A Young Hero, by G Manville Fenn.
This is a prettily produced little book. It's not very long and doesn't have anything like the usual Manville Fenn subtle plot.
The plot itself consists of an opening scene in which Doctor Martin, a most learned gentleman, is teaching Phil, the hero, his Latin. Phil is perhaps eight or none years of age, not older then that, Dr Martin is French, while Phil is English.
It is a time in Canada in which war is about to break out between the English, who have colonised most of North America, and the French, who have occupied most of Canada. All of a sudden Phil's father, an officer with the English forces, appears, and requests that Dr Martin should abandon his house, and all his books and papers, and take the boy Phil to him in the English lines. I should say this is a pretty ridiculous idea, but the poor old Doctor did just as he was told, thereby suffering many days of privation, and insult from the farmers whose land they passed through. Eventually they arrive near the English lines, where they are arrested as possible spies.
After a few weeks Phil's father appears, but at that point there is a battle, in which General Wolfe dies, being brought draughts of water in his dying hour by the young hero, Phil.
To be frank I am surprised that George Manville Fenn wrote this book, as it could only serve to water down his reputation. But it may have been an early work, or possibly one aimed at a different market than his usual teenager one. There are other similarly produced books by him, so it may have been a fancy idea by the publisher, to produce some sort of a pseudo-historical series.
A YOUNG HERO, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.
Dr Martin wore a close-fitting black silk cap.
Well, the answer to the old riddle, "Why does a miller wear a white hat?" is, "To keep his head warm."
That answer would do for a reply to the question why this grey, anxious-looking Dr Martin wore a close-fitting black silk cap as he sat poring over an old book opposite Phil Carleton, who also bent over a book; but he was not reading, for he had a pencil in his fingers and a sheet of paper covering one page, upon which sheet he was making notes.
Not a single one, for Phil was not far enough advanced for such work as that. He was drawing, after a fashion, and very busily, when the old Doctor, his tutor, suddenly looked up.
"Now, my dear boy," he said, "can you say that declension?"
Phil started and shut up the book suddenly, turning very red the while.
"Don't you know it yet?" said the Doctor, gravely.
The boy shook his head and looked terribly confused.
"Then you cannot have been studying it. What have you there?"
The Doctor spoke like a Frenchman, and said dere.
"Ah," he continued, reaching out his hand and drawing out the paper. "I see, drawing-soldiers, eh?"
"Vairy fonnee soldiers, my boy. I should not know but for this sword. And is this a gun?"
Phil nodded again.
"Ah," said the old French-Canadian, "it is a pity you think so much of soldiers. You should learn your lesson."
"I'm going to be a soldier—some day," said Phil.
"Ah, yes, some day. Like my dear old friend, your father," said the Doctor, with a sigh.
"Yes," cried the boy, eagerly. "Is he coming to see me, Dr Martin?"
"Why do you ask? Are you not happy here?"
"Not very," said the boy, sadly.
"Ah, I am sorry. What is the reason? There, speak out."
The boy hesitated for a few moments, and then burst out with, "It's because of the Latin, and what Pierre said."
"Ah, the Latin is hard, my child; but if you work hard it will grow easy. But tell me; what does Pierre say?"
"He says the French are going to fight the English and drive them out of the country, and my father is sure to be killed."
"Pierre is a bad, cruel boy to speak to you like that. He deserves the stick."
"Then there is not going to be any fighting, Dr Martin?"
The old man shook his head.
"I am afraid," he said, sadly. "Perhaps you ought to know, my child. The English troops are advancing against the city yonder, and I am very anxious. I am hoping every day to obtain some news from your father—a letter or a message, to tell me what to do. It is unfortunate that we should be staying here among my people and war to begin."
"Then there is going to be fighting?" cried the boy.
"I fear so, my boy."
"Then I know."
"You know what, Phil?"
"My father will come and fetch me." The old man shook his head.
"He is with his regiment, my child, and could not come away."
The old man stopped short, for the door was suddenly thrown open, and a big, heavy-looking boy of seventeen or eighteen came hurriedly in.
"Some one wants you, Uncle Martin," he cried.
"Yes, quite right," came in a sharp, short, military tone. "That will do, my young friend. Thanks."
The speaker, a tall bronzed personage in plain clothes, strode into the room, held the door open, and signed to the big lad to pass out, which he did slowly and unwillingly, but not before he had heard Phil utter the one word, "Father!" as he sprang forward to fling his arms round the visitor's waist.
"My boy!" was the response. Then to the Doctor, "That's unlucky! But that boy does not understand English?"
The Doctor shook his head.
"I am afraid he does, quite well enough to grasp who you are."
"Tut! tut! tut!" ejaculated the visitor. "But tell me; are there any troops near here?"
"Many, a few miles away," said the Doctor.
"But he is not likely to go and tell them that there is an Englishman here?"
"I hope not. Oh, no; I will see that he does not. Then there is risk in your coming here, my friend?"
"I'm afraid so; but I was obliged to come, Martin."
"But, father, why have you not come in your uniform?"
"Quiet, boy," was the reply; "I have no time to explain. Look here, Martin, old friend; when I agreed that Phil here should come on this long visit with you I had no idea that matters would turn out like this. But there is no time to waste. You must get out of the country as fast as you can."
"With your son?"
"Of course. Get south, beyond the English lines. You understand?"
"Then now get me something; bread and meat or bread and water—I am nearly starved."
"You'll have dinner with us, father?" cried Phil.
"No, my boy; I must be off at once."
"Oh, father, take me with you," cried Phil, piteously.
"I cannot, my boy. I must get back to my regiment, and at once."
"So soon?" said the old Doctor, sadly.
