Part 3 out of 6
free picturesque life of the Indians would have appealed to any white man;
that it had a wonderful charm, and that before the war with the whites the
Indians were kind to their prisoners, and sought only to make Indians of them.
He told tales of how easily white boys become Indianized, so attached to the
wild life and freedom of the redmen that it was impossible to get the captives
to return to civilized life. The boys had been permitted to grow wild with the
Indian lads; to fish and shoot and swim with them; to play the Indian
games--to live idle, joyous lives. He said these white boys had been ransomed
and taken from captivity and returned to their homes and, although a close
watch has kept on them, they contrived to escape and return to the Indians,
and that while they were back among civilized people it was difficult to keep
the boys dressed. In summer time it was useless to attempt it. The strongest
hemp-linen shirts, made with the strongest collar and wrist-band, would
directly be torn off and the little rascals would swimming in the river or
rolling on the sand.
If we may believe what these men have said--and there seems no good reason why
we may not--the Indian was very different from the impression given of him.
There can be little doubt that the redman once lived a noble and blameless
life; that he was simple, honest and brave, that he had a regard for honor and
a respect for a promise far exceeding that of most white men. Think of the
beautiful poetry and legends left by these silent men: men who were a part of
the woods; men whose music was the sighing of the wind, the rustling of the
leaf, the murmur of the brook; men whose simple joys were the chase of the
stag, and the light in the dark eye of a maiden.
If we wish to find the highest type of the American Indian we must look for
him before he was driven west by the land-seeking pioneer and before he was
degraded by the rum-selling French trader.
The French claimed all the land watered by the Mississippi River and its
tributaries. The French Canadian was a restless, roaming adventurer and he
found his vocation in the fur-trade. This fur-trade engendered a strange class
of men--bush-rangers they were called--whose work was to paddle the canoe
along the lakes and streams and exchange their cheap rum for the valuable furs
of the Indians. To these men the Indians of the west owe their degradation.
These bush-rangers or coureurs-des-bois, perverted the Indians and sank into
barbarism with them.
The few travellers there in those days were often surprised to find in the
wigwams of the Indians men who acknowledged the blood of France, yet who had
lost all semblance to the white man. They lived in their tepee with their
Indian squaws and lolled on their blankets while the squaws cooked their
venison and did all the work. They let their hair grow long and wore feathers
in it; they painted their faces hideously with ochre and vermilion.
These were the worthless traders and adventurers who, from the year 1748 to
1783, encroached on the hunting grounds of the Indians and explored the
wilderness, seeking out the remote tribes and trading the villainous rum for
the rare pelts. In 1784 the French authorities, realizing that these vagrants
were demoralizing the Indians, warned them to get off the soil. Finding this
course ineffectual they arrested those that could be apprehended and sent them
to Canada. But it was too late: the harm had been done: the poor, ignorant
savage had tasted of the terrible "fire-water," as he called the rum and his
ruin was inevitable.
It was a singular fact that almost every Indian who had once tasted strong
drink, was unable to resist the desire for more. When a trader came to one of
the Indian hamlets the braves purchased a keg of rum and then they held a
council to see who was to get drunk and who was to keep sober. It was
necessary to have some sober Indians in camp, otherwise the drunken braves
would kill one another. The weapons would have to be concealed. When the
Indians had finished one keg of rum they would buy another, and so on until
not a beaver-skin was left. Then the trader would move or when the Indians
sobered up they would be much dejected, for invariably they would find that
some had been wounded, others crippled, and often several had been killed.
Logan, using all his eloquence, travelled from village to village visiting the
different tribes and making speeches. He urged the Indians to shun the dreaded
"fire-water." He exclaimed against the whites for introducing liquor to the
Indians and thus debasing them. At the same time Logan admitted his own
fondness for rum. This intelligent and noble Indian was murdered in a drunken
fight shortly after sending his address to Lord Dunmore.
Thus it was that the poor Indians had no chance to avert their downfall; the
steadily increasing tide of land-stealing settlers rolling westward, and the
insiduous, debasing, soul-destroying liquor were the noble redman's doom.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Isaac Zane dropped back not altogether unhappily into his old place in the
wigwam, in the hunting parties, and in the Indian games.
When the braves were in camp, the greatest part of the day was spent in
shooting and running matches, in canoe races, in wrestling, and in the game of
ball. The chiefs and the older braves who had won their laurels and the
maidens of the tribe looked on and applauded.
Isaac entered into all these pastimes, partly because he had a natural love
for them, and partly because he wished to win the regard of the Indians. In
wrestling, and in those sports which required weight and endurance, he usually
suffered defeat. In a foot race there was not a brave in the entire tribe who
could keep even with him. But it was with the rifle that Isaac won his
greatest distinction. The Indians never learned the finer shooting with the
ride. Some few of them could shoot well, but for the most part they were poor
Accordingly, Isaac was always taken on the fall hunt. Every autumn there were
three parties sent out to bring in the supply of meat for the winter. Because
of Isaac's fine marksmanship he was always taken with the bear hunters. Bear
hunting was exciting and dangerous work. Before the weather got very cold and
winter actually set in the bears crawled into a hole in a tree or a cave in
the rocks, where they hibernated. A favorite place for them was in hollow
trees. When the Indians found a tree with the scratches of a bear on it and a
hole large enough to admit the body of a bear, an Indian climbed up the tree
and with a long pole tried to punch Bruin out of his den. Often this was a
hazardous undertaking, for the bear would get angry on being disturbed in his
winter sleep and would rush out before the Indian could reach a place of
safety. At times there were even two or three bears in one den. Sometimes the
bear would refuse to come out, and on these occasions, which were rare, the
hunters would resort to fire. A piece of dry, rotten wood was fastened to a
long pole and was set on fire. When this was pushed in on the bear he would
give a sniff and a growl and come out in a hurry.
The buffalo and elk were hunted with the bow and arrow. This effective weapon
did not make a noise and frighten the game. The wary Indian crawled through
the high grass until within easy range and sometimes killed several buffalo or
elk before the herd became alarmed. The meat was then jerked. This consisted
in cutting it into thin strips and drying it in the sun. Afterwards it was
hung up in the lodges. The skins were stretched on poles to dry, and when
cured they served as robes, clothing and wigwam-coverings.
The Indians were fond of honey and maple sugar. The finding of a hive of bees,
or a good run of maple syrup was an occasion for general rejoicing. They found
the honey in hollow trees, and they obtained the maple sugar in two ways. When
the sap came up in the maple trees a hole was bored in the trees about a foot
from the ground and a small tube, usually made from a piece of alder, was
inserted in the hole. Through this the sap was carried into a vessel which was
placed under the tree. This sap was boiled down in kettles. If the Indians had
no kettles they made the frost take the place of heat in preparing the sugar.
They used shallow vessels made of bark, and these were filled with water and
the maple sap. It was left to freeze over night and in the morning the ice was
broken and thrown away. The sugar did not freeze. When this process had been
repeated several times the residue was very good maple sugar.
Isaac did more than his share toward the work of provisioning the village for
the winter. But he enjoyed it. He was particularly fond of fishing by
moonlight. Early November was the best season for this sport, and the Indians
caught large numbers of fish. They placed a torch in the bow of a canoe and
paddled noiselessly over the stream. In the clear water a bright light would
so attract and fascinate the fish that they would lie motionless near the
bottom of the shallow stream.
One cold night Isaac was in the bow of the canoe. Seeing a large fish he
whispered to the Indians with him to exercise caution. His guides paddled
noiselessly through the water. Isaac stood up and raised the spear, ready to
strike. In another second Isaac had cast the iron, but in his eagerness he
overbalanced himself and plunged head first into the icy current, making a
great splash and spoiling any further fishing. Incidents like this were a
source of infinite amusement to the Indians.
Before the autumn evenings grew too cold the Indian held their courting
dances. All unmarried maidens and braves in the village were expected to take
part in these dances. In the bright light of huge fires, and watched by the
chiefs, the old men, the squaws, and the children, the maidens and the braves,
arrayed in their gaudiest apparel, marched into the circle. They formed two
lines a few paces apart. Each held in the right hand a dry gourd which
contained pebbles. Advancing toward one another they sang the courting song,
keeping time to the tune with the rattling of the pebbles. When they met in
the center the braves bent forward and whispered a word to the maidens. At a
certain point in the song, which was indicated by a louder note, the maidens
would change their positions, and this was continued until every brave had
whispered to every maiden, when the dance ended.
Isaac took part in all these pleasures; he entered into every phase of the
Indian's life; he hunted, worked, played, danced, and sang with faithfulness.
But when the long, dreary winter days came with their ice-laden breezes,
enforcing idleness on the Indians, he became restless. Sometimes for days he
would be morose and gloomy, keeping beside his own tent and not mingling with
the Indians. At such times Myeerah did not question him.
Even in his happier hours his diversions were not many. He never tired of
watching and studying the Indian children. When he had an opportunity without
being observed, which was seldom, he amused himself with the papooses. The
Indian baby was strapped to a flat piece of wood and covered with a broad flap
of buckskin. The squaws hung these primitive baby carriages up on the pole of
a tepee, on a branch of a tree, or threw them round anywhere. Isaac never
heard a papoose cry. He often pulled down the flap of buckskin and looked at
the solemn little fellow, who would stare up at him with big, wondering eyes.
Isaac's most intimate friend was a six-year-old Indian boy, whom he called
Captain Jack. He was the son of Thundercloud, the war-chief of the Hurons.
Jack made a brave picture in his buckskin hunting suit and his war bonnet.
Already he could stick tenaciously on the back of a racing mustang and with
his little bow he could place arrow after arrow in the center of the target.
Knowing Captain Jack would some day be a mighty chief, Isaac taught him to
speak English. He endeavored to make Jack love him, so that when the lad
should grow to be a man he would remember his white brother and show mercy to
the prisoners who fell into his power.
Another of Isaac's favorites was a half-breed Ottawa Indian, a distant
relative of Tarhe's. This Indian was very old; no one knew how old; his face
was seamed and scarred and wrinkled. Bent and shrunken was his form. He slept
most of the time, but at long intervals he would brighten up and tell of his
prowess when a warrior.
One of his favorite stories was of the part he had taken in the events of that
fatal and memorable July 2, 1755, when Gen. Braddock and his English army were
massacred by the French and Indians near Fort Duquesne.
The old chief told how Beaujeu with his Frenchmen and his five hundred Indians
ambushed Braddock's army, surrounded the soldiers, fired from the ravines, the
trees, the long grass, poured a pitiless hail of bullets on the bewildered
British soldiers, who, unaccustomed to this deadly and unseen foe, huddled
under the trees like herds of frightened sheep, and were shot down with hardly
an effort to defend themselves.
The old chief related that fifteen years after that battle he went to the
Kanawha settlement to see the Big Chief, Gen. George Washington, who was
travelling on the Kanawha. He told Gen. Washington how he had fought in the
battle of Braddock's Fields; how he had shot and killed Gen. Braddock; how he
had fired repeatedly at Washington, and had killed two horses under him, and
how at last he came to the conclusion that Washington was protected by the
Great Spirit who destined him for a great future.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Myeerah was the Indian name for a rare and beautiful bird--the white
crane--commonly called by the Indians, Walk-in-the-Water. It had been the name
of Tarhe's mother and grandmother. The present Myeerah was the daughter of a
French woman, who had been taken captive at a very early age, adopted into the
Huron tribe, and married to Tarhe. The only child of this union was Myeerah.
She grew to be beautiful woman and was known in Detroit and the Canadian forts
as Tarhe's white daughter. The old chief often visited the towns along the
lake shore, and so proud was he of Myeeah that he always had her accompany
him. White men travelled far to look at the Indian beauty. Many French
soldiers wooed her in vain. Once, while Tarhe was in Detroit, a noted French
family tried in every way to get possession of Myeerah.
