Rolf In The Woods
Part 5 out of 6
twinkle in his eye, "if things were to be judged by their
product, I am afraid your mother would win easily," and he laid
his long, thin, scrawny hand beside the broad, strong hand of the
"Old Sylvanne wasn't far astray when he said: 'There aren't any
sick, 'cept them as thinks they are,"' said Rolf. "I suppose I
ought to begin to taper off," was the reply. But the tapering
was very sudden. Before a week went by, it seemed desirable to
go back for the stuff left in cache on the Schroon, where, of
course, it was subject to several risks. There seemed no object
in taking Van Cortlandt back, but they could not well leave him
alone. He went. He had kept time with fair regularity --
calomel, rhubarb; calomel, rhubarb; calomel, rhubarb, squills --
but Rolf's remarks had sunk into his intelligence, as a red-hot
shot will sink through shingles, letting in light and creating
This was a rhubarb morning. He drank his potion, then, carefully
stoppering the bottle, he placed it with its companions in a box
and stowed that near the middle of the canoe. "I'll be glad
when it's finished," he said reflectively; "I don't believe I
need it now. I wish sometimes I could run short of it all."
That was what Rolf had been hoping for. Without such a remark,
he would not have dared do as he did. He threw the tent cover
over the canoe amidships, causing the unstable craft to cant:
"That won't do," he remarked, and took out several articles,
including the medicine chest, put them ashore under the bushes,
and, when he replaced them, contrived that the medicine should be
Next morning Van Cortlandt, rising to prepare his calomel, got a
shock to find it not.
"It strikes me," says Rolf, "the last time I saw that, it was on
the bank when we trimmed the canoe." Yes, there could be no doubt
of it. Van must live his life in utter druglessness for a time.
It gave him somewhat of a scare, much like that a young swimmer
gets when he finds he has drifted awav from his floats; and, like
that same beginner, it braced him to help himself. So Van found
that he could swim without corks.
They made a rapid journey down, and in a week they were back with
There was the potion chest where they had left it. Van Cortlandt
picked it up with a sheepish smile, and they sat down for evening
meal. Presently Rolf said: "I mind once I seen three little
hawks in a nest together. The mother was teaching them to fly.
Two of them started off all right, and pretty soon were scooting
among the treetops. The other was scared. He says: 'No, mother,
I never did fly, and I'm scared I'd get killed if I tried.' At
last the mother got mad and shoved him over. As soon as he felt
he was gone, he spread out his wings to save himself. The wings
were all right enough, and long before he struck the ground, he
Chapter 61. Rolf Learns Something from Van
A man can't handle his own case, any more than a delirious doctor
kin give himself the right physic. --Saying of Si Sylvanne.
However superior Rolf might feel in the canoe or the woods, there
was one place where Van Cortlandt took the lead, and that was in
the long talks they had by the campfire or in Van's own shanty
which Quonab rarely entered.
The most interesting subjects treated in these were ancient
Greece and modern Albany. Van Cortlandt was a good Greek scholar,
and, finding an intelligent listener, he told the stirring tales
of royal Ilion, Athens, and Pergamos, with the loving enthusiasm
of one whom the teachers found it easy to instruct in classic
lore. And when he recited or intoned the rolling Greek heroics of
the siege of Troy, Rolf listened with an interest that was
strange, considering that he knew not a word of it. But he said,
"It sounded like real talk, and the tramp of men that were all
astir with something big a-doing."
Albany and politics, too, were vital strains, and life at the
Government House, with the struggling rings and cabals, social
and political. These were extraordinarily funny and whimsical to
Rolf. No doubt because Van Cortlandt presented them that way. And
he more than once wondered how rational humans could waste their
time in such tomfoolery and childish things as all
conventionalities seemed to be. Van Cortlandt smiled at his
remarks, but made no answer for long.
One day, the first after the completion of Van Cortlandt's cabin,
as the two approached, the owner opened the door and stood aside
for Rolf to enter.
"Go ahead," said Rolf.
"After you," was the polite reply.
"Oh, go on," rejoined the lad, in mixed amusement and impatience.
Van Cortlandt touched his hat and went in.
Inside, Rolf turned squarely and said: "The other day you said
there was a reason for all kinds o' social tricks; now will you
tell me what the dickens is the why of all these funny- do's? It
'pears to me a free-born American didn't ought to take off his
hat to any one but God."
Van Cortlandt chuckled softly and said: "You may be very sure
that everything that is done in the way of social usage is the
result of common-sense, with the exception of one or two things
that have continued after the reason for them has passed, like
the buttons you have behind on your coat; they were put there
originally to button the tails out of the way of your sword.
Sword wearing and using have passed away, but still you see the
"As to taking off your hat to no man: it depends entirely on what
you mean by it; and, being a social custom, you must accept its
"In the days of knight errantry, every one meeting a stranger had
to suppose him an enemy; ten to one he was. And the sign and
proof of friendly intention was raising the right hand without a
weapon in it. The hand was raised high, to be seen as far as they
could shoot with a bow, and a further proof was added when they
raised the vizor and exposed the face. The danger of the highway
continued long after knights ceased to wear armour; so, with the
same meaning, the same gesture was used, but with a lifting of
the hat. If a man did not do it, he was either showing contempt,
or hostility for the other, or proving himself an ignorant brute.
So, in all civilized countries, lifting the hat is a sign of
mutual confidence and respect."
"Well! that makes it all look different. But why should you touch
your hat when you went ahead of me just now?"
"Because this is my house; you are my guest. I am supposed to
serve you in reasonable ways and give you precedence. Had I let
you open my door for me, it would have been putting you in the
place of my servant; to balance that, I give you the sign of
equality and respect."
"H'm," said Rolf, "'it just shows,' as old Sylvanne sez, 'this
yer steel-trap, hair-trigger, cocksure jedgment don't do. An' the
more a man learns, the less sure he gits. An' things as hez
lasted a long time ain't liable to be on a rotten foundation.'"
Chapter 62. The Charm of Song
With a regular tum ta tum ta, came a weird sound from the sunrise
rock one morning, as Van slipped out of his cabin.
Gezhik-om era-bid ah-keen
"What's he doing, Rolf?"
"That's his sunrise prayer," was the answer.
"Do you know what it means?"
"Yes, it ain't much; jest 'Oh, thou that walkest in the sky in
the morning, I greet thee."'
"Why, I didn't know Indians had such performances; that's exactly
like the priests of Osiris. Did any one teach him? I mean any
"No, it's always been the Indian way. They have a song or a
prayer for most every big event, sunrise, sunset, moonrise, good
hunting, and another for when they're sick, or when they're going
on a journey, or when their heart is bad."
"You astonish me. I had no idea they were so human. It carries me
back to the temple of Delphi. It is worthy of Cassandra of Ilion.
I supposed all Indians were just savage Indians that hunted till
their bellies were full, and slept till they were empty again."
"H'm," rejoined Rolf, with a gentle laugh. "I see you also have
been doing some 'hair-trigger, steel-trap, cocksure jedgin'.'"
"I wonder if he'd like to hear some of my songs? "
"It's worth trying; anyway, I would," said Rolf.
That night, by the fire, Van sang the "Gay Cavalier," "The
Hunting of John Peel," and "Bonnie Dundee." He had a fine
baritone voice. He was most acceptable in the musical circles of
Albany. Rolf was delighted, Skookum moaned sympathetically, and
Quonab sat nor moved till the music was over. He said nothing,
but Rolf felt that it was a point gained, and, trying to follow
it up, said:
"Here's your drum, Quonab; won't you sing 'The Song of the
Wabanaki?'" But it was not well timed, and the Indian shook his
"Say, Van," said Rolf, (Van Cortlandt had suggested this
abbreviation) "you'll never stand right with Quonab till you kill
"I've done some trying."
"Well, now, we'll go out to-morrow evening and try once more.
What do you think of the weather, Quonab? "
"Storm begin noon and last three days," was the brief answer, as
the red man walked away.
"That settles it," said Rolf; "we wait."
Van was surprised, and all the more so when in an hour the sky
grew black and heavy rain set in, with squalls.
"How in the name of Belshazzar's weather bugler does he tell?"
"I guess you better not ask him, if you want to know. I'll find
out and tell you later."
Rolf learned, not easily or at single talk:
"Yesterday the chipmunks worked hard; to-day there are none to be
"Yesterday the loons were wailing; now they are still, and no
small birds are about.
"Yesterday it was a yellow sunrise; to-day a rosy dawn.
"Last night the moon changed and had a thick little ring.
"It has not rained for ten days, and this is the third day of
"There was no dew last night. I saw Tongue Mountain at daybreak;
my tom-tom will not sing.
"The smoke went three ways at dawn, and Skookum's nose was hot."
So they rested, not knowing, but forced to believe, and it was
not till the third day that the sky broke; the west wind began to
pay back its borrowings from the east, and the saying was proved
that "three days' rain will empty any sky."
That evening, after their meal, Rolf and Van launched the canoe
and paddled down the lake. A mile from camp they landed, for this
was a favourite deer run. Very soon Rolf pointed to the ground.
He had found a perfectly fresh track, but Van seemed not to
comprehend. They went along it, Rolf softly and silently, Van
with his long feet and legs making a dangerous amount of clatter.
Rolf turned and whispered, "That won't do. You must not stand on
dry sticks." Van endeavoured to move more cautiously and thought
he was doing well, but Rolf found it very trying to his patience
and began to understand how Quonab had felt about himself a year
ago. "See," said Rolf, "lift your legs so; don't turn your feet
out that way. Look at the place before you put it down again;
feel with your toe to make sure there is no dead stick, then
wriggle it down to the solid ground. Of course, you'd do better
in moccasins. Never brush past any branches; lift them aside and
don't let them scratch; ease them back to the place; never try to
bend a dry branch; go around it," etc. Van had not thought of
these things, but now he grasped them quickly, and they made a
wonderful improvement in his way of going.
