Part 2 out of 6
mischievously, her eyes twinkling. "Don't you think so, Lydia?"
"Of course," answered Lydia. "When I get blue--"
"Please spare me," interrupted Betty, holding up her hands in
protest. "I have not a single doubt that your masculine remedies are
sufficient for all your ills. Girls who have lost their interest in
the old pleasures, who spend their spare time in making linen and
quilts, and who have sunk their very personalities in a great big
tyrant of a man, are not liable to get blue. They are afraid he may
see a tear or a frown. But thank goodness, I have not yet reached
"Oh, Betty Zane! Just you wait! Wait!" exclaimed Lydia, shaking her
finger at Betty. "Your turn is coming. When it does do not expect
any mercy from us, for you shalt never get it."
"Unfortunately, you and Alice have monopolized the attentions of the
only two eligible young men at the fort," said Betty, with a laugh.
"Nonsense there plenty of young men all eager for our favor, you
little coquette," answered Lydia. "Harry Martin, Will Metzer,
Captain Swearengen, of Short Creek, and others too numerous to
count. Look at Lew Wetzel and Billy Bennet."
"Lew cares for nothing except hunting Indians and Billy's only a
boy," said Betty.
"Well, have it your own way," said Lydia. "Only this, I know Billy
adores you, for he told me so, and a better lad never lived."
"Lyde, you forget to include one other among those prostrate before
Betty's charms," said Alice.
"Oh, yes, you mean Mr. Clarke. To be sure, I had forgotten him,"
answered Lydia. "How odd that he should be the one to find you the
day you hurt your foot. Was it an accident?"
"Of course. I slipped off the bank," said Betty.
"No, no. I don't mean that. Was his finding you an accident?"
"Do you imagine I waylaid Mr. Clarke, and then sprained my ankle on
purpose?" said Betty, who began to look dangerous.
"Certainly not that; only it seems so odd that he should be the one
to rescue all the damsels in distress. Day before yesterday he
stopped a runaway horse, and saved Nell Metzer who was in the wagon,
a severe shaking up, if not something more serious. She is
desperately in love with him. She told me Mr. Clarke--"
"I really do not care to hear about it," interrupted Betty.
"But, Betty, tell us. Wasn't it dreadful, his carrying you?" asked
Alice, with a sly glance at Betty. "You know you are so--so prudish,
one may say. Did he take you in his arms? It must have been very
embarrassing for you, considering your dislike of Mr. Clarke, and
he so much in love with--"
"You hateful girls," cried Betty, throwing a pillow at Alice, who
just managed to dodge it. "I wish you would go home."
"Never mind, Betty. We will not tease anymore," said Lydia, putting
her arm around Betty. "Come, Alice, we will tell Betty you have
named the day for your wedding. See! She is all eyes now."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The young people of the frontier settlements were usually married
before they were twenty. This was owing to the fact that there was
little distinction of rank and family pride. The object of the
pioneers in moving West was, of course, to better their condition;
but, the realization of their dependence on one another, the common
cause of their labors, and the terrible dangers to which they were
continually exposed, brought them together as one large family.
Therefore, early love affairs were encouraged--not frowned upon as
they are to-day--and they usually resulted in early marriages.
However, do not let it be imagined that the path of the youthful
swain was strewn with flowers. Courting or "sparking" his sweetheart
had a painful as well as a joyous side. Many and varied were the
tricks played on the fortunate lover by the gallants who had vied
with him for the favor of the maid. Brave, indeed, he who won her.
If he marched up to her home in the early evening he was made the
object of innumerable jests, even the young lady's family indulging
in and enjoying the banter. Later, when he come out of the door, it
was more than likely that, if it were winter, he would be met by a
volley of water soaked snowballs, or big buckets of icewater, or a
mountain of snow shoved off the roof by some trickster, who had
waited patiently for such an opportunity. On summer nights his horse
would be stolen, led far into the woods and tied, or the wheels of
his wagon would be taken off and hidden, leaving him to walk home.
Usually the successful lover, and especially if he lived at a
distance, would make his way only once a week and then late at night
to the home of his betrothed. Silently, like a thief in the dark, he
would crawl through the grass and shrubs until beneath her window.
At a low signal, prearranged between them, she would slip to the
door and let him in without disturbing the parents. Fearing to make
a light, and perhaps welcoming that excuse to enjoy the darkness
beloved by sweethearts, they would sit quietly, whispering low,
until the brightening in the east betokened the break of day, and
then he was off, happy and lighthearted, to his labors.
A wedding was looked forward to with much pleasure by old and young.
Practically, it meant the only gathering of the settlers which was
not accompanied by the work of reaping the harvest, building a
cabin, planning an expedition to relieve some distant settlement, or
a defense for themselves. For all, it meant a rollicking good time;
to the old people a feast, and the looking on at the merriment of
their children--to the young folk, a pleasing break in the monotony
of their busy lives, a day given up to fun and gossip, a day of
romance, a wedding, and best of all, a dance. Therefore Alice
Reynold's wedding proved a great event to the inhabitants of Fort
The day dawned bright and clear. The sun, rising like a ball of red
gold, cast its yellow beams over the bare, brown hills, shining on
the cabin roofs white with frost, and making the delicate weblike
coat of ice on the river sparkle as if it had been sprinkled with
powdered diamonds. William Martin, the groom, and his attendants,
met at an appointed time to celebrate an old time-honored custom
which always took place before the party started for the house of
the bride. This performance was called "the race for the bottle."
A number of young men, selected by the groom, were asked to take
part in this race, which was to be run over as rough and dangerous a
track as could be found. The worse the road, the more ditches, bogs,
trees, stumps, brush, in fact, the more obstacles of every kind, the
better, as all these afforded opportunity for daring and expert
horsemanship. The English fox race, now famous on three continents,
while it involves risk and is sometimes dangerous, cannot, in the
sense of hazard to life and limb, be compared to this race for the
On this day the run was not less exciting than usual. The horses
were placed as nearly abreast as possible and the starter gave an
Indian yell. Then followed the cracking of whips, the furious
pounding of heavy hoofs, the commands of the contestants, and the
yells of the onlookers. Away they went at a mad pace down the road.
The course extended a mile straight away down the creek bottom. The
first hundred yards the horses were bunched. At the ditch beyond the
creek bridge a beautiful, clean limbed animal darted from among the
furiously galloping horses and sailed over the deep furrow like a
bird. All recognized the rider as Alfred Clarke on his black
thoroughbred. Close behind was George Martin mounted on a large roan
of powerful frame and long stride. Through the willows they dashed,
over logs and brush heaps, up the little ridges of rising ground,
and down the shallow gullies, unheeding the stinging branches and
the splashing water. Half the distance covered and Alfred turned, to
find the roan close behind. On a level road he would have laughed at
the attempt of that horse to keep up with his racer, but he was
beginning to fear that the strong limbed stallion deserved his
reputation. Directly before them rose a pile of logs and matted
brush, placed there by the daredevil settlers who had mapped out the
route. It was too high for any horse to be put at. With pale cheek
and clinched teeth Alfred touched the spurs to Roger and then threw
himself forward. The gallant beast responded nobly. Up, up, up he
rose, clearing all but the topmost branches. Alfred turned again and
saw the giant roan make the leap without touching a twig. The next
instant Roger went splash into a swamp. He sank to his knees in the
soft black soil. He could move but one foot at a time, and Alfred
saw at a glance he had won the race. The great weight of the roan
handicapped him here. When Alfred reached the other side of the bog,
where the bottle was swinging from a branch of a tree, his rival's
horse was floundering hopelessly in the middle of the treacherous
mire. The remaining three horsemen, who had come up by this time,
seeing that it would be useless to attempt further efforts, had
drawn up on the bank. With friendly shouts to Clarke, they
acknowledged themselves beaten. There were no judges required for
this race, because the man who reached the bottle first won it.
The five men returned to the starting point, where the victor was
greeted by loud whoops. The groom got the first drink from the
bottle, then came the attendants, and others in order, after which
the bottle was put away to be kept as a memento of the occasion.
The party now repaired to the village and marched to the home of the
bride. The hour for the observance of the marriage rites was just
before the midday meal. When the groom reached the bride's home he
found her in readiness. Sweet and pretty Alice looked in her gray
linsey gown, perfectly plain and simple though it was, without an
ornament or a ribbon. Proud indeed looked her lover as he took her
hand and led her up to the waiting minister. When the whisperings
had ceased the minister asked who gave this woman to be married.
Alice's father answered.
"Will you take this woman to be your wedded wife, to love, cherish
and protect her all the days of her life?" asked the minister.
"I will," answered a deep bass voice.
"Will you take this man to be your wedded husband, to love, honor
and obey him all the days of your life?"
"I will," said Alice, in a low tone.
"I pronounce you man and wife. Those whom God has joined together
let no man put asunder."
There was a brief prayer and the ceremony ended. Then followed the
congratulations of relatives and friends. The felicitations were apt
to be trying to the nerves of even the best tempered groom. The hand
shakes, the heavy slaps on the back, and the pommeling he received
at the hands of his intimate friends were as nothing compared to the
anguish of mind he endured while they were kissing his wife. The
young bucks would not have considered it a real wedding had they
been prevented from kissing the bride, and for that matter, every
girl within reach. So fast as the burly young settlers could push
themselves through the densely packed rooms they kissed the bride,
and then the first girl they came to.
Betty and Lydia had been Alice's maids of honor. This being Betty's
first experience at a frontier wedding, it developed that she was
much in need of Lydia's advice, which she had previously disdained.
She had rested secure in her dignity. Poor Betty! The first man to
kiss Alice was George Martin, a big, strong fellow, who gathered his
brother's bride into his arms and gave her a bearish hug and a
resounding kiss. Releasing her he turned toward Lydia and Betty.
Lydia eluded him, but one of his great hands clasped around Betty's
wrist. She tried to look haughty, but with everyone laughing, and
the young man's face expressive of honest fun and happiness she
found it impossible. She stood still and only turned her face a
little to one side while George kissed her. The young men now made a
rush for her. With blushing cheeks Betty, unable to stand her ground
any longer, ran to her brother, the Colonel. He pushed her away with
a laugh. She turned to Major McColloch, who held out his arms to
her. With an exclamation she wrenched herself free from a young man,
who had caught her hand, and flew to the Major. But alas for Betty!
The Major was not proof against the temptation and he kissed her
"Traitor!" cried Betty, breaking away from him.
Poor Betty was in despair. She had just made up her mind to submit
when she caught sight of Wetzel's familiar figure. She ran to him
and the hunter put one of his long arms around her.
