Part 5 out of 6
was deep and narrow at this point. In a quarter of an hour he was once more in
his dry suit.
He was now two miles below the island, where yesterday the Indians had been
concealed, and where this morning Miller had crossed. Wetzel knew Miller
expected to be trailed, and that he would use every art and cunning of
woodcraft to elude his pursuers, or to lead them into a death-trap. Wetzel
believed Miller had joined the Indians, who had undoubtedly been waiting for
him, or for a signal from him, and that he would use them to ambush the trail.
Therefore Wetzel decided he would try to strike Miller's tracks far west of
the river. He risked a great deal in attempting this because it was possible
he might fail to find any trace of the spy. But Wetzel wasted not one second.
His course was chosen. With all possible speed, which meant with him walking
only when he could not run, he traveled northwest. If Miller had taken the
direction Wetzel suspected, the trails of the two men would cross about ten
miles from the Ohio. But the hunter had not traversed more than a mile of the
forest when the dog put his nose high in the air and growled. Wetzel slowed
down into a walk and moved cautiously onward, peering through the green aisles
of the woods. A few rods farther on Tige uttered another growl and put his
nose to the ground. He found a trail. On examination Wetzel discovered in the
moss two moccasin tracks. Two Indians had passed that point that morning. They
were going northwest directly toward the camp of Wingenund. Wetzel stuck close
to the trail all that day and an hour before dusk he heard the sharp crack of
a rifle. A moment afterward a doe came crashing through the thicket to
Wetzel's right and bounding across a little brook she disappeared.
A tree with a bushy, leafy top had been uprooted by a storm and had fallen
across the stream at this point. Wetzel crawled among the branches. The dog
followed and lay down beside him. Before darkness set in Wetzel saw that the
clear water of the brook had been roiled; therefore, he concluded that
somewhere upstream Indians had waded into the brook. Probably they had killed
a deer and were getting their evening meal.
Hours passed. Twilight deepened into darkness. One by one the stars appeared;
then the crescent moon rose over the wooded hill in the west, and the hunter
never moved. With his head leaning against the log he sat quiet and patient.
At midnight he whispered to the dog, and crawling from his hiding place glided
stealthily up the stream. Far ahead from the dark depths of the forest peeped
the flickering light of a camp-fire. Wetzel consumed a half hour in
approaching within one hundred feet of this light. Then he got down on his
hands and knees and crawled behind a tree on top of the little ridge which had
obstructed a view of the camp scene.
From this vantage point Wetzel saw a clear space surrounded by pines and
hemlocks. In the center of this glade a fire burned briskly. Two Indians lay
wrapped in their blankets, sound asleep. Wetzel pressed the dog close to the
ground, laid aside his rifle, drew his tomahawk, and lying flat on his breast
commenced to work his way, inch by inch, toward the sleeping savages. The tall
ferns trembled as the hunter wormed his way among them, but there was no
sound, not a snapping of a twig nor a rustling of a leaf. The nightwind sighed
softly through the pines; it blew the bright sparks from the burning logs, and
fanned the embers into a red glow; it swept caressingly over the sleeping
savages, but it could not warn them that another wind, the Wind-of-Death, as
near at hand.
A quarter of an hour elapsed. Nearer and nearer; slowly but surely drew the
hunter. With what wonderful patience and self-control did this cold-blooded
Nemesis approach his victims! Probably any other Indian slayer would have
fired his rifle and then rushed to combat with a knife or a tomahawk. Not so
Wetzel. He scorned to use powder. He crept forward like a snake gliding upon
its prey. He slid one hand in front of him and pressed it down on the moss, at
first gently, then firmly, and when he had secured a good hold he slowly
dragged his body forward the length of his arm. At last his dark form rose and
stood over the unconscious Indians, like a minister of Doom. The tomahawk
flashed once, twice in the firelight, and the Indians, without a moan, and
with a convulsive quivering and straightening of their bodies, passed from the
tired sleep of nature to the eternal sleep of death.
Foregoing his usual custom of taking the scalps, Wetzel hurriedly left the
glade. He had found that the Indians were Shawnees and he had expected they
were Delawares. He knew Miller's red comrades belonged to the latter tribe.
The presence of Shawnees so near the settlement confirmed his belief that a
concerted movement was to be made on the whites in the near future. He would
not have been surprised to find the woods full of redskins. He spent the
remainder of that night close under the side of a log with the dog curled up
Next morning Wetzel ran across the trail of a white man and six Indians. He
tracked them all that day and half of the night before he again rested. By
noon of the following day he came in sight of the cliff from which Jonathan
Zane had watched the sufferings of Col. Crawford. Wetzel now made his favorite
move, a wide detour, and came up on the other side of the encampment.
From the top of the bluff he saw down into the village of the Delawares. The
valley was alive with Indians; they were working like beavers; some with
weapons, some painting themselves, and others dancing war-dances. Packs were
being strapped on the backs of ponies. Everywhere was the hurry and bustle of
the preparation for war. The dancing and the singing were kept up half the
At daybreak Wetzel was at his post. A little after sunrise he heard a long
yell which he believed announced the arrival of an important party. And so it
turned out. Amid thrill yelling and whooping, the like of which Wetzel had
never before heard, Simon Girty rode into Wingenund's camp at the head of one
hundred Shawnee warriors and two hundred British Rangers from Detroit. Wetzel
recoiled when he saw the red uniforms of the Britishers and their bayonets.
Including Fipe's and Wingenund's braves the total force which was going to
march against the Fort exceeded six hundred. An impotent frenzy possessed
Wetzel as he watched the orderly marching of the Rangers and the proud bearing
of the Indian warriors. Miller had spoken the truth. Ft. Henry vas doomed.
"Tige, there's one of them struttin' turkey cocks as won't see the Ohio," said
Wetzel to the dog.
Hurriedly slipping from round his neck the bullet-pouch that Betty had given
him, he shook out a bullet and with the point of his knife he scratched deep
in the soft lead the letter W. Then he cut the bullet half through. This done
he detached the pouch from the cord and running the cord through the cut in
the bullet he bit the lead. He tied the string round the neck of the dog and
pointing eastward he said: "Home."
The intelligent animal understood perfectly. His duty was to get that warning
home. His clear brown eyes as much as said: "I will not fail." He wagged his
tail, licked the hunter's hand, bounded away and disappeared in the forest.
Wetzel rested easier in mind. He knew the dog would stop for nothing, and that
he stood a far better chance of reaching the Fort in safety than did he
With a lurid light in his eyes Wetzel now turned to the Indians. He would
never leave that spot without sending a leaden messenger into the heart of
someone in that camp. Glancing on all sides he at length selected a place
where it was possible he might approach near enough to the camp to get a shot.
He carefully studied the lay of the ground, the trees, rocks, bushes,
grass,--everything that could help screen him from the keen eye of savage
scouts. When he had marked his course he commenced his perilous descent. In an
hour he had reached the bottom of the cliff. Dropping flat on the ground, he
once more started his snail-like crawl. A stretch of swampy ground, luxuriant
with rushes and saw-grass, made a part of the way easy for him, though it led
through mud, and slime, and stagnant water. Frogs and turtles warming their
backs in the sunshine scampered in alarm from their logs. Lizards blinked at
him. Moccasin snakes darted wicked forked tongues at him and then glided out
of reach of his tomahawk. The frogs had stopped their deep bass notes. A
swamp-blackbird rose in fright from her nest in the saw-grass, and twittering
plaintively fluttered round and round over the pond. The flight of the bird
worried Wetzel. Such little things as these might attract the attention of
some Indian scout. But he hoped that in the excitement of the war preparations
these unusual disturbances would escape notice. At last he gained the other
side of the swamp. At the end of the cornfield before him was the clump of
laurel which he had marked from the cliff as his objective point. The Indian
corn was now about five feet high. Wetzel passed through this field unseen. He
reached the laurel bushes, where he dropped to the ground and lay quiet a few
minutes. In the dash which he would soon make to the forest he needed all his
breath and all his fleetness. He looked to the right to see how far the woods
was from where he lay. Not more than one hundred feet. He was safe. Once in
the dark shade of those trees, and with his foes behind him, he could defy the
whole race of Delawares. He looked to his rifle, freshened the powder in the
pan, carefully adjusted the flint, and then rose quietly to his feet.
Wetzel's keen gaze, as he swept it from left to right, took in every detail of
the camp. He was almost in the village. A tepee stood not twenty feet from his
hiding-place. He could have tossed a stone in the midst of squaws, and braves,
and chiefs. The main body of Indians was in the center of the camp. The
British were lined up further on. Both Indians and soldiers were resting on
their arms and waiting. Suddenly Wetzel started and his heart leaped. Under a
maple tree not one hundred and fifty yards distant stood four men in earnest
consultation. One was an Indian. Wetzel recognized the fierce, stern face, the
haughty, erect figure. He knew that long, trailing war-bonnet. It could have
adorned the head of but one chief--Wingenund, the sachem of the Delawares. A
British officer, girdled and epauletted, stood next to Wingenund. Simon Girty,
the renegade, and Miller, the traitor, completed the group.
Wetzel sank to his knees. The perspiration poured from his face. The mighty
hunter trembled, but it was from eagerness. Was not Girty, the white savage,
the bane of the poor settlers, within range of a weapon that never failed? Was
not the murderous chieftain, who had once whipped and tortured him, who had
burned Crawford alive, there in plain sight? Wetzel revelled a moment in
fiendish glee. He passed his hands tenderly over the long barrel of his rifle.
In that moment as never before he gloried in his power--a power which enabled
him to put a bullet in the eye of a squirrel at the distance these men were
from him. But only for an instant did the hunter yield to this feeling. He
knew too well the value of time and opportunity.
He rose again to his feet and peered out from under the shading laurel
branches. As he did so the dark face of Miller turned full toward him. A
tremor, like the intense thrill of a tiger when he is about to spring, ran
over Wetzel's frame. In his mad gladness at being within rifle-shot of his
great Indian foe, Wetzel had forgotten the man he had trailed for two days. He
had forgotten Miller. He had only one shot--and Betty was to be avenged. He
gritted his teeth. The Delaware chief was as safe as though he were a thousand
miles away. This opportunity for which Wetzel had waited so many years, and
the successful issue of which would have gone so far toward the fulfillment of
a life's purpose, was worse than useless. A great temptation assailed the
Wetzel's face was white when he raised the rifle; his dark eye, gleaming
vengefully, ran along the barrel. The little bead on the front sight first
covered the British officer, and then the broad breast of Girty. It moved
reluctantly and searched out the heart of Wingenund, where it lingered for a
fleeting instant. At last it rested upon the swarthy face of Miller.
"Fer Betty," muttered the hunter, between his clenched teeth as he pressed the
The spiteful report awoke a thousand echoes. When the shot broke the stillness
Miller was talking and gesticulating. His hand dropped inertly; he stood
upright for a second, his head slowly bowing and his body swaying perceptibly.
Then he plunged forward like a log, his face striking the sand. He never moved
again. He was dead even before he struck the ground.
