‘I know your father well,’ said the redskin, when the boy had answered his questions; ’he lives neighbour to Captain McKean. I know McKean very well, and a fine fellow he is too.’
The boy was now quite reassured that the Indian would do him no harm, and boldly inquired who his interrogator might be.
‘My name is Brant,’ answered the redskin, although he pondered for a moment before replying.
‘What! Joseph Brant?’ said the youth, as a sharp thrill went coursing through his veins.
‘No!’ answered the warrior, ‘I am a cousin of his’; but a smile lit up his dark countenance, and the boy knew that his denial was just a bit of native humour. Thereupon Brant disappeared in the direction of Foster’s house. The boy at once rushed from the field to the fortified post near by to tell his story, and a hue and cry was soon raised. A party hurried to the loyalist’s house to seek Brant, but he was not there. Foster said that he had never come and that he knew nothing of him. So, checkmated in their search, the group of would-be captors had to wheel about and go back disappointed to their fortress.
Brant was fast gaining an unsavoury reputation which he but partly merited. Owing to the character of the country in which he was fighting, and to the lack of discipline in the force under his command, destruction of property and plunder were certain to occur. Brant, as we shall see, did little to discourage this among his warriors. His argument was that his antagonists had taken up arms against their lawful king. As rebels, their lands and property were forfeited to the crown and were justly liable to seizure by the king’s forces. To the settlers on the border, however, Brant was looked upon as a ruthless marauder, thirsting for blood. Whenever acts of wanton cruelty took place, the blame was generally laid at his door. This explains the bitterness of their attitude to him both during and after the conflict and the singular fear which his name inspired among them.
At Unadilla Brant had begun to fortify an area which lent itself to defence, and thither the tribesmen flocked from the surrounding districts. So determined were the settlers to capture him that they offered a reward to any one who would bring them any knowledge of his movements. Even men like Captain McKean, whom Brant had mentioned so kindly to the farmer’s boy, were hot upon his trail. This officer set out with five other men in order, if possible, to effect Brant’s capture. While on their quest the little party came one night to the house of a Quaker. To their great delight, the Quaker told them that Brant had been at his place during the day and would come back. He warned them, however, that Brant was prepared to meet them, and that if he returned suddenly their lives would be in danger. McKean, however, was stubborn in his resolve to stay.
‘Your house, friend Sleeper,’ he said, with a show of bravado, ‘shall be my fort to-night.’