Betty Zane HTML version

Chapter 14
The sun rose red. Its ruddy rays peeped over the eastern hills, kissed the tree-tops,
glinted along the stony bluffs, and chased away the gloom of night from the valley. Its
warm gleams penetrated the portholes of the Fort and cast long bright shadows on the
walls; but it brought little cheer to the sleepless and almost exhausted defenders. If
brought to many of the settlers the familiar old sailor's maxim: "Redness 'a the morning,
sailor's warning." Rising in its crimson glory the sun flooded the valley, dyeing the river,
the leaves, the grass, the stones, tingeing everything with that awful color which stained
the stairs, the benches, the floor, even the portholes of the block-house.
Historians call this the time that tried men's souls. If it tried the men think what it must
have been to those grand, heroic women. Though they had helped the men load and
fire nearly forty-eight hours; though they had worked without a moment's rest and were
now ready to succumb to exhaustion, though the long room was full of stifling smoke
and the sickening odor of burned wood and powder, and though the row of silent,
covered bodies had steadily lengthened, the thought of giving up never occurred to the
women. Death there would be sweet compared to what it would be at the hands of the
At sunrise Silas Zane, bare-chested, his face dark and fierce, strode into the bastion
which was connected with the blockhouse. It was a small shedlike room, and with
portholes opening to the river and the forest. This bastion had seen the severest
fighting. Five men had been killed here. As Silas entered four haggard and powder-
begrimed men, who were kneeling before the portholes, looked up at him. A dead man
lay in one corner.
"Smith's dead. That makes fifteen," said Silas. "Fifteen out of forty-two, that leaves
twenty-seven. We must hold out. Len, don't expose yourselves recklessly. How goes it
at the south bastion?"
"All right. There's been firin' over there all night," answered one of the men. "I guess it's
been kinder warm over that way. But I ain't heard any shootin' for some time."
"Young Bennet is over there, and if the men needed any thing they would send him for
it," answered Silas. "I'll send some food and water. Anything else?"
"Powder. We're nigh out of powder," replied the man addressed. "And we might jes as
well make ready fer a high old time. The red devils hadn't been quiet all this last hour fer
Silas passed along the narrow hallway which led from the bastion into the main room of
the block-house. As he turned the corner at the head of the stairway he encountered a
boy who was dragging himself up the steps.