Blank silence followed this tragic denouement. Wingenund, a cruel and
relentless Indian, but never a traitor, pointed to the small bloody hole in
the middle of Miller's forehead, and then nodded his head solemnly. The
wondering Indians stood aghast. Then with loud yells the braves ran to the
cornfield; they searched the laurel bushes. But they only discovered several
moccasin prints in the sand, and a puff of white smoke wafting away upon the
Alfred Clarke lay between life and death. Miller's knife-thrust, although it
had made a deep and dangerous wound, had not pierced any vital part; the
amount of blood lost made Alfred's condition precarious. Indeed, he would not
have lived through that first day but for a wonderful vitality. Col. Zane's
wife, to whom had been consigned the delicate task of dressing the wound,
shook her head when she first saw the direction of the cut. She found on a
closer examination that the knife-blade had been deflected by a rib, and had
just missed the lungs. The wound was bathed, sewed up, and bandaged, and the
greatest precaution taken to prevent the sufferer from loosening the linen.
Every day when Mrs. Zane returned from the bedside of the young man she would
be met at the door by Betty, who, in that time of suspense, had lost her
bloom, and whose pale face showed the effects of sleepless nights.
"Betty, would you mind going over to the Fort and relieving Mrs. Martin an
hour or two?" said Mrs. Zane one day as she came home, looking worn and weary.
"We are both tired to death, and Nell Metzar was unable to come. Clarke is
unconscious, and will not know you, besides he is sleeping now."
Betty hurried over to Capt. Boggs' cabin, next the blockhouse, where Alfred
lay, and with a palpitating heart and a trepidation wholly out of keeping with
the brave front she managed to assume, she knocked gently on the door.
"Ah, Betty, 'tis you, bless your heart," said a matronly little woman who
opened the door. "Come right in. He is sleeping now, poor fellow, and it's the
first real sleep he has had. He has been raving crazy forty-eight hours."
"Mrs. Martin, what shall I do?" whispered Betty.
"Oh, just watch him, my dear," answered the elder woman.
"If you need me send one of the lads up to the house for me. I shall return as
soon as I can. Keep the flies away--they are bothersome--and bathe his head
every little while. If he wakes and tries to sit up, as he does sometimes,
hold him back. He is as weak as a cat. If he raves, soothe him by talking to
him. I must go now, dearie."
Betty was left alone in the little room. Though she had taken a seat near the
bed where Alfred lay, she had not dared to look at him. Presently conquering
her emotion, Betty turned her gaze on the bed. Alfred was lying easily on his
back, and notwithstanding the warmth of the day he was covered with a quilt.
The light from the window shone on his face. How deathly white it was! There
was not a vestige of color in it; the brow looked like chiseled marble; dark
shadows underlined the eyes, and the whole face was expressive of weariness
There are times when a woman's love is all motherliness. All at once this man
seemed to Betty like a helpless child. She felt her heart go out to the poor
sufferer with a feeling before unknown. She forgot her pride and her fears and
her disappointments. She remembered only that this strong man lay there at
death's door because he had resented an insult to her. The past with all its
bitterness rolled away and was lost, and in its place welled up a tide of
forgiveness strong and sweet and hopeful. Her love, like a fire that had been
choked and smothered, smouldering but never extinct, and which blazes up with
the first breeze, warmed and quickened to life with the touch of her hand on
An hour passed. Betty was now at her ease and happier than she had been for
months. Her patient continued to sleep peacefully and dreamlessly. With a
feeling of womanly curiosity Betty looked around the room. Over the rude
mantelpiece were hung a sword, a brace of pistols, and two pictures. These
last interested Betty very much. They were portraits; one of them was a
likeness of a sweet-faced woman who Betty instinctively knew was his mother.
Her eyes lingered tenderly on that face, so like the one lying on the pillow.
The other portrait was of a beautiful girl whose dark, magnetic eyes
challenged Betty. Was this his sister or-- someone else? She could not
restrain a jealous twinge, and she felt annoyed to find herself comparing that
face with her own. She looked no longer at that portrait, but recommenced her
survey of the room. Upon the door hung a broad-brimmed hat with eagle plumes
stuck in the band. A pair of hightopped riding-boots, a saddle, and a bridle
lay on the floor in the corner. The table was covered with Indian pipes,
tobacco pouches, spurs, silk stocks, and other articles.
Suddenly Betty felt that some one was watching her. She turned timidly toward
the bed and became much frightened when she encountered the intense gaze from
a pair of steel-blue eyes. She almost fell from the chair; but presently she
recollected that Alfred had been unconscious for days, and that he would not
know who was watching by his bedside.
"Mother, is that you?" asked Alfred, in a weak, low voice.
"Yes, I am here," answered Betty, remembering the old woman's words about
soothing the sufferer.
"But I thought you were ill."
"I was, but I am better now, and it is you who are ill."
"My head hurts so."
"Let me bathe it for you."
"How long have I been home?"
Betty bathed and cooled his heated brow. He caught and held her hands, looking
wonderingly at her the while.
"Mother, somehow I thought you had died. I must have dreamed it. I am very
happy; but tell me, did a message come for me to-day?"
Betty shook her head, for she could not speak. She saw he was living in the
past, and he was praying for the letter which she would gladly have written
had she but known.
"No message, and it is now so long."
"It will come to-morrow," whispered Betty.
"Now, mother, that is what you always say," said the invalid, as he began to
toss his head wearily to and fro. "Will she never tell me? It is not like her
to keep me in suspense. She was the sweetest, truest, loveliest girl in all
the world. When I get well, mother, I ant going to find out if she loves me."
"I am sure she does. I know she loves you," answered Betty.
"It is very good of you to say that," he went on in his rambling talk. "Some
day I'll bring her to you and we'll make her a queen here in the old home.
I'll be a better son now and not run away from home again. I've given the dear
old mother many a heartache, but that's all past now. The wanderer has come
home. Kiss me good-night, mother."
Betty looked down with tear-blurred eyes on the haggard face. Unconsciously
she had been running her fingers through the fair hair that lay so damp over
his brow. Her pity and tenderness had carried her far beyond herself, and at
the last words she bent her head and kissed him on the lips.
"Who are you? You are not my mother. She is dead," he cried, starting up
wildly, and looking at her with brilliant eyes.
Betty dropped the fan and rose quickly to her feet. What had she done? A
terrible thought had flashed into her mind. Suppose he were not delirious, and
had been deceiving her. Oh! for a hiding-place, or that the floor would
swallow her. Oh! if some one would only come.
Footsteps sounded on the stairs and Betty ran to the door. To her great relief
Mrs. Martin was coming up.
"You can run home now, there's a dear," said the old lady. "We have several
watchers for to-night. It will not be long now when he will commence to mend,
or else he will die. Poor boy, please God that he gets well. Has he been good?
Did he call for any particular young lady? Never fear, Betty, I'll keep the
secret. He'll never know you were here unless you tell him yourself."
Meanwhile the days had been busy ones for Col. Zane. In anticipation of an
attack from the Indians, the settlers had been fortifying their refuge and
making the block-house as nearly impregnable as possible. Everything that was
movable and was of value they put inside the stockade fence, out of reach of
the destructive redskins. All the horses and cattle were driven into the
inclosure. Wagon-loads of hay, grain and food were stored away in the
Never before had there been such excitement on the frontier. Runners from Ft.
Pitt, Short Creek, and other settlements confirmed the rumor that all the
towns along the Ohio were preparing for war. Not since the outbreak of the
Revolution had there been so much confusion and alarm among the pioneers. To
be sure, those on the very verge of the frontier, as at Ft. Henry, had
heretofore little to fear from the British. During most of this time there had
been comparative peace on the western border, excepting those occasional
murders, raids, and massacres perpetrated by the different Indian tribes, and
instigated no doubt by Girty and the British at Detroit. Now all kinds of
rumors were afloat: Washington was defeated; a close alliance between England
and the confederated western tribes had been formed; Girty had British power
and wealth back of him. These and many more alarming reports travelled from
settlement to settlement.
The death of Col. Crawford had been a terrible shock to the whole country. On
the border spread an universal gloom, and the low, sullen mutterings of
revengeful wrath. Crawford had been so prominent a man, so popular, and,
except in his last and fatal expedition, such an efficient leader that his
sudden taking off was almost a national calamity. In fact no one felt it more
keenly than did Washington himself, for Crawford was his esteemed friend.
Col. Zane believed Ft. Henry had been marked by the British and the Indians.
The last runner from Ft. Pitt had informed him that the description of Miller
tallied with that of one of the ten men who had deserted from Ft. Pitt in 1778
with the tories Girth, McKee, and Elliott. Col. Zane was now satisfied that
Miller was an agent of Girty and therefore of the British. So since all the
weaknesses of the Fort, the number of the garrison, and the favorable
conditions for a siege were known to Girty, there was nothing left for Col.
Zane and his men but to make a brave stand.
Jonathan Zane and Major McColloch watched the river. Wetzel had disappeared as
if the earth had swallowed him. Some pioneers said he would never return. But
Col. Zane believed Wetzel would walk into the Fort, as he had done many times
in the last ten years, with full information concerning the doings of the
Indians. However, the days passed and nothing happened. Their work completed,
the settlers waited for the first sign of an enemy. But as none came,
gradually their fears were dispelled and they began to think the alarm had
been a false one.
All this time Alfred Clarke was recovering his health and strength. The day
came when he was able to leave his bed and sit by the window. How glad it made
him feel to look out on the green woods and the broad, winding river; how
sweet to his ears were the songs of the birds; how soothing was the drowsy hum
of the bees in the fragrant honeysuckle by his window. His hold on life had
been slight and life was good. He smiled in pitying derision as he remembered
his recklessness. He had not been in love with life. In his gloomy moods he
had often thought life was hardly worth the living. What sickly sentiment! He
had been on the brink of the grave, but he had been snatched back from the
dark river of Death. It needed but this to show him the joy of breathing, the
glory of loving, the sweetness of living. He resolved that for him there would
be no more drifting, no more purposelessness. If what Wetzel had told him was
true, if he really had not loved in vain, then his cup of happiness was
overflowing. Like a far-off and almost forgotten strain of music some memory
struggled to take definite shape in his mind; but it was so hazy, so vague, so
impalpable, that he could remember nothing clearly.
Isaac Zane and his Indian bride called on Alfred that afternoon.
"Alfred, I can't tell you how glad I am to see you up again," said Isaac,
earnestly, as he wrung Alfred's hand. "Say, but it was a tight squeeze! It has
been a bad time for you."
Nothing could have been more pleasing than Myeerah's shy yet eloquent
greeting. She gave Alfred her little hand and said in her figurative style of
speaking, "Myeerah is happy for you and for others. You are strong like the
West Wind that never dies."
"Myeerah and I are going this afternoon, and we came over to say good-bye to
you. We intend riding down the river fifteen miles and then crossing, to avoid
running into any band of Indians."
"And how does Myeerah like the settlement by this time?"
"Oh, she is getting on famously. Betty and she have fallen in love with each
other. It is amusing to hear Betty try to talk in the Wyandot tongue, and to
see Myeerah's consternation when Betty gives her a lesson in deportment."
"I rather fancy it would be interesting, too. Are you not going back to the
Wyandots at a dangerous time?"
"As to that I can't say. I believe, though, it is better that I get back to
Tarhe's camp before we have any trouble with the Indians. I am anxious to get
there before Girty or some of his agents."
"Well, if you must go, good luck to you, and may we meet again.
"It will not be long, I am sure. And, old man," he continued, with a bright
smile, "when Myeerah and I come again to Ft. Henry we expect to find all well
with you. Cheer up, and good-bye."
All the preparations had been made for the departure of Isaac and Myeerah to
their far-off Indian home. They were to ride the Indian ponies on which they
had arrived at the Fort. Col. Zane had given Isaac one of his pack horses.