The head of this family believed he saw in Myeerah the child of his long lost
daughter. Tarhe hurried away from the city and never returned to the white
Myeerah was only five years old at the time of the capture of the Zane
brothers and it was at this early age that she formed the attachment for Isaac
Zane which clung to her all her life. She was seven when the men came from
Detroit to ransom the brothers, and she showed such grief when she learned
that Isaac was to be returned to his people that Tarhe refused to accept any
ransom for Isaac. As Myeerah grew older her childish fancy for the white boy
deepened into an intense love.
But while this love tendered her inexorable to Isaac on the question of giving
him his freedom, it undoubtedly saved his life as well as the lives of other
white prisoners, on more than one occasion.
To the white captives who fell into the hands of the Hurons, she was kind and
merciful; many of the wounded she had tended with her own hands, and many poor
wretches she had saved from the gauntlet and the stake. When her efforts to
persuade her father to save any one were unavailing she would retire in sorrow
to her lodge and remain there.
Her infatuation for the White Eagle, the Huron name for Isaac, was an old
story; it was known to all the tribes and had long ceased to be questioned. At
first some of the Delawares and the Shawnee braves, who had failed to win
Myeerah's love, had openly scorned her for her love for the pale face. The
Wyandot warriors to a man worshipped her; they would have marched straight
into the jaws of death at her command; they resented the insults which had
been cast on their princess, and they had wiped them out in blood: now none
dared taunt her.
In the spring following Isaac's recapture a very serious accident befell him.
He had become expert in the Indian game of ball, which is a game resembling
the Canadian lacrosse, and from which, in fact, it had been adopted. Goals
were placed at both ends of a level plain. Each party of Indians chose a goal
which they endeavored to defend and at the same time would try to carry the
ball over their opponent's line.
A well contested game of Indian ball presented a scene of wonderful effort and
excitement. Hundreds of strong and supple braves could be seen running over
the plain, darting this way and that, or struggling in a yelling, kicking,
fighting mass, all in a mad scramble to get the ball.
As Isaac had his share of the Zane swiftness of foot, at times his really
remarkable fleetness enabled him to get control of the ball. In front of the
band of yelling savages he would carry it down the field, and evading the
guards at the goal, would throw it between the posts. This was a feat of which
any brave could be proud.
During one of these games Red Fox, a Wyandot brave, who had long been
hopelessly in love with Myeerah, and who cordially hated Isaac, used this
opportunity for revenge. Red Fox, who was a swift runner, had vied with Isaac
for the honors, but being defeated in the end, he had yielded to his jealous
frenzy and had struck Isaac a terrible blow on the head with his bat.
It happened to be a glancing blow or Isaac's life would have been ended then
and there. As it was he had a deep gash in his head. The Indians carried him
to his lodge and the medicine men of the tribe were summoned.
When Isaac recovered consciousness he asked for Myeerah and entreated her not
to punish Red Fox. He knew that such a course would only increase his
difficulties, and, on the other hand, if he saved the life of the Indian who
had struck him in such a cowardly manner such an act would appeal favorably to
the Indians. His entreaties had no effect on Myeerah, who was furious, and who
said that if Red Fox, who had escaped, ever returned he would pay for his
unprovoked assault with his life, even if she had to kill him herself. Isaac
knew that Myeerah would keep her word. He dreaded every morning that the old
squaw who prepared his meals would bring him the new that his assailant had
been slain. Red Fox was a popular brave, and there were many Indians who
believed the blow he had struck Isaac was not intentional. Isaac worried
needlessly, however, for Red Fox never came back, and nothing could be learned
as to his wherabouts.
It was during his convalescence that Isaac learned really to love the Indian
maiden. She showed such distress in the first days after his injury, and such
happiness when he was out of danger and on the road to recovery that Isaac
wondered at her. She attended him with anxious solicitude; when she bathed and
bandaged his wound her every touch was a tender caress; she sat by him for
hours; her low voice made soft melody as she sang the Huron love songs. The
moments were sweet to Isaac when in the gathering twilight she leaned her head
on his shoulder while they listened to the evening carol of the
whip-poor-will. Days passed and at length Isaac was entirely well. One day
when the air was laden with the warm breath of summer Myeerah and Isaac walked
by the river.
"You are sad again," said Myeerah.
"I am homesick. I want to see my people. Myeerah, you have named me rightly.
The Eagle can never be happy unless he is free."
"The Eagle can be happy with his mate. And what life could be freer than a
Huron's? I hope always that you will grow content."
"It has been a long time now, Myeerah, since I have spoken with you of my
freedom. Will you ever free me? Or must I take again those awful chances of
escape? I cannot always live here in this way. Some day I shall be killed
while trying to get away, and then, if you truly love me, you will never
"Does not Myeerah truly love you?" she asked, gazing straight into his eyes,
her own misty and sad.
"I do not doubt that, but I think sometimes that it is not the right kind of
love. It is too savage. No man should be made a prisoner for no other reason
than that he is loved by a woman. I have tried to teach you many things; the
language of my people, their ways and thoughts, but I have failed to civilize
you. I cannot make you understand that it is unwomanly--do not turn away. I am
not indifferent. I have learned to care for you. Your beauty and tenderness
have made anything else impossible."
"Myeerah is proud of her beauty, if it pleases the Eagle. Her beauty and her
love are his. Yet the Eagle's words make Myeerah sad. She cannot tell what she
feels. The pale face's words flow swiftly and smoothly like rippling waters,
but Myeerah's heart is full and her lips are dumb."
Myeerah and Isaac stopped under a spreading elm tree the branches of which
drooped over and shaded the river. The action of the high water had worn away
the earth round the roots of the old elm, leaving them bare and dry when the
stream was low. As though Nature had been jealous in the interest of lovers,
she had twisted and curled the roots into a curiously shaped bench just above
the water, which was secluded enough to escape all eyes except those of the
beaver and the muskrat. The bank above was carpeted with fresh, dewy grass;
blue bells and violets hid modestly under their dark green leaves; delicate
ferns, like wonderful fairy lace, lifted their dainty heads to sway in the
summer breeze. In this quiet nook the lovers passed many hours.
"Then, if my White Chief has learned to care for me, he must not try to
escape," whispered Myeerah, tenderly, as she crept into Isaac's arms and laid
her head on his breast. "I love you. I love you. What will become of Myeerah
if you leave her? Could she ever be happy? Could she ever forget? No, no, I
will keep my captive."
"I cannot persuade you to let me go?"
"If I free you I will come and lie here," cried Myeerah, pointing to the dark
"Then come with me to my home and live there."
"Go with you to the village of the pale faces, where Myeerah would be scorned,
pointed at as your captors laughed at and pitied? No! No!"
"But you would not be," said Isaac, eagerly. "You would be my wife. My sister
and people will love you. Come, Myeerah save me from this bondage; come home
with me and I will make you happy."
"It can never be," she said, sadly, after a long pause. "How would we ever
reach the fort by the big river? Tarhe loves his daughter and will not give
her up. If we tried to get away the braves would overtake us and then even
Myeerah could not save your life. You would be killed. I dare not try. No, no,
Myeerah loves too well for that."
"You might make the attempt," said Isaac, turning away in bitter
disappointment. "If you loved me you could not see me suffer."
"Never say that again," cried Myeerah, pain and scorn in her dark eyes. "Can
an Indian Princess who has the blood of great chiefs in her veins prove her
love in any way that she has not? Some day you will know that you wrong me. I
am Tarhe's daughter. A Huron does not lie."
They slowly wended their way back to the camp, both miserable at heart; Isaac
longing to see his home and friends, and yet with tenderness in his heart for
the Indian maiden who would not free him; Myeerah with pity and love for hind
and a fear that her long cherished dream could never be realized.
One dark, stormy night, when the rain beat down in torrents and the swollen
river raged almost to its banks, Isaac slipped out of his lodge unobserved and
under cover of the pitchy darkness he got safely between the lines of tepees
to the river. He had just the opportunity for which he had been praying. He
plunged into the water and floating down with the swift current he soon got
out of sight of the flickering camp fires. Half a mile below he left the water
and ran along the bank until he came to a large tree, a landmark he
remembered, when he turned abruptly to the east and struck out through the
dense woods. He travelled due east all that night and the next day without
resting, and with nothing to eat except a small piece of jerked buffalo meat
which he had taken the precaution to hide in his hunting shirt. He rested part
of the second night and next morning pushed on toward the east. He had
expected to reach the Ohio that day, but he did not and he noticed that the
ground seemed to be gradually rising. He did not come across any swampy lands
or saw grass or vegetation characteristic of the lowlands. He stopped and
tried to get his bearings. The country was unknown to him, but he believed he
knew the general lay of the ridges and the water-courses.
The fourth day found Isaac hopelessly lost in the woods. He was famished,
having eaten but a few herbs and berries in the last two days; his buckskin
garments were torn in tatters; his moccasins were worn out and his feet
lacerated by the sharp thorns.
Darkness was fast approaching when he first realized that he was lost. He
waited hopefully for the appearance of the north star--that most faithful of
hunter's guides--but the sky clouded over and no stars appeared. Tired out and
hopeless he dragged his weary body into a dense laurel thicket end lay down to
wait for dawn. The dismal hoot of an owl nearby, the stealthy steps of some
soft-footed animal prowling round the thicket, and the mournful sough of the
wind in the treetops kept him awake for hours, but at last he fell asleep.
The chilling rains of November and December's flurry of snow had passed and
mid-winter with its icy blasts had set in. The Black Forest had changed
autumn's gay crimson and yellow to the somber hue of winter and now looked
indescribably dreary. An ice gorge had formed in the bend of the river at the
head of the island and from bank to bank logs, driftwood, broken ice and giant
floes were packed and jammed so tightly as to resist the action of the mighty
current. This natural bridge would remain solid until spring had loosened the
frozen grip of old winter. The hilly surrounding Fort Henry were white with
snow. The huge drifts were on a level with Col. Zane's fence and in some
places the top rail had disappeared. The pine trees in the yard were weighted
down and drooped helplessly with their white burden.
On this frosty January morning the only signs of life round the settlement
were a man and a dog walking up Wheeling hill. The man carried a rifle, an
axe, and several steel traps. His snow-shoes sank into the drifts as he
labored up the steep hill. All at once he stopped. The big black dog had put
his nose high in the air and had sniffed at the cold wind.
"Well, Tige, old fellow, what is it?" said Jonathan Zane, for this was he.
The dog answered with a low whine. Jonathan looked up and down the creek
valley and along the hillside, but he saw no living thing. Snow, snow
everywhere, its white monotony relieved here and there by a black tree trunk.
Tige sniffed again and then growled. Turning his ear to the breeze Jonathan
heard faint yelps from far over the hilltop. He dropped his axe and the traps
and ran the remaining short distance up the hill. When he reached the summit
the clear baying of hunting wolves was borne to his ears.
The hill sloped gradually on the other side, ending in a white, unbroken plain
which extended to the edge of the laurel thicket a quarter of a mile distant.
Jonathan could not see the wolves, but he heard distinctly their peculiar,
broken howls. They were in pursuit of something, whether quadruped or man he
could not decide. Another moment and he was no longer in doubt, for a deer
dashed out of the thicket. Jonathan saw that it was a buck and that he was
well nigh exhausted; his head swung low from side to side; he sank slowly to
his knees, and showed every indication of distress.
The next instant the baying of the wolves, which had ceased for a moment,
sounded close at hand. The buck staggered to his feet; he turned this way and
that. When he saw the man and the dog he started toward them without a
At a warning word from Jonathan the dog sank on the snow. Jonathan stepped
behind a tree, which, however, was not large enough to screen his body. He
thought the buck would pass close by him and he determined to shoot at the
most favorable moment.
The buck, however, showed no intention of passing by; in his abject terror he
saw in the man and the dog foes less terrible than those which were yelping on
his trail. He came on in a lame uneven trot, making straight for the tree.