They came again to the water's edge; across a little bay Rolf
sighted at once the form of a buck, perfectly still, gazing their
way, wondering, no doubt, what made those noises.
"Here's your chance," he whispered.
"Where?" was the eager query.
"There; see that gray and white thing?"
"I can't see him."
For five minutes Rolf tried in vain to make his friend see that
statuesque form; for five minutes it never moved. Then, sensing
danger, the buck gave a bound and was lost to view.
It was disheartening. Rolf sat down, nearly disgusted; then one
of Sylvanne's remarks came to him: "It don't prove any one a
fool, coz he can't play your game."
Presently Rolf said, "Van, hev ye a book with ye?"
"Yes, I have my Virgil."
"Read me the first page."
Van read it, holding the book six inches from his nose.
"Let's see ye read this page there," and Rolf held it up four
"I can't; it's nothing but a dim white spot."
"Well, can ye see that loon out there?"
"You mean that long, dark thing in the bay? "
"No, that's a pine log close to," said Rolf, with a laugh, "away
out half a mile."
"No, I can't see anything but shimmers."
"I thought so. It's no use your trying to shoot deer till ye get
a pair of specs to fit yer eyes. You have brains enough, but you
haven't got the eyesight of a hunter. You stay here till I go see
if I have any luck."
Rolf melted into the woods. In twenty minutes Van heard a shot
and very soon Rolf reappeared, carrying a two-year- old buck, and
they returned to their camp by nightfall. Quonab glanced at their
faces as they passed carrying the little buck. They tried to look
inscrutable. But the Indian was not deceived. He gave out nothing
but a sizzling " Humph!"
Chapter 63. The Redemption of Van
WHEN things is looking black as black can be, it's a sure sign of
luck coming your way." so said Si Sylvanne, and so it proved to
Van Cortlandt The Moon of the Falling Leaves was waning, October
was nearly over, the day of his return to Albany was near, as he
was to go out in time for the hunters to return in open water. He
was wonderfully improved in strength and looks. His face was
brown and ruddy. He had abandoned all drugs, and had gained fully
twenty pounds in weight. He had learned to make a fire, paddle a
canoe, and go through the woods in semi-silence. His scholarly
talk had given him large place in Rolf's esteem, and his sweet
singing had furnished a tiny little shelf for a modicum of
Quonab's respect. But his attempts to get a deer were failures.
"You come back next year with proper, farsight glasses and you'll
all right," said Rolf; and that seemed the one ray of hope.
The three days' storm had thrown so many trees that the hunters
decided it would be worth while making a fast trip down to
Eagle's Nest, to cut such timber as might have fallen across the
stream, and so make an easy way for when they should have less time.
The surmise was quite right. Much new-fallen timber was now
across the channel. They chopped over twenty-five trunks before
they reached Eagle's Nest at noon, and, leaving the river in
better shape than ever it was, they turned, for the swift,
straight, silent run of ten miles home.
As they rounded the last point, a huge black form in the water
loomed to view. Skookum's bristles rose. Quonab whispered, "
Moose! Shoot quick!" Van was the only one with a gun. The great
black beast stood for a moment, gazing at them with wide-open
eyes, ears, and nostrils, then shook his broad horns, wheeled,
and dashed for the shore. Van fired and the bull went down with a
mighty splash among the lilies. Rolf and Skookum let off a
succession of most unhunterlike yells of triumph. But the giant
sprang up again and reached the shore, only to fall to Van
Cortlandt's second barrel. Yet the stop was momentary; he rose
and dashed into the cover. Quonab turned the canoe at once and
made for the land.
A great sob came from the bushes, then others at intervals.
Quonab showed his teeth and pointed. Rolf seized his rifle,
Skookum sprang from the boat, and a little later was heard
letting off his war-cry in the bushes not far away.
The men rushed forward, guns in hand, but Quonab called, "Look
out! Maybe he waiting."
"If he is, he'll likely get one of us." said Rolf, with a light
laugh, for he had some hearsay knowledge of moose.
Covered each by a tree, they waited till Van had reloaded his
double-barrelled, then cautiously approached. The great frothing
sobs had resounded from time to time.
Skookum's voice also was heard in the thicket, and when they
neared and glimpsed the place, it was to see the monster on the
ground, lying at full length, dinging up his head at times when
he uttered that horrid sound of pain.
The Indian sent a bullet through the moose's brain; then all was
still, the tragedy was over.
But now their attention was turned to Van Cortlandt. He reeled,
staggered, his knees trembled, his face turned white, and, to
save himself from falling, he sank onto a log. Here he covered
his face with his hands, his feet beat the ground, and his
shoulders heaved up and down.
The others said nothing. They knew by the signs and the sounds
that it was only through a mighty effort that young Van
Cortlandt, grown man as he was, could keep himself from
hysterical sobs and tears.
Not then, but the next day it was that Quonab said: "It comes to
some after they kill, to some before, as it came to you, Rolf; to
me it came the day I killed my first chipmunk, that time when I
stole my father's medicine."
They had ample work for several hours now, to skin the game and
save the meat. It was fortunate they were so near home. A
marvellous change there was in the atmosphere of the camp. Twice
Quonab spoke to Van Cortlandt, as the latter laboured with them
to save and store the meat of his moose. He was rubbed, doped,
soiled, and anointed with its flesh, hair, and blood, and that
night, as they sat by their camp fire, Skookum arose, stretched,
yawned, walked around deliberately, put his nose in the lawyer's
hand. gave it a lick, then lay down by his feet. Van Cortlandt
glanced at Rolf, a merry twinkle was in the eyes of both. "It's
all right. You can pat Skookum now, without risk of being
crippled. He's sized you up. You are one of us at last;" and
Quonab looked on with two long ivory rows a-gleaming in his
Chapter 64. Dinner at the Governor's
Was ever there a brighter blazing sunrise after such a night of
gloom? Not only a deer, but the biggest of all deer, and Van
himself the only one of the party that had ever killed a moose.
The skin was removed and afterward made into a hunting coat for
the victor. The head and horns were carefully preserved to be
carried back to Albany, where they were mounted and still hang in
the hall of a later generation of the name. The final days at the
camp were days of happy feeling; they passed too soon, and the
long-legged lawyer, bronzed and healthy looking, took his place
in their canoe for the flying trip to Albany. With an empty canoe
and three paddles (two and one half, Van said), they flew down
the open stretch of Jesup's River in something over two hours and
camped that night fully thirty-five miles from their cabin. The
next day they nearly reached the Schroon and in a week they
rounded the great bend, and Albany hove in view.
How Van's heart did beat! How he did exult to come in triumph
home, reestablished in health and strengthened in every way.
They were sighted and recognized. Messengers were seen running;
a heavy gun was fired, the flag run up on the Capitol, bells set
a-ringing, many people came running, and more flags ran up on vessels.
A great crowd gathered by the dock.
"There's father, and mother too!" shouted Van, waving his hat.
"Hurrah," and the crowd took it up, while the bells went jingle,
jangle, and Skookum in the bow sent back his best in answer.
The canoe was dragged ashore. Van seized his mother in his arms,
as she cried: "My boy, my boy, my darling boy! how well you look.
Oh, why didn't you write? But, thank God, you are back again, and
looking so healthy and strong. I know you took your squills and
opodeldoc. Thank God for that! Oh, I'm so happy! my boy, my boy!
There's nothing like squills and God's blessing."
Rolf and Quonab were made to feel that they had a part in it all.
The governor shook them warmly by the hand, and then a friendly
voice was heard: "Wall, boy, here ye air agin; growed a little,
settin' up and sassin' back, same as ever." Rolf turned to see
the gigantic, angular form and kindly face of grizzly old Si
Sylvanne and was still more surprised to hear him addressed
"Yes," said the senator, "one o' them freak elections that
sometimes hits right; great luck for Albany, wa'nt it?"
"Ho," said Quonab, shaking the senator's hand, while Skookum
looked puzzled and depressed.
"Now, remember," said the governor, addressing the Indian, the
lad, and the senator, "we expect you to dine tonight at the
mansion; seven o'clock."
Then the terror of the dragon conventionality, that guards the
gate and hovers over the feast, loomed up in Rolf's imagination.
He sought a private word with Van. "I'm afraid I have no fit
clothes; I shan't know how to behave," he said.
"Then I'll show you. The first thing is to be perfectly clean and
get a shave; put on the best clothes you have, and be sure
they're clean; then you come at exactly seven o'clock, knowing
that every one is going to be kind to you and you're bound to
have a good time. As to any other 'funny-do' you watch me, and
you'll have no trouble."
So when the seven o'clock assemblage came, and guests were
ascending the steps of the governor's mansion, there also mounted
a tall, slim youth, an easy-pacing Indian, and a prick-eared,
yellow dog. Young Van Cortlandt was near the door, on watch to
save them any embarrassment. But what a swell he looked,
cleanshaven, ruddy, tall, and handsome in the uniform of an
American captain, surrounded by friends and immensely popular.
How different it all was from that lonely cabin by the lake.
A butler who tried to remove Skookum was saved from mutilation by
the intervention first of Quonab and next of Van; and when they
sat down, this uncompromising four- legged child of the forest
ensconced himself under Quonab's chair and growled whenever the
silk stockings of the footman seemed to approach beyond the line
of true respect.
Young Van Cortlandt was chief talker at the dinner, but a pompous
military man was prominent in the company. Once or twice Rolf was
addressed by the governor or Lady Van Cortlandt, and had to speak
to the whole table; his cheeks were crimson, but he knew what he
wanted to say and stopped when it was said, so suffered no real
After what seemed an interminable feast of countless dishes and
hours' duration, an extraordinary change set in. Led by the
hostess, all stood up, the chairs were lifted out of their way,
and the ladies trooped into another room; the doors were closed,
and the men sat down again at the end next the governor.
Van stayed by Rolf and explained: "This is another social custom
that began with a different meaning. One hundred years ago, every
man got drunk at every formal dinner, and carried on in a way
that the ladies did not care to see, so to save their own
feelings and give the men a free rein, the ladies withdrew.