This animal carried blankets, clothing, and food which insured comparative
comfort in the long ride through the wilderness.
"We will follow the old trail until we reach the hickory swale," Isaac was
saying to the Colonel, "and then we will turn off and make for the river. Once
across the Ohio we can make the trip in two days."
"I think you'll make it all right," said Col. Zane.
"Even if I do meet Indians I shall have no fear, for I have a protector here,"
answered Isaac as he led Myeerah's pony to the step.
"Good-bye, Myeerah; he is yours, but do not forget he is dear to us," said
Betty, embracing and kissing the Indian girl.
"My sister does not know Myeerah. The White Eagle will return."
"Good-bye, Betts, don't cry. I shall come home again. And when I do I hope I
shall be in time to celebrate another event, this time with you as the
heroine. Good-bye. Goodbye."
The ponies cantered down the road. At the bend Isaac and Myeerah turned and
waved their hands until the foliage of the trees hid them from view.
"Well, these things happen naturally enough. I suppose they must be. But I
should much have preferred Isaac staying here. Hello! What the deuce is that?
By Lord! It's Tige!"
The exclamation following Col. Zane's remarks had been called forth by Betty's
dog. He came limping painfully up the road from the direction of the river.
When he saw Col. Zane he whined and crawled to the Colonel's feet. The dog was
wet and covered with burrs, and his beautiful glossy coat, which had been
Betty's pride, was dripping with blood.
"Silas, Jonathan, come here," cried Col. Zane. "Here's Tige, back without
Wetzel, and the poor dog has been shot almost to pieces. What does it mean?"
"Indians," said Jonathan, coming out of the house with Silas, and Mrs. Zane
and Betty, who had heard the Colonel's call.
"He has come a long way. Look at his feet. They are torn and bruised,"
continued Jonathan. "And he has been near Wingenund's camp. You see that red
clay on his paws. There is no red clay that I know of round here, and there
are miles of it this side of the Delaware camp."
"What is the matter with Tige?" asked Betty.
"He is done for. Shot through, poor fellow. How did he ever reach home?" said
"Oh, I hope not! Dear old Tige," said Betty as she knelt and tenderly placed
the head of the dog in her lap. "Why, what is this? I never put that there.
Eb, Jack, look here. There is a string around his neck," and Betty pointed
excitedly to a thin cord which was almost concealed in the thick curly hair.
"Good gracious! Eb, look! It is the string off the prize bullet pouch I made,
and that Wetzel won on Isaac's wedding day. It is a message from Lew," said
"Well, by Heavens! This is strange. So it is. I remember that string. Cut it
off, Jack," said Col. Zane.
When Jonathan had cut the string and held it up they all saw the lead bullet.
Col. Zane examined it and showed them what had been rudely scratched on it.
"A letter W. Does that mean Wetzel?" asked the Colonel.
"It means war. It's a warning from Wetzel--not the slightest doubt of that,"
said Jonathan. "Wetzel sends this because he knows we are to be attacked, and
because there must have been great doubt of his getting back to tell us. And
Tige has been shot on his way home."
This called the attention to the dog, which had been momentarily forgotten.
His head rolled from Betty's knee; a quiver shook his frame; he struggled to
rise to his feet, but his strength was too far spent; he crawled close to
Betty's feet; his eyes looked up at her with almost human affection; then they
closed, and he lay still. Tige was dead.
"It is all over, Betty. Tige will romp no more. He will never be forgotten,
for he was faithful to the end. Jonathan, tell the Major of Wetzel's warning,
and both of you go back to your posts on the river. Silas, send Capt. Boggs to
An hour after the death of Tige the settlers were waiting for the ring of the
meeting-house bell to summon them to the Fort.
Supper at Col. Zane's that night was not the occasion of good-humored jest and
pleasant conversation. Mrs. Zane's face wore a distressed and troubled look;
Betty was pale and quiet; even the Colonel was gloomy; and the children,
missing the usual cheerfulness of the evening meal, shrank close to their
Darkness slowly settled down; and with it came a feeling of relief, at least
for the night, for the Indians rarely attacked the settlements after dark.
Capt. Boggs came over and he and Col. Zane conversed in low tones.
"The first thing in the morning I want you to ride over to Short Creek for
reinforcements. I'll send the Major also and by a different route. I expect to
hear tonight from Wetzel. Twelve times has he crossed that threshold with the
information which made an Indian surprise impossible. And I feel sure he will
"What was that?" said Betty, who was sitting on the doorstep.
"Sh-h!" whispered Col. Zane, holding up his finger.
The night was warm and still. In the perfect quiet which followed the
Colonel's whispered exclamation the listeners heard the beating of their
hearts. Then from the river bank came the cry of an owl; low but clear it came
floating to their ears, its single melancholy note thrilling them. Faint and
far off in the direction of the island sounded the answer.
"I knew it. I told you. We shall know all presently," said Col. Zane. "The
first call was Jonathan's, and it was answered."
The moments dragged away. The children had fallen asleep on the bearskin rug.
Mrs. Zane and Betty had heard the Colonel's voice, and sat with white faces,
waiting, waiting for they knew not what.
A familiar, light-moccasined tread sounded on the path, a tall figure loomed
up from the darkness; it came up the path, passed up the steps, and crossed
"Wetzel!" exclaimed Col. Zane and Capt. Boggs. It was indeed the hunter. How
startling was his appearance! The buckskin hunting coat and leggins were wet,
torn and bespattered with mud; the water ran and dripped from him to form
little muddy pools on the floor; only his rifle and powder horn were dry. His
face was ghastly white except where a bullet wound appeared on his temple,
from which the blood had oozed down over his cheek. An unearthly light gleamed
from his eyes. In that moment Wetzel was an appalling sight.
"Col. Zane, I'd been here days before, but I run into some Shawnees, and they
gave me a hard chase. I have to report that Girty, with four hundred Injuns
and two hundred Britishers, are on the way to Ft. Henry."
"My God!" exclaimed Col. Zane. Strong man as he was the hunter's words had
The loud and clear tone of the church-bell rang out on the still night air.
Only once it sounded, but it reverberated among the hills, and its single
deep-toned ring was like a knell. The listeners almost expected to hear it
followed by the fearful war-cry, that cry which betokened for many desolation
Morning found the settlers, with the exception of Col. Zane, his brother
Jonathan, the negro Sam, and Martin Wetzel, all within the Fort. Col. Zane had
determined, long before, that in the event of another siege, he would use his
house as an outpost. Twice it had been destroyed by fire at the hands of the
Indians. Therefore, surrounding himself by these men, who were all expert
marksmen, Col. Zane resolved to protect his property and at the same time
render valuable aid to the Fort.
Early that morning a pirogue loaded with cannon balls, from Ft. Pitt and bound
for Louisville, had arrived and Captain Sullivan, with his crew of three men,
had demanded admittance. In the absence of Capt. Boggs and Major McColloch,
both of whom had been dispatched for reinforcements, Col. Zane had placed his
brother Silas in command of the Fort. Sullivan informed Silas that he and his
men had been fired on by Indians and that they sought the protection of the
Fort. The services of himself and men, which he volunteered, were gratefully
All told, the little force in the block-house did not exceed forty-two, and
that counting the boys and the women who could handle rifles. The few
preparations had been completed and now the settlers were awaiting the
appearance of the enemy. Few words were spoken. The children were secured
where they would be out of the way of flying bullets. They were huddled
together silent and frightened; pale-faced but resolute women passed up and
down the length of the block-house; some carried buckets of water and baskets
of food; others were tearing bandages; grim-faced men peered from the
portholes; all were listening for the war-cry. They had not long to wait.
Before noon the well-known whoop came from the wooded shore of the river, and
it was soon by the appearance of hundreds of Indians. The river, which was
low, at once became a scene of great animation. From a placid, smoothly
flowing stream it was turned into a muddy, splashing, turbulent torrent. The
mounted warriors urged their steeds down the bank and into the water; the
unmounted improvised rafts and placed their weapons and ammunition upon them;
then they swam and pushed, kicked and yelled their way across; other Indians
swam, holding the bridles of the pack-horses. A detachment of British soldiers
followed the Indians. In an hour the entire army appeared on the river bluff
not three hundred yards from the Fort. They were in no hurry to begin the
attack. Especially did the Indians seem to enjoy the lull before the storm,
and as they stalked to and fro in plain sight of the garrison, or stood in
groups watching the Fort, they were seen in all their hideous war-paint and
formidable battle-array. They were exultant. Their plumes and eagle feathers
waved proudly in the morning breeze. Now and then the long, peculiarly broken
yell of the Shawnees rang out clear and strong. The soldiers were drawn off to
one side and well out of range of the settlers' guns. Their red coats and
flashing bayonets were new to most of the little band of men in the
"Ho, the Fort!"
It was a strong, authoritative voice and came from a man mounted on a black
"Well, Girty, what is it?" shouted Silas Zane.
"We demand unconditional surrender," was the answer.
"You will never get it," replied Silas.
"Take more time to think it over. You see we have a force here large enough to
take the Fort in an hour."
"That remains to be seen," shouted some one through porthole.
An hour passed. The soldiers and the Indians lounged around on the grass and
walked to and fro on the bluff. At intervals a taunting Indian yell, horrible
in its suggestiveness came floating on the air. When the hour was up three
mounted men rode out in advance of the waiting Indians. One was clad in
buckskin, another in the uniform of a British officer, and the third was an
Indian chief whose powerful form was naked except for his buckskin belt and
"Will you surrender?" came in the harsh and arrogant voice of the renegade.
"Never! Go back to your squaws!" yelled Sullivan.
"I am Capt. Pratt of the Queen's Rangers. If you surrender I will give you the
best protection King George affords," shouted the officer.
"To hell with lying George! Go back to your hair-buying Hamilton and tell him
the whole British army could not make us surrender," roared Hugh Bennet.
"If you do not give up, the Fort will be attacked and burned. Your men will be
massacred and your women given to the Indians," said Girty.
"You will never take a man, woman or child alive," yelled Silas. "We remember
Crawford, you white traitor, and we are not going to give up to be butchered.
Come on with your red-jackets and your red-devils. We are ready."
"We have captured and killed the messenger you sent out, and now all hope of
succor must he abandoned. Your doom is sealed."
"What kind of a man was he?" shouted Sullivan.
"A fine, active young fellow," answered the outlaw.
"That's a lie," snapped Sullivan, "he was an old, gray haired man."
As the officer and the outlaw chief turned, apparently to consult their
companion, a small puff of white smoke shot forth from one of the portholes of
the block-house. It was followed by the ringing report of a rifle. The Indian
chief clutched wildly at his breast, fell forward on his horse, and after
vainly trying to keep his seat, slipped to the ground. He raised himself once,
then fell backward and lay still. Full two hundred yards was not proof against
Wetzel's deadly smallbore, and Red Fox, the foremost war chieftain of the
Shawnees, lay dead, a victim to the hunter's vengeance. It was characteristic
of Wetzel that he picked the chief, for he could have shot either the British
Oliver or the renegade. They retreated out of range, leaving the body of the
chief where it had fallen, while the horse, giving a frightened snort,
galloped toward the woods. Wetzel's yell coming quickly after his shot,
excited the Indians to a very frenzy, and they started on a run for the Fort,
discharging their rifles and screeching like so many demons.