When he reached the tree he crouched, or rather fell, on the ground within a
yard of Jonathan and his dog. He quivered and twitched; his nostrils flared;
at every pant drops of blood flecked the snow; his great dark eyes had a
strained and awful look, almost human in its agony.
Another yelp from the thicket and Jonathan looked up in time to see five
timber wolves, gaunt, hungry looking beasts, burst from the bushes. With their
noses close to the snow they followed the trail. When they came to the spot
where the deer had fallen a chorus of angry, thirsty howls filled the air.
"Well, if this doesn't beat me! I thought I knew a little about deer," said
Jonathan. "Tige, we will save this buck from those gray devils if it costs a
leg. Steady now, old fellow, wait."
When the wolves were within fifty yards of the tree and coming swiftly
Jonathan threw his rifle forward and yelled with all the power of his strong
"Hi! Hi! Hi! Take 'em, Tige!"
In trying to stop quickly on the slippery snowcrust the wolves fell all over
themselves. One dropped dead and another fell wounded at the report of
Jonathan's rifle. The others turned tail and loped swiftly off into the
thicket. Tige made short work of the wounded one.
"Old White Tail, if you were the last buck in the valley, I would not harm
you," said Jonathan, looking at the panting deer. "You need have no farther
fear of that pack of cowards."
So saying Jonathan called to Tige and wended his way down the hill toward the
An hour afterward he was sitting in Col. Zane's comfort able cabin, where all
was warmth and cheerfulness. Blazing hickory logs roared and crackled in the
"Hello, Jack, where did you come from?" said Col. Zane, who had just come in.
"Haven't seen you since we were snowed up. Come over to see about the horses?
If I were you I would not undertake that trip to Fort Pitt until the weather
breaks. You could go in the sled, of course, but if you care anything for my
advice you will stay home. This weather will hold on for some time. Let Lord
"I guess we are in for some stiff weather."
"Haven't a doubt of it. I told Bessie last fall we might expect a hard winter.
Everything indicated it. Look at the thick corn-husks. The hulls of the nuts
from the shells bark here in the yard were larger and tougher than I ever saw
them. Last October Tige killed a raccoon that had the wooliest kind of a fur.
I could have given you a dozen signs of a hard winter. We shall still have a
month or six weeks of it. In a week will be ground-hog day and you had better
wait and decide after that."
"I tell you, Eb, I get tired chopping wood and hanging round the house."
"Aha! another moody spell," said Col. Zane, glancing kindly at his brother.
"Jack, if you were married you would outgrow those 'blue-devils.' I used to
have them. It runs in the family to be moody. I have known our father to take
his gun and go into the woods and stay there until he had fought out the
spell. I have done that myself, but once I married Bessie I have had no return
of the old feeling. Get married, Jack, and then you will settle down and work.
You will not have time to roam around alone in the woods."
"I prefer the spells, as you call them, any day," answered Jonathan, with a
short laugh. "A man with my disposition has no right to get married. This
weather is trying, for it keeps me indoors. I cannot hunt because we do not
need the meat. And even if I did want to hunt I should not have to go out of
sight of the fort. There were three deer in front of the barn this morning.
They were nearly starved. They ran off a little at sight of me, but in a few
moments came back for the hay I pitched out of the loft. This afternoon Tige
and I saved a big buck from a pack of wolves. The buck came right up to me. I
could have touched him. This storm is sending the deer down from the hills."
"You are right. It is too bad. Severe weather like this will kill more deer
than an army could. Have you been doing anything with your traps?"
"Yes, I have thirty traps out."
"If you are going, tell Sam to fetch down another load of fodder before he
"Eb, I have no patience with your brothers," said Col. Zane's wife to him
after he had closed the door. "They are all alike; forever wanting to be on
the go. If it isn't Indians it is something else. The very idea of going up
the river in this weather. If Jonathan doesn't care for himself he should
think of the horses."
"My dear, I was just as wild and discontented as Jack before I met you,"
remarked Col. Zane. "You may not think so, but a home and pretty little woman
will do wonders for any man. My brothers have nothing to keep them steady."
"Perhaps. I do not believe that Jonathan ever will get married. Silas may; he
certainly has been keeping company long enough with Mary Bennet. You are the
only Zane who has conquered that adventurous spirit and the desire to be
always roaming the woods in search of something to kill. Your old boy, Noah,
is growing up like all the Zanes. He fights with all the children in the
settlement. I cannot break him of it. He is not a bully, for I have never
known him to do anything mean or cruel. It is just sheer love of fighting."
"Ha! Ha! I fear you will not break him of that," answered Col. Zane. "It is a
good joke to say he gets it all from the Zanes. How about the McCollochs? What
have you to say of your father and the Major and John McColloch? They are not
anything if not the fighting kind. It's the best trait the youngster could
have, out here on the border. He'll need it all. Don't worry about him. Where
"I told her to take the children out for a sled ride. Betty needs exercise.
She stays indoors too much, and of late she looks pale."
"What! Betty not looking well! She was never ill in her life. I have noticed
no change in her."
"No, I daresay you have not. You men can't see anything. But I can, and I tell
you, Betty is very different from the girl she used to be. Most of the time
she sits and gazes out of her window. She used to be so bright, and when she
was not romping with the children she busied herself with her needle.
Yesterday as I entered her room she hurriedly picked up a book, and, I think,
intentionally hid her face behind it. I saw she had been crying."
"Come to think of it, I believe I have missed Betty," said Col. Zane, gravely.
"She seems more quiet. Is she unhappy? When did you first see this change?"
"I think it a little while after Mr. Clarke left here last fall."
"Clarke! What has he to do with Betty? What are you driving at?" exclaimed the
Colonel, stopping in front of his wife. His faced had paled slightly. "I had
forgotten Clarke. Bess, you can't mean--"
"Now, Eb, do not get that look on your face. You always frighten me," answered
his wife, as she quietly placed her hand on his arm. "I do not mean anything
much, certainly nothing against Mr. Clarke. He was a true gentleman. I really
"So did I," interrupted the Colonel.
"I believe Betty cared for Mr. Clarke. She was always different with him. He
has gone away and has forgotten her. That is strange to us, because we cannot
imagine any one indifferent to our beautiful Betty. Nevertheless, no matter
how attractive a woman may be men sometimes love and ride away. I hear the
children coming now. Do not let Betty see that we have been talking about her.
She is as quick as a steel trap."
A peal of childish laughter came from without. The door opened and Betty ran
in, followed by the sturdy, rosy-checked youngsters. All three were white with
"We have had great fun," said Betty. "We went over the bank once and tumbled
off the sled into the snow. Then we had a snow-balling contest, and the boys
compelled me to strike my colors and fly for the house."
Col. Zane looked closely at his sister. Her cheeks were flowing with health;
her eyes were sparkling with pleasure. Failing to observe any indication of
the change in Betty which his wife had spoken, he concluded that women were
better qualified to judge their own sex than were men. He had to confess to
himself that the only change he could see in his sister was that she grew
prettier every day of her life
"Oh, papa. I hit Sam right in the head with a big snow-ball, and I made Betty
run into the house, and I slid down to all by myself. Sam was afraid," said
Noah to his father.
"Noah, if Sammy saw the danger in sliding down the hill he was braver than
you. Now both of you run to Annie and have these wet things taken off."
"I must go get on dry clothes myself," said Betty. "I am nearly frozen. It is
growing colder. I saw Jack come in. Is he going to Fort Pitt?"
"No. He has decided to wait until good weather. I met Mr. Filler over at the
garrison this afternoon and he wants you to go on the sled-ride to-night.
There is to be a dance down at Watkins' place. All the young people are going.
It is a long ride, but I guess it will be perfectly safe. Silas and Wetzel are
going. Dress yourself warmly and go with them. You have never seen old Grandma
"I shall be pleased to go," said Betty.
Betty's room was very cozy, considering that it was in a pioneer's cabin. It
had two windows, the larger of which opened on the side toward the river. The
walls had been smoothly plastered and covered with white birch-bark. They were
adorned with a few pictures and Indian ornaments. A bright homespun carpet
covered the floor. A small bookcase stood in the corner. The other furniture
consisted of two chairs, a small table, a bureau with a mirror, and a large
wardrobe. It was in this last that Betty kept the gowns which she had brought
from Philadelphia, and which were the wonder of all the girls in the village.
"I wonder why Eb looked so closely at me," mused Betty, as she slipped on her
little moccasins. "Usually he is not anxious to have me go so far from the
fort; and now he seemed to think I would enjoy this dance to-night. I wonder
what Bessie has been telling him."
Betty threw some wood on the smouldering fire in the little stone grate and
sat down to think. Like every one who has a humiliating secret, Betty was
eternally suspicious and feared the very walls would guess it. Swift as light
came the thought that her brother and his wife had suspected her secret and
had been talking about her, perhaps pitying her With this thought came the
fear that if she had betrayed herself to the Colonel's wife she might have
done so to others. The consciousness that this might well be true and that
even now the girls might be talking and laughing at her caused her exceeding
shame and bitterness.
Many weeks had passed since that last night that Betty and Alfred Clarke had
In due time Col. Zane's men returned and Betty learned from Jonathan that
Alfred had left them at Ft. Pitt, saying he was going south to his old home.
At first she had expected some word from Alfred, a letter, or if not that,
surely an apology for his conduct on that last evening they had been together.
But Jonathan brought her no word, and after hoping against hope and wearing
away the long days looking for a letter that never came, she ceased to hope
and plunged into despair.
The last few months had changed her life; changed it as only constant
thinking, and suffering that must be hidden from the world, can change the
life of a young girl. She had been so intent on her own thoughts, so deep in
her dreams that she had taken no heed of other people. She did not know that
those who loved her were always thinking of her welfare and would naturally
see even a slight change in her. With a sudden shock of surprise and pain she
realized that to-day for the first time in a month she had played with the
boys. Sammy had asked her why she did not laugh any more. Now she understood
the mad antics of Tige that morning; Madcap's whinney of delight; the
chattering of the squirrels, and Caesar's pranks in the snow. She had
neglected her pets. She had neglected her work, her friends, the boys'
lessons; and her brother. For what? What would her girl friends say? That she
was pining for a lover who had forgotten her. They would say that and it would
be true. She did think of him constantly.
With bitter pain she recalled the first days of the acquaintance which now
seemed so long past; how much she had disliked Alfred; how angry she had been
with him and how contemptuously she had spurned his first proffer of
friendship; how, little by little, her pride had been subdued; then the
struggle with her heart. And, at last, after he had gone, came the realization
that the moments spent with him had been the sweetest of her life. She thought
of him as she used to see him stand before her; so good to look at; so strong
and masterful, and yet so gentle.
"Oh, I cannot bear it," whispered Betty with a half sob, giving up to a rush
of tender feeling. "I love him. I love him, and I cannot forget him. Oh, I am
Betty bowed her head on her knees. Her slight form quivered a while and then
grew still. When a half hour later she raised her head her face was pale and
cold. It bore the look of a girl who had suddenly become a woman; a woman who
saw the battle of life before her and who was ready to fight. Stern resolve
gleamed from her flashing eyes; there was no faltering in those set lips.
Betty was a Zane and the Zanes came of a fighting race. Their blood had ever
been hot and passionate; the blood of men quick to love and quick to hate. It
had flowed in the veins of daring, reckless men who had fought and died for
their country; men who had won their sweethearts with the sword; men who had
had unconquerable spirits. It was this fighting instinct that now rose in
Betty; it gave her strength and pride to defend her secret; the resolve to
fight against the longing in her heart.
"I will forget him! I will tear him out of my heart!" she exclaimed
passionately. "He never deserved my love. He did not care. I was a little fool
to let him amuse himself with me. He went away and forgot. I hate him."
