I knew he was thinking how Hazen had flouted his orders on other occasions.

He bolted from the room. By the time I reached the front door, his black horse was pelting down the river road at a gallop; and Captain Wilkinson, his jaw-muscles working busily, was still hard at work freeing his own brown mare from a hitching-post.

My heart and head, I knew, should have been filled with martial and patriotic emotions; but what I felt was a great wistfulness, wholly personal to me. I was ordered to Chambly and thence to Sorel, with an ache inside of me that longed for me to carry it back to St. John’s—St. John’s and Ellen Phipps, who had blushed and assented when Marie de Sabrevois asked her whether she didn’t like my brother Nathaniel.


Chambly and St. John’s are twelve miles apart. St. John’s is the end of navigation for vessels coming north from Lake Champlain, and Chambly is the end of navigation for vessels coming south from the St. Lawrence; and between the two towns the Richelieu leaps down from the level of Lake Champlain to that of the St. Lawrence in a series of shoals and ledges and roaring rapids and tumbling cataracts.

Those twelve short miles are a strong barrier to an invading army wishful of moving from Canada to Lake Champlain; for no vessel can pass over them; and the army that attempts it must disembark at Chambly, abandon its vessels, march to St. John’s, and there build new vessels for the transporting of men, guns and supplies.

Therefore Chambly is a strategic point, and a fort was built there during the old French wars—an ugly square thing on a dirty, weed-grown plain between the upper and lower rapids.

When I came down the road on that hot June afternoon, there were tents on the plain, pitched with no appearance of military neatness; and on the river-bank were piles of supplies, most of them unguarded. There was a rumpled, deserted look about the whole place, such as is seen around an ill-kept tavern at an early hour in the morning.

I kicked my bony plough-horse in the ribs and rode up to the drawbridge of the fort. A ragged sentry sat on the planks, staring into the shallow rainwater that filled the ditch beneath.

“Message for Colonel Hazen,” I told him.

He jerked his head toward the open gateway of the fort, so I gave him my horse’s reins and entered the dark interior. In the guard-room I found a man mending rips in his trousers; but when I asked for Colonel Hazen, he shook his head absently and remained engrossed in his needlework. “Busy,” he murmured. “In quarters—talking to somebody.”

“I’ve got to see him quick,” I said. “I’ve got a message from General Arnold. It’s important.”

He looked up at me and grinned. “From General Arnold? You’ll be welcome here! Welcome as a pole-cat! Hazen’s got Bedel with him—Bedel and Colonel Easton and Major Brown.”

“I’m not here to be welcomed,” I said. “I’m here to give him this message.”

He eyed me queerly, but made a neat knot in the twine with which he was sewing, sawed it off with a jack-knife, wrapped his needle and twine remnant in an old rag, and led me down a passageway smelling of ammonia.

“Is Colonel Bedel the one that was at the Cedars?” I asked him.

He laughed hoarsely. “The one that wasn’t there, you mean,” he whispered. “Yes, that’s him.”

“I thought he was being courtmartialled for cowardice,” I said.

The man made no answer, but stopped at a door behind which I heard a murmur of voices. He motioned at the door with his thumb and went off the way he had come, stepping softly. I knocked on the door. The murmur ceased: then a sulky voice said “Come in.”

The room was more of a cell than anything else, and so dimly lighted by one small slit of a window that there were two candles burning on the table. There were two men in chairs at this table, and two more sitting on a bunk built against the wall. They were just sitting, all four of them, as if they had nothing else to do. They stared at me; and when one of the two at the table snapped “What’s your business?” I knew he must be Colonel Hazen. He was a red-faced man with a thick neck, quick and impatient in his movements, and he wore a handsome uniform—as good as those worn by the officers of the fine Pennsylvania troops that had been cut to pieces at Three Rivers.

“A despatch from General Arnold,” I said, and gave it to him.

He opened it, humming and hawing in his throat, whereupon one of the two on the bunk, a tall, long-nosed young man, snorted and said, “Speak of the devil!”

The officer at the table with Hazen was dusty, and farmerish-seeming. His face was round, and so was his body; and his eyes had a squint to them as if he could say something smart whenever he chose; and he chose at this moment. “Ain’t that a leetle weak, Major?” he asked. “Generally you git violent inside of three words!” At this all four of them guffawed meanly, as idlers guffaw in a village store, when one of them achieves a gem of rudeness.

The tall officer with the long nose, therefore, was a major, and must be Major Brown; and I remembered, then, that some one had spoken of Bedel as being the best hay-pitcher in New Hampshire. Thus Bedel had to be the round, dusty-looking, farmer-like man; for the fourth officer, the one who sat on the bunk beside Major Brown, was thin, with a bitter twist to his mouth, which was set in a perpetual sneer. He must, I was sure, be Colonel Easton, for I could tell by looking at him that he would be no better at pitching hay than at doing a generous deed.

Colonel Hazen placed Arnold’s letter on the table and smoothed it carefully: then turned it over and looked at the superscription. “ ‘Captain Peter Merrill,’ ” he read. “That’s you, is it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Whose commission do you hold, sir? Congress or Provincial?”

“General Arnold gave me my commission,” I said. “It was necessary in the performance of scout duty.”

The four officers looked at each other: then concentrated their stares on me.

“So you’re a scout, are you?” Major Brown said politely. “You have special qualifications, no doubt, if the general commissioned you.” He stressed the word “general” in such a way that I felt he would willingly cut Arnold’s throat if he could do it undetected. I made no answer; and in an instant he was on his feet, as if he had me in a court of law. “We’d be interested to know, Captain,” he persisted, “about your special qualifications.”

“Well, sir,” I said mildly, not wishing to have trouble with any of these four officers, “well, sir, I don’t rightly see what that has to do with you, or with my present duties.”

“You don’t?” Major Brown cried. “It has this to do with it! It’s contrary to law for General Arnold——”

“I’ll answer your question,” I said. “I’ve got another despatch to carry, and it won’t stand delay. I was a sea captain.” I had an itch to ask them for their own qualifications, but dared not—which is what the army does to most.

I think my desire showed in my face; for they said no more: only glowered at me.

“Sir,” I said to Colonel Hazen, “I’d like a receipt for that despatch.”

When he gave it to me, ungraciously, I went out of the fort on the run without stopping to salute any of the four officers. To my way of thinking they were what Cap Huff had called pig-nut officers—all rind and a little meat, and that worthless, in all likelihood. I knew next to nothing about them; but I was sure of two things. They hated Arnold because he hadn’t found them competent, and had let them see he knew their incapacities; and to my mind Arnold alone was worth all four of them stirred together, with another ten thousand like them added to the mixture.

. . . Because of the thousands of smallpox sufferers that had poured back on us from Sorel, and the tales of starvation, defeat and desertion that had reached us daily from Sullivan’s camp, I expected to find something terrible when I reached it. It might have been worse; for although the men in sight were thin and dejected-looking, they were clean shaved, and their hair and breeches were tied, showing they were subject to discipline.

None the less the camp at Sorel was miserable enough. It occupied the sandy marsh where the Richelieu runs into Lake St. Peter. The broad St. Lawrence lay before it, the far shore lost in a heat haze; and against the haze quivered distant marshy islets that had the look of fever-breeders. The air was moist and stagnant, and the smell of the place was that of a dirty water-butt on a hot day—foul and sickish.

Through and over everything seemed to run a faint yet shrill moaning. This was the sound of the countless billions of mosquitoes with which the country swarmed.

Yet the place was orderly. Two hundred brown bateaux lay in regular ranks along the river; and there were three schooners and a pair of cumbersome flat-bottomed gundelos tied up among them, like five curlews standing among a flock of sandpipers. The camp itself was neat, and enclosed with earthworks and trenches. Behind the earthworks, close to the water’s edge, there were five cannon, three of them great guns and two of them about large enough for shooting ducks.

All around me, as I rode through the wretched shelters under which this pauper army lived, were the Pennsylvania troops I had seen entering St. John’s two weeks before. Already their uniforms, the fine blue-and-white uniforms that had shone so brightly against the brown waters of the Richelieu, were faded and tattered, and the men themselves had the look of being tattered in spirit.

There were sentries at the door of headquarters; and when one of them bawled that here was a despatch-bearer come from General Arnold, I was taken at once before General Sullivan. There was little amiability to be seen in his broad lynx-like face as he glanced from the superscription on the letter to my rough clothes, and even less when he had opened the letter and run his eye over it. He pressed his lips together stubbornly and shook his head, so that I knew without any word from him that his ideas as to retreating were not the same as Arnold’s.

To me he said: “It was you, wasn’t it, Captain, who was taking the vessel to pieces because Arnold thought it might be needful in a retreat?”

I said, “Yes,” whereupon he remarked grimly that there seemed to be a conspiracy on somebody’s part to persuade him to retreat without firing a gun. With that he sighed and spoke to me kindly enough. “I suppose it’s your duty to return to Arnold with an answer to his message. Well, I can’t let you have it now: you’ll have to wait. Meanwhile, find yourself quarters with Wayne’s officers. I’ll have use for every healthy man obtainable, and in no great while either!”

It seemed plain to me that what Sullivan meant was that he intended, in spite of Arnold’s warning, to fight the British. If he had any other intentions, I was sure he would have moved at once.

But in spite of Arnold’s warning, Sullivan would not stir. God knows what he thought; but there in that steaming sticky fry-pan of a camp he waited, silent and lynx-like, staring out over the low islands of Lake St. Peter. He seemed to be set upon waiting, with his inactive army, perforce, waiting with him.

. . . On the day after I brought him Arnold’s message the whole army seemed to stare, too—stare breathlessly into the dirty heat-haze that smudged the northern sky, and wilt as it stared. A sun of molten brass glared down on fiery hot marshes that spewed mosquitoes into the quivering air; and on every side there was a muttering from the men and a grumbling from the officers; for word had spread among them as to the numbers of the British and the size of the guns they were bringing against us—guns big enough to let them lie well out of range of our little pea-shooters and batter us to a jelly.

A rumour flashed through the camp, when that broiling morning was half over, that a column of British had been sighted on the far shore of the St. Lawrence; a long column, attended by supply carts and artillery, marching up the river. If this was true, it meant the British were moving on a long curve that would bring them in our rear. It meant we would be cut off.

Officers went to Sullivan, where he stood on the earthworks, staring out over the lake. St. Clair, a worried-looking grayish man, talked with him, and Wayne, a tall, chesty officer with a bold, jeering look. They waved their arms and pointed, now at the camp and now toward the rear; and we knew they were urging Sullivan to retreat while there was yet time. But Sullivan just stood there, his lips tight together and the perspiration shining on his face, and wouldn’t stir. He would not stir.

It was early afternoon when the sentries on the earthworks began to shout and point across the pale blue waters of the lake. What they saw could be seen by any man with eyes. The distant haze had lifted—cooled, perhaps, by a fresher breeze—and beyond the sandy islands that crowd the upper end of Lake St. Peter there rose the white sails of such a fleet as I had never seen.

The whole horizon on the far side of the islands was solid with topgallant-sails and royals, score upon score of them. I tried to count them, but it was not possible, any more than it would be possible to count seagulls packed on a distant ledge. There were more than fifty vessels in the fleet. Their sails were big and square: not the sails of small merchant vessels, but of ships—war vessels: frigates, beyond question, and sloops-of-war. This vast spread of canvas hung there, shining in the scorching afternoon sun, like the silvery rim of a thundercloud: a great armada.

The breeze was light, but it was steady. In three hours, if it held, every last one of these tall vessels would have passed between the islands and would be close enough to open on us with big guns. I wondered whether Sullivan had gone mad with the heat. In no other way, it seemed to me, could his unwillingness to move be explained.

He had come out on the parapet again and stood staring down the river, motionless, with groups of officers gathered close around him. I could see their heads jerking and their hands waving, and knew they were arguing furiously; but Sullivan stood immovable among them, his gaze fixed on the countless sails in the north.

As I watched them, the damp heat of the place seemed to smother me—to choke me. I wondered what the British would do to us when they captured us: where they would take us.

I wondered about Nathaniel: whether he had seen Ellen Phipps yet: whether he would escape the British, or whether they would capture him too. I wondered about Ellen—whether she would get away to Albany: whether I would ever see her again.

Within me I cursed this lynx-faced general, who was putting all of us in a corner like a lot of helpless rats—putting us where we could neither fight nor run—and doing it in spite of Arnold’s warning: in spite, now that the odds against us were actually in sight, of the warnings of all his officers.

The group around Sullivan burst apart, almost as though a bomb had scattered them. Some of the officers shouted. A drummer ran toward them: then stopped, hitched his drum into position and beat a rattling, rasping roll that seemed the embodiment of irritation. It told every one within hearing that Sullivan had yielded at last and ordered a retreat.

On the instant the whole camp boiled with men. Other drums went to rolling, half heard in the yammering and bawling that arose on every side.

It was then that I saw for the first time the spectres that had lain hid in the huts and tents. They crawled out on hands and knees, some of them. Others were drawn out by men who looked near as sick as those they drew. They had the smallpox, and there were hundreds of them. How many hundreds I would not dare to say; but it seemed to me that for every well man, there was a man with the smallpox, lying on the hot sand in front of the tent or hut from which he had been dragged.

They looked dead. Their ragged fragments of uniforms were loose on them, almost as though there was nothing inside but bones; and their limbs, sprawled at odd angles, seemed lifeless. Flies and mosquitoes crawled on their unprotected faces, but they lay without moving—a dreadful festering host—an army barely alive.

. . . The things that were done by men called well on that sweltering fourteenth day of June were more, almost, than I can believe when I cast my mind back over them. Even if the men had been in the best of health, their accomplishments would have been miracles. But the well men were sick from scanty food and discouragement and exposure—so sick that if they had been aboard a ship of mine, I would have hesitated to let any one of them go aloft to hand a sail for fear he would have lost his hold from weakness.

Yet these men levelled the earthworks they had been weeks in building, and filled the trenches. They trundled the cannon from the embrasures and stowed them aboard the schooners in the river; carried the sick men to the bateaux and placed them tenderly in the bows and sterns; took out the powder, shot and supplies from the rickety warehouses and loaded them in the schooners and gundelos; packed up every last thing in the tents and huts and headquarters—every entrenching tool, every shovel, every blanket, every kettle.

They struck and packed the tents: crawled over that baking, mosquito-ridden, stinking marsh like fumbling human ants, weak and drenched with sweat, but tirelessly salvaging every usable thing.

The sun was a red-hot ball in a dirty heat haze when the schooners and gundelos, loaded with guns, stores and men, set off up stream. They were none too soon in their going, I thought; for the British fleet, crowded by now into the channel between the islands, was close. We could see the fighting-tops of the ships in the van, and the small figures in them, waiting to pick us off with muskets.

When there was nothing left in the camp but huts and warehouses and an expanse of foul and trampled sand, we set fire to everything that would burn. The smoke rolled down over the throngs that wrestled with the bateaux at the river’s edge, so that they had the look, in the hot red light of the setting sun, of lost souls struggling to escape from the fringes of hell.

We went into the bateaux like cattle, helter skelter, urged on by Sullivan, who marched up and down on the bank, as cheerful as though the British were in England, instead of a whisker’s width behind us. The sick lay at our feet, moaning and complaining; for not only were they seared and tortured by the internal fires of smallpox, but the bateaux were like ovens from lying in the full glare of the sun.

There was a stench to those poor men, the overpowering stench of smallpox, and they were terrible to look at, because of the sores and swellings that made their faces unrecognisable. They croaked hoarsely for coolness and water, and for a hundred things that we had no way to get for them; and to the accompaniment of this piteous faint chorus we pulled out into the swift current of the Richelieu.


Even after the passage of years there are nights when I start from my sleep, drenched with perspiration, because of dreaming darkly that I am on the Richelieu, once more, toiling until my muscles crack to reach the double goal that hangs like an unattainable mirage before me—for not only was I possessed, like all the others, to reach a place where we would no longer be at the mercy of the British, but I knew I could have no peace until I had again made inquiries at the Château de St. Auge.

What with the heat and the weakness of the men and the weight of the clumsy bateaux, we made slow progress against the river; but slow as we were, we crept like a flock of giant waterbugs past the even slower schooners; for the wind, dropping with the sun, had left them nearly helpless. Any one could see with half an eye that the headway of these vessels would soon cease, and that unless something should be done about them, they must inevitably fall into the hands of the British.

Fortunately there seemed to be no end to the Canadian twilight; and Sullivan, slipping among us in a canoe, made a selection of bateaux—a hundred of them, and among them mine. We transferred our sick into other bateaux; and the well, all but the oarsmen, went ashore to make their way upstream afoot. Then back we pulled to the schooners; and far into that sultry simmering night we worked at shifting boxes and barrels, powder and shot, guns and gun carriages, sick and well, from their decks and holds into the bateaux.

It is hard enough, God knows, for strong and healthy men, well-fed, to lower heavy weights from a large vessel into a small boat in the bright light of day without accident. For hungry, weak men to do such work in darkness is not possible—or so I thought until the determination to escape the British became a passion in these men’s minds.

I worked with one ear cocked up, expecting every moment to hear that a cannon had fallen through the bottom of a bateau, or that a barrel had burst itself on the heads of those who stood waiting for it with upstretched arms; but for hours these ragged, sweating spectres fumbled safely at their labours, making profane jests about the fat king whose troops were at our heels; and one by one the bateaux, deep in the water, dropped away from the larger vessels and pulled slowly upstream again.

When we were done, there was nothing left in the schooners. We took off their sails, even, and stripped them of their cordage; and at last we set fire to them, so that the final bateaux to cast off were lighted on their way by the flames that poured from the hatches.

The dawn had come, we thought, for in the light of the blazing schooners we could see the apple trees, white with blossoms, staring out at us from either bank; and robins waked to trill their quivering morning melodies. Even so the dawn seemed overdue, for the work we had done was such as should have taken us a dozen nights of toil. Yet it was not dawn, but only midnight, and before dawn had come we had tied rags around our hands and the rags were bloody.

We rowed all night through a sultriness that pressed upon us like hot wool, and all through the blazing heat of the day that followed. It is fifty miles from Sorel to Chambly, against a swift current; and for hours on end each stroke we took with our clumsy oars seemed the last that could be endured. Still we took one more, and then one more: always one more stroke, with our arms and backs like hot lead; and inch by inch we lumbered on, another inch farther from the British: another inch closer to Chambly—another inch closer to the rapids, beyond which the vessels of the British could not pass.

Toward dusk a wall of black cloud came up in the west—a wall from which emerged a steady distant rumble, an angry smothered roar, with only such breaks as a growling animal might make to catch its breath.

The growling was growing louder when we came to the broad pool at the foot of Chambly rapids, and to the throng of bateaux that wallowed uneasily in the swirling, dirty, foam-streaked water, waiting to go up. They were a sad flotilla in the sickly shadow of the coming storm, and the men in them, both sick and well, were strangely silent—perhaps because, like me, their muscles trembled with fatigue and they were too spent for speech.

While we waited, the black wall in the west towered up over us and seemed to burst. The whole sky blazed. Thunder pounded at our ears and heads like padded hammers, while the rain had the solidity of falling lakes. There was an inhuman yet personal intensity to this storm, as if the devil had sent a legion of water-witches to torment us. There was no slackening of the rain; the stabbing of lightning was incessant, and it was to the unremittent crashing of close thunder that we were drummed on our way over Chambly rapids.

Before that night it had been thought no bateau could be taken through them; for they were a sloping wall of raging, tumbling, yellowish water—a wall whose upper end is as far above its lower as the masthead of a stout vessel lies above its keel. Where there are ledges and boulders in the stream, the water slips over them like strong brown glass, seemingly without motion; but having passed the obstruction, it bursts into a jaundiced rage and hurls itself upward in angry spouts, as if to leap back over the rock that hindered its descent. Thus the sloping wall of the rapids is like a beaten desperate army, tumbling down from heights it cannot scale; and it was up those heights that we must go, with all our bateaux and supplies and ammunition.

There could be no failure; for if we failed, we would have no means of escape, and would be doomed to wander, without arms or food or shelter, in the trackless wilderness to the south.

How we did it I scarcely know; but it was done. With fingers bloody and clumsy from our rowing, we lashed ropes to the bateaux, bow and stern and amidships; and as many as could do so laid hold of the ropes, without regard for rank or military observances. Ordinarily, that is to say, no love was lost between the Pennsylvanians and the New England troops, and I have known times when Pennsylvanians would see Massachusetts men in hell before they would lift a finger to help them. But here at Chambly rapids there was no thought of differences; and once, while I dragged, groaning, at a rope with raw hands that seemed to clutch hot nettles, the man who grunted and puffed beside me was General Sullivan.

The men on shore hauled; and in each bateau, men with poles strained to hold it from the rocky bank; while in the rapids, waist deep in the surging flood and clinging to the gunwales, went other men. Inch by inch they worked forward, half supported by the bateau and half supporting it. The heavy great boat lay tilted upward in the churning, thrusting torrent, straining and rearing like a restive horse; and inch by inch it climbed that wall of water—a wall that leaped at us and showed white fangs in the crackling flashes of lightning; then hid for a moment in impenetrable dark before leaping at us once more.

The pole of a bateauman would often slip; and its wielder, plunging over the side, would go down through foam and over boulders, to be fished out, choking and gagging, by those below.

Those who waded would lose their footing, swing backward against the legs of their fellows, and whirl away, half-submerged, until they floundered, bruised and nearly drowned, among the boats that waited in the pool. The bateau would hesitate and lurch; there would be a strangled chorus of shouts from those who laboured with it. Once more it would move upward almost imperceptibly, quivering and fighting in the lightning’s glare.

There was agony, even, in watching the painful slow ascent of these unwilling bateaux, held by main strength on that sloping wall of water at an angle as unnatural as it was impossible; for with each one that went up, we said to ourselves a score of times that it could go no farther—that it must topple backward and whirl down among us, sinking others before it sunk itself. Yet every last one of them went up, and over the brink at last into the smooth stretch of water that flows through the plain in front of the clumsy square stone fort.

. . . It was a strange sight, that plain, when we had hoisted our bateau up the rapids and dragged its nose ashore, our legs trembling and our muscles throbbing from the violence of our endeavours.

It had the look, in the blue flashes that seared our aching eyes, of a battlefield; for human figures covered the treeless space before the black fort that glistened in the rain. They sprawled grotesquely in the mud; and with each blaze of lightning we saw them stabbed by a thousand watery darts. Rivulets ran over and around them; but they lay like sodden corpses, conscious of nothing. Here and there a body moved; struggled to its knees and crawled a little: rose to its feet, even, to stagger blindly and then sink again.

Groups of men came slowly into the plain from down the stream, or clambered like clumsy demons over the river-bank. They groped and stumbled numbly: then sank down among the prostrate figures, or dragged themselves away towards St. John’s. It was not an army: there were no officers: no sentinels—nothing but human cattle, palsied from exhaustion; sick with disease, hunger and despair.

The night before I had drunk a cup of paste, made from a little flour mixed with the water of the Richelieu. Since then there had been nothing to eat. I picked my way towards the fort through the recumbent bodies of these miserable skeletons, wondering whether Hazen had obeyed the orders I had brought him from Arnold—the orders to send all supplies and sick to St. John’s. If he was so quick at disobeying orders, it might be there were still supplies remaining in the fort. I could have eaten anything. The walls of my stomach seemed to grind together, and to squeak in the grinding. I must have food, I knew, to stop this grinding; to put strength back in my knees.

I tried to remember when it was I had come here and spoken with Hazen and his officers. A week or more ago, I thought at first: ten days perhaps. No: it was less: six days—five days. Then it came to me that it was only two days before. Two days! I stood and stared at the drawbridge that spanned the ditch before the fort; it was down, and the lightning showed me that the heavy gates stood open, unguarded by any sentry.

Behind me I heard the chupping of a horse’s hoofs in the mud of the plain, and almost at once the rider’s voice shouting, “Aren’t there any officers in this army? Where’s the general?”

The voice was strange and cracked with excitement; but the vivid flashes let me see that the rider was Captain Wilkinson.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I just got here.”

“Look!” Wilkinson said, “hold my horse, will you? He’ll be cut off—Arnold’ll be cut off—by Heaven, sir, when did you start—this is damnable—when did you leave Sorel?”

“Two nights ago,” I told him, glad I had figured out the time.

Wilkinson groaned, hoisted a leg over his saddle and slid stiffly to the ground. “Why in God’s name didn’t Sullivan let us know?” he asked, all his military forms forgotten. “Why didn’t he tell Arnold? We only got word this afternoon! This afternoon, two days late! By God, sir, this man is trying to ruin us! The British—the British—why, they’ll capture Arnold if I can’t get five hundred men to cover his retreat! Where in God’s name can I get five hundred men out of this rabble?”

“Let’s have the reins,” I said. “Tell it to somebody inside the fort.”

Wilkinson rushed across the drawbridge and disappeared through the yawning gateway. The horse, a clumsy cart-horse, hung its head almost to its knees and slumbered. I felt in the saddlebags for food, but found only a greasy fragment of paper that had been wrapped around salt pork. I chewed it until it grew pulpy and trickled down my throat. It seemed to put strength in my knees, but not much. I could have eaten a whole pig. I looked hard at Wilkinson’s steed and wondered if I could eat a whole horse. I decided I could, if it was not an old one.

When Wilkinson came out again, he seemed to have recovered his semblance of calmness. “They’re there,” he said. “Sullivan and Hazen and Maxwell and St. Clair. They say De Woedtke’s supposed to have been put in command of the rear. D’you know anything about him?”

“No,” I said, “I don’t, but if you’re going looking for him, look for a place where rum can be bought, because that’s where he’ll be.”

For the sole time during our acquaintanceship, Wilkinson looked at me with something like approval. “It’s quite possible,” he said. “Where’s your musket and pack?”

“St. John’s,” I told him.

“In my opinion,” he said, breathing heavily, “you’ll do well to go there and get them. Those gentlemen inside didn’t even want to believe me when I told them how close the British were to Montreal. You’re liable to be wasted if you stay around them much longer.”

He stared at me owlishly, then scrambled into the saddle and went chupping off in the direction of the rapids.

Presumably I was still at General Sullivan’s disposal, and waiting to be given a message from him to be carried to General Arnold; but under the circumstances, it seemed to me that to bother my head further about such a message were to transform a military formality into a symptom of insanity.

It was twelve miles from Chambly to St. John’s, I knew. My desire for food vanished. If I walked all night, I told myself, and if the monstrous thunderstorm that had crackled and crashed overhead for four long hours would last a little longer to light me on my way, I might still reach the Château de St. Auge by morning—and it might be before Marie de Sabrevois and her niece had vanished from my sight for ever.


I could not tell, at first, what it was I saw in Madame St. Auge’s eyes when she opened the door to me on the following day; but I was not long in realising that at least a part of it was horror. Until then I had given no thought to my appearance; but now, when I looked at myself, I could see I was as badly off, nearly, as any of the wretched creatures with whom I had fought my way over Chambly rapids.

Thanks to the rain, which had ceased at last, I was almost clean; but there was nothing left of my stockings, and my shoes were a pulp of muddy leather shreds. My breeches, minus their knee buckles, were dangerously ripped, and fastened here and there with string. I had lost my hat; my hair was matted; my face, what with the beard on it and my lack of food and the weariness that weighed on me like lead, felt as though fashioned from a block of hot glue. All in all, I could not blame Madame St. Auge for staring at me as she did; but things were in too serious a pass to waste time apologising for clothes or the lack of them.

“Where’s Ellen?” I asked her.

She raised her eyebrows. “Ellen? You expect to see Ellen? You?”

“Look here,” I said, “I’ve been on the move all night—for days—ever since I can remember. The British are close behind us! Where’s Ellen?”

She lowered her eyes, folding her hands over a stomach that protruded somewhat, and there was a smug look about her. “I don’t know where she is. I don’t know.”

“You don’t know!” I cried. “Do you mean they’ve already started for Albany?”

She looked stupid; it seemed to me she deliberately looked stupid. “For Albany? I don’t know.”

“You don’t know! She’s with Marie de Sabrevois, isn’t she?”

Madame St. Auge put on a pious look that sickened me. “Our poor Marie!” she sighed. “She’s ill with exhaustion. In her bed, she is, alas! Allowed to eat only the simplest foods.”

Fatigue was so strong upon me that I was little better than able to stand upon my feet; but my impulse was to take this woman by the shoulders and shake her. My face must have shown something of what I felt; for she backed away apprehensively. “You must excuse me, if you please,” she said.

“Did my brother come here?” I asked her. “Do you know where he is?”

Madame St. Auge smiled faintly, and, as it seemed to me, surreptitiously. “Oh, yes: your brother was here. Naturally! How could Ellen have gone away with him if he had not come here for her?”

“Gone away with him!” I cried. “In God’s name, where?”

“I cannot tell you.”

A thought struck me. Was Nathaniel to see her safe to Albany, since Mademoiselle de Sabrevois herself couldn’t go? Then, as Madame St. Auge did nothing but stare at me, I answered my own question. “No, he couldn’t do that! He’s on duty with the army! And he couldn’t take a girl like Ellen with the army! Do you know where this army is? It’s starving! It’s trying to save itself! There’s no discipline or order in it! It’s rotten with smallpox!”

“I’m very sorry,” Madame St. Auge said, and made as if to close the door in my face; but I prevented her by putting my foot upon the threshold.

“So am I sorry,” I told her sharply. “I intend to see Marie de Sabrevois.”

“I have told you she is in bed.”

“I don’t care where she is! I’ll see her!”

But the woman stood in my way, and I was unwilling to lay a hand on her.

“You should be the last to make a disturbance at this door!” she said. “It’s your brother’s business; not yours. If he sees no harm in taking her with him, you should be content. If your brother takes away and hopes to protect a young girl to whom he is betrothed with the consent of her guardian, it is for you to show respect: not excitement and interference!”

“Betrothed?” I stared at her, sickishly enough, I dare say. “You’re telling me that Mademoiselle de Sabrevois wishes this young girl and my brother to be betrothed!”

“Why not? And why not? Why should they not be betrothed, and why should he not take her away to protect her?”

“I can’t talk to you,” I said. “You’ll have to let me see Mademoiselle de Sabrevois.”

“No, you can’t.”

I heard the thumping of a drum from across the river, and the sound of shouting. I was getting nowhere, and I felt I had to speak my mind. “Look here,” I said. “I doubt if you’ve told me the truth. What’s more, I doubt that Mademoiselle de Sabrevois is sick, and I’m going in to see her!”

Madame St. Auge spoke suddenly in French, raising her voice. A man came out of the room in which Nathaniel and I had first seen Ellen. He was a drab man in unnoticeable snuff-coloured garments—the sort of person at whom one seldom looks twice. He might have been anything—a farmer: a small merchant: a servant; but I remembered seeing him before. He had been one of those waiting in Arnold’s headquarters on the afternoon when I had gone in with Steven Nason and Cap Huff to report to Arnold.

He answered Madame St. Auge in French, holding up his hands as if horrified; and to me he added, in English: “I forbid! That poor lady is so helpless that she would sicken at excitement—oh, very dangerous! I am a doctor. You must go away now. It is bad for her, even, to hear your voice.”

The sound of the drum came more plainly to my ears. There must be two drums, I realised, or even three. “You’re a doctor?” I asked. “You live here in Iberville? I didn’t know there was a doctor in this place.”

He shrugged his shoulders. “Many people know nothing of doctors until they have need of one.”

“If you live here,” I said, “what were you doing in Montreal two weeks ago?”

He looked at me with an air of compassion. “Young man, you are sleepless and hungry. It has made a fire in your head. You imagine things, I think. Two weeks ago I am in Montreal, of course; yes! To ask that care be exercised, lest our people take the smallpox from your soldiers. Is there something wrong in that?” He spoke more gravely. “You must go somewhere for food, and sleep well.”

He and Madame St. Auge stood staring at me steadily. I whispered the words—“food, and sleep well.” Both of them nodded and watched me.

The distant drum-beats seemed to waver, as if the steadily increasing heat of the day had set the sound to quivering. It came into my head that I would find some sort of help with the drums, whereas I could look for nothing from these people in the Château de St. Auge—nothing.

I turned from them and stumbled down the steps, repeating the words to myself, over and over—“food, and sleep well; food, and sleep well.” There was something ludicrous about them. What in God’s name did such people know about it, I thought: they who had food, and gave it to no one: they who spoke about sleeping well when they had never had a brother who was going to marry a girl like Ellen, and had taken her out of a safe refuge into a broken and retreating army—to protect her!

I got back to the river somehow, and rowed myself across. Along the road, in twos and threes, shambled an unceasing procession of ragged, emaciated soldiers. They paid no attention to me when I stumbled among them, to walk with them. I felt weak and draggled. Something seemed to have hit me in the head. I had no mind of my own. Whatever these silent, dirty, tattered soldiers might at that moment have done, I would also have done unquestionably. If they had run, I, too, would have run. If they had fallen, I might have fallen as well.

I was surprised when a huge hand grasped my shoulders and turned me into the shipyard. I saw Cap Huff’s moist red face close to mine, and behind him a little group of men in tow-cloth smocks like my own—except that mine was in shreds. So great was my relief at finding myself among friends again that I began weakly to laugh.

At the sound of this silly laughter of mine, they came close and stared at me, while Tom Bickford took me by the arm. I stood and tried to make myself understand how any one connected with this army could still look as fresh and clean as Tom.

“You better come and lay down, Cap’n Peter,” he said, and tugged at my elbow. “You get some food and sleep!”

“Have you seen Nathaniel?” I asked him.

“You better come right away and lay down, Cap’n Peter!”

A powerful odour of asafœtida reached me. Doc Means came and felt my pulse, and Joseph Marie Verrieul came with him and stared at me. I began to feel irritated with all three of them. “What’s the matter with you?” I asked pettishly. “Can’t you hear? Where’s my brother Nathaniel?”

“He’s been sent with Major Scott and Zelph way down to Crown Point, at the other end of Lake Champlain, Cap’n Peter,” Tom said, “to guard supplies General Arnold seized in Montreal for the army. They been shipped down there to keep ’em from the British. Nathaniel’s on that duty.”

“When did he go?” I asked. “How long’s he been gone? Who went with him?”

“Why he’s all right,” Doc Means said. “You better worry about yourself, not him, Cap’n Peter. We got a nice eel stew on the fire, over in the work-shed. Tom’s been saving it for you. I’ll drop in a little mite of Digby’s Sympathetic Powder to kind of straighten you out.”

“To hell with your Sympathetic Powder!” I said. “You say Scott and Zelph were sent south to Crown Point with him? Just those three men?”

“Doc’s right,” Tom Bickford said solicitously. “You better worry about yourself: not Nathaniel. Him and Major Scott and Zelph aren’t in any danger at all, and the trip’s even so safe that some young girl’s folks took advantage of it to send her along with ’em to be took care of that way. Name of Phipps or something. You quit worrying about Nathaniel, Cap’n Peter.”

I was in no condition to think calmly. All I could do was have confused thoughts. Something seemed impossible and incredible. For no reason I had understood, Marie de Sabrevois had seemed to consider it important that she and Ellen should go to Albany; and now here was Ellen in Crown Point with Nathaniel, only half-way to Albany, while Marie herself remained in St. John’s.

I had been suspicious of Marie de Sabrevois. I had thought her a spy in the interests of the British. Perhaps she was: I couldn’t tell. I had thought her a cold-hearted, calculating woman, although I had no inkling of the object of her calculations.

I had thought she wanted Nathaniel to be in love with her—possibly so that she might use him in the obtaining of information. But how could that be, when she had practically stepped aside to let Ellen be with Nathaniel? Perhaps, after all, Marie de Sabrevois was a noble and self-sacrificing woman. Perhaps she had seen that her ward was in love with Nathaniel; had placed Ellen’s and Nathaniel’s happiness above her own. Perhaps, as Madame St. Auge had said, she was indeed sick: sick from the shock of making a great sacrifice.

It was all too much for me, especially in my exhausted state.

Cap Huff put his ham of a hand on my shoulder. “Worry about me a while,” he said. “Nathaniel’s had the big luck to get sent to Crown Point, all safe and nice, with as handsome a looking young lady as you’d care to see to play cards with him when he’s tired, or sing to him when he ain’t feeling well, just so’s he gets her safe to Crown Point, which is the same as walking up Dock Square with her on his arm, pretty near. While me, I’m left here among all this trouble and destruction and dissipation of a busted army, and can’t get away, and neither can you, nor any of these poor worthless fellers that’s standing around us, waiting to see you get hysterical with joy over Doc’s eel stew.”

He turned from me abruptly to resume his scrutiny of the ragged soldiers who shambled past in twos and threes. I sat on the ground. They brought me a bowl of eel stew. I drank it slowly, leaning back against some piled timber, and began to be conscious of returning sanity. Strangely enough, I was not so dead for sleep as I had been, and became curious about Cap.

“What’s he doing?” I asked. “Counting the soldiers as they go by?”

“He’s been watching this road ever since we got word Sullivan had started to retreat,” Tom explained. “He or one of the rest of us has stood right here, day and night, watching for Steven Nason and you. Cap was afraid one of you might have got took sick. He said he didn’t propose to have either of you rolled into one of the dead pits by mistake.”

“Whose men are these?” I asked him.

“Arnold’s. They say he rushed ’em across the river and away, like ghosts, right under the noses of the British.”

I thought, as I looked at them, that Tom was not far wrong when he spoke of them as ghosts. Some half carried, half dragged, sick men between them. Others hobbled as they walked, seemingly sunk in meditation. They were ragged and draggled, and there was a dreadful suggestion of decay about them, as if they had been corpses that had hung on gallows in wind and weather; and then, cut down, haggardly marched in this retreat.

I saw a cart piled high with supplies, and another cart loaded with sick, their faces blown up and discoloured with the smallpox: then more supply carts, and more armed stragglers. In their rear was a company of men, trying to march in columns of fours, but not succeeding. Gaunt officers marched with them and exhorted them; while two drummers, thumping wearily on drums the shape of wine-kegs, beat the time. The men slouched along, half asleep, yet wakeful enough, sometimes, to glance back, hollow-eyed, over their shoulders.

When the last of these men had come abreast of us, we saw that no other soldiers or wagons were following them; so we knew they must be the rear-guard of Arnold’s detachment; but from far down the road behind them there came a single rider, pelting lickety-split on a black horse. He drew rein just before he reached the last rank, and quite near to where I sat, finishing the eel stew.

It was Arnold, neat and alert-looking in his high boots and blue coat. His silver gorget glittered, and there was something hard and bright about him, as if he had been newly polished from top to toe.

“All right, boys,” we heard him say in a voice that might have been called harsh, but had more of an exciting quality to it than mere harshness—a quality that stirred me even more from my numbness and confusion. “All right, boys—keep at it, boys! Not a Britisher within ten miles, and the last bridge burnt! Another hour and we’ll get a full meal into you!”

One of the men in the ranks coughed dryly. “What you got for us to-day, General? Half an ounce o’ salt pork and one bean?”

There was a sound of sniffing in the ragged lines; and I knew the men must be in fair spirits in spite of their appearance; for in some parts of New England, notably in New Hampshire, a sniff is the equivalent of a hearty laugh in other sections.

Arnold smiled, touching his black horse with a spur. As it broke into a canter, Cap Huff thrust out a vast hand and fairly exploded with a bellow of “Hey, General!”

Arnold shot a cold glance at us out of pale blue eyes; then turned his horse in mid-stride and set him down close to us as neatly as a seaman lays a ship’s gig against a dock. “You needn’t wait for further orders,” he told Cap. “Take the first boat you can get to Isle aux Noix and send it back here for another load.”

“General,” Cap said, perspiring freely, “where’s Steven Nason?”

“He’s been up with the St. Francis Indians, keeping them neutral,” Arnold said. “He and Natanis. They’ll get through somehow.”

“General,” Cap said desperately, “I’d like to wait right here till Stevie comes.”

Arnold nodded carelessly, but there was a gleam in his eye that told me he felt a slight pleasure in Cap’s blundering ways. “I’ve got no objection,” he said. “You can stay here till I go. That’ll not be till Sullivan’s troops have come in and passed south. But I’ll tell you this: don’t stay after I’ve gone unless you want a free trip to England in chains.”

“General,” Cap said, swinging a huge hand in our direction, “these boys are handy with oars, all of ’em. What you say we pick you out a good boat and row you to Eel Ox Nox when you’re ready?”

That was how Cap called the Isle aux Noix, then and for ever after; and because of the society he later formed—the Eel Ox Nox Club—the rest of us subsequently referred to it in the same way.

Arnold nodded again. “Good! Good idea! Get a boat and keep it here. Stay here yourselves, all of you, so I’ll know where to find you when I need you.” He swung his big black horse, glistening with sweat, jabbed in a spur and went clattering along the river road towards the brick barracks before which his men were already dumping their supplies and arms.

. . . The next two days were hideous. The sun beat down on us as if it moved continually closer to have an unobstructed view of our troubles. There was no breeze to dispel the hot steam in which we moved; but toward sundown a bank of clouds rolled down from Lake Champlain and surged along the valley of the Richelieu. Then, through the night, the lightning stabbed and crackled around us, the rain beat through tents and roofs and windows until we were sopped and parboiled, and the violence of the thunder was enough to make us think some hell-minded giant had gone to smashing the world to pieces.

Throughout these two days the retreat still stewed about us. Sullivan’s troops came hobbling in, ready to drop in their tracks and sleep wherever and whenever they were halted, whether they stopped in broiling sun or drenching rain.

Somehow Cap Huff contrived to keep a fire burning perpetually in a lower corner of the shipyard; and by its changeable light in the rain, we could see, all night long, if we were wakeful, those half-clad, groping, draggled skeletons lurching past in twos and threes, a dismal and pitiful thing to watch.

When the thunder was still for a while, and we woke, we could hear the mutter of their voices, the clink of their camp kettles as they stumbled, the shrill screaking of the Canadian carts that helped to carry baggage and supplies, the clack of oars in bateaux, the thudding of the cannon wheels.

The sick went past in boat-loads that moved dimly on the black water; and no lost souls, rowed by Charon on a darker river, could have complained more dolefully.

Last of all to come were what was left of Wayne’s men. Tom Bickford, standing beside me to watch for Steven Nason while Cap Huff snatched an hour’s sleep, made a hissing sound when he saw the rags of blue and white that once had been their uniforms. Indeed, it was beyond belief, what had happened to those men since we had first seen them; and even now, in the coldest nights of winter, I sometimes lie and sweat with rage at the thought of how they were thrown away by Sullivan, a brave man, no doubt, but a blunderer whose sum of military knowledge was less than that contained in the smallest joint of Arnold’s smallest finger.

Where the British were, no man seemed sure, though there was not one of us but knew they were close. The cannon had come down from the barracks again and been placed in the road, just beyond us, behind a barrier of baskets filled with sand. They were four-pounders, those guns, nice for leaning against a door to hold it open, but not the best means for stopping the entire British army.

The river front had turned into a sort of human ant-hill, all aimlessness and turbulence. Bateaux came downstream constantly, back from Isle aux Noix; and loaded bateaux pushed out from the bank, colliding with everything in sight in their eagerness to be off.

It seemed to me, at times, that men had lost the power of speaking any word except “Get in!” though they were always able to bellow mere sounds. Majors and lieutenants and captains, mixed hopelessly with leaderless men, crowded the shore, running here and running there: getting into bateaux and getting out again to shout “Get in!” at some one, or to push at some one else: picking up boxes and barrels and ammunition, only to drop them and pick up others; and through it all shouting at each other “Get in! Get in! Get started! Get in! Never mind that, get in! Why the hell don’t you get in! Get in yourself! Go ahead: get in!”

Night and day the boats pushed out, filled with men that shouted: men that groaned and babbled in delirium: men that laughed and cursed. By day the sun scorched us: by night the rain came near to drowning us. Gradually the shouting, milling crowd on the river bank grew smaller and smaller: the mass of bateaux shrunk to a little fleet: the piles of baggage and stores dropped away to nothing.

Cap Huff, perched on the upturned bateau he had commandeered for Arnold, took to cursing hoarsely under his breath; for it was more and more apparent that his waiting for Steven Nason was useless. The last of Sullivan’s men had hobbled down the road and tumbled into bateaux, three full days since Sullivan had consented to retreat. The barracks below us had been set afire, as well as Colonel Hazen’s mansion across the river. I had a sudden thought that it might be a good thing for all of us if the Château de St. Auge should burn, with Marie de Sabrevois in it. I tried to banish this thought from me, as being barbarous and unworthy, but my efforts were not successful.

When the smoke poured up from the barracks, we looked for Arnold among the officers who hustled into bateaux and were pulled off upstream—that is, to the southward, towards Lake Champlain. It was not until they were all afloat that he came pelting out of the barracks yard on his black horse. Behind him clumped Wilkinson, extremely military on a bay mare heavily afflicted with wind.

Arnold clattered through the mud and puddles from last night’s rain and waved his hand at us. “Put the boat in the river!” he shouted. “We’re getting out of here!”

Wilkinson stopped for a moment to hand me Arnold’s field-desk: but Arnold went straight for the barricade across the road and seemed to sail over it: then whirled his horse and spoke to the major who commanded the battery of four-pounders. “Get those guns into boats and get started! Don’t get caught! You’ve got five minutes—no more!”

He bolted down the road, leaving Wilkinson still skirting the barricade on his windy mare. The artillery company swarmed around the pieces, hustling them back to where we wrestled with our bateau. In two seconds we were jumbled on the river-bank like a barrelful of hens, all of us struggling to be in the same small spot at the same time.

A bateau-man, perched on the stern of the nearest bateau, dug his setting pole hard into the river to keep the bow against the shore. He danced on the stern thwart with excitement. “By God!” he shouted. “It’s thum—it’s thum! A million of ’em!”

Cap Huff let go his hold on our bateaux to shoulder himself free of the jostlers. “Keep those damned guns off my feet!” he roared. Stooping, he heaved at the spokes of a cannon-wheel. The whole piece rose in the air and toppled into the boat beside us. The boat lurched beneath the sudden shock; and the bateau-man on the stern thwart popped overboard to sit violently in the river.

He scrambled out, wild-eyed, and pointed downstream, spluttering. There was no need of his pointing; for all of us could see what he saw.

Far down the river road there moved a solid column of men in scarlet coats and white breeches. There was a shimmery glitter in the air above them—a glitter that we knew came from the reflection of the setting sun on their bayonets. There did indeed seem to be a million of them; for they filled the road as far as we could see, an endless stream of scarlet.

Between us and that slowly-flowing column there was nothing except Arnold and Wilkinson—two small horsemen, motionless in the middle of the long road that curved like a snake beside the river. Around us the sweating artillerymen grunted and cursed, balancing their guns and trimming their bateaux. One boat pushed off, and then another.

We stowed our belonging, wondering how long Arnold would sit there, watching that scarlet flood. The men in the next bateau bawled at us to push them off; and Cap, setting his foot against the bow, shot it out into midstream. We were alone, then, on the muddy river-bank, a watchful and uneasy crew. We could see people edging out from the farm-houses, silently eyeing us in the sunset glow; but they stayed half hidden, either from fear or hatred.

We should have been sad, I have no doubt, over our wretched state; but there was no sadness among us, though there seemed to be a deal of irritation over small matters. Cap Huff was in a stew, not only because of Nason, but also because Doc Means persisted in saying how it should be as easy to inoculate people against the bites of mosquitoes and black flies as against the smallpox; and I was in a rage because Cap Huff went from one to the other of us, asking in a husky whisper, “What do you think’s become of Stevie? What do you think we ought to do about Stevie?”

He must have known that none of us knew anything at all about Nason, and that there was nothing to be done about him. Yet he harped on the subject interminably; and to me attempting to pursue certain thoughts that had come into my head concerning Ellen Phipps, it seemed as though he would never stop. He stopped quickly enough, however, when Verrieul, standing on a thwart, said softly: “Now they come.”

We got ourselves into our places; and before we knew it, the clatter of hoofs was in our ears and Arnold’s black horse came sailing over the abandoned barricade, with Wilkinson scrambling close behind.

Arnold swung himself out of the saddle and stood looking down at us, his bridle over his arm and a comforting look of assurance on his swarthy face. Far off we heard a bugle call. Excited shouts reached us. A few of the Canadians came out into the road to wave at the advancing troops; then dodged back again into the shelter of houses.

“You’re all here, are you?” Arnold asked. He looked at the blazing barracks: at the smouldering ruins of Hazen’s house; cocked an eye at the sky: then turned back towards the approaching British.

“They’ve thrown out their light infantry,” he said to Wilkinson. “If there’s anything else to be done, I don’t know what it is—only this.”

He unbuckled his saddle girth and hauled the saddle off his black horse. As he passed the saddle to Cap Huff, he lifted a holster flap and took out a handsome silver-mounted pistol. He stripped the bridle and bit from the horse’s head, tossed them to Cap, stroked the horse’s nose, put the muzzle of the pistol close above its eye, and pulled the trigger. The poor beast went down with a thump, kicked once and never stirred again.

Wilkinson cleared his throat importantly and did nothing.

“Come, Captain,” Arnold said impatiently. “There’s no time to lose!”

Wilkinson stared at him. The muscles over his jaws moved uncertainly.

Arnold laughed. “If you don’t feel up to it, Captain Wilkinson, we’ll have it done for you. It’s got to be done! Whatever the British get of ours, whether it’s horses or land, they’ve got to fight for! Put a bullet in her brain and come ahead!”

Wilkinson stripped his mare, then, and shot her. When it came to getting into the bateau, he made a great show of formality, standing to one side so that Arnold could precede him. He was the fussiest young man I ever saw, and so desirous of seeming helpful to officers above him in rank that he was always under foot.

“Oh, for God’s sake, Captain!” Arnold cried. “Stop nursing me and get in!”

Wilkinson climbed in, and I thought I saw Cap Huff rock the boat intentionally. At all events, Wilkinson fell among our feet, and while he was picking himself up, I certainly saw Cap Huff slip something out of a pocket in Wilkinson’s saddlebags, I knew not what; but it seemed to disappear somewhere in the recesses of Cap’s own garments.

Then Arnold gave a heave at the stern of the bateau and vaulted into it as it came away from the bank. “Pull!” he ordered. “Those light infantrymen aren’t as slow as they might be!”

We needed no urging from him; for the body of redcoats that had moved out ahead of the main column had already passed the warehouses. Even in the twilight we could see the buckles on their belts, and hear the voices of their officers. Their muskets waggled with the rapidity of their movements; but the waggling was that of a great machine. They were beautiful to watch—as beautiful as the troops Nathaniel and I had seen parading in St. James’s Park before the King, but more dangerous.

The water hissed at the bow and along the sides as we dug in our oars. I could feel the whole boat lift when Cap Huff pulled and grunted.

“Roll on, roll on; my ball, roll on,” Verrieul sang softly behind me.

“What the hell you think this is?” Cap growled. “A funeral? Sing faster!”

He broke into a hoarse bellow about three beautiful ducks that went swimming around—“Rouli, rotdong, ma boule roulong—on roulong ma boule!” He went on with the song, singing it so rapidly that parts of it sounded like the gobbling of a turkey; and we, keeping time with him, shot the clumsy brown boat along as if it had been a captain’s gig, all cedar with a newly slushed bottom.

The scarlet-coated infantrymen came to a sudden halt abreast of the smoking ruins of the old barracks. “That’s right!” Arnold said cheerfully, staring back at them. “Stop there! You might strike an ambush if you went on!” He turned from his scrutiny of the British troops and spoke to Wilkinson, who was fumbling unbelievingly in the pockets of his saddlebags. “Where’s my field-desk?” he asked. “I’ll write a few letters while the light holds.”


Valley Forge, from what he heard of it in later days, was no health resort for the troops who wintered there, thanks to a Congress unable to supply them with food or money, and to the unwillingness of certain godly Quakers to sell to any one but the British, who paid in gold. We heard a vast deal about it, too, especially from folk who had not been there; but less has been said about Isle aux Noix—possibly because its name is difficult to pronounce, but more likely because those who knew it best were glad enough to forget it.

As to which was the worse, Isle aux Noix or Valley Forge, I shall not attempt to say. It takes a wiser judge than any man I know to determine whether frozen feet are worse or better than smallpox, or whether it is more enjoyable to be starved by Quakers in the bitter cold or eaten alive by insects in the broiling heat. All I know is that since my sojourn on the Isle aux Noix, I am no longer impressed by such preachers as threaten me with hell fire.

It was nearly midnight when we drew up to sentry-fires that seemed to float in midstream and were told by a sentry that Sullivan had taken the barn near the centre of the island for his headquarters. When we moved down abreast of the barn and backed in to let Arnold jump ashore, we were conscious of a strange sound, a sort of complaining noise. It was like the wailing of a westerly gale in the top-hamper of a thousand distant ships; but there were no ships in this place, and no wind either.

Arnold tapped me on the shoulder when the boat grounded. “I’ll want you,” he said. “See Wilkinson to-morrow, so I can get you in a hurry when you’re needed.”

We overturned our bateau to make a shelter, and lay with our heads beneath it. The ground was soggy, and soon the nightly thunderstorm arrived to drench us. Yet it was not this that kept us wakeful, but a nightmare quality in the very air: a quality that filled us with a restless apprehension.

The complaining sound we had heard was the moaning and raving of the sick, who seemed to lie everywhere around us. What with that, and the dreadful smell of the place—a blend of every terrible smell I had ever smelled, with several new and awful smells added—and the faint, unending whining of the unseen mosquitoes that covered us, and the sticky, steamy misery in which we lay, I was more than a little sick myself.

As for Cap Huff, he floundered and flopped among us like a great fish out of water, and finally rolled himself over two men to lie next to Doc Means, explaining that he hoped the asafœtida would drown out some of the other smells, and so give him a chance to sleep. Disappointed, he mumbled and grumbled.

“If it wasn’t for Stevie Nason,” he said, “I wouldn’t stay five minutes with an army that smelt like this! An army ought to have a smell that you could get used to; but this army keeps getting new ones, and the newest one’s always the worst! I can’t get to like it, and I’m about ready to go home. I’d go home right now if Stevie was here. That is, I would if he’d let me. No, by God, I’d go anyway!”

“Where is it you live?” Verrieul asked politely.

“Who, me?” Cap said in a tone of surprise; and, lifting himself on one elbow, he seemed to be fumbling in his garments. We heard the sound of breaking glass, and a prolonged gurgle. Then he handed me a neckless bottle, warning me not to cut my lip. “Pass it around,” he added. “It’s brandy—just the kind of brandy a feller like Wilkinson would have. We got to get rid of it before he comes snooping around in the morning. We’ll all have a drink to Stevie.”

While I drank, Verrieul asked again the whereabouts of Cap’s home.

“My home?” Cap said. “My home? Well, I’ve usually lived most any place, or thereabouts; but if I hadn’t ever lived nowhere, I’d rather live wherever that is than here! I’d get up right now and go there, too, if it wasn’t for expecting Stevie!”

I think that was the case with most of the men on the Isle aux Noix that night. They would have gone home or anywhere else if they could—if there had been boats to carry them, and any manner in which they could have stolen the boats; and if they had not been held where they were by circumstances beyond their control.

That, I think, is the case in all wars: at some time or other, every one would run away if he dared. I know that I would have helped myself to a boat and got away somehow, if Arnold had not said he wanted to see me; for more and more I felt an urging within me to find Nathaniel and Ellen Phipps.

. . . All through the night we longed for daylight; but when daylight came, we would have been glad to go back to the darkness again, because of what we saw around us.

The Isle aux Noix is a flat pancake of an island, a mile long and a quarter-mile wide. Near the middle of it were a house and a barn and a few outhouses grouped around a heap of manure that seemed ancient enough to have been piled there in the days of Champlain himself. Ploughed fields surrounded the house; but the rest of the island was lowland and brush.

In Cap Huff’s opinion it was a floating island, anchored to the bottom of the river by the roots of the bushes; and he stuck to this idea because no matter how hard the rain fell, the surface of the island remained six inches out of water. If it had been a solid island, Cap insisted, it would have been six feet under water after we had been there a short time; for it seemed to be a custom of Canada to have thunderstorms every night—storms so violent that the island shook beneath us when the thunderclaps were overhead. We would do better, Cap said, to live at the bottom of a well where, comparatively, we’d be nice and dry.

On this marsh were eight thousand men—eight thousand American soldiers, or men who had once been soldiers. Two thousand of them had the smallpox; and two thousand sick men, crowded together in a small space, is a tremendous great number.

The six thousand who were not sick when they arrived were weary beyond all telling; for there is no weariness to compare with the exhaustion that follows failure; few things more weakening than the condition of mind that men get into during a retreat.

The truth is that men who were called “sick” on the Isle aux Noix were all but dead, whereas those who were said to be “well“ were only well in that they were able to drag themselves around without assistance.

There were not enough tents for the sick, even, and nothing with which to cover them except overturned bateaux, or a thatch of grass and branches, laid across poles. Since there was no way of fastening the thatch firmly in place, it fell down whenever the wind came up, and this usually happened late at night, in the midst of a heavy thunderstorm. Thus the sick men were wet both day and night; for since they were too sick to protect themselves against mosquitoes and black flies if left naked, their blankets could not be dried during the day.

To tell about the Isle aux Noix is not easy. To speak of one miserable circumstance brings to mind a host of others, equally miserable; and to describe the place honestly, one would have to tell a thousand horrors, little and big, and use a lifetime in the telling.

There was no food except a small amount of flour and salt pork. The pork was sour and bad, hard to eat unless a man held his nose; and even this carrion could not be properly cooked because firewood was scarce on the island. There was only brush, not nearly enough to make fires for eight thousand men three times a day, even if it had been burnable, which it was not, being green.

Consequently we made the flour into paste with the brown water from the river, and spread the paste on stones, which we put in the sun. When the paste was dry, we peeled it off and ate it.

Across the river, staring us in the face, was pine growth enough to provide fuel for all armies in the world; but it might as well have been in Arundel, or in England, for all the good it did us. We could not get at it, for although the British, having no boats with which to follow us, had stopped their advance at St. John’s, they had sent out a force of Indians, commanded by a Frenchman, to keep watch over the island—a fact that was forcibly impressed on all of us when a party of officers crossed over to the mainland to look for firewood and provisions, and had hatchets driven into their brains and their scalps ripped off within three minutes of landing.

During our first night on this devil’s island we expected that, with the dawn, the moaning of the sick would become less terrible; but instead of that, it increased. The reason it increased was because many had died during the night, and those still alive wished the dead removed, which is not hard to understand. They feared, too, that vermin would leave the dead for the living, who were already infested beyond all belief; and the sick-tents were so packed with sufferers that the survivors hoped to be more comfortable if so much as one body could be removed from among them.

Another reason they moaned was because with the daylight they were able to see the inroads the disease had made on others during the hours of darkness, and they feared for themselves—particularly for their eyes, which are destroyed in bad cases.

Also they wanted water, and dressings for their sores, and medicine, and human companionship, and some sort of surcease from the anguish of homesickness that intensified their burning and itching.

As soon as it was possible to see we went to work helping these sufferers; and I truly believe there was no tent or shelter into which we looked that did not contain a corpse or one who would be a corpse within the hour. In the case of a dead man, we drew him out on his torn and horrid blanket, knotting the lower corners across his feet, so there would be no slipping. Then two of us laid hold of the upper corners and dragged him to the dead pits, which were at the lower end of the island: the end nearer St. John’s.

A pale and sinister-seeming mist rose from the surface of the river and the soaked earth of the island. It shrouded everything, this mist, until the sun had come up to burn it off; and since there was no breeze, it hung heavily, in layers. Those who walked through that billowing, drifting shroud seemed at times legless and headless bodies, and at others mere floating heads, disappearing and reappearing in a gray Purgatory.

