" Then of what avail was it to build a fleet here at
Presque Isle?" Tasked stupidly.
" We have had reason to expect reinforcements long
before this ; but at present the only move that can be
made is to acquaint ourselves with what the enemy may
be doing. Go on board the small boat, and, without
running heedlessly into danger, gain all the information
that may be possible, returning here only when you
have news of importance to impart."
It was easy to see that the subject was a sore one
with him, and I needed not much experience in such
matters to understand that a man like my father would
feel most bitterly the necessity of remaining idle while
the enemy was within striking distance.
As he felt, so probably did Captain Perry, and Alec
and I came to know later how these two brave men
chafed, being held prisoners within the harbor, as it
were, when a few miles away was an opportunity, not
only to win renown for themselves, but to strike a blow
in aid of their country.
I understood only a portion of this at the time ; but
9<D WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
that little was enough to prevent me from saying any-
thing more, and obeying Alec's gestures I turned about
to go over the rail into the small boat.
My father stopped me with a touch on the shoulder,
and as I turned, he said, looking affectionately into my
eyes : -
"Be careful, Richard. Go so far as an American
should, regarding not your own life when there is need
that it should be sacrificed ; but having a heed to your
steps when nothing can be accomplished by ventur-
Then he wheeled about as if not minded to see us
depart, and Alec and I went over the Ariel's rail
into as trim a pleasure boat as I had ever seen.
She was perhaps eighteen feet long, with a sort of
cuddy aft where one might be sheltered in case of a
storm, and rigged in sloop fashion, carrying a single
jib and mainsail.
There was a light breeze from the south, and when
we, having cast off the painter, hoisted the canvas, the
little craft slipped away from the schooner's side as
if under the influence of a full gale of wind.
Not until we were well out into the lake did either
of us lads make any comment upon this mission with
which we had been intrusted, and perhaps we held
silent the longer because it had come to us so sud-
THE BRITISH FLEET. 91
denly that we were embarked in the enterprise before
fully realizing it had been begun.
After we were two or three miles from the shore
my thoughts went back to that winter afternoon when,
having come on much the same course across the ice,
we ran into the enemy's hands, and all the details of
that disagreeable venture came into my mind. The
unpleasant memories must have shown themselves in
my face, for Alec, who was sitting well forward while
I minded the helm, said banteringly : -
" Now that you are put in command of a vessel,
the weight of responsibility seems to bow you
" It does indeed," I replied, surprising him by turn-
ing that which he counted should be a jest into a
serious remark. " Not that I think my .responsibility
any greater than yours ; but to my mind we are set
out on a venture wherein is far more of danger than
we have yet encountered."
" And you draw a long mouth because we may,
perchance, run our heads into some peril ? " he asked
" It is not that which troubles me so greatly, Alec
Perry, as you should know full well by this time,
having been comrades with me these three months.
My gloomy thoughts are not brought about by fear
92 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
of what may come to us ; but because of the condi-
tion of affairs, as has just been represented to us."
" And are you but this moment come to realize that
we have built vessels, and yet have no force to man
them ? Has it just dawned upon you that the British
can enter Presque Isle with but little opposition?"
" I had believed sailors would be sent as soon as
needed," I replied, looking at him in surprise, for
there was a certain bitterness in his tone which gave
me to understand he had been turning the unpleasant
thought in his mind for many a day. " How long is it
since you have had an understanding of the situation ? "
"When we lay at the Black Rock Navy- Yard I
half surprised, half forced Oliver into a confession that
he was sorely disappointed because no heed had been
given his request for men."
" And said nothing to me ? "
" I promised him I would hold my peace until the
fact should be apparent to all."
" Why such secrecy ? "
" He feared any word from himself or me might
be misconstrued, and that the people would think we
gave ourselves up to complaint, instead of trying to
make the best of what was a sorry affair. Now, since
your father has spoken, there is no reason why I
should longer hold my peace."
