Part 5 out of 7
village, passing among some thick clusters of grapevines. Henry
was in the lead, and he heard a sudden snarl. A large cur of the
kind that infest Indian villages leaped straight at him.
The very suddenness of the attack saved Henry and his comrades
from the consequences of an alarm. He dropped his rifle
instinctively, and seized the dog by the throat with both hands.
A bark following the snarl had risen to the animal's throat, but
it was cut short there. The hands of the great youth pressed
tighter and tighter, and the dog was lifted from the earth. The
four stood quietly beside their comrade, knowing that no alarm
would be made now.
The dog kicked convulsively, then hung without motion or noise.
Henry cast the dead body aside, picked up his rifle, and then all
five of them sank softly down in the shelter of the grapevines.
About fifteen yards away an Indian warrior was walking cautiously
along and looking among the vines. Evidently he had heard the
snarl of the dog, and was seeking the cause. But it had been
only a single sound, and he would not look far. Yet the hearts
of the five beat a little faster as he prowled among the vines,
and their nerves were tense for action should the need for it
The Indian, a Mohawk, came within ten yards of them, but he did
not see the five figures among the vines, blending darkly with
the dark growth, and presently, satisfied that the sound he had
heard was of no importance, he walked in another direction, and
passed out of sight.
The five, not daunted at all by this living proof of risk, crept
to the very edge of the clusters of grapevines, and looked upon
an open space, beyond which stood some houses made of wood; but
their attention was centered upon a figure that stood in the
Although the distance was too great and the light too poor to
disclose the features, every one of the scouts recognized the
figure. It could be none other than that of Timmendiquas, the
great White Lightning of the Wyandots. He was pacing back and
forth, somewhat in the fashion of the white man, and his manner
"I could bring him down from here with a bullet," said Shif'less
Sol, "but I ain't ever goin' to shoot at the chief, Henry."
"No," said Henry, "nor will I. But look, there's another."
A second figure came out of the dark and joined the first. It
was also that of a chief, powerful and tall, though not as tall
as Timmendiquas. It was Thayendanegea. Then three white figures
appeared. One was that of Braxton Wyatt, and the others they
took to be those of "Indian" Butler and his son, Walter Butler.
After a talk of a minute or two they entered one of the wooden
"It's to be a conference of some kind," whispered Henry. "I wish
I could look in on it."
"And I," said the others together.
"Well, we know this much," continued Henry. "No great force of
the Iroquois is present, and if Colonel Butler's men come up
quickly, we can take the town."
"It's a chance not to be lost," said Paul.
They crept slowly away from the village, not stopping until they
reached the crest of a hill, from which they could see the roofs
of two or three of the Indian houses.
"I've a feeling in me," said Paul, "that the place is doomed.
We'll strike the first blow for Wyoming."
They neither slept nor rested that night, but retraced their
trail with the utmost speed toward the marching American force,
going in Indian file through the wilderness. Henry, as usual,
led; Shif'less Sol followed, then came Paul, and then Long Jim,
while Silent Tom was the rear guard. They traveled at great
speed, and, some time after daylight, met the advance of the
colonial force under Captain William Gray.
William Gray was a gallant young officer, but he was startled a
little when five figures as silent as phantoms appeared. But he
uttered an exclamation of delight when he recognized the leader,
"What have you found?" he asked eagerly.
"We've been to Oghwaga," replied the youth, "and we went all
about the town. They do not suspect our coming. At least, they
did not know when we left. We saw Brant, Timmendiquas, the
Butlers, and Wyatt enter the house for a conference."
"And now is our chance," said eager young William Gray. "What if
we should take the town, and with it these men, at one blow."
"We can scarcely hope for as much as that," said Henry, who knew
that men like Timmendiquas and Thayendanegea were not likely to
allow themselves to be seized by so small a force, "but we can
hope for a good victory."
The young captain rode quickly back to his comrades with the
news, and, led by the five, the whole force pushed forward with
all possible haste. William Gray was still sanguine of a
surprise, but the young riflemen did not expect it. Indian
sentinels were sure to be in the forest between them and Oghwaga.
Yet they said nothing to dash this hope. Henry had already seen
enough to know the immense value of enthusiasm, and the little
army full of zeal would accomplish much if the chance came.
Besides the young captain, William Gray, there was a lieutenant
named Taylor, who had been in the battle at Wyoming, but who had
escaped the massacre. The five had not met him there, but the
common share in so great a tragedy proved a tie between them.
Taylor's name was Robert, but all the other officers, and some of
the men for that matter, who had known him in childhood called
him Bob. He was but little older than Henry, and his earlier
youth, before removal to Wyoming, had been passed in Connecticut,
a country that was to the colonials thickly populated and
containing great towns, such as Hartford and New Haven.
A third close friend whom they soon found was a man unlike any
other that they had ever seen. His name was Cornelius Heemskerk.
Holland was his birthplace, but America was his nation. He was
short and extremely fat, but he had an agility that amazed the
five when they first saw it displayed. He talked much, and his
words sounded like grumbles, but the unctuous tone and the smile
that accompanied them indicated to the contrary. He formed for
Shif'less Sol an inexhaustible and entertaining study in
"I ain't quite seen his like afore," said the shiftless one to
Paul. "First time I run acrost him I thought he would tumble
down among the first bushes he met. 'Stead o' that, he sailed
right through 'em, makin' never a trip an' no noise at all, same
ez Long Jim's teeth sinkin' into a juicy venison steak."
"I've heard tell," said Long Jim, who also contemplated the
prodigy," that big, chunky, awkward-lookin' things are sometimes
ez spry ez you. They say that the Hipperpotamus kin outrun the
giraffe across the sands uv Afriky, an' I know from pussonal
experience that the bigger an' clumsier a b'ar is the faster he
kin make you scoot fur your life. But he's the real Dutch, ain't
he, Paul, one uv them fellers that licked the Spanish under the
Duke uv Alivy an' Belisarry?"
"Undoubtedly," replied Paul, who did not consider it necessary to
correct Long Jim's history, "and I'm willing to predict to you,
Jim Hart, that Heemskerk will be a mighty good man in any fight
that we may have."
Heemskerk rolled up to them. He seemed to have a sort of
circular motion like that of a revolving tube, but he kept pace
with the others, nevertheless, and he showed no signs of
"Don't you think it a funny thing that I, Cornelius Heemskerk, am
here?" he said to Paul.
"Why so, Mr. Heemskerk?" replied Paul politely. "Because I am a
Dutchman. I have the soul of an artist and the gentleness of a
baby. I, Cornelius Heemskerk, should be in the goot leetle
country of Holland in a goot leetle house, by the side of a goot
leetle canal, painting beautiful blue china, dishes, plates,
cups, saucers, all most beautiful, and here I am running through
the woods of this vast America, carrying on my shoulder a rifle
that is longer than I am, hunting the red Indian and hunted by
him. Is it not most rediculous, Mynheer Paul?"
"I think you are here because you are a brave man, Mr.
Heemskerk," replied Paul, "and wish to see punishment inflicted
upon those who have committed great crimes."
"Not so! Not so! replied the Dutchman with energy. "It is
because I am one big fool. I am not really a big enough man to
be as big a fool as I am, but so it is! so it is!" Shif'less
Sol regarded him critically, and then spoke gravely and with
deliberation: " It ain't that, Mr. Heemskerk, an' Paul ain't
told quite all the truth, either. I've heard that the Dutch was
the most powerfullest fightin' leetle nation on the globe; that
all you had to do wuz to step on the toe uv a Dutchman's wooden
shoe, an' all the men, women, an' children in Holland would jump
right on top o' you all at once. Lookin' you up an' lookin' you
down, an' sizin' you up, an' sizin you down, all purty careful,
an' examinin' the corners O' your eyes oncommon close, an' also
lookin' at the way you set your feet when you walk, I'm
concludin' that you just natcherally love a fight, an' that you
are lookin' fur one."
But Cornelius Heemskerk sighed, and shook his head.
"It is flattery that you give me, and you are trying to make me
brave when I am not," he said. "I only say once more that I
ought to be in Holland painting blue plates, and not here in the
great woods holding on to my scalp, first with one hand and then
with the other."
He sighed deeply, but Solomon Hyde, reader of the hearts of men,
Colonel Butler's force stopped about three o'clock for food and a
little rest, and the five, who had not slept since the night
before, caught a few winks. But in less than an hour they were
up and away again. The five riflemen were once more well in
advance, and with them were Taylor and Heemskerk, the Dutchman,
grumbling over their speed, but revolving along, nevertheless,
with astonishing ease and without any sign of fatigue. They
discovered no indications of Indian scouts or trails, and as the
village now was not many miles away, it confirmed Henry in his
belief that the Iroquois, with their friends, the Wyandots, would
not stay to give battle. If Thayendanegea and Timmendiquas were
prepared for a strong resistance, the bullets of the skirmishers
would already be whistling through the woods.
The waning evening grew colder, twilight came, and the autumn
leaves fell fast before the rising wind. The promise of the
night was dark, which was not bad for their design, and once more
the five-now the seven approached Oghwaga. From the crest of the
very same hill they looked down once more upon the Indian houses.
"It is a great base for the Iroquois," said Henry to Heemskerk,"
and whether the Indians have laid an ambush or not, Colonel
Butler must attack."
"Ah," said Heemskerk, silently moving his round body to a little
higher point for a better view, "now I feel in all its fullness
the truth that I should be back in Holland, painting blue
Nevertheless, Cornelius Heemskerk made a very accurate survey of
the Iroquois village, considering the distance and the brevity of
the time, and when the party went back to Colonel Butler to tell
him the way was open, he revolved along as swiftly as any of
them. There were also many serious thoughts in the back of his
At nine o'clock the little colonial force was within half a mile
of Oghwaga, and nothing had yet occurred to disclose whether the
Iroquois knew of their advance. Henry and his comrades, well in
front, looked down upon the town, but saw nothing. No light came
from an Indian chimney, nor did any dog howl. just behind them
were the troops in loose order, Colonel Butler impatiently
striking his booted leg with a switch, and William Gray seeking
to restrain his ardor, that he might set a good example to the
"What do you think, Mr. Ware?" asked Colonel Butler.
"I think we ought to rush the town at once."
"It is so!" exclaimed Heemskerk, forgetting all about painting
"The signal is the trumpet; you blow it, Captain Gray, and then
William Gray took the trumpet from one of the men and blew a
long, thrilling note. Before its last echo was ended, the little
army rushed upon the town. Three or four shots came from the
houses, and the soldiers fired a few at random in return, but
that was all. Indian scouts had brought warning of the white
advance, and the great chiefs, gathering up all the people who
were in the village, had fled. A retreating warrior or two had
fired the shots, but when the white men entered this important
Iroquois stronghold they did not find a single human being.
