As they gained the summit of the hill, the trail led them through clearings where the trees had been cut for fuel. Piles of brush were on all sides, and in places cords of wood lined the way which here widened into a rough road. They were coming into the limits of civilisation now, and the view of the Fort was much more distinct. The great guns gave no further voice, but as they neared the crest of the hill which slopes down to the harbour, a new and peculiar sound fell upon their ears. They paused and listened intently, but could not understand its meaning.
Cautiously they advanced, alert, and ready to flee to the shelter of the forest should occasion require. For a time nothing unusual could they see, although the strange sound was becoming more audible. Reaching at length the brow of the hill, they stopped dead in their tracks at a wonderful sight. Below lay the harbour, where vessels large and small were riding calmly at anchor. Where had they come from? and what were they doing there? Such were the questions which leaped to Dane’s mind. Small boats were coming from the ships, loaded with people, while on the shore and some distance from the water throngs of men, women, and children were either huddled in groups, or hurrying to and fro in the most excited manner. Tents and rude brush shacks dotted the hillside, before which people were standing, while bundles and household effects were scattered about on every side.
Never had Dane been so greatly puzzled. Why had the Fort guns roared? What were those ships doing there in the harbour? That they did not belong to the pirates he felt certain, for they bore the English flag, and he could see red-coated soldiers mingling with the people on the shore. In his intense interest he forgot for the moment his important mission, and he was upon the point of hastening down the hill to find out for himself the meaning of the strange scene when Pete touched his arm.
“What all dat beeg fuss, eh?” he asked.
The Indian’s question startled him, and brought him to himself.
“Blamed if I know, Pete,” he replied. “It’s beyond me, for I never saw anything like it before. Anyway, I’m going to find out. You take my pack and gun and go back to the lake. Get a duck for supper, a good big fat fellow. I’ll be there as soon as I can, and tell you what I can learn at the Fort. We’ve run across something to-day, Pete, more than we expected.”
“Come and take it”
Fort Howe occupied an important position at the mouth of the St. John River when the present Province of New Brunswick was a part of Nova Scotia. It was well situated, and from the summit of a high hill commanded the harbour, a large stretch of the river, and the entire surrounding country for miles in extent. It looked down upon the ruins of Fort Frederick, which it replaced, and across to the site of another old Fort where the brave and noble Lady LaTour and her little band of men made their gallant resistance to a treacherous foe.