Etext prepared by Bill Brewer, firstname.lastname@example.org
BETTY ZANE by ZANE GREY
TO THE BETTY ZANE CHAPTER OF
THE DAUGHTERS OF THE REVOLUTION
THIS BOOK IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED BY THE AUTHOR
In a quiet corner of the stately little city of Wheeling, West Va., stands a monument on which is inscribed:
“By authority of the State of West Virginia to commemorate the siege of Fort Henry, Sept 11, 1782, the last battle of the American Revolution, this tablet is here placed.”
Had it not been for the heroism of a girl the foregoing inscription would never have been written, and the city of Wheeling would never have existed. From time to time I have read short stories and magazine articles which have been published about Elizabeth Zane and her famous exploit; but they are unreliable in some particulars, which is owing, no doubt, to the singularly meagre details available in histories of our western border.
For a hundred years the stories of Betty and Isaac Zane have been familiar, oft-repeated tales in my family–tales told with that pardonable ancestral pride which seems inherent in every one. My grandmother loved to cluster the children round her and tell them that when she was a little girl she had knelt at the feet of Betty Zane, and listened to the old lady as she told of her brother’s capture by the Indian Princess, of the burning of the Fort, and of her own race for life. I knew these stories by heart when a child.
Two years ago my mother came to me with an old note book which had been discovered in some rubbish that had been placed in the yard to burn. The book had probably been hidden in an old picture frame for many years. It belonged to my great-grandfather, Col. Ebenezer Zane. From its faded and time-worn pages I have taken the main facts of my story. My regret is that a worthier pen than mine has not had this wealth of material.
In this busy progressive age there are no heroes of the kind so dear to all lovers of chivalry and romance. There are heroes, perhaps, but they are the patient sad-faced kind, of whom few take cognizance as they hurry onward. But cannot we all remember some one who suffered greatly, who accomplished great deeds, who died on the battlefield–some one around whose name lingers a halo of glory? Few of us are so unfortunate that we cannot look backward on kith or kin and thrill with love and reverence as we dream of an act of heroism or martyrdom which rings down the annals of time like the melody of the huntsman’s horn, as it peals out on a frosty October morn purer and sweeter with each succeeding note.
If to any of those who have such remembrances, as well as those who have not, my story gives an hour of pleasure I shall be rewarded.
On June 16, 1716, Alexander Spotswood, Governor of the Colony of Virginia, and a gallant soldier who had served under Marlborough in the English wars, rode, at the head of a dauntless band of cavaliers, down the quiet street of quaint old Williamsburg.
The adventurous spirits of this party of men urged them toward the land of the setting sun, that unknown west far beyond the blue crested mountains rising so grandly before them.
Months afterward they stood on the western range of the Great North mountains towering above the picturesque Shenendoah Valley, and from the summit of one of the loftiest peaks, where, until then, the foot of a white man had never trod, they viewed the vast expanse of plain and forest with glistening eyes. Returning to Williamsburg they told of the wonderful richness of the newly discovered country and thus opened the way for the venturesome pioneer who was destined to overcome all difficulties and make a home in the western world.
But fifty years and more passed before a white man penetrated far beyond the purple spires of those majestic mountains.
One bright morning in June, 1769, the figure of a stalwart, broad shouldered man could have been seen standing on the wild and rugged promontory which rears its rocky bluff high above the Ohio river, at a point near the mouth of Wheeling Creek. He was alone save for the companionship of a deerhound that crouched at his feet. As he leaned on a long rifle, contemplating the glorious scene that stretched before km, a smile flashed across his bronzed cheek, and his heart bounded as he forecast the future of that spot. In the river below him lay an island so round and green that it resembled a huge lily pad floating placidly on the water. The fresh green foliage of the trees sparkled with glittering dewdrops. Back of him rose the high ridges, and, in front, as far as eye could reach, extended an unbroken forest.
Beneath him to the left and across a deep ravine he saw a wide level clearing. The few scattered and blackened tree stumps showed the ravages made by a forest fire in the years gone by. The field was now overgrown with hazel and laurel bushes, and intermingling with them w ere the trailing arbutus, the honeysuckle, and the wild rose. A fragrant perfume was wafted upward to him. A rushing creek bordered one edge of the clearing. After a long quiet reach of water, which could be seen winding back in the hills, the stream tumbled madly over a rocky ledge, and white with foam, it hurried onward as if impatient of long restraint, and lost its individuality in the broad Ohio.
This solitary hunter was Colonel Ebenezer Zane. He was one of those daring men, who, as the tide of emigration started westward, had left his friends and family and had struck out alone into the wilderness. Departing from his home in Eastern Virginia he had plunged into the woods, and after many days of hunting and exploring, he reached the then far Western Ohio valley.
The scene so impressed Colonel Zane that he concluded to found a settlement there. Taking “tomahawk possession” of the locality (which consisted of blazing a few trees with his tomahawk), he built himself a rude shack and remained that summer on the Ohio.
In the autumn he set out for Berkeley County, Virginia, to tell his people of the magnificent country he had discovered. The following spring he persuaded a number of settlers, of a like spirit with himself, to accompany him to the wilderness. Believing it unsafe to take their families with them at once, they left them at Red Stone on the Monongahela river, while the men, including Colonel Zane, his brothers Silas, Andrew, Jonathan and Isaac, the Wetzels, McCollochs, Bennets, Metzars and others, pushed on ahead.
The country through which they passed was one tangled, most impenetrable forest; the axe of the pioneer had never sounded in this region, where every rod of the way might harbor some unknown danger.
These reckless bordermen knew not the meaning of fear; to all, daring adventure was welcome, and the screech of a redskin and the ping of a bullet were familiar sounds; to the Wetzels, McCollochs and Jonathan Zane the hunting of Indians was the most thrilling passion of their lives; indeed, the Wetzels, particularly, knew no other occupation. They had attained a wonderful skill with the rifle; long practice had rendered their senses as acute as those of the fox. Skilled in every variety of woodcraft, with lynx eyes ever on the alert for detecting a trail, or the curling smoke of some camp fire, or the minutest sign of an enemy, these men stole onward through the forest with the cautious but dogged and persistent determination that was characteristic of the settler.
They at length climbed the commanding bluff overlooking the majestic river, and as they gazed out on the undulating and uninterrupted area of green, their hearts beat high with hope.
The keen axe, wielded by strong arms, soon opened the clearing and reared stout log cabins on the river bluff. Then Ebenezer Zane and his followers moved their families and soon the settlement began to grow and flourish. As the little village commenced to prosper the redmen became troublesome. Settlers were shot while plowing the fields or gathering the harvests. Bands of hostile Indians prowled around and made it dangerous for anyone to leave the clearing. Frequently the first person to appear in the early morning would be shot at by an Indian concealed in the woods.
General George Rodgers Clark, commandant of the Western Military Department, arrived at the village in 1774. As an attack from the savages was apprehended during the year the settlers determined to erect a fort as a defense for the infant settlement. It was planned by General Clark and built by the people themselves. At first they called it Fort Fincastle, in honor of Lord Dunmore, who, at the time of its erection, was Governor of the Colony of Virginia. In 1776 its name was changed to Fort. Henry, in honor of Patrick Henry.
For many years it remained the most famous fort on the frontier, having withstood numberless Indian attacks and two memorable sieges, one in 1777, which year is called the year of the “Bloody Sevens,” and again in 1782. In this last siege the British Rangers under Hamilton took part with the Indians, making the attack practically the last battle of the Revolution.
The Zane family was a remarkable one in early days, and most of its members are historical characters.
The first Zane of whom any trace can be found was a Dane of aristocratic lineage, who was exiled from his country and came to America with William Penn. He was prominent for several years in the new settlement founded by Penn, and Zane street, Philadelphia, bears his name. Being a proud and arrogant man, he soon became obnoxious to his Quaker brethren. He therefore cut loose from them and emigrated to Virginia, settling on the Potomac river, in what was then known as Berkeley county. There his five sons, and one daughter, the heroine of this story, were born.
Ebenezer Zane, the eldest, was born October 7, 1747, and grew to manhood in the Potomac valley. There he married Elizabeth McColloch, a sister of the famous McColloch brothers so well known in frontier history.
Ebenezer was fortunate in having such a wife and no pioneer could have been better blessed. She was not only a handsome woman, but one of remarkable force of character as well as kindness of heart. She was particularly noted for a rare skill in the treatment of illness, and her deftness in handling the surgeon’s knife and extracting a poisoned bullet or arrow from a wound had restored to health many a settler when all had despaired.
The Zane brothers were best known on the border for their athletic prowess, and for their knowledge of Indian warfare and cunning. They were all powerful men, exceedingly active and as fleet as deer. In appearance they were singularly pleasing and bore a marked resemblance to one another, all having smooth faces, clear cut, regular features, dark eyes and long black hair.
When they were as yet boys they had been captured by Indians, soon after their arrival on the Virginia border, and had been taken far into the interior, and held as captives for two years. Ebenezer, Silas, and Jonathan Zane were then taken to Detroit and ransomed. While attempting to swim the Scioto river in an effort to escape, Andrew Zane had been shot and killed by his pursuers.
But the bonds that held Isaac Zane, the remaining and youngest brother, were stronger than those of interest or revenge such as had caused the captivity of his brothers. He was loved by an Indian princess, the daughter of Tarhe, the chief of the puissant Huron race. Isaac had escaped on various occasions, but had always been retaken, and at the time of the opening of our story nothing had been heard of him for several years, and it was believed he had been killed.
At the period of the settling of the little colony in the wilderness, Elizabeth Zane, the only sister, was living with an aunt in Philadelphia, where she was being educated.
Colonel Zane’s house, a two story structure built of rough hewn logs, was the most comfortable one in the settlement, and occupied a prominent site on the hillside about one hundred yards from the fort. It was constructed of heavy timber and presented rather a forbidding appearance with its square corners, its ominous looking portholes, and strongly barred doors and windows. There were three rooms on the ground floor, a kitchen, a magazine room for military supplies, and a large room for general use. The several sleeping rooms were on the second floor, which was reached by a steep stairway.
The interior of a pioneer’s rude dwelling did not reveal, as a rule, more than bare walls, a bed or two, a table and a few chairs–in fact, no more than the necessities of life. But Colonel Zane’s house proved an exception to this. Most interesting was the large room. The chinks between the logs had been plastered up with clay and then the walls covered with white birch bark; trophies of the chase, Indian bows and arrows, pipes and tomahawks hung upon them; the wide spreading antlers of a noble buck adorned the space above the mantel piece; buffalo robes covered the couches; bearskin rugs lay scattered about on the hardwood floor. The wall on the western side had been built over a huge stone, into which had been cut an open fireplace.
This blackened recess, which had seen two houses burned over it, when full of blazing logs had cheered many noted men with its warmth. Lord Dunmore, General Clark, Simon Kenton, and Daniel Boone had sat beside that fire. There Cornplanter, the Seneca chief, had made his famous deal with Colonel Zane, trading the island in the river opposite the settlement for a barrel of whiskey. Logan, the Mingo chief and friend of the whites, had smoked many pipes of peace there with Colonel Zane. At a later period, when King Louis Phillippe, who had been exiled from France by Napoleon, had come to America, during the course of his melancholy wanderings he had stopped at Fort Henry a few days. His stay there was marked by a fierce blizzard and the royal guest passed most of his time at Colonel Zane’s fireside. Musing by those roaring logs perhaps he saw the radiant star of the Man of Destiny rise to its magnificent zenith.
