Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Short Stories > With Rogers on the Frontier > CHAPTER VII REUBEN GETS INTO THE RANGERS ALSO
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】
They did not have to wait long, for soon after sunrise two sledges, heavily laden with fresh beef, came into view, their drivers singing gayly in utter unconsciousness of the proximity of the enemy. They could easily have been shot as they sat on their sledges, but Rogers had other designs. He wanted them as prisoners for the sake of the information that might be extracted from them. So, at his command the Rangers suddenly showed themselves with levelled muskets, while their leader called to the drivers to stop.

The consternation of the latter was amusing to witness. They nearly fell off their seats, and made not the slightest attempt either at defending themselves or effecting their escape.

Seth, who had a keen sense of humor, thought their conduct highly diverting, and was one of the first to reach the sledges.

The poor fellows, when they realized into whose hands they had fallen, gave themselves up for lost. They evidently expected nothing else than to be killed at once, or to be reserved for dreadful torture, and as Major Rogers himself was the only one of their captors who understood their language, their passionate pleading for mercy evoked no response from the others and intensified their terror.

Rogers regarded them grimly in silence for a time, and then gave orders that their hands should be tied behind their backs and that the beef they were in charge of be destroyed.

The Rangers would have been glad enough to keep the meat, which would have afforded a welcome variety in their monotonous diet at the fort; but it was out of the question for them to hamper themselves with it, as having accomplished the object of their expedition in the capture of two of the enemy, they must make all haste back to their own headquarters.

On being questioned by Rogers, the captured drivers told readily enough all they knew about the condition of things at Ticonderoga and Crown Point and the plans of the French for the future, and the information they gave was of such value that Major Rogers felt thoroughly satisfied with the result of the outing.

The command was given to return to Fort William Henry, which they reached in the evening of the third day without further incident.

Now, Reuben Thayer was no less anxious to be admitted into the ranks of the Rangers than Seth had been, and, having failed to gain his point by direct application, he begged Seth to speak for him.

Seth shrank from doing so, because the Major was not easily approached, and had a gruff way with him; but at last, yielding to his friend's importunities, he made the venture.

He chose what he trusted would be an auspicious time—to wit, when the great man was enjoying his evening pipe after a hard day's tramp through the woods in quest of game, and with a degree of hesitation that was in itself a compliment, as indicating a fitting sense of the importance of the man he addressed, he said:

"Major Rogers, I have a favor to ask you."

"Have you, indeed?" answered the Major none too cordially, and evidently grudging the necessity of removing his pipe from his lips in order to speak. "What is it? Out with it, and don't stand there looking at me as if I were a wild cat or something!"

Poor Seth winced at this rough response, and found it harder than before to get out what he wanted to say, but he managed to stammer out:

"Reuben Thayer, sir, my friend, you know."

"No; I don't know your friend Reuben," retorted the Major impatiently. "But what about him? Explain yourself."

"If you please, sir, he wants to be one of your Rangers," Seth hastened to reply, devoutly wishing that he had not undertaken the matter at all.

"Oh, he does, does he?" snorted the Major scornfully. "How good of him! And what if I don't want him? Who is he anyway, and what does he know about scouting?"

"Why, sir, he was with me that time I got so near Ticonderoga, and saw what they were doing there," Seth replied, with a sudden access of spirit, for Rogers' contemptuous way of speaking of his friend rather nettled him.

"Oh, ho! was he, indeed?" exclaimed the Major in a somewhat changed tone. "That makes a difference." Then, fixing his penetrating glance upon Seth, while a slight curve softened the severe outline of his lips, he demanded: "Do you think he's got as good stuff in him as you have, and that he'd be any use to me?"

Seth, now master of himself, felt free to smile back at the stern-visaged scout, who, he knew, was simply twitting him, and to respond in the same vein:

"If you'll only try him, sir, you'll find that he's better than I am, may be."

"Well, well, we'll see, we'll see," said the Major, resuming his pipe, and Seth, taking this as a sign that the interview was closed, went away to report to Reuben.

"And what do you think he'll do, Seth?" inquired Reuben anxiously. "Will he let me join?"

"I'm not quite sure, Reuben," was Seth's reply. "But I hope so. You'll just have to be patient."

The days slipped by without the Major taking any particular notice of Reuben, and the poor fellow was about resigning himself to disappointment when an incident occurred that brought about the fulfilment of his desire in an unexpected manner.