"Yes, so soon. If it got about that I was here I should be seized and shot for a spy."
"Father!" cried Phil, clinging to him.
"But I am not going to be caught, nor shot neither, my boy," cried the Captain, raising him on a chair so that they stood face to face.
"And you'll take me with you, father?"
"Impossible, boy. Come, be a man. You shall join me soon, but I cannot take you with me. Dr Martin will bring you."
"Phil, what have I always taught you?" cried the Captain.
"That's right. Now, do you want to help me?"
"Yes, father. So much."
"Then listen to all I say. Now, Doctor," continued the Captain, "I have ventured into the enemy's camp—not as a spy, but to see you and my boy. I dare not stay ten minutes before I hurry back to join our people."
"Then the English forces are near?" said the old Doctor, excitedly.
"That is not for you to know or question me upon. It is enough if I tell you that this is no place for my son, and if things go against us you will take him back to England. You promise that?"
"I have promised it, Carleton. I have all your old instructions, and come what may I will deliver him safely into the hands of your relatives and friends."
"I am satisfied, Doctor," said the Captain, huskily, "and I shall go back to my regiment in peace. Now then, the bread and meat I asked for—quick! And you will see that the lad who showed me in does not leave the place till I have been an hour upon my road? I must have that start, for my poor horse is pretty well done up."
The Doctor made no reply, but hurried out of the room, leaving father and son together, when the Captain laid his hands upon his son's shoulders.
"That was all very brave and well done, my boy," he said. "Now I am going away quite at rest about you, for I know that you will do as you have promised."
"Yes, father. But—"
"But what, Phil?"
"Oh, do, pray—pray, take me with you!"
Captain Carleton winced, and his hands tightened upon the boy's shoulders, while his voice sounded husky as he spoke.
"Phil," he said, "do you know what I am?"
"Yes, a soldier; one of the King's captains, father."
"Right, boy; and didn't I tell you that a soldier must always do his duty?"
"And that boys must always do theirs? Well, sir, the King says I must march with the army at once, and I say you must do your duty too."
"Yes, father," said Phil, in a choking voice, "and I will."
"Spoken like a man."
At that moment the door was re-opened hurriedly.
"Ah, Martin," cried the Captain, sharply, "you have bad news?"
"Yes—that lad Pierre has gone across the fields towards the town."
"Where the French soldiers are stationed?"
"Then I have no time to lose. The bread—the meat!"
"I—I—" faltered the old man.
"Thought only of my safety," said the Captain. "Here, stop! Phil! Where are you going?"
But the boy dashed through the open door, which swung to behind him.
"Call him back," cried the Captain, excitedly. "I must say good-bye, for we may never meet again. Stop; I am weak enough without that. I ought not to have come. Martin, old friend, remember. I trust you, and if fate makes him an orphan—"
"You have known me all these years, Carleton, and I have grown to love him as if he was my own. Trust me still, and—"
There was a quick footstep, the door was kicked open, and Phil rushed in, panting and flushed, with a large loaf under one arm and a basket in his hand, out of which the crisp brown legs of a roast chicken were sticking.
"Here, father!" he cried.
"Bravo! Good forager," cried the Captain, snatching the provisions from the boy to throw on the table before clasping Phil to his breast in one quick, tight embrace.
The next minute he had thrust the little fellow into the Doctor's arms.
"Remember!" he cried aloud, and catching up basket and loaf, he bounded out of the open window and ran across the garden to the yard, where he had left his horse tethered to a post.
It seemed directly after that Phil was standing on the window-sill waving his hand and shouting, "Good-bye—good-bye, father!"
But his words were not heard by the Captain, who was urging his tired horse into a gallop.
It was none too soon, for a body of soldiers were coming at the double from the direction of the town, and with a cry of rage the boy whispered through his teeth:
"Look, there's Pierre running to show them the way!"
"Hush! Quick, Phil; we must go."
"After father?" cried the boy, joyously.
"No; we must make for the woods."
The old man hurried out by the back door, and then keeping under the shelter of fence and hedge, they made for a patch of woodland, which hid them from the Captain's pursuers.
"Let's wait here for a few moments to get breath," panted the old man.
As he spoke there was the report of a musket, followed by a scattered series of shots.
"What's that?" whispered Phil, excitedly. "I know; but they can't hit father, he's riding away too fast. Do you think they'll shoot after us? I wish I had a gun."
"Why?" said the Doctor, smiling.
"Because I feel as if I should like to shoot at Pierre."
The patch of woodland in which Dr Martin and his pupil were hiding was not large, and before long they had reached the farther side and stopped short to crouch down among the bushes, fearing to go out in the open country.
"They'd see us directly," said Phil. "There's another shot. I say, doesn't that show the soldiers haven't been able to hit my father?"
"Of course," said the Doctor, cheerfully; and then after listening while the firing kept on, sounding more and more distant till it stopped altogether, he held his breath in dread lest the boy should notice this and ask him whether the silence might mean that the French soldiers had at last hit either man or horse. But to the old man's great relief Phil took the silence to mean that the Captain had escaped, and was in a high state of excitement and showed his delight.
"They'll come after us now," he said, "but I don't care now father has got away."
"Then you wouldn't mind being taken a prisoner, Phil?" said the Doctor.
"Oh, yes, I should. It would be dreadful for you."
"And for you, my boy."
"Oh, I don't think I should mind much, Dr Martin. It would be good fun too."
"Yes," said the boy, with a merry grin upon his frank young face. "We should have no books, and there'd be no lessons."
"I could teach you without books, Phil," said the Doctor, gravely.
"Yes, I forgot that," said the boy. "Oh, what a lot you know!"