"I reckon I kin take care of you, Betty," he said, a smile playing
over his usually stern face. "See here, you young bucks. Betty don't
want to be kissed, and if you keep on pesterin' her I'll have to
scalp a few of you."
The merriment grew as the day progressed. During the wedding feast
great hilarity prevailed. It culminated in the dance which followed
the dinner. The long room of the block-house had been decorated with
evergreens, autumn leaves and goldenrod, which were scattered
profusely about, hiding the blackened walls and bare rafters.
Numerous blazing pine knots, fastened on sticks which were stuck
into the walls, lighted up a scene, which for color and animation
could not have been surpassed.
Colonel Zane's old slave, Sam, who furnished the music, sat on a
raised platform at the upper end of the hall, and the way he sawed
away on his fiddle, accompanying the movements of his arm with a
swaying of his body and a stamping of his heavy foot, showed he had
a hearty appreciation of his own value.
Prominent among the men and women standing and sitting near the
platform could be distinguished the tall forms of Jonathan Zane,
Major McColloch and Wetzel, all, as usual, dressed in their hunting
costumes and carrying long rifles. The other men had made more or
less effort to improve their appearance. Bright homespun shirts and
scarfs had replaced the everyday buckskin garments. Major McColloch
was talking to Colonel Zane. The genial faces of both reflected the
pleasure they felt in the enjoyment of the younger people. Jonathan
Zane stood near the door. Moody and silent he watched the dance.
Wetzel leaned against the wall. The black barrel of his rifle lay in
the hollow of his arm. The hunter was gravely contemplating the
members of the bridal party who were dancing in front of him. When
the dance ended Lydia and Betty stopped before Wetzel and Betty
said: "Lew, aren't you going to ask us to dance?"
The hunter looked down into the happy, gleaming faces, and smiling
in his half sad way, answered: "Every man to his gifts."
"But you can dance. I want you to put aside your gun long enough to
dance with me. If I waited for you to ask me, I fear I should have
to wait a long time. Come, Lew, here I am asking you, and I know the
other men are dying to dance with me," said Betty, coaxingly, in a
Wetzel never refused a request of Betty's, and so, laying aside his
weapons, he danced with her, to the wonder and admiration of all.
Colonel Zane clapped his hands, and everyone stared in amazement at
the unprecedented sight Wetzel danced not ungracefully. He was
wonderfully light on his feet. His striking figure, the long black
hair, and the fancifully embroidered costume he wore contrasted
strangely with Betty's slender, graceful form and pretty gray dress.
"Well, well, Lewis, I would not have believed anything but the
evidence of my own eyes," said Colonel Zane, with a laugh, as Betty
and Wetzel approached him.
"If all the men could dance as well as Lew, the girls would be
thankful, I can assure you," said Betty.
"Betty, I declare you grow prettier every day," said old John
Bennet, who was standing with the Colonel and the Major. "If I were
only a young man once more I should try my chances with you, and I
wouldn't give up very easily."
"I do not know, Uncle John, but I am inclined to think that if you
were a young man and should come a-wooing you would not get a rebuff
from me," answered Betty, smiling on the old man, of whom she was
"Miss Zane, will you dance with me?"
The voice sounded close by Betty's side. She recognized it, and an
unaccountable sensation of shyness suddenly came over her. She had
firmly made up her mind, should Mr. Clarke ask her to dance, that
she would tell him she was tired, or engaged for that
number--anything so that she could avoid dancing with him. But, now
that the moment had come she either forgot her resolution or lacked
the courage to keep it, for as the music commenced, she turned and
without saying a word or looking at him, she placed her hand on his
arm. He whirled her away. She gave a start of surprise and delight
at the familiar step and then gave herself up to the charm of the
dance. Supported by his strong arm she floated around the room in a
sort of dream. Dancing as they did was new to the young people at
the Fort--it was a style then in vogue in the east--and everyone
looked on with great interest and curiosity. But all too soon the
dance ended and before Betty had recovered her composure she found
that her partner had led her to a secluded seat in the lower end of
the hall. The bench was partly obscured from the dancers by masses
of autumn leaves. "That was a very pleasant dance," said Alfred.
"Miss Boggs told me you danced the round dance."
"I was much surprised and pleased," said Betty, who had indeed
"It has been a delightful day," went on Alfred, seeing that Betty
was still confused. "I almost killed myself in that race for the
bottle this morning. I never saw such logs and brush heaps and
ditches in my life. I am sure that if the fever of recklessness
which seemed in the air had not suddenly seized me I would never
have put my horse at such leaps."
"I heard my brother say your horse was one of the best he had ever
seen, and that you rode superbly," murmured Betty.
"Well, to be honest, I would not care to take that ride again. It
certainly was not fair to the horse."
"How do you like the fort by this time?"
"Miss Zane, I am learning to love this free, wild life. I really
think I was made for the frontier. The odd customs and manners which
seemed strange at first have become very acceptable to me now. I
find everyone so honest and simple and brave. Here one must work to
live, which is right. Do you know, I never worked in my life until I
came to Fort Henry. My life was all uselessness, idleness."
"I can hardly believe that," answered Betty. "You have learned to
dance and ride and--"
"What?" asked Alfred, as Betty hesitated.
"Never mind. It was an accomplishment with which the girls credited
you," said Betty, with a little laugh.
"I suppose I did not deserve it. I heard I had a singular aptitude
for discovering young ladies in distress."
"Have you become well acquainted with the boys?" asked Betty,
hastening to change the subject.
"Oh, yes, particularly with your Indianized brother, Isaac. He is
the finest fellow, as well as the most interesting, I ever knew. I
like Colonel Zane immensely too. The dark, quiet fellow, Jack, or
John, they call him, is not like your other brothers. The hunter,
Wetzel, inspires me with awe. Everyone has been most kind to me and
I have almost forgotten that I was a wanderer."
"I am glad to hear that," said Betty.
"Miss Zane," continued Alfred, "doubtless you have heard that I came
West because I was compelled to leave my home. Please do not believe
everything you hear of me. Some day I may tell you my story if you
care to hear it. Suffice it to say now that I left my home of my own
free will and I could go back to-morrow."
"I did not mean to imply--" began Betty, coloring.
"Of course not. But tell me about yourself. Is it not rather dull
and lonesome here for you?"
"It was last winter. But I have been contented and happy this
summer. Of course, it is not Philadelphia life, and I miss the
excitement and gayety of my uncle's house. I knew my place was with
my brothers. My aunt pleaded with me to live with her and not go to
the wilderness. I had everything I wanted there--luxury, society,
parties, balls, dances, friends--all that the heart of a girl could
desire, but I preferred to come to this little frontier settlement.
Strange choice for a girl, was it not?"
"Unusual, yes," answered Alfred, gravely. "And I cannot but wonder
what motives actuated our coming to Fort Henry. I came to seek my
fortune. You came to bring sunshine into the home of your brother,
and left your fortune behind you. Well, your motive has the element
of nobility. Mine has nothing but that of recklessness. I would like
to read the future."
"I do not think it is right to have such a wish. With the veil
rolled away could you work as hard, accomplish as much? I do not
want to know the future. Perhaps some of it will be unhappy. I have
made my choice and will cheerfully abide by it. I rather envy your
being a man. You have the world to conquer. A woman--what can she
do? She can knead the dough, ply the distaff, and sit by the lattice
and watch and wait."
"Let us postpone such melancholy thoughts until some future day. I
have not as yet said anything that I intended. I wish to tell you
how sorry I am that I acted in such a rude way the night your
brother came home. I do not know what made me do so, but I know I
have regretted it ever since. Will you forgive me and may we not be
"I--I do not know," said Betty, surprised and vaguely troubled by
the earnest light in his eyes.
"But why? Surely you will make some little allowance for a naturally
quick temper, and you know you did not--that you were--"
"Yes, I remember I was hasty and unkind. But I made amends, or at
least, I tried to do so."
"Try to overlook my stupidity. I will not give up until you forgive
me. Consider how much you can avoid by being generous."
"Very well, then, I will forgive you," said Betty, who had arrived
at the conclusion that this young man was one of determination.
"Thank you. I promise you shall never regret it. And the sprained
ankle? It must be well, as I noticed you danced beautifully."
"I am compelled to believe what the girls say--that you are inclined
to the language of compliment. My ankle is nearly well, thank you.
It hurts a little now and then."
"Speaking of your accident reminds me of the day it happened," said
Alfred, watching her closely. He desired to tease her a little, but
he was not sure of his ground. "I had been all day in the woods with
nothing but my thoughts--mostly unhappy ones--for company. When I
met you I pretended to be surprised. As a matter of fact I was not,
for I had followed your dog. He took a liking to me and I was
extremely pleased, I assure you. Well, I saw your face a moment
before you knew I was as near you. When you heard my footsteps you
turned with a relieved and joyous cry. When you saw whom it was your
glad expression changed, and if I had been a hostile Wyandot you
could not have looked more unfriendly. Such a woeful, tear-stained
face I never saw."
"Mr. Clarke, please do not speak any more of that," said Betty with
dignity. "I desire that you forget it."
"I will forget all except that it was I who had the happiness of
finding you and of helping you. I cannot forget that. I am sure we
should never have been friends but for that accident."
"There is Isaac. He is looking for me," answered Betty, rising.
"Wait a moment longer--please. He will find you," said Alfred,
detaining her. "Since you have been so kind I have grown bolder. May
I come over to see you to-morrow?"
He looked straight down into the dark eyes which wavered and fell
before he had completed his question.
"There is Isaac. He cannot see me here. I must go."
"But not before telling me. What is the good of your forgiving me if
I may not see you. Please say yes."
"You may come," answered Betty, half amused and half provoked at his
persistence. "I should think you would know that such permission
invariably goes with a young woman's forgiveness."
"Hello, here you are. What a time I have had in finding you," said
Isaac, coming up with flushed face and eyes bright with excitement.
"Alfred, what do you mean by hiding the belle of the dance away like
this? I want to dance with you, Betts. I am having a fine time. I
have not danced anything but Indian dances for ages. Sorry to take
her away, Alfred. I can see she doesn't want to go. Ha! Ha!" and
with a mischievous look at both of them he led Betty away.
