Chapter 3 | A Young Hero

Chapter Three.

Phil was the first to wake in the soft grey morning, to lie listening to a regular sharp tapping made by a busy woodpecker somewhere among the ancient pines; and he wondered some time what it meant and where he was. But a soft deep breath close to his ear made him start round so suddenly that he awoke Dr Martin, who started up looking as surprised as his bed-fellow.

“I couldn’t recollect where I was,” said Phil, “Oh, I am so hungry.”

“And no wonder, my poor boy. There, come and bathe your face with me, and at all costs we must get to some farmhouse and buy or beg our breakfast.”

The bathing was soon at an end, and though disposed to limp a little, Phil stepped out bravely in the direction the Doctor chose, and with such good effect that before long the chimneys of a farmhouse were seen, for which they made at once.

“Cows,” said Phil, eagerly, “and a man milking.”

It was as the little fellow said, for half a dozen cows were dreamily munching grass, while a sour-looking man was seated upon a stool. Dr Martin walked up at once, the man being so intent upon the milking that he did not raise his head till the Doctor spoke, when he started so violently that he nearly overset the pail.

“Who are you? What is it?” he cried.

“We are travellers, and hungry,” replied the Doctor, in French. “Will you sell us some—”

He got no farther.

“Here, I know you, sir. You are the English spy, old Martin’s friend, who came to live with him, and that is the boy. I know you and what you have done. You have brought the English here to take the place.”

“Indeed you wrong me, sir,” cried the Doctor, humbly. “It is a mistake.”

“A mistake,” cried the man, furiously. “You’ll soon find out that it is, for you and the English cub. Our soldiers were here looking for you last night. I know where they are now.”

“I cannot help it,” said the Doctor, sadly. “The poor boy is starving; he has eaten nothing since breakfast yesterday. I will pay you well, sir, for all you sell me.”

“I sell to a spy? Never a bit nor a drop.”

He shouted his words in the Canadian-French patois, opening a big knife in a threatening manner.

“Indeed you are mistaken, sir. Pray sell us bread and milk, for the poor boy’s sake. He is starving.”

“Let him starve in prison then. Off with you—off!”

He advanced upon them with so fierce a gesture that the Doctor caught Phil’s arm, thrust him behind so as to screen him from danger, and then backed away.

“My poor boy,” he groaned, pressing Phil closer to him. “It is like being in an enemy’s land—and one of my own countrymen too.”

“He must be a friend of Pierre,” said Phil. “Oh, Dr Martin, this is not like a holiday. What shall we do?”

“Pray, boy, that all Frenchmen are not so stony-hearted. There, there, be brave; we shall find others yet who will not treat you so, and—”

“Hist!—Stop!” came from a clump of trees on their right.

“Who spoke?” said Phil, with a wondering look.

“I. Come here, out of sight of the house,” and the next minute the wanderers were gazing excitedly at a ruddy-cheeked girl, who stood before them with a big jug in one hand, a basket in the other.

“Who are you?” said the Doctor, eagerly.

“His girl,” was the hurried reply. “Father is so angry with the English. He wants to go and fight them. Here, boy, bread and milk. Take them, and go right away. Father must not know. He would beat me.”

“Bless you for your goodness,” cried the Doctor, with the tears rising to his eyes.

“It was not for you,” said the girl, angrily. “I hate you for bringing the English here. It was for him. I could not bear to see him hungry and in want. I could not have eaten my own breakfast if I had. Will you kiss me, dear?” she said, softly, as she bent down, and thrust the basket and pitcher in Phil’s hands. “I had a little brother once so like you. He is dead though, and—”

She uttered a sob, and the tears that ran down her cheeks remained on Phil’s face as he raised his lips to hers. The next minute she was running in and out amongst the trees back towards the farm, leaving Phil’s eyes wet as well, as he stood looking after her till she was out of sight.

“Come, boy,” said the Doctor, huskily, “drink—drink heartily. Let me open the basket. What is in it! Hot bread-cakes. She must have been up early to have made these. Come, Phil, boy; be brave. We must meet with sharp stones in every path; but there are flowers too. Drink and eat. It is going to be a grand holiday after all.”