At length Betty subdued her excitement, and when she went down to supper a few
minutes later she tried to maintain a cheerful composure of manner and to chat
with her old-time vivacity.
"Bessie, I am sure you have exaggerated things," remarked Col. Zane after
Betty had gone upstairs to dress for the dance. "Perhaps it is only that Betty
grows a little tired of this howling wilderness. Small wonder if she does. You
know she has always been used to comfort and many young people, places to go
and all that. This is her first winter on the frontier. She'll come round all
"Have it your way, Ebenezer," answered his wife with a look of amused contempt
on her face. "I am sure I hope you are right. By the way, what do you think of
this Ralfe Miller? He has been much with Betty of late."
"I do not know the fellow, Bessie. He seems agreeable. He is a good-looking
young man. Why do you ask?"
"The Major told me that Miller had a bad name at Pitt, and that he had been a
friend of Simon Girty before Girty became a renegade."
"Humph! I'll have to speak to Sam. As for knowing Girty, there is nothing
terrible in that. All the women seem to think that Simon is the very prince of
devils. I have known all the Girtys for years. Simon was not a bad fellow
before he went over to the Indians. It is his brother James who has committed
most of those deeds which have made the name of Girty so infamous."
"I don't like Miller," continued Mrs. Zane in a hesitating way. "I must admit
that I have no sensible reason for my dislike. He is pleasant and agreeable,
yes, but behind it there is a certain intensity. That man has something on his
"If he is in love with Betty, as you seem to think, he has enough on his mind.
I'll vouch for that," said Col. Zane. "Betty is inclined to be a coquette. If
she liked Clarke pretty well, it may be a lesson to her."
"I wish she were married and settled down. It may have been no great harm for
Betty to have kind many admirers while in Philadelphia, but out here on the
border it will never do. These men will not have it. There will be trouble
come of Betty's coquettishness."
"Why, Bessie, she is only a child. What would you have her do? Marry the first
man who asked her?"
"The clod-hoppers are coming," said Mrs. Zane as the jingling of sleigh bells
broke the stillness.
Col. Zane sprang up and opened the door. A broad stream of light flashed from
the room and lighted up the road. Three powerful teams stood before the door.
They were hitched to sleds, or clod-hoppers, which were nothing more than
wagon-beds fastened on wooden runners. A chorus of merry shouts greeted Col.
Zane as he appeared in the doorway.
"All right! all right! Here she is," he cried, as Betty ran down the steps.
The Colonel bundled her in a buffalo robe in a corner of the foremost sled. At
her feet he placed a buckskin bag containing a hot stone Mrs. Zane
thoughtfully had provided.
"All ready here. Let them go," called the Colonel. "You will have clear
weather. Coming back look well to the traces and keep a watch for the wolves."
The long whips cracked, the bells jingled, the impatient horses plunged
forward and away they went over the glistening snow. The night was clear and
cold; countless stars blinked in the black vault overhead; the pale moon cast
its wintry light down on a white and frozen world. As the runners glided
swiftly and smoothly onward showers of dry snow like fine powder flew from
under the horses' hoofs and soon whitened the black-robed figures in the
sleds. The way led down the hill past the Fort, over the creek bridge and
along the road that skirted the Black Forest. The ride was long; it led up and
down hills, and through a lengthy stretch of gloomy forest. Sometimes the
drivers walked the horses up a steep climb and again raced them along a level
bottom. Making a turn in the road they saw a bright light in the distance
which marked their destination. In five minutes the horses dashed into a wide
clearing. An immense log fire burned in front of a two-story structure.
Streams of light poured from the small windows; the squeaking of fiddles, the
shuffling of many feet, and gay laughter came through the open door.
The steaming horses were unhitched, covered carefully with robes and led into
sheltered places, while the merry party disappeared into the house.
The occasion was the celebration of the birthday of old Dan Watkins' daughter.
Dan was one of the oldest settlers along the river; in fact, he had located
his farm several years after Col. Zane had founded the settlement. He was
noted for his open-handed dealing and kindness of heart. He had loaned many a
head of cattle which had never been returned, and many a sack of flour had
left his mill unpaid for in grain. He was a good shot, he would lay a tree on
the ground as quickly as any man who ever swung an axe, and he could drink
more whiskey than any man in the valley.
Dan stood at the door with a smile of welcome upon his rugged features and a
handshake and a pleasant word for everyone. His daughter Susan greeted the men
with a little curtsy and kissed the girls upon the cheek. Susan was not
pretty, though she was strong and healthy; her laughing blue eyes assured a
sunny disposition, and she numbered her suitors by the score.
The young people lost no time. Soon the floor was covered with their whirling
In one corner of the room sat a little dried-up old woman with white hair and
bright dark eyes. This was Grandma Watkins. She was very old, so old that no
one knew her age, but she was still vigorous enough to do her day's work with
more pleasure than many a younger woman. Just now she was talking to Wetzel,
who leaned upon his inseparable rifle and listened to her chatter. The hunter
liked the old lady and would often stop at her cabin while on his way to the
settlement and leave at her door a fat turkey or a haunch of venison.
"Lew Wetzel, I am ashamed of you." Grandmother Watkins was saying. "Put that
gun in the corner and get out there and dance. Enjoy yourself. You are only a
"I'd better look on, mother," answered the hunter.
"Pshaw! You can hop and skip around like any of then and laugh too if you
want. I hope that pretty sister of Eb Zane has caught your fancy."
"She is not for the like of me," he said gently "I haven't the gifts."
"Don't talk about gifts. Not to an old woman who has lived three times and
more your age," she said impatiently. "It is not gifts a woman wants out here
in the West. If she does 'twill do her no good. She needs a strong arm to
build cabins, a quick eye with a rifle, and a fearless heart. What
border-women want are houses and children. They must bring up men, men to
drive the redskins back, men to till the soil, or else what is the good of our
"You are right," said Wetzel thoughtfully. "But I'd hate to see a flower like
Betty Zane in a rude hunter's cabin."
"I have known the Zanes for forty year' and I never saw one yet that was
afraid of work. And you might win her if you would give up running mad after
Indians. I'll allow no woman would put up with that. You have killed many
Indians. You ought to be satisfied."
"Fightin' redskins is somethin' I can't help," said the hunter, slowly shaking
his head. "If I got married the fever would come on and I'd leave home. No,
I'm no good for a woman. Fightin' is all I'm good for."
"Why not fight for her, then? Don't let one of these boys walk off with her.
Look at her. She likes fun and admiration. I believe you do care for her. Why
not try to win her?"
"Who is that tall man with her?" continued the old lady as Wetzel did not
answer. "There, they have gone into the other room. Who is he?"
"His name is Miller."
"Lewis, I don't like him. I have been watching him all evening. I'm a contrary
old woman, I know, but I have seen a good many men in my time, and his face is
not honest. He is in love with her. Does she care for him?"
"No, Betty doesn't care for Miller. She's just full of life and fun."
"You may be mistaken. All the Zanes are fire and brimstone and this girl is a
Zane clear through. Go and fetch her to me, Lewis. I'll tell you if there's a
chance for you."
"Dear mother, perhaps there's a wife in Heaven for me. There's none on earth,"
said the hunter, a sad smile flitting over his calm face.
Ralfe Miller, whose actions had occasioned the remarks of the old lady, would
have been conspicuous in any assembly of men. There was something in his dark
face that compelled interest and yet left the observer in doubt. His square
chin, deep-set eyes and firm mouth denoted a strong and indomitable will. He
looked a man whom it would be dangerous to cross.
Little was known of Miller's history. He hailed from Ft. Pitt, where he had a
reputation as a good soldier, but a man of morose and quarrelsome disposition.
It was whispered that he drank, and that he had been friendly with the
renegades McKee, Elliott, and Girty. He had passed the fall and winter at Ft.
Henry, serving on garrison duty. Since he had made the acquaintance of Betty
he had shown her all the attention possible.
On this night a close observer would have seen that Miller was laboring under
some strong feeling. A half-subdued fire gleamed from his dark eyes. A
peculiar nervous twitching of his nostrils betrayed a poorly suppressed
All evening he followed Betty like a shadow. Her kindness may have encouraged
him. She danced often with him end showed a certain preference for his
society. Alice and Lydia were puzzled by Betty's manner. As they were intimate
friends they believed they knew something of her likes and dislikes. Had not
Betty told them she did not care for Mr. Miller? What was the meaning of the
arch glances she bestowed upon him, if she did not care for him? To be sure,
it was nothing wonderful for Betty to smile,--she was always prodigal of her
smiles--but she had never been known to encourage any man. The truth was that
Betty had put her new resolution into effect; to be as merry and charming as
any fancy-free maiden could possibly be, and the farthest removed from a young
lady pining for an absent and indifferent sweetheart. To her sorrow Betty
played her part too well.
Except to Wetzel, whose keen eyes little escaped, there was no significance in
Miller's hilarity one moment and sudden thoughtfulness the next. And if there
had been, it would have excited no comment. Most of the young men had sampled
some of old Dan's best rye and their flushed faces and unusual spirits did not
result altogether from the exercise of the dance.
After one of the reels Miller led Betty, with whom be had been dancing, into
one of the side rooms. Round the dimly lighted room were benches upon which
were seated some of the dancers. Betty was uneasy in mind and now wished that
she had remained at home. They had exchanged several commonplace remarks when
the music struck up and Betty rose quickly to her feet.
"See, the others have gone. Let us return," she said.
"Wait," said Miller hurriedly. "Do not go just yet. I wish to speak to you. I
have asked you many times if you will marry me. Now I ask you again."
"Mr. Miller, I thanked you and begged you not to cause us both pain by again
referring to that subject," answered Betty with dignity. "If you will persist
in bringing it up we cannot be friends any longer."
"Wait, please wait. I have told you that I will not take 'No' for an answer. I
love you with all my heart and soul and I cannot give you up."
His voice was low and hoarse and thrilled with a strong man's passion. Betty
looked up into his face and tears of compassion filled her eyes. Her heart
softened to this man, and her conscience gave her a little twinge of remorse.
Could she not have averted all this? No doubt she had been much to blame, and
this thought made her voice very low and sweet as she answered him.
"I like you as a friend, Mr. Miller, but we can never be more than friends. I
am very sorry for you, and angry with myself that I did not try to help you
instead of making it worse. Please do not speak of this again. Come, let us
join the others."
They were quite alone in the room. As Betty finished speaking and started for
the door Miller intercepted her. She recoiled in alarm from his white face.
"No, you don't go yet. I won't give you up so easily. No woman can play fast
and loose with me! Do you understand? What have you meant all this winter? You
encouraged me. You know you did," he cried passionately.
"I thought you were a gentleman. I have really taken the trouble to defend you
against persons who evidently were not misled as to your real nature. I will
not listen to you," said Betty coldly. She turned away from him, all her
softened feeling changed to scorn.
"You shall listen to me," he whispered as he grasped her wrist and pulled her
backward. All the man's brutal passion had been aroused. The fierce border
blood boiled within his heart. Unmasked he showed himself in his true colors a
frontier desperado. His eyes gleamed dark and lurid beneath his bent brows and
a short, desperate laugh passed his lips.
"I will make you love me, my proud beauty. I shall have you yet, one way or
"Let me go. How dare you touch me!" cried Betty, the hot blood coloring her
face. She struck him a stinging blow with her free hand and struggled with all
her might to free herself; but she was powerless in his iron grasp. Closer he
"If it costs me my life I will kiss you for that blow," he muttered hoarsely.
"Oh, you coward! you ruffian! Release me or I will scream."
She had opened her lips to call for help when she saw a dark figure cross the
threshold. She recognized the tall form of Wetzel. The hunter stood still in
the doorway for a second and then with the swiftness of light he sprang
forward. The single straightening of his arm sent Miller backward over a bench
to the floor with a crashing sound. Miller rose with some difficulty and stood
with one hand to his head.
