Morven and Donald talked it over and
could see no help for it other than go to Canada. Were they to try to
stay, they would have to disperse, going to villages and towns to seek
work as laborers, and that meant poverty, if not starvation, for hard
times had come on the heels of the close of the war They knew that the
women as much as the men were averse to splitting up their little
community. They had lived as one family, the strong caring for the weak,
each helping the other, so that to break up relations that had existed so
long, and be separated among strangers who were unfriendly a proposal they
recoiled from. On the other hand, were they to continue together they must
leave the United States, and their shortest route to Canada was over a
mountainous wilderness of a full hundred miles or more. Of that region
they knew only what their young men who had gone hunting in
them, and they had no occasion to go far. They had no guide, all they were
sure of was that going due north they would reach Canada. Donald suggested
they move towards Lake George and, building or buying boats, gain Canada
by Lake Champlain; he had been as far as Crown Point and saw no special
difficulty. They parted to go and warn the People to prepare for speedy
departure. No family was surprised. They had been expecting nothing else,
tho’ hoping the change would not come until spring. To sell their cattle
and other marketable property they at once sent word to drovers It was on
the afternoon of the third day after Hoover’s visit, that Morven saw Tim
coming over the field to his house. He bore a letter. It was from a
brother of Miriam. It told how the family had been driven from their farm
and were on their way to seek a
new home in Cana da. They had to pass Albany, for, they had chosen the way
by Lake Champlain. While staying over night in that town, they learned of
a call for volun teers to raid the settlement of Highlanders, who were
spoken of as allies of the Indians, and as deserving the treatment they
had shown Republican families. The letter closed with an urgent message to
leave and escape the massacre that had been planned. Morven, from what he
had heard, knew of the dreadful deeds done in isolated settlements of
Tories in the Hudson valley, and felt the danger. In the coming raid he
saw the hand of Hoover. •, Instant action was needed,
for Tim said the word was, that the
soldiers would leave and it was now Thursday. Donald said this word
decided their route—they must go by the wilderness and he suggested that
men be at once sent to build a raft so that they could cross the lake to
the north of their settlement instead of going round it, which might
enable a pursuing party to overtake them. This was done, and a message
sent to every household to be ready to move on Saturday. The chief
preparation was the cooking of food and packing it in baskets to be
carried on the back. Their acquaintance with the Indians had taught how
burdens could be so carried and they had plenty of baskets. Children
unable to walk were bundled up as papooses, and on the backs of the three
indian ponies they had decided to take, were strapped the utensils and
coverings for wig-wams.
With the first streak of day the
settlement was alive with preparations for the start. There was no
expression of regret, no reluctance in leaving: the blood of the
Highlanders was up, they would fight if need be, but the hearts of all,
even to the children, were exultant over the thought that they were on
their way to a land where they would enjoy the earnings of their
labor and be no longer persecuted for their political opinions. Led by
Donald, several men with axes struck for the woods to clear a track, and,
well behind them, to give time to clear any obstruction, a straggling line
of men, women, and children followed, Morven giving assistance wherever
most needed. Two hours’ march and the first of the foothills was reached,
and a halt called on its slope.
Looking back they saw the valley
they had dwelt in for half-a-dozen years, and while they were
endeavoring to pick out where this and that house lay, a column of smoke
rose, which speedily changed into a cloud and rolled before the wind. The
young men left to form a rear-guard had fired the standing crops and with
them went the log-houses. Shouts of exultation rose from their late
occupants. "Our crops no Yankee will reap: our homes no Yankee will dwell
in. They will come to rob and find a desolation." It was in the afternoon
when the lake was reached, which proved to be one of those long narrow
stretches of water common to the region. The north shore which faced them
was bold and rocky, and to reach it was their purpose. Trees, suitable for
a raft, had been selected along the water edge, felled, and rolled into
the lake. One by one they had been lashed together with withes, so that a
floating platform was ready to receive its first passengers, mostly
children. The men who poled it were surprised, on nearing the farther
shore, to see a man standing on a rock, who signed to them where to steer,
and following his directions struck a landing where the water was deep
enough to bring the raft alongside a ledge of rock. Morven, whose heart
jumped on recognizing the stranger as John Blanket, grasped his hand. "You
have come to help us?" The Indian gave a grunt. There was no time for
talk. As soon as the raft was lightened of its load it was poled back to
get another. Had it not been that it was moonlight all could not have
crossed that night. The Indian led to a sheltered hollow, where fires were
lit, and the first night in the wilderness was spent.
Before going to sleep, Morven had a
long talk with John Blanket. He told how he had gone with his tribe to the
reservation given by the British government on the Grand river, in Canada.
Having vided a home, he had come east to claim as his bride the maiden to
whom he had been betrothed, and whose people still lived in a forest depth
on the edge of the great wilderness. He had waited for a while with the
Indians on the bay of Quinte, and then, traversing lake Ontario and the
St. Lawrence in a canoe, had plunged into the woods, where he hunted and
fished until he had neared the old campingground of his people, and
claimed the hand of her for whom he had come. so far. Careful not to show
himself, for he knew he would be shot like a wild beast by the first
Republican who sighted him, he had haunted the Mohawk valley for some
time. He was in the woods when Morven had his meeting with Hoover,
overheard what passed, and had his tomahawk ready to slay Hoover had the
bullet of his pistol hit Morven. Knowing from what passed at the interview
that the settlers would soon leave, he resolved to offer his services as
guide, and left to tell his bride. The Highlanders had moved sooner than
expected. That morning he had gone on a hunt and it was the sight of the
smoke that had hurried him on his way back, reaching the lake as he saw
them getting ready to cross it. Squeezing the Indian’s hand in gratitude,
Morven slept all the sounder from knowing they had a guide.