Alfred kept his seat awhile lost in thought. Suddenly he remembered
that it would look strange if he did not make himself agreeable, so
he got up and found a partner. He danced with Alice, Lydia, and the
other young ladies. After an hour he slipped away to his room. He
wished to be alone. He wanted to think; to decide whether it would
be best for him to stay at the fort, or ride away in the darkness
and never return. With the friendly touch of Betty's hand the
madness with which he had been battling for weeks rushed over him
stronger than ever. The thrill of that soft little palm remained
with him, and he pressed the hand it had touched to his lips.
For a long hour he sat by his window. He could dimly see the broad
winding river, with its curtain of pale gray mist, and beyond, the
dark outline of the forest. A cool breeze from the water fanned his
heated brow, and the quiet and solitude soothed him.
"Good morning, Harry. Where are you going so early?" called Betty
from the doorway.
A lad was passing down the path in front of Colonel Zane's house as
Betty hailed him. He carried a rifle almost as long as himself.
"Mornin', Betty. I am goin' 'cross the crick fer that turkey I hear
gobblin'," he answered, stopping at the gate and smiling brightly at
"Hello, Harry Bennet. Going after that turkey? I have heard him
several mornings and he must be a big, healthy gobbler," said
Colonel Zane, stepping to the door. "You are going to have company.
Here comes Wetzel."
"Good morning, Lew. Are you too off on a turkey hunt?" said Betty.
"Listen," said the hunter, as he stopped and leaned against the
gate. They listened. All was quiet save for the tinkle of a cow-bell
in the pasture adjoining the Colonel's barn. Presently the silence
was broken by a long, shrill, peculiar cry.
"Chug-a-lug, chug-a-lug, chug-a-lug, chug-a-lug-chug."
"Well, it's a turkey, all right, and I'll bet a big gobbler,"
remarked Colonel Zane, as the cry ceased.
"Has Jonathan heard it?" asked Wetzel.
"Not that I know of. Why do you ask?" said the Colonel, in a low
tone. "Look here, Lew, is that not a genuine call?"
"Goodbye, Harry, be sure and bring me a turkey," called Betty, as
"I calkilate it's a real turkey," answered the hunter, and motioning
the lad to stay behind, he shouldered his rifle and passed swiftly
down the path.
Of all the Wetzel family--a family noted from one end of the
frontier to the other--Lewis was as the most famous.
The early history of West Virginia and Ohio is replete with the
daring deeds of this wilderness roamer, this lone hunter and
insatiable Nemesis, justly called the greatest Indian slayer known
When Lewis was about twenty years old, and his brothers John and
Martin little older, they left their Virginia home for a protracted
hunt. On their return they found the smoking ruins of the home, the
mangled remains of father and mother, the naked and violated bodies
of their sisters, and the scalped and bleeding corpse of a baby
Lewis Wetzel swore sleepless and eternal vengeance on the whole
Indian race. Terribly did he carry out that resolution. From that
time forward he lived most of the time in the woods, and an Indian
who crossed his trail was a doomed man. The various Indian tribes
gave him different names. The Shawnees called him "Long Knife;" the
Hurons, "Destroyer;" the Delawares, "Death Wind," and any one of
these names would chill the heart of the stoutest warrior.
To most of the famed pioneer hunters of the border, Indian fighting
was only a side issue--generally a necessary one--but with Wetzel it
was the business of his life. He lived solely to kill Indians. He
plunged recklessly into the strife, and was never content unless
roaming the wilderness solitudes, trailing the savages to their very
homes and ambushing the village bridlepath like a panther waiting
for his prey. Often in the gray of the morning the Indians, sleeping
around their camp fire, were awakened by a horrible, screeching
yell. They started up in terror only to fall victims to the tomahawk
of their merciless foe, or to hear a rifle shot and get a glimpse of
a form with flying black hair disappearing with wonderful quickness
in the forest. Wetzel always left death behind him, and he was gone
before his demoniac yell ceased to echo throughout the woods.
Although often pursued, he invariably eluded the Indians, for he was
the fleetest runner on the border.
For many years he was considered the right hand of the defense of
the fort. The Indians held him in superstitious dread, and the fact
that he was known to be in the settlement had averted more than one
attack by the Indians.
Many regarded Wetzel as a savage, a man who was mad for the blood of
the red men, and without one redeeming quality. But this was an
unjust opinion. When that restless fever for revenge left him--it
was not always with him--he was quiet and peaceable. To those few
who knew him well he was even amiable. But Wetzel, although known to
everyone, cared for few. He spent little time in the settlements and
rarely spoke except when addressed.
Nature had singularly fitted him for his pre-eminent position among
scouts and hunters. He was tall and broad across the shoulders; his
strength, agility and endurance were marvelous; he had an eagle eye,
the sagacity of the bloodhound, and that intuitive knowledge which
plays such an important part in a hunter's life. He knew not fear.
He was daring where daring was the wiser part. Crafty, tireless and
implacable, Wetzel was incomparable in his vocation.
His long raven-black hair, of which he was vain, when combed out
reached to within a foot of the ground. He had a rare scalp, one for
which the Indians would have bartered anything.
A favorite Indian decoy, and the most fatal one, was the imitation
of the call of the wild turkey. It had often happened that men from
the settlements who had gone out for a turkey which had been
gobbling, had not returned.
For several mornings Wetzel had heard a turkey call, and becoming
suspicious of it, had determined to satisfy himself. On the east
side of the creek hill there was a cavern some fifty or sixty yards
above the water. The entrance to this cavern was concealed by vines
and foliage. Wetzel knew of it, and, crossing the stream some
distance above, he made a wide circuit and came up back of the cave.
Here he concealed himself in a clump of bushes and waited. He had
not been there long when directly below him sounded the cry,
"Chug-a-lug, Chug-a-lug, Chug-a-lug." At the same time the polished
head and brawny shoulders of an Indian warrior rose out of the
cavern. Peering cautiously around, the savage again gave the
peculiar cry, and then sank back out of sight. Wetzel screened
himself safely in his position and watched the savage repeat the
action at least ten times before he made up his mind that the Indian
was alone in the cave. When he had satisfied himself of this he took
a quick aim at the twisted tuft of hair and fired. Without waiting
to see the result of his shot--so well did he trust his unerring
aim--he climbed down the steep bank and brushing aside the vines
entered the cave. A stalwart Indian lay in the entrance with his
face pressed down on the vines. He still clutched in his sinewy
fingers the buckhorn mouthpiece with which he had made the calls
that had resulted in his death.
"Huron," muttered the hunter to himself as he ran the keen edge of
his knife around the twisted tuft of hair and tore off the
The cave showed evidence of having been inhabited for some time.
There was a cunningly contrived fireplace made of stones, against
which pieces of birch bark were placed in such a position that not a
ray of light could get out of the cavern. The bed of black coals
between the stones still smoked; a quantity of parched corn lay on a
little rocky shelf which jutted out from the wall; a piece of jerked
meat and a buckskin pouch hung from a peg.
Suddenly Wetzel dropped on his knees and began examining the
footprints in the sandy floor of the cavern. He measured the length
and width of the dead warrior's foot. He closely scrutinized every
moccasin print. He crawled to the opening of the cavern and
carefully surveyed the moss.
Then he rose to his feet. A remarkable transformation had come over
him during the last few moments. His face had changed; the calm
expression was replaced by one sullen and fierce: his lips were set
in a thin, cruel line, and a strange light glittered in his eyes.
He slowly pursued a course lending gradually down to the creek. At
intervals he would stop and listen. The strange voices of the woods
were not mysteries to him. They were more familiar to him than the
voices of men.
He recalled that, while on his circuit over the ridge to get behind
the cavern, he had heard the report of a rifle far off in the
direction of the chestnut grove, but, as that was a favorite place
of the settlers for shooting squirrels, he had not thought anything
of it at the time. Now it had a peculiar significance. He turned
abruptly from the trail he had been following and plunged down the
steep hill. Crossing the creek he took to the cover of the willows,
which grew profusely along the banks, and striking a sort of bridle
path he started on a run. He ran easily, as though accustomed to
that mode of travel, and his long strides covered a couple of miles
in short order. Coming to the rugged bluff, which marked the end of
the ridge, he stopped and walked slowly along the edge of the water.
He struck the trail of the Indians where it crossed the creek, just
where he expected. There were several moccasin tracks in the wet
sand and, in some of the depressions made by the heels the rounded
edges of the imprints were still smooth and intact. The little pools
of muddy water, which still lay in these hollows, were other
indications to his keen eyes that the Indians had passed this point
early that morning.
The trail led up the hill and far into the woods. Never in doubt the
hunter kept on his course; like a shadow he passed from tree to tree
and from bush to bush; silently, cautiously, but rapidly he followed
the tracks of the Indians. When he had penetrated the dark backwoods
of the Black Forest tangled underbrush, windfalls and gullies
crossed his path and rendered fast trailing impossible. Before these
almost impassible barriers he stopped and peered on all sides,
studying the lay of the land, the deadfalls, the gorges, and all the
time keeping in mind the probable route of the redskins. Then he
turned aside to avoid the roughest travelling. Sometimes these
detours were only a few hundred feet long; often they were miles;
but nearly always he struck the trail again. This almost superhuman
knowledge of the Indian's ways of traversing the forest, which
probably no man could have possessed without giving his life to the
hunting of Indians, was the one feature of Wetzel's woodcraft which
placed him so far above other hunters, and made him so dreaded by
Descending a knoll he entered a glade where the trees grew farther
apart and the underbrush was only knee high. The black soil showed
that the tract of land had been burned over. On the banks of a
babbling brook which wound its way through this open space, the
hunter found tracks which brought an exclamation from him. Clearly
defined in the soft earth was the impress of a white man's moccasin.
The footprints of an Indian toe inward. Those of a white man are
just the opposite. A little farther on Wetzel came to a slight
crushing of the moss, where he concluded some heavy body had fallen.
As he had seen the tracks of a buck and doe all the way down the
brook he thought it probable one of them had been shot by the white
hunter. He found a pool of blood surrounded by moccasin prints; and
from that spot the trail led straight toward the west, showing that
for some reason the Indians had changed their direction.