"Lew, don't draw your knife," cried Betty as she saw Wetzel's hand go inside
his hunting shirt. She had thrown herself in front of him as Miller got to his
feet. With both little hands she clung to the brawny arm of the hunter, but
she could not stay it. Wetzel's hand slipped to his belt.
"For God's sake, Lew, do not kill him," implored Betty, gazing horror-stricken
at the glittering eyes of the hunter. "You have punished him enough. He only
tried to kiss me. I was partly to blame. Put your knife away. Do not shed
blood. For my sake, Lew, for my sake!"
When Betty found that she could not hold Wetzel's arm she threw her arms round
his neck and clung to him with all her young strength. No doubt her action
averted a tragedy. If Miller had been inclined to draw a weapon then he might
have had a good opportunity to use it. He had the reputation of being quick
with his knife, and many of his past fights testified that he was not a
coward. But he made no effort to attack Wetzel. It was certain that he
measured with his eye the distance to the door. Wetzel was not like other men.
Irrespective of his wonderful strength and agility there was something about
the Indian hunter that terrified all men. Miller shrank before those eyes. He
knew that never in all his life of adventure had he been as near death as at
that moment. There was nothing between him and eternity but the delicate arms
of this frail girl. At a slight wave of the hunter's hand towards the door he
turned and passed out.
"Oh, how dreadful!" cried Betty, dropping upon a bench with a sob of relief.
"I am glad you came when you did even though you frightened me more than he
did. Promise me that you will not do Miller any further harm. If you had
fought it would all have been on my account; one or both of you might have
been killed. Don't look at me so. I do not care for him. I never did. Now that
I know him I despise him. He lost his senses and tried to kiss me. I could
have killed him myself."
Wetzel did not answer. Betty had been holding his hand in both her own while
she spoke impulsively.
"I understand how difficult it is for you to overlook an insult to me," she
continued earnestly. "But I ask it of you. You are my best friend, almost my
brother, and I promise you that if he ever speaks a word to me again that is
not what it should be I will tell you."
"I reckon I'll let him go, considerin' how set on it you are."
"But remember, Lew, that he is revengeful and you must be on the lookout,"
said Betty gravely as she recalled the malignant gleam in Miller's eyes.
"He's dangerous only like a moccasin snake that hides in the grass."
"Am I an right? Do I look mussed or--or excited--or anything?" asked Betty.
Lewis smiled as she turned round for his benefit. Her hair was a little awry
and the lace at her neck disarranged. The natural bloom had not quite returned
to her cheeks. With a look in his eyes that would have mystified Betty for
many a day had she but seen it he ran his gaze over the dainty figure. Then
reassuring her that she looked as well as ever, he led her into the
"So this is Betty Zane. Dear child, kiss me," said Grandmother Watkins when
Wetzel had brought Betty up to her. "Now, let me get a good look at you. Well,
well, you are a true Zane. Black hair and eyes; all fire and pride. Child, I
knew your father and mother long before you were born. Your father was a fine
man but a proud one. And how do you like the frontier? Are you enjoying
"Oh, yes, indeed," said Betty, smiling brightly at the old lady.
"Well, dearie, have a good time while you can. Life is hard in a pioneer's
cabin. You will not always have the Colonel to look after you. They tell me
you have been to some grand school in Philadelphia. Learning is very well, but
it will not help you in the cabin of one of these rough men."
"There is a great need of education in all the pioneers' homes. I have
persuaded brother Eb to have a schoolteacher at the Fort next spring."
"First teach the boys to plow and the girls to make Johnny cake. How much you
favor your brother Isaac. He used to come and see me often. So must you in
summertime. Poor lad, I suppose he is dead by this time. I have seen so many
brave and good lads go. There now, I did not mean to make you sad," and the
old lady patted Betty's hand and sighed.
"He often spoke of you and said that I must come with him to see you. Now he
is gone," said Betty.
"Yes, he is gone, Betty, but you must not be sad while you are so young. Wait
until you are old like I am. How long have you known Lew Wetzel?"
"All my life. He used to carry me in his arm, when I was a baby. Of course I
do not remember that, but as far back as I can go in memory I can see Lew. Oh,
the many times he has saved me from disaster! But why do you ask?"
"I think Lew Wetzel cares more for you than for all the world. He is as silent
as an Indian, but I am an old woman and I can read men's hearts. If he could
be made to give up his wandering life he would be the best man on the border."
"Oh, indeed I think you are wrong. Lew does not care for me in that way," said
Betty, surprised and troubled by the old lady's vehemence.
A loud blast from a hunting-horn directed the attention of all to the platform
at the upper end of the hall, where Dan Watkins stood. The fiddlers ceased
playing, the dancers stopped, and all looked expectantly. The scene was simple
strong, and earnest. The light in the eyes of these maidens shone like the
light from the pine cones on the walls. It beamed soft and warm. These
fearless sons of the wilderness, these sturdy sons of progress, standing there
clasping the hands of their partners and with faces glowing with happiness,
forgetful of all save the enjoyment of the moment, were ready to go out on the
morrow and battle unto the death for the homes and the lives of their loved
"Friends," said Dan when the hum of voices had ceased "I never thought as how
I'd have to get up here and make a speech to-night or I might have taken to
the woods. Howsomever, mother and Susan says as it's gettin' late it's about
time we had some supper. Somewhere in the big cake is hid a gold ring. If one
of the girls gets it she can keep it as a gift from Susan, and should one of
the boys find it he may make a present to his best girl. And in the bargain he
gets to kiss Susan. She made some objection about this and said that part of
the game didn't go, but I reckon the lucky young man will decide that for
hisself. And now to the festal board."
Ample justice was done to the turkey, the venison, and the bear meat.
Grandmother Watkins' delicious apple and pumpkin pies for which she was
renowned, disappeared as by magic. Likewise the cakes and the sweet cider and
the apple butter vanished.
When the big cake had been cut and divided among the guests, Wetzel discovered
the gold ring within his share. He presented the ring to Betty, and gave his
privilege of kissing Susan to George Reynolds, with the remark: "George, I
calkilate Susan would like it better if you do the kissin' part." Now it was
known to all that George had long been an ardent admirer of Susan's, and it
was suspected that she was not indifferent to him. Nevertheless, she protested
that it was not fair. George acted like a man who had the opportunity of his
life. Amid uproarious laughter he ran Susan all over the room, and when he
caught her he pulled her hands away from her blushing face and bestowed a
right hearty kiss on her cheek. To everyone's surprise and to Wetzel's
discomfiture, Susan walked up to him and saying that as he had taken such an
easy way out of it she intended to punish him by kissing him. And so she did.
Poor Lewis' face looked the picture of dismay. Probably he had never been
kissed before in his life.
Happy hours speed away on the wings of the wind. The feasting over, the
good-byes were spoken, the girls were wrapped in the warm robes, for it was
now intensely cold, and soon the horses, eager to start on the long homeward
journey, were pulling hard on their bits. On the party's return trip there was
an absence of the hilarity which had prevailed on their coming. The bells were
taken off before the sleds left the blockhouse, and the traces and the harness
examined and tightened with the caution of men who were apprehensive of danger
and who would take no chances.
In winter time the foes most feared by the settlers were the timber wolves.
Thousands of these savage beasts infested the wild forest regions which
bounded the lonely roads, and their wonderful power of scent and swift and
tireless pursuit made a long night ride a thing to be dreaded. While the
horses moved swiftly danger from wolves was not imminent; but carelessness or
some mishap to a trace or a wheel had been the cause of more than one tragedy.
Therefore it was not remarkable that the drivers of our party breathed a sigh
of relief when the top of the last steep hill had been reached. The girls were
quiet, and tired out and cold they pressed close to one another; the men were
silent and watchful.
When they were half way home and had just reached the outskirts of the Black
Forest the keen ear of Wetzel caught the cry of a wolf. It came from the south
and sounded so faint that Wetzel believed at first that he had been mistaken.
A few moments passed in which the hunter turned his ear to the south. He had
about made up his mind that he had only imagined he had heard something when
the unmistakable yelp of a wolf came down on the wind. Then another, this time
clear and distinct, caused the driver to turn and whisper to Wetzel. The
hunter spoke in a low tone and the driver whipped up his horses. From out the
depths of the dark woods along which they were riding came a long and mournful
howl. It was a wolf answering the call of his mate. This time the horses heard
it, for they threw back their ears and increased their speed. The girls heard
it, for they shrank closer to the men.
There is that which is frightful in the cry of a wolf. When one is safe in
camp before a roaring fire the short, sharp bark of a wolf is startling, and
the long howl will make one shudder. It is so lonely and dismal. It makes no
difference whether it be given while the wolf is sitting on his haunches near
some cabin waiting for the remains of the settler's dinner, or while he is in
full chase after his prey--the cry is equally wild, savage and bloodcurdling.
Betty had never heard it and though she was brave, when the howl from the
forest had its answer in another howl from the creek thicket, she slipped her
little mittened hand under Wetzel's arm and looked up at him with frightened
In half an hour the full chorus of yelps, barks and howls swelled hideously on
the air, and the ever increasing pack of wolves could be seen scarcely a
hundred yards behind the sleds. The patter of their swiftly flying feet on the
snow could be distinctly heard. The slender, dark forms came nearer and nearer
every moment. Presently the wolves had approached close enough for the
occupants of the sleds to see their shining eyes looking like little balls of
green fire. A gaunt beast bolder than the others, and evidently the leader of
the pack, bounded forward until he was only a few yards from the last sled. At
every jump he opened his great jaws and uttered a quick bark as if to embolden
Almost simultaneously with the red flame that burst from Wetzel's rifle came a
sharp yelp of agony from the leader. He rolled over and over. Instantly
followed a horrible mingling of snarls and barks, and snapping of jaws as the
band fought over the body of their luckless comrade.
This short delay gave the advantage to the horses. When the wolves again
appeared they were a long way behind. The distance to the fort was now short
and the horses were urged to their utmost. The wolves kept up the chase until
they reached the creek bridge and the mill. Then they slowed up: the howling
became desultory, and finally the dark forms disappeared in the thickets.
Winter dragged by uneventfully for Betty. Unlike the other pioneer girls, who
were kept busy all the time with their mending, and linsey weaving, and
household duties, Betty had nothing to divert her but her embroidery and her
reading. These she found very tiresome. Her maid was devoted to her and never
left a thing undone. Annie was old Sam's daughter, and she had waited on Betty
since she had been a baby. The cleaning or mending or darning--anything in the
shape of work that would have helped pass away the monotonous hours for Betty,
was always done before she could lift her hand.
During the day she passed hours in her little room, and most of them were
dreamed away by her window. Lydia and Alice came over sometimes and whiled
away the tedious moments with their bright chatter and merry laughter, their
castle-building, and their romancing on heroes and love and marriage as girls
always will until the end of time. They had not forgotten Mr. Clarke, but as
Betty had rebuked them with a dignity which forbade any further teasing on
that score, they had transferred their fun-making to the use of Mr. Miller's
Fearing her brothers' wrath Betty had not told them of the scene with Miller
at the dance. She had learned enough of rough border justice to dread the
consequence of such a disclosure. She permitted Miller to come to the house,
although she never saw him alone. Miller had accepted this favor gratefully.
He said that on the night of the dance he had been a little the worse for Dan
Watkins' strong liquor, and that, together with his bitter disappointment,
made him act in the mad way which had so grievously offended her. He exerted
himself to win her forgiveness. Betty was always tender-hearted, and though
she did not trust him, she said they might still be friends, but that that
depended on his respect for her forbearance. Miller had promised he would
never refer to the old subject and he had kept his word.