It was the joyous chatter of the
children that roused Morven in the morning. He was told the Indian had
gone towards the lake, and he found him lying prone on a rock watching the
opposite shore. "They have followed you," said John. "See the smoke of
last night’s fire." Morven looked where he pointed but could see nothing.
"They took the trail you made and are now at the lake."
"Had we not better be on the move?
It will take them some time to get round the lake, and we may leave them
The Indian shook his head. "They
would overtake you today—maybe at a worse place than this to fight them.
You march slow, they go fast, all young and good bushmen."
"I do not want to fight; I hate the
shedding of blood."
Blanket smiled grimly. "You have to
fight them or let them kill you all."
Morven gazed on the lovely scene
before him, the union of hill and forest and glassy lake, glorified in
warm sunshine, and sighed to think nature was so peaceful and beautiful
and man so destructive and hateful. As they were to wait where they were
until they learned the movements of their pursuers, towards noon the
People gathered under the shade of the trees to hold the
fellowship-service they had never failed to observe as each Sunday
came—all save Blanket, who had left the camp after breakfast. Morven read
the 14th chapter of Exodus, and from that hour his hearers evened
themselves with the children of Israel. When their worship was over, he
missed the young men and Donald. He was told Blanket had beckoned them
while he was speaking and they had disappeared with him in the forest.
About a nile to the east of the camp
a brook found its way to the lake through a rent in the rock. The depth
and width of the gorge varied, but nowhere was it narrow enough for a man
to leap nor the banks sufficiently slanting to permit of safe descent or
climbing the opposite steep. Blanket conjectured, when the Americans saw
their prey had escaped by ferrying the lake they would go round the
eastern end of it and, having done so, must cross this chasm to reach
them. Assured of this he went to the outlet of the brook to watch for
their coming. The sun had passed the meridian before his keen eyes got a
glimpse of them, when he went to the camp for the young men. The
Americans, who had guides who knew the ground, halted at a point of the
brook where the gorge was narrowest, when two of the party began to fell a
pine that grew near the edge. So skilfully did they wield their axes, that
the tree fell as they desired, straight across the chasm. Stepping on it
the men hewed away the few obstructing branches, and there was a tolerable
bridge for light-looted riflemen. John Blanket and his followers,
concealed in the thicket that fringed the gorge, watched every movement
and heard much of the talk of the Americans, for, confident they were
alone, they laughed and bantered each other about their expedition and of
the capture they believed to be within their grasp. Their remarks about
Highland girls often made the blood of the young men boil with indignation
and they whispered Blanket if they should not shoot, but he always shook
his head. When the bridge was ready, the leader ordered them to form
single file, wide apart., so that not more than two at a time would be on
the frail bridge. They had evidently served in the army, for they obeyed
orders with precision and alacrity. Just as the leading man was about to
step off the Indian whispered "Fire." Those on the bridge fell headlong to
the foaming water beneath, the others sprang back and rushed for the
shelter of the bush—all save two who dropped in their flight. Instantly
the Americans sent a shower of bullets to the place where they supposed
their assailants were hid, which did no damage. Then there was silence.
Blanket whispered they were consulting what to do. After an interval a
white cloth at the end of a ramrod appeared above the bushes and an
unarmed man walked towards the fatal bridge. Donald went forward to speak
"We want to move these two wounded
men who are lying scorching in the sun."
"We make no war on wounded men. If
you leave their rifles, powder-horns, and knives you can carry them with
you; we will not shoot."
"Thank you, my one-armed friend.
Now, I will do you a favor. On surrendering to us the man named Morven,
for whom we have a warrant, we will go back to Albany and leave your party
"What would you do with him?"
"We will take him to Albany where he
will have a fair trial on charges laid against him by the Honorable Douw
"You talk as if we were under
obligation to you. We owe you nothing; we have done you no harm. It is you
who have abused us. You have robbed us of our farms and you hunt us for
"That is saucy talk for men who have
.. just tumbled three of our best fellows into that chasm and wounded two
more. Come into the open and we will lick you in a fair fight. This
ambushing is cowardly."
"What did you expect? That we would
wait like sheep in our camp till you poured a volley, slaught ered
everyman, and then seized our women? The deer when brought to bay lowers
its horns to save dam and fawn from the wolf. Your comrades had murder in
their hearts when they stepped on that tree and deserved what they got."
"Were it any use talking, I would tell you what Tories
have done and what they deserve, but the deal this morning is yours and we
have to grin and bear it. Come now, don’t let us go back to Albany with
nothing to show for our tramp. Give us that fellow Morven."
"Morven has done nothing deserving
trial and we know what your fair trials mean. If that is the condition of
your leaving us alone, we will fight it out with you."
