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Chapter 9

The three who had escaped ran, for a quarter of a mile, in the woods, when
we brought up, and took a drink. Hearing no more firing, or any further
alarm, we now consulted as to our future course. There were some mills at
the head of the bay, about four miles from the guard-house, and I led the
party thither. We reached the place towards morning, and found a berth in
them before any one was stirring. We hid ourselves in an old granary; but
no person appeared near the place throughout the next day. We had put a
little bread and a few herrings in our hats, and on these we subsisted.
The rum cheered us up, and, if rum ever did good, I think it was to us on
that occasion. We slept soundly, with one man on the look-out; a rule we
observed the whole time we were out. It stopped raining in the course of
the day, though the weather was bitter cold.

Next night we got under way, and walked in a direction which led us within
three miles of the town. In doing this, we passed the Prince's Lodge, a
place where I had often been, and the sight of which reminded me of home,
and of my childish days. There was no use in regrets, however, and we
pushed ahead. The men saw my melancholy, and they questioned me; but I
evaded the answer, pretending that nothing ailed me. There was a tavern
about a league from the town, kept by a man of the name of Grant, and
Littlefield ventured into it. He bought a small cheese and a loaf of
bread; getting off clear, though not unsuspected. This helped us along
famously, and we pushed on as fast as we could. Before morning we came
near a bridge, on which there was a sentinel posted, with a guard-house
near its end. To avoid this danger, we turned the guard-house, striking
the river above the bridge. Here we met two Indians, and fell into
discourse with them. Our rum now served us a better turn than ever, buying
the Indians in a minute. We told these chaps we were deserters from the
Bulwark, 74, and begged them to help us along. At first, they thought we
were Yankees, whom they evidently disliked, and that right heartily; but
the story of the desertion took, and made them disposed to serve us.

These two Indians led us down to the bed of the river, and actually
carried us beneath the bridge, on the side of the river next the guard,
where we found a party of about thirty of these red-skins, men, women and
children. Here we stayed no less than three days; faring extremely well,
having fish, bread, butter, and other common food. The weather was very
bad, and we did not like to turn out in it, besides, thinking the search
for us might be less keen after a short delay. All this time, we were
within a few rods of the guard, hearing the sentinels cry "all's well,"
from half-hour to half-hour. We were free with our rum, and, as much as we
dared to be, with our money. These people never betrayed us.

The third night we left the bridge, guided by a young Indian. He led us
about two miles up the river, passing through the Maroon town in the
night, after which he left us. We wished him to keep on with us for some
distance further, but he refused. He quitted us near morning, and we
turned into a deserted log-house, on the banks of the river, where we
passed the day. The country was thinly populated, and the houses we saw
were poor and mean. We must now have been about five-and-twenty miles
from Halifax.

Our object was to cross the neck of land between the Atlantic and the Bay
of Fundy, and to get to Annapolis Royal, where we expected to be able to
procure a boat, by fair means if we could, by stealth if necessary, and
cross over to the American shore. We had still a long road before us, and
had some little difficulty to find the way. The Indians, however, gave us
directions that greatly assisted us; and we travelled a long bit, and
pretty fast all that night. In the morning, the country had more the
appearance of being peopled and cultivated, and I suspected we were
getting into the vicinity of Horton, a place through which it would be
indispensable to pass. The weather became bad again, and it was necessary
to make a halt. Coming near a log-house, we sent Littlefield ahead to make
some inquiries of a woman who appeared to be in it alone. On his return,
he reported well of the woman. He had told her we were deserters from the
Bulwark, and had promised to pay her if she would let us stay about her
premises that day, and get us something to eat. The woman had consented to
our occupying an out-house, and had agreed to buy the provisions. We now
took possession of the out-house, where the woman visited us, and getting
some money, she left us in quest of food. We were uneasy during her
absence, but she came back with some meat, eggs, bread, and butter, at the
end of an hour, and all seemed right. We made two comfortable meals in
this out-house, where we remained until near evening. I had the look-out
about noon, and I saw a man hanging about the house, and took the alarm.
The man did not stay long, however, and I got a nap as soon as he
disappeared. About four we were all up, and one of us taking a look, saw
this same man, and two others, go into the house. The woman had already
told us that a party of soldiers had gone ahead, in pursuit of three
Yankee runaways; that four had broken prison, but one had been retaken,
and the rest were still out. This left little doubt that she knew who we
were; and we thought it best to steal away, at once, lest the men in the
house should be consulting with her, at that very moment, about selling us
for the reward, which we know was always four pounds ahead. The out-house
was near the river, and there was a good deal of brush growing along the
banks, and we succeeded in getting away unseen.