Timmendiquas, the White Lightning of the Wyandots, was gone;
Thayendanegea, the real head of the Six Nations, had slipped
away; and with them had vanished the renegades. But they had
gone in haste. All around them were the evidences. The houses,
built of wood, were scores in number, and many of them contained
furniture such as a prosperous white man of the border would buy
for himself. There were gardens and shade trees about these, and
back of them, barns, many of them filled with Indian corn.
Farther on were clusters of bark lodges, which had been inhabited
by the less progressive of the Iroquois.
Henry stood in the center of the town and looked at the houses
misty in the moonlight. The army had not yet made much noise,
but he was beginning to hear behind him the ominous
word,"Wyoming," repeated more than once. Cornelius Heemskerk had
stopped revolving, and, standing beside Henry, wiped his
perspiring, red face.
"Now that I am here, I think again of the blue plates of Holland,
Mr. Ware," he said. "It is a dark and sanguinary time. The men
whose brethren were scalped or burned alive at Wyoming will not
now spare the town of those who did it. In this wilderness they
give blow for blow, or perish."
Henry knew that it was true, but he felt a certain sadness. His
heart had been inflamed against the Iroquois, he could never
forget Wyoming or its horrors; but in the destruction of an
ancient town the long labor of man perished, and it seemed waste.
Doubtless a dozen generations of Iroquois children had played
here on the grass. He walked toward the northern end of the
village, and saw fields there from which recent corn had been
taken, but behind him the cry, "Wyoming!" was repeated louder and
oftener now. Then he saw men running here and there with
torches, and presently smoke and flame burst from the houses. He
examined the fields and forest for a little distance to see if
any ambushed foe might still lie among them, but all the while
the flame and smoke behind him were rising higher.
Henry turned back and joined his comrades. Oghwaga was
perishing. The flames leaped from house to house, and then from
lodge to lodge. There was no need to use torches any more. The
whole village was wrapped in a mass of fire that grew and swelled
until the flames rose above the forest, and were visible in the
clear night miles away.
So great was the heat that Colonel Butler and the soldiers and
scouts were compelled to withdraw to the edge of the forest. The
wind rose and the flames soared. Sparks flew in myriads, and
ashes fell dustily on the dry leaves of the trees. Bob Taylor,
with his hands clenched tightly, muttered under his breath,
"It is the Iroquois who suffer now," said Heemskerk, as he
revolved slowly away from a heated point.
Crashes came presently as the houses fell in, and then the sparks
would leap higher and the flames roar louder. The barns, too,
were falling down, and the grain was destroyed. The grapevines
were trampled under foot, and the gardens were ruined. Oghwaga,
a great central base of the Six Nations, was vanishing forever.
For four hundred years, ever since the days of Hiawatha, the
Iroquois had waxed in power. They had ruled over lands larger
than great empires. They had built up political and social
systems that are the wonder of students. They were invincible in
war, because every man had been trained from birth to be a
warrior, and now they were receiving their first great blow.
From a point far in the forest, miles away, Thayendanegea,
Timmendiquas, Hiokatoo, Sangerachte, "Indian" Butler, Walter
Butler, Braxton Wyatt, a low, heavybrowed Tory named Coleman,
with whom Wyatt had become very friendly, and about sixty
Iroquois and twenty Tories were watching a tower of light to the
south that had just appeared above the trees. It was of an
intense, fiery color, and every Indian in that gloomy band knew
that it was Oghwaga, the great, the inviolate, the sacred, that
was burning, and that the men who were doing it were the white
frontiersmen, who, his red-coated allies had told him, would soon
be swept forever from these woods. And they were forced to stand
and see it, not daring to attack so strong and alert a force.
They sat there in the darkness among the trees, and watched the
column of fire grow and grow until it seemed to pierce the skies.
Timmendiquas never said a word. In his heart, Indian though he
was, he felt that the Iroquois had gone too far. In him was the
spirit of the farseeing Hiawatha. He could perceive that great
cruelty always brought retaliation; but it was not for him,
almost an alien, to say these things to Thayendanegea, the mighty
war chief of the Mohawks and the living spirit of the Iroquois
Thayendanegea sat on the stump of a tree blown down by winter
storms. His arms were folded across his breast, and he looked
steadily toward that red threatening light off there in the
south. Some such idea as that in the mind of Timmendiquas may
have been passing in his own. He was an uncommon Indian, and he
had had uncommon advantages. He had not believed that the
colonists could make head against so great a kingdom as England,
aided by the allied tribes, the Canadians, and the large body of
Tories among their own people. But he saw with his own eyes the
famous Oghwaga of the Iroquois going down under their torch.
"Tell me, Colonel John Butler," he said bitterly, where is your
great king now? Is his arm long enough to reach from London to
save our town of Oghwaga, which is perhaps as much to us as his
great city of London is to him?"
The thickset figure of "Indian" Butler moved, and his swart face
flushed as much as it could.
"You know as much about the king as I do, Joe Brant," he replied.
"We are fighting here for your country as well as his, and you
cannot say that Johnson's Greens and Butler's Rangers and the
British and Canadians have not done their part."
"It is true," said Thayendanegea, "but it is true, also, that one
must fight with wisdom. Perhaps there was too much burning of
living men at Wyoming. The pain of the wounded bear makes him
fight the harder, and it, is because of Wyoming that Oghwaga
yonder burns. Say, is it not so, Colonel John Butler ?"
"Indian" Butler made no reply, but sat, sullen and lowering. The
Tory, Coleman, whispered to Braxton Wyatt, but Timmendiquas was
the only one who spoke aloud.
"Thayendanegea," he said, "I, and the Wyandots who are with me,
have come far. We expected to return long ago to the lands on
the Ohio, but we were with you in your village, and now, when
Manitou has turned his face from you for the time, we will not
leave you. We stay and fight by your side."
Thayendanegea stood up, and Timmendiquas stood up, also.
"You are a great chief, White Lightning of the Wyandots " he
said, " and you and I are brothers. I shall be proud and happy
to have such a mighty leader fighting with me. We will have
vengeance for this. The power of the Iroquois is as great as
He raised himself to his full height, pointing to the fire, and
the flames of hate and resolve burned in his eyes. Old Hiokatoo,
the most savage of all the chiefs, shook his tomahawk, and a
murmur passed through the group of Indians.
Braxton Wyatt still talked in whispers to his new friend,
Coleman, the Tory, who was more to his liking than the morose and
savage Walter Butler, whom he somewhat feared. Wyatt was perhaps
the least troubled of all those present. Caring for himself
only, the burning of Oghwaga caused him no grief. He suffered
neither from the misfortune of friend nor foe. He was able to
contemplate the glowing tower of light with curiosity only.
Braxton Wyatt knew that the Iroquois and their allies would
attempt revenge for the burning of Oghwaga, and he saw profit for
himself in such adventures. His horizon had broadened somewhat
of late. The renegade, Blackstaffe, had returned to rejoin Simon
Girty, but be had found a new friend in Coleman. He was coming
now more into touch with the larger forces in the East, nearer to
the seat of the great war, and he hoped to profit by it.
"This is a terrible blow to Brant," Coleman whispered to him.
"The Iroquois have been able to ravage the whole frontier, while
the rebels, occupied with the king's troops, have not been able
to send help to their own. But they have managed to strike at
last, as you see."
"I do see," said Wyatt, "and on the whole, Coleman, I'm not
sorry. Perhaps these chiefs won't be so haughty now, and they'll
soon realize that they need likely chaps such as you and me, eh,
"You're not far from the truth," said Coleman, laughing a little,
and pleased at the penetration of his new friend. They did not
talk further, although the agreement between them was well
established. Neither did the Indian chiefs or the Tory leaders
say any more. They watched the tower of fire a long time, past
midnight, until it reached its zenith and then began to sink.
They saw its crest go down behind the trees, and they saw the
luminous cloud in the south fade and go out entirely, leaving
there only the darkness that reined everywhere else.
Then the Indian and Tory leaders rose and silently marched
northward. It was nearly dawn when Henry and his comrades lay
down for the rest that they needed badly. They spread their
blankets at the edge of the open, but well back from the burned
area, which was now one great mass of coals and charred timbers,
sending up little flame but much smoke. Many of the troops were
already asleep, but Henry, before lying down, begged William Gray
to keep a strict watch lest the Iroquois attack from ambush. He
knew that the rashness and confidence of the borderers,
especially when drawn together in masses, had often caused them
great losses, and he was resolved to prevent a recurrence at the
present time if he could. He had made these urgent requests of
Gray, instead of Colonel Butler, because of the latter's youth
and willingness to take advice.
"I'll have the forest beat up continually all about the town," he
said. "We must not have our triumph spoiled by any afterclap."
Henry and his comrades, wrapped in their blankets, lay in a row
almost at the edge of the forest. The heat from the fire was
still great, but it would die down after a while, and the October
air was nipping. Henry usually fell asleep in a very few
minutes, but this time, despite his long exertions and lack of
rest, he remained awake when his comrades were sound asleep.
Then he fell into a drowsy state, in which be saw the fire rising
in great black coils that united far above. It seemed to Henry,
half dreaming and forecasting the future, that the Indian spirit
was passing in the smoke.
When he fell asleep it was nearly daylight, and in three or four
hours be was up again, as the little army intended to march at
once upon another Indian town. The hours while he slept had
passed in silence, and no Indians had come near. William Gray
had seen to that, and his best scout had been one Cornelius
Heemskerk, a short, stout man of Dutch birth.
"It was one long, long tramp for me, Mynheer Henry," said
Heemskerk, as he revolved slowly up to the camp fire where Henry
was eating his breakfast," and I am now very tired. It was like
walking four or five times around Holland, which is such a fine
little country, with the canals and the flowers along them, and
no great, dark woods filled with the fierce Iroquois."
"Still, I've a notion, Mynheer Heemskerk, that you'd rather be
here, and perhaps before the day is over you will get some
fighting hot enough to please even you."
Mynheer Heemskerk threw up his hands in dismay, but a half hour
later he was eagerly discussing with Henry the possibility of
overtaking some large band of retreating Iroquois.
Urged on by all the scouts and by those who had suffered at
Wyoming, Colonel Butler gathered his forces and marched swiftly
that very morning up the river against another Indian town,
Cunahunta. Fortunately for him, a band of riflemen and scouts
unsurpassed in skill led the way, and saw to it that the road was
safe. In this band were the five, of course, and after them
Heemskerk, young Taylor, and several others.
