When the vessel had left the land behind, Alexander began to look about him. He soon knew the sailors by name, and they all grew very fond of him. His best friend was a Scotch pilot who had been in service for many years. This old pilot told Alexander how King George of England had sent armies across the sea to help the Americans fight the French.
"Those Frenchmen wanted the earth," he said. "They first wanted the coast of Maine, and then they wanted the beaver lands on the great river called the Ohio. And never a bit would they let the British trade for the furs of the Injuns. Every man knows that the land belonged to the king; and his majesty sent over the pick of his armies to fight for it."
Then he told how the French forts on the Ohio had been taken by the British General Forbes and a "likely American lad" by the name of George Washington, and how the forts along the St. Lawrence had been seized by the brave General Wolfe and his army; and how, at last, the British had gained the great fresh water lakes in the north, and all the land along the Ohio.
The old man had his own ideas about the people who lived in the colonies.
"I cannot well make out these Americans," he said. "They're a headstrong lot, laddie. They've made trouble from the first; and, now they've had a hand fighting the French, they're pesky ready to fall upon the king's troops sent over to keep them in order."
And while the old tar pulled away at his wheel, he told how the Americans would not consent to be taxed by Parliament; how Patrick Henry, a bold young man in Virginia, had defied the king in open meeting about a stamp tax, and how Boston and other cities had refused to buy any more goods from British merchants till the tax was taken off.
"It makes bad shipping business, laddie," he groaned; "and it's all bad from the beginning of it, and I know you'll say so yourself when you see the carryings on.
"They call themselves 'Sons of Liberty,' and have big meetings on the green, and they do a power of speaking and reading newspapers instead of smoking their pipes and keeping the peace.
"Last year, at Boston, when the king's troops stood in the streets to keep the rascals quiet, the folk came and hooted at them, and would not go home; and the troops fired the guns, and killed two or three of the men.
"And Samuel Adams, a very bold man, with the whole town at his back, ordered the king's troops out of Boston. Think of that, laddie!
"The king's officers wanted orders from the king before they put the bayonets to the throats of the villains; so they took the troops to an island in the harbor; and there they are to-day, keeping close watch on the town. I think we'll see their bayonets shining when we sail up the bay."
Alexander made up his mind that the Americans must be very wicked indeed. On the island of Nevis, no one said a word against the great king of England who sat on a throne.
Alexander learned all he could about the Americans. He was almost afraid to go to a country where men were bold enough to defy King George's grenadiers.
The ship plunged slowly along towards his new home.
One night he heard the cry of "Fire! fire!" He ran to the hatchway. The deck was in a red glare of light. The sailors were running to and fro with buckets of water. Everybody thought the vessel would be destroyed, but at last the fire was put out.
A few days later, the ship passed an island where long lines of soldiers in red coats were marching. The bayonets gleamed in the sunshine, and the voices of the captains rang over the water as they gave their commands.
"There they are, sure enough, laddie," said the old Scotch pilot. "The king's troops are waiting, and watching the town of Boston!"
And when Alexander saw the steeples of the city, he wondered if the king's troops would ever march again into Boston with their bayonets fixed.