Nowadays, men are not supposed to indulge in any such orgy, but
the custom continues, because it gives the men a chance to smoke,
and the ladies a chance to discuss matters that do not interest
the men. So again you see it is backed by common sense."
This proved the best part of the dinner to Rolf. There was a
peculiar sense of over-politeness, of insincerity, almost, while
the ladies were present; the most of the talking had been done by
young Van Cortlandt and certain young ladies, assisted by some
very gay young men and the general. Their chatter was funny, but
nothing more. Now a different air was on the group; different
subjects were discussed, and by different men, in a totally
"We've stood just about all we can stand," said the governor,
alluding to an incident newly told, of a British frigate boarding
an American merchant vessel by force and carrying off half her
crew, under presence that they were British seamen in disguise.
"That's been going on for three years now. It's either piracy or
war, and, in either case, it's our duty to fight."
"Jersey's dead against war," said a legislator from down the river.
"Jersey always was dead against everything that was for the
national good, sir," said a red-faced, puffy, military man, with
a husky voice, a rolling eye, and a way of ending every sentence
"So is Connecticut," said another; "they say, 'Look at all our
defenceless coasts and harbour towns.'"
"They're not risking as much as New York," answered the
governor," with her harbours all the way up the Hudson and her
back door open to invasion from Canada."
"Fortunately, sir, Pennyslvania, Maryland, and the West have not
forgotten the glories of the past. All I ask -- is a chance to
show what we can do, sir. I long for the smell of powder once
"I understand that President Madison has sent several protests,
and, in spite of Connecticut and New Jersey, will send an
ultimatum within three months. He believes that Britain has all
she can manage, with Napoleon and his allies battering at her
doors, and will not risk a war.
"It's my opinion," said Sylvanne; "that these English men is too
pig-headed an' ornery to care a whoop in hell whether we get mad
or not. They've a notion Paul Jones is dead, but I reckon we've
got plenty of the breed only waitin' a chance. Mor'n twenty-five
of our merchantmen wrecked each year through being stripped of
their crews by a 'friendly power.' 'Pears to me we couldn't be
worse off going to war, an' might be a dum sight better."
"Your home an' holdings are three hundred safe miles from the
seacoast," objected the man from Manhattan.
"Yes, and right next Canada," was the reply.
"The continued insults to our flag, sir, and the personal
indignities offered to our people are even worse than the actual
loss in ships and goods. It makes my blood fairly boil," and the
worthy general looked the part as his purple jowl quivered over
his white cravat.
"Gosh all hemlock! the one pricks, but t'other festers. it's
tarnal sure you steal a man's dinner and tell him he's one o'
nature's noblemen, he's more apt to love you than if you give him
five dollars to keep out o' your sight," said Sylvanne, with slow
"There's something to be said on the other side," said the timid
one. "You surely allow that the British government is trying to
do right, and after all we must admit that that Jilson affair
resected very little credit on our own administration."
"A man ken make one awful big mistake an' still be all right, but
he can't go on making a little mistake every day right along an'
be fit company for a clean crowd," retorted the new senator.
At length the governor rose and led the way to the drawing-room,
where they rejoined the ladies and the conversation took on a
different colour and weight, by which it lost all value for those
who knew not the art of twittering persiflage and found less joy
in a handkerchief flirtation than in the nation's onward march.
Rolf and Quonab enjoyed it now about as much as Skookum had done
all the time.
Chapter 65. The Grebes and the Singing Mouse
Quonab puzzled long over the amazing fact that young Van
Cortlandt had evident high standing "in his own tribe." "He must
be a wise counsellor, for I know he cannot fight and is a fool at
hunting," was the ultimate decision.
They had a final interview with the governor and his son before
they left. Rolf received for himself and his partner the promised
one hundred and fifty dollars, and the hearty thanks of all in
the governor's home. Next, each was presented with a handsome
hunting knife, not unlike the one young Van had carried, but
smaller. Quonab received his with "Ho -- then, after a pause, "He
pull out, maybe, when I need him." -- "Ho! good!" he exclaimed,
as the keen blade appeared.
"Now, Rolf," said the lawyer, "I want to come back next year and
bring three companions, and we will pay you at the same rate per
month for each. What do you say?"
"Glad to have you again," said Rolf: "we'll come for you on
August fifteenth; but remember you should bring your guitar and
"One word," said the governor, "do you know the canoe route
through Champlain to Canada? "
"Could you undertake to render scout service in that region?"
The Indian nodded.
"In case of war, we may need you both, so keep your ears open."
And once more the canoe made for the north, with Quonab in the
stern and Skookum in the bow.
In less than a week they were home, and none too soon; for
already the trees were bare, and they had to break the ice on the
river before they ended their trip.
Rolf had gathered many ideas the last two-months. He did not
propose to continue all his life as a trapper. He wanted to see
New York. He wanted to plan for the future. He needed money for
his plans. He and Quonab had been running a hundred miles of
traps, but some men run more than that single handed. They must
get out two new lines at once, before the frost came. One of
these they laid up the Hudson, above Eagle's Nest; the other
northerly on Blue Mountain, toward Racquet River. Doing this was
hard work, and when they came again to their cabin the robins had
gone from the bleak and leafless woods; the grouse were making
long night flights; the hollows had tracks of racing deer; there
was a sense of omen, a length of gloom, for the Mad Moon was
afloat in the shimmering sky; its wan light ghasted all the
Next day the lake was covered with thin, glare ice; on the glassy
surface near the shore were two ducks floundering. The men went
as near as they could, and Quonab said, " No, not duck, but
They cannot rise except from water. In the night the new ice
looks like water; they come down and cannot rise. I have often
seen it." Two days after, a harder frost came on. The ice was
safe for a dog; the divers or grebes were still on its surface.
So they sent Skookum. He soon returned with two beautiful grebes,
whose shining, white breast feathers are as much prized as some
Quonab grunted as he held them up. "Ugh, it is often so in this
Mad Moon. My father said it is because of Kaluskap's dancing."
"I don't remember that one."
"Yes, long ago. Kaluskap felt lazy. He wanted to eat, but did not
wish to hunt, so he called the bluejay and said: 'Tell all the
woods that to-morrow night Kaluskap gives a new dance and teaches
a new song,' and he told the hoot owl to do the same, so one kept
it up all day -- 'Kaluskap teaches a new dance to-morrow night,'
and the other kept it up all night: 'Kaluskap teaches a new song
at next council.'
"Thus it came about that all the woods and waters sent their folk
to the dance.
"Then Kaluskap took his song-drum and said: 'When I drum and sing
you must dance in a circle the same way as the sun, close your
eyes tightly, and each one shout his war whoop, as I cry "new
"So all began, with Kaluskap drumming in the middle, singing:
"'New songs from the south, brothers, Close your eyes tightly,
brothers, Dance and learn a new song.
"As they danced around, he picked out the fattest, and, reaching
out one hand, seized them and twisted their necks, shouting out,
'More war-cries, more poise! that's it; now you are learning!'
"At length Shingebis the diver began to have his doubts and he
cautiously opened one eye, saw the trick, and shouted: 'Fly,
brothers, fly! Kaluskap is killing us !'
"Then all was confusion. Every one tried to escape, and Kaluskap,
in revenge, tried to kill the Shingebis. But the diver ran for
the water and, just as he reached the edge, Kaluskap gave him a
kick behind that sent him half a mile, but it knocked off all his
tail feathers and twisted his shape so that ever since his legs
have stuck out where his tail was, and he cannot rise from the
land or the ice. I know it is so, for my father, Cos Cob, told me
it was true, and we ourselves have seen it. It is ever so. To go
against Kaluskap brings much evil to brood over."
A few nights later, as they sat by their fire in the cabin, a
curious squeaking was heard behind the logs. They had often heard
it before, but never so much as now. Skookum turned his head on
one side, set his ears at forward cock. Presently, from a hole
'twixt logs and chimney, there appeared a small, white breasted
Its nose and ears shivered a little; its black eyes danced in the
firelight. It climbed up to a higher log, scratched its ribs,
then rising on its hind legs, uttered one or two squeaks like
those they had heard so often, but soon they became louder and
"Peg, peo, peo, peo, peo, peo, peo, oo. Tree, tree, tree, tree,
trrrrrrr, Turr, turr, turr, tur, tur, Wee, wee, wee, we "--
The little creature was sitting up high on its hind legs, its
belly muscles were working, its mouth was gaping as it poured out
its music. For fully half a minute this went on, when Skookum
made a dash; but the mouse was quick and it flashed into the
safety of its cranny.
Rolf gazed at Quonab inquiringly.
"That is Mish-a-boh-quas, the singing mouse. He always comes to
tell of war. In a little while there will be fighting."
Chapter 66. A Lesson in Stalking
Did you ever see any fighting, Quonab?"
"Ugh! In Revolution, scouted for General Gates."
"Judging by the talk, we're liable to be called on before a year.
What will you do? "
"They may not want us."
"Always want scouts," replied the Indian.
"It seems to me I ought to start training now."
"You have been training."
"How is that?"
"A scout is everything that an army is, but it's all in one man.
An' he don't have to keep step."
"I see, I see," replied Rolf, and he realized that a scout is
merely a trained hunter who is compelled by war to hunt his
country's foes instead of the beasts of the woods.
"See that?" said the Indian, and he pointed to a buck that was
nosing for cranberries in the open expanse across the river where
it left the lake. "Now, I show you scouting." He glanced at the
smoke from the fire, found it right for his plan, and said: "See!
I take my bow. No cover, yet I will come close and kill that
Then began a performance that was new to Rolf, and showed that
the Indian had indeed reached the highest pitch of woodcraft. He
took his bow and three good arrows, tied a band around his head,
and into this stuck a lot of twigs and vines, so that his head
looked like a tussock of herbage. Then he left the shanty door,
and, concealed by the last bushes on the edge, he reached the
open plain. Two hundred yards off was the buck, nosing among the
herbage, and, from time to time, raising its superb head and
columnar neck to look around. There was no cover but creeping
herbage. Rolf suspected that the Indian would decoy the buck by
some whistle or challenge, for the thickness of its neck showed
the deer to be in fighting humour.