One cold, raw night in early spring the Colonel had just returned from one of his hunting trips and the tramping of horses mingled with the rough voices of the negro slaves sounded without. When Colonel Zane entered the house he was greeted affectionately by his wife and sister. The latter, at the death of her aunt in Philadelphia, had come west to live with her brother, and had been there since late in the preceding autumn. It was a welcome sight for the eyes of a tired and weary hunter. The tender kiss of his comely wife, the cries of the delighted children, and the crackling of the fire warmed his heart and made him feel how good it was to be home again after a three days’ march in the woods. Placing his rifle in a corner and throwing aside his wet hunting coat, he turned and stood with his back to the bright blaze. Still young and vigorous, Colonel Zane was a handsome man. Tall, though not heavy, his frame denoted great strength and endurance. His face was smooth, his heavy eyebrows met in a straight line; his eyes were dark and now beamed with a kindly light; his jaw was square and massive; his mouth resolute; in fact, his whole face was strikingly expressive of courage and geniality. A great wolf dog had followed him in and, tired from travel, had stretched himself out before the fireplace, laying his noble head on the paws he had extended toward the warm blaze.
“Well! Well! I am nearly starved and mighty glad to get back,” said the Colonel, with a smile of satisfaction at the steaming dishes a negro servant was bringing from the kitchen.
“We are glad you have returned,” answered his wife, whose glowing face testified to the pleasure she felt. “Supper is ready–Annie, bring in some cream–yes, indeed, I am happy that you are home. I never have a moment’s peace when you are away, especially when you are accompanied by Lewis Wetzel.”
“Our hunt was a failure,” said the Colonel, after he had helped himself to a plate full of roast wild turkey. “The bears have just come out of their winter’s sleep and are unusually wary at this time. We saw many signs of their work, tearing rotten logs to pieces in search of grubs and bees’ nests. Wetzel killed a deer and we baited a likely place where we had discovered many bear tracks. We stayed up all night in a drizzling rain, hoping to get a shot. I am tired out. So is Tige. Wetzel did not mind the weather or the ill luck, and when we ran across some Indian sign he went off on one of his lonely tramps, leaving me to come home alone.”
“He is such a reckless man,” remarked Mrs. Zane.
“Wetzel is reckless, or rather, daring. His incomparable nerve carries him safely through many dangers, where an ordinary man would have no show whatever. Well, Betty, how are you?”
“Quite well,” said the slender, dark-eyed girl who had just taken the seat opposite the Colonel.
“Bessie, has my sister indulged in any shocking escapade in my absence? I think that last trick of hers, when she gave a bucket of hard cider to that poor tame bear, should last her a spell.”
“No, for a wonder Elizabeth has been very good. However, I do not attribute it to any unusual change of temperament; simply the cold, wet weather. I anticipate a catastrophe very shortly if she is kept indoors much longer.”
“I have not had much opportunity to be anything but well behaved. If it rains a few days more I shall become desperate. I want to ride my pony, roam the woods, paddle my canoe, and enjoy myself,” said Elizabeth.
“Well! Well! Betts, I knew it would be dull here for you, but you must not get discouraged. You know you got here late last fall, and have not had any pleasant weather yet. It is perfectly delightful in May and June. I can take you to fields of wild white honeysuckle and May flowers and wild roses. I know you love the woods, so be patient a little longer.”
Elizabeth had been spoiled by her brothers–what girl would not have been by five great big worshippers?–and any trivial thing gone wrong with her was a serious matter to them. They were proud of her, and of her beauty and accomplishments were never tired of talking. She had the dark hair and eyes so characteristic of the Zanes; the same oval face and fine features: and added to this was a certain softness of contour and a sweetness of expression which made her face bewitching. But, in spite of that demure and innocent face, she possessed a decided will of her own, and one very apt to be asserted; she was mischievous; inclined to coquettishness, and more terrible than all she had a fiery temper which could be aroused with the most surprising ease.
Colonel Zane was wont to say that his sister’s accomplishments were innumerable. After only a few months on the border she could prepare the flax and weave a linsey dresscloth with admirable skill. Sometimes to humor Betty the Colonel’s wife would allow her to get the dinner, and she would do it in a manner that pleased her brothers, and called forth golden praises from the cook, old Sam’s wife who had beer with the family twenty years. Betty sang in the little church on Sundays; she organized and taught a Sunday school class; she often beat Colonel Zane and Major McColloch at their favorite game of checkers, which they had played together since they were knee high; in fact, Betty did nearly everything well, from baking pies to painting the birch bark walls of her room. But these things were insignificant in Colonel Zane’s eyes. If the Colonel were ever guilty of bragging it was about his sister’s ability in those acquirements demanding a true eye, a fleet foot, a strong arm and a daring spirit. He had told all the people in the settlement, to many of whom Betty was unknown, that she could ride like an Indian and shoot with undoubted skill; that she had a generous share of the Zanes’ fleetness of foot, and that she would send a canoe over as bad a place as she could find. The boasts of the Colonel remained as yet unproven, but, be that as it may, Betty had, notwithstanding her many faults, endeared herself to all. She made sunshine and happiness everywhere; the old people loved her; the children adored her, and the broad shouldered, heavy footed young settlers were shy and silent, yet blissfully happy in her presence.
“Betty, will you fill my pipe?” asked the Colonel, when he had finished his supper and had pulled his big chair nearer the fire. His oldest child, Noah, a sturdy lad of six, climbed upon his knee and plied him with questions.
“Did you see any bars and bufflers?” he asked, his eyes large and round.
“No, my lad, not one.”
“How long will it be until I am big enough to go?”
“Not for a very long time, Noah.”
“But I am not afraid of Betty’s bar. He growls at me when I throw sticks at him, and snaps his teeth. Can I go with you next time?”
“My brother came over from Short Creek to-day. He has been to Fort Pitt,” interposed Mrs. Zane. As she was speaking a tap sounded on the door, which, being opened by Betty, disclosed Captain Boggs his daughter Lydia, and Major Samuel McColloch, the brother of Mrs. Zane.
“Ah, Colonel! I expected to find you at home to-night. The weather has been miserable for hunting and it is not getting any better. The wind is blowing from the northwest and a storm is coming,” said Captain Boggs, a fine, soldierly looking man.
“Hello, Captain! How are you? Sam, I have not had the pleasure of seeing you for a long time,” replied Colonel Zane, as he shook hands with his guests.
Major McColloch was the eldest of the brothers of that name. As an Indian killer he ranked next to the intrepid Wetzel; but while Wetzel preferred to take his chances alone and track the Indians through the untrodden wilds, McColloch was a leader of expeditions against the savages. A giant in stature, massive in build, bronzed and bearded, he looked the typical frontiersman. His blue eyes were like those of his sister and his voice had the same pleasant ring.
“Major McColloch, do you remember me?” asked Betty.
“Indeed I do,” he answered, with a smile. “You were a little girl, running wild, on the Potomac when I last saw you!”
“Do you remember when you used to lift me on your horse and give me lessons in riding?”
“I remember better than you. How you used to stick on the back of that horse was a mystery to me.”
“Well, I shall be ready soon to go on with those lessons in riding. I have heard of your wonderful leap over the hill and I should like to have you tell me all about it. Of all the stories I have heard since I arrived at Fort Henry, the one of your ride and leap for life is the most wonderful.”
“Yes, Sam, she will bother you to death about that ride, and will try to give you lessons in leaping down precipices. I should not be at all surprised to find her trying to duplicate your feat. You know the Indian pony I got from that fur trader last summer. Well, he is as wild as a deer and she has been riding him without his being broken,” said Colonel Zane.
“Some other time I shall tell you about my jump over the hill. Just now I have important matters to discuss,” answered the Major to Betty.
It was evident that something unusual had occurred, for after chatting a few moments the three men withdrew into the magazine room and conversed in low, earnest tones.
Lydia Boggs was eighteen, fair haired and blue eyed. Like Betty she had received a good education, and, in that respect, was superior to the border girls, who seldom knew more than to keep house and to make linen. At the outbreak of the Indian wars General Clark had stationed Captain Boggs at Fort Henry and Lydia had lived there with him two years. After Betty’s arrival, which she hailed with delight, the girls had become fast friends.
Lydia slipped her arm affectionately around Betty’s neck and said, “Why did you not come over to the Fort to-day?”
“It has been such an ugly day, so disagreeable altogether, that I have remained indoors.”
“You missed something,” said Lydia, knowingly.
“What do you mean? What did I miss?”
“Oh, perhaps, after all, it will not interest you.”
“How provoking! Of course it will. Anything or anybody would interest me to-night. Do tell me, please.”
“It isn’t much. Only a young soldier came over with Major McColloch.”
“A soldier? From Fort Pitt? Do I know him? I have met most of the officers.”
“No, you have never seen him. He is a stranger to all of us.”
“There does not seem to be so much in your news,” said Betty, in a disappointed tone. “To be sure, strangers are a rarity in our little village, but, judging from the strangers who have visited us in the past, I imagine this one cannot be much different.”
“Wait until you see him,” said Lydia, with a serious little nod of her head.
“Come, tell me all about him,” said Betty, now much interested.
“Major McColloch brought him in to see papa, and he was introduced to me. He is a southerner and from one of those old families. I could tell by his cool, easy, almost reckless air. He is handsome, tall and fair, and his face is frank and open. He has such beautiful manners. He bowed low to me and really I felt so embarrassed that I hardly spoke. You know I am used to these big hunters seizing your hand and giving it a squeeze which makes you want to scream. Well, this young man is different. He is a cavalier. All the girls are in love with him already. So will you be.”
“I? Indeed not. But how refreshing. You must have been strongly impressed to see and remember all you have told me.”
“Betty Zane, I remember so well because he is just the man you described one day when we were building castles and telling each other what kind of a hero we wanted.”
“Girls, do not talk such nonsense,” interrupted the Colonel’s wife who was perturbed by the colloquy in the other room. She had seen those ominous signs before. “Can you find nothing better to talk about?”
Meanwhile Colonel Zane and his companions were earnestly discussing certain information which had arrived that day. A friendly Indian runner had brought news to Short Creek, a settlement on the river between Fort Henry and Fort Pitt of an intended raid by the Indians all along the Ohio valley. Major McColloch, who had been warned by Wetzel of the fever of unrest among the Indians–a fever which broke out every spring–had gone to Fort Pitt with the hope of bringing back reinforcements, but, excepting the young soldier, who had volunteered to return with him, no help could he enlist, so he journeyed back post-haste to Fort Henry.
The information he brought disturbed Captain Boggs, who commanded the garrison, as a number of men were away on a logging expedition up the river, and were not expected to raft down to the Fort for two weeks.
Jonathan Zane, who had been sent for, joined the trio at this moment, and was acquainted with the particulars. The Zane brothers were always consulted where any question concerning Indian craft and cunning was to be decided. Colonel Zane had a strong friendly influence with certain tribes, and his advice was invaluable. Jonathan Zane hated the sight of an Indian and except for his knowledge as a scout, or Indian tracker or fighter, he was of little use in a council. Colonel Zane informed the men of the fact that Wetzel and he had discovered Indian tracks within ten miles of the Fort, and he dwelt particularly on the disappearance of Wetzel.