This new move puzzled the hunter, and he leaned against the trunk of
a tree, while he revolved in his mind the reasons for this abrupt
departure--for such he believed it. The trail he had followed for
miles was the devious trail of hunting Indians, stealing slowly and
stealthily along watching for their prey, whether it be man or
beast. The trail toward the west was straight as the crow flies; the
moccasin prints that indented the soil were wide apart, and to an
inexperienced eye looked like the track of one Indian. To Wetzel
this indicated that the Indians had all stepped in the tracks of a
As was usually his way, Wetzel decided quickly. He had calculated
that there were eight Indians in all, not counting the chief whom he
had shot. This party of Indians had either killed or captured the
white man who had been hunting. Wetzel believed that a part of the
Indians would push on with all possible speed, leaving some of their
number to ambush the trail or double back on it to see if they were
An hour of patient waiting, in which he never moved from his
position, proved the wisdom of his judgment. Suddenly, away at the
other end of the grove, he caught a flash of brown, of a living,
moving something, like the flitting of a bird behind a tree. Was it
a bird or a squirrel? Then again he saw it, almost lost in the shade
of the forest. Several minutes passed, in which Wetzel never moved
and hardly breathed. The shadow had disappeared behind a tree. He
fixed his keen eyes on that tree and presently a dark object glided
from it and darted stealthily forward to another tree. One, two,
three dark forms followed the first one. They were Indian warriors,
and they moved so quickly that only the eyes of a woodsman like
Wetzel could have discerned their movements at that distance.
Probably most hunters would have taken to their heels while there
was yet time. The thought did not occur to Wetzel. He slowly raised
the hammer of his rifle. As the Indians came into plain view he saw
they did not suspect his presence, but were returning on the trail
in their customary cautious manner.
When the first warrior reached a big oak tree some two hundred yards
distant, the long, black barrel of the hunter's rifle began slowly,
almost imperceptibly, to rise, and as it reached a level the savage
stepped forward from the tree. With the sharp report of the weapon
he staggered and fell.
Wetzel sprang up and knowing that his only escape was in rapid
flight, with his well known yell, he bounded off at the top of his
speed. The remaining Indians discharged their guns at the fleeing,
dodging figure, but without effect. So rapidly did he dart in and
out among the trees that an effectual aim was impossible. Then, with
loud yells, the Indians, drawing their tomahawks, started in
pursuit, expecting soon to overtake their victim.
In the early years of his Indian hunting, Wetzel had perfected
himself in a practice which had saved his life many tunes, and had
added much to his fame. He could reload his rifle while running at
topmost speed. His extraordinary fleetness enabled him to keep ahead
of his pursuers until his rifle was reloaded. This trick he now
employed. Keeping up his uneven pace until his gun was ready, he
turned quickly and shot the nearest Indian dead in his tracks. The
next Indian had by this time nearly come up with him and close
enough to throw his tomahawk, which whizzed dangerously near
Wetzel's head. But he leaped forward again and soon his rifle was
reloaded. Every time he looked around the Indians treed, afraid to
face his unerring weapon. After running a mile or more in this
manner, he reached an open space in the woods where he wheeled
suddenly on his pursuers. The foremost Indian jumped behind a tree,
but, as it did not entirely screen his body, he, too, fell a victim
to the hunter's aim. The Indian must have been desperately wounded,
for his companion now abandoned the chase and went to his
assistance. Together they disappeared in the forest.
Wetzel, seeing that he was no longer pursued, slackened his pace and
proceeded thoughtfully toward the settlement.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
That same day, several hours after Wetzel's departure in quest of
the turkey, Alfred Clarke strolled over from the fort and found
Colonel Zane in the yard. The Colonel was industriously stirring the
contents of a huge copper kettle which swung over a brisk wood fire.
The honeyed fragrance of apple-butter mingled with the pungent odor
of burning hickory.
"Morning, Alfred, you see they have me at it," was the Colonel's
"So I observe," answered Alfred, as he seated himself on the
wood-pile. "What is it you are churning so vigorously?"
"Apple-butter, my boy, apple-butter. I don't allow even Bessie to
help when I am making apple-butter."
"Colonel Zane, I have come over to ask a favor. Ever since you
notified us that you intended sending an expedition up the river I
have been worried about my horse Roger. He is too light for a pack
horse, and I cannot take two horses."
"I'll let you have the bay. He is big and strong enough. That black
horse of yours is a beauty. You leave Roger with me and if you never
come back I'll be in a fine horse. Ha, Ha! But, seriously, Clarke,
this proposed trip is a hazardous undertaking, and if you would
"You misunderstand me," quickly replied Alfred, who had flushed. "I
do not care about myself. I'll go and take my medicine. But I do
mind about my horse."
"That's right. Always think of your horses. I'll have Sam take the
best of care of Roger."
"What is the nature of this excursion, and how long shall we be
"Jonathan will guide the party. He says it will take six weeks if
you have pleasant weather. You are to go by way of Short Creek,
where you will help put up a blockhouse. Then you go to Fort Pitt.
There you will embark on a raft with the supplies I need and make
the return journey by water. You will probably smell gunpowder
before you get back."
"What shall we do with the horses?"
"Bring them along with you on the raft, of course."
"That is a new way to travel with horses," said Alfred, looking
dubiously at the swift river. "Will there be any way to get news
from Fort Henry while we are away?"
"Yes, there will be several runners."
"Mr. Clarke, I am going to feed my pets. Would you like to see
them?" asked a voice which brought Alfred to his feet. He turned and
saw Betty. Her dog followed her, carrying a basket.
"I shall be delighted," answered Alfred. "Have you more pets than
Tige and Madcap?"
"Oh, yes, indeed. I have a bear, six squirrels, one of them white,
and some pigeons."
Betty led the way to an enclosure adjoining Colonel Zane's barn. It
was about twenty feet square, made of pine saplings which had been
split and driven firmly into the ground. As Betty took down a bar
and opened the small gate a number of white pigeons fluttered down
from the roof of the barn, several of them alighting on her
shoulders. A half-grown black bear came out of a kennel and shuffled
toward her. He was unmistakably glad to see her, but he avoided
going near Tige, and looked doubtfully at the young man. But after
Alfred had stroked his head and had spoken to him he seemed disposed
to be friendly, for he sniffed around Alfred's knees and then stood
up and put his paws against the young man's shoulders.
"Here, Caesar, get down," said Betty. "He always wants to wrestle,
especially with anyone of whom he is not suspicious. He is very tame
and will do almost anything. Indeed, you would marvel at his
intelligence. He never forgets an injury. If anyone plays a trick on
him you may be sure that person will not get a second opportunity.
The night we caught him Tige chased him up a tree and Jonathan
climbed the tree and lassoed him. Ever since he has evinced a hatred
of Jonathan, and if I should leave Tige alone with him there would
be a terrible fight. But for that I could allow Caesar to run free
about the yard."
"He looks bright and sagacious," remarked Alfred.
"He is, but sometimes he gets into mischief. I nearly died laughing
one day. Bessie, my brother's wife, you know, had the big kettle on
the fire, just as you saw it a moment ago, only this time she was
boiling down maple syrup. Tige was out with some of the men and I
let Caesar loose awhile. If there is anything he loves it is maple
sugar, so when he smelled the syrup he pulled down the kettle and
the hot syrup went all over his nose. Oh, his howls were dreadful to
hear. The funniest part about it was he seemed to think it was
intentional, for he remained sulky and cross with me for two weeks."
"I can understand your love for animals," said Alfred. "I think
there are many interesting things about wild creatures. There are
comparatively few animals down in Virginia where I used to live, and
my opportunities to study them have been limited."
"Here are my squirrels," said Betty, unfastening the door of a cage.
A number of squirrels ran out. Several jumped to the ground. One
perched on top of the box. Another sprang on Betty's shoulder. "I
fasten them up every night, for I'm afraid the weasels and foxes
will get them. The white squirrel is the only albino we have seen
around here. It took Jonathan weeks to trap him, but once captured
he soon grew tame. Is he not pretty?"
"He certainly is. I never saw one before; in fact, I did not know
such a beautiful little animal existed," answered Alfred, looking in
admiration at the graceful creature, as he leaped from the shelf to
Betty's arm and ate from her hand, his great, bushy white tail
arching over his back and his small pink eyes shining.
"There! Listen," said Betty. "Look at the fox squirrel, the big
brownish red one. I call him the Captain, because he always wants to
boss the others. I had another fox squirrel, older than this fellow,
and he ran things to suit himself, until one day the grays united
their forces and routed him. I think they would have killed him had
I not freed him. Well, this one is commencing the same way. Do you
hear that odd clicking noise? That comes from the Captain's teeth,
and he is angry and jealous because I show so much attention to this
one. He always does that, and he would fight too if I were not
careful. It is a singular fact, though, that the white squirrel has
not even a little pugnacity. He either cannot fight, or he is too
well behaved. Here, Mr. Clarke, show Snowball this nut, and then
hide it in your pocket, and see him find it."
Alfred did as he was told, except that while he pretended to put the
nut in his pocket he really kept it concealed in his hand.
The pet squirrel leaped lightly on Alfred's shoulder, ran over his
breast, peeped in all his pockets, and even pushed his cap to one
side of his head. Then he ran down Alfred's arm, sniffed in his coat
sleeve, and finally wedged a cold little nose between his closed
"There, he has found it, even though you did not play fair," said
Betty, laughing gaily.
Alfred never forgot the picture Betty made standing there with the
red cap on her dusky hair, and the loving smile upon her face as she
talked to her pets. A white fan-tail pigeon had alighted on her
shoulder and was picking daintily at the piece of cracker she held
between her lips. The squirrels were all sitting up, each with a nut
in his little paws, and each with an alert and cunning look in the
corner of his eye, to prevent, no doubt, being surprised out of a
portion of his nut. Caesar was lying on all fours, growling and
tearing at his breakfast, while the dog looked on with a superior
air, as if he knew they would not have had any breakfast but for
"Are you fond of canoeing and fishing?" asked Betty, as they
returned to the house.
"Indeed I am. Isaac has taken me out on the river often. Canoeing
may be pleasant for a girl, but I never knew one who cared for
"Now you behold one. I love dear old Izaak Walton. Of course, you
have read his books?"
"I am ashamed to say I have not."
"And you say you are a fisherman? Well, you haste a great pleasure
in store, as well as an opportunity to learn something of the
'contemplative man's recreation.' I shall lend you the books."
"I have not seen a book since I came to Fort Henry."
"I have a fine little library, and you are welcome to any of my
books. But to return to fishing. I love it, and yet I nearly always
allow the fish to go free. Sometimes I bring home a pretty sunfish,
place him in a tub of water, watch him and try to tame him. But I
must admit failure. It is the association which makes fishing so
delightful. The canoe gliding down a swift stream, the open air, the
blue sky, the birds and trees and flowers--these are what I love.
Come and see my canoe."
