Irving Bacheller.

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I 've tied some vittles."

"You shall have supper," said the baroness, who, without delay,
went to the kitchen herself with a servant to look after it. The
butler brought a pair of slippers and a dry coat, while I drew off
the boots of my good friend. Then I gave him my arm as he limped
to the kitchen beside me. The baroness and I sat near him as he

"Go upstairs and call the gentlemen," said she to the butler, "Do
not make any disturbance, but say I should like to speak with them
in the dining room."

"Is thet air hired man o' yours a Britisher?" D'ri inquired as
soon as the butler was gone.

"He is - from Liverpool," said she.

"Thet's the hole 'n the fence," said he. "Thet's where the goose
got away."

"The goose! The geese!" said the baroness, thoughtfully. "I do
not understand you."

"Went 'n' blabbed, thet's whut he done," said D'ri. "Mebbe wrote
'em a letter, gol-dum his pictur'."

"Oh, I perceive! I understand," said she; "and I send him away

"Neck's broke with hunger," said D'ri. "Never threw no vittles 'n
my basket with sech a splendid taste tew 'em es these hev."

The baroness looked at him with some show of worry.

"I beg your pardon," said she, "did you say the neck of you was

I explained the idiom.

"Ain't hed nothin' t' eat since day 'fore yistiddy," said D'ri.
"Judas Priest! I 'm all et up with hunger."

With old Burgundy and biscuit and venison and hot coffee he was
rapidly reviving.

"I 'm wondering where I will hide you both," said the baroness,

"Hed n't orter hev no rumpus here, 'n' go t' shootin' 'n' mebbe
spile yer house 'n' furnicher," said D'ri. "'T ain't decent er 't
ain't nice. We 'd better mek tracks an' put a mild er tew 'twixt
us 'n' here 'fore we hev any trouble. 'T ain't a-goin' t' be no
Sunday School. Ef they can, they 're a-goin't' tek us dead er
'live. Ef they ever tuk us we would n't be wuth shucks, nuther on
us, efter court martial."

"I shall not permit you to go," said the baroness. "They may be
here now, about the house in the dark. They would shoot you, they
would stab you, they would cause you to die as you went. No, I
shall permit you not to go, There are four of them? Very well, we
shall fight here, we shall conquer. We have a general, a count, a
millionnaire, a marquis, a lawyer, an astronomer, a scout, and,"
she added, patting me on the shoulder, "_le brave capitaine_! I
have four guns and three pistols, and M'sieur Bell has arms also.
We shall conquer. We shall make them to bite the dust."

"Guns; did ye say? Jerushy Jane! Le' 's hev 'em," said D'ri.

"What did he call me? Mon Dieu! Jerushy Jane! It is not I," said
the baroness.

Again I explained the difficulty.

"Ain't very proper-spoke," said D'ri, apologetically. "Jest wan't'
say et them 'air guns er likely t' come handy here 'most any
minute. Give us guns, 'n' we 'll sock it to 'em."

"We shall sock it to them, we shall indeed," said she, hurrying out
of the room. "We shall make them to run for their lives."

They were all in the dining room - the men of the party - save the
general, who could not he awakened. Guns and pistols were loaded.
I made a novel plan of defence that was unanimously approved. I
posted a watch at every window. A little after dawn the baroness,
from behind a curtain, saw a squad of horsemen coming through the

"Ici! they have come!" said she, in a loud whisper. "There are not
four; there are many."

I took my detail of six men above-stairs. Each had a strip of
lumber we had found in the shop, and each carefully raised a
window, waiting the signal. I knew my peril, but I was never so
cool in my life. If I had been wiser, possibly I should have felt
it the more. The horsemen promptly deployed, covering every side
of the mansion. They stood close, mounted, pistol and sabre ready.
Suddenly I gave the signal. Then each of us thrust out the strip
of lumber stealthily, prodding the big drab cones on every side.
Hornets and wasps, a great swarm of them, sprang thick as seeds
from the hand of a sower. It was my part to unhouse a colony of
the long, white-faced hornets. Goaded by the ruin of their nests,
they saw the nodding heads below them, and darted at man and horse
like a night of arrows. They put their hot spurs into flank and
face and neck. I saw them strike and fall; they do hit hard, those
big-winged _Vespae_. It was terrible, the swift charge of that
winged battalion of the air. I heard howls of pain below me, and
the thunder of rushing feet. The horses were rearing and plunging,
the men striking with their hats.