In the cloud of smoke which at once enveloped the scene the Indians spread out
and surrounded the Fort. A tremendous rush by a large party of Indians was
made for the gate of the Fort. They attacked it fiercely with their tomahawks,
and a log which they used as a battering-ram. But the stout gate withstood
their united efforts, and the galling fire from the portholes soon forced them
to fall back and seek cover behind the trees and the rocks. From these points
of vantage they kept up an uninterrupted fire.
The soldiers had made a dash at the stockade-fence, yelling derision at the
small French cannon which was mounted on top of the block-house. They thought
it a "dummy" because they had learned that in the 1777 siege the garrison had
no real cannon, but had tried to utilize a wooden one. They yelled and hooted
and mocked at this piece and dared the garrison to fire it. Sullivan, who was
in charge of the cannon, bided his time. When the soldiers were massed closely
together and making another rush for the stockade-fence Sullivan turned loose
the little "bulldog," spreading consternation and destruction in the British
"Stand back! Stand back!" Capt. Pratt was heard to yell. "By God! there's no
wood about that gun."
After this the besiegers withdrew for a breathing spell. At this early stage
of the siege the Indians were seen to board Sullivan's pirogue, and it was
soon discovered they were carrying the cannon balls from the boat to the top
of the bluff. In their simple minds they had conceived a happy thought. They
procured a white-oak log probably a foot in diameter, split it through the
middle and hollowed out the inside with their tomahawks. Then with iron chains
and bars, which they took from Reihart's blacksmith shop, they bound and
securely fastened the sides together. They dragged the improvised cannon
nearer to the Fort, placed it on two logs and weighted it down with stones. A
heavy charge of powder and ball was then rammed into the wooden gun. The
soldiers, though much interested in the manoeuvre, moved back to a safe
distance, while many of the Indians crowded round the new weapon. The torch
was applied; there was a red flash-boom! The hillside was shaken by the
tremendous explosion, and when the smoke lifted from the scene the naked forms
of the Indians could be seen writhing in agony on the ground. Not a vestige of
the wooden gun remained. The iron chains had proved terrible death-dealing
missiles to the Indians near the gun. The Indians now took to their natural
methods of warfare. They hid in the long grass, in the deserted cabins, behind
the trees and up in the branches. Not an Indian was visible, but the rain of
bullets pattered steadily against the block-house. Every bush and every tree
spouted little puffs of white smoke, and the leaden messengers of Death
whistled through the air.
After another unsuccessful effort to destroy a section of the stockade-fence
the soldiers had retired. Their red jackets made them a conspicuous mark for
the sharp-eyed settlers. Capt. Pratt had been shot through the thigh. He
suffered great pain, and was deeply chagrined by the surprising and formidable
defense of the garrison which he had been led to believe would fall an easy
prey to the King's soldiers. He had lost one-third of his men. Those who were
left refused to run straight in the face of certain death. They had not been
drilled to fight an unseen enemy. Capt. Pratt was compelled to order a retreat
to the river bluff, where he conferred with Girty.
Inside the block-house was great activity, but no confusion. That little band
of fighters might have been drilled for a king's bodyguard. Kneeling before
each porthole on the river side of the Fort was a man who would fight while
there was breath left in him. He did not discharge his weapon aimlessly as the
Indians did, but waited until he saw the outline of an Indian form, or a red
coat, or a puff of white smoke; then he would thrust the rifle-barrel forward,
take a quick aim and fire. By the side of every man stood a heroic woman whose
face was blanched, but who spoke never a word as she put the muzzle of the hot
rifle into a bucket of water, cooled the barrel, wiped it dry and passed it
back to the man beside her.
Silas Zane had been wounded at the first fire. A glancing ball had struck him
on the head, inflicting a painful scalp wound. It was now being dressed by
Col. Zane's wife, whose skilled fingers were already tired with the washing
and the bandaging of the injuries received by the defenders. In all that
horrible din of battle, the shrill yells of the savages, the hoarse shouts of
the settlers, the boom of the cannon overhead, the cracking of rifles and the
whistling of bullets; in all that din of appalling noise, and amid the
stifling smoke, the smell of burned powder, the sickening sight of the
desperately wounded and the already dead, the Colonel's brave wife had never
faltered. She was here and there; binding the wounds, helping Lydia and Betty
mould bullets, encouraging the men, and by her example, enabling those women
to whom border war was new to bear up under the awful strain.
Sullivan, who had been on top of the block-house, came down the ladder almost
without touching it. Blood was running down his bare arm and dripping from the
ends of his fingers.
"Zane, Martin has been shot," he said hoarsely. "The same Indian who shot away
these fingers did it. The bullets seem to come from some elevation. Send some
scout up there and find out where that damned Indian is hiding."
"Martin shot? God, his poor wife! Is he dead?" said Silas.
"Not yet. Bennet is bringing him down. Here, I want this hand tied up, so that
my gun won't be so slippery."
Wetzel was seen stalking from one porthole to another. His fearful yell
sounded above all the others. He seemed to bear a charmed life, for not a
bullet had so much as scratched him. Silas communicated to him what Sullivan
had said. The hunter mounted the ladder and went up on the roof. Soon he
reappeared, descended into the room and ran into the west end of the
block-house. He kneeled before a porthole through which he pushed the long
black barrel of his rifle. Silas and Sullivan followed him and looked in the
direction indicated by his weapon. It pointed toward the bushy top of a tall
poplar tree which stood on the hill west of the Fort. Presently a little cloud
of white smoke issued from the leafy branches, and it was no sooner seen than
Wetzel's rifle was discharged. There was a great commotion among the leaves,
the branches swayed and thrashed, and then a dark body plunged downward to
strike on the rocky slope of the bluff and roll swiftly out of sight. The
hunter's unnatural yell pealed out.
"Great God! The man's crazy," cried Sullivan, staring at Wetzel's demon-like
"No, no. It's his way," answered Silas.
At that moment the huge frame of Bennet filled up the opening in the roof and
started down the ladder. In one arm he carried the limp body of a young man.
When he reached the floor he laid the body down and beckoned to Mrs. Zane.
Those watching saw that the young man was Will Martin, and that he was still
alive. But it was evident that he had not long to live. His face had a leaden
hue and his eyes were bright and glassy. Alice, his wife, flung herself on her
knees beside him and tenderly raised the drooping head. No words could express
the agony in her face as she raised it to Mrs. Zane. In it was a mute appeal,
an unutterable prayer for hope. Mrs. Zane turned sorrowfully to her task.
There was no need of her skill here. Alfred Clarke, who had been ordered to
take Martin's place on top of the block-house, paused a moment in silent
sympathy. When he saw that little hole in the bared chest, from which the
blood welled up in an awful stream, he shuddered and passed on. Betty looked
up from her work and then turned away sick and faint. Her mute lips moved as
if in prayer.
Alice was left alone with her dying husband. She tenderly supported his head
on her bosom, leaned her face against his and kissed the cold, numb lips. She
murmured into his already deaf ear the old tender names. He knew her, for he
made a feeble effort to pass his arm round her neck. A smile illumined his
face. Then death claimed him. With wild, distended eyes and with hands pressed
tightly to her temples Alice rose slowly to her feet.
"Oh, God! Oh, God!" she cried.
Her prayer was answered. In a momentary lull in the battle was heard the
deadly hiss of a bullet as it sped through one of the portholes. It ended with
a slight sickening spat as the lead struck the flesh. Then Alice, without a
cry, fell on the husband's breast. Silas Zane found her lying dead with the
body of her husband clasped closely in her arms. He threw a blanket over them
and went on his wearying round of the bastions.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The besiegers had been greatly harassed and hampered by the continual fire
from Col. Zane's house. It was exceedingly difficult for the Indians, and
impossible for the British, to approach near enough to the Colonel's house to
get an effective shot. Col. Zane and his men had the advantage of being on
higher ground. Also they had four rifles to a man, and they used every spare
moment for reloading. Thus they were enabled to pour a deadly fire into the
ranks of the enemy, and to give the impression of being much stronger in force
than they really were.
About dusk the firing ceased and the Indians repaired to the river bluff.
Shortly afterward their camp-fires were extinguished and all became dark and
quiet. Two hours passed. Fortunately the clouds, which had at first obscured
the moon, cleared away somewhat and enough light was shed on the scene to
enable the watchers to discern objects near by.
Col. Zane had just called together his men for a conference. He suspected some
cunning deviltry on part of the Indians.
"Sam, take what stuff to eat you can lay your hands on and go up to the loft.
Keep a sharp lookout and report anything to Jonathan or me," said the Colonel.
All afternoon Jonathan Zane had loaded and fired his rifles in sullen and
dogged determination. He had burst one rifle and disabled another. The other
men were fine marksmen, but it was undoubtedly Jonathan's unerring aim that
made the house so unapproachable. He used an extremely heavy, large bore
rifle. In the hands of a man strong enough to stand its fierce recoil it was a
veritable cannon. The Indians had soon learned to respect the range of that
rifle, and they gave the cabin a wide berth.
But now that darkness had enveloped the valley the advantage lay with the
savages. Col. Zane glanced apprehensively at the blackened face of his
"Do you think the Fort can hold out?" he asked in a husky voice. He was a bold
man, but he thought now of his wife and children.
"I don't know," answered Jonathan. "I saw that big Shawnee chief today. His
name is Fire. He is well named. He is a fiend. Girty has a picked band."
"The Fort has held out surprisingly well against such combined and fierce
attacks. The Indians are desperate. You can easily see that in the way in
which they almost threw their lives away. The green square is covered with
"If help does not come in twenty-four hours not one man will escape alive.
Even Wetzel could not break through that line of Indians. But if we can hold
the Indians off a day longer they will get tired and discouraged. Girty will
not be able to hold them much longer. The British don't count. It's not their
kind of war. They can't shoot, and so far as I can see they haven't done much
"To your posts, men, and every man think of the women and children in the
For a long time, which seemed hours to the waiting and watching settlers, not
a sound could be heard, nor any sign of the enemy seen. Thin clouds had again
drifted over the noon, allowing only a pale, wan light to shine down on the
valley. Time dragged on and the clouds grew thicker and denser until the moon
and the stars were totally obscured. Still no sign or sound of the savages.
"What was that?" suddenly whispered Col. Zane.
"It was a low whistle from Sam. We'd better go up," said Jonathan.
They went up the stairs to the second floor from which they ascended to the
loft by means of a ladder. The loft was as black as pitch. In that Egyptian
darkness it was no use to look for anything, so they crawled on their hands
and knees over the piles of hides and leather which lay on the floor When they
reached the small window they made out the form of the negro.
"What is it, Sam?" whispered Jonathan.
"Look, see thar, Massa Zane," came the answer in a hoarse whisper from the
negro and at the same time he pointed down toward the ground.
Col. Zane put his head alongside Jonathan's and all three men peered out into
"Jack, can you see anything?" said Col. Zane.
"No, but wait a minute until the moon throws a light."
A breeze had sprung up. The clouds were passing rapidly over the moon, and at
long intervals a rift between the clouds let enough light through to brighten
the square for an instant.
"Now, Massa Zane, thar!" exclaimed the slave.
"I can't see a thing. Can you, Jack?"
"I am not sure yet. I can see something, but whether it is a log or not I
Just then there was a faint light like the brightening of a firefly, or like
the blowing of a tiny spark from a stick of burning wood. Jonathan uttered a
"D--n 'em! At their old tricks with fire. I thought all this quiet meant
something. The grass out there is full of Indians, and they are carrying
lighted arrows under them so as to cover the light. But we'll fool the red
devils this time"
"I can see 'em, Massa Zane."
