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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: 4

a full half hour the next morning when Joe awoke. Raising his head he looked about him. He was alone. Springing to his feet he hastened to the door. The camp-fire had been built; the breakfast was slowly cooking; but Ira was nowhere to be seen.

A low splash, as though some one was wading across the pond, reached his ears. The tent faced south, while the approach to the island by the way of the brook was from the east. He was obliged, therefore, to step outside his shelter in order to obtain a view of the direction from which the sound came.

The moment he did so he found it difficult to suppress the cry of alarm that rose to his lips, for there, not more than two rods away, was a stranger, who, having just put on his huge boots after wading over to the island, looked up in time to catch sight of him. Instantly bringing his rifle to his shoulder the intruder called out in loud, gruff tones:

“Stand where you are, youngster. Any attempt on your part to get a gun will force me to fire.”

Seeing his words had the required effect, he came a little nearer, and continued:

“Your companion ran away when I came up. Is it he, or you, who has my iron cross?”

For an instant Joe could do no more than stare at the speaker. Could it be that the real Ira Le Geyt had escaped from the hands of General Schuyler, and in some way traced out the lad who was intending to personate him in the British camp?

“Who be ye?” he finally questioned, using the time he gained thereby to examine the newcomer carefully.

He certainly resembled the other Ira. This fellow did not appear to be quite so tall; he was more stout; his hair was a shade or two darker; his nose was more prominent; and he looked older.

There was a greater difference in his dress. He wore high top-boots, an English hunting suit of costly material, a belt of polished leather, containing a brace of pistols and a silver-handled knife, while on his back was a huge knapsack, apparently filled to overflowing.

Scarcely had Joe learned all this, when the answer to his query came in an angry voice:

“Who am I? You ought to know. Again I ask, have you my iron cross?”

This settled matters with the listener. Here was the real Ira, and the thing to do was to outwit and capture him, call back his friend, and then their plans might go on as arranged. With this object in view he edged slowly along towards the intruder, saying innocently:

“I never saw you before, an’ I’ve nothin’ belongin’ to you, sir, but—” and with a tremendous bound he caught his antagonist’s gun, tearing it from his grasp. Flinging it away, he seized the owner by the body, pinning his arms to his sides, and then finished his sentence, “I’ve got you.”

To his surprise there was no struggle. Instead, a voice he knew well cried out laughingly:

“Well done, Joe; but you must admit I as neatly fooled you. I guess I shall be able to play my part at the British quarters.”

“It looks like it, I swaney,” Joe said a little sheepishly. Releasing his prisoner, he stepped away a few feet and looked him over again, this time more critically.

“It beats anythin’ I ever heard of,” he at length declared. “Though I knew you were goin’ to rig up in some way, I thought the real Ira had stolen a march on us, an’ got into camp—leastwise, you seemed like the real Ira to me, though I’ve never set eyes on him. Unless the red-coats know him better than I do, they’ll take you for him, sure.”

“Of course it is possible more than one of the British officers may know Le Geyt,” the lad said thoughtfully, “or some person come into the lines who has seen him. But I think the risk is small. His visits to this part of the state have not been frequent, and, while his name is familiar, his face and form are not. I flatter myself I have a make-up that quite resembles him, and believe I can successfully carry out the part. Let us have breakfast, and then I will be off.”

As he spoke he dropped his pack beside the gun, and, going to the fire, helped himself to the smoking food. Joe followed his example, and they ate almost in silence.

The meal finished, Ira removed his huge boots, and, adding them to his bundle, started down the brook. His comrade followed as far as the great maple, and from there watched, as he, after resuming his foot-gear, walked slowly toward the British camp.

He would have been greatly excited had he witnessed what befell the traveler a few moments later. Emerging from the ravine, he had gone but a few rods when a stalwart Indian leaped from a thicket and grasped him by the shoulder. The next instant a half-dozen more surrounded him. Though offering no violence, it was clear they intended to make him a prisoner.

Instead of being disturbed by this mishap, the captive seemed to rejoice over it. He smiled pleasantly, laid his hand gently on the shoulder of the man who first seized him, and who was apparently the chief of the party, saying in the native tongue:

“My brother, you are from the great camp by the lake.”

A grunt of assent came from the captor.

“Take me there at once,” the prisoner continued with some show of authority. “I have important business with General Burgoyne, the commander.”

His words were not without their effect. Releasing him, the Indian said in a tone of inquiry: “Ira Le Geyt?”

“Ira Le Geyt,” the youth repeated, and at the same moment he drew from the bosom of his coat the iron cross.

At sight of the bit of metal the chieftain gave a peremptory order to his men to fall in behind him, and then, side by side with the captured lad, strode away towards the encampment.

They were not long in reaching the first outpost. To the guard the Indian uttered the two English words, “King George,” and was allowed to pass with his entire party.

Once within the lines the chief sent his followers to their quarters, and then led his companion swiftly across the enclosure to the tent of the commander, which he entered without ceremony.

“General! Ira Le Geyt!” he said, and then vanished.

Two men turned to face the newcomer; one in the uniform of a major-general, the other in the garb of a private citizen, for their backs had been toward the entrance, while they were giving undivided attention to a rude map or chart which was spread out upon the camp bed.

“I beg your pardon for this intrusion, General Burgoyne,” the young scout began, bowing low before that officer, “It was due to my conductor, one of your Indians, who ran on me in the forest.”

“It is all right, Master Le Geyt,” the commander replied good-naturedly. “Indeed, your coming is most timely. My companion, who, by the way is Master George Preston, a courier who came from Quebec with us, and is to go on to New York with a message for General Clinton from Lord Germain, and I, were trying to trace out on this map the best route for him to follow down the river. Perhaps you, who, I am informed, are familiar with this entire region, may be able to help us. Would you advise him to take the east or west side?”

Ira stepped to the bed, ostensibly to examine the map, which proved to be a crude and inaccurate affair, but really to gain time in which to think over the situation. Here was work for him immediately. If this man had a message for General Clinton from Lord Germain, the War Secretary in London, it was altogether too important to be allowed to reach its destination. But how should he prevent it, and obtain possession of the paper?

He cast a furtive glance at the