THE BRITISH FLEET. 93
Then the lad repeated all his brother had said to
him, and I, who should from my own observation have'
understood long since the true situation, now for the
first time got an inkling of the defenceless position
in which was Presque Isle.
I learned that Captain Perry had been ordered again
and again by the officials at Washington to make
some demonstration against the enemy, although it
was well known that he had no more than sufficient
force to man one of the brigs.
I had previously believed many of our recruits were
in the hospital, but until now was not aware a full
fifth of them were unfit for duty, and that even though
it was possible the Caledonia alone might deal some
disastrous blow to the British, she could not be sent
out in proper trim.
Should Captain Finnis visit the bay with his cruising
squadron on this day, he would encounter but little
opposition, and the town, as well as our nearly com-
pleted fleet, would be at his mercy.
We talked long regarding the situation, Alec and I,
wondering why the officials at Washington should
neglect us so entirely - - why Captain Perry had been
sent up from Newport to take charge of a force which
had no existence ; but could hit upon nothing by way
of a solution to what seemed like a mystery.
94 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
It was a sorry beginning to a voyage full of dangers,
as ours must necessarily be, and at the time it seemed
that by declaring war against the Britishers the people
of the United States had compassed their own destruc-
So despondent had we two lads become by this time
that little heed was given to anything around, although
liberty and perhaps life itself depended upon our
vigilance. It was as if we were sailing the boat only
for our own pleasure, regardless of where the wind
might bear us, and we failed to keep even an ordinary
Therefore it was that both Alec and I were startled
- almost frightened when suddenly there came as if
from out of the water, the cry:-
" Boat ahoy ! "
For an instant I stared at Alec stupidly, and then,
realizing how careless we had been, I sprang to my
feet, looking wildly about.
The cry was repeated, and by bending outboard ever
so slightly I saw just ahead of us, where we must have
run her down had we held the course two or three
minutes longer, a small boat, better known to us in
Presque Isle by the name of bateau a craft half
canoe, half skiff, such as the Canadians use on swiftly
running water - and in her, but making no effort to
THE BRITISH FLEET. 95
paddle out of the way, was a lad of about my own age,
who waved his arms frantically to attract our attention.
I pulled the tiller up so that we might pass him on
the starboard side, and as our boat swung off I under-
stood why he had remained idle until we were near to
running him down.
In the bateau was not so much as a paddle. The
lad was powerless to direct her movements, and I
stared at him stupidly in amazement, wondering how it
chanced that he should thus be drifting so far from
land at the mercy of wind and wave.
WHILE Alec and I gazed at the frightened-look-
ing occupant of the bateau, our craft was
gliding swiftly by, and the lad, believing we intended
to leave him in his plight, shrieked wildly :
"In the name of mercy take me aboard your boat !
Do not desert me ! >:
From his manner of speaking I understood that he
was what we round about Presque Isle call a French-
Canadian, and as such it was reasonable to suppose he
had no very great love for the British.
However, whether he had been a friend or foe it was
not my purpose to leave him, for should the wind in-
crease to a gale he would be in great danger, while if
it fell calm the lad was like to die from thirst or
Our craft was not to be brought around in an instant,
and the boy, who could have known but little of seaman-
ship, believing we intended to run away from him, re-
doubled his cries for help.
LEON MARCHAND. 97
" Have patience until we can lay you alongside,"
Alec shouted with no little tinge of anger in his tones,
for it seemed childish that this fellow should suppose
we could bring the eighteen-foot boat up into the wind
as we pleased.
The lad was so thoroughly frightened that he seem-
ingly failed to understand anything we said to him ;
but continued to shriek imploringly, while we ma-
noeuvred our boat as best we might in a wind so strong
that it was necessary to run off for a mile or more
before we could stand back toward him.
" He is even more than an ordinary coward ! " Alec
exclaimed, as the boy's cries came to us, while, if he
had had his wits about him, he must have seen that
we were doing all in our power to get alongside the
" It is not strange he shows signs of fear," I said,
feeling wondrous kind toward him just then because
of the timorousness which had been in my heart a
few moments previous. " He who is adrift on the
lake without means of even so much as steering his
boat, has a hard lookout ahead of him."
