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The Scouts of the Valley by Joseph A. Altsheler

Part 7 out of 7

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you. There, didn't I tell you!"

A bullet fired from the window passed through the top of Paul's
cap, but clipped only his hair. Before the flash from the window
passed, Long Jim fired in return, and something fell back inside.
Bullets came from other windows. Shif'less Sol fired, and a
Seneca fell forward banging half out of the window, his naked
body a glistening brown in the firelight. But he hung only a few
seconds. Then he fell to the ground and lay still. The five
crouched low again, waiting a new opportunity. Behind them, and
on either side, they heard the crash of the new battle and
challenging cries.

Braxton Wyatt, Coleman, four more Tories, and six Indians were
still alive in the strong log house. Two or three were wounded,
but they scarcely noticed it in the passion of conflict. The
house was a veritable fortress, and the renegade's hopes rose
high as he heard the rifle fire from different parts of the town.
His own band had been annihilated by the riflemen, led by Henry
Ware, but he had a sanguine hope now that his enemies had rushed
into a trap. The Iroquois would turn back and destroy them.

Wyatt and his comrades presented a repellent sight as they
crouched in the room and fired from the two little windows. His
clothes and those of the white men had been torn by bushes and
briars in their flight, and their faces had been raked, too,
until they bled, but they had paid no attention to such wounds,
and the blood was mingled with sweat and powder smoke. The
Indians, naked to the waist, daubed with vermilion, and streaked,
too, with blood, crouched upon the floor, with the muz'zles of
their rifles at the windows, seeking something human to kill.
One and all, red and white, they were now raging savages, There
was not one among them who did not have some foul murder of woman
or child to his credit.

Wyatt himself was mad for revenge. Every evil passion in him was
up and leaping. His eyes, more like those of a wild animal than
a human being, blazed out of a face, a mottled red and black. By
the side of him the dark Tory, Coleman, was driven by impulses
fully as fierce.

"To think of it!" exclaimed Wyatt. "He led us directly into a
trap, that Ware! And here our band is destroyed! All the good
men that we gathered together, except these few, are killed!"

"But we may pay them back," said Coleman. "We were in their
trap, but now they are in ours! Listen to that firing and the
war whoop! There are enough Iroquois yet in the town to kill
every one of those rebels!"

"I hope so! I believe so!" exclaimed Wyatt. "Look out, Coleman!
Ah, he's pinked you! That's the one they call Shif'less Sol, and
he's the best sharpshooter of them all except Ware!"

Coleman had leaned forward a little in his anxiety to secure a
good aim at something. He had disclosed only a little of his
face, but in an instant a bullet had seared his forehead like the
flaming stroke of a sword, passing on and burying itself in the
wall. Fresh blood dripped down over his face. He tore a strip
from the inside of his coat, bound it about his head, and went on
with the defense.

A Mohawk, frightfully painted, fired from the other window. Like
a flash came the return shot, and the Indian fell back in the
room, stone dead, with a bullet through his bead.

"That was Ware himself," said Wyatt. "I told you he was the best
shot of them all. I give him that credit. But they're all good.
Look out! There goes another of our men! It was Ross who did
that! I tell you, be careful! Be careful!"

It was an Onondaga who fell this time, and he lay with his head
on the window sill until another Indian pulled him inside. A
minute later a Tory, who peeped guardedly for a shot, received a
bullet through his head, and sank down on the floor. A sort of
terror spread among the others. What could they do in the face
of such terrible sharpshooting? It was uncanny, almost
superhuman, and they looked stupidly at one another. Smoke from
their own firing had gathered in the room, and it formed a
ghastly veil about their faces. They heard the crash of the
rifles outside from every point, but no help came to them.

"We're bound to do something!" exclaimed Wyatt. "Here you,
Jones, stick up the edge of your cap, and when they fire at it
I'll put a bullet in the man who pulls the trigger."

