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CHAPTER XVI THE FOILING OF THE FRENCH
Without waiting to ascertain the effect of the first broadside of grape and round-shot, Major Eyre, the commander of the fort, gave orders to reload the cannon for a second discharge.

But this was not required. From the cries and shouts that were heard in the direction of the enemy it was evident that there had been deadly work done in their ranks, and that they were thrown into confusion and panic.

"I should not wonder if we've stopped them for the present," said Major Eyre cheerily, "and that we'll have no more trouble from them to-night."

In which surmise he proved to be correct, for the French were so smitten with consternation by the utterly unexpected storm of shot and shell that they incontinently turned about and retreated to their encampment pell-mell, to the vast rage and disgust of Rigaud, their commander, who stormed and swore at them in a vain effort to stay their flight.

Highly gratified as they in the fort felt at the foiling of this attempted surprise, they knew very well that another attack would certainly be made; and Major Eyre, as soon as it was daylight, despatched two of the fleetest-footed rangers on snow shoes to Fort Edward to obtain reinforcements if possible, he being resolved to hold out until the very last moment.

Not long after daybreak the French reappeared in full force, filing off to surround the fort upon which they kept up a brisk fire of musketry, although they had better have spared their ammunition, as the garrison took good care not to expose themselves, and the bullets buried themselves harmlessly in the stout ramparts.

"If it amuses them it does not hurt us," remarked Major Eyre with a satirical smile; "and we need not complain so long as they keep so respectful a distance."

On their part the garrison were by no means idle, Seth and his Rangers in particular seizing every chance for a shot; and the excellence of their guns, combined with the accuracy of their aim, enabled them to make many of their shots tell.

Once when the commander was standing by him he said to Seth:

"Do you see that officer over there on the right, who seems to be urging his men to advance closer?"

"Yes, sir," replied Seth. "I know the one you mean."

"Well, do you think you can pick him off for me? He evidently thinks he is out of range, but perhaps you can show him he's mistaken."

Seth measured the distance carefully with his eye. It was a very long shot, and the officer being in almost constant motion rendered it still more difficult, but he considered it worth trying, and said so to Major Eyre.

"Let me see then what you can do," was the response.

Seth loaded his gun with nicest care, and took aim with much deliberation, waiting until the officer should be still for a moment before he fired.

At last he pulled trigger; and as the report rang out the Frenchman staggered, threw up his arms, and then pitched forward upon the snow.

"Capital! capital!" exclaimed the commander enthusiastically. "I never saw a better shot in my life. Where did you learn to shoot like that, Ensign?"

Seth blushed with pleasure at this praise of his marksmanship, and answered modestly:

"At home on the farm, sir. I've been used to handling a gun ever since I was a little chap."

"Aha, that accounts for it," said Major Eyre. "Such skill is not to be acquired in the army. If all our men could take lessons from you, they'd be much the better for it. Well, you've given that poor chap his quietus. We'll see no more of him."

The loss of their leader so startled the soldiers that they scuttled off out of range in a way which highly amused those who were watching them from the fort.

"They know how to take care of themselves," was Seth's smiling comment as he reloaded his gun. "But we'll have more trouble from them yet."

They made no further demonstrations during that day, however, but in the course of the night they again attempted to approach on the ice, and were again repelled by a broadside from the cannon which the watchful garrison let fly at them so soon as they were heard advancing.

Being thus once more balked of their intention they sought to vent their rage by burning two sloops that were ice-bound on the lake before the fort, and a large number of bateaux drawn up on the shore.

So soon as he realized their purpose Major Eyre himself sallied out at the head of a party to endeavor to protect the craft, but they were too late. The flames quickly took possession, and could not be controlled, and ere morning both sloops and bateaux were completely consumed.

The next day was the Sabbath, and it seemed at first as if the French were going to respect the day by remaining quietly in camp; but at noon they filed out of the woods, and marched across the ice, ostentatiously parading their scaling-ladders, and making as imposing a demonstration of their strength as possible.

"They're surely in earnest this time," said Seth as he watched their martial movements, which were so carefully studied to inspire the little garrison with apprehension. "We're not to spend our Sunday in peace after all."

"There's no telling," responded Major Eyre. "They may be only making a feint in the hope of scaring us into surrender."

Coming to a halt while still at a safe distance, the French sent forward a small party whose officer bore a red flag; and rightly judging that this was the signal for a parley, Major Eyre bid Seth take a handful of his Rangers and go out to meet them.

He gladly obeyed the order, and presently returned with the chief of the Canadian artillery, Le Mercier, who on being led blindfold into the fort, announced himself as the bearer of a message from his commander.

He was conducted to the room of Major Eyre, where the other English officers were asse............
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