impatiently drew near to the stockade. Yet, as I began to thread the grove that lies before it I was not so thoughtless but that I slacked my pace and went a trifle warily. It would have been a poor end of my adventures to get shot down by my own party in mistake.
The moon was climbing higher and higher; its light began to fall here and there in masses through the more open districts of the wood; and right in front of me a glow of a different color appeared among the trees. It was red and hot, and now and again it was a little darkened, as it were the embers of a bonfire smoldering.
For the life of me I could not think what it might be.
At last I came right down upon the borders of the clearing. The western end was already steeped in moonshine; the rest, and the blockhouse itself, still lay in a black shadow checkered with long, silvery streaks of light. On the other side of the house an immense fire had burned itself into clear embers and shed a steady, red reverberation, contrasted strongly with the mellow paleness of the moon. There was not a soul stirring, nor a sound beside the noises of the breeze.
I stopped with much wonder in my heart, and perhaps a little terror also. It had not been our way to build great fires; we were, indeed, by the captain's orders, somewhat niggardly of firewood; and I began to fear that something had gone wrong while I was absent.
I stole round by the eastern end, keeping close in shadow, and, at a convenient place, where the darkness was thickest, crossed the palisade.
To make assurance surer I got upon my hands and knees and crawled without a sound toward the corner of the house. As I drew nearer my heart was suddenly and greatly lightened. It is not a pleasant noise in itself, and I have often complained of it at other times, but just then it was like music to hear my friends snoring together so loud and peaceful in their sleep. The sea cry of the watch, that beautiful "All's well," never fell more reassuringly on my ear.