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Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 71

There was a shriek of demon laughter, the scene was lost in darkness, and Peter fell insensible. In the morning a tavern-haunting friend, anxious to know if Peter had met with any adventure, entered the house and went cautiously from room to room, calling on the watcher to show himself. There was no response. At last he stumbled on the whiskey bottle, empty, and knew that Peter must be near. Sure enough, there he lay in the great room, with dust and mould thick on everything, and his fiddle smashed into a thousand pieces. Peter on being awakened looked ruefully about him, then sprang up and eagerly demanded his money. "What money?" asked his friend. The fiddler clutched at his green bag, opened it, shook it; there was nothing. Nor was there any delay in Peter's exit from that mansion, and when, twenty-four hours after, the house went up in flames, he averred that the ghosts had set it afire, and that he knew where they brought their coals from.





THE TWO RINGS

Gabrielle de St. Pierre, daughter of the commandant of Fort Le Boeuf, now—Waterford, Pennsylvania, that the French had setup on the Ohio River, was Parisian by birth and training, but American by choice, for she had enjoyed on this lonesome frontier a freedom equal to that of the big-handed, red-faced half-breeds, and she was as wild as an Indian in her sports. Returning from a hunt, one day, she saw three men advancing along the trail, and, as it was easy to see that they were not Frenchmen, her guide slipped an arrow to the cord and discharged it; but Gabrielle was as quick as he, for she struck the missile as it was leaving the bow and it quivered harmlessly into a beech. The younger of the men who were advancing—he was Harry Fairfax, of Virginia—said to his chief, "Another escape for you, George. Heaven sent one of its angels to avert that stroke."

Washington, for it was he, answered lightly, and, as no other hostile demonstrations were made, the new-comers pressed on to the fort, where St. Pierre received them cordially, though he knew that their errand was to claim his land on behalf of the English and urge the French to retire to the southwest. The days that were spent in futile negotiation passed all too swiftly for Fairfax, for he had fallen in love with Gabrielle. She would not consent to a betrothal until time had tried his affection, but as a token of friendship she gave him a stone circlet of Indian manufacture, and received in exchange a ring that had been worn by the mother of Fairfax.

After the diplomats had returned the English resolved to enforce their demand with arms, and Fairfax was one of the first to be despatched to the front.

Early in the campaign his company engaged the enemy near the Ohio River, and in the heat of battle he had time to note and wonder at the strange conduct of one of the French officers, a mere stripling, who seemed more concerned to check the fire of his men than to secure any advantage in the fight. Presently the French gave way, and with a cheer the English ran forward to claim the field, the ruder spirits among them at once beginning to plunder the wounded. A cry for quarter drew Fairfax with a bound to the place whence it came, and, dashing aside a pilfering soldier, he bent above a slight form that lay extended on the earth: the young officer whose strange conduct had so surprised him. In another moment he recognized his mother's ring on one of the slender hands. It was Gabrielle. Her father had perished in the fight, but she had saved her lover.


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