Thus Betty rattled on as she led the way through the sitting-room
and kitchen to Colonel Zane's magazine and store-house which opened
into the kitchen. This little low-roofed hut contained a variety of
things. Boxes, barrels and farming implements filled one corner;
packs of dried skins were piled against the wall; some otter and fox
pelts were stretched on the wall, and a number of powder kegs lined
a shelf. A slender canoe swung from ropes thrown over the rafters.
Alfred slipped it out of the loops and carried it outside.
The canoe was a superb specimen of Indian handiwork. It had a length
of fourteen feet and was made of birch bark, stretched over a light
framework of basswood. The bow curved gracefully upward, ending in a
carved image representing a warrior's head. The sides were
beautifully ornamented and decorated in fanciful Indian designs.
"My brother's Indian guide, Tomepomehala, a Shawnee chief, made it
for me. You see this design on the bow. The arrow and the arm mean
in Indian language, 'The race is to the swift and the strong.' The
canoe is very light. See, I can easily carry it," said Betty,
lifting it from the grass.
She ran into the house and presently came out with two rods, a book
and a basket.
"These are Jack's rods. He cut them out of the heart of ten-year-old
basswood trees, so he says. We must be careful of them."
Alfred examined the rods with the eye of a connoisseur and
pronounced them perfect.
"These rods have been made by a lover of the art. Anyone with half
an eye could see that. What shall we use for bait?" he said.
"Sam got me some this morning."
"Did you expect to go?" asked Alfred, looking up in surprise.
"Yes, I intended going, and as you said you were coming over, I
meant to ask you to accompany me."
"That was kind of you."
"Where are you young people going?" called Colonel Zane, stopping in
"We are going down to the sycamore," answered Betty.
"Very well. But be certain and stay on this side of the creek and do
not go out on the river," said the Colonel.
"Why, Eb, what do you mean? One might think Mr. Clarke and I were
children," exclaimed Betty.
"You certainly aren't much more. But that is not my reason. Never
mind the reason. Do as I say or do not go," said Colonel Zane.
"All right, brother. I shall not forget," said Betty, soberly,
looking at the Colonel. He had not spoken in his usual teasing way,
and she was at a loss to understand him. "Come, Mr. Clarke, you
carry the canoe and follow me down this path and look sharp for
roots and stones or you may trip."
"Where is Isaac?" asked Alfred, as he lightly swung the canoe over
"He took his rifle and went up to the chestnut grove an hour or more
A few minutes' walk down the willow skirted path and they reached
the creek. Here it was a narrow stream, hardly fifty feet wide,
shallow, and full of stones over which the clear brown water rushed
"Is it not rather risky going down there?" asked Alfred as he
noticed the swift current and the numerous boulders poking
treacherous heads just above the water.
"Of course. That is the great pleasure in canoeing," said Betty,
calmly. "If you would rather walk--"
"No, I'll go if I drown. I was thinking of you."
"It is safe enough if you can handle a paddle," said Betty, with a
smile at his hesitation. "And, of course, if your partner in the
canoe sits trim."
"Perhaps you had better allow me to use the paddle. Where did you
learn to steer a canoe?"
"I believe you are actually afraid. Why, I was born on the Potomac,
and have used a paddle since I was old enough to lift one. Come,
place the canoe in here and we will keep to the near shore until we
reach the bend. There is a little fall just below this and I love to
He steadied the canoe with one hand while he held out the other to
help her, but she stepped nimbly aboard without his assistance.
"Wait a moment while I catch some crickets and grasshoppers."
"Gracious! What a fisherman. Don't you know we have had frost?"
"That's so," said Alfred, abashed by her simple remark.
"But you might find some crickets under those logs," said Betty. She
laughed merrily at the awkward spectacle made by Alfred crawling
over the ground, improvising a sort of trap out of his hat, and
pouncing down on a poor little insect.
"Now, get in carefully, and give the canoe a push. There, we are
off," she said, taking up the paddle.
The little bark glided slowly down stream at first hugging the bank
as though reluctant to trust itself to the deeper water, and then
gathering headway as a few gentle strokes of the paddle swerved it
into the current. Betty knelt on one knee and skillfully plied the
paddle, using the Indian stroke in which the paddle was not removed
from the water.
"This is great!" exclaimed Alfred, as he leaned back in the bow
facing her. "There is nothing more to be desired. This beautiful
clear stream, the air so fresh, the gold lined banks, the autumn
leaves, a guide who--"
"Look," said Betty. "There is the fall over which we must pass."
He looked ahead and saw that they were swiftly approaching two huge
stones that reared themselves high out of the water. They were only
a few yards apart and surrounded by smaller rocks, about high the
water rushed white with foam.
"Please do not move!" cried Betty, her eyes shining bright with
Indeed, the situation was too novel for Alfred to do anything but
feel a keen enjoyment. He had made up his mind that he was sure to
get a ducking, but, as he watched Betty's easy, yet vigorous sweeps
with the paddle, and her smiling, yet resolute lips, he felt
reassured. He could see that the fall was not a great one, only a
few feet, but one of those glancing sheets of water like a mill
race, and he well knew that if they struck a stone disaster would be
theirs. Twenty feet above the white-capped wave which marked the
fall, Betty gave a strong forward pull on the paddle, a deep stroke
which momentarily retarded their progress even in that swift
current, and then, a short backward stroke, far under the stern of
the canoe, and the little vessel turned straight, almost in the
middle of the course between the two rocks. As she raised her paddle
into the canoe and smiled at the fascinated young man, the bow
dipped, and with that peculiar downward movement, that swift,
exhilarating rush so dearly loved by canoeists, they shot down the
smooth incline of water, were lost for a moment in a white cloud of
mist, and in another they coated into a placid pool.
"Was not that delightful?" she asked, with just a little conscious
pride glowing in her dark eyes.
"Miss Zane, it was more than that. I apologize for my suspicions.
You have admirable skill. I only wish that on my voyage down the
River of Life I could have such a sure eye and hand to guide me
through the dangerous reefs and rapids."
"You are poetical," said Betty, who laughed, and at the same time
blushed slightly. "But you are right about the guide. Jonathan says
'always get a good guide,' and as guiding is his work he ought to
know. But this has nothing in common with fishing, and here is my
favorite place under the old sycamore."
With a long sweep of the paddle she ran the canoe alongside a stone
beneath a great tree which spread its long branches over the creek
and shaded the pool. It was a grand old tree and must have guarded
that sylvan spot for centuries. The gnarled and knotted trunk was
scarred and seamed with the ravages of time. The upper part was
dead. Long limbs extended skyward, gaunt and bare, like the masts of
a storm beaten vessel. The lower branches were white and shining,
relieved here and there by brown patches of bark which curled up
like old parchment as they shelled away from the inner bark. The
ground beneath the tree was carpeted with a velvety moss with little
plots of grass and clusters of maiden-hair fern growing on it. From
under an overhanging rock on the bank a spring of crystal water
Alfred rigged up the rods, and baiting a hook directed Betty to
throw her line well out into the current and let it float down into
the eddy. She complied, and hardly had the line reached the circle
of the eddy, where bits of white foam floated round and round, when
there was a slight splash, a scream from Betty and she was standing
up in the canoe holding tightly to her rod.
"Be careful!" exclaimed Alfred. "Sit down. You will have the canoe
upset in a moment. Hold your rod steady and keep the line taut.
That's right. Now lead him round toward me. There," and grasping the
line he lifted a fine rock bass over the side of the canoe.
"Oh! I always get so intensely excited," breathlessly cried Betty.
"I can't help it. Jonathan always declares he will never take me
fishing again. Let me see the fish. It's a goggle-eye. Isn't he
pretty? Look how funny he bats his eyes," and she laughed gleefully
as she gingerly picked up the fish by the tail and dropped him into
the water. "Now, Mr. Goggle-eye, if you are wise, in future you will
beware of tempting looking bugs."
For an hour they had splendid sport. The pool teemed with sunfish.
The bait would scarcely touch the water when the little orange
colored fellows would rush for it. Now and then a black bass darted
wickedly through the school of sunfish and stole the morsel from
them. Or a sharp-nosed fiery-eyed pickerel--vulture of the
water--rising to the surface, and, supreme in his indifference to
man or fish, would swim lazily round until he had discovered the
cause of all this commotion among the smaller fishes, and then,
opening wide his jaws would take the bait with one voracious snap.
Presently something took hold of Betty's line and moved out toward
the middle of the pool. She struck and the next instant her rod was
bent double and the tip under water.
"Pull your rod up!" shouted Alfred. "Here, hand it to me."
But it was too late. A surge right and left, a vicious tug, and
Betty's line floated on the surface of the water.
"Now, isn't that too bad? He has broken my line. Goodness, I never
before felt such a strong fish. What shall I do?"
"You should be thankful you were not pulled in. I have been in a
state of fear ever since we commenced fishing. You move round in
this canoe as though it were a raft. Let me paddle out to that
little ripple and try once there; then we will stop. I know you are
Near the center of the pool a half submerged rock checked the
current and caused a little ripple of the water. Several times
Alfred had seen the dark shadow of a large fish followed by a swirl
of the water, and the frantic leaping of little bright-sided minnows
in all directions. As his hook, baited with a lively shiner, floated
over the spot, a long, yellow object shot from out that shaded lair.
There was a splash, not unlike that made by the sharp edge of a
paddle impelled by a short, powerful stroke, the minnow disappeared,
and the broad tail of the fish flapped on the water. The instant
Alfred struck, the water boiled and the big fish leaped clear into
the air, shaking himself convulsively to get rid of the hook. He
made mad rushes up and down the pool, under the canoe, into the
swift current and against the rocks, but all to no avail. Steadily
Alfred increased the strain on the line and gradually it began to
tell, for the plunges of the fish became shorter and less frequent.
Once again, in a last magnificent effort, he leaped straight into
the air, and failing to get loose, gave up the struggle and was
drawn gasping and exhausted to the side of the canoe.
"Are you afraid to touch him?" asked Alfred.
"Indeed I am not," answered Betty.
"Then run your hand gently down the line, slip your fingers in under
his gills and lift him over the side carefully."
"Five pounds," exclaimed Alfred, when the fish lay at his feet.
"This is the largest black bass I ever caught. It is pity to take
such a beautiful fish out of his element."
"Let him go, then. May I?" said Betty.
"No, you have allowed them all to go, even the pickerel which I
think ought to be killed. We will keep this fellow alive, and place
him in that nice clear pool over in the fort-yard."
"I like to watch you play a fish," said Betty. "Jonathan always
hauls them right out. You are so skillful. You let this fish run so
far and then you checked him. Then you gave him a line to go the
other way, and no doubt he felt free once more when you stopped him
"You are expressing a sentiment which has been, is, and always will
be particularly pleasing to the fair sex, I believe," observed
Alfred, smiling rather grimly as he wound up his line.
