THE KING’S RANGERS
Several days had passed in quiet contentment at the little settlement of Loyal after Dane’s departure. Jean missed him very much and longed for his return. The evenings were now dark and cool, so as she and her father sat before the fire they often talked about the absent one, and wondered what could be detaining him. Neighbours at times joined them, and discussed the possibility of an attack by the Indians and the slashers. But the Colonel scoffed at such an idea. He maintained that the natives were at peace with the English, and would not be aroused by the rebels to molest the Loyalists.
Each day anxious eyes were turned upon the river, hoping to see the white sails of the Polly bearing up stream. Captain Leavitt had promised to return before winter to bring the needed supplies for the long, hard months ahead.
Something, however, at length occurred which diverted their attention from the Polly, and gave them considerable concern. This was the arrival of several canoes filled with men. There were a score of men in all, and they received a most hearty welcome. The leader was William Davidson, the King’s purveyor, who, with several others, was entertained at supper by the Colonel and his daughter. That evening a bonfire was built upon the shore, and around this the visitors and most of the people of the settlement gathered. It was a pleasant assembly, even though the night was cool. A liberal supply of Jamaica rum was passed around, and this was supposed to add greatly to the comfort of all.
Jean sat by her father’s side, deeply interested in all that was taking place. Her heart was light, for Davidson had told her that Dane would be with her in a day or two. He and Pete were at present away on special business, the nature of which he did not say. Jean liked the looks of these visitors. They were all hardy, keen, well-built, and fearless-eyed rangers in the service of their King. They had to be all that, for their leader would employ no others. But they were full of life and spirit when they met together, and many were the stories told of their various adventures. This night, notwithstanding the seriousness of the business which lay ahead, they were like a number of boys just out of school. It was something new to them to meet so many interesting strangers such as they found at Loyal.
William Davidson was a worthy leader of such a band of men, and they held him in the highest regard. He was a man in the prime of life, and had led a stirring career. Coming from Scotland, he had settled on the Miramichi River, where for a time he engaged in the fishery and fur trade. During the war his Indian neighbours, incited by certain rebels, made his life so unbearable that he was forced to flee to the St. John River where he settled near the mouth of the Oromocto River. Even here he