"Very little, my dear boy; but we cannot think about lessons now—we have to escape. We must not let the soldiers take us."
"Of course not; but, I say, Dr Martin, I don't think I understand it a bit. Why are the French and English going to fight?"
"I'm afraid it is because they consider themselves natural enemies, my boy. Your people have a great part of North America and my people have Canada. War has been declared, and King George's soldiers have come to take Canada from the French King."
"And that means fighting, of course," said Phil. "My father has come with his men to fight against the Marquis—Marquis—What did you say his name is?"
"Montcalm. The Marquis de Montcalm," replied the Doctor, "who is at Quebec."
"And my father's men are going to take Quebec away from him for the King of England."
"Your father's leader is General Wolfe," said the Doctor, smiling.
"Oh, yes, I know—General Wolfe," said Phil, eagerly. "But, I say, Dr Martin, shan't we be able to go back to the house—I'm getting so hungry?"
"No; I'm afraid we must not go back to the house again."
"But all our things are there."
"Yes, all our clothes, and my books."
"But what about dinner?" cried Phil.
"Ah, to be sure," said the old man, smiling, "what about dinner! You see, Phil," he continued, as he looked about in all directions over the open country, "your father said we were to get right away from the fighting, and after it was over he would come and join us."
"Yes, I know," said the boy.
"Well, we should have had to start to-night, or to-morrow, so it only means that we have come away in a hurry and meet him all the sooner."
"To be sure," said the boy, eagerly.
"You won't mind going without your dinner?"
"Of course not," cried Phil, stoutly.
"And if we have to sleep in a barn or shed somewhere to-night instead of a comfortable bed, you won't mind that either, will you?"
"Not a bit," cried Phil. "Let's sleep in the forest, and cut down boughs and pick leaves for a bed. It would be fun. I should like it."
"To be sure you would."
"Wouldn't you, Dr Martin?"
"That I should, my boy," cried the Doctor, who was still eagerly searching the fields and meadows broken up by patches of forest. "Look here, Phil; we want to get away, as your father wishes, from all this terrible war, so we'll put all lessons aside and think of nothing but making this a holiday excursion amongst the fields and woods; and when we get tired we'll sit down on a tree trunk and rest, and if the sun is too hot we will have a nap in the shade. Sometimes we shall be thirsty."
"And then we'll lie down on the bank of a river and drink," cried Phil, clapping his hands.
"To be sure—drink the beautiful clear water. We can sleep, too, in the fir woods. The soft fir needles make a beautiful aromatic bed."
"What's aromatic?" said Phil, with his eyes sparkling.
"Sweet-scented and spicy."
"I shall like that," cried the boy; "only won't the fir needles prick when we undress?"
"But we shan't undress, my boy."
"What fun! Father will laugh when I tell him by and by. But you don't say a word about what we are to eat, Dr Martin?"
"Oh, we shall find something to eat. Why, we might catch some fish perhaps in the streams."
"Yes," cried Phil, excitedly.
"And make a fire and bake them in the hot ashes."
"To be sure," cried Phil, clapping his hands again.
"Sometimes, too, we may be able to dig up a few potatoes."
"And roast them."
"Of course. You'll like making a fire."
"I shall," cried the boy, with emphasis.
"Then we can call at a farm sometimes and buy some bread and milk and—"
"I say, Dr Martin, this is going to be a holiday. Which way are we going?"
"Straight away yonder, my boy—south, towards the British possessions."
"Make haste then. Take hold of my hand and let's run like father calls double. Let's get to that river we drove to in the car months ago."
"Yes, we might go that way," said the Doctor, thoughtfully. "But why did you choose that route?"
"Because I want to catch some fish for dinner."
"Without hook or line?"
"I shall go into the shallow, where we can see them, and splash them out with my hands."
"To be sure, or perhaps spear one with a long, sharp stick."
"Yes, I'll try that. Oh, do let's go on at once. I want to begin."
"Very well," said the Doctor, after a long, anxious look round. "You go first, and I'll follow."
"Let's walk fast," said Phil.
"Yes, let's walk fast," replied the Doctor.
And they started off along by the wood side, then by hedges and ditches, and on and on, keeping to the open country and avoiding every farm, Phil trudging away manfully, while whenever he showed his weariness, the Doctor picked out some beautiful flowery prairie, or the side of a pine wood, that they might rest.
But the way was rough and long, and when Phil's enthusiasm had lasted till far in the afternoon, the sun seemed to beat down hot, and the poor boy's feet dragged heavily, while much talking had made the Doctor's voice sound husky, and a great thirst troubled both.
"Getting tired, Phil?"
The little fellow turned—his weary, troubled eyes towards his questioner, and was about to say, "Oh, so tired and so hungry!" But he forced himself to say:
"Yes, just a little."
"Ah, and so am I," said the old man, cheerily; "but look yonder!"
"Soldiers!" cried Phil, excitedly.
"No, no, no, my boy; we are free and safe, and out in the open country. I mean, look at that dark fir wood yonder, and the gleam of sunshine on water! Let's get there and rest and bathe our feet; and then what do you say to a nap?"
"Shall we find the fish and make the fire, Dr Martin?" said the boy, anxiously.
"I hope so," was the reply. "Let's try. Come along. Hang on to my hand; or, look here, Phil, what do you say to a pig-a-back?"
"Yes," cried the little fellow, holding out his hands eagerly. "No, I won't. I'm not quite tired, and I'm getting so heavy now. It isn't far, is it?"
"Not very," said the Doctor, rather faintly, and they trudged on and reached a little stream, which cut its way through the sandy land just at the very edge of a pine wood, to sink at once upon the bank.
