The Hidden Children HTML version

Chapter 5. The Gathering
Now, no sooner had we broken camp, covered our fire, packed, saddled, and mounted,
than all around us, as we advanced, the wilderness began to wear an aspect very different
to that brooding solitude which hitherto had been familiar to us-- our shelter and our
menace also.
For we had proceeded on our deeply-trodden war trail no more than a mile or two before
we encountered the raw evidences of an army's occupation. Everywhere spotted leads,
game trails, and runways had been hacked, trimmed, and widened into more open wood-
walks; foot-paths enlarged to permit the passage of mounted men; cattle-roads cleared,
levelled, made smoother for wagons and artillery; log bridges built across the rapid
streams that darkled westward, swamps and swales paved with logs, and windfalls hewn
in twain and the huge abattis dragged wide apart or burnt to ashes where it lay. Yet, still
the high debris bristling from some fallen forest giant sprawling athwart the highway
often delayed us. Our details had not yet cleared out the road entirely.
We were, however, within a wolf-hound's easy run to Cherry Valley, Fort Hunter, and the
Mohawk-- the outer edges of my own country. Northeast of us lay Schenectady behind its
fort; north of us lay my former home, Guy Park, and near it old Fort Johnson and Johnson
Hall. Farther still to the northward stretched the Vlaie and silvery Sacandaga with its
pretty Fish House settlement now in ashes; and Summer House Point and Fonda's Bush
were but heaps of cinders, too, the brave Broadalbin yeomen prisoners, their women and
children fled to Johnstown, save old man Stoner and his boys, and that Tory villain
Charlie Cady who went off with Sir John.
Truly I should know something of these hills and brooks and forests that we now
traversed, and of the silent, solitary roads that crept into the wilderness, penetrating to
distant, lonely farms or grist mills where some hardy fellow had cleared the bush and
built his cabin on the very borders of that dark and fearsome empire which we were
gathering to enter and destroy.
Here it lay, close on our left flank-- so close that its strange gigantic shadow fell upon us,
like a vast hand, stealthy and chill.
And it was odd, but on the edges of these trackless shades, here, even with fresh
evidences on every side that our own people lately passed this way-- yes, even when we
began to meet or overtake men of our own color-- the stupendous desolation yielded
nothing of its brooding mystery and dumb magnificence.
Westward, the green monotony of trees stretched boundless as an ocean, and as trackless
and uncharted-- gigantic forests in the depths of which twilight had brooded since first
the world was made.