"If the Iroquois do not get in our way, we'll strike Cunahunta
before night," said Heemskerk, who knew the way.
"It seems to me that they will certainly try to save their
towns," said Henry. "Surely Brant and the Tories will not let us
strike so great a blow without a fight."
"Most of their warriors are elsewhere, Mynheer Henry," said
Heemskerk, " or they would certainly give us a big battle. We've
been lucky in the time of our advance. As it is, I think we'll
have something to do."
It was now about noon, the noon of a beautiful October day of the
North, the air like life itself, the foliage burning red on the
hills, the leaves falling softly from the trees as the wind blew,
but bringing with them no hint of decay. None of the vanguard
felt fatigue, but when they crossed a low range of hills and saw
before them a creek flowing down to the Susquehanna, Henry, who
was in the lead, stopped suddenly and dropped down in the grass.
The others, knowing without question the significance of the
action, also sank down.
"What is it, Henry ?" asked Shif'less Sol.
"You see how thick the trees are on the other side of that bank.
Look a little to the left of a big oak, and you will see the
feathers in the headdress of an Iroquois. Farther on I think I
can catch a glimpse of a green coat, and if I am right that coat
is worn by one of Johnson's Royal Greens. It's an ambush, Sol,
an ambush meant for us."
"But it's not an ambush intended for our main force, Mynheer
Henry," said Heemskerk, whose red face began to grow redder with
the desire for action. "I, too, see the feather of the
"As good scouts and skirmishers it's our duty, then, to clear
this force out of the way, and not wait for the main body to come
up, is it not?" asked Henry, with a suggestive look at the
"What a goot head you have, Mynheer Henry!" exclaimed Heemskerk.
"Of course we will fight, and fight now!"
"How about them blue plates?" said Shif'less Sol softly. But
Heemskerk did not hear him.
They swiftly developed their plan of action. There could be no
earthly doubt of the fact that the Iroquois and some Tories were
ambushed on the far side of the creek. Possibly Thayendanegea
himself, stung by the burning of Oghwaga and the advance on
Cunahunta, was there. But they were sure that it was not a large
The party of Henry and Heemskerk numbered fourteen, but every one
was a veteran, full of courage, tenacity, and all the skill of
the woods. They had supreme confidence in their ability to beat
the best of the Iroquois, man for man, and they carried the very
finest arms known to the time.
It was decided that four of the men should remain on the hill.
The others, including the five, Heemskerk, and Taylor, would make
a circuit, cross the creek a full mile above, and come down on
the flank of the ambushing party. Theirs would be the main
attack, but it would be preceded by sharpshooting from the four,
intended to absorb the attention of the Iroquois. The chosen ten
slipped back down the hill, and as soon as they were sheltered
from any possible glimpse by the warriors, they rose and ran
rapidly westward. Before they had gone far they heard the crack
of a rifle shot, then another, then several from another point,
as if in reply.
"It's our sharpshooters," said Henry. " They've begun to disturb
the Iroquois, and they'll keep them busy."
"Until we break in on their sport and keep them still busier,"
exclaimed Heemskerk, revolving swiftly through the bushes, his
face blazing red.
It did not take long for such as they to go the mile or so that
they intended, and then they crossed the creek, wading in the
water breast high, but careful to keep their ammunition dry.
Then they turned and rapidly descended the stream on its northern
bank. In a few minutes they heard the sound of a rifle shot, and
then of another as if replying.
"The Iroquois have been fooled," exclaimed Heemskerk. "Our four
good riflemen have made them think that a great force is there,
and they have not dared to cross the creek themselves and make an
In a few minutes more, as they ran noiselessly through the
forest, they saw a little drifting smoke, and now and then the
faint flash of rifles. They were coming somewhere near to the
Iroquois band, and they practiced exceeding caution. Presently
they caught sight of Indian faces, and now and then one of
Johnson's Greens or Butler's Rangers. They stopped and held a
council that lasted scarcely more than half a minute. They all
agreed there was but one thing to do, and that was to attack in
the Indian's own way-that is, by ambush and sharpshooting.
Henry fired the first shot, and an Iroquois, aiming at a foe on
the other side of the creek, fell. Heemskerk quickly followed
with a shot as good, and the surprised Iroquois turned to face
this new foe. But they and the Tories were a strong band, and
they retreated only a little. Then they stood firm, and the
forest battle began. The Indians numbered not less than thirty,
and both Braxton Wyatt and Coleman were with them, but the value
of skill was here shown by the smaller party, the one that
attacked. The frontiersmen, trained to every trick and wile of
the forest, and marksmen such as the Indians were never able to
become, continually pressed in and drove the Iroquois from tree
to tree. Once or twice the warriors started a rush, but they
were quickly driven back by sharpshooting such as they had never
faced before. They soon realized that this was no band of border
farmers, armed hastily for an emergency, but a foe who knew
everything that they knew, and more.
Braxton Wyatt and his friend Coleman fought with the Iroquois,
and Wyatt in particular was hot with rage. He suspected that the
five who had defeated him so often were among these marksmen, and
there might be a chance now to destroy them all. He crept to the
side of the fierce old Seneca chief, Hiokatoo, and suggested that
a part of their band slip around and enfold the enemy.
Old Hiokatoo, in the thick of battle now, presented his most
terrifying aspect. He was naked save the waist cloth, his great
body was covered with scars, and, as he bent a little forward, he
held cocked and ready in his hands a fine rifle that had been
presented to him by his good friend, the king. The Senecas, it
may be repeated, had suffered terribly at the Battle of the
Oriskany in the preceding year, and throughout these years of
border were the most cruel of all the Iroquois. In this respect
Hiokatoo led all the Senecas, and now Braxton Wyatt used as he
was to savage scenes, was compelled to admit to himself that this
was the most terrifying human being whom he had ever beheld. He
was old, but age in him seemed merely to add to his strength and
ferocity. The path of a deep cut, healed long since, but which
the paint even did not hide, lay across his forehead. Others
almost as deep adorned his right cheek, his chin, and his neck.
He was crouched much like a panther, with his rifle in his hands
and the ready tomahawk at his belt. But it was the extraordinary
expression of his eyes that made Braxton Wyatt shudder. He read
there no mercy for anything, not even for himself, Braxton Wyatt,
if he should stand in the way, and it was this last fact that
brought the shudder.
Hiokatoo thought it a good plan. Twenty warriors, mostly Senecas
and Cayugas, were detailed to execute it at once, and they stole
off toward the right. Henry had suspected some such diversion,
and, as he had been joined now by the four men from the other
side of the creek, he disposed his little force to meet it. Both
Shif'less Sol and Heemskerk had caught sight of figures slipping
away among the trees, and Henry craftily drew back a little.
While two or three men maintained the sharpshooting in the front,
he waited for the attack. It came in half an hour, the flanking
force making a savage and open rush, but the fire of the white
riflemen was so swift and deadly that they were driven back
again. But they had come very near, and a Tory rushed directly
at young Taylor. The Tory, like Taylor, had come from Wyoming,
and he had been one of the most ruthless on that terrible day.
When they were less than a dozen feet apart they recognized each
other. Henry saw the look that passed between them, and,
although he held a loaded rifle in his hand, for some reason he
did not use it. The Tory fired a pistol at Taylor, but the
bullet missed, and the Wyoming youth, leaping forth, swung his
unloaded rifle and brought the stock down with all his force upon
the head of his enemy. The man, uttering a single sound, a sort
of gasp, fell dead, and Taylor stood over him, still trembling
with rage. In an instant Henry seized him and dragged him down,
and then a Seneca bullet whistled where he had been.
"He was one of the worst at Wyoming-I saw him!" exclaimed young
Taylor, still trembling all over with passion.
"He'll never massacre anybody else. You've seen to that," said
Henry, and in a minute or two Taylor was quiet. The
sharpshooting continued, but here as elsewhere, the Iroquois had
the worst of it. Despite their numbers, they could not pass nor
flank that line of deadly marksmen who lay behind trees almost in
security, and who never missed. Another Tory and a chief, also,
were killed, and Braxton Wyatt was daunted. Nor did he feel any
better when old Hiokatoo crept to his side.
"We have failed here," he said. "They shoot too well for us to
rush them. We have lost good men." Hiokatoo frowned, and the
scars on his face stood out in livid red lines.
"It is so," he said. " These who fight us now are of their best,
and while we fight, the army that destroyed Oghwaga is coming up.
Come, we will go."
The little white band soon saw that the Indians were gone
from their front. They scouted some distance, and, finding no
enemy, hurried back to Colonel Butler. The troops were pushed
forward, and before night they reached Cunahunta, which they
burned also. Some farther advance was made into the Indian
country, and more destruction was done, but now the winter was
approaching, and many of the men insisted upon returning home to
protect their families. Others were to rejoin the main
Revolutionary army, and the Iroquois campaign was to stop for the
time. The first blow had been struck, and it was a hard one, but
the second blow and third and fourth and more, which the five
knew were so badly needed, must wait.
Henry and his comrades were deeply disappointed. They had hoped
to go far into the Iroquois country, to break the power of the
Six Nations, to hunt down the Butlers and the Johnsons and Brant
himself, but they could not wholly blame their commander. The
rear guard, or, rather, the forest guard of the Revolution, was a
slender and small force indeed.
Henry and his comrades said farewell to Colonel Butler with much
personal regret, and also to the gallant troops, some of whom
were Morgan's riflemen from Virginia. The farewells to William
Gray, Bob Taylor, and Cornelius Heemskerk were more intimate.
"I think we'll see more of one another in other campaigns," said
"We'll be on the battle line, side by side, once more," said
Taylor, "and we'll strike another blow for Wyoming."
"I foresee," said Cornelius Heemskerk, "that I, a peaceful man,
who ought to be painting blue plates in Holland, will be drawn
into danger in the great, dark wilderness again, and that you
will be there with me, Mynheer Henry, Mynheer Paul, Mynheer the
Wise Solomon, Mynheer the Silent Tom, and Mynheer the Very Long
James. I see it clearly. I, a man of peace, am always being
pushed in to war."
"We hope it will come true," said the five together.
"Do you go back to Kentucky?" asked William Gray.
"No," replied Henry, speaking for them all, " we have entered
upon this task here, and we are going to stay in it until it is
"It is dangerous, the most dangerous thing in the world," said
Heemskerk. "I still have my foreknowledge that I shall stand by
your side in some great battle to come, but the first thing I
shall do when I see you again, my friends, is to look around at
you, one, two, three, four, five, and see if you have upon your
heads the hair which is now so rich, thick, and flowing."