There were no fish visible, but the clear water was delicious, and they drank long and deeply, before bathing their weary and sore feet.
"What fun!" cried Phil, reviving a little as he buried his feet in the soft, warm, dry sand and let it trickle between his toes.
But a cloud came over his face directly after, for it was many hours since anything had passed his lips. There was abundance of dead wood low down about the trunks of the fir-trees, but no flint and steel or tinder-box to obtain fire, and the evening was very near.
The Doctor looked far and near, but no farmhouse or settlement was in sight, and when after a long rest he proposed that they should make a fresh start and Phil replaced his socks and shoes, he limped when he stood up, and in spite of a brave effort the tears would come to his eyes.
"Let's rest a little longer," said the Doctor, tenderly, and he led the way a short distance into what proved to be a vast pine forest, where the needles that had fallen for ages lay in a thick dry bed. "Let's try here," he said, as he raked a hollow beneath the great far-spreading boughs, which were thick enough to form a shelter from any wind or rain that might come.
"Lie down, my boy," said the old man, gently, and the little fellow glanced at him piteously and obeyed.
"Oh, don't look at me so reproachfully, my child," sighed the Doctor to himself, as the weary boy's eyes looked large and dark in the shade; but only for a few moments before they grew dull, and then the lids fell and he was sleeping so soundly that he did not stir when the Doctor raked the soft sweet-scented pine needles round him till he lay as if it were in a nest.
And only a few minutes after the Doctor had sunk lower and lower, drooping over his charge to keep watch, but only to leave that to the great bright stars which came out one by one, peering down among the pine boughs at the dark spot where the travellers, old and young, were sleeping soundly.
Phil was the first to wake in the soft grey morning, to lie listening to a regular sharp tapping made by a busy woodpecker somewhere among the ancient pines; and he wondered some time what it meant and where he was. But a soft deep breath close to his ear made him start round so suddenly that he awoke Dr Martin, who started up looking as surprised as his bed-fellow.
"I couldn't recollect where I was," said Phil, "Oh, I am so hungry."
"And no wonder, my poor boy. There, come and bathe your face with me, and at all costs we must get to some farmhouse and buy or beg our breakfast."
The bathing was soon at an end, and though disposed to limp a little, Phil stepped out bravely in the direction the Doctor chose, and with such good effect that before long the chimneys of a farmhouse were seen, for which they made at once.
"Cows," said Phil, eagerly, "and a man milking."
It was as the little fellow said, for half a dozen cows were dreamily munching grass, while a sour-looking man was seated upon a stool. Dr Martin walked up at once, the man being so intent upon the milking that he did not raise his head till the Doctor spoke, when he started so violently that he nearly overset the pail.
"Who are you? What is it?" he cried.
"We are travellers, and hungry," replied the Doctor, in French. "Will you sell us some—"
He got no farther.
"Here, I know you, sir. You are the English spy, old Martin's friend, who came to live with him, and that is the boy. I know you and what you have done. You have brought the English here to take the place."
"Indeed you wrong me, sir," cried the Doctor, humbly. "It is a mistake."
"A mistake," cried the man, furiously. "You'll soon find out that it is, for you and the English cub. Our soldiers were here looking for you last night. I know where they are now."
"I cannot help it," said the Doctor, sadly. "The poor boy is starving; he has eaten nothing since breakfast yesterday. I will pay you well, sir, for all you sell me."
"I sell to a spy? Never a bit nor a drop."
He shouted his words in the Canadian-French patois, opening a big knife in a threatening manner.
"Indeed you are mistaken, sir. Pray sell us bread and milk, for the poor boy's sake. He is starving."
"Let him starve in prison then. Off with you—off!"
He advanced upon them with so fierce a gesture that the Doctor caught Phil's arm, thrust him behind so as to screen him from danger, and then backed away.
"My poor boy," he groaned, pressing Phil closer to him. "It is like being in an enemy's land—and one of my own countrymen too."
"He must be a friend of Pierre," said Phil. "Oh, Dr Martin, this is not like a holiday. What shall we do?"
"Pray, boy, that all Frenchmen are not so stony-hearted. There, there, be brave; we shall find others yet who will not treat you so, and—"
"Hist!—Stop!" came from a clump of trees on their right.
"Who spoke?" said Phil, with a wondering look.
"I. Come here, out of sight of the house," and the next minute the wanderers were gazing excitedly at a ruddy-cheeked girl, who stood before them with a big jug in one hand, a basket in the other.
"Who are you?" said the Doctor, eagerly.
"His girl," was the hurried reply. "Father is so angry with the English. He wants to go and fight them. Here, boy, bread and milk. Take them, and go right away. Father must not know. He would beat me."
"Bless you for your goodness," cried the Doctor, with the tears rising to his eyes.
"It was not for you," said the girl, angrily. "I hate you for bringing the English here. It was for him. I could not bear to see him hungry and in want. I could not have eaten my own breakfast if I had. Will you kiss me, dear?" she said, softly, as she bent down, and thrust the basket and pitcher in Phil's hands. "I had a little brother once so like you. He is dead though, and—"
She uttered a sob, and the tears that ran down her cheeks remained on Phil's face as he raised his lips to hers. The next minute she was running in and out amongst the trees back towards the farm, leaving Phil's eyes wet as well, as he stood looking after her till she was out of sight.
"Come, boy," said the Doctor, huskily, "drink—drink heartily. Let me open the basket. What is in it! Hot bread-cakes. She must have been up early to have made these. Come, Phil, boy; be brave. We must meet with sharp stones in every path; but there are flowers too. Drink and eat. It is going to be a grand holiday after all."
