Chapter 7 | A Young Hero

Chapter Seven.

It was not till weeks had passed, during which Phil and Dr Martin were shifted from place to place, always strictly guarded, their place being in the misery and discomfort of the baggage train, that the day came when, dirty, ragged, and weary, Phil sat by the side of the Doctor in one of the waggons, watching the marching by of a strong detachment of the little brigade. Dr Martin had tried in vain to send messages, written and by word of mouth, to the Captain, but no one would act as bearer.

Phil, too, had tried his best, but he could hear no news of his father, and there were times when he questioned the Doctor as to whether he thought he had failed to escape on that terrible day when Pierre gave information to the French troops and the long-continued firing of the pursuers had been heard. And so it was for a time that when Phil was tired out after one of the weary marches and no rations were served out, his heart sank and the tears came to his eyes as he believed that he should never see his father again. But, on the other hand, when the sun shone brightly and he was rested and refreshed by the rations that had been served out, he chatted away cheerfully to the Doctor about how he would tell all their adventures to the Captain when he came.

And then that happy day dawned when he sat in the baggage waggon watching the powder-blackened soldiers urging on the horses drawing the heavy guns, followed by a mud-stained tattered regiment, which stepped out smartly, every man looking ready and willing to commence the attack to which he was bound. These passed on and another regiment followed, the sight of the brave fellows sending a thrill through the boy, making him lean out from beneath the waggon tilt to take off his cap and cry hurrah.

The sound of that bright shrill voice cheering the men on made them turn to look whence it came, and at the sight of the waving cap and its excited owner a laugh ran along the ranks and the men cheered again.

The next minute, as the cheer died out and the regular throbbing beat, beat of five hundred marching men went on in regular pulsation, Phil caught sight of an officer riding at the rear of one of the companies, and his voice rang out shrill and clear:

“Dr Martin, here he is at last! Father! Father! Stop!”

The next minute he had leaped down from the side of the waggon and was running towards the passing regiment, the men cheering madly with excitement as they saw their newly-promoted Major draw rein, and the next moment seize the little hands extended to him to be swung up on to the saddle and then cling to the excited officer’s neck. The cheer which had rung out before was as nothing to that which rose again and again as the men saw the little fellow kissing the bearded and convulsed face of their leader as wildly as if there was not a soul in sight; but those cheers drowned the Major’s hoarsely-uttered words:

“Oh, my boy! My boy! What are you doing here?”

“I’m a prisoner, father. That sergeant wouldn’t believe. But it’s all right now. Oh, I am so glad!”

“But Dr Martin?”

“He’s in that waggon,” cried Phil, giving his head a backward jerk, for he was too much excited to look back. “He’s a prisoner too because he’s French. Oh, I do like this. Let me ride here, father. May I hold the reins?”

The Major was silent for a few moments, feeling quite taken aback by the boy’s request.

“May I, father—please?”

“Yes, for a little while,” came the Major’s hoarse words at last; “for a little while, Phil, till I can pull myself together and think what to do. Forward, my lads!” he shouted, as he resumed his place, with the men cheering more wildly than ever as Phil rode with flushed face and sparkling eyes, in happy ignorance of the fact that he, a child in years, was in the ranks of the regiment that a few hours later was to head the advance in the great attack upon Quebec, in which the gallant British General who won Canada for the British Crown gloriously breathed his last.