"Sh-h-h! no more talk," whispered Col. Zane.
The men waited with cocked rifles. Another spark rose seemingly out of the
earth. This time it was nearer the house. No sooner had its feeble light
disappeared than the report of the negro's rifle awoke the sleeping echoes. It
was succeeded by a yell which seemed to come from under the window. Several
dark forms rose so suddenly that they appeared to spring out of the ground.
Then came the peculiar twang of Indian bows. There were showers of sparks and
little streaks of fire with long tails like comets winged their parabolic
flight toward the cabin. Falling short they hissed and sputtered in the grass.
Jonathan's rifle spoke and one of the fleeing forms tumbled to the earth. A
series of long yells from all around the Fort greeted this last shot, but not
an Indian fired a rifle.
Fire-tipped arrows were now shot at the block-house, but not one took effect,
although a few struck the stockade-fence. Col. Zane had taken the precaution
to have the high grass and the clusters of goldenrod cut down all round the
Fort. The wisdom of this course now became evident, for the wily savages could
not crawl near enough to send their fiery arrows on the roof of the
block-house. This attempt failing, the Indians drew back to hatch up some
other plot to burn the Fort.
"Look!" suddenly exclaimed Jonathan.
Far down the road, perhaps five hundred yards from the Fort, a point of light
had appeared. At first it was still, and then it took an odd jerky motion, to
this side and to that, up and down like a jack-o-lantern.
"What the hell?" muttered Col. Zane, sorely puzzled. "Jack, by all that's
strange it's getting bigger."
Sure enough the spark of fire, or whatever it was, grew larger and larger.
Col. Zane thought it might be a light carried by a man on horseback. But if
this were true where was the clatter of the horse's hoofs? On that rocky blur
no horse could run noiselessly. It could not be a horse. Fascinated and
troubled by this new mystery which seemed to presage evil to them the watchers
waited with that patience known only to those accustomed to danger. They knew
that whatever it was, it was some satanic stratagem of the savages, and that
it would come all too soon.
The light was now zigzagging back and forth across the road, and approaching
the Fort with marvelous rapidity. Now its motion was like the wide swinging of
a lighted lantern on a dark night. A moment more of breathless suspense and
the lithe form of an Indian brave could be seen behind the light. He was
running with almost incredible swiftness down the road in the direction of the
Fort. Passing at full speed within seventy-five yards of the stockade-fence
the Indian shot his arrow. Like a fiery serpent flying through the air the
missile sped onward in its graceful flight, going clear over the block-house,
and striking with a spiteful thud the roof of one of the cabins beyond. Unhurt
by the volley that was fired at him, the daring brave passed swiftly out of
Deeds like this were dear to the hearts of the savages. They were deeds which
made a warrior of a brave, and for which honor any Indian would risk his life
over and over again. The exultant yells which greeted this performance
proclaimed its success.
The breeze had already fanned the smouldering arrow into a blaze and the dry
roof of the cabin had caught fire and was burning fiercely.
"That infernal redskin is going to do that again," ejaculated Jonathan.
It was indeed true. That same small bright light could be seen coming down the
road gathering headway with every second. No doubt the same Indian, emboldened
by his success, and maddened with that thirst for glory so often fatal to his
kind, was again making the effort to fire the block-house.
The eyes of Col. Zane and his companions were fastened on the light as it came
nearer and nearer with its changing motion. The burning cabin brightened the
square before the Fort. The slender, shadowy figure of the Indian could be
plainly seen emerging from the gloom. So swiftly did he run that he seemed to
have wings. Now he was in the full glare of the light. What a magnificent
nerve, what a terrible assurance there was in his action! It seemed to
paralyze all. The red arrow emitted a shower of sparks as it was discharged.
This time it winged its way straight and true and imbedded itself in the roof
of the block-house.
Almost at the same instant a solitary rifle shot rang out and the daring
warrior plunged headlong, sliding face downward in the dust of the road, while
from the Fort came that demoniac yell now grown so familiar.
"Wetzel's compliments," muttered Jonathan. "But the mischief is done. Look at
that damned burning arrow. If it doesn't blow out the Fort will go."
The arrow was visible, but it seemed a mere spark. It alternately paled and
glowed. One moment it almost went out, and the next it gleamed brightly. To
the men, compelled to look on and powerless to prevent the burning of the now
apparently doomed block-house, that spark was like the eye of Hell.
"Ho, the Fort," yelled Col. Zane with all the power of hit strong lungs. "Ho,
Silas, the roof is on fire!"
Pandemonium had now broken out among the Indians. They could be plainly seen
in the red glare thrown by the burning cabin. It had been a very dry season,
the rough shingles were like tinder, and the inflammable material burst
quickly into great flames, lighting up the valley as far as the edge of the
forest. It was an awe-inspiring and a horrible spectacle. Columns of yellow
and black smoke rolled heavenward; every object seemed dyed a deep crimson;
the trees assumed fantastic shapes; the river veiled itself under a red glow.
Above the roaring and crackling of the flames rose the inhuman yelling of the
savages. Like demons of the inferno they ran to and fro, their naked painted
bodies shining in the glare. One group of savages formed a circle and danced
hands-around a stump as gayly as a band of school-girls at a May party. They
wrestled with and hugged one another; they hopped, skipped and jumped, and in
every possible war manifested their fiendish joy.
The British took no part in this revelry. To their credit it must be said they
kept in the background as though ashamed of this horrible fire-war on people
of their own blood.
"Why don't they fire the cannon?" impatiently said Col. Zane. "Why don't they
"Perhaps it is disabled, or maybe they are short of ammunition," suggested
"The block-house will burn down before our eyes. Look! The hell-hounds have
set fire to the fence. I see men running and throwing water."
"I see something on the roof of the block-house," crier Jonathan. "There, down
towards the east end of the roof and in the shadow of the chimney. And as I'm
a living sinner it's a man crawling towards that blazing arrow. The Indians
have not discovered him yet. He is still in the shadow. But they'll see him.
God! What a nervy thing to do in the face of all those redskins. It is almost
"Yes, and they see him," said the Colonel.
With shrill yells the Indians bounded forward and aimed and fired their rifles
at the crouching figure of the man. Some hid behind the logs they had rolled
toward the Fort; others boldly faced the steady fire now pouring from the
portholes. The savages saw in the movement of that man an attempt to defeat
their long-cherished hope of burning the Fort. Seeing he was discovered, the
man did not hesitate, nor did he lose a second. Swiftly he jumped and ran
toward the end of the roof where the burning arrow, now surrounded by blazing
shingles, was sticking in the roof. How he ever ran along that slanting roof
and with a pail in his hand was incomprehensible. In moments like that men
become superhuman. It all happened in an instant. He reached the arrow, kicked
it over the wall, and then dashed the bucket of water on the blazing shingles.
In that single instant, wherein his tall form was outlined against the bright
light behind him, he presented the fairest kind of a mark for the Indians.
Scores of rifles were levelled and discharged at him. The bullets pattered
like hail on the roof of the block-house, but apparently none found their
mark, for the man ran back and disappeared.
"It was Clarke!" exclaimed Col. Zane. "No one but Clarke has such light hair.
Wasn't that a plucky thing?"
"It has saved the block-house for to-night," answered Jonathan. "See, the
Indians are falling back. They can't stand in the face of that shooting.
Hurrah! Look at them fall! It could not have happened better. The light from
the cabin will prevent any more close attacks for an hour and daylight is
The sun rose red. Its ruddy rays peeped over the eastern hills, kissed the
tree-tops, glinted along the stony bluffs, and chased away the gloom of night
from the valley. Its warm gleams penetrated the portholes of the Fort and cast
long bright shadows on the walls; but it brought little cheer to the sleepless
and almost exhausted defenders. If brought to many of the settlers the
familiar old sailor's maxim: "Redness 'a the morning, sailor's warning."
Rising in its crimson glory the sun flooded the valley, dyeing the river, the
leaves, the grass, the stones, tingeing everything with that awful color which
stained the stairs, the benches, the floor, even the portholes of the
Historians call this the time that tried men's souls. If it tried the men
think what it must have been to those grand, heroic women. Though they had
helped the men load and fire nearly forty-eight hours; though they had worked
without a moment's rest and were now ready to succumb to exhaustion, though
the long room was full of stifling smoke and the sickening odor of burned wood
and powder, and though the row of silent, covered bodies had steadily
lengthened, the thought of giving up never occurred to the women. Death there
would be sweet compared to what it would be at the hands of the redmen.
At sunrise Silas Zane, bare-chested, his face dark and fierce, strode into the
bastion which was connected with the blockhouse. It was a small shedlike room,
and with portholes opening to the river and the forest. This bastion had seen
the severest fighting. Five men had been killed here. As Silas entered four
haggard and powder-begrimed men, who were kneeling before the portholes,
looked up at him. A dead man lay in one corner.
"Smith's dead. That makes fifteen," said Silas. "Fifteen out of forty-two,
that leaves twenty-seven. We must hold out. Len, don't expose yourselves
recklessly. How goes it at the south bastion?"
"All right. There's been firin' over there all night," answered one of the
men. "I guess it's been kinder warm over that way. But I ain't heard any
shootin' for some time."
"Young Bennet is over there, and if the men needed any thing they would send
him for it," answered Silas. "I'll send some food and water. Anything else?"
"Powder. We're nigh out of powder," replied the man addressed. "And we might
jes as well make ready fer a high old time. The red devils hadn't been quiet
all this last hour fer nothin'."
Silas passed along the narrow hallway which led from the bastion into the main
room of the block-house. As he turned the corner at the head of the stairway
he encountered a boy who was dragging himself up the steps.
"Hello! Who's this? Why, Harry!" exclaimed Silas, grasping the boy and drawing
him into the room. Once in the light Silas saw that the lad was so weak he
could hardly stand. He was covered with blood. It dripped from a bandage wound
tightly about his arm; it oozed through a hole in his hunting shirt, and it
flowed from a wound over his temple. The shadow of death was already stealing
over the pallid face, but from the grey eyes shone an indomitable spirit, a
spirit which nothing but death could quench.
"Quick!" the lad panted. "Send men to the south wall. The redskins are
breakin' in where the water from the spring runs under the fence."
"Where are Metzar and the other men?"
"Dead! Killed last night. I've been there alone all night. I kept on shootin'.
Then I gets plugged here under the chin. Knowin' it's all up with me I
deserted my post when I heard the Injuns choppin' on the fence where it was on
fire last night. But I only--run--because--they're gettin' in."
"Wetzel, Bennet, Clarke!" yelled Silas, as he laid the boy on the bench.
Almost as Silas spoke the tall form of the hunter confronted him. Clarke and
the other men were almost as prompt.
"Wetzel, run to the south wall. The Indians are cutting a hole through the
Wetzel turned, grabbed his rifle and an axe and was gone like a flash.
"Sullivan, you handle the men here. Bessie, do what you can for this brave
lad. Come, Bennet, Clarke, we must follow Wetzel," commanded Silas.
Mrs. Zane hastened to the side of the fainting lad. She washed away the blood
from the wound over his temple. She saw that a bullet had glanced on the bone
and that the wound was not deep or dangerous. She unlaced the hunting shirt at
the neck and pulled the flaps apart. There on the right breast, on a line with
the apex of the lung, was a horrible gaping wound. A murderous British slug
had passed through the lad. From the hole at every heart-beat poured the dark,
crimson life-tide. Mrs. Zane turned her white face away for a second; then she
folded a small piece of linen, pressed it tightly over the wound, and wrapped
a towel round the lad's breast.