“Now, you can depend on what I say. There are Wyandots in force on the war path. Wetzel told me to dig for the Fort and he left me in a hurry. We were near that cranberry bog over at the foot of Bald mountain. I do not believe we shall be attacked. In my opinion the Indians would come up from the west and keep to the high ridges along Yellow creek. They always come that way. But of course, it is best to know surely, and I daresay Lew will come in to-night or to-morrow with the facts. In the meantime put out some scouts back in the woods and let Jonathan and the Major watch the river.”
“I hope Wetzel will come in,” said the Major. “We can trust him to know more about the Indians than any one. It was a week before you and he went hunting that I saw him. I went to Fort Pitt and tried to bring over some men, but the garrison is short and they need men as much as we do. A young soldier named Clarke volunteered to come and I brought him along with me. He has not seen any Indian fighting, but he is a likely looking chap, and I guess will do. Captain Boggs will give him a place in the block house if you say so.”
“By all means. We shall be glad to have him,” said Colonel Zane.
“It would not be so serious if I had not sent the men up the river,” said Captain Boggs, in anxious tones. “Do you think it possible they might have fallen in with the Indians?”
“It is possible, of course, but not probable,” answered Colonel Zane. “The Indians are all across the Ohio. Wetzel is over there and he will get here long before they do.”
“I hope it may be as you say. I have much confidence in your judgment,” returned Captain Boggs. “I shall put out scouts and take all the precaution possible. We must return now. Come, Lydia.”
“Whew! What an awful night this is going to be,” said Colonel Zane, when he had closed the door after his guests’ departure. “I should not care to sleep out to-night.”
“Eb, what will Lew Wetzel do on a night dike this?” asked Betty, curiously.
“Oh, Lew will be as snug as a rabbit in his burrow,” said Colonel Zane, laughing. “In a few moments he can build a birch bark shack, start a fire inside and go to sleep comfortably.”
“Ebenezer, what is all this confab about? What did my brother tell you?” asked Mrs. Zane, anxiously.
“We are in for more trouble from the Wyandots and Shawnees. But, Bessie, I don’t believe it will come soon. We are too well protected here for anything but a protracted siege.”
Colonel Zane’s light and rather evasive answer did not deceive his wife. She knew her brother and her husband would not wear anxious faces for nothing. Her usually bright face clouded with a look of distress. She had seen enough of Indian warfare to make her shudder with horror at the mere thought. Betty seemed unconcerned. She sat down beside the dog and patted him on the head.
“Tige, Indians! Indians!” she said.
The dog growled and showed his teeth. It was only necessary to mention Indians to arouse his ire.
“The dog has been uneasy of late,” continued Colonel Zane “He found the Indian tracks before Wetzel did. You know how Tige hates Indians. Ever since he came home with Isaac four years ago he has been of great service to the scouts, as he possesses so much intelligence and sagacity. Tige followed Isaac home the last time he escaped from the Wyansdots. When Isaac was in captivity he nursed and cared for the dog after he had been brutally beaten by the redskins. Have you ever heard that long mournful howl Tige gives out sometimes in the dead of night?”
“Yes I have, and it makes me cover up my head,” said Betty.
“Well, it is Tige mourning for Isaac,” said Colonel Zane
“Poor Isaac,” murmured Betty.
“Do you remember him? It has been nine years since you saw him,” said Mrs. Zane.
“Remember Isaac? Indeed I do. I shall never forget him. I wonder if he is still living?”
“Probably not. It is now four years since he was recaptured. I think it would have been impossible to keep him that length of time, unless, of course, he has married that Indian girl. The simplicity of the Indian nature is remarkable. He could easily have deceived them and made them believe he was content in captivity. Probably, in attempting to escape again, he has been killed as was poor Andrew.”
Brother and sister gazed with dark, sad eyes into the fire, now burned down to a glowing bed of coals. The silence remained unbroken save for the moan of the rising wind outside, the rattle of hail, and the patter of rain drops on the roof.
Fort Henry stood on a bluff overlooking the river and commanded a fine view of the surrounding country. In shape it was a parallelogram, being about three hundred and fifty-six feet in length, and one hundred and fifty in width. Surrounded by a stockade fence twelve feet high, with a yard wide walk running around the inside, and with bastions at each corner large enough to contain six defenders, the fort presented an almost impregnable defense. The blockhouse was two stories in height, the second story projecting out several feet over the first. The thick white oak walls bristled with portholes. Besides the blockhouse, there were a number of cabins located within the stockade. Wells had been sunk inside the inclosure, so that if the spring happened to go dry, an abundance of good water could be had at all times.
In all the histories of frontier life mention is made of the forts and the protection they offered in time of savage warfare. These forts were used as homes for the settlers, who often lived for weeks inside the walls.
Forts constructed entirely of wood without the aid of a nail or spike (for the good reason that these things could not be had) may seem insignificant in these days of great nasal and military garrisons. However, they answered the purpose at that time and served to protect many an infant settlement from the savage attacks of Indian tribes. During a siege of Fort Henry, which had occurred about a year previous, the settlers would have lost scarcely a man had they kept to the fort. But Captain Ogle, at that time in charge of the garrison, had led a company out in search of the Indians. Nearly all of his men were killed, several only making their way to the fort.
On the day following Major McColloch’s arrival at Fort Henry, the settlers had been called in from their spring plowing and other labors, and were now busily engaged in moving their stock and the things they wished to save from the destructive torch of the redskin. The women had their hands full with the children, the cleaning of rifles and moulding of bullets, and the thousand and one things the sterner tasks of their husbands had left them. Major McColloch, Jonathan and Silas Zane, early in the day, had taken different directions along the river to keep a sharp lookout for signs of the enemy. Colonel Zane intended to stay in his oven house and defend it, so he had not moved anything to the fort excepting his horses and cattle. Old Sam, the negro, was hauling loads of hay inside the stockade. Captain Boggs had detailed several scouts to watch the roads and one of these was the young man, Clarke, who had accompanied the Major from Fort Pitt.
The appearance of Alfred Clarke, despite the fact that he wore the regulation hunting garb, indicated a young man to whom the hard work and privation of the settler were unaccustomed things. So thought the pioneers who noticed his graceful walk, his fair skin and smooth hands. Yet those who carefully studied his clearcut features were favorably impressed; the women, by the direct, honest gaze of his blue eyes and the absence of ungentle lines in his face; the men, by the good nature, and that indefinable something by which a man marks another as true steel.
He brought nothing with him from Fort Pitt except his horse, a black-coated, fine limbed thoroughbred, which he frankly confessed was all he could call his own. When asking Colonel Zane to give him a position in the garrison he said he was a Virginian and had been educated in Philadelphia; that after his father died his mother married again, and this, together with a natural love of adventure, had induced him to run away and seek his fortune with the hardy pioneer and the cunning savage of the border. Beyond a few months’ service under General Clark he knew nothing of frontier life; but he was tired of idleness; he was strong and not afraid of work, and he could learn. Colonel Zane, who prided himself on his judgment of character, took a liking to the young man at once, and giving him a rifle and accoutrements, told him the border needed young men of pluck and fire, and that if he brought a strong hand and a willing heart he could surely find fortune. Possibly if Alfred Clarke could have been told of the fate in store for him he might have mounted his black steed and have placed miles between him and the frontier village; but, as there were none to tell, he went cheerfully out to meet that fate.
On this is bright spring morning he patrolled the road leading along the edge of the clearing, which was distant a quarter of a mile from the fort. He kept a keen eye on the opposite side of the river, as he had been directed. From the upper end of the island, almost straight across from where he stood, the river took a broad turn, which could not be observed from the fort windows. The river was high from the recent rains and brush heaps and logs and debris of all descriptions were floating down with the swift current. Rabbits and other small animals, which had probably been surrounded on some island and compelled to take to the brush or drown, crouched on floating logs and piles of driftwood. Happening to glance down the road, Clarke saw a horse galloping in his direction At first he thought it was a messenger for himself, but as it neared him he saw that the horse was an Indian pony and the rider a young girl, whose long, black hair was flying in the wind.
“Hello! I wonder what the deuce this is? Looks like an Indian girl,” said Clarke to himself. “She rides well, whoever she may be.”
He stepped behind a clump of laurel bushes near the roadside and waited. Rapidly the horse and rider approached him. When they were but a few paces distant he sprang out and, as the pony shied and reared at sight of him, he clutched the bridle and pulled the pony’s head down. Looking up he encountered the astonished and bewildered gaze from a pair of the prettiest dark eyes it had ever been his fortune, or misfortune, to look into.
Betty, for it was she, looked at the young man in amazement, while Alfred was even more surprised and disconcerted. For a moment they looked at each other in silence. But Betty, who was scarcely ever at a loss for words, presently found her voice.
“Well, sir! What does this mean?” she asked indignantly.
“It means that you must turn around and go back to the fort,” answered Alfred, also recovering himself.
Now Betty’s favorite ride happened to be along this road. It lay along the top of the bluff a mile or more and afforded a fine unobstructed view of the river. Betty had either not heard of the Captain’s order, that no one was to leave the fort, or she had disregarded it altogether; probably the latter, as she generally did what suited her fancy.
“Release my pony’s head!” she cried, her face flushing, as she gave a jerk to the reins. “How dare you? What right have you to detain me?”
The expression Betty saw on Clarke’s face was not new to her, for she remembered having seen it on the faces of young gentlemen whom she had met at her aunt’s house in Philadelphia. It was the slight, provoking smile of the man familiar with the various moods of young women, the expression of an amused contempt for their imperiousness. But it was not that which angered Betty. It was the coolness with which he still held her pony regardless of her commands.
“Pray do not get excited,” he said. “I am sorry I cannot allow such a pretty little girl to have her own way. I shall hold your pony until you say you will go back to the fort.”
“Sir!” exclaimed Betty, blushing a bright-red. “You–you are impertinent!”
“Not at all,” answered Alfred, with a pleasant laugh. “I am sure I do not intend to be. Captain Boggs did not acquaint me with full particulars or I might have declined my present occupation: not, however, that it is not agreeable just at this moment. He should have mentioned the danger of my being run down by Indian ponies and imperious young ladies.”
“Will you let go of that bridle, or shall I get off and walk back for assistance?” said Betty, getting angrier every moment.
“Go back to the fort at once,” ordered Alfred, authoritatively. “Captain Boggs’ orders are that no one shall be allowed to leave the clearing.”
“Oh! Why did you not say so? I thought you were Simon Girty, or a highwayman. Was it necessary to keep me here all this time to explain that you were on duty?”
“You know sometimes it is difficult to explain,” said Alfred, “besides, the situation had its charm. No, I am not a robber, and I don’t believe you thought so. I have only thwarted a young lady’s whim, which I am aware is a great crime. I am very sorry. Goodbye.”
Betty gave him a withering glance from her black eyes, wheeled her pony and galloped away. A mellow laugh was borne to her ears before she got out of hearing, and again the red blood mantled her cheeks.
“Heavens! What a little beauty,” said Alfred to himself, as he watched the graceful rider disappear. “What spirit! Now, I wonder who she can be. She had on moccasins and buckskin gloves and her hair tumbled like a tomboy’s, but she is no backwoods girl, I’ll bet on that. I’m afraid I was a little rude, but after taking such a stand I could not weaken, especially before such a haughty and disdainful little vixen. It was too great a temptation. What eyes she had! Contrary to what I expected, this little frontier settlement bids fair to become interesting.”
