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CHAPTER XIII SCOUTING IN WHALEBOATS
It is often the unexpected that happens, and so it proved in this case, for while the Major and his veterans were puzzled as to what to do, the problem solved itself in an altogether different way from anything that had been in their thoughts.

Out of the bosom of the night with scarce any warning now came a sudden breeze of surprising strength which took hold of the raft, and despite the utmost efforts of the sinewy paddlers blew it directly toward the hostile camp!

Major Rogers stormed and swore, and even seized a paddle himself, and plied it with frantic energy, but all to no purpose. The stubborn raft moved steadily if slowly before the wind toward the fires, whose blaze would ere long reveal its presence.

The excitement on board may be readily conceived. The men realized that they were being borne into the jaws of death, and prepared to die like heroes fighting to the last.

Nearer and nearer to the camp moved the raft. Seth and Reuben standing together at one side grasped each other's hands in silent understanding. It was no time for words, but for action, quick and decisive.

"Now, Rangers," said the Major in a low, grave tone that showed how deep was his feeling: "We're in a bad box, and there's small chance of our getting out of it. But if we can't save ourselves we can make a good fight of it, and sell our lives dearly. Don't be in a hurry to fire. Don't waste a bullet. Club your muskets after they're empty, and keep at it so long as you can stand."

"Ay, ay, sir!" was the subdued yet resolute response of the men as they grasped the guns tightly, and gazed at the nearing shore.

A moment later the wind dropped as suddenly as it had risen, and a brief period of calm followed, after which the wind rose again, but now it blew from a different quarter; and the raft, instead of continuing on the same course, began to move northward.

Major Rogers instantly saw his opportunity. Calling upon his men to paddle with all their might, he directed their efforts so that the raft veered toward the land at a point some distance above the camp, where the trees came close to the water's edge.

"If we can only get there without being seen we'll give them the slip after all," he said to Seth, and there was an accent of hope in his tone.

Yard by yard the clumsy craft glided in the desired direction, and the men's spirits revived as the shore drew nearer without any sign that the enemy suspected their proximity.

At last the raft grounded, and one by one its passengers, moving as silently as shadows, made their way to land and disappeared in the dense obscurity of the woods with lightened hearts; for although they were not yet out of danger, they had certainly bettered their chances of seeing Fort William Henry again.

Following their leader in Indian file they glided noiselessly through the forest, not knowing at what moment they might be discovered by some outlying sentinel or vigilant scout.

But again fortune favored them, and, without being challenged or opposed, they left the encampment a safe distance behind ere the Major would call a halt that they might rest for the remainder of the night.

Two days later they reached the fort wellnigh spent with hunger and fatigue, and quite content to take it easy for a while ere setting forth on another expedition.

In the following June Major Rogers' heart was made glad by General Shirley sending him six light whale-boats from Albany, accompanied by instructions to proceed immediately to Lake Champlain and do what he might in the way of intercepting the parties coming down from Canada by water with supplies for Crown Point.

Seth was delighted when he heard the news. The idea of speeding over the lake in the swift, strong boats instead of the frail canoes or clumsy bateaux, appealed to his spirit of romance.

"That will be fine, won't it. Reuben?" he exclaimed enthusiastically after telling his friend. "A lot of us can get into one boat, and make it go faster than any canoe, and then we can take with us plenty of provisions so that we won't need to starve nearly to death as we have done before."

Major Rogers called his officers together to talk over the best ways and means of utilizing the new equipment, and as the result of a lengthy conference an original and daring plan of campaign was settled upon, for the conception of which the Major himself was entitled to the chief credit, and which he proceeded to carry out with his characteristic promptitude.

Putting fifty of his men into five of the boats, he rowed up Lake George to an island, on which the night was spent. The next day he went on about five miles farther, and landed on the east shore of the lake, where it rose rather steeply from the water's edge.

"So far it's been easy enough," he said to his men when they had drawn the boats well up on the land, "but we've got hard work ahead now, and it will try both our strength and patience to the utmost, but I know I can depend upon you to go through with it."

He might well speak thus, for what they had before them was nothing less than the transporting of the heavy boats over the high land which separated the main body of Lake George from a long narrow projection lying parallel to Lake George, a few miles to the east.

But they were not the men to be dismayed by even so difficult and laborious a task. With their wonted spirit and energy they addressed themselves to it, and ere long all five boats were being dragged up the hillside over a hastily prepared portage path by which no canoe had ever gone.

It was really tremendous work, and under the warm June sun the Rangers stormed and sweated over the many difficulties of the undertaking. Officers and men toiled alike, no one exerting himself more unsparingly than Major Rogers, and bit by bit the way to the summit of the ridge, and thence d............
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