"Come now, be reasonable, we are
able to catch you all—"
Donald flourished his one arm. "Back
quick, and if you know what is good for you, tell your friends to save
their hides by going back the way they came."
The American returned to where the
party was hid, when four men came out to carry away the two wounded men.
Knowing they were watched by marksmen who had their rifles pointed at
them, they ostentatiously piled the guns, powder - horns, and knives of
the disabled men in a heap, before lifting them.
"What next, John?" asked Donald.
"The Yankees are going home,"
answered Blanket in a whisper, "they did not expect to follow us so far,
and have not food to stay longer. Their haversacks are, empty."
"Let us go after them, the bridge is
Blanket shook his head. "We are not
able for them—too many."
"Are we not to have even another
shot at them? They have taken our land, they would have taken our lives,
had you not circumvented them."
The young men, who had been
listening, eagerly backed Donald’s request, one stepping towards the
tree-bridge. "Stop," cried Blanket, "you may be shot. Do not cross; come
The Indian led them down towards the
lake, halting when they were about to come in sight of it. He pointed to
the other side of the gorge, where a forest-fire had made a clearance of
"They will cross that," he said with
a sweep of his hand, "when you will have a chance of another shot."
Crouched under cover of tree, and
rock, and bush, they waited with rifles pointed to sweep the opening in
front of them The Americans were long in coming. Having to prepare
stretchers to carry their wounded they were delayed. It was nearing sunset
when, at the farther end of the opening, the first American stepped out,
followed by others in straggling fashion, When a broken line of them
spanned the clearance Blanket gave the word and eight rifles rang out.
Instantly the Americans dropped, some from being hit, others to seek
cover. The fury of battle had taken possession of Donald. Rising up to see
what damage had been done, he gave the warcry of his clan. Blanket, who
was reloading his rifle, hurriedly stretched out his hand to pull him
down. It was too late. An American, watching from behind a tree, saw him
and took aim. Donald fell backward with a bullet in his brain. It was the
last shot. Crawling or creeping on all fours those of the Americans who
had been surprised in the act of crossing the opening, gained the bush,
the others made a sweep round the end of it. What their loss was the
Highlanders never learned, nor did they care, for they were too absorbed
in the death of Donald.
The first intimation those who
remained in the camp had that an enemy was near, was the sound of firing,
when Morven instantly made the best preparations he could for keeping the
People together and getting them under cover. A man was sent forward in
the direction of the shooting to learn what they might expect, but before
he returned Tim came running with the news. He told the story of the
Americans spanning the gorge with a tree, of their repulse, and that not a
Highlander had got a scratch. Later the messenger returned, with the word
from Blanket that the danger had passed, but he would continue to watch
until all was safe. The afternoon wore away until the camp again heard the
rattle of a volley, ending with the single shot that was the death-knell
of Donald. On one of the young men coming in with the news, there was a
burst of sorrow. Morven started for the scene of conflict, followed by all
who could leave. When he saw Donald outstretched on the flat rock on which
he had leaped to bid defiance to the persecutors, Morven dropped on his
knees and drew the still warm body into his arms. The bystanders drew
aside in silence, for they knew of the friendship, deep and true, that had
existed between the two men and guessed Morven’s mighty sorrow. On the
arrival of the women, the Keen was raised and the children sobbed and
clung in fear to their mothers. It was Morven who restored order.
Mastering his feelings, he composedly gave orders for the burial. They
were on the march for their lives, and delay might be dangerous. A spade
was brought from the camp and a shallow grave dug. A full moon was pouring
its radiance through the tree-tops as the company gathered round it, and
when Donald, wrapped in his plaid, was laid to rest, a sob of passionate
sorrow swept the excited people, to which Morven gave expression and
direction in an earnest address. He recalled all the good qualities of
their friend, his unselfishness, all he had done for them in rescuing them
from Virginia, ending in giving up his life in their defence, closing with
an exhortation to persevere in their march to free-dom. One had fallen;
the young men must take his place in the duties he performed. Then
followed a prayer, a wild cry for help to lead them through the wilderness
to freedom, words that rushed like a torrent and swept his hearers into an
enthusiastic resolution not to falter in their journey. On Morven ending a
woman started the 46th psalm, sung with the fervor of Highlanders to whom
God is very near. The grave was filled, and as each man, woman and child
passed it before returning to camp, they dropped a stone upon it, and
under that cairn the body of Donald rests until this day.
After a wakeful night we were glad
to leave the scene of our loss. Young men sent to the site of yesterday’s
fight returned with the muskets and munition of the slain: the addition of
the five guns was a gain to us. The trail chosen by Blanket lay over
rising ground, sometimes steep and rough. The day becoming sultry there
were many laggards. After travelling about six miles, on coming to a brook
with grassy banks, a halt was called, and the horses turned to pasture.
The boys fished, the girls searched for ripe berries, the young men went
hunting, and the older ones turned to repairing moccasins. The hunters
came back with two deer and a lot of partridges. After dark, a
Being all fatigued slept soundly.