The afternoon wore slowly away, and until late in the day nothing further happened to disturb Alfred’s meditations, which consisted chiefly of different mental views and pictures of red lips and black eyes. Just as he decided to return to the fort for his supper he heard the barking of a dog that he had seen running along the road some moments before. The sound came from some distance down the river bank and nearer the fort. Walking a few paces up the bluff Alfred caught sight of a large black dog running along the edge of the water. He would run into the water a few paces and then come out and dash along the shore. He barked furiously all the while. Alfred concluded that he must have been excited by a fox or perhaps a wolf; so he climbed down the steep bank and spoke to the dog. Thereupon the dog barked louder and more fiercely than ever, ran to the water, looked out into the river and then up at the man with almost human intelligence.
Alfred understood. He glanced out over the muddy water, at first making out nothing but driftwood. Then suddenly he saw a log with an object clinging to it which he took to be a man, and an Indian at that. Alfred raised his rifle to his shoulder and was in the act of pressing the trigger when he thought he heard a faint halloo. Looking closer, he found he was not covering the smooth polished head adorned with the small tuft of hair, peculiar to a redskin on the warpath, but a head from which streamed long black hair.
Alfred lowered his rifle and studied intently the log with its human burden. Drifting with the current it gradually approached the bank, and as it came nearer he saw that it bore a white man, who was holding to the log with one hand and with the other was making feeble strokes. He concluded the man was either wounded or nearly drowned, for his movements were becoming slower and weaker every moment. His white face lay against the log and barely above water. Alfred shouted encouraging words to him.
At the bend of the river a little rocky point jutted out a few yards into the water. As the current carried the log toward this point, Alfred, after divesting himself of some of his clothing, plunged in and pulled it to the shore. The pallid face of the man clinging to the log showed that he was nearly exhausted, and that he had been rescued in the nick of time. When Alfred reached shoal water he slipped his arm around the man, who was unable to stand, and carried him ashore.
The rescued man wore a buckskin hunting shirt and leggins and moccasins of the same material, all very much the worse for wear. The leggins were torn into tatters and the moccasins worn through. His face was pinched with suffering and one arm was bleeding from a gunshot wound near the shoulder.
“Can you not speak? Who are you?” asked Clarke, supporting the limp figure.
The man made several efforts to answer, and finally said something that to Alfred sounded like “Zane,” then he fell to the ground unconscious.
All this time the dog had acted in a most peculiar manner, and if Alfred had not been so intent on the man he would have noticed the animal’s odd maneuvers. He ran to and fro on the sandy beach; he scratched up the sand and pebbles, sending them flying in the air; he made short, furious dashes; he jumped, whirled, and, at last, crawled close to the motionless figure and licked its hand.
Clarke realized that he would not be able to carry the inanimate figure, so he hurriedly put on his clothes and set out on a run for Colonel Zane’s house. The first person whom he saw was the odd negro slave, who was brushing one of the Colonel’s horses.
Sam was deliberate and took his time about everything. He slowly looked up and surveyed Clarke with his rolling eyes. He did not recognize in him any one he had ever seen before, and being of a sullen and taciturn nature, especially with strangers, he seemed in no hurry to give the desired information as to Colonel Zane’s whereabouts.
“Don’t stare at me that way, you damn nigger,” said Clarke, who was used to being obeyed by negroes. “Quick, you idiot. Where is the Colonel?”
At that moment Colonel Zane came out of the barn and started to speak, when Clarke interrupted him.
“Colonel, I have just pulled a man out of the river who says his name is Zane, or if he did not mean that, he knows you, for he surely said ‘Zane.'”
“What!” ejaculated the Colonel, letting his pipe fall from his mouth.
Clarke related the circumstances in a few hurried words. Calling Sam they ran quickly down to the river, where they found the prostrate figure as Clarke had left it, the dog still crouched close by.
“My God! It is Isaac!” exclaimed Colonel Zane, when he saw the white face. “Poor boy, he looks as if he were dead. Are you sure he spoke? Of course he must have spoken for you could not have known. Yes, his heart is still beating.”
Colonel Zane raised his head from the unconscious man’s breast, where he had laid it to listen for the beating heart.
“Clarke, God bless you for saving him,” said he fervently. “It shall never be forgotten. He is alive, and, I believe, only exhausted, for that wound amounts to little. Let us hurry.”
“I did not save him. It was the dog,” Alfred made haste to answer.
They carried the dripping form to the house, where the door was opened by Mrs. Zane.
“Oh, dear, another poor man,” she said, pityingly. Then, as she saw his face, “Great Heavens, it is Isaac! Oh! don’t say he is dead!”
“Yes, it is Isaac, and he is worth any number of dead men yet,” said Colonel Zane, as they laid the insensible man on the couch. “Bessie, there is work here for you. He has been shot.”
“Is there any other wound beside this one in his arm?” asked Mrs. Zane, examining it.
“I do not think so, and that injury is not serious. It is lose of blood, exposure and starvation. Clarke, will you please run over to Captain Boggs and tell Betty to hurry home! Sam, you get a blanket and warm it by the fire. That’s right, Bessie, bring the whiskey,” and Colonel Zane went on giving orders.
Alfred did not know in the least who Betty was, but, as he thought that unimportant, he started off on a run for the fort. He had a vague idea that Betty was the servant, possibly Sam’s wife, or some one of the Colonel’s several slaves.
Let us return to Betty. As she wheeled her pony and rode away from the scene of her adventure on the river bluff, her state of mind can be more readily imagined than described. Betty hated opposition of any kind, whether justifiable or not; she wanted her own way, and when prevented from doing as she pleased she invariably got angry. To be ordered and compelled to give up her ride, and that by a stranger, was intolerable. To make it all the worse this stranger had been decidedly flippant. He had familiarly spoken to her as “a pretty little girl.” Not only that, which was a great offense, but he had stared at her, and she had a confused recollection of a gaze in which admiration had been ill disguised. Of course, it was that soldier Lydia had been telling her about. Strangers were of so rare an occurrence in the little village that it was not probable there could be more than one.
Approaching the house she met her brother who told her she had better go indoors and let Sam put up the pony. Accordingly, Betty called the negro, and then went into the house. Bessie had gone to the fort with the children. Betty found no one to talk to, so she tried to read. Finding she could not become interested she threw the book aside and took up her embroidery. This also turned out a useless effort; she got the linen hopelessly twisted and tangled, and presently she tossed this upon the table. Throwing her shawl over her shoulders, for it was now late in the afternoon and growing chilly, she walked downstairs and out into the Yard. She strolled aimlessly to and fro awhile, and then went over to the fort and into Captain Bogg’s house, which adjoined the blockhouse. Here she found Lydia preparing flax.
“I saw you racing by on your pony. Goodness, how you can ride! I should be afraid of breaking my neck,” exclaimed Lydia, as Betty entered.
“My ride was spoiled,” said Betty, petulantly.
“Spoiled? By what–whom?”
“By a man, of course,” retorted Betty, whose temper still was high. “It is always a man that spoils everything.”
“Why, Betty, what in the world do you mean? I never heard you talk that way,” said Lydia, opening her blue eyes in astonishment.
“Well, Lyde, I’ll tell you. I was riding down the river road and just as I came to the end of the clearing a man jumped out from behind some bushes and grasped Madcap’s bridle. Imagine! For a moment I was frightened out of my wits. I instantly thought of the Girtys, who, I have heard, have evinced a fondness for kidnapping little girls. Then the fellow said he was on guard and ordered me, actually commanded me to go home.”
“Oh, is that all?” said Lydia, laughing.
“No, that is not all. He–he said I was a pretty little girl and that he was sorry I could not have my own way; that his present occupation was pleasant, and that the situation had its charm. The very idea. He was most impertinent,” and Betty’s telltale cheeks reddened again at the recollection.
“Betty, I do not think your experience was so dreadful, certainly nothing to put you out as it has,” said Lydia, laughing merrily. “Be serious. You know we are not in the backwoods now and must not expect so much of the men. These rough border men know little of refinement like that with which you have been familiar. Some of them are quiet and never speak unless addressed; their simplicity is remarkable; Lew Wetzel and your brother Jonathan, when they are not fighting Indians, are examples. On the other hand, some of them are boisterous and if they get anything to drink they will make trouble for you. Why, I went to a party one night after I had been here only a few weeks and they played a game in which every man in the place kissed me.”
“Gracious! Please tell me when any such games are likely to be proposed and I’ll stay home,” said Betty.
“I have learned to get along very well by simply making the best of it,” continued Lydia. “And to tell the truth, I have learned to respect these rugged fellows. They are uncouth; they have no manners, but their hearts are honest and true, and that is of much greater importance in frontiersmen than the little attentions and courtesies upon which women are apt to lay too much stress.”
“I think you speak sensibly and I shall try and be more reasonable hereafter. But, to return to the man who spoiled my ride. He, at least, is no frontiersman, notwithstanding his gun and his buckskin suit. He is an educated man. His manner and accent showed that. Then he looked at me so differently. I know it was that soldier from Fort Pitt.”
“Mr. Clarke? Why, of course!” exclaimed Lydia, clapping her hands in glee. “How stupid of me!”
“You seem to be amused,” said Betty, frowning.
“Oh, Betty, it is such a good joke.”
“Is it? I fail to see it.”
“But I can. I am very much amused. You see, I heard Mr. Clarke say, after papa told him there were lots of pretty girls here, that he usually succeeded in finding those things out and without any assistance. And the very first day he has met you and made you angry. It is delightful.”
“Lyde, I never knew you could be so horrid.”
“It is evident that Mr. Clarke is not only discerning, but not backward in expressing his thoughts. Betty, I see a romance.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” retorted Betty, with an angry blush. “Of course, he had a right to stop me, and perhaps he did me a good turn by keeping me inside the clearing, though I cannot imagine why he hid behind the bushes. But he might have been polite. He made me angry. He was so cool and–and–“
“I see,” interrupted Lydia, teasingly. “He failed to recognize your importance.”
“Nonsense, Lydia. I hope you do not think I am a silly little fool. It is only that I have not been accustomed to that kind of treatment, and I will not have it.”
Lydia was rather pleased that some one had appeared on the scene who did not at once bow down before Betty, and therefore she took the young man’s side of the argument.
“Do not be hard on poor Mr. Clarke. Maybe he mistook you for an Indian girl. He is handsome. I am sure you saw that.”
“Oh, I don’t remember how he looked,” said Betty. She did remember, but would not admit it.
The conversation drifted into other channels after this, and soon twilight came stealing down on them. As Betty rose to go there came a hurried tap on the door.
“I wonder who would knock like that,” said Lydia, rising “Betty, wait a moment while I open the door.”
On doing this she discovered Clarke standing on the step with his cap in his hand.
“Why, Mr. Clarke! Will you come in?” exclaimed Lydia. “Thank you, only for a moment,” said Alfred. “I cannot stay. I came to find Betty. Is she here?”
He had not observed Betty, who had stepped back into the shadow of the darkening room. At his question Lydia became so embarrassed she did not know what to say or do, and stood looking helplessly at him.
But Betty was equal to the occasion. At the mention of her first name in such a familiar manner by this stranger, who had already grievously offended her once before that day, Betty stood perfectly still a moment, speechless with surprise, then she stepped quickly out of the shadow.