Therefore, as Doc Means and I went down the island, dragging our dead man behind us, we might have been moving into a land of spectres—a colourless place, a place of groaning and moaning, in which other dim figures moved, dragging burdens like our own.

The dead pits were trenches, shallow and a scant six feet in width. Because of the great number of sick, and the frequency with which they died, the pits were always open, until they were full.

The one to which we came was only partly filled with close packed ranks of swollen carcasses that lay there grinning, as if at some appalling joke. We stood above them, half strangled by the stench, and swung the blanket between us: then tossed the poor body in among the others. A billion flies leaped upward, as if in protest at this new arrival, and such was their buzzing and hissing that the row of dead men seemed to whisper and titter at their uninvited guest.

It came to me that this dead friend of ours was on the verge of speech. His eyes were open, staring above us as if horrified at what his soul must meet.

Who he was, I do not know. Certainly there was no one who seemed to care. The same thing must have been true of all the others in those pits. There were no names written anywhere—just a long row of bodies, already worse than hideous: men who had done as well as any men could do under the circumstances, and received nothing for it—neither pay nor food nor clothing nor thanks: not even decent sepulture.

There were shovels standing in the loose dirt beside the pits. When I picked one up, thinking to cover those bloated and revolting forms, a man stopped me: one of a pair who had brought another body. He wore the fragments of a blue and white uniform. His face bristled with a straggling red beard, and he crouched, as if something gnawed at his stomach. “No dirt,” he said. He panted and grunted. “Don’t cover till night. Makes rows irreg’lar.” He held his middle and moved an elbow toward the blanket which he and his companion had dropped.

“Put him in straight,” he begged. “We can’t do nothing but roll ’em in, all crooked.” He sat down suddenly at my feet. His companion staggered away through the mist. Doc Means and I swung the body into the pit: then turned our attention to the sitting man.

“What’s the matter with him, Doc?” I asked. It seemed terrible for a man to die here on the edge of the dead pits, though I cannot tell why it seemed so, when in reality it was the handiest place in which to die.

“Lemme be!” the man said. “I had the smallpox and got over it. There ain’t nothing wrong with me now, only the flux. Everybody’s got it that ain’t got the smallpox.”

“Isn’t there something he could take for it?” I asked Doc.

“H’ist me up,” the man said, as if fearful we might try to give him medicine. “I can walk if I’m h’isted up.” We hoisted him to his feet, and he lurched off into the mist, past other pairs of men dragging corpses.

We went back to the bateau; and as we went, Doc Means shook his head. “Armies,” he muttered, half to himself, “armies was created special to encourage disease. You don’t rest good in an army, and you’re kind of scairt most of the time; and when you ain’t scairt, you’re either mad or homesick. What’s more, you’re always too hot or too cold or too wet, and there’s always some pitt-whistle of an officer making you do something disgusting, and your food’s rotten, if so be you get any food at all; and all those things together fix it so you can’t help getting took sick. Then when you’re sick, those same things fix it so medicines don’t do you no good, even when there are medicines, which there usually ain’t. The way to cure these fellers of what ails ’em is to stop the war and send ’em home. There ain’t hardly one of ’em but what would be healthy inside of a week.”

We were two hours dragging dead men to the pits and doing what we could for the sick close to us—though there was nothing we could do but admit air to their shelters: air that wouldn’t choke them with its foulness. They were from Poor’s New Hampshire regiment, and near every man in the regiment was down with the smallpox—so many that when they moved on, there weren’t enough of their own men to row them, and their bateaux had to be manned out of the Pennsylvania regiments.

How any man who is sick with the smallpox came alive off this island is more than I can understand. There were no medicines, and so few doctors that the camp could have been little worse off if there had been none at all. I saw only two, and in my opinion they left something to be desired. One seemed to me to be doing nothing but weeping. Another, having heard Verrieul speak enthusiastically of the abilities of Doc Means, came to enlist Doc’s assistance in caring for the sick; then wrangled with him angrily over theories of medicine.

The first question he asked Doc was where he had studied; and when Doc had said he had got all his information by word of mouth, and out of almanacs and from reading Culpeper’s Herbal and a medical book by Thomas Tryon, the doctor said “Pfaugh!” in a loud and offensive voice, adding that Tryon was a crank and a quack.

“Well,” Doc said, “maybe he is, but he’s good enough for Ben Franklin, and what’s good enough for Ben Franklin is good enough for me. Howsomever, I ain’t making no effort to be a doctor in this army. It’s a fact I brought along my Venesection Mannekin and my Almanac and my Digby’s Sympathetic Powder, but only because——”

The doctor burst into angry laughter. “Digby’s Sympathetic Powder!” he exclaimed. “It’s useless! It’s worse than useless! There hasn’t been a reputable physician use it for pretty near a hundred years.”

“Is that so?” Doc said. “Well, you’d be surprised, the results I’ve got with it! It never did nobody no harm, and that’s more’n regular doctors can say for most of their drugs and powders.”

The other looked at him haughtily, but changed the subject. “What system do you use for reviving drowned persons?”

“It depends,” Doc said. “It depends how old they are, and whether they’re male or female.”

“In what way does it?” the doctor asked.

“If they’re male and young,” Doc said, “I hang ’em to the side of a house, by the feet, and bend ’em up from the waist a few times. That dreens ’em out. If they’re old, I lay ’em over the edge of a bed, if I got one.”

“Good God!” the doctor cried. “The suspension method! Why, it’s no better than murder, especially if the body’s been under water more than an hour.”

“According to my experience,” Doc said, “anything or anybody that’s been under water more than an hour, excepting of a fish, I’d let alone on account such few results could be expected.”

The doctor stared incredulously from Doc to the rest of us, and then back to Doc again. “Do you mean to stand there and tell me,” he whispered, “that the judgment of the greatest physicians in Europe—the judgment of Réaumur, Stoll, Murray, Cullen—is inferior to your own? Do you mean to tell me you’ve never heard of the marvellous cures effected by blowing smoke up into the insides of persons who have been under water for five hours—yes, for an entire day and more?”

“Well, down our way,” Doc Means said mildly, “people don’t get well that have been drowned over an hour. It may be their own fault, but my opinion is, it’s ordained; and all them judgments of Mary Cullen and all them Europe doctors you talk about wouldn’t give satisfaction to them or their relations either, except if they happened to be kin to the undertaker.”

The official medical man, already red with indignation, looked dangerous. “May I ask,” he said, “whether you ever heard of the Humane Society of London? Of course you haven’t! You’re not aware that the Humane Society of London has denounced the suspension method! The Humane Society of London recommends the injection of smoke, tickling with feathers, scorching the cuticle and putting the fingers and toes out of joint. I give you the information, but no more trust you to execute such recommendations than I would trust a tadpole to prescribe for General Washington! If I hear of your attempting to practise medicine or surgery in this camp——”

God knows how long this doctor, forgetful of the groans of the sick, would have continued to bully Doc Means; but fortunately a bugle went to blowing near the middle of the island, and the outraged practitioner felt compelled to depart in the direction of the bugle.

It was blowing for parade; and, knowing there would be less of a crowd at headquarters during parade than at any other time, I bolted a noisome piece of salt pork and set out to report to Wilkinson.

. . . The mist had burned away, most of it, and I had a clear look at four companies that were forming. There was next to nothing left of their uniforms; but from the rags of faded blue and soiled white that hung on them, I knew they were the wreckage of Anthony Wayne’s beautiful regiment. I was surprised to see how many men were standing at attention; and even more surprised that they should have the strength to do so, for they were bearded and emaciated, and their eyes had the look of blue smudges in clay-coloured faces. The officers looked little better than the men; but they bawled out their orders sharply enough, and the men formed lines that were almost straight.

I could hear the order that was being read—something about the colonel being determined to punish in the severest manner every man who came to parade with a long beard, slovenly dressed or dirty. I wondered how long a beard had to be in order to be considered long, and also what sort of severe punishment the colonel would inflict on men in the present situation. He could take away their salt pork, I knew, but I didn’t see what else he could do that would be considered severe—not unless he buried them alive in the dead pits.

In the midst of the reading, a man in the front row of the nearest company pitched forward to lie with his face in the mud. A sergeant crawled between the listening soldiers, got the fallen man by the arms and dragged him back out of sight.

Then the whole front rank wavered; for two men in the rear rank stumbled forward and fell with a clatter. Man after man went down in the other three companies, to be dragged back out of the way of those still able to stand. When I went on, each company stood rigidly at attention, listening to these orders from a wind-bag colonel, and the ground behind them was littered with what looked like dead men. Before the night was over, I had no doubt, some of them would be dead, and well out of this hell-hole of an Isle aux Noix.

. . . Wilkinson was leaning in solemn meditation against a corner of the barn. His jaws were clenched, as I could see from the faint movement of his cheeks. If he was not thinking great and important thoughts, he at least had the air of being thus engaged.

“General Arnold said I was to see you,” I began; but Wilkinson frowned, pointing toward the warped boards beside his head. His lips formed the words “Council of War!”; so I held my tongue and listened.

I recognised the querulous voice of General Sullivan. He seemed to be pleading almost petulantly, as a child pleads with its mother to be allowed to eat something forbidden.

“There’s nobody,” I heard him say, “nobody who doesn’t want us to hold the country. Why, look here, gentlemen! What’s to become of the poor Canadians who’ve helped us—who’ve fed us and carted our belongings and loaned money to us, in the hopes we’d take the country from the English? What’s to become of them? If we desert them, the British’ll hang ’em! My God, gentlemen; you can’t hold Canada unless you hold some part of it, and this island’s the last part of it we can keep a grip on. Congress wants it held! General Washington wants it held! The American people want it held! What’s to happen if we let go of it?”

Arnold’s voice followed so closely on Sullivan’s that it might have been an interruption rather than a reply. There was a sort of hoarseness to it that, like an unexpected bugle call, made my heart thump a little faster.

“With all due respect, General,” Arnold said, “you’re looking at it wrong end to. We’ve got eight thousand men on this island; and if there ever was an army of that size with as many enemies to fight as we’ve got, I never heard of it! We can lose every man in half a dozen different ways, and in my opinion our first duty is to save ’em if it’s possible.”

There was a growl of assent from several voices, but Arnold’s voice rose above the sound. “It’s not what Congress wants, or what they’ll think if we don’t do exactly what they want. What they want doesn’t matter! They want one thing to-day, and another thing to-morrow. They don’t know what’s going on up here. Most of ’em wouldn’t know if they were here, looking at it. They haven’t got the sort of brains that lets ’em see what they’re looking at. We’re the ones that know; and what we know is this: in two weeks’ time, if you try to hold this island, there won’t be enough well men to row your sick away! The place is full of dead bodies already, and God only knows what sort of plague you’ll get from ’em if you add to ’em for another two weeks. All your men, sick and well, are eating rotten food and drinking rotten water; and in my opinion they’ll all rot if you try to keep ’em here!”

The rumble of agreement grew louder.

Arnold laughed, a laugh that was almost contemptuous. “But the main point—the main point is this: the British are twelve miles from us—only twelve miles! In three days they’ll have their full force in St. John’s—half a day’s march; they’ll be ready to move. It’s beyond me why they haven’t moved already! If I had command of that British force, I’d take you and every one of your men prisoners to-day—this afternoon! Either that, or I’d wipe you out! That’s how strong your position is, General!”

He paused, and in my imagination I could see him, his face dark with indignation, staring with pale eyes at General Sullivan. The barn was so silent that I heard the rustling of a wasp, investigating, with palpitating rump, a knot-hole close to Wilkinson’s shoulder.

“There’s a road from St. John’s to this island,” Arnold went on suddenly. “Now how in the name of God do you propose to stay here with that road undefended? There’s no way of doing it, General! They can take us, just like reaching into a henhouse and taking a sick hen at midnight! All they need to do is send a few light guns—a few four-pounders—past us. I don’t have to tell you what would happen, General! They’d cut off our line of communications! There’d never be another ounce of provisions reach us—never another ounce! Then there’d be two things to do: starve or surrender!”

We heard Sullivan clear his throat. “We could strengthen the old French entrenchments,” he said. “We’ve still got men able to do duty.”

“Yes,” Arnold said. “Yes, you have; but you won’t have ’em long! Last night twenty-seven officers locked themselves in a hut with a barrel of rum, and drank themselves blind so they wouldn’t have to listen to the groaning of the dying men they couldn’t help! Get these men out of here, General, while you’re still able to move ’em—while they’re still able to move themselves! Don’t for God’s sake turn the whole island into one big dead pit! Get ’em to Crown Point, where they’ll be of some value to the United Colonies. They’re worth nothing as British prisoners! Dead, they’re worth even less! Get ’em away and give us a chance to fight! We haven’t got it here! No matter what you say, we haven’t got it here!”

Sullivan coughed importantly. When he spoke, I wondered what in God’s name was in the man’s head in place of brains, and I longed to have him on board ship, where I could pound some sense into that iron skull with a belaying pin. “With men able to do duty,” Sullivan said, “I can’t in honour abandon this position. Considering the desire of General Washington and the Congress, I cannot retreat farther—not on my own responsibility.”

There was another silence inside the barn. I looked at Wilkinson with exasperation; but Wilkinson only stared back at me owlishly, his jaw muscles throbbing. I think he saw something reasonable and even noble in Sullivan’s attitude—an attitude that would sacrifice the lives of eight thousand men in order to save the pitiful vanity that he miscalled “honour.”

When Arnold’s voice reached us again, it was deferential: almost too deferential, it seemed to me. “I think I see what you mean, General. You can’t retreat unless General Schuyler or General Washington orders you to retreat; that’s what you mean, I take it.”

“If General Schuyler should order it,” Sullivan said, “I would, of course, obey.”

“In that case,” Arnold said slowly, “I have only two suggestions. One is that you start your sick for Crown Point at once. At once! You can do that without orders. The other is that you send me to Albany to inform General Schuyler concerning your situation. You’ve got to have those orders with no loss of time, or orders won’t do you any good—not any good at all!”

“You think he’ll order a retreat?” Sullivan asked.

Arnold only laughed.

“Then I suppose you’d want to go to-morrow, General?” Sullivan said.

“To-morrow!” Arnold cried. “I’m a seaman, General, and I’ll take seamen with me. We’ll go to-day and sail all night.”

“Good!” Sullivan said. “I’ll start the sick for Crown Point—ah—I’ll start them to-morrow.”


We found a twenty-seven-foot bateau and caulked her with old rags dipped in the grease of rancid salt pork. We made a rudder for her, and a tiller, and ballasted her with cannon balls. We made sail from tarpaulins—a patched leg-of-mutton that looked as if it might have done duty as a staysail for Henry Hudson himself, and a jib that would have been good for nothing on any deep-water vessel except to clean the galley stove. We bought a door from the Frenchman who lived on the island, and decked her forepart with it, in case she tried to put her nose under water.

In this craft we pushed off into the gathering dusk and headed up toward Champlain, the General and Wilkinson, with the rest of us as crew—Tom Bickford, Doc Means, Verrieul, Cap Huff and myself. I had known she was rickety from the wobbly feel of her when we overturned her for caulking; so I put in an oar for each of us, to give us something to hold to if she should tire of the surface and make an effort to do her sailing on the bottom. How rickety she was I did not know until we had rowed up the river and into the lake, and there caught a light breeze from the north-west that set up a little lapping in the water. Slight as it was, it made our lobster-pot of a vessel squeak as though in dire pain, and flap about like one of the skate-fish that Spanish people eat from choice.

Arnold was in good humour, and wanted to talk, though the last thing that concerned him, apparently, was the awful situation of the army on Isle aux Noix, and the mischances that had brought it about. I soon came to know that this was his way—to cast his thoughts into the future, and dwell as little as possible on the past. What’s done is done, he argued. It’s water under the bridge. You must lay your plans; and if the plans go wrong, it’s the fortunes of war—not something to be wept over.

He was a great planner, able to see farther and straighter into the future than any man I had ever known. He was a great man and a great soldier and good company, too. When he put his hand on the tiller and felt of this crazy craft of ours, I could see he was a good seaman as well.

“What’s her best point of sailing, do you think?” he asked with an air of seriousness.

I took the tiller and worked her a little. “I wouldn’t want to say,” I told him, “for fear I’d have to prove it.”

He nodded. “That’s the way she feels to me, but you can’t always tell from the feel of a bateau. Did you ever sail one before?”

When I said I hadn’t, he grinned cheerfully. “They’ll surprise you. They’ll stand pretty nearly anything. They’re almost as good when they’re full of water as when they’re tight and dry—just wetter to sit in, that’s all.”

This was a relief, as Tom Bickford had started bailing with his camp kettle.

“So don’t be afraid to push her,” Arnold said carelessly. “It’s a hundred miles to Crown Point and another hundred to Albany. I’ll count on you to get me to Crown Point in two days at the outside.”

I said nothing, knowing we would either make Crown Point in two days or never make it at all.

Arnold moved restlessly beside me, clearing his throat and occasionally whispering to himself. His brain, it seemed to me, was never still, not even when he was asleep.

“About that vessel you sent to Crown Point,” he said suddenly. “How long would it take to put her together and finish her?”

“Finish her fit to cruise?” I asked.

“To cruise and fight.”

“If I could have twenty men from our shipyard,” I said, “I could have her ready for sea in two weeks, provided I rigged her as a sloop.”

“Yes,” he agreed. “That would be about right: two weeks! That’s fast! We’d have to build ’em quick—quick!”

I had no idea what he was talking about.

“Yes, sir!” Arnold said, as if meditating to himself, “yes, sir! It’s got to be done! Somehow we’ve got to do it! It would take three hundred ship carpenters: three hundred of the best.”

I thought he might have been over-hasty in his choice of words. “Three hundred! You could build a fleet with three hundred!”

“That’s right,” Arnold said. “If we can get the three hundred men, and the lumber and the nails and the sails and the rope and the guns, and enough sailors to man ’em after they’re built, we’d have a fleet. Well, that’s what we’ve got to have!” He grumbled and muttered to himself, and chuckled a soft sardonic chuckle.

“A fleet of how many?” I asked, thinking back to the cloud of sail we had seen bearing down on the encampment at Sorel.

“Well,” Arnold said, “we’d have to build enough to cause ’em serious delay. We’ve got a few small vessels already: enough to hinder ’em from starting immediately. There’s the Royal Savage schooner, that Montgomery captured at St. John’s when he came up to join me last winter; and there’s the Enterprise sloop, that I captured at St. John’s last summer; and there’s the Liberty schooner, that used to belong to Skene, and that Captain Oswald took in Skenesboro a year ago.

“They’re small, and they’re out of repair; but small as they are, they’re enough to control the lake until the British build something bigger. The devil of it is that all the British need in order to fight those three are flat-boats—gundelos—provided they’re big enough to mount heavy guns.”

“How many would you want to build?” I asked again.

“As many as we can,” Arnold said slowly. “As many as we need to stop ’em from getting through to the Hudson and joining Howe! We might not need big vessels. We might be able to stop ’em with gundelos, even. Haul your wind a little: see if you can’t get more speed out of this foot-tub!”

I hauled it, but no good came of it that I could see, except a stronger gust of asafœtida from Doc Means.

“Yes, sir!” Arnold said. “If we could delay ’em: if we could get control of the lake for three months—for four months, so they’d have to build a fleet and make a fight for it, they’d be no further ahead a year from now than they are to-day, because they’d never dare to operate against us in the winter. Why, by God, sir, if we could delay ’em, it would be as good as a victory!”

I understood, then, what he was talking about; and more than that, I understood that here might be a chance for me to get my fingers on Nathaniel at last, and keep him close to me, where he would be in no trouble.

“Well, sir,” I said to Arnold, “I know a shipyard inside-out, and so does my brother Nathaniel. He and I could build a gundelo in two weeks, just the two of us, I do believe, only in my opinion a gundelo isn’t worth the powder to blow it to hell.”

“Ah, yes,” Arnold admitted, “but it’s cheap and easy to build; and an eighteen-pounder in the bow of a gundelo can kill just as many men as an eighteen-pounder in a fort.”

“Yes, but it’s flat-bottomed,” I reminded him, “and it slides around on the water like a pie-plate. It’s neither speedy, handy, nor seaworthy. If I was going to let off an eighteen-pounder from the bow of a gundelo, I’d want a kedge-anchor out to keep her from kicking back to shore and fouling herself in the top of a pine tree. I’d rather have one Spanish row-galley, like those you see off the Tagus, than twenty gundelos. They’re lateen-rigged, with a main and foremast: just two sails to handle, and two yards, and no bowsprit, so even a crew of teamsters could make sail on ’em, provided they’ve got a seaman over ’em.”

Arnold eyed me speculatively. “I never saw one. It doesn’t sound like the smartest rig in the world.”

“It’s good enough for the Spaniards,” I reminded him, “and for the Italians and Algerines too. They hug the shore pretty tight, those people do, but they beat to windward as good as any one. If you tried to beat to windward in a gundelo, you’d never get anywhere except ten miles from where you aimed to be.”

“That’s about right,” Arnold agreed. “The point is that gundelos are better than nothing, and any damned fool can build a gundelo.”

“Yes,” I said, “and my brother Nathaniel and I, we can show almost any damned fool how to build one of those Spanish galleys, provided he knows how to handle an adze and doesn’t pound his fingers every time he drives a spike.”

“Let’s see,” Arnold said. “I sent your brother to Crown Point, didn’t I? He’s in charge of your ship timbers. All right: good enough! When we get to Crown Point, I want you and your brother to draw plans for a few Spanish galleys. Maybe we can contrive a way to show Mr. Burgoyne there’s some slight difference between Lake Champlain and a Thames Regatta.”

. . . We laboured past Cumberland head and the high, steep sides of Valcour Island; then cruised straight out across those fretful waters towards Crown Point, where this narrow inland sea is pushed together by the eastern and the western mountains.

The crumbling fort at Crown Point and the patched stone barracks within it stood forlornly on land that appeared to have been spread out, like butter, as a support for the rolling hills behind it. The lake became a canal that twisted among mountains—a canal that connects the northern waterways with those to the south. A few miles ahead we could see the heights of Ticonderoga, beneath which, we knew, the canal opened once more into narrow lakes—on the right Lake George, and on the left the long lagoon known as South Bay, at the end of which lay the settlement of Skenesboro.

In spite of light airs mixed up with a squall or two, we had made the run from Isle aux Noix to Crown Point in a day and a half—half a day better than Arnold had stipulated. Considering that our bateau was only a little more seaworthy than a water-melon rind, and that Tom Bickford and Verrieul had never stopped bailing in all that time, we had done as well as any one could ask.

I thought for a time that Arnold had no appreciation of the manner in which this argosy of ours had been nursed along. As we approached Crown Point, he stood up in the stern, staring at the sorry fortifications. The closer we came, the more restless he grew, sitting down only to pop to his feet again, and all the time making faint sounds of exasperated amusement in the forepart of his nose.

“Nothing!” he finally exclaimed. “Not one damned thing! Now what do you think of that!”

When I made no answer, he tapped my hand where it rested on the tiller. “Look at it!” he said. “There’s a lesson for you in how far a pee-wit can see! Take a good look at it!”

I did as he said. It wasn’t much to look at; but it was better than Isle aux Noix.

“Properly fortified,” Arnold said, “that point controls the lake. Put a decent fort there, properly manned, and no invading army could ever get past. And now look at it! Half a year’s work to be done on it, and no time or men to do it!”

“I don’t understand about the pee-wit,” I said.

Arnold laughed. “I haven’t seen this place for sixteen months! Sixteen months ago I commanded it! A hundred men, I had. I took ninety of ’em and invaded Canada.” He whooped with delight and slapped his knee. “Yes, sir! Invaded Canada, captured St. John’s, destroyed the shipping, and cut the British off from the lake.”

He lowered his head to eye me with that hard, pale stare of his. “It beats all how people can’t see beyond their noses! I had hell’s own time to make folks realise these lakes were worth holding—that the safety of all the colonies depended on it. I had to write letters day and night to make ’em believe it: letters to Congress: letters to Connecticut: letters to Massachusetts: letters to Albany: letters to every one—For God’s sake, send men! Send men so we can fortify Crown Point and Ticonderoga and hold ’em! That’s what I told ’em. Then I did what I could to fortify the place—me with my hundred men! Dig, dig, dig, dig! That’s all we did, dig, until New York and Connecticut listened to my letters and sent up a thousand men—a thousand men under those three she-rabbits, Hinman, Easton and Brown. By God, sir: there were enough healthy men to make this place impregnable in four months, if commanded by any one else but Hinman, Easton and Brown! They wanted my place, and they got it! And when they sat here, they and their thousand men, and wondered whether it wasn’t too warm to go fishing. They did nothing! Not one damned thing! No fortifications: no entrenchments: no sentries! Any quiet, nice little boy could have taken the place by hammering on a child’s drum and squeaking ‘Surrender or I’ll fire!’ ”

I thought of Easton and Brown, sitting with Hazen and Bedel and glowering at me like sulky children. “I’ve heard it said,” I told him, “that Easton and Brown aren’t favourably disposed towards you.”

“Favourably disposed!” he exclaimed. “I should hope not! Easton’s a tricky, intriguing coward. I told him so to his face, here at Crown Point, over a year ago, and kicked the seat of his breeches by way of proving it. Brown’s a bad officer—no foresight: no vision: no more than Easton had. What they didn’t do at Crown Point would be enough to prove it. But there’s more than that. Montgomery told me Brown was a bad officer, and now Brown wants to be promoted: wants to be a lieutenant-colonel. Well, he can’t be: not if I have any say! I’d sooner see a cow made lieutenant colonel!”

He snorted and made a whisking motion with his hand before his face, as if to whisk Brown and Easton out of his life for ever. A few moments later I led the bateau alongside the rickety wharf beneath the ruins of the fort, and Arnold jumped ashore to get something to eat before pushing on for Lake George and Albany. He blew out his breath exultantly, as if on the verge of exploding from his day and a half of inaction, and immediately turned two one-handed cartwheels, first on his left hand and then on his right—a difficult thing to do, if you have never tried it.

. . . The timbers of the vessel we had taken apart in St. John’s were stacked in two large piles close by; and between them was pitched a tent. In front of the tent stood Nathaniel, alone, still wearing his white Canadian jacket. We shouted and waved to him, and after a moment he shouted and waved back: seemed to hesitate, and finally sauntered down to us.

I did not fully understand why, but a great weight lifted from my chest when I saw Ellen was not with him. He must, I thought, have sent her to Albany—to the friends of whom Marie de Sabrevois had talked so much.

Because of the General being with us, I had less than my usual greeting for him; and it seemed to me he eyed me with something of defiance. He was a fine figure of a soldier, tanned and handsome, wholly different from the dreadful apparitions of the Isle aux Noix.

Arnold, I could see, was pleased with his appearance. He said nothing to Nathaniel, however: only nodded. To me he said: “I’ll be here one hour: no longer. See to it that I have a bateau that doesn’t leak, and that the men are ready to go when I am.”

With that he set off toward the barracks, Wilkinson prowling along at his elbow; and he had scarcely gone three steps when Cap Huff slapped Nathaniel on the back and bawled: “Where’s your young lady? I got a present for her!”

Arnold turned and stared. “Young lady?” he asked. “Has one of you been married?”


We stood in a sort of frozen silence.

Arnold came back, looking from one to the other of us. “I always like to know when one of my men gets married during a campaign,” he said. “Which one of you was it?”

Cap Huff cleared his throat deafeningly. “I said ‘young lady,’ ” he explained. “I didn’t say ‘wife’! I wasn’t accusing anybody of being married! I wouldn’t do no such thing as that, General!”

Arnold ran his eye over us once more: then laughed and jabbed a finger toward Nathaniel. “What’s all this evasion?” he asked. “Seemingly you’re about to be married to some young lady. Well, it’s no crime to be married. Some of the best men I know have had wives.”

“Yes, sir,” Nathaniel said. “I mean no, sir! This young lady and I, we’ve decided not to be married. There’s certain difficulties—that is to say——”

“Oh, indeed!” Arnold said. “We’ll see about this! Where is this lady you are and aren’t going to marry?”

“Yonder, sir,” Nathaniel said. He nodded towards the tent.

Arnold turned on his heel, snorting and repeating contemptuously, under his breath, “Certain difficulties! Certain difficulties!”

He marched into the tent and stood there, looking around: then popped through the back flap and disappeared. Nathaniel went in after him, and the rest of us skirted the tent until we could see the open space behind it.

There was a small fire in the middle of the space, and on the windward side of the fire, spitted on a ramrod, hung half a dozen hornpouts, medium-sized fish with a savoury-looking white froth clinging to their crinkled tails. Hunkered down before them was our former servant, the negro Zelph, black and worried-looking.

In the shade of one of the piles of lumber, which had been so stacked that each pile had a wide shelf about two feet from the ground, sat Ellen Phipps. She was knitting a coarse gray stocking; and my first glimpse of her was at the moment when she looked up and saw Arnold standing in the rear opening of the tent. She stared up at him with an almost childlike seriousness: then leaned forward to peer at the hornpout. “Move them back, Zelph,” she said. “Don’t let them get cold.”

I think perhaps I had not fully known until that moment what it was that had ailed me for so long—why it was that I had felt such a strange restlessness: a restlessness so powerful that I seemed to have had it within me for ever. But in that moment I knew, and knew beyond any doubt. I knew there was no one so beautiful as Ellen; knew I would never again have a happy moment unless I could be near her. There was something of suffocation about the feeling for her that suddenly seemed to explode in me.

“So you’re the lady!” Arnold said. He whipped off his hat and made her a quick bow. “I had to see for myself when I heard one of my men had been fortunate; but I couldn’t dream how fortunate, ma’am! We seldom find gems of loveliness in these forests.”

Hitherto, I had seen Arnold hard at work, in the company of men. I had found him pleasant and considerate, it is true; but it had never occurred to me he could be as courtly and as easy in his manner as any of the be-ruffled Englishmen Nathaniel and I had seen at Ranelagh. I saw now, however, that he could; and I well understood, later, how he won such a belle as Peggy Shippen, daughter of the Chief Justice of Pennsylvania.

Ellen’s eyes opened wider than ever at Arnold’s speech. “Why, that’s beautiful! I could listen all day to such talk!” She glanced at the hornpout, and then at Nathaniel, standing close behind the General: then at those of us who had crowded up on either side of the tent. When her eyes met mine, I felt a singular weakness in my knees, almost as though they had shrivelled away to nothing.

Arnold laughed and went to sit beside her on the shelf of ship timbers. “Well,” he said, “I venture to say you’ll have your share of such talk. I think it would come natural to any man—if you looked at him, ma’am.”

His speech was airy; but his eyes, studying her, were intent; and I could see that her quiet self-possession amused and pleased him.

Ellen pulled a needle from the gray stocking, adjusted the stitches carefully on the remaining needles, and glanced thoughtfully at me.

“There’s one little point I’d like to have explained,” Arnold went on. “Something was said about difficulties—difficulties in the way of your marriage, according to my understanding. Difficulties in the way of your marriage to young Merrill, here. Now there shouldn’t be any difficulties of a serious nature, it appears to me; and if there are any, it might be I could help to iron ’em out.”

Ellen said nothing: merely continued to knit, her face as placid as though Arnold had been talking to her about scenery or lessons. As for Nathaniel, his face wore a set, mulish look with which I was only too familiar: a look that meant he would listen reluctantly to whatever might be said about the subject in hand, and pay attention to no word of it.

When his offer went unacknowledged, Arnold raised his eyebrows and went to tapping on the ground with his boot. He rose to his feet suddenly and fixed Nathaniel with a pale and angry eye. “Well!” he rasped. “What is the difficulty! I’ll have an answer and I’ll have it quick!”

“Mercy!” Ellen said. “You’ve frightened me!” Since her voice was unperturbed, and her eyes still fixed on her knitting, I gathered her fright was not serious.

“The only difficulty,” Nathaniel said hurriedly, “is that we decided we wouldn’t be married just yet.”

“Not just yet?” Arnold cried. “Not just yet? What are you talking about! If this lady left her family and friends to go away with you, there can’t be any talk of ‘not just yet.’ I won’t have it! Not in any detachment under my command!”

He made little puffing sounds in his nose and glared at Nathaniel: then turned to Ellen again and eyed her carefully. “Were you a party to this decision, ma’am: this decision not to get married ‘just yet’?”

Ellen sighed and nodded; and it seemed to me she slid an anxious glance toward the six hornpout, over which Zelph still crouched with an air of gloom.

Arnold rounded on Nathaniel. “Then the whole business is your fault!” he declared. “If you intended to be married in the beginning, and the lady now feels she doesn’t want to be married just yet, then you’ve fallen short as a suitor. It must be your Maine coldness! That’s what it is: it’s that terrible chill you Maine men have in your blood! Damnation, sir, do you mean to tell me that if a lady’s well disposed toward a gentleman to begin with, she can resist him if he won’t take No for an answer? You’re different, you young people, from what we were—no sentiment any more—everything taken for granted! One of you says, ‘Let’s get married,’ and the other says, ‘All right, but not just now.’ Pah! Where’s the romance in that! Press her, sir: press her! That’s all that’s necessary! Press her enough and there’ll be none of this ‘not just now’ talk!”

He slapped the ship timbers with his open hand. “Tell her about it! Don’t expect her to guess how you feel! Hurry to her in the morning and tell her, and keep it up all day! Don’t let her forget it! If you have to go away for five minutes, write her a letter. Write her two letters!”

Ellen, removing a needle from her knitting to start a new row of stitches, glanced at the half-circle of faces that stared at Arnold: from Wilkinson, with his air of portentous gravity and his steadily moving jaw muscles, around to Cap Huff, who stood beside me, breathing heavily, his mouth open and a look of violent concentration on his huge red countenance, as if he strove valiantly to hold each syllable in his memory. When her eyes met mine, they clung for a moment. Her eyebrows, I thought, lifted almost imperceptibly. Then she went at her knitting again, her needles twinkling and clinking in the hot noon sun.

Arnold moved his shoulder impatiently. “As I see it, your difficulty’s no difficulty at all. I have no objection to a reasonable number of ladies”—he coughed delicately—“accompanying my troops, but I have to insist they be married. Unattached, they promote dissatisfaction—yes, and dissension. There’s enough of that among our troops without any outside help. Therefore I’ll have to ask you to stop balking at trifles, and get married.”

“But, General!” I protested. “I’d hate to see my brother or this lady forced into something against their wills.” I fished desperately in my mind for a likely reason why they should not be married, but could only add weakly, “It may be they feel they’re too young.”

“Too young!” Arnold exclaimed. “I never heard of any one feeling too young to be married—no, nor too old, either!” He glared defiantly at all of us: then bowed deeply to Ellen, clapped his hat on his head and slapped it briskly to set it in place. “Your servant, ma’am. When I return from Albany in a few days’ time, I’ll be glad to hear pleasant news of a conjugal nature.”

To Nathaniel, with more tartness, he added, “See that I do hear such news, sir!” On that he limped decisively into and through the tent, and bolted off for the barracks as if enraged at the time he had wasted on us. Behind him stalked Wilkinson, looking as though he disapproved of every one in the world but himself.

Cap Huff hooked his thumb in his belt and rapped out a noisy tattoo on his stomach with his fingers. “By God, he’s right!” he exclaimed to Nathaniel. “In case you don’t know what he means, I’d be glad to show you.” He looked thoughtfully at Ellen. “Maybe I better show you anyway.”

“You big damned fool!” I said. “You’ve raised enough hell for one day! Take these men out and hunt up a seaworthy boat for the General, and have it ready within the hour, or he’ll yank off your skin and use it for a minnow-net!”

“Oh, he will, will he?” Cap growled; but for all his bravado, he unhooked his thumbs from his belt and went lumbering off with Tom Bickford and the others.

As soon as they were out of hearing, I turned to Nathaniel. “If we’ve heard the truth of what you both feel, why in God’s name did you bring this girl down here alone? And why haven’t you sent her on to Albany?”

Ellen pushed her knitting into the pocket of her gray dress, and stamped her foot. “Zelph!” she cried. “Why have you cooked those pouts? For practice, maybe! Get plates this instant!”

Zelph leaped to his feet, muttering, and Ellen came to stand between Nathaniel and me, placid again. “For my part,” she said, “I’d better explain to you, Captain Merrill, that I’m not the spiritless little girl you saw at the Château de St. Auge. Since I left there, I’ve had only men to deal with, and that’s taught me a little independence of spirit. If you understand that, we can go ahead and help you to understand a few more things, but I’ll have to ask you to be discreet about speaking of them.”

I stared at her. “I understand you’ve changed since I first met you, and appear to be another person entirely,” I said, “or what’s more likely, I saw but a very little of you in St. John’s, and misunderstood that little. I’ll not speak of anything you tell me.”

At that she smiled with a sudden brightness and approbation. “Good! Then we’ll tell you everything, and you’ll find it very simple. My dear aunt, Mademoiselle de Sabrevois, wished to send me to Albany. She and I had intended to go there together; but ten days ago she became ill, and so couldn’t go herself, but was very anxious for me not to delay. On that account she chose your poor brother Nathaniel for the office of my escort.”

She laughed. “He was not very gallant; never did I see a gentleman less anxious to perform such an office.”

“What!” I said. “What!”

She laughed again. “The conditions were not to his taste, you see. He is very ardent, poor Nathaniel; but he burns for the aunt: not for the niece. That was his misfortune—and mine! There seem to be rules for some of these armies that permit ladies to be present only if they are married or about to be, as that officer with you made almost embarrassingly plain a little while ago. My aunt said that poor Nathaniel and I must pretend we were only waiting for a priest, and that nothing in the world except not being able to find one after we left St. John’s, where we were too hurried, was the cause of our lack of matrimony.”

She pointed at Nathaniel and laughed outright. “Look at him! Just as he stands now! With that miserable look of trying to be dutiful! That is as near as he has come at any time to the appearance of an adorer.”

I let out a great breath: my shoulders seemed to straighten back of their own will; and I looked affectionately at Nathaniel, who smiled sickishly.

“I begin to understand a little, indeed,” I said.

She eyed me gravely. “I think that must be unusual,” she said. “This is the rest of it. Poor Nathaniel, Major Scott and his little troop brought me here to Crown Point with the supplies; but here Nathaniel himself must stay, for he couldn’t disobey his orders.

“But I, too, have orders that must be obeyed. My aunt has ordered me to go to Albany. Therefore I wished to proceed to Albany with Major Scott, his men and the supplies. But Major Scott made a misfortune for your poor brother Nathaniel and a comedy for me. He turned out to be a very strange man—so strange that he made love to me; and it happened that most of his men had found something to drink.”

She looked at me almost inquiringly, I thought. When I was silent, she continued, “Major Scott said many things to me that were too polite, and having something to drink himself besides, showed no regard for the state of affairs supposed to exist between Nathaniel and me. Therefore Nathaniel and I both decided it would be better for me to remain upon his wretched hands a little longer, and wait for a more trustworthy escort to Albany. It happens that since Major Scott and his men went through to Albany, we haven’t seen anybody else going that way who appeared to be of a kind to entrust with my precious person. There, that’s all, and I’m hungry.”

To relieve the exultation within me, I shouted brusquely at Zelph, who hurriedly placed a sheet of corn bread on the shelf of timbers from which Ellen had lately risen, set out birch bark plates and maple forks, and served us with hornpout whose sweet and juicy flesh would have made the tenderest trout taste dry and coarse. It was the first good meal I had eaten since that day, far back down the corridors of time, when the lot of us, innocent as a herd of sheep going to the slaughter, had first arrived in St. John’s to have our little fling at the glory and splendour of war. And when I glanced at Ellen, sitting small and straight beside me and staring out of round brown eyes at the wreck of my tow-cloth jacket: when I sniffed the sweet, warm scent that came slipping down from the pine forests on the heights at our backs: when I looked across the glassy narrows before us to the swelling blue hills of the New Hampshire Grants, I was conscious of a feeling of contentment such as I had never known.

It was Ellen, singularly enough, who disturbed my composure, though not unpleasantly. In a grave manner she asked me an unexpected question. “When I said that we were told to pretend to be betrothed, your poor brother Nathaniel and I,” she said, “it seemed to me I saw a change in you. A little change, like that.” She measured off, with her thumb, a portion of a small pink finger. “You might have been displeased, I thought, if we had been actually betrothed.” It was a statement, and yet a question.

“In a way,” I said lamely. “In a way, because this is no time for Nathaniel to think of marriage.”

“You thought I was not a fit person, perhaps? You think I wouldn’t make a good wife for your brother!”

“No, no!” I said, “it wasn’t that! Not that at all! No, no, no!”

Ellen took her ball of wool from under her arm to free a strand. “I have heard so. I’ve heard the Bostonnais think, always, that each one of us who has learned her lessons in a convent is decorated with horns, like a little Mefistofele. Such a thought would be without foundation. Look!” She placed her hand on my upper arm and turned me toward her, bending her head forward so that her cap of glistening brown curls was close—so close I might have touched them with my lips. A faint fragrance rose from them. I could have said nothing coherent—unless, perhaps, my life had depended on it.

“You see!” she said. “There are no horns. We’re little different from those who go to school in Boston, we who are educated in convents! I think of only two differences. It is perhaps difficult for us to speak in English without first saying the words to ourselves in French, and then translating into English. Also I think we learn to speak more freely: to ask questions about things we do not understand, rather than be silent about them.”

Nathaniel laughed. “There’s no doubt about that: no doubt you learn to ask questions!” He addressed me almost with bitterness. “Just when a person wants a little quiet, she starts asking questions!” He poured out a flood of them, making his voice innocently ladylike, in what he doubtless conceived to be an imitation of Ellen: “How old is your sister Jane? What does your mother look like? How old was she when she was married? How old is Captain Peter? How does it happen he’s named Peter? What day is his birthday? How long has he been a sea captain? What did he do before that? Does he stay at home part of the time or does he go sailing always? Where does he sail to? What’s Spain like? Are the girls in Spain beautiful? Do you speak Spanish? Does Captain Peter speak Spanish? Has he been in love, ever?”

Ellen’s reply was tranquil. “It is impossible to learn without asking. My brother Joseph says that Indians are ignorant because they are too proud to ask questions. Besides, I asked you no questions except when you were all gloom and darkness, through thinking of my dear aunt.” To me she added primly: “Many of those questions I asked for no reason at all except to make your brother forget himself in replying to them. We were taught to do this by the good sisters at the convent.”

Nathaniel looked sheepish; but I smiled benevolently, greatly pleased with him—not only because he was safely beyond the reach of Marie de Sabrevois, but because he was wholly uninterested in Ellen.

“It seems to me,” I said, turning to Nathaniel, “that all of us must give some serious consideration to the orders that General Arnold gave you. He’s going to Albany to-day: at once. It might be just possible that he’d consent to carry Ellen with him, if he feels she must go there. He was right about unmarried women travelling with the army; and Arnold doesn’t talk for the fun of hearing himself talk, as you should well know.”

Ellen dropped her hands in her lap and stared round-eyed at me. “Arnold!” she cried. “General Arnold! That was never General Arnold!”

“Who did you think it was?” I asked her. “Didn’t you see he limped? Of course it was Arnold: the man who made the greatest march that ever was—who’d have taken Quebec if he hadn’t stopped a bullet when he was needed most.”

Nathaniel laughed: a bitter laugh, I thought.

“But he seemed a pleasant man!” Ellen exclaimed. “He was handsome, too, and a gentleman.”

“What’s wonderful about that?” I asked. “What did you expect to find? A chimney-sweep?”

Ellen’s nod was half a yes and half a no. “But I have heard about him. An awful man! A ruffian, who gives orders to kill women and children!”

“Bless your heart,” I said. “He does nothing of the sort! He’s the kindest of men—except to cowards and liars.”

“Oh, Peter!” Nathaniel said contemptuously. “What’s the good of trying to stand up for Arnold, after what’s happened!”

I looked at him closely. He meant what he said. “After what’s happened? You mean after what he did to save our troops at Sorel?”

Nathaniel smiled slowly and pityingly. “He’s no fit man to hold high rank in the American army. Everybody knows he’s to be arrested for what he’s done! That’s why I paid no attention to what he said to me about Ellen. He won’t be allowed to hold a command: not after Congress hears of his conduct.”

I sat down on the shelf of ship’s timbers and whistled a stave of Cap Huff’s ball-rolling song, to make sure of keeping my temper within bounds.

“Nathaniel,” I said, “this is the second time you’ve belittled Arnold. What’s the reason for it?”

“The reason?” Nathaniel repeated. “The reason? Why, it’s common knowledge.”

“No,” I said. “That won’t do! It’s not common knowledge, and you’ll have to be clearer. What do you mean by saying ‘When Congress hears of his conduct’?”

Nathaniel laughed. “I mean just that, Peter. When Congress learns about the supplies he stole in Montreal, there’ll be trouble. No officer who stole what he did should be allowed to command any part of an army. Everybody says so.”

“So Congress is going to learn about the supplies, is it? Who’s it going to learn from?”

Nathaniel shrugged his shoulders. “How should I know? Somebody’s bound to tell.”

“Tell what?” I asked. “What is there to tell, when those supplies, as we all know, were seized by the orders of the commissioners of Congress? They’re supplies for the army! That’s why they were sent to Chambly and St. John’s first. Now they’ve been sent to Schuyler in Albany, because the army’s retreating—God knows where to—and it’s Schuyler who has charge of all supplies. He pays for ’em and distributes ’em.”

“Indeed!” Nathaniel said with exaggerated politeness. “I suppose the sable-skin coat Arnold stole for himself is being sent to Schuyler in Albany! And the diamond-studded sword-hilt—that’ll get to Schuyler! I suppose Schuyler’ll pay for that!”

“Look here,” I said. “You had charge of part of those seized supplies! Did you see anything among them that wasn’t for the army? Any diamond-studded camp kettles or any sable-skin breeches?”

“No,” Nathaniel admitted, “but everybody knows——”

“Who told you?” I demanded. “Who was it said Arnold’s no fit man to be an American officer? Who’s going to send word to Congress about him? Who said he’s going to be arrested? Who said he stole a sable coat and a solid gold sword or whatever it was? They say he stole? Who says it?”

“Why, everybody!”

“Tell me one!”

“I don’t remember any particular one, but everybody says it.”

“Don’t say that, Nathaniel! Anybody remembers who makes charges of that sort. This is a serious business! Arnold’s the one good fighting general there is in our whole Northern Army! Do you know where we’d be, right this minute, except for Arnold? We’d be locked up in Montreal, all of us, with British regulars to give us a smell of their bayonets every time we showed our noses at a window! God knows it’s not much of an army right now, thanks to Wooster and Sullivan and Congress and the smallpox; but bad as it is, it’s still an army. If it wasn’t for Arnold, it wouldn’t exist at all! There wouldn’t be any Northern Army! I want to know who it is that accuses Arnold of being a thief?”

Nathaniel looked indignant; but thanks to his shipboard training he gave me a fair answer. “If you don’t mind, Peter. I’d rather not name any names.”

“Listen to me!” I said. “What you’re saying is a lie! Understand? It’s a lie! I’ve been two days on a bateau with Arnold, and he’s no robber. He took no sable coats and no diamond shoe buckles, or whatever it was you said. He’s the only man in sight I’d trust to lead me! The only man! I know a leader when I see one; and that’s what Arnold is! Now for God’s sake be careful! Don’t spread these lies about Arnold, or they will reach Congress. Then, the first thing you know, we’ll be under the command of one of those pig-nut generals that Cap Huff talks about—maybe one of the foreigners that Congress loves so much, like De Woedtke, or the Frenchman we came to America with! He’ll get us into a corner we’ll never get out of—another corner like the Isle aux Noix, where we’ll be rolled into dead pits by the thousands; and there’ll be nobody on God’s green earth to know what becomes of us. We’ll be gone like the flame of a blown-out candle—and with as little to show for our lives!”

Nathaniel was sullen, glowering at his shoes. Ellen’s glance was calm and level. Staring at her, I was swept by the feeling of hopelessness that enters every person who speaks of war to those who have insufficient knowledge of what war is.


When they turned from me, seemingly indifferent to my words, I climbed to the top of the pile of timbers to put my thoughts in order. I watched Nathaniel strop a razor against his palm: then set off, all unconcerned, no doubt to make himself more handsome. I watched Ellen, too, seat herself tranquilly in the shade of the tent and busy herself with her knitting. Except for a trim whaleboat that drifted into sight around the rocky point above us, the lake was empty—flat as a pan of milk.

While I studied the whaleboat, a burly figure sat up in it, dug violently at the water with a paddle, and vanished again below the gunwale. It was the figure of Cap Huff; so I knew he had borrowed the boat to avoid tiresome formalities. I saw Tom Bickford and Verrieul run up the shore to help him; and the three of them worked it to the bank beneath me, out of my sight. The whole place, then, lay dusty and wilted in the blazing noonday heat, and wellnigh deserted—as far removed from the sights and sounds of war as though the British army, as well as the groans and stenches and open death pits of the Isle aux Noix, had never existed.

Yet my mind was beset by questions that were closer to the war than I liked: questions the answers to which seemed important. Not only did they seem important to my own welfare, which was no doubt a small matter; but I had the upsetting suspicion that the answers I sought might be important to the very cause in which I was enlisted as a soldier.

The foremost of the questions was this: Was Nathaniel’s prejudice against Arnold evidence of a consistent spreading of calumnies intended to undermine our best officer, and to set his own troops against him? If so, who were the agents engaged in distributing the slanders? Of what did Marie de Sabrevois and Nathaniel talk when they were together, and not engaged in coquetries?

I thought farther back: as far back as our first meeting with Marie in Ranelagh Gardens. It was a meeting, of course, that might have happened to any one. Yet it had happened to us, and because Marie had chosen to have it happen. Why? I wondered. What was the reason? It seemed likely there was a reason; for I knew by now that Marie had a quick and clever brain.

What was her purpose? Who was the quiet Leonard? When I spoke of him to Madame St. Auge, she had said “Ah, Lanaudiere?” and then denied she had meant Leonard. Who was Lanaudiere? If he was Leonard, had Marie created the meeting with us, and sent the man with us to America because in our company he would land safely and unsuspected? Unsuspected of what?

I could not answer. But the questions kept pressing upon me.

Why had Marie de Sabrevois wished to take Ellen to Albany; and what errand had they there? Nay, what errand had Ellen there, now that Marie de Sabrevois wished to remain behind? And there was always that letter Nathaniel had carried—that letter about Montgolfier and the eight thousand kisses; and so I came back to the first and most important of all the questions: Who was serving a British employer by spreading the calumnies against Arnold?

My thoughts pursued themselves in circles, getting nowhere and accomplishing nothing.

Zelph, I saw, had burned the birch bark plates and smothered the fire with sods, and now was ambling along the shore of the narrows with a fishing line protruding from the hip pocket of his moose-skin breeches. On the shore below I could hear a rattling and thumping, and the hoarse voice of Cap Huff issuing orders and countermanding most of them as soon as issued; so I knew Tom Bickford and the others were transferring Arnold’s baggage to the borrowed whaleboat. Nathaniel, newly shaven, had returned to stand by Ellen in the shade of the tent; and the coolness and freshness of his appearance made me the more conscious of my own bewilderment.

It was probably that very coolness of Nathaniel’s that sent Ellen’s eyes towards my scarecrow figure and my beggar’s garments, stained and tattered by our labours on the Richelieu.

“If you must think so fiercely,” she called to me, “you would do well to let me stitch at your jacket while you think.” As an afterthought she added: “Then something, at least, will be accomplished.”

I came slowly down from the pile of timbers, wondering whether I was really as tiresome as I must appear to these gay young people. “Well,” I said to Ellen, “you can do more than that for me. You can answer some of the questions that have worried me: questions about yourself.”

“Worried?” she asked. “You have worried about me? There are questions about me that have worried you?”

I was certain, when I saw the candour and innocence of the eyes she raised to mine, that with a little care I could ask her what I pleased, and never arouse her suspicions.

“Yes,” I said, “I was worrying about your journey to Albany.” I coughed carelessly, to let her see I was wholly at my ease. “I was worrying and wondering, too. I was really wondering why your aunt was so anxious to have you go to Albany, even when she was well. Was it perhaps to send you to be put in charge of Mr. Leonard there?”

“Mr. Leonard?” Ellen asked. “Mr. Leonard? I do not know any Mr. Leonard!”

I chanced a shot in the dark. “Perhaps you know him as Lanaudiere. It may be that you are only to deliver a letter to Mr. Lanaudiere.”

She looked genuinely blank. “Lanaudiere? No; I have never heard of anybody of that name; and as for letters, my aunt said I would be expected by her friends in Albany, and there was no need for me to have a letter to them. The only two letters I carried had nothing at all to do with any Lanaudiere, and were not even written by my aunt, because she sent them with me to oblige a friend of hers who wrote them. No, they were not to any one with a French name.”

“Now wait,” I said to myself. “Now wait! Here it is! Here’s something at last!” If I could see those letters, I might have something to open Nathaniel’s eyes to what I feared was the truth. As carelessly as I could I asked Ellen whether she still had them.

She shook her head placidly. “They have gone. Major Scott, he said both of the gentlemen were in Albany.” She laughed. “And so, though I wouldn’t go with him myself, I thought he could carry the letters for me, and he took them.”

Nathaniel had been looking at me sulkily and shrewdly. “You won’t make anything out of this, Peter,” he said. “Those letters were written by a friend of Marie’s—a Mr. Baudoin, whom I know; and he had known these two gentlemen in Canada, and had favours from them, and merely wished to send them a message of greeting and thanks after they had left.”

To myself I said that this was a likely story, all my eye and my elbow. To Nathaniel I said nothing of the sort, though it sickened me to realise he was so infatuated with Marie de Sabrevois that he failed, even now, to see the weak point in what she had told him—to realise that her very insistence on the innocence of the letters ought to be sure proof of their guilt.

“Very well,” I said. “It’s not my business, and I didn’t mean to seem prying if a Canadian gentleman asks Mademoiselle de Sabrevois to forward two letters to American gentlemen, friends of his, who’ve been travelling in Canada during the war. I’m sure that’s very natural! Why shouldn’t she?”

I spoke as easily and quietly as I could, and in as matter-of-fact a tone, as though I were dismissing the matter; but Nathaniel’s colour deepened sharply.

“What do you mean?” he asked me challengingly. “What do you mean by talking about Marie’s forwarding letters to American gentlemen who’ve been travelling in Canada during the war? I don’t like your tone, Peter, and you’d better understand respectfully that the two gentlemen you seem to sneer at are among the most important, finest and best-considered officers in our army. I’d have you to know, if you please, that one of ’em was Colonel Easton and the other Major Brown—Major John Brown.”

“No!” I said. “Not Easton and Brown!”

Nathaniel was triumphant. “Certainly: Colonel Easton and Major Brown.”

I stared at my misshapen shoes, so that Nathaniel might not see my eyes. Easton and Brown—two of the three responsible for the lack of fortifications in the very spot where we sat! Two of the three inefficients responsible for ousting Arnold from Crown Point at the moment when he had started to make it an impregnable barrier against English troops and English vessels! Easton, kicked by Arnold for being a trickster and a coward: Brown, blocked from promotion by Arnold for being an officer without foresight: both of them intimates of Hazen, the man who couldn’t obey orders, and of Bedel, the poltroon of the Cedars!

Once more, in my mind’s eye, I saw the four of them, birds of a feather, flocking together in that small, dark room in Chambly Fort, glowering at me because I had brought a message from Arnold, the fighter who had damned them all for cowards or blunderers.

“Important,” Nathaniel had called them in all seriousness; “finest and best-considered officers in our army!”

I decided there was something incomprehensible about an army—dangerous currents, like the wild currents off Ushant: for ever successful in bringing fools and incompetents safe to port, and in shattering the best and bravest men on the rocks of jealousy and suspicion.

“Easton and Brown!” I said to myself. “Easton and Brown and Hazen and Bedel!”

. . . Beyond the tents I heard a rasping voice. It was Arnold, on his way from the barracks to the shore with Wilkinson and a strange captain. I saw him stop and face the latter. “Waste no time!” he cried, poking the captain’s shoulder with a rigid forefinger. “Start your camp to-day! Chop foundation logs! Cut poles and pegs: lay out the logs—here and there and there”—he made swinging motions with his hands.

“Send out your men to shoot anything they can get—deer, bear, racoons, porcupines, woodchucks, rabbits, crows! I tell you there’ll be three thousand of ’em: three thousand men on the verge of death with the smallpox! You’ll have a town of dying men here: a whole damned town! You never saw any such sight in your life; and when you’ve seen it, you’ll hope to God you’ll never have to see it again!”

He stepped back and glared at the officer: then whirled and sped at a limping run to the bateau. Three soldiers, heavily laden with bundles, came stumbling after him. As they set down their burdens at the water’s edge, I heard a triumphant bellow from Cap Huff. “Beer!” he bawled. “Mutton! Cheese! By God, General, this is the kind of a war I like!”

I hurried to the landing to see them off, but even before I got there the bateau had started slowly down the narrows towards Ticonderoga, with Tom Bickford at the tiller. Already Arnold had his field desk open on his knees, poking among his papers. He seemed to see me out of the back of his head.

“I’ve been thinking about those row-galleys,” he shouted over his shoulder. “They ought to be pierced for eight guns to a side, and carry eighty men. Give ’em stern and bow ports.”

I waved my hand to show I understood. The bateau swept on, growing smaller upon the hazy lake, and I had another question to ask myself.

There, moving irrevocably beyond my reach, was the means by which I could have sent Ellen safely on the way to Albany. Why had I not asked Arnold to take her with him? Again I wasn’t sure of the right answer.

. . . “Row-galleys to carry eighty men!” Nathaniel exclaimed when I returned to the tent. “I heard what he called out to you. What is it he aims to do?”

It came to my mind, suddenly, how I could make sure of pressing Nathaniel’s nose against the grindstone and keeping it there. “If we can build the proper ships, and build ’em quick enough,” I said, “it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Arnold went back and took St. John’s.”

“St. John’s?” Nathaniel asked. He swallowed. “St. John’s! How quick would we have to build ’em?”

“How quick could we build ’em? How quick could we build lateen-rigged row-galleys like that Spaniard we saw off the Tagus when we were bound for Lisbon?”

Nathaniel turned and looked into the north, along the calm stretch of pale blue lake. “With any kind of carpenters,” he said, “I’ll bet it wouldn’t take a month to build enough row-galleys to knock St. John’s into a hoorah’s nest!”

I left him staring into the north, and went through the tent to where Ellen Phipps still sat, placidly busy with her knitting. This, I felt, was the proper time to find out what I wanted to know: whether her trip to Three Rivers, just after Sullivan reached St. John’s, had been due to her own wishes, or whether she had been sent by Marie de Sabrevois. If the latter was the case, then she—innocently, I was sure—had been the bearer of intelligence concerning the arrival of the new American regiments. At Three Rivers, I knew, she had stayed at a convent; so if she had unwittingly carried a message from her aunt, the mother superior would have attended to passing the word along, just as Montgolfier disseminated information from the seminary of St. Sulpice in Montreal.

While I stood looking down at Ellen’s chestnut curls, wondering how to begin, she said tranquilly: “I’ve been thinking, and I’d like to tell you what I think, because I don’t wish to think mistakenly. See if I’m right: From the time I first met you, you have now and then had a few thoughts about me, haven’t you? Were they kind ones?”

She took my breath. “Yes,” I said stupidly, and then forgetting all about putting questions to her concerning Three Rivers, I blurted out, to my own surprise, “Ellen, why did you blush when your aunt asked you, at the Château, if you liked Nathaniel?”

She looked up at me in clear-eyed, mild astonishment. “Did I? It may be.” She seemed to muse thoughtfully. “I think perhaps my aunt was teasing, because she knew I liked Nathaniel, but liked you better. Or no—I’m not sure she was teasing: perhaps she wanted you to think I liked Nathaniel, so that you’d stay away from me. I think she understands that you have a dislike for her, just as well as she understands that I haven’t one for you.”