"Don't waste time on me. It's all over," he whispered. "Will you call Betty
here a minute?"
Betty came, white-faced and horror-stricken. For forty hours she had been
living in a maze of terror. Her movements had almost become mechanical. She
had almost ceased to hear and feel. But the light in the eyes of this dying
boy brought her back to the horrible reality of the present.
"Oh, Harry! Harry! Harry!" was all Betty could whisper.
"I'm goin', Betty. And I wanted--you to say a little prayer for me--and say
good-bye to me," he panted.
Betty knelt by the bench and tried to pray.
"I hated to run, Betty, but I waited and waited and nobody came, and the
Injuns was getting' in. They'll find dead Injuns in piles out there. I was
shootin' fer you, Betty, and even time I aimed I thought of you."
The lad rambled on, his voice growing weaker and weaker and finally ceasing.
The hand which had clasped Betty's so closely loosened its hold. His eyes
closed. Betty thought he was dead, but no! he still breathed. Suddenly his
eyes opened. The shadow of pain was gone. In its place shone a beautiful
"Betty, I've cared a lot for you--and I'm dyin'--happy because I've fought fer
you--and somethin' tells me--you'll--be saved. Good-bye." A smile transformed
his face and his gray eyes gazed steadily into hers. Then his head fell back.
With a sigh his brave spirit fled.
Hugh Bennet looked once at the pale face of his son, then he ran down the
stairs after Silas and Clarke. When the three men emerged from behind Capt.
Boggs' cabin, which was adjacent to the block-house, and which hid the south
wall from their view, they were two hundred feet from Wetzel They heard the
heavy thump of a log being rammed against the fence; then a splitting and
splintering of one of the six-inch oak planks. Another and another smashing
blow and the lower half of one of the planks fell inwards, leaving an aperture
large enough to admit an Indian. The men dashed forward to the assistance of
Wetzel, who stood by the hole with upraised axe. At the same moment a shot
rang out. Bennet stumbled and fell headlong. An Indian had shot through the
hole in the fence. Silas and Alfred sheered off toward the fence, out of line.
When within twenty yards of Wetzel they saw a swarthy-faced and athletic
savage squeeze through the narrow crevice. He had not straightened up before
the axe, wielded by the giant hunter, descended on his head, cracking his
skull as if it were an eggshell. The savage sank to the earth without even a
moan. Another savage naked and powerful, slipped in. He had to stoop to get
through. He raised himself, and seeing Wetzel, he tried to dodge the lightning
sweep of the axe. It missed his head, at which it had been aimed, but struck
just over the shoulders, and buried itself in flesh and bone. The Indian
uttered an agonizing yell which ended in a choking, gurgling sound as the
blood spurted from his throat. Wetzel pulled the weapon from the body of his
victim, and with the same motion he swung it around. This time the blunt end
met the next Indian's head with a thud like that made by the butcher when he
strikes the bullock to the ground. The Indian's rifle dropped, his tomahawk
flew into the air, while his body rolled down the little embankment into the
spring. Another and another Indian met the same fate. Then two Indians
endeavored to get through the aperture. The awful axe swung by those steel
arms, dispatched both of than in the twinkling of an eye. Their bodies stuck
in the hole.
Silas and Alfred stood riveted to the spot. Just then Wetzel in all his
horrible glory was a sight to freeze the marrow of any man. He had cast aside
his hunting shirt in that run to the fence and was now stripped to the waist.
He was covered with blood. The muscles of his broad back and his brawny arms
swelled and rippled under the brown skin. At every swing of the gory axe he
let out a yell the like of which had never before been heard by the white men.
It was the hunter's mad yell of revenge. In his thirst for vengeance he had
forgotten that he was defending the Fort with its women and its children; he
was fighting because he loved to kill.
Silas Zane heard the increasing clamor outside and knew that hundreds of
Indians were being drawn to the spot. Something must be done at once. He
looked around and his eyes fell on a pile of white-oak logs that had been
hauled inside the Fort. They had been placed there by Col. Zane, with wise
forethought. Silas grabbed Clarke and pulled him toward the pile of logs, at
the same time communicating his plan. Together they carried a log to the fence
and dropped it in front of the hole. Wetzel immediately stepped on it and took
a vicious swing at an Indian who was trying to poke his rifle sideways through
the hole. This Indian had discharged his weapon twice. While Wetzel held the
Indians at bay, Silas and Clarke piled the logs one upon another, until the
hole was closed. This effectually fortified and barricaded the weak place in
the stockade fence. The settlers in the bastions were now pouring such a hot
fire into the ranks of the savage that they were compelled to retreat out of
While Wetzel washed the blood from his arms and his shoulders Silas and Alfred
hurried back to where Bennet had fallen. They expected to find him dead, and
were overjoyed to see the big settler calmly sitting by the brook binding up a
wound in his shoulder.
"It's nothin' much. Jest a scratch, but it tumbled me over," he said. "I was
comin' to help you. That was the wust Injun scrap I ever saw. Why didn't you
keep on lettin' 'em come in? The red varmints would'a kept on comin' and
Wetzel was good fer the whole tribe. All you'd had to do was to drag the dead
Injuns aside and give him elbow room."
Wetzel joined them at this moment, and they hurried back to the block-house.
The firing had ceased on the blur. They met Sullivan at the steps of the Fort.
He was evidently coming in search of them.
"Zane, the Indians and the Britishers are getting ready for more determined
and persistent effort than any that has yet been made," said Sullivan.
"How so?" asked Silas.
"They have got hammers from the blacksmith's shop, and they boarded my boat
and found a keg of nails. Now they are making a number of ladders. If they
make a rush all at once and place ladders against the fence we'll have the
Fort full of Indians in ten minutes. They can't stand in the face of a cannon
charge. We must use the cannon."
"Clarke, go into Capt. Boggs' cabin and fetch out two kegs of powder," said
The young man turned in the direction of the cabin, while Silas and the others
ascended the stairs
"The firing seems to be all on the south side," said Silas, "and is not so
heavy as it was."
"Yes, as I said, the Indians on the river front are busy with their new
plans," answered Sullivan.
"Why does not Clarke return?" said Silas, after waiting a few moments at the
door of the long room. "We have no time to lose. I want to divide one keg of
that powder among the men."
Clarke appeared at the moment. He was breathing heavily as though he had run
up the stairs, or was laboring under a powerful emotion. His face was gray.
"I could not find any powder!" he exclaimed. "I searched every nook and corner
in Capt. Boggs' house. There is no powder there."
A brief silence ensued. Everyone in the block-house heard the young man's
voice. No one moved. They all seemed waiting for someone to speak. Finally
Silas Zane burst out:
"Not find it? You surely could not have looked well. Capt. Boggs himself told
me there were three kegs of powder in the storeroom. I will go and find it
Alfred did not answer, but sat down on a bench with an odd numb feeling round
his heart. He knew what was coming. He had been in the Captain's house and had
seen those kegs of powder. He knew exactly where they had been. Now they were
not on the accustomed shelf, nor at any other place in the storeroom. While he
sat there waiting for the awful truth to dawn on the garrison, his eyes roved
from one end of the room to the other. At last they found what they were
seeking. A young woman knelt before a charcoal fire which she was blowing with
a bellows. It was Betty. Her face was pale and weary, her hair dishevelled,
her shapely arms blackened with charcoal, but notwithstanding she looked calm,
resolute, self-contained. Lydia was kneeling by her side holding a
bullet-mould on a block of wood. Betty lifted the ladle from the red coals and
poured the hot metal with a steady hand and an admirable precision. Too much
or too little lead would make an imperfect ball. The little missile had to be
just so for those soft-metal, smooth-bore rifles. Then Lydia dipped the mould
in a bucket of water, removed it and knocked it on the floor. A small, shiny
lead bullet rolled out. She rubbed it with a greasy rag and then dropped it in
a jar. For nearly forty hours, without sleep or rest, almost without food,
those brave girls had been at their post.
Silas Zane came running into the room. His face was ghastly, even his lips
were white and drawn.
"Sullivan, in God's name, what can we do? The powder is gone!" he cried in a
"Gone?" repeated several voices.
"Gone?" echoed Sullivan. "Where?"
"God knows. I found where the kegs stood a few days ago. There were marks in
the dust. They have been moved."
"Perhaps Boggs put them here somewhere," said Sullivan. "We will look."
"No use. No use. We were always careful to keep the powder out of here on
account of fire. The kegs are gone, gone."
"Miller stole them," said Wetzel in his calm voice.
"What difference does that make now?" burst out Silas, turning passionately on
the hunter, whose quiet voice in that moment seemed so unfeeling. "They're
In the silence which ensued after these words the men looked at each other
with slowly whitening faces. There was no need of words. Their eyes told one
another what was coming. The fate which had overtaken so many border forts was
to be theirs. They were lost! And every man thought not of himself, cared not
for himself, but for those innocent children, those brave young girls and
A man can die. He is glorious when he calmly accepts death; but when he fights
like a tiger, when he stands at bay his back to the wall, a broken weapon in
his hand, bloody, defiant, game to the end, then he is sublime. Then he wrings
respect from the souls of even his bitterest foes. Then he is avenged even in
But what can women do in times of war? They help, they cheer, they inspire,
and if their cause is lost they must accept death or worse. Few women have the
courage for self-destruction. "To the victor belong the spoils," and women
have ever been the spoils of war.
No wonder Silas Zane and his men weakened in that moment. With only a few
charges for their rifles and none for the cannon how could they hope to hold
out against the savages? Alone they could have drawn their tomahawks and have
made a dash through the lines of Indians, but with the women and the children
that was impossible.
"Wetzel, what can we do? For God's sake, advise us!" said Silas hoarsely. "We
cannot hold the Fort without powder. We cannot leave the women here. We had
better tomahawk every woman in the block-house than let her fall into the
hands of Girty."
"Send someone fer powder," answered Wetzel.
"Do you think it possible," said Silas quickly, a ray of hope lighting up his
haggard features. "There's plenty of powder in Eb's cabin. Whom shall we send?
Who will volunteer?"
Three men stepped forward, and others made a movement.
"They'd plug a man full of lead afore he'd get ten foot from the gate," said
Wetzel. "I'd go myself, but it wouldn't do no good. Send a boy, and one as can
run like a streak."
"There are no lads big enough to carry a keg of powder. Harry Bennett might
go," said Silas. "How is he, Bessie?"
"He is dead," answered Mrs. Zane.
Wetzel made a motion with his hands and turned away. A short, intense silence
followed this indication of hopelessness from him. The women understood, for
some of them covered their faces, while others sobbed.
"I will go."
It was Betty's voice, and it rang clear and vibrant throughout the room. The
miserable women raised their drooping heads, thrilled by that fresh young
voice. The men looked stupefied. Clarke seemed turned to stone. Wetzel came
quickly toward her.
"Impossible!" said Sullivan.
Silas Zane shook his head as if the idea were absurd.
"Let me go, brother, let me go?" pleaded Betty as she placed her little hands
softly, caressingly on her brother's bare arm. "I know it is only a forlorn
chance, but still it is a chance. Let me take it. I would rather die that way
than remain here and wait for death."