We went down to the margin, under the bank, and pursued our way along the
stream. Before it was dark we came in sight of the bridge, for which we
had been travelling ever since we left the other bridge, and were sorry to
see a sentry-box on it. We now halted for a council, and came to a
determination to wait until dark, and then advance. This we did, getting
under this bridge, as we had done with the other. We had no Indians,
however, to comfort and feed us.

I had known a good deal of this part of the country when a boy, from the
circumstance that Mr. Marchinton had a large farm, near a place called
Cornwallis, on the Bay, where I had even spent whole summers with the
family. This bridge I recollected well; and I remembered there was a ford
a little on one side of it, when the tide was out. The tides are
tremendous in this part of the world, and we did not dare to steal a boat
here, lest we should be caught in one of the bores, as they are called,
when the tide came in. It was now half ebb, and we resolved to wait, and
try the? ford.

It was quite dark when we left the bridge, and we had a delicate bit of
work before us. The naked flats were very wide, and we sallied out, with
the bridge as our guide. I was up to my middle in mud, at times, but the
water was not very deep. We must have been near an hour in the mud, for we
were not exactly on the proper ford, of course, and made bad navigation of
it in the dark. But we were afraid to lose sight of the bridge, lest we
should get all adrift.

At length we reached the firm ground, covered with mud and chilled with
cold. We found the road, and the village of Horton, and skirted the last,
until all was clear. Then we took to the road, and carried sail hard all
night. Whenever we saw any one, we hid ourselves, but we met few while
travelling. Next morning we walked until we came to a deserted saw-mill,
which I also remembered, and here we halted for the day. No one troubled
us, nor did I see any one; but Littlefield said that a man drove a herd of
cattle past, during his watch on deck.

I told my companions that night, if they would be busy, we might reach
Cornwallis, where I should be at home. We were pretty well fagged, and
wanted rest, for Jack is no great traveller ashore; and I promised the
lads a good snug berth at Mr. Marchinton's farm. We pushed ahead briskly,
in consequence, and I led the party up to the farm, just as day was
dawning. A Newfoundland dog, named Hunter, met us with some ferocity;
but, on my calling him by name, he was pacified, and began to leap on me,
and to caress me. I have always thought that dog knew me, after an absence
of so many years. There was no time to waste with dogs, however, and we
took the way to the barn. We had wit enough not to get on the hay, but to
throw ourselves on a mow filled with straw, as the first was probably in
use. Here we went to sleep, with one man on the look-out. This was the
warmest and most comfortable rest we had got since quitting the island,
from which we had now been absent or nine days.

We remained one night and two days in the barn. The workmen entered it
often, and even stayed some time on the barn-floor; but no one seemed to
think of ascending our mow. The dog kept much about the place, and I was
greatly afraid he would be the means of betraying us. Our provisions were
getting low, and, the night we were at the farm I sallied out, accompanied
by Barnet, and we made our way into the dairy. Here we found a pan of
bread, milk, cheese, butter, eggs, and codfish. Of course, we took our
fill of milk; but Barnet got hold of a vessel of sour cream, and came near
hallooing out, when he had taken a good pull at it. As we returned to the
barn, the geese set up an outcry, and glad enough was I to find myself
safe on the mow again, without being discovered. Next day, however, we
overheard the men in the barn speaking of the robbery, and complaining, in
particular, of the uselessness of the dog. I did not know any of these
persons, although a young man appeared among them, this day, who I fancied
had been a playfellow of mine, when a boy. I could not trust him, or any
one else there; and all the advantage we got from the farm, was through my
knowledge of the localities, and of the habits of the place.