Were wakened by the screaming of a little girl. In the spring Flora’s
father had given her a lamb, whose dam had died. She had made it her
companion, and it was allowed by Morven to follow when the settlement was
left. Flora slept beside it and the night turning cold crept close and had
her arms round its neck for warmth. A wolf had marked the lamb and watched
his chance all night. When the camp-fires had burned low he saw his
opportunity, and crawling in, pounced on the lamb. Flora did not let go,
but clinging to the crea ture's neck and crying ‘Ma goul’ wakened the
sleepers. The first to realize. what had happened was John Blanket.
Sleeping as if on the warpath, arms outstreched, face downward, he was on
his feet in an instant, comprehended the cause of the alarm, and, by the
light of the setting moon, dealt a blow with his tomahawk that killed the
wolf. The fleece of the lamb saved it from serious injury and it trotted
after its little mistress as usual. The wolf was skinned and its hide
given to the mother of the child as a blanket for her. We were not sorry
to be roused so early, for the day was cool, encouraging us to climb the
hills. Went through a narrow pass, after which took a long rest at midday.
The tramp in the afternoon was fatiguing though we moved slowly. When we
halted for the day Blanket said we had gone ten miles. Many footsore. Of
two deer shot, Blanket took the fat and showed how when rubbed on stiff
legs and sore feet it gave relief. Encouraged us by saying our climbing
was nearly ended.
Cloudy. Halted only an hour for
dinner. Had not resumed our march long when it began to rain. Blanket
would not listen to stopping, though the rain became heavy and chilled the
hardiest. When most discouraged Morven struck up a humorous Gaelic song,
which all caught up, and we trudged along thinking of Scotland instead of
our discomfort. Song followed song until we came alongside a stretch of
shelving rock, which reached far enough out to form a shelter. Under this
overhanging rock we were dry and when fires were set agoing, got warm.
Save a few birds and grey squirrels
shot on the march we had no game today. There was food enough for the
children and no more.
After a downpour of rain that lasted
to daybreak, the wind changed. Blanket and the young men went hunting and
brought in a deer for breakfast. Trail more level, with less bush, trees
smaller and nearly all spruce. In the afternoon came to the foot of a
lake, which Blanket said was long and ran north. He proposed as a relief
for the wearied ones that rafts be made and we sail to its upper end. Had
plenty of fish for supper, caught in the lake. While resting after it,
were astonished by the appearance of a stranger. He was a trapper and had
his cabin at the outlet of the lake. He spoke discouragingly of our ever
reaching Canada. Asked Tim to go with him to his cabin, who returned with
a freshly-skinned beaver, which was got ready for next day’s breakfast.
A number of the young people went to
visit the trapper, guided by Tim. They all came back with presents. He had
a collection of bird-skins, and the girls had bright colored wings and
tail-feathers in their hair. For the youngest baby came a coon-skin to
make a wrap. Best of all, several deer-skins prepared for making moccasins
and balls of sinews to sew them. It was late in the afternoon when the
rafts were ready, and after going a few miles tied up behind a point when
darkness fell. It was well we did so, for a gale rose before morning that
would have torn our rafts asunder. Several children complained of not
feeling well. John Blanket advised consulting a man who lived not far from
head of the lake, and who is wise in curing people.
Lake being still, started at
daylight and got to end by noon. More children ailing, with an affection
of the skin. There being a natural meadow for the horses and pressing need
for more food, young men went hunting. John Blanket was asked how far the
cabin of the wise man was distant, and answered, a little tramp. Morven
and the young man whom he had made his friend started with him, one of the
sick children being carried. The trail led over a hill to the east. On
gaining its top there was a wide view, with lake Champlain on one side and
battalions of peaks on the other, "Look!" cried Blanket, pointing to the
north, "there is Canada." As we looked the fleecy clouds parted over the
far-distant scene and the sun’s rays lit up something as bright as silver.
"That is the St. Lawrence," cried the Indian. "And that," replied Morven,
"is the land where we will be freemen, to think our own thoughts and own
what we earn." As we neared the foot of the hill we saw a clearance, with
a woman working in it, and coming closer a shanty facing the south, snug
in a recess of the mountain. The woman gave a scream of surprise on seeing
us and next one of delight as she hurried forward and clutched the child
to her bosom. The old man, resting under a vine that shadowed the front of
the cabin, bade us welcome. Morven told him of the purpose of our visit.
Looking at the child he asked what she had been fed on, and when told on
what game was got by the way, he shook his head and said the cause of
trouble was want of other food. "When did she have bread?" Morven replied
the last loaf had been eaten six days ago. He bade his wife fetch an
onion. The child ate it greedily. "Deer’s flesh is good," said the old
man, "so is roasted partridge, and broiled trout, but they do not give all
our bodies need. Before you go back I will show you how, even in this
wilderness, other food is to be got."
While the wife went in doors with
the child to busy herself in getting us a meal, the old man talked. He was
curious about our journey and could not believe that we were a large
company, including women and children, travelling to Canada. "You
can never get there; go back at once."
"Never," replied Morven, "the Hand
that has led us thus far will open a way to the journey’s end."
"You have had brooks to cross and
scrub forests to go through, but soon it will be deep rivers you will come
to and forests that shut out the light."
"Never fear," retorted Morven, "we
have the power and the spirit to bear us onward. The frailest woman in our
company would scorn to say she was beat. Onward we go to Canada."