“You think she wanted to keep me away from you—and from her, too, perhaps?”

“I think it might be,” Ellen said gravely. “I think perhaps she’s right. And this has something to do with what I’ve just told you I’ve been thinking about. You’ve said you had kind thoughts of me. That means you like me, doesn’t it?”

“Like—like you?” I stammered. I was caught all aback by her question. Out of the jumble of thoughts in my mind I was able to bring only one other word, “Yes!”

She nodded. “Yes, I was almost sure your thoughts of me were kind. Now I wish to tell you something else. The first time you came to the Château de St. Auge and sat beside me on the floor to speak about your sister, I noticed you thought about other things besides yourself. You thought about your brother, and about me. The questions you asked—they touched me. I thought for a time you wished to make talk; but no! For my sake, you wished to hear about my brother—about my mother. You were eager, even, to know about them. I found this very unusual—and pleasant to think about afterwards. It set me to thinking about you; and I’ve thought about you often ever since. You see, I’m trying to make you understand something.”

“Yes,” I said, and felt my heart quicken its beating. “Yes, I want to understand.”

She frowned thoughtfully, and her earnestness increased.

“Well, then; I must tell you one thing more before I come to the point. I am very slow minded. At first when a thing is said or something happens, I seldom seem to understand it; but after a little while, if I do think hard, then it seems to me that I do understand it. Something like that has been happening now. I have been thinking over many things you have said, and I’m afraid I’m beginning to understand them.”

“Afraid?” I asked. “Afraid you’ll understand what?”

She drew a deep breath: the corners of her mouth turned down, and her eyes were lowered. “I’m afraid I understand your feeling towards a person who is everything to me, and to whom I owe a great loyalty. I love her very dearly.” Then the knitting needles began to work again, and I saw that they trembled a little.

“I could never wish anybody to like me or have kind thoughts of me who had—had ugly thoughts of her. No, and I could not like anybody myself who had an ill feeling for her, or suspicions; who—asked ugly questions about her.”

“Ugly questions?” I said heavily, for I knew what she meant. “You heard me asking ugly questions?”

She nodded slowly and sadly in affirmation. I saw a glimmering beneath her downcast thick lashes; but if tears gathered there she did not let me see them fall. She turned away her head; and when she spoke I could just hear her voice. “If suspicion besmirches her, it stains me too. That is how I would wish it. Do you think I would be less loyal to her than to wish it?”

In distress I could only protest clumsily. “Suspicion? Ellen, I’d as soon have suspicion of my mother as of you. I admit I’ve had—some strange thoughts—I hope they’re wrong ones—maybe they are; but they’re never strange when they’re of you.”

“Ah,” she murmured, “they’re only strange when they’re about one I love!” Then, though she still kept her face turned from me, I heard her sigh shiveringly.

She slowly rolled her knitting into a ball, rose to her feet and went to the rear entrance of the tent. I caught at her hand, and she turned towards me, showing me a pale, sad face, and wet reproachful eyes.

“No,” she said, “I am able to use my mind, though perhaps you think women can’t. At the convent we were taught to think: you mightn’t believe it. We were taught the logic of Plato and the logic of Bacon; and I’ve learned to use my powers of reason a little. You have no kind feeling for Mademoiselle de Sabrevois; you must have none for me! You think she is wicked; so must you think me wicked! That is how I feel when I love people; I take whatever comes to them.”


“No, no!” she said hurriedly. “You and I can’t be friends! You mustn’t like me—I don’t want you to!”

Upon that she turned quickly into the tent, and let the flap of canvas fall behind her.

I could only stand there, staring like a fool and feeling like a beggar-child who has forgotten his cold and his rags while he looks through a window at a brilliant Christmas tree, and then is shut out from that fairyland brightness by the closing of a curtain across the window.


It seemed to me in the next few days that the narrow strip of water in front of our camp at Crown Point was the narrow neck of a double-ended funnel, one end in Canada and the other end open to Albany and the whole New England coast. Everything under God’s heaven seemed to be pouring into both ends, rushing down on us in a horrible gurry of smallpox patients, commissioners, committees, curiosity seekers, orders, counter-orders, starved and half-naked troops, scanty supplies, plentiful rumours, heat, thunderstorms and frenzy.

Tom Bickford and the crew that had taken Arnold to Albany returned; and Tom, in great haste, stopped long enough to toss me a written message from Arnold, before departing northward. Tom was carrying orders back to Sullivan from Schuyler to abandon Isle aux Noix and come south to Crown Point. He had no time, even, to eat, he said; and with that he rushed down to the landing. We saw him set off in a wooden canoe with two masts and two lug sails. She slid along like a scared loon, a queer-looking craft because Tom had put Cap Huff on the windward gunwale to hold her tight to the water; and even from where we were we could hear Cap bawling to Tom to ease her off and give his breeches a chance to dry.

“To Captain Peter Merrill at Crown Point,” the message read. “Get the ship timbers to the southern tip of the lake at once. You will find a sawmill at Skenesboro, and can start getting out more timbers with no loss of time. We have sent to New England for ship carpenters, who are very hard to come by on acct. of so many privateers building. I have sent an express to Steven Nason’s wife to help us get a few men from your part of Maine. Lay down keels for ten row galleys. If we can get enough men we will build a 38-gun ship, a frigate, and she will kick up a dust. As everything depends on speed, you will not let any grass grow under your feet.

“B. Arnold, Brig. Gen.”

. . . Try as we might, however, for craft to transport our timbers, we could get nothing for two days, not even a punt; for whatever would float was in use on business that would allow of no interference. Every empty craft was hurrying north to salvage the remnants of Sullivan’s army before they should be gobbled up by the British. They straggled past, day and night: bateaux, canoes, long-boats, even whaleboats that had been dragged over to Lake George from the Hudson.

But those that were not empty were coming south from Isle aux Noix, loaded with the sick; and with the arrival of the first of them, I had Nathaniel and Zelph strike the tent and move it out of sight and sound of the landing-place, so that Ellen might not fall sick herself.

These men had been five days on the journey from Isle aux Noix. All five of the days had been hot ones, with a pitiless sun glaring from an almost cloudless sky. The bateaux were like sieves, being hurriedly built to begin with, and therefore badly built. Water stood ankle deep in them, so that they were hard to row. Because of the scarcity of healthy men, there were only two oarsmen for each bateau—and they had little time for bailing, and less to tend their miserable freight: time for nothing except to push at their long and heavy oars.

So these bateaux crawled in toward Crown Point: crawled as if they were as sick as the men they carried. We could see them, black specks on the water, three miles away. An hour later they would seem no nearer. They moved as slowly as the hour hand on a chronometer.

There seemed to be no end to them as they came creeping and creeping along the shore, all day long, and all through the night, and all the next day as well.

Looking at the shapeless figures that were dragged from these boats, I marvelled that there was life in any of them. For five days they had wallowed in the bottoms of the bateaux with nothing to protect them from the scorching rays of the sun. What little food they had was raw pork and musty flour—the worst of all possible foods for men in their state.

Their only clothes were the rags they lay in; and these, unwashed and unchanged, were glued and caked to the suppurating pustules that covered them, from head to foot, like dreadful swollen coats of mail. Their smallest moves, therefore, wrenched at their sores and ripped their flesh.

The Point was filled with the animal howlings of these poor men, festering and burning up: their inflamed skins torn as if by red-hot tweezers: blind from the swelling of their faces: their tongues and lips like scorched leather, dark brown and hard, so that coherent speech, even, was denied them.

I spent my days and nights at the landing-place, thinking that when the last of the sick had arrived, I might help myself to boats; and it seemed to me that these moaning, half-dead men, more than three thousand of them, would never cease coming over that rocky bank, one by one, like an army of the damned, flayed and blasted by the devil himself.

It is easy to speak of three thousand sick men, but more difficult to understand the meaning of the words; for three thousand men sick of the smallpox seem like all the sick men in the world.

Even when the full three thousand were stowed at last in rude shelters at Crown Point, with no medicines to ease them and no nurses to tend them, I was still unable to get my boats; for the boats that brought the sick had instantly pushed off again and headed back into the north, the weary oarsmen dragging at their clumsy sweeps as if their arms had turned to wood and grown to the handles. There was no rest for them while men still occupied the moist and steaming swamps of the Isle aux Noix, with nothing to prevent Burgoyne’s fine regiments from hacking them to pieces.

So it was not until the main army itself had begun to come ashore that I was able to get a boat, and that a slow one: a small gundelo that would hold twice as many timbers as a bateau, but move half as fast. The important thing, however, was that she could move; and once I had my hands on her, I lost no time in getting her down to our camp.

I found Ellen on her knees at the lake rim, washing clothes by rubbing them with ashes and slapping them against a smooth rock.

It seemed to me when she looked up and saw me, that she slapped the rock even harder. She had not forgiven me, I realised, so I turned from her to Nathaniel, who was writing a letter in the shade of the nearby tent. So absorbed was he in his task that my voice startled him into covering his letter with his hand. I made no sign that I observed this movement of his; but spoke to him casually.

“I’ve got a boat at last, Nathaniel! We’ll give her a light load; and you and Ellen and Zelph can be on your way to Skenesboro in an hour. You and Zelph can row and Ellen can steer.”

Ellen stopped her washing and looked up at me. “I think you forget,” she said in a cold voice. “I am waiting for a chance to go to Albany. Your brother has been trying to arrange that for me.”

I shook my head. “He hasn’t succeeded, Ellen. Country that’s the very heart of a war campaign doesn’t offer many chances for a young girl to travel safely. My brother and I are responsible for your——”

“You?” she interrupted quickly. “No—only your brother. You have no responsibility for my safety, and I ask you not to concern yourself with it.”

“I do, though,” I said doggedly. “What’s more, Nathaniel knows as well as I do that it’s folly for you to talk of going to Albany until either he or I can take you, or we can put you in charge of some one we know as well as we know ourselves. Until that happens, you’ll have to stay with us, and we’re going to Skenesboro, so you’ll have to go with us.”

“Skenesboro?” she repeated, and her expression became haughty. “I shall not go to any such place!”

“Why not?” I asked her. “What do you know about Skenesboro?”

“Nothing. I never heard of it, but I’m glad you are going there, because I am going to stay here. Do you understand I’m going to stay here?”

I was a little sharp with her. “I thought you were going to Albany.”

“Yes, certainly, in a little while,” she said, “but first I am going to stay here as long as I think proper.”

Nathaniel folded his letter, gave us both an annoyed glance, and said to me, “You might as well let her alone; I’ve found you can’t argue with her. The truth is that since you came here, she’s harder to get along with than ever. She wants to get rid of both of us and be free of our care of her.”

“Is that true?” I asked Ellen. “Is Nathaniel right?”

For response she began to hum plaintively a hymn tune, and bent to her washing again, as if she were alone at the water’s edge. I looked helplessly at Nathaniel.

“Didn’t I tell you?” he said. “You might as well know she thinks her best chance to get rid of us is to wait here for her brother. That’s what’s in her mind. He’s one of the few St. Francis Indians that’s favoured the American cause since the beginning; and she thinks he’s likely to turn up here before long with some part of the army. So she intends to stay here, on the ground that a sister’s got a right to wait for her brother and to join him.

“You’ll waste your breath trying to get her to go to Skenesboro—or anywhere else that we go, for that matter.”

I turned to Ellen. “Is it true you’ve made up your mind to stay here just to get rid of us?” I asked her—and she continued to sing her hymn and to wash clothes without paying any attention to me.

“All right, then,” I said. “We’ll use force.”

At that the hymn stopped and so did the motion. She looked at me open-eyed and open-mouthed.

“How?” she asked me. “How would you use force?”

“With a rope,” I said, speaking calmly. “Two ropes, it might be: one for the ankles and the other for the elbows.”

She stared at me incredulously; then a high colour rushed in her cheeks, her eyes flashed, and she whispered huskily the one word “Shame!”

“Yes,” I said seriously. “It would be a shame indeed for a woman who’s joined an army to be so insubordinate that she’d need to be tied elbow and ankle and put into a boat because she wouldn’t take orders.”

“Orders!” she cried, and jumped up to face me. “From whom?”

“From me,” I told her. “You haven’t noticed it, but I’m an officer on special duty, and I’m empowered to press unattached persons into the service in order to perform a special military duty assigned to me. I’m sorry, but now that you’ve come into the field of operations, you’ll have to do your share. I don’t mean that I’m so military I have no humanity left in me. I’ll leave word here for your brother, if he comes this way, that you’re at Skenesboro, because that’s where you’re going to be—and as soon as we can get our boat there with you and the ship timbers in it.”

Her eyes, fixed on mine, had become contemptuous. “I’ll not go!” she said. “You and your ropes!”

“I’ll give you an hour,” I said, “to finish your washing. Maybe you can dry it on the boat.”


She meant it, and I think that her fury would have lasted, and that she would have made a great deal more trouble about leaving if an inspiration had not just then come to me. I looked satirical, or at least I tried to, and I think she was too angry to perceive that it was a piece of bad acting.

“I believe I understand,” I said slowly. “Nathaniel’s told you that I’m not going in this boat myself, but design to send you in it with him, while I stay here to get more boats for the rest of the timbers. Well, you may do as you please; but if you stay because you prefer to be near me, I’ll warn you that in spite of my wishing to be as much with you as possible, I’ll be busy most of the time and won’t have the opportunity.”

Her eyes were already wide and round, but grew wider and rounder. “Oh,” she said, and made a long-drawn-out syllable of that exclamation. “Oh! I’ll go.”

Without another word she began to roll the wet clothes up into a ball; and an hour later, when I went with Nathaniel down to the boat, there she stood at the water’s edge, an angry little figure with a ball-like packet of damp clothes in one hand, and a cylindrical roll of dry ones in the other.

. . . I said good-bye to her in a gentle voice and received not even a nod in return. She kept her back to me as she got into the boat, and I never saw another human back so eloquent. I would not have believed that merely a back could express all that dislike, all that scorn, and the clear conviction that behind it there stood an insignificant creature so puffed with egregious vanity that the rebuke now being administered to him would probably not improve him.

I watched the boat move off toward Ticonderoga and South Bay, and I foolishly hoped that maybe—just once—before it passed from my sight, Ellen would turn and look back. But she didn’t; and so, after a time, I sighed and set off toward the landing.

I went a little out of my way; in fact I went to the very spot where Ellen, busy with her knitting, had sat when I had come back with Arnold from Isle aux Noix. The place was pleasant then, I thought, with its tall elms, and the distant pines marching up the swelling hills behind us; but now it seemed cheerless and sombre; colourless and dusty and dirty. There was nothing pleasant about it. It was a terrible hole.

. . . I received assistance in sending the rest of the timbers to Skenesboro.

That evening while I stood at the landing, keeping an eye on the bateaux that still pulled slowly in, laden with the last of the soldiers from Isle aux Noix, I heard, far out in the silvery haze, a great hoarse voice that bawled, from time to time, words in the French tongue. When I listened more carefully, I heard a sweeter, thinner voice that I recognised as Verrieul’s, singing the burden of the song, En roulant ma boule, and it was Cap Huff who came roaring in on every other line, to his evident enjoyment, but not to the improvement of the harmony.

En roulant ma boule!” I heard him roar; and then, after Verrieul had sung softly “Trois beaux canards s’en vont baignant,” Cap echoed the words with a blast of sound,

Rouli, roulong, ma boule roulong,

On roulong ma boule roulong,

On roulong ma boule!

I suspected that his journeyings with Verrieul, who was a gay and likeable youth, had caused him to affect a French manner; and my suspicions became a certainty when I heard him bellow: “You tend to the eels, Doc! I’ll take the keg, and we’ll have supper toot sweet!”

. . . I went to the water’s edge and watched two canoes slide out of the twilight mist.

They were half-canoes: passenger canoes, that is to say, probably from St. Francis—a size larger than a light canoe, but a size smaller than a North canoe, so that they could be easily handled by two men, and yet be used without hesitation on deep water. In the first one were Tom Bickford, Verrieul and Doc Means.

The second, I thought, held strangers and a pile of baggage, but I soon saw that what I had mistaken for baggage was Cap Huff, holding a keg in his lap. On recognising Cap, I looked more closely at the others and realised that the painted Indian who also sat in the bottom of the canoe was not an Indian at all, but Steven Nason, and I suspected that the red man who paddled stern was Natanis.

I thought, then, to recognise the strangely dressed person who paddled bow, but I could not. He was a young man, dignified and handsome; though his appearance was marred, to my way of thinking, by what he wore. He had on a large beaver hat, sadly dented and in need of brushing, and a bright green coat, full skirted and elegantly cut, but somewhat narrow in the shoulders, so that it hiked up around his ears with each upswing of his arms. Under the coat was a flowered waistcoat of pink brocade with glass buttons. In spite of all this finery he wore next to nothing beneath the coat and waistcoat—no shirt: no breeches: no stockings: only a handsome pair of moccasins ornamented with scarlet porcupine quills. Thus he seemed more undressed than a newly-born baby.

Tom Bickford shouted when he saw me, and ran his canoe ashore at my feet. I hauled it up on the bank, and the other canoe as well; but what Tom had to say to me I could not hear because of the hoarse bawling of Cap Huff. “What’s the news?” he roared. “What’s going on here?”

Thinking he would be more interested in food than anything else, I told him it looked as though the pigeons might arrive soon: that scattered birds had been seen flying across the lake, and that some one thought he had seen a flock above the sky-line of Ticonderoga, though he might have seen a heavy smoke and imagined it to be pigeons.

“Hell!” Cap said, “we ain’t blind! Joe Phipps”—Cap jerked his head toward the young man in the green coat—“he saw a flock three miles long this afternoon going north over the Winooski. That ain’t what I’m talking about. Where’s Arnold, and when’s your brother going to get married?”

I stared at the half-clothed boy who had jumped ashore and squatted on the shingle, holding the canoe in place, his brilliant green coat and brocaded waistcoat clutched up around his middle to keep them dry. Now that Cap had spoken his name, I could see in him a likeness to Ellen, though his garb made the resemblance seem grotesque. His eyes were a velvety brown, with a golden spark in them, and though his mouth was set in a line which he doubtless considered grim and stoical, there was a pleasant softness about the corners of his lips.

He returned my stare calmly enough, and when I nodded to him, he smiled and said something I knew must be in an Indian tongue.

“Nice clothing he’s got on, ain’t it!” Cap said patronisingly. “Up in St. Francis, that’s the big à la mode for attending routs and drums consisting of eel-spearings!”

“Don’t laugh!” Steven Nason said quickly. Then he turned and looked coldly at Cap. “If you’ve got any remarks to make about friendly Indians, no matter whether they’re white or red, you can go off into the woods by yourself and make ’em. Don’t make ’em where anybody else can hear! We’re trying to keep this boy’s friends neutral, so we won’t have to fight them as well as the Mohawks—so they won’t use their carving knives on top of you to help you not to have such a thick head!”

“He don’t speak educated English!” Cap protested. “He ain’t at home in the language, the way I am.”

“He doesn’t have to speak any English—not to understand what you’re talking about!” Nason said. “This boy can read a moose-track and tell you how many points the moose has on its horns, and what it had for dinner last Tuesday. ’Tisn’t likely he’d have any trouble reading a face like yours, is it?”

“Like mine?” Cap said wonderingly. Then with a puzzled air he passed his hand slowly over his face, looked at his hand and seemed to become slightly offended. However, he said nothing more, but with a dignified air he balanced his keg on the gunwale of the canoe and stepped into the water. Unfortunately he stepped into a hole, and disappeared; then emerged to the surface, spouting like a whale and threshing the water with unbelievable energy.

Joseph Phipps slapped his bare knee and howled with laughter. Cap scrambled into the shallows, rose to his feet, glared contemptuously at all of us; then salvaged his keg and, with it in his arms, climbed the bank and stood before us, dripping indignantly.

Nason had preceded him. “They told me you’d been ordered to Skenesboro to start building a fleet,” he said to me.

“I couldn’t get a boat till to-day,” I said. “That’s what I’m doing here: waiting for more boats, so I can send off the rest of the timbers. They’re hard to get. Nobody wants to let go of a boat for fear of needing it to escape from the British.” I fished in my pocket and handed him Arnold’s letter. “Here; this might interest you.”

He set down his pack to read it. When he gave it back to me, he turned to Cap, who had dropped his keg on the ship’s timbers and was picking at the bung with a knife. “Phœbe’s coming to Skenesboro!” Nason told him. “We’ll go there ourselves first thing in the morning, and these timbers ought to go by boat at the same time. Boats are scarce, and you’ll probably have to pick up a few—borrow ’em, maybe—so be careful with that rum.”

Cap Huff eyed us indulgently. “Careful!” he exclaimed. “What would I be careful for? It ain’t the careful people that do the best borrowing. The harder a thing is to borrow, the carelesser you want to be about it.” He whacked the keg with a heavy club, in order to loosen the bung.

“Arnold doesn’t say your wife’s coming to Skenesboro,” I reminded Nason. “He only says he wrote to her to drum up some men.”

He nodded. “I know,” he said, “and I know her, too. She’ll pick up the carpenters and then go with ’em to make sure they get here.”

I had a strong desire to speak with Ellen’s brother; but the occurrences that immediately ensued were such that there was small opportunity for a word alone with any man.

Joseph had a fire going in two shakes of a lamb’s tail; and Doc Means, having dragged a dozen fat eels from the canoe, scoured each one with a handful of ashes, chopped them into five-inch sections, and skewered them neatly on ramrods, with a bayleaf between the sections to keep them from sticking. He had no sooner hung the ramrods before the fire on forked sticks than there was a scrabbling and a clappering in the elms behind us, as though a whirlwind had struck them.

Cap Huff pounded on his keg. “Pigeons!” he bawled. “Pie! Pigeon pie! Pigeon soup! Get your guns!”

We had no need of his words. The western sky had suddenly come alive with pigeons, millions of them: an endless cloud, hovering and whirling as wet snow-flakes hover and whirl in a gust of wind. They fluttered into the elms by the thousands, as if sucked into insatiable maws. From the trees came crashings, as branches, overloaded by the weight of pigeons, broke and fell. At such times billowing clouds of birds puffed from the foliage, only to vanish again among the leaves. There seemed to be no limit to the numbers the trees would hold.

We knew our wretched fare of sour beef and mouldy flour was ended at last; for when pigeons of this sort have arrived at a given spot, the flight is three weeks always, in passing that spot. With proper equipment, I suspected, a sufficient number could be killed to feed an army twice the size of ours—though I would have hesitated to believe what we later found to be the truth: that in this very section, in one year’s time, a British army of nearly eight thousand men would live for three full days on nothing but pigeons.

“Pigeons! Pigeon soup!” Cap went on bawling; but Nason had other ideas.

“Stop your noise!” he told Cap. “There’s more than pigeons in those trees! Before we get through, we might get a boat or two out of ’em if we’re still as smart traders as we used to be before we went to war.” He shook his head at those of us who had run for our muskets. “Let those guns alone. What we need now is ladders: not guns. A pair of ladders!”

We saw what he had in mind; so when he took Natanis, Joseph Phipps and Verrieul and hurried off toward a stand of tall pines, Tom Bickford and I went to hunting short sections of driftwood that would answer as rungs.

Cap Huff sighed, a noisy sigh that put me in mind of two or three porpoises blowing all together. “Well,” he said, “Stevie always claimed bad luck couldn’t last for ever, and maybe he’s right. Maybe he’s right! First I found this keg of rum, and now these pigeons come along! It kind of looks as if something favourable might happen.” As an afterthought he added: “Of course, the bad luck might have backed away, so to jump on us a little harder.”

“Where in God’s name did you ever find a keg of rum?” I asked him.

“Eel Ox Nox,” Cap said tersely. In no other way would he refer to Isle aux Noix; for seemingly he feared that if he pronounced the name correctly, he might be considered sissified.

The bung came out noisily, spattering him. He cupped his great hands around the bung-hole, thrust his nose between them and inhaled ecstatically. “That’s English rum,” he told me. “There ain’t as much bite to it as good Medford rum, but there ain’t no question about it being rum. Verrieul and me, we deserted to the British up at Eel Ox Nox, and I picked up this rum. They have it lying around everywhere, the British do. Verrieul, he heard at Three Rivers that they brought a hundred and twenty-five thousand gallons over from England with ’em, in case some general would get faint on the march to Albany.”

“You deserted!” I said. “You’re here, so you couldn’t have deserted!”

“Certainly we deserted!” Cap said. “There wasn’t a drop of rum at Eel Ox Nox; not a drop! So when Verrieul spoke about the hundred and twenty-five thousand gallons, I said I’d row over and see about it, and Verrieul said he’d come too; so he did, and there was the rum, just as he said.”

I thought he was making game of me. “So you made a social call on the British! No doubt you found them happy to see you, and in good spirits.”

Cap nodded. “Fine!” he agreed. “That’s a fine army! They got fine clothes and fine muskets and fine rum. Fine-looking men, too. Terrible thick in the head, they are; but fine! We hollered at ’em, and they come out, and we says we wanted to be on King George’s side in all these troubles, whatever they was, and they said we was nice men, and that’s the only time when they showed any sense at all; because everything else they said was stupid.

“Right away they gave us a drink of rum and asked us what was happening on Eel Ox Nox; and we told ’em we was the President and Secretary of the Eel Ox Nox Club, composed of the smartest officers in the whole damned army, and if we could show a keg of rum to the other members, they’d all desert, maybe.

“Maybe the whole army’d follow our example and desert, Verrieul told ’em. He said the Americans thought all the rum in the world had been drunk up, and when they learned different, it would be easy for influential people such as those in the Eel Ox Nox Club to persuade their acquaintances to like King George again, and want to be on his side too. That feller Verrieul, he’s quite a feller! Fine face he’s got! Innocent! No matter what he tells you, you believe it.”

“The Eel Ox Nox Club!” I exclaimed. “You’re not serious!”

“I hope to die if I ain’t!” Cap bawled. “Me and Verrieul decided we’d have a club for people like those up at Eel Ox Nox, who’d stood as much as they could from politicians. What we wanted, Verrieul said, was a political club without any politicians in it.”

When I showed signs of impatience, Cap became eager. “Let me tell you about this club. If a feller’s in politics, and wants to stay there, he’s got to spend all his time making promises he don’t ever intend to keep, and doing damned fool things just so’s to get some damned fool’s vote, ain’t he?”

I admitted that this seemed to be the case.

“For sure it does!” Cap said. “Well, me and Verrieul, we don’t neither of us want to be politicians, but we want a club that’ll kind of encourage us to act like politicians in special cases—p’tickly towards those that need to be acted that way towards.

“Verrieul says it’s kind of a public duty to act like a politician once in a while—towards the English, say, and towards Indians and York troops, and towards other politicians. One of the good features of a club like that, Verrieul says, is that we can raise money the way politicians raise it, and then spend it on ourselves the way politicians do.”

“H’m,” I said.

“Yes,” Cap said, “that Verrieul, he certainly is an educated feller. When I hear what he thinks up, it kind of makes me sorry I didn’t go to Dartmouth College myself. He made up a motter for the Eel Ox Nox Club. It goes ‘Nulla die sine something or other.’ ”

“What’s it mean?”

“Mean?” Cap asked. “Well, as near as I can remember, it means ‘Don’t never tell an Englishman the truth because he’d get it wrong anyway.’ ”

He seemed to consider the matter closed, for he tilted the keg with a view to drinking from the bung, but desisted, muttering, when a cupful ran down his neck.

“Well?” I said.

“Well what?” Cap asked impatiently.

“What happened at Eel Ox Nox?”

“Oh,” Cap said, “the British, they talked over letting us take a couple kegs back to show the Eel Ox Nox Club and get ’em fond of King George again; but that night when Verrieul and I come away, there was only this one around loose, and Verrieul said if we asked ’em for the other, they might notice we was leaving. So they still got about a hundred and twenty-four thousand, nine hundred and seventy-five gallons left, if I ain’t weak on arithmetic—and if they’re still saving it for that general in case he contracts the vapours.

“When we got back to Eel Ox Nox, Verrieul and me talked it over, and he said what’s the use electing anybody to the club just now, or being a tempter in any other way; and I says yes; and besides, I says, what’s the use us tempting anybody that could get his own as easy as we got ours, I says.

“That’s the way it come about we didn’t make no distribution excepting just a little now and then between Verrieul and me when it got to be necessary. Practically, we ain’t more than smacked the taste of it, because it’s more than half-full right yet.”

He turned from us suddenly and spoke to Doc Means. “What you say, Doc? You got medical brains; but you wouldn’t hold with rum being harmful on the innards, would you?”

Doc swayed weakly and peered at Cap out of watery blue eyes. “Plain rum?” he asked. “Just plain rum?”

Cap frowned, but before he could speak, Doc hurriedly added, “I wouldn’t recommend rum, not unless it was took as a remedy. Maybe you noticed, when we walked up from the landing, that there was some Melancholy Thistles growing alongside the path. How’d you like to make an infusion of those thistles, and mix the rum with it and have it for supper: not hot, but just blood heat?”

“Thistles!” Cap cried. “Melancholy Thistles! Who ever heard of Melancholy Thistles! Any time anybody speaks about drinking rum, you always have to talk about mixing it with something! What’s the matter with drinking just plain rum? What’d be the good of mixing it with Melancholy Thistles, even if there was any such thing?”

“I’ll tell you what would be the good,” Doc said patiently. “Those that know about herbs say that there ain’t any herb much more important than Melancholy Thistles. I ain’t tried ’em, but it appears to me this would be a good time to experiment with ’em. They say there ain’t anything in the world so good for curing melancholy. That’s why they’re called Melancholy Thistles.”

“Are they in the book?” Cap asked.

“Certainly they’re in the book!” Doc fumbled in the back of his canvas smock, brought out his Culpeper’s Herbal and removed it from its protecting stocking leg. “Here!” he said. “Here it is!” He tapped an open page with a wrinkled forefinger and read from it with a voice that quavered pitifully: ‘Melancholy Thistle . . . grows in moist meadows . . . flowers in July . . . under Capricorn, and therefore under both Saturn and Mars. Saturn rids Melancholy by sympathy, Mars by antipathy!’ ”

“Wait a minute,” Cap said, and rubbed his head. “What’s all that about Slatterns?”

“Saturn!” Doc said sternly. “Saturn!”

“Oh,” Cap said, disappointed. “I thought it was going to be something interesting right there. Go on.”

Doc resumed his reading. “ ‘The decoction of the thistle being drank in wine, expels superfluous melancholy out of the body, and makes a man as merry as a cricket. Superfluous melancholy causeth care, fear, sadness, despair, envy and many evils more besides; and seven years’ care and fear makes a man never the wiser nor a farthing richer.’ ”

“I ain’t got any Saturns or Mars’s or superfulous melancholies or none of those articles you was reading about,” Cap protested.

Doc seemed surprised. “You ain’t? How do you know you ain’t? Maybe you just ain’t had enough trials to bring out your melancholy.”

Cap’s reply was thoughtful. “No, maybe I ain’t. Maybe if we had a little real hard luck, I might get some superfulous melancholy.” He seemed to toy with the thought, then added: “I dunno: maybe I’m a little melancholy right now, seeing as how you insist on it so hard. Do you suppose if I put a piece of this thistle in the keg, it would work right on a man, no matter whether he had superfulous melancholy under Mars or not? Do you suppose ’twould make him merry as a cricket if he was just a little melancholy?”

“It stands to reason it would!” Doc Means said. “If the book’s right, the less melancholy a man had in him, the merrier he’d get.”

Cap slapped the keg a resounding slap. “Get a mess of thistles and put ’em on to boil!” he roared. “We’ll soon find out whether the book’s right or not!”

Doc wavered away almost briskly to chop tall thistles and set them to steep in his camp kettle; but I forgot him when Nason and the others returned, each one dragging a slender pine from which all the branches, with the exception of a single row of butts that protruded two feet from each trunk, had been trimmed. Thus the pines had the look of enormous combs.

We lashed these together in pairs, the butts of the branches mingled, so that we had two long ladders with irregular-spaced rungs. We lashed on, also, the additional rungs that Tom and I had picked up; and that being done, we took the ladders to the leafiest of the elms and stood them against the trunks.

By now it was almost dark, and the trees were nothing but black bulks above us; but when we loaded two muskets with small shot and fired into those black shadows, they seemed to explode above us. A million pigeons, disturbed by the noise and the shot, flapped about, blundering into each other in the darkness, and struggling for new resting-places. Out of each tree tumbled twenty or thirty birds, dead or wounded—not enough for any good whatever, considering that those who needed them were numbered in thousands.

But when the birds went back into the trees, they lit on the ladder rungs in such quantities that the timbers sagged beneath their weight. Reloading our muskets, we pointed them to rake the ladders; and with their discharge, a torrent of pigeons cascaded down to thump and flop beneath the trees. By the time the cripples had been knocked on the head and thrown in a heap, the ladders were again covered with these stupid, fat, long-tailed birds, all of them near bursting from the plentifulness of the berries they had eaten.

To mow them off the ladders again and again seemed sinful at first; but we became hardened to it, so that it seemed no worse than knocking apples from a tree. There was no way of telling, when we stopped for lack of small shot, how many birds there were in the four piles at the foot of the trees; but they were mounded shoulder high, and any one of the piles would have more than filled a good-sized farm-cart. A steadily increasing crowd of officers and men had run over from the camp, to see what we were up to. They stood around us in a half-circle, their eyes glittering in the light of a fire Natanis had kindled to make sure we had picked up all the birds; and from their looks, none of them had eaten a square meal in months.

One of the officers, a tall, thin, simple-looking lieutenant, came to Nason. “Name of Whitcomb,” he said, “attached to Burrell’s Connecticut regiment. Was you planning to eat all those yourself? If not, I got a few men could use some of ’em.” He coughed apologetically and added, “I guess we all could.”

“I guess so,” Nason said. “That’s what we’ve been shooting ’em for.” He stared calculatingly at Whitcomb—at his broad shoulders, his light brown hair, his leather breeches, his long blue vest with capacious flask pockets. It was as if, almost, he had asked a silent question of Whitcomb and received an equally silent answer that more than satisfied him, for he added, “Tell somebody to build twenty of these ladders to-morrow. Then everybody can live on pigeon stew. In case you don’t know it, the best way to eat ’em is to cook ’em with beans.”

“Beans?” Whitcomb asked vacantly. He was as harmless and benevolent-looking as could be, and as innocent-appearing as though he scarcely knew what was being said to him; but if ever there was a dare-devil, it was Whitcomb. We didn’t know it at the time, however; and from the way he said “Beans?” we thought he must have come from a family that had religious scruples about eating them.

“Plain white beans,” Nason told him. “You put a quart of beans in a kettle with some water and the breasts of a dozen pigeons and a little salt pork and an onion, and put another kettle over it, and bury the whole business under a fire all night. Then you got something.”

Lieutenant Whitcomb swallowed. “So I’ve heard tell. It must be nice if you got the beans.”

“Well,” Nason said, “maybe we could find you some beans, even. What you better do now is have your men get a few old sails: then they can drag these pigeons to camp in three or four trips.”

The lieutenant stared. “All of ’em? We can have all of ’em?” The half-circle of human scarecrows scattered into the darkness, running.

“Yes,” Nason said slowly, “you can have all of ’em if you’ll do a little something for us in return—if you’ll find us some barges, so we can load those timbers and get ’em to Skenesboro to-morrow for General Arnold.”

When Whitcomb was silent, Nason added, “All these men here, they’re scouts for Arnold. It’s all regular and above board, only if we get boats in the regular way, we might be a week getting started.”

Whitcomb turned to look at the piles of lumber, which showed clearly in the light of the fire beside which sat Cap Huff and Doc Means, taking alternate sips from a tin dipper. “Barges?” Whitcomb asked. “You want to get those timbers to Skenesboro on barges?”

Long boats, I reminded Nason, would do as well.

Whitcomb nodded. “I’ll get ’em for you. When things get a little quieter, I know where I can pick up all the boats you need.” Hopefully he added, “I aim to be a scout myself. I aim to scout around and get me one of those German soldiers—the kind that’s all weighted down with cutlery so’s he can only march two miles an hour.” He stood there, looking so helpless that we felt sorry for him.

We took him to our fire, where Cap Huff and Doc Means, in a singular silence, removed the ramrods from over the coals and set our supper before us. The eels were fat and juicy, having been cooked slowly, as eels should always be cooked.

Nason picked up Cap’s tin cup, filled it from the mixture in the kettle and gave it to Whitcomb. Then he filled his own cup, and so did the rest of us.

Cap watched us closely as we drank. “What do you think of that?” he demanded.

“ ’Tisn’t bad,” Nason said. “What’s in it?”

“Thittles,” Cap told him. He hiccupped noisily and tried again. “Thithlsh.” He shook his head and dismissed the matter with an airy wave of his huge hand. “Now look here, Stevie, wha’s use going to Skenesboro? Doc’n I been talking, ’n here’ what we think. Les’ g’w’up to Eel Ox Nox to-night, juss us, ’n’ have a meeting of the Eel Ox Nox Club. Doc, he’s been elected, and everybody here can be members.” He hiccupped, focusing his eyes on Whitcomb. “O’ course, we dunno about this frien’ of yours, this gellaman here.”

Verrieul’s cheerful voice broke in on Cap’s maunderings. “Make him a non-resident member.”

“Tha’s juss what we’ll do!” Cap cried. “Make him a non-resonant member!” To Nason he added enthusiastically: “After we hold our meeting, Stevie, we wouldn’t need to build a lot of row-galleys or nothin’. Save lot of work, Stevie, and be great help to Arnold.” He leaned back proudly and surveyed us with a triumphant leer on his round red face.

“I don’t follow you,” Nason said. “Arnold’s orders were——”

“Listen, Stevie!” Cap said. He leaned forward confidentially and dropped a hand on Nason’s shoulder. “I’ll ’splain everything to Arnold. Arnold don’t listen to many men, but one of the things people look up to me for is how I talk to him. ‘Listen, Arnold,’ I say, because I’m an outspoken man; and he always says, ‘What you want?’ he says. I never seen him yet, I couldn’t go right up to him and have him ask me what I wanted. He asked me that once on the trip to Albany, juss on account of the way I was looking at him; and he says if I didn’t want nothing, to quit looking at him that way. Thass how I stand with Arnold—juss like that!”

He interlaced the fingers of his two hands: then looked at them interestedly and inquired, “How you unfasten your hands after you get ’em fixed that way? Anyhow it shows you the friendship between me an’ Arnold.”

Upon that his hands seemed to separate of themselves: for he looked surprised. “There!” he said. “They’ve quit! If it’s a sign I and Arnold are going to disagree about this matter, don’t worry! Juss disregard his orders, an le’s get back to Eel Ox Nox, where it’s all nice, and close enough to the Bri’sh to borrow from ’em. I wouldn’t ask for more obliging neighbours than them Bri’sh when you want something.”

A fresh thought seemed to strike him. “Stevie,” he said thickly, “all we’ll do is g’w’up to Eel Ox Nox, and then us club members’ll cross over to the Bri’sh and steal us some of their gerranals——”

“How’s that?” Nason asked. “Steal their what?”

“Some of their gerranals,” Cap said, frowning. “We could tell the Bri’sh we juss wanted to borrow ’em. We could steal Gerranal Burgloyd and dress nice afterward, because he’s got fourteen suits of clothes they’re carrying through the woods for him, along with what goes with ’em. Some of their other gerranals only got six or seven suits of clothes, and only use two or three soldiers apiece to carry ’em. But le’s don’t hurt feelings by juss borrerin Gerranal Burgloyd—Burgoyle—alone. Le’s borrer all these gerranals.”

Doc Means looked troubled and cupped a hand about an ear. “I never heard the term,” he said. “What are these articles you’re talking about? Did you say journals?”

“Whyn’t you listen to what I say?” Cap shouted angrily. “I said ‘gerranals!’ A gerranal’s a man among the Bri’sh with fourteen carts full of suits of clothes and hats, and four wagon loads of champagne and napkins, and two bottles of ink to write home to King George about what disgusts him. If we steal enough gerranals, Arnold wouldn’t worry about boats, would he? Because the Bri’sh wouldn’t have anybody left to carry anything for, and they’d go home.”

He turned politely to Whitcomb. “You ’quainted with Gerranal Arnold? Greatest man ever was!”

Whitcomb stared gloomily into his empty cup. “Not personally. We all heard how he stole the communion cups out of the church up in Montreal.”

Cap shook his head as if an insect buzzed about his ear; then, focusing a hard eye on Whitcomb, made as if to struggle to his feet. Nason pushed him back again and looked carefully at Whitcomb.

“Lemme up!” Cap said thickly. “I’ll show him who stole any commulion cups! I’ll commulion cup him!”

Nason snapped his fingers sharply before Cap’s face. “You’ll fight the British and no one else: no one else! Understand?” He turned to Doc Means. “What was put in that rum? There was something in it!”

“Thils,” Doc Means said, indistinctly. “ ’S cure for splerfrus menkolly. ’S like all these urerr doctors’ cures—don’t cure nurrin! Lotta splerfrus liars, ’s what doctors are!”

Nason reached for the kettle and spilled its contents on the ground. “That’s the place for it, whatever it is!”

To Whitcomb he said quietly: “Now here! That’s not the first time we’ve heard the story about Arnold stealing things from Montreal. Where’s it come from: that’s what we want to know!”

“You think it isn’t true?” Whitcomb asked.

“We know it isn’t!” Nason said. “What we don’t know is how any such stories came to sift all through the army! Who started them, and why? My God, it couldn’t have been any of his men in Montreal! They knew better, every damned one of ’em!”

“I guess there’s no call for profanity,” Whitcomb said coldly. “I’m only telling you what I heard.”

“Listen!” Nason said. “If we ever lose Arnold out of this army, you’ll find plenty of cause for profanity! You say you aim to be a scout; but when I ask you where you got your stories about Arnold, all you can do is tell me there’s no cause for profanity. A hell of a scout you’d make. If somebody sent you to scout for Indians, you’d probably come back with a hoorah’s nest.”

Cap Huff hiccupped. “Took the words right out of my mouth, Stevie!”

There was a trace of surprise in Whitcomb’s voice. “Why, I guess maybe there’s something in what you say. Let’s see, now. Well, I don’t know anything definite, but it appears to me most of these stories about Arnold, they come from folks that got a good deal of sympathy for Colonel Easton and Major Brown. Appears to me I never heard anybody talk so violent about any one as the Colonel and the Major did about Arnold when they came through here.”

“Where were they going?” Nason asked.

“Near as I could make out,” Whitcomb said, “they were going to Congress to complain about Arnold and try to get higher rank.”

“Higher rank for Easton!” Cap Huff cried. “What rank’s he entitled to? Regimental wet-nurse?”

Whitcomb shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know anything about that. There’s a lot of New Hampshire officers been listening to Easton and Brown, on account of the things Arnold’s been saying about Bedel and Hazen. They stick together pretty well, the New Hampshire officers do. There’s a good many of ’em think we’d get along better if the war could be put in the hands of New Hampshire men, without too much interference from strangers. They’re the ones that tell you how Arnold didn’t do anything in Montreal except steal. If Arnold ever gets into a courtmartial, he’d better make sure there ain’t any New Hampshire men on the court.”

Nason stared at Whitcomb and Whitcomb stared at the fire, in which the bones from our supper of eels still sizzled, burning with blue flames. I pretended to be half asleep; but I was a turmoil inside, wondering and wondering about the letters Ellen had carried from St. John’s for Easton and Brown. I dared not speak, for fear I might somehow set Nason on Nathaniel’s trail—somehow involve Nathaniel, and Ellen with him, in disaster.

“I don’t like it,” Nason said. “I don’t like any of it! There’s something queer in all this. It’s like a bad dream—one of those that make you say, ‘This happened before.’ Ever since Arnold made his first attack on Canada, nearly a year ago, there’s been lies about him pouring out of the country, in one way or another. They poured out of Quebec; and now here they are, pouring out of Montreal!”

“They’re scared of him,” Cap Huff said more soberly than he had spoken in some time. Apparently the effect of the thistled rum was wearing off rapidly. “It ain’t worth lying about any one unless you’re scared of him.”

We were silent, staring at Whitcomb. Behind us a dozen ragged soldiers, ranged around a sagging topsail, were carrying off the last of the pigeons.

Whitcomb was thoughtful when he rose, and in his voice was a trace of discomfort. “I better go along with these boys and pick up the boats you need.” He slapped the remaining timbers, eyeing them calculatingly.

“That’s good,” Nason said slowly. “We’ll be obliged to you.” Then, as if to ease Whitcomb’s embarrassment, he added: “If you still want to be a scout, you’d better get leave to come along to Skenesboro with us, where we can say a good word to Arnold for you.”


Skenesboro, Doc Means said, looked broke out with something half-way between the yellow-jaundice and a mere stomach-ache; and the place caused so much anguish before we were finished with it that Doc’s description came to seem high praise.

The southern end of Lake Champlain is a narrow appendix, more like a river than a lake. For twenty miles it holds the centre of a pleasant valley; but at Skenesboro a ragged limestone mountain rises abruptly in its path, and the lake, as if overawed, crawls into a rocky ravine and ceases to exist.

The Philip Skene for whom Skenesboro was named was an English army officer who had married a rich wife and been granted some thirty thousand acres of land, here at the tip of the lake, by the king; but because of his loyalty to the English, he and his family too had been arrested early in the war and imprisoned in Hartford.

On the lower slope of the mountain, sheltered from the north winds, stood Skene’s big house and barn, built out of yellowish stone that did indeed have a jaundiced appearance. They looked down on the narrow lake-end and on a cove into which the waters of Wood Creek came tumbling in a cascade of yellow foam. Wood Creek was more important than its name implied. At the falls was a sawmill, an iron-foundry and a grist-mill. Furthermore, it was the one natural roadway between Skenesboro and the south. Once over its cascade, one could row from Skenesboro to Fort Ann; and Fort Ann was half-way to the Hudson. If we received supplies for building ships, they could only reach us by way of Wood Creek. Consequently Wood Creek, to our minds, was the very heart and forefront of Skenesboro.

When, however, we rowed our timber-laden whaleboats into the rocky ravine beneath the limestone mountain, the place was desolate. The grist-mill and iron-foundry were empty and haggard-looking. Scattered furtively among the trees were cabins in which lived negroes imported by Skene from the Sugar Islands. Except for Nathaniel and Zelph, who waved us to a landing near the falls, Skenesboro seemed lifeless and hopeless—the last place in the world in which to conjure into existence a fleet for the halting of the British. Yet a fleet must be built, for in no other way could the British be stopped.

. . . I am not surprised when men ask why the British waited for us to build a fleet: why they didn’t row after us in small boats, if they were so determined to pursue us; or why they took the trouble to row at all: why, in short, they didn’t march immediately along the shore of the lake and scatter our sick and frightened army like a flock of pigeons. Or why, for that matter, they didn’t bring down upon us the splendid fleet we had seen through the haze of Lake St. Peter while we lay on the sand-banks of Sorel.

It is no wonder, it seems to me, that these things are not clear to all. Even such military experts as Lord Germain and his advisers saw no reason why an English army should not march from Quebec to New York in a week’s time. Consequently it is not astonishing that our situation puzzles those who were neither soldiers nor seamen, with a knowledge of ships and guns and weight of metal.

It is for the sake of those fortunate souls who know nothing of war that I tell here the things which seemed to us so clear and simple, but might never have been seen at all if Arnold had not been there to see them.

In the first place, most of the British vessels we had seen at Sorel dared not venture into the Richelieu because they were too large. Those small enough to sail up the river were obliged to stop when they reached Chambly rapids; for ships cannot climb rocky hills. They could not even be dragged around the rapids on wheels or sledges; for the British tried it and failed. Therefore if the British wished vessels on Lake Champlain they were obliged to build them, or to carry them over the road in sections, as we had carried the ship timbers from St. John’s—a task as arduous, almost, as building them.

But the Americans already had three vessels on the lake: the schooner Liberty, taken from Skene by Arnold’s men the preceding May; the sloop Enterprise, captured by Arnold in his dash to St. John’s the same month; and the stout schooner Royal Savage with her twelve brass cannon, captured by Montgomery at St. John’s when he took it from the British in the preceding November, on his way to join Arnold at Quebec. They were in bad condition; but they were vessels, and could quickly be made seaworthy by capable ship carpenters. Their guns, moreover, were in place; so if handled by seamen, and the guns manned by proper marksmen, nothing could compete with them except vessels equally well-armed. If the British had tried to send an unprotected army down the lake in canoes and bateaux, we could have sailed alongside them in these three vessels of ours and blown them to pieces at our ease and pleasure.

And use the lake the British army must—not only use it, but gain complete control of it before they could send their army south to join Howe and cut the colonies in two.

There were no roads along the lake; and even if there had been roads, the British would never have dared to march men and supplies along them—for one reason because they would be obliged to protect their line of march from attack, lest we cut the line and leave them to starve in the wilderness. Such protection would have kept all their troops busy doing guard duty, and left none for fighting. For another reason, they would have been obliged to build upwards of one hundred and fifty miles of road, from St. John’s to Ticonderoga, across swamps and rivers, and through forests such as these Britishers had never before seen. The roads would have had to be stout enough to provide passage for artillery, and all the carts carrying wines and uniforms and household equipment for their officers, as well as rum and potatoes and mutton for their soldiers, and to stand up under the weight of the German troops, each of whom weighed, Cap Huff swore, close to half a ton on the hoof.

If, therefore, the British had attempted any such task, they would have been three years at it, and been bitten to death by mosquitoes a dozen times, in addition to enduring other grievous hardships.

Consequently there was no way out of it: the British had to use the lake for the transportation of their men and supplies, but they couldn’t use it until they controlled it. The only way they could control it was by setting to work at St. John’s and building more ships than we could build, and doing it in a hurry, so that they could come down on us late in the summer, hack us to pieces with their fine regiments, and go marching gaily down the Hudson to join Howe.

There was no way of knowing how large a fleet the British would build at St. John’s; but it would certainly be one that would give us more trouble than we desired. They had everything at hand with which to work—timber easily transported from the St. Lawrence; a fleet full of sailors on whom to draw; as many ship carpenters as they wanted from Quebec and Montreal and Three Rivers, as well as from their fleet. They had naval stores ready to hand on the King’s ships that had driven us from Sorel, and as many great guns as they wanted, and above all as many naval officers as they needed to command their vessels when built.

. . . Yet we were not disturbed by this thought as we pulled our heavy whaleboats into the cove of Wood Creek on that hot June afternoon, but were only filled with a sort of hurried, dry-mouthed wonderment as to how we should commence the work that must be done.

There we were, nine of us, in the whaleboats: Verrieul, neat and handsome, talking Abenaki to that strange-looking white Indian Joseph Phipps, who, in spite of being white, wore only a belt-cloth, and so was almost as brown from exposure to the sun as Natanis, who sat beside him; helpless-seeming Doc Means listening placidly to the noisy hoarse voice of Cap Huff; and Whitcomb arguing with Nason and Tom Bickford in defence of his theories of scouting, which were strange and uncustomary. On the shore stood Nathaniel and Zelph; and so far as we could see the eleven of us must build a fleet if any fleet was built.

Except for the timbers of the one vessel we had brought with us, we had nothing with which to build it: nothing, that is to say, except a sawmill without logs, an iron-foundry without iron or workmen, a grist-mill without corn, and space for shipyards without carpenters, unless Nathaniel and Tom Bickford and myself should be counted as carpenters, and perhaps Zelph, who had worked a little around ships.

We had no canvas, no nails, no cordage. Barring the hatchets in our belts, we had no tools—no felling axes: no grindstones to keep them sharp: no adzes or hammers. We had no oars, no sailors, no money. And in spite of all that, we pointed out to each other likely locations for stocks—stocks for the vessels we must somehow build out of God knew what.

When my whaleboat slid into the shallows, Nathaniel and Zelph hauled her bow to land. “Zelph’s got two axes,” Nathaniel said. “He thinks maybe he can find more. A man came over from Albany this morning to say there’d be thirty carpenters get here to-morrow. He’s up at the barn, finding places for ’em to sleep.”

Cap Huff waded ashore, his keg of rum cradled in his arms. “Thirty carpenters?” he asked. “Thirty carpenters from where?”

“From Albany,” Nathaniel said.

Cap Huff shook his head ominously and spoke to Nason. “Yorkers! I better see about getting us some place to live: some place where those Yorkers can’t steal everything we got!”

He hurried away with his keg of rum, and with him went Natanis and Joe Phipps to hunt food for our suppers; while the rest of us fell to work.

By sunset that evening, the timbers we had brought were stacked neatly on either side of a staging—a rough staging hacked from the slopes of Wood Creek with Zelph’s two axes and our tomahawks, and lashed in place with wattape. We had cut blocks and placed them at the proper height and inclination. On these we had set the keel of the St. John’s vessel, and erected her stern and sternpost; and still we found time to make six ladders so that we might start work on the following morning with no loss of time.

Nathaniel told me a little about Ellen—enough to let me know she was comfortable in a three-room house on Skene’s property, with a farmer and his wife. He might have told me more if I had pressed him; but this I would not do. I had made up my mind that her likes and dislikes were too violent and stubborn for a person of my peaceful nature, and that the less I saw of her, the better it would be for me.

Since I did not press him, he was full of a strange tale about the negroes left by Skene on his place: how they seemed to be entirely without brains, knowing nothing and understanding nothing when he had sought their help in finding axes and other tools. Zelph, said Nathaniel, had sat down with a few of them, and played with his dice, and shown them how to play. They had played for hours. Zelph had lost nearly all his money. Then, suddenly and surprisingly, he had won it back, together with two axes which Skene’s negroes had unearthed from beneath their cabin floors.

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Nathaniel concluded, “if those black men knew more than they pretend to know. I shouldn’t wonder but what, if you and Steven Nason went and talked to ’em, we might find they had more than axes hidden away.”

It takes a negro, I knew, to understand a negro. “Zelph,” I said, “if those black men of Skene’s have got tools, we’ve got to have ’em. You quit work right now and go to see ’em. You’ve got till to-morrow night to get all the tools they got. If you don’t get ’em, you can promise ’em we’ll tear down all their cabins and dig up the floors.”

Zelph fished his dice from his pocket, worked them tenderly in one black paw: then dropped them deftly on to a flattened pink palm. “Nick!” he said. The dice showed a five and two—seven. Zelph laughed in a way that presaged ill for the belongings of Skene’s negroes.

Cap Huff, a smear of dirt across his broad red face and smelling strongly of rum, peered over Zelph’s shoulder. “You can’t do that again,” he said.

Zelph closed his paw over the dice. “How much you bet I can’t?”

“I bet you a million dollars you can’t.”

“How much real money you bet?” Zelph persisted.

“How much?” Cap asked coldly. “Why, ten dollars Continental.”

Zelph shook his head. “Ten dollars Continental ain’t worth throwing for.” He again dropped the dice into his outspread palm. They showed a six and a one—another seven.

Cap watched Zelph depart, rolling bear-like towards the cabins on Wood Creek. “By God!” he said, “it ain’t natural, the way those things act! I’ll bet he does something to ’em, and I got to find out what!”

. . . Cap had chosen one of Skene’s horse-sheds for our living quarters. He had taken hay from the barn and spread it thickly on the floor, and in one corner he had buried his keg of rum.

The horse-sheds faced the south and were open to that side, the arched openings set off with uprights. Thus they were airy and cool on hot nights; and we could look out at our cook-fire from our bunks, which we built of logs along the sides and back, and filled with balsam tips.

Thanks to the swarm of thoughts that filled my brain that first night—thicker, almost, than the mosquitoes that shrilled about us—I could not be comfortable in my bunk, but lay there turning and fretting, wondering about tallow, spikes, cordage, files, bits, adzes, seamen, belaying pins, pulleys and a million other things we needed. To think of any one thing we lacked was to think of a dozen other things, all equally unobtainable, and all vital to the building of a vessel.

“What you breathing so hard for?” Cap Huff asked. “One of the reasons I was so anxious to get here was because I thought it would be quiet enough to get me some sleep.”

“If we had axes and could start getting out timbers,” I told him, “we could build gundelos. They’re flat-bottomed, so we won’t need bolts or half spikes for a week or so; but we’ll have to have tools and stores before we can get anywhere with row-galleys. Two hundred miles those stores must come, from Boston and Salem, maybe, or even New Haven and Providence, over roads not fit to be called roads. Maybe there isn’t any way we can get any of the things we need.”

“Listen,” Cap said, “how long you got to be in the army to find out it ain’t no good to worry about getting something? Either you get what you need, or you don’t get it. Most generally you don’t!”

Nason was more encouraging. “We don’t have to do everything ourselves,” he said. “Arnold must have written a million letters by now, asking for what we need. He never overlooks anything. He thought of Phœbe, even, and she won’t disappoint him. She’ll find some way to get ship carpenters away from building privateers, and it won’t be long before she’s here. There’s shipyards at Newburgh and Albany; and Schuyler’ll find some way of getting supplies from them. He’s as smart as Arnold, almost. There’ll be officers here, just as Cap Huff says, and they’ll have to do the worrying. All we’ll have to do is work on a vessel.”

Somewhat easier in my mind, I stared up into the blackness above me, wondering and wondering how the miracle of a fleet could ever be accomplished here in the heart of a forest, where the scent of tar and salt air had never penetrated.

. . . A heavy mist still hung over the lake when we went to work the next morning, long before sun-up. Before it had burned away, we had staked out the ways for six gundelos, each to be sixty feet long on a fifty-five foot keel.

While we staked out the last of them, we heard the shouting of a noisy company on the Wood Creek road. They straggled out of the forest and down to the shore of the lake, all of them in dusty brown, with wrinkled gray stockings and hickory shirts black beneath the arms and on the back with sweat. Felling-axes were made fast to their waists. They carried little bundles of tools wrapped in their blankets. They gathered around us, thirty of them; and their leader, a genial, stooped man with no teeth to be seen in his upper jaw save one yellow one, asked who was giving orders. I said quickly that I was. He took my word for it, which he would never have done if he had been a soldier. A soldier would have wanted to know all about it, and by what right I gave orders, and when and where I received my commission; and until satisfied, he would have done nothing whatever, not even though the British had been on the verge of overwhelming us.

By midday we could hear the distant whanking of axes, and by midafternoon logs were coming into the sawmill, thanks to the help of four horses that Cap Huff had in some way persuaded nearby settlers to lend us. What was more, the sawmill was running, and those of us at the water’s edge worked to the rumbling clank of the treadway and the whining rasp of the saw biting into oak.

In a week’s time there was nothing left of the quiet serenity that had brooded over this small backwater on our arrival. Bateaux crawled in, both by lake and by creek, bringing a little of this and a little of that. Messengers, gray with fatigue and caked with mud, rode in from the Atlantic coast on lathered horses. To whom they reported, we had no idea. The place seemed to have no head; nor did there seem to be need of giving orders. Every man, in those first days, did one of the thousand things there were to do, and the row of keels on the stocks somehow sprouted ribs and grew a skin of planking.

Seeing that the gundelos were progressing, I took Nathaniel and Tom Bickford from their work and we set up stocks for two row-galleys; for I hoped we soon might have both timber and stores with which to build them.

Commissaries arrived from Ticonderoga, and suddenly there was food to be had from them—real food, such as none of us had seen since we had left home—beef and mutton, butter and cheese, greens by the boatload to eat with them, and best of all, punch and porter to slake the fires that burned for ever within us after our hours of lumber handling and hammering and chopping and pounding in the sultry July heat.

Strangers—ship carpenters—appeared as though hatched out, somehow, by birds. While we worked on our gundelo, short-handed, a new worker would appear beside us, sweating and cursing as though he had been there for ever; and before we could ask him who he was, he would be gone and two others would have come to take his place.