"Never fear, my friend," said Henry, "we have fought with the
warriors all the way from the Susquehanna to New Orleans and not
one of us has lost a single lock of hair."
"It is one Dutchman's hope that it will always be so," said
Heemskerk, and then he revolved rapidly away lest they see his
face express emotion.
The five received great supplies of powder and bullets from
Colonel Butler, and then they parted in the forest. Many of the
soldiers looked back and saw the five tall figures in a line,
leaning upon the muzzles of their long-barreled Kentucky rifles,
and regarding them in silence. It seemed to the soldiers that
they had left behind them the true sons of the wilderness, who,
in spite of all dangers, would be there to welcome them when they
THE DESERTED CABIN
When the last soldier had disappeared among the trees, Henry
turned to the others. "Well, boys," he asked, "what are you
"I?" asked Paul. "I'm thinking about a certain place I know, a
sort of alcove or hole in a cliff above a lake."
"An' me?" said Shif'less Sol. "I'm thinkin' how fur that alcove
runs back, an' how it could be fitted up with furs an' made warm
fur the winter."
"Me?" said Tom Ross. "I'm thinkin' what a snug place that alcove
would be when the snow an' hail were drivin' down the creek in
front of you."
"An' ez fur me," said Long Jim Hart, "I wuz thinkin' I could run
a sort uv flue from the back part uv that alcove out through the
front an' let the smoke pass out. I could cook all right. It
wouldn't be ez good a place fur cookin' ez the one we hed that
time we spent the winter on the island in the lake, but 'twould
"It's strange," said Henry, " but I've been thinking of all the
things that all four of you have been thinking about, and, since
we are agreed, we are bound to go straight to 'The Alcove' and
pass the winter there."
Without another word he led the way, and the others followed. It
was apparent to everyone that they must soon find a winter base,
because the cold had increased greatly in the last few days. The
last leaves had fallen from the trees, and a searching wind
howled among the bare branches. Better shelter than blankets
would soon be needed.
On their way they passed Oghwaga, a mass of blackened ruins,
among which wolves howled, the same spectacle that Wyoming now
afforded, although Oghwaga had not been stained by blood.
It was a long journey to "The Alcove," but they did not hurry,
seeing no need of it, although they were warned of the wisdom of
their decision by the fact that the cold was increasing. The
country in which the lake was situated lay high, and, as all of
them were quite sure that the cold was going to be great there,
they thought it wise to make preparations against it, which they
discussed as they walked in, leisurely fashion through the woods.
They spoke, also, of greater things. All felt that they had been
drawn into a mightier current than any in which they had swam
before. They fully appreciated the importance to the Revolution
of this great rearguard struggle, and at present they did not
have the remotest idea of returning to Kentucky under any
"We've got to fight it out with Braxton Wyatt and the Iroquois,"
said Henry. "I've heard that Braxton is organizing a band of
Tories of his own, and that he is likely to be as dangerous as
either of the Butlers."
"Some day we'll end him for good an' all," said Shif'less Sol.
It was four or five days before they reached their alcove, and
now all the forest was bare and apparently lifeless. They came
down the creek, and found their boat unharmed and untouched still
among the foliage at the base of the cliff.
"That's one thing safe," said Long Jim, "an' I guess we'll find
'The Alcove' all right, too."
"Unless a wild animal has taken up its abode there," said Paul.
"'Tain't likely," replied Long Jim. "We've left the human smell
thar, an' even after all this time it's likely to drive away any
prowlin' bear or panther that pokes his nose in."
Long Jim was quite right. Their snug nest, like that of a
squirrel in the side of a tree, had not been disturbed. The
skins which they had rolled up tightly and placed on the higher
shelves of stone were untouched, and several days' hunting
increased the supply. The hunting was singularly easy, and,
although the five did not know it, the quantity of game was much
greater in that region than it had been for years. It had been
swept of human beings by the Iroquois and Tory hordes, and deer,
bear, and panther seemed to know instinctively that the woods
were once more safe for them.
In their hunting they came upon the ruins of charred houses, and
more than once they saw something among the coals that caused
them to turn away with a shudder. At every place where man had
made a little opening the wilderness was quickly reclaiming its
own again. Next year the grass and the foliage would cover up
the coals and the hideous relics that lay among them.
They jerked great quantities of venison on the trees on the cliff
side, and stored it in "The Alcove." They also cured some bear
meat, and, having added a further lining of skins, they felt
prepared for winter. They had also added to the comfort of the
place. They had taken the precaution of bringing with them two
axes, and with the heads of these they smoothed out more of the
rough places on the floor and sides of "The Alcove." They thought
it likely, too, that they would need the axes in other ways later
Only once during these arrangements did they pass the trail of
Indians, and that was made by a party of about twenty, at least
ten miles from "The Alcove." They seemed to be traveling north,
and the five made no investigations. Somewhat later they met a
white runner in the forest, and he told them of the terrible
massacre of Cherry Valley. Walter Butler, emulating his father's
exploit at Wyoming, had come down with a mixed horde of Iroquois,
Tories, British, and Canadians. He had not been wholly
successful, but he had slaughtered half a hundred women and
children, and was now returning northward with prisoners. Some
said, according to the runner, that Thayendanegea had led the
Indians on this occasion, but, as the five learned later, he had
not come up until the massacre was over. The runner added
another piece of information that interested them deeply. Butler
had been accompanied to Cherry Valley by a young Tory or renegade
named Wyatt, who had distinguished himself by cunning and
cruelty. It was said that Wyatt had built up for himself a
semi-independent command, and was becoming a great scourge.
"That's our Braxton," said Henry. "He is rising to his
opportunities. He is likely to become fully the equal of Walter
But they could do nothing at present to find Wyatt, and they went
somewhat sadly back to "The Alcove." They had learned also from
the runner that Wyatt had a lieutenant, a Tory named Coleman, and
this fact increased their belief that Wyatt was undertaking to
operate on a large scale.
"We may get a chance at him anyhow," said Henry. "He and his
band may go too far away from the main body of the Indians and
Tories, and in that case we can strike a blow if we are
Every one of the five, although none of them knew it, received an
additional impulse from this news about Braxton Wyatt. He had
grown up with them. Loyalty to the king had nothing to do with
his becoming a renegade or a Tory; he could not plead lost lands
or exile for taking part in such massacres as Wyoming or Cherry
Valley, but, long since an ally of the Indians, he was now at the
head of a Tory band that murdered and burned from sheer pleasure.
"Some day we'll get him, as shore as the sun rises an' sets,"
said Shif'less Sol, repeating Henry's prediction.
But for the present they "holed up," and now their foresight was
justified. To such as they, used to the hardships of forest
life, "The Alcove" was a cheery nest. From its door they watched
the wild fowl streaming south, pigeons, ducks, and others
outlined against the dark, wintry skies. So numerous were these
flocks that there was scarcely a time when they did not see one
passing toward the warm South.
Shif'less Sol and Paul sat together watching a great flock of
wild geese, arrow shaped, and flying at almost incredible speed.
A few faint honks came to them, and then the geese grew misty on
the horizon. Shif'less Sol followed them with serious eyes.
"Do you ever think, Paul," he said, "that we human bein's ain't
so mighty pow'ful ez we think we are. We kin walk on the groun',
an' by hard learnin' an' hard work we kin paddle through the
water a little. But jest look at them geese flyin' a mile high,
right over everything, rivers, forests any mountains, makin' a
hundred miles an hour, almost without flappin' a wing. Then they
kin come down on the water an' float fur hours without bein'
tired, an' they kin waddle along on the groun', too. Did you
ever hear of any men who had so many 'complishments? Why, Paul,
s'pose you an' me could grow wings all at once, an' go through
the air a mile a minute fur a month an' never git tired."
"We'd certainly see some great sights," said Paul, "but do you
know, Sol, what would be the first thing I'd do if I had the gift
of tireless wings?"
"Fly off to them other continents I've heard you tell about."
"No, I'd swoop along over the forests up here until I picked out
all the camps of the Indians and Tories. I'd pick out the
Butlers and Braxton Wyatt and Coleman, and see what mischief they
were planning. Then I'd fly away to the East and look down at
all the armies, ours in buff and blue, and the British redcoats.
I'd look into the face of our great commander-in-chief. Then I'd
fly away back into the West and South, and I'd hover over
Wareville. I'd see our own people, every last little one of
them. They might take a shot at me, not knowing who I was, but
I'd be so high up in the air no bullet could reach me. Then I'd
come soaring back here to you fellows."
"That would shorely be a grand trip, Paul," said Shif'less Sol, "
an' I wouldn't mind takin' it in myself. But fur the present
we'd better busy our minds with the warnin's the wild fowl are
givin' us, though we're well fixed fur a house already. It's
cu'rus what good homes a handy man kin find in the wilderness."
The predictions of the wild fowl were true. A few days later
heavy clouds rolled up in the southwest, and the five watched
them, knowing what they would bring them. They spread to the
zenith and then to the other horizon, clothing the whole circle
of the earth. The great flakes began to drop down, slowly at
first, then faster. Soon all the trees were covered with white,
and everything else, too, except the dark surface of the lake,
which received the flakes into its bosom as they fell.
It snowed all that day and most of the next, until it lay about
two feet on the ground. After that it turned intensely cold, the
surface of the snow froze, and ice, nearly a foot thick, covered
the lake. It was not possible to travel under such circumstances
without artificial help, and now Tom Ross, who had once hunted in
the far North, came to their help. He showed them how to make
snowshoes, and, although all learned to use them, Henry, with his
great strength and peculiar skill, became by far the most expert.
As the snow with its frozen surface lay on the ground for weeks,
Henry took many long journeys on the snowshoes. Sometimes be
hunted, but oftener his role was that of scout. He cautioned his
friends that he might be out-three or four days at a time, and
that they need take no alarm about him unless his absence became
extremely long. The winter deepened, the snow melted, and
another and greater storm came, freezing the surface, again
making the snowshoes necessary. Henry decided now to take a
scout alone to the northward, and, as the others bad long since
grown into the habit of accepting his decisions almost without
question, be started at once. He was well equipped with his
rifle, double barreled pistol, hatchet, and knife, and he carried
in addition a heavy blanket and some jerked venison. He put on
his snowshoes at the foot of the cliff, waved a farewell to the
four heads thrust from "The Alcove" above, and struck out on the
smooth, icy surface of the creek. From this he presently passed
into the woods, and for a long time pursued a course almost due
It was no vague theory that had drawn Henry forth. In one of his
journeyings be had met a hunter who told him of a band of Tories
and Indians encamped toward the north, and he had an idea that it
was the party led by Braxton Wyatt. Now he meant to see.
