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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: 6

subordinate, who had already entered.

“I shall spend some hours in a much needed rest,” the young scout announced to his companion, when they were outside; “but will join you at sundown, if you so desire.”

“I will call for you when I come to report to the general,” Master Preston replied, and then hastened off to his own quarters.

Ira left his tent but once during the day. That was just after dinner, and for a stroll in the forest. He was absent about two hours, and on his return brought a fine string of trout he had caught.

“A present for the general,” he said to the courier, whom he chanced to meet soon after he entered the lines.

“I wish you had taken me with you,” the latter cried enthusiastically as he inspected the speckled beauties. “If there is anything I enjoy more than running the lines of the enemy, it is angling, and you have the finest catch I have ever seen in this country.”

“Then that shall be a bond between us,” was the hearty response. “I knew of a pool a mile or two from here, and could not resist the temptation to pull out a string. You’ll be here in a few hours?”

“Yes,” said Master Preston, strolling on, apparently unsuspicious that his new acquaintance had been out of the camp for any other purpose than that of fishing.

Their interview with General Burgoyne during evening was brief. He gave a letter he had prepared for General Clinton, to Master Preston, who asked to be excused for a few moments. Somewhere in the outer darkness he concealed it about him, for when he returned he said:

“I’ve put it with the others, sir, and promise you that it shall not fall into any hand than that for which it is intended.”

Ten minutes later he and his guide had left the encampment, and were gliding swiftly and noiselessly through the forest toward Master Graham’s.

Several times the heavy step as of some belated traveler caused them to shrink back under the cover of the dense brush until it had ceased. Now and then came the cry of some wild beast to startle them, but they kept steadily along the trail until nearly midnight. Then they had arrived at a small brook, which crossed the path at right angles, and here Ira, who was in the lead, stopped.

“Our journey is half done,” he announced. “We may as well halt here, and have something to eat.”

On a rock beside the stream, amid darkness that could almost be felt, surrounded by a silence that seemed oppressive, the two in silence partook of the food they had brought with them. Quenching their thirst from the rivulet, they were about to resume their tramp, when came the hoot of an owl from the rear. It was repeated at a short distance down the trail, and a moment later sounded nearer yet, but from up the brook.

“Can it be we are followed and surrounded?” the courier asked apprehensively in a low tone.

“It is a singular circumstance,” his companion admitted in a whisper. “There it is again,” and, listening, they heard the cries again in precisely the same order. Then came the sharp snap of a twig as though some one was approaching.

“The way is open to the right,” Ira continued in the same low tone. “Quick! we may yet escape.”

He led the way down the stream, going as rapidly as the darkness and underbrush would permit, his comrade keeping close at his heels. After a while the ground became soft and miry, and the bushes were so dense as to render progress exceedingly difficult.

“We must take to the brook,” Ira said to his companion. “Pull off your boots!”

“But is it necessary?” the courier asked. “Can’t we wait here awhile, and then go back to the trail?”

“Listen!” was the answer. Through the stillness of the night came to their ears the sound of footsteps.

“I have it,” the young scout whispered to Master Preston. “We’ll take to the stream here, and keep it down a few rods to where another brook joins it, which last we’ll follow. It will enable us to work toward the old trail, and at the same time throw our pursuers off the track.”

Stepping into the water a moment later, they waded slowly and cautiously along to the tributary of which Ira had spoken. Entering this they began its ascent. During a half hour they kept on, pausing occasionally to learn if they were still followed, but no sound broke the stillness of the forest.

“Those fellows have lost our trail; can’t we leave the brook now?” the courier at length asked, becoming tired of his slippery and uncertain footing.

His companion’s answer was also a question:

“What’s that ahead of us?”

Master Preston stepped beside his guide, and then replied:

“It is a fire of some kind!”

“A camp-fire,” was the rejoinder. “I can now see a tent beyond.”

“What shall we do?”

“Keep straight on. Whoever may be there are probably fast asleep at this hour.”

Noiselessly they advanced.

“We are in a pond,” the courier whispered an instant later.

“That’s a fact,” his companion agreed, “and that is Boulder island. I know where we are now. I don’t think we have anything to fear, still we’ll keep our guns ready for immediate use.”

The next moment they gained the shore of the island, and stopped in front of the fire, at the tent door. The canvas dwelling was empty.

Ira laughed loudly.

“This is a joke on us!” he exclaimed. “See! there are the fellows’ fishing rods. They were doubtless out hunting when night came on, became separated, and are trying to find each other and their camp. We’ve run away from men who had no thought of pursuing us,” and again he laughed heartily.

Before his comrade could speak a cry came from the main shore.

“Hello there! Who are you in our camp?”

“I ought to know that voice,” the young scout said to the courier. Then he replied:

“Is that you, Joe?”

“Yes, but who are you?”

“Ira Le Geyt.”

“Hurrah!” came back across the little pond. “We’ll jine ye in a minute.”

There was a noise as of splashing water for a moment, and then two young lads came into the dim light of the camp-fire.

“Glad to see you, Ira,” they both exclaimed, shaking hands with him, and he introduced his companion to them.

“Master Preston, this is Joe Fisher and Late Wentworth, two friends of mine, who are of the right sort.”

When the courier had acknowledged the introduction, his guide continued:

“Was it you who were hooting like owls up where the stream crosses the Hubbardtown trail?”

“Yes,” Late replied. “We were separated, an’ tryin’ to come together again. Why do you ask?”

“We thought it was some one who wanted to hem us in on the trail, and so took to the brook,” the young scout explained, “and here we are, three or four miles out of our way.”

“Well, ye better stay until mornin’,” Joe said. “You are both welcome to our shelter an’ fodder, such as it is. Ain’t that so, Late?”

“I reckon,” his camp-mate replied, “an’ if we don’t turn in soon, mornin’ will be here ’fore we get a wink of sleep.”

“I leave it to you, Master Preston,” Ira said. “Shall we go on, or stay?”

“Go on,” he answered. “I must reach my destination before light, if it is possible.”

“Very well,” his guide replied, stooping to pick up the big boots he had thrown down upon reaching camp.

The courier bent over for the same purpose, but before he could recover himself, Late and Joe seized and threw him to the ground.