Indeed Betty welcomed any diversion for the long winter evenings. Occasionally
some of the young people visited her, and they sang and danced, roasted
apples, popped chestnuts, and played games. Often Wetzel and Major McColloch
came in after supper. Betty would come down and sing for them, and afterward
would coax Indian lore and woodcraft from Wetzel, or she would play checkers
with the Major. If she succeeded in winning from him, which in truth was not
often, she teased him unmercifully. When Col. Zane and the Major had settled
down to their series of games, from which nothing short of Indians could have
diverted them, Betty sat by Wetzel. The silent man of the woods, an
appellation the hunter had earned by his reticence, talked for Betty as he
would for no one else.
One night while Col. Zane, his wife and Betty were entertaining Capt. Boggs
and Major McColloch and several of Betty's girls friends, after the usual
music and singing, storytelling became the order of the evening. Little Noah
told of the time he had climbed the apple-tree in the yard after a raccoon and
got severely bitten.
"One day," said Noah, "I heard Tige barking out in the orchard and I ran out
there and saw a funny little fur ball up in the tree with a black tail and
white rings around it. It looked like a pretty cat with a sharp nose. Every
time Tige barked the little animal showed his teeth and swelled up his back. I
wanted him for a pet. I got Sam to give me a sack and I climbed the tree and
the nearer I got to him the farther he backed down the limb. I followed him
and put out the sack to put it over his head and he bit me. I fell from the
limb, but he fell too and Tige killed him and Sam stuffed him for me."
"Noah, you are quite a valiant hunter," said Betty. "Now, Jonathan, remember
that you promised to tell me of your meeting with Daniel Boone."
"It was over on the Muskingong near the mouth of the Sandusky. I was hunting
in the open woods along the bank when I saw an Indian. He saw me at the same
time and we both treed. There we stood a long time each afraid to change
position. Finally I began to act tired and resorted to an old ruse. I put my
coon-skin cap on my ramrod and cautiously poked it from behind the tree,
expecting every second to hear the whistle of the redskin's bullet. Instead I
heard a jolly voice yell: 'Hey, young feller, you'll have to try something
better'n that.' I looked and saw a white man standing out in the open and
shaking all over with laughter. I went up to him and found him to be a big
strong fellow with an honest, merry face. He said: 'I'm Boone.' I was
considerably taken aback, especially when I saw he knew I was a white man all
the time. We camped and hunted along the river a week and at the Falls of the
Muskingong he struck out for his Kentucky home."
"Here is Wetzel," said Col. Zane, who had risen and gone to the door. "Now,
Betty, try and get Lew to tell us something."
"Come, Lewis, here is a seat by me," said Betty. "We have been pleasantly
passing the time. We have had bear stories, snake stories, ghost stories--all
kinds of tales. Will you tell us one?"
"Lewis, did you ever have a chance to kill a hostile Indian and not take it?"
asked Col. Zane.
"Never but once," answered Lewis.
"Tell us about it. I imagine it will be interesting."
"Well, I ain't good at tellin' things," began Lewis. "I reckon I've seen some
strange sights. I kin tell you about the only redskin I ever let off. Three
years ago I was takin' a fall hunt over on the Big Sandy, and I run into a
party of Shawnees. I plugged a chief and started to run. There was some good
runners and I couldn't shake 'em in the open country. Comin' to the Ohio I
jumped in and swum across, keepin' my rifle and powder dry by holdin' 'em up.
I hid in some bulrushes and waited. Pretty soon along comes three Injuns, and
when they saw where I had taken to the water they stopped and held a short
pow-wow. Then they all took to the water. This was what I was waitin' for.
When they got nearly acrosst I shot the first redskin, and loadin' quick got a
bullet into the others. The last Injun did not sink. I watched him go floatin'
down stream expectin' every minute to see him go under as he was hurt so bad
he could hardly keep his head above water. He floated down a long ways and the
current carried him to a pile of driftwood which had lodged against a little
island. I saw the Injun crawl up on the drift. I went down stream and by
keepin' the island between me and him I got out to where he was. I pulled my
tomahawk and went around the head of the island and found the redskin leanin'
against a big log. He was a young brave and a fine lookin strong feller. He
was tryin' to stop the blood from my bullet-hole in his side. When he saw me
he tried to get up, but he was too weak. He smiled, pointed to the wound and
said: 'Deathwind not heap times bad shot.' Then he bowed his head and waited
for the tomahawk. Well, I picked him up and carried him ashore and made a
shack by a spring. I staid there with him. When he got well enough to stand a
few days' travel I got him across the river and givin' him a hunk of deer meat
I told him to go, and if I ever saw him again I'd make a better shot.
"A year afterwards I trailed two Shawnees into Wingenund's camp and got
surrounded and captured. The Delaware chief is my great enemy. They beat me,
shot salt into my legs, made me run the gauntlet, tied me on the back of a
wild mustang. Then they got ready to burn me at the stake. That night they
painted my face black and held the usual death dances. Some of the braves got
drunk and worked themselves into a frenzy. I allowed I'd never see daylight. I
seen that one of the braves left to guard me was the young feller I had
wounded the year before. He never took no notice of me. In the gray of the
early mornin' when all were asleep and the other watch dozin' I felt cold
steel between my wrists and my buckskin thongs dropped off. Then my feet were
cut loose. I looked round and in the dim light I seen my young brave. He
handed me my own rifle, knife and tomahawk, put his finger on his lips and
with a bright smile, as if to say he was square with me, he pointed to the
east. I was out of sight in a minute."
"How noble of him!" exclaimed Betty, her eyes all aglow. "He paid his debt to
you, perhaps at the price of his life."
"I have never known an Indian to forget a promise, or a kind action, or an
injury," observed Col. Zane.
"Are the Indians half as bad as they are called?" asked Betty. "I have heard
as many stories of their nobility as of their cruelty."
"The Indians consider that they have been robbed and driven from their homes.
What we think hideously inhuman is war to them," answered Col. Zane.
"When I came here from Fort Pitt I expected to see and fight Indians every
day," said Capt. Boggs. "I have been here at Wheeling for nearly two years and
have never seen a hostile Indian. There have been some Indians in the vicinity
during that time but not one has shown himself to me. I'm not up to Indian
tricks, I know, but I think the last siege must have been enough for them. I
don't believe we shall have any more trouble from them."
"Captain," called out Col. Zane, banging his hand on the table. "I'll bet you
my best horse to a keg of gunpowder that you see enough Indians before you are
a year older to make you wish you had never seen or heard of the western
"And I'll go you the same bet," said Major McColloch.
"You see, Captain, you must understand a little of the nature of the Indian,"
continued Col. Zane. "We have had proof that the Delawares and the Shawnees
have been preparing for an expedition for months. We shall have another siege
some day and to my thinking it will be a longer and harder one than the last.
What say you, Wetzel?"
"I ain't sayin' much, but I don't calkilate on goin' on any long hunts this
summer," answered the hunter.
"And do you think Tarhe, Wingenund, Pipe, Cornplanter, and all those chiefs
will unite their forces and attack us?" asked Betty of Wetzel.
"Cornplanter won't. He has been paid for most of his land and he ain't so
bitter. Tarhe is not likely to bother us. But Pipe and Wingenund and Red
Fox--they all want blood."
"Have you seen these chiefs?" said Betty.
"Yes, I know 'em all and they all know me," answered the hunter. "I've watched
over many a trail waitin' for one of 'em. If I can ever get a shot at any of
'em I'll give up Injuns and go farmin'. Good night, Betty."
"What a strange man is Wetzel," mused Betty, after the visitors had gone. "Do
you know, Eb, he is not at all like any one else. I have seen the girls
shudder at the mention of his name and I have heard them say they could not
look in his eyes. He does not affect me that way. It is not often I can get
him to talk, but sometimes he tells me beautiful thing about the woods; how he
lives in the wilderness, his home under the great trees; how every leaf on the
trees and every blade of grass has its joy for him as well as its knowledge;
how he curls up in his little bark shack and is lulled to sleep by the sighing
of the wind through the pine tops. He told me he has often watched the stars
for hours at a time. I know there is a waterfall back in the Black Forest
somewhere that Lewis goes to, simply to sit and watch the water tumble over
"Wetzel is a wonderful character, even to those who know him only as an Indian
slayer and a man who wants no other occupation. Some day he will go off on one
of these long jaunts and will never return. That is certain. The day is fast
approaching when a man like Wetzel will be of no use in life. Now, he is a
necessity. Like Tige he can smell Indians. Betty, I believe Lewis tells you so
much and is so kind and gentle toward you because he cares for you."
"Of course Lew likes me. I know he does and I want him to," said Betty. "But
he does not care as you seem to think. Grandmother Watkins said the same. I am
sure both of you are wrong."
"Did Dan's mother tell you that? Well, she's pretty shrewd. It's quite likely,
Betty, quite likely. It seems to me you are not so quick witted as you used to
"Why so?" asked Betty, quickly.
"Well, you used to be different somehow," said her brother, as he patted her
"Do you mean I am more thoughtful?"
"Yes, and sometimes you seem sad."
"I have tried to be brave and--and happy," said Betty, her voice trembling
"Yes, yes, I know you have, Betty. You have done wonderfully well here in this
dead place. But tell me, don't be angry, don't you think too much of some
"You have no right to ask me that," said Betty, flushing and turning away
toward the stairway.
"Well, well, child, don't mind me. I did not mean anything. There, good night,
Long after she had gone up-stairs Col. Zane sat by his fireside. From time to
time he sighed. He thought of the old Virginia home and of the smile of his
mother. It seemed only a few short years since he had promised her that he
would take care of the baby sister. How had he kept that promise made when
Betty was a little thing bouncing on his knee? It seemed only yesterday. How
swift the flight of time! Already Betty was a woman; her sweet, gay girlhood
had passed; already a shadow had fallen on her face, the shadow of a secret
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
March with its blustering winds had departed, and now April's showers and
sunshine were gladdening the hearts of the settlers. Patches of green
freshened the slopes of the hills; the lilac bushes showed tiny leaves, and
the maple-buds were bursting. Yesterday a blue-bird--surest harbinger of
spring--had alighted on the fence-post and had sung his plaintive song. A few
more days and the blossoms were out mingling their pink and white with the
green; the red-bud. the Hawthorne, and the dog-wood were in bloom, checkering
"Bessie, spring is here," said Col. Zane, as he stood in the doorway. "The air
is fresh, the sun shines warm, the birds are singing; it makes me feel good."
"Yes, it is pleasant to have spring with us again," answered his wife. "I
think, though, that in winter I am happier. In summer I am always worried. I
am afraid for the children to be out of my sight, and when you are away on a
hunt I am distraught until you are home safe."
"Well, if the redskins let us alone this summer it will be something new," he
said, laughing. "By the way, Bess, some new people came to the fort last
night. They rafted down from the Monongahela settlements. Some of the women
suffered considerably. I intend to offer them the cabin on the hill until they
can cut the timber and run up a house. Sam said the cabin roof leaked and the
chimney smoked, but with a little work I think they can be made more
comfortable there than at the block-house."
"It is the only vacant cabin in the settlement. I can accommodate the women
"Well, we'll see about it. I don't want you and Betty inconvenienced. I'll
send Sam up to the cabin and have him fix things up a bit and make it more
The door opened, admitting Col. Zane's elder boy. The lad's face was dirty,
his nose was all bloody, and a big bruise showed over his right eye.
"For the land's sake!" exclaimed his mother. "Look at the boy. Noah, come
here. What have you been doing?"
Noah crept close to his mother and grasping her apron with both hands hid his
face. Mrs. Zane turned the boy around and wiped his discolored features with a
wet towel. She gave him a little shake and said: "Noah, have you been fighting
"Let him go and I'll tell you about it," said the Colonel, and when the
youngster had disappeared he continued: "Right after breakfast Noah went with
me down to the mill. I noticed several children playing in front of Reihart's
blacksmith shop. I went in, leaving Noah outside. I got a plow-share which I
had left with Reihart to be repaired. He came to the door with me and all at
once he said: 'look at the kids.' I looked and saw Noah walk up to a boy and
say something to him. The lad was a stranger, and I have no doubt belongs to
these new people I told you about. He was bigger than Noah. At first the older
boy appeared very friendly and evidently wanted to join the others in their
game. I guess Noah did not approve of this, for after he had looked the
stranger over he hauled away and punched the lad soundly. To make it short the
strange boy gave Noah the worst beating he ever got in his life. I told Noah
to come straight to you and confess."