There were more sharp stones in their way that day than flowers. The Doctor and his charge tramped steadily on that morning, till in the distance they suddenly saw stretched out before them a long line of something which kept on glittering in the sunlight.
"Soldiers," cried Phil, excitedly. "I know. I can see the bayonets on their guns. It must be my father's men."
"In blue coats, Phil?" said the Doctor, sadly.
The boy was silent for a few moments, as he stood with his brow knit, before saying slowly:
"No; their coats are red, and they have white leggings."
There was nothing for it but to turn back and then strike off in another direction, which they followed till evening, when the bread was eaten, the milk having been finished at noon, and the basket and pitcher placed together in a tree.
"I should like to come and find them again some day and take them back to her," said Phil. "We may come here again, mayn't we?"
"Perhaps," said the Doctor, with a sigh; and then, "Phil, my child, are you very, very tired?"
"Not so tired as I was last night. Why do you ask?"
"Because we must not sleep in a wood to-night; we must walk on till we come to some farm and ask for a lodging there."
"No, no," cried the boy, quickly, "the man will drive us away. I would rather sleep under the trees."
"We must risk being driven away, boy." And just at dusk, where all was strange to them both, they approached another lonely cottage-like place, with barn and sheds and cattle near, Phil shrinking but taking heart as he found that a woman was the only person in sight.
"Who are you? What do you want?" she said, scanning them suspiciously.
"Travellers," replied the Doctor, "trying to get where there is no war."
"Ah!" cried the woman, quickly. "Yes. It is too dreadful; and you with that brave little man tramping like that. Soldiers—hundreds, thousands, have been by here to-day."
"French or English?" cried Phil, excitedly.
"I could not tell," said the woman, smiling, and patting the little fellow's cheek. "Yours?" she added, to the Doctor, "or are you his grandfather?"
"No; he is my little pupil. I am his teacher."
"And you are going away from the war because of him?"
"Yes," said the Doctor, simply. "Will you give us a bed to sleep in, or clean straw in one of your sheds, with supper? I will pay you."
"Pay me!" said the woman, angrily. "What would my good man say if I took money for doing that?"
"Yes; he had to leave me to go and fight."
Phil drew a deep breath, for the woman's words seemed to go through him. She spoke in French, and he expected that she would look upon them directly as enemies and drive them from the door. The next minute he felt that the time had come, for she turned to him and said:
"But you do not speak like one of us, little one. You are not French?"
Phil drew himself up, and his face looked white and then flushed deeply red, as he gazed bravely in the woman's face, the Doctor watching him the while with his forehead wrinkled, as if he had grown ten years older as he stood.
"What will my pupil say?" he muttered to himself.
It was bravely spoken.
"No, I am English," he said.
"Ah!" said the woman, softly. "Why are you here? Who are your people— your father?"
It was hard, but Phil felt that he must speak out; and he did it bravely, suffering agony as soon as he had spoken, for the woman looked at him in silence.
A few minutes later Phil was sitting back watching the woman blowing up the fire to heat some of the evening's milk and fry fresh eggs for her visitors, joining them in a hearty meal and laughing, too, the end, as after struggling hard to keep his eyes open, Phil let his head sink slowly down upon the table—fast asleep, too much worn out to feel when the Doctor lifted him out to follow their hostess into the next room, where a clean bed was given up to them. For when the Doctor declined and said he was sure it was the woman's, she told him it was her own and that she would do with it as she pleased.
The sun was high when Phil woke next morning, to find the weary Doctor sleeping still; but he started up at a touch, and hearing them about, their hostess came and tapped at the door to say that breakfast was ready, and later on when they stepped out she looked sadly at them, for she had news.
"I woke at daylight," she said. "There were guns firing, and the fighting has been going on ever since. Quick! Come and eat your breakfast and go. It is not safe for that little fellow to be staying here."
Phil had no appetite to finish that breakfast. Before it was half done he had started to his feet, to run to the door, full of dread for his father, for one after the other came the reports of heavy guns in the distance, and from much nearer the rattle of musketry, telling that instead of leaving the terrible encounters far behind, either they had marched right amongst it or the opposing armies had suddenly turned in their direction.
There was no time to waste. The Doctor pressed money upon their kind hostess, but she refused it angrily, and hurried them from the house.
"Go that way!" she said, pointing towards where the sky looked light and clear, for away behind the house clouds were rising like to those in a storm; but they were clouds of smoke slowly gathering above a city miles away, and the gloom increased.
But Phil's hostess had not let him go away empty-handed.
"You'll want something to eat by and by," she said, and then the little fellow looked at her wonderingly, her parting word sounded to his English ears so strange, for she said "adieu" and not "good-bye."
"Walk fast, boy," said the Doctor, almost harshly; "we must rest by and by."
They hurried on for quite two hours, and then, hot and weary, the old man suffering as hardly as the boy, they slackened their pace, and once more making for a patch of woodland, rested for a while in the shade. But not for long.
"I can't hear the guns now," whispered Phil, after a long silence.
"No," said the Doctor, "I have not heard a sound for quite half-an-hour."
"But where are we going now?"
The Doctor smiled sadly and shook his head.
"Where fate leads us, Phil," he said; "anywhere to be out of this terrible work."
He had hardly spoken before the crash of many guns made them start to their feet, Phil beginning to run out in the open in his sudden alarm, but only to turn back directly and catch at the Doctor's hand.
"Ah!" cried the old man, drawing him in amongst the trees; "that was running into fresh danger. Look!"
Phil was already looking at a line of men who seemed to have suddenly started out of the ground a hundred yards away.
At the same moment the Doctor threw himself down amongst the thick growth, dragging his companion with him.