The old man smiled as one not
believing. Questioned in turn he told us about himself. He was of German
descent and had married a woman who was partly of Mohawk origin. On the
breaking out of war, he wished to find a place where he could be secure
and had found it where he now lived. He had children living in the Mohawk
valley and in the winter one or other of his sons came on snowshoes to
visit him, bringing him store goods and taking in payment the furs he had
secured. He had a flock of goats, some poultry, and kept bees. With what
his wife raised in her garden they were comfortable.
"How are you able to keep goats
where there are so many wolves?"
"There is not a wild beast in these woods that will
master a goat, unless it might be a catamount that would drop on the back
of one, and that would be a rare chance, for they do not stray singly. The
goat is the pluckiest creature I know: it will fight anything and break
the bones of a bear with its bunts."
"Do you never feel lonely?’
"I would sooner be lonely than live where there is
strife, with your neighbors lying in wait to rob you of life and
The table had kinds of food we had not seen for days:
the child was in glee over an egg and a cup of milk. We were taken to the
woods behind the house, when the old man pointed out plants whose leaves
could be cooked as greens and others whose roots could be boiled with
flesh. Poisonous herbs were shown and their marks pointed out. Using tea
made from the tips of hemlock branches was urged, skimming any gum that
came to the surface of the boiling water. The talk about food started the
old man on his theory of medicine. His notion was that the virtue of every
animal was in the fat that covered or lay nearest the heart, and that the
use of that fat cured the opposite defect in man. For example, he said,
your back gives out and you cannot move, rub yourself with toad-oil and
next morning you will be able to leap without hurting yourself. You cannot
sleep, get fat of a bear killed in December and rub your head and nose
with it and you sleep right away. The goose has a long neck and narrow
breast yet never has a cold: rub its oil on throat and chest when you
catch a cold. Grease of muskrat good for colds from wet feet; beaver oil
for lazy feeling in spring. In parting he insisted on Morven taking a
bottle of toad-oil. His wife went with us to camp, carrying the child on
her back. Her visit did good, for she showed the women methods of forest
housekeeping which they had not known. She brought a jar of goat’s milk,
which was a godsend to the infants, and left a bag of onions when she
walked away at sunset.
So many of the children ailing that
even had it been a week day we could not have gone on. There being plenty
of food, all had enough and a restful day was spent. Weather bright and
warm. The service held by the edge of the lake was solemn. In the evening
the young folk, by their own motion, gathered to sing psalms.
There was white frost at sunrise.
Blanket, who had gone out at daylight, returned with word of bear-tracks.
Several young men left with him. The bear had not gone far, was shot and
the lads left to dress and cut up the carcase ready for carrying. Blanket
with Tim hurried off to rejoin the camp, for it was time to resume the
march. In crossing an opening in the forest, the Indian’s ear caught a
sound known to every hunter. Instantly his rifle went to his shoulder
when, with a crash, a deer came bounding in front of them. The rifle rang
out, the bullet missed—the sun was in Blanket’s eyes when he fired.
Another leap and the deer would have been in the bush, but while in midair
an arrow pierced its throat and it dropped quivering on the grass. Both
the Indian and Tim stood surprised, but were astounded when a slender girl
tripped towards them, dressed in buckskin, embroidered with beads and
porcupine quills, every motion bespeaking agility and grace.
Approaching John Blanket she dropped
on her right knee and bent her shapely head until her forehead touched his
"Spotted Fawn, have you dropped from
"Spotted Fawn could not live without
you and she is here."
"Why did you seek me? You were safe
until I went back for you."
"Are you angry with me, my chief, my
Stooping the Indian raised the girl
and clasped her hands. "No, never angry with you; but why come?"
"Oh there were such stories came to
us from Albany. The leader of the band that followed you, one said, when
he found the settlers had burned their houses and crops pushed on to
punish them, and on coming up with them he killed a lot and drove the
others into the wilderness to perish. I feared you would be among the
wounded and I found your trail and came to care for you."
"To find I am all right. Come
Spotted Fawn, we must be going; the Highlanders need their guide."
The sight of the graceful Indian
girl was hailed with a shout as we came up with the party. At once she
found her place with the boys and girls, and with her merry ways she had
not been with them many minutes when she had them running after her each
clamoring for her notice.
In the afternoon, when a day’s
journey had been covered, Morven would have camped but Blanket would not
have it so. Rain was coming, he said, and they needed shelter. There was a
cave two miles ahead. The children were done out and it took all Spotted
Fawn’s resources to keep them moving until she hit on the game of shooting
an arrow ahead and then seeing who would be first to get it. When the cave
was reached Blanket got the axmen to clear away the bushes from the
entrance then, taking his rifle and a bundle of cattails, he crept in. We
could see him strike a light, and with a blazing cattail examine the
interior to make sure no wild beast had chosen its recesses for its lair.
Returning he told the children to enter. There being no vent for smoke in
the cave, a fire could not be lit, so two fires were started outside and
cooking began. The fat of the bear made the venison more palatable. During
the night the rain fell in torrents, but before we lay down Morven read
aloud from the printed slip, cut from an Albany newspaper, Spotted Fawn
had brought, the account of the company sent to drive the Highlanders from
their farms. It said the company, on arriving at the scene of action,
found that not only had the Tories fled but they had set fire to the
property that had been transferred to true-born Americans. To teach other
Tories to respect the rights of those on whom the government had bestowed
confiscated lands, the company volunteered to a man to pursue them.