There were carpenters from Connecticut—fifty of them, and another fifty from Rhode Island. They had worked on privateers, and were contemptuous of these little vessels on which we toiled: contemptuous of us, too, because we worked for nothing, whereas they had been given fabulous wages to lure them from the building of privateers. Five dollars, hard money, for each day’s work, some of them bragged, with a cow apiece to boot, and free food.

It made no difference to me how much these carpenters received, so long as we got carpenters; but Cap Huff felt differently about it. He rumbled and complained over his food, and at night, lying in his bunk. “Damn it,” he growled, “it ain’t reasonable for these people to get five dollars a day, hard money, and us not get nothing but a chance to stop a cannon ball. We ought to take and do something, suchlike as raising hell about it.”

Nason rebuked him for his words. “Be grateful,” he told Cap, “for the blessings you’ve got. You can’t do anything about the wages these carpenters get, so it’s no use fretting about it.”

There was no end, however, to Cap’s grumbling; and he seemed to me to spend altogether too much time with Zelph, playing with Zelph’s dice.

In a short time Skene’s barn was filled with workmen, who built themselves bunks alongside the walls, and peevishly demanded better quarters. From morning to night the place was a turmoil of hammering and shouting; and in the cool of the evening, when the leaves hung dark and motionless, men brawled and howled and went stumbling down to the lake to splash and thrash in the milk-warm water, and to come gabbling back again, wrangling and arguing over God knows what.

Into the midst of all this there came, finally, a terrible curse—a portly officer with a pot belly, pursed-up lips and a face the colour of a crab-apple, a sort of velvety reddish-purple. He came in a whaleboat, rowed by four men; and to see us the better he stood in the bow of the boat, dressed in a blue uniform coat too tight for him, with gold swabs on his shoulders like robin nests built out of dirty gold thread. He had on a three-cornered hat, all gold lace, so that he was military indeed, though I thought his appearance would have been more impressive if he had hidden the pipe that hung from the corner of his mouth—a big-bellied affair the shape of a Canadian stove, and even more smoky. He stalked up to Skene’s big house, looking gloomy and thoughtful enough to be planning the building of a 70-gun ship of the line. I was unhappy to learn, that night, that this was to be our commander, not only in shipbuilding but in fighting; that he was a Dutchman from Albany who signed his letters “Jacobus Wynkoop, Commander of Lake Champlain.”

My unhappiness grew greater on the following morning, when he came down to see us, his pipe sending up a blue smoke that smelled of burnt feathers. He was accompanied by a young secretary who looked and acted uncomfortable, and fell over nearly every obstacle he approached, as well as over many that were nowhere near him.

What Wynkoop saw seemed to cause him neither enthusiasm nor disturbance until he reached the stocks for our new galleys. When he saw them, he blinked and sniffed, and shot a question at me that might have been in a foreign tongue for all I understood of it. I was saved from embarrassment by the secretary, who asked the question again in the English language, saying “What’s this here now?”

I said it was a row-galley, whereupon Wynkoop shook his head decisively and said “Ve kent built ’em: ve kent built row-gellies! Sdob id, und built gundelos!”

“Sir,” I said, “General Arnold specifically asked for row-galleys. He asked me to design row-galleys, so he’d have vessels fit for manœuvring.”

Wynkoop snorted. “Vat you going to fessen em togedder mit?” he asked. “Sdring? Vair’s der nels? Vair’s der boldts? Vair’s der sbyges? Vair’s der sells und ricking?”

“Well,” I said, “we’re bound to get spikes and bolts sooner or later, and I figure to get sails on ’em somehow. General Arnold wants row-galleys. He told me——”

Wynkoop snatched his pipe from his mouth and glared at me. “Cheneral Arnolt! I dunt gif a dem for Cheneral Arnolt! He ent der feller dot hess to vite dis vleet! Id’s me!” He thumped his chest. “Me! Vite it, chess, und maneuffer it! Id’s as issy to maneuffer a gundelo ass a row-gelly. Und ve ken built dree gundelos vile you’re drying to built vun of dese demn row-gellies, und nod gedding it built, neider! Zum teufel mit! I vunt heff it! Nudding but gundelos I vunt heff!”

So there was an end of our row-galleys. I wondered where Arnold was, and what he would say to me when he found I had disobeyed his orders to build galleys; but there was nothing to be done about it, for his orders had been superseded by Wynkoop’s.

That is one of the unfortunate but necessary things about an army. Half the orders are given by men clearly incompetent to give orders; but for the sake of preserving the discipline without which an army is worthless, the orders must be obeyed on pain of public disgrace or even of death.

We went back to work on the vessel whose frame we had brought from St. John’s. Here, at least, was something so near finished that not even a Wynkoop would want to stop her. Since she was small, we had given her as much deck space as possible, arranging to rig her as a sloop; and now we pierced her for eight guns. Between the gun-ports we made oar-ports so that she might have five oars to a side. Thus in spite of Wynkoop’s desire for gundelos, we had one row-galley after all—a sloop row-galley; but a row-galley none the less. Her hull was so near finished that if we could have got oakum anywhere, we could have plugged up her seams somehow and tossed her into the lake so to lay down another vessel on her stocks. But having no oakum, we had to leave her as she was and work on her powder-magazine and fo’c’sle, which was like working in a hot corner of hell.

Not content with stopping our attempt to lay down row-galleys, Wynkoop took carpenters from shipbuilding and tree-felling in order to build a fort and barracks for additional ship carpenters and the troops who were expected to arrive to man the fleet. The fort was a stockade that rambled over hill and dale like a befuddled snake—a stockade so long that a dozen regiments would have been required to man it properly; and the barracks were dark and airless; perfectly designed to bring sickness and discomfort to any so unfortunate as to live in them. Thus, although those of us who were left to work on the vessels did more and more each day, our progress became slower and slower, and our despair over Wynkoop became greater and greater.

. . . It came to me with something of embarrassment that it was not the stifling heat in the fo’c’sle of the unfinished row-galley that made me eager to escape from it and work on a gundelo, where I could be in the open; but the fact that I could no longer keep an eye on the activities of Ellen Phipps.

Each day, since our arrival in Skenesboro, she had descended the hillslope near Skene’s big house, gone around behind the shipyards and come down to the lake, sometimes with her brother Joseph and sometimes alone. Each day she carried a small bundle with her, a bundle that held clothes; and I could see her, at times, kneeling on the shore and scrubbing white garments against a rock, while Joseph sat idly by, fishing for salmon. Her every movement held a vital interest for me. My mind was in a perpetual ferment as to what she was doing, and why. I was restless if I could not see her, and equally restless if I could. My curiosity extended even to Joseph Phipps and the peculiar garments he wore when with Ellen.

He did her the honour to wear his bright green coat; but beneath it he wore no shirt, nor did he so much as own a pair of pants. Thus he had the look of being naked—or would have had that look if his skin had not been as brown as a musket-butt from exposure to the sun.

I am, I hope, tolerant of the peculiarities of others, but to my surprise, Joseph’s pantsless state disturbed me. Something, I felt, should be done about getting pants on him. This feeling became stronger than ever after I had worked for two days on the fo’c’sle of the row-galley, and so been without sight of Ellen in all that time. I am free to say, now, that I recognise what lay behind this sudden dissatisfaction at Joseph Phipp’s garments, or lack of them. It was only, of course, the desire to say something, no matter what, to somebody who had recently been with Ellen: the vague longing to hear from her, somehow: to speak her name freely, even, as an easement for the emptiness within me. But like all people in my condition I could not, at that time, admit this, even to myself; and it is possible that I might have said nothing to Joseph about his pantsless state except for an unguarded speech of Cap Huff.

Cap had a habit of returning early from his work in the shipyard in order to dig up his keg of rum to see whether anybody, as he put it, had been at it. On such occasions he took Doc Means with him to do the digging, while he himself kept a look-out to make sure nobody spied on their activities.

On returning from the shipyard, I found their labours had been successful; for the two of them, squatted before the fire, were taking alternate sips from a tin cup. They were overseeing the roasting of a small pig; and while the pig sizzled above the coals, Cap, in his roaring voice, was singing the praises of Steven Nason’s wife, who was being anxiously awaited—not only by Nason, but by all of us, since she was expected to bring more ship carpenters to help us in our labours.

“Yes, sir!” Cap was bawling when I came up. “She was smart, and it ain’t no good my telling you about it, because you can’t get no idea how smart she was from what I say—not that I ain’t a powerful speaker! She was smart, and she had to be smart to beat the hell-cat that Nason was preossified in.”

Doc Means blinked at him. “Pre-whatted in?” he asked weakly.

“The one that had him engroppsed,” Cap said impatiently. “For years he was engroppsed in this hell-cat—she come from Arundel, too, though you’d never a-guessed it when we found her in Quebec, smelling of perfume enough to knock you over, and wearing a dress that showed her off like a brick powder-magazine!” Cap passed the tin cup to Doc and made a series of gestures with his vast palms, as though he caressed the exterior of a giant hour-glass.

He wagged his head, as at a dangerously pleasant recollection. “Yes, sir; she was an Arundel woman, too, same as Phœbe. We got all kinds in Arundel, same as everywhere else. Women ain’t no different, wherever you are. They think the same things, and you handle ’em the same way.”

“I s’pose so,” Doc Means sighed. “How was it you handled this hell-cat?”

Cap cleared his throat. “By God!” he said, “she done a good deal of handling herself! Before we got through with her, she had some of us handled nigh into hell—her and that Frenchy she was living with up in Quebec! It’s God’s wonder she didn’t talk Nason into being a British major. You ought to heard what she called Nason when he wouldn’t be one! Called him a pheasant and told him to go back to his cesspool and eat fish-bones.”

Doc Means passed the tin cup to Cap. “She sounds kind of talkative to me,” he said mildly.

“No,” Cap said, “she didn’t say much, but what she did say was kind of confusing, and made you damned uncomfortable.” Cap growled and spat, evidently finding his recollection of her less and less to his taste. “Pretty as a picture of Philadelphia as Seen from Cooper’s Ferry, too—big blue eyes, and yeller hair, and freckles like on a flower, sort of, and a smell like delicious flowers. Made you want to bite her, kind of.” He spoke with gusto, exclaimed “Hoy!” enigmatically; then rubbed a huge paw over his round red face, drained the tin cup, smiled with unction and blinked reminiscently. “She thought she could do damned near anything with Nason; but she couldn’t, and that shows you how smart Phœbe was.” He stared hard at Doc Means. “A hell-cat: that’s what she was, and an Arundel woman, by God! Just plain Mary Mallinson, she was; but she changed to one of those names with a ‘de’ in it: Marie de Something—Marie de Summlething or Subblething.”

A picture shot into my brain with knifelike sharpness. I saw Nathaniel, in the box at Ranelagh, holding up a rosy, paper-thin slice of ham and pretending to read my father’s letter through it. I heard his voice, even: “Dated from Arundel in the Province of Maine,” he had said. Those were his first words; and they had been heard by Marie de Sabrevois, blue-eyed, golden-haired, perfumed, with “freckles like a flower,” standing beyond our box in her dress of pink brocade, beside the silent, sleepy-looking Mr. Leonard. Mr. Leonard had volunteered, later, that they had heard what Nathaniel had said, and so had Marie de Sabrevois; but she had denied any knowledge of such a place as Arundel.

“Perhaps her name was Marie de Sabrevois,” I said.

Cap’s jaw dropped; he stared at me from round eyes. “That’s just what it was! Where’d you ever know that poison ivy?”

I contrived, somehow, to keep my face expressionless. “It’s a common name in Canada,” I said. “There’s a place of the same name not far from Isle aux Noix.”

Cap nodded. “It’s just as well you don’t know her. There wasn’t anything that hell-cat wouldn’t do! She learnt it from the feller she lived with. He was her brother, she said. Brother hell! No, sir! You’re well off not to know her! She don’t like Americans, and she don’t like Arundel people, and she don’t like Arnold.”

“Why not?” I asked, trying to make my voice sound natural.

Cap scratched his head thoughtfully. “Why not? Well, she don’t like Americans because she used to be one herself and then stopped being one. That’s one damned good reason. For another thing, we killed the feller she lived with. Leastways, it was Steven killed him, kind of by accident; but I say ‘we’ because if he hadn’t, I’d ’a’ done it on purpose!”

“That doesn’t account for her not liking Arnold.”

“No,” Cap agreed. “Well, she don’t like Arnold because Arnold’s a friend of Stevie’s for one thing, and because Arnold went up to Montreal, years ago, and dragged her out of a convent to see if she was the same one that used to live in Arundel, and by God, she was!”

Cap’s voice rumbled on, telling Doc Means about Phœbe Nason; but I, possessed at last of definite knowledge of the things I hitherto had merely suspected, went to my bunk and sat heavily upon it, wondering what to do.

In my foolish pride, I had refused to ask, even, where Ellen lived. I must see her, and I must see her without Nathaniel’s knowledge; for what I had to say to her could not be said in his hearing. It was only Joseph Phipps that I could trust to take me to her and make sure that I saw her; and at once I realised how I could turn Joseph’s lack of pants to good account.

It was not long before Verrieul returned with Nathaniel; and when Verrieul hurried in to get his tin plate and spoon and horn cup from beneath the blanket in his bunk, I caught him and told him he must interpret for me to Joseph on a matter as delicate as it was important.

That was how the three of us came to find ourselves, after supper, at the base of the limestone mountain, looking down on the score of campfires that glowed along the edge of the lake, where the workmen had gone to catch and cook eels and hornpout, which for some unknown reason bite better at night.

“Now,” I said to Verrieul, who translated my words to Joseph in French, and gave me back the answers, “now this that I say to you is said for your own good, and not to give offence. I hope you will understand.”

Joseph said that he understood.

“When a man walks with a lady in my country,” I said, “it is considered proper for him to cover up his legs. Therefore I shall be glad to make a gift to you of pants, so that there may be no appearance of impropriety when you walk with your sister.”

“He thanks you,” Verrieul interpreted, “and he will be pleased to accept the pants. He would prefer red ones. He says to be sure to have the pants made with a seat in them, as he wishes to cut out the seat himself.”

“Cut out the seat!” I exclaimed. “If you cut the seat from a pair of pants, they’re no pants at all!”

“But they cover the legs,” Joseph explained. “That is the only reason my people wear pants: to cover the legs in the winter, or when travelling through rough country, full of thorns. In warm weather, or in open country, pants are unnecessary and uncomfortable, and therefore foolish.”

“Foolish!” I exclaimed. “Look around you at all these men. They are from Albany and Rhode Island: from all parts of the civilised world! All of them wear pants! Do you think they would all wear pants if there were anything foolish about it? What do you think your sister would say if I went calling on her without pants?”

Verrieul was slow in interpreting Joseph Phipp’s answer to this question, and they spoke back and forth until I became impatient at the delay. “Well,” I said, “what’s the matter? Can’t he answer a simple question?”

“Yes,” Verrieul said, “but your question put him in mind of something else. He says your question doesn’t require an answer because he is making no effort to persuade you to go without your pants. For him it is foolish to wear pants; but it is for you to do as you please, without worrying about what he will think, or what his sister will think. He also says that yesterday, in passing the shipyard, his sister was unable to see you at work in your usual place, and spoke of it to him. To-day she looked even more carefully to discover where you were working, and expressed surprise that you should be absent. She asked whether you had gone away, or had caught a fever. Because of her persistence in speaking of the matter, he says, it is more than likely that she wishes to talk to you about something.”

“Well, for God’s sake!” I said, dropping my pretended concern over Joseph’s pantsless state, “why has he delayed telling me? If I hadn’t had occasion to speak to him, I might have been weeks in learning about it! This is a pretty way to treat an important message! There’s no time to be lost! I must go at once to where she lives! At once!”

Even before Verrieul had interpreted my reply, Joseph Phipps was off through the scrub that fringed the foot of the limestone mountain, and Verrieul and I followed as best we could through the thick hot darkness of that July night.

The house we sought was in a field—that I could tell from the sweet smell of drying hay—and through the kitchen window we saw Ellen, seated at a table on which burned three tallow dips. Near her sat a thin, stooped woman, her grayish hair slicked back on her head so that it looked to be the thickness of thin silk. The two of them were sewing; and Ellen, I could see, was talking; while, on the far side of the hearth, a man sat asleep in a barrel chair. The man, Verrieul said, was the woman’s husband.

When Joseph Phipps tapped on the window and spoke loudly, the husband sprang from his chair and flattened himself like a squirrel against the chimney-piece, reaching for the musket that hung against it. At a word from Ellen he ceased his effort and stood peacefully enough on the hearthstone, yawning and scratching the back of his head.

Ellen came to the window to peer out. Her brother said something in French. Her hand went suddenly to her throat; then fluttered up to touch her brown curls, a touch behind and at the side, such as women find necessary, no matter how their hair is dressed. She came out, then, and stood in the doorway, a slender gray shape.

“Ah,” she said, “it’s you!”

I put out my hand, thinking she might give me her own. When she did not, I touched her arm, but she just stood there, motionless. I heard Verrieul’s and Joseph’s voices, speaking softly in Abenaki, as they went back through the darkness toward the lake. My hand that had touched her sleeve felt rough and clumsy, so that I was ashamed of it. Thinking she might say something, I waited for her to speak; and the two of us were so long silent that I found myself in a panic for fear she might go back into the house.

“Joseph said——” I began, and the loudness of my voice, in the dark stillness, seemed to choke me: to snatch the breath from my throat, even, so that I fell silent again.

Ellen moved a little, and I thought a heavy warmth came out from her and struck against me. “Evidently it was not important, what he said.”

“I came as soon as I could,” I said. “I didn’t know—I was surprised—he said you wanted to see me.”

She moved impatiently. “I said no such thing to Joseph, but in a way it’s true, so I won’t deny it. I was very much put out because you didn’t come here to inquire concerning my wishes.”

“Of course,” I said, “I’d have come if I’d suspected—I mean, I thought you wouldn’t be pleased if I—I thought I wouldn’t be welcome.”

“Not welcome? Why do you raise the question of being welcome? I did not wish you to come here so that I could welcome you, but so that I might learn how long it would be before you proposed to send me to Albany.”

I was silent, thinking of the things Cap Huff had said, and wondering how to speak of them to Ellen. I saw more and more clearly that the conclusion at which I had arrived after her departure from Crown Point was the correct one: the less I saw of Ellen Phipps, the better it would be for me.

When she spoke again, her voice was graver. “How long do you expect to be here in this place?”

“I don’t know. Until the fleet is built.”

“And how long will that be?”

“God knows! If we can get enough men from Maine, we’ll build it in a month!”

“Men from Maine?” she asked politely. “I have seen nothing about men from Maine to make me think they are more capable than men from other parts of America.”

I saw fit to ignore the implication in her words. “They know how to build ships, and that’s more than can be said for a lot of men they’re beginning to send us. If we get many more Yorkers and Dutchmen, we may be here for ever!”

“I see,” she said coldly. “So you’d be willing to leave me here for ever, too, if you can’t get your wonderful men from Maine. I think you’ve forgotten I’m to be sent to Albany when I can be sent safely. Since that’s now possible, why don’t you send me?”

“Ellen,” I said, reluctant to answer her because of my unwillingness to hurt her, “this doorway’s no place to stand and talk.”

“I’m quite comfortable,” she assured me. “Does the doorway prevent you from answering a simple question? When am I to be sent to. Albany?”

“No,” I said, “I can answer your simple question if you’ll answer one equally simple. What is it your aunt wants you to do in Albany, Ellen?”

“Ah! So you’re at my aunt again!”

“Yes, I am! Until I know what you’re supposed to do in Albany, I’m—well, I’m afraid to have you go there.”

“You’re afraid?” Ellen asked softly. “You’re afraid of something that might happen to me?”

“Not exactly. Not in the way you mean. But I’m afraid for you—afraid that innocently you might—afraid that through something you might innocently do——”

“What are you trying to say! Do you think I’ll understand you better if you hem and haw?”

“Very well,” I said, “I’m afraid you might innocently do something to hurt the American cause.”

“I see,” Ellen whispered. “You know that I love my aunt, and you choose to think she’s a spy.”

“Wait, Ellen! You’ve spoken of Marie de Sabrevois, again and again, as your aunt; but in reality, she’s nothing at all to you. You know nothing about her. You don’t know where she was born, or who her father and mother were. That’s true, isn’t it?”

Ellen’s reply was quick. “Such a question is even more foolish than it is insulting. My aunt is the sister of the gentleman who purchased my mother and me from the Indians. He was a great gentleman, Henri Guerlac de Sabrevois. I can’t remember my mother, or M. Guerlac; but my aunt Marie came to me, often and often, in the convent, to tell me how kind he was, and how generous and brave, and how he wished me always to be a lady, like my mother.”

She stopped. I was uncomfortable, not knowing whether or not she was weeping; but when she went on, her voice was almost expressionless.

“I’ll ask you to remember,” she said, “that I know nothing about you, and yet I’ve trusted you, though you haven’t been punctilious in repaying my trust. Therefore I see no reason why you should feel free to complain that I know nothing about my aunt, who has had me fed and clothed and educated all my life! I ask myself why it is you should try to turn me against my aunt, who has been always sweet and always kind; why you should say I know nothing about her. If you’ll think a moment, you’ll see that I know her brother was an officer in a great French regiment, the regiment of Béarn. I know she loved and honoured him. I know she was kind to me: kinder than any one. What more is there for me to know? Do you, perhaps, know more than that about your mother?”

I touched her arm again: felt for her hand and took it in mine. It was clenched and, in spite of the warmth of the evening, cold. “Ellen, you don’t understand. I’ve heard things——”

She freed her hand carefully. “Heard! You’ve heard things! I understand the things you’ve heard have not been reliable. I understand that if you wished to learn about my aunt, you’d listen to me, who know better what she is than any one alive! But you won’t listen to me! You try to poison my mind against her! You try to poison your brother’s mind against her! And I think I can understand even more! I think I know why you want to cast suspicion on her! I think I know why!”

“You think you know why?” I was stunned and laughed harshly. “I see. You mean I’m jealous of her as a man might be jealous of his mother-in-law.”

It was a shot that told; there was silence for a moment. Then she said huskily, “Well, you promised to send me to Albany. Will you send me?”

“No,” I said, “I can’t. It’s—well, it’s not safe. Ellen, I want you to listen——”

There was the sound of a light thump, and the click of a latch.

My words died flat. Feeling for her in the darkness, I found only the weather-beaten wood of the door she had closed in my face.

“Ellen,” I called. “Come back, Ellen!”

I held my breath and listened. Beyond the closed door I thought I heard faint footsteps, mounting a stair. I ran to the kitchen window. It was dark.

“Ellen!” I called again. “Ellen!” I stood there and stood there, straining my senses for a sound or a sign, but found neither. My lips were dry, and my back drenched with perspiration from the discomfort of my thoughts.

How much, I asked myself, could I tell Ellen, even if she relented? Marie de Sabrevois was using her: of that I was certain. What else she was trying to do, there was no way of knowing. . . . A hell-cat, Cap Huff had called her. There was nothing, he had said, she wouldn’t do.

The house was dark and silent. I turned and took my bearings from the stars: then stumbled back around the shoulder of the limestone mountain.


The sun, striking down on the deck and sides of the sloop row-galley on the following afternoon, made her into an oven hot enough for the baking of beans; and I, helping to fit lockers in her powder magazine, was more than half blinded by the rivulets of salty water that stung my eyes. When I climbed on deck to clear the caked sawdust from my throat, the first person I saw, standing disconsolately among the litter of chips and shavings that surrounded the gundelo on the adjoining stocks, was the stooped, slick-haired woman I had last seen sitting across the table from Ellen Phipps.

Distress was so marked, both in her attitude and the expression of her face, that I went straight to her. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “Is anything wrong with Ellen?”

She eyed me doubtfully. “By your looks you’re related to Nathaniel Merrill.”

“I’m his brother. What’s wrong?”

“Well,” she said, “if you know where he is, you better find him. Ellen’s gone.”

“Gone? When did she go?”

She shook her head. “Some time between sun-up and dinner. That heathen brother of hers, he was around, half naked; and pretty soon they went off together, same as always, and they never come back.”

I would have spoken, but she forestalled me. “When she wasn’t back for dinner, I looked in her room. She tooken a dress with her, and the moccasins she made, and some night things. She ain’t coming back: that’s certain!”

Assuming a confidence I was far from feeling, I assured her Ellen was in good hands and would come to no harm. When the woman trudged away, stoop-backed from her labours and apparently not even aware of the hammering and shouting and half-built vessels that surrounded her, I went in search of Nathaniel on the run. He was, I knew, squaring timbers for the last gundelo to be laid down, because I had heard him complaining to Verrieul that he was doing it with a felling axe, and that it was hell’s own job, which was not far from the truth.

From the defiant look on his face, when I found him, I could see he knew what had happened.

“Come down to the edge of the lake,” I said. “I want to talk to you.”

He came quietly enough. We waded out to a boulder where we could sit and sharpen his axe with a flat rock. Thus we were free from interruption, and there was no make-believe to our work, since even still we were without grindstones, and our axes, as a result, duller than hoes most of the time.

“Nathaniel,” I said, “Ellen’s gone, and Joseph Phipps went with her.”

Nathaniel scooped up water and trickled it on his axe-blade, but said nothing.

“Since Joseph was subject to your orders,” I said, “I suppose you knew he was going, and with whom.”

“Yes,” Nathaniel said.

I ground at his axe-blade with a circular movement of the flat rock. “Nathaniel,” I said, trying to choose my words with care, “why didn’t you speak to me before you gave Joseph permission to go? You must have known that if I’d wanted Ellen to go to Albany, I’d have sent her myself.”

Nathaniel laughed. “What was the use of speaking to you? She was bound to go to Albany. Nothing you could have said would have changed her. Why wouldn’t she be bound to go to Albany, knowing that the sooner she went there, the sooner she could get back to see—to see her aunt.”

“Oh, so that’s it! After she goes to Albany, she’s going back to St. John’s.”

Nathaniel was silent.

“I begin to understand your willingness to have her go,” I said. “I don’t doubt you were eager to have her go, even, seeing that she could carry a letter to Marie de Sabrevois for you.”

Nathaniel’s glance was hard and level. “Well, what’s the harm in that?”

“Harm! What’s the harm in it? Can’t you see the harm in it, without my telling you? Doesn’t it seem to you possible that you’ve done a dangerous thing? That innocent child knows all we’ve been doing here in Skenesboro! And what’ll she do? She’ll tell Marie de Sabrevois!”

“Well, why shouldn’t she?” Nathaniel asked. His voice sounded half strangled. “Why shouldn’t she?”

“Why shouldn’t she?” I cried, tempted to pound his head with the sharpening-rock. “I’ll tell you why she shouldn’t! Do you know who Marie de Sabrevois is? Do you know what she’s done? Who she was with when we——”

Nathaniel jumped up to stand over me, his axe in his hand. His eyes were hot.

“Sit down on that boulder!” I told him. “What are you trying to do? Let all Skenesboro find out what a fool you’ve been?”

Nathaniel seated himself slowly, his tanned face a sickly yellow. “Listen,” he said softly. “She’s the—she’s all I—she’s the purest, noblest—if you dare—don’t you dare to try to tell me anything else, or by God, I’ll kill you!” His hands gripped the axe so tight that it rattled against the rock.

“You’re insane!” I said. “That woman has driven you out of your head!”

“That’s not true!” he said quickly. “I see things more clearly than I ever did! I see things in their proper proportion! It’s you that’s out of your head! You, with your pig-headed ideas: you’re doing your damnedest to ruin everybody you pretend to love!”

“What in God’s name are you talking about?”

He swung his arm toward the seven partly-finished hulls ranged along the shore like the picked carcases of giant turkeys. “I’m talking about these little walnut-shells of boats we’re trying to build, so to fight the greatest nation in the world—trying to build without men or nails or tools or cordage or sails; that we’re going to try to sail without sailors!”

He laughed contemptuously. “Fighting England!” he cried derisively. “Us fighting England! How long do you suppose we can fight England with men half armed, half clothed, half fed! With men rotting away with smallpox! With money worth next to nothing, and nine-tenths of our people unwilling to fight—unwilling even to give a keg of nails or a coil of rope to help us fight! How long? How long can we fight England?

“Out of my head, am I? They’ll hack us and hang us! They’ll wring our necks as if we were a flock of pullets, and then what’ll happen? Then what’ll happen to Mother—to Father—to Jane and Susanah: to my father—my sisters—my mother! They’ll be hanged for rebels! Our land’ll be confiscated! They’ll be driven out—driven to Halifax, as our people drove out the Loyalists. Insane, am I? Why, you fool, we haven’t a chance!”

“Lower your voice,” I said. “I don’t choose to have every Patriot between here and Crown Point know I’ve got a traitor for a brother!”

Nathaniel shivered. “Now wait, Peter! This is my country! It’s as much mine as it is yours. I was born in it and brought up in it! It’s mine! I love it just as much as you love it! Do you think, for God’s sake, that somebody made a special deed of gift of it to you? That you’re the only one entitled to have affection for it?”

“Certainly not,” I said, “but——”

“Listen,” Nathaniel said, “it’s my country! I wouldn’t live anywhere else in the whole damned world if you gave me all of it! What right have you to call me a traitor! Do you think you’re the only person in the world with eyes and judgment—the only person competent to think?

“Do you think it’s because I love the British that I say we can’t whip ’em? All the people with brains have been sent out of the country, and we’re being governed by rats. From the way this army has been treated, what we need is a rat-charmer to coax the rats out of Congress and drown ’em!”

“Now look here!” I said. “Wait a minute! You can’t talk like that!”

Nathaniel’s voice trembled.

“Why can’t I? I’ll say what I please about people who leave me in Canada with nothing but dried pease to eat and no rum to warm me—no powder to put in my gun in case the British catch up with me—no clothes or shoes or medicines! Is there anything too bad to say about those that sit at home, with full bellies and in comfortable houses, putting incompetent muttonheads over me as officers, like this Dutch donkey Wynkoop—that expect me to stand up here sick and naked and fight the British with my bare fists? What should I call ’em? My friends? My government? I say they’re rats; and I say the British will tear us to pieces as easy as they’d tear a rotten sheet!”

“You’ll lower your voice,” I said, “or I’ll give you a thrashing!”

Nathaniel eyed me defiantly. “Can’t you see?” he pleaded. “Can’t you see that all we’ve got to do is wait—wait till we’re no longer shoeless, powderless, shipless, naked paupers—wait till we’re stronger, so we can laugh at England and turn our backs on her without forcing thousands to die of smallpox, and making other thousands starve to death, and standing still other thousands up to die in front of British muskets? That’s all we need to do: wait until these valleys are filled with settlers, and thick with villages and roads—wait till there’s enough mines and cows and sheep and wheat and corn to buy an army that is an army in place of this helpless rabble! When that’s done, ten Englands couldn’t stop us from doing as we pleased!”

I stepped off the boulder and waded into the milk-warm water of the lake: doused myself in it to soften the shell that seemed to have stiffened on me at my brother’s words. I could hardly think, let alone speak. I climbed back on the boulder, somewhat clearer-headed, to stare at Nathaniel. What I had heard was bad—bad! Yet there was truth in it: so much truth that I couldn’t let myself think about it.

“Nathaniel,” I said, “it sounds to me as if you considered going over to the British. In that case I’ve got this to say: I won’t have it! Before I’d——”

“Save your breath!” Nathaniel said. “I gave my word I’d go with you, and so I will; but I didn’t give my word to stop having my own thoughts! I didn’t give my word to think the way Wynkoop thinks, or De Woedtke thinks, or the way you think, for that matter! I’ll think as I wish, and you can’t stop me! I’ll think as my conscience dictates, just as you do, and you’ll do well to remember you’re not the only person with a conscience! Don’t you try to tell me how I must think! Wiser men than you have thought as I do! Let me alone, and I’ll keep my thoughts to myself, because of what I promised. But keep your hands and tongue off me; and what’s more, keep your slanders off Marie! Otherwise I’ll do what you’re doing: I’ll follow the dictates of my conscience! I’ll do what I think ought to be done, instead of what a lot of rats tell me I ought to do!”

I sat and stared at him. I could do nothing but stare, for his words had stripped me of all coherent thought. For a moment Nathaniel returned my stare: then without another word he swung his legs over the edge of the boulder and went splashing off toward the shore.

As I followed him to the shipyard, my eyes were on the slimy green rocks that lay along the edge of the lake; but such was the intensity of my thoughts that I saw nothing, and so slipped and stumbled as I walked.

What to do about Marie de Sabrevois was the question that engrossed me. I longed to speak with someone about her; yet I knew Cap Huff might somehow have been mistaken about her name. It was even possible that there might be two Marie de Sabrevoises. After all, there was a settlement of that name, not far from St. John’s. And of course, I told myself, it was possible that Ellen was right about her aunt’s goodness: that Nathaniel was right about her purity and nobility. It was certain I could not talk about her to Nathaniel or to Ellen. It was equally certain that for their sakes I dared not speak about her to any one else. Nor, I said to myself, could I prove what I knew about Marie de Sabrevois; but know it I did; and dodge and squirm as I might, there was no escaping it.


Give a man enough work to do and he forgets his sorrows. He ceases, even, to complain about his food, for if he works long enough and hard enough, any food becomes savoury, just as any bed feels soft and welcome.

We had worked hard enough before Ellen went away; but she was no sooner gone than the seeming hopelessness of the task that lay before us set us to working harder than ever, with Wynkoop ordering us to do something, and almost immediately deciding to have us do something else; so that even had we possessed the tools and materials with which to build ships properly, much of our efforts would have been wasted.

As it was, the vessels on the stocks seemed no further advanced, each day, than they had been the day before. Nothing existed for us save the building of ships: nothing else, it almost seemed, had ever existed, or ever would. To me, the marshes and the cool breezes of Arundel became misty memories: Ellen, even, seemed as remote as those long-gone days when I walked my own quarterdeck, bound for the Spanish ports.

Those who came up from Ticonderoga brought us diversified information—how the Pennsylvanians were fighting daily with the New Englanders; and how General Gates, after replacing Sullivan as Commander of the Northern Army, had ordered the entire army out of Crown Point and back to Ticonderoga, and given Arnold the job of moving it back; how Congress, early in July, had declared the colonies free and independent of Great Britain. What we wanted to know, however, was when in the name of God we were going to get blacksmiths and oar-makers and the million other things that we needed; but when we asked them this, they could only shake their heads. It was as Cap Huff said: a Declaration of Independence was a nice thing to hang on the wall, maybe; but if somebody didn’t send us a few tons of spikes and oakum before long, the British would blow hell out of us and the Declaration and everything else; so what was the use of thinking about a Declaration of Independence before we got our spikes.

Our first genuine encouragement reached us on a cool evening in mid-July, when we heard a shouting from the direction of the Wood Creek road and the sound of a fife playing Yankee Doodle, extremely brisk and cheery. We ran down the hill, and so did most of the carpenters who were sitting around the new barracks and Skene’s barn; for a fife was something we hadn’t heard for many a day. There, coming into the ravine, was a company of men, fifty of them, swinging along in double file as fast and regular as soldiers, only instead of muskets they carried axes. At their head was Dominicus Davis, as good a caulker as we ever had in our Arundel shipyard. Beside him, blowing so sturdily on a fife that his eyes were puffed nearly shut, was one of James Gould’s children, though I could never tell James Gould’s children apart, he having had twelve by his first wife and eight by his second.

It was not Dominicus, nor the fife, however, that moved me, but a small figure, erect and flat-backed, marching beside the column and nearly at its rear; nor did that figure itself mean anything to me until I heard Cap Huff bawling for Steven Nason, and saw Cap galloping down the road like a startled moose to fall in step beside the one of whom I speak.

It was Steven Nason’s wife, Phœbe. She wore tow-cloth leggings, like Indian leggings, tucked into moccasins and held up with a red sash over tow-cloth breeches; and her blue-checked shirt was open at the neck, like a man’s. A blue handkerchief was knotted tight around her head; and at her throat was a string of brown beads. When she came abreast of me I saw that dust had caked black on her lips, so I knew she had travelled—and travelled hard—through the hottest part of the day. Nevertheless, as she looked up into Cap Huff’s face, there was a cheerfulness to her smile that put me in mind of an eager spaniel: never too weary to be alert and hopeful.

“I promised these men they’d have the best there is,” I heard her tell Cap. “Find Steven and look after it, and I’ll see you after we’ve reported and got ’em settled.”

She left Cap and trotted ahead, up to the front of the line. I saw her pointing to Skene’s big house. The sound of the fife was smothered in the hurroaring and whistling that greeted these welcome newcomers as they swung to the right and up the slope.

. . . Just to look at Phœbe as she sat beside our fire, an hour later, eating Zelph’s pone and catfish stew, was enough to hearten us; but she had news that was more heartening still.

She had come, she told us, by way of Rumford; then had cut across to the Hudson and up it, so her charges might have good roads on which to make forced marches, and keep up their spirits by finding plenty to eat.

“There were two regiments in Saratoga,” she said. “Connecticut regiments, with a brigadier general in command.” She eyed Cap Huff meaningly. “They’re bound for here, so to stand guard over you and see you tend to work, instead of spending your days in riotous living.”

“Connecticut regiments!” Cap growled. “Pirates! They’ll be trying to work off their clay coffee beans and wooden nutmegs on us!”

“What general is it?” Nason asked.

“Waterbury,” Phœbe said.

“My God!” Cap bawled, “there’s another general I never heard of! Why in God’s name don’t they send us a general that knows something—somebody like Arnold or Schuyler?”

“I don’t know how true it is,” Phœbe said, “but these men of Waterbury’s claim they’re coming here to join Arnold. According to them, it’s Arnold and Waterbury who’ll tend to getting the fleet built.”

“What with?” Cap demanded hoarsely. “What they going to use in place of nails and oakum?” More hopefully he added: “If that’s true about Arnold, maybe he’ll let us undress those two regiments, if they got any clothes, and caulk the vessels with their pants.”

“You seem to think,” Phœbe said coldly, “that oakum and nails grow on trees down our way and can be picked and sent up to you on five minutes’ notice. If I didn’t know you’d spent most of your life in Kittery, I’d think, from all these foreign ideas of yours, that you must be some kind of foreigner—most likely an Englishman. Oakum and nails aren’t too easy to find during the best of times; and now that everybody’s got the privateering fever, you’re as apt to stumble on a hundredweight of oakum as on a litter of sables. Don’t think you’re the only people in the world that have troubles! You don’t know what trouble is till you start interfering with somebody that’s making money out of the war!”

“Well, for God’s sake!” Cap roared, “they expect us to fight for ’em, don’t they?”

Phœbe ate the last of her corn pone and rose to her feet to re-tie her red knitted sash.

“I wouldn’t put it just that way,” she said. “They don’t know any more about war and fighting than a five-year-old girl knows about having a baby. They know they’ve got a lovely, lovely chance to make money privateering, and that’s all they want to know. What they expect is that somebody’ll keep the war from stopping till they’ve made all the money there is.”

She added drily, “Their idea of a nice war is one that’ll last about fifty years.”

The semi-circle of men, sprawled on the ground before our bunkhouse, stared at her. Their eyes were glassy in the red glow of the cook fire. Nobody, seeing their tattered breeches, their stockingless legs, the shreds of cloth that hung around their upper bodies, masquerading as shirts, could have dreamed that they were men who had known comfortable homes and a decent way of life: that Nason owned an inn, and a good one; that Verrieul had won the approbation of the president of Dartmouth College; that Tom Bickford had set his heart on being a clergyman; that Whitcomb had been a justice of the peace; and that my brother would even still be welcome in the fine mansions of his Salem classmates.

We looked to be, every last one of us, what Carleton called us in an open proclamation within that very month—“rebels, traitors in arms against their king, rioters, disturbers of the public peace, plunderers, robbers, assassins, murderers.”

And not only had all this happened to us in three short months of war, but it was only by the grace of God we were not rotting with a thousand other smallpox victims in the dead pits of Isle aux Noix.

“Fifty years?” Nason asked gently. “They want the war to last fifty years? It’s not quite that bad, I guess.”

Phœbe smiled down at him, a lop-sided smile, and twisted her fingers in her cat’s-eyes. “No,” she said, “you naturally wouldn’t guess so. I only mention it so you won’t be impatient with those of us that aim to help you. There’s a lot of talk, at home, about patriotism. If you believe all you hear, every one’s a Patriot; but when you try to get somebody to give you fifty dollars to prove his patriotism, that’s another story! Fifty ship carpenters marched up here with me to work on these ships, and only seven came of their own free will, to help the army! Only seven! You couldn’t get the rest of ’em away from the privateersmen unless you filled their hats with money and gave ’em as much livestock as Noah carried in the Ark. Dominicus Davis and my cousin Theodore Marvin, they came for whatever pay we want to give ’em, and they’ll ship on the fleet when it’s ready to sail; but Enoch Cluff, from Wells, he wouldn’t come until he’d got fifty dollars hard money and nine cows, the cows to be let out to the persons that paid ’em, and doubled in four years’ time. Do you know how many cows Enoch Cluff’ll have by the time this war’s over?”

Cap Huff heaved himself about on the ground, and produced from some portion of his rags the stub of a pencil. “I know how many you think he’ll have, Phœbe,” Cap said, “but you’re mistook! Just let me have the names of the seven that come of their own free will.”

Phœbe ignored him. “Why, we had to do more than offer ’em money and cows. Money and cows wasn’t enough! When we offered ’em money and cows to come up here and help stop the British from splitting the colonies in two, they shook their heads like mules and said No, they guessed they’d stay where they were, on account of their labours being so valuable to the country! Valuable!”

She snorted, hitched at her red sash and shook her fist at Steven Nason. “Do you know what I’d do in time of war? I wouldn’t let anybody—not anybody—make more money than a soldier makes! I’d oblige every man to go in the army unless he could prove he was so poorly he hadn’t eaten but one meal a day for a month, and that a small one!”

Doc Means stared up at her pathetically. “I wouldn’t advise letting any one off on that account,” he said faintly. “Half a meal a day is all you get in this army, and it ain’t harmed us yet.”

Nason looked at his wife as though lost in perpetual admiration of her, which I think he was. “How’d you contrive to get ’em to come, Phœbe?”

She sniffed. “We scared the privateer-builders! We went to ’em and showed ’em what would happen unless they made sure we got ship carpenters. After we scared ’em, they told off carpenters to go to the fleet. Sometimes they even gave us the money to pay the wages the carpenters demanded.”

“How’d you scare ’em?” Nason asked.

“We told ’em the truth,” Phœbe said. “Told ’em that if they didn’t help us build a fleet on the lake, their privateers wouldn’t ever make any money for them on account of not having any home ports to come back to. We showed ’em how the British would hold all the ports in America, so that there wouldn’t be anything for the privateers to do but sail around in circles in the middle of the Atlantic.”

Cap Huff looked at me and wagged his head. “Didn’t I tell you she was smart?”

Phœbe eyed him darkly. “That shows you,” she said, “what shipbuilders have come to on the coast. I wouldn’t choose to see people in this section making fools of themselves in the same way. I hope I won’t hear of any one whining, or being afraid of shadows, or suchlike nonsense. So far as I can see, you haven’t anything to be afraid of. These fifty ship carpenters I brought up here to-day are as good ship carpenters as you’ll find anywhere, and I want ’em treated right, because the better they’re treated, the more work they’ll do.”

She stared hard at Cap, who set up an unmusical humming, like an enormous bee. “What’s more,” she went on, “you’ve got a Connecticut general coming up here, and two regiments of men that can handle felling-axes, unless they were brought up to be nursemaids or hairdressers, which they probably weren’t.”

“Felling-axes!” Cap bawled suddenly. “Where do you think——”

He breathed heavily and was silent when Phœbe brandished a brown forefinger in his face. “Twelve hundred felling-axes!” she cried. “Twelve hundred felling-axes left Albany yesterday, thanks to Schuyler, and two tons of oakum! Let me tell you, too, I’d rather be you, sweating over nothing worse than how to build ships without spikes and oakum, than be Schuyler, and be responsible for getting the oakum and the nails! Yes, and that’s not all! Connecticut may be full of pirates and wooden nutmegs and clay coffee beans, as you imply, but you can thank your stars for her governor! He’s sending eight hundred more felling-axes by way of Bennington; and Waterbury’s men claim he’s sending up the best privateer captain in the state to sail one of your vessels. If New York was half as patriotic as that little mouse of a state, and had a governor a third as able as Trumbull, New York could whip three Englands, all by herself!”

A soldier in a brown uniform with crossed belts came out of the darkness to stand on the far side of the fire. We recognised him for one of those who had accompanied Wynkoop from Ticonderoga. “Steven Nason,” he said. “Steven Nason hereabouts?”

Nason got up quickly. Phœbe moved close to him and stared at the soldier from behind her husband’s broad back like a child peering around a tree.

“Message from General Arnold,” the soldier said. He held out a letter, and Nason took it, going down on one knee beside the fire to worry it open and read it. Phœbe leaned against him and looked over his shoulder.

When Nason rose slowly to his feet, Phœbe hooked a finger in his belt. “I could stay here till you got back, Steven,” she said. “I could stay here and sail with the fleet. I can sail as well as anybody.”

He shook his head. “Start back early to-morrow morning,” he said. “They need you at home.”

His eyes travelled slowly from one to the other of us.

Whitcomb jumped to his feet. “I ain’t much of a carpenter,” he said mildly, “and seeing as how there’s so many Connecticutters coming up here, and seeing as how I’m a Connecticutter myself, it appears to me the thing to do is to get rid of a few Connecticutters, starting with me.”

Nason looked unimpressed.

“It was me that got you the boats for the ship timbers,” Whitcomb reminded him, “and I was told that if I came down here, I’d get to go out on scout duty. That’s what your letter’s about, ain’t it?”

Nason nodded. “All right: I’ll take you. Pack up. We’re starting north to-night.” He himself followed Whitcomb into the bunkhouse, and Phœbe went too, her finger still hooked in her husband’s belt.

The rest of us, silent around the fire, could hear Phœbe telling small, homely things: how Nason’s mother had a felon on the third finger of her left hand from jabbing herself with the scissors, but was otherwise well; how the dog Ginger had eleven puppies, and two had been saved, both of them black with white waistcoats: how six barrels of herring had been salted for fear the winter would be a hard one; how she had brought him a woollen shirt from his mother and woollen stockings from his sister Jane and a package of needles and yarn and mending cotton from herself.

“It doesn’t seem quite right, Steven,” we heard her say, “for you to rush off like this before I have a chance to do your mending, even.”

Nason laughed. “You’ll have enough of that to do, Phœbe, before you’re through.”

“Well,” she said, “there’s generally something to be thankful for. Thank goodness I got here when I did! Thank goodness I didn’t get here two hours later.”

What the others thought, I had no way of knowing, for not even Cap Huff had a word to say; but what I thought was that we, too, had more to be thankful for than I had hitherto realised.


Phoebe’s information proved to be as accurate as it had been welcome, and in two days’ time Skenesboro was not only alive with Connecticutters; but from a distance the little row-galley and two of the gundelos had the appearance of pale beehives aswarm with bees. Men clung and crawled on them from bulwarks to keelson, plunking the new oakum into them with caulking irons Steven Nason had made in Skene’s old iron-foundry.

General Waterbury, attended by Wynkoop, came down among us, a gray-headed man with gray sidewhiskers, walking with his left shoulder thrust a little forward, as if pushing into a gale of wind. He was as old as my father, nearly; and from the way he eyed Wynkoop, he was no more favourably impressed by this fresh-water admiral than the rest of us had been. I could hear Wynkoop talking and talking, in that strange, half-foreign language of his, telling about gundelos, and about some mighty brave fighting he had done in the last war against the French.

It seemed to me that Waterbury’s face, as he listened, grew grayer and grayer; but he said nothing: just went pushing ahead, crab-like, his eyes darting quick glances at the partly-finished vessels.

There was a sour look about Waterbury’s mouth that seemed to me to bode ill for Wynkoop; but being the sort of man he was, Wynkoop talked on and on, making no effort to understand the things he saw.

Now I cannot tell whether Waterbury sent for Arnold, sensing that there would be grievous trouble and delay unless Wynkoop was removed entirely from the neighbourhood, or whether Steven Nason, on reporting to Arnold, had told him how Wynkoop had insisted that only gundelos be built and so spurred him on to quick action. The fact remains that Waterbury was scarcely settled in Skene’s big house when a human bombshell burst in the middle of our shipbuilding.

. . . It was five weeks to the minute from the time when he had left St. John’s, half a jump ahead of the British light infantry, that a bateau with a patched lug-sail came running into the narrow end of the lake on the wings of a hot north-west wind. She headed straight for the finished row-galley, veered sharply inshore and ran on to the shingle with a thump and a clatter.

The lug-sail came down on the run, as if the rigging had been damaged by the crash, and at the same moment the stocky, blue-clad figure of Arnold leaped from the bateau, ran limping to the galley, and, without bothering with a ladder, went up one of the posts of the staging hand over hand.

He shot himself in over the bulwarks as easily as a boy vaults a fence, ran to the main hatch and peered down it: then turned to the quarterdeck where I, working on the taffrail, stood staring at him open-mouthed, wondering whether to tell him about the row-galleys now, or wait until later.

He laughed silently, his teeth tight together. “Good!” he said. “A tidy little craft! When’ll you put her in?”

“Any time,” I said. “To-morrow.”

“That’s right!” he said. “Get her in! Where’s the plans for that Spanish galley?”

“In my bunk up yonder,” I said.

“Get ’em!” he said. “Get ’em!”

He came limping aft, down the steep slope of the deck, to stand beside me: hung over the larboard taffrail to squint forward: crossed to the starboard taffrail and did likewise: then faced me and nodded approvingly. “Good!” he said again. “Come up to headquarters, right away! We’ll get at it!”

He sprang up on the taffrail, jumped into space, caught at the staging, and went down a post, hand under hand, making no more of the feat than I would make of picking an apple from a tree.

Regardless of the questioning of the carpenters who swarmed around me on his departure, I scrambled to the ground and ran for the bunkhouse. The very act of running brought home to me the difference between Arnold and every other officer with whom I had dealt. When other officers gave an order, men obeyed them. When Arnold gave an order, men ran to obey them.

. . . The windows of the front corner room of Skene’s big house were open as I came up the slope, and Arnold’s high, rasping voice—a voice that seemed a little strained, always, when he spoke on military matters, as if he forced out his words by main strength—brought me up the steps in a hurry. In the corner room I found General Waterbury, slumped in a chair behind a roughly-made table, his lips pursed in a sour smile, while Arnold leaned over the table and thumped it with his fist to emphasise his words. At the end of the table sat Wynkoop, stolid and motionless, except for his beady black eyes, which followed Arnold’s movements as if hopeful of catching him in a blunder.

“Why,” Arnold was saying when I came in, “if they’d put a tenth—yes, by God, a hundredth—of the effort into building this fleet that they do in building their measly, pocky privateers, we could blow Burgoyne half-way to Portugal!”

He turned and saw me. “Here he is!” Over his shoulder to Waterbury, he added. “This is Captain Peter Merrill of Arundel. He sailed his own brig to Spain, and I figure on having him handle one of ours for us.” To me he said: “Where’s those drawings?”

I handed him what I had—drawings made on cartridge-paper. He unrolled them and spread them on the table in front of Waterbury, weighting the corners with rocks from a pile of correspondence; then shot a quick glance at me.

“As I understand it,” he said, “you haven’t laid down any row-galleys yet.”

“No, sir,” I said. “We started to do so, but seemingly there wasn’t sufficient material to let us get forward with them.”

There was nothing to be gained by telling tales on Wynkoop, so far as I could see. Arnold was a smart man, and a smart man knows what’s going on without being told much.

Arnold nodded. He went to stand beside Waterbury and study the plans.

“Yes,” he said. “That’s more like it! This vessel’s keel ought to be laid to-morrow—to-morrow!” To Waterbury he said, “This is a Spanish galley, General. The Spaniards use ’em, and the Algerines too. Just fitted for our purpose, they are: short masts: lateen sails: a minimum of canvas and cordage to bother the landsmen that’ll have to sail ’em. We can’t do any better so long as we’re forced to build small.”

Wynkoop reached for the plans and drew them over where he could examine them.

“I’ve given her extra heavy scantling and a square stern, General,” I said, “so she looks like a watering-trough, but she’ll carry two great guns in the cabin and as heavy a piece as you want to put in the bow. I’ve given her twelve ports amidships. You can traverse your midship guns, and use ’em where you see fit. What’s more, she’ll handle easy, for all her clumsy looks.”

“How much of a crew did you figure on?” Arnold asked.

“About ninety,” I said. “I’ve allowed for mounting eighteen swivels, so she’ll need eighty to ninety.”

“Ve ken buildt four gundelos in der time it dakes for vun uf dese gellies,” Wynkoop objected. “Alretty ve got tree big wessels!”

Arnold straightened up to balance on his toes, staring at Wynkoop out of pale eyes. He pushed his lower lip out and in, as if feeling a roughness on his upper lip. “Big?” he asked politely. Then he laughed. “We’ve got two schooners and a sloop, all mounting sparrow guns! Sparrow guns! That’s how big they are! Four-pounders and two-pounders: that’s their armament! What do you expect to sink with two-pounders, Colonel? You couldn’t sink a wash-tub with two-pounders, not unless you boarded it and scuttled it to boot!

“As for our gundelos, what good would they be against a vessel like this?” He thumped his fist on my plans. “They’d have no more chance than a privateer brig would have against a frigate! You know, Colonel Wynkoop, that a frigate can fight and sink half a dozen war brigs! It’s weight of metal that tells, every time, allowing that the ship with the guns is able to shoot—and the British have German artillerymen, damn ’em!”

“Der more gundelos ve heff,” Wynkoop said heavily, “der more ve’ll sgare der British. After we sgare ’em, ve’ll heff to vight ’em on lend, enyvay. Loogit all der wessels der English het at Quebec, und der whole ding het to be zettled on land by Volfe, wessels or no wessels!”

Arnold smiled grimly at Waterbury, who scratched thoughtfully at the corner of his mouth. To Wynkoop Arnold said gently: “I’m glad you spoke of that, Colonel. I’ve had occasion to give considerable thought to the manner in which Wolfe took Quebec.”

He tapped the table in front of Wynkoop. “Wolfe wasn’t the man that took Quebec, though he’ll always get the credit for it. The man that took Quebec was Admiral Saunders—Charles Saunders, moving his fleet up river with every flood-tide, and down river with every ebb, perpetually threatening to disembark his men here, there and everywhere, day and night. He wore Montcalm out. Montcalm was in a panic for fear of what Saunders might do. If it hadn’t been for Saunders, Wolfe wouldn’t have had one chance in a thousand of even reaching the Plains of Abraham! Not one chance in a million!”

Wynkoop puffed out his cheeks and made sounds of expostulation.

“If you want the real truth about Quebec,” Arnold said, “here it is: Wolfe should have been courtmartialled for putting his troops where he did, and Montcalm should have been courtmartialled for abandoning an impregnable fortress to fight in an open field!” He laughed harshly. “Wolfe and Montcalm! Montcalm and Wolfe! Two blunderers! It was Saunders and his sailors! Saunders and his ships! Saunders and his naval discipline! D’you think either Montcalm or Wolfe could have got their regiments to do the work that Saunders’s sailors did—up all night: making sail; shortening sail; anchoring; heaving up the anchor; hauling around the yards? Not by a damned sight! They’d have deserted! Saunders and his sailors took Quebec, and the wrong man got the credit, as usual!”

Nothing that Arnold said, I knew, was making the smallest dent in Wynkoop’s stubborn Dutch mind, though it was the simple truth.

Arnold eyed him narrowly and spoke cautiously. “In all likelihood, Colonel Wynkoop, this year’s campaign will be settled on Lake Champlain, and I take it that all of us want it settled conclusively in our favour. There’s only one way in which that can be done, and that’s for us to build a fleet superior to anything the British can build. That wouldn’t be difficult if we had the men and material, because there’s one thing the British can’t build, and that’s a frigate. They haven’t the depth of water to build a frigate at St. John’s. If we could get the men and the supplies, I’d build a 38-gun frigate, and the British couldn’t pass. Since it’s out of the question to get either the supplies or the workmen, we’ve got to do the next best thing: we’ve got to outbuild them, and it’s my information that they’ve already brought two schooners from the St. Lawrence to St. John’s in sections—schooners bigger than any of ours. That means we’ve got to build vessels that can manœuvre with their schooners. That means row-galleys, Colonel, and it means we can’t delay any longer! They’ve got to be laid down to-morrow!”

Wynkoop settled himself in his chair as if he intended to stay there all day. “Cheneral Sguyler gafe me der commend uf Lake Shemplain,” he said stolidly. “In dot gepecity I belief der broper wessels iss gundelos. Dey’re more mople, und petter aple to selegt der bettle ground.”

Waterbury looked puzzled. “They’re more what?”

“Mople,” Wynkoop repeated gloomily. “Dey ent so heffy.”

“Mobile!” Arnold exclaimed. “Gundelos mobile? In dirty weather they’d be as mobile as lobster pots!”

He glared at Wynkoop, his lips pressed tight together so that his swarthy face seemed to broaden. Then suddenly he smiled. “As senior officer at this post,” he said carelessly, “I order an immediate council of war to consider the form of ship construction best adapted to our needs—the council to include all officers above the rank of lieutenant colonel. The council will be in order. General Waterbury, what are your views on the type of vessel that would be of greatest service to us?”

“Chust a minute!” Wynkoop objected; but his objection was unheeded by Waterbury, whose reply to Arnold’s question was magisterial.

“I’m in favour of completing the gundelos now under construction, and in devoting all our other efforts to the construction of row-galleys similar to this plan.” He slapped my drawing with his open palm.

Wynkoop, breathing heavily, made explosive sounds.

Arnold nodded thoughtfully at Waterbury and said, “Those are my opinions exactly, General, and since that disposes of the business before this council of war, the council stands adjourned. Captain Merrill, lay down the keel of that Spanish galley to-morrow and remain in charge of her until she joins the fleet.”


Skenesboro became a sort of ante-room to the inferno in the weeks that followed; and our labours turned into a confused and fever-ridden struggle such as sets dreamers to groaning in their sleep.

Wherever Arnold could find a sea captain, he laid violent hands on him and hustled him to Waterbury, who put him in charge of the building of the vessel he was to command. He called on the regiments at Ticonderoga for men to act as seamen and marines; and as might be expected, the ones to be sent were those who could best be spared—the sickly and the contentious: the thieves and the rascals: the worst clad and the least trustworthy: men who looked unable to shoot or to march or to hand a sail—men so pocky and so vermin-ridden that to pull their own weight at an oar seemed beyond their powers.

Poor as they were, they were marvels of physical perfection by comparison with those collected in New York to serve aboard the fleet—or purchased, rather; for the latter were raked out of alleys and gutters by the offer of a bounty; and if ever there were human beings who deserved the title of “sweepings of hell,” which one of our officers gave them, it was they.

Like all such miserable creatures, they held themselves superior to all other men in wit, wisdom and ability; and when the barracks and the huts were filled with these people, there were perpetual howlings and riotings, and fights of terrible ferocity, which nobody seemed able to quell. I longed, often, to see Cap Huff’s hulking figure charge into a brawling, cursing mass of these ragged, uncontrollable creatures, but he had gone away to Ticonderoga to testify in a courtmartial which General Arnold had demanded so that Colonel Hazen might be punished for refusing to accept the supplies seized in Montreal, as a result of which the supplies had been plundered.

The only genuine seamen to be sent to us, so far as I could see, came marching in through a thunderstorm one afternoon, headed by a quick-moving man with enormous arms: a man seemingly unable to look at any one or anything without immediately feeling of the back of his neck and casting a quick glance at the sky. Nathaniel and I, working in the bow of our galley, found his appearance familiar. As we stared down at him, he caught sight of us, pawed at the back of his neck, and raised a long arm in greeting. I remembered, then, that the same gesture had been made to us from the battered rowboat we had picked up off Old York a mere three months ago—but a three months that had seemed like three years to us.