I heard D'ri shouting and laughing at his window.

"Give 'em hell, ye little blue devils!" he yelled; and there was
all evidence that they understood him.

Then, again, every man of us opened his window and fired a volley
at the scurrying mass.

One horse, rearing and leaping on his hind legs, came down across
the back of another, and the two fell heavily in a rolling,
convulsive heap. One, as if blinded, bumped a tree, going over on
his withers, all fours flashing in the air. Some tore off in the
thickets, as unmanageable as the wild moose. More than half threw
their riders. Not a man of them pulled a trigger: they were busy
enough, God knows. Not one of them could have hit the sky with any
certainty. I never saw such a torrent of horsehair and red caps.

"Whut! Been on the back o' one o' 'em hosses?" said D'ri, telling
of it a long time after. "'D ruther o' been shet up 'n a barrel
with a lot o' cats 'n' rolled downhill. Good deal better fer my
health, an' I 'd 'a' luked more like a human bein' when I come out.
Them fellers - they did n't luk fit t' 'sociate with nuthin' er
nobody when we led 'em up t' the house - nut one on 'em."

Only one Britisher was brought down by our bullets, and he had been
the mark of D'ri: with him a rifle was never a plaything. Five
others lay writhing in the grass, bereft of horse, deserted by
their comrades. The smudges were ready, and the nets. D'ri and I
put on the latter and ran out, placing a smudge row on every side
of the Hermitage. The winged fighters were quickly driven away.
Of the helpless enemy one had staggered off in the brush; the
others lay groaning, their faces lumpy and one-sided. A big
sergeant had a nose of the look and diameter of a goose-egg; one
carried a cheek as large and protuberant as the jowl of a porker's
head; and one had ears that stuck out like a puffed bladder. They
were helpless. We disarmed them and brought them in, doing all we
could for their comfort with blue clay and bruised plantain. It
was hard on them, I have often thought, but it saved an ugly fight
among ladies, and, no doubt, many lives. I know, if they had taken
us, D'ri and I would never have got back.

I have saved myself many a time by strategy, but chose the sword
always if there were an even chance. And, God knows, if one had
ever a look at our bare bodies, he would see no sign of shirking on
either D'ri or me.


The shooting and shouting and the tramp of horse and man had roused
everybody in the big house. Even the general came down to know
what was the matter. The young ladies came, pale and frightened,
but in faultless attire. I put an armed guard by the prisoners at
the door, under command of D'ri. Then I had them bare the feet of
the four Britishers, knowing they could not run bootless in the
brush. We organized a convoy, - the general and I, - and prepared to
start for the garrison. We kept the smudges going, for now and
then we could hear the small thunder of hornet-wings above us.
There is a mighty menace in it, I can tell you, if they are angry.

"Jerushy Jane Pepper!" said D'ri, as he sat, rifle on his knee,
looking at his prisoners. "Never thought nobody c'u'd luk s'
joemightyful cur'us. Does mek a man humly t' hev any trouble with
them air willy-come-bobs." He meant wasps.

I had had no opportunity for more than a word with the young
ladies. I hoped it might come when I went in for a hasty breakfast
with the baroness, the count, the general, and Mr. Parish. As we
were eating, Louison came in hurriedly. She showed some agitation.

"What is the trouble, my dear?" said the baroness, in French.

"Eh bien, only this," said she: "I have dropped my ring in the
brook. It is my emerald. I cannot reach it."

"Too bad! She has dropped her ring in the brook," said the
baroness, in English, turning to me.

"If she will have the kindness to take me there," I said to the
hostess, rising as I spoke, "I shall try to get it for her."

"M'sieur le Capitaine, you are very obliging," said she. Then,
turning to Louison, she added in French: "Go with him. He will
recover it for you."

It pleased and flattered me, the strategy of this wonderful young
creature. She led me, with dainty steps, through a dewy garden
walk into the trail.

"Parbleu!" she whispered, "is it not a shame to take you from your
meat? But I could not help it. I had to see you; there is
something I wish to say."

"A pretty girl is better than meat," I answered quickly. "I am
indebted to you."

"My! but you have a ready tongue," said she. "It is with me a
pleasure to listen. You are going away? You shall not
return - perhaps?"

She was trying to look very gay and indifferent, but in her voice I
could detect a note of trouble. The flame of passion, quenched for
a little time by the return of peril and the smoke of gunpowder,
flashed up in me.

