ON THE TRAIL OF PONTIAC OR THE PIONEER BOYS OF THE OHIO
BY EDWARD STRATEMEYER
Author of "With Washington in the West," "Lost on the Orinoco," "Two Young Lumbermen," "American Boys' Life of William McKinley," "Old Glory Series," "Ship and Shore Series," etc.
ILLUSTRATED BY A. B. SHUTE
"On the Trail of Pontiac" is a complete story in itself, but forms the fourth volume of a line known by the general title of "Colonial Series."
The first volume, entitled "With Washington in the West," related the adventures of Dave Morris, a young pioneer of Will's Creek, now Cumberland, Va. Dave became acquainted with George Washington at the time the latter was a surveyor, and served under the youthful officer during the fateful Braddock expedition against Fort Duquesne.
The Braddock defeat left the frontier at the mercy of the French and the Indians, and in the second volume of the series, called "Marching on Niagara," are given the particulars of General Forbes' campaign against Fort Duquesne and the advance of Generals Prideaux and Johnson against Fort Niagara, in which not only Dave Morris, but likewise his cousin Henry, do their duty well as young soldiers.
The signal victory at Niagara gave to the English control of all that vast territory lying between the great Lakes and what was called the Louisiana Territory. But war with France was not yet at an end, and in the third volume of the series, entitled "At the Fall of Montreal," I have related the particulars of the last campaign against the French, including General Wolfe's memorable scaling of the Heights of Quebec, the battle on the Plains of Abraham, and lastly the fall of Montreal itself, which brought this long-drawn war to a conclusion, and was the means of placing Canada where it remains to-day, in the hands of England.
With the conclusion of the War with France, the settlers in America imagined that they would be able to go back unmolested to their homesteads on the frontier. But such was not to be. The Indians who had assisted France during the war were enraged to see the English occupying what they considered their own personal hunting grounds, and, aroused by the cunning and eloquence of the great chief Pontiac, and other leaders, they concocted more than one plot to fall upon the settlements and the forts of the frontier and massacre all who opposed them. The beginning of this fearful uprising of the red men is given in the pages which follow.
As in my previous books, I have tried to be as accurate historically as possible. The best American, English, and French authorities have been consulted. I trust that all who read the present volume may find it both entertaining and instructive.
July 1, 1904
I. A GLIMPSE AT THE PAST
II. THE CABIN IN THE CLEARING
III. BARRINGFORD'S STRANGE DISCOVERY
IV. SEARCHING FOR CLEWS
V. A LIVELY ELK HUNT
VI. SURRENDER OF FORT DETROIT
VII. PREPARING FOR THE EXPEDITION WESTWARD
VIII. ON THE OLD BRADDOCK ROAD
IX. HENRY'S STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE
X. A WAIT IN CAMP
XI. HAPPENINGS OF A STORMY NIGHT
XII. THE RUINS OF THE OLD TRADING-POST
XIII. BUILDING THE NEW TRADING-POST
XIV. JEAN BEVOIR HAS HIS SAY
XV. DAVE'S UNWELCOME VISITOR
XVI. DAVE MEETS PONTIAC
XVII. THE ATTACK ON THE PACK-TRAIN
XVIII. AFTER THE ENCOUNTER
XIX. THE TRAIL THROUGH THE FOREST
XX. GUARDING THE TRADING-POST
XXI. SAM BARRINGFORD BRINGS NEWS
XXII. THE ROCK BY THE RIVER
XXIII. DAVE AND THE FAWN
XXIV. SOMETHING ABOUT SLAVES AND INDIAN CAPTIVES
XXV. THE RESULTS OF A BUFFALO HUNT
XXVI. STRANGE INDIAN MAGIC
XXVII. THE TRAIL OF PONTIAC
XXVIII. AN UNDERGROUND STOREHOUSE
XXIX. PONTIAC'S TRAIL ONCE MORE
XXX. IN THE CAMP OF THE ENEMY
XXXI. HELD AS A SPY
XXXII. A FIGHT AND A VICTORY—CONCLUSION
The dance of the magicians lasted fully a quarter of an hour (Frontispiece)
The report was followed by a mad yelp of pain
Henry ... rolled over and over down a long hill
"Let go!" cried Dave. "Let go, I say!"
"Where are your furs?" asked James Morris
He let the animal have a bullet directly in the head
"Tis one of the English" said the taller of the Indians
"The white young man is sorry to be a prisoner," he said slowly
A GLIMPSE AT THE PAST
"Two wild turkeys and seven rabbits. Not such a bad haul after all, Henry."