The English by no means had a monopoly of the scouting. The French on their part were hardly less active and venturesome, their Indian allies being particularly enterprising, and frequently making their way into the neighborhood of Fort William Henry, so that the members of the garrison had to keep a constant lookout for the merciless "hair-dressers," as they were facetiously called by their employers in allusion to their partiality for scalps.

When not out on one of his prolonged expeditions, Major Rogers, who could not keep still by any chance, was wont to spend the day roaming through the adjacent woods, sometimes in quest of game, and sometimes on the chance of lighting upon an Iroquois scout, and either taking him prisoner or putting an end to his activities.

In these outings he usually went alone, having perfect confidence in his ability to take care of himself, and being of a disposition that did not need the constant companionship of his fellowmen.

One day late in January he had gone out to amuse himself in his accustomed way, and as it happened Seth and Reuben, whose friendship strengthened as the weeks went by, were also in the woods, hoping to bag a few partridges to vary their monotonous diet of bacon and peas.

In this they had fair success, and, having ventured as far from the fort as they thought wise, were on their way back when they caught sight of Major Rogers at a little distance.

"See, there's the Major!" exclaimed Reuben, catching his companion's arm and pointing out the tall form of the scout half hidden among the trees. "I wonder if he's after partridges too, and if he has had any better luck than we. Shall we call to him?"

"No, indeed," replied Seth emphatically. "He does not want our company. He prefers his own."

"Then let us see if we can keep him in sight for a while without his seeing us," suggested Reuben.

"All right," responded Seth, to whom the idea seemed a capital one, and accordingly they proceeded to stalk the Major, who, all unconscious of their proximity, was entirely absorbed in his own thoughts.

Taking the utmost care not to betray themselves, they followed him for some distance, having no more definite purpose than simply to see if they could do so without being discovered, and were quite enjoying the joke of it when Reuben gave a sudden start, and, pulling Seth down to the ground beside him, whispered in his ear:

"I see Indians! They're just over there, and Major Rogers is going right toward them."

"Where? Where?" asked Seth excitedly. "Show them to me!"

Reuben pointed off to the right of where they lay, and Seth, fixing his eyes upon the spot, was able to make out the dark forms of at least two Indians crouching among the trees with the evident design of ambushing the Major.

For the moment he knew not what to do—whether to warn the Major, or to try a long shot at the Indians, and while he hesitated Reuben acted.

Springing to his feet in entire disregard of the danger he ran by thus exposing himself, he shouted:

"Down, sir, down! The Indians!"

His voice rang out amid the stillness of the forest with the clearness of a trumpet call, and the veteran scout, without pausing an instant to ascertain whence it came, and where the danger warned against lay, instantly threw himself flat upon the ground.

It was well for him he did. The sudden action certainly saved his life, for close upon Reuben's timely shout came the report of a gun, and a bullet whistled viciously past the very spot where the Major had been standing.

Like an echo another report followed the first. It was from the gun of Seth, who had been watching intently the movements of the Indians, and the moment the latter exposed themselves in their anxiety to kill Major Rogers he aimed and pulled trigger.

Although so quickly done as to be really nothing more than a snapshot, a piercing yell told that the deadly missile had reached its mark, and Seth chuckled as he hastened to reload, saying complacently:

"That settles one of them. Now for the other."

But the second Iroquois evidently had no idea of sharing the fate of his companion. More like a shadow than a creature of flesh and blood he stole through the underbrush, Reuben just managing to catch a glimpse of him as he vanished over the top of a ridge, and he called to the still prostrate Major:

"It's all right now, sir. One Indian is shot, and the other's run away."

With feelings somewhat divided between relief at his escape from an ignominious death, and irritation at the undignified attitude he had been compelled to assume in order to save himself, Major Rogers got up, and stood gazing in grim silence at the young men who had hastened toward him, eager to be assured that he had suffered no harm.

His stern look checked the words that were on their lips, and when they had come within a few yards of him, they halted in some confusion, the Major's reception of them was so entirely different from what under the circumstances they were expecting.

For an appreciable, and so far as the two friends were concerned, quite embarrassing interval they stood thus looking at each other, and then Major Rogers spoke.

"Who was it saw the Indians first and gave me warning?" he asked in as severe a tone as if he were questioning a criminal.

"It was I, sir," meekly responded Reuben.

"Ah! And you're the youth that wants to join my company?" continued the Major, the hardness of his tone slightly relaxing. "Then——" and here he paused, so that his words might have full effect—"you may consider yourself a member. You have done me a service that I shall be in no hurry to forget," and having thus delivered himself, he strode off in the direction of Fort William.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2014, All Rights Reserved