"It is this," she went on: "I may wish you to do me a favor. May I
have your address?"

"And you may command me," I said as I gave it to her.

"Have a care!" she said, laughing. "I may ask you to do desperate
things - you may need all your valor. The count and the
baroness - they may send us back to France."

"Which will please you," I remarked.

"Perhaps," she said quickly. "Mon Dieu! I do not know what I
want; I am a fool. Take this. Wear it when you are gone. Not
that I care - but - it will make you remember."

She held in her fingers a flashing emerald on a tiny circlet of
gold. Before I could answer she had laid it in my hard palm and
shut my hand upon it.

"Dieu!" she exclaimed, whispering, "I must return - I must hurry.
Remember, we did not find the ring."

I felt a great impulse to embrace her and confess my love. But I
was not quick enough. Before I could speak she had turned away and
was running. I called to her, but she did not turn or seem to hear
me. She and my opportunity were gone.

We stowed the prisoners in the big coach at the baroness, behind a
lively team of four. Then my horse and one for D'ri were brought

"Do not forget," said the baroness, holding my hand, "you are
always welcome in my house. I hope, ma foi! that you will never
find happiness until you return."

The young ladies came not to the step where we were, but stood by
the count waving adieux. Louison had a merry smile and a pretty
word of French for me; Louise only a sober look that made me sad,
if it did not speak for the same feeling in her. The count was to
remain at the Hermitage, having sent to the chateau for a squad of
his armed retainers. They were to defend the house, if, by chance,
the British should renew their attack. Mr. Parish and his footman
and the general went with us, the former driving. D'ri and I rode
on behind as the coach went off at a gallop.

He was a great whip, that man David Parish, who had built a big
mansion at Ogdensburg and owned so much of the north country those
days. He was a gentleman when the founders of the proud families
of to-day were dickering in small merchandise. Indeed, one might
look in vain for such an establishment as his north of Virginia.
This side the Atlantic there was no stable of horses to be compared
with that he had - splendid English thoroughbreds, the blood of
which is now in every great family of American horses. And, my
faith! he did love to put them over the road. He went tearing up
hill and down at a swift gallop, and the roads were none too smooth
in that early day. Before leaving home he had sent relays ahead to
await his coming every fifteen miles of the journey: he always did
that if he had far to go. This time he had posted them clear to
the Harbor. The teams were quickly shifted; then we were off again
with a crack of the whip and a toot of the long horn. He held up
in the swamps, but where footing was fair, the high-mettled horses
had their heads and little need of urging. We halted at an inn for
a sip of something and a bite to eat.

"Parish," said the general, rising on stiffened legs, "I like your
company and I like your wine, but your driving is a punishment."

D'ri was worn out with lack of sleep and rest, but he had hung
doggedly to his saddle.

"How do you feel?" I asked him as we drew up on each side of the

"Split t' the collar," said he, soberly, as he rested an elbow on
his pommel.

We got to headquarters at five, and turned over the prisoners. We
had never a warmer welcome than that of the colonel.

"I congratulate you both," he said as he brought the rum-bottle
after we had made our report. "You've got more fight in you than a
wolverene. Down with your rum and off to your beds, and report
here at reveille. I have a tough job for you to-morrow."