" He might at least hold his peace, knowing what
we are trying to do."
" It may be he is no sailor, and fails to understand
why it is necessary we run so far down before putting
98 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
back," I replied ; and from that moment Alec held his
peace, although I understood full well by the expres-
sion on his face that the lad's continued appeals for
help annoyed him greatly.
Well, to make a long story short, we laid him along-
side in due time, and once our craft rubbed against
the gunwale of the boat, he leaped aboard in frantic
haste, as if believing every second was precious.
As a matter of course his light craft, propelled by
the impetus which he gave her in jumping, swung off
beyond our reach, and, much as I pitied the lad, it
was impossible to prevent an exclamation of impa-
tience because of his carelessness.
The boat was worth more dollars than I had ever
been possessed of at one time, and to send her adrift
thus recklessly was an extravagance such as I could
" What are you about ? " Alec asked, when I swung
the boat around in order to come at the skiff.
" I am counting on picking up the bateau. There
is no reason why she should be allowed to go adrift
when we may as well tow her into Presque Isle. A
craft like that won't hold our boat back a half a
mile in an hour."
"You didn't set out for the purpose of making a
dollar," Alec said, speaking more sharply than I had
LEON MARCH AND. 99
ever heard him. " We have no right to waste time,
and that same I would say even though yonder skiff
was worth ten times what she will fetch."
Involuntarily I allowed our boat to swing around
into the wind once more, surprised as well as pained
by his tone, and until we were on our course again I
gave no heed to the passenger who had so uncere-
moniously come aboard.
Alec, understanding that he had spoken roughly,
said in a soothing tone, such as no lad, however angry,
could withstand : -
" It was not in my mind to say aught to offend,
Dicky; but knowing how important it is that we per-
form our mission, any delay, however slight, seems
My anger fled on the instant, and after one regret-
ful glance at the bateau now so far astern, I held out
my hand to him in token that I bore no ill-will, after
which, following the direction of his gaze, I looked at
He was a slight, weakly lad, with eyes such as would
cause one to trust in him ; but a certain timid way that
told he had been delicately reared a lad toward whom
one's sympathy went out before he asked it.
"How came you adrift in a bateau?" and Alec
looked at him searchingly as he spoke.
100 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
" The English soldiers, who last night sailed toward
the American shore, left me to drown or starve."
" Left you ? " I repeated, not understanding the
words. " Do you live on our side of the lake ? "
" My home is on the North Foreland, or, as per-
haps you call it, Long Point. I offended the soldiers,
and they took me with them, counting, as I then be-
lieved, to leave me with the Americans. Instead of
which I was, shortly before daylight, put into the boat
and told to go my way."
" Then the Britishers were reconnoitring Presque
Isle Bay?" Alec asked quickly.
"They went in that direction, as I understood from
their words, to see what preparations were being made."
"Where did they come from?"
"From the North Foreland."
" How manv are there ? "
" More than a thousand ; and it is said they will
march across the United States even into the capital
Alec looked at me as if to say that in befriending
this lad we had indeed found a prize, for before having
sailed half-way across the lake there was come to us
such information as must be valuable to those at Presque
Isle, \vho w r ere waiting in vain for reinforcements.
" How did it chance that they could find pleasure
LEON MARCHAND. IOI
in thus setting you in danger of death ? " I asked,
still so taken by the lad's pitiful face that I failed to
realize how important was the information he gave us.
" I refused to show them where my mother had
hidden our store of provisions, and they could have
killed me before I would have led them to it, for once
it was taken, my mother and my sister might starve on
the North Foreland, and I was not minded to bring
about their death."
I failed to understand all he meant by this ; but it
was evident that he had proven himself courageous in
a certain sense, otherwise the Britishers would not
have dealt so hardly with him.
It is needless for me to set down here word for word
the conversation which was held between us three as
we continued on our course, holding steadily for Long
Point, where he had said the enemy were yet in camp,
because the story may be told in fewer words.