Flat on his breast the Indian lay. His knees and elbow seemed to
develop centipedic power; his head was a mere clump of growing
stuff. He snaked his way quietly for twenty-five yards, then came
to the open, sloping shore, with the river forty yards wide of
level shining ice, all in plain view of the deer; how was this to
There is a well-known peculiarity of the white tail that the
Indian was counting on; when its head is down grazing, even
though not hidden, the deer does not see distant objects; before
the head is raised, its tail is raised or shaken. Quonab knew
that if he could keep the tail in view, he could avoid being
viewed by the head. In a word, only an ill-timed movement or a
whiff could betray him.
The open ice was, of course, a hard test, and the hunter might
have failed, but that his long form looked like one of the logs
that were lying about half stranded or frozen in the stream.
Watching ever the alert head and tail, he timed his approach,
working hard and moving East when the head was down; but when
warned by a tail-jerk he turned to a log nor moved a muscle. Once
the ice was crossed, the danger of being seen was less, but of
being smelt was greater, for the deer was moving about, and
Quonab watched the smoke from the cabin for knowledge of the
wind. So he came within fifty yards, and the buck, still sniffing
along and eagerly champing the few red cranberries it found above
the frozen moss, was working toward a somewhat higher cover. The
herbage was now fully eighteen inches high, and Quonab moved a
little faster. The buck found a large patch of berries under a
tussock and dropped on its knees to pick them out, while Quonab
saw the chance and gained ten yards before the tail gave warning.
After so long a feeding-spell, the buck took an extra long
lookout, and then walked toward the timber, whereby the Indian
lost all he had gained. But the browser's eye was drawn by a
shining bunch of red, then another; and now the buck swung until
there was danger of betrayal by the wind; then down went its head
and Quonab retreated ten yards to keep the windward. Once the
buck raised its muzzle and sniffed with flaring nostrils, as
though its ancient friend had brought a warning. But soon he
seemed reassured, for the landscape showed no foe, and nosed back
and forth, while Quonab regained the yards he had lost. The buck
worked now to the taller cover, and again a tempting bunch of
berries under a low, dense bush caused it to kneel for farther
under-reaching. Quonab glided swiftly forward, reached the
twenty-five-yard limit, rose to one knee, bent the stark cedar
bow. Rolf saw the buck bound in air, then make for the wood with
great, high leaps; the dash of disappointment was on him, but
Quonab stood erect, with right hand raised, and shouted:
"Ho -- ho."
He knew that those bounds were unnecessarily high, and before the
woods had swallowed up the buck, it fell -- rose -- and fell
again, to rise not. The arrow had pierced its heart.
Then Rolf rushed up with kindled eye and exultant pride to slap
his friend on the back, and exclaim:
"I never thought it possible; the greatest feat in hunting I ever
saw; you are a wonder!"
To which the Indian softly replied, as he smiled:
"Ho! it was so I got eleven British sentries in the war. They
gave me a medal with Washington's head."
"They did! how is it I never heard of it? Where is it?"
The Indian's face darkened. "I threw it after the ship that stole
Chapter 67. Rolf Meets a Canuck
The winter might have been considered eventful, had not so many
of the events been repetitions of former experience. But there
were several that by their newness deserve a place on these
pages, as they did in Rolf's memory.
One of them happened soon after the first sharp frost. It had
been an autumn of little rain, so that many ponds had dried up,
with the result that hundreds of muskrats were forced out to seek
more habitable quarters. The first time Rolf saw one of these
stranded mariners on its overland journey, he gave heedless
chase. At first it made awkward haste to escape; then a second
muskrat was discovered just ahead, and a third. This added to
Rolf's interest. In a few bounds he was among them, but it was to
get a surprise. Finding themselves overtaken, the muskrats turned
in desperation and attacked the common enemy with courage and
fury. Rolf leaped over the first, but the second sprang, caught
him by the slack of the trouser leg, and hung on. The third flung
itself on his foot and drove its sharp teeth through the
moccasin. Quickly the first rallied and sprang on his other leg
with all the force of its puny paws, and powerful jaws.
Meanwhile Quonab was laughing aloud and holding back Skookum,
who, breathing fire and slaughter, was mad to be in the fight.
"Ho! a good fight! good musquas! Ho, Skookum, you must not always
take care of him, or he will not learn to go alone.
"Ugh, good!" as the third muskrat gripped Rolf by the calf.
There could be but one finish, and that not long delayed. A
well-placed kick on one, the second swung by the tail, the third
crushed under his heel, and the affair ended. Rolf had three
muskrats and five cuts. Quonab had much joy and Skookum a sense
of lost opportunity.
"This we should paint on the wigwam," said Quonab. "Three great
warriors attacked one Sagamore. They were very brave, but he was
Nibowaka and very strong; he struck them down as the Thunderbird,
Hurakan, strikes the dead pines the fire has left on the hilltop
against the sky. Now shall you eat their hearts, for they were
brave. My father told me a fighting muskrat's heart is great
medicine; for he seeks peace while it is possible, then he turns
and fights without fear."
A few days later, they sighted a fox. In order to have a joke on
Skookum, they put him on its track, and away he went, letting off
his joy-whoops at every jump. The men sat down to wait, knowing
full well that after an hour Skookum would come back with a long
tongue and an air of depression. But they were favoured with an
unexpected view of the chase. It showed a fox bounding over the
snow, and not twenty yards behind was their energetic four-legged
And, still more unexpected, the fox was overtaken in the next
thicket, shaken to limpness, and dragged to be dropped at
Quonab's feet. This glorious victory by Skookum was less
surprising, when a closer examination showed that the fox had
been in a bad way. Through some sad, sudden indiscretion, he had
tackled a porcupine and paid the penalty. His mouth, jaws and
face, neck and legs, were bristling with quills. He was sick and
emaciated. He could not have lasted many days longer, and
Skookum's summary lynching was a blessing in disguise.
The trappers' usual routine was varied by a more important
happening. One day of deep snow in January, when they were
running the northern line on Racquet River, they camped for the
night at their shelter cabin, and were somewhat surprised at dusk
to hear a loud challenge from Skookum replied to by a human
voice, and a short man with black whiskers appeared. He raised
one hand in token of friendliness and was invited to come in.
He was a French Canadian from La Colle Mills. He had trapped here
for some years. The almost certainty of war between Canada and
the States had kept his usual companions away. So he had trapped
alone, always a dangerous business, and had gathered a lot of
good fur, but had fallen on the ice and hurt himself inwardly, so
that he had no strength. He could tramp out on snowshoes, but
could not carry his pack of furs. He had long known that he had
neighbours on the south; the camp fire smoke proved that, and he
had come now to offer all his furs for sale.
Quonab shook his head, but Rolf said, "We'll come over and see
A two-hours' tramp in the morning brought them to the Frenchman's
cabin. He opened out his furs; several otter, many sable, some
lynx, over thirty beaver -- the whole lot for two hundred
dollars. At Lyons Falls they were worth double that.
Rolf saw a chance for a bargain. He whispered, "We can double our
money on it, Quonab. What do ye say?"
The reply was simply, "Ugh! you are Nibowaka."
"We'll take your offer, if we can fix it up about payment, for I
have no money with me and barely two hundred dollars at the
"You half tabac and grosairs? "
"You can go 'get 'em ? Si?"
Rolf paused, looked down, then straight at the Frenchman.
"Will you trust me to take half the fur now; when I come back
with the pay I can get the rest."
The Frenchman looked puzzled, then, "By Gar you look de good
look. I let um go. I tink you pretty good fellow, parbleu!"
So Rolf marched away with half the furs and four days later he
was back and paid the pale-faced but happy Frenchman the one
hundred and fifty dollars he had received from Van Cortlandt,
with other bills making one hundred and ninety-five dollars and
with groceries and tobacco enough to satisfy the trapper. The
Frenchman proved a most amiable character. He and Rolf took to
each other greatly, and when they shook hands at parting, it was
in the hope of an early and happier meeting.
Francois la Colle turned bravely for the ninety-mile tramp over
the snow to his home, while Rolf went south with the furs that
were to prove a most profitable investment, shaping his life in
several ways, and indirectly indeed of saving it on one occasion.
Chapter 68. War
Eighteen hundred and twelve had passed away. President Madison,
driven by wrongs to his countrymen and indignities that no nation
should meekly accept, had in the midsummer declared war on Great
Britain. Unfitted to cope with the situation and surrounded by
unfit counsellors, his little army of heroic men led by unfit
commanders had suffered one reverse after another.
The loss of Fort Mackinaw, Chicago, Detroit, Brownstown, and the
total destruction of the American army that attacked Queenstown
were but poorly offset by the victory at Niagara and the
successful defence of Ogdensburg.
Rolf and Quonab had repaired to Albany as arranged, but they left
it as United States scouts, not as guides to the four young
sportsmen who wished to hark back to the primitive.
Their first commission had been the bearing of despatches to
With a selected light canoe and a minimum of baggage they reached
Ticonderoga in two days, and there renewed their acquaintance
with General Hampton, who was fussing about, and digging useless
entrenchments as though he expected a mighty siege. Rolf was
called before him to receive other despatches for Colonel Pike at
Plattsburg. He got the papers and learned their destination, then
immediately made a sad mistake. " Excuse me, sir," he began, "if
I meet with -- "
"Young man," said the general, severely, "I don't want any of
your 'ifs' or 'buts'; your orders are 'go.' 'How' and 'if' are
matters for you to find out; that's what you are paid for."