"Would you mind being explicit?" she questioned.
Alfred had laughed and was about to answer when the whip-like crack
of a rifle came from the hillside. The echoes of the shot
reverberated from hill to hill and were finally lost far down the
"What can that be?" exclaimed Alfred anxiously, recalling Colonel
Zane's odd manner when they were about to leave the house.
"I am not sure, but I think that is my turkey, unless Lew Wetzel
happened to miss his aim," said Betty, laughing. "And that is such
an unprecedented thing that it can hardly be considered. Turkeys are
scarce this season. Jonathan says the foxes and wolves ate up the
broods. Lew heard this turkey calling and he made little Harry
Bennet, who had started out with his gun, stay at home and went
after Mr. Gobbler himself."
"Is that all? Well, that is nothing to get alarmed about, is it? I
actually had a feeling of fear, or a presentiment, we might say."
They beached the canoe and spread out the lunch in the shade near
the spring. Alfred threw himself at length upon the grass and Betty
sat leaning against the tree. She took a biscuit in one hand, a
pickle in the other, and began to chat volubly to Alfred of her
school life, and of Philadelphia, and the friends she had made
there. At length, remarking his abstraction, she said: "You are not
listening to me."
"I beg your pardon. My thoughts did wander. I was thinking of my
mother. Something about you reminds me of her. I do not know what,
unless it is that little mannerism you have of pursing up your lips
when you hesitate or stop to think."
"Tell me of her," said Betty, seeing his softened mood.
"My mother was very beautiful, and as good as she was lovely. I
never had a care until my father died. Then she married again, and
as I did not get on with my step-father I ran away from home. I have
not been in Virginia for four years."
"Do you get homesick?"
"Indeed I do. While at Fort Pitt I used to have spells of the blues
which lasted for days. For a time I felt more contented here. But I
fear the old fever of restlessness will come over me again. I can
speak freely to you because I know you will understand, and I feel
sure of your sympathy. My father wanted me to be a minister. He sent
me to the theological seminary at Princeton, where for two years I
tried to study. Then my father died. I went home and looked after
things until my mother married again. That changed everything for
me. I ran away and have since been a wanderer. I feel that I am not
lazy, that I am not afraid of work, but four years have drifted by
and I have nothing to show for it. I am discouraged. Perhaps that is
wrong, but tell me how I can help it. I have not the stoicism of the
hunter, Wetzel, nor have I the philosophy of your brother. I could
not be content to sit on my doorstep and smoke my pipe and watch the
wheat and corn grow. And then, this life of the borderman, environed
as it is by untold dangers, leads me, fascinates me, and yet appalls
me with the fear that here I shall fall a victim to an Indian's
bullet or spear, and find a nameless grave."
A long silence ensued. Alfred had spoken quietly, but with an
undercurrent of bitterness that saddened Betty. For the first time
she saw a shadow of pain in his eyes. She looked away down the
valley, not seeing the brown and gold hills boldly defined against
the blue sky, nor the beauty of the river as the setting sun cast a
ruddy glow on the water. Her companion's words had touched an
unknown chord in her heart. When finally she turned to answer him a
beautiful light shone in her eyes, a light that shines not on land
or sea--the light of woman's hope.
"Mr. Clarke," she said, and her voice was soft and low, "I am only a
girl, but I can understand. You are unhappy. Try to rise above it.
Who knows what will befall this little settlement? It may be swept
away by the savages, and it may grow to be a mighty city. It must
take that chance. So must you, so must we all take chances. You are
here. Find your work and do it cheerfully, honestly, and let the
future take care of itself. And let me say--do not be
offended--beware of idleness and drink. They are as great a
danger--nay, greater than the Indians."
"Miss Zane, if you were to ask me not to drink I would never touch a
drop again," said Alfred, earnestly.
"I did not ask that," answered Betty, flushing slightly. "But I
shall remember it as a promise and some day I may ask it of you."
He looked wonderingly at the girl beside him. He had spent most of
his life among educated and cultured people. He had passed several
years in the backwoods. But with all his experience with people he
had to confess that this young woman was as a revelation to him. She
could ride like an Indian and shoot like a hunter. He had heard that
she could run almost as swiftly as her brothers. Evidently she
feared nothing, for he had just seen an example of her courage in a
deed that had tried even his own nerve, and, withal, she was a
bright, happy girl, earnest and true, possessing all the softer
graces of his sisters, and that exquisite touch of feminine delicacy
and refinement which appeals more to men than any other virtue.
"Have you not met Mr. Miller before he came here from Fort Pitt?"
"Why do you ask?"
"I think he mentioned something of the kind."
"What else did he say?"
"Why--Mr. Clarke, I hardly remember."
"I see," said Alfred, his face darkening. "He has talked about me. I
do not care what he said. I knew him at Fort Pitt, and we had
trouble there. I venture to say he has told no one about it. He
certainly would not shine in the story. But I am not a tattler."
"It is not very difficult to see that you do not like him. Jonathan
does not, either. He says Mr. Miller was friendly with McKee, and
the notorious Simon Girty, the soldiers who deserted from Fort Pitt
and went to the Indians. The girls like him however."
"Usually if a man is good looking and pleasant that is enough for
the girls. I noticed that he paid you a great deal of attention at
the dance. He danced three times with you."
"Did he? How observing you are," said Betty, giving him a little
sidelong glance. "Well, he is very agreeable, and he dances better
than many of the young men."
"I wonder if Wetzel got the turkey. I have heard no more shots,"
said Alfred, showing plainly that he wished to change the subject.
"Oh, look there! Quick!" exclaimed Betty, pointing toward the
He looked in the direction indicated and saw a doe and a spotted
fawn wading into the shallow water. The mother stood motionless a
moment, with head erect and long ears extended. Then she drooped her
graceful head and drank thirstily of the cool water. The fawn
splashed playfully round while its mother was drinking. It would
dash a few paces into the stream and then look back to see if its
mother approved. Evidently she did not, for she would stop her
drinking and call the fawn back to her side with a soft, crooning
noise. Suddenly she raised her head, the long ears shot up, and she
seemed to sniff the air. She waded through the deeper water to get
round a rocky bluff which ran out into the creek. Then she turned
and called the little one. The fawn waded until the water reached
its knees, then stopped and uttered piteous little bleats.
Encouraged by the soft crooning it plunged into the deep water and
with great splashing and floundering managed to swim the short
distance. Its slender legs shook as it staggered up the bank.
Exhausted or frightened, it shrank close to its mother. Together
they disappeared in the willows which fringed the side of the hill.
"Was not that little fellow cute? I have had several fawns, but have
never had the heart to keep them," said Betty. Then, as Alfred made
no motion to speak, she continued:
"You do not seem very talkative."
"I have nothing to say. You will think me dull. The fact is when I
feel deepest I am least able to express myself."
"I will read to you." said Betty taking up the book. He lay back
against the grassy bank and gazed dreamily at the many hued trees on
the little hillside; at the bare rugged sides of McColloch's Rock
which frowned down upon them. A silver-breasted eagle sailed slowly
round and round in the blue sky, far above the bluff. Alfred
wondered what mysterious power sustained that solitary bird as he
floated high in the air without perceptible movement of his broad
wings. He envied the king of birds his reign over that illimitable
space, his far-reaching vision, and his freedom. Round and round the
eagle soared, higher and higher, with each perfect circle, and at
last, for an instant poising as lightly as if he were about to perch
on his lonely crag, he arched his wings and swooped down through the
air with the swiftness of a falling arrow.
Betty's low voice, the water rushing so musically over the falls,
the great yellow leaves falling into the pool, the gentle breeze
stirring the clusters of goldenrod--all came softly to Alfred as he
lay there with half closed eyes.
The time slipped swiftly by as only such time can.
"I fear the melancholy spirit of the day has prevailed upon you,"
said Betty, half wistfully. "You did not know I had stopped reading,
and I do not believe you heard my favorite poem. I have tried to
give you a pleasant afternoon and have failed."
"No, no," said Alfred, looking at her with a blue flame in his eyes.
"The afternoon has been perfect. I have forgotten my role, and have
allowed you to see my real self, something I have tried to hide from
"And are you always sad when you are sincere?"
"Not always. But I am often sad. Is it any wonder? Is not all nature
sad? Listen! There is the song of the oriole. Breaking in on the
stillness it is mournful. The breeze is sad, the brook is sad, this
dying Indian summer day is sad. Life itself is sad."
"Oh, no. Life is beautiful."
"You are a child," said he, with a thrill in his deep voice "I hope
you may always be as you are to-day, in heart, at least."
"It grows late. See, the shadows are falling. We must go."
"You know I am going away to-morrow. I don't want to go. Perhaps
that is why I have been such poor company today. I have a
presentiment of evil I am afraid I may never come back."
"I am sorry you must go."
"Do you really mean that?" asked Alfred, earnestly, bending toward
her "You know it is a very dangerous undertaking. Would you care if
I never returned?"
She looked up and their eyes met. She had raised her head haughtily,
as if questioning his right to speak to her in that manner, but as
she saw the unspoken appeal in his eyes her own wavered and fell
while a warm color crept into her cheek.
"Yes, I would be sorry," she said, gravely. Then, after a moment:
"You must portage the canoe round the falls, and from there we can
paddle back to the path."
The return trip made, they approached the house. As they turned the
corner they saw Colonel Zane standing at the door talking to Wetzel.
They saw that the Colonel looked pale and distressed, and the face
of the hunter was dark and gloomy.
"Lew, did you get my turkey?" said Betty, after a moment of
hesitation. A nameless fear filled her breast.
For answer Wetzel threw back the flaps of his coat and there at his
belt hung a small tuft of black hair. Betty knew at once it was the
scalp-lock of an Indian. Her face turned white and she placed a hand
on the hunter's arm.
"What do you mean? That is an Indian's scalp. Lew, you look so
strange. Tell me, is it because we went off in the canoe and have
been in danger?"
"Betty, Isaac has been captured again," said the Colonel.
"Oh, no, no, no," cried Betty in agonized tones, and wringing her
hands. Then, excitedly, "Something can be done; you must pursue
them. Oh, Lew, Mr. Clarke, cannot you rescue him? They have not had
time to go far."