"Lie close," he whispered, and it was well that they were both lying flat, for there was a flash of light, a long line of smoke, and in response to a sharp pattering sound a little shower of twigs and leaves came dropping around.
This was answered by firing evidently from the other side of the wood again and again, the reports each time sounding more and more distant, while as Phil lay flat upon his face he could hear trampling and the sounds of men hurrying among the trees right past them, two coming so near that the boy wondered that they were not seen.
"Don't speak, my boy," whispered the Doctor, as he held Phil's hand, though the words were not needed, for the boy's attention was so taken up by the exciting events that surrounded him that he was all eyes and ears for the next thing that should happen.
For the soldiers that passed on, firing as they went, seemed to receive a check, and were driven back, filling the wood with smoke, which hung low and seemed to cling to the lower branches of the trees. But the men recovered their ground and passed on once more, the firing growing more distant.
"Now," said the Doctor, at last, "let's try again, boy."
A sharp volley from another direction was followed by the pattering down of more twigs and leaves, and the Doctor uttered a groan and laid his hand upon Phil's head to press it closer to the ground.
"Are you hurt, Dr Martin?" whispered the boy, raising himself suddenly in the fear that he now felt for the first time.
"No, no, my child. Lie still. We must not stir yet."
It was not till nightfall that they could venture to leave the wood, and it was by guesswork, for the stars were clouded over, that the Doctor made for what he believed to be the south, but not to go far in the darkness, on account of the twinkling fires which shone out here and there as if all around them. That night they slept in another pine wood, to keep on starting up from time to time during the night, awakened now by a shot, and twice over by the sound of a bugle, which came from the direction of the watch fires.
There was no further engagement during the next day, but every attempt to get out of the wood in which they sheltered was in vain; for they were surrounded by the troops dotted here and there, as if watching for the next attack.
They had not come away empty-handed, but the food given to them by their French hostess had come to an end, and at a word from the Doctor, as evening fell, Phil sprang to his feet.
"Yes," he cried, "they won't see us now. Oh, how I wish I was different, Dr Martin! But I can't help it."
"Different?" said the old man, pressing his shoulder. "In what way? Why?"
"I keep on getting so hungry and wanting to eat, when I know I ought to be patient and wait."
"Poor boy," said the Doctor, with a little laugh. "How strange that you should be perfectly natural, Phil, eh? There, we'll make a brave effort to get right away now, and perhaps we shall find another French friend whose husband is away in the fight."
"And then we could sleep in a bed once more," said Phil after a long silence, during which they had been pressing on, with the bushes through which they passed rustling loudly.
"Yes, after a splendid supper," replied the Doctor, in French.
"Oui!" cried Phil, joyously, and then his heart seemed to stand still, for from just in front, where all looked dark, there was the rattle of muskets and a voice shouted in plain English:
"Halt! Who goes there?"
"Stop! For pity's sake," cried the Doctor. "Don't fire!"
There was a rush and they were surrounded. Phil was seized roughly by two soldiers, while two more dragged the Doctor to his knees.
"I've got a monster, sergeant," cried one of the men. "Hold still, you wriggling little worm."
"Let me go," cried Phil, angrily.
"Now then, who are you?" cried a harsh voice out of the darkness. "Spies from the French camp, sergeant; that's certain," said another voice.
"Silence in the ranks!" roared the sergeant. "Now then, sir, what are you?"
"Travellers going south to escape from the war," said the Doctor, huskily.
"Won't do," said the sergeant. "Bad attempt at English. Why, you were speaking in French just now."
"Yes; I am a French teacher—the tutor to my little pupil here, the son of an English officer."
"Bah!" cried the sergeant. "What a lame tale. You talked French or some other lingo, and I heard the boy say 'Oui!'"
"Yes, sir; we talk in French sometimes so that the boy may learn."
"Oh, indeed! Well, you're prisoners now, and he shall be taught to speak English. Bring them along."
"Pardon, sir. You belong to the English force?"
"I rather think we do, mounseer. Search them, my lads. No, wait till we get them to headquarters. What papers have you?"
"Yes, despatches. Letters."
"Only my pocket-book," said the Doctor.
"Got it, sergeant," said one of the men.
"No, sergeant; not that I can find."
"Perhaps they're hidden upon the boy. Like enough."
Phil soon found that it was vain to resist, and he had to suffer being roughly searched.
"Eh? What's that?" said the sergeant.
"Says he wants to be taken to his father."
"Yes, I want to go to my father, to tell him Dr Martin has been taken prisoner by English soldiers."
"Then you can't go," growled the sergeant. "Here, who is your father, young shaver?"
"Captain Carleton, of the 200th Regiment, sir," said Phil, stoutly.
"The 200th Regiment, eh? I don't know any Captain Carleton. But bring them along."
The prisoners were marched off at once through the darkness towards where the fires were burning brightly, and after being challenged again and again, the sergeant led them to the front of a tent, out of which a couple of officers, evidently high in command, came quickly, and were about to hurry away, but stopped for a few moments to listen to the sergeant's report.
"You are sure they have no despatch upon them?"
"Certain, sir. They have been searched twice."
"Let them be detained," said the officer, sharply.
The sergeant marched them off to a large tent, and into this the two prisoners were ushered, to find themselves in company with some half a dozen French soldiers, one of whom lay wounded and in pain upon a truss of straw at the side, the dim light from a lanthorn swinging from the tent pole striking strangely upon the man's pallid face.
"There you are," said the sergeant, cheerfully, "and I just give you both warning; there are about a dozen men on duty about this tent with orders to shoot down anyone who tries to escape. Eh, what say?"