Rolf bowed; his cheeks were tingling. He was very angry at what
he thought a most uncalled for rebuke, but he got over it, and he
never forgot the lesson. It was Si Sylvanne that put it into
"A fool horse kin follow a turnpike, but it takes a man with wits
to climb, swim, boat, skate, run, hide, go it blind, pick a lock,
take the long way, round, when it's the short way across, run
away at the right time, or fight when it's wise -- all in one
afternoon." Rolf set out for the north carrying a bombastic
(meant to be reassuring) message from Hampton that he would
annihilate any enemy who dared to desecrate the waters of the lake.
It was on this trip that Rolf learned from Quonab the details of
the latter's visit to his people on the St. Regis. Apparently the
joy of meeting a few of his own kin, with whom he could talk his
own language, was offset by meeting with a large number of his
ancient enemies the Mohawks. There had been much discussion of
the possible war between the British and the Yankees. The Mohawks
announced their intention to fight for the British, which was a
sufficient reason for Quonab as a Sinawa remaining with the
Americans; and when he left the St. Regis reserve the Indian was
without any desire to reenter it.
At Plattsburg Rolf and Quonab met with another Albany
acquaintance in General Wilkinson, and from him received
despatches which they brought back to Albany, having covered the
whole distance in eight days.
When 1812 was gone Rolf had done little but carry despatches up
and down Lake Champlain. Next season found the Americans still
under command of Generals Wilkinson and Hampton, whose utter
incompetence was becoming daily more evident.
The year 1813 saw Rolf, eighteen years old and six feet one in
his socks, a trained scout and despatch bearer.
By a flying trip on snowshoes in January he took letters, from
General Hampton at Ticonderoga to Sackett's Harbour and back in
eight days, nearly three hundred miles. It made him famous as a
runner, but the tidings that he brought were sad. Through him
they learned in detail of the total defeat and capture of the
American army at Frenchtown. After a brief rest he was sent
across country on snowshoes to bear a reassuring message to
Ogdensburg. The weather was much colder now, and the single
blanket bed was dangerously slight; so "Flying Kittering," as
they named him, took a toboggan and secured Quonab as his running
mate. Skookum was given into safe keeping. Blankets, pots, cups,
food, guns, and despatches were strapped on the toboggan, and
they sped away at dawn from Ticonderoga on the I8th of February
1813, headed northwestward, guided by little but the compass.
Thirty miles that day they made in spite of piercing blasts and
driving snow. But with the night there began a terrible storm
with winds of zero chill. The air was filled with stinging,
cutting snow. When they rose at daylight they were nearly buried
in drifts, although their camp was in a dense, sheltered thicket.
Guided wholly by the compass they travelled again, but blinded by
the whirling white they stumbled and blundered into endless
difficulties and made but poor headway. After dragging the
toboggan for three hours, taking turns at breaking the way, they
were changing places when Rolf noticed a large gray patch on
Quonab's cheek and nose.
"Quonab, your face is frozen," he said.
"So is yours," was the reply.
Now they turned aside, followed a hollow until they reached a
spruce grove, where they camped and took an observation, to learn
that the compass and they held widely different views about the
direction of travel. It was obviously useless to face the storm.
They rubbed out their frozen features with dry snow and rested by
No good scout seeks for hardship; he avoids the unnecessary trial
of strength and saves himself for the unavoidable. With zero
weather about them and twenty-four hours to wait in the storm,
the scouts set about making themselves thoroughly comfortable.
With their snowshoes they dug away the snow in a circle a dozen
feet across, piling it up on the outside so as to make that as
high as possible. When they were
down to the ground, the wall of snow around them was five feet
high. Now they went forth with the hatchets, cut many small
spruces, and piled them against the living spruces about the camp
till there was a dense mass of evergreen foliage ten feet high
around them, open only at the top, where was a space five feet
across. With abundance of dry spruce wood, a thick bed of balsam
boughs, and plenty of blankets they were in what most woodmen
consider comfort complete.
They had nothing to do now but wait. Quonab sat placidly smoking,
Rolf was sewing a rent in his coat, the storm hissed, and the
wind-driven ice needles rattled through the trees to vary the
crackle of the fire with a "siss" as they fell on the embers. The
low monotony of sound was lulling in its evenness, when a faint
crunch of a foot on the snow was heard. Rolf reached for his gun,
the fir tree screen was shaken a little, and a minute later there
bounded in upon them the snow covered form of little dog Skookum,
expressing his good-will by excessive sign talk in which every
limb and member had a part. They had left him behind, indeed, but
not with his consent, so the bargain was incomplete.
There was no need to ask now, What shall we do with him? Skookum
had settled that, and why or how he never attempted to explain.
He was wise who made it law that "as was his share who went forth
to battle, so shall his be that abode with the stuff," for the
hardest of all is the waiting. In the morning there was less
doing in the elemental strife. There were even occasional periods
of calm and at length it grew so light that surely the veil was
Quonab returned from a brief reconnoitre to say, " Ugh! -- good
The clouds were broken and flying, the sun came out at times, but
the wind was high, the cold intense, and the snow still drifting.
Poor Skookum had it harder than the men, for they wore snowshoes;
but he kept his troubles to himself and bravely trudged along
behind. Had he been capable of such reflection he might have
said, "What delightful weather, it keeps the fleas so quiet."
That day there was little to note but the intense cold, and again
both men had their cheeks frost-bitten on the north side. A nook
under an overhanging rock gave a good camp that night. Next day
the bad weather resumed, but, anxious to push on they faced it,
guided chiefly by the wind. It was northwest, and as long as they
felt this fierce, burning cold mercilessly gnawing on their
hapless tender right cheek bones, they knew they were keeping
their proper main course.
They were glad indeed to rest at dusk and thaw their frozen
faces. Next day at dawn they were off; at first it was calm, but
the surging of the snow waves soon began again, and the air was
filled with the spray of their lashing till it was hard to see
fifty yards in any direction. They were making very bad time. The
fourth day should have brought them to Ogdensburg, but they were
still far off; how far they could only guess, for they had not
come across a house or a settler.
Chapter 69. Ogdensburg
The same blizzard was raging on the next day when Skookum gave
unequivocal sign talk that he smelled something.
It is always well to find out what stirs your dog. Quonab looked
hard at Skookum. That sagacious mongrel was sniffing vigorously,
up in the air, not on the ground; his mane was not bristling, and
the patch of dark hair that every gray or yellow dog has at the
base of his tail, was not lifted.
"He smells smoke," was the Indian's quick diagnosis. Rolf pointed
Up the wind and made the sign-talk query. Quonab nodded.
It was their obvious duty to find out who was their smoky
neighbour. They were now not so far from the St. Lawrence; there
was a small chance of the smoke being from a party of the enemy;
there was a large chance of it being from friends; and the
largest chance was that it came from some settler's cabin where
they could get necessary guidance.
They turned aside. The wind now, instead of on the right cheek,
was square in their faces. Rolf went forward increasing his pace
till he was as far ahead as was possible without being out of
sight. After a mile their way led downward, the timber was
thicker, the wind less, and the air no more befogged with flying
snow. Rolf came to a long, deep trench that wound among the
trees; the snow at the bottom of it was very hard. This was what
he expected; the trail muffled under new, soft snow, but still a
fresh trail and leading to the camp that Skookum had winded.
He turned and made the sign for them to halt and wait. Then
strode cautiously along the winding guide line.
In twenty minutes the indications of a settlement increased, and
the scout at length was peering from the woods across the open
down to a broad stream on whose bank was a saw mill, with the
usual wilderness of ramshackle shanties, sheds, and lumber piles
There was no work going on, which was a puzzle till Rolf
remembered it was Sunday. He went boldly up and asked for the
boss. His whole appearance was that of a hunter and as such the
boss received him.
He was coming through from the other side and had missed his way
in the storm, he explained.
"What are ye by trade?"
"Where are ye bound now?"
"Well, I'll head for the nearest big settlement, whatever that
"It's just above an even thing between Alexandria Bay and
So Rolf inquired fully about the trail to Alexandria Bay that he
did not want to go to. Why should he be so careful? The mill
owner was clearly a good American, but the scout had no right to
let any outsider know his business. This mill owner might be
safe, but he might be unwise and blab to some one who was not all
Then in a casual way he learned that this was the Oswegatchie
River and thirty miles down he would find the town of Ogdensburg.
No great recent events did he hear of, but evidently the British
troops across the river were only awaiting the springtime before
taking offensive measures.
For the looks of it, Rolf bought some tea and pork, but the
hospitable mill man refused to take payment and, leaving in the
direction of Alexandria Bay, Rolf presently circled back and
rejoined his friends in the woods.
A long detour took them past the mill. It was too cold for
outdoor idling. Every window was curtained with frost, and not a
soul saw them as they tramped along past the place and down to
continue on the ice of the Oswegatchie.
Pounded by the ceaseless wind, the snow on the ice was harder,
travel was easier, and the same tireless blizzard wiped out the
trail as soon as it was behind them.
Crooked is the river trail, but good the footing, and good time
was made. When there was a north reach, the snow was extra hard
or the ice clear and the scouts slipped off their snow shoes, and
trotted at a good six-mile gait. Three times they halted for tea
and rest, but the fact that they were the bearers of precious
despatches, the bringers of inspiring good news, and their goal
ever nearer, spurred them on and on. It was ten o'clock that
morning when they left the mill, some thirty miles from
Ogdensburg. It was now near sundown, but still they figured that
by an effort they could reach the goal that night. It was their
best day's travel, but they were nerved to it by the sense of
triumph as they trotted; and the prospective joy of marching up
to the commandant and handing over the eagerly looked for,
reassuring documents, gave them new strength and ambition. Yes!
they must push on at any price that night. Day was over now; Rolf
was leading at a steady trot. In his hand he held the long trace
of his toboggan, ten feet behind was Quonab with the short trace,
while Skookum trotted before, beside, or behind, as was dictated
by his general sense of responsibility.