His information was very indefinite, and he began to discover
signs much earlier than he had expected. Before the end of the
first day he saw the traces of other snowshoe runners on the icy
snow, and once he came to a place where a deer had been slain and
dressed. Then he came to another where the snow had been
hollowed out under some pines to make a sleeping place for
several men. Clearly he was in the land of the enemy again, and
a large and hostile camp might be somewhere near.
Henry felt a thrill of joy when he saw these indications. All
the primitive instincts leaped up within him. A child of the
forest and of elemental conditions, the warlike instinct was
strong within him. He was tired of hunting wild animals, and now
there was promise of a' more dangerous foe. For the purposes
that he had in view he was glad that be was alone. The wintry
forest, with its two feet of snow covered with ice, contained no
terrors for him. He moved on his snowshoes almost like a skater,
and with all the dexterity of an Indian of the far North, who is
practically born on such shoes.
As he stood upon the brow of a little hill, elevated upon his
snowshoes, he was, indeed, a wonderful figure. The added height
and the white glare from the ice made him tower like a great
giant. He was clad completely in soft, warm deerskin, his hands
were gloved in the same material, and the fur cap was drawn
tightly about his head and ears. The slender-barreled rifle lay
across his shoulder, and the blanket and deer meat made a light
package on his back. Only his face was uncovered, and that was
rosy with the sharp but bracing cold. But the resolute blue eyes
seemed to have grown more resolute in the last six months, and
the firm jaw was firmer than ever.
It was a steely blue sky, clear, hard, and cold, fitted to the
earth of snow and ice that it inclosed. His eyes traveled the
circle of the horizon three times, and at the end of the third
circle he made out a dim, dark thread against that sheet of blue
steel. It was the light of a camp fire, and that camp fire must
belong to an enemy. It was not likely that anybody else would be
sending forth such a signal in this wintry wilderness.
Henry judged that the fire was several miles away, and apparently
in a small valley hemmed in by hills of moderate height. He made
up his mind that the band of Braxton Wyatt was there, and he
intended to make a thorough scout about it. He advanced until
the smoke line became much thicker and broader, and then he
stopped in the densest clump of bushes that he could find. He
meant to remain there until darkness came, because, with all
foliage gone from the forest, it would be impossible to examine
the hostile camp by day. The bushes, despite the lack of leaves,
were so dense that they hid him well, and, breaking through the
crust of ice, he dug a hole. Then, having taken off his
snowshoes and wrapped his blanket about his body, he thrust
himself into the hole exactly like a rabbit in its burrow. He
laid his shoes on the crust of ice beside him. Of course, if
found there by a large party of warriors on snowshoes he would
have no chance to flee, but he was willing to take what seemed to
him a small risk. The dark would not be long in coming, and it
was snug and warm in the hole. As he sat, his head rose just
above the surrounding ice, but his rifle barrel rose much higher.
He ate a little venison for supper, and the weariness in the
ankles that comes from long traveling on snowshoes disappeared.
He could not see outside the bushes, but he listened with those
uncommonly keen ears of his. No sound at all came. There was
not even a wind to rustle the bare boughs. The sun hung a huge
red globe in the west, and all that side of the earth was tinged
with a red glare, wintry and cold despite its redness. Then, as
the earth turned, the sun was lost behind it, and the cold dark
Henry found it so comfortable in his burrow that all his muscles
were soothed, and he grew sleepy. It would have been very
pleasant to doze there, but he brought himself round with an
effort of the will, and became as wide awake as ever. He was
eager to be off on his expedition, but he knew how much depended
on waiting, and he waited. One hour, two hours, three hours,
four hours, still and dark, passed in the forest before he roused
himself from his covert. Then, warm, strong, and tempered like
steel for his purpose, he put on his snowshoes, and advanced
toward the point from which the column of smoke had risen.
He had never been more cautious and wary than he was now. He was
a formidable figure in the darkness, crouched forward, and moving
like some spirit of the wilderness, half walking, half gliding.
Although the night had come out rather clear, with many cold
stars twinkling in the blue, the line of smoke was no longer
visible. But Henry did not expect it to be, nor did he need it.
He had marked its base too clearly in his mind to make any
mistake, and he advanced with certainty. He came presently into
an open space, and he stopped with amazement. Around him were
the stumps of a clearing made recently, and near him were some
yards of rough rail fence.
He crouched against the fence, and saw on the far side of the
clearing the dim outlines of several buildings, from the chimneys
of two of which smoke was rising. It was his first thought that
he had come upon a little settlement still held by daring
borderers, but second thought told him that it was impossible.
Another and more comprehensive look showed many signs of ruin.
He saw remains of several burned houses, but clothing all was the
atmosphere of desolation and decay that tells when a place is
abandoned. The two threads of smoke did not alter this
Henry divined it all. The builders of this tiny village in the
wilderness bad been massacred or driven away. A part of the
houses had been destroyed, some were left standing, and now there
were visitors. He advanced without noise, keeping behind the
rail fence, and approaching one of the houses from the chimneys
of which the smoke came. Here be crouched a long time, looking
and listening attentively; but it seemed that the visitors had no
fears. Why should they, when there was nothing that they need
fear in this frozen wilderness?
Henry stole a little nearer. It had been a snug, trim little
settlement. Perhaps twenty-five or thirty people had lived
there, literally hewing a home out of the forest. His heart
throbbed with a fierce hatred and, anger against those who had
spoiled all this, and his gloved finger crept to the hammer of
The night was intensely cold. The mercury was far below zero,
and a wind that had begun to rise cut like the edge of a knife.
Even the wariest of Indians in such desolate weather might fail
to keep a watch. But Henry did not suffer. The fur cap was
drawn farther over chin and ears, and the buckskin gloves kept
his fingers warm and flexible. Besides, his blood was uncommonly
hot in his veins.
His comprehensive eye told him that, while some of the buildings
had not been destroyed, they were so ravaged and damaged that
they could never be used again, save as a passing shelter, just
as they were being used now. He slid cautiously about the
desolate place. He crossed a brook, frozen almost solidly in its
bed, and he saw two or three large mounds that had been
haystacks, now covered with snow.
Then he slid without noise back to the nearest of the houses from
which the smoke came. It was rather more pretentious than the
others, built of planks instead of logs, and with shingles for a
roof. The remains of a small portico formed the approach to the
front door. Henry supposed that the house had been set on fire
and that perhaps a heavy rain had saved a part of it.
A bar of light falling across the snow attracted his attention.
He knew that it was the glow of a fire within coming through a
window. A faint sound of voices reached his ears, and he moved
forward slowly to the window. It was an oaken shutter originally
fastened with a leather strap, but the strap was gone, and now
some one had tied it, though not tightly, with a deer tendon.
The crack between shutter and wall was at least three inches, and
Henry could see within very well.
He pressed his side tightly to the wall and put his eyes to the
crevice. What he saw within did not still any of those primitive
feelings that had risen so strongly in his breast.
A great fire had been built in the log fireplace, but it was
burning somewhat low now, having reached that mellow period of
least crackling and greatest heat. The huge bed of coals threw a
mass of varied and glowing colors across the floor. Large holes
had been burned in the side of the room by the original fire, but
Indian blankets had been fastened tightly over them.
In front of the fire sat Braxton Wyatt in a Loyalist uniform, a
three-cornered hat cocked proudly on his head, and a small sword
by his side. He had grown heavier, and Henry saw that the face
had increased much in coarseness and cruelty. It had also
increased in satisfaction. He was a great man now, as he saw
great men, and both face and figure radiated gratification and
pride as he lolled before the fire. At the other corner, sitting
upon the floor and also in a Loyalist uniform, was his
lieutenant, Levi Coleman, older, heavier, and with a short,
uncommonly muscular figure. His face was dark and cruel, with
small eyes set close together. A half dozen other white men and
more than a dozen Indians were in the room. All these lay upon
their blankets on the floor, because all the furniture had been
destroyed. Yet they had eaten, and they lay there content in the
soothing glow of the fire, like animals that had fed well. Henry
was so near that he could hear every word anyone spoke.
"It was well that the Indians led us to this place, eh, Levi?"
"I'm glad the fire spared a part of it," said Coleman. "Looks as
if it was done just for us, to give us a shelter some cold winter
night when we come along. I guess the Iroquois Aieroski is
watching over us."
"You're a man that I like, Levi," he said. "You can see to the
inside of things. It would be a good idea to use this place as a
base and shelter, and make a raid on some of the settlements east
of the hills, eh, Levi?"
"It could be done," said Coleman. "But just listen to that wind,
will you! On a night like this it must cut like a saber's edge.
Even our Iroquois are glad to be under a roof."
Henry still gazed in at the crack with eyes that were lighted up
by an angry fire. So here was more talk of destruction and
slaughter! His gaze alighted upon an Indian who sat in a corner
engaged upon a task. Henry looked more closely, and saw that he
was stretching a blonde-haired scalp over a small hoop. A
shudder shook his whole frame. Only those who lived amid such
scenes could understand the intensity of his feelings. He felt,
too, a bitter sense of injustice. The doers of these deeds were
here in warmth and comfort, while the innocent were dead or
fugitives. He turned away from the window, stepping gently upon
the snowshoes. He inferred that the remainder of Wyatt's band
were quartered in the other house from which he had seen the
smoke rising. It was about twenty rods away, but he did not
examine it, because a great idea had been born suddenly in his
brain. The attempt to fulfill the idea would be accompanied by
extreme danger, but he did not hesitate a moment. He stole
gently to one of the half-fallen outhouses and went inside. Here
he found what he wanted, a large pine shelf that had been
sheltered from rain and that was perfectly dry. He scraped off a
large quantity of the dry pine until it formed almost a dust, and
he did not cease until he had filled his cap with it. Then he
cut off large splinters, until he had accumulated a great number,
and after that he gathered smaller pieces of half-burned pine.
He was fully two hours doing this work, and the night advanced
far, but he never faltered. His head was bare, but he was
protected from the wind by a fragment of the outhouse wall.
Every two or three minutes he stopped and listened for the sound
of a creaking, sliding footstep on the snow, but, never hearing
any, he always resumed his work with the same concentration. All
the while the wind rose and moaned through the ruins of the
little village. When Henry chanced to raise his head above the
sheltering wall, it was like the slash of a knife across his
Finally he took half of the pine dust in his cap and a lot of the
splinters under his arm, and stole back to the house from which
the light had shone. He looked again through the crevice at the
window. The light had died down much more, and both Wyatt and
Coleman were asleep on the floor. But several of the Iroquois
were awake, although they sat as silent and motionless as stones
against the wall.