"Well, did you ever!" ejaculated Mrs. Zane. "Noah is a bad boy. And you stood
and watched him fight. You are laughing about it now. Ebenezer Zane, I would
not put it beneath you to set Noah to fighting. I know you used to make the
little niggers fight. Anyway, it serves Noah right and I hope it will be a
lesson to him."
"I'll make you a bet, Bessie," said the Colonel, with another laugh. "I'll bet
you that unless we lock him up, Noah will fight that boy every day or every
time he meets him."
"I won't bet," said Mrs. Zane, with a smile of resignation.
"Where's Betts? I haven't seen her this morning. I am going over to Short
Creek to-morrow or next day, and think I'll take her with me. You know I am to
get a commission to lay out several settlements along the river, and I want to
get some work finished at Short Creek this spring. Mrs. Raymer'll be delighted
to have Betty. Shall I take her?
"By all means. A visit there will brighten her up and do her good."
"Well, what on earth have you been doing?" cried the Colonel. His remark had
been called forth by a charming vision that had entered by the open door.
Betty--for it was she--wore a little red cap set jauntily on her black hair.
Her linsey dress was crumpled and covered with hayseed.
"I've been in the hay-mow," said Betty, waving a small basket. "For a week
that old black hen has circumvented me, but at last I have conquered. I found
the nest in the farthest corner under the hay."
"How did you get up in the loft?" inquired Mrs. Zane.
"Bessie, I climbed up the ladder of course. I acknowledge being unusually
light-hearted and happy this morning, but I have not as yet grown wings. Sam
said I could not climb up that straight ladder, but I found it easy enough."
"You should not climb up into the loft," said Mrs. Zane, in a severe tone.
"Only last fall Hugh Bennet's little boy slid off the hay down into one of the
stalls and the horse kicked him nearly to death."
"Oh, fiddlesticks, Bessie, I am not a baby," said Betty, with vehemence.
"There is not a horse in the barn but would stand on his hind legs before he
would step on me, let alone kick me."
"I don't know, Betty, but I think that black horse Mr. Clarke left here would
kick any one," remarked the Colonel.
"Oh, no, he would not hurt me."
"Betty, we have had pleasant weather for about three days," said the Colonel,
gravely. "In that time you have let out that crazy bear of yours to turn
everything topsy-turvy. Only yesterday I got my hands in the paint you have
put on your canoe. If you had asked my advice I would have told you that
painting your canoe should not have been done for a month yet. Silas told me
you fell down the creek hill; Sam said you tried to drive his team over the
bluff, and so on. We are happy to see you get back your old time spirits, but
could you not be a little more careful? Your versatility is bewildering. We do
not know what to look for next. I fully expect to see you brought to the house
some day maimed for life, or all that beautiful black hair gone to decorate
some Huron's lodge."
"I tell you I am perfectly delighted that the weather is again so I can go
out. I am tired to death of staying indoors. This morning I could have cried
for very joy. Bessie will soon be lecturing me about Madcap. I must not ride
farther than the fort. Well, I don't care. I intend to ride all over."
"Betty, I do not wish you to think I am lecturing you," said the Colonel's
wife. "But you are as wild as a March hare and some one must tell you things.
Now listen. My brother, the Major, told me that Simon Girty, the renegade, had
been heard to say that he had seen Eb Zane's little sister and that if he ever
got his hands on her he would make a squaw of her. I am not teasing you. I am
telling you the truth. Girty saw you when you were at Fort Pitt two years ago.
Now what would you do if he caught you on one of your lonely rides and carried
you off to his wigwam? He has done things like that before. James Girty
carried off one of the Johnson girls. Her brothers tried to rescue her and
lost their lives. It is a common trick of the Indians."
"What would I do if Mr. Simon Girty tried to make a squaw of me?" exclaimed
Betty, her eyes flashing fire. "Why, I'd kill him!"
"I believe it, Betts, on my word I do," spoke up the Colonel. "But let us hope
you may never see Girty. All I ask is that you be careful. I am going over to
Short Creek to-morrow. Will you go with me? I know Mrs. Raymer will be pleased
to see you."
"Oh, Eb, that will be delightful!"
"Very well, get ready and we shall start early in the morning.
Two weeks later Betty returned from Short Creek and seemed to have profited
much by her short visit. Col. Zane remarked with satisfaction to his wife that
Betty had regained all her former cheerfulness.
The morning after Betty's return was a perfect spring morning--the first in
that month of May-days. The sun shone bright and warm; the mayflowers
blossomed; the trailing arbutus scented the air; everywhere the grass and the
leaves looked fresh and green; swallows flitted in and out of the barn door;
the blue-birds twittered; a meadow-lark caroled forth his pure melody, and the
busy hum of bees came from the fragrant apple-blossoms.
"Mis' Betty, Madcap 'pears powerfo' skittenish," said old Sam, when he had led
the pony to where Betty stood on the hitching block. "Whoa, dar, you rascal."
Betty laughed as she leaped lightly into the saddle, and soon she was flying
over the old familiar road, down across the creek bridge, past the old
grist-mill, around the fort and then out on the river bluff. The Indian pony
was fiery and mettlesome. He pranced and side-stepped, galloped and trotted by
turns. He seemed as glad to get out again into the warm sunshine as was Betty
herself. He tore down the road a mile at his best speed. Coming back Betty
pulled him into a walk. Presently her musings were interrupted by a sharp
switch in the face from a twig of a tree. She stopped the pony and broke off
the offending branch. As she looked around the recollection of what had
happened to her in that very spot flashed into her mind. It was here that she
had been stopped by the man who had passed almost as swiftly out of her life
as he had crossed her path that memorable afternoon. She fell to musing on the
old perplexing question. After all could there not have been some mistake?
Perhaps she might have misjudged him? And then the old spirit, which resented
her thinking of him in that softened mood, rose and fought the old battle over
again. But as often happened the mood conquered, and Betty permitted herself
to sink for the moment into the sad thoughts which returned like a mournful
strain of music once sung by beloved voices, now forever silent.
She could not resist the desire to ride down to the old sycamore. The pony
turned into the bridle-path that led down the bluff and the sure-footed beast
picked his way carefully over the roots and stones. Betty's heart beat quicker
when she saw the noble tree under whose spreading branches she had spent the
happiest day of her life. The old monarch of the forest was not one whit
changed by the wild winds of winter. The dew sparkled on the nearly full grown
leaves; the little sycamore balls were already as large as marbles.
Betty drew rein at the top of the bank and looked absently at the tree and
into the foam covered pool beneath. At that moment her eyes saw nothing
physical. They held the faraway light of the dreamer, the look that sees so
much of the past and nothing of the present.
Presently her reflections were broken by the actions of the pony. Madcap had
thrown up her head, laid back her ears and commenced to paw the ground with
her forefeet. Betty looked round to see the cause of Madcap's excitement. What
was that! She saw a tall figure clad in brown leaning against the stone. She
saw a long fishing-rod. What was there so familiar in the poise of that
figure? Madcap dislodged a stone from the path and it went rattling down the
rock, slope and fell with a splash into the water. The man heard it, turned
and faced the hillside. Betty recognized Alfred Clarke. For a moment she
believed she must be dreaming She had had many dreams of the old sycamore. She
looked again. Yes, it was he. Pale, worn, and older he undoubtedly looked, but
the features were surely those of Alfred Clarke. Her heart gave a great bound
and then seemed to stop beating while a very agony of joy surged over her and
made her faint. So he still lived. That was her first thought, glad and
joyous, and then memory returning, her face went white as with clenched teeth
she wheeled Madcap and struck her with the switch. Once on the level bluff she
urged her toward the house at a furious pace.
Col. Zane had just stepped out of the barn door and his face took on an
expression of amazement when he saw the pony come tearing up the road, Betty's
hair flying in the wind and with a face as white as if she were pursued by a
thousand yelling Indians.
"Say, Betts, what the deuce is wrong?" cried the Colonel, when Betty reached
"Why did you not tell me that man was here again?" she demanded in intense
"That man! What man?" asked Col. Zane, considerably taken back by this angry
"Mr. Clarke, of course. Just as if you did not know. I suppose you thought it
a fine opportunity for one of your jokes."
"Oh, Clarke. Well, the fact is I just found it out myself. Haven't I been away
as well as you? I certainly cannot imagine how any man could create such
evident excitement in your mind. Poor Clarke, what has he done now?"
"You might have told me. Somebody could have told me and saved me from making
a fool of myself," retorted Betty, who was plainly on the verge of tears. "I
rode down to the old sycamore tree and he saw me in, of all the places in the
world, the one place where I would not want him to see me."
"Huh!" said the Colonel, who often gave vent to the Indian exclamation. "Is
that all? I thought something had happened."
"All! Is it not enough? I would rather have died. He is a man and he will
think I followed him down there, that I was thinking of--that--Oh!" cried
Betty, passionately, and then she strode into the house, slammed the door. and
left the Colonel, lost in wonder.
"Humph! These women beat me. I can't make them out, and the older I grow the
worse I get," he said, as he led the pony into the stable.
Betty ran up-stairs to her room, her head in a whirl stronger than the
surprise of Alfred's unexpected appearance in Fort Henry and stronger than the
mortification in having been discovered going to a spot she should have been
too proud to remember was the bitter sweet consciousness that his mere
presence had thrilled her through and through. It hurt her and made her hate
herself in that moment. She hid her face in shame at the thought that she
could not help being glad to see the man who had only trifled with her, the
man who had considered the acquaintance of so little consequence that he had
never taken the trouble to write her a line or send her a message. She wrung
her trembling hands. She endeavored to still that throbbing heart and to
conquer that sweet vague feeling which had crept over her and made her weak.
The tears began to come and with a sob she threw herself on the bed and buried
her head in the pillow.
An hour after, when Betty had quieted herself and had seated herself by the
window a light knock sounded on the door and Col. Zane entered. He hesitated
and came in rather timidly, for Betty was not to be taken liberties with, and
seeing her by the window he crossed the room and sat down by her side.
Betty did not remember her father or her mother. Long ago when she was a child
she had gone to her brother, laid her head on his shoulder and told him all
her troubles. The desire grew strong within her now. There was comfort in the
strong clasp of his hand. She was not proof against it, and her dark head fell
on his shoulder.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Alfred Clarke had indeed made his reappearance in Fort Henry. The preceding
October when he left the settlement to go on the expedition up the Monongahela
River his intention had been to return to the fort as soon as he had finished
his work, but what he did do was only another illustration of that fatality
which affects everything. Man hopefully makes his plans and an inexorable
destiny works out what it has in store for him.
The men of the expedition returned to Fort Henry in due time, but Alfred had
been unable to accompany them. He had sustained a painful injury and had been
compelled to go to Fort Pitt for medical assistance. While there he had
received word that his mother was lying very ill at his old home in Southern
Virginia and if he wished to see her alive he must not delay in reaching her
bedside. He left Fort Pitt at once and went to his home, where he remained
until his mother's death. She had been the only tie that bound him to the old
home, and now that she was gone he determined to leave the scene of his
Alfred was the rightful heir to all of the property, but an unjust and selfish
stepfather stood between him and any contentment he might have found there. He
decided he would be a soldier of fortune. He loved the daring life of a
ranger, and preferred to take his chances with the hardy settlers on the
border rather than live the idle life of a gentleman farmer. He declared his
intention to his step-father, who ill-concealed his satisfaction at the turn
affairs had taken. Then Alfred packed his belongings, secured his mother's
jewels, and with one sad, backward glance rode away from the stately old
It was Sunday morning and Clarke had been two days in Fort Henry. From his
little room in the block-house he surveyed the well-remembered scene. The
rolling hills, the broad river, the green forests seemed like old friends.