It was quite dark now. There was no moon, the wooded shore was
black. Their only guide was the broad, wide reach of the river,
sometimes swept bare of snow by the wind, but good travelling at
all times. They were trotting and walking in spells, going five
miles an hour; Quonab was suffering, but Rolf was young and eager
to finish. They rounded another reach, they were now on the last
big bend, they were reeling off the miles; only ten more, and
Rolf was so stirred that, instead of dropping to the usual walk
on signal at the next one hundred yards spell, he added to his
trot. Quonab, taken unawares, slipped and lost his hold of the
trace. Rolf shot ahead and a moment later there was the crash of
a breaking air-hole, and Rolf went through the ice, clutched at
the broken edge and disappeared, while the toboggan was dragged
to the hole.
Quonab sprung to his feet, and then to the lower side of the
hole. The toboggan had swung to the same place and the long trace
was tight; without a moment's delay the Indian hauled at it
steadily, heavily, and in a few seconds the head of his companion
reappeared; still clutching that long trace he was safely dragged
from the ice-cold flood, blowing and gasping, shivering and
sopping, but otherwise unhurt.
Now here a new danger presented itself. The zero wind would soon
turn his clothes to boards. They stiffened in a few minutes, and
the Indian knew that frozen hands and feet were all too easy in
He made at once for the shore, and, seeking the heart of a spruce
thicket, lost no time in building two roaring fires between which
Rolf stood while the Indian made the bed, in which, as soon as he
could be stripped, the lad was glad to hide. Warm tea and warm
blankets made him warm, but it would take an hour or two to dry
his clothes. There is nothing more damaging than drying them too
quickly. Quonab made racks of poles and spent the next two hours
in regulating the fire, watching the clothes, and working the
It was midnight when they were ready and any question of going on
at once was settled by Quonab. "Ogdensburg is under arms," he
said. "It is not wise to approach by night."
At six in the morning they were once more going, stiff with
travel, sore-footed, face-frozen, and chafed by delay; but, swift
and keen, trotting and walking, they went. They passed several
settlements, but avoided them. At seven-thirty they had a distant
glimpse of Ogdensburg and heard the inspiring roll of drums, and
a few minutes later from the top of a hill they had a complete
view of the heroic little town to see -- yes! plainly enough --
that the British flag was flying from the flag pole.
Chapter 70. Saving the Despatches
Oh, the sickening shock of it! Rolf did not know till now how
tired he was, how eager to deliver the heartening message, and to
relax a little from the strain. He felt weak through and through.
There could be no doubt that a disaster had befallen his
His first care was to get out of sight with his sled and those
Now what should he do? Nothing till he had fuller information. He
sent Quonab back with the sled, instructing him to go to a
certain place two miles off, there camp out of sight and wait.
Then he went in alone. Again and again he was stung by the
thought, "If I had come sooner they might have held out."
A number of teams gathered at the largest of a group of houses on
the bank suggested a tavern. He went in and found many men
sitting down to breakfast. He had no need to ask questions. It
was the talk of the table. Ogdensburg had been captured the day
before. The story is well known. Colonel MacDonnell with his
Glengarry Highlanders at Prescott went to drill daily on the ice
of the St. Lawrence opposite Ogdensburg. Sometimes they marched
past just out of range, sometimes they charged and wheeled before
coming too near. The few Americans that held the place watched
these harmless exercises and often cheered some clever manceuvre.
They felt quite safe behind their fortification. By an unwritten
agreement both parties refrained from firing random shots at each
other. There was little to suggest enemies entrenched; indeed,
many men in each party had friends in the other, and the British
had several times trotted past within easy range, without
provoking a shot.
On February 22d, the day when Rolf and Quonab struck the
Oswegatchie, the British colonel directed his men as usual,
swinging them ever nearer the American fort, and then, at the
nearest point, executed a very pretty charge. The Americans
watched it as it neared, but instead of wheeling at the brink the
little army scrambled up with merry shouts, and before the
garrison could realize that this was war, they were overpowered
and Ogdensburg was taken.
The American commander was captured. Captain Forsyth, the second
in command, had been off on a snowshoe trip, so had escaped. All
the rest were prisoners, and what to do with the despatches or
how to get official instructions was now a deep problem. "When
you don't know a thing to do, don't do a thing," was one of Si
Sylvanne's axioms; also, "In case of doubt lay low and say
nothing." Rolf hung around the town all day waiting for light.
About noon a tall, straight, alert man in a buffalo coat drove up
with a cutter. He had a hasty meal in an inside room. Rolf sized
him up for an American officer, but there was a possibility of
his being a Canadian. Rolf tried in vain to get light on him but
the inner door was kept closed; the landlord was evidently in the
secret. When he came out he was again swaddled in the buffalo
coat. Rolf brushed past him -- here was something hard and long
in the right pocket of the big coat.
The landlord, the guest, and the driver had a whispered
conference. Rolf went as near as he dared, but got only a
searching look. The driver spoke to another driver and Rolf heard
the words "Black Lake." Yes, that was what he suspected. Black
Lake was on the inland sleigh route to Alexandria Bay and
The driver, a fresh young fellow, was evidently interested in the
landlord's daughter; the stranger was talking with the landlord.
As soon as they had parted, Rolf went to the latter and remarked
quietly: "The captain is in a hurry." The only reply was a cold
look and: "Guess that's his business." So it was the captain. The
driver's mitts were on the line back of the stove. Rolf shook
them so that they fell in a dark corner. The driver missed his
mitts, and glad of a chance went back in, leaving the officer
alone. "Captain Forsyth," whispered Rolf, "don't go till I have
talked with you. I'll meet you a mile down the road."
"Who are you and what do you want?" was the curt and hostile
reply, evidently admitting the identification correct however.
Rolf opened his coat and showed his scout badge.
"Why not talk now if you have any news -- come in side." So the
two went to the inner room. "Who is this?" asked Rolf cautiously
as the landlord came in.
"He's all right. This is Titus Flack, the landlord."
"How am I to know that?"
"Haven't you heard him called by name all day?" said the captain.
Flack smiled, went out and returned with his license to sell
liquor, and his commission as a magistrate of New York State. The
latter bore his own signature. He took a pen and reproduced it.
Now the captain threw back his overcoat and stood in the full
uniform of an army officer. He opened his satchel and took out a
paper, but Rolf caught sight of another packet addressed to
General Hampton. The small one was merely a map. "I think that
packet in there is meant for me," remarked Rolf.
"We haven't seen your credentials yet," said the officer. "I have
them two miles back there," and Rolf pointed to the woods.
"Let's go," said the captain and they arose. Kittering had a way
of inspiring confidence, but in the short, silent ride of two
miles the captain began to have his doubts. The scout badge might
have been stolen; Canadians often pass for Americans, etc. At
length they stopped the sleigh, and Rolf led into the woods.
Before a hundred yards the officer said, "Stop," and Rolf stopped
to find a pistol pointed at his head. "Now, young fellow, you've
played it pretty slick, and I don't know yet what to make of it.
But I know this; at the very first sign of treachery I'll blow
your brains out anyway." It gave Rolf a jolt. This was the first
time he had looked down a pistol barrel levelled at him. He used
to think a pistol a little thing, an inch through and a foot
long, but he found now it seemed as big as a flour barrel and
long enough to reach eternity. He changed colour but quickly
recovered, smiled, and said: "Don't worry; in five minutes you
will know it's all right."
Very soon a sharp bark was heard in challenge, and the two
stepped into camp to meet Quonab and little dog Skookum.
"Doesn't look much like a trap," thought the captain after he had
cast his eyes about and made sure that no other person was in the
camp; then aloud, "Now what have you to show me? "
"Excuse me, captain, but how am I to know you are Captain
Forsyth? It is possible for a couple of spies to give all the
proof you two gave me."
The captain opened his bag and showed first his instructions
given before he left Ogdensburg four days ago; he bared his arm
and showed a tattooed U. S. A., a relic of Academy days, then his
linen marked J. F., and a signet ring with similar initials, and
last the great packet of papers addressed to General Hampton.
Then he said: "When you hand over your despatches to me I will
give mine to you and we shall have good guarantee each of the other."
Rolf rose, produced his bundle of papers, and exchanged them for
those held by Forsyth; each felt that the other was safe. They
soon grew friendly, and Rolf heard of some stirring doings on the
lake and preparations for a great campaign in the spring.
After half an hour the tall, handsome captain left them and
strode away, a picture of manly vigour. Three hours later they
were preparing their evening meal when Skookum gave notice of a
stranger approaching. This was time of war; Rolf held his rifle
ready, and a moment later in burst the young man who had been
Captain Forsyth's driver.
His face was white; blood dripped from his left arm, and in his
other hand was the despatch bag. He glanced keenly at Rolf. "Are
you General Hampton's scout?" Rolf nodded and showed the badge on
his breast. "Captain Forsyth sent this back," he gasped. "His
last words were, 'Burn the despatches rather than let the British
get them.' They got him -- a foraging party -- there was a spy at
the hotel. I got away, but my tracks are easy to follow unless it
drifts. Don't wait."
Poor boy, his arm was broken, but he carried out the dead
officer's command, then left them to seek for relief in the
Night was near, but Rolf broke camp at once and started eastward
with the double packet. He did not know it then, but learned
afterward that these despatches made clear the weakness of
Oswego, Rochester, and Sackett's Harbour, their urgent need of
help, and gave the whole plan for an American counter attack on
Montreal. But he knew they were valuable, and they must at once
be taken to General Hampton.
It was rough, hard going in the thick woods and swamps away from
the river, for he did not dare take the ice route now, but they
pushed on for three hours, then, in the gloom, made a miserable
camp in a cedar swamp.
At dawn they were off again. To their disgust the weather now was
dead calm; there was no drift to hide their tracks; the trail was
as plain as a highway wherever they went. They came to a beaten
road, followed that for half a mile, then struck off on the true
line. But they had no idea that they were followed until, after
an hour of travel, the sun came up and on a far distant slope,
full two miles away, they saw a thin black line of many spots, at
least a dozen British soldiers in pursuit.