Clarke turned as he heard her step and looked straight into a pair of dark, scornful eyes and a face pale with anger.
“If it be necessary that you use my name, and I do not see how that can be possible, will you please have courtesy enough to say Miss Zane?” she cried haughtily.
Lydia recovered her composure sufficiently to falter out:
“Betty, allow me to introduce–“
“Do not trouble yourself, Lydia. I have met this person once before to-day, and I do not care for an introduction.”
When Alfred found himself gazing into the face that had haunted him all the afternoon, he forgot for the moment all about his errand. He was finally brought to a realization of the true state of affairs by Lydia’s words.
“Mr. Clarke, you are all wet. What has happened?” she exclaimed, noticing the water dripping from his garments.
Suddenly a light broke in on Alfred. So the girl he had accosted on the road and “Betty” were one and the same person. His face flushed. He felt that his rudeness on that occasion may have merited censure, but that it had not justified the humiliation she had put upon him.
These two persons, so strangely brought together, and on whom Fate had made her inscrutable designs, looked steadily into each other’s eyes. What mysterious force thrilled through Alfred Clarke and made Betty Zane tremble?
“Miss Boggs, I am twice unfortunate,” said Alfred, tuning to Lydia, and there was an earnest ring in his deep voice “This time I am indeed blameless. I have just left Colonel Zane’s house, where there has been an accident, and I was dispatched to find ‘Betty,’ being entirely ignorant as to who she might be. Colonel Zane did not stop to explain. Miss Zane is needed at the house, that is all.”
And without so much as a glance at Betty he bowed low to Lydia and then strode out of the open door.
“What did he say?” asked Betty, in a small trembling voice, all her anger and resentment vanished.
“There has been an accident. He did not say what or to whom. You must hurry home. Oh, Betty, I hope no one hat been hurt! And you were very unkind to Mr. Clarke. I am sure he is a gentleman, and you might have waited a moment to learn what he meant.”
Betty did not answer, but flew out of the door and down the path to the gate of the fort. She was almost breathless when she reached Colonel Zane’s house, and hesitated on the step before entering. Summoning her courage she pushed open the door. The first thing that struck her after the bright light was the pungent odor of strong liniment. She saw several women neighbors whispering together. Major McColloch and Jonathan Zane were standing by a couch over which Mrs. Zane was bending. Colonel Zane sat at the foot of the couch. Betty saw this in the first rapid glance, and then, as the Colonel’s wife moved aside, she saw a prostrate figure, a white face and dark eyes that smiled at her.
“Betty,” came in a low voice from those pale lips.
Her heart leaped and then seemed to cease beating. Many long years had passed since she had heard that voice, but it had never been forgotten. It was the best beloved voice of her childhood, and with it came the sweet memories of her brother and playmate. With a cry of joy she fell on her knees beside him and threw her arms around his neck.
“Oh, Isaac, brother, brother!” she cried, as she kissed him again and again. “Can it really be you? Oh, it is too good to be true! Thank God! I have prayed and prayed that you would be restored to us.”
Then she began to cry and laugh at the same time in that strange way in which a woman relieves a heart too full of joy. “Yes, Betty. It is all that is left of me,” he said, running his hand caressingly over the dark head that lay on his breast.
“Betty, you must not excite him,” said Colonel Zane.
“So you have not forgotten me?” whispered Isaac.
“No, indeed, Isaac. I have never forgotten,” answered Betty, softly. “Only last night I spoke of you and wondered if you were living. And now you are here. Oh, I am so happy!” The quivering lips and the dark eyes bright with tears spoke eloquently of her joy.
“Major will you tell Captain Boggs to come over after supper? Isaac will be able to talk a little by then, and he has some news of the Indians,” said Colonel Zane.
“And ask the young man who saved my life to come that I may thank him,” said Isaac.
“Saved your life?” exclaimed Betty, turning to her brother, in surprise, while a dark red flush spread over her face. A humiliating thought had flashed into her mind.
“Saved his life, of course,” said Colonel Zane, answering for Isaac. “Young Clarke pulled him out of the river. Didn’t he tell you?”
“No,” said Betty, rather faintly.
“Well, he is a modest young fellow. He saved Isaac’s life, there is no doubt of that. You will hear all about it after supper. Don’t make Isaac talk any more at present.”
Betty hid her face on Isaac’s shoulder and remained quiet a few moments; then, rising, she kissed his cheek and went quietly to her room. Once there she threw herself on the bed and tried to think. The events of the day, coming after a long string of monotonous, wearying days, had been confusing; they had succeeded one another in such rapid order as to leave no time for reflection. The meeting by the river with the rude but interesting stranger; the shock to her dignity; Lydia’s kindly advice; the stranger again, this time emerging from the dark depths of disgrace into the luminous light as the hero of her brother’s rescue–all these thoughts jumbled in her mind making it difficult for her to think clearly. But after a time one thing forced itself upon her. She could not help being conscious that she had wronged some one to whom she would be forever indebted. Nothing could alter that. She was under an eternal obligation to the man who had saved the life she loved best on earth. She had unjustly scorned and insulted the man to whom she owed the life of her brother.
Betty was passionate and quick-tempered, but she was generous and tender-hearted as well, and when she realized how unkind and cruel she kind been she felt very miserable. Her position admitted of no retreat. No matter how much pride rebelled; no matter how much she disliked to retract anything she had said, she knew no other course lay open to her. She would have to apologize to Mr. Clarke. How could she? What would she say? She remembered how cold and stern his face had been as he turned from her to Lydia. Perplexed and unhappy, Betty did what any girl in her position would have done: she resorted to the consoling and unfailing privilege of her sex–a good cry.
When she became composed again she got up and bathed her hot cheeks, brushed her hair, and changed her gown for a becoming one of white. She tied a red ribbon about her throat and put a rosette in her hair. She had forgotten all about the Indians. By the time Mrs. Zane called her for supper she had her mind made up to ask Mr. Clarke’s pardon, tell him she was sorry, and that she hoped they might be friends.
Isaac Zane’s fame had spread from the Potomac to Detroit and Louisville. Many an anxious mother on the border used the story of his captivity as a means to frighten truant youngsters who had evinced a love for running wild in the woods. The evening of Isaac’s return every one in the settlement called to welcome home the wanderer. In spite of the troubled times and the dark cloud hanging over them they made the occasion one of rejoicing.
Old John Bennet, the biggest and merriest man in the colony, came in and roared his appreciation of Isaac’s return. He was a huge man, and when he stalked into the room he made the floor shake with his heavy tread. His honest face expressed his pleasure as he stood over Isaac and nearly crushed his hand.
“Glad to see you, Isaac. Always knew you would come back. Always said so. There are not enough damn redskins on the river to keep you prisoner.”
“I think they managed to keep him long enough,” remarked Silas Zane.
“Well, here comes the hero,” said Colonel Zane, as Clarke entered, accompanied by Captain Boggs, Major McColloch and Jonathan. “Any sign of Wetzel or the Indians?”
Jonathan had not yet seen his brother, and he went over and seized Isaac’s hand and wrung it without speaking.
“There are no Indians on this side of the river,” said Major McColloch, in answer to the Colonel’s question.
“Mr. Clarke, you do not seem impressed with your importance,” said Colonel Zane. “My sister said you did not tell her what part you took in Isaac’s rescue.”
“I hardly deserve all the credit,” answered Alfred. “Your big black dog merits a great deal of it.”
“Well, I consider your first day at the fort a very satisfactory one, and an augury of that fortune you came west to find.
“How are you?” said Alfred, going up to the couch where Isaac lay.
“I am doing well, thanks to you,” said Isaac, warmly shaking Alfred’s hand.
“It is good to see you pulling out all right,” answered Alfred. “I tell you, I feared you were in a bad way when I got you out of the water.”
Isaac reclined on the couch with his head and shoulder propped up by pillows. He was the handsomest of the brothers. His face would have been but for the marks of privation, singularly like Betty’s; the same low, level brows and dark eyes; the same mouth, though the lips were stronger and without the soft curves which made his sister’s mouth so sweet.
Betty appeared at the door, and seeing the room filled with men she hesitated a moment before coming forward. In her white dress she made such a dainty picture that she seemed out of place among those surroundings. Alfred Clarke, for one, thought such a charming vision was wasted on the rough settlers, every one of whom wore a faded and dirty buckskin suit and a belt containing a knife and a tomahawk. Colonel Zane stepped up to Betty and placing his arm around her turned toward Clarke with pride in his eyes.
“Betty, I want to make you acquainted with the hero of the hour, Mr. Alfred Clarke. This is my sister.”
Betty bowed to Alfred, but lowered her eyes instantly on encountering the young man’s gaze.
“I have had the pleasure of meeting Miss Zane twice today,” said Alfred.
“Twice?” asked Colonel Zane, turning to Betty. She did not answer, but disengaged herself from his arm and sat down by Isaac.
“It was on the river road that I first met Miss Zane, although I did not know her then,” answered Alfred. “I had some difficulty in stopping her pony from going to Fort Pitt, or some other place down the river.”
“Ha! Ha! Well, I know she rides that pony pretty hard,” said Colonel Zane, with his hearty laugh. “I’ll tell you, Clarke, we have some riders here in the settlement. Have you heard of Major McColloch’s leap over the hill?”
“I have heard it mentioned, and I would like to hear the story,” responded Alfred. “I am fond of horses, and think I can ride a little myself. I am afraid I shall be compelled to change my mind.”
“That is a fine animal you rode from Fort Pitt,” remarked the Major. “I would like to own him.”
“Come, draw your chairs up and he’ll listen to Isaac’s story,” said Colonel Zane.
“I have not much of a story to tell,” said Isaac, in a voice still weak and low. “I have some bad news, I am sorry to say, but I shall leave that for the last. This year, if it had been completed, would have made my tenth year as a captive of the Wyandots. This last period of captivity, which has been nearly four years, I have not been ill-treated and have enjoyed more comfort than any of you can imagine. Probably you are all familiar with the reason for my long captivity. Because of the interest of Myeerah, the Indian Princess, they have importuned me for years to be adopted into the tribe, marry the White Crane, as they call Myeerah, and become a Wyandot chief. To this I would never consent, though I have been careful not to provoke the Indians. I was allowed the freedom of the camp, but have always been closely watched. I should still be with the Indians had I not suspected that Hamilton, the British Governor, had formed a plan with the Hurons, Shawnees, Delawares, and other tribes, to strike a terrible blow at the whites along, the river. For months I have watched the Indians preparing for an expedition, the extent of which they had never before undertaken. I finally learned from Myeerah that my suspicions were well founded. A favorable chance to escape presented and I took it and got away. I outran all the braves, even Arrowswift, the Wyandot runner, who shot me through the arm. I have had a hard time of it these last three or four days, living on herbs and roots, and when I reached the river I was ready to drop. I pushed a log into the water and started to drift over. When the old dog saw me I knew I was safe if I could hold on. Once, when the young man pointed his gun at me, I thought it was all over. I could not shout very loud.”
“Were you going to shoot?” asked Colonel Zane of Clarke.
“I took him for an Indian, but fortunately I discovered my mistake in time,” answered Alfred.
“Are the Indians on the way here?” asked Jonathan.
