“Mr. Elmsley,” he said turning to that officer, who stood waiting his orders, “who commands the fishing party?”
“Corporal Nixon, sir,” replied the lieutenant, at once entering into his motive for the inquiry, “a brave, but discreet soldier, and one who, I am sure, will evince all necessary resolution, should he see anything of these Indians. The men who are with him are also fine young fellows, and among our best shots.”
“I am glad to hear this,” was the rejoinder, “but still, twelve Indians firing from the woods upon half their number in an open boat, and taken by surprise, would, I fear, render the activity, courage, and skill of these latter but of little avail. My hope is, that Corporal Nixon may see nothing of them, but that, on the contrary, if he has been apprised by the boy, as the fellow says he was to be, of their presence at Heywood’s farm, he will make his way back without stopping, or at least, use every precaution to conceal himself, until he can drop down under cover of the darkness.”
“What, sir,” said the lieutenant, with a surprise he could ill conceal, “would you desire him not to afford the necessary succor to Mr. Heywood, if, indeed, he should be in time to render any service?”
“Mr. Elmsley,” remarked his captain, somewhat sternly, “my sympathy for the fate of those at the farm, is, perhaps quite as strong as yours, but I have a higher stake at issue—a higher object than the indulgence of personal sympathy. I can ill afford, threatening as appearances are at this moment, to risk the lives of six men, the best you say in the fort, out of the very small force at my disposal. Nothing must be left undone to secure their safety. Order a gun to be fired immediately from the southern bastion. It will be distinctly heard by the party, and if not already apprised of the existing danger they will at once understand the signal. Moreover the report may have the effect of alarming the savages.”
Lieutenant Elmsley withdrew to execute the order, and soon after the dull booming of a cannon was heard reverberating throughout the surrounding woods, and winding its echoes along the waters of the narrow and tranquil Chicago. So unusual an event as this excited a good deal of speculation, not only among the inmates of the Fort, but among the numerous friendly Indians encamped without, who, wholly unacquainted with the cause of the alarm, were, by the strict orders of Captain Headley, kept ignorant of the information of which Ephraim Giles had been the bearer—
That night there was a more than usual vigilance exercised by the sentinels, and although the rest of the garrison were exempt from extraordinary duty, the watchful and anxious commanding officer slept not until dawn.