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CHAPTER IX. CUDGELS TO THE FRONT.
Van Curter did not intend to give up without a struggle. The attempt to take the officers prisoners was made at the instigation of Captain Van Zandt, who argued that they were to the garrison at Windsor what the head is to the body, and that the head once off the body is useless. How poorly they succeeded has been seen. Still at their posts within the fort, Holmes knew that they were gathering to attack him. He passed the word to the men to fight steadily.

Van Curter’s men advanced from four sides, bearing ladders hastily constructed, with which to scale the walls. Even now Holmes did not like to use his rifles on them, and called on them to stay. They only answered by yells of defiance, and quickened their pace. Holmes reluctantly gave the order to fire.

The balls whistled about the ears of the Dutch. Several of them were wounded, but none killed. The injured were hurried to the rear, and the rest planted their ladders and begun the ascent. Holmes, who did not like to kill any of them, ordered his men to throw down the ladders as fast as they were placed. As there were generally two or three men on each ladder when they fell, bruises and broken ribs resulted.

“Cudgels to the front!” cried out a laughing voice at this juncture.

The men turned. Boston Bainbridge was just coming[82] out of the cabin, carrying an armful of stout oak cudgels, which he had been smoothing so as to fit the hand. These he distributed to the men, who received them with lusty cheers.

“Throw open the gate,” cried Boston. “We shall show these knaves that we do not fear them. What do they mean by coming against us with empty hands. They will bring guns next time.”

The gates were flung open with a will, and the eighteen men of the garrison found themselves opposed by about twenty-five Dutchmen, the rest having been placed hors de combat in various ways. But, they were not the men to yield tamely, and catching up clubs and stones, they met the sortié bravely. Foremost among the party from the stockade, Boston Bainbridge came—not the Boston who sold his wares in Good Hope, but an active forester, eager for a fray. Carl Anselm, with his bruised and distorted face, looking fiendlike under the glare of the fires, rushed at him with a knife in his hand. But he went down at once like an ox under the ax of the butcher. The Dutch tried in vain to stand up before the men of Windsor. They were driven from the field, and made their way back to camp, dragging their wounded with them.

Next day they went back to Good Hope. They wanted to be as far as possible from the long-armed men of Windsor. With curses both loud and deep, Van Curter led his men home, closed his gates, and sat down to think.

“Who is Boston Bainbridge?” he asked of Captain Van Zandt.

“The devil himself,” replied that worthy.

“At least, he is something more than a peddler. Did you see him fight? Our men went down like grass before the mower. He has powerful arms.”

“Poor Carl is disfigured for life. First, that blow he took from Barlow spread his nose all over his face, and now his head is broken. He will go mad if he does not get revenge.”

“Where is he?”

“The surgeon has him.”

“That was a bad failure.”

[83]

“Bad! I should think so. But who, I ask you, would have thought it possible for two men to escape from such a net? I would have periled my soul on my power to hold Barlow; but my head struck a stone. That will be settled sometime. When we meet again with swords in our hands, one or the other must die. Where is Theresa?”

Van Curter pointed to the door of the next room. The young man rose, pushed open the door, and entered. Theresa sat at a table, engaged in some household duty. She looked up with an odd sort of smile as he entered.

“Have you no welcome for me, Theresa?” he asked, in a tone of passionate entreaty.

“Would it not be better, Joseph, for us to cease at once at playing friendship, when I, at least, have not a spark of respect for you in my heart?”

“When did I become so hateful to you?” he asked, in a low tone.

“I was afraid of you always; but the time from which I ceased to hold even respect toward you was when you struck your hand upon this table, and swore to kill Willie Barlow.”

“You do not remember, Theresa, that those words were spoken in the heat of passion, aroused by your refusal of me. Would a man with any heart have said less? Listen to me, Theresa Van Curter, and mark my words well. You have it in your power to make for yourself and for me a glorious destiny. I have influence in the old world. There is nothing I can not claim in the way of honor and wealth. My love for you is so entire that you can shape me as you will. My nature only needs a guiding hand—a loving, tender, womanly hand like yours. Be my wife. We will turn our backs forever upon this new country and all its bad associations, and make a new life in our own fatherland.”

Theresa mused. His appeal had been so impassioned, so full of heart, that it was not in her nature to hurt his feelings. He noted her indecision:

“You hesitate, my darling! I have not given you time enough. You want more. Take it. Weeks, months, a year! I can wait, only give me some hope, and promise that you will no longer listen to this plotting Englishman.”

[84]

“Do not deceive yourself, Joseph,” she said. “It is not in my power to do as you ask. Spare me any longer speech upon the subject. It is only just to me that you should cease.”

“You are hasty; you should take time.”

“This was decided some time since,” she returned, quietly gathering up some things from the table, and placing them in a box at her side.

“It then remains for me to tell you what may result, if you push me too far. Remember, I can bear, and have borne much for your sake. There is only one way by which you can save yourself and him.”

“You have no power over him,” she answered, with a curl of her proud lip. “What may be the way in which we may be saved?”

“By being my wife.”

“Death before such a redemption! Do you use threats to me?”

“Not at all. I never threaten. I act, as you and your minion shall find. I bid you good-night, Theresa Van Curter—as a lover, forever. In after times we may meet again, and you shall say that I am not a man to be despised. Give you good-night.”

The door closed behind him, and Theresa was alone. Once rid of his presence, and the firmness which had sustained her through the interview gave way; she dropped her head upon the table, and gave way to a flood of tears.

The night came, dark and gloomy, and Theresa retired early. The men of Good Hope, tired by their fruitless expedition, sunk into repose. There was no rain, though the clouds covered the whole face of the sky. Theresa could not sleep; she rose, threw on a light wrapper, and sat at the latticed casement, the place where Willie had so often come.

A dark figure rose outside the window, and a scream rose to her lips, which was hushed by a low “hist” from the stranger. She threw open the casement with care. It was Willie.

“I have not time to exchange a word,” he said, kissing her. “Whatever happens to-night, keep to your room. Warn Katrine, also; but be cautious.”

[85]

With these words he was gone, and she sat in breathless expectation. An hour dragged by, when, all at once, there rose upon the still night air the shouts of men in combat. The Windsor men had turned the tables and attacked Good Hope!

Cheers and execrations mingled upon the sultry air. Dark forms flitted to and fro in the gloom. The Windsor men had followed close upon the trail of the men of Good Hope, and attacked them at the hour when the senses of all but the guards were locked in slumber. Indeed, some of the men yet lingered in the works before the assault came.

In a very short space the outer work was won, and the Dutch driven into the houses within the works. These they barricaded, and prepared to make a vigorous resistance.

At the first alarm, Van Zandt and Van Curter were upon their feet and seized their weapons. In the melée outside, they were separated in some way, and were driven into different houses. The one in which the captain took refuge was that of the commandant. Carl was with him.

There were three of these houses in the works, built of logs, notched and squared at the end. They were solid structures, capable of resisting a very strong force. About twenty in the garrison were fit for duty, of whom ten w............
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