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means, to send a letter to the French commander, asking him to desist in trespassing on the domain of the Ohio company. Are you quite willing to undertake the delivery of that letter?”
“It is a mission of great delicacy and will require very careful management.”
Washington, with a smile on his sun-browned, but handsome face, answered:
“I trust, governor, that I appreciate the importance of the mission.”
“You will start at once and mark well the country through which you travel as well as the fortifications and numbers of the enemy.”
Washington was further instructed to repair to Logstown and hold a communication with Tanacharisson, Monacatoocha, Alias Scarooyadi, the next in command, and the other sachems of the mixed tribes friendly to the English, inform them of the purport of his errand and request an escort to the headquarters of the French commander. He was to deliver his letter and the credentials to the French commander and, in the name of his king, demand an answer.
“ Where are you going from here, Major?” Noah asked, when they prepared to set out from Williamsburg.
“I am going to Fredericksburg,” he answered,
“to engage my old fencing-master, Jacob Van Braamı, to accompany me as interpreter.”
“Does he speak the Indian languages?”
“Several of them, and if in addition I can secure Christopher Gist, I shall feel that there will be no danger of our expedition losing its way.”
Jacob Van Braam joined them at Fredericksburg, and they went on to Alexandria, where the major provided himself with necessaries for the journey, and proceeded to Winchester, which was quite on the frontier, where horses, tents and other travelling equipments were procured. Then the little party of daring frontiersmen pushed on into the wilderness by a newly opened road to Miles Creek, where the beardless hero met Mr. Gist, the intrepid pioneer, whom he engaged to accompany him as guide, while John Davidson volunteered to go as an extra interpreter.
With his party all mounted on horses, he commenced a march, which, for boldness and daring, has never had an equal. They endured every hardship incident to a dreary wilderness and the rigors of winter. The streams in the valleys were full 'to the brim. Over the large ones they crossed on frail and rudely constructed rafts, wading and swimming their horses through the floods of the swollen streams.
One morning when Noah Stevens rose from his tent he found the forests white with snow. The atmosphere was heavy and damp, and the solitude of the forest was something appalling. The snow had hidden the dim path which they had followed the day before. Now the smaller trees and bushes were bent and interlaced under the accumulated weight of snow, until travel seemed impossible. The older and more experienced men of the company looked with dismay on their surroundings.
In the heart of the wood, their dim and uncertain path hidden beneath the crushing weight of snow, the horrors of being lost in the forest in midwinter crept over the hearts of some of the boldest. Noah Stevens watched the beardless face of his young commander. Young George Washington was as cool, calm and undaunted as if he had been at the home of his brother. He went aside, talked with Mr. Gist a few moments, and then set up his surveyor's compass. That wonderful needle had aided him before on more than one occasion when he was lost in the forest. After making a short calculation on his field book, he held another brief consultation with Mr. Gist and ordered the explorers to prepare to march.
The march through the snow-covered forest was picturesque. The slightest touch of a branch of tree or bush brought down showers of white flakes. The sky was obscured by slate-colored clouds, and