“That I cannot say. At present the Wyandots are at home. But I know that the British and the Indians will make a combined attack on the settlements. It may be a month, or a year, but it is coming.”
“And Hamilton, the hair buyer, the scalp buyer, is behind the plan,” said Colonel Zane, in disgust.
“The Indians have their wrongs. I sympathize with them in many ways. We have robbed them, broken faith with them, and have not lived up to the treaties. Pipe and Wingenund are particularly bitter toward the whites. I understand Cornplanter is also. He would give anything for Jonathan’s scalp, and I believe any of the tribes would give a hundred of their best warriors for ‘Black Wind,’ as they call Lew Wetzel.”
“Have you ever seen Red Fox?” asked Jonathan, who was sitting near the fire and as usual saying but little. He was the wildest and most untamable of all the Zanes. Most of the time he spent in the woods, not so much to fight Indians, as Wetzel did, but for pure love of outdoor life. At home he was thoughtful and silent.
“Yes, I have seen him,” answered Isaac. “He is a Shawnee chief and one of the fiercest warriors in that tribe of fighters. He was at Indian-head, which is the name of one of the Wyandot villages, when I visited there last, and he had two hundred of his best braves with him.”
“He is a bad Indian. Wetzel and I know him. He swore he would hang our scalps up in his wigwam,” said Jonathan.
“What has he in particular against you?” asked Colonel Zane. “Of course, Wetzel is the enemy of all Indians.”
“Several years ago Wetzel and I were on a hunt down the river at the place called Girty’s Point, where we fell in with the tracks of five Shawnees. I was for coming home, but Wetzel would not hear of it. We trailed the Indians and, coming up on them after dark, we tomahawked them. One of them got away crippled, but we could not follow him because we discovered that they had a white girl as captive, and one of the red devils, thinking we were a rescuing party, had tomahawked her. She was not quite dead. We did all we could to save her life. She died and we buried her on the spot. They were Red Fox’s braves and were on their way to his camp with the prisoner. A year or so afterwards I learned from a friendly Indian that the Shawnee chief had sworn to kill us. No doubt he will be a leader in the coming attack.”
“We are living in the midst of terrible times,” remarked Colonel Zane. “Indeed, these are the times that try men’s souls, but I firmly believe the day is not far distant when the redmen will be driven far over the border.”
“Is the Indian Princess pretty?” asked Betty of Isaac.
“Indeed she is, Betty, almost as beautiful as you are,” said Isaac. “She is tall and very fair for an Indian. But I have something to tell about her more interesting than that. Since I have been with the Wyandots this last time I have discovered a little of the jealously guarded secret of Myeerah’s mother. When Tarhe and his band of Hurons lived in Canada their home was in the Muskoka Lakes region on the Moon river. The old warriors tell wonderful stories of the beauty of that country. Tarhe took captive some French travellers, among them a woman named La Durante. She had a beautiful little girl. The prisoners, except this little girl, were released. When she grew up Tarhe married her. Myeerah is her child. Once Tarhe took his wife to Detroit and she was seen there by an old Frenchman who went crazy over her and said she was his child. Tarhe never went to the white settlements again. So you see, Myeerah is from a great French family on her mother’s side, as this is old Frenchman was probably Chevalier La Durante, and Myeerah’s grandfather.”
“I would love to see her, and yet I hate her. What an odd name she has,” said Betty.
“It is the Indian name for the white crane, a rare and beautiful bird. I never saw one. The name has been celebrated among the Hurons as long as any one of them can remember. The Indians call her the White Crane, or Walk-in-the-Water, because of her love for wading in the stream.”
“I think we have made Isaac talk enough for one night,” said Colonel Zane. “He is tired out. Major, tell Isaac and Betty, and Mr. Clarke, too, of your jump over the cliff.”
“I have heard of that leap from the Indians,” said Isaac.
“Major, from what hill did you jump your horse?” asked Alfred.
“You know the bare rocky bluff that stands out prominently on the hill across the creek. From that spot Colonel Zane first saw the valley, and from there I leaped my horse. I can never convince myself that it really happened. Often I look up at that cliff in doubt. But the Indians and Colonel Zane, Jonathan, Wetzel and others say they actually saw the deed done, so I must accept it,” said Major McColloch.
“It seems incredible!” said Alfred. “I cannot understand how a man or horse could go over that precipice and live.”
“That is what we all say,” responded the Colonel. “I suppose I shall have to tell the story. We have fighters and makers of history here, but few talkers.”
“I am anxious to hear it,” answered Clarke, “and I am curious to see this man Wetzel, whose fame has reached as far as my home, way down in Virginia.”
“You will have your wish gratified soon, I have no doubt,” resumed the Colonel. “Well, now for the story of McColloch’s mad ride for life and his wonderful leap down Wheeling hill. A year ago, when the fort was besieged by the Indians, the Major got through the lines and made off for Short Creek. He returned next morning with forty mounted men. They marched boldly up to the gate, and all succeeded in getting inside save the gallant Major, who had waited to be the last man to go in. Finding it impossible to make the short distance without going under the fire of the Indians, who had rushed up to prevent the relief party from entering the fort, he wheeled his big stallion, and, followed by the yelling band of savages, he took the road leading around back of the fort to the top of the bluff. The road lay along the edge of the cliff and I saw the Major turn and wave his rifle at us, evidently with the desire of assuring us that he was safe. Suddenly, on the very summit of the hill, he reined in his horse as if undecided. I knew in an instant what had happened. The Major had run right into the returning party of Indians, which had been sent out to intercept our reinforcements. In a moment more we heard the exultant yells of the savages, and saw them gliding from tree to tree, slowly lengthening out their line and surrounding the unfortunate Major. They did not fire a shot. We in the fort were stupefied with horror, and stood helplessly with our useless guns, watching and waiting for the seemingly inevitable doom of our comrade. Not so with the Major! Knowing that he was a marked man by the Indians and feeling that any death was preferable to the gauntlet, the knife, the stake and torch of the merciless savage, he had grasped at a desperate chance. He saw his enemies stealthily darting from rock to tree, and tree to bush, creeping through the brush, and slipping closer and closer every moment. On three sides were his hated foes and on the remaining side–the abyss. Without a moment’s hesitation the intrepid Major spurred his horse at the precipice. Never shall I forget that thrilling moment. The three hundred savages were silent as they realized the Major’s intention. Those in the fort watched with staring eyes. A few bounds and the noble steed reared high on his hind legs. Outlined by the clear blue sky the magnificent animal stood for one brief instant, his black mane flying in the wind, his head thrown up and his front hoofs pawing the air like Marcus Curtius’ mailed steed of old, and then down with a crash, a cloud of dust, and the crackling of pine limbs. A long yell went up from the Indians below, while those above ran to the edge of the cliff. With cries of wonder and baffled vengeance they gesticulated toward the dark ravine into which horse and rider had plunged rather than wait to meet a more cruel death. The precipice at this point is over three hundred feet in height, and in places is almost perpendicular. We believed the Major to be lying crushed and mangled on the rocks. Imagine our frenzy of Joy when we saw the daring soldier and his horse dash out of the bushes that skirt the base of the cliff, cross the creek, and come galloping to the fort in safety.”
“It was wonderful! Wonderful!” exclaimed Isaac, his eyes glistening. “No wonder the Indians call you the ‘Flying Chief.'”
“Had the Major not jumped into the clump of pine trees which grow thickly some thirty feet below the summit he would not now be alive,” said Colonel Zane. “I am certain of that. Nevertheless that does not detract from the courage of his deed. He had no time to pick out the best place to jump. He simply took his one chance, and came out all right. That leap will live in the minds of men as long as yonder bluff stands a monument to McColloch’s ride for life.”
Alfred had listened with intense interest to the Colonel’s recital. When it ended, although his pulses quickened and his soul expanded with awe and reverence for the hero of that ride, he sat silent. Alfred honored courage in a man more than any other quality. He marvelled at the simplicity of these bordermen who, he thought, took the most wonderful adventures and daring escapes as a matter of course, a compulsory part of their daily lives. He had already, in one day, had more excitement than had ever befallen him, an. was beginning to believe his thirst for a free life of stirring action would be quenched long before he had learned to become useful in his new sphere. During the remaining half hour of his call on his lately acquired friends, he took little part in the conversation, but sat quietly watching the changeful expressions on Betty’s face, and listening to Colonel Zane’s jokes. When he rose to go he bade his host good-night, and expressed a wish that Isaac, who had fallen asleep, might have a speedy recovery. He turned toward the door to find that Betty had intercepted him.
“Mr. Clarke,” she said, extending a little hand that trembled slightly. “I wish to say–that–I want to say that my feelings have changed. I am sorry for what I said over at Lydia’s. I spoke hastily and rudely. You have saved my brother’s life. I will be forever grateful to you. It is useless to try to thank you. I–I hope we may be friends.”
Alfred found it desperately hard to resist that low voice, and those dark eyes which were raised shyly, yet bravely, to his. But he had been deeply hurt. He pretended not to see the friendly hand held out to him, and his voice was cold when he answered her.
“I am glad to have been of some service,” he said, “but I think you overrate my action. Your brother would not have drowned, I am sure. You owe me nothing. Good-night.”
Betty stood still one moment staring at the door through which he had gone before she realized that her overtures of friendship had been politely, but coldly, ignored. She had actually been snubbed. The impossible had happened to Elizabeth Zane. Her first sensation after she recovered from her momentary bewilderment was one of amusement, and she laughed in a constrained manner; but, presently, two bright red spots appeared in her cheeks, and she looked quickly around to see if any of the others had noticed the incident. None of them had been paying any attention to her and she breathed a sigh of relief. It was bad enough to be snubbed without having others see it. That would have been too humiliating. Her eyes flashed fire as she remembered the disdain in Clarke’s face, and that she had not been clever enough to see it in time.
“Tige, come here!” called Colonel Zane. “What ails the dog?”
The dog had jumped to his feet and ran to the door, where he sniffed at the crack over the threshold. His aspect was fierce and threatening. He uttered low growls and then two short barks. Those in the room heard a soft moccasined footfall outside. The next instant the door opened wide and a tall figure stood disclosed.
“Wetzel!” exclaimed Colonel Zane. A hush fell on the little company after that exclamation, and all eyes were fastened on the new comer.
Well did the stranger merit close attention. He stalked into the room, leaned his long rifle against the mantelpiece and spread out his hands to the fire. He was clad from head to foot in fringed and beaded buckskin, which showed evidence of a long and arduous tramp. It was torn and wet and covered with mud. He was a magnificently made man, six feet in height, and stood straight as an arrow. His wide shoulders, and his muscular, though not heavy, limbs denoted wonderful strength and activity. His long hair, black as a raven’s wing, hung far down his shoulders. Presently he turned and the light shone on a remarkable face. So calm and cold and stern it was that it seemed chiselled out of marble. The most striking features were its unusual pallor, and the eyes, which were coal black, and piercing as the dagger’s point.
“If you have any bad news out with it,” cried Colonel Zane, impatiently.
“No need fer alarm,” said Wetzel. He smiled slightly as he saw Betty’s apprehensive face. “Don’t look scared, Betty. The redskins are miles away and goin’ fer the Kanawha settlement.”