"Isaac went to the chestnut grove this morning. If he had stayed
there he would not have been captured. But he went far into the
Black Forest. The turkey call we heard across the creek was made by
a Wyandot concealed in the cave. Lewis tells me that a number of
Indians have camped there for days. He shot the one who was calling
and followed the others until he found where they had taken Isaac's
Betty turned to the younger man with tearful eyes, and with
beseeching voice implored them to save her brother.
"I am ready to follow you," said Clarke to Wetzel.
The hunter shook his head, but did not answer.
"It is that hateful White Crane," passionately burst out Betty, as
the Colonel's wife led her weeping into the house.
"Did you get more than one shot at them?" asked Clarke.
The hunter nodded, and the slight, inscrutable smile flitted across
his stern features. He never spoke of his deeds. For this reason
many of the thrilling adventures which he must have had will forever
remain unrevealed. That evening there was sadness at Colonel Zane's
supper table. They felt the absence of the Colonel's usual spirits,
his teasing of Betty, and his cheerful conversation. He had nothing
to say. Betty sat at the table a little while, and then got up and
left the room saying she could not eat. Jonathan, on hearing of his
brother's recapture, did not speak, but retired in gloomy silence.
Silas was the only one of the family who was not utterly depressed.
He said it could have been a great deal worse; that they must make
the best of it, and that the sooner Isaac married his Indian
Princess the better for his scalp and for the happiness of all
"I remember Myeerah very well," he said. "It was eight years ago,
and she was only a child. Even then she was very proud and willful,
and the loveliest girl I ever laid eyes on."
Alfred Clarke staid late at Colonel Zane's that night. Before going
away for so many weeks he wished to have a few more moments alone
with Betty. But a favorable opportunity did not present itself
during the evening, so when he had bade them all goodbye and
goodnight, except Betty, who opened the door for him, he said softly
"It is bright moonlight outside. Come, please, and walk to the gate
A full moon shone serenely down on hill and dale, flooding the
valley with its pure white light and bathing the pastures in its
glory; at the foot of the bluff the waves of the river gleamed like
myriads of stars all twinkling and dancing on a bed of snowy clouds.
Thus illumined the river wound down the valley, its brilliance
growing fainter and fainter until at last, resembling the shimmering
of a silver thread which joined the earth to heaven, it disappeared
in the horizon.
"I must say goodbye," said Alfred, as they reached the gate.
"Friends must part. I am sorry you must go, Mr. Clarke, and I trust
you may return safe. It seems only yesterday that you saved my
brother's life, and I was so grateful and happy. Now he is gone."
"You should not think about it so much nor brood over it," answered
the young man. "Grieving will not bring him back nor do you any
good. It is not nearly so bad as if he had been captured by some
other tribe. Wetzel assures us that Isaac was taken alive. Please do
"I have cried until I cannot cry any more. I am so unhappy. We were
children together, and I have always loved him better than any one
since my mother died. To have him back again and then to lose him!
Oh! I cannot bear it."
She covered her face with her hands and a low sob escaped her.
"Don't, don't grieve," he said in an unsteady voice, as he took the
little hands in his and pulled them away from her face.
Betty trembled. Something in his voice, a tone she had never heard
before startled her. She looked up at him half unconscious that he
still held her hands in his. Never had she appeared so lovely.
"You cannot understand my feelings."
"I loved my mother."
"But you have not lost her. That makes all the difference."
"I want to comfort you and I am powerless. I am unable to say
He stopped short. As he stood gazing down into her sweet face,
burning, passionate words came to his lips; but he was dumb; he
could not speak. All day long he had been living in a dream. Now he
realized that but a moment remained for him to be near the girl he
loved so well. He was leaving her, perhaps never to see her again,
or to return to find her another's. A fierce pain tore his heart.
"You--you are holding my hands," faltered Betty, in a doubtful,
troubled voice. She looked up into his face and saw that it was pale
with suppressed emotion.
Alfred was mad indeed. He forgot everything. In that moment the
world held nothing for him save that fair face. Her eyes, uplifted
to his in the moonlight, beamed with a soft radiance. They were
honest eyes, just now filled with innocent sadness and regret, but
they drew him with irresistible power. Without realizing in the
least what he was doing he yielded to the impulse. Bending his head
he kissed the tremulous lips.
"Oh," whispered Betty, standing still as a statue and looking at him
with wonderful eyes. Then, as reason returned, a hot flush dyed her
face, and wrenching her hands free she struck him across the cheek.
"For God's sake, Betty, I did not mean to do that! Wait. I have
something to tell you. For pity's sake, let me explain," he cried,
as the full enormity of his offence dawned upon him.
Betty was deaf to the imploring voice, for she ran into the house
and slammed the door.
He called to her, but received no answer. He knocked on the door,
but it remained closed. He stood still awhile, trying to collect his
thoughts, and to find a way to undo the mischief he had wrought.
When the real significance of his act came to him he groaned in
spirit. What a fool he had been! Only a few short hours and he must
start on a perilous journey, leaving the girl he loved in ignorance
of his real intentions. Who was to tell her that he loved her? Who
was to tell her that it was because his whole heart and soul had
gone to her that he had kissed her?
With bowed head he slowly walked away toward the fort, totally
oblivious of the fact that a young girl, with hands pressed tightly
over her breast to try to still a madly beating heart, watched him
from her window until he disappeared into the shadow of the
Alfred paced up and down his room the four remaining hours of that
eventful day. When the light was breaking in at the east and dawn
near at hand he heard the rough voices of men and the tramping of
iron-shod hoofs. The hour of his departure was at hand.
He sat down at his table and by the aid of the dim light from a pine
knot he wrote a hurried letter to Betty. A little hope revived in
his heart as he thought that perhaps all might yet be well. Surely
some one would be up to whom he could intrust the letter, and if no
one he would run over and slip it under the door of Colonel Zane's
In the gray of the early morning Alfred rode out with the daring
band of heavily armed men, all grim and stern, each silent with the
thought of the man who knows he may never return. Soon the
settlement was left far behind.
During the last few days, in which the frost had cracked open the
hickory nuts, and in which the squirrels had been busily collecting
and storing away their supply of nuts for winter use, it had been
Isaac's wont to shoulder his rifle, walk up the hill, and spend the
morning in the grove.
On this crisp autumn morning he had started off as usual, and had
been called back by Col. Zane, who advised him not to wander far
from the settlement. This admonition, kind and brotherly though it
was, annoyed Isaac. Like all the Zanes he had born in him an intense
love for the solitude of the wilderness. There were times when
nothing could satisfy him but the calm of the deep woods.
One of these moods possessed him now. Courageous to a fault and
daring where daring was not always the wiser part, Isaac lacked the
practical sense of the Colonel and the cool judgment of Jonathan.
Impatient of restraint, independent in spirit, and it must be
admitted, in his persistence in doing as he liked instead of what he
ought to do, he resembled Betty more than he did his brothers.
Feeling secure in his ability to take care of himself, for he knew
he was an experienced hunter and woodsman, he resolved to take a
long tramp in the forest. This resolution was strengthened by the
fact that he did not believe what the Colonel and Jonathan had told
him--that it was not improbable some of the Wyandot braves were
lurking in the vicinity, bent on killing or recapturing him. At any
rate he did not fear it.
Once in the shade of the great trees the fever of discontent left
him, and, forgetting all except the happiness of being surrounded by
the silent oaks, he penetrated deeper and deeper into the forest.
The brushing of a branch against a tree, the thud of a falling nut,
the dart of a squirrel, and the sight of a bushy tail disappearing
round a limb--all these things which indicated that the little gray
fellows were working in the tree-tops, and which would usually have
brought Isaac to a standstill, now did not seem to interest him. At
times he stooped to examine the tender shoots growing at the foot of
a sassafras tree. Then, again, he closely examined marks he found in
the soft banks of the streams.
He went on and on. Two hours of this still-hunting found him on the
bank of a shallow gully through which a brook went rippling and
babbling over the mossy green stones. The forest was dense here;
rugged oaks and tall poplars grew high over the tops of the first
growth of white oaks and beeches; the wild grapevines which coiled
round the trees like gigantic serpents, spread out in the upper
branches and obscured the sun; witch-hopples and laurel bushes grew
thickly; monarchs of the forest, felled by some bygone storm, lay
rotting on the ground; and in places the wind-falls were so thick
and high as to be impenetrable.
Isaac hesitated. He realized that he had plunged far into the Black
Forest. Here it was gloomy; a dreamy quiet prevailed, that deep calm
of the wilderness, unbroken save for the distant note of the
hermit-thrush, the strange bird whose lonely cry, given at long
intervals, pierced the stillness. Although Isaac had never seen one
of these birds, he was familiar with that cry which was never heard
except in the deepest woods, far from the haunts of man.
A black squirrel ran down a tree and seeing the hunter scampered
away in alarm. Isaac knew the habits of the black squirrel, that it
was a denizen of the wildest woods and frequented only places remote
from civilization. The song of the hermit and the sight of the black
squirrel caused Isaac to stop and reflect, with the result that he
concluded he had gone much farther from the fort than he had
intended. He turned to retrace his steps when a faint sound from
down the ravine came to his sharp ears.
There was no instinct to warn him that a hideously painted face was
raised a moment over the clump of laurel bushes to his left, and
that a pair of keen eyes watched every move he made.
Unconscious of impending evil Isaac stopped and looked around him.
Suddenly above the musical babble of the brook and the rustle of the
leaves by the breeze came a repetition of the sound. He crouched
close by the trunk of a tree and strained his ears. All was quiet
for some moments. Then he heard the patter, patter of little hoofs
coming down the stream. Nearer and nearer they came. Sometimes they
were almost inaudible and again he heard them clearly and
distinctly. Then there came a splashing and the faint hollow sound
caused by hard hoofs striking the stones in shallow water. Finally
the sounds ceased.
Cautiously peering from behind the tree Isaac saw a doe standing on
the bank fifty yards down the brook. Trembling she had stopped as if
in doubt or uncertainty. Her ears pointed straight upward, and she
lifted one front foot from the ground like a thoroughbred pointer.
Isaac knew a doe always led the way through the woods and if there
were other deer they would come up unless warned by the doe.
Presently the willows parted and a magnificent buck with wide
spreading antlers stepped out and stood motionless on the bank.
Although they were down the wind Isaac knew the deer suspected some
hidden danger. They looked steadily at the clump of laurels at
Isaac's left, a circumstance he remarked at the time, but did not
understand the real significance of until long afterward.
Following the ringing report of Isaac's rifle the buck sprang almost
across the stream, leaped convulsively up the bank, reached the top,
and then his strength failing, slid down into the stream, where, in
his dying struggles, his hoofs beat the water into white foam. The
doe had disappeared like a brown flash.
