« ZurückWeiter »
Braam to stay with the horses, and with Mr. Gist for his only companion, he determined to hasten on in advance of the cavalcade. “He put away everything that would encumber him, buckled himself up in a watch-coat, strapped his pack on his shoulders, containing his papers and provisions, took his gun in his hand, and struck manfully ahead."
At night they camped out in the woods by a fire which they lit, but at two o'clock in the morning they set out again.
When they arrived at a place called Murdering Town, on Beaver's Creek, they found a party of Indians, who seemed to be expecting them, and pretended to be very friendly with them ; but Gist thought he recognised one face amongst them as having been with Joncaire, and was very cautious in the information he gave as to their movements.
However, as the travellers were going over a tract of country which they did not know, they thought it was advisable to take a guide, and therefore engaged one of the Indians to go with them. The man seemed very glad of the proposal, took Washington's pack on his shoulders, and led the way.
He offered to carry the gun also, but this Washington would not allow, though he grew very tired after nine or ten miles of heavy woodland tramping, and proposed that they should rest in the wood, light a fire, and make a shelter of branches. For some reason, the Indian guide strongly resisted this plan. He urged that they might be overtaken by unfriendly Indians, and scalped—that if Washington was tired, they would soon reach his cabin, and could rest there. Both Washington and Gist became suspicious of these persuasions, and they followed him
cautiously. The Indian seemed to be taking a direction exactly opposite to that in which they wished to go. They followed him for a little way farther, and then Washington declared he would encamp by the next spring of water they reached. The guide still went on, taking no notice of his wishes.
At last they got out of the darkness of the woods, into a clear, open space, covered with snow.
The Indian, with his gun in his hand, was a few paces ahead of the travellers. He suddenly turned, levelled his gun, and fired at them. Washington was not hurt; and after he had recovered from his start, he found to his comfort that the shot had also missed Mr. Gist. The Indian had dashed on, and tried to hide himself behind an oak tree, and to reload his gun; but Washington and Mr. Gist overtook him, and made him prisoner. Mr. Gist wanted to kill him on the spot, but Washington was merciful, and would not allow him to do so; at which Mr. Gist was very angry, and tried to represent to the young man how dangerous he might be to them. Washington remained firm, nevertheless; and Gist then told him that the next best thing they could do was to get rid of him, and make their way on alone, travelling all night. He turned to the Indian in a friendly manner, and said that he supposed "he had only fired off his gun as a signal ?”
The Indian, who seemed thoroughly frightened, was delighted with the excuse, and eagerly adopted it. He said that they were close to his cabin now; so Gist told him that he might go home if he liked, but that he and Washington would remain by the little stream where they had encamped for the rest of the night, as they were tired ; and that they would come to his cabin at daybreak. He gave
bread, and told him that he must have some meat ready for them in the morning.
The Indian was thankful to escape from them, and made off at once. Gist followed till he heard the last of him. He then made Washington come on with him a little farther. They lit another fire, left it burning, and took their way on as well as they could through the darkness. They never stopped until the following night, when to their joy they found themselves on the banks of the Alleghany river, and close to the place they had wished to reach. They had hoped to cross on the ice, as they had expected to find the river completely frozen over ; but there was a wide channel in the middle of it, which was full of blocks of floating ice, so they had to spend a day in making a raft-for which they had only one small hatchet—and then tried to get it across the river by propelling it with poles. But the raft was jammed between blocks of ice before they had got more than half way over. Washington, who was trying to steady it with his pole, was jerked into the water, and nearly drowned. He only saved himself by seizing one of the logs of the raft.
Finding it impossible to go any farther, the two men got upon a small island in the river, and stayed there all night. It was bitterly cold, and Mr. Gist's hands and feet were frozen ; but in the morning they found that the drifting ice had become wedged together, so that they were able to walk across it to the opposite bank of the river, and there, at last, they found comfort and rest in the house of Frazier, an Indian trader.
They had to wait at this place for a few days, to procure horses; and Washington took advantage of the delay to pay
THE GOVERNOR'S LETTER.
a visit to Queen Aliquippa, the head of one of the Indian tribes whom he wished to conciliate.
The queen had felt herself neglected at not being visited by him on the way to the French quarters, and it required some tact on the part of the young commander to smooth her ruffled dignity and win her good graces.
He was successful, however, by making her a present of his old watchcoat and a bottle of rum.
On the 2nd of January, Washington parted with his good friend, Mr. Gist, and travelled the rest of the way on horseback alone, reaching Williamsburg, and delivering his letter to Governor Dinwiddie, on January 16th.
His mission had been a dangerous and difficult one; he had carried it out bravely and carefully. He had done good service for his country, and had won experience for himself. “This expedition may be considered the foundation of his fortunes. From that moment he was the rising hope of Virginia."
THE reply of the Chevalier de St. Pierre to Governor Dinwiddie, respecting the movements of the French, was unsatisfactory.
It was quite necessary that the English should be on their guard. From all that Washington had told him, the governor saw the necessity for this, and he took immediate steps for completing and manning the forts which had been begun on the frontier.
Washington was given orders to raise a force of 100 men, and to proceed to the forts of the Ohio. A force of 300 men for the frontier was raised altogether, and Washington was offered the command of the whole ; but he thought himself too young for so important a post, and therefore refused it. Colonel Fry was appointed instead, and Washington became second in command, with the colonial rank of lieutenant-colonel.
Again he found that it was no easy work which he had undertaken. The men who were ready to enlist as soldiers were very few; and he describes them as being for the most part “idle persons, without house or home—some without shoes or stockings, some shirtless, and many without coat or waistcoat.” This difficulty, which he now encountered for the first time, proved afterwards to be one of the greatest of his military life.
There was no regular army in America; and in a country where it was possible for every man to make a living by