Following their trail they came up with the fleeing Tories next day.
With their habitual deceit, the
Tories had endeavored to defeat the company by a wretched attempt at an
ambuscade, which, beyond causing some lamentable loss of life, had not
stopped the victorious march of the patriots, who captured the
Highlanders’ camp and drove the fleeing miscreants into the wilderness, to
be the prey of wild beasts and hunger. On the return of the company to
Albany they had been accorded an enthusiastic reception and patriotic
speeches had been made by prominent citizens.
Rain stopped at noon when Morven
wished to move. Blanket said better stay as rain was not over. It began
again and heavier than before. Owing to rain there was no hunting, and
food was short. Men made shift with one meal. We made bows for the
children, and Spotted Fawn kept them amused by teaching them in the cave
how to use them.
Hollows filled with water and brooks
high. Had gone a few miles when Mrs McPhee dropped in a faint. She is a
young woman, whose husband was killed in a skirmish while serving with the
King’s Royal regiment of New York. Discovered her faint was due to
weakness from lack of food, giving all that was portioned out to her
children. Encouraged today by meeting no streams running southward,
proving we have crossed height of land. Hunters had fine success, so there
was plenty to eat when we camped for the night after a day’s journey.
Weather fine and settled. Blanket
kept urging us on all day, and we made great progress, for there were few
hindrances on the road he led us, which was plainly down hill. In the
lake, on whose banks we camped towards nightfall, we caught many fish, and
hunters shot three deer at watering-places.
Blanket with the young men went
still-hunting last night and shot two deer, which came in well for
breakfast. Clear and cool and we got along well. In the afternoon, in
coming to an opening where a bush fire had swept along, a view of the
country north of us burst on view. The edge of the distant scene, which
lay below us, Blanket told us was Canada, which cheered us all. He said
Indians were near, as he had come across a track, and later we heard two
shots. He insisted on a longer tramp than usual, for, if the weather
changed, there would be suffering. The children were always the drag, but
Spotted Fawn when they gave out in the afternoon, got them in heart again
by making the boys hares and the girls squirrels, who ran ahead, when she,
as the fox, came bounding after them. It was nearly dark when the
camp-fires were lit on the face of a hill.
Smoke, which grew thicker as we
travelled. Blanket said there must be a big bush fire to the west of us.
When we halted at noon Sandy McGillis and his wife were missed. We thought
they were behind and would speedily appear. When ready to move again they
were still missing. The young men proposed they should go back and find
them. Blanket said no, they too might lose their way, for the smoke was
growing worse and making our eyes smart. After travelling a while order
was passed to camp, for it had become too dark to see landmarks. Shouting
kept up to guide the wanderers and bigger fires than usual kept blazing
all night. A dog came up to one of the night-watchers and he cried out for
joy on recognizing it was Sandy’s collie. It would not eat, but pawed at
the young man and then turned as if to tell him to follow, Leaving his
comrade to guard the camp he followed the dog, for day was breaking. He
told us afterwards the beast led him a long way east until he came on his
master and mistress. McGillis had taken a sudden faint turn and rested
under a tree until it should pass. On feeling able to resume the journey,
they missed the trail in the smoke and knowing they were lost he and his
wife had passed an anxious night, for they feared they would never find
their way out and would perish for want of food, for though he had a gun
he had no powder. "Collie saved us," said Mrs McGillis, "and he will never
want a bone as long as he lives."
At the cry that the St Lawrence was
in sight, all got up early. With a change of wind the smoke had
disappeared and the glint of the river could be seen where the sunlight
struck it. Sunday though it was the children raised a cheer. Blanket had
left at sunrise and did not come back until after service. The chapter
read and expounded was the last of Deuteronomy. Blanket on arriving told
us there was an Indian hunting-camp near by, where he had spent the
morning. He had a long talk with Morven, who left with him after dinner.
Many followed, and found the camp to be made up of three families. They
were astonished at the journey we had made, and said we would make good
Indians. The squaws were kind to the children, giving them belts and
mocassins. They had no other food than game, but gave what was welcome, a
small quantity of salt. Blanket and Morven had a long talk with the
braves. The Indians came from a village on the south bank of the St.
Lawrence, where it is narrow, and advised crossing near there to a post
that was being formed by government men. Morven wrote a letter, telling
who we were and what we needed, which a young Indian undertook to deliver
to the head government man within two days. He started that afternoon. As
the sun neared setting his rays lit up the St. Lawrence like burnished
gold and we rejoiced exceedingly that the end of our travel was in sight.
Had a visit from the Indians before
we started. The Indians brought what they could spare to help us on our
way and were pleasant and cheerful. That we were reaching lower levels was
shown by the change in the forest, the spruce disappearing and there being
more and larger hardwood trees. The track, however, was more difficult,
for there were more fallen trees and many great stones and rocks. Forded
several small streams, which all ran northeast. The woods abounded in
black and grey squirrels which the children shot with their bows and
Spotted Fawn added hares and partridges. The hunters got only one deer,
the growing thickness of the hush hiding them from sight. Camped in a
hollow by the side of a rushing brook.