Isaac, congratulating himself on such a fortunate shot--for rarely
indeed does a deer fall dead in his tracks even when shot through
the heart--rose from his crouching position and commenced to reload
his rifle. With great care he poured the powder into the palm of his
hand, measuring the quantity with his eye--for it was an evidence of
a hunter's skill to be able to get the proper quantity for the ball.
Then he put the charge into the barrel. Placing a little greased
linsey rag, about half an inch square, over the muzzle, he laid a
small lead bullet on it, and with the ramrod began to push the ball
into the barrel.
A slight rustle behind him, which sounded to him like the gliding of
a rattlesnake over the leaves, caused him to start and turn round.
But he was too late. A crushing blow on the head from a club in the
hand of a brawny Indian laid him senseless on the ground.
When Isaac regained his senses he felt a throbbing pain in his head,
and then he opened his eyes he was so dizzy that he was unable to
discern objects clearly. After a few moments his sight returned.
When he had struggled to a sitting posture he discovered that his
hands were bound with buckskin thongs. By his side he saw two long
poles of basswood, with some strips of green bark and pieces of
grapevine laced across and tied fast to the poles. Evidently this
had served as a litter on which he had been carried. From his wet
clothes and the position of the sun, now low in the west, he
concluded he had been brought across the river and was now miles
from the fort. In front of him he saw three Indians sitting before a
fire. One of them was cutting thin slices from a haunch of deer
meat, another was drinking from a gourd, and the third was roasting
a piece of venison which he held on a sharpened stick. Isaac knew at
once the Indians were Wyandots, and he saw they were in full war
paint. They were not young braves, but middle aged warriors. One of
them Isaac recognized as Crow, a chief of one of the Wyandot tribes,
and a warrior renowned for his daring and for his ability to make
his way in a straight line through the wilderness. Crow was a short,
heavy Indian and his frame denoted great strength. He had a broad
forehead, high cheek bones, prominent nose and his face would have
been handsome and intelligent but for the scar which ran across his
cheek, giving him a sinister look.
"Hugh!" said Crow, as he looked up and saw Isaac staring at him. The
other Indians immediately gave vent to a like exclamation.
"Crow, you caught me again," said Isaac, in the Wyandot tongue,
which he spoke fluently.
"The white chief is sure of eye and swift of foot, but he cannot
escape the Huron. Crow has been five times on his trail since the
moon was bright. The white chief's eyes were shut and his ears were
deaf," answered the Indian loftily.
"How long have you been near the fort?"
"Two moons have the warriors of Myeerah hunted the pale face."
"Have you any more Indians with you?"
The chief nodded and said a party of nine Wyandots had been in the
vicinity of Wheeling for a month. He named some of the warriors.
Isaac was surprised to learn of the renowned chiefs who had been
sent to recapture him. Not to mention Crow, the Delaware chiefs
Son-of-Wingenund and Wapatomeka were among the most cunning and
sagacious Indians of the west. Isaac reflected that his year's
absence from Myeerah had not caused her to forget him.
Crow untied Isaac's hands and gave him water and venison. Then he
picked up his rifle and with a word to the Indians he stepped into
the underbrush that skirted the little dale, and was lost to view.
Isaac's head ached and throbbed so that after he had satisfied his
thirst and hunger he was glad to close his eyes and lean back
against the tree. Engrossed in thoughts of the home he might never
see again, he had lain there an hour without moving, when he was
aroused from his meditations by low guttural exclamations from the
Indians. Opening his eyes he saw Crow and another Indian enter the
glade, leading and half supporting a third savage.
They helped this Indian to the log, where he sat down slowly and
wearily, holding one hand over his breast. He was a magnificent
specimen of Indian manhood, almost a giant in stature, with broad
shoulders in proportion to his height. His head-dress and the gold
rings which encircled his bare muscular arms indicated that he was a
chief high in power. The seven eagle plumes in his scalp-lock
represented seven warriors that he had killed in battle. Little
sticks of wood plaited in his coal black hair and painted different
colors showed to an Indian eye how many times this chief had been
wounded by bullet, knife, or tomahawk.
His face was calm. If he suffered he allowed no sign of it to escape
him. He gazed thoughtfully into the fire, slowly the while untying
the belt which contained his knife and tomahawk. The weapons were
raised and held before him, one in each hand, and then waved on
high. The action was repeated three times. Then slowly and
reluctantly the Indian lowered them as if he knew their work on
earth was done.
It was growing dark and the bright blaze from the camp fire lighted
up the glade, thus enabling Isaac to see the drooping figure on the
log, and in the background Crow, holding a whispered consultation
with the other Indians. Isaac heard enough of the colloquy to guess
the facts. The chief had been desperately rounded; the palefaces
were on their trail, and a march must be commenced at once.
Isaac knew the wounded chief. He was the Delaware Son-of-Wingenund.
He married a Wyandot squaw, had spent much of his time in the
Wyandot village and on warring expeditions which the two friendly
nations made on other tribes. Isaac had hunted with him, slept under
the same blanket with him, and had grown to like him.
As Isaac moved slightly in his position the chief saw him. He
straightened up, threw back the hunting shirt and pointed to a small
hole in his broad breast. A slender stream of blood issued from the
wound and flowed down his chest.
"Wind-of-Death is a great white chief. His gun is always loaded," he
said calmly, and a look of pride gleamed across his dark face, as
though he gloried in the wound made by such a warrior.
"Deathwind" was one of the many names given to Wetzel by the
savages, and a thrill of hope shot through Isaac's heart when he saw
the Indians feared Wetzel was on their track. This hope was short
lived, however, for when he considered the probabilities of the
thing he knew that pursuit would only result in his death before the
settlers could come up with the Indians, and he concluded that
Wetzel, familiar with every trick of the redmen, would be the first
to think of the hopelessness of rescuing him and so would not
The four Indians now returned to the fire and stood beside the
chief. It was evident to them that his end was imminent. He sang in
a low, not unmusical tone the death-chant of the Hurons. His
companions silently bowed their heads. When he had finished singing
he slowly rose to his great height, showing a commanding figure.
Slowly his features lost their stern pride, his face softened, and
his dark eyes, gazing straight into the gloom of the forest, bespoke
a superhuman vision.
"Wingenund has been a great chief. He has crossed his last trail.
The deeds of Wingenund will be told in the wigwams of the Lenape,"
said the chief in a loud voice, and then sank back into the arms of
his comrades. They laid him gently down.
A convulsive shudder shook the stricken warrior's frame. Then,
starting up he straightened out his long arm and clutched wildly at
the air with his sinewy fingers as if to grasp and hold the life
that was escaping him.
Isaac could see the fixed, sombre light in the eyes, and the pallor
of death stealing over the face of the chief. He turned his eyes
away from the sad spectacle, and when he looked again the majestic
figure lay still.
The moon sailed out from behind a cloud and shed its mellow light
down on the little glade. It showed the four Indians digging a grave
beneath the oak tree. No word was spoken. They worked with their
tomahawks on the soft duff and soon their task was completed. A bed
of moss and ferns lined the last resting place of the chief. His
weapons were placed beside him, to go with him to the Happy Hunting
Ground, the eternal home of the redmen, where the redmen believe the
sun will always shine, and where they will be free from their cruel
When the grave had been filled and the log rolled on it the Indians
stood by it a moment, each speaking a few words in a low tone, while
the night wind moaned the dead chief's requiem through the tree
Accustomed as Isaac was to the bloody conflicts common to the
Indians, and to the tragedy that surrounded the life of a borderman,
the ghastly sight had unnerved him. The last glimpse of that stern,
dark face, of that powerful form, as the moon brightened up the spot
in seeming pity, he felt he could never forget. His thoughts were
interrupted by the harsh voice of Crow bidding him get up. He was
told that the slightest inclination on his part to lag behind on the
march before them, or in any way to make their trail plainer, would
be the signal for his death. With that Crow cut the thongs which
bound Isaac's legs and placing him between two of the Indians, led
the way into the forest.
Moving like spectres in the moonlight they marched on and on for
hours. Crow was well named. He led them up the stony ridges where
their footsteps left no mark, and where even a dog could not find
their trail; down into the valleys and into the shallow streams
where the running water would soon wash away all trace of their
tracks; then out on the open plain, where the soft, springy grass
retained little impress of their moccasins.
Single file they marched in the leader's tracks as he led them
onward through the dark forests, out under the shining moon, never
slacking his rapid pace, ever in a straight line, and yet avoiding
the roughest going with that unerring instinct which was this
Indian's gift. Toward dawn the moon went down, leaving them in
darkness, but this made no difference, for, guided by the stars,
Crow kept straight on his course. Not till break of day did he come
to a halt.
Then, on the banks of a narrow stream, the Indians kindled a fire
and broiled some of the venison. Crow told Isaac he could rest, so
he made haste to avail himself of the permission, and almost
instantly was wrapped in the deep slumber of exhaustion. Three of
the Indians followed suit, and Crow stood guard. Sleepless,
tireless, he paced to and fro on the bank his keen eyes vigilant for
signs of pursuers.
The sun was high when the party resumed their flight toward the
west. Crow plunged into the brook and waded several miles before he
took to the woods on the other shore. Isaac suffered severely from
the sharp and slippery stones, which in no wise bothered the
Indians. His feet were cut and bruised; still he struggled on
without complaining. They rested part of the night, and the next day
the Indians, now deeming themselves practically safe from pursuit,
did not exercise unusual care to conceal their trail.
That evening about dusk they came to a rapidly flowing stream which
ran northwest. Crow and one of the other Indians parted the willows
on the bank at this point and dragged forth a long birch-bark canoe
which they ran into the stream. Isaac recognized the spot. It was
near the head of Mad River, the river which ran through the Wyandot
Two of the Indians took the bow, the third Indian and Isaac sat in
the middle, back to back, and Crow knelt in the stern. Once launched
on that wild ride Isaac forgot his uneasiness and his bruises. The
night was beautiful; he loved the water, and was not lacking in
sentiment. He gave himself up to the charm of the silver moonlight,
of the changing scenery, and the musical gurgle of the water. Had it
not been for the cruel face of Crow, he could have imagined himself
on one of those enchanted canoes in fairyland, of which he had read
when a boy. Ever varying pictures presented themselves at the range,
impelled by vigorous arms, flew over the shining bosom of the
stream. Here, in a sharp bend, was a narrow place where the trees on
each bank interlaced their branches and hid the moon, making a dark