The Gauntlet Runner
Jacob and Maggie Murray, young Pennsylvania pioneer farmers, are the main characters in this story set against the background of the French and Indian War (1754–63). Jacob, on the promise of a large track of land for a year’s service, enlists with his brother to follow the young Major Washington. Shortly thereafter, the farm is attacked by raiding Indians. They capture Maggie, her children, Jacob’s brother’s wife and children, who live a short distance away, and numerous others and begin a long grueling trip north. The story then shifts to Jacob’s activity with the Army and alternates with descriptions of the journeys that each follow.
The story moves along well, and it is possible to gain some empathy for the characters. Jacob is described as a knowledgeable woodsman, and we’re led to believe he has strong feelings for his brother. In both cases, however, his actions and decisions, both for the moment and for the future, lose some credibility at the story’s end. Similarly, Maggie’s situation and activity are somewhat suspect. The last three paragraphs, presumably meant to indicate a sequel, for this reader are incompatible with what we’ve learned about the village’s residents and its inhabitants. A caveat for more sensitive readers: details of Indian torture are quite graphically described.