"Oh, yes; and they'll think it's soldiers going down to the Point to head 'em off."
"Just so. Come, begin! One, two,--one, two!"
Drum! drum!! drum!!!
Squeak! squeak!! squeak!!!
The fife stopped.
"Don't laugh. You'll spoil everything, and I can't pucker my lips."
Drum! drum!! drum!!!
Squeak! squeak!! squeak!!!
The men in the town heard it and were amazed beyond measure. Had the soldiers arrived from Boston? What did it mean? Who were coming?
Louder and louder on the breeze came the roll of a sturdy drum and the sound of a brave fife. The soldiers in the boats heard the noise and paused in their work of destruction. The officers ordered everybody into the boats in the greatest haste. The people were rising! They were coming down the Point with cannons, to head them off! They would all be captured, and perhaps hung by the dreadful Americans!
How the drum rolled! The fife changed its tune. It played "Yankee Doodle,"--that horrid tune! Hark! The men were cheering in the town! there were thousands of them in the woods along the shore!
In grim silence marched the two girls,--plodding over the sharp stones, splashing through the puddles,--Rebecca beating the old drum with might and main; Sarah blowing the fife with shrill determination.
How the Britishers scrambled into their boats! One of the brave officers was nearly left behind on the burning sloop. Another fell overboard and wet his good clothes, in his haste to escape from the American army marching down the beach--a thousand strong! How the sailors pulled! No fancy rowing now, but desperate haste to get out of the place and escape to the ship.
How the people yelled and cheered on the shore! Fifty men or more jumped into the boats to prepare for the chase. Ringing shots began to crack over the water.
Louder and louder rolled the terrible drum. Sharp and clear rang out the cruel fife.
Nearly exhausted, half dead with fatigue, the girls toiled on,--tearful, laughing, ready to drop on the wet sand, and still beating and blowing with fiery courage.
The boats swept swiftly out of the harbor on the outgoing tide.
The fishermen came up with the burning boats. Part stopped to put out the fires, and the rest pursued the flying enemy with such shots as they could get at them. In the midst of it all, the sun went down.
The red-coats did not return a shot. They expected every minute to see a thousand men open on them at short range from the beach, and they reserved their powder.
Out of the harbor they went in confusion and dismay. The ship weighed anchor and ran out her big guns, but did not fire a shot.
Darkness fell down on the scene as the boats reached the ship. Then she sent a round shot towards the light. It fell short and threw a great fountain of white water into the air.
The girls saw it, and dropping their drum and fife, sat down on the beach and laughed till they cried.
That night the ship sailed away. The great American army of two had arrived, and she thought it wise to retreat in time!
Rebecca lived until old and feeble in body, but ever brave in spirit and strong in patriotism, she told this story herself to the writer, and it is true.
By M. E. M. Davis
"Those reptiles of Americans, I say to you, Marcel,--mark my words!--that they have it in their heads to betray Louisiana to the Spaniard. They are tr-r-raitors!" Old Galmiche rolled the word viciously on his French tongue.
"Yes," assented his young companion, absently. He quite agreed with Galmiche--the Americans were traitors, oh, of the blackest black!
But the sky overhead was so blue, the wind blowing in from the Gulf and lifting the dark curls on his bared forehead was so moist and sweet, the scene under his eyes, although familiar, was so enchanting!
He rose, the better to see it all once again.
Grand Terre, the low-lying strip of an island upon which he stood, was at that time--September, 1814--the stronghold of Jean Lafitte, the famous freebooter, or, as he chose rather to call himself, privateer, and his band of smugglers and buccaneers.
The island, which lies across the mouth of Barataria Bay, with a narrow pass at each end opening, into the Gulf of Mexico, had been well fortified. Lafitte's own bungalow-like house was protected on the Gulf side by an enclosing wall surmounted by small cannon.
The rich furniture within the house--the pictures, books, Oriental draperies, silver and gold plate and rare crystal--attested equally--so declared his enemies--to the fastidious taste of the Lord of Barataria and to his lawlessness.
The landlocked bay holds in its arms many small islands.
These served Lafitte as places of deposit for smuggled or pirated goods. Water-craft of every description--more than one sloop or lugger decorated with gay lengths of silk or woolen cloth--rode at ease in the secure harbor. In a curve of the mainland a camp had been established for the negroes imported in defiance of United States law, from Africa, to be sold in Louisiana and elsewhere.
The buccaneers themselves were quartered on the main island.
Marcel Lefort, the slender, dark-eyed Creole _voyageur_, drew a deep sigh of delight as he resumed his seat on the grassy sward beside Galmiche. But he sprang again to his feet, for the tranquil morning air was suddenly disturbed by the reverberating boom of a cannon!
Island, bay and mainland were instantly in commotion. Lafitte himself appeared on the east end, of his veranda, spy-glass in hand.
The noted outlaw was a tall, sinewy, graceful man, then a little past thirty, singularly handsome, with clear-cut features, dark hair and fierce gray eyes which could, upon occasion, soften to tenderness. The hands which lifted the spy-glass were white and delicate.
He lowered the glass.
"A British sloop of war in the offing," he remarked to his lieutenant, Dominique You, standing beside him. "She has sent off a pinnace with a flag of truce. I go to meet it. Order an answering salute."
A moment later he had stepped into his four-oared barge and was skimming lightly down the Great Pass toward the Gulf.
When he returned, two officers in the British uniform were seated in the barge with him. The freebooters, a formidable array of French, Italians, Portuguese and West Indians, with here and there a sunburned American, stared with bold and threatening eyes at the intruders as they passed through the whispering _chenaie_ (oak grove) to the house, to unfold their mission to the "Great Chief,"
and to share his princely hospitality.
Shortly after nightfall of the same day, on one of the little inner islands, Marcel Lefort stood leaning upon his long boat paddle, awaiting orders; his pirogue was drawn up among the reeds hard by.
He lifted his head, but hardly had his keen eye caught the shadowy outlines of a boat on the bay before its occupants had landed.
"The lad is too young," objected Dominique You, as the two men drew near.
"His father was a gunner in Kelerec's army at sixteen," returned Lafitte. "You are sure of the route, Marcel?" he continued, touching the _voyageur_ on the shoulder.
"Yes, my captain. As the bird is of his flight through the air.
This is not the first time," he added proudly, "that I have brought secret despatches from New Orleans to Barataria."