From the information given, neither Alec nor I had
any doubt but that the Britishers were still encamped
where we had found them on that certain clay in March,
and the movement against Presque Isle had been de-
ferred, not abandoned.
I had no question but that he came from the same
place where we were held prisoners, for by his story
we understood that his mother lived not far from the
102 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
extreme easterly point of land, where, as I knew full
well, was a small farm under fairly good cultivation.
The British had been there more than three months,
and twice during that time set out toward the Ameri-
can shore, but only to return. Why they failed to
make an attack the lad could not say.
After he had given us all the information in his
power, we asked his name.
" Leon Marchand," was the reply ; " and my mother
is the widow of that Captain Marchand who came
hither from France eight years ago."
There was little in this statement to enlighten us;
but I afterward came to understand why he spoke so
proudly of his father, as will any lad who reads of
what occurred nearabout Paris in the year 1804.
It can well be fancied that we looked upon this
French lad as a friend, after once hearing his story,
and that we trusted him fully, knowing he had little
cause to feel kindly toward our enemies. In fact, so
well convinced was I of his friendliness that, regard-
less of Alec's warning look, I explained why we were
sailing across Lake Erie at a time when Americans
had every reason to shun the Canadian shore.
" I shall help you to find out all you have come to
learn," Leon said enthusiastically, having regained his
cheerfulness immediately I confided in him. " Trust
LEON MARCHAND. I 03
me to point out a safe harbor, and this night you may
sleep at my mother's house."
There was a great question in my mind as to whether
Alec and I were warranted in going ashore, for it
seemed at the moment as if we had already learned
that which should be told my father without delay,
and I believed we ought to return at once.
" We will do as Leon suggests," Alec said, answer-
ing the question which he read in my eyes. " In order
to accomplish our work we must know more. It is
not enough that we go back and say there is yet an
encampment of the enemy on Long Point."
"But we can discover no more by going ashore," I
objected; and Leon, fearing lest it was in my mind to
put about at once, cried imploringly : -
" Surely you will not take me with you ? I can
conduct you to a place where it will be easy to make
" You shall be left as near to your home as is safe
for us," I replied, and immediately Alec added, as if
his was the right to direct our movements : -
" We will sleep at your mother's home, Leon, and
in payment for the rescue you shall show us during
the night so much of the British encampment as we
may wish to see."
" I am ready to do whatsoever you shall direct,"
IO4 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
the lad replied, and I made no protest, for suddenly,
as it were, Alec Perry had taken upon himself the
leadership. I had become no more than a follower
who must obey his commands.
For the moment this sudden and seemingly unwar-
ranted assumption of authority displeased me greatly,
and then, remembering all that had taken place since
we two met, I realized that he had the better head
for such work as we were then engaged in.
Immediately I became only the helmsman, and from
that hour Alec Perry was, in my mind, one who
should be obeyed.
Leon gave us all possible information concerning
the enemy's encampment, described the location of
his mother's farm, and told of a cove near by where
we might put in without great danger of being observed
by the enemy, providing we did not land until after
Then it was Alec ordered the boat to be held on
such a course as would keep us at a safe distance
from the land until nightfall.
We broached the store of provisions which my
mother had prepared for us ; found a keg of water
in the cuddy of the boat, and made as hearty a meal
as if there was no such thing as war or soldiers in
LEON MARCHAND. I 05
More than once as we neared the Canadian shore
did we sight a sail ; but with the breeze that was
blowing, and the handy craft under us, it was not a
difficult matter to give these strangers as wide a berth
as suited our fancy.
Until half an hour before the close of day we stood
off four or five miles from the land, taking good care,
however, not to come within view of the sentinels who
were likely posted nearabout the camp.
Then, in accordance with Alec's command, I hauled
our light craft around for that portion of the shore
pointed out by Leon, and we advanced toward the
enemy's country as calmly as if going to meet a near
and dear friend.