The net placed across the brook had
many fish in it, which were cooked for breakfast. The day was showery and
chilly but Blanket kept urging us on. Had to wade through several swampy
places. Blanket said should a heavy rain come we could not reach the big
river, for the land was flat along its southern bank. Little to eat and
There being no food, had to remain
in camp until the hunters should return. Blanket had tracked a bear into a
berry-patch; it was fat and good. The others had only small game. On
starting moved as fast as possible, following the east bank of a stream
which grew wider as we went on. Had deep gullies with streams at bottom to
cross, which tired the children, though the men helped them all they
could. There being nothing to eat the Men killed a pony in the bush, and
told us it was moose-meat.
Started to rain during the night and
continued all morning. All wet and feeling miserable from cold and hunger,
for we had only some meat and the fish that were caught in tlie river.
Blanket said we would go only a few miles farther down the river, for he
expected boats would come to take us across the St. Lawrence, seeing we
were now near the spot where word was sent by the Indian youth to the
government-man he would find us. Halted where solid land ended, and spent
all afternoon watching for sight of boats. None came. Many fish caught but
One of misery. There was a ground
mist with drizzling rain; dark and dreary. Only good feature, it was calm
and not cold, and favorable for fishing. Spotted Fawn kept the children
busy all forenoon shaping skins as disguises. When all was ready and they
came out in the afternoon and went through all manner of games and antics
the saddest amongst us roared with laughter. Only game shot was from a
flock of duck that flew over our heads.
Watching for the boats. Tim climbed
a high pine-tree, but could not see far for the bends in the river and the
trees. Sorry we could not do something; would have liked to take up our
journey, but could not, for all round us was deep swamp, except where our
camp was. Hunters did not go out as they might be left behind. Noon was
drawing nigh and we sat waiting and watching, when all at once Spotted
Fawn started to her feet with the cry, "Hear:" We listened, but heard
naught save the cry of a bittern. "They are coming," she said, "get
ready," and now we all came to hear the last sound any of us expected,
that of the Highland bagpipes. Oh, what a shout went up, and in that
instant all our cares, hunger, and weariness were forgotten, and we shook
hands and mothers clasped their bairns and cried. In a little while the
foremost boat slid into sight, and was followed by six more—they were like
herring-boats but wider and longer. The piper was in the last boat, and
his question "How are you all?" sent our hearts into our mouths, for he
spoke in Gaelic. It was no time for talk, for they told us the sail was a
long one, and the day was passing, so we hurried into the boats, leaving
what they could not hold for another day, with the two ponies, for, as
already told, unknown to us we had eaten one to save us from perishing. We
knew the ponies could not stray far, for there was no grass beyond the
Not all got into the boats. John
Blanket said we would part now, as it was time to return to his own people
and his canoe was higher up on the St. Lawrence, and was on its south
bank. Morven urged him to come, for he hoped the officer in charge of the
station who had sent the boats would reward him. "Without you," said
Morven, "we would have perished in the wilderness. Come, and I will show
you we are not ungrateful."
"No," replied Blanket, "before the
new moon is done I must be with my own people. The Mohawk does not value
money as the white-man, or look to be paid for what he does. You were the
friend of Johnson and of my chief, you took our side against the Yankees,
and it was my call to befriend you," and he threw back his head with a
gesture that showed his resolve was made. Drawing from his bosom the
brooch of Locheil, Morven pinned it on the breast of Spotted Fawn, and
wringing Blanket’s hand got into the last boat. As it was turning the bend
he looked back. The Indian and his bride were standing on the river-bank
gazing after them; she fluttered her little hand in farewell. He never saw
On the boats clearing the sedges and
rushes that grew across the mouth of the river we entered the St.
Lawrence. Sails were hoisted, and with the southeast wind that was blowing
took a slant for the north shore. The only food the boatmen had brought
was sea-biscuit, and by us all they were remembered as the sweetest bite
of our lives. To wile the time Morven started a Gaelic song. It was taken
up by the occupants of each boat, and the heartiness with which we sang
song after song told of our joy at our escape from the wilderness. The sun
had begun to redden the waves of the St. Lawrence when we neared the point
for which we were steering, and on which were several new log-buildings.
Falling in line, the piper struck up his loudest pibroch, and when we saw
at the landing-place a group of men waiting for us, and higher up the bank
a pole from which flew a small British flag, nothing could restrain us,
and we shouted as if our senses had left us. Apart from those who were
helping us to land, and standing by himself on top of the bank, was a
stumpy red-faced man in the undress of an officer. Morven went straight to
him and saluting said, "The commandant of the post, I presume."
"That’s the honor conferred upon me
by his Gracious Majesty, and you, I take it, are the man Morven who wrote
me in such extremely urgent terms for help."
"The same, and on behalf of these
rescued people I beg to thank you. Had the boats not come this day it
would have gone hard with us."
The officer haughtily waved his hand
and threw back his head.
"May I entreat you now to add to
your kindness by giving them food and shelter."
"His Majesty’s bounty is only
extended to those whose loyalty is properly attested and as I am his
representative I must be satisfied as to that. Follow me, sir."