Jones thrust up his cap, but they knew too much out there to be
taken in by an old trick. The cap remained unhurt, but when
Jones in his eagerness thrust it higher until he exposed his arm,
his wrist was smashed in an instant by a bullet, and he fell back
with a howl of pain. Wyatt swore and bit his lips savagely. He
and all of them began to fear that they were in another and
tighter trap, one from which there was no escape unless the
Iroquois outside drove off the riflemen, and of that they could
as yet see no sign. The sharpshooters held their place behind
the embankment and the little outhouse, and so little as a
finger, even, at the windows became a sure mark for their
terrible bullets. A Seneca, seeking a new trial for a shot,
received a bullet through the shoulder, and a Tory who followed
him in the effort was slain outright.

The light hitherto had been from the fires, but now the dawn was
coming. Pale gray beams fell over the town, and then deepened
into red and yellow. The beams reached the room where the
beleaguered remains of Wyatt's band fought, but, mingling with
the smoke, they gave a new and more ghastly tint to the desperate

"We've got to fight!" exclaimed Wyatt. "We can't sit here and be
taken like beasts in a trap! Suppose we unbar the doors below
and make a rush for it?"

Coleman shook his head. "Every one of us would be killed within
twenty yards," he said.

"Then the Iroquois must come back," cried Wyatt. "Where is Joe
Brant? Where is Timmendiquas, and where is that coward, Sir John
Johnson? Will they come?"

"They won't come," said Coleman.

They lay still awhile, listening to the firing in the town, which
swayed hither and thither. The smoke in the room thinned
somewhat, and the daylight broadened and deepened. As a
desperate resort they resumed fire from the windows, but three
more of their number were slain, and, bitter with chagrin, they
crouched once more on the floor out of range. Wyatt looked at
the figures of the living and the dead. Savage despair tore at
his heart again, and his hatred of those who bad done this
increased. It was being served out to him and his band as they
had served it out to many a defenseless family in the beautiful
valleys of the border. Despite the sharpshooters, he took
another look at the window, but kept so far back that there was
no chance for a shot.

"Two of them are slipping away," he exclaimed. "They are Ross
and the one they call Long Jim! I wish I dared a shot! Now
they're gone!"

They lay again in silence for a time. There was still firing in
the town, and now and then they heard shouts. Wyatt looked at
his lieutenant, and his lieutenant looked at him.

"Yours is the ugliest face I ever saw," said Wyatt.

"I can say the same of yours-as I can't see mine," said Coleman.

The two gazed once more at the hideous, streaked, and grimed
faces of each other, and then laughed wildly. A wounded Seneca
sitting with his back against the wall began to chant a low,
wailing death song.

"Shut up! Stop that infernal noise!" exclaimed Wyatt savagely.

The Seneca stared at him with fixed, glassy eyes and continued
his chant. Wyatt turned away, but that song was upon his nerves.
He knew that everything was lost. The main force of the Iroquois
would not come back to his help, and Henry Ware would triumph.
He sat down on the floor, and muttered fierce words under his

"Hark!" suddenly exclaimed Coleman. "What is that?"

A low crackling sound came to their ears, and both recognized it
instantly. It was the sound of flames eating rapidly into wood,
and of that wood was built the house they now held. Even as they
listened they could hear the flames leap and roar into new and
larger life.

"This is, what those two, Ross and Hart, were up to!" exclaimed
Wyatt. "We're not only trapped, but we're to be burned alive in
our trap!"

"Not I," said Coleman, "I'm goin' to make a rush for it."

"It's the only thing to be done," said Wyatt. "Come, all of you
that are left!"

The scanty survivors gathered around him, all but the wounded
Seneca, who sat unmoved against the wall and continued to chant
his death chant. Wyatt glanced at him, but said nothing. Then
he and the others rushed down the stairs.