"Silas, it ain't a bad plan," broke in Wetzel. "Betty can run like a deer. And
bein' a woman they may let her get to the cabin without shootin'."
Silas stood with arms folded across his broad chest. As he gazed at his sister
great tears coursed down his dark cheeks and splashed on the hands which so
tenderly clasped his own. Betty stood before him transformed; all signs of
weariness had vanished; her eyes shone with a fateful resolve; her white and
eager face was surpassingly beautiful with its light of hope, of prayer, of
"Let me go, brother. You know I can run, and oh! I will fly today. Every
moment is precious. Who knows? Perhaps Capt. Boggs is already near at hand
with help. You cannot spare a man. Let me go."
"Betty, Heaven bless and save you, you shall go," said Silas.
"No! No! Do not let her go!" cried Clarke, throwing himself before them. He
was trembling, his eyes were wild, and he had the appearance of a man suddenly
"She shall not go," he cried.
"What authority have you here?" demanded Silas Zane, sternly. "What right have
you to speak?"
"None, unless it is that I love her and I will go for her," answered Alfred
"Stand back!" cried Wetzel, placing his powerful hard on Clarke's breast and
pushing him backward. "If you love her you don't want to have her wait here
for them red devils," and he waved his hand toward the river. "If she gets
back she'll save the Fort. If she fails she'll at least escape Girty."
Betty gazed into the hunter's eyes and then into Alfred's. She understood both
men. One was sending her out to her death because he knew it would be a
thousand times more merciful than the fate which awaited her at the hands of
the Indians. The other had not the strength to watch her go to her death. He
had offered himself rather than see her take such fearful chances.
"I know. If it were possible you would both save me," said Betty, simply. "Now
you can do nothing but pray that God may spare my life long enough to reach
the gate. Silas, I am ready "
Downstairs a little group of white-faced men were standing before the gateway.
Silas Zane had withdrawn the iron bar. Sullivan stood ready to swing in the
ponderous gate. Wetzel was speaking with a clearness and a rapidity which were
wonderful under the circumstances.
"When we let you out you'll have a clear path. Run, but not very fast. Save
your speed. Tell the Colonel to empty a keg of powder in a table cloth. Throw
it over your shoulder and start back. Run like you was racin' with me, and
keep on comin' if you do get hit. Now go!"
The huge gate creaked and swung in. Betty ran out, looking straight before
her. She had covered half the distance between the Fort and the Colonel's
house when long taunting yells filled the air.
"Squaw! Waugh! Squaw! Waugh!" yelled the Indians in contempt.
Not a shot did they fire. The yells ran all along the river front, showing
that hundreds of Indians had seen the slight figure running up the gentle
slope toward the cabin.
Betty obeyed Wetzel's instructions to the letter. She ran easily and not at
all hurriedly, and was as cool as it there had not been an Indian within
Col. Zane had seen the gate open and Betty come forth. When she bounded up the
steps he flung open that door and she ran into his arms.
"Betts, for God's sake! What's this?" he cried,
"We are out of powder. Empty a keg of powder into a table cloth. Quick! I've
not a second to lose," she answered, at the same time slipping off her outer
skirt. She wanted nothing to hinder that run for the block-house.
Jonathan Zane heard Betty's first words and disappeared into the
magazine-room. He came out with a keg in his arms. With one blow of an axe he
smashed in the top of the keg. In a twinkling a long black stream of the
precious stuff was piling up in a little hill in the center of the table. Then
the corners of the table cloth were caught up, turned and heisted, and the bag
of powder was thrown over Betty's shoulder.
"Brave girl, so help me God, you are going to do it!" cried Col. Zane,
throwing open the door. "I know you can. Run as you never ran in all your
Like an arrow sprung from a bow Betty flashed past the Colonel and out on the
green. Scarcely ten of the long hundred yards had been covered by her flying
feet when a roar of angry shouts and yells warned Betty that the keen-eyed
savages saw the bag of powder and now knew they had been deceived by a girl.
The cracking of rifles began at a point on the blur nearest Col. Zane's house,
and extended in a half circle to the eastern end of the clearing. The leaden
messengers of Death whistled past Betty. They sped before her and behind her,
scattering pebbles in her path, striking up the dust, and ploughing little
furrows in the ground. A quarter of the distance covered! Betty had passed the
top of the knoll now and she was going down the gentle slope like the wind.
None but a fine marksman could have hit that small, flitting figure. The
yelling and screeching had become deafening. The reports of the rifles blended
in a roar. Yet above it all Betty heard Wetzel's stentorian yell. It lent
wings to her feet. Half the distance covered! A hot, stinging pain shot
through Betty's arm, but she heeded it not. The bullets were raining about
her. They sang over her head; hissed close to her ears, and cut the grass in
front of her; they pattered like hail on the stockade-fence, but still
untouched, unharmed, the slender brown figure sped toward the gate.
Three-fourths of the distance covered! A tug at the flying hair, and a long,
black tress cut of by a bullet, floated away on the breeze. Betty saw the big
gate swing; she saw the tall figure of the hunter; she saw her brother. Only a
few more yards! On! On! On! A blinding red mist obscured her sight. She lost
the opening in the fence, but unheeding she rushed on. Another second and she
stumbled; she felt herself grasped by eager arms; she heard the gate slam and
the iron bar shoot into place; then she felt and heard no more.
Silas Zane bounded up the stairs with a doubly precious burden in his arms. A
mighty cheer greeted his entrance. It aroused Alfred Clarke, who had bowed his
head on the bench and had lost all sense of time and place. What were the
women sobbing and crying over? To whom belonged that white face? Of course, it
was the face of the girl he loved. The face of the girl who had gone to her
death. And he writhed in his agony.
Then something wonderful happened. A warm, living flush swept over that pale
face. The eyelids fluttered; they opened, and the dark eyes, radiant,
beautiful, gazed straight into Alfred's.
Still Alfred could not believe his eyes. That pale face and the wonderful eyes
belonged to the ghost of his sweetheart. They had come back to haunt him. Then
he heard a voice.
"O-h! but that brown place burns!"
Alfred saw a bare and shapely arm. Its beauty was marred by a cruel red welt
He heard that same sweet voice laugh and cry together. Then he came back to
life and hope. With one bound he sprang to a porthole.
"God, what a woman!" he said between his teeth, as hi thrust the rifle
It was indeed not a time for inaction. The Indians, realizing they had been
tricked and had lost a golden opportunity, rushed at the Fort with renewed
energy. They attacked from all sides and with the persistent fury of savages
long disappointed in their hopes. They were received with a scathing, deadly
fire. Bang! roared the cannon, and the detachment of savages dropped their
ladders and fled. The little "bull dog" was turned on its swivel and directed
at another rush of Indians. Bang! and the bullets, chainlinks, and bits of
iron ploughed through the ranks of the enemy. The Indians never lived who
could stand in the face of well-aimed cannon-shot. They fell back. The
settlers, inspired, carried beyond themselves by the heroism of a girl, fought
as they had never fought before. Every shot went to a redskin's heart,
impelled by the powder for which a brave girl had offered her life, guided by
hands and arms of iron, and aimed by eyes as fixed and stern as Fate, every
bullet shed the life-blood of a warrior.
Slowly and sullenly the red men gave way before that fire. Foot by foot they
retired. Girty was seen no more. Fire, the Shawnee chief, lay dead in the road
almost in the same spot where two days before his brother chief, Red Fox, had
bit the dust. The British had long since retreated.
When night came the exhausted and almost famished besiegers sought rest and
The moon came out clear and beautiful, as if ashamed at her traitor's part of
the night before, and brightened up the valley, bathing the Fort, the river,
and the forest in her silver light.
Shortly after daybreak the next morning the Indians, despairing of success,
held a pow-wow. While they were grouped in plain view of the garrison, and
probably conferring over the question of raising the siege, the long, peculiar
whoop of an Indian spy, who had been sent out to watch for the approach of a
relief party, rang out. This seemed a signal for retreat. Scarcely had the
shrill cry ceased to echo in the hills when the Indians and the British,
abandoning their dead, moved rapidly across the river.
After a short interval a mounted force was seen galloping up the creek road.
It proved to be Capt. Boggs, Swearengen, and Williamson with seventy men.
Great was the rejoicing. Capt. Boggs had expected to find only the ashes of
the Forts. And the gallant little garrison, although saddened by the loss of
half its original number, rejoiced that it had repulsed the united forces of
braves and British.
Peace and quiet reigned ones more at Ft. Henry. Before the glorious autumn
days had waned, the settlers had repaired the damage done to their cabins, and
many of them were now occupied with the fall plowing. Never had the Fort
experienced such busy days. Many new faces were seen in the little
meeting-house. Pioneers from Virginia, from Ft. Pitt, and eastward had learned
that Fort Henry had repulsed the biggest force of Indians and soldiers that
Governor Hamilton and his minions could muster. Settlers from all points along
the rivet were flocking to Col. Zane's settlement. New cabins dotted the
hillside; cabins and barns in all stages of construction could be seen. The
sounds of hammers, the ringing stroke of the axe, and the crashing down of
mighty pines or poplars were heard all day long.
Col. Zane sat oftener and longer than ever before in his favorite seat on his
doorstep. On this evening he had just returned from a hard day in the fields,
and sat down to rest a moment before going to supper. A few days previous
Isaac Zane and Myeerah had come to the settlement. Myeerah brought a treaty of
peace signed by Tarhe and the other Wyandot chieftains. The once implacable
Huron was now ready to be friendly with the white people. Col. Zane and his
brothers signed the treaty, and Betty, by dint of much persuasion, prevailed
on Wetzel to bury the hatchet with the Hurons. So Myeerah's love, like the
love of many other women, accomplished more than years of war and bloodshed.
The genial and happy smile never left Col. Zane's face, and as he saw the
well-laden rafts coming down the river, and the air of liveliness and
animation about the growing settlement, his smile into one of pride and
satisfaction. The prophecy that he had made twelve years before was fulfilled.
His dream was realized. The wild, beautiful spot where he had once built a
bark shack and camped half a year without seeing a white man was now the scene
of a bustling settlement; and he believed he would live to see that settlement
grow into a prosperous city. He did not think of the thousands of acres which
would one day make him a wealthy man. He was a pioneer at heart; he had opened
up that rich new country; he had conquered all obstacles, and that was enough
to make him content.
"Papa, when shall I be big enough to fight bars and bufflers and Injuns?"
asked Noah, stopping in his play and straddling his father's knee.
"My boy, did you not have Indians enough a short time ago?"
"But, papa, I did not get to see any. I heard the shooting and yelling. Sammy
was afraid, but I wasn't. I wanted to look out of the little holes, but they
locked us up in the dark room."
"If that boy ever grows up to be like Jonathan or Wetzel it will be the death
of me," said the Colonel's wife, who had heard the lad's chatter.
"Don't worry, Bessie. When Noah grows to be a man the Indians will be gone."
Col. Zane heard the galloping of a horse and looking up saw Clarke coming down
the road on his black thoroughbred. The Colonel rose and walked out to the
hitching-block, where Clarke had reined in his fiery steed.
"Ah, Alfred. Been out for a ride?"
"Yes, I have been giving Roger a little exercise."
"That's a magnificent animal. I never get tired watching him move. He's the
best bit of horseflesh on the river. By the way, we have not seen much of you
since the siege. Of course you have been busy. Getting ready to put on the
harness, eh? Well, that's what we want the young men to do. Come over and see
"I have been trying to come. You know how it is with me--about Betty, I mean.