I had never been further on the road between Halifax and Annapolis, than
to Cornwallis. The rest of the distance was unknown to me, though I was
familiar with the route which went out of Cornwallis, and which was called
the Annapolis road. It was a fine star-light evening, and we made good
headway. We all felt refreshed, and journeyed on full stomachs. We did not
meet a soul, though we travelled through a well-settled country. The next
morning we halted in a wood, the weather being warm and pleasant. Here we
slept and rested as usual, and were off again at night. Littlefield
pinned three fowls as we went along, declaring that he intended to have a
warm mess next day, and he got off without discoverv. About four o'clock
in the morning, we fell in with a river, and left the high-way, following
the banks of the stream for a short distance. It now came on to blow and
rain, with the wind on shore, and we saw it would not do to get a boat and
go out in such a time. There was a rising ground, in a thick wood, near
us, and we went up the hill to pass the day. We had seen two men pulling
ashore in a good-looking boat, and it was our determination to get this
boat, and shape our course down stream to the Bay, as soon as it
moderated. From the hill, we could overlook the river, and the adjacent
country. We saw the fishermen land, take their sail and oars out of the
boat, haul the latter up, turn her over, and stow their sails and oars
beneath her. They had a breaker of fresh water, too, and everything seemed
fitted for our purposes. We liked the craft, and, what is more, we liked
the cruise.

We could not see the town of Annapolis, which turned out to be up-stream
from us, though we afterwards ascertained that we were within a mile or
two of it. The fishermen walked in the direction of the town, and
disappeared. All we wanted now was tolerably good weather, with a fair
wind, or, at least, with less wind. The blow had driven in the fishermen,
and we thought it wise to be governed by their experience. Nothing
occurred in the course of the day, the weather remaining the same, and we
being exposed to the rain, with no other cover than trees without leaves.
There were many pines, however, and they gave us a little shelter.

At dusk, Littlefield lighted a fire, and began to cook his fowls. The
supper was soon ready, and we eat it with a good relish. We then went to
sleep, leaving Barnet on the look-out. I had just got into a good sleep,
when I was awoke by the tramp of horses, and the shouting of men. On
springing up, I found that a party of five horsemen were upon us. One
called out--"Here they are--we've found them at last." This left no doubt
of their errand, and we were all retaken. Our arms were tied, and we were
made to mount behind the horsemen, when they rode off with us, taking the
road by which we had come. We went but a few miles that night, when
we halted.

We were taken the whole distance to Halifax, in this manner, riding on
great-coats, without stirrups, the horses on a smart walk. We did not go
by Cornwallis, which, it seems, was not the nearest road; but we passed
through Horton, and crossed the bridge, beneath which we had Waded through
the mud. At Horton we passed a night. We were confined in a sort of a
prison, that was covered with mud. We did not like our berths; and,
finding that the logs, of which the building was made, were rotten, we
actually worked our way through them, and got fairly out. Littlefield, who
was as reckless an Irishman as ever lived, swore he would set fire to the
place; which he did, by returning through the hole we had made, and
getting up into a loft, that was dry and combustible. But for this silly
act, we might have escaped; and, as it was, we did get off for the rest of
the night, being caught, next morning, nearly down, again, by the bridge
at Windsor.

This time, our treatment was a good deal worse, than at first. A sharp
look-out was kept, and they got us back to Halifax, without any more
adventures. We were pretty well fagged; though we had to taper off with
the black hole, and bread and water, for the next ten days; the regular
punishment for such misdemeanors as ours. At the end of the ten days, we
were let out, and came together again. Our return brought about a great
deal of discussion; and, not a little criticism, as to the prudence of our
course. To hear the chaps talk, one would think every man among them could
have got off, had he been in our situation; though none of them did any
better; several having got off the island, in our absence, and been
retaken, within the first day or two. While I was in prison, however, I
remember but one man who got entirely clear. This was a privateers-man,
from Marblehead; who did get fairly off; though he was back again, in six
weeks, having been taken once more, a few days out.

We adventurers were pretty savage, about our failure; and, the moment we
were out of the black hole, we began to lay our heads together for a new
trial. My idea was, to steer a different course, in the new attempt;
making the best of our way towards Liverpool, which lay to the southward,
coastwise. This would leave us on the Atlantic, it was true; but our
notion was, to ship in a small privateer, called the Liverpool, and then
run our chance of getting off from her; as she was constantly crossing
over to the American coast. As this craft was quite small, and often had
but few hands in her, we did not know but we might get hold of the
schooner itself. Then there was some probability of being put in a
coaster; which we might run away with. At all events, any chance seemed
better to us, than that of remaining in prison, until the end of war that
might last years, or until we got to be grey-headed. I remembered, when
the Ville de Milan was brought into Halifax; this was a year, or two,
before I went to sea; and yet here were some of her people still, on
Melville Island!