"That is true, Dave. But somehow I wanted to get a deer if I could."
"Oh, I reckon almost any hunter would like to bring down a deer," went on Dave Morris. "But they are not so plentiful as they were before the war."
"That is true." Henry Morris placed the last rabbit he had brought down in his game-bag. "I can remember the time when the deer would come up to within a hundred yards of the house. But you have got to take a long tramp to find one now."
"And yet game ought to be plentiful," went on his younger cousin. "There wasn't much hunting in this vicinity during the war. Nearly everybody who could go to the front went."
"There were plenty who couldn't be hired to go, you know that as well as I do. Some were afraid they wouldn't get their pay and others were afraid the French or the Indians would knock 'em over." Henry Morris took a deep breath. "Beats me how they could stay home—with the enemy doing their best to wipe us out."
"I can't understand it either. But now the war is over, do you think we'll have any more trouble with the Indians?" continued Dave Morris, as he and his cousin started forward through the deep snow that lay in the woods which had been their hunting ground for the best part of the day.
"It's really hard to tell, Dave. Father thinks we'll have no more trouble, but Sam Barringford says we won't have real peace until the redskins have had one whipping they won't forget as long as they live."
"Well, Sam knows the Indians pretty thoroughly."
"No one knows them better. And why shouldn't he know 'em? He's been among them since he was a small boy, and he must be fifty now if he's a day."
"I can tell you one thing, Henry," continued Dave warmly. "I was mighty glad to see Sam recover from that wound he received at Quebec. At first I thought he would either die or be crazy for the rest of his life."
"It's his iron constitution that pulled him through. Many another soldier would have caved in clean and clear. But hurry up, if you want to get home before dark," and so speaking, Henry Morris set off through the woods at a faster pace than ever, with his cousin close at his heels. Each carried his game-bag on his back and a flint-lock musket over his shoulder.
The time was early in the year 1761, but a few months after the fall of Montreal had brought the war between France and England in America to a close. Canada was now in the possession of the British, and the settlers in our colonies along the great Atlantic seacoast, and on the frontier westward, were looking for a long spell of peace in which they might regain that which had been lost, or establish themselves in new localities which promised well.
As already mentioned, Dave and Henry Morris were cousins, Henry being the older by several years. They lived in the little settlement of Will's Creek, Virginia, close to where the town of Cumberland stands to-day. The Morris household consisted of Dave's father, Mr. James Morris, who was a widower, and Mr. Joseph Morris, his wife Lucy, and their children, Rodney, several years older than Henry, who came next, and Nell, a girl of about six, who was the household pet. In years gone by Rodney had been a good deal of a cripple, but a surgical operation had done wonders for him and now he was almost as strong as any of the others.
James Morris was a natural born trapper and fur trader, and when his wife died he left his son Dave in the care of his brother Joseph and wandered to the west, where he established a trading-post on the Kinotah, a small stream flowing into the Ohio River. This was at the time that George Washington, the future President of our country, was a young surveyor, and in the first volume of this series, entitled "With Washington in the West," I related how Dave fell in with Washington and became his assistant, and how, later on, Dave became a soldier to march under Washington during the disastrous Braddock campaign against Fort Duquesne.
General Braddock's failure to bring the French to submission cost James Morris dearly. His trading-post was attacked and he barely escaped with his life. Dave likewise became a prisoner of the enemy, and it was only through the efforts of a friendly Indian named White Buffalo, and an old frontier acquaintance named Sam Barringford, that the pair escaped to a place of safety.
War between France and England had then become a certainty. France was aided greatly by the Indians, and it was felt by the colonists that a strong blow must be struck and without delay. Expeditions against the French were organized, and in the second volume of the series, called "Marching on Niagara," are given the particulars of another campaign against Fort Duquesne (located where the city of Pittsburg, Penn., now stands) and then of the long and hard campaign against Fort Niagara. Dave and Henry were both in the contest, for they had joined the ranks of the Royal Americans, as the Colonial troops were called.
With the fall of Fort Niagara the English came once again into possession of all the territory lying between the Great Lakes and the lower Mississippi. But Canada was not yet taken, and there followed more campaigns, which have been described in the third volume of the series, called "At the Fall of Montreal." In these campaigns both Dave and Henry fought well, and with them was Sam Barringford, who had promised the parents that he would keep an eye on the youths. Henry had been taken prisoner and Barringford had been shot, but in the end all had been re-united, and as soon as the old frontiersman was well enough to do so, the three had left the army and gone back to the homestead at Will's Creek.