It was David Hawley, the Connecticut privateersman who had escaped from the Halifax prison, and rowed five hundred miles in a week.

We were glad to see him, and glad, too, to have the Connecticut sailors he had brought. Since all the other vessels had captains, Waterbury complimented him by putting him to work with Captain Warner, who was also from Connecticut, on the Trumbull galley, whose stocks were next to ours. Ours, being the largest, had been named the Congress by Arnold; and the other three, being a trifle smaller, so to effect a saving in time and material, he had named for the three men who were regarded as the mainstays of the Northern Army—General Washington, Governor Trumbull of Connecticut, and General Gates.

The galleys were growing rapidly, though not as rapidly as they would have grown if we had been free of the attacks of intermittent fever that laid workmen flat on their backs by scores, their teeth chattering and their faces as white and pinched as though every last drop of blood had been drained from their bodies.

There were times when, what with the sick men and the fighting between Pennsylvanians and Yorkers and New Englanders, and the heat and the mosquitoes, we felt that none of the vessels would ever be finished, but were doomed to lie on their stocks, rotting skeletons, for all eternity.

Yet the little Lee galley, built with the timbers we had brought from St. John’s, was pushed into the water and went splashing off towards Ticonderoga, unballasted, unmasted, ungunned—a raw hulk, rowed by a mob of howling Yorkers who fouled their oars and cursed and tumbled about the deck under the apparently unseeing eye of red-headed Captain Davis. I would have pitied Davis except for the wink he gave us when his craft moved slowly northwards—a wink pregnant with a sober hint that he was less put-upon than he seemed.

Hawley, standing with me and Thatcher, captain of the Washington galley, watching the Lee pull out, eyed the two of us as if inviting comment. Thatcher, a sleepy-looking man, for ever chewing at a straw or a splinter of wood, laughed ironically. “They got considerable to learn,” he said, “and I shouldn’t wonder if Davis learned ’em.”

Hawley caressed the back of his neck with a large hand. “You got to be charitable at a time like this,” he said. “You got to let ’em get aboard ship. When you get ’em there, you can explain to ’em about not making unnecessary noises, and how Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do. If you try to explain to ’em before you get ’em there, as I understand it, they might write home to a Congressman about it, and you’d get put in jail for conduct unbecoming to something or other.”

The gundelos Connecticut and Spitfire, too, were thrown in by main strength, with men pushing at them, and hauling on ropes, they being too flat-bottomed to slide on the ungreased ways; and off they went to Ticonderoga for guns and sails and powder and shot and the rest of their equipment.

And so, in spite of everything, Arnold had the beginnings of a fleet in two months from the day when we had tumbled into our bateau at Isle aux Noix and started south.

Two months to a day had passed when Cap Huff came back from Ticonderoga—a deceptively mild and soft-spoken Cap Huff—with a message from Arnold. He came into our bunkhouse about an hour after sundown, as quietly as an enormous shadow. The first we knew of his presence was when his hoarse voice shattered the darkness behind us, saying, “I got a message for Hawley. Anybody here know Hawley?”

Nathaniel offered to get him, whereupon Cap said carelessly, “All right: tell him he’s got to go to Crown Point to take command of the Royal Savage. Where’s my rum?”

Doc Means said uncertainly that somebody had discovered Cap’s rum and taken it, but that there had been only a small amount in the barrel anyway—maybe two quarts.

“How do you know there was only two quarts?” Cap asked, but it seemed to me the question was perfunctory: that he had other things on his mind.

“Sit down,” I said; “sit down and give us the news. You must be tired after your long trip.”

“No,” Cap said, “I got to have some rum. I been subject to so much discipline up in that damned Ticonderoga that I’m pretty near dried up. Come on, Doc: let’s go over to see the ship carpenters. They got rum, ain’t they?”

We protested at this and asked him for the news. He said, absentmindedly, there was no news.

“No news!” I exclaimed. “What’s the reason Arnold sent for Hawley? What happened to the captain of the Royal Savage? What happened to Hazen? Didn’t you go up there to testify on the Hazen courtmartial? Where’s Steven Nason? Where’s Whitcomb? What’s the news of the British fleet? How many vessels have they got? What are they doing? How are our vessels getting along?”

“I got to have some rum,” Cap persisted. “I got a couple of new dice tricks I want to try on those ship carpenters.” He seemed uneasy. When he moved into the firelight, we could see his eyeballs glitter. “You ain’t heard anything about Whitcomb?” he asked, almost as an afterthought.

We said we hadn’t.

“Whitcomb killed a general,” Cap said. He looked behind him, then sat down close to the fire and asked softly whether anybody had a touch of rum—just the merest touch.

Doc Means brought him a flask, explaining that he happened to have it for medicinal purposes. Cap nodded and drained it without taking breath. He hiccupped grandly, staring absently into the fire.

“Whitcomb killed a general!” I said. “What kind of general did he kill?”

“Listen,” Cap said, “did any of you ever hear me tell this feller Whitcomb that he ought to kill some generals?”

I said I had never been aware of any such advice.

“Well,” Cap said gloomily, “he claims he got the idea from me, and being as how there’s hell to pay and no pitch hot, I ain’t had a minute’s peace for a week, for fear of what else I might have said to him when I was feeling my rum a little.”

As an afterthought, and with a trace of exasperation, he added, “I don’t see anything so terrible about killing a general, if you go behind the British lines to do it, and do it in daytime, all clear and open. The British, they claim it ain’t sporting, but I don’t see why it ain’t. They’d ’a’ killed Whitcomb fast enough, if they’d caught him!”

Then he told us. Whitcomb and Steven Nason, sent by Arnold to bring him back a prisoner, had travelled all the way to St. John’s, circled around the British encampments and hidden themselves at different points on the road between St. John’s and Montreal. Whitcomb stayed in one spot for a day and a half, without having any luck; and at the end of that time he saw a general riding down the road on horseback. Since Whitcomb was afoot, he had no chance to overtake him: yet he strongly desired to take back a general to Arnold. Consequently, as Cap said, he winged him in the shoulder. He did not, however, wing him hard enough, and the general got away. As for Whitcomb, Cap said, the British had some knowledge of his whereabouts and set guards across all the roads, in spite of which he came safely through them and back to Ticonderoga, as did Steven Nason.

“The British were awful mad,” Cap said, “but eight days later they were madder, because they had to bury the general. Here was this feller Whitcomb making the war so dangerous that not even a British general could be safe! Yes, sir: they’d come three or four thousand miles to fight this war, and hired Hessians and Indians and everything, so to make it a good one, and they certainly didn’t propose to have the whole business ruined by this feller Whitcomb! They got so nervous over Whitcomb, they offered a hundred pounds to anybody who’d get him, dead or alive.”

“How’d you learn all this?” I asked.

“That misbegotten Hazen used to live in St. John’s,” Cap said. “One of his acquaintances wrote him a letter and told him about it, and the first thing we knew, all of Hazen’s friends were hollering about what a terrible thing Whitcomb had done.”

“His friends?” I asked. “Do you mean Easton and Brown?”

“Yes, damn ’em!” Cap roared. “Easton and Brown and Wilkinson. You remember that little antimire Wilkinson, that little tit-mire as was Arnold’s aide in Montreal?”

We said we did.

“Well,” Cap said, “in the first place, he drinks. Yes, sir! If you let that damned little tit-mire smell the cork of a rum bottle, he’d get drunk and blab everything he knew and a lot he didn’t know; so Arnold wouldn’t have him around any longer. He’s Gates’s aide now. He don’t like Arnold, naturally—hates him worse than poison, the way you hate anybody that says you drink.”

Cap shook his head. “It certainly beats hell the way these fellers blame everything in the world on Arnold, and how they find out so many things to blame him for! They couldn’t been madder about Whitcomb shooting the general if the general had been their own dear little sweetheart. It was all Whitcomb’s fault, they said, but it was all Arnold’s fault, too, for sending Whitcomb to Canada. Wilkinson and Hazen and Easton and Brown, they were talking about how Whitcomb wasn’t a gentleman, and ought to be turned out of the army. They’re afraid if he’s kept the British army’ll look down on us for low, general-shooting riffraff. I think they heard some Englishman say so. By God, there’s people in this country that just ain’t right in their heads! They’ll believe anything an Englishman or a Frenchman tells ’em: anything! The foolisher an Englishman talks, the apter they are to believe him. Wilkinson’s one of ’em. If some Englishman told Wilkinson that butter wasn’t being used on bread any more, Wilkinson would go around hollering that anybody who used butter on bread oughtn’t to be associated with, not by nobody!”

Cap eyed us defiantly. “Now you take this general that Whitcomb shot! He wouldn’t have died, ever, if one of those damned doctors hadn’t got hold of him; so what’s the use trying to blame Whitcomb for it! And for God’s sake, what did they expect Whitcomb to do: wave his handkerchief at this general? If Englishmen want to be so all-fired sporting, why don’t they hang the doctor that couldn’t cure the general of a plain ordinary gunshot wound in the shoulder!”

“How did Arnold feel about all this?” I asked.

“Arnold?” Cap asked. “Why, Arnold felt just the way I did! He knew the doctor done it. He never accused Whitcomb of killing no general! Arnold’s a sensible feller! He’s got more sense than all the officers in both these armies, all put together. Arnold said it was too damned bad Whitcomb didn’t bring the general back. Whitcomb felt bad, too. He said he and Stevie’d go up to St. John’s again and catch a couple of live ones. Yes, sir: it certainly was a disappointment to Whitcomb. He said when he winged that general and saw him go riding off, hell-bent, he felt as bad as he did the time he missed his first moose. Anyway, Whitcomb’s safe, because he’s gone back to St. John’s, where there ain’t nothing to worry about but the British; but I ain’t going to feel safe till I get afloat—not while Easton and Brown and Hazen and Wilkinson go snooping around Ticonderoga, thinking up lies to tell about Arnold or anybody that works for Arnold!”

He stood up, swayed perilously close to the fire, and sat down again suddenly. “I ought to be getting over to see those ship carpenters,” he said. “I got some dice of my own now.” He leaned over and dropped a vast hand on Doc Means’s thin shoulder, adding, “Got a pair for you, too, old Catamount! Me’n’ you, we’ll go over and see those carpenters. I took eighty-six dollars, hard money, off of one Pennsylvania regiment up at Ti, and anybody that can take anything off a Pennsylvanian, he could skin a ship carpenter right down to the gizzard.”

“You can’t go yet,” I said. “You haven’t told us what’s happening!”

“There ain’t a thing happening!” Cap protested. “Not one damned thing! You don’t have any time to do anything, because the second you start doing it, somebody catches you and puts you to work rigging a ship or carrying powder and shot and guns aboard! Arnold’s got ten vessels ready to sail, but they ain’t sailed yet.”

He ticked them off on his fingers: “Royal Savage schooner, Enterprise sloop, Liberty schooner, Revenge schooner, Boston gundelo, New Haven gundelo, Providence gundelo, Connecticut gundelo, Philadelphia gundelo and Spitfire gundelo. Fifty-eight guns, most of ’em small, and four hundred and fifty men, without nothing to sit on except themselves on account of not having enough pants to set down on nothing with.”

Hawley came out of the darkness, piloted by Nathaniel; and at the sight of Nathaniel it occurred to me that here was a heaven-sent opportunity to put him in a safe place by sending him with Hawley, who could use him to good advantage. In Hawley’s company he would have no occasion to see Easton and Brown; and he would be free of this fever-ridden pest-hole in which we worked.

“What’s all this about the Royal Savage?” Hawley asked.

Cap stumbled to his feet. “Orders from Arnold,” he said. “I left the letter up at headquarters. Wynkoop, he ain’t Commander of Lake Champlain no more. In fact, he ain’t nothing no more, and you’re wanted to take his place.”

“What happened to him?” I asked. “Did you ask Whitcomb to drown him?”

Cap was indignant. “I never asked Whitcomb nothing! I don’t hardly know the feller! What happened about Wynkoop was that when Arnold was all ready to have Hazen courtmartialled, the court was packed with New Hampshire men—friends of Hazen and Bedel. They objected to everything Arnold started to do. Wouldn’t admit his witnesses—wouldn’t listen to Arnold—wouldn’t do a damned thing! When Arnold complained, they got all excited, and said they’d never been so insulted by anybody, not in all their whole lives, and if Arnold didn’t apologise, they’d take their dolls and go home!”

Cap tugged at the collar of his shirt. “By God!” he added furiously, “if ever there was a court that ought to have been shot, it was that one, starting with the president of it—Colonel Poor of New Hampshire!”

“What’s that got to do with Wynkoop?” Hawley asked.

“It’s got this to do with it!” Cap said. “Gates dissolved the court, it being made up of old women; and if he’d done what he ought to have done, he’d have set ’em to sewing shirts and breeches for the fleet! Then, on account of Arnold having done all the work on the fleet, and being the only officer fit to sail and fight it, Gates put Arnold in command of everything. He made Arnold admiral of the fleet, but he neglected to explain it to Wynkoop so’s Wynkoop could understand it. The only way to make Wynkoop understand an order he don’t want to understand is to open up his skull with a splitting wedge, and pound in the order with a sledge-hammer. So Wynkoop, he just didn’t pay no attention to Arnold. Seems as though he figured the Wynkoop family owned Lake Champlain, and that nobody else had any business giving orders on it. So when Arnold sent two schooners down the lake on a scout, Wynkoop lays the Royal Savage broadside to ’em and fires on ’em for sailing without his orders. Fires on his own ships!”

“Oh, here! Here!” Hawley said. “You don’t expect us to believe that!”

“Listen,” Cap said, “maybe you’ll believe it when I tell you Arnold climbed aboard the Royal Savage and cussed Wynkoop for ten minutes without taking breath, and then put him under arrest and sent him back to Gates, to be tied up where he couldn’t interfere with the war! This Wynkoop is a pig-nut—a Dutch pig-nut, which is worse than ordinary pig-nuts. Brown and Easton and Hazen and Bedel: they’re all pig-nuts: all rind and nothing inside; but the nothing that’s inside of Wynkoop is solider than what’s inside of Easton and Brown.”

“Easton and Brown!” Nathaniel exclaimed incredulously.

“Poop-heads!” Cap said quickly. “Poop-heads, pure and simple! As good specimens of poop-heads as you’ll find anywhere, outside of Dutch ones. I guess Dutch poop-heads are the biggest and best there is.”

“Why,” Nathaniel began, speaking slowly, “I heard——”

I interrupted him, knowing what it was he had heard—lying praise of Easton and Brown. I also knew he had heard it from Marie de Sabrevois or from her friends. “Nathaniel,” I said, “pack up your belongings. The Royal Savage is the flagship of the fleet, and if Captain Hawley’ll take you, you’ll be of more value aboard her than you’ll be here.”

“Take him!” Hawley exclaimed. “You bet I’ll take him!”

Nathaniel turned on me a glance so hard that I saw I must use strategy.

I spoke quickly to Cap Huff. “You said the fleet was sailing for St. John’s in a few days?”

“Well,” Cap said, “you know how Arnold is when he makes up his mind to do something. If he makes up his mind to go to St. John’s, he’ll sail in five minutes!” To Hawley he added: “If I was you, and wanted to be sure not to have to chase him a hundred miles in a row-boat, I’d start for Crown Point right now!”

At the mention of St. John’s, Nathaniel, without another word, had turned and gone to the bunkhouse for his blanket and musket. That night I could rest without keeping myself awake with imaginings that weren’t far short of torture. I’d had dreadful fears—fears that Ellen Phipps was a means of communication between Marie de Sabrevois and my brother. What messages might thus pass, I dared not think; but if Ellen came back from Albany now, charged with a secret errand to Nathaniel, he’d be away, thank God!—and on that thought I slept.


The heat and the thunderstorms of August gave way to the clear days and the cold nights of September. The young maples were frost-nipped, and the air heavy with the scent of dying leaves. The nearby countryside was naked: a desert of stumps and scrub, stripped of trees for Wynkoop’s preposterous stockade and barracks, as well as for ships, stocks, cabins, firewood, oars. The slashings lay everywhere, like wreckage; so that war seemed to be a blight upon the land itself, as it was upon the people.

The barracks and cabins were full of shipwrights and soldiers and sailors, flat on their backs with intermittent fever: shivering as if to shake themselves to pieces, their fingers dead white, their nails blue, their eyes black-ringed in pallid faces—and the next minute burning up with heat, howling for water and unable to talk sensibly; and we, knowing the day was not far off when the British would attack, were begging for doctors to cure these men so they could help us with the galleys.

Of all the vessels we had built, only five were left in Skenesboro: the four big row-galleys, crouching in a group, as if at bay at the bottom of this devastated valley, and beside them a single humble gundelo, spawned, seemingly, by one of the larger hulks.

How we got them in the water, God only knows. Negroes shambled down from the hills, brought in by Zelph, and helped. Farmers, come to sell corn and potatoes, lingered awhile to pass up planks to the few of us who still could work. Waterbury himself, lame from falling off a ladder, toiled with a hammer when he was free of commissaries and letter-writing.

On the 10th of September the Trumbull galley slid in, and we watched her for a minute before we hurried back to work. She was a sturdy craft, and though she was high in the water because of her lack of guns and ballast, she lay there like a rock while her crew ran aimlessly about her deck and clapped on to ropes to work her back to shore. She was no yacht, nor was there anything about her that was beautiful; but with her guns aboard, she would be more dangerous than any yacht; and I knew, looking at her, that she was the best we could have done, under the circumstances.

There is one thing of which I have been certain since those days, and that is that there is nothing so hard to do that really determined men can’t do it. Workmen fell from the stagings, towards the end of our labours, struck down as if with mauls by the violence of the fever. It was a common sight to see two men carrying a plank, and for one to drop in mid-stride, as if the sickness had leaped on his shoulders. Those of us who were left were ragged skeletons, our clothes rotten from our perpetual sweating: our bodies covered with sores and bruises incurred from over-speedy labour with poor materials and worse tools.

Workmen were so few that there was no way, so far as we could see, in which we could finish the last three galleys; and yet we finished two of them, if it was possible to call these hulks “finished.”

For that matter, we would have called anything “finished,” so it floated; and the Congress and Washington floated beside the landing stages on the 18th of September, three months exactly from that sticky day when we had nailed the barn door over the bow of our bateau and set off with Arnold from Isle aux Noix.

The Gates was a shell, still, with another week’s work to be done on her deck and bulwarks and bulkheads before she could take to the water; but the Washington and the Congress were ready to move; and from the urgency of the messages that Waterbury had from Gates, we knew it behooved us to move fast.

Aboard the Congress Cap Huff had twenty marines—or so he called them—herded amidships. Tom Bickford, my first officer, exercised the men at the row-ports. He was gentle-spoken, always, because of his early leanings towards the ministry; and he was gentle-spoken now with the ragged, noisy seamen who fumbled with the long sweeps, slapping them clumsily in the water—gentle, even, when he rapped a calloused forefinger against a sweep and threatened the men with thrashings unless they learned to be more seamanlike.

It was dusk when we cast off and swung sideways into the narrow lake. We were no better than a wreck, listed a little to starboard, ungunned, unpainted, unloaded; our masts the merest stumps: our decks a litter of odds and ends.

Tom ran up and down, calling at the oarsmen. They pushed and grunted at the sweeps. When I moved the tiller over, her head swung slowly into the north.

Skene’s yellow house, a blur against the hillslope, moved backward to blot out the dark bulks of Wynkoop’s monstrosity of a fort and his burlesque barracks. Smoke from the cabins lay in the valley of Wood Creek, a pale shroud for the havoc we had wrought. No admiring throng was gathered to see us slip away: only two commissaries and some farmers, and a little knot of negroes.

Searching vaguely in my head for heroic thoughts, I found nothing but forebodings and dark fears: forebodings as to Nathaniel: forebodings as to Ellen Phipps: forebodings as to what lay before us on these narrow waters, concealed in the chill mist that seemed to me to smell of death. And singularly enough, there came into my head what Cap Huff, back in the peaceful days of long ago, had said to Zelph: “That’s the nice thing about a war: there ain’t any regular work to do—only wear a uniform and walk around a lot, and camp out.”

. . . Nearly twenty miles we rowed that night, with Verrieul and Doc Means conning us from the bow, and a gill of rum issued to the rowers every two hours; and while the mists of early morning still wreathed the dark hills above us, we pulled into the narrow cleft beneath the heights of Ticonderoga to see a sight that looked like war indeed.

All the waterways to north and south are pinched together at Ticonderoga, as if some clumsy god had reached down out of the skies and plucked up the end of Lake George and the narrowest portion of Lake Champlain to squeeze them between the tips of gigantic fingers. The earth is piled up in abrupt masses; the waterways tortured and twisted between them. A traveller on those waterways feels himself overwhelmed by lowering peaks, and at the mercy of any man who may choose to roll a boulder from their rocky heights.

When we had come down from Crown Point, three months before, carrying the ship timbers to Skenesboro, the old fort had been a ruin, overgrown and crumbling, and all the other hills were thick with trees: a wilderness without a house or sign of life.

Now, as our galley came slowly into that huge moat between the hills, we stared up at the gray walls of a fort from which black guns stared back. Redoubts and magazines squatted on the rocks, and sentries walked a score of posts. On our left, the shores of Mount Defiance were stripped of trees; and from the heights of Mount Independence, at our right, the wilderness was gone and in its place stood a city of tents and cabins—a city from which the smoke of campfires rose, undulating in layers against the hills.

Under the guns of the fort we saw docks. Whaleboats and bateaux were stacked along the shore in hundreds. Among them lay the Trumbull galley, fully rigged and ballasted, and partly painted. On the docks were guns: brass carriage guns in rows, and spars and masts, and piles of cannon balls. Men ran and shouted as we drew near.

A barge put out to meet us. When it came up under our counter, I recognised the young officer in the stern sheets as Captain Wilkinson, whom I had last seen with Arnold.

“What ship is this?” he asked me, his jaw muscles fluttering in the way I found so displeasing. I told him we were the Congress galley; that the Washington was close behind us.

“Run her in beside the pile of spars,” he ordered. “Send your crew ashore under guard. They’ll camp by themselves on the flats to the north until you’re rigged and ready to sail.”

“I’d like to keep ’em aboard ship if there’s no objections,” I said, “so to get ’em accustomed to the craft.”

Wilkinson shook his head. “There’s objections. The riggers are Pennsylvanians. They can’t work while there’s New Englanders around.”

“That’s too damned bad about the Pennsylvanians!” I said. “What’s their objection to New Englanders?”

“They don’t like the way you enlist old men and blacks and Indians.”

“Well, for God’s sake!” I cried. “Do you have to be elected to this war by the Pennsylvanians? When did they decide nobody could fight the British unless they’re registered as gentry?” I was in a rage to think that Pennsylvania troops, or anybody else, might see fit to question Doc Means’s age or Zelph’s colour, since either of them was as valuable as any Pennsylvanian I had ever seen, bar none.

Wilkinson eyed me disapprovingly. “I’m not responsible for the way they feel, Captain. All I’m responsible for is keeping order among the troops. If the Pennsylvanians are obliged to work with New Englanders, there’s always a fight, and somebody gets killed; so take your men ashore under guard and go up and report to the general.”

“To General Arnold?” I asked.

Wilkinson’s reply was contemptuous. “General Arnold has no authority at this post, as you doubtless recall, now that I mention it. General Gates is commander-in-chief of the Northern Army.”

His boat pulled away, with him sitting erect and dignified in the stern. I was in no way annoyed to hear Cap Huff make an unseemly noise between his compressed lips, and hoarsely whisper, “Poop-head!”

By the time the galley had been made fast to the dock and the crew marched off to the barracks by Tom and Verrieul and Cap Huff, shears had been set up for handling the guns, and a swarm of shipwrights, armourers, riggers and blacksmiths were hard at work.

A company of York troops, lined up in a long row, were rolling 18-pound shot from man to man, moving them to a spot abreast of our main hatch; not only looking but acting like children playing some strange game of marbles. Eight other ragged soldiers were lashing a long 18-pounder to four poles, preparatory to bringing it aboard.

Orders had come down from the hill, the shipwrights said—meaning from General Gates—that no work was to be done on anything at all until the galleys were sent away. They winked knowingly and wagged their heads as they told me this, by way of implying that I would soon learn the reason for these peremptory orders.

I made myself look as military as I could, which was not very military, since my tow-cloth smock, long since gone to pieces, had been replaced by a buckskin shirt whose tails had been cut off to make patches on the shoulders, so that I wore it outside my breeches, belted with a gilt hat-cord. My breeches, bought from a farmer, were too small, and I had replaced my shoes with moccasins, for shoes were so hard to get that it was commonly said in the army that all shoe leather was being made into tobacco. I had a ribbon for my hair, however, and Joseph Phipp’s gold-laced hat, which I had got from him in a trade, acquiring it for a pewter snuffbox found somewhere by Cap Huff.

Wilkinson was waiting in the ante-room to the general’s quarters inside the fort on the hilltop; and he told me in a hushed whisper that the general was almost ready for me.

Much as I had come to dislike Wilkinson for his unwarranted solemnity, I must admit he was a good aide-de-camp; for he was able to look busy even while taking a nap, and also able to soothe impatient persons by leading them to think he was about to perform something miraculously important and perform it, also, for their sole benefit. He was more profound over nothing than any man I ever knew, which is an excellent trait for a soldier, and will bring higher rank to the person who practises it than mere bravery or ability. It was a great boon to Wilkinson; for in one year’s time he was sent to Congress with a message, and such was the ponderosity with which he delivered it that Congress made him a brigadier general, though Wilkinson was only twenty-one years old, and no more deserving of being a brigadier-general than our village idiot would be.

When Wilkinson ushered me into Gates’s presence, I found our commander-in-chief fumbling near-sightedly among his papers. He was gray, and a little stooped, with a sly side-glance that returned and returned to the person with whom he spoke. He looked crafty, and had the air of hoping to surprise a person’s thoughts by stealth, instead of asking frankly for them. Yet he was a pleasant man, bluff and hearty: eager, so far as I could see, to do whatever could be done to make things easier for those who fought.

He got up to shake hands, quite as if my rank were equal to his own: then threw his arms apart in a queer, old-womanish gesture, staring petulantly at my clothes.

“Captain! Captain Wilkinson!” he called querulously. “Here! I want you, my dear fellow!”

Wilkinson appeared between us, as neatly as though he had shot up through the floor.

“Now look here, Captain,” Gates complained, “look at this!” He flung his hands out before him, seeming to spill from them a burden of disgust. “A captain in our fleet, obliged to fight against soldiers like Carleton and Burgoyne in a teamster’s shirt and wearing tobacco-pouches on his feet! Now for God’s sake, Wilky, do something about it! Get him a coat somewhere! Get him some breeches and stockings! And try to find some shoes for him. Whatever you do, try to find some shoes!”

Wilkinson made commiserative sounds, but looked dubious. “Yes, General,” he said soothingly. “You know such things are scarce: scarce!”

Gates’s reply was testy. “Well, of course they’re scarce! If they weren’t, he’d get ’em himself, wouldn’t he? Now look here, Wilky: if you can’t find clothes in the fort, go over to Mt. Independence and talk to some of those York troops. They’ve got clothes, some of ’em have, and they’ll sell anything! They’d rather have money than breeches, and they’re no better with breeches than without ’em, so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t deprive ’em. We’ll equip Captain Merrill out of the public funds: that’s what we’ll do; but for God’s sake, Wilky, don’t bring back clothes that are lousy! They tell me all the York troops are lousy, so if you get clothes from ’em, be sure to have ’em examined, especially in the seams. Have the seams well looked at, my boy!”

Wilkinson nodded gravely, walking towards the door with his toes turned carefully outward. In spite of Gates’s kindness, I could never think of him, after that, except as something of a fussbudget—too much of a fussbudget to be a good commander-in-chief.

Left alone with me, Gates sat himself down at his desk again and pawed among his papers. “Well,” he said, “we thought you’d never get here in time to fight!” He eyed me slyly over the tops of his spectacles.

“The fever took all our carpenters, sir,” I told him. “We were lucky to finish the Congress and the Washington.”

“When’ll the Gates be up?” he asked.

“In a week, I hope, sir.”

“By cracky!” he said, “I hope so! We need her! General Arnold’s been making life miserable for us, shouting for those galleys! We get a letter from him every fifteen minutes. He wants those galleys!” He muttered irascibly as he poked among his papers.

“When does he expect to fight?”

“Whenever he has to,” Gates said, “and I don’t want you to lose a minute—not a minute! We’re putting everybody to work on your galley and Waterbury’s. By cracky, it’ll be a shame if we can’t put the Gates in commission!”

“Sir,” I asked, “what’s known about the British fleet? Have they built vessels bigger than ours?”

I waited for his answer with a shrinking feeling inside me; for on the size of the British fleet depended, in all probability, my safety and Nathaniel’s. More, even, than our safety hung on it: our very lives might be at stake.

Gates ignored my question and pounced on some papers with a grunt of satisfaction, “Now then,” he said, “here’s General Arnold’s requisitions. For your galley: two eighteens, two twelves and four sixes. For the Washington galley: one eighteen, one twelve, two nines and four fours. Right?”

“No, sir,” I said. “The Congress galley can carry more guns. She ought to have two long nines in addition to those named.”

As Gates scratched a note on the requisition I tried again to ask what strength the British would bring against us, but he interrupted me. “According to my understanding, all these row-galleys have some outlandish rig.”

“Lateen,” I said. “Two masts, with a lateen sail on each.”

Gates shook his head. “Never heard of such a thing! You’ll have to keep watch on the riggers and see you get what you want. Don’t spend a minute here that you don’t have to! Not a minute! It’ll be a terrible thing if the British come down from St. John’s and find Arnold without the ships he’s counting most on!”

“Sir,” I said, “I’d like to know whether I can depend on the services of one of my best men—Steven Nason. He went north on a scout a month ago and——”

Gates stopped me with an uplifted hand: then rose from his desk and went to the narrow window that looked out on to the central court—the parade ground—of the fort. The sentries on the battlements, high against the sky, were staring down at some common object of interest; and a confused gabbling and cheering reached us, even through the granite walls.

Wilkinson came into the room with an appearance of exaggerated coolness, but from the throbbing of his jaw muscles it was easy to see he was excited.

“Sir,” he said, “before crossing to Mt. Independence, I ventured to prosecute my search for Captain Merrill’s——”

“What’s that noise?” Gates interrupted. “For God’s sake, Wilky, get to the point!”

“Sir,” Wilkinson said severely, “it’s a messenger from General Arnold with two prisoners—two officers.”

Gates peered from the window again: then turned an exasperated glare on Wilkinson. “What two officers?” he asked almost mincingly.

“British,” Wilkinson said. “Two British officers. It’s that Whitcomb again. Whitcomb took them.” There was disparagement and expostulation in his voice.

“Whitcomb!” Gates exclaimed. “Whitcomb!” He hopped slightly, ejaculating “Ha! Whitcomb! Ha, ha! Whitcomb!” as if in uncontrollable delight. Wilkinson eyed him reprovingly.

The gabbling and cheering grew louder. Through the window we saw a crowd of soldiers sweep through the gate of the fort and spread out, fan-wise, on the parade ground, all of them hustling and pushing to stare at three figures in the centre. One of these figures was that of Steven Nason. The others were blindfolded and wore gaudy scarlet coats. Their waistcoats were scarlet as well, and their white breeches were snugly bound with black gaiters. On their heads were close-fitting caps of black leather with a metal plate sticking up in the front, as if to protect their foreheads from bullets. They were as neat and handsome in appearance as though snatched straight out of St. James’s Park instead of captured in the middle of a wilderness.

I could not blame the shouting, hilarious crowd for staring, or for surging around the prisoners; for they were the first Britishers that any of us had seen at close range.

Gates, chuckling and rubbing his hands together, fussed about his desk, straightening his papers. “Go back to your vessel, Captain,” he told me. “This is an omen; a good omen! You asked me for Nason and yonder he is, with conquered British—very pat! very pat! Yes, we’ll take it as a sign from heaven!”

He edged himself into his desk chair, looking up slyly at the two of us. “That Whitcomb!” he said. He chuckled and chuckled, slapping his hands softly against his desk. “Now we’ll learn something! Now we’ll learn what they’re up to!”


It was late that night before Steven Nason came to the officers’ quarters beside the crew’s barracks; but even had he delayed until daybreak to seek us out, he would have found Cap Huff awake and waiting.

In spite of his reckless and blustering ways, that great ox of a man had such a regard for Nason that he behaved, in Nason’s absence, like a dog deprived of his master: he was for ever wandering to the door to sniff the outer air, or growling to himself uneasily, or scratching himself out of pure fretfulness.

He sat and practised dice-throwing with Doc Means, for both of them took pleasure in working interminably to perfect themselves at the finger-twists they had learned from Zelph: twists that, if properly executed, caused the dice to fall as the thrower wished them to fall; but he put no heart in his throwing—not even enough to curse when Doc beat him, which he seemed to do, almost by accident, especially at such times as large sums of money were supposedly at stake. They had kept their scores in their heads, these two, since Cap had presented Doc with the pair of dice in Skenesboro, and in that time Cap had become indebted to Doc in the sum of eight thousand dollars (Continental).

When Nason at last arrived, Cap was more than ever like an enormous clumsy dog, grinning and wagging himself before Nason, slapping at him with his huge paws, and almost panting in his pleasure at having him back again. Unknown to any of us, he had somehow acquired four flasks of rum; and these he produced when Nason joined us.

“Stevie,” he said, his great round face glistening like a giant red apple, “I hope to God you’re through running around with this feller Whitcomb! He ain’t a safe feller for you to be with! I ain’t had a minute’s peace since you went north the second time, knowing the risks he takes.”

Nason laughed. “Risks! I suppose you weren’t taking risks when you and Verrieul paid a visit to the British and came away with a keg of rum!”

Cap’s reply was scornful. “That’s different, because we had to have that rum. Nobody has to have British generals. Whitcomb thinks he has to have British generals; but that ain’t no regular human need, like rum or shirts, or getting your feet warm. It’s just his imagination. Anyway, besides, we wasn’t hiding nothing, and we walked right up to ’em in the daytime. That’s different from getting around behind ’em and hiding in the bushes, the way Whitcomb does. That’s something I just can’t stand, Stevie—somebody hiding in the bushes and watching what I do—and I ain’t the only feller that feels that way! Hiding in the bushes is plumb risky, Steven, no matter where it’s done!”

“Where’s our fleet?” I asked Nason, “and how does it look?”

“It’s moving south, hunting for a likely place to fight in, and it might look worse—lots worse! General Arnold’s a seaman if ever I saw one, and he’s got another seaman to help him. His name’s Wigglesworth. He’s a colonel, but he used to sail ships for Nathaniel Tracy in Newburyport. I shouldn’t wonder if Arnold and Wigglesworth are better than anybody the British can produce.” As an afterthought Nason added, “They’ve got some smart men, though, the British have. They’ve got a man named Schanck. He’s made himself a flat-bottomed boat that he can turn into a keel-boat in five seconds.”

“How, for God’s sake?”

“There’s a little slot of a well in the centre of it,” Nason said. “There’s a board pinned in the well. If he takes out the pin, the board drops down and makes a keel, and then he can beat to windward. He calls it a centreboard.”

While I was storing this strange discovery in my mind for future reference, Cap Huff snorted. “Hell,” he said, “that ain’t nothing! Anybody could ’a’ thought of that—if he’d ever just a-happened to think of it.” He was almost right, and I was surprised it had never occurred to any one before.

“Did you find out anything about the British fleet?” I asked Nason, little dreaming that he had acquired information of even greater moment to me than the number of vessels we must fight.

Nason nodded. “They’ve got seven real vessels,” he said. “They’re big, but we couldn’t be sure how big. It was hard to tell from where we were. Then they’ve got a lot of little gundelos, each one armed with a single heavy gun. Six of the big vessels are in the water, and one’s on the stocks still. Whitcomb says the one on the stocks wasn’t even started three weeks ago. They must have laid down her keel after they saw our vessels.”

“How many guns do the big ones carry?”

Nason shook his head. “We couldn’t be sure. There’s so many British troops around that it’s kind of risky to try to see all you’d like to see. There’s women, too, and children! Those folks brought three hundred women from England with ’em: camp followers. Nearly every soldier brought a dog with him, and some of the officers brought two or three. Seemed as if you couldn’t get within a mile of the shipyard without falling over a camp follower or stepping on a dog! To tell you the truth, there were times when we felt kind of shaky, trying to keep those lobsterbacks from catching us.”

“Three hundred!” Cap said gloomily. “Only three hundred?” Then he brightened. “What kind of looking women was they, mostly?”

Nason ignored him. “So far as we could make out,” he continued, “the two biggest vessels were schooner-rigged. We couldn’t tell anything about the new one. She looked pretty deep! If they started her less than three weeks ago, the way Whitcomb says, it’s hard to see how she’s going to be of much assistance to ’em this fall.”

I breathed more easily, but not for long.

Cap fixed Nason with a cold eye. “I s’pose you was hiding in the bushes when you caught those two fellers.”

“Yes,” Nason said, “of course we were. We went up past St. John’s, and out on the Laprairie road, between St. John’s and Montreal.”

“Gosh!” Cap cried. “Whitcomb went right back where he shot Gordon!”

Nason nodded. “Yes: he figured that was the safest place. He hid in the same clump of bushes that he shot Gordon from. He said the place was so well known that nobody’d ever expect to see him there, and he was right.”

“Gosh, all hemlock!” Cap bawled. “I wouldn’t have nothing to do with a feller as reckless as that Whitcomb! Who were these fellers he took?”

“One was Quartermaster of the 29th Foot—name of Saunders. The other was his servant: a corporal. Not bad men, once they got broken to our ways.”

Cap nodded. “I s’pose they was born out of wedlock, like so many you hear about in the British army.”

When Nason eyed him sternly, Cap assumed a jovial air. “Listen, Stevie,” he said. “There ain’t no earthly use getting touchy over these fellers. There ain’t nothing I can say about ’em, no matter how hard I try or how dirty I talk, that’ll be half as bad as the things they’ll say about us when they go home. Prob’ly this Saunders offered you half a dollar to turn him loose.”

“Well,” Nason admitted, “they offered us twenty dollars apiece to let them go, but we didn’t see fit to accept.”

“I should hope not!” Cap said virtuously. “They’d have given you counterfeit money!”

“I don’t believe so,” Nason said. “They seemed good men: as good as you’d want to meet. We had to swim across a couple of rivers; and they couldn’t swim for sour grapes, but they had no complaints. They didn’t even complain when we had to go two days without food.”

Cap grunted. “I dunno as I’d ’a’ complained if I’d been in their boots. It kind of seems to me that the recollection of what happened to that General Gordon would have kept me awful polite and helpful.”

“I sort of hated to leave ’em,” Nason said thoughtfully. “They were pleasant to talk to. Some of the things they claimed to know about America would almost make you die laughing. Whitcomb and I, we had considerable trouble keeping our faces straight.”

Cap looked politely interested. “I s’pose they think we got six toes on each foot, and all our womenfolks follow the army, and it’s a half-hour’s walk from Maine over into Virginia, and it takes a whole afternoon to row around Rhode Island.”

“Yes, just about,” Nason said. Then he added something that set the hair on the back of my neck to crawling. “They think nobody in America can build ships except people from Maine. They told us they knew we’d never be able to build a fleet that amounted to anything, because we couldn’t get enough Maine men to build it.”

At this Cap laughed, a bellowing, rum-laden laugh, and slapped his huge thighs; and at the sound of his laughter every one laughed—rosy-cheeked Tom Bickford, and mild-looking Doc Means and slender Joseph Marie Verrieul, and Nason with them. They drank from the rum bottles and choked and coughed and laughed again, until the tears ran down their cheeks; but I, remembering the thoughtless extravagance of my speech to Ellen Phipps, a dim, sweet figure on the doorstep of the farm-house in Skenesboro in the dark of a hot July night, did not laugh.

I knew enough to hide my face, for I could feel it stiffen with horror at this final proof of all I had long feared and known, but had refused to face squarely, as is the way with most of us. Hopefully I had told myself that I might be wrong: that Nathaniel might not be in danger: that there might be two Marie de Sabrevoises. Now there could be no more such hopes.

I heard again the words of idle bombasto with which, thinking to bring a smile to her lips, I had replied to Ellen’s question as to how long it would take us to build the fleet.

“If we can get enough men from Maine,” I had said to her, “we’ll build it in a month.”

And when she had scoffed at the abilities of men from Maine, I had added, with more than a little truth, “they know how to build ships, and that’s more than can be said for a lot of the men they’re beginning to send us.”

And now here were these words, these idle, jesting words, incapable of being uttered by any American in sober truth, brought out of St. John’s by two Britishers, one of them a high officer, free to have access to the highest.

I saw what had happened as clearly as though it had been printed on a chart. Ellen, having performed her aunt’s commission in Albany, had been taken by her brother back to St. John’s—back to Marie de Sabrevois. No doubt, in all innocence, she had carried letters with her from the Loyalists that infested Albany, making life hideous for Schuyler with the same sort of lying rumours that had been spread about Arnold. Reunited with her aunt, whom she loved and trusted, she must have told her all that had happened during her travels. No doubt she had spoken of the possibility of being forced to remain in Skenesboro until enough men from Maine could be obtained to build the fleet. Possibly she had said that she had feared she might be forced to remain there for ever, waiting for men from Maine who would never come. And Marie de Sabrevois had told the British! In no other way could my words have reached the officers captured by Whitcomb and Nason!

I was right: I had always been right. Marie de Sabrevois was a spy. She had used Nathaniel and Ellen to further her own ends; and thus information had been given to the enemy through Ellen’s act and through Nathaniel’s.

I was thankful for the dim light in our small cabin—the faint yellow flame of a single candle, that cast fantastic wavering shadows of my companions on the rough walls; for otherwise they must have seen in my face that I was afraid. And I was afraid; afraid of what would happen to Nathaniel and to Ellen if this knowledge, strangely shared by me with a woman from my own town—a woman who had once attempted to make a traitor of Steven Nason—should become public property.


The Trumbull left us in a week, a low craft, long and raking. Her dark red sides and her two big triangular sails, with yards that slanted backwards like twin quill pens held by invisible hands, gave her a foreign air, so that she seemed out of place amid the flaming foliage of these rugged northern headlands. She might have been a pirate from Algiers, stealing into the north on some desperate adventure, except for the ragged beat of her twelve long sweeps. So roughly did these scrabble her over the water that she looked more like a giant red bug, confused by her own ungainliness.

Why it was that Waterbury and Captain Thatcher and I did not become stark, staring lunatics in the week that followed her departure, I cannot tell. Everything went wrong. The Gates galley had failed to join us, for every last ship carpenter in Skenesboro had fallen a victim to the flux and to intermittent fever. Our own efforts to outfit our vessels seemed merely laughable, for most of the things we wanted couldn’t be located, while such things as could be found were not the right ones. Gates and Wilkinson came down the hill to watch our progress, and to show us dispatches from Arnold, who had taken post on the western and inner side of Valcour Island. The galleys, he wrote Gates, must be sent—they must be sent!

When we heard these peremptory words of Arnold’s, we knew that we must make shift with anything we could get, and so we seized whatever we could lay hands on, and shouted until we were hoarse for rope and more rope: for rammers and hand-spikes: wads and priming wires and tubes: worms and ladles and gun tackles: for cartridge paper, sponges, grape shot, round shot: for breeching-hooks, cartridge boxes, musket and pistol cartridges: for powder and more powder: for rum and provisions and extra spars and seizing and spun yarn and water kegs.

There was no lack of efforts to supply us with these things, and yet getting them was like getting eggs from a hay-mow: we had to dig them out of odd corners: snatch them, sometimes, from under those who thought they had a better right to them than we.

It was on the fifth of October that Wilkinson came to say that Arnold could wait no longer: that we must sail as we were; and sundown of that day found us still in a mess, but a mess that might, with another day’s work, turn into something resembling useful order.

We worked all night, with blazing pine-knots lashed to the swivel-guns mounted on our bulwarks; and when the pointed hemlocks on the top of Mt. Independence began to stand out against the gray dawn, there was nothing for it but to go.

A faint breeze slid down from the high hills above us, so that we were spared the grief of breaking out our sweeps to add to the confusion of our deck.

Sun-up found us well to the north of Crown Point, the Washington galley ahead of us with her triangular sails set to a cool south wind, and the lake as smooth beneath us as a soft blue carpet.

After the blinding sweat and the unending turmoil and the ceaseless labours of the past three months, the silent reaches of this narrow lake seemed a part of some new land into which we travelled. It seemed unreal, even, with the endless ragged wall of snow-clad mountains to the east, and the glaring colours with which the shores were painted—the bands of golden yellow and blazing orange and silvery greens and blues, patched here and there with furry browns that had the look of huge animals sprawled asleep among the rolling hills. Splattered on the brown and golds were gouts and smears of crimson and scarlet, as if some stricken giant had tramped, bleeding, across the hills, hunting those who had come with guns and swords and axes to put the curse of war upon him.

I wished with all my heart that it might prove unreal indeed—that we might sail on and on, out of this narrow lake and into the open sea, away from the raggedness and hunger and disease and cruelty and tumult and death that must come crowding up around us once more, as soon as we ceased to sail; but if ever such a wish comes true in time of war, the war is one of which I have never learned.

. . . Valcour lies half-way between Ticonderoga and St. John’s, on the New York side of the lake; and by noon on that peaceful October Sunday we raised the high hog-back of the island. It looked, from a distance, like a shaggy and enormous prehistoric buffalo, standing belly-deep off shore to feed.

For a time I thought there had been a mistake as to the whereabouts of the fleet, even though Waterbury, a mile ahead of us in the Washington, held his course due north, straight into the narrow passage between Valcour and the mainland. There was no fleet in the passage, not that I could see, nor anywhere near it, for that matter.

Then I saw Waterbury haul his wind. At the same moment a puff of white bloomed amid the reds and greens and yellows of the island. From where we were it seemed to come from the island itself. Another white ball blossomed, and another. The heavy boom of great guns struck against us. By looking hard I found a mast. Then, as if that one had been a key to a puzzle, a whole grove of them struck my eye, and the dull gray of furled canvas.

The guns roared on, saluting the Washington. She slid in among the masts. As her sails came down, she, too, seemed almost to vanish.

The men, hunkered down beneath our low bulwarks for shelter from the breeze—shelter which their torn and scanty garments could not give—grumbled among themselves. I think Cap Huff spoke the thought that filled the minds of all of them when he dropped from the look-out steps on the mainmast with a thump that shook the quarterdeck, declaring violently that you might as well cooper up a fleet in a hogshead as hide it behind an island where nobody could see it.

Tom Bickford had been exercising the men on the furling and lashing of lateen sails. He hurried back to the quarterdeck, his face all smiles. “Well, sir!” Tom said, “that’s the smartest anchorage ever I saw! How’d you like to have to root them out, Cap’n Peter?”

Nason turned on him. “Look here! If you haven’t anything good to say, don’t say it.”

“That’s right!” Cap bawled. “If there’s anything I hate, it’s sarcasm! If you got anything to say, say it—unless it ain’t fitten to say, as Stevie says.”

Tom took the tiller from the helmsman. “I better take her in, Cap’n Peter,” he said. “We wouldn’t want to make any kind of mess: not with everybody there watching.” He turned a puzzled gaze on Cap Huff. “Sarcasm? When was I sarcastic? I don’t aim to be sarcastic about anybody.”

“No, I s’pose not!” Cap Huff said. “I s’pose when you called that the smartest anchorage you ever saw, you just wanted to utter a Christian sentiment.”

“What’s the matter with the anchorage?” I asked.

Cap eyed me doubtfully: then turned to peer into the channel between Valcour and the main. By now we were in it, almost, running fast before the smart south wind. With each passing moment we saw more clearly how the fleet was ranged.

Midway of Valcour a shoulder juts out towards the New York shore. South of the shoulder is a cup-shaped bay; and it was across the mouth of the bay that the fleet was stretched in half-moon formation.

“The matter with it?” Cap asked. “Why, look at it! How would they get out of that corner, if they had to get out in a hurry? Considering the sailors they’ve got aboard, they’d be too busy bumping into each other and running ashore to do anything else. Do you think they could ever run out and chase the British?” He laughed hoarsely and contemptuously.

“I shouldn’t be at all surprised,” I said. “Those vessels, most of ’em, have been cruising for a month. It doesn’t take long to make a sailor, not if you’ve got seamen in charge of things. A man soon learns the ropes, when he knows he’s going to get a rap with a belaying pin if he doesn’t. If that’s your only objection to the anchorage, you needn’t waste time worrying about it.”

“That anchorage ain’t worth a hoot!” Cap said coldly. “Can’t I see what it is? Once you’re in there, you wouldn’t know what was happening anywhere! You might as well be up on the Chaudière River as behind that island!”

“Not quite,” I said. “Not quite. I hate to mention this in your hearing, but it takes a seaman to understand ships, just as it takes a tailor to make a coat. You pay $800 for a keg of rum because Congress printed money without knowing anything about money. They printed it the way they’d print newspapers, and that’s why it’s worth no more than newspapers.”

Cap breathed heavily. “Newspapers! Money! Eight hundred dollars! What’s that got to do with this anchorage?”

“It’s got this to do with it,” I said. “That anchorage was selected by a seaman. Look at it carefully. A squadron coming down from the north can’t even see this fleet, not unless a scout boat should be sent right down the channel and into the jaws of the crescent.”

“Ain’t that just what I say?” Cap demanded.

“Wait,” I said. “You don’t understand. The British won’t move against us unless they have a favourable wind—a wind from the north. Once they’ve got it, they’ll keep all their vessels together, probably, and look to find us lying out in the open somewhere. They’ll never think we’d be in here, because from the north this channel looks like nothing at all.”

Cap was clearly exasperated. “That’s what it looks like, and that’s what it is! Don’t you think I can see?”

“All right,” I told him. “If you can see so much, you can see what’s going to happen when the British ships go past the island.”

Cap eyed me uncertainly. “When they go past! Once they’re past, they’re past, and they do as they damned please, don’t they?”

“Not quite,” I said. “The British can’t move a man or a gun of their main force until they’re safe from our fleet. If their ships should go on to Crown Point without finding us, we could sail to the Richelieu and blow their army to pieces; so they’ve got to find us and try to put us out of the way. They’ve got to. If they come down from the north, and run past this island, and then discover us after they’ve got past, they’ve got to come back again. They’ve got to beat back against the wind, into this narrow channel; and with the wind against ’em they’re going to have a hard time doing it. The island’s so high that when they get into the channel, their wind’ll be all whichway, and they’ll probably have trouble manœuvring. God knows how many ships they’ll send against us; but no matter how many there are, we’ll have a chance against ’em, thanks to whoever picked that anchorage.”

Cap put his hand under his hat and scratched his head. Then he said intolerantly, “Who do you think picked it? When you see a good anchorage like that—so good that right the first minute a person looks at it he don’t see the virtue in it, and only finds out it’s good after he studies it out himself and has second thoughts that show him it couldn’t be better, why, what you go to look for in the man that picked it is brains! Arnold picked that anchorage! But I wouldn’t have told it on him if it hadn’t been a good one. Whenever you see brains used around this army, you’ll find they belong to just only about three or four men: more likely three. One of ’em’s Arnold, and one of ’em’s Stevie Nason! Arnold and Stevie Nason is two of ’em, anyhow.”

We had hauled our wind and were headed straight in for the curved line of vessels. We were close up to them—so close we could see the tattered coats of the crews who swarmed on ratlines and gun carriages. Fastened to the bulwarks of every vessel was a thick fringe of inverted evergreen trees, a dense collar of spruce or hemlock, so that the fleet had a holiday look, and needed only clusters of red berries at their bowsprits and mastheads to be dressed for Christmas.

Our own men, spurred on by Nason, lay aloft in the ratlines and manned the rails, waving their disreputable caps, so that there must have been a lively look to us as we came slashing down into the little bay.

Since all the vessels of the fleet, when they left Skenesboro, had been unrigged and at loose ends, unballasted and ungunned, as ragged looking as total wrecks, I had expected to be sickened by their slovenliness when I saw them all together in battle array. Instead of that, I found them shipshape and handsome, their canvas neatly furled and the new striped flag of the United Colonies whipping out smartly from every masthead. It was a miracle, nothing less, I thought, this crescent of fourteen armed vessels, their black guns staring open-mouthed at us—this fleet manned with half-clad landsmen, whose white skins showed through the slits in their beggar’s rags, but who still could swing their arms at us and howl a hearty welcome.

A ball of white smoke popped from the side of the Royal Savage. It was like something in a dream, this torrent of cheering that echoed from the high slopes of Valcour, to vanish in the roar of the guns that saluted us and the thunder of our own replies, only to burst on us again as the smoke clouds drifted backwards to cling in wisps among the pines and birches.

A boat slid out from under the counter of the Royal Savage. In the stern sheets sat a stocky, broad-shouldered figure, brightly uniformed, all blue and gold and buff. It was the general. He pointed to the centre of the line, making a circling gesture.

I looked at Tom. He nodded. “She’ll go as she is,” he said. We shot into the middle of the crescent, like a rabbit plunging into a hole. Close on one side was the Washington, her yards already lashed and her sails brailed up; on the other side a gundelo with a single 12-pounder in her bows, two 9-pounders amidships, and a newly-broached keg of rum in her stern. We were so close that the laughing crews gabbled in our very ears.

Tom turned our vessel on her heel and laid her between the Washington and the Royal Savage. “What’s the anchorage?” I asked the quarterdeck of the Royal Savage.

“Six fathom and good bottom!” they shouted.

By the time General Arnold came aboard, our anchor was down, our sails were clewed up against our two long, raking yards, and we rode as neatly between our two neighbours as though our snub noses were made fast to the same boom.

Nason lined up the men for the general; and, considering that some of them were Bounty Boys who, less than a month before, had been called the very sweepings of hell, they made a smart appearance—as smart as any body of men can make when their breeches are in shreds and their coats no better.

The general was all business when he came over the side. He eyed Nason and the file of marines with quick, staring eyes, pushing his under lip out and up a little, and balancing himself with feet far apart. It was always hard to guess what he was thinking; and it often seemed to me that when he stared at something as he now stared at Nason’s scarecrows, his thoughts were miles away.

“Good!” he said to Nason. “We’ll make something out of these men! There’s a barrel of rum in my boat. Have it brought aboard.”

He turned abruptly and came aft. “So this is it!” he said, looking from Tom to me. “You did better than I thought you would. This isn’t a bad vessel!”

“She’s a good vessel,” I said. “She’ll sail rings around the Royal Savage.”

Arnold laughed. “To tell you the truth, the Royal Savage is about as wild as they come. Every time it comes on to blow, she bumps everything in sight, larboard, starboard, dead ahead or dead astern. I made up my mind when you were a mile away. This is the vessel for me.” He stared at me, his chin up, as if he expected a protest.

“You’ve made no mistake,” I told him. “She can sail, and I think these men have learned to sail her.”

“Can they fight her?” he asked. “They’ll have to do both.”

Nason, with Cap Huff, had come to the quarterdeck; and it was Cap who eagerly answered for Nason. “General,” he said, “that’s the first thing I taught ’em. ‘Either you can fight the British,’ I told ’em, ‘or you’ll fight me!’ That was enough for ’em; they’ll be wildcats for fighting, General, if ever you show ’em any British to fight.”

“I think I can show ’em some,” Arnold said. “I wish I could be as sure of showing ’em some decent coats and breeches.”

His face became swarthy, with little bumps in it. “Damn ’em!” he exploded. “If they’d only give me what I ask for, there’d never be an Englishman get as far as Crown Point, not unless he floated there dead! Ask for a frigate and they give you a raft! Ask for sailors and they give you tavern waiters! Ask for a thousand pairs of breeches and they send you a dozen waistcoats. Ask for supplies and they call you a thief!”

He eyed us angrily: then unexpectedly smiled. “We’ll fool ’em! We’ll fool ’em yet! Try to keep the men supplied with rum, so they won’t freeze. I’ve asked for clothes, but I can’t get ’em.”

“General,” I asked, “have you heard for certain how many vessels the British have built?”

He stared at me, pushing his under lip out beyond his upper. “Look here,” he said, evasively, I thought, “I’ll move into this vessel to-day. What sort of quarters are there?”

“Nothing to brag about,” I told him. “There’s one big room aft, for officers. I didn’t bulkhead it, in case we had to use it for a hospital. We sleep on the floor; but there’s a mess-table, and you could sleep on that.”

“That’s all right,” Arnold said. “I’ll go back and get my things, and move right over.”

Zelph came aft, sagging beneath the weight of a round-bellied kettle. “Lobscouse, Cap’n Peter!” he shouted. “Lobscouse, all hot’n thick! Thickest lobscouse I ever see. We eat now, guess we better.”

“Lobscouse!” Arnold cried. “What’s in it?”

“Gennle,” Zelph said, “there’s twict as much in this lobscouse as ever I got into the same size lobscouse before. There’s some ducks and some pigs’ feet an’ a big snapper turtle, biggern your hat, Gennle, an’ a pecker potatoes, an’ a mess ship braid all busted up. Yow!”

“Don’t keep that lobscouse out here in this cold wind!” the General said sharply. “Get below with it!” To me he added, “After all, I won’t need my clothes and papers. They’re better off in the Royal Savage, where there’s a cabin to stow ’em. Now I’m here, I might as well stay.”

I think we looked surprised at this decision; for he laughed.

“Come, come!” he said. “Once the wind changes, the British’ll be down on our necks. We don’t want to lose a minute getting at that lobscouse!”

In the cabin, warmed by a plate of lobscouse and a tumbler of rum, the General told us some things that opened my eyes. I had known he was a greater fighter than any officer in our army; but now it dawned on me that he was something more. He was a great man—a great captain, in whom burned a flame of genius: a flame that fevered and provoked the brains of small, mean men, filling them with envy and malice. This is something I cannot explain: all I can say it that those who admired him and recognised his worth were generous gentlemen—Washington, Schuyler, Joseph Warren, Silas Deane; whereas those who hated him with a bitterness past belief were shrimps of men—Easton, Wilkinson, Wynkoop, Hazen, Bedel and others of whom I shall speak in due course.

When he had been talking to us and we to him for a time after finishing the lobscouse, he put his fists on the table and stared at us. His pale eyes passed quickly over Nason, stolid and a little heavy-looking: over Cap Huff, a benevolent, hugesome figure, nursing his glass of rum between hands like haunches of venison: over Verrieul’s thin brown features: over me. He eyed Tom Bickford’s handsome, eager face almost dubiously; but in the end he seemed to have no fault to find with any of us.

“Well,” he said, “I guess it isn’t necessary to feed you any pap. You’ve been through the mill, and don’t have to be babied. I think I can do you the compliment of telling you the truth.”

Cap Huff looked concerned. “It ain’t anything serious, is it, General? We ain’t going to get our pay or anything like that, are we?”

“Certainly not!” Arnold said. “All the money in the country had to be paid to the militia and the ship carpenters. You don’t think there’d be anything left over for such as you, do you? You’re supposed to fight: not to go around whining for pay! You ought to know it’s the loud talkers and the light workers that get paid for wars: not the heavy fighters.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Cap said. “If all these men got paid, and I had to take their money off ’em the way I did off the shipworkers, I’d have to get out of the army and look after my estate.” He drew a package of currency from inside his broken frock, slapped it noisily against the table and dropped it carelessly back again. It was about the size of two Bibles.

“Good!” Arnold said. “If that’s shipworkers’ money, accept my congratulations for performing a patriotic act! Only don’t let it interfere with your duties! That’s one bad thing about money: if a man has much of it, it’s apt to make him too careful when he gets into a fight. I wouldn’t wish to see any one too careful aboard this vessel when the trouble starts, though I want no precautions overlooked! We’re going to need ’em before we leave this anchorage!”