I renewed my trade as soon as out of the Black Hole, but did not give up
the idea of escaping. Leonard Lewis and Jack Mallet were the only men we
let into the secret. They both declined joining us; Mallet on account of
his dread of the water, and Lewis, because certain he could not outlive
the fatigue; but they wished us good luck, and aided us all they could.
With Johnson we would have no further concern.

The keepers did not ascertain the means by which we had left the barracks,
though they had seen the cut pickets of course. We did not attempt,
therefore, to cut through again, but resolved to climb. The English had
strengthened the pickets with cross-pieces, which were a great assistance
to _us_, and I now desire to express my thanks for the same. We waited for
a warm, but dark and rainy night in May, before we commenced our new
movement. We had still plenty of money, I having brought back with me to
prison forty crowns, and having driven a thriving trade in the interval.
We got out through the bars, precisely as we had done before, and at the
very same window. This was a small job. After climbing the pickets, either
Littlefield or Barnet dropped on the outside, a little too carelessly, and
was overheard. The sentinel immediately called for the corporal of the
guard, but we were in the water, swimming quite near the bridge, and some
little distance from the guard-house on the main. There was a stir on the
island, while we were in the water, but we all got ashore, safe
and unseen.

We took to the same woods as before, but turned south instead of west. Our
route brought us along by the waterside, and we travelled hard all that
night. Littlefield pretended to be our guide, but we got lost, and
remained two days and nights in the woods, without food, and completely at
fault as to which way to steer. At length we ventured out into a high-way,
by open day-light, and good luck threw an old Irish seaman, who then lived
by fishing in [missing]. After a little conversation, we told this old
man we were deserters from a vessel of war, and he seemed to like us all
the better for it. He had served himself, and had a son impressed, and
seemed to like the English navy little better than we did ourselves. He
took us to a hut on the beach, and fed us with fish, potatoes, and bread,
giving us a very comfortable and hearty meal. We remained in this hut
until sunset, receiving a great deal of useful advice from the old man,
and then we left him. We used some precaution in travelling, sleeping in
the woods; but we kept moving by day as well as by night, and halting only
when tired, and a good place offered. We were not very well off for food,
though we brought a little from the fisherman's hut, and found quantities
of winter-berries by the way-side.

We entered Liverpool about eight at night, and went immediately to the
rendezvous of the privateer, giving a little girl a shilling to be our
guide. The keeper of the rendezvous received us gladly, and we shipped
immediately. Of course we were lodged and fed, in waiting for the schooner
to come in. Each of us got four pounds bounty, and both parties seemed
delighted with the bargain. To own the truth, we now began to drink, and
the next day was pretty much a blank with us all. The second day, after
breakfast, the landlord rushed into our room with a newspaper in his hand,
and broke out upon us, with a pretty string of names, denouncing us for
having told him we were deserters, when we were only runaway Yankees! The
twelve pounds troubled him, and he demanded it back. We laughed at him,
and advised him to be quiet and put us aboard the privateer. He then told
us the guard was after us, hot-foot, and that it was too late. This proved
to be true enough, for, in less than an hour an officer and a platoon of
men had us in custody. We had some fun in hearing the officer give it to
the landlord, who still kept talking about his twelve pounds. The officer
told him plainly that he was rightly served, for attempting to smuggle off
deserters, and I suppose this was the reason no one endeavoured to get the
money away from us, except by words. We kept the twelve pounds, right
or wrong.

We were now put in a coaster, and sent to Halifax by water. We were in
irons, but otherwise were well enough treated. We were kept in the
Navy-yard guard-house, at Halifax, several hours, and were visited by a
great many officers. These gentlemen were curious to hear our story, and
we let them have it, very frankly. They laughed, and said, generally, we
were not to be blamed for trying to get off, if their own look-outs were
so bad as to let us. We did not tell them, however, by what means we
passed out of the prison-barracks. Among the officers who came and spoke
to us, was an admiral, Sir Isaac Coffin. This gentleman was a native
American, and was then in Halifax to assist the Nantucket men, whom he
managed to get exchanged. His own nephew was said to be among them; but
him he would not serve, as he had been captured in a privateer. Had he
been captured in a man-of-war, or a merchantman, he would have done all
he could for him; but, as it was, he let him go to Dartmoor--at least,
this was the story in the prison. The old gentleman spoke very mildly to
us, and said he could not blame us for attempting to escape. I do not
think he had ever heard of the twelve pounds; though none of the navy
officers were sorry that the privateer's-men should be punished. As for
us, we considered them all enemies alike, on whom it was fair enough to
live in a time of war.