The night had fully come before we ran into a nar-
row cove, on the upper side of the North Foreland,
where even in broad day we might have remained
hidden from view of any who passed within an hun-
dred yards, so dense and near to the water's edge was
the forest which lined the shore.
Pulling the light boat as far into the thicket as
was possible, we left her, and Leon led the way
toward his home, having explained meanwhile that
the British encampment was not less than a mile
and a half away.
The reception which we met with from the Widow
IO6 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
Marchand was a warm one, as can well be imagined,
and had we come for no other purpose than to restore
her son, I should have felt that we were fully repaid
for all the labor expended in his behalf.
She, as may well be fancied, had been in great
distress of mind because of his absence, and now that
he was with her once more, her anxiety to show grati-
tude was so great as to be most painful.
Alec, with a view to checking her efforts at dis-
playing thankfulness, explained at considerable length
how we had come upon him, and why he might do
more for us than we had for him, whereat I could
see plainly that the good woman was in much distress
She realized that Leon should do somewhat toward
repaying us ; but feared to have him venture within
reach of those men who had shown to what length
their cruelty could go.
" Your son has no need to do more than point out
the location of the encampment, in case we decide to
go there," I said, hastening to quiet her mind, and
Leon interrupted by declaring positively that he
should not leave us until we had accomplished our
Well, we had a controversy there, Alec taking sides
with me in the declaration that we would not lead the
LEON MARCHAND. IO/
lad into further danger, and his mother, her gratitude
outweighing her fears, insisting with him that it was
his duty to do whatsoever lay in his power toward
furthering our mission.
The result of it was that after partaking of a supper
cooked in an outlandish fashion, although most pala-
table, we three lads set out to reconnoitre the British
camp, I saying to myself meanwhile that it was not
only a hazardous, but a foolish proceeding, for what
could we hope to learn more than was known already ?
The British were there in force, for Leon had good
proof of such fact, and were threatening Presque Isle,
which to my mind was as much as we needed to
I did not venture to dissuade Alec from the recon-
noissance, knowing full well that it would be useless,
but believing we were venturing more recklessly into
danger than when we had skated straight toward this
same encampment three months before.
Leon led us by a roundabout way, skirting here along
the shore, and again making a detour across the
wooded lands until we were come to what was seem-
ingly the rear of the camp, and here lay all the proof
So far as eye could see in the darkness, there ap-
peared to be twice one thousand soldiers in the camp,
IOS WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
and off the shore lay four vessels which I doubted not
belonged to Captain Finnis's squadron, rendezvoused
here ready to transport troops when the moment had
come for the attack upon Presque Isle.
Leon, knowing full well all the paths through the
woods, and the places where the sentinels were
stationed, conducted us in safety from one point to
another until I came to a halt, whispering to Alec :
"There is no reason why we should continue this
investigation any further. We already know as much
as is necessary, and ought to be well on our way to-
ward the American shore before day breaks."
" It was said that we should be absent two or three
days, and I am not minded to leave here with no more
information than has been gained," my comrade said
stoutly, and in such a tone as told me that argument on
my part would be useless.
" You will wait here to no further end than that we
may be made prisoners," I replied hotly, and perhaps
might have said what would have caused bad blood
between us but that we were suddenly confronted by
what seemed to me most imminent danger.
We were standing on one side of a broad path which
ran, so Leon had declared, directly through the camp,
when without warning a group of men appeared in the
distance, coming directly toward us.
LEON MARCHAND. lOQ
To have made any effort then at running away would
have simply been to betray our whereabouts, for the
rustling of the foliage must have told plainly where we
were, and instinct prompted my companions as well
as myself to step quietly back a few paces, where we
might be screened by the leaves.
It was as if we had been led to the spot by some
invisible power, for perhaps nowhere else could have
been learned what we then heard.
The officers, for such we soon made out the strangers
to be, were walking leisurely up the path in earnest con-
versation, as if strolling in the night simply to find relief
from the heat ; and soon we could distinguish their words.