The enemy was on snowshoes, and without baggage evidently, for
they travelled fast. Rolf and Quonab burdened with the sled were
making a losing race. But they pushed on as fast as possible --
toiling and sweating at that precious load. Rolf was pondering
whether the time had not yet come to stop and burn the packet,
when, glancing back from a high ridge that gave an outlook, he
glimpsed a row of heads that dropped behind some rocks half a
mile away, and a scheme came into his mind. He marched boldly
across the twenty feet opening that was in the enemy's view,
dropped behind the spruce thickets, called Quonab to follow, ran
around the thicket, and again crossed the open view. So he and
Quonab continued for five minutes, as fast as they could go,
knowing perfectly well that they were watched. Round and round
that bush they went, sometimes close together, carrying the guns,
sometimes dragging the sled, sometimes with blankets on their
shoulders, sometimes with a short bag or even a large cake of
snow on their backs. They did everything they could to vary the
scene, and before five minutes the British officer in charge had
counted fifty-six armed Americans marching in single file up the
bank with ample stores, accompanied by five yellow dogs. Had
Skookum been allowed to carry out his ideas, there would have
been fifty or sixty yellow dogs, so thoroughly did he enter into
the spirit of the game.
The track gave no hint of such a troop, but of course not, how
could it? since the toboggan left all smooth after they had
passed, or maybe this was a reinforcement arriving. What could he
do with his ten men against fifty of the enemy? He thanked his
stars that he had so cleverly evaded the trap, and without
further attempt to gauge the enemy's strength, he turned and made
all possible haste back to the shelter of Ogdensburg.
Chapter 71. Sackett's Harbour
It was hours before Rolf was sure that he had stopped the
pursuit, and the thing that finally set his mind at rest was the
rising wind that soon was a raging and drifting snow storm. "Oh,
blessed storm!" he said in his heart, as he marked all trail
disappear within a few seconds of its being made. And he thought:
"How I cursed the wind that held me back -- really from being
made prisoner. How vexed I was at that ducking in the river, that
really saved my despatches from the enemy. How thankful I am now
for the storm that a little while back seemed so bitterly cruel."
That forenoon they struck the big bend of the river and now did
not hesitate to use the easy travel on the ice as far as
Rensselaer Falls, where, having got their bearings from a
settler, they struck across the country through the storm, and at
night were encamped some forty miles from Ogdensburg.
Marvellously few signs of game had they seen in this hard trip;
everything that could hide away was avoiding the weather. But in
a cedar bottom land near Cranberry Lake they found a "yard" that
seemed to be the winter home of hundreds of deer. It extended two
or three miles one way a half a mile the other; in spite of the
deep snow this was nearly all in beaten paths. The scouts saw at
least fifty deer in going through, so, of course, had no
difficulty in selecting a young buck for table use.
The going from there on was of little interest. It was the same
old daily battle with the frost, but less rigorous than before,
for now the cold winds were behind, and on the 27th of February,
nine days after leaving, they trotted into Ticonderoga and
reported at the commandant's headquarters.
The general was still digging entrenchments and threatening to
annihilate all Canada. But the contents of the despatches gave
him new topics for thought and speech. The part he must play in
the proposed descent on Montreal was flattering, but it made the
Ticonderoga entrenchments ridiculous.
For three days Rolf was kept cutting wood, then he went with
despatches to Albany.
Many minor labours, from hog-killing to stable-cleaning and
trenching, varied the month of March. Then came the uncertain
time of April when it was neither canoeing nor snow-shoeing and
all communication from the north was cut off.
But May, great, glorious May came on, with its inspiring airs and
livening influence. Canoes were afloat, the woods were brown
beneath and gold above.
Rolf felt like a young stag in his strength. He was spoiling for
a run and volunteered eagerly to carry despatches to Sackett's
Harbour. He would go alone, for now one blanket was sufficient
bed, and a couple of pounds of dry meat was enough food for each
day. A small hatchet would be useful, but his rifle seemed too
heavy to carry; as he halted in doubt, a junior officer offered
him a pistol instead, and he gladly stuck it in his belt.
Taller than ever, considerably over six feet now, somewhat lanky,
but supple of joint and square of shoulder, he strode with the
easy stride of a strong traveller. His colour was up, his
blue-gray eyes ablaze as he took the long trail in a crow line
across country for Sackett's Harbour. The sentry saluted, and the
officer of the day, struck by his figure and his glowing face as
much as by the nature of his errand, stopped to shake hands and
say, "Well, good luck, Kittering, and may you bring us better
news than the last two times."
Rolf knew how to travel now; he began softly. At a long, easy
stride he went for half an hour, then at a swinging trot for a
mile or two. Five miles an hour he could make, but there was one
great obstacle to speed at this season -- every stream was at
flood, all were difficult to cross. The brooks he could wade or
sometimes could fell a tree across them, but the rivers were too
wide to bridge, too cold and dangerous to swim. In nearly every
case he had to make a raft. A good scout takes no chances. A
slight raft means a risky passage; a good one, a safe crossing
but loss of time in preparations. Fifteen good rafts did Rolf
make in that cross-country journey of three days: dry spruce logs
he found each time and bound them together with leather-wood and
withes of willow. It meant a delay of at least an hour each time;
that is five hours each day. But the time was wisely spent. The
days were lengthening; he could travel much at dusk. Soon he was
among settlements. Rumours he got at a settler's cabin of Sir
George Prevost's attack on Sackett's Harbour and the gallant
repulse and at morning of the fourth day he came on the hill
above Sackett's Harbour -- the same hill where he had stood three
months before. It was with something like a clutching of his
breath that he gazed; his past experiences suggested dreadful
thoughts but no -- thank God, "Old Glory" floated from the pole.
He identified himself to the sentinels and the guard, entered the
fort at a trot, and reported at headquarters.
There was joy on every side. At last the tide had turned.
Commodore Chauncey, after sweeping Lake Ontario, had made a
sudden descent on York (Toronto now) the capital of Upper Canada,
had seized and destroyed it. Sir George Prevost, taking advantage
of Chauncey's being away, had attacked Sackett's Harbour, but, in
spite of the absence of the fleet, the resistance had been so
vigorous that in a few days the siege was abandoned.
There were shot holes in walls and roofs, there were a few
wounded in the hospital, the green embankments were torn, and the
flag-pole splintered; but the enemy was gone, the starry flag was
floating on the wind, and the sturdy little garrison filled with
a spirit that grows only in heroes fighting for their homes.
How joyfully different from Ogdensburg.
Chapter 72. Scouting Across Country
That very night, Rolf turned again with the latest news and the
He was learning the country well now, and, with the wonderful
place-memory of a woodman, he was able to follow his exact back
trail. It might not have been the best way, but it gave him this
advantage -- in nearly every case he was able to use again the
raft he had made in coming, and thereby saved many hours of
On the way out he had seen a good many deer and one bear, and had
heard the howling of wolves every night; but always at a
distance. On the second night, in the very heart of the
wilderness, the wolves were noisy and seemed very near. Rolf was
camping in the darkness. He made a small fire with such stuff as
he could find by groping, then, when the fire blazed, he
discovered by its light a dead spruce some twenty yards away.
Taking his hatchet he went toward this, and, as he did so, a wolf
rose up, with its forefeet on a log, only five yards beyond the
tree and gazed curiously at him. Others were heard calling;
presently this wolf raised its muzzle and uttered a long smooth
Rolf had left his pistol back at the fire; he dared not throw his
hatchet, as that would have left him unarmed. He stooped, picked
up a stick, and threw that; the wolf ducked so that it passed
over, then, stepping back from the log, stood gazing without
obvious fear or menace. The others were howling; Rolf felt
afraid. He backed cautiously to the fire, got his pistol and came
again to the place, but nothing more did he see of the wolf,
though he heard them all night and kept up two great fires for a
In the morning he started as usual, and before half an hour he
was aware of a wolf, and later of two, trotting along his trail,
a few hundred yards behind. They did not try to overtake him;
indeed, when he stopped, they did the same; and when he trotted,
they, true to their dog-like nature, ran more rapidly in pursuit.
How Rolf did wish for his long rifle; but they gave no
opportunity for a shot with the pistol. They acted, indeed, as
though they knew their safe distance and the exact range of the
junior gun. The scout made a trap for them by stealing back after
he had crossed a ridge, and hiding near his own trail. But the
wind conveyed a warning, and the wolves merely sat down and
waited till he came out and went on. All day long these two
strange ban dogs followed him and gave no sign of hunger or
malice; then, after he crossed a river, at three in the
afternoon, he saw no more of them. Years after, when Rolf knew
them better, he believed they followed him out of mild curiosity,
or possibly in the hope that he would kill a deer in which they
might share. And when they left him, it was because they were
near the edge of their own home region; they had seen him off
their hunting grounds.
That night he camped sixty miles from Ticonderoga, but he was
resolved to cover the distance in one day. Had he not promised to
be back in a week? The older hands had shaken their heads
incredulously, and he, in the pride of his legs, was determined
to be as good as his promise. He scarcely dared sleep lest he
should oversleep. At ten he lay down. At eleven the moon was due
to rise; as soon as that was three hours high there would be
light enough, and he proposed to go on. At least half a dozen
times he woke with a start, fearing he had overslept, but
reassured by a glance at the low-hung moon, he had slumbered
At last the moon was four hours high, and the woods were plain in
the soft light. A horned owl "hoo-hoo-ed," and a far- off wolf
uttered a drawn-out, soft, melancholy cry, as Rolf finished his
dried meat, tightened his belt, and set out on a long, hard run
that, in the days of Greece, would have furnished the theme of
many a noble epic poem.