Col. Zane, I--I love her. That's all."
"Yes, I know, Alfred, and I don't wonder at your fears. But I have always
liked you, and now I guess it's about time for me to put a spoke in your wheel
of fortune. If Betty cares for you--and I have a sneaking idea she does--I
will give her to you."
"I have nothing. I gave up everything when I left home."
"My lad, never mind about that," said the Colonel, laying his hand on Clarke's
knee. "We don't need riches. I have so often said that we need nothing out
here on the border but honest hearts and strong, willing hands. These you
have. That is enough for me and for my people, and as for land, why, I have
enough for an army of young men. I got my land cheap. That whole island there
I bought from Cornplanter. You can have that island or any tract of land along
the river. Some day I shall put you at the head of my men. It will take you
years to cut that road through to Maysville. Oh, I have plenty of work for
"Col. Zane, I cannot thank you," answered Alfred, with emotion. "I shall try
to merit your friendship and esteem. Will you please tell your sister I shall
come over in the morning and beg to see her alone."
"That I will, Alfred. Goodnight."
Col. Zane strode across his threshold with a happy smile on his face. He loved
to joke and tease, and never lost an opportunity.
"Things seem to be working out all right. Now for some fun with Her Highness,"
he said to himself.
As the Colonel surveyed the pleasant home scene he felt he had nothing more to
wish for. The youngsters were playing with a shaggy little pup which had
already taken Tige's place in their fickle affections. His wife was crooning a
lullaby as she gently rocked the cradle to and fro. A wonderful mite of
humanity peacefully slumbered in that old cradle. Annie was beginning to set
the table for the evening meal. Isaac lay with a contented smile on his face,
fast asleep on the couch, where, only a short time before, he had been laid
bleeding and almost dead. Betty was reading to Myeerah, whose eyes were
rapturously bright as she leaned her head against her sister and listened to
the low voice.
"Well, Betty, what do you think?" said Col. Zane, stopping before the girls.
"What do I think?" retorted Betty. "Why, I think you are very rude to
interrupt me. I am reading to Myeerah her first novel."
"I have a very important message for you."
"For me? What! From whom?"
Betty ran through a list of most of her acquaintances, but after each name her
brother shook his head.
"Oh, well, I don't care," she finally said. The color in her cheeks had
"Very well. If you do not care, I will say nothing more," said Col. Zane.
At this juncture Annie called them to supper. Later, when Col. Zane sat on the
doorstep smoking, Betty came and sat beside him with her head resting against
his shoulder. The Colonel smoked on in silence. Presently the dusky head moved
"Eb, tell me the message," whispered Betty.
"Message? What message?" asked Col. Zone. "What are you talking about?"
"Do not tease--not now. Tell me." There was an undercurrent of wistfulness in
Betty's voice which touched the kindhearted brother.
"Well, to-day a certain young man asked me if he could relieve me of the
responsibility of looking after a certain young lady."
"Wait a moment. I told him I would be delighted."
"Eb, that was unkind."
"Then he asked me to tell her he was coming over to-morrow morning to fix it
up with her."
"Oh, horrible!" cried Betty. "Were those the words he used?"
"Betts, to tell the honest truth, he did not say much of anything. He just
said: 'I love her,' and his eyes blazed."
Betty uttered a half articulate cry and ran to her room. Her heart was
throbbing. What could she do? She felt that if she looked once into her
lover's eyes she would have no strength. How dared she allow herself to be so
weak! Yet she knew this was the end. She could deceive him no longer: For she
felt a stir in her heart, stronger than all, beyond all resistance, an
exquisite agony, the sweet, blind, tumultuous exultation of the woman who
loves and is loved.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"Bess, what do you think?" said Col. Zane, going into the kitchen next
morning, after he had returned from the pasture. "Clarke just came over and
asked for Betty. I called her. She came down looking as sweet and cool as one
of the lilies out by the spring. She said: 'Why, Mr. Clarke, you are almost a
stranger. I am pleased to see you. Indeed, we are all very glad to know you
have recovered from your severe burns.' She went on talking like that for all
the world like a girl who didn't care a snap for him. And she knows as well as
I do. Not only that, she has been actually breaking her heart over him all
these months. How did she do it? Oh, you women beat me all hollow!"
"Would you expect Betty to fall into his arms?" asked the Colonel's worthy
"Not exactly. But she was too cool, too friendly. Poor Alfred looked as if he
hadn't slept. He was nervous and scared to death. When Betty ran up stairs I
put a bug in Alfred's ear. He'll be all right now, if he follows my advice."
"Humph! What did Colonel Ebenezer Zane tell him?" asked Bessie, in disgust.
"Oh, not much. I simply told him not to lose his nerve; that a woman never
meant 'no'; that she often says it only to be made say 'yes.' And I ended up
with telling him if she got a little skittish, as thoroughbreds do sometimes,
to try a strong arm. That was my way."
"Col. Zane. if my memory does not fail me, you were as humble and beseeching
as the proudest girl could desire."
"I beseeching? Never!"
"I hope Alfred's wooing may go well. I like him very much. But I'm afraid.
Betty has such a spirit that it is quite likely she will refuse him for no
other reason than that he built his cabin before he asked her."
"Nonsense. He asked her long ago. Never fear, Bess, my sister will come back
as meek as a lamb."
Meanwhile Betty and Alfred were strolling down the familiar path toward the
river. The October air was fresh with a suspicion of frost. The clear notes of
a hunter's horn came floating down from the hills. A flock of wild geese had
alighted on the marshy ground at the end of the island where they kept up a
continual honk! honk! The brown hills, the red forest, and the yellow fields
were now at the height of their autumnal beauty. Soon the November north wind
would thrash the trees bare, and bow the proud heads of the daisies and the
goldenrod; but just now they flashed in the sun, and swayed back and forth in
all their glory.
"I see you limp. Are you not entirely well?' Betty was saying.
"Oh, I am getting along famously, thank you," said Alfred. "This one foot was
quite severely burned and is still tender."
"You have had your share of injuries. I heard my brother say you had been
wounded three times within a year."
"Jonathan told of the axe wound; then the wound Miller gave you, and finally
the burns. These make three, do they not?"
"Yes, but you see, all three could not be compared to the one you forgot to
"Let us hurry past here," said Betty, hastening to change the subject. "This
is where you had the dreadful fight with Miller."
"As Miller did go to meet Girty, and as he did not return to the Fort with the
renegade, we must believe he is dead. Of course, we do not know this to be
actually a fact. But something makes me think so. Jonathan and Wetzel have not
said anything; I can't get any satisfaction on that score from either; but I
am sure neither of them would rest until Miller was dead."
"I think you are right. But we may never know. All I can tell you is that
Wetzel and Jack trailed Miller to the river, and then they both came back. I
was the last to see Lewis that night before he left on Miller's trail. It
isn't likely I shall forget what Lewis said and how he looked. Miller was a
wicked man; yes, a traitor."
"He was a bad man, and he nearly succeeded in every one of his plans. I have
not the slightest doubt that had he refrained from taking part in the shooting
match he would have succeeded in abducting you, in killing me, and in leading
Girty here long before he was expected."
"There are many things that may never be explained, but one thing Miller did
always mystify us. How did he succeed in binding Tige?"
"To my way of thinking that was not so difficult as climbing into my room and
almost killing me, or stealing the powder from Capt. Boggs' room."
"The last, at least, gave me a chance to help," said Betty, with a touch of
her odd roguishness.
"That was the grandest thing a woman ever did," said Alfred, in a low tone.
"Oh, no, I only ran fast."
"I would have given the world to have seen you, but I was lying on the bench
wishing I were dead. I did not have strength to look out of a porthole. Oh!
that horrible time! I can never forget it. I lie awake at night and hear the
yelling and shooting. Then I dream of running over the burning roofs and it
all comes back so vividly I can almost feel the flames and smell the burnt
wood. Then I wake up and think of that awful moment when you were carried into
the blockhouse white, and, as I thought, dead."
"But I wasn't. And I think it best for us to forget that horrible siege. It is
past. It is a miracle that any one was spared. Ebenezer says we should not
grieve for those who are gone; they were heroic; they saved the Fort. He says
too, that we shall never again be troubled by Indians. Therefore let us forget
and be happy. I have forgotten Miller. You can afford to do the same."
"Yes, I forgive him." Then, after a long silence, Alfred continued, "Will you
go down to the old sycamore?"
Down the winding path they went. Coming to a steep place in the rocky bank
Alfred jumped down and then turned to help Betty. But she avoided his gaze,
pretended to not see his outstretched hands, and leaped lightly down beside
him. He looked at her with perplexity and anxiety in his eyes. Before he could
speak she ran on ahead of him and climbed down the bank to the pool. He
followed slowly, thoughtfully. The supreme moment had come. He knew it, and
somehow he did not feel the confidence the Colonel had inspired in him. It had
been easy for him to think of subduing this imperious young lady; but when the
time came to assert his will he found he could not remember what he had
intended to say, and his feelings were divided between his love for her and
the horrible fear that he should lose her.
When he reached the sycamore tree he found her sitting behind it with a
cluster of yellow daisies in her lap. Alfred gazed at her, conscious that all
his hopes of happiness were dependent on the next few words that would issue
from her smiling lips. The little brown hands, which were now rather nervously
arranging the flowers, held more than his life.
"Are they not sweet?" asked Betty, giving him a fleeting glance. "We call them
'black-eyed Susans.' Could anything be lovelier than that soft, dark brown?"
"Yes," answered Alfred, looking into her eyes.
"But--but you are not looking at my daisies at all," said Betty, lowering her
"No, I am not," said Alfred. Then suddenly: "A year ago this very day we were
"Here? Oh, yes, I believe I do remember. It was the day we came in my canoe
and had such fine fishing."
"Is that all you remember?"
"I can recollect nothing in particular. It was so long ago."
"I suppose you will say you had no idea why I wanted you to come to this spot
"I supposed you simply wanted to take a walk, and it is very pleasant here."
"Then Col. Zane did not tell you?" demanded Alfred. Receiving no reply he went
"Did you read my letter?"
"The letter old Sam should have given you last fall. Did you read it?"
"Yes," answered Betty, faintly.
"Did your brother tell you I wanted to see you this morning?"
"Yes, he told me, and it made me very angry," said Betty, raising her head.
There was a bright red spot in each cheek. "You--you seemed to think you--that
I--well--I did not like it."
"I think I understand; but you are entirely wrong. I have never thought you
cared for me. My wildest dreams never left me any confidence. Col. Zane and
Wetzel both had some deluded notion that you cared--"
"But they had no right to say that or to think it," said Betty, passionately.
She sprang to her feet, scattering the daisies over the grass. "For them to
presume that I cared for you is absurd. I never gave them any reason to think
so, for--for I--I don't."
"Very well, then, there is nothing more to be said," answered Alfred, in a
voice that was calm and slightly cold. "I'm sorry if you have been annoyed. I
have been mad, of course, but I promise you that you need fear no further
annoyance from me. Come, I think we should return to the house."
And he turned and walked slowly up the path. He had taken perhaps a dozen
steps when she called him.
"Mr. Clarke, come back."
Alfred retraced his steps and stood before her again. Then he saw a different
Betty. The haughty poise had disappeared. Her head was bowed. Her little hands
were tightly pressed over a throbbing bosom.
"Well," said Alfred, after a moment.