Tom Bickford gazed at Arnold in round-eyed admiration. “We spoke about it coming in, General—about the anchorage. It’s as if you’d had it made! Cap’n Peter was saying they’d have a dreadful time beating in here after you!”

The General slapped his knee. “Why, you’re seamen after all! Thank God for that! We’ve got one or two sailors aboard this fleet, but damned few seamen. Damned few! Yes, sir! This is one anchorage in a million! I wore grooves in this lake, running in and out of every cove and around every island, before I found it. It’s the only place on this part of the earth where they’ll have to hunt for us, and then have their noses bitten off before they—before they——”

“Then they’re stronger than we are,” I said. “How much——”

“I didn’t say so!” he interrupted brusquely. “Don’t misunderstand me!” He shot a quick glance at me: then laughed. “As a matter of fact, they are stronger: a little stronger: not much, probably.” He dismissed their possible superiority with an airy wave of his hand. “The point is that their strength has near bankrupted ’em. They thought they were ready to sail a month ago! A month ago! If they could have, they’d have occupied Crown Point and taken Ticonderoga. The war would have been over—Pht! Like that!”

He slapped his knees and rubbed his hands together, chuckling. “But they couldn’t sail! They couldn’t do it! Thanks to your work in Skenesboro, gentlemen, they had to go to building again. When I sailed up to Windmill Point and let ’em see my wares, they had to lay down three more vessels, starting a month ago; one of ’em a——”

He broke off to trace circles on the table top with splashings from his rum. “If I could have got the shipwrights,” he said bitterly, “if I could have got stores and the men, I’d have built a frigate, as I wanted to in the beginning; and then, by God, let ’em try to find a hole in the North gate!”

“You don’t mean to say they’ve built a frigate in a month!” I exclaimed. “A frigate! Why, a frigate could knock us to pieces, all of us, in half an hour!”

“There you go,” Arnold exclaimed, “getting things hindside foremost! What do we care about a frigate, even if they have got one, or a dozen frigates, for that matter! What we care about is delay. Delay! Why, look here! To-day’s the Sixth of October! Every peak in the Green Mountains has snow on it! It’s cold! It’s nearly winter; and the British aren’t started yet! Before you know it, there’ll be snow on the New York shore, and then it will be winter! They can’t carry on a winter campaign! They’d be beaten by snow and cold, and they know it! A little more delay and we’ve got ’em! They can’t get through! We’re safe for nearly a year! Delay! Delay! That’s all we want. Every day we delay ’em now is worth a month’s delay earlier in the season!”

He shot up from his bench and struck both fists on the table, a living bundle of determination and energy. “What’s more,” he cried, in a voice that sent ripples up my spine, “What’s more, there’s no price too high to pay for it! No price!”

Tom Bickford hung on his words, shivering. Cap Huff, breathing hard, hitched at his belt, then rubbed his red face with huge hands. Nason, fists clenched before him, stared into space. Arnold, I saw, could have whatever help they could give him in purchasing delay.

Arnold saw it, too. He slapped Cap Huff on the shoulder, a friendly slap, and smiled at the rest of us. “I’ve got to row around the fleet,” he said. “Keep after ’em: that’s the only way! Keep after things! Maybe you noticed: there’s only one thing wrong with this anchorage.”

“It looks all right to me,” I said.

“Trees!” Arnold complained. “Those trees behind us! When the trouble comes, those trees might put us in a box! If you climb one of ’em, as I did, you’ll find you can look right down on the deck of this vessel. That won’t do! We can’t have that!”

I saw, then, why hemlocks had been fastened to the bulwarks of the fleet.

“Of course,” Arnold said, “the British might not know enough to do it, but that’s something you can’t depend on. They’ve got Carleton, and Carleton’s no ordinary Britisher. He’s more of a Canadian, and he’s smart. When they find us, Carleton might take it into his head to land a few scouts on Valcour; and before we knew it, they’d be up the trees picking us off! You’ve seen the evergreen decorations of the others; do likewise. Cut spruce and hemlock and fasten ’em, butts up, around your ship, outside the bulwarks, so they make a palisade for you about six feet high. Then they’ll not only give you shelter from musket-fire, but the branches ought to be mighty discouraging to anybody who tries to board us!”

He smiled at us, a reckless grin; and before we could do him the courtesy of rising, he had run up the companion ladder, as spry as a cat. While we still stared at the hatchway, his dark face reappeared, framed in it.

“Be quick!” he said. “Burgoyne hasn’t sent formal cards of his intentions, but he doesn’t have to! All he’s waiting for now is the first north wind! That may start to blow to-night.”

Not until after he had gone did we realise that although he had talked freely and easily with us as though he held no higher rank than ours, and was just our hearty comrade, he hadn’t told us the one thing we all wished most to know. He hadn’t told us how much chance we would have to be still alive after the British fleet came down upon us from the north.


The wind was in the north the very next morning, but it was a weak wind, changeable and soft: not glittering and knife-edged from northern snows. Our bulwarks were high with the butts of hemlocks, their branches trimmed off on the inner side. There was a smell of greenery over everything, an innocent smell that put us in mind of home and Christmas, and not at all of war.

Arnold had us knock together a plank table on the quarterdeck; and there he sat, writing letters, issuing orders and watching every vessel in the fleet—especially the Revenge, which was doing guard duty, running down the channel, and then beating up around the outside of the island, all her men on deck, and gun crews at their stations with lighted matches.

Whenever the Revenge came down, sheering in to report, Arnold had a fierce air of waiting that put me in mind of an eagle.

Those pale eyes of his were sharper than an eagle’s. He had the Trumbull moved, for fear the Royal Savage would swing against her. He sent Tom Bickford to report a chafed backstay on the Lee. He watched them exercising the guns on the Washington and sent word to the first lieutenant that the guns were laid too high. He saw a boatload of potatoes rowing out from the New York shore, and nothing would do but he must know the price and examine all of them, to be sure we were getting proper value.

He was as busy as a hen who has hatched out a brood of ducks, but calmer. With all his peering about and giving of orders, the words flowed regularly from his pen, and I think they flowed smoothly.

He called to me, and when I came up, he shook the sand from a letter and handed it over. It was to General Schuyler, complaining bitterly of the manner in which the fleet was treated.

“The Atlantic States,” his letter ran, “expect this fleet to protect them from the British, and evidently they think we can do it by shouting ‘Boh!’ and making faces. Where in God’s name is the powder we should have? Where are the blankets? My men are sleeping on bare decks and the nights are bitter. Where are the woollen stockings and breeches? My men are bare-legged and barefooted. I could make warmer clothes for them out of a lace curtain! If they want us to fight, why don’t they send us what we need to fight with? . . . Is it possible my countrymen can be callous to their wrongs, or hesitate one moment between slavery or death? . . . I have received your letter about Major Brown’s charges against me, presented by Colonel Easton. I am at a loss to know where these tales originated. You know the falsity of them, and so do the Commissioners of Congress, but I will take it as a favour if you will continue to deny them at every opportunity.”

Arnold tapped the page. “It’s the last I want you to look at. Did you hear any of these slanders in Skenesboro? Did you hear I robbed the citizens of Montreal of their belongings?”

“Yes, sir,” I admitted. “Those stories were going around as long ago as July.”

Arnold stared at me. “July! They’ve been calling me a thief since July!”

“Not that, exactly,” I said. “You hear things said, but nobody believes them—nobody with sense.”

Arnold’s silence made me uncomfortable. To escape the look in his pale eyes, I turned to stare out over the taffrail. I thought I recognised Nathaniel’s slender figure on the after-deck of the Royal Savage, and though I knew there were other purveyors of the slanders besides Marie de Sabrevois, I had an impulse to tell Arnold my suspicions concerning that lady. Then I realised he could do nothing about it, even if my suspicions were justified; whereas if they were unjustified, I might do untold harm to Nathaniel and Ellen Phipps.

“I suppose,” Arnold said, “you never had occasion to suspect the source of these rumours.”

“Well, sir, I heard Brown and Easton mentioned, just as in your letter.”

Arnold flapped his hand contemptuously. “No, no! I mean where Brown got his crazy notions. Somebody supplied him with them. He never thought ’em up himself! He’s dull—a thick-witted ass! I know him! He went to Yale when I was in New Haven. Twenty-seven years old, he was, when he graduated from college—a noisy oaf, all muscle and no brain! A great man in college, because he could kick a football over the college buildings; but he can’t think for himself, and never could! Very indignant, he was, at those who threw overboard the tea in Boston Harbour! He called it contrary to law and order, and a great waste of tea. It wasn’t till he heard other people talk that he decided it was a patriotic act. No, Brown never thought up those charges! My God, man! Listen to them!”

He snatched a paper from beneath a stone on his table. “Wants me arrested for—hm—‘following crimes’—hm, hm—‘subjecting him to serve in an inferior rank’—inferior rank! The muddle-headed blunderer!—hm, hm—here: ‘for permitting smallpox to spread before Quebec’—he must think I’m God, able to stop smallpox from spreading whenever I feel like it! ‘For plundering the inhabitants of Montreal to the eternal disgrace of the Continental Army’—hm: hm: yes: ‘for giving unjustifiable, cruel and bloody orders, directing the inhabitants of whole villages to be put to death by fire and sword, without distinction to friend or foe, age or sex.’ ”

He snorted. “I suppose he means the time I ordered De Haas to run the Indians out of Canasadauga for being a party to the murder of four prisoners at the Cedars: that’s what he means, the jackass!

“Let’s see—hm, hm—‘for great misconduct during his command from the camp at Cambridge until he was superseded by General Montgomery at Pointe aux Trembles, near Quebec!’ God knows what that means! Maybe somebody told him I was misconducting myself when I got my feet wet and had the indescribable carelessness to let myself get shot in the leg!

“Those things don’t sound like Brown to me! Somebody’s been filling Brown with lies, up to the muzzle. They sound more like the gentleman in Quebec who made us think Natanis was a spy, so we’d shoot him instead of using him for a guide. We damned near did it, too!”

“Who was that?” I asked.

Arnold slapped his papers together on the desk and half rose to peer towards the upper end of Valcour—looking, evidently, for the Revenge. “Oh, it’s not he! He’s dead! Clever, he was, too; but he miscalculated Nason’s powers. Guerlac, his name was. Didn’t Nason ever tell you about Guerlac?”

I shook my head.

“No,” Arnold said, “I suppose not. I suppose he wouldn’t. There was a woman in it—one he wouldn’t want to talk about. Well, it couldn’t be Guerlac, because Nason killed him. That’s who it sounds like, though. I’d give a good deal to find out what’s behind all this!”

He gnawed at his thumb, his gaze seeming to pass through me and focus on something miles beyond. “These charges sound like the ravings of an idiot: they’re so preposterous I can’t dignify them by taking public notice of them—nor can Gates or Schuyler; and the devil of it is, they’re dangerous! There’s always somebody to believe anything about a man—anything! If these reports ever reach Congress, there’ll be plenty to believe ’em! Plenty! And God knows what they’d do! They might put that old gray mare Wynkoop back in command of this fleet, or they might let a Frenchman have it—a Frenchman who wouldn’t have time to fight because of the necessity he’d be under of telling everybody what a fighter he was!”

“They’d never do that!” I protested.

He looked at me pityingly. “Wouldn’t they? You can’t tell what they’d do! There’s times when they care no more for the welfare of this country than Albany Tories do! Haven’t they just made St. Clair a general, for God’s sake? And for what? For what? Damned if I know, unless it was because he voted to abandon Crown Point, or because his name sounded French to ’em! The way to get quick promotion in this army is to go to France and take a French name; then Congress would make you a major-general.”

I laughed, thinking of the Chevalier Mathieu Alexis Roche-Fermoy, who considered himself superior to General Washington.

“It’s no laughing matter,” Arnold said. “They don’t care who they promote, so long as he’s no good!”

I told him I was laughing because of Dr. Price’s book, which contended that people who have a parliament that subjects itself to any kind of foreign influence aren’t free at all.

“Price on Civil Liberty?” Arnold asked eagerly. “Have you got that book? I’ve heard of it, and I’d like to look at it. That’s the book that’s responsible for the signing of the Declaration of Independence!”

When I produced my copy for him, he read a few words in it: then slapped it with the flat of his hand. “Of course! Of course! He’s absolutely right! This government of ours isn’t a government at all!”

He stuffed it inside his sash and rose to his feet to sniff the wind. “South!” he exclaimed. “No British with a south wind! We’ll exercise the galleys—once around the island! The prize’ll be a keg of rum! I’ll pay for it out of my own pocket! We’ll show Waterbury a thing or two!” He laughed and rubbed his hands together, balanced on his toes as if bursting with energy. “I’ll sail this hooker, and we’ll drink the rum ourselves!”

. . . The next day was the eighth, and the wind was in the south again, as Arnold had predicted; and there it stayed on the ninth and the tenth—a gusty, moist wind out of a heavy sky, moaning through the top-hamper and sighing in our hemlock bulwarks, ominous and unpleasant.

On the night of the tenth the breeze fell. Arnold, stretched on our mess-table, was wakeful and read Price’s book by the light of two candles. I was wakeful, too, so that I knew that we were in for a change of weather. The raw smell of snow was in the air, and it was no surprise when the wind swung into the north-east just before dawn. It was a cold wind that made our legs ache, even though we had a blanket apiece, unlike the men who slept on deck with no covering at all except a topsail stretched over them.

When we went on deck, on the morning of the eleventh, the mountains on the New York shore loomed white against a pale blue sky. Down the channel between Valcour and the mainland rushed an endless procession of white-caps, all of them a little soiled looking, as is the way of white-caps on fresh water.

Arnold had been the first to wake, and his calls for Zelph had aroused the rest of us. Breakfast was what he wanted, and he wanted it in a hurry. “None of your humming-bird breakfasts, either,” he warned Zelph. “I’ve got to have something to stick to my ribs! This feels like a busy day!”

“Lansakes alive, Gennle,” Zelph said, “there ain’t nothin’ aboard this here vessel, only a pail of coffee an a nice slab o’ salt poke an that ship braid I cooked on shore yesdy. What you say, Gennle; coffee an poke?”

“Look here,” Cap Huff said. “Wasn’t it you that was playing around with a twenty-pound salmon last night—a salmon that looked to me about the size of a shark?”

Zelph’s face was sullen. “Cap’n Huff, that was me, yessir: only salmon ain’t for breakfast. That salmon, he’s for supper.”

“No he isn’t!” Arnold said. “He’s for breakfast. Make a quick chowder: pork scraps, ship bread and potatoes. We’ll eat him now while we’ve got a chance.”

Zelph snorted. “Chance! Chance! That’s all we got, chance! Lay around and lay around, not doing nothin’: that’s all we do, Gennle!”

Arnold nodded. “You make that chowder! Before you know it you’ll have so much to do you won’t even have time to say ‘fish,’ let alone cook one!”

The General was right. We had no more than got Zelph’s chowder inside us than we heard a tumultuous shouting from the vessels on both sides. The men were perched on the guns and in the ratlines, peering into the north. What they peered at was the Revenge, and from the manner in which she was tearing down to us, like a little old lady with her skirts hoisted up to let her run faster, we knew she had news.

Arnold took one look at her, then turned to Nason. “Run up a white pennant, and while you’re doing it, pass the word: both sides! All captains aboard the Congress for a Council of War!”

Nason ran to the taffrail, but such was the hullabaloo aboard the Washington galley that his shout went unnoticed. It was Cap Huff, with his ability to outbawl the Bull of Bashan, who let out a roar that caused every face aboard the Washington to turn in our direction.

“Hey there!” he bellowed. “Wake up! Tell Cap’n Thatcher and General Waterbury they’re wanted for a Council of War!” His voice, echoing from the cliffs of Valcour, frightened a fish-hawk from a towering pine and sent it screaming into the north. “Send the word along!” he added, “and don’t be afraid to holler!”

Arnold groaned. “That’s no way to speak to officers!” He quoted Cap in protest. “ ‘Holler’! ‘Wake up’! ‘Hey there’!”

“General,” Cap said, “I can’t keep those military words in my head; but I’ll get those captains over here if it’s the last thing I do!”

The Revenge was abreast of us, almost. She let off a two-pounder with a thump that made my heart skip a beat, came about in the gun’s white smoke, dropped her jib and bobbed modestly midway between the two points of our crescent of warcraft.

The Captain shouted at us through a birch bark trumpet: “They’ve come around Cumberland Head! The first one was a ship—a full-rigged ship!”

The listening crews on the other vessels broke into a ragged roar, a wolfish howl that rang against the amphitheatre of cliffs behind us.

Arnold, balanced between two of the swivels of our taffrail, kicked one of the toy cannons and hissed sharply. “And you, you damned fool,” he growled under his breath, “you had to fire a gun! Why didn’t you put a match to your magazine, so they’d be sure to see you?”

“A full-rigged ship!” the captain of the Revenge repeated, “and two schooners, maybe sixteen guns each!”

“Did they see you?” Arnold shouted.

“I guess not! They didn’t haul their wind!”

“Is that all you saw?” Arnold asked. “Three vessels?”

“That’s all I waited to see. One was a full-rigged ship!”

Arnold made a funnel of his hands. “Get away to the southern tip of the island. Anchor behind the island. Understand? Anchor where you can watch ’em. If they keep on going, let ’em go! Understand?”

“I’ll let ’em go,” the Captain said.

“But if they come about and start for you,” Arnold shouted, “fire a gun and make sail. Understand? Fire a gun and get back here with no loss of time. Understand? When you’re seen, fire a gun, and beat back up the channel. Take your place in the line of battle. Understand? The moment you see one of the enemy come about, fire a gun and get away!”

The voice of Captain Seaman came faintly to us against the wind—“Fire a gun—beat back——”

Arnold hopped down from the taffrail, rubbed his hands together and grinned at us. His lips were drawn away from his clenched teeth, and his pale eyes seemed almost colourless, which gave him a dangerous look. “Now, then!” he said. “Wet the blankets and double-shot the guns! We’ll show these British there’s somebody in the world besides themselves!”


The Revenge went about slowly and slipped to the southward. I watched the captains coming over the side—General Waterbury, second to Arnold in command, gray and sober-looking, his left shoulder thrust forward, crab-like: Colonel Wigglesworth, the third in command: a sedate, stocky man with quick blue eyes that belied his sedateness and a nose so prominent and hooked that he had the look of an amused hawk. I knew him for a sea captain of ability, as a sea captain had to be in order to sail one of Nathaniel Tracy’s ships.

When David Hawley stepped over the bulwarks, feeling meditatively of the back of his neck, he took me by the elbow to say that Nathaniel spent half his time writing. “Is he writing a book?” he asked.

Sleepy-looking Thatcher of the Washington galley climbed over the side with Captain Warner of the Trumbull. Red-headed Captain Davis of the Lee galley winked at me solemnly. The others I knew by sight only: Captain Dickenson of the Enterprise sloop; and the gundelo captains—Grant of the Connecticut, wearing a coat of bearskin; little Ulmer of the Spitfire; Simonds of the Providence, pale and shivering with an attack of intermittent fever; Read of the New York, whose clothes, I suspected, were in worse shape than mine, since they were concealed beneath a linen overall; Rice of the Philadelphia and Grimes of the New Jersey, captains who had commanded galleys in Pennsylvania’s river defence, a year before, and so were close friends and were deferred to by the other gundelo captains; Sumner of the Boston, a Bostonian with a thoughtful look frequently encountered in Bostonians, even when least thoughtful—good men, all of them, so far as I knew, even though the salt water experience of some may never have carried them any great distance beyond lobster soundings.

I thought to myself that with a full-rigged ship manœuvring against us, our seafaring knowledge would be of less account than our ability to keep our heads above water.

Our own vessel, as well as the entire half-moon battle line, was in a turmoil of preparation. Men shouted and cursed with excitement, running among the guns; casting them loose; setting tubes and fuses and rammers and water buckets in place; falling over the water buckets and each other.

Cap Huff’s scarecrow marines were herded amidships, drawing the charges from their muskets and reloading. Cap himself lay full length on the deck, his head down the main hatch, watching the screening of the powder-magazine with wet blankets; bawling directions in a voice that set the whole belly of the galley to booming.

I followed my fellow-captains down the companion ladder. It was dim in the cabin, in spite of the light-waves that shimmered on the ceiling, reflected past the muzzles of the guns that protruded through the stern ports. The thudding footsteps of barefooted men on the deck above gave me a jumpy feel. I seemed to stand within a drum that rumbled a hurried call to arms.

“Come, come, gentlemen!” Arnold said. “Find seats if you can!” He sat at the end of the mess-table, gripping it in his brawny hands as though to pick it up and bang it on the floor out of pure exuberance. There was no doubting his cheerfulness. In the dim light from the cabin deadlights, his white teeth and his pale eyes shone against the darkness of his face.

We found seats between the gun carriages, or on them, or astride the guns themselves, as poverty-stricken a lot of sea captains in appearance as could be found aboard the smallest sardine fisherman.

“Now then,” Arnold said, “you heard the word from the Revenge: a full-rigged ship and two sixteen-gun schooners passed Cumberland Head. By now they’re abreast of us on the far side of the island. The rest of the fleet’s with ’em—no question of that! It’s what I expected, gentlemen: what I figured on! They haven’t observed proper precautions! They’ve overrated themselves! They haven’t kept proper watch, and so they’re going by. Now, gentlemen: what’s best to be done?”

There was some clearing of throats.

“Quick!” Arnold said. “They’re going by!”

Colonel Wigglesworth spoke up, which was proper, he being a young man, if not the youngest; and the youngest is entitled to speak first in a Council of War. “What’s your opinion, General?”

“You’ll have my opinion fast enough! What’s yours?”

Wigglesworth coughed. “Pretty hard to beat this anchorage. We could fight ’em right here.”

“If we do,” General Waterbury protested, “we’ll never get away if we’re outgunned! They’ve got a full-rigged ship, so I guess there’s no doubt they’re superior. A running fight, I say! On the lake we’ll have a chance to haul out if were sinking. Why, we’re cornered, here.”

“You want to fight ’em on a retreat?” Arnold asked.

Waterbury coughed. “Isn’t it better to save some ships than not save any?”

The captains clamoured among themselves. Their words were lost in the clattering and thudding on the deck above.

Arnold stood up and thumped on the table with his fist. The captains were silent. Arnold smiled at them, a smile that had assurance and determination in it. “All right! That’s what some of you think; and here’s what I think! The object of this fleet isn’t to save itself! The chief thing is to keep the British from getting through to Ticonderoga and the Hudson on this campaign—to save the lake from them for this year. What happens to us doesn’t matter, as long as we keep them where they are! If luck’s against us, which I trust under God it won’t be, then we can talk of retreat, but not till then! That’s my opinion!

“Let’s suppose, gentlemen, we abandon this anchorage and fight the British on a retreat. What have we got to do it with? You know as well as I do! We have vessels of varying speeds and sizes and batteries, manned by landsmen no more capable at laying guns than at laying eggs! If the British are superior in ships and guns and men, as General Waterbury thinks, any attempt to engage them openly on the lake can result only in disaster. They’ll catch us separately and pound us to pieces! We’ll never have a chance of winning or escaping either! We wouldn’t delay ’em half an hour!

“On the other hand, gentlemen, suppose we remain at this anchorage. The British go past us. The wind’s in the north. We’ve got the weather gauge! We can jump out at ’em, those that are fastest, chop up the slow ones and get back here to the anchorage!”

He banged both fists on the table. In his voice was a rough harshness that stirred the hair above my collar, as though ants walked on it.

“Then let ’em come, by God! Let ’em beat up into this strait! Let ’em stick their heads into this crescent! They’ll never board us! They can’t do it! They’ve got to stay out in front of us: swap shot for shot with us! If our men could only shoot—by God, if they’d sent us the tenth part of what we needed—if those damned mercenary rats on the seaboard hadn’t put all their sailors and all their dirty damned money into privateers, so there was nothing left for the defence of their country—we could fight off twice our strength in ships and guns! Yes, and we can do it now! Now! Now!”

His voice rose until the air of the cabin seemed to shiver. He clenched his fist and shook it in our faces. “At this anchorage we can meet ’em with concerted fire! I don’t care how strong they are! I don’t care how many officers and seamen and gunners they’ve got from their fine fleet in the St. Lawrence! None of their strength and none of their skill can help ’em beat up to us in an orderly manner! They’ll have to come up piecemeal—every whichway! We can fight ’em all day; and with any luck we can beat ’em off! If we can’t, we’ll find a way of delaying ’em again—delaying ’em and delaying ’em, till we’ve saved the lake!”

He dropped his head. His eyes were round and fierce. “I say fight ’em here and fight ’em now! What have you to say to that?”

Being New Englanders and sea captains, they had little to say. Most of them coughed dryly, waiting for others to do the talking. Colonel Wigglesworth slowly turned his sharp blue eyes and his hooked nose from captain to captain, like a watchful hawk. Then, to Arnold, he said: “It appears we’re all willing, General.”

Waterbury rose from his bench and jerked his cap hard down over his ears. “That’s settled! We’ll fight ’em here!”

Arnold popped over to the companionway and stood there, one foot on the ladder. “There’s just one more thing! This is the time for the British to discover us, because of the wind. We might unstep our masts and hide here till to-morrow; but to-morrow the wind might blow from the south’ard. Then they’d have the weather gauge. We’ve got it now, and I propose to keep it! When the ship and the schooners are a mile or two to the south’ard, they’ll see the Revenge and bear up toward her. Then, gentlemen, I believe a few of us will have to sail out and see what we can do. Unless we do so, it may occur to the British to beat back to the northward and come down on us from the northern end of the channel. We don’t want that: so we’ll let ’em see us pop out and pop back again. Then, unless I’m greatly mistaken, they’ll never think there’s any way of getting at us except to follow us in. There’s four that can go out fast and come back handily: the Congress, the Trumbull, the Washington and the Royal Savage. If there’s no objection, we’ll do it.”

Colonel Wigglesworth laughed dryly. “Objections! Good grief, General! There ain’t time to think of any!”

He was nearer right than he knew. The words had scarcely left his lips when there was a distant thump; a penetrating thud that stirred the air in our crowded cabin. The British had sighted the Revenge and come about in chase of her.

We scrambled for places on the companion ladder. Arnold’s voice above us added to our haste. “Hoist away! Foresail and mainsail! Haul aft the sheets! Haul aft the sheets! Clap on there and haul! Clap on and haul!”


Half-way down the channel we passed the Revenge, beating back to the shelter of our battle crescent. Those on her quarterdeck bawled at us as we tore past. Their shouts were muted to a confused cackling by the wailing of the north-east wind.

We went down in an echelon, our own vessel in the lead, hugging the Valcour shore; the Washington a little behind us, nearer the centre of the channel; then the Trumbull and the Royal Savage, each farther to the rear and nearer the New York side.

Because of the branches above their bulwarks, they had a shaggy look: a look of wildness.

Arnold rubbed his hands together as he glanced back at them. “Good!” he said. “They look good! Look as if they could stand a power of pounding!” He whirled to stand on tiptoe and peer, with upraised chin, at the point of the island. So far as I could tell, he was no more stirred at what might lie before us than by the prospect of a pleasant dinner.

With me it was different, I am free to say. No gun had ever been fired at me with serious intent, and the prospect of having God knows how many fired at me before the day was over left me with a liquefied feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I was ill at ease, too, at the thought of Nathaniel being in the Royal Savage instead of aboard our own vessel. I wanted him where I could watch him; perhaps steady him if anything went wrong. To tell the truth, I felt that if I had him to watch, I might be steadier myself.

I did my best to imitate Arnold’s calmness, and gave a few orders in a rough voice calculated to conceal the quivers within me. This soothed me, and I was able to look around more carelessly. I saw I might have spared myself the trouble of trying to seem brave. Every one except Arnold was displaying such supernatural calm that it verged on complete idiocy, and must of necessity have been assumed.

We had little opportunity to brood over our feelings. We had come far enough down the channel to open out the great sweep of lake to the south, when the men at the bow guns set up a sudden sharp shout. In the same moment we all saw what they had seen—far away, to the south-eastward, a full-rigged ship—a sloop-of-war—working back toward us on the larboard tack.

It was a sight we had expected to see, though nothing like it had ever before been seen on the waters of Lake Champlain. We were unprepared, however, for the spectacle that then opened before us.

As we drew abreast of the sheltering shoulder of Valcour we saw two schooners, big ones, pointing toward us as if racing. No sooner had we sighted them than they yawed a little, and let off bow guns. Where the shot went, I never knew; for in that moment we passed entirely beyond the southern tip of the island, and the whole broad expanse of the lake lay before us, swarming with craft of every size and shape, as a marsh pool swarms with waterfowl when the moon is full in October.

In a long line to the eastward, their shining sails half blending with the snowy whiteness of the distant mountain wall, a throng of gunboats were converging on us. Small gundelos, they seemed to be, each with only one cannon in its bow; but the guns loomed up in that clear air, as big, almost, as the boats themselves, so we knew they were long guns.

Towering up above these smaller fry, like a goose among teal, was a floating fortress, low in the water but high of sail, and bristling with heavy guns. There was another large vessel: a sort of gundelo, but larger than any gundelo had a right to be. We counted seven guns on her: great guns—more than twice as many as our gundelos could carry.

Behind this swarm of vessels moved a phalanx of bateaux and canoes. They moved southward slowly, waiting: biding their time. The canoes, even at that distance, looked monstrous. They had high bulging bows and sterns, and the paddlers were thick in them, like teeth in a jawbone. Verrieul, hanging to the ratlines, shouted that they were Canots du maîre—Master canoes. We knew what that meant. It meant Indians: hundreds of them.

“Well, well!” Arnold said. “So that’s what they were up to!” He glanced over his shoulder, to see where the other galleys were: then stepped up on the bulwarks to have a clearer look at the armada of gunboats bearing down on us.

We seemed to be the hub of a rim of vessels; a rim that was inexorably contracting, intent on our destruction.

The gun crews, at their stations, were restless, nor did I blame them; for the north wind that howled in our tophamper must have pierced their rags like needles; and that rim of gunboats, whose sails rose fang-like against the eastern shore, had nothing calming about it.

They shuffled and shivered, these shoeless, red-nosed gun crews. Their eyes and heads turned perpetually to watch us and turned back again to stare at the onrushing Britishers.

Arnold made tapping motions in the air with his forefinger. I heard him counting—“twelve, thirteen, sixteen, twenty, twenty-three, twenty-four——”

“Twenty-four gunboats, I make it,” he said to me, “and maybe fifty bateaux with troops. Light infantry, probably. See what you get.” He took the tiller from me.

Nason came aft. “Sir,” he said, “the bow gun’s double shotted.”

Arnold nodded. “Try it once,” he said. “Then take two gun crews aft to the cabin guns. We’ll haul our wind and get the eighteen-pounders into play as we go back to the anchorage.” He pinched his lower lip between his thumb and forefinger, adding, “They’ve got a few more than I figured on—a few more. Too many to run risks with.”

I peered over the fringe of hemlocks that screened our taffrail and tried to count. Out of the tail of my eye I saw one of the distant schooners yaw again. As if panting in her eagerness to be at us, she puffed out a cloud of white smoke. The shot struck off our starboard bow, a quarter-mile away. It seemed to me too close. I lost count, but contrived somehow to arrive at a fair estimate. “Twenty-two, I make it,” I said.

The bow gun let off with a crash that almost brought us to a stop.

Arnold spoke to Tom Bickford, who ran forward, shouting orders. We hauled our wind and crossed the bows of the Washington galley. She went off a little: then rounded into our wake. The Trumbull and the Royal Savage did the same, as pretty as a picture. In five minutes’ time the four of us were running back into the channel in the face of the sharp north-east wind, close hauled on the starboard tack.

“Now then,” Arnold said, “we’ll have a try at those schooners.”

We went into the cabin and set the cabin tiller in place. The schooners showed up bright through the cabin ports, like a sailor’s half-model in a frame. Arnold rubbed his hands together. His grin was as confident as it was cheerful. The gun crews, ranged around the two long eighteens, stared at him open-mouthed, as though they watched a figure in a play.

It was like a figure in a play that he looked, too, with his hat cocked a little on one side, and his handsome blue coat, half-open over a long waistcoat of yellow fur and breeches of buff deerskin. He was always neat, Arnold was; and being a rich man, with money to indulge his whims, he was always uniformed as a soldier should be—and as few soldiers were, in our poor army. He was one of those persons who seemed neat in whatever he wore, and he took pride in his appearance.

“If you’re going to lead troops,” he told me once, “you ought to try to look like a leader.” I could see, now, what he meant. In the fascinated stare of the two gun crews there was something more than admiration for their confident, smiling commander; and in my own mind was the thought that he would bring us safe through the battle that impended, even though the odds were against us.

That they were against us, no one could doubt after seeing the long line of gun ports along the side of that full-rigged ship, which had now gone off on the larboard tack as if to display her strength to us. She seemed as far off, still, as when we had first sighted her, nor am I ashamed to admit that I was thankful for it.

Arnold tinkered with the quoin beneath the breech of the larboard eighteen-pounder: threw his weight on the gun to raise the muzzle: wrenched, grunting, at the carriage. “Off a little: off a little!” he said.

I altered our course the merest whisker.

Arnold nodded to the gun captain, who slapped his linstock against the breech. The cabin flooring jerked: the galley lurched: the gun roared. A cloud of white smoke went rolling and tumbling astern. Arnold ran to the other stern gun: squeezed himself half through the port to peer aft: leaped back inboard to struggle with the quoin.

We heard a gun slam from the Washington: two thudded together from the Trumbull and the Royal Savage.

Arnold peered out through the port. “Missed!” he said. He stooped to squint and squint: threw up his hand. The linstock slapped, and our heads rang from the resulting crash.

He turned the guns over to Steven Nason and motioned me on deck.

A seaman in the main top hung over the edge to bawl “Splinters under the schooner’s larboard cat-head!”

Arnold said “Ha!” and rubbed his hands together.

The gun crews cackled and shouted. A voice far forward—the voice of Cap Huff, I would have sworn—shouted “Rum!” Another voice took it up, and another, until the whole forepart of the vessel was clamouring for rum.

The galley stood up to the cold north wind as well as any vessel could, slashing through the heavy chop with a cheery chuckling. Far behind us the British schooner let off another gun. We saw the shot land harmlessly between the Royal Savage and the Trumbull. War, I thought, was not so bad, after all. The Royal Savage seemed a little slow, but she was better built than our rough galleys; and I was glad that Nathaniel could see a battle under such favourable circumstances. It could not help, I felt, but give him a greater sense of loyalty to those for whom he fought.

We were in the channel by now, close over to the New York shore. When we came about on the starboard tack, we could see the American fleet clearly, anchored across the mouth of the bay, less than a mile from us and looking, because of their green-fringed bulwarks, like a part of the shore.

The wind seemed to jump from north to north-east: to eddy, almost, around us. Our mainsail slapped hard against the mast twice, and the galley swayed. Arnold came beside me and felt the tiller. The men continued to shout for rum.

“I don’t like the feel of that wind,” I told Arnold. “It bounces off the cliffs. If I were you, I’d get the canvas off her when we’re in mid-channel, and row the rest of the way.”

“Do so!” Arnold said. He stepped to the break in the deck and spoke to the men in a rasping, penetrating, high-pitched voice, the words sounding as if he bit them off short. “We’re taking in sail. Then we’re rowing to our anchorage. All you’ve got to do, to get that rum, is get those sails brailed up in a hurry and clap on to your sweeps!”

Under bare poles the galley moved steadily over the last half-mile. The schooners that pursued us, working out into the lake on the larboard tack, were hidden from us. So, too, was the sloop-of-war. Except for the black smears around the mouths of the spongers and rammers, where they had rubbed their noses with powder-stained hands, and the salty powder-smoke that clung in our throats, we might have been coming up the channel after a pleasant sail.

The Washington and the Trumbull, following our example, had furled their sails and crawled along behind us. The Royal Savage, having no oars, had taken in her square topsails, and continued to make short tacks under her fore-and-aft sails. I knew Hawley must have felt the same insecurity about the wind that I had felt.

I had an absurd longing to get back into the crescent-shaped line of vessels stretched across the mouth of the bay—a crescent with a hole in the centre, where our anchorage waited for us. It seemed a sort of shelter from the unknown.

As we crawled slowly into place in the curving line of gundelos and schooners, their crews eyed us with silent concentration. They were at their stations, and from my own feelings I suspected they were rigid from waiting and from the piercing wind.

I envied them, standing there idle while we settled ourselves. The turmoil on our decks was deafening. To present our broadside to the vessels in pursuit of us, we must, before anchoring, get a spring on our cable by making fast a line to the anchor, running it through a stern port so to haul ourselves around at right angles to the wind after the anchor should be let go: also it was necessary to drop our boats over the side, out of the way of the enemy’s fire, and to move our heaviest guns to the gun ports that pointed down channel. All this movement, being performed by men who had never before sailed anything larger than a punt, required more running and shouting and giving of orders than can be imagined.

Yet Arnold seemed to find something pleasing in all the uproar. He stood at the break of the deck, speaking mildly to those who came near him, telling them to take it easy: to take it easy.

Above the hubbub I heard a confused shouting from the gundelos on the eastern side of the crescent. One of the tall black schooners that had pursued us had hove in sight at the far end of the channel. She let off three guns in quick succession at the Royal Savage, which seemed to be having trouble in beating back to the line of battle. She had a sluggish look, as though a current held her near the Valcour shore.

Arnold, watching her through our fringe of hemlock, shook his head and snorted. “Look at her!” he said. “Where in God’s name did Hawley learn to judge distances?”

“She’ll make it on the next tack,” I said.

“I hope so,” he said drily. “All my papers are aboard her: all my accounts. My clothes, too.” As an afterthought he added, “She’d better make it unless she wants an eighteen-pound ball in her behind.”

He turned to beckon to Cap Huff, who, now that the guns had been traversed, stood at the break in the deck, patiently waiting for permission to draw the promised rum. “One gill to each,” I heard Arnold say, “and mind you don’t help yourself too freely.”

The Royal Savage came up into the wind. I tried to see Nathaniel on the quarterdeck, but could distinguish no faces. The vessel made me nervous, hanging there. Her sails shivered. I heard myself shouting “Put your helm over! Over! Drop your anchor!”

“She missed stays,” Arnold said quietly. “She’s gone.”

“No,” I said, a little wildly, “she can’t be! My brother’s aboard!”

Her sails filled. She fell off and moved slowly to the eastward, close to the island. Then she stopped. Far away as we were, we could see her masts bend. She stood there, motionless: then canted over on her starboard side.

“She struck!” I said. “She’s ashore!”

“That’s right,” Arnold agreed. In a thoughtful voice he added, “This is a nice time to lose one of your best vessels.”

I muttered that it was the wind, and racked my brain for something I could do to help Nathaniel.

“Wind!” Arnold cried. “It was damned bad seamanship!”

Into our line of vision came one of the small British gunboats, her gun high up on her bows like a duck’s head. She bored up into the channel with the help of a lug sail and four long oars. Another slid out from behind the shoulder of the island, beyond the stranded Royal Savage: then three of them in a clump: then another and another.

A boat had put out from the stranded vessel. There was an anchor balanced across its bows. I knew what that meant. Hawley was sending an anchor out astern, in the hope of warping her off. Nathaniel, I was sure, would be in command of the boat.

The black schooner let off a gun. The shot landed close to the boat’s bows, sending a spout of water as high as the Royal Savage’s main truck.

The boat capsized and the anchor disappeared. We could see men swimming back to the Royal Savage.

Our marines, hunkered down in the shelter of the bulwarks, between the guns, scrambled cautiously to their feet to look. I could hear Cap Huff growling and muttering. Steven Nason worked on one of the long eighteens, slewing it so that it bore on the black schooner, and casting anxious glances at Arnold.

Arnold shook his head. “No hurry! You’ll have as many chances as you want before the day’s over: better ones than that!” Beyond the black schooner the southern end of the channel was choked with gunboats, each with its single big gun. There must have been twenty-five of them. Of the ship there was no sign, nor of the other schooner, nor of the strange boating fort we had seen.

Arnold limped up and down the quarterdeck, swinging his arms and grinning that confident grin of his.

“By George!” he said, his voice a high-pitched, triumphant chuckle, “I believe the sloop-of-war fell so far to leeward she can’t get in!” He halted, rubbing his hands together, peered out through the hemlock tips; then went to limping again.

The whole fleet lay in a frozen silence, as if struck with horror at the black schooner driving so implacably toward the Royal Savage. I knew the fleet was silent only because the captains waited for Arnold to commence firing. By now it was impossible to fire, since the schooner was in line with the Royal Savage; and even had she been in range, we could not fire without endangering our own men.

But the Royal Savage, canted though she was, could fire, and did. Spurts of smoke jetted from her tilted side. The thud of the guns came slowly to us. Because, perhaps, of knowing that her guns were small, most of them four-pounders, they seemed to me to have a feeble, hopeless sound.

There was something unreal and dreamlike about the scene. The tall black schooner came slowly into the wind, as if forced to do so by the guns of the Royal Savage. She fell off on the starboard tack—on a course that would take her across the front of our crescent. The mass of gunboats crawled up the channel toward the schooner, like gigantic vermin out of a nightmare.

There was not one of us but knew what now must happen: not one but waited, as one waits to see some wounded creature, climbing a tree, let go and fall: waited to see the black schooner reach a position from which she could rake the helpless Royal Savage.

Arnold watched her come about: then limped from the quarterdeck and ran forward to the bow gun: a twelve-pounder. He stooped and sighted along it: pulled a little at it: then came back to the next gun and did the same. He laid all the guns of the broadside; and to Nason, who stood by the sternmost gun, I heard him say, “When she crosses that line, let her have it. Then keep on till you’re told to stop.”

He had no more than spoken when the black schooner let go her broadside at the Royal Savage. Smoke, trailing out behind her, gave her the look of a ghost-ship. Hawley hadn’t taken in his sails, probably thinking they might help him get clear of the land. We saw holes open in them. Her rigging flew apart, here and there, and a staysail came down on the run; but one of her stern guns popped defiantly.

It sickened me to see her being chopped up. The very broadside whose smoke I saw might, I knew, be the end of Nathaniel.

Three of our guns let off together with a bellowing roar; and while still their blast pressed against us, all the guns of the crescent went into action. Confined, as we were, in a narrow strait, at the mouth of a cup-like bay whose shores rose up in cliffs and tall pines, the thunder of the guns was like a helmet of sound crushed down on head and ears.

A thick fog of white smoke rolled out from the crescent of the bay. It clung between the tumbling waves of the channel, whirling and eddying, driven onward less by wind, it seemed, than by the stupendous roaring of the guns—a roaring that shook the planks beneath our feet.

What the intention of the schooner might have been, I could not tell. She may have thought to rake us all: then go about till her consort and the sloop-of-war could come to her assistance. Certainly she was passing across our front with all sail set and no thought of stopping, when the treacherous wind turned against her.

She swerved, surprised-like, into the north—then into the north-east. As if a new crew had snatched her from the hands of those who sailed her, she came straight for the centre of our crescent. We shouted, all of us. Arnold jumped from the quarterdeck and became an almost indistinguishable part of the men who pushed and milled about the sternmost eighteen-pounder. I would have gone too but that Tom Bickford and Verrieul had gone with Steven Nason to help lay the guns, leaving the quarterdeck empty of all officers but myself. I did what I could to help the eight seamen working frantically at the four little swivels on our larboard taffrail. Amid the roaring of the cannon, the popping of those swivels sounded like the snapping of twigs during a thunderstorm.

I could see the schooner’s crew jumping about, both forward and aft, straining to bring her back on her course. On both sides of her, and dead ahead, the water boiled and spouted, hurled upward by the hail of shot, until she seemed to rest on the quick water of a rock-filled river. Our smoke, reaching her, caught in her upper sails and blew along her deck. A gash opened in her broad mainsail, as if slashed by a vast invisible knife; her canvas shuddered in the veering wind. To us, jarred by the tumult of the guns, the very noise of our cannonade seemed to be what shook her.

She could have held no straighter course for the middle of our line if she had been drawn by a cable. Voices, shrill and piping amid the uproar, rose in exultation from our main deck. The swivel gunners tore with their teeth at the ends of their cartridges. The sweat ran down their faces, smearing the powder grain around their mouths into black daubs. I found myself shaking and sweating with them, waiting for the black schooner to be shot to shreds and dissolve into nothingness before my eyes.

The gunboats, huddling in a covey, had come across the channel and opened all together on the Royal Savage. Their more distant bellowing joined with ours to make a diabolic din. I saw the Royal Savage’s fore-topsail lean: then crumple. The topmast and sail swung gently down to hang motionless against her ratlines.

Black dots fell to the water from the Royal Savage’s bowsprit. Her crew, or what was left of it, was abandoning her. I was conscious of a faint curiosity about Nathaniel—a curiosity almost lost in my overwhelming desire to see the end of the black schooner which still, miraculously, towered unharmed amid the shot-lashed waters.

Arnold ran up the companionway. His buckskin breeches were smeared from a sponge, and his right eye circled by a powder smudge. “What’s she doing? Anchoring?” he asked. “We can’t see for the smoke.”

We made out men at her cat-heads, and he had scarcely spoken when her anchor went over the side. It had a spring on it. A moment later her stern began to come in sight as the men clapped on to the spring and began to walk it in through the after port.

“Now we’ll get it,” Arnold said. He scratched his swarthy jaw and eyed the approaching gunboats. All of them, by now, had turned from the silent Royal Savage and were moving up, strange misshapen waterfowl, their long guns stretched forward like eager heads, bent on reaching their distressed mother, the black schooner.

“What about the crew of the Royal Savage?” I asked. “Their boat capsized. They had to go ashore.”

“Yes, send our boat,” he said. “Send Bickford. No, I need Bickford to lay guns. It looks to me as if we only had three men aboard able to lay a gun properly. You’d better send Verrieul. Tell him to take boats from the other galleys. Tell him to bring Hawley back here, and some of his men. Divide the others among the galleys.”

We watched the black schooner swing slowly broadside to us. His swarthy cheeks vibrated from the unceasing explosions of our cannon. “We’ll probably need a few extra men before we’re through!” he added ominously.

He turned to the companionway. “Keep your eye on the dead and wounded,” he added. “Get the dead overboard as fast as you can. The men don’t like ’em around.” As an afterthought he said, “Better take off their clothes before you put ’em over the side. We might have need for ’em.” He ran back to the guns again.

I found Verrieul prowling up and down behind Cap Huff’s marines while Cap, bawling his loudest, directed the activity of four sharpshooters, perched on the look-out steps of our stumpy masts. Ropes, encircling them and the masts, made it possible for them to use both hands in loading and firing.

Verrieul must have had a real affection for Cap Huff, for his thin brown face was grave when he shouted in Cap’s ear that he must be leaving. It was clearly in his mind that he might never see Cap alive again. That there was no such thought in Cap’s head about himself was shown by the way he eyed Verrieul solicitously and bellowed at him above the roar of the guns to be careful.

The noise from those guns was stupendous—an all-enveloping, shattering, unending detonation that made all objects dim, as if they vibrated with the concussions: that caused the deck, even, to crawl, so that we who walked on it walked unsteadily.

Verrieul picked out four seamen, and they ran aft to the boat, bent over. Above me I heard a penetrating thump, a thump that was louder, even, than the roaring of the guns. I looked up to see one of the sharpshooters sagging in the rope that held him. He jerked strangely: then fell straight down, striking the deck with the crunching sound of a sack of corn, and sprawled motionless, his limbs at odd angles, like a figure stuffed with sand. One of his arms was gone at the shoulder, and from the place where it had been came a spreading pool of blood that trembled with the trembling of the deck.

The blackness of his face, I saw, was not the black of powder. He had on patched mooseskin breeches. It was Zelph.

I stepped over the widening pool of blood, took him by the remaining arm and lifted him up. He opened his eyes, gasped for breath, and screamed. There was something unreal about the shrillness of the scream. It seemed impossible that it could have come from a person known to me. The Zelph I had known since boyhood was incapable of making such a sound.

He stopped streaming only to draw a shuddering, rasping breath and scream again. Cap ran to me and got him by the feet. I took the front of his tattered mooseskin jacket, and we dragged him aft.

We took him into the dark cabin and put him on the table. He gasped and screamed, and gasped and screamed, while Doc Means, a dim figure in that low-ceiled room, peeled back Zelph’s jacket to eye the ragged hole from which blood welled in dark jets.

“For God’s sake!” I said, “tie him up!”

Doc, wiping his fingers on a piece of sacking, peered at me from mournful eyes. “He’s gone. His chest’s caved in. There’s ribs in his lungs, and there ain’t nothing to be done. Seeing you’re a friend of his, maybe you’d like me to help him get it over with.”

“Get it over with?” I asked. “Get it over with?”

“Every time he breathes,” Doc said, “he’ll scream. He’ll scream till all the blood’s out of him. He’ll scream a long time, maybe. You better let me help him.”

“Help him? Let you help him?”

“Yes,” Doc said. “With opium. Or a knife. A knife’s quicker.”

We stared at him.

“It’s the best way to treat him,” Doc said kindly. “The best and kindest. You go on deck, both of you.”

Zelph screamed once more. The sound was horrible.

Keeping tight hold of me, Cap turned me toward the stairs and pushed me on deck, into the thundering tumult that surged, almost like invisible waves, over the rim of hemlock butts that ringed us. One of Cap’s marines, clutching his jawbone with a bloody hand, stumbled against us, moaning.

“Here!” Cap said. “What’s the matter?”

The marine removed his hand from his face to let us see a splinter protruding three inches from his cheek. Cap’s comment was contemptuous. “What are you going to the hospital for that for?”

“To have it took out,” the marine said angrily.

“There’s only one way you can have it took out,” Cap said, “and that’s this!” He seized the splinter and pulled.

The marine emitted a shrill bark.

“Here,” Cap said. “Here’s your splinter. Keep it to show the folks at home.” He slapped the marine roughly on the shoulder and pushed him toward the bow. “Go on,” he said. “Get to work, now! Remember you ain’t allowed but one wound when you fight on fresh water!”

He turned to look at me. “You all right?” he asked. We stared at each other, almost breathless. Behind us the cabin was silent as a tomb.


The black schooner, we learned, was the Carleton, one of those transported in pieces from the St. Lawrence and put together again in St. John’s. The ship-rigged sloop-of-war was the Inflexible, and the other schooner was the Maria, both of them brought to St. John’s in sections in the same way, and rebuilt there. At moments when there were rifts in the clouds of smoke that jetted from a hundred cannon, we could see, at the far end of the channel, the Inflexible and Maria riding at anchor like toy vessels, unable to beat up to us. We learned, too, that there were seamen of distinction aboard these vessels; but for all their reputation and experience, there was not one of them the equal of Arnold.

In everything he did, Arnold out-thought them and out-planned them, and it was not his fault that he did not, even with his inferior force, destroy them and get safe away. It was the fault of those Patriots on the sea-coast, so busy building privateers that they had failed to give him the carpenters and seamen and supplies for which he had never ceased to ask.

Arnold had said the British would not keep proper watch; would run past us; and so they did. He said they could not beat up to us in that narrow strait, and they could not. He said that if they knew enough to sail around the island and come down on us from the north, they would be more than likely to run upon the shallows to our north-west; but instead of sailing around the island, they lay anchored at the southern end of the channel, as if every brain had been squeezed from their heads. He said they would underrate us; and this, too, they did.

On the Maria were Commander Pringle and Sir Guy Carleton. On the Inflexible was the Lieutenant Schanck of whom Steven Nason had told us: the one who invented the centreboard. In the Carleton schooner was Lieutenant Dacres, destined to command some of England’s greatest ships, and Edward Pellew, who became Lord Exmouth, and destroyed Algiers and commanded all of England’s squadrons. Yet all these splendid seamen from the grand British navy and all the German artillerymen in the gunboats and all their twenty-four pounders, which were bigger than any gun we had, were not sufficient to silence Arnold, or to overwhelm this ragged rabble at whose head he fought—those sweepings of hell who had been worthless on land but had, in less than one short month, been pounded into usefulness by shipboard discipline.

How was it that Dacres and Pellew and every other man aboard the Carleton schooner escaped being torn to fragments by the incessant battering of our guns is more than I know. For an hour she lay there, broadside to us and within easy gunshot, a target for every gun in our crescent. We splintered her booms and shot away her running rigging: smashed her long-boat and broke her gun carriages: threw solid shot and grape shot against her until her black sides were scarred from stem to stern with yellow pock-marks.

Up and down behind our guns went Arnold, a demon of energy. His face was smeared with powder smudges; a strip of gilt lace hung from his hat, ripped loose by a passing grape shot; his shoulder was crusted with a smear of brown, the blood of a gunner shot through the throat as Arnold crouched beneath him to sight a gun.

His voice, shrill and harsh, had a biting, file-like quality that drove the gun crews as though he lashed them with a whip. “Double-shot!” he told them. “Double-shot! Give her another! We’ve got her now! Hurry it up! One more, boys! Double-shot! Don’t waste time! She can’t get away! Hurry, boys, hurry! Double-shot! Double-shot!”

Whenever one of the three sternmost guns was loaded, the gunner shouted, the crew fell back beside the gun and Arnold ran to the carriage, sighting and wrenching; giving the word to fire. As the linstock slammed down and the gun jerked backward, Arnold was off again: up and down, making jabbing motions with his fist: urging the gun crews on: urging them on.

There was something about his violent determination that was catching. It was like a sort of flame, searing all those exposed to it. No longer were my nerves and muscles rigid with the expectation of death: I burned with an eagerness to see our shots go home against the black schooner. So hot was this desire that it parched my lips and tongue: singed my cheeks until they seemed half charred.

I forgot, even, to watch the shore of the island for the boats that had gone to get Nathaniel and the rest of the crew of the Royal Savage; for the black schooner was in trouble. Half her guns had ceased to fire, and she was listing—not much, but listing none the less. Even the eighteen-pounders on our after-deck seemed to sense, from the shouts and caperings of their crews, that there was an advantage to be pressed. Their stupendous belchings became sharper and more hurried, or so I thought.

We could see what had happened. The Carleton’s spring had been shot away, and because of it, she was swinging head to wind once more; swinging bow on, into a position where she could bring no gun to bear on us, and where we, for the same reason, could rake her with every shot.

The gun crews sweated and panted. Arnold stood among them, smiling that confident smile of his—a smile that seemed to lengthen his dark face and make it glow, as if a golden light shone on it. He sped the gunners at their work with slaps and shovings.

The black schooner hung there, head on. “Sink her!” the men shouted. “Sink her!” They cursed the schooner, as if she had been a disobedient dog.

One of her jibs went up. It would not fill, but flapped and shivered in the north-east wind. An officer scrambled out on the bowsprit, seized the stay and kicked at the jib to make it draw. He threw himself against it, whipping at it with his body. The schooner hung there. Her head would not pay off.

Arnold shook his fist at the gun crews, spurring them on: then turned and came up the gangway to where I stood at the lee swivels. “Get me a bucket of water,” he said to one of the swivel gunners. To me he said in a strained, hoarse voice, “Let’s have some rum: rum all ’round. My God, I’m dry!”

I sent Tom Bickford for the rum, and thought to myself that Arnold was a caution. Except for his voice, he was as calm and seemingly unmoved as though he had not, in the past two hours, bawled a thousand directions and exhortations calculated to bring death to scores and victory to us. He looked at his shot-pierced hat, tore off the hanging piece of gold lace, winked at me, and dropped the hat to the deck while he pulled up his sleeves to rinse his blackened hands and face in the bucket of water the swivel gunner brought him.

He flapped his hands in the air to dry them and stood on tiptoe to peer over the hemlock butts at the black schooner. There was an oily glare to the water between the two fleets. Smoke layers undulated above it, and a pale sun threw a silvery glitter in our eyes. From the position of the sun, due south of us, I knew the day was half gone. It seemed to me incredible that this could be the case, since the battle had only just begun. It occurred to me, then, that the Revenge had warned us of the approach of the British fleet this very morning; and that warning now seemed something that had reached us long ago, in the dim past.

The thought of Nathaniel came back to me with a sudden shock. It seemed ages since I had seen those small black figures moving ashore from the stranded Royal Savage. I climbed on the rail to look shoreward, wondering what in God’s name could be keeping the boats that had gone for the castaways. I saw the splash of oars, then, close to the rocky banks, and made out the boats, moving toward us at last.

I turned to tell Arnold; but when I saw at what he stared, I stared too.

Against the glare of that southern sun the black schooner took on an added blackness. She hung head to wind, still, unable to make sail. Around her the water foamed from the skittering of grape shot, or spouted up in liquid flames at the impact of solid shot. On her bowsprit the small black figure had ceased to struggle with the jib, and was making its way to the tip of the jib-boom.

“There’s a brave man,” Arnold said. “He ought to go far if he lives five minutes more.”

The figure that stood so carelessly at the end of the jib-boom, with no apparent thought for the shot that howled around him, was, as we later learned, Pellew. Two gunboats moved slowly towards the schooner’s larboard bow; and Pellew, clinging to the preventer stay, leaned far outboard to heave a rope to one of them. The boat crew snatched at it and missed. Pellew drew it in, coiling it neatly, and threw it out once more. The boats turned and rowed off, dragging the Carleton’s head around at last.

Angry howlings rose from our main deck as the schooner crept from the line of battle, listed over like a man who leans heavily to ease his hurts.

Arnold shook his head. “No use; no use! We can’t sink her: not with these pop-guns. She’s got some dead aboard, though; and she’s out of the fight. That’s something. That’s something! Now we can tend to those gunboats.”

Tom Bickford brought the bucket of rum and water and set it at the break in the deck. The men crowded up to it, unhooking tin cups from their belts or drawing them from hidden corners of their garments. They were a strange and battered crew, in their tattered travesties of clothes. Splinters had gashed them, and the blood was caked brown on the untended scratches. Some wore dirty, blood-stained rags around their heads: around arms and legs. Their faces were smeared with black: streaked with sweat and with the tears that powder-smoke had brought.

Tom handed up a cupful. Arnold took it and gulped it down. One of the men, watching him, smacked his lips and exhaled ecstatically.

Arnold showed his teeth in a tight-lipped grin. “You fought well!” he said. His voice had a shrill hoarseness that somehow made me want to laugh aloud with pleased excitement. “You’ve done well! You’ve outfought a British fleet! There’s nobody that can say more! See you keep it up!” He drank his second drink.

One of the ragged seamen shouted, “You done well your own self, Ginral!”

Cap Huff herded a handful of his marines to the rear of the tattered group. “What was it he said?” he bawled. “Hey, General, tell these fellers of mine! They got to be encouraged!”

Arnold laughed. “They don’t need it! All they need is something to shoot at!”

The ragged group cackled and drank their rum. Their eyes glittered and were restless. They scrambled back to the guns, whose explosions, now that the Carleton had escaped, seemed laboured; more disgruntled.

I turned to look shoreward again. The boats which carried the Royal Savage’s crew had separated, one heading for the Washington galley: the other holding a course that would bring her under our counter. The boatmen were rowing raggedly. Their heads were turned, not towards us, but astern; towards the rocky, pine-clad shores from which they had come. They were all staring. Something, I knew, had threatened them.

I called to Tom Bickford to man the shoreward guns. Arnold came to stand beside me, scanning the dense growth of spruces that rose like massed spears above the brown rocks.

From half-way up a tall spruce a jet of smoke puffed out, turned a pale blue and vanished. Our shoreward bow gun let off with a bellowing cough. As if the gun had released a spring on shore, a dusky, reddish figure popped out from behind a tree. Near him appeared another: then two more. They seemed enormous; too large, almost for men, and the colour of animals: of sleek young bucks. They capered and made gestures, and suddenly were gone, like demons dissolving into thin air. We heard faint, wailing howls—howls vaguely like those of a lynx, squalling in the night from hunger or frustrated love.