It was, indeed, tougher business than we had yet known - a dash into
the enemy's country, where my poor head was in excellent demand.
D'ri and I were to cross the lake with a band of raiders, a troop
of forty, under my command. We were to rescue some prisoners in a
lockup on the other side. They were to be shot in the morning, and
our mission therefore admitted of no delay. Our horses had been
put aboard a brig at midnight, and soon after the noon mess we
dropped down the lake, going into a deep, wooded cove south of the
Grenadier Island. There we lay waiting for nightfall. A big wind
was howling over the woods at sunset, and the dark came on its
wings an hour ahead of time. The night was black and the lake
noisy when we got under way, bound for a flatboat ferry. Our
skipper, it turned out, had little knowledge of those waters. He
had shortened sail, and said he was not afraid of the weather. The
wind, out of the southeast, came harder as it drove us on. Before
we knew it, the whole kit and boodle of us were in a devil of a
shakeup there in the broad water. D'ri and I were down among the
horses and near being trampled under in the roll. We tried to put
about then, but the great gusts of wind made us lower sail and drop
anchor in a hurry. Soon the horses were all in a tumble and one on
top of the other. We had to jump from back to back to save
ourselves. It was no pretty business, I can tell you, to get to
the stairway. D'ri was stripped of a boot-leg, and I was cut in
the chin by a front hoof, going ten feet or so to the upper deck.
To the man who was never hit in the chin by a horse's hoof let me
say there is no such remedy for a proud spirit. Bullets are much
easier to put up with and keep a civil tongue in one's head. That
lower deck was a kind of horses' hell. We had to let them alone.
They got astraddle of one another's necks, and were cut from ear to
fetlock - those that lived, for some of them, I could see, were
being trampled to death. How many I never knew, for suddenly we
hit a reef there in the storm and the black night. I knew we had
drifted to the north shore, and as the sea began to wash over us it
was every man for himself. The brig went up and down like a
sledge-hammer, and at every blow her sides were cracking and
caving. She keeled over suddenly, and was emptied of horse and
man. A big wave flung me far among the floundering horses. My
fingers caught in a wet mane; I clung desperately between crowding
flanks. Then a big wave went over us. I hung on, coming up
astride my capture. He swam vigorously, his nose high, blowing
like a trumpet. I thought we were in for a time of it, and had
very little hope for any landing, save in kingdom come. Every
minute I was head under in the wash, and the roaring filled me with
that mighty terror of the windfall. But, on my word, there is no
captain like a good horse in bad water. Suddenly I felt him hit
the bottom and go forward on his knees. Then he reared up, and
began to jump in the sand. A big wave washed him down again. He
fell on his side in a shallow, but rose and ran wearily over a soft
beach. In the blackness around me I could see nothing. A branch
whipped me in the face, and I ducked. I was not quick enough; it
was like fencing in the dark. A big bough hit me, raking the
withers of my horse, and I rolled off headlong in a lot of bushes.
The horse went on, out of hearing, but I was glad enough to lie
still, for I had begun to know of my bruises. In a few minutes I
took off my boots and emptied them, and wrung my blouse, and lay
back, cursing my ill luck.

But that year of 1813 had the kick of ill fortune in it for every
mother's son of us there in the North country. I have ever noticed
that war goes in waves of success or failure; If we had had Brown
or Scott to lead us that year, instead of Wilkinson, I believe it
had had a better history. Here was I in the enemy's country. God
knew where, or how, or when I should come out of it. I thought of
D'ri and how it had gone with him in that hell of waters. I knew
it would be hard to drown him. We were so near shore, if he had
missed the rocks I felt sure he would come out safely. I thought
of Louison and Louise, and wondered if ever I should see them
again. Their faces shone upon me there in the windy darkness, and
one as brightly as the other. Afterwhiles I drew my wet blouse
over me and went asleep, shivering.

