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CHAPTER XIV THE FIGHT IN THE FOREST
The vessel which Seth had sighted was a small schooner lying at anchor in a cove, and at first showing no sign of life. But, as the whale-boat shot toward her, a little dog on the deck set up a lively barking, which aroused the crew, and they crawled out of the cabin in a half-awake condition.

At first they did not realize their danger, mistaking the occupants of the boat for friends. Ere the latter could get near enough to board, however, their eyes were opened, and, snatching up whatever weapons were at hand, they prepared to defend themselves.

"Surrender or we'll fire!" Seth shouted, and then paused long enough to allow his words to be understood.

But the Frenchmen laughed scornfully at him, and shook their heads in refusal.

"Take good aim then, Rangers, and fire," was the command, and from the whale-boat flashed a volley whose effect on the schooner was deadly.

One-half the crew of the schooner fell either killed or seriously wounded, and, quick to take advantage of the confusion created, Seth dashed alongside; and, followed by his men, sprang over the bulwarks of the vessel.

He was not, however, to have everything his own way at once. Bewildered and appalled as the Frenchmen were, they rallied surprisingly when their assailants reached the deck, and fought desperately in self-defence.

Fortunately for the Rangers it was a hand-to-hand conflict in which fire-arms could not be used, and the sturdy provincials were more at home in such rough-and-tumble fighting as the contracted space permitted than were their opponents.

Seth instinctively sought out the captain that he might make him his prisoner, and threw himself upon him with such impetuosity as to hurl him backward to the deck.

But the man was agile and muscular, and had no idea of yielding without a struggle. He wound his arms about Seth, and put forth so tremendous an effort to reverse their position that Seth suddenly realized he had a mighty antagonist to deal with.

Now had he reason to be glad of his skill in wrestling gained at the cost of many a hard fall. Summoning all his strength, and resorting to his most artful devices, he was able to offset the other's greater muscular power as they struggled breathlessly for the mastery.

Being thus evenly matched, it looked like a question of endurance with the chances in favor of the older man; but before it could be thus fought out, the other members of the crew had either submitted, or leaped overboard; and their captain becoming aware of this, thought it best to surrender at discretion. And Seth to his great delight found himself in possession of the schooner and of several prisoners.

Having secured the latter, the Rangers, not one of whom had suffered a serious hurt, proceeded to examine their prize. She proved to be laden with flour, wine, and brandy, intended of course for the comfort of the force at Crown Point; and Seth decided that nothing should be done with this valuable cargo until Major Rogers had given directions concerning its disposition.

He accordingly returned with his good news, and had a warm reception from his chief, who was highly gratified at the capture, and made haste to see it for himself.

"If we could only take the whole thing down to Fort William Henry," he said regretfully, as he surveyed the tempting stuff, "we could make good use of it there. But that's out of the question. We'll just have to destroy it; and the easiest way to do that is by sinking the schooner where she is."

And so it was done, much to the disappointment of the Rangers, who would have greatly liked to help themselves freely to the liquid portion of the cargo; but this the Major sternly forbade, for it was no time to engage in a carouse with danger on every side.

Hardly had they finished with the schooner when they sighted two lighters coming up the lake, and Major Rogers at once set off in hot pursuit.

These cumbrous craft were easily overtaken; and ranging alongside the Major called to their crews:

"If you surrender at once I'll give you quarter; but if you resist or try to escape, I'll fire on you."

Under the circumstance the only wise action was to surrender; but whether they lost their heads through panic, or really hoped to escape capture, the men on board the lighters foolishly paid no heed to the demand, and strove desperately to get to the shore.

Thereupon the Major ordered his men to fire, and the effect of their volley was fearful, many of the Frenchmen being either killed or wounded, while the rest, thoroughly terrified, made no further effort to escape, but begged for mercy.

On examining the lighters they also proved to be laden with wine and flour, which was perforce ruthlessly destroyed and then came the question of disposing of the numerous prisoners taken. To bring them all back with them was not practicable, and accordingly Major Rogers selected six, and released the rest on parole.

Then, feeling well satisfied with the results of the expedition, he made his way back to Fort William Henry, where the whole party arrived without a mishap.

Throughout the remainder of the year the Rangers were in almost constant activity, parties of varying strength going out from time to time to spy upon the doings of the enemy at Ticonderoga and Crown Point, where the fortifications were being steadily strengthened and extended, and to take prisoners from whom information might be extracted as to the plans of the French authorities.

In all these proceedings Seth had his share, although he was not a member of every party, and he thoroughly enjoyed the adventurous life, particularly when the whale-boats were used, as he preferred them even to the canoes.

In spite of the innumerable risks run, and of the countless hardships endured, he was still unscathed and always ready for any service that might present itself to his active mind, or be required of him by his commander.

Toward the middle of January of the following year (1757) Major Rogers received orders to assemble his whole force which had been divided between Fort Edward and Fort............
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