The officer led to the largest and
best finished of the log-houses, where an orderly was in waiting. With
great deliberation the officer took his seat at the end of a rude table
and with pen in hand commanded Morven to give him the names of his adult
male companions, whence they had come, and what service they had rendered
the King. Morven replied in a surprised voice, "Sir, these people have
been robbed of everything, I may say, save their lives by a victorious
enemy, and to escape further persecution fled to the wilderness. For three
weeks they have been wandering northward in the hope of finding a refuge.
They are starving and half-naked. Will you not give orders to provide for
their wants first and leave these questioas to another time?"
"Fellow, do you presume to dictate
to me, who am honored by His Majesty’s commission as major and am
commandant of this post?"
"Nay, I honor your commission and
your authority, but I appeal to you as a man to have pity on the needs of
women and children and give the relief that lies in your power before it
"Did you, sir, serve your King in
the late war?" asked the Major.
"I did not; but seven of the young
men who are without did, and can produce their discharges, signed by Sir
"Why did you not fight for your
"I had another duty to perform, of
which I will tell you again; but for the present give help to the needy."
Eying Morven suspiciously the major
dipped his pen in the ink-bottle. Holding out a slip of paper to his
servant he said, "Here, give this order to Sergeant Grant; this fellow
going with you. You are excused," he said to Morven, "I shall see you
again. Do not consider this aid is a warrant that more will be given. The
case of the men having discharges will be considered, the others need
expect no assistance."
On going out they found the order
was superfluous, for the newcomers had been given shelter, fires were
blazing, and the cooking of supper was afoot. "You did not wait for an
order from the major," said Morven to the sergeant.
"The piper, the major, his servant,
and myself are the only soldiers—all the others are civilians and care
little for the major or his orders. He is hard to put up with," he
whispered in Gaelic, "and I advise you to speak him fair, for he has much
in his power."
Morven turned to help in making the
people com fortable. He had looked for a hearty welcome, and his reception
by this pompous little Englishman made him bitter of spirit.
With the close of the American war,
in the winter of 1782 there was a rush of those Americans who had
remained true to British allegiance to get out of the country in order to
escape the persecutions of the victorious republicans. To help them the
British government sent ships to convey them to the West Indies, to
Britain itself, where the majority went, to New Brunswick, and to Nova
Scotia. Nearer to the loyalists who had lived in New York state was
Ontario, and they crossed the St. Lawrence and the Niagara rivers. To
provide for them agents were sent to survey the land and allot to each
family a free grant, while depots of provisions were established to keep
them alive until they could get sufficient land under crop to maintain
them. One of these depots was placed at the foot of the Long Sault rapids,
and Major Fenner placed in charge. To assist him he had Sergeant Grant and
the piper, both belonging to the King’s Royal regiment, and a gang of
workmen. The sergeant and piper had been sent to prepare for the coming of
the men of the regiment, which had been disbanded, and who were waiting in
barracks until all was ready for them to begin their new life. They were
mostly Highlanders who had enlisted under Sir John Johnson. When we
arrived, a clearance had been made and log-storehouses and a barracks were
going up. In these we were quartered for the night. The following morning
Morven was standing looking across the river when Sergeant Grant joined
"What are those small huts yonder?"
asked Morven, pointing to the opposite shore of the St. Lawrence.
"That is the Indian settlement St.
"The place our guide said we would
have to go did the boats not come for us."
"And that came near being so. When
the Indian arrived with your letter there was nothing bigger than canoes
at hand, but on Friday a convoy of boats arrived from Lachine with
supplies, and when they were unloaded they were sent for you."
The major’s orderly was seen coming.
He brought a message that Morven wait on his master after breakfast On
going at the appointed hour he beheld the major in full regimentals
walking up and down in front of his quarters. Bowing to him, Morven
"Ha, you have come back to answer
the questions I propounded. Have you brought the discharges signed by Sir
John Johnson, lieutenant-colonel, late brigadier-general of militia?"
"These are matters of business, and
therefore do not become this day."
"What do you mean, fellow?"
"This is the Sabbath, and to be
respected by leaving worldly affairs aside."
"Do you presume to instruct me how
to observe Sunday? I obey the King’s regulations, by hoisting the ensign
and assuming full-dress. There ought also to be church parade, but there
is no chaplain."
"Sir, there are other instructions
besides those of the King as to the observance of the Sabbath."
The major halted and looked Morven haughtily over. "You
seem to be a very common fellow, and a ragged one to boot. May I ask how,
in your superior way, you propose to keep what you call the Sabbath?"
‘For this day, our purpose is to
have a meeting of thanksgiving for our deliverance from the wilderness."
"Are you a Puritan?"
"I am a Scot, and brought up to
publicly worship my Maker on this day."
"A meeting! There is no service
nearer than Montreal. Do you pretend to be a minister? Your appearance
does not speak of holy orders."
"I am no minister, but fear not to
approach Him who has appointed no one between Himself and His children
save Christ, and who calls for no ceremonial or oblation from those who
Mimicing Morven’s Scottish accent,
the major mockingly bowed to him and, tossing his head, told him he was
dismissed. We met in the afternoon in an open glade where a little river
joins the St. Lawrence. Never did prayers of thanksgiving come from more
grateful hearts or psalms of praise from more sincere lips.