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قراءة كتاب The Boy Scouts at the Battle of Saratoga The Story of General Burgoyne's Defeat

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‏اللغة: English
The Boy Scouts at the Battle of Saratoga
The Story of General Burgoyne's Defeat

The Boy Scouts at the Battle of Saratoga The Story of General Burgoyne's Defeat

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 2

while you, Late, bring up those fish we caught this mornin’.”

For the next half hour the campers were too busy with their preparations to give more than an occasional glance up the lake at the approaching boat. But what they saw confirmed Dan’s words. The newcomer was a lad of about their own age, and was able to handle a canoe with the grace and skill of an Indian.

At length, however, the potatoes were baked, the fish broiled, and the corn-cakes done to a turn. Then Late spoke:

“We are ready, an’ he’s nearly here. Let’s go down to the shore to meet him.”

His comrades followed him without a word. Clambering down the steep bank to the water’s edge, they waited in silence the arrival of the voyager. He could see them standing there, and, though several rods away, paused in his paddling long enough to raise one hand and wave it above his head. They returned the salutation; but refrained from the cheer all longed to give. They were not sure of being alone in the forest, and, with that caution which comes to all accustomed to a frontier life, made no noise that might attract the attention of an enemy.

Two minutes later the canoe touched the beach, and its occupant leaped out. For an instant he stood there, running a keen eye over the three lads whom he knew would be his associates in the hazardous work of reporting the movements of a hostile army. They, in their turn, gazed critically at the one who was for a time to be their leader.

He saw three youths, rough, uncultured, and yet as stout of heart as the great trees among which they had lived, as keen as the steel of the knives that graced their belts. They, on their part, beheld a lad a trifle older than themselves, taller by an inch than Late, and as stalwart in frame as he, yet a lad whose studious face suggested the school; whose air of refinement seemed more in keeping with the town than the woods; and whose every movement told of one accustomed to command.

The brightening of his and their faces told that he and they had alike been pleased with what they saw; then, before the stranger could speak, the waiting lads picked up the canoe, and started toward the camp with it. The newcomer added his own strength to the burden, and almost noiselessly they ascended the promontory, dropping the boat aside the tent.

“I am here at last,” the unknown lad now said in a low and pleasant voice. “Have you waited long for me?”

“Three days, lackin’ a few minutes,” Dan replied, acting as spokesman for the party.

“Then you were here at the earliest moment suggested by the general,” the first speaker said heartily. “I like that. It shows that he has given me assistants who can be relied upon for promptness. The silence in which you met me proves that you can be discreet. The supper you have ready bespeaks your hospitality. They are all traits I appreciate—especially the last, after my pull of thirty miles. Let us eat and get acquainted.”

Sitting on the trunk of a fallen tree near the fire, which now was no more than a bed of coals, he began to eat with that relish which long exercise in the open air always imparts.

At once the entire party was engaged in the same agreeable task. As they ate their conversation was, during a time, of little importance; but when the keen hunger of the leader had been somewhat appeased, he paused long enough between mouthfuls to say:

“I have your names, comrades; but which is which I do not yet know. I wonder if I can pick you out,” and again he ran his keen eye quickly from one to the other. Late laughed.

“My knife ’gainst yours that you can’t tell who I am on the first guess,” he said.

“It would hardly be a fair wager,” was the reply, “for my knife is worth more than yours. But I’ll venture a guess without a bet. You are Latham Wentworth.”

“You’ve seen me somewhere ’fore now,” the crestfallen youth cried when the laughter of his companions had subsided.

“No; but you gave yourself away when you made the bet. I have been told that you are always ready to wager anything you possess, from the shoes on your feet to the cap on your head.”

“I reckon that’s so,” he admitted, joining in the laugh at his expense.

“What is it the good book says ’bout ‘their works do follow them’?” asked Dan at this point. “I guess that is true of the livin’ as well as the dead, Late.”

“A remark that proves you are Daniel Cushing,” was the comment of the newcomer. “You see I am nearly as well acquainted with you, as with Wentworth.”

“It looks as if the general, or somebody, had sized us up ’bout right to you,” young Cushing said curtly.

“There’s no chance for me to hide it, so I’ll admit I’m Joseph Fisher, at your service,” that young man cried laughingly. “I’m quick to say it, too, for fear you’ll show up some of my failin’s. But you haven’t told us your own name, an’ the general didn’t, either. I think we orter know that.”

“If you had put your last sentences first, your confession of your identity would hardly have been necessary,” was the significant answer.

“Your demand is a fair one,” the lad replied, “and though it was my first thought to withhold my real name, you shall know it, but you must never call me by it, nor use it between yourselves when I am absent. It is not, in fact, to be spoken aloud. You will understand later why I make this strange request.”

With these words he drew from the bosom of his hunting-shirt an iron cross, which evidently was attached to a chain about his neck. Taking hold of the top above the horizontal bar, he gave it a vigorous twist. It came off, showing that the lower portion was hollow, and contained a tiny paper. This he took out, and passed to Daniel Cushing, who sat nearest him.

“Read, and then pass it on,” he directed.

The parchment was so small, that only a few words could have been written on it. These Dan slowly spelled out, and then exclaimed:

“I understand, sir. It shall be as you say, an’ you’ll find that Dan Cushing never yet broke his word.”

He handed the paper to Late, who, after a little effort, mastered its contents, and then cried:

“I never dreamed of such a thing, sir. You are right. ’Twon’t do to whisper the name even to each other, lest the woods hear us. But ’twill be a pleasure to serve under you, sir.”

Joe now had his opportunity to peruse the writing, and, being a better reader than his companions, quickly gathered the meaning of the brief lines. Running over to the leader, he seized his hand and shook it vigorously.

“I deem it an honor to serve under you,” he declared, “an’ you’ll find I can keep a secret, if I am always eager to solve one. But what are we to call you?”

“For the present I am to be known to you, as I shall be to the British, as Ira Le Geyt,” was the smiling reply.

“The Tory!”

“The spy!”

“The renegade!”

These three exclamations escaped the lips of the hearers in sheer amazement.

“Tory, spy, and renegade,” was the quiet reply. “Do you fear that I can’t play the part?”

“Not that, sir,” Dan answered hastily. “It’s the danger you run. ’Spose some one happens into the camp who knows the real Ira, or what if he happened to show up? You’d be in a tight place.”

“General Schuyler has the real Ira where he can’t make any trouble,” was the reply, “and I have the young Tory’s entire outfit in yonder canoe—rifle, clothes, commission as a scout in