Any weeks of quiet followed the events of the last chapter. The settlers planted their corn, harvested their wheat and labored in the fields during the whole of one spring and summer without hearing the dreaded war cry of the Indians. Colonel Zane, who had been a disbursing officer in the army of Lord Dunmore, where he had attained the rank of Colonel, visited Fort Pitt during the summer in the hope of increasing the number of soldiers in his garrison. His efforts proved fruitless. He returned to Fort Henry by way of the river with several pioneers, who with their families were bound for Fort Henry. One of these pioneers was a minister who worked in the fields every week day and on Sundays preached the Gospel to those who gathered in the meeting house.
Alfred Clarke had taken up his permanent abode at the fort, where he had been installed as one of the regular garrison. His duties, as well as those of the nine other members of the garrison, were light. For two hours out of the twenty-four he was on guard. Thus he had ample time to acquaint himself with the settlers and their families.
Alfred and Isaac had now become firm friends. They spent many hours fishing in the river, and roaming the woods in the vicinity, as Colonel Zane would not allow Isaac to stray far from the fort. Alfred became a regular visitor at Colonel Zane’s house. He saw Betty every day, but as yet, nothing had mended the breach between them. They were civil to each other when chance threw them together, but Betty usually left the room on some pretext soon after he entered. Alfred regretted his hasty exhibition of resentment and would have been glad to establish friendly relations with her. But she would not give him an opportunity. She avoided him on all possible occasions. Though Alfred was fast succumbing to the charm of Betty’s beautiful face, though his desire to be near her had grown well nigh resistless, his pride had not yet broken down. Many of the summer evenings found him on the Colonel’s doorstep, smoking a pipe, or playing with the children. He was that rare and best company–a good listener. Although he laughed at Colonel Zane’s stories, and never tired of hearing of Isaac’s experiences among the Indians, it is probable he would not have partaken of the Colonel’s hospitality nearly so often had it not been that he usually saw Betty, and if he got only a glimpse of her he went away satisfied. On Sundays he attended the services at the little church and listened to Betty’s sweet voice as she led the singing.
There were a number of girls at the fort near Betty’s age. With all of these Alfred was popular. He appeared so entirely different from the usual young man on the frontier that he was more than welcome everywhere. Girls in the backwoods are much the same as girls in thickly populated and civilized districts. They liked his manly ways; his frank and pleasant manners; and when to these virtues he added a certain deferential regard, a courtliness to which they were unaccustomed, they were all the better pleased. He paid the young women little attentions, such as calling on them, taking them to parties and out driving, but there was not one of them who could think that she, in particular, interested him.
The girls noticed, however, that he never approached Betty after service, or on any occasion, and while it caused some wonder and gossip among them, for Betty enjoyed the distinction of being the belle of the border, they were secretly pleased. Little hints and knowing smiles, with which girls are so skillful, made known to Betty all of this, and, although she was apparently indifferent, it hurt her sensitive feelings. It had the effect of making her believe she hated the cause of it more than ever.
What would have happened had things gone on in this way, I am not prepared to say; probably had not a meddling Fate decided to take a hand in the game, Betty would have continued to think she hated Alfred, and I would never have had occasion to write his story; but Fate did interfere, and, one day in the early fall, brought about an incident which changed the whole world for the two young people.
It was the afternoon of an Indian summer day–in that most beautiful time of all the year–and Betty, accompanied by her dog, had wandered up the hillside into the woods. From the hilltop the broad river could be seen winding away n the distance, and a soft, bluish, smoky haze hung over the water. The forest seemed to be on fire. The yellow leaves of the poplars, the brown of the white and black oaks, the red and purple of the maples, and the green of the pines and hemlocks flamed in a glorious blaze of color. A stillness, which was only broken now and then by the twittering of birds uttering the plaintive notes peculiar to them in the autumn as they band together before their pilgrimage to the far south, pervaded the forest.
Betty loved the woods, and she knew all the trees. She could tell their names by the bark or the shape of the leaves. The giant black oak, with its smooth shiny bark and sturdy limbs, the chestnut with its rugged, seamed sides and bristling burrs, the hickory with its lofty height and curled shelling bark, were all well known and well loved by Betty. Many times had she wondered at the trembling, quivering leaves of the aspen, and the foliage of the silver-leaf as it glinted in the sun. To-day, especially, as she walked through the woods, did their beauty appeal to her. In the little sunny patches of clearing which were scattered here and there in the grove, great clusters of goldenrod grew profusely. The golden heads swayed gracefully on the long stems Betty gathered a few sprigs and added to them a bunch of warmly tinted maple leaves.
The chestnuts burrs were opening. As Betty mounted a little rocky eminence and reached out for a limb of a chestnut tree, she lost her footing and fell. Her right foot had twisted under her as she went down, and when a sharp pain shot through it she was unable to repress a cry. She got up, tenderly placed the foot on the ground and tried her weight on it, which caused acute pain. She unlaced and removed her moccasin to find that her ankle had commenced to swell. Assured that she had sprained it, and aware of the serious consequences of an injury of that nature, she felt greatly distressed. Another effort to place her foot on the ground and bear her weight on it caused such severe pain that she was compelled to give up the attempt. Sinking down by the trunk of the tree and leaning her head against it she tried to think of a way out of her difficulty.
The fort, which she could plainly see, seemed a long distance off, although it was only a little way down the grassy slope. She looked and looked, but not a person was to be seen. She called to Tige. She remembered that he had been chasing a squirrel a short while ago, but now there was no sign of him. He did not come at her call. How annoying! If Tige were only there she could have sent him for help. She shouted several times, but the distance was too great for her voice to carry to the fort. The mocking echo of her call came back from the bluff that rose to her left. Betty now began to be alarmed in earnest, and the tears started to roll down her cheeks. The throbbing pain in her ankle, the dread of having to remain out in that lonesome forest after dark, and the fear that she might not be found for hours, caused Betty’s usually brave spirit to falter; she was weeping unreservedly.
In reality she had been there only a few minutes–although they seemed hours to her–when she heard the light tread of moccasined feet on the moss behind her. Starting up with a cry of joy she turned and looked up into the astonished face of Alfred Clarke.
Returning from a hunt back in the woods he had walked up to her before being aware of her presence. In a single glance he saw the wildflowers scattered beside her, the little moccasin turned inside out, the woebegone, tearstained face, and he knew Betty had come to grief.
Confused and vexed, Betty sank back at the foot of the tree. It is probable she would have encountered Girty or a member of his band of redmen, rather than have this young man find her in this predicament. It provoked her to think that of all the people at the fort it should be the only one she could not welcome who should find her in such a sad plight.
“Why, Miss Zane!” he exclaimed, after a moment of hesitation. “What in the world has happened? Have you been hurt? May I help you?”
“It is nothing,” said Betty, bravely, as she gathered up her flowers and the moccasin and rose slowly to her feet. “Thank you, but you need not wait.”
The cold words nettled Alfred and he was in the act of turning away from her when he caught, for the fleetest part of a second, the full gaze of her eyes. He stopped short. A closer scrutiny of her face convinced him that she was suffering and endeavoring with all her strength to conceal it.
“But I will wait. I think you have hurt yourself. Lean upon my arm,” he said, quietly.
“Please let me help you,” he continued, going nearer to her.
But Betty refused his assistance. She would not even allow him to take the goldenrod from her arms. After a few hesitating steps she paused and lifted her foot from the ground.
“Here, you must not try to walk a step farther,” he said, resolutely, noting how white she had suddenly become. “You have sprained your ankle and are needlessly torturing yourself. Please let me carry you?”
“Oh, no, no, no!” cried Betty, in evident distress. “I will manage. It is not so–very–far.”
She resumed the slow and painful walking, but she had taken only a few steps when she stopped again and this time a low moan issued from her lips. She swayed slightly backward and if Alfred had not dropped his rifle and caught her she would have fallen.
“Will you–please–for some one?” she whispered faintly, at the same time pushing him away.
“How absurd!” burst out Alfred, indignantly. “Am I then, so distasteful to you that you would rather wait here and suffer a half hour longer while I go for assistance? It is only common courtesy on my part. I do not want to carry you. I think you would be quite heavy.”
He said this in a hard, bitter tone, deeply hurt that she would not accept even a little kindness from him. He looked away from her and waited. Presently a soft, half-smothered sob came from Betty and it expressed such utter wretchedness that his heart melted. After all she was only a child. He turned to see the tears running down her cheeks, and with a suppressed imprecation upon the wilfulness of young women in general, and this one in particular, he stepped forward and before she could offer any resistance, he had taken her up in his arms, goldenrod and all, and had started off at a rapid walk toward the fort.
Betty cried out in angry surprise, struggled violently for a moment, and then, as suddenly, lay quietly in his arms. His anger changed to self-reproach as he realized what a light burden she made. He looked down at the dark head lying on his shoulder. Her face was hidden by the dusky rippling hair, which tumbled over his breast, brushed against his cheek, and blew across his lips. The touch of those fragrant tresses was a soft caress. Almost unconsciously he pressed her closer to his heart. And as a sweet mad longing grew upon him he was blind to all save that he held her in his arms, that uncertainty was gone forever, and that he loved her. With these thoughts running riot in his brain he carried her down the hill to Colonel Zane’s house.
The negro, Sam, who came out of the kitchen, dropped the bucket he had in his hand and ran into the house when he saw them. When Alfred reached the gate Colonel Zane and Isaac were hurrying out to meet him.
“For Heaven’s sake! What has happened? Is she badly hurt? I have always looked for this,” said the Colonel, excitedly.
“You need not look so alarmed,” answered Alfred. “She has only sprained her ankle, and trying to walk afterward hurt her so badly that she became faint and I had to carry her.”
“Dear me, is that all?” said Mrs. Zane, who had also come out. “We were terribly frightened. Sam came running into the house with some kind of a wild story. Said he knew you would be the death of Betty.”
“How ridiculous! Colonel Zane, that servant of yours never fails to say something against me,” said Alfred, as he carried Betty into the house.
“He doesn’t like you. But you need not mind Sam. He is getting old and we humor him, perhaps too much. We are certainly indebted to you,” returned the Colonel.
Betty was laid on the couch and consigned to the skillful hands of Mrs. Zane, who pronounced the injury a bad sprain
“Well, Betty, this will keep you quiet for a few days,” said she, with a touch of humor, as she gently felt the swollen ankle.
“Alfred, you have been our good angel so often that I don’t see how we shall ever reward you,” said Isaac to Alfred.
“Oh, that time will come. Don’t worry about that,” said Alfred, jestingly, and then, turning to the others he continued, earnestly. “I will apologize for the manner in which I disregarded Miss Zane’s wish not to help her. I am sure I could do no less. I believe my rudeness has spared her considerable suffering.”
“What did he mean, Betts?” asked Isaac, going back to his sister after he had closed the door. “Didn’t you want him to help you?”
Betty did not answer. She sat on the couch while Mrs. Zane held the little bare foot and slowly poured the hot water over the swollen and discolored ankle. Betty’s lips were pale. She winced every time Mrs. Zane touched her foot, but as yet she had not uttered even a sigh.
“Betty, does it hurt much?” asked Isaac.
“Hurt? Do you think I am made of wood? Of course it hurts,” retorted Betty. “That water is so hot. Bessie, will not cold water do as well?”