"We shall not try to escape; sir," said the Doctor, quietly; "but that boy—he has been tramping about for hours without food, and is nearly starved."
"Eh? Poor little chap! Hungry?"
"Yes, sir, dreadfully, and so is Dr Martin."
"Well, we English don't starve our prisoners, even if they are French. Wait a bit and I'll see what I can do," said the sergeant, with gruff good nature, and he went off, leaving the other prisoners to stare gloomily at the new-comers for a few minutes and then turn their backs to begin talking together, while the Doctor pressed close to his charge and tried to cheer him up.
"It will all come right," he whispered. "We shall soon be able to send a message to the Captain, and he will have us sent safely away. Are you very hungry now, Phil?"
"Dreadfully," was the reply. "Do you think the sergeant will be very long?"
"Oh no! He seemed too friendly."
But the sergeant seemed to Phil as if he had forgotten all about the prisoners, for the time glided slowly on, while weariness began to deaden poor Phil's hunger pains, and he grew drowsy, nodding off twice, but starting up again when the French prisoners spoke more loudly or a sharp challenge was heard outside.
But the sergeant was a man of his word, and just as Phil was dozing off again, and the lanthorn seemed to be dying out, he suddenly entered the tent with a loaf under his arm and a piece of cold boiled bacon and a knife.
"There you are," he said, gruffly, "and a nice job I've had to get it. Eat away, youngster, and thank your stars you haven't swallowed musket balls for sugar-plums as you came here. You ought to be ashamed of yourself, old man," he continued, turning to the Doctor, "for bringing a boy like that amongst all this gunpowder, treason and plot. No, no; I don't want to hear you talk. Eat your supper. I've something else to do."
Dr Martin sighed as the sergeant swung out of the tent.
"Wait till father comes," said Phil, "and I'll tell him all that the sergeant said. I suppose he can't help being so stupid as to think we are spies and wanted to come here."
It was not till weeks had passed, during which Phil and Dr Martin were shifted from place to place, always strictly guarded, their place being in the misery and discomfort of the baggage train, that the day came when, dirty, ragged, and weary, Phil sat by the side of the Doctor in one of the waggons, watching the marching by of a strong detachment of the little brigade. Dr Martin had tried in vain to send messages, written and by word of mouth, to the Captain, but no one would act as bearer.
Phil, too, had tried his best, but he could hear no news of his father, and there were times when he questioned the Doctor as to whether he thought he had failed to escape on that terrible day when Pierre gave information to the French troops and the long-continued firing of the pursuers had been heard. And so it was for a time that when Phil was tired out after one of the weary marches and no rations were served out, his heart sank and the tears came to his eyes as he believed that he should never see his father again. But, on the other hand, when the sun shone brightly and he was rested and refreshed by the rations that had been served out, he chatted away cheerfully to the Doctor about how he would tell all their adventures to the Captain when he came.
And then that happy day dawned when he sat in the baggage waggon watching the powder-blackened soldiers urging on the horses drawing the heavy guns, followed by a mud-stained tattered regiment, which stepped out smartly, every man looking ready and willing to commence the attack to which he was bound. These passed on and another regiment followed, the sight of the brave fellows sending a thrill through the boy, making him lean out from beneath the waggon tilt to take off his cap and cry hurrah.
The sound of that bright shrill voice cheering the men on made them turn to look whence it came, and at the sight of the waving cap and its excited owner a laugh ran along the ranks and the men cheered again.
The next minute, as the cheer died out and the regular throbbing beat, beat of five hundred marching men went on in regular pulsation, Phil caught sight of an officer riding at the rear of one of the companies, and his voice rang out shrill and clear:
"Dr Martin, here he is at last! Father! Father! Stop!"
The next minute he had leaped down from the side of the waggon and was running towards the passing regiment, the men cheering madly with excitement as they saw their newly-promoted Major draw rein, and the next moment seize the little hands extended to him to be swung up on to the saddle and then cling to the excited officer's neck. The cheer which had rung out before was as nothing to that which rose again and again as the men saw the little fellow kissing the bearded and convulsed face of their leader as wildly as if there was not a soul in sight; but those cheers drowned the Major's hoarsely-uttered words:
"Oh, my boy! My boy! What are you doing here?"
"I'm a prisoner, father. That sergeant wouldn't believe. But it's all right now. Oh, I am so glad!"
"But Dr Martin?"
"He's in that waggon," cried Phil, giving his head a backward jerk, for he was too much excited to look back. "He's a prisoner too because he's French. Oh, I do like this. Let me ride here, father. May I hold the reins?"
The Major was silent for a few moments, feeling quite taken aback by the boy's request.
"May I, father—please?"
"Yes, for a little while," came the Major's hoarse words at last; "for a little while, Phil, till I can pull myself together and think what to do. Forward, my lads!" he shouted, as he resumed his place, with the men cheering more wildly than ever as Phil rode with flushed face and sparkling eyes, in happy ignorance of the fact that he, a child in years, was in the ranks of the regiment that a few hours later was to head the advance in the great attack upon Quebec, in which the gallant British General who won Canada for the British Crown gloriously breathed his last.
"I wish all this fighting would finish, Dr Martin," said Phil one day, with a sigh. "It seems very dreadful, and my father is always away. But," he added, "it's very nice being near him."
"In the midst of all this horrible excitement?"
"Yes; I don't mind that much, only seeing the poor men brought here wounded. I say, how they like me to go and talk to them when their wounds have been tied up! Look here!"
"What have you got there?" said the Doctor, as the boy pulled something from his breast.
"Letter," said Phil, shortly. "This makes six I'm to take care of and send when we go away."