Henry moved from the window and selected a sheltered spot beside
the plank wall. There he put the pine dust in a little heap on
the snow and covered it over with pine splinters, on top of which
he put larger pieces of pine. Then he went back for the
remainder of the pine dust, and built a similar pyramid against a
sheltered side of the second house.
The most delicate part of his task had now come, one that good
fortune only could aid him in achieving, but the brave youth, his
heart aflame with righteous anger against those inside, still
pursued the work. His heart throbbed, but hand and eye were
Now came the kindly stroke of fortune for which he had hoped.
The wind rose much higher and roared harder against the house.
It would prevent the Iroquois within, keen of ear as they were,
from hearing a light sound without. Then he drew forth his flint
and steel and struck them together with a hand so strong and
swift that sparks quickly leaped forth and set fire to the pine
tinder. Henry paused only long enough to see the flame spread to
the splinters, and then he ran rapidly to the other house, where
the task was repeated-he intended that his job should be
Pursuing this resolve to make his task complete, he came back to
the first house and looked at his fire. It had already spread to
the larger pieces of pine, and it could not go out now. The
sound made by the flames blended exactly with the roaring of the
wind, and another minute or two might pass before the Iroquois
Now his heart throbbed again, and exultation was mingled with his
anger. By the time the Iroquois were aroused to the danger the
flames would be so high that the wind would reach them. Then no
one could put them out.
It might have been safer for him to flee deep into the forest at
once, but that lingering desire to make his task complete and,
also, the wish to see the result kept him from doing it. He
merely walked across the open space and stood behind a tree at
the edge of the forest.
Braxton Wyatt and his Tories and Iroquois were very warm, very
snug, in the shelter of the old house with the great bed of coals
before them. They may even have been dreaming peaceful and
beautiful dreams, when suddenly an Iroquois sprang to his feet
and uttered a cry that awoke all the rest.
"I smell smoke!" he exclaimed in his tongue, "and there is fire,
too! I hear it crackle outside!"
Braxton Wyatt ran to the window and jerked it open. Flame and
smoke blew in his face. He uttered an angry cry, and snatched at
the pistol in his belt.
"The whole side of the house is on fire!" he exclaimed. "Whose
neglect has done this?"
Coleman, shrewd and observing, was at his elbow.
"The fire was set on the outside," he said. "It was no
carelessness of our men. Some enemy has done this!"
"It is true!" exclaimed Wyatt furiously. "Out, everybody! The
house burns fast!"
There was a rush for the door. Already ashes and cinders were
falling about their heads. Flames leaped high, were caught by
the roaring winds, and roared with them. The shell of the house
would soon be gone, and when Tories and Iroquois were outside
they saw the remainder of their band pouring forth from the other
house, which was also in flames.
No means of theirs could stop so great a fire, and they stood in
a sort of stupefaction, watching it as it was fanned to greatest
heights by the wind.
All the remaining outbuildings caught, also, and in a few moments
nothing whatever would be left of the tiny village. Braxton
Wyatt and his band must lie in the icy wilderness, and they could
never use this place as a basis for attack upon settlements.
"How under the sun could it have happened?" exclaimed Wyatt.
"It didn't happen. It was done," said Coleman. "Somebody set
these houses on fire while we slept within. Hark to that!"
An Iroquois some distance from the houses was bending over the
snow where it was not yet melted by the heat. He saw there the
track of snowshoes, and suddenly, looking toward the forest,
whither they led, he saw a dark figure flit away among the trees.
Henry Ware, lingering at the edge of the clearing, his body
hidden behind one of the great tree trunks, had been watching the
scene with a fascinated interest that would not let him go. He
knew that his work there was done already. Everything would be
utterly destroyed by the flames which, driven by the wind, leaped
from one half-ruined building to another. Braxton Wyatt and his
band would have enough to do sheltering themselves from the
fierce winter, and the settlements could rest for a while at
least. Undeniably he felt exultation as be witnessed the
destructive work of his hand. The border, with its constant
struggle for-life and terrible deeds, bred fierce passions.
In truth, although he did not know it himself, he stayed there to
please his eye and heart. A new pulse beat triumphantly every
time a timber, burned through, fell in, or a crash came from a
falling roof. He laughed inwardly as the flames disclosed the
dismay on the faces of the Iroquois and Tories, and it gave him
deep satisfaction to see Braxton Wyatt, his gaudy little sword at
his thigh, stalking about helpless. It was while he was looking,
absorbed in such feelings, that the warrior of the alert eye saw
him and gave the warning shout.
Henry turned in an instant, and darted away among the trees, half
running, half sliding over the smooth, icy covering of the snow.
After him came warriors and some Tories who had put on their
snowshoes preparatory to the search through the forest for
shelter. Several bullets were fired, but he was too far away for
a good aim. He heard one go zip against a tree, and another cut
the surface of the ice near him, but none touched him, and he
sped easily on his snowshoes through the frozen forest. But
Henry was fully aware of one thing that constituted his greatest
danger. Many of these Iroquois had been trained all their lives
to snowshoes, while he, however powerful and agile, was
comparatively a beginner. He glanced back again and saw their
dusky figures running among the trees, but they did not seem to
be gaining. If one should draw too near, there was his rifle,
and no man, white or red, in the northern or southern forests,
could use it better. But for the present it was not needed. He
pressed it closely, almost lovingly, to his side, this best
friend of the scout and frontiersman.
He had chosen his course at the first leap. It was southward,
toward the lake, and he did not make the mistake of diverging
from his line, knowing that some part of the wide half circle of
his pursuers would profit by it.
Henry felt a great upward surge. He had been the victor in what
he meant to achieve, and he was sure that he would escape. The
cold wind, whistling by, whipped his blood and added new strength
to his great muscles. His ankles were not chafed or sore, and he
sped forward on the snowshoes, straight and true. Whenever he
came to a hill the pursuers would gain as he went up it, but when
he went down the other side it was he who gained. He passed
brooks, creeks, and once a small river, but they were frozen
over, many inches deep, and he did not notice them. Again it was
a lake a mile wide, but the smooth surface there merely increased
his speed. Always he kept a wary look ahead for thickets through
which he could not pass easily, and once he sent back a shout of
defiance, which the Iroquois answered with a yell of anger.
He was fully aware that any accident to his snowshoes would prove
fatal, the slipping of the thongs on his ankles or the breaking
of a runner would end his flight, and in a long chase such an
accident might happen. It might happen, too, to one or more of
the Iroquois, but plenty of them would be left. Yet Henry had
supreme confidence in his snowshoes. He had made them himself,
he had seen that every part was good, and every thong had been
fastened with care.
The wind which bad been roaring so loudly at the time of the fire
sank to nothing. The leafless trees stood up, the branches
unmoving. The forest was bare and deserted. All the animals,
big and little, had gone into their lairs. Nobody witnessed the
great pursuit save pursuers and pursued. Henry kept his
direction clear in his mind, and allowed the Iroquois to take no
advantage of a curve save once. Then he came to a thicket so
large that he was compelled to make a considerable circle to pass
it. He turned to the right, hence the Indians on the right
gained, and they sent up a yell of delight. He replied defiantly
and increased his speed.
But one of the Indians, a flying Mohawk, had come dangerously
near-near enough, in fact, to fire a bullet that did not miss the
fugitive much. It aroused Henry's anger. He took it as an
indignity rather than a danger, and he resolved to avenge it. So
far as firing was concerned, he was at a disadvantage. He must
stop and turn around for his shot, while the Iroquois, without
even checking speed, could fire straight at the flying target,
Nevertheless, he took the chance. He turned deftly on the
snowshoes, fired as quick as lightning at the swift Mohawk, saw
him fall, then Whirled and resumed his flight. He had lost
ground, but he had inspired respect. A single man could not
afford to come too near to a marksman so deadly, and the three or
four who led dropped back with the main body.
Now Henry made his greatest effort. He wished to leave the foe
far behind, to shake off his pursuit entirely. He bounded over
the ice and snow with great leaps, and began to gain. Yet he
felt at last the effects of so strenuous a flight. His breath
became shorter; despite the intense cold, perspiration stood upon
his face, and the straps that fastened the snowshoes were chafing
his ankles. An end must come even to such strength as his.
Another backward look, and he saw that the foe was sinking into
the darkness. If he could only increase his speed again, be
might leave the Iroquois now. He made a new call upon the will,
and the body responded. For a few minutes his speed became
greater. A disappointed shout arose behind him, and several
shots were fired. But the bullets fell a hundred yards short,
and then, as he passed over a little hill and into a wood beyond,
he was hidden from the sight of his pursuers.
Henry knew that the Iroquois could trail him over the snow, but
they could not do it at full speed, and he turned sharply off at
an angle. Pausing a second or two for fresh breath, he continued
on his new course, although not so fast as before. He knew that
the Iroquois would rush straight ahead, and would not discover
for two or three minutes that they were off the trail. It would
take them another two or three minutes to recover, and he would
make a gain of at least five minutes. Five minutes had saved the
life of many a man on the border.
How precious those five minutes were! He would take them all.
He ran forward some distance, stopped where the trees grew thick,
and then enjoyed the golden five, minute by minute. He had felt
that he was pumping the very lifeblood from his heart. His
breath had come painfully, and the thongs of the snowshoes were
chafing his ankles terribly. But those minutes were worth a
year. Fresh air poured into his lungs, and the muscles became
elastic once more. In so brief a space be had recreated himself.
Resuming his flight, he went at a steady pace, resolved not to do
his utmost unless the enemy came in sight. About ten minutes
later he heard a cry far behind him, and he believed it to be a
signal from some Indian to the others that the trail was found
again. But with so much advantage he felt sure that he was now
quite safe. He ran, although at decreased speed, for about two
hours more, and then he sat down on the upthrust root of a great
oak. Here he depended most upon his ears. The forest was so
silent that he could hear any noise at a great distance, but
there was none. Trusting to his ears to warn him, he would
remain there a long time for a thorough rest. He even dared to
take off his snowshoes that he might rub his sore ankles, but he
wrapped his heavy blanket about his body, lest he take deep cold
in cooling off in such a temperature after so long a flight.
He sat enjoying a half hour, golden like the five minutes, and
then he saw, outlined against the bright, moonlit sky, something
that told him he must be on the alert again. It was a single
ring of smoke, like that from a cigar, only far greater. It rose
steadily, untroubled by wind until it was dissipated. It meant
"attention!" and presently it was followed by a column of such
rings, one following another beautifully. The column said: " The
foe is near." Henry read the Indian signs perfectly. The rings
were made by covering a little fire with a blanket for a moment
and then allowing the smoke to ascend. On clear days such
signals could be seen a distance of thirty miles or more, and he
knew that they were full of significance.
