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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: 5

courier to ascertain the kind of man he had to deal with. The look was hardly reassuring. Clearly George Preston was not a man to be easily thwarted. Forty years of age, nearly a giant in strength and stature, with a face that suggested courage, resourcefulness, and faithfulness to duty. It was certain he had been selected for the task assigned him because he could be thoroughly relied upon.

All this the lad took in during the brief minute he stood silent, and at once decided upon a plan which he believed would enable him to accomplish his purpose. Then he said in answer to the question asked him:

“Both, sir. He better make directly for the river from here, and, crossing it, go down the west side until below Albany. Then, recrossing it, follow the east side to his destination. In this way he will escape the main forces of the enemy, and so lessen his chances of being captured.”

“That is what I told you, Master Preston!” exclaimed the general in triumph. “I need the aid of Clinton too badly to run any risk of your message failing to reach him. Take the safer way, even though it involves a longer journey. Twenty-four hours delay in the delivery of the letter is nothing, if it in the end reaches the general.”

“My chief objection to the plan lies in this:” the courier said quietly. “It is unlike the route laid out for me in St. John. I had rather obey the letter, as well as the spirit, of my orders.”

“A good practice, truly,” General Burgoyne replied heartily, “and one that proves you are the man for this work. But our friends in St. John did not know what might arise, and therefore left you to your own judgment. I am exceedingly anxious that you use every precaution possible to carry Lord Germain’s message safely through the enemy’s lines.”

“You cannot be more anxious than I,” Master Preston said calmly, “and I have something more to say, provided our friend here is all he claims to be. It may be over-caution on my part, but if I recollect rightly, he has nothing but the word of that Indian to back him,” and he gave the officer a glance which caused him to flush slightly.

“Master Le Geyt answered so fully the description I had received of him,” the general replied somewhat haughtily, “that I was at once satisfied he was all he claimed to be. Nor is the Indian’s word of so little value as you seem to think. He must have known the young man, or he would never have brought him here. But since you have your doubts, he can, I am sure, show what will convince us that he is as trustworthy as yourself,” and he glanced confidently at the youth.

“I thank you, General Burgoyne, for so much confidence in me,” Ira replied, “and I commend the caution of Master Preston. He has a perfect right to demand full proof of my identity before giving me any information which might be of value to an enemy. I will then, with your permission, hand him my credentials first,” and, ripping open the lining of his coat, he took out two slips of paper, which he gave to the courier.

“The first is my commission as a scout from the general here,” he explained. “The second is from our good friend, Lord Germain, and bears his official seal. You will see that he vouches for my loyalty, and suggests that General Burgoyne employ me during this campaign. I believe it was this paper that led the general to send me the other, though he had never seen me.”

“I also had a personal note from the Secretary, giving me a description of you, and setting forth in detail how you could be of special service to me,” the commander hastened to add. “Are you satisfied, Master Preston?”

“I ought to be,” the latter declared, “and to prove it I will now make a disclosure, general, which I have up to this time withheld, even from you.”

As he spoke he took a small package from his coat pocket, and opening it, brought to view three papers.

“This,” he said, “is the letter to Sir Henry Clinton; this is my passport into any and all of our army lines; and this is the document I wish to show you. You will notice, General Burgoyne, that our friends at St. John were not in ignorance of the best route for me to follow in going to Yew York, and also will understand the real reason why I hold for the path they have marked out.”

Unfolding the paper with these words of explanation, he showed his companions a carefully prepared route of the entire distance he was to travel. Each day’s journey was laid out; every stopping place, with the name of his host, was written down, and, now and then, beside a name was a peculiar mark.

“Note these references,” he continued, “are concerning those men who are to give me special tidings as to the number and position of the rebels in their vicinity. James Graham of Hubbardtown, where I make my first stop, will tell me the latest news about Fort Ticonderoga; William Erskine will report as to the condition of affairs about Fort Edward. The other men will in turn post me about matters in their neighborhood, so that when I reach my destination I expect to be the bearer of information to General Clinton which will greatly aid him in despatching a force up the river to join you at Albany.”

Before he finished speaking Ira had read and fixed in his memory the names of the men who were to assist the courier. He knew some as rank Tories, but there were others who had the reputation of being friendly to the Cause, and, therefore, were allowed to come and go freely in the encampments near them. This revelation of their true character he regarded of sufficient value to repay him for all the risk he had run in entering the British camp.

“I had not thought of that, Master Preston,” the commander admitted. “The additional information you gain may be worth the chances you take in following that route. It is clear the authorities at St. John believed it would be. But I advise you to travel only in the night, and lay quietly in quarters during the day.”

“Precisely what I have planned to do, general. Leaving here to-night I count, unless I lose my way, to reach the house of Master Graham before sunrise. After that I shall have no trouble, for, if need be, a guide can be furnished me from station to station.”

“And you may have a guide to Master Graham’s door,” the young scout said modestly. “That is, if you are willing to accept my humble services.”

“I certainly am, and thank you for the favor,” the courier answered heartily. “It removes the only anxiety I had about this first stage of my journey. We will start about nine o’clock, if that suits you.”


“And you, General Burgoyne, can have your letter to Sir Henry ready by that time?” he asked.

“Yes; but I hope you have some safer place than your pocket for it and those other papers,” the general replied, as Master Preston began to wrap up the documents he had exhibited.

“Don’t borrow any trouble on that score, my dear sir,” the man replied with a peculiar smile. “I may be captured, and my garments picked to pieces, but I assure you the missives will not be found,” which declaration was credited by one, and doubted by his other hearer.

An orderly now appeared, saying that General Fraser was without and desired an interview with the commander.

“Show him in,” was the reply of that officer, and then, turning to his other visitors, he added, “I shall be busy during the remainder of the day, but an half-hour before you begin your journey I will be glad to see both of you here. The tent at the right, Master Le Geyt, has been prepared for you,” and then he turned to greet his