Arnold spat over the side and laughed a silent laugh. “I was afraid those hellions wouldn’t show themselves,” he said, eyeing me slyly.

“Afraid?” I asked. “Afraid?”

“Listen!” he said. We listened, and again we heard those distant quavering howls: howls whose shrillness seemed to set insects crawling behind my ears.

He jerked his head towards the sound. “Nobody’ll ever leave this fight of his own free will, not while those gentleman are co-hooping and co-hopping around on shore!”

He was still in a good humour when Captain Hawley, followed by Nathaniel and a dozen members of the crew of the Royal Savage, clambered over the side and came aft to report. They were draggled and dirty, all of them, but none was wounded that I could see. Not wishing to make an exhibition of myself or embarrass Nathaniel, I said nothing to him: merely eyed him severely. He winked at me, looking mightily pleased with himself; and I was so happy at seeing him safe on board that I was obliged to conceal my feelings by coughing and going to the lee rail to watch the British gunboats, that had dropped back somewhat, and were hammering at us from a distance that seemed almost safe.

Arnold sent the men forward to report to Cap Huff: then turned to Hawley with a humourless grin. “Well,” Arnold said. “You weren’t much help to us.”

Hawley shook his head and said nothing. Being behind him, I could see his hands were locked together, and his thumbs digging and digging at his palms. I could tell he was in no happy frame of mind.

“Why didn’t you come about sooner?” Arnold demanded.

Hawley only nodded. I could see his throat muscles work.

Arnold’s pale eyes were wide and staring; his swarthy face was puffy, as if he were near exploding.

Nathaniel spoke up pleasantly. “We’d have gone ashore, even if we’d been anchored. I never saw anything to beat her crankiness.”

Arnold turned to him almost deferentially. “I suppose you didn’t, by any chance, save my papers?”

Nathaniel looked horrified. “Your papers! Were your papers aboard?”

“Every document that bore on this campaign,” Arnold said gently. “All my accounts: that’s all.”

Hawley cleared his throat and drew a long breath. “I—General—I didn’t know—these British——” He cleared his throat once more, carefully, stared at the sky and tried again. “They had me in Halifax, General. I was real anxious to fight ’em. Real anxious to fight.”

He stopped. I felt sorry for him. Arnold shook his head and turned away.

“We figured on taking her again,” Nathaniel broke in. “We figured on swimming out to her. We would have, too, only when we started back, we found those red skunks had cut us off—hundreds of ’em! The biggest men I ever saw!”

Hawley fumbled at the back of his neck. His eyes were fixed on his feet, and his voice was indistinct. “I’ll board her now if I can get enough boats. I’ll get your papers for you.”

Arnold jerked his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the Royal Savage. From her canted side slow jets of smoke puffed towards us: hung, billowing: then rolled up over her bulwarks and drifted south in ragged streamers.

“See that?” Arnold demanded. “They boarded her, and now they’re killing our men with our own guns!” He seemed to fly into a fury. “By God, if I have to abandon a vessel, I see to it that nobody else gets her!” He shook his fist at Hawley and Nathaniel. “Why didn’t you set her afire! Why didn’t you blow her up? What in God’s name was the use of making the British a present of a schooner and guns and powder and shot!”

He ran to the companionway. Steven Nason straightened up from the aftermost gun, his face a black mask except for his eyelids, which were still white. “Lay your guns on the Royal Savage,” Arnold shouted. “I want every gun in this fleet laid on that vessel! Send word along the line! They can’t have her! Blow hell out of her!”

All along the deck the men turned the guns. We payed out two fathoms of spring, to let them bear more easily.

In his eagerness to have the Royal Savage destroyed, Arnold seemed to have forgotten the existence of Hawley and Nathaniel.

On the side of the British line closest to Valcour, one of the British gunboats was in trouble. The men aboard her were scurrying like tortured ants. A puff of smoke rose from her stern, and two men fell overboard.

She surged in the water, almost like a porpoise rolling: a slow, distressed surge. A dark mass of smoke rose up from her, and riding on the smoke was a powder chest. The smoke glowed and burned at the base, and spread enormously, as if pressed flat by the chest on its crest. It enveloped the boat. The chest popped sideways into the air, turned end over end, and fell into the lake. With the crash of the explosion came a tumult of shouting from our own and the British boats.

The smoke rolled away from the gunboat, and we saw that not only had her magazine exploded, but she was ablaze in her amidship section. The other British boats moved towards her, and she towards them. One of her men, in the water, made clutching motions with his hands and vanished.

When I turned my eye shoreward for a moment, to watch for Indians, I saw that Hawley stood alone, feeling of his neck and staring up at the sky, as if the cannon that pounded on all sides of us were to be found somewhere in the heavens. I went to him, suspecting that he was, in a way, in greater distress than the British gunboat.

At the touch of my hand on his arm he drew away, walked past me and spoke to Nathaniel. “I got to take back the Royal Savage,” he said flatly. “If I can get the men, I’ll take her! Will you go to take her?”

Nathaniel looked from Hawley to me. “You’d better go,” I told him. “You’ll be safer in a small boat than you’d be right here.”

Hawley went to Arnold, who had his head through the hemlock screen on our taffrail, counting the shot holes in our hull. When he pulled his head back, he seemed to have forgotten he had ever spoken sharply to Hawley. “Mark the holes,” he said, tapping Hawley on the chest. “Get ’em marked right away, and in an hour you can take your men over the side and put on some patches.”

“Sir,” Hawley said, “lend me three bateaux and I’ll take the Savage. I’ll get my men off the other vessels and take her back.”

Arnold eyed the western hills dubiously. A wall of dirty gray cloud had pushed up above them, and the sun had gone down into that dark gray shroud. The colour of the lake had changed to that of the slates on which we wrote in school; and in the gathering gloom the puffs of smoke that jetted from our own guns and those of the British were shot with a pinkish orange glare. The spruces on the island no longer stood out clear and distinct, but were a black barrier behind us: a threatening, saw-toothed barrier.

“No,” Arnold said. “By the time you’ve rounded up your attackers, it’ll be dark, and I can’t have that! I want everybody where I can put my hands on ’em when it’s dark.”

Hawley clasped his hands behind him. I marvelled at the length of his arms. His stubby fingers, twisting together, seemed to reach nearly to his knees. “I wouldn’t choose to have the charge of—the charge of cowardice stand against me,” he said.

“Nobody’s accusing you of cowardice!” Arnold said quickly. “If it’ll make you feel any better, take two boats and half a dozen active men and try to get through her cabin windows just at dark.”


When darkness came at last, we had fought for five everlasting hours in the midst of a rumpus beneath whose impact the rocks and hemlocks of Valcour had seemed to stagger. The Royal Savage was in flames, set by the British when they saw Hawley’s and Nathaniel’s boats approaching. The British gunboats, battered and leaking, had pulled slowly away to the shelter of the ship and the schooners, which lay at the entrance of the channel, eyeing our shot-torn crescent as a cat, unwinking, eyes a fish-head on which its heart is set.

The ship, her view of us at last unobstructed by her own gunboats, fired five broadsides before the night shut down. The solid shot screamed above us, and one or two, near spent, clattered against a hull with the sound of a gigantic horse kicking a cavernous barn. Such, however, was her distance that we made no answer, but lay there wearily, licking the wounds we could see and hunting for the others whose existence we suspected.

Notwithstanding our plight, there was something almost cheery about the darkness and its myriad of small sounds, after the uproar of the day. Nine wounded men were stretched aft of the main hatch, with a staysail over them. Three had lost legs—one close to the thigh; and one was shot through the stomach, but he was out of his head and cheerful in the belief that he was building stone walls on his farm, which was a blessing. Doc Means swore that since none of them had taken anything more nourishing than rum and water since the night before, and probably would receive nothing but water and rum for some time, they would all recover. Seven dead men had been thrown into the water and were already as good as forgotten, and the blood and litter had been swabbed from the decks. A score of seamen were over the side in bateaux, nailing lead over shot-holes by the light of the column of fire that whirled upwards from the Royal Savage.

We had twelve shot-holes, they shouted up to us, some big enough to put your head through; and to get at two of them it was necessary to tilt the galley by traversing the guns. Cap Huff, superintending the cleaning of the fore part of the vessel while Nason worked a crew on the pumps, was red and noisy from rum. He kept his men in a good humour by telling them how he planned to go ashore as soon as he had time and catch an Indian and roast him for supper. Cap’s talk of Indians made our hunger easier to bear, especially since we could see the glimmer of fire far off among the trees of Valcour, and hear a steady yowling and howling drifting down on the gentle north-east wind. The sound was like the squalling of distant seagulls.

Arnold had called a council of war, and he waited for it in the cabin, scratching away at a letter by the light of a smoky lantern. The cabin had been swabbed down after Doc’s labours, but it reeked of blood and saltpetre—an odour that would, I thought, cling to it for many a day.

Arnold’s curly black hair was draggled, and his pale eyes sunken, but he was tilted forward on the edge of his bench, driving his quill across the paper as though freshly risen from a nap. There were times when he seemed to me to be made of steel and wire and teakwood, rather than of flesh and blood.

Even when a blinding flash of light left the outlines of the stern windows seared blue against my eyeballs, Arnold’s pen scratched on without a break. “There she goes!” he said. The flash was followed by the roar of the Royal Savage’s exploding magazine. It echoed from the cliffs to Valcour and from the New York shore, rolling from shore to island and back again in swelling waves of sound; and through all its booming and reverberating Arnold sat there, his swarthy jaw jutting forward, and scratched and scratched with his pen.

The captains who had that morning assembled in our small cabin had been a strange lot; but they were even stranger now, as they came straggling down the companion. Waterbury had hurt his back, so that he was humped over like and old, old man, supporting himself on the handle of a gun-swab. Burning powder had fallen on his coat, covering it with neat round spots, like the spots on the coat of a young fawn. Wigglesworth, hook-nosed and sedate, had washed the powder from his face, but done it over-hastily, so that his nostrils were black, still, as well as his ears and his neck, and the inner corners of his eyes, which gave him the staring look of a startled owl. Poor Hawley, his hands swathed in dirty bandages, due to his efforts to board the burning Royal Savage, sat silent against the bulkhead, stroking one bandage with the other.

Captain Dickenson of the Enterprise sloop came down the companionway holding the tail of his coat before him, to show us where an Indian’s bullet had struck a button at the small of his back and run half-way around him, leaving his coat tail hanging by a thread. Since the Enterprise had been on the right of our line, she had been close to shore, and those aboard her had seen more than they wished of the Indians.

“By Jody!” Dickenson said, wagging his coat tail at us, “they looked to be about eight feet tall, and they had black faces! If I hadn’t known they were Indians, I’d have said they’d been spewed up from the bottomless pit!”

Red-headed Captain Davis of the Lee galley had a bandage around his head: a bandage so caked with blood that his hair seemed pale beside it. Simonds, who had been white and shivering with ague when we last saw him, was burning with fever now, and perpetually clearing his throat and muttering to himself, so that I think he was a little out of his senses.

Captain Rice might have been drunk, so thick was his speech: his eyes were glassy; and only the repeated nudgings of his friend Grimes kept him awake. Evidently he had been badly shocked. Grimes was smeared with blood from neck to knee, doubtless from helping a wounded man. Little Ulmer of the Spitfire wore a bandage on his thigh, and Sumner of the Boston had been deafened by the close passage of a cannon ball, which had broken his ear-drums. Thatcher of the Washington, Warner of the Trumbull, Reed of the New York and Grant of the Connecticut were not to be seen.

Arnold’s voice, when he spoke, was impatient. “We’ll wait no longer,” he said. “I wanted to make public acknowledgment to all of you together, but under the circumstances the missing ones will understand how it is. Gentlemen, you fought well! I’m proud of what you’ve done this day. I hope your country’ll have the sense to be grateful!”

He wagged his head in approbation, staring at us out of round, pale eyes. An epidemic of throat-clearing broke out among the captains. They shuffled their feet and studied the rough boards on which they sat.

“Now, then,” Arnold said, “we’ve lost the Philadelphia. Captain Rice tells me she sank half an hour ago. And we’ve been so unfortunate as to lose the Royal Savage”—he glanced quickly at Hawley’s rigid face—“in spite of Captain Hawley’s effort to retake her. A brave effort, Captain Hawley: a brave effort against heavy odds.”

Hawley made a strangled noise in his throat and cast a pitiful glance at Wigglesworth, who sat beside him. Wigglesworth nodded soberly and said, “Good work.”

“From the appearance of things,” Arnold said, “they were a little more lavish in their attentions to General Waterbury and this vessel than to some of the others; but none of us were overlooked, I suspect.” He hesitated. “Captain Reed of the New York sends me word that all his officers were killed, and Captain Warner and Captain Grant have a few splinters in them, but the rest of us didn’t do so badly. Not so badly. General Waterbury, what’s your situation?”

Waterbury tried to straighten up. He groaned with the effort. “Bad! Captain Thatcher’s badly wounded and the sailing master, too. My first lieutenant and three others are killed. I’ve got a twelve-pounder through my mainmast and God knows how many through the hull. My sails are shot to pieces, so far as I can see.”

Arnold seemed to dispose of Waterbury’s troubles with a lift of his shoulder. “I’ll give you Captain Hawley. He’ll get sail on her if she’s got a rag to set.”

Hawley laughed abruptly. “I guess we can get some on her somehow.”

Arnold nodded. “Yes, that’s right! Get some on her, even if you have to use the men’s breeches for sails, because we’re going to move.”

Feet clattered on the companionway, and Tom Bickford’s face appeared. “Fog!” he said. “It’s drifted so thick we can’t see the Indian fires on the island.” He popped out of sight.

“There you are!” Arnold cried. “Just what we need! I take it there’s none of you anxious to stay where we are!” He opened his mouth in a wide and silent laugh.

General Waterbury’s lips had a sour look, as if he had been over-free with crab apples. “If we can go, we’d better,” he said. “I don’t believe there’s a vessel in the fleet with more than fifty rounds left. I don’t believe I could fight more than two hours more—if it was the kind of fighting we did to-day.”

Arnold chuckled. His eyes, in that dark cabin, seemed to absorb most of the light from our tin lantern. “Why,” he said, “everything’s turning out just as it should! We’ve got a northerly breeze still, and a fine fog to hide in, and there’s no moon till to-morrow. What’s more, none of us want to stay, and the British think they’ve got us bottled up!”

He laughed again, that silent, open-mouthed laugh: then lowered his head to stare at us from under heavy eyebrows.

“Yes,” he went on, “we’ve got to get away! We’ve got to do it! We’ve delayed ’em one day: we’ve got to delay ’em some more! Their army can’t move while we’re at large on the lake, and the way to stay at large is to get away—give ’em the slip! And we’ll do it! We’ll do it, because they’ll never expect us to do it!”

He banged his fist on the table. “By God, gentlemen, I’d like to see the faces of those British captains when they wake up to-morrow and find their noses stuck in an empty fox-hole!”

The captains chuckled and slapped themselves. In a few short sentences Arnold had banished all their doubts and filled them with confidence and eagerness to be gone.

He snatched up a piece of paper from the table. “Listen to this, now, and for God’s sake, make no mistakes. I want every captain to take the helm of his own vessel, and I want each one of you to put his best officer in the bow with a lantern screened in a canvas sack. We’ve got to go through that British fleet without a sound: understand? Without a single damned sound! If any of you runs ashore, the whole British fleet will be down on us like a swarm of hornets, and have half of us aground in ten minutes’ time. If any one shouts: if any one talks: if any one shows a light, it’s all the same! We’re gone! Our goose is cooked! Understand?”

They nodded. Wigglesworth laughed abruptly, looking more than ever like a ruffled hawk.

“All right, then,” Arnold said. “What you want to do, each of you, is to put six stout men on your starboard bow with six spare oars, so to fend you off if you should start to run ashore. Tell ’em to keep their mouths shut in case they have to do any fending, unless they want their gizzards blown out. Put your wounded under cover, where their groans can’t be heard, if they’re inclined to groan. Put ’em in the cabins, if you’ve got cabins. Put your look-out on your larboard bow with his screened lantern, to give you your steering directions. If he moves his lantern up and down, go straight ahead: if he circles it to larboard, steer to larboard: if to starboard, go to starboard. That’s easy enough, isn’t it?”

The captains agreed that it was.

“You’ll want one more lantern in your stern,” Arnold told them. “Screen it well, so it can only be seen from dead astern. Then all that’s necessary is for those with square sails to set ’em, along with your steering sails, run before the wind, and follow the lantern. Those with lateen rig need only the foresail. Understand?”

“Oars out or in?” Hawley asked.

“Be careful of your oars,” Arnold warned. “You’ll have to have ’em out, so to hold off in case you run up too close on the vessel in front of you; but don’t use ’em till you must. And whatever you do, plug shirts and breeches around the oars, so they won’t rattle if you need to use ’em.”

General Waterbury coughed dryly. “If they should discover us——”

“General,” Arnold said, “I know the British pretty well. They don’t think much of us. They’re a tired lot to-night—tired and battered; and when Englishmen are tired and battered, they like to have a cup of tea or a quart of rum and go to sleep. Since they don’t think much of us, that’s just what they’re going to do, General. They’re going to sleep. I think we’ll go through them without the least trouble: without any trouble at all.” He stared around at us: then he, too, coughed. “If they should discover us, I know you’ll make it as expensive a discovery as possible.”

He moved close to the lantern to read from the paper in his hand. “Here’s your sailing order. It’s the same order in which you now lie, barring the Trumbull, the Washington and this vessel. Colonel Wigglesworth in the Trumbull will pass across your front at seven o’clock. When he reaches the west shore, he’ll turn due south, and the rest of you will follow. You’re to keep as close to shore as possible. There’s six fathoms of water ten yards off shore. I sounded it myself. With this north-east breeze there’ll be waves on the rocks, and you can gauge your distance from them.” He read the order in which the gundelos and the schooners were to follow: then read it again, more slowly. “All clear?” he asked.

The captains coughed and muttered that everything was clear.

“The Washington and the Congress will bring up your rear,” Arnold said. “You can depend on General Waterbury and me to do all we can for you in case—in case——” His mind seemed to leap to another subject. He said brusquely, “Now if there’s any uncertainty, or any doubt about anything, this is the time to speak.”

The cabin was silent, save for a faint creaking from the rudder case and the slow thumping of the pumps.

Waterbury, doubtless mindful of his lame back, moved gingerly towards the companion. Arnold jumped to help him, as spry as though weariness and he were strangers.

He laughed and winked at us, urging his crippled second in command on deck. “A pleasant trip, gentlemen,” he said. “I trust we’ll meet soon at Crown Point.”


The lantern under the Washington’s stern was a trembling yellow glow through the fog that drifted with us, pressing against our eyes and faces like clammy fingers, beading our eyelashes with drops through which the gleam of the lantern doubled and trebled and melted back to a single point again. It was a fog that bit through our scanty clothes and laid its wet breath against our skins until, with that and the suspense, we shivered and shook. On our right we could feel the loom of the shore weighing down upon us, and hear the waves climbing among the rocks, clicking and clacking with the sound of bayonets rattling against barrels of muskets: clucking like ramrods dropped against charges of buckshot. We were close enough to feel the impalpable pressure of protruding headlands. Their pressure swelled and diminished as the shore-line approached or fell away.

Nathaniel, lying close beside me in the bow, held the lantern, shrouded in a cone of canvas. I was tempted to throw it overboard because of the stench of burning whale oil and hot tin that rose from it, so that we moved in a reek of our own making that must, I felt sure, advertise our passing to all the British on the lake.

Except for the smell, we were the veriest ghost of a crew on a phantom vessel. Above us was the faint slapping of the cordage against the mast, and a little flutter, now and again, from the rips left in our single big foresail by the passage of enemy shot—a flutter as elusive as the sound of a swallow’s wings. We seemed to stand motionless in a thick wet world—a black, muffled world that surged for ever past us, lapping at our bows; coldly laughing at our painful straining after the single smudge of yellow light that hovered out of reach.

I seemed, indeed, to be a ghost myself, lying there in the bows: a wraith without substance, incapable of further exertion: nothing but a brain without human habitation, and that brain a dull one, thinking small and hopeless thoughts—the thought that our efforts were futile and unreal: the thought that Ellen Phipps was lost to me now, for ever: the thought that Nathaniel’s affairs would distress me no longer, since we were taking leave of the British and this northern country: the thought of how the river flowed past the shipyard in Arundel in the dusk of summer nights, dimpled with the quick movements of rising minnows. Our efforts were like the marks of minnows in the water, I thought: gone as soon as made, and of as little value.

Even the stealthy sounds around me might have been made by disembodied spirits, murmuring in apprehensive sibilants of the bourne to which a silent ferryman was bearing them.

I could hear Verrieul’s muted murmur, a breath; no more: Cap Huff’s hoarser note, like the rough scrape of leather on a lichened rock, warning him to be still. Whisperings ran along the deck and suddenly ceased, just as successive waves of flutterings and of calm sweep through a birch thicket on an August night.

There were hurried footsteps in the leaves on shore: an abrupt stillness: then a scurry that brought my heart into my throat and set the blood to pounding in my wrists, putting an end to my thoughts of wraiths.

“Deer!” Verrieul whispered.

Cap cursed softly; and as if in answer a shriek rose from the darkness at our right, quavered in a crescendo of agony, and fell away into a hiccuppy snoring with which a screech owl rounds out his scream of protest against existence.

We were familiar, all of us, with these sounds of the forest; but in my own case—and the same, I am sure, was true of all the others—they seemed to be the whoops of Indians, the heavy tread of British infantry, the rattle of ambushed guns waiting to blow us to fragments.

I hissed for a messenger. Nason pressed in between Nathaniel and me.

“Tell Arnold I figure we’re close to the British line,” I said. “I’m going to dowse this light.”

Nason crawled away. Nathaniel unhooked the door of the lantern. The light gleamed on his thin brown face; then vanished. Drops of water spattered down from our top hamper. The fog hung slack: then puffed into our faces in a way I misliked. It foretold a changing wind. The galley dipped twice and the foremast creaked.

Off to our left there was a hollow thump, followed by a splashing. Somebody had dropped a bucket over a vessel’s side. The trembling yellow glow ahead of us vanished. The Washington, too, had heard the splash. We were alone, then, floating in space: suspended in the unknown.

The breeze was faint—so faint that our big lateen sail slatted against the mast. We had way on us; but we had little more. I tried the water with an oar. A bare mile an hour we might be making, I thought.

We lay and shivered in the fog. Cap set up an interminable whispered discussion with Verrieul about French-Canadian cookery. It was his belief that there was no taste to French-Canadian dishes save of garlic, and that if the taste of garlic should be removed, everything would have the flavour of straw, not only the soups, but the meats and vegetables as well. They whispered and whispered about food until I, not having had any for a matter of thirty hours, would have exchanged my breeches for one of the soups that Cap discussed in such contemptuous detail.

Among the gun crews—at their stations but stretched on the deck for greater silence—men fell asleep and snored, great ripping, gargling snores, until their mates kicked them, or shut off their breaths, at which they choked and groaned and muttered, and instantly fell asleep again.

It may have been ten o’clock—though it seemed to me I had lain on my belly for a year—when Tom Bickford crawled up to say that Arnold wanted me. Tom took my place in the bow and I made my way aft, over the bodies of the men who lay like logs along the narrow deck.

Arnold had a compass in a bucket, with a lighted candle, and over the whole a funnel of canvas lashed to a stick. In the canvas he had cut a flap so that he could see into the bucket and get his bearings. He was crouched down, peering at the compass, when I came to him. His face, in the dim light that shone from the peep-hole, had a look of pleased anticipation, though I could find nothing pleasurable in our situation. The truth was that Arnold took pleasure in anything that was dangerous, and seemed for ever hopeful that something more dangerous would soon appear.

“What do you think?” he asked.

I told him I thought the wind was changing; that if he didn’t get his pumps working, we would soon be down by the head and making no progress whatever, except towards the bottom of the lake.

“Yes,” he said, “this is all a lot of nonsense. There isn’t a Britisher in sight, and there hasn’t been. We’re safely through them.”

He gave me the tiller and walked forward. “Get those sweeps in the water,” I heard him say in a high, repressed voice. “We’re safe away, but there’s to be no shouting or talking. There’ll be rum all round.”

The oars caught hold. The galley lurched a little from the water in her. In half an hour the pumps were thumping again. Behind us, where the British slept, there was silence, heavy and profound.

We kindled our lanterns once more, and in a short time made out the lights of the Washington, dead ahead. We rowed along beside her. The banging of her pumps sounded like coopers pounding heads on barrels. On her far side wallowed three gundelos in bad condition. Hawley left the wheel to speak to us. When the Washington passed the British, he said, she was a whisker’s width from sinking. He was not sure, even now, he said, that she could stay afloat till dawn.

We, too, shared his doubts when the wind shifted into the south and blew hard against us, kicking up a dirty chop against which we made little progress, if indeed we made any at all.

We clung together, five mangled wrecks, pumping and rowing, rowing and pumping through the endless hours.

When the gray morning broke, the Washington looked to us like the corpse of a vessel. Seen through the fog, she was the gray of a corpse. Her two triangular sails were in rags. Shreds of cloth, remnants of her muffling of the night before, hung draggled from her oar ports. Holes yawned in her sides, where planks had been splintered by British shot. The hemlock fringe above her bulwarks was smashed, as if a moose had gambolled in it. She laboured wearily against the head wind and the abrupt fresh-water waves, rolling from side to side, gravid with the water that filled her.

Inshore, when the light grew stronger, we dimly saw, as through a veil, the rounded hump of Schuyler’s Island. We were both glad and sorry to see it—glad because it offered a convenient anchorage: sorry because it showed us that in our ten hours of ceaseless labour we had rowed our sinking craft a mere eight miles.

When Cap Huff learned how far we had come, he roared a stricken roar, swearing we had rowed twice around the lake, to say nothing of pumping out enough water from our one galley to float all of Britain’s mighty navy.

. . . There was still a fog when we came to anchor at the northern end of Schuyler’s Island, sheltered from that damnable south wind; and we prayed to God the fog would hold until the wind changed—until we could patch our mangled craft—until, in short, we could somehow earn for ourselves another chance for life.

Until the fog lifted, we knew, we were safe; for the British, waiting hopefully to pounce on us at Valcour, now that the wind favoured them, would never dream that we were gone.

There were five of us in that little bay—the Congress and the Washington, and three battered gundelos, the Providence, the Jersey and the New York; and there was so much to be done to make each vessel seaworthy that a shipyard, fully equipped, would have needed a week for the task.

Arnold, stripped to his breeches and his vest of yellow fur, was all over the five vessels like a squirrel, almost before they had time to swing head to wind. He rowed around the Washington in a boat, thumping her shot-torn planking with his fist. We saw him scramble through one of her stern-ports: then, as if by magic, he appeared at the masthead of the Providence; and somehow, in another moment, he was hanging, head-down, from the taffrail of the Jersey. In ten minutes’ time he was back on the quarterdeck of the Congress with a full knowledge of what needed to be done, and how to do it.

In those days, even, there were some who hated Arnold for no reason that anybody could see, just as many hated General Washington, and just as there have always been and always will be people who take pride in hating the best and kindest of men with a hatred that stops short of nothing. But even those few who hated him—Nathaniel among them—could never deny that his was the genius of a true commander-in-chief. We had a chance to see many leaders before the war was over, but never a one of us saw another leader like Arnold. When a crisis arose—when something had to be done on the instant: something bound to have a serious effect on subsequent events—most of the others, by comparison with Arnold, were no good. In one way or another, paralysis struck them. Either they couldn’t make up their minds; or they were assailed by doubts; or in seeing a part of the picture, they were blind to other parts. But Arnold saw everything. He made up his mind in an instant; and he did everything without doubting or flinching.

Not daring to trust the work to any one else, I had taken Nathaniel to fish the mainmast where it had been pierced by the British shot; and before we had finished cutting our plank, Arnold had called all the others around him on the quarterdeck—Nason and Tom Bickford and Verrieul and Cap Huff and Doc Means. He rapped out his orders as if he had been through this same situation a dozen times before: two men to the masthead with the telescope to watch for British: two men ashore from each vessel to boil all our remaining potatoes so that we might have something to put in our stomachs: a measure of rum and water all round—mix it two and one. . . . All the time he talked, he worked at his field-desk, opening it up and propping it against the carriage of a stern gun, sharpening his quills with a silver penknife, prying up the cover of his inkwell, setting out a pad of paper: driving his words at us with stabbing movements of his pen. . . . The New York and the Providence were beyond repair: lay ’em alongside the galleys: take from ’em the canvas necessary to repair our sails, the planks needed to plug our shot-holes: sway up the guns from the gundelos and mount ’em at our spare ports; transfer powder and shot; send off the gundelo captains in boats to take a message to Crown Point, asking for bateaux and men to tow us the next day, in case the wind held southerly; scuttle the gundelos so the British wouldn’t get ’em; carry a letter to General Gates——

Men worked at every sail, fumbling at them like clumsy slow caterpillars. Ragged scarecrows sawed at the pumps, thumping and banging at the water that seemed bound to overwhelm us. Seamen silently spliced and knotted rigging, contemplative spectres in the fog above us.

Men howled and swore in the gundelos; boards came loose from broken bulwarks with the screech of reluctant nails; hammers slammed a hurried tattoo against the hulls; and Arnold sat at his desk, darting careless stares at this and that, but jumping to his feet at intervals to send that shrill, hoarse voice of his like a whiplash among the workers; then returning to his eternal writing.

There were wisps of blue sky overhead by eight o’clock, and the wind was stronger from the south, whirling the thinning fog in streamers around the rocky point of Schuyler’s Island. Then, in a moment, the fog was gone, and to the east of us the white walls of the Green Mountains were like a distant cloud against the pallid blue a south wind brings.

Arnold cocked an eye at the men at the mast-head. They were anxious, we could plainly see. One took the telescope from the other, wiped it well against the rags of his jacket, and stared and stared into the north. Arnold went back to his letter.

“Sail!” cried one of those at the mast-head. My heart sank. It was not yet nine o’clock, and the British had only eight miles to come.

Arnold laughed. “By God!” he exclaimed, “I’d give a hundred dollars, hard money, to see Carleton’s face right now. If I could hear him as well, I’d make it a thousand!”

He wagged his head and chuckled. “Two blunders in one day—passing us to leeward in the morning, and not keeping a proper watch at night! That’s something to be proud of!”

He called up to the look-out, “What are they doing?”

“Ship and two schooners beating to the eastward on the starboard tack,” the look-out said.

Arnold fixed me with a speculative eye. “It seemed to me,” he said, “that there was something more than blundering to the failure of that other schooner to get in and attack us. I don’t know who commanded her, but if I’d been his superior officer, I’d have had him courtmartialled for his day’s work!”

He went back to his letter, read it, added a few words with a neat flourish, and folded it carefully. From the looks of him, there was no British fleet within a thousand miles.

He called the captains of the gundelos, gave them his letters, and told them to tell Wigglesworth to hurry on to Crown Point with all possible speed.

He sent them off in their boats—Simonds of the Providence, his face death-like because of his intermittent fever, which would set him to shivering again on the morrow: Grimes, his clothes still smeared with bloodstains: Reed, neat in his overall.

He watched them step their little leg-of-mutton sails in their long boats and go bobbing off into the teeth of the south wind: then hustled from end to end of the Congress, urging the men on: urging them on, and lending a hand where there was need of it.

That was another good thing about Arnold: in spite of his pride in his dress and his personal appearance, he would work like the commonest labourer, but twice as fast and twice as hard as any labourer was able to work, in order to achieve an end on which he had set his mind.

He stopped quick enough when the look-out bawled that the British had put back towards Valcour.

“Back!” he shouted angrily. “You mean come about on the other tack!”

The look-out with the telescope removed his eye from it and stared down reproachfully. “They went back,” he persisted. “They all went back!”

Arnold scrambled up the mast and snatched the telescope from the look-out. When he gave it back, he dropped to the deck, as light as a cat. “He was right,” he told me, examining the plank we had fitted to the mast. “Every Britisher’s on his way back to the anchorage! Every last one of ’em turned around and went back!”

He opened his mouth and laughed his soundless laugh. “I’ll bet you a dollar,” he said, “that Carleton was so mad he went off and forgot something! I’ll bet you anything he had to go back to tend to it!”

That, we later learned, was the fact. Carleton had been in such a rage over our escape that he forgot to leave orders for the troops and Indians that had been landed on Valcour; and, lacking definite knowledge of our whereabouts—for our bare poles were invisible against the panes of Schuyler’s Island—he had returned to rectify his blunder.

Arnold rubbed his hands together, casting an eager, confident glance aloft, along the deck, over the side. He was in a high humour. “Now,” he said, “we can eat our potatoes in peace; and if God will only send us a north wind in place of this damned draught out of the south, we’ll play hide-and-seek with those gentlemen until they’re frozen stiff!”

Three potatoes apiece we had, without salt, and two gills of rum and water to wash them down. In spite of being black-spotted and half-cooked, those potatoes seemed to me the daintiest and sweetest fare I had ever eaten. They melted to a delicious paste on my tongue, and vanished almost like a mist. Even the skins were sweet, and disappeared as quickly. I could have eaten a hundred, I thought, and then slept for a week.

Sleep, alas, was scarcer than potatoes. By noon our sails were mended, our mast was fished, our broken sides were patched. We scuttled the Providence and the New York; then laid the Congress against the Washington, so to help her in her tribulations. That sorry vessel put me in mind of an ancient, paintless farm wagon that has been tied together with rope; its spokes and axles nailed and wired: that seems, to the unknowing eye, ready to fall to pieces at a touch; yet able to screak and wobble onwards for months if not for years.

By half-past one we had done a month’s work on her, and we tumbled back aboard the Congress with Arnold shouting to us to get up the anchor and put all hands on the sweeps. Like two Algerine pirates we stole around the headland of Schuyler’s Island and wallowed southward once more, into the teeth of a dirty brown sea that slopped over our blunt bows, flooding the decks with water.

Behind us the Providence and the New York lay fifty fathoms deep, where the British could never get them; but the Jersey was canted on a rock on which she had settled from the weight of water in her, and when we had tried to burn her, she would no more burn than a water-logged shoe would burn. Five vessels we had so far lost; so that somewhere ahead of us, struggling against that cruel wind and the thirty-four mile stretch of angry water that lay between us and Crown Point, were the nine remaining vessels of our little fleet; and not one man aboard the nine was more certain of seeing the light of another day than were we.

. . . No galley convicts, chained to their oars and lashed by French slave-drivers until the skin curled from the bones, could have tugged and sweated as our men tugged and sweated through the afternoon of that 12th of October, and the long night that followed. Hail squalls stung us, striking like bullets through our ragged clothes; filling our decks a score of times with marbles of ice on which we fell like clowns. The endless thumping of the pumps beat at our ears until we drowsed at our labours, and only half-waked to cover our eyes from the stabbing of the hail.

Sometimes we rowed, and sometimes we tacked and rowed together, striving to gain against the wind that puffed us backward, and seemed, in its puffing, to roar with heartless laughter at our dry-throated efforts. Whether we rowed or whether we tacked, we might have been anchored, almost, for all the progress we made.

All through that endless night the men toiled on and on. Packed in between the guns, they swayed at the oars in a slow and staggering dance. They might have been animals, milling in a panting, clattering drove upon our hail-swept deck—a half-seen herd that had a skunk-like reek, what with its weariness and hunger, its foulness and its sweat: a herd from which strange noises came: howls and coughs and groans and high-pitched laughs: prolonged and senseless mutterings.

The voices of the officers were as strange and meaningless as the men’s—from lack of sleep, it may be. Cap Huff puffed like a giant porpoise as he shoved at an oar here and an oar there. Steven Nason and Tom Bickford and Verrieul and Nathaniel went up and down between the rowers waking those who slept on their feet, shaking them, promising rum to them, saying anything to keep them going.

As for Arnold, he limped and slipped from end to end of the quarterdeck, coughing a little, and whispering to himself, watching the sails and watching the rowers, peering behind him and peering ahead; taking the tiller from me and giving it back; sniffing the wind; making sounds of exasperation in his throat, or of amusement, or of expostulation, as if prying into every nook and corner of his brain with indefatigable persistence, hunting and hunting for a way to bring us out of the hole we were in.

We didn’t know it then; but on what we were doing, with the help of Arnold’s grim determination, depended the life of the Revolution, and the very existence of what we know as freedom. If Arnold had failed us, or if we had failed him, I think that no American who reads these lines would be in the position of life in which he finds himself to-day.

. . . With the coming of the dim dawn of Sunday the 13th of October, the wind went down; and as it died away in fitful, lessening gusts, hope rose in all of us—even in the dullest of the landsmen who tugged at the oars; for not a one of them but knew that if the wind would turn into the north, we might yet be safe.

We moved in a dirty fog, alone, so far as we could tell; but the men took heart, laughing the silly laughter of fatigue. They cursed the British and their fleet, as if they cared nothing for such trifles. I knew how they felt: they had come through a battle that could have been no worse: nothing had hurt them, and so they could not be hurt. That, I am willing to admit now, is how I felt myself when the wind died down; but I felt different when it came up again.

All these Champlain fogs vanish as soon as the chill of early morning passes from the air; and as this one lifted, we strained our eyes and twisted our heads like owls. We saw the battered Washington, half a mile behind; and what was worse, ahead of us we saw four gundelos, four tattered hulks, that had fallen back from Wigglesworth’s squadron. Unable, with their flat bottoms, to keep up with Wigglesworth’s more seaworthy vessels, they had slipped so far behind that they were now our charges. For one ungenerous moment they seemed to me like poor relations who appear from nowhere at the most inopportune of moments, confidently demanding support, and determined to let themselves be saved, no matter what the cost to some one else.

The thinning fog revealed the western shore, bleak and gray. The leaves were stripped from the birches and the maples: the mountains beyond were sombre with pines that broke the whiteness of the snow. Arnold uttered a grunting laugh when he saw it, and my heart plunged downward into a stomach already leaden from hunger.

We were abreast of Willsborough. In sixteen hours of rowing we had come six miles, and we were still twenty-eight miles from Crown Point.


Instead of turning, the wind came up from the south again. It rolled back the remnants of the fog-bank: rolled it back and thinned it to nothing. To the north the lake was flat and blue, and on it we saw the British, white against the dark pines of Grand Isle like a row of snowy icebergs. Their very snowiness was heartbreaking; for it showed us that all their sails were full and drawing: that they were running free, while we laboured against a fresh south breeze. Where they were, the wind was in the north, bringing them straight down on us with never a stroke of work.

Before the fog lifted, we had, I thought, almost escaped. Now I saw we were as badly off as we had ever been. It was then that the realisation came to me of the inanities of dramas and romances in which misfortunes quickly pass: in which troubles vanish like a morning mist, to leave life smiling and golden, free of care and pain: in which a sickness, once cured, is replaced by everlasting health.

Things are not like that, I saw, in life and war. In life, too often, we struggle, shattered, from disaster, only to plunge headlong into fresh disasters. This is especially true in war, when the sick recover, only to be once more stricken: when soldiers fight until they can fight no more, and then must go on fighting: when men exhaust themselves with superhuman labours and then must go on working as if weariness were unknown.

It seemed to me that if any men deserved to escape, we did—that if any men had ever earned peace and victory and a happy end, we had earned it; but war and life, alas, take no account of what men earn.

We were a silent lot as we stood there, staring at those distant snowy sails; and by our very silence we revealed our knowledge that, except for a miracle, here was the end of all our labours. I dared not even wonder what that end might be.

It was Arnold who broke the silence. “They’ve got a breeze,” he said, “so sooner or later we’ve got to get it, too. You don’t want to forget that! Cast loose the guns in the cabin.”

He went down among the rowers, who had stopped rowing to crane over the bulwarks for a look at the British. “Now then!” he called, limping up and down between their haggard, tattered ranks, “now then, we’ll have the last of our rum and then we’ll get at it again! It means hard work, but not for long! Only till the wind comes up with us!”

There was something indomitable about him, always. He wouldn’t be beaten: he couldn’t be beaten. He couldn’t even think of being beaten; and those who saw or heard him in a trying hour caught from him a sort of reckless hardness that burned red hot as danger came closer.

Those at the oars took on an air of careless merriment when Arnold had spoken to them. Their faces were still powder-caked from the cartridges they had ripped open with their teeth at Valcour, and from the greasy black powder-wetness with which guns and muskets and swivels had been smeared. Their chins and cheeks bristled with beard: their necks and arms, emaciated from their labours and their lack of food, protruded awkwardly from stinking rags. Their hands were bloody and broken from gurry sores and blisters. Their feet and legs, washed clean by the water we had shipped the night before, were battered from stumblings and collisions in the battle.

Yet these scarecrows, in spite of what they had been through, and in spite of the threatening specks advancing so inexorably from the north, spoke ironically to their mates, complimenting them on their beauty; touching on their feebleness as oarsmen; casting slurs on their places of residence—an unfailing source of mirth among New Englanders. Why it should provoke merriment to state that a person dwells in Skowhegan or Worcester or Boston or Philadelphia, I have never understood. Yet these poor men found their bucolic humour side-splitting; so that the guns were cast loose amid cackles of dry laughter.

I have heard it said, many a time, that God took a hand in our defeat of England: that Providence fought for us because our cause was just. That may, of course, be so; but God and Providence too, whatever Providence may be, seemed far away from us on that sunny Sunday morning; for neither they nor any other agency seemed to realise that our wind was adverse, and that the British were drawing closer and closer on the wings of their fine north breeze. I am, I hope, one who fears God and respects religion; but having a regard for truth, I have never, since that day, blamed my misfortunes on either God or Providence.

Inch by inch we struggled on against this devilish damned wind, while the British fleet bore down on us with a speed that filled our minds with cold and terrible forebodings.

When, at last, the south wind died and we finally caught the same breeze that, through some oversight on the part of God or Providence, had done so handsomely for the British, it was past ten o’clock in the morning, and a scant mile separated us from the foremost of the onrushing vessels.

Even then we made small speed; for the four gundelos ahead of us, shot-riddled and water-logged, were slow, and the Congress hung behind them, herding them along like four reluctant sheep.

Arnold, watching their laboured movements, shook his head. “These rear-guard actions aren’t pleasant,” he admitted, “but there’s no escaping this one. If we can find a corner to dodge into with these gundelos, we may be able to save their guns and crews, and certainly we’ll make it possible for Wigglesworth to get through to Ticonderoga with the Trumbull, the Enterprise and the Revenge. He must have another gundelo with him; and the Gates ought to be equipped by now; and the Liberty’s there; so if Wigglesworth gets safely away, we’ll still have enough of a fleet to keep the British from being over-reckless.”

His eyes were pale and expressionless as he studied the approaching British. There were three of them in the lead—the Inflexible sloop-of-war, with her three towering masts and her press of canvas, and the two big schooners, the Carleton and the Maria. Far behind them was the swarm of gunboats, gathered around the floating fortress like ducklings paddling contentedly beside a swan.

It was eleven when Arnold gave the word. For more than an hour Steven Nason had stood waiting at the break of the poop, outwardly calm, while others scrambled and stumbled around him, cursing with nervousness and excitement. But on getting the word he jumped so suddenly and eagerly for the companionway, and vanished down it so like a harried woodchuck, that I suspicioned he, too, had been on pins and needles.

The stern guns, in the cabin beneath us, let off with a jerk that made me wonder whether the patches on our sides would stand the buffeting. The Washington, behind us and steering wildly, let off her guns as well; but to neither of us did the British reply. The two schooners hauled their wind so that they were between us and the western shore.

“Well, well!” Arnold said. “Look at that! They’ve made up their minds they won’t let us land on the New York side!” His face wore an expression of exaggerated concern.

“Think of it!” he said. “Crown Point and Ticonderoga are on the New York shore, so they figure the only way we can reach those places is to go ashore on that side!” He coughed. “Strange! Strange they persist in thinking there’s only one way to skin a cat!”

When at last the British vessels opened on the shattered, wallowing Washington, Arnold turned away. I think he felt, as I did, a sort of hopeless sickness, as at the sight of a comrade whirling to his death in quick water through which no man or boat can pass.

He peered ahead. Not far from us was the sharp outline of Split Rock, cloven from the mainland as by a giant axe. Beyond it we saw the blue folds of bays and headlands that might, if we could reach them, provide a sanctuary.

“Run out those sweeps again,” he shouted to Tom Bickford. He turned back to watch the Washington, making small sounds of solicitude.

Out from the side of the Inflexible jutted a long cloud of white smoke, through which darted the pale flashes of her guns. The Washington’s head fell off, as if she winced beneath the blow. Her foresail split and flapped lazily. The stuttering roar of the broadside came down the wind to us, a warning of what we ourselves must soon expect.

“It’s no use!” Arnold said. “Waterbury’s got to do the best he can. If we turn back to help him, we’ll never get the gundelos away. And he’s gone, anyhow! There’s nothing that can save him!”

As we slid past Split Rock, the Inflexible drew closer to the Washington and let her have a full broadside at close range—a broadside that heeled her over. Arnold glanced at me and shrugged his shoulder. It was a gesture of resignation. He knew what must happen next, and so did I. So did all of us. I was sorry for Hawley, but glad that Nathaniel was aboard the Congress with me.

The ship’s head fell off. Her yards moved slowly around. She came about deliberately and passed into the wake of the labouring Washington. The two big schooners were on her flank, between her and the New York shore. If the Washington stayed as she was, the Inflexible’s larboard battery would pour its fire along the full length of her shattered decks. If she could contrive to turn her broadside to the Inflexible, she would be raked by the two schooners. Whatever she did, she was helpless.

The Inflexible was close under the Washington’s stern: so close that her yards seemed entangled with those of the galley. The pounding of her guns, hurling destruction into that battered hulk, sounded like the hollow slamming of iron doors.

The Washington yawed uncertainly. Her fore-yard crumbled close to the mast. Her guns were silent.

We, watching this sad performance, were silent too. The whole of our ship, except for the screaking of the oars in their ports and the thumping of the pumps, seemed to hold its breath.

The four vessels behind us were fixed immovably in a welter of smoke. A mastodonic thudding came from them. I think the eyes of all were fastened on the striped flag that floated at the peak of the Washington’s ripped and flapping mainsail; for when it moved downward, a vague sound, blended of resignation and relief, arose from all of us. The Washington had struck, and our turn had come.

. . . The two hours that followed were horrible. They were two hours of smoke and groans and thunderous frenzy: two hours of panting and tugging and cursing: two hours of guns that leaped, guns that roared until our eardrums seemed to be wooden plugs wedged into our heads and caulked in place with masses of greasy wool: two hours of shot that screamed above our heads and between us: shot that splintered bulwarks and gun carriages, and crushed men into broken wrecks—wrecks to be avoided if there was life in them, lest we stumble on them and so delay the guns; or, if dead, to be stuffed through a gun port.

Our progress was like that of a wounded dog, bleeding and dizzy, struck and roared at by three bears, yet still able to keep beyond the full sweep of their claws: able, even, to snap desperately at his tormentors.

The three British vessels, at last on our very flanks, poured in their broadsides at point-blank range; and we, working both our larboard and our starboard batteries, and our swivels as well, did what we could to hold them off.

Every last one of us was needed on the guns; for a full third of our crew was gone: either dead in the waters of the lake, or lying shot-riddled in the cabin, Doc Means at grisly work on them. Such was our plight that Arnold would not leave the tiller, but clung to it, prowling unceasingly back and forth, like a chained animal: a lonely, watchful figure on our open quarterdeck: a figure made gigantic by its elevation and the empty space about it.

Steven Nason had charge of a gun on one side of me, and Nathaniel on the other. They were dreadful to see, because of their blackness and dirtiness, and because of the glassy, drunken look that filled their bloodshot eyes. I suspected that the vessel on which they laid their guns seemed to them to be wavering mirages, as they did to me, thanks to three foodless, sleepless days.

What I could not understand was how any one of us could escape the hail of grape and ball that hurtled overhead: that smashed against our wooden sides; and what surprised me most was that I had no longing to escape it, but only a weary eagerness to have the end come soon.

I think the British must have had a mind to close with us and board us. They seemed to swell abruptly, though at the moment I thought this strange enlargement was one of the tricks my eyes had played me for an hour past. The blasts from their guns struck harder on us, certainly. Worst of all, there was a crackling in the air like the snapping of whip lashes, and men went down, along the deck, as though invisible hands had caught them by the ankles and tripped them. Some went down hard: others staggered, drunkenly, then sprawled grotesquely underfoot.

Beside me Nathaniel clutched at the air before him, as if to hold his balance. He stood swaying, his hands groping and groping. When I caught at his arm, he muttered something and went down like a felled tree, dragging me with him.

I shouted his name and fumbled at his chest. There seemed to be no blood on him. The sponger from my gun crew pulled at my shoulder. I got up and laid the gun on the Inflexible. She seemed to have a thousand sails, each with a thousand shot-holes in it. The gunner fired the gun.

I licked the caked powder from my lips and wondered desperately what to do about Nathaniel.

Tom Bickford took me by the arm. When I shook him off, he caught at me again. “Arnold wants us.”

“Nathaniel’s hurt,” I said.

Tom looked at Nathaniel, quickly looked away and again said, “Arnold wants us, Cap’n Peter.”

Trying to banish from my mind all thoughts except of our vessel’s sorry plight, I stumbled aft, half pushed by Tom.

Arnold, one knee hooked over the tiller, was re-priming his pistols and casting wary glances at the ever-nearing British vessels. He turned to us.

“We’re abreast of Buttonmould Bay,” he said. “That gives us a chance to pull to windward. They expect us to run for the New York shore; so we’ll pull to windward where they can’t follow, except in their boats.” He laughed. “We’ll fool ’em again!” The shrill hoarseness of his voice put new life into me.

To Tom he said, “Hoist the pennant to pull to windward: then brail up your sails and run out the sweeps.”

To me he said, “What’s the matter with your brother?”

When I shook my head he said, “Take command here. I’ll work the stern guns while we run ashore. Drive the men! Drive ’em! We’ll have to work fast.”

When I went to the tiller he added, “You’ve got a minute before we come about. Tend to your brother!”

That was like Arnold. He thought of everything, and he was as kind a man as ever lived.

I went back to Nathaniel. He hadn’t moved. I swabbed off his face with black water from a gun bucket. So far as I could see, there wasn’t a scratch on him. When I tried to listen to his heart, I could hear nothing for the slamming of the British guns and the sandy scraping of my own breath in my throat.

I tried to pick him up, but couldn’t, my legs and knees being too weak. I took him by an ankle and dragged him up the gangway and on to the quarterdeck, where there would be less chance of his being thrown overboard. I was determined he should not be thrown overboard, like all those others, if there was any way to stop it.

“Here!” Arnold said. “Try to beach her so she lies level.” He gave me the tiller and hurried to the cabin without a glance at Nathaniel.

The four gundelos, ahead of us, turned into the wind, and we turned too, hammering at the three Britishers as they went sliding past. The suddenness of the manœuvre caught the British napping. They were a quarter-mile beyond us before they could come about; and then they were almost helpless, since they could only make short tacks far in our rear, hurling distant broadsides after us as we rowed desperately into the bay, straight into the teeth of the wind.

That was our advantage over them: we had oars, and they didn’t. They depended on sails; and if they had attempted to follow us into shallow waters with which they were unfamiliar, they would themselves have been in trouble.

Into my dulled brain there came the realisation that this bay into which we were crawling was ten miles from Crown Point. We had rowed and fought for eighteen miles, and we were still ten miles from safety. I had a vague wonderment as to whether any place in the world was any longer safe.

The jerk of the guns, pounding from our stern with slow irregularity, seemed to help kick us into the shelter of the headland. The four gundelos, sails brailed up and oars all awry, moved before us, dishevelled and wild looking, like ragged mad women. Our deck, save for the excited gabbling of a man with a bullet through the palm of his hand, was nearly silent. The pumps had stopped at last, since the amount of water in us no longer mattered, and since every man was needed on the oars.

The oarsmen, now that the end of all our labours was at hand, panted and pushed hard at the sweeps in their eagerness to be ashore. With each British shot that passed us, howling an angry malediction at this final effort of ours, they hunched themselves over their oars as if to make themselves smaller.

Behind the northern point of the bay I saw a shelving beach: one on which we might almost run our bow on land and still be a little sheltered from the British fire. I called a seaman to take the tiller, and went to the cabin. The place was a sulphurous corner of hell. Wounded men groaned in the corners; and at the far end, gun crews moved like demons against the smoky light that filtered through the ports.

“One more!” Arnold said, when I told him we were close to shore. He dragged upward at the gun’s breech. The gunner tapped the quoin; the crew jumped clear, and the gun, rearing like a black dragon, bellowed and bounced back among us.

“All right!” Arnold shouted. “Get the wounded forward! Cut off the sails! We’ll want stretchers!”

He popped out on deck, blinking in the bright afternoon sunlight. A British ball passed near us with an agonised squeal. I felt the rasping wind of it. Arnold’s hat fell off, so that he must have felt it more than I.

In the bow Steven Nason stood on the bulwark, hacking strips from the lateen sail that hung in brails above him. The long yard of the foresail, struck by the same shot that so narrowly missed us, whipped around like the tail of a windmill. It struck Nason with a crunching sound; hurled him backward, in spite of his size, as if from a catapult. He flew through the air, turning slowly. His body cleared the bulwarks and fell against two sweeps, which broke short off. He dropped straight down, out of sight.

I ran forward, but Tom Bickford was before me, hanging over the side where Nason had vanished. He jumped back on deck, ran around two guns, scrambled on to the bulwarks and disappeared. When I hung over to look, I saw, between the slowly moving oars that drove us onward, Nason’s dark bulk, under water, distorted and wavering against a background of gray sand, and above him Tom Bickford, sprawling and kicking, reaching for him and reaching for him.

I unshipped an oar and made fast a rope-end to it; but before I could heave it over, Cap Huff came blundering aft, caroming into oarsmen and upsetting water buckets. His great sweaty face was distorted, so that he had the look of a blackened moon-faced baby on the verge of bursting into tears. He took me by the front of the shirt and shook me. “Why don’t they stop the ship?” he gasped. “Is he dead? He ain’t dead, is he?”

“Get back to your marines where you belong,” I told him. “Tom Bickford’s got him.”

He clung to me, breathing heavily: then, almost fearfully, looked over the side. What he saw seemed to frighten him, for he made a whimpering sound, and clumsily threw a leg across the bulwark. When I looked too, I saw that Tom not only had Nason by the arm, but had got back to the galley and hooked his fingers into one of the ragged shot-holes that honeycombed our side.

I pulled Cap back. “Can’t you see Tom’s got him? Go forward and tend to getting your men ashore.”

Cap hiccupped and snuffled. “By God, if Stevie’s dead, I’ll take it out of England’s hide!”

He went blundering forward. We were close under the headland by now, so close that suddenly and strangely there was a smell of pine woods in our nostrils. The four gundelos were drawn against a marshy bank, their crews pouring from them like ants, and, like ants, carrying heavy burdens we knew to be wounded men. I felt our own bow scrape bottom. Our stern settled a little, and slowly the deck canted to starboard.

Arnold had made a speaking trumpet out of canvas, and through it he shouted to the gundelos, ordering that they be set afire. He was as thoughtful and matter-of-fact, standing there on the quarterdeck, as though he stood on the porch of a house, looking out at a vanishing thunder-storm. We might have lain at a deserted dock, for all the excitement in his voice when he issued his orders—for marines to be lined up on the bank to hold off the British in case they tried to attack us in boats before the vessels were burned: for ten men to remain on board with him to set the ship afire: for the wounded to be lowered from the bow in canvas slings. . . .

To me he said, “You’d better look after your brother yourself. I don’t believe he’s dead.”

That picture of him, haggard and dirty, hollow-eyed and unshaven, hungry and sleepless, but always steady and calculating, taking us ashore at Buttonmould Bay after days and nights of planning and fighting and responsibility such as might drive the best of men insane, is one that will never leave me.

At that time I knew only one thing: that he was a seaman and a general fit to rank with the world’s best. I know more now, after years of meditation in the quiet of a vessel’s cabin.

I know that battles are not great because of the numbers engaged in them, or because of the heaps of slain. I know, too, that some of the greatest battles have been between small bodies of men, but are great because of deciding matters of moment to the world. And finally, I know that the battle we fought at Valcour Island was momentous indeed, and that no force, great or small, ever lived to better purpose or died more gloriously than the force that manned Arnold’s fleet on Lake Champlain. It had saved the lake for that year; and it had done more: it had won the delay that brought us the chance to fight at Saratoga—a chance that otherwise must have been for ever lost. And all of it was due to Arnold. Every last bit of credit, I repeat, must go to Arnold; for no other man could have effected the building of even the small fleet we did build; nor could any two—or ten—others have planned the fight that Arnold planned, or held our untrained forces to a resistance as dogged and heroic as any in all naval history.

. . . When the wounded were safe ashore, Doc Means and Verrieul came to help me with Nathaniel. Doc’s ragged tow-cloth smock was belted around him, its back bulging with the misshapen bundles of his profession. He peered near-sightedly at Nathaniel; then nodded encouragingly.

“No,” Doc said, “he ain’t dead, but in my opinion he’s been pretty close to it. I shouldn’t wonder if a cannon ball come past his head and pushed the air against him so hard it was kind of like being kicked by two or three mules all together. That’s what it looks like to me. If we don’t jolt him, and if we can get him laid down in a quiet place, where there ain’t somebody tripping over us every minute, or falling dead on us, I ain’t got no special great doubt I might have him up and walking in half an hour, lively as a chip-munk.”

The two enemy schooners and the ship manœuvred at the entrance to the bay. Streamers of white smoke drifted down wind from their black hulls as they threw shot at us—shot that passed overhead, wailing, to clatter among the pines.

I kept an eye on the British vessels, fearing they might attempt what I, under the circumstances, would have tried to do: come into the bay on a long slant, so to be closer—so to capture these beached hulks of ours, and their guns, with boarding parties. To this day I cannot say why they held off, firing uselessly, when they might have scudded to Crown Point in pursuit of the Trumbull galley and the four smaller craft still afloat. But hold off they did; and it was to the fretful roaring of their distant guns that Doc and I swung Nathaniel down into Verrieul’s outstretched arms.

As I clung to the bows, waiting for Doc to clamber down, I saw Arnold and his seamen, standing by the cabin, peering within. They started back; a puff of smoke oozed out, surging upward like an inverted waterfall. Arnold leaped forward to the main hatch. I let go and dropped into two feet of water.

The beach swarmed with men, all of them black and tattered, as though they had come up out of a coal mine. Of the eighty who had been aboard the Congress at the beginning of the fight at Valcour, there were less than fifty now. The other crews had suffered less than ours, but not much less. More than half of our ragged crew had been killed or wounded, and it seemed to me incredible that any of us had escaped with our lives.

Nason lay white-faced on the gravelly shingle, a draggled wreck, one arm grotesquely bent. Tom Bickford knelt above him, as pale, almost as Nason. Out from the milling figures on the upper beach blundered Cap Huff, clutching a strip of canvas to his breast. It hung down between his legs, so that he stepped on it as he walked, and continually tripped and stumbled.

He dropped to his knees beside Nason. “Put him on this,” he said thickly to Tom. “We’ll hang it on a pole, like a hammock, and lug him.”

Doc Means went quickly to them. “What’s the matter?” he said to Cap.

Cap stared up at him as if dazed. “Stevie got hurt,” he said. “He got hurt bad.” He hiccupped and added wildly: “They killed him! They killed Stevie!”

Doc slapped Cap’s cheek—a stinging slap. “Pay attention to me! Nason ain’t dead—not yet he ain’t! What happened to you?”