"Yes; they're only written with pencil, and I don't remember the men now who gave them to me, but they were all wounded, and they said I was to send them home."
"Poor fellows," said the Doctor, with a sigh.
"Yes," said Phil. "I mean to show them to father some day and ask him to help me to send them. Ah! Here he is!"
For at that minute the Major hurried into the tent.
"Just to say good-bye to you, Phil, my boy."
"Oh, father," cried the little fellow, with his face clouding over; "don't go away and leave me! You're always saying good-bye."
"I forgot," cried the boy. "Yes. I know. You're going on duty. But you'll not be long, father?"
"Not a minute longer than I can help, my boy. Now go. I want to speak to Dr Martin."
"Yes, father," and Phil ran to the opening of the tent door.
"You are not hurt?" cried Dr Martin, anxiously.
"Not even scratched, Doctor, but the great moment is near, and I was obliged to see my boy once more. I dare not send you both away, for it would only be into the hands of the enemy—perhaps amongst their savage camp followers. You have given up practising for years, but you are a certificated physician and surgeon, and the doctors here will receive you and my boy, glad of your help. While if matters go wrong with the General in a desperate venture, you will be where the wounded are being collected, and the French will respect you."
"Yes," said the Doctor. "Then you wish me to join the field hospital— when?"
"As soon as I am gone. You understand?"
"Yes. You may trust me."
"I know that. Heaven protect you both. Now I can feel at rest. Phil!"
The boy dashed back, to spring upon his knee.
"Now, quick, my boy," cried the Major, kissing him. "Say good-bye like a soldier's son."
"Yes, father; but when—"
"I know, father," cried the boy, hastily drawing himself up. "Good-bye. So glad to see you back."
"I know, my boy. There, we've kissed as women do; now shake hands like a man."
Father and son stood for a few moments hand clasped in hand, and then without trusting himself to look back, the Major walked quickly through the tent door, just as a heavy boom announced that a fresh attack was near.
"Gone!" cried Phil, with a piteous cry and outstretched hands, but the next moment he drew himself up stiffly and marched to the Doctor's side.
"Bravely done, my boy," cried the old man, patting his shoulder. "Now then, your cap."
"We're not going away?" cried Phil, in dismay.
"But father won't know where to find us again."
"Yes, he will, for he says we are to join the doctors with the wounded men."
"Then he will know? Yes, I shall like that. They are always so thirsty. May I take them some water to drink?"
"Indeed you shall, Phil."
Their journey was not long, but it was difficult, for the little army was advancing, and the old Doctor and his pupil were hardly settled in their new canvas and waggon quarters before the attack was in full progress and the bearers were coming in with the wounded, the dying, and, those whom the doctors pronounced already dead.
It was a terrible time—hours of horror, during which, heedless of the roar of cannon and the crash of musketry, the busy surgeons toiled on, till the lines of bandaged sufferers lay increasing fast in the one calm, comparatively silent spot at the back of the fortifications that were being attacked.
There was a tent or two as well where the surgeons worked at their terrible task, and it happened towards the height of the terrible conflict, when the British soldiers were struggling and gaining their way step by step, every foot being desperately contested by the brave army of the French General Montcalm, that Phil was busy in a wide sheltered spot beneath the enemy's lines, tin cup in one hand, holding on to the iron handle of a bucket with the other, the bucket pretty full of water, and swinging between him and a drummer boy.
Those two went steadily on, to stop whenever a beseeching face was turned to them. Then the pail was set down, Phil dipped the cup and went down on one knee to hold it to some poor sufferer's lips, always receiving for his thanks the reverently uttered words, "God bless you, boy."
The blessings called down upon the little fellow's head came in hundreds that day, in English and in French, and somehow in the excitement Phil, after the first few minutes, never saw the horrors by which he was surrounded; but the boy noted only that hands were raised to him for water, and he and the drummer filled and emptied that swinging bucket again and again.
It was during the height of the attack upon the fortifications that the bearers carried one who seemed to be an officer inside the surgeon's tent, and he was not carried out again, but laid up on a roughly-folded waggon-cloth, suffering and patient, for the surgeons could do no more. And from time to time an officer rushed up, to enter the tent, say a few words, receive a reply, and rush out again to hurry away into the smoke where the soldiers were still fighting on.
It happened, too, that with the bucket freshly filled from the water-cart, Phil and his comrade had just reached the end of a line of wounded men when one of the doctors came to the door of the tent, saw them and shouted:
"Here, boys! Water!"
They trotted up together, entered the tent, and the next minute Phil was down on one knee holding the cup to the wounded officer's lips, while he drank with avidity, draining the cup, and sighing deeply as he noted how young was the face of his attendant waiting to give him more.
"Brave boy," he said, gently, and he laid his hand upon Phil's arm; "but this is no place for you."
At that moment the roar of battle outside seemed to roll towards the place where the wounded man lay, increasing to a wild burst of cheers.
A flash of excitement darted from the officer's eyes, and he tried to rise upon one arm.
"What's that?" he cried.
"They run! They run!" came in answer from many throats.
"Who run?" panted the wounded man.
"The French, sir," shouted an officer, hoarsely, as he dashed up to the wounded one's side.
"I thank God, and die contented," history says the General sighed.
It was then that Phil, who had stood unnoticed by the bearer of the victorious news, now kneeling by his great leader's side, pressed forward to touch his arm, making him start round and cry in his astonishment:
"Phil, my boy! You here!"
For he realised that it was his little son who had just raised the water cup to the dying lips of the British hero—General Wolfe.
As for Phil Carleton's career, little need be said, for the war was over with the defeat of the French, and in a few weeks he and Dr Martin were in the same ship with the Major and his regiment, homeward bound.