But Washington would not have him killed. He made him build a camp-fire, and then told him to leave them at once. The Indian did so, and as soon as it was certain that he was out of sight and hearing the two young men set out to make their escape. They knew the Indian would soon come back with others, and that their only chance for life was to push on as fast as they could. The Indians could track them in the snow, but by setting out at once they hoped to get so far ahead that they could not be easily overtaken.
It was already night, and the travellers were weary from their day’s march, but they could not afford to stop or rest. All through the night they toiled on. Morning came, and they must have felt it nearly impossible to drag their weary feet farther, but still they made no halt. On and on they went, and it was not till night came again that they thought it safe at last to stop for the rest and sleep they needed so badly. The strain they had undergone must have been fearful. They were already weary and wayworn when they first met the treacherous Indian, and after that they had toiled through the snow for two days and a night without stopping to rest or daring to refresh themselves with sleep.
Just before reaching their journey’s end they arrived at the brink of a river which they expected to find frozen over; but they found it full of floating ice instead. Without boat or bridge, there seemed no chance of getting across; but after a while they managed to make a rude raft, and upon this they undertook to push themselves across with long poles.
The current was very strong, the raft was hard to manage, and the great fields of ice forced it out of its course. In trying to push it in the right direction, Washington missed his footing and fell into the icy river. His situation was very dangerous, but by a hard struggle he got upon the floating logs again. Still the current swept them along, and they could not reach either shore of the stream.
At last they managed to leap from the logs, not to the bank, but to a small island in the river. There they were very little better off than on the raft. They were on land, it is true, but there was still no way of getting to shore; and as there was nothing on the island to make a fire with, Washington was forced, drenched as he was with ice-water, to pass the long winter night in the open air, without so much as a tiny blaze or a handful of coals by which to warm himself…
by: George Cary Eggleston (1839-1911)
The following short story is reprinted from Strange Stories from History for Young People. George Cary Eggleston. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1885.