“They madly rushed after him, and forcing their way through the dry limbs of brush that stuck up on the banks of the lake, gained the frozen surface. More than one half their number had taken this course, while the rest had either fallen victims to the first fire, or taken to their heels towards the main road. Suddenly a terrible crash was heard, accompanied by a splash, and a hubbub of unearthly screams. The ice had broken, and ‘Dead Man’s Lake’ was accomplishing a victory for the handful of American patriots who stood upon its banks.
“The result was, that over twenty of the Skinners were taken prisoners. Only half-a-dozen were killed by fire-arms. The lake was examined at sunrise, and fifteen bodies were drawn from its remorseless bosom. The remainder, McPherson among them, escaped.”
“That Nick Odell was nearly equal to old Nick himself in stratagems,” said Wilson, when Smith had concluded.
“It’s a wonder the men didn’t freeze to death under the snow,” said Morton. “I think I should have been opposed to trying such a way of disposing of myself.”
“Oh! there ’s no doubt about its keeping you warm,” said old Harmar.
“How can cold snow keep men warm?” enquired Thomas Jefferson Harmar.
“I suppose,” answered Higgins, “that it’s much like blowing your warm breath on anything hot to cool it.”
As nobody seemed disposed to contradict this explanation, old Higgins took it for granted that he was correct; and Thomas Jefferson was satisfied.
[Illustration: DEFEAT OF THE SKINNERS AT DEADMAN’S LAKE.]
[Illustration: THE STORY OF THE HALF-BREED.]
“Now,” said young Harmar, who, as a literary gentleman, was anxious to collect as many incidents of the Revolution as he could from these old men; “now, Mr. Higgins, you must oblige us by recalling something of your experience.”
“Ah!” replied Higgins, “if I could tell in words a small part of what I know of the war, I’m sure I could interest you.”
“We are not critical,” said old Harmar. “Jackson may think of his bookish notions sometimes; but he knows what kind of old men we are. Narrate anything that comes uppermost.”
“Well,” commenced Higgins, “I’ll tell you about an adventure of a friend of mine, named Humphries, with a half-breed—that’s horribly interesting—if I can only recollect it.” And, after a short pause, to let his old memory bring up the incidents from the far past, Higgins told the following story of revenge.