Evidently the Iroquois party had divided into two or more bands.
One had found his trail, and was signaling to the other. The
party sending up the smoke might be a half mile away, but the
others, although his trail was yet hidden from them, might be
nearer. It was again time for flight.
He swiftly put on the snowshoes, neglecting no thong or lace,
folded the blanket on his back again, and, leaving the friendly
root, started once more. He ran forward at moderate speed for
perhaps a mile, when he suddenly heard triumphant yells on both
right and left. A strong party of Iroquois were coming up on
either side, and luck had enabled them to catch him in a trap.
They were so near that they fired upon him, and one bullet nicked
his glove, but he was hopeful that after his long rest he might
again stave them off. He sent back no defiant cry, but, settling
into determined silence, ran at his utmost speed. The forest
here was of large trees, with no undergrowth, and he noticed that
the two parties did not join, but kept on as they had come, one
on the right and the other on the left. This fact must have some
significance, but he could not fathom it. Neither could he guess
whether the Indians were fresh or tired, but apparently they made
no effort to come within range of his rifle.
Presently he made a fresh spurt of speed, the forest opened out,
and then both bands uttered a yell full of ferocity and joy, the
kind that savages utter only when they see their triumph
Before, and far below Henry, stretched a vast, white expanse. He
had come to the lake, but at a point where the cliff rose high
like a mountain, and steep like a wall. The surface of the lake
was so far down that it was misty white like a cloud. Now he
understood the policy of the Indian bands in not uniting. They
knew that they would soon reach the lofty cliffs of the lake, and
if he turned to either right or left there was a band ready to
Henry's heart leaped up and then sank lower than ever before in
his life. It seemed that he could not escape from so complete a
trap, and Braxton Wyatt was not one who would spare a prisoner.
That was perhaps the bitterest thing of all, to be taken and
tortured by Braxton Wyatt. He was there. He could hear his
voice in one of the bands, and then the courage that never failed
him burst into fire again.
The Iroquois were coming toward him, shutting him out from
retreat to either right or left, but not yet closing in because
of his deadly rifle. He gave them a single look, put forth his
voice in one great cry of defiance, and, rushing toward the edge
of the mighty cliff, sprang boldly over.
As Henry plunged downward he heard behind him a shout of
amazement and chagrin poured forth from many Iroquois throats,
and, taking a single glance backward, he caught a glimpse of
dusky faces stamped with awe. But the bold youth had not made a
leap to destruction. In the passage of a second he had
calculated rapidly and well. While the cliff at first glance
seemed perpendicular, it could not be so. There was a slope
coated with two feet of snow, and swinging far back on the heels
of his snowshoes, he shot downward like one taking a tremendous
slide on a toboggan. Faster and faster he went, but deeper and
deeper he dug his shoes into the snow, until he lay back almost
flat against its surface. This checked his speed somewhat, but
it was still very great, and, preserving his self-control
perfectly, he prayed aloud to kindly Providence to save him from
some great boulder or abrupt drop.
The snow from his runners flew in a continuous shower behind him
as he descended. Yet he drew himself compactly together, and
held his rifle parallel with his body. Once or twice, as he went
over a little ridge, he shot clear of the snow, but he held his
body rigid, and the snow beyond saved him from a severe bruise.
Then his speed was increased again, and all the time the white
surface of the lake below, seen dimly through the night and his
flight, seemed miles away.
He might never reach that surface alive, but of one thing lie was
sure. None of the Iroquois or Tories had dared to follow.
Braxton Wyatt could have no triumph over him. He was alone in
his great flight. Once a projection caused him to turn a little
to one side. He was in momentary danger of turning entirely, and
then of rolling head over heels like a huge snowball, but with a
mighty effort he righted himself, and continued the descent on
the runners, with the heels plowing into the ice and the snow.
Now that white expanse which had seemed so far away came miles
nearer. Presently he would be there. The impossible had become
possible, the unattainable was about to be attained. He gave
another mighty dig with his shoes, the last reach of the slope
passed behind him, and he shot out on the frozen surface of the
lake, bruised and breathless, but without a single broken bone.
The lake was covered with ice a foot thick, and over this lay
frozen snow, which stopped Henry forty or fifty yards from the
cliff. There he lost his balance at last, and fell on his side,
where he lay for a few moments, weak, panting, but triumphant.
When he stood upright again he felt his body, but he had suffered
nothing save some bruises, that would heal in their own good
time. His deerskin clothing was much torn, particularly on the
back, where he had leaned upon the ice and snow, but the folded
blanket had saved him to a considerable extent. One of his shoes
was pulled loose, and presently he discovered that his left ankle
was smarting and burning at a great rate. But he did not mind
these things at all, so complete was his sense of victory. He
looked up at the mighty white wall that stretched above him
fifteen hundred feet, and he wondered at his own tremendous
exploit. The wall ran away for miles, and the Iroquois could not
reach him by any easier path. He tried to make out figures on
the brink looking down at him, but it was too far away, and he
saw only a black line.
He tightened the loose shoe and struck out across the lake. He
was far away from "The Alcove," and he did not intend to go
there, lest the Iroquois, by chance, come upon his trail and
follow it to the refuge. But as it was no more than two miles
across the lake at that point, and the Iroquois would have to
make a great curve to reach the other side, he felt perfectly
safe. He walked slowly across, conscious all the time of an
increasing pain in his left ankle, which must now be badly
swollen, and he did not stop until he penetrated some distance
among low bills. Here, under an overhanging cliff with thick
bushes in front, he found a partial shelter, which he cleared
out yet further. Then with infinite patience he built a fire
with splinters that he cut from dead boughs, hung his blanket in
front of it on two sticks that the flame might not be seen, took
off his snowshoes, leggins, and socks, and bared his ankles.
Both were swollen, but the left much more badly than the other.
He doubted whether he would be able to walk on the following day,
but he rubbed them a long time, both with the palms of his hands
and with snow, until they felt better. Then he replaced his
clothing, leaned back against the faithful snowshoes which had
saved his life, however much they had hurt his ankles, and gave
himself up to the warmth of the fire.
It was very luxurious, this warmth and this rest, after so long
and terrible a flight, and he was conscious of a great
relaxation, one which, if he yielded to it completely, would make
his muscles so stiff and painful that he could not use them.
Hence he stretched his arms and legs many times, rubbed his
ankles again, and then, remembering that he had venison, ate
He knew that he had taken a little risk with the fire, but a fire
he was bound to have, and he fed it again until he had a great
mass of glowing coals, although there was no blaze. Then he took
down the blanket, wrapped himself in it, and was soon asleep
before the fire. He slept long and deeply, and although, when he
awoke, the day had fully come, the coals were not yet out
entirely. He arose, but such a violent pain from his left ankle
shot through him that he abruptly sat down again. As he bad
feared, it had swollen badly during the night, and he could not
In this emergency Henry displayed no petulance, no striving
against unchangeable circumstance. He drew up more wood, which
he had stacked against the cliff, and put it on the coals. He
hung up the blanket once more in order that it might hide the
fire, stretched out his lame leg, and calmly made a breakfast off
the last of his venison. He knew be was in a plight that
might appall the bravest, but be kept himself in hand. It was
likely that the Iroquois thought him dead, crushed into a
shapeless mass by his frightful slide of fifteen hundred feet,
and he had little fear of them, but to be unable to walk and
alone in an icy wilderness without food was sufficient in itself.
He calculated that it was at least a dozen miles to "The Alcove,"
and the chances were a hundred to one against any of his comrades
wandering his way. He looked once more at his swollen left
ankle, and he made a close calculation. It would be three days,
more likely four, before he could walk upon it. Could he endure
hunger that long? He could. He would! Crouched in his nest
with his back to the cliff, he had defense against any enemy in
his rifle and pistol. By faithful watching he might catch sight
of some wandering animal, a target for his rifle and then food
for his stomach. His wilderness wisdom warned him that there was
nothing to do but sit quiet and wait.
He scarcely moved for hours. As long as he was still his ankle
troubled him but little. The sun came out, silver bright, but it
had no warmth. The surface of the lake was shown only by the
smoothness of its expanse; the icy covering was the same
everywhere over hills and valleys. Across the lake he saw the
steep down which he had slid, looming white and lofty. In the
distance it looked perpendicular, and, whatever its terrors, it
had, beyond a doubt, saved his life. He glanced down at his
swollen ankle, and, despite his helpless situation, he was
thankful that he had escaped so well.
About noon he moved enough to throw up the snowbanks higher all
around himself in the fashion of an Eskimos house. Then he let
the fire die except some coals that gave forth no smoke,
stretched the blanket over his head in the manner of a roof, and
once more resumed his quiet and stillness. He was now like a
crippled animal in its lair, but he was warm, and his wound did
not hurt him. But hunger began to trouble him. He was young and
so powerful that his frame demanded much sustenance. Now it
cried aloud its need! He ate two or three handfuls of snow, and
for a few moments it seemed to help him a little, but his hunger
soon came back as strong as ever. Then he tightened his belt and
sat in grim silence, trying to forget that there was any such
thing as food.
The effort of the will was almost a success throughout the
afternoon, but before night it failed. He began to have roseate
visions of Long Jim trying venison, wild duck, bear, and buffalo
steaks over the coals. He could sniff the aroma, so powerful had
his imagination become, and, in fancy, his month watered, while
its roof was really dry. They were daylight visions, and he knew
it well, but they taunted him and made his pain fiercer. He slid
forward a little to the mouth of his shelter, and thrust out his
rifle in the hope that be would see some wild creature, no matter
what; he felt that be could shoot it at any distance, and then he
He saw nothing living, either on earth or in the air, only
motionless white, and beyond, showing but faintly now through the
coming twilight, the lofty cliff that had saved him.
He drew back into his lair, and the darkness came down. Despite
his hunger, he slept fairly well. In the night a little snow
fell at times, but his blanket roof protected him, and he
remained dry and warm. The new snow was, in a way, a
satisfaction, as it completely hid his trail from the glance of
any wandering Indian. He awoke the next morning to a gray,
somber day, with piercing winds from the northwest. He did not
feel the pangs of hunger until he had been awake about a half
hour, and then they came with redoubled force. Moreover, he bad
become weaker in the night, and, added to the loss of muscular
strength, was a decrease in the power of the will. Hunger was
eating away his mental as well as his physical fiber. He did not
face the situation with quite the same confidence that he felt
the day before. The wilderness looked a little more threatening.