“I am sorry. I won’t tease any more,” said Isaac, taking his sister’s hand. “I’ll tell you what, Betty, we owe Alfred Clarke a great deal, you and I. I am going to tell you something so you will know how much more you owe him. Do you remember last month when that red heifer of yours got away. Well, Clarke chased her away and finally caught her in the woods. He asked me to say I had caught her. Somehow or other he seems to be afraid of you. I wish you and he would be good friends. He is a mighty fine fellow.”
In spite of the pain Betty was suffering a bright blush suffused her face at the words of her brother, who, blind as brothers are in regard to their own sisters, went on praising his friend.
Betty was confined to the house a week or more and during this enforced idleness she had ample time for reflection and opportunity to inquire into the perplexed state of her mind.
The small room, which Betty called her own, faced the river and fort. Most of the day she lay by the window trying to read her favorite books, but often she gazed out on the quiet scene, the rolling river, the everchanging trees and the pastures in which the red and white cows grazed peacefully; or she would watch with idle, dreamy eyes the flight of the crows over the hills, and the graceful motion of the hawk as he sailed around and around in the azure sky, looking like a white sail far out on a summer sea.
But Betty’s mind was at variance with this peaceful scene. The consciousness of a change, which she could not readily define, in her feelings toward Alfred Clarke, vexed and irritated her. Why did she think of him so often? True, he had saved her brother’s life. Still she was compelled to admit to herself that this was not the reason. Try as she would, she could not banish the thought of him. Over and over again, a thousand times, came the recollection of that moment when he had taken her up in his arms as though she were a child. Some vague feeling stirred in her heart as she remembered the strong yet gentle clasp of his arms.
Several times from her window she had seen him coming across the square between the fort and her brother’s house, and womanlike, unseen herself, she had watched him. How erect was his carriage. How pleasant his deep voice sounded as she heard him talking to her brother. Day by day, as her ankle grew stronger and she knew she could not remain much longer in her room, she dreaded more and more the thought of meeting him. She could not understand herself; she had strange dreams; she cried seemingly without the slightest cause and she was restless and unhappy. Finally she grew angry and scolded herself. She said she was silly and sentimental. This had the effect of making her bolder, but it did not quiet her unrest. Betty did not know that the little blind God, who steals unawares on his victim, had marked her for his own, and that all this sweet perplexity was the unconscious awakening of the heart.
One afternoon, near the end of Betty’s siege indoors, two of her friends, Lydia Boggs and Alice Reynolds, called to see her.
Alice had bright blue eyes, and her nut brown hair hung in rebellious curls around her demure and pretty face. An adorable dimple lay hidden in her rosy cheek and flashed into light with her smiles.
“Betty, you are a lazy thing!” exclaimed Lydia. “Lying here all day long doing nothing but gaze out of the window.”
“Girls, I am glad you came over,” said Betty. “I am blue. Perhaps you will cheer me up.”
“Betty needs some one of the sterner sex to cheer her,” said Alice, mischievously, her eyes twinkling. “Don’t you think so, Lydia?”
“Of course,” answered Lydia. “When I get blue–“
“Please spare me,” interrupted Betty, holding up her hands in protest. “I have not a single doubt that your masculine remedies are sufficient for all your ills. Girls who have lost their interest in the old pleasures, who spend their spare time in making linen and quilts, and who have sunk their very personalities in a great big tyrant of a man, are not liable to get blue. They are afraid he may see a tear or a frown. But thank goodness, I have not yet reached that stage.”
“Oh, Betty Zane! Just you wait! Wait!” exclaimed Lydia, shaking her finger at Betty. “Your turn is coming. When it does do not expect any mercy from us, for you shalt never get it.”
“Unfortunately, you and Alice have monopolized the attentions of the only two eligible young men at the fort,” said Betty, with a laugh.
“Nonsense there plenty of young men all eager for our favor, you little coquette,” answered Lydia. “Harry Martin, Will Metzer, Captain Swearengen, of Short Creek, and others too numerous to count. Look at Lew Wetzel and Billy Bennet.”
“Lew cares for nothing except hunting Indians and Billy’s only a boy,” said Betty.
“Well, have it your own way,” said Lydia. “Only this, I know Billy adores you, for he told me so, and a better lad never lived.”
“Lyde, you forget to include one other among those prostrate before Betty’s charms,” said Alice.
“Oh, yes, you mean Mr. Clarke. To be sure, I had forgotten him,” answered Lydia. “How odd that he should be the one to find you the day you hurt your foot. Was it an accident?”
“Of course. I slipped off the bank,” said Betty.
“No, no. I don’t mean that. Was his finding you an accident?”
“Do you imagine I waylaid Mr. Clarke, and then sprained my ankle on purpose?” said Betty, who began to look dangerous.
“Certainly not that; only it seems so odd that he should be the one to rescue all the damsels in distress. Day before yesterday he stopped a runaway horse, and saved Nell Metzer who was in the wagon, a severe shaking up, if not something more serious. She is desperately in love with him. She told me Mr. Clarke–“
“I really do not care to hear about it,” interrupted Betty.
“But, Betty, tell us. Wasn’t it dreadful, his carrying you?” asked Alice, with a sly glance at Betty. “You know you are so–so prudish, one may say. Did he take you in his arms? It must have been very embarrassing for you, considering your dislike of Mr. Clarke, and he so much in love with–“
“You hateful girls,” cried Betty, throwing a pillow at Alice, who just managed to dodge it. “I wish you would go home.”
“Never mind, Betty. We will not tease anymore,” said Lydia, putting her arm around Betty. “Come, Alice, we will tell Betty you have named the day for your wedding. See! She is all eyes now.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The young people of the frontier settlements were usually married before they were twenty. This was owing to the fact hat there was little distinction of rank and family pride. The object of the pioneers in moving West was, of course, to better their condition; but, the realization of their dependence on one another, the common cause of their labors, and the terrible dangers to which they were continually exposed, brought them together as one large family.
Therefore, early love affairs were encouraged–not frowned upon as they are to-day–and they usually resulted in early marriages.
However, do not let it be imagined that the path of the youthful swain was strewn with flowers. Courting or “sparking” his sweetheart had a painful as well as a joyous side. Many and varied were the tricks played on the fortunate lover by the gallants who had vied with him for the favor of the maid. Brave, indeed, he who won her. If he marched up to her home in the early evening he was made the object of innumerable jests, even the young lady’s family indulging in and enjoying the banter. Later, when he come out of the door, it was more than likely that, if it were winter, he would be met by a volley of water soaked snowballs, or big buckets of icewater, or a mountain of snow shoved off the roof by some trickster, who had waited patiently for such an opportunity. On summer nights his horse would be stolen, led far into the woods and tied, or the wheels of his wagon would be taken off and hidden, leaving him to walk home. Usually the successful lover, and especially if he lived at a distance, would make his way only once a week and then late at night to the home of his betrothed. Silently, like a thief in the dark, he would crawl through the grass and shrubs until beneath her window. At a low signal, prearranged between them, she would slip to the door and let him in without disturbing the parents. Fearing to make a light, and perhaps welcoming that excuse to enjoy the darkness beloved by sweethearts, they would sit quietly, whispering low, until the brightening in the east betokened the break of day, and then he was off, happy and lighthearted, to his labors.
A wedding was looked forward to with much pleasure by old and young. Practically, it meant the only gathering of the settlers which was not accompanied by the work of reaping the harvest, building a cabin, planning an expedition to relieve some distant settlement, or a defense for themselves. For all, it meant a rollicking good time; to the old people a feast, and the looking on at the merriment of their children–to the young folk, a pleasing break in the monotony of their busy lives, a day given up to fun and gossip, a day of romance, a wedding, and best of all, a dance. Therefore Alice Reynold’s wedding proved a great event to the inhabitants of Fort Henry.
The day dawned bright and clear. The sun, rising like a ball of red gold, cast its yellow beams over the bare, brown hills, shining on the cabin roofs white with frost, and making the delicate weblike coat of ice on the river sparkle as if it had been sprinkled with powdered diamonds. William Martin, the groom, and his attendants, met at an appointed time to celebrate an old time-honored custom which always took place before the party started for the house of the bride. This performance was called “the race for the bottle.”
A number of young men, selected by the groom, were asked to take part in this race, which was to be run over as rough and dangerous a track as could be found. The worse the road, the more ditches, bogs, trees, stumps, brush, in fact, the more obstacles of every kind, the better, as all these afforded opportunity for daring and expert horsemanship. The English fox race, now famous on three continents, while it involves risk and is sometimes dangerous, cannot, in the sense of hazard to life and limb, be compared to this race for the bottle.
On this day the run was not less exciting than usual. The horses were placed as nearly abreast as possible and the starter gave an Indian yell. Then followed the cracking of whips, the furious pounding of heavy hoofs, the commands of the contestants, and the yells of the onlookers. Away they went at a mad pace down the road. The course extended a mile straight away down the creek bottom. The first hundred yards the horses were bunched. At the ditch beyond the creek bridge a beautiful, clean limbed animal darted from among the furiously galloping horses and sailed over the deep furrow like a bird. All recognized the rider as Alfred Clarke on his black thoroughbred. Close behind was George Martin mounted on a large roan of powerful frame and long stride. Through the willows they dashed, over logs and brush heaps, up the little ridges of rising ground, and down the shallow gullies, unheeding the stinging branches and the splashing water. Half the distance covered and Alfred turned, to find the roan close behind. On a level road he would have laughed at the attempt of that horse to keep up with his racer, but he was beginning to fear that the strong limbed stallion deserved his reputation. Directly before them rose a pile of logs and matted brush, placed there by the daredevil settlers who had mapped out the route. It was too high for any horse to be put at. With pale cheek and clinched teeth Alfred touched the spurs to Roger and then threw himself forward. The gallant beast responded nobly. Up, up, up he rose, clearing all but the topmost branches. Alfred turned again and saw the giant roan make the leap without touching a twig. The next instant Roger went splash into a swamp. He sank to his knees in the soft black soil. He could move but one foot at a time, and Alfred saw at a glance he had won the race. The great weight of the roan handicapped him here. When Alfred reached the other side of the bog, where the bottle was swinging from a branch of a tree, his rival’s horse was floundering hopelessly in the middle of the treacherous mire. The remaining three horsemen, who had come up by this time, seeing that it would be useless to attempt further efforts, had drawn up on the bank. With friendly shouts to Clarke, they acknowledged themselves beaten. There were no judges required for this race, because the man who reached the bottle first won it.
The five men returned to the starting point, where the victor was greeted by loud whoops. The groom got the first drink from the bottle, then came the attendants, and others in order, after which the bottle was put away to be kept as a memento of the occasion.
The party now repaired to the village and marched to the home of the bride. The hour for the observance of the marriage rites was just before the midday meal. When the groom reached the bride’s home he found her in readiness. Sweet and pretty Alice looked in her gray linsey gown, perfectly plain and simple though it was, without an ornament or a ribbon. Proud indeed looked her lover as he took her hand and led her up to the waiting minister. When the whisperings had ceased the minister asked who gave this woman to be married. Alice’s father answered.
“Will you take this woman to be your wedded wife, to love, cherish and protect her all the days of her life?” asked the minister.
“I will,” answered a deep bass voice.
“Will you take this man to be your wedded husband, to love, honor and obey him all the days of your life?”
“I will,” said Alice, in a low tone.
“I pronounce you man and wife. Those whom God has joined together let no man put asunder.”
There was a brief prayer and the ceremony ended. Then followed the congratulations of relatives and friends. The felicitations were apt to be