A familiar sound woke me - that of the reveille. The sun was
shining, the sky clear, the wind had gone down. A crow sat calling
in a tree above my head. I lay in a strip of timber, thin and
narrow, on the lake shore. Through the bushes I could see the
masts of the brig slanting out of water some rods away. Beyond the
timber was a field of corn, climbing a side-hill that sloped off to
a level, grassy plain. Beyond the hill-top, reveille was still
sounding. A military camp was near me, and although I made no
move, my mind was up and busy as the drumsticks over the hill. I
sat as quiet as a cat at a mouse-hole, looking down at my uniform,
not, indeed, the most healthful sort of dress for that country.
All at once I caught sight of a scarecrow in the corn. I laughed
at the odd grotesquery of the thing - an old frock-coat and trousers
of olive-green, faded and torn and fat with straw. A stake driven
through its collar into the earth, and crowned with an ancient,
tall hat of beaver, gave it a backbone. An idea came to me. I
would rob the scarecrow and hide my uniform. I ran out and hauled
it over, and pulled the stuffing out of it. The coat and trousers
were made for a stouter man. I drew on the latter, fattening my
figure with straw to fill them. That done, I quickly donned the
coat. Each sleeve-end fell to my fingertips, and its girth would
have circled a flour-barrel and buttoned with room to spare. But
with my stuffing of straw it came around me as snug at the belt as
the coat of a bear. I took alarm as I closed the buttons. For
half a minute I had heard a drum-tap coming nearer. It was the
measured _tap! tap! tap-tap-tap_! so familiar to me. Now I could
hear the tread of feet coming with it back of the hill. How soon
they would heave in sight I was unable to reckon, but I dared not
run for cover. So I thrust my scabbard deep in the soft earth,
pulled down the big beaver hat over my face, muffled my neck with
straw, stuck the stake in front of me to steady myself, and stood
stiff as any scarecrow in Canada. Before I was done a column,
scarlet-coated, came out in the level beyond the hillside. Through
a hole in the beaver I could see them clearly. They came on, rank
after rank. They deployed, forming an open square, scarlet-sided,
on the green turf, the gap toward me. Then came three, walking
stiffly in black coats, a squad leading them. The thing I had
taken for a white visor was a blindfold. Their heads were bare. I
could see, now, they were in shackles, their arms behind them.
They were coming to their death - some of my unlucky comrades. God
pity them! A spy might as well make his peace with Heaven, if he
were caught those days, and be done with hope. Suspicion was
enough to convict on either side of the water that year. As my
feet sank deeper in the soft earth I felt as if I were going down
to my grave. The soldiers led them into the gap, standing them
close together, backs to me, The squad drew off. The prisoners
stood erect, their faces turning up a little, as if they were
looking into the clear, blue sky. I could see them waver as they
stood waiting. The sharpshooters advanced, halting as they raised
their rifles. To my horror, I saw the prisoners were directly
between me and them. Great God! was I also of that little company
about to die? But I dared not move a step. I stood still,
watching, trembling. An officer in a shining helmet was speaking
to the riflemen. His helmet seemed to jump and quiver as he moved
away. Those doomed figures began to reel and sway as they waited.
The shiny barrels lifted a little, their muzzles pointing at them
and at me. The corn seemed to duck and tremble as it waited the
volley. A great black ball shot across the sky in a long curve,
and began to fall. Then came the word, a flash of fire, a cloud of
smoke, a roar of rifles that made me jump in my tracks. I heard
bullets cuffing the corn, I felt the dirt fly up and scatter over
me, but was unhurt, a rigid, motionless man of straw. I saw my
countrymen reel, their legs go limp as rags, their bodies fall
silently forward. The soldiers stood a moment, then a squad went
after the dead with litters. Forming in fours, they marched away
as they had come, their steps measured by that regular _rap! rap!
rap-rap-rap_! of the drum. The last rank went out of sight. I
moved a little and pulled the stake, and quickly stuck it again,
for there were voices near. I stood waiting as stiff as a poker.
Some men were running along the beach, two others were coming
through the corn. They passed within a few feet of me on each
side. I heard them talking with much animation. They spoke of the
wreck. When they were well by me I faced about, watching them.
They went away in the timber, down to a rocky point, where I knew
the wreck was visible.

They were no sooner out of sight than I pulled the stake and sabre,
and shoved the latter under my big coat. Then I lifted the beaver
and looked about me. There was not a soul in sight. From that
level plain the field ran far to a thick wood mounting over the
hill. I moved cautiously that way, for I was in the path of people
who would be coming to see the wreck. I got near the edge of the
distant wood, and hearing a noise, halted, and stuck my stake, and
drew my hands back in the sleeves, and stood like a scarecrow,
peering through my hat. Near me, in the woods, I could hear a
cracking of sticks and a low voice. Shortly two Irishmen stuck
their heads out of a bush. My heart gave a leap in me, for I saw
they were members of my troop.

"Hello, there!" I called in a loud voice, It startled them. They
turned their heads to see where the voice came from, and stood
motionless. I pulled my stake and made for them on the run. I
should have known better, for the sight of me would have tried the
legs of the best trooper that ever sat in a saddle. As they told
me afterward, it was enough to make a lion yelp.

"Holy Mother!" said one, as they broke through the bush, running
for their lives. I knew not their names, but I called them as
loudly as I dared. They went on, never slacking pace. It was a
bad go, for I was burning for news of D'ri and the rest of them.
Now I could hear some heavy animal bounding in the brush as if
their running had startled him. I went back to the corn for
another stand. Suddenly a horse came up near me, cropping the
brush. I saw he was one off the boat, for he had bridle and
saddle, a rein hanging in two strings, and was badly cut. My
friend! the sight of a horse did warm me to the toes. He got a
taste of the tender corn presently, and came toward me as he ate.
In a moment I jumped to the saddle, and he went away leaping like a
wild deer. He could not have been more frightened if I had dropped

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Online LibraryIrving BachellerD'Ri and I → online text (page 6 of 15)