His lips felt as if he were suffering from fever, and his
shoulders and back were stiff. But he drew his belt tighter
again, and then uncovered his left ankle. The swelling had gone
down a little, and he could move it with more freedom than on the
day before, but he could not yet walk. Once more he made his
grim calculation. In two days he could certainly walk and hunt
game or make a try for "The Alcove," so far as his ankle was
concerned, but would hunger overpower him before that time?
Gaining strength in one direction, he was losing it in another.
Now he began to grow angry with himself. The light inroad that
famine made upon his will was telling. It seemed incredible that
he, so powerful, so skillful, so self reliant, so long used to
the wilderness and to every manner of hardship, should be held
there in a snowbank by a bruised ankle to die like a crippled
rabbit. His comrades could not be more than ten miles away. He
could walk. He would walk! He stood upright and stepped out
into the snow, but pain, so agonizing that he could scarcely keep
from crying out, shot through his whole body, and he sank back
into the shelter, sure not to make such an experiment again for
another full day.
The day passed much like its predecessor, except that he took
down the blanket cover of his snow hut and kindled up his fire
again, more for the sake of cheerfulness than for warmth, because
he was not suffering from cold. There was a certain life and
light about the coals and the bright flame, but the relief did
not last long, and by and by he let it go out. Then be devoted
himself to watching the heavens and the surface of the snow.
Some winter bird, duck or goose, might be flying by, or a
wandering deer might be passing. He must not lose any such
chance. He was more than ever a fierce creature of prey, sitting
at the mouth of his den, the rifle across his knee, his tanned
face so thin that the cheek bones showed high and sharp, his eyes
bright with fever and the fierce desire for prey, and the long,
lean body drawn forward as if it were about to leap.
He thought often of dragging himself down to the lake, breaking a
hole in the ice, and trying to fish, but the idea invariably came
only to be abandoned. He had neither hook nor bait. In the
afternoon he chewed the edge of his buckskin hunting shirt, but
it was too thoroughly tanned and dry. It gave back no
sustenance. He abandoned the experiment and lay still for a long
That night he had a slight touch of frenzy, and began to laugh at
himself. It was a huge joke! What would Timmendiquas or
Thayendanegea think of him if they knew how he came to his end?
They would put him with old squaws or little children. And how
Braxton Wyatt and his lieutenant, the squat Tory, would laugh!
That was the bitterest thought of all. But the frenzy passed,
and he fell into a sleep which was only a succession of bad
dreams. He was running the gauntlet again among the Shawnees.
Again, kneeling to drink at the clear pool, he saw in the water
the shadow of the triumphant warrior holding the tomahawk above
him. One after another the most critical periods of his life
were lived over again, and then he sank into a deep torpor, from
which he did not rouse himself until far into the next day.
Henry was conscious that he was very weak, but he seemed to have
regained much of his lost will. He looked once more at the fatal
left ankle. It had improved greatly. He could even stand upon
it, but when he rose to his feet he felt a singular dizziness.
Again, what he had gained in one way he had lost in another. The
earth wavered. The smooth surface of the lake seemed to rise
swiftly, and then to sink as swiftly. The far slope down which
he had shot rose to the height of miles. There was a pale tinge,
too, over the world. He sank down, not because of his ankle, but
because he was afraid his dizzy head would make him fall.
The power of will slipped away again for a minute or two. He was
ashamed of such extraordinary weakness. He looked at one of his
hands. It was thin, like the band of a man wasted with fever,
and the blue veins stood out on the back of it. He could
scarcely believe that the hand was his own. But after the first
spasm of weakness was over, the precious will returned. He could
walk. Strength enough to permit him to hobble along had returned
to the ankle at last, and mind must control the rest of his
nervous system, however weakened it might be. He must seek food.
He withdrew into the farthest recess of his covert, wrapped the
blanket tightly about his body, and lay still for a long time.
He was preparing both mind and body for the supreme effort. He
knew that everything hung now on the surviving remnants of his
skill and courage.
Weakened by shock and several days of fasting, he had no great
reserve now except the mental, and he used that to the utmost.
It was proof of his youthful greatness that it stood the last
test. As he lay there, the final ounce of will and courage came.
Strength which was of the mind rather than of the body flowed
back into his veins; he felt able to dare and to do; the pale
aspect of the world went away, and once more he was Henry Ware,
alert, skillful, and always triumphant.
Then he rose again, folded the blanket, and fastened it on his
shoulders. He looked at the snowshoes, but decided that his left
ankle, despite its great improvement, would not stand the strain.
He must break his way through the snow, which was a full three
feet in depth. Fortunately the crust had softened somewhat in
the last two or three days, and he did not have a covering of ice
He pushed his way for the first time from the lair under the
cliff, his rifle held in his ready hands, in order that he might
miss no chance at game. To an ordinary observer there would have
been no such chance at all. It was merely a grim white
wilderness that might have been without anything living from the
beginning. But Henry, the forest runner, knew better. Somewhere
in the snow were lairs much like the one that he had left, and in
these lairs were wild animals. To any such wild animal, whether
panther or bear, the hunter would now have been a fearsome
object, with his hollow cheeks, his sunken fiery eyes, and his
thin lips opening now and then, and disclosing the two rows of
strong white teeth.
Henry advanced about a rod, and then he stopped, breathing hard,
because it was desperate work for one in his condition to break
his way through snow so deep. But his ankle stood the strain
well, and his courage increased rather than diminished. He was
no longer a cripple confined to one spot. While be stood
resting, he noticed a clump of bushes about half a rod to his
left, and a hopeful idea came to him.
He broke his way slowly to the bushes, and then he searched
carefully among them. The snow was not nearly so thick there,
and under the thickest clump, where the shelter was best, he saw
a small round opening. In an instant all his old vigorous life,
all the abounding hope which was such a strong characteristic of
his nature, came back to him. Already he had triumphed over
Indians, Tories, the mighty slope, snow, ice, crippling, and
He laid the rifle on the snow and took the ramrod in his right
hand. He thrust his left hand into the hole, and when the rabbit
leaped for life from his warm nest a smart blow of the ramrod
stretched him dead at the feet of the hunter. Henry picked up
the rabbit. It was large and yet fat. Here was food for two
meals. In the race between the ankle and starvation, the ankle
He did not give way to any unseemly elation. He even felt a
momentary sorrow that a life must perish to save his own, because
all these wild things were his kindred now. He returned by the
path that he had broken, kindled his fire anew, dexterously
skinned and cleaned his rabbit, then cooked it and ate half,
although he ate slowly and with intervals between each piece.
How delicious it tasted, and how his physical being longed to
leap upon it and devour it, but the power of the mind was still
supreme. He knew what was good for himself, and he did it.
Everything was done in order and with sobriety. Then he put the
rest of the rabbit carefully in his food pouch, wrapped the
blanket about his body, leaned back, and stretched his feet to
What an extraordinary change had come over the world in an hour!
He had not noticed before the great beauty of the lake, the lofty
cliffs on the farther shore, and the forest clothed in white and
hanging with icicles.
The winter sunshine was molten silver, pouring down in a flood.
It was not will now, but actuality, that made him feel the
strength returning to his frame. He knew that the blood in his
veins had begun to sparkle, and that his vitality was rising
fast. He could have gone to sleep peacefully, but instead he
went forth and hunted again. He knew that where the rabbit had
been, others were likely to be near, and before he returned he
had secured two more. Both of these he cleaned and cooked at
once. When this was done night had come, but he ate again, and
then, securing all his treasures about him, fell into the best
sleep that he had enjoyed since his flight.
He felt very strong the next morning, and he might have started
then, but he was prudent. There was still a chance of meeting
the Iroquois, and the ankle might not stand so severe a test. He
would rest in his nest for another day, and then he would be
equal to anything. Few could lie a whole day in one place with
but little to do and with nothing passing before the eyes, but it
was a part of Henry's wilderness training, and he showed all the
patience of the forester. He knew, too, as the hours went by,
that his strength was rising all the while. To-morrow almost the
last soreness would be gone from his ankle and then he could
glide swiftly over the snow, back to his comrades. He was
content. He had, in fact, a sense of great triumph because he
had overcome so much, and here was new food in this example for
future efforts of the mind, for future victories of the will over
the body. The wintry sun came to the zenith, then passed slowly
down the curve, but all the time the boy scarcely stirred. Once
there was a flight of small birds across the heavens, and he
watched them vaguely, but apparently he took no interest. Toward
night he stood up in his recess and flexed and tuned his muscles
for a long time, driving out any stiffness that might come
through long lack of motion. Then he ate and lay down, but he
did not yet sleep.
The night was clear, and he looked away toward the point where he
knew "The Alcove" lay. A good moon was now shining, and stars by
the score were springing out. Suddenly at a point on that far
shore a spark of red light appeared and twinkled. Most persons
would have taken it for some low star, but Henry knew better. It
was fire put there by human hand for a purpose, doubtless a
signal, and as he looked a second spark appeared by the first,
then a third, then a fourth. He uttered a great sigh of
pleasure. It was his four friends signaling to him somewhere in
the vast unknown that they were alive and well, and beckoning him
to come. The lights burned for fifteen or twenty minutes, and
then all went out together. Henry turned over on his side and
fell sound asleep. In the morning he put on his snowshoes and
THE SAFE RETURN
The surface of the snow had frozen again in the night, and Henry
found good footing for his shoes. For a while he leaned most on
the right ankle, but, as his left developed no signs of soreness,
he used them equally, and sped forward, his spirits rising at
every step. The air was cold, and there was but little breeze,
but his own motion made a wind that whipped his face. The
hollows were mostly gone from his cheeks, and his eyes no longer
had the fierce, questing look of the famishing wild animal in
search of prey. A fine red color was suffused through the brown
of his face. He had chosen his course with due precaution. The
broad surface, smooth, white, and glittering, tempted, but he put
the temptation away. He did not wish to run any chance whatever
of another Iroquois pursuit, and he kept in the forest that ran
down close to the water's edge. It was tougher traveling there,
but he persisted.
But all thought of weariness and trouble was lost in his glorious
freedom. With his crippled ankle he had been really like a
prisoner in his cell, with a ball and chain to his foot. Now he
flew along, while the cold wind whipped his blood, and felt what
a delight it was merely to live. He went on thus for hours,
skirting down toward the cliffs that contained "The Alcove." He
rested a while in the afternoon and ate the last of his rabbit,
but before twilight he reached the creek, and stood at the hidden
path that led up to their home.
Henry sat down behind thick bushes and took off his snowshoes.
To one who had never come before, the whole place would have
seemed absolutely desolate, and even to one not a stranger no
sign of life would have been visible had he not possessed
uncommonly keen eyes. But Henry had such eyes. He saw the
faintest wisp of smoke stealing away against the surface of the