We were sent back to the island, and were quarantined again; though it was
for twenty days, this time. When we got pratique, we learned that some one
had told of the manner in which we got out of prison, and cross-bars had
been placed in all the windows, making them so many "nine of diamonds."
This was blocking the channel, and there was no more chance for getting
off in that way.

A grand conspiracy was now formed, which was worthy of the men in prison.
The plan was to get possession of Halifax itself, and go off in triumph.
We were eighteen hundred prisoners in all; though not very well off for
officers. About fifty of us entered into the plan, at first; nor did we
let in any recruits for something like six weeks. A Mr. Crowninshield, of
Salem, was the head man among as, he having been an officer in a
privateer. There were a good many privateer officers in the prison, but
they were berthed over-head, and were intended to be separated from us at
night. The floor was lifted between us, however, and we held our
communications by these means. The officers came down at night, and lent
us a hand with the work.

The scheme was very simple, though I do not think it was at all difficult
of execution. The black-hole cells were beneath the prison, and we broke
through the floor, into one of them, from our bay. A large mess-chest
concealed the process, in the day-time. We worked in gangs of six, digging
and passing up the dirt into the night-tubs. These tubs we were
permitted to empty, every morning, in a tide's way, and thus we got rid of
the dirt. At the end of two months we had dug a passage, wide enough for
two abreast, some twenty or thirty yards, and were nearly ready to come up
to the surface. We now began to recruit, swearing in each man. On the
whole, we had got about four hundred names, when the project was defeated,
by that great enemy which destroys so many similar schemes, treachery. We
were betrayed, as was supposed by one of our own number.

Had we got out, the plan was to seize the heights of the island, and get
possession of the guns. This effected, it would have been easy to subdue
the guard. We then would have pushed for Citadel Hill, which commanded
Halifax. Had we succeeded there, we should have given John Bull a great
deal of trouble, though no one could say what would have been the result.
Hundreds would probably have got off, in different craft, even had the
great plan failed. We were not permitted to try the experiment, however,
for one day we were all turned out, and a party of English officers, army
and navy, entered the barracks, removed the mess-chest, and surveyed our
mine at their leisure. A draft of six hundred was sent from the prison
that day, and was shipped for Dartmoor; and, by the end of the week, our
whole number was reduced to some three or four hundred souls. One of the
Julias went in this draft, but all the rest of us were kept at Halifax.
For some reason or other, the English seemed to keep their eyes on us.

I never gave up the hope of escaping, and the excitement of the hope was
beneficial to both body and mind. We were too well watched, however, and
conversation at night was even forbidden. Most of the officers were gone
and this threw me pretty much on my own resources. I have forgotten to say
that Lemuel Bryant, the man who fell at the breech of my gun, at Little
York, and whom I afterwards hauled into the Scourge's boat, got off, very
early after our arrival at Halifax. He made two that got quite clear,
instead of the one I have already mentioned. Bryant's escape was so
clever, as to deserve notice.

One day a party of some thirty soldiers was called out for exchange, under
a capitulation. Among the names was that of Lemuel Bryant, but the man
happened to be dead. Our Bryant had found this out, beforehand, and he
rigged himself soldier-fashion, and answered to the name. It is probable
he ascertained the fact, by means of some relationship, which brought him
in contact with the soldier previously to his death. He met with no
difficulty, and I have never seen him since. I have heard he is still
living, and that he receives a pension for the hurt he received at York.
Well does he deserve it, for no man ever had a narrower chance for
his life.

Nothing new, worthy of notice, occurred for several months, until one
evening in March, 1815, we heard a great rejoicing in Halifax; and,
presently, a turnkey appeared on the walls, and called out that England
and America had made peace! We gave three cheers, and passed the night
happy enough. We had a bit of a row with the turnkeys about locking us in
again, for we were fierce for liberty; but we were forced to submit for
another night.

James Fenimore Cooper

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