“Nothing!” Cap said. “There ain’t nothing happened to me! Why don’t you fix up Stevie?”

Doc slapped him again. “Stop your hollering!” he said sharply. “Take off that coat!”

Cap fumbled at his ragged jacket, groaning as he dragged it from his naked shoulders. Beneath his arm was a purple welt from which dark blood oozed slowly.

“Look at that!” Doc said mildly. “You’re pretty near as bad off as Nason! You got a grape shot in you.”

“What grape shot?” Cap asked dully.

Doc passed his hand around Cap’s ribs, whipped out a knife and flicked the point against the thick muscles beneath the shoulder. From Cap’s lips came an anguished grunt.

Doc held out his hand. In its palm lay a flattened leaden ball.

“There it is!” he said “Now mind what I tell you! Don’t try to carry nobody! Tend to your own affairs and keep away from Nason. Understand? If you try to carry him, you’ll bust yourself open!”

“Why don’t you tend to him?” Cap bawled with sudden surprising fierceness.

“I’ll tend to him when you get away from here, and not before!” Doc said.

Cap stared at him, then rose to his feet. His naked torso was smeared with blood. He rubbed the red stains with a huge hand, examined his crimsoned fingers in blank amazement, and stumbled off toward the ridge above the beach. Along its top lay his marines, a strange squad of scarecrows. They were as businesslike, waiting there to protect us against British landing parties, as though they wore clean uniforms instead of lousy rags.

Doc watched him go; then shook his head and spoke to me. “Take your brother over the ridge behind the headland. Pick out a spot where we won’t be interfered with. We’ll be out of range of the guns there. After I’ve done what I can for Nason, I’ll follow you.” He looked at Nason and shook his head again. “I won’t be long,” he added gently.

As Verrieul and I carried Nathaniel over the ridge, I turned to see where the British were. The Inflexible was coming into the wind, preparatory to tacking, far out beyond the headland. She fell off slowly on the other tack, working her guns with grim persistence. The shot splashed astern of the beached vessels. They were burning, all of them, the smoke and flames rolling and crackling from their cabins and hatches. At their mastheads the red and white flags were flying, each with its rattlesnake and the words “Don’t Tread On Me.”

There was more than satisfaction in the knowledge that in three days of fighting, the British had not been able to make us haul them down. And there was something in the sight of them, flapping idly above the burning boats below, that seemed to half strangle me. I think the scores who lay behind such shelters as the beach afforded, waiting for the fire to take those flags, must have felt as I did; for when Arnold, standing alone in the bow of the Congress to watch the progress of the flames, turned and stepped up on the bulwarks, the men burst into a shrill and quavering cheer that sounded as choked as my own throat felt.

On the far side of the ridge, there was nothing to remind us of the battle save the slow and distant thudding of the British guns, firing uselessly at our burning ships. Verrieul motioned with his head toward a stand of young pines, sprouting from a fallen tree. It offered a shelter from the wind; so we took Nathaniel to its lee and lowered him gently to a smooth patch of pine needles. He was limp and heavy; but his hands were warm, and a slow pulse beat in his wrists.

It seemed an hour before Doc Means came lurching to us. Without a word he stooped and, with characteristic seeming feebleness, pawed at my brother’s chest and neck and shoulders.

Nathaniel’s face was the dull silver colour of a fish on the beach. Doc worked away at the base of his skull for a time, but it did no good.

“We got to get him breathing,” Doc said. The tone of his voice frightened me.

He showed us what to do. It was Verrieul’s business to raise Nathaniel’s arms and lower them, while I pressed against his ribs, pressing out the air so that fresh air might be drawn into his lungs. I feared, from the way Doc drove us, that life was almost gone; and I wondered, in a detached way, what I would say to my mother. The thought of her grief—of the sorrows that would crowd her long days and her longer evenings when she sat sewing at the low table by the fire—goaded me to working at Nathaniel’s chest until my shoulders ached and the sweat poured from me.

His death-like inertness filled me with a tireless endurance. In my determination to save him, if he could be saved, I lost all sense of time. Hours must have passed when Doc caught our wrists and pulled us to our feet.

“I saw his eyelid move,” Doc said.

We hung over him, as breathless, almost, as Nathaniel had been before we set to work.

He opened his eyes, staring straight up into the pines above him. He stared and stared—just an empty stare: then a bewildered gaze. He turned his head and saw me.

“I’m all right,” he said thickly. “Go on back to your gun.”

Another sort of look came into his eyes, and he feebly put out his hand to touch my knee. “What’s this?” he whispered. “Are we—did they——”

I could see he thought he was dead, and that we were in another world.

“You got hurt a little,” I said. “We had to run ashore. We’re only ten miles from Crown Point.”

It came to me suddenly that I had heard no shouting from the beach: no sounds of gunfire: that I had heard not even the distant banging of British guns.

The silence of the pine thicket was more than the quiet of an October twilight: it was an unnatural silence: a silence so heavy that there must have been a cause for it. It was the sort of breathless hush that enfolds a countryside before the bursting of a storm.


I turned and ran back over the ridge and down the slope, where I could have a clear view of the beach. It was empty—a trampled strand, with here and there a rag, and at the edge of the water a broken musket. In the shadows the five vessels still burned, but were dismasted hulks, their bulwarks charred away so that the guns stood high in air.

As I watched, a gun carriage on the Congress collapsed in a flurry of sparks. The gun slid sideways, hung for a moment, then pitched into the water with a sharp hiss. A burst of steam floated off shore.

The crews that had covered the beach and the ridge had gone: Cap Huff and his marines had gone: Nason and Tom Bickford and all the rest of them—every last one was gone. I remembered the rapidity with which Arnold always acted. He must, I realised, have rounded up the crews and rushed them off for Crown Point; and he must have thought, of course, that we were among them.

By carrying Nathaniel pick-a-back, I knew, we could catch up with the column, unless our legs gave out from hunger.

I went back across the ridge, moving as rapidly as a dead tired man could. Beneath the pines, where I had left Nathaniel and Doc and Verrieul, there was nobody. I thought I had come to the wrong place, but I saw I hadn’t. The pine needles were disturbed, where we had knelt and worked on Nathaniel.

I looked at the spot stupidly, stared about me like a fool, then called loudly, shouting Doc’s name, and Verrieul’s. There was no answer. I took a few steps forward among the pines and shouted again. Then I held my breath and listened.

A squirrel popped into sight on a tree trunk overhead. He flattened himself, his tail all a-twitch with nervousness, and peered down—not at me, but at something on the opposite side of the tree.

I looked at him dully and scratched my head, thinking: “Yes, he’s looking at something—No, at somebody; there’s somebody on the other side of that tree!”

Then for a moment or two I had a strong conviction that I was asleep—asleep at last, somewhere, I wondered where—and that this was a dream.

I’ve often heard people say, “I thought I must be dreaming,” but for those few moments after the vanishing of Nathaniel and Doc and Verrieul, and the squirrel’s peeping down the wrong side of that tree, I believed in sober truth that I was having a dream—an ugly dream, too—and that I’d wake from it presently and find out where I really was. I’d been passing through thunderous nightmares in which I knew I was awake; here was another, but in so curious and awing a silence that I couldn’t credit its actuality. Then I said to myself suddenly, “Look out!” I felt my heart beating within me, was awake and had a hint of the grotesque reality.

I moved softly backward, loosening my hatchet in my belt.

Behind me I felt a silent movement—the loom of a body near at hand. I whirled. An Indian was so close on me that I could smell his oily, sweetish smell. His face was painted black, and he seemed enormous. He held a musket almost against my stomach. When I gave ground before him, another Indian seized my arms from the rear. Two others came from among the trees and looked quietly at me.

Never had I seen bigger men—though they looked more like devils than men. Their faces were black; their hair rose above their shaved heads in a sort of crest. The crest was stiffened with clay and painted bright red. It was like a horse’s mane that had been clipped close, or like the crest on a dragoon’s helmet, so that it gave them a look of fierceness that was horrible. They wore buckskin leggings and red belt cloths; and the tops of their bodies were not only bare, but shining with grease. Under the left arm of each one was tied a bag made from the whole skin of a bird or animal. There was a strange sweet smell to them: a smell that might have been a blend of wood smoke and sweet grass and fur and rancid oil.

The sight of these black-faced figures appearing so suddenly out of nowhere held me paralysed and speechless. I made no protest and no resistance when two of them took me by the arms and hustled me through the pines and down to the shore on the northern side of the headland. I seemed to be numbed and in a daze as they dragged me along.

I think the truth was that I must have been, in reality, half asleep; and in the haze of this stunned drowsiness, I dimly heard the four Indians gabbling and cackling in high good humour.

On its side behind a stand of birches was a long North canoe with something that looked like a bird daubed on each end in red paint. Two more Indians were hunkered down beside the canoe, one of them tending a newly-made fire on which a pot rested; the other kneeling over Doc Means and fumbling with the bundles inside his tow-cloth smock. Doc, as well as Nathaniel and Verrieul, was bound hand and foot.

When the two by the canoe saw that another captive was being brought in, they yowped and howled like animals; but since the one continued to tend his fire and the other to fumble in Doc’s smock, their howling seemed perfunctory.

I was tied and thrown down beside the others; and at that our captors ignored us. One went to sniff at the pot over the fire. Scooping out some of its contents with his fingers, he licked them noisily.

“For God’s sake,” I whispered to Doc, “where did they come from? Did they hurt Nathaniel?”

Doc’s face was pressed into a patch of moss, so that his speech was indistinct. “They stopped his circulation again. He ain’t moved since they jumped on us. He’s got to be bled. He’s got to be bled right away. Where’s all that Injun lingo that Verrieul claimed to know?”

Verrieul sighed. “You gain nothing with these people by hurried speech. To be frank with you, the suddenness of the thing was upsetting to me. I need a few moments to compose my thoughts.”

“Upsetting!” Doc quavered. “They scairt the living tripe out of me!” He groaned feebly and added, “Something’s got to be done, it appears to me, if we don’t want ’em to spoil all my medical supplies!”

“I know,” Verrieul said. “I’m watching them. There are more things to be considered. These men are from the west. I recognise some of their speech, but not all of it. They’re not Hurons or Iroquois. They speak an Algonkian tongue, like Abenaki, but they aren’t Abenakis. The longer I can go without speaking, the more I’ll learn. Also their chief man has gone ahead on a scout, to observe the retreat of Arnold and the crews of the vessels, and it’s best to say nothing until he returns. He’ll be the wisest of them. Two of these that took us are very young: not more than fifteen years old. To speak with them would be a waste of time. They’re not yet possessed of good sense.”

I looked more carefully at the six red men. In the beginning I had been unable to distinguish between them. All seemed equally tall: all of an age: all equally horrible.

Now I saw differences. Because of the black paint and their crested heads, they had a look of uniformity; but two of them, beneath their paint, were full-skinned, their cheeks smooth and unwrinkled from jaw-bone to the lower lids of their eyes. They were, I realised, young boys. The others were men of twenty-five or thirty.

While I stared at them, I was conscious that I myself was stared at. A seventh Indian had come quietly up behind us. His face, too, was black, with three red marks, like scowl marks, drawn across his forehead and centring on the bridge of his nose, which added intentionally to what seemed his naturally murderous expression. His hair was crested, like the others, rising in a stiff red mane above his shaved skull. When I studied him, I saw wrinkles on his upper lip, and depressions under his eyes. He had a little more stomach than the others; and the backs of his hands were wrinkled and bony.

He made a contemptuous sound in his throat: a sort of grunt; then stepped over us to stand with the others. He, too, nosed at the odour of the pot, tested the contents with his finger, shook his finger in the air to cool it: then picked up a piece of bark, and dusted it on his naked thigh. With it he scooped a sample from the pot, cooled it with a noisy breath and gulped it down.

The Indian who had rummaged in the back of Doc’s smock stepped close to the new arrival and exhibited the package containing Doc’s extra asafœtida bags. The two of them stood there, sniffing at it and sniffing at it as though it were some rare perfume they had smelled before, but couldn’t quite remember when or where.

I was almost as surprised as they when Verrieul spoke. What he said was beyond my understanding, and his voice was deep and rich, unlike his usual manner of speech, which was simple and engaging. It was not only the voice of an actor, but the voice of an old actor, who cannot even say “Good-morning” without investing the words with a quaver of emotion.

The two who had been sniffing at Doc’s asafœtida bags immediately dropped them on the ground and stared intently at Verrieul. When he spoke again, moving his bound hands and feet suggestively, they all made coughing sounds that seemed to rise from their stomachs. The oldest Indian—the new arrival—hurriedly went to Doc and untied him.

Doc scrambled to his feet. “By Grapes!” he said angrily—and it was the first time I had ever seen him angry—“I been around a good deal, here and there, but that’s the first time I ever see a sick man treated that way!” He stood swaying before the oldest of the Indians, and his faded blue eyes were hard as blue glass. “Ain’ you got no sense?” he asked bitterly. “Don’t you know nothing, you jabbed smut-faced weasels? If I raked hell and strained the ocean, I couldn’t find a meaner set o’ minks than you! Where’s my supplies?”

There was no mistaking the tenor of Doc’s remarks. All seven of the Indians stepped uneasily away from the bundles.

Doc, muttering fretfully, gathered them together; then turned to Nathaniel. For all his apparent feebleness, Doc could move as fast as any one, if not faster; and his movements were frequently a surprise; for when he seemed to be stumbling and falling, he was in reality engaged in getting somewhere in the manner he found most expeditious. He stumbled and wavered above Nathaniel; and almost before I knew what had happened, he had jerked the rope from his wrists and ankles.

“Here!” Doc said to the oldest Indian, “make yourself useful, why don’t you!” He pointed to Nathaniel and angrily made motions. The Indian obediently took Nathaniel under the arms and held him up. From one of his bundles Doc unwrapped a trigger-lancet and a small chart. The chart was his Venesection Mannekin; and when he opened it, the other Indians crowded close to stare open-mouthed at the veined figure it portrayed, surrounded by signs of the zodiac, and the various legends explaining the benefits of drawing blood from different sections of the body.

“That’s right!” Doc said to the Indians. “Push right up and lean yourselves all over me, so we can make as much of a mess of things as we can!” He turned irately to the oldest Indian. “Tell ’em to keep away from us! How’d you like to have me shove a lancet into you with six smut-faced weasels standing around and joggling me while I did it.”

The Indian, seemingly, caught some of Doc’s petulance; for he spoke harshly to his six companions. They obediently withdrew a few feet to stand gaping at Doc.

Doc ignored them and studied his Venesection Mannekin. “According to this,” he said thoughtfully, “you’re supposed to take the blood from behind the ear, being as how it’s his head as seems to be troubling him, but I ain’t never done it, and I don’t propose to start now. If a ship’s leaking, it don’t matter what part you pump water out of!”

He raised Nathaniel’s arm, tightened the skin, set the lancet against it and pulled the trigger. The blood oozed out in a slow dark stream which soon ran more swiftly. Doc peered at it; then examined Nathaniel’s face solicitously.

As for the Indians, all of these horrible, black-faced creatures clapped their hands tightly over their mouths and stood so, like children struggling to repress unseemly mirth—except that their gesture was one of amazement: not of merriment.

Nathaniel groaned, raising a hand uncertainly to his head.

“There,” Doc said comfortingly, “you’ll be all right now, just as soon as we get a little food into you! What is it these red pole-cats think they’re eating, anyway?”

He staggered back from the circle of onlookers, stumbled to the fire, and, as if to save himself from falling, put out his hand and lifted the pot from the forked stick on which it hung. “Why,” he said, “I believe it’s succotash!” He helped himself freely with a piece of bark; then nodded profoundly. “Yes: it’s succotash: not so bad, either!”

He dipped out a little and fed it to Nathaniel. The very sight of a person eating made my stomach squeak like an ungreased boot.

“Here!” Doc said testily to the oldest Indian, “put him on the ground, where he can lean against the canoe!” He motioned impatiently, and the Indian did as he said.

Doc, hunkered down beside Nathaniel, fed him slowly; and the seven red men, wilder and more malignant in appearance than any human beings I had ever before seen or imagined, stood there without a word and watched this high-handed disposition of their own food.

Verrieul coughed apologetically. “When you’re finished,” he reminded Doc, “you might pay a little attention to us. It was I who told them what a great medicine man you are.”

Doc hung the kettle back over the fire and came to us. “By Job!” he said plaintively, “these red rattlesnakes certainly make me forget myself. I guess maybe it’s because they kind of startle me and get me all upset!”

He rounded furiously on the leader of our captors. “Look here, you old Sponge-belly!” he cried, “what you want to keep those boys tied up this way for? Ain’t you got no trace of decency?” He pulled and twitched at our fastenings, and in a moment we were loose.

We sat up and stared at Doc and the Indians, and the Indians stared back at us. I wondered how long it would be before they drew the hatchets from their girdles and split open our skulls.

Verrieul scrambled to his feet and said something to them in passionate and moving tones, at which the Indians looked at each other, as if puzzled. Then the one Doc had called Sponge-belly took his hatchet from his belt and hefted it thoughtfully. Instead of using it on us, however, he went to a birch tree and peeled off a broad sheet of bark. He folded up the edges, so that it made a sort of dish, and into it he poured nearly half the contents of the kettle. He made a sign that it was ours; and in no time we had our spoons out of our breeches pockets and were spooning succotash into ourselves and into Nathaniel. To me, after my three foodless days of endless labour, it seemed the sweetest food in the world.

While we ate, the seven Indians stood silent around us, patiently waiting for us to finish. When our portion of the succotash was gone—no more of a satisfaction to the aching void within us than a shrimp would be to a starving seagull—Sponge-belly took the bark dish from us, filled it with the remainder of the succotash, and the seven red men huddled themselves around it, picking up the soup-like mixture of corn and beans and bear fat with their fingers, throwing back their heads to gobble it down, dribbling the juice on their chins and chests, and freely splattering it on each other.

Cautioned by Verrieul, we, too, sat silently while they ate. When they were done, they removed as much of the remnants of the succotash from their necks and bodies as they could without rubbing off the black paint.

The six younger Indians sprawled negligently on the ground, but Sponge-belly hitched up his belt-cloth and made coughing noises in his throat, as if to loosen his talking muscles. He walked back and forth before us, stiff legged, putting me in mind of an enormous red rooster preparing to crow.

He spoke at last in deep tones, similar to those Verrieul had used; and during his speech Verrieul threw us phrases here and there, to give us an idea of what was being said.

“They belong to the greatest Indian nation in the world,” Verrieul whispered hurriedly. “That’s what they all say—they’re Saukie-ok: Sacs: part of the nation of Sacs and Foxes—very important people—great fighters—this gentleman is a great fighter—he’s bragging—he once drove an arrow all the way through a buffalo—he once travelled eight days without food and entered the town of his enemies and went into the house of the man who had killed his brother and stuck a knife into him—he has the handsomest horse ever seen—he has four beautiful wives—he has taken twenty-seven scalps—he’s the one that thought of coming to this place and capturing us—everybody fears him because he’s cunning and full of stratagems—he thinks we’re fortunate to be taken prisoner by such a great man—he will now take us back to the camp of those who fight under the flag of the Great Father in England—and out of consideration for the ancient medicine man—he means Doc—he will permit all of us to travel unbound. We must be quiet; not try to escape.”

At pauses in Sponge-belly’s speech, his six comrades made laboured grunting noises. They sounded like forerunners of seasickness, but they were intended to show admiration and approval.

At the close of the speech, Doc eyed us mildly, but his voice trembled a little. “He’s a wind-bag and a sponge-belly!” Doc declared. “If he drove an arrer all the way through a buffalo, it must ’a’ been a buffalo that didn’t have no bones. I guess I know that much anatomy! He’s a sponge-belly, you tell him!”

“I’ll tell him what will be most apt to save us from harm,” Verrieul said. “I shall tell him again that you’re a great medicine man: that we’re all great men.”

He struck a pose, as dignified as a man can contrive who is dead from sleep, whose breeches are in rags and who hasn’t shaved for four days. When he spoke, he gestured grandly, mouthing his words; raising his hands towards the heavens. I was asleep before he finished.

I half woke from time to time and was aware that the gold and crimson of the sunset turned to rose and then to pale blue above the hills on the New York shore, dimly visible to us through the laced branches of the birches. A cold mist came up from the lake and, in our fitful periods of half wakefulness, set us all to shivering.


They put us in their canoe at last and set off to the northward. We were asleep again the instant we were in the canoe and stayed so until prodded into wakefulness once more by the blades of our captors’ paddles. The look of the stars showed us it was far into the night as we staggered ashore to find ourselves amid a tumult more suggestive of madmen at large, capering and howling over their freedom from restraint, than of any portion of a British army.

We were on a forested point—the southern point of Grand Isle, judging from its location and the length of time we had been travelling. Through the trees shone the lights of many campfires. Around the fires were Indians, hundreds of them, turning, gesturing, bending, capering, prancing. From every part of the point arose discordant yowlings which swelled and faded from moment to moment, but kept on and on, punctuated by the thudding of wooden drums and an unceasing dry rattling, like the whirr of countless rattlesnakes: the rattling of pebbles in the turtle-shell rattles of the dancing Indians.

This caterwauling was contagious evidently; for no sooner had our captors lifted the canoe from the water than they humped their backs and began a jerky stamping, first with one foot and then with the other. They emitted piercing yells—“Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!”—as if suffering terrible pains in their stomachs.

After a little of this they hurried us between the fires; and at sight of us, those who sang and danced became more than violent in their movements and outcries. They whooped and cavorted in a frenzy of triumph. A few pranced along beside us, squalling, though most of them were too busy dancing to pay serious attention to anything else.

On rising land beyond the campfires were four tents. I knew they were officers’ tents, because sentries marched before them. The sentries wore buckskin hunting shirts of a greenish colour; and because of that, and the brownness of their faces, I suspected they were Canadians. As sentries they were not a success, for Sponge-belly and his six Indians, with us in their midst, pushed contemptuously past them in spite of their challenges, and went to scratching and picking at the flap of the nearest tent, thrusting their fingers through the openings. If the flap had not been tied, they would have walked in without ceremony; and such was their eagerness to enter that they squabbled and squawked like a flock of roosters at feeding-time.

Having heard something of the rancorous nature of British officers, it was no surprise to me when the tent flap was violently thrown open from within to reveal a tall, buckskin-clad man in a boiling rage and bellowing imprecations in obscene French.

The man himself, however, was more than a surprise. I recognised him instantly, in spite of the dimness of the candle-light against which he was silhouetted. The sight of him gave me the sudden pleasure that comes at an unexpected view of any familiar face, even the face of an enemy. But the pleasure gave way, almost at once, to bewilderment and wrathful indignation; for this tall man was the silent, self-effacing gentleman with whom we had travelled to America on the Beau Soleil—Mr. Leonard.

When, in my astonishment, I spoke his name, this extraordinary personage slowly fastened up the flap and went back to stand behind the rough table which, with two camp stools and the bearskin spread over a pile of spruce tips in the corner, comprised the almost luxurious furnishings of the tent.

When our captors pushed us in behind Sponge-belly, there were twelve of us in that small canvas structure. Even before we were fairly inside, it had begun to smell like a fish-hawk’s nest, what with the Indians, and Doc’s asafœtida, and our own weary and unwashed state. Whether it was the odour which caused Nathaniel to lean more and more heavily against my shoulder, or the sharp memories of Marie de Sebrevois that the sight of Mr. Leonard brought to his mind, I could not tell. The fact was, however, that Nathaniel was slipping away from us again.

Mr. Leonard’s eyes, I thought, avoided mine, though I knew it was possible he had not recognised us in our dilapidated condition; but when I said to him: “Mr. Leonard, you may not remember me——” he smiled gently and stopped me.

“It would be impossible to forget your kindness and hospitality,” he said. “This is truly an unexpected pleasure. And by the way: I fear you misunderstood my name when we were introduced. It is not Leonard, but Lanaudiere.” He raised an eyebrow. “The fault may have been mine. I seem to recall now, that I was even glad, in England, to be called Leonard, because of the difficulty with which an Englishman pronounces a French name.”

“My brother has been hurt,” I said. “Will you let him sit down?”

His expression was full of compassion as he helped Nathaniel into one of the chairs. “In just a moment,” he assured him, “we will give you the attention you should have. First we must dispose of these gentlemen who brought you in. They are singularly impressible: almost like sensitive plants in their susceptibility to oversights. At one rude touch they often wither.” He smiled urbanely.

“Sensitive plants!” Doc Means said weakly. “Ain’t you thinking of skunk cabbages?”

Lanaudiere turned a cold glance on Doc: then reached behind the bearskin in the corner and drew out a bottle of rum. At the sight of it, Sponge-belly made a speech in which he obviously referred admiringly to his own bravery and our importance. He got the bottle, and with it a few sharp words of advice and warning from Lanaudiere. In Lanaudiere’s manner there was no hint of the silent, sleepy, reticent Mr. Leonard we had known in London and on our long voyage from France. He had become a commander who was both feared and respected; and if his remarks were not satisfactory, Sponge-belly gave no indication of it.

Tucking the rum bottle into his belt, Sponge-belly turned in an almost friendly way to Doc Means and brought up from the depths of his lungs an ejaculation that was half a cough; then lifted the tent flap and herded his six black-faced companions out into the night.

Lanaudiere went to the opening and watched them go. For a moment he stood there, looking down at the scattered campfires on the point and listening to the yowling and drumming that rose from them, swelling and dulling, and never ceasing. Then he fastened the flap and returned to his table to stare down at Nathaniel, who seemed to be scarcely breathing.

“He’s been hurt?” he asked. “You mean he’s been wounded?”

“There’s no wound on him,” I said. “He acts stunned. We think a cannon ball grazed him. We were doing what we could when those red hellions——”

Lanaudiere stooped suddenly and swung Nathaniel up against his chest. “I think your brother only needs food and care,” he said. “If you will excuse me for a moment, I’ll see that he receives both.”

With Nathaniel in his arms, he went to the opening in the rear of the tent, then turned to face us. In a kind voice he said, “I do not need to tell you, of course, that it would be unwise to leave this tent.” He sighed. “My charges are sometimes overhasty—just a lot of thoughtless children.” He smiled and went out.

“Just a lot of red wildcats!” Doc Means muttered. “Just a lot of thoughtless rattlesnakes!”

There was a haggard look on Verrieul’s face that reminded me of the first sight I had of him, when he was thin and drawn from his closeness to starvation in the New Hampshire woods. “If this Lanaudiere is a friend of yours,” he said, “I hope you’ll remind him that now is the time to show it. From the way the Indians talk to him, he’s one of their highest officers. They’re under his orders—as much as any Indian can be under any one’s orders.”

“But we’re free of Indians, now,” I reminded him.

“I don’t know,” Verrieul said uneasily. “They’re difficult to deal with, sometimes. Those that captured us have taken a liking to Doc. They want to carry him home with them—and us, too.”

“By Grapes!” Doc protested, “they better leave me be! I don’t propose to stand much from those pole-cats! How was it you said they called themselves? Sox and Fox?”

“Sacs and Foxes,” Verrieul said.

Doc laughed mildly, “I guess there’s no doubt they’re Sacs: Wind-Sacs!” He raised his voice to a mincing mealiness. “Just a lot of Foxes with the hydrophoby! Just a pack of thoughtless, boyish Wind-Sacs!”

Verrieul looked at me helplessly. “I tell you frankly, I do not like the way Doc speaks to these Indians! It is true that my experience with Hurons and Abenakis has so far been pleasant, but I know nothing about Sacs and Foxes, and I prefer to be elsewhere if he intends to show by his voice that he is speaking unpleasantly of them. That’s not how Indians like to be addressed. What is more, the Sacs and Foxes live so far to the westward that if we are obliged to go with them, we’ll be old men before we get back—if, indeed, we ever get back!”

I wondered whether fatigue and hunger had unsettled my mind. Not only did Verrieul’s words sound fantastic: not only did the incessant yowling of Indians seem maniacal; but I thought I heard, somewhere near at hand, the sound of a woman’s voice: a voice familiar to me. This, I knew, was impossible.

Lanaudiere came back to us with a slab of venison between two half loaves of bread, and under his arm a bottle of rum. He smiled at us almost paternally. “This is the best we have, and I know there is no need to apologise for it—not to gentlemen who have led such precarious lives for so many days!”

The venison was thick and dark red; as soft, almost, as cheese, and when we had eaten every last scrap of it and every last crumb of the bread, and washed it down with rum and water, I was more at ease than I had been for nearly four days. I felt rested, almost; for although my muscles still shook with weariness, my agony of uncertainty over Nathaniel was at last gone—or so I fancied.

He was safe, I said to myself. Nathaniel was safe. There had been no woman’s voice. My wits had been rambling. And then, as though my tongue formed the words independent of my wishes, I found myself saying to Lanaudiere: “I thought I heard a lady’s voice while you were gone. It couldn’t be your niece I heard, surely?”

Lanaudiere’s smile was kindly. “My dear friend!” he said, “all your questions will, of course, be answered in due time; but first I hope you will consent to satisfy my own curiosity. We are in the dark, you see.”

I knew, then, that I had heard a woman’s voice, and that it had been the voice of Marie de Sabrevois. Otherwise he would have given me a fair answer. Marie de Sabrevois was with Lanaudiere, among these advance scouts of the British army, up to some deviltry or other. It was to her that Lanaudiere had just carried Nathaniel, and my thought was: “God help my brother now!”

“We heard the ships’ guns,” Lanaudiere said, “but we have had no definite news yet. I take it your fleet was destroyed?”

I tried to think fast. Lanaudiere had imposed on us: had somehow used us when he landed in America, though I was not certain how he had done it. His niece—if she was his niece—was a spy. A hell-cat, Cap Huff had called her. If they could use me again, they would do so, and I had no intention of being used again.

“Destroyed?” I asked. “Why, no! One of our galleys was a little crippled, and we had to run her ashore.”

One of your galleys!” Lanaudiere cried. “You mean to say we sank only one of your galleys?”

“I don’t believe there was more than one,” I said. “To tell you the truth, after I saw a number of our vessels safely on their way to Crown Point, I paid no more attention to them. There was a good deal to attend to on our own galley.”

Lanaudiere stared up at the roof of the tent and smiled faintly.

“Of course,” I said hastily, “we didn’t much care what happened, since we’d accomplished our object.”

“Indeed!” Lanaudiere said. “And what was that, if it’s not asking too much?”

“I thought everybody knew,” I said. “We only wanted to delay you so your army couldn’t cross the lake this year. That being done, we have no further use for the fleet.”

Doc Means yawned. “There’s been some discussion,” he said quaveringly, “about auctioning off what’s left of it, on account of not needing it after the 12th. Let’s see: yesterday was the 12th, wasn’t it?”

Lanaudiere stared from one to the other of us with the same faint smile.

“Look here,” I said. “I was captain of the Congress galley. I’ve had about five hours’ sleep in three days, and I need more. I’m a prisoner of war. What are your intentions concerning us?”

“My intentions?” Lanaudiere asked, in obvious surprise. “My intentions are to send you back to Isle aux Noix under guard until such time as you’re exchanged.” He eyed me coldly. “Why do you ask?”

“For one thing,” I said, “I know your Indians want to get their fingers on us; and for another thing, our little experience with you last spring has—well——”

I stopped, knowing we were in too delicate a position for overmuch airing of the truth. Lanaudiere smiled affably and helped me out. “You mean you have no confidence in me?”

I nodded.

“My dear sir!” Lanaudiere said, “you must remember several things. I helped you reach America safely with your specie, which you might otherwise have had difficulty in doing. What was more, we were then not actually at war——”

“Do you mean this is the first time you have fought against us?” I asked. “Weren’t you in Quebec last winter, with your niece?”

It was more in the manner of the reticent, self-effacing Mr. Leonard we had first known that he passed over my question. “Surely,” he said gently, “you’ve heard the old adage to the effect that there are times when all is fair.”

I shook my head to clear it of growing fogginess—the result of sleeplessness and worry: of the food we had so recently had: of the fuddling elusiveness of Lanaudiere. Such was the heaviness of my eyelids that I saw his satirical brown face as through a mist. The yowling of the Indians seemed to be shot with sudden silences—silences that I knew must be waves of sleep washing over my brain. I could hardly speak for yawning, let alone think.

“My brother——” I said. “You’ll send a letter—they’ll exchange for us—we helped General Arnold—very worried about my brother——”

Lanaudiere took his bearskin from the corner. There was a bed of spruce tips beneath it. “You are troubled by lack of sleep,” he said soothingly. “In the morning these worries will seem like nothing! You shall have my own tent, the three of you, for to-night.”

It was possible, I sleepily realised, that I had misjudged him. He had deceived us and spied on us; but now he was doing his best to be both kind and good.

I tried, in a heavy way, to thank him; but he shook his head. “There are other tents where I can sleep. Here, it’s merely a matter of posting extra guards.” He repeated the words “extra guards” in an absent-minded tone, and went out, his bearskin over his shoulder.

Without a word and with one accord Verrieul, Doc Means and I staggered to the bed of spruce tips. Since I cannot remember how it felt, I think my senses must have left me before my body reached it.

. . . It was probably not one thing but many that drove sleep from me at sunup the next morning—habit, perhaps; or uneasiness about Nathaniel, or hunger, or the stillness of the place, even. In my dreams I had been conscious of the incessant squalling of the Indians; but when I sat up on our bed of spruce tips I heard, close at hand, the metallic scream of a jay: then there was silence.

I went to the tent flap and looked out. Two swarthy, stunted sentries in buckskin eyed me morosely. The lake, seen through the trees, was a milky blue in the early morning light; and on it, close to the point, lay a flotilla of canoes, drifting—waiting, evidently, for a leader. They were full of Indians, and so far as I could see, there were no Indians left on the point, though two fires still smoked on the shore.

From the back of the tent the view was even less encouraging—three other tents with no signs of life about them, and two more sentries, French Canadians—sullen-looking, undersized, pigtailed men who eyed me contemptuously. I could not blame them, for I had neither shaved nor washed for four days. Of Lanaudiere there was no sign.

I tugged at Verrieul and Doc until they woke, groaning and grumbling. At Verrieul’s polite request, the sentries led us to the lake shore and stood glowering at us while we shaved and scrubbed the grime of battle from our clothes and persons as well as we could, considering that we had no soap. We had, in fact, next to nothing, barring the bundles to which Doc had clung through thick and thin. We had no blankets, no hats, no money. Frayed twigs, dipped in salt or ashes or gunpowder, whichever was handiest, served to clean our teeth. Except for the ragged clothes we stood in, and the razors, long knives, spoons and horn cups we carried in our pockets, we were as destitute as any mendicant.

I was muttering to myself, framing the words I intended to say to Lanaudiere, when Doc moaned weakly. A cramp, I thought, had seized him. It was not a cramp that oppressed him, however, but the sudden appearance of Sponge-belly on the bank above us; and since Sponge-belly was joined immediately by his six companions of the day before, I suspected that they had kept watch on us through the night.

They came as close to us as they could, so that we were ringed by the four sentries and the seven Indians; and although the faces of the Indians were still smeared with black paint, there was no mistaking their expressions. They were eyeing us benevolently, no doubt of that; and Sponge-belly’s face, as he gazed fixedly at Doc, was so affable as to be almost silly.

They had added to their garb of the day before. Each one of them wore a shirt, open at the throat and wrists; and although the shirts had once been of different colours—some striped and some checked—they were daubed front and back with grease and food remnants and traces of paint of every hue: daubed to such a degree that there was small difference between the blue-checked shirt of one of the younger Indians, and Sponge-belly’s shirt, which seemed to have been white originally.

They wore the shirts hanging loosely over their leggings, which gave them a disreputable and licentious look.

When Doc, still groaning, emerged from the water and made for his clothes, all seven of the red men pushed along beside him, grinning and nodding their crested heads, and fairly straining their stomachs in order to bring up guttural retching noises, which were clearly intended to indicate friendliness and admiration for Doc.

So great was Doc’s aversion to these attentions that he would not stop to dress, but stuffed his bundles into his smock, gathered up all his clothes, and set off for the tent, walking with that wavering, staggering shamble of his. His seven red friends hurried along on both sides of him, staring down at him with delighted regard. With them went one of the sentries, like a discontented small boy dodging from side to side in order to catch a glimpse of some great hero.

As we hurried into our own poor garments—almost as foul as the greasy shirts of the seven Sacs and Foxes—Verrieul shook his head. “I’m disturbed because they stay here, instead of setting off to the southward with the fleet of canoes. When an Indian wants something, he is the most persistent of mortals, and I think it would be well if you saw your friend, Lanaudiere, and asked him to hide Doc away from them, before they begin to quarrel over him.”

I, too, thought I should see Lanaudiere with no loss of time: not only to ensure Doc’s safety, but to learn what had happened to Nathaniel. “Ask a sentry where we can find Lanaudiere,” I told Verrieul.

He spoke to one of the French Canadians who glowered at us; but they made no sign of having heard him. When Verrieul tried again, and yet again, these sullen, swarthy-faced guards of ours never so much as opened their mouths. Their eyes were blank, like those of a dead cod.

“You can see,” Verrieul said uneasily, “they’ve been told not to speak to us.”

My own uneasiness returned a hundredfold. Into my mind, unbidden, came a score of instances of how Mr. Leonard, during our short acquaintance, must have deceived us and lied to us. Hand in glove, he had been, with Marie de Sabrevois.

“We’ll go to the tent,” I told Verrieul, pretending a confidence I was far from feeling. “We’ll find some way of getting word to Lanaudiere.”

As we climbed towards the tent, we saw that Doc had got safely under cover, and had tied the flap against the Indians, for they were crowded around the entrance, striving to peer through the openings.

The voice of Marie de Sabrevois, the night before, had of course made more vivid my memories of Ellen Phipps; and now the thought of her recurred to me with singular persistence. For weeks I had been almost free of the black gloom that had weighed me down when I first found she had left Skenesboro. In the early morning I still thought of her, it is true; and at night, when half asleep, I often seemed to hear her voice: that clear voice, frank, a little like a child’s; but I no longer thought of her so persistently that I failed to hear what was said to me, as had been the case for a time. Yet here I was, for no apparent reason, suddenly obsessed by her again—so obsessed, indeed, that I thought I saw, behind a tree, a fold of the coarse gray dress in which I had first beheld her.

Again I wondered whether my brain had been addled by my worry over Nathaniel, and our labours of the past few weeks, and our capture by the Indians—addled to such a degree that I imagined non-existent things. What had looked to me like a fold of a coarse gray dress must, I knew, be a shadow on a tree-trunk: a ridge on the bark. Yet I could not look away from the tree that had played such a trick on my eyes.

As I watched it, the gray shadow swayed a little. I ran forward, half choked by the sudden pounding of my heart.

It was Ellen who stood behind the tree, her head bent above knitting needles that flashed in and out of gray wool.

I think I said nothing at the sight of her, though I may have made a sound of some sort. She looked up slowly, and we stared at each other more like strangers than like acquaintances who had once been close to something more than friendship. There was an intent, strained look in her eyes, such as I have seen in the eyes of dumb persons.

One of the sentries, pulling at my arm, gabbled French. Ellen quickly moved between the sentry and me. “Go slowly to the tent,” she told Verrieul. “Then one of these men will be obliged to go with you. The two who remain with us cannot stop me from talking, and will be unable to decide what must be done.”

She looked up into my eyes. “It is disobedient, this that I do, but it was necessary that I should speak with you.”

She was silent again. We stood there, staring. Truth to tell, I could not stare enough; for although her brown curls and her brown eyes and her pointed chin had remained in my brain as though etched within it, the image was a pale thing beside the warm and glowing reality.

I was conscious that one of our guards was jabbering furiously. Verrieul had gone; and with him, as Ellen had predicted, had gone the third sentry.

Ellen turned on the garrulous one. She stamped her foot: stamped it twice. Even without knowing French I could tell she was ordering him to be silent. He grumbled uncertainly beneath her angry glance.

She turned her back on the sentries and spoke rapidly to me. “Last night, when M. Lanaudiere brought your brother to my aunt’s tent, I knew you were here. I wished then to see you, knowing your feelings for your brother; but M. Landaudiere forbade.”

“He’s your aunt’s uncle?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “He is one of the commanders of the Indians—he and Mr. Langlade and Mr. Campbell. He was General Carleton’s aide in Quebec last winter; but when his father-in-law, M. St. Luc, was captured by General Montgomery and put in prison, M. Lanaudiere was so angry that he took his father-in-law’s place as a leader of Indians.”

“I met him in England,” I said. “I must tell you this. He was with your aunt. She called him her uncle.”

“Yes,” she said. “Yes. Now I must tell you something, too. You were right about my aunt. She is what you said she was.”

When I would have spoken, she stopped me. “Wait! I must tell you how kind she is. In spite of everything, she is kind. I wish you to know how kind she is, so that you will understand why it is that I have loved her so much.”

“She used you,” I said. “You loved and trusted her, and she took advantage of you. She used you to send messages to Albany. She used you to stab innocent people in the back.”

“I know,” she said hurriedly. “I wish you to believe that I do not like to be underhanded. What is more, I do not wish to remain longer among people who fight against you and your country. I must tell you how I arrived at that thought. I imagined myself a mother, whose son was marching out with Indians and Germans so to make poor people obey rulers and laws they did not wish to obey. I saw at once that it would be impossible for me to feel pride in what he was doing. Because of that, I shall get away from here whenever I can. I shall go into the colonies—into your colonies.”

“Get away?” I asked. “Are you——”

“What you must understand,” she interrupted, “is that what I did—the taking of letters to Albany, and speaking to my aunt of what I had seen—was done because she was so sweet, always: how could I think she would do what she has done?”

“It’s not necessary for you to explain——”

“Yes,” she insisted, “it’s necessary. I can’t be at peace until I hear you admit that I was obliged to trust in her goodness because of her kindness.” Almost wildly, I thought, she persisted. “And she is good! She is good!”

“Ellen,” I said, “what did you mean when you said you’d get away from here whenever you could? You meant your aunt won’t allow you to leave, didn’t you?”

“Listen,” she said earnestly, “I must tell you this: I had a horror last night, when I learned from M. Lanaudiere that you were here—I had a horror you’d be sent away with the Indians: that they’d be permitted to take you.”

“What made you think that, Ellen?”

She shook her head. “I fear for you, always. I imagine the worst. If I hear of a battle, I think always that you’ll be killed: not that you may come out of it unhurt, or only a little wounded.” She put her hand on my arm. “Was it a very terrible bad battle that you’ve been in on the lake?”

“Where would you go in the colonies?” I asked. “You haven’t any relatives, have you?”

She examined the gray stocking on which she knitted. “No, I have no relatives. The first time you spoke with me, you told me about your sister Jane.” She shot a quick glance at me and then added hurriedly, “I could make myself useful, and I’m said to have an even disposition. Would your mother find a place for me in your house, do you think?”

I looked around at the sentries. They stood at my very shoulder, fingering their muskets and scowling at us.

I fumbled for words. “Why,” I said, “my mother—my sisters—they’d be—I mean, they couldn’t——”

She nodded tranquilly; so I knew she understood; but the knowledge made no easier the choking fullness of the heart within me.

“Now,” she said, “I have saved best news for the last. When I had a horror for you, I went to Marie at once. As soon as I had told her what was in my mind, she made me a promise. She promised immediately, without a moment’s hesitation, that you would have the best of treatment—you and your brother also. It will be necessary, perhaps, to allow the Indians to take away some prisoners, she said; but not you. They shall not take you or your brother. That shows you how kind she is, and how good. She knows you hate her; and if she wished, she could do you great harm. She has great influence, my aunt has. General Burgoyne sees her often and asks her advice. He thinks highly of her—highly.”

“No doubt he does,” I said. “She seems to have ways of making gentlemen feel indebted to her—Mr. Lanaudiere for one, and my brother for another.”

“Now you are bitter,” she said. “I ask that you will not feel bitter—that you will forget her political views and think only of her nobility and kindness. You see, she is too generous to revenge herself on you because you have suspected where her sympathies lie; and you have her to thank for your safety.”

“Ellen,” I said, “I hope you’ll waste no time in getting away from people who see no wrong in turning Indians loose on helpless settlements. As for me, I can take no favours from her.”

Ellen stared at me: then rolled up her knitting and thrust it in a pocket of her rough gray dress. “But you would from me?” she whispered.

“Yes,” I said. “I can take anything from you—anything!”

She turned and ran lightly up the path to the tents.


From the manner in which the seven Sacs and Foxes continued to pull at the tent flap and to peer around its edges, I feared they might drag the canvas and poles down on us. “For God’s sake,” I told Verrieul, “speak to them! Tell them Doc’s making magic. Say anything that’ll keep ’em quiet! It’s enough to drive a body crazy, the way they peep and pry.”

Not a word had we been able to get from our surly French Canadian guards; and when I had tried to push past them and go to the other tents to look for Lanaudiere, or Nathaniel, they had cocked their muskets and jabbed their bayonets at me. It was easy to see they would have taken pleasure in shooting all of us, and there was nothing to do but sit in Lanaudiere’s tent, waiting.

What Verrieul said to the Indians, I did not know, being too engrossed in my own thoughts to ask; but when I drew aside the tent flap, half an hour later, to look for Lanaudiere, the red men sat in a broad half-circle, so that they could see if we tried to leave the tent by either opening. They were staring fixedly at the entrance, as though they expected something wonderful to burst from it.

An hour had passed before we heard Lanaudiere’s voice outside the tent, speaking sharply to the sentries. We nearly tore the flap from its fastenings in our eagerness to let him in.

In spite of all I felt about the man, the sight of his smiling face heartened me. His words, too, were kindly. “You’ve had a taste of war,” he said, “so you’ll understand that a man’s time is not his own in the heat of a campaign. It’s been unavoidable, all this delay; but we’ll have no more of it.” He sighed, as a man sighs over work well done. “I’ll warrant you’ll be glad to leave this camp, too.”

“You mean you’re going to send us to be exchanged?” I asked.

He nodded benevolently. “Of course, there’ll be a few formalities, but we’ll see you’re well looked after while they’re being arranged.”

I stared at him. His thin brown face, surmounted and softened by his neatly clubbed white hair, had the benignity of a clergyman’s. “Well looked after?” I asked. “Who’ll look after us? Where shall we be looked after?”

“These details are troublesome,” he said. “I thought of sending you to Isle aux Noix, but that’s damp and unhealthy, and the place will be in a tumult, day and night, with troops and bateaux passing. You’d be ill, I fear! Then St. John’s occurred to me; but really, you know, St. John’s is no better. When all is said and done, Montreal’s the place.” He repeated “Montreal” contemplatively.

“Montreal!” I exclaimed. “You’re sending us to Montreal? Why, how do you expect to exchange for us if we’re in Montreal? The river’ll be frozen in less than a month! Surely you’ll never send us as far as Montreal!”

“My dear Captain Merrill,” Lanaudiere protested. “You speak as though Montreal were at the ends of the earth! It’s a charming city, I assure you! In your place I should consider myself fortunate to be sent to Montreal. It was only last winter that my poor father-in-law was taken prisoner: you’ve heard of him, no doubt? M. de St. Luc?”

He raised his eyebrows politely when I shook my head, speechless.

“No? You’ll be more familiar with his name eventually, I have no doubt. He’s the greatest of our Indian commanders. Yes, well, do you know, he was sent to Esopus!” He shrugged his shoulders. “Esopus! And you complain at the prospect of Montreal!”

I could find nothing but kindness and sympathy in his gentle face. “But my brother!” I said. “He’s in no condition to travel to Montreal—to be carried around Chambly rapids and over those miles of corduroy roads!”

“Poor fellow!” Lanaudiere said softly. “He’ll have the best of care. Make your mind entirely at ease about him.”

“For God’s sake!” I said, unwilling to believe my ears, “you’re never going to separate us!”

“Military necessity,” Lanaudiere reminded me, “obliges us to do things we’d prefer not to do. You can depend upon it, your brother will be as well nursed as in his own home.”

I could feel a vein throbbing in my neck. I took a deep breath and held it, knowing I could only do harm to all of us by speaking frankly to this gently-smiling soldier.

“When do we have to go to Montreal?” I asked. “I’d like a few minutes with Nathaniel before I go.”

“By a stroke of luck,” he said genially, “we’re able to send you in great comfort, and quickly, too. It just happens that seven of my men feel they must start for their homes to do their autumn hunting; and they’ve consented to carry you as far as Montreal. You’ll find it an interesting experience, travelling in one of these North canoes.”

“North canoes!” I said, and my voice, I fear, was shrill. “Autumn hunting! Seven of your men! Do you mean you’re sending us to Montreal with seven Indians—with the Indians that captured us?”

Lanaudiere’s face was both candid and indulgent. “I envy you the trip,” he said. “They’re like friendly children—gay and generous.”

Doc Means muttered something about gay and generous rattlesnakes. Lanaudiere fastened a hard eye on him, but continued to smile pleasantly with his lips.

“You’ll send an English officer with us, I suppose,” I said.

Lanaudiere sighed. “I’m afraid we can’t spare any of our officers at the moment. Besides, it would be entirely unnecessary! Entirely!”

“Look here!” I protested, “you can’t turn us loose with those—with those——”

Our tall, white-haired host interrupted me, but his words were patient and kind. “My dear Captain, you mustn’t take this attitude! We’ve done what we could to make things easy for you, and in return you seem to imply there has been something shameful about our efforts.”

“You know better than I do,” I said, “that there’s no telling how those red devils will act if they take a notion.”

“Devils?” Lanaudiere inquired courteously. “Devils? They’re a part of our army; and unless I’ve been misinformed, your own Congress authorised the employment of some thousand Indians, not three months ago. Surely your Congress would never solicit the help of persons who could be called ‘devils.’ No, no, Captain Merrill! You’d never speak so harshly if you knew them.”

His glance was wearily amused; and seeing it, I knew that further protest was a waste of breath.

“I’m asking no favours,” I said, nevertheless, “but I think we’re entitled to be treated as other prisoners of war are treated. What’s become of the men that were captured when the Washington galley struck her colours? She must have had a hundred aboard, at least. They haven’t been brought back here, so they must have been taken to Crown Point. I demand that you let us join them.”

Lanaudiere’s voice was regretful. “I’m sorry. I know nothing about the prisoners made by the fleet. I’m obliged to follow the course that seems wisest to me—the course that seems safest for you.”

A suspicion that had been forming in my mind became more definite. I began to believe that Marie de Sabrevois, in spite of what Ellen had told me, had resolved to rid herself, once and for all, of a person who might some day interfere dangerously with her plans.

“I hope you’re not forgetting,” I reminded Lanaudiere, “that we made you free of our house in Arundel only six months ago. Because of that, if for no other reason, I think I’m entitled to make a reasonable request and have it granted.”

“You are, indeed!” Lanaudiere assured me. “You may be quite, quite certain that I shall immediately grant any request you make, if it’s within my power.”

“It’s not much that I’m asking,” I said. “I’d like to write two letters, and give them to Nathaniel to forward for me, in case we’re held in Montreal all winter.”

His distress seemed sincere. “I cannot tell you how sorry I am. Your brother’s condition was such that we felt he should have medical attention, so we sent him to the encampment on the mainland.”

I stared at Lanaudiere, “So I can’t see him?”

“To my great regret——”

“Yes,” I said. “Can I see Ellen Phipps?”

Lanaudiere shook his head. “Nothing would please me more, my dear Captain, than to say ‘Yes’ to everything you ask me; but Ellen, you see, is here no longer. She’s a kind girl and a good nurse; and she offered to go with your brother to the mainland.”

“I see,” I said. “You sent her away because you knew she had spoken to me, didn’t you?”

“My dear Captain Merrill! She was kind enough to go because she’s a good nurse.”

“Yes,” I said. “I see.”

Lanaudiere looked at me: smiled faintly, then rose from his table, lifted the rear tent flap and went out. As he went, I saw him motion quickly to some one near at hand.

On the instant the opening was filled with the black faces of Sponge-belly and his six Indians. Their vermilion crests seemed to bristle with a savage eagerness.

They crowded through the opening, whispering and breathing loudly, as children breathe and whisper when preparing to rob a cherry tree. The tent was filled with the sweetish, oily, furry odour of their bodies. One of them caught me by the wrist. I felt my other arm seized.

As they hurried me from the tent, the sentries stood watching, their cocked muskets lowered. Lanaudiere had already disappeared.

Two of the Indians held Verrieul by the arms, as I was held; but on Doc, lurching along between Sponge-belly and another red man, there was no restraint. Because of the bundles in the back of his smock, he looked like a pale and ancient bear humped over in fretful contemplation. Above his head his two guards exchanged triumphant glances, and from time to time Sponge-belly’s hand was put out, almost timidly, to touch the misshapen lumps Doc carried.

When they had us at the water’s edge, the six younger Indians stripped off their shirts, swung their long North canoe into the lake and neatly stowed their fur robes, muskets, mats of woven rushes and other meagre belongings amidships. Sponge-belly stood beside us, proud and haughty despite the dirty shirt, unbuttoned at throat and wrists, which hung nearly to his knees.

“Well,” I said to Doc and Verrieul, “God knows how this has happened to us, but I feel somehow it’s my fault for having known Lanaudiere in the past.”

“To be frank with you,” Verrieul said sadly, “I have felt it was my fault for bragging so loudly concerning our abilities.”

Doc eyed us pathetically out of pale blue eyes that watered weakly. “No,” he said, “it ain’t nobody’s fault, only England’s. If she hadn’t hired these red weasels to fight us, we’d be all right.” He snuffled and hitched his bundle-filled smock into an easier position, casting a sidelong glance at Sponge-belly. “I dunno but what I could get along with these people all right, if only they didn’t smell. They got a way of smelling I can’t seem to like.”

“For our sakes,” Verrieul warned him, “I hope you’ll try to like it. They’re gentle with you now, because you, too, have a powerful smell, and they think you’re as powerful as your smell. Have you never seen a dog proud of himself because he has rolled in a long-dead fish, and respectful of another dog that has rolled in a fish even longer dead? That is how they look upon you; but they’re quick to change their minds if you displease them, and you’re sure to displease them if you talk so much.”

“I don’t believe it,” Doc said. “Don’t they do a lot of talking themselves?”

“Well,” I said, “we’ll be in Montreal in three days, and I don’t believe they’ll lose interest in Doc in such a short time.”

Sponge-belly pushed us toward the canoe. At Verrieul’s suggestion we wiped our feet carefully before we stepped in to seat ourselves on the bottom between the paddlers on their little seats.

The canoe creaked as Sponge-belly pushed us off with his long steering paddle. The six paddlers grunted—“Heh! Heh! Heh! Heh!” Their paddles rose and fell in time to their grunting. The canoe slatted and slapped across the wavelets of the lake, and so swiftly did it slide northward that I told myself we would be in Montreal before three days were over.

. . . We never saw Montreal, except as a jumble of houses on the far side of the St. Lawrence.

I had not thought, when I talked with Lanaudiere, that the day would soon come when Montreal would seem a desirable town, close to my friends and everything I held dear; yet that was how it seemed when our canoe, skirting the southern bank of the river, was driven all too swiftly past the mountainous island on which the town is built.

It had been tantalising enough to speed without stopping down the Richelieu, past British encampments, British provision boats, canoes and bateaux carrying British officers and men, and turn to the west against the tremendous roiled St. Lawrence. When, then, the arms of our paddlers never so much as faltered as we drew abreast of high Mount Royal, we were in despair.

“It’s no use,” Verrieul said, when I ordered him to tell Sponge-belly that Lanaudiere had said we were to be taken to Montreal. “It would do us more harm than good. They hate to be talked to while they’re paddling. They say a person who talks in a canoe is an old woman. That’s the worst thing they can say of any one. It’s worse than accusing a man of getting lost in the woods. I’ll talk to ’em when they go ashore for the night, but it won’t help us.”

What Verrieul said was the truth. At the foot of the rapids we landed to sleep. We had a few fish to eat, but only a few; for these Indians, when travelling, seemed indifferent to food, nor did the lack of it affect them as it did us. When night came, they tipped the canoe on its side and kindled a fire before it; and even when they had nothing to eat they sat by the fire and smoked their pipes as contentedly as though full of meat. I truly believe they would travel a week without eating, if game happened to be scarce; and it was strange but true that they paddled as strongly and tirelessly when they had been without food for days as they did when well fed.

Unless animals came to them, fairly asking to be killed, they refused to waste time in hunting. They said they were going somewhere, and the way to go somewhere was to go there without letting anything interfere. They were full of similar adages—simple ones, easy for any one to make up, such as “The way to cross a lake is to cross it,” or “The way to get bear meat is to kill a bear,” or “The way to live in peace with others is to live in peace with them.”

I was slow in realising that these adages had a value despite their simplicity. By constantly repeating them, the Indians encouraged sensible behaviour; whereas more civilised peoples, who consider themselves superior to such simple sayings, forget how to be sensible. They are for ever trying to live in peace with others by spreading false rumours or taking advantage of neighbours; attempting to kill bears or cross lakes by holding windy discussions with persons who never yet killed a bear or crossed a lake. Thus civilised people, in many ways, are less civilised than Indians.

I am bound to say that the Indians were kind to us from the first. At the same time I must admit that I shall suffer no unhappiness if I never again see an Indian, or smell one.

When Verrieul told them what Lanaudiere had said, and asked them to deliver us to the British in Montreal, according to Lanaudiere’s promise, Sponge-belly seemed faintly amused. His reply was terse; and when Verrieul heard it, he turned to us with such a pleased, contented look that for a moment I thought we were to be taken back to the British.

“Pretend I’m telling you good news,” Verrieul said. “There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be good news. We’re none of us wounded or sick, and we have Doc to look out for us. If we’re careful, we’ll be well treated, probably. By great good fortune, I can make myself understood to them, and they can speak to us, so they’ll never have to kill us for disobeying orders. Now you must make noises such as you’ve heard them make, showing you’re satisfied.”

We made yowping sounds—How! How! How! The making of them gave Doc the hiccups.

“Then Lanaudiere lied to us?” I asked.

“Yes, he lied,” Verrieul said. “He never so much as mentioned Montreal to any of these seven. He just gave us to them. We’re theirs. What’s more, I don’t believe he expected us ever to get away—as long as we live.”

We contrived, somehow, to keep our faces cheerful; but that night I lay long awake—not because of the penetrating cold that bit into knees and shoulders, but because of my fears that Lanaudiere’s expectations might be realised: that we might be fated to wander in the wilderness, like beasts, for the remainder of our days.


The next day we went on, and the day after that we went on, and the day after that, and the day after that. We went on endlessly: always on: always on and on, and still on. It seemed to me our western journey was perpetual.

We seemed doomed to hurry eternally up rivers and across lakes; past meadows and swamps and islands, mountains and forests, cliffs and cataracts, landslides and blowdowns, forts and settlements.

We pressed onward from dawn to dark, in rain that drenched us, hail that beat on our bowed heads, snow-flurries that left our faces hot and smarting: in blinding sun, and in wind that cracked our lips.

The seven red men toiled incessantly, like animals driven by the pressure of an unresting instinct; dragging their long canoe from the water to crawl with it over weary miles of trails: embarking on inland oceans whose farther shores were below the horizon.

The water-courses that we followed bent to north and south, twisting and twining; but always they turned back to the westward as if our tireless paddlers sought the cavern in which the sun conceals itself at night.

My mind was staggered at the vastness of the country we traversed, and at the numbers of people who had pushed so far to the west into what I had always thought was an empty wilderness. It was no more a wilderness than our Province of Maine is a wilderness. Daily, almost, we passed the cabins of settlers, or trading stations; and the route we followed, Verrieul said, was yearly traversed by hundreds of traders, to say nothing of Indians, who were perpetually moving along these water-ways during warm weather, going to trade or visit friendly nations, or merely travelling for the fun of the thing.

I found myself able to marvel at the insane arrogance of the Engl