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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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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
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Burgoyne’s army, and, as you have seen, his iron cross, the token by which he was to come and go among the Indians. Some say that in form and feature we are not unlike. I hope, therefore, to pass myself off for him. Of course there is a risk, but I am willing to take that for the sake of the Cause.”

The last declaration was made modestly, almost reverently, and a few moments of silence followed. Then the lad went on:

“This reveals my plan, and shows why I need you. As a trusted scout at the British headquarters, I hope to learn enough about the commander’s movements to keep our officers between here and Fort Stanwix fully posted. But some other must carry the news. That is to be your work. At regular appointed places just outside the British lines, one or more of you will always be in waiting. To you I will come with everything our men should know. I hope, too, we may be able to delay, if not thwart altogether, many of the red-coats’ plans.”

“Will they soon be here?” Joe asked.

“Some time to-morrow,” Ira (as we shall now call him) replied. “I have kept just ahead of the fleet since it started down the St. Lawrence. At noon it was becalmed thirty miles up the lake. But a breeze sprang up, as you know, at sundown, and it must be under way again. The British will come slowly; but by daylight we ought to see the first vessels from this headland.”

“I don’t s’pose you know how many there are?” questioned Dan.

“Vessels? yes,” was the answer. “There are sixty-one in all, frigates, schooners, sloops, and transports. But the number of the troops I have not yet got at clearly enough to make a report. That will be our task as they land. We’ll stay here to-night, and early in the morning move camp to the place I have chosen as our rendezvous while the enemy is in this locality. Then we will return here, or to some other place where we can watch the landing.”

For some time longer they discussed the exciting situation, and then sought their rude beds within the tent.

Nothing disturbed their slumbers during the night hours; but with the first light of the morning all were astir. Ira had been the first to awake, and, rising, he hurried away to the edge of the promontory and looked up the lake. The next instant he wheeled about, and went back to the camp rapidly.

“Quick!” he cried in a low tone. “The fleet is not over five miles away, and we must be on the move. It won’t do to stop here even long enough to get breakfast.”

His companions needed no other warning. Springing up they aided in emptying the canoe of its contents, after which the light craft was carried some distance into the forest, and hidden in a dense thicket. Returning to the camp they speedily took down the tent, packed it and all their belongings into four bundles, and, shouldering these, hastened off toward the west under the guidance of their chief.

With the directness of one who knew where he was going, he led them to a narrow ravine a mile away. Entering this, he descended to a small brook, which with a noisy murmur ran through it. Along the bank he traveled until the ground was so wet and soft that walking became difficult. It was clear they were now on the edge of a great swamp. Beneath a huge maple he paused.

“Mark this tree,” he said in a low voice to his followers, “and for two reasons: We must here enter the stream in order to reach the place where we shall make our camp. See, between those two limbs is a small cavity. Every day after I enter the British lines one of you must come here and look into the hole. When it is impossible for me to visit you at the rendezvous, I shall put my messages in there.”

While speaking he had pulled off his boots. His companions removed theirs, and in single file they began the descent of the brook. Denser and denser grew the underbrush, until with great difficulty they forced their way between the branches which overhung the tiny stream. For a quarter of a mile they struggled through the tangle, and then it abruptly ended at the edge of a small pond, near the middle of which was a tiny island. Here Ira spoke again:

“Do you see that big hemlock on the island nearly opposite us?” and as the lads nodded assent, he went on, “Keep a straight line for that, and you’ll find the water shallow enough for wading.”

He continued the journey, and a minute later all had gained the island, where they found the ground firm and dry, while the trees were large and far enough apart to let in the bright sunshine. A carpet of thick grass added to the beauty of the spot, while a sparkling spring gurgled at the foot of a great bowlder.

“This is fine!” exclaimed Joe, dropping the pack from his shoulders. “How did you find it?”

“No one would think of looking for us here,” Late said contentedly, “an’ that trail down the brook hides every trace of our steps. A dog couldn’t follow us.”

“Wood an’ water right at hand, an’ fish in the pond,” added Dan with a quick glance around him. “Sure ye didn’t make it to order, Ira?”

The lad leader laughed.

“I fancy some people would say I found it by chance. I prefer, however, to believe that I was led to it, and to a dozen other places between here and the Hudson fully as good, by the same kind Providence that is watching over our Cause, and will eventually give us the victory.”

“’Twon’t hurt us to think so,” young Cushing replied cheerily.

Then the little party fell to making camp. In a short time the tent was pitched, beds of fir made, and breakfast cooked. Quickly breaking their fast, they began the return to the lake.

In a half hour they reached it, to find the advance vessels of the British fleet at anchor in the large bay just above the promontory where they had first camped. Two boats, loaded with soldiers, soon came ashore.

From their hiding-place the lads watched these men, only to learn that their object was to select and arrange a camping ground. Hardly was their task finished when the work of landing the men was begun.

Soon it was proceeding so rapidly, and at so many different places, that the young scouts were obliged to divide forces in order to count the troops. Four stations were, therefore, selected, covering the entire bay, and from these the lads kept account of the constantly increasing numbers.

It was not until late on the afternoon of the second day that they were able to come together again to compare notes. Then a little mental reckoning enabled Ira to say:

“We are now ready for my first report. I shall never send written messages to our officers unless I am forced to do so. There will then be nothing to fall into the enemy’s hands should you be captured. Late, you are to go to Fort Ticonderoga, and say to General St. Clair[2] that General Burgoyne has landed and is now encamped near the great promontory at the foot of the lake. He has with him eight thousand British and Hessian troops, four hundred Indians, and forty cannon. Should he give you any message for me, put it in the big maple. Dan, go to Fort Edward and deliver precisely the same message to General Schuyler. Both of you are to return to our island camp as soon as possible. Joe will be there when you arrive. I shall stay there to-night, and early in the morning will enter the British camp.”


CHAPTER II.
THE MISSING MESSAGES.

The sun had been up

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