No need to consult his compass. The blazing lamp of the dark sky
was his guide, straight east his course, varied a little by hills
and lakes, but nearly the crow-flight line. At first his pace was
a steady, swinging stride; then after a mile he came to an open
lake shore down which he went at a six-mile trot; and then an
alder thicket through which his progress was very slow; but that
soon passed, and for half a mile he splashed through swamps with
water a foot deep: nor was he surprised at length to see it open
into a little lake with a dozen beaver huts in view. "Splash,
prong" their builders went at his approach, but he made for the
hillside; the woods were open, the moonlight brilliant now, and
here he trotted at full swing as long as the way was level or
down, but always walked on the uphill. A sudden noise ahead was
followed by a tremendous crashing and crackling of the brush. For
a moment it continued, and what it meant, Rolf never knew or
"Trot, trot," he went, reeling off six miles in the open, two or
perhaps three in the thickets, but on and on, ever eastward. Hill
after hill, swamp after swamp, he crossed, lake after lake he
skirted round, and, when he reached some little stream, he sought
a log bridge or prodded with a pole till he found a ford and
crossed, then ran a mile or two to make up loss of time.
Tramp, tramp, tramp, and his steady breath and his steady heart
kept unremitting rhythm.
Chapter 73. Rolf Makes a Record
Twelve miles were gone when the foreglow -- the first cold
dawn-light showed, and shining across his path ahead was a mighty
rolling stream. Guided by the now familiar form of Goodenow Peak
he made for this, the Hudson's lordly flood. There was his raft
securely held, with paddle and pole near by, and he pushed off
with all the force of his young vigour. Jumping and careening
with the stream in its freshet flood, the raft and its hardy
pilot were served with many a whirl and some round spins, but the
long pole found bottom nearly everywhere, and not ten minutes
passed before the traveller sprang ashore, tied up his craft,
then swung and tramped and swung.
Over the hills of Vanderwhacker, under the woods of Boreas.
Tramp, tramp, splash, tramp, wringing and sopping, but strong and
hot, tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp. The partridge whirred from his
path, the gray deer snorted, and the panther sneaked aside.
Tramp, tramp, trot, trot, and the Washburn Ridge was blue against
the sunrise. Trot, trot, over the low, level, mile-long slope he
went, and when the Day- god burnt the upper hill-rim he was by
brown Tahawus flood and had covered eighteen miles.
By the stream he stopped to drink. A partridge cock, in the pride
of spring, strutted arrogantly on a log. Rolf drew his pistol,
fired, then hung the headless body while he made a camper's
blaze: an oatcake, the partridge, and river water were his meal.
His impulse was to go on at once. His reason, said "go slow." So
he waited for fifteen minutes. Then again, beginning with a slow
walk, he ere long added to his pace. In half an hour he was
striding and in an hour the steady "trot, trot," that slackened
only for the hills or swamps. In an hour more he was on the
Washburn Ridge, and far away in the east saw Schroon Lake that
empties in the river Schroon; and as he strode along, exulting in
his strength, he sang in his heart for joy. Again a gray wolf
cantered on his trail, and the runner laughed, without a thought
of fear. He seemed to know the creature better now; knew it as a
brother, for it gave no hostile sound, but only seemed to trot,
trot, for the small joy of running with a runner, as a swallow or
an antelope will skim along by a speeding train. For an hour or
more it matched his pace, then left as though its pleasant stroll
was done, and Rolf kept on and on and on.
The spring sun soared on high, the day grew warm at noon. Schroon
River just above the lake was in his path, and here he stopped to
rest. Here, with the last of his oatcake and a little tea, he
made his final meal; thirty eight miles had he covered since he
rose; his clothes were torn, his moccasins worn, but his legs
were strong, his purpose sure; only twenty-two miles now, and his
duty would be done; his honours won. What should he do, push on
at once? No, he meant to rest an hour. He made a good fire by a
little pool, and using a great mass of caribou moss as a sponge,
he had a thorough rub-down. He got out his ever- ready needle and
put his moccasins in good shape; he dried his clothes and lay on
his back till the hour was nearly gone. Then he girded himself
for this the final run. He was weary, indeed, but he was far from
spent, and the iron will that had yearly grown in force was there
with its unconquerable support.
Slowly at start, soon striding, and at last in the famous jog
trot of the scout he went. The sky was blackened with clouds at
length, and the jealous, howling east wind rolled up in rain; the
spindrift blurred the way; the heavy showers of spring came down
and drenched him; but his pack was safe and he trotted on and on.
Then long, deep swamps of alder barred his path, and, guided only
by the compass, Rolf pushed in and through and ever east. Barely
a mile an hour in the thickest part he made, but lagged not;
drenched and footsore, warm and torn, but doggedly, steadily on.
At three he had made a scant seven miles; then the level, open
wood of Thunderbolt was reached and his stride became a run;
trot, trot, trot, at six-mile gait, for but fifteen miles
remained. Sustained, inspired, the bringer of good news, he
halted not and faltered not, but on and on.
Tramp tramp, tramp tramp -- endless, tireless, hour by hour. At
five he was on Thunder Creek, scarce eight miles more to the
goal; his limbs were sore, his feet were sore; bone tired was he,
but his heart was filled with joy
"News of battle, news of victory" he was bringing, and the
thought lent strength; the five mires passed, the way was plain
with good roads now, but the runner was so weary. He was
striding, his running was done, the sun was low in the west, his
feet were bleeding, the courier was brain worn and leg worn, but
he strode and strode. He passed by homes but heeded them not.
"Come in and rest," called one who saw nothing but a weary
traveller. Rolf shook his head, but gave no word and strode
along. A mile -- a short mile now; he must hold out; if he sat
down he feared he could not rise. He came at last in sight of the
fort; then, gathering all his force, he broke into a trot, weak,
so weak that had he fallen, he could scarcely have got up, and
slow, but faster than a walk: and so, as the red sun sank, he
passed the gate. He had no right to give tidings to any but the
general, yet they read it in his eyes. The guard broke into a
cheer, and trotting still, though reeling, Rolf had kept his
word, had made his run, had brought the news, and had safely
reached his goal.
Chapter 74. Van Trumper's Again
Why should the scout bringing good news be differently received
from the one that brings the ill? He did not make, the news, he
simply did his duty; the same in both cases. He is merely the
telegraph instrument. Yet it is so ever. King Pharaoh slew the
bearer of ill-tidings; that was human nature. And General Hampton
brought in the tall stripling to his table, to honour him, to get
the fullest details, to glory in every item as though it all were
due to himself. Rolf's wonderful journey was dilated on, and in
the reports to Albany he was honourably mentioned for
exceptionally meritorious service as a bearer of despatches.
For three days Flying Kittering was hero of the post; then other
runners came with other news and life went on.
Hitherto the scouts had worn no uniform, but the execution of one
of their number, who was captured by the British and treated as a
spy, resulted in orders that all be formally enlisted and put in
Not a few withdrew from the service; some, like Quonab,
reluctantly consented, but Rolf was developing the fighting
spirit, and was proud to wear the colours.
The drill was tedious enough, but it was of short duration for
him. Despatches were to go to Albany. The general, partly to
honour Rolf, selected him.
"Are you ready for another run, Kittering?"
"Then prepare to start as soon as possible for Fort George and
Albany. Do you want a mate?"
"I should like a paddler as far as Fort George."
"Well, pick your man."
And when they set out, for the first time Rolf was in the stern,
the post of guidance and command. So once more the two were
travelling again with Skookum in the bow. It was afternoon when
they started and the four-mile passage of the creek was slow, but
down the long, glorious vista of the noble George they went at
full canoe-flight, five miles an hour, and twenty-five miles of
the great fair-way were reeled and past when they lighted their
At dawn-cry of the hawk they sped away, and in spite of a rising
wind they made six miles in two hours.
As they approached the familiar landing of Van Trumper's farm,
Skookum began to show a most zestful interest that recalled the
blackened pages of his past. "Quonab, better use that," and Rolf
handed a line with which Skookum was secured and thus led to make
a new record, for this was the first time in his life that he
landed at Van Trumper's without sacrificing a chicken in honour
of the joyful occasion.
They entered the house as the family were sitting down to
"Mein Hemel! mein Hemel! It is Rolf and Quonab; and vere is dot
tam dog? Marta, vere is de chickens? Vy, Rolf, you bin now a
giant, yah. Mein Gott, it is I am glad! I did tink der cannibals
you had eat; is it dem Canadian or cannibal? I tink it all one
the same, yah!"
Marta was actually crying, the little ones were climbing over
Rolf's knee, and Annette, tall and sixteen now, stood shyly by,
awaiting a chance to shake hands. Home is the abiding place of
those we love; it may be a castle or a cave, a shanty or a
chateau, a moving van, a tepee, or a canal boat, a fortress or
the shady side of a bush, but it is home, if there indeed we meet
the faces that are ever in the heart, and find the hands whose
touch conveys the friendly glow. Was there any other spot on
earth where he could sit by the fire and feel that "hereabout are
mine own, the people I love?" Rolf knew it now -- Van Trumper's
was his home.
Talks of the war, of disasters by land, and of glorious victories
on the sea, where England, long the unquestioned mistress of the
waves, had been humbled again and again by the dauntless seamen
of her Western blood; talks of big doings by the nation, and, yet
more interesting, small doings by the travellers, and the
breakfast passed all too soon. The young scout rose, for he was
on-duty, but the long rollers on the lake forbade the going
forth. Van's was a pleasant place to wait, but he chafed at the
delay; his pride would have him make a record on every journey.
But wait he must. Skookum tied safely to his purgatorial post
whined indignantly -- and with head cocked on one side, picked
out the very hen he would like to utilize -- as soon as released
from his temporary embarrassment. Quonab went out on a rock to
bum some tobacco and pray for calm, and Rolf, ever active,
followed Van to look over the stock and buildings, and hear of
minor troubles. The chimney was unaccountably given to smoking
this year. Rolf took an axe and with two blows cut down a
vigorous growth shrubbery that stood above the chimney on the
west, and the smoking ceased. Buck ox had a lame foot and would
allow no one even to examine it. But a skilful ox- handler easily
hobbles an ox, throws him near some small tree, and then, by
binding the lame foot to the tree, can have a free hand. It
proved a simple matter, a deep-sunk, rusty nail. And when the
nail was drawn and the place washed clean with hot brine, kind
nature was left in confidence to do the rest. They drifted back
to the house now. Tomas met them shouting out a mixture of Dutch
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