The lower room was filled with smoke, and outside the flames were
roaring. They unbarred the door and sprang into the open air. A
shower of bullets met them. The Tory, Coleman, uttered a choking
cry, threw up his arms, and fell back in the doorway. Braxton
Wyatt seized one of the smaller men, and, holding him a moment or
two before him to receive the fire of his foe, dashed for the
corner of the blazing building. The man whom he held was slain,
and his own shoulder was grazed twice, but he made the corner.
In an instant he put the burning building between him and his
pursuers, and ran as he had never run before in all his life,
deadly fear putting wings on his heels. As he ran he heard the
dull boom of a cannon, and he knew that tile American army was
entering the Seneca Castle. Ahead of him he saw the last of the
Indians fleeing for the woods, and behind him the burning house
crashed and fell in amid leaping flames and sparks in myriads.
He alone had escaped from the house.



"We didn't get Wyatt," said Henry, "but we did pretty well,

"That's so," said Shif'less Sol. "Thar's nothin' left o' his
band but hisself, an' I ain't feelin' any sorrow 'cause I helped
to do it. I guess we've saved the lives of a good many innocent
people with this morning's work."

"Never a doubt of it," said Henry, "and here's the army now
finishing up the task."

The soldiers were setting fire to the town in many places, and in
two hours the great Seneca Castle was wholly destroyed. The five
took no part in this, but rested after their battles and labors.
One or two had been grazed by bullets, but the wounds were too
trifling to be noticed. As they rested, they watched the fire,
which was an immense one, fed by so much material. The blaze
could be seen for many miles, and the ashes drifted over all the
forest beyond the fields.

All the while the Iroquois were fleeing through the wilderness to
the British posts and the country beyond the lakes, whence their
allies had already preceded them. The coals of Little Beard's
Town smoldered for two or three days, and then the army turned
back, retracing its steps down the Genesee.

Henry and his comrades felt that their work in the East was
finished. Kentucky was calling to them. They had no doubt that
Braxton Wyatt, now that his band was destroyed, would return
there, and he would surely be plotting more danger. It was their
part to meet and defeat him. They wished, too, to see again the
valley, the river, and the village in which their people had made
their home, and they ,wished yet more to look upon the faces of
these people.

They left the army, went southward with Heemskerk and some others
of the riflemen, but at the Susquehanna parted with the gallant
Dutchman and his comrades.

"It is good to me to have known you, my brave friends," said
Heemskerk, "and I say good-by with sorrow to you, Mynheer Henry;
to you, Mynheer Paul; to you, Mynheer Sol; to you, Mynheer Tom;
and to you, Mynheer Jim."

He wrung their hands one by one, and then revolved swiftly away
to hide his emotion.

The five, rifles on their shoulders, started through the forest.
When they looked back they saw Cornelius Heemskerk waving his
hand to them. They waved in return, and then disappeared in the
forest. It was a long journey to Pittsburgh, but they found it a
pleasant one. It was yet deep autumn on the Pennsylvania hills,
and the forest was glowing with scarlet and gold. The air was
the very wine of life, and when they needed game it was there to
be shot. As the cold weather hung off, they did not hurry, and
they enjoyed the peace of the forest. They realized now that
after their vast labors, hardships, and dangers, they needed a
great rest, and they took it. It was singular, and perhaps not
so singular, how their minds turned from battle, pursuit, and
escape, to gentle things. A little brook or fountain pleased
them. They admired the magnificent colors of the foliage, and
lingered over the views from the low mountains. Doe and fawn
fled from them, but without cause. At night they built splendid
fires, and sat before them, while everyone in his turn told tales
according to his nature or experience.

They bought at Pittsburgh a strong boat partly covered, and at
the point where the Allegheny and the Monongahela unite they set
sail down the Ohio. It was winter now, but in their stout
caravel they did not care. They had ample supplies of all kinds,
including ammunition, and their hearts were light when they swung
into the middle of the Ohio and moved with its current.

"Now for a great voyage," said Paul, looking at the clear stream
with sparkling eyes.

"I wonder what it will bring to us," said Shif'less Sol.

"We shall see," said Henry.

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