"Here I am again," he mused. "What a fool a man can be. I have left a fine old
plantation, slaves, horses, a country noted for its pretty women--for what?
Here there can be nothing for me but Indians, hard work, privation, and
trouble. Yet I could not get here quickly enough. Pshaw! What use to speak of
the possibilities of a new country. I cannot deceive myself. It is she. I
would walk a thousand miles and starve myself for months just for one glimpse
of her sweet face. Knowing this what care I for all the rest. How strange she
should ride down to the old sycamore tree yesterday the moment I was there and
thinking of her. Evidently she had just returned from her visit. I wonder if
she ever cared. I wonder if she ever thinks of me. Shall I accept that
incident as a happy augury? Well, I am here to find out and find out I will.
Aha! there goes the church bell."
Laughing a little at his eagerness he brushed his coat, put on his cap and
went down stairs. The settlers with their families were going into the meeting
house. As Alfred started up the steps he met Lydia Boggs.
"Why, Mr. Clarke, I heard you had returned," she said, smiling pleasantly and
extending her hand. "Welcome to the fort. I am very glad to see you."
While they were chatting her father and Col. Zane came up and both greeted the
young man warmly.
"Well, well, back on the frontier," said the Colonel, in his hearty way. "Glad
to see you at the fort again. I tell you, Clarke, I have taken a fancy to that
black horse you left me last fall. I did not know what to think when Jonathan
brought back my horse. To tell you the truth I always looked for you to come
back. What have you been doing all winter?"
"I have been at home. My mother was ill all winter and she died in April."
"My lad, that's bad news. I am sorry," said Col. Zane putting his hand kindly
on the young man's shoulder. "I was wondering what gave you that older and
graver look. It's hard, lad, but it's the way of life."
"I have come back to get my old place with you, Col. Zane, if you will give it
"I will, and can promise you more in the future. I am going to open a road
through to Maysville, Kentucky, and start several new settlements along the
river. I will need young men, and am more than glad you have returned."
"Thank you, Col. Zane. That is more than I could have hoped for."
Alfred caught sight of a trim figure in a gray linsey gown coming down the
road. There were several young people approaching, but he saw only Betty. By
some evil chance Betty walked with Ralfe Miller, and for some mysterious
reason, which women always keep to themselves, she smiled and looked up into
his face at a time of all times she should not have done so. Alfred's heart
turned to lead.
When the young people reached the steps the eyes of the rivals met for one
brief second, but that was long enough for them to understand each other. They
did not speak. Lydia hesitated and looked toward Betty.
"Betty, here is--" began Col. Zane, but Betty passed them with flaming cheeks
and with not so much as a glance at Alfred. It was an awkward moment for him.
"Let us go in," he said composedly, and they filed into the church.
As long as he lived Alfred Clarke never forgot that hour. His pride kept him
chained in his seat. Outwardly he maintained his composure, but inwardly his
brain seemed throbbing, whirling, bursting. What an idiot he had been! He
understood now why his letter had never been answered. Betty loved Miller, a
man who hated him, a man who would leave no stone unturned to destroy even a
little liking which she might have felt for him. Once again Miller had crossed
his path and worsted him. With a sudden sickening sense of despair he realized
that all his fond hopes had been but dreams, a fool's dreams. The dream of
that moment when he would give her his mother's jewels, the dream of that
charming face uplifted to his, the dream of the little cottage to which he
would hurry after his day's work and find her waiting at the gate,--these
dreams must be dispelled forever. He could barely wait until the end of the
service. He wanted to be alone; to fight it out with himself; to crush out of
his heart that fair image. At length the hour ended and he got out before the
congregation and hurried to his room.
Betty had company all that afternoon and it was late in the day when Col. Zane
ascended the stairs and entered her room to find her alone.
"Betty, I wish to know why you ignored Mr. Clarke this morning?" said Col.
Zane, looking down on his sister. There was a gleam in his eye and an
expression about his mouth seldom seen in the Colonel's features.
"I do not know that it concerns any one but myself," answered Betty quickly,
as her head went higher and her eyes flashed with a gleam not unlike that in
"I beg your pardon. I do not agree with you," replied Col. Zane. "It does
concern others. You cannot do things like that in this little place where
every one knows all about you and expect it to pass unnoticed. Martin's wife
saw you cut Clarke and you know what a gossip she is. Already every one is
talking about you and Clarke."
"To that I am indifferent."
"But I care. I won't have people talking about you," replied the Colonel, who
began to lose patience. Usually he had the best temper imaginable. "Last fall
you allowed Clarke to pay you a good deal of attention and apparently you were
on good terms when he went away. Now that he has returned you won't even speak
to him. You let this fellow Miller run after you. In my estimation Miller is
not to be compared to Clarke, and judging from the warm greetings I saw Clarke
receive this morning, there are a number of folk who agree with me. Not that I
am praising Clarke. I simply say this because to Bessie, to Jack, to everyone,
your act is incomprehensible. People are calling you a flirt and saying that
they would prefer some country manners."
"I have not allowed Mr. Miller to run after me, as you are pleased to term
it," retorted Betty with indignation. "I do not like him. I never see him any
more unless you or Bessie or some one else is present. You know that. I cannot
prevent him from walking to church with me."
"No, I suppose not, but are you entirely innocent of those sweet glances which
you gave him this morning?"
"I did not," cried Betty with an angry blush. "I won't be called a flirt by
you or by anyone else. The moment I am civil to some man all these old maids
and old women say I am flirting. It is outrageous."
"Now, Betty, don't get excited. We are getting from the question. Why are you
not civil to Clarke?" asked Col. Zane. She did not answer and after a moment
he continued. "If there is anything about Clarke that I do not know and that I
should know I want you to tell me. Personally I like the fellow. I am not
saying that to make you think you ought to like him because I do. You might
not care for him at all, but that would be no good reason for your actions.
Betty, in these frontier settlements a man is soon known for his real worth.
Every one at the Fort liked Clarke. The youngsters adored him. Jessie liked
him very much. You know he and Isaac became good friends. I think he acted
like a man to-day. I saw the look Miller gave him. I don't like this fellow
Miller, anyway. Now, I am taking the trouble to tell you my side of the
argument. It is not a question of your liking Clarke that is none of my
affair. It is simply that either he is not the man we all think him or you are
acting in a way unbecoming a Zane. I do not purpose to have this state of
affairs continue. Now, enough of this beating about the bush."
Betty had seen the Colonel angry more than once, but never with her. It was
quite certain she had angered him and she forgot her own resentment. Her heart
had warmed with her brother's praise of Clarke. Then as she remembered the
past the felt a scorn for her weakness and such a revulsion of feeling that
she cried out passionately:
"He is a trifler. He never cared for me. He insulted me."
Col. Zane reached for his hat, got up without saying another word and went
Betty had not intended to say quite what she had and instantly regretted her
hasty words. She called to the Colonel, but he did not answer her, nor return.
"Betty, what in the world could you have said to my husband?" said Mrs. Zane
as she entered the room. She was breathless from running up the stairs and her
comely face wore a look of concern. "He was as white as that sheet and he
stalked off toward the Fort without a word to me."
"I simply told him Mr. Clarke had insulted me," answered Betty calmly.
"Great Heavens! Betty, what have you done?" exclaimed Mrs. Zane. "You don't
know Eb when he is angry. He is a big fool over you, anyway. He is liable to
Betty's blood was up now and she said that would not be a matter of much
"When did he insult you?" asked the elder woman, yielding to her natural
"It was last October."
"Pooh! It took you a long time to tell it. I don't believe it amounted to
much. Mr. Clarke did not appear to be the sort of a man to insult anyone. All
the girls were crazy about him last year. If he was not all right they would
not have been."
"I do not care if they were. The girls can have him and welcome. I don't want
him. I never did. I am tired of hearing everyone eulogize him. I hate him. Do
you hear? I hate him! And I wish you would go away and leave me alone."
"Well, Betty, all I will say is that you are a remarkable young woman,"
answered Mrs. Zane, who saw plainly that Betty's violent outburst was a
prelude to a storm of weeping. "I don't believe a word you have said. I don't
believe you hate him. There!"
Col. Zane walked straight to the Fort, entered the block-house and knocked on
the door of Clarke's room. A voice bade him come in. He shoved open the door
and went into the room. Clarke had evidently just returned from a tramp in the
hills, for his garments were covered with burrs and his boots were dusty. He
looked tired, but his face was calm.
"Why, Col. Zane! Have a seat. What can I do for you?"
"I have come to ask you to explain a remark of my sister's."
"Very well, I am at your service," answered Alfred slowly lighting his pipe,
after which he looked straight into Col. Zane's face.
"My sister informs me that you insulted her last fall before you left the
Fort. I am sure you are neither a liar nor a coward, and I expect you to
answer as a man."
"Col. Zane, I am not a liar, and I hope I am not a coward," said Alfred
coolly. He took a long pull on his pipe and blew a puff of white smoke toward
"I believe you, but I must have an explanation. There is something wrong
somewhere. I saw Betty pass you without speaking this morning. I did not like
it and I took her to task about it. She then said you had insulted her. Betty
is prone to exaggerate, especially when angry, but she never told me a lie in
her life. Ever since you pulled Isaac out of the river I have taken an
interest in you. That's why I'd like to avoid any trouble. But this thing has
gone far enough. Now be sensible, swallow your pride and let me hear your side
of the story."
Alfred had turned pale at his visitor's first words. There was no mistaking
Col. Zane's manner. Alfred well knew that the Colonel, if he found Betty had
really been insulted, would call him out and kill him. Col. Zane spoke
quietly, ever kindly, but there was an undercurrent of intense feeling in his
voice, a certain deadly intent which boded ill to anyone who might cross him
at that moment. Alfred's first impulse was a reckless desire to tell Col. Zane
he had nothing to explain and that he stood ready to give any satisfaction in
his power. But he wisely thought better of this. It struck him that this would
not be fair, for no matter what the girl had done the Colonel had always been
his friend. So Alfred pulled himself together and resolved to mane a clean
breast of the whole affair.
"Col. Zane, I do not feel that I owe your sister anything, and what I am going
to tell you is simply because you have always been my friend, and I do not
want you to have any wrong ideas about me. I'll tell you the truth and you can
be the judge as to whether or not I insulted your sister. I fell in love with
her, almost at first sight. The night after the Indians recaptured your
brother, Betty and I stood out in the moonlight and she looked so bewitching
and I felt so sorry for her and so carried away by my love for her that I
yielded to a momentary impulse and kissed her. I simply could not help it.
There is no excuse for me. She struck me across the face and ran into the
house. I had intended that night to tell her of my love and place my fate in
her hands, but, of course, the unfortunate occurrence made that impossible. As
I was to leave at dawn next day, I remained up all night, thinking that I
ought to do. Finally I decided to write. I wrote her a letter, telling her all
and begging her to become my wife. I gave the letter to your slave, Sam, and
told him it was a matter of life and death, and not to lose the letter nor
fail to give it to Betty. I have had no answer to that letter. Today she
coldly ignored me. That is my story, Col. Zane."
"Well, I don't believe she got the letter," said Col. Zane. "She has not acted
like a young lady who has had the privilege of saying 'yes' or 'no' to you.
And Sam never had any use for you. He disliked you from the first, and never
failed to say something against you."
"I'll kill that d--n nigger if he did not deliver that letter," said Clarke,
jumping up in his excitement. "I never thought of that. Good Heaven! What
could she have thought of me? She would think I had gone away without a word.
If she knew I really loved her she could not think so terribly of me."