It had been a great family re-union and neighbors from miles around had come in to hear what the young soldiers and their sturdy old friend might have to tell. Because of the ending of the terrible war, there was general rejoicing everywhere.
"I never wish to see the like of it again," Mrs. Morris had said, not once, but many times. "Think of those who have been slain, and who are wounded!"
"You are right, Lucy," her husband had returned. "There is nothing worse than war, unless it be a pestilence. I, too, want nothing but peace hereafter."
"And I agree most heartily," had come from James Morris. "One cannot till the soil nor hunt unless we are at peace with both the French and the Indians."
"Be thankful that Jean Bevoir has been removed from your path," had come from his brother.
"And from our path, too, Joseph," Mrs. Morris had put in quickly.
Jean Bevoir had been a rascally French trader who owned a trading-post but a few miles from that established by James Morris on the Kinotah. Bevoir had claimed the Morris post for his own, and had aided the Indians in an attack which had all but ruined the buildings. Later on the Frenchman had helped in the abduction of little Nell, but the girl had been rescued by Dave and her brother Henry. Then Jean Bevoir drifted to Montreal, and while trying to loot some houses there during the siege, was shot down in a skirmish between the looters on one side, and the French and the English soldiers on the other. The Morrises firmly believed that Jean Bevoir was dead, but such was not a fact. A wound thought to be fatal had taken a turn for the better, and the fellow was now lying in a French farmhouse on the St. Lawrence, where two or three of his old companions in crime were doing their best to nurse him back to health and strength. Jean Bevoir had not forgotten the Morrises, nor what they had done to drag him down, as he expressed it, and, although the war was at an end, he was determined to make Dave, Henry, and the others pay dearly for the ruin they had brought to his plans in the past.
"I shall show them that, though France is beaten, Jean Bevoir still lives," he told himself boastingly. "The trading-post on the Kinotah with its beautiful lands, shall still be mine—the Morrises shall never possess it!" Sometimes he spoke to his companions of these things, but they merely smiled at him, thinking that what he had in mind to do would prove impossible of accomplishment.
THE CABIN IN THE CLEARING
It was already four o'clock and the short winter day was drawing to a close. On every side of the two young hunters arose the almost trackless woods, with here and there a small opening, where the wind had swept the rocks clear of snow. Not a sound broke the stillness.
"Were we ever in this neighborhood before?" questioned Dave, after a silence of several minutes.
"Yes, I was up here three or four years ago," answered his cousin, who, as my old readers know, was a natural-born hunter and woodsman. "Got a deer right over yonder." And he pointed with his hand. "The one I hit plumb in the left eye."
"Oh, yes, I remember that," came from Dave. "It was a prime shot. Wish I could do as well sometime."
"You needn't complain, Dave. You've done better than lots of men around here. Some of 'em can't shoot anything at all. They are farmers and nothing else."
"Well, we'll all have to turn farmers sooner or later—after the best of the game is killed off."
"Has your father said anything about going out to his trading-post on the Kinotah again?"
"Nothing more than what you heard him say on New Year's day—that he would go as soon as the weather got warm enough, and it was considered safe."
"I wish I could go out with you. I really believe I could make some money, bringing in pelts,—more money than I can make by staying here."
"Perhaps you could, Henry, and, oh, I wish you could go!" went on Dave impulsively. "Wouldn't we have the best times, though!"
"The trouble is father wants me on the farm. There is so much to do, you see. While the war was on everything went to pieces."
"But Rodney can help now. He told me only yesterday that he felt strong enough to do almost anything."
"Yes, I've thought of that. If he can take hold, perhaps I can get father to consent. Did you say Sam Barringford was going?"
"To be sure. And so is White Buffalo. I suppose father will take not less than a dozen hunters and trappers with him and six or eight Indians, too. He says he doesn't want to depend altogether on strangers when he gets out there, and he hardly knows what has become of the most of those who were with him before."
"More than half of the crowd are dead, shot down either in the trouble with the redskins or in the war."
"I've been wondering if there is anything left of the trading-post. Father has half a notion that the Indians burnt it to the ground, and burnt the forest around it, too. If they have done that, he won't want to build again on the burn-over, but at some new spot where the forest hasn't been touched and timber is easy to get."
"Do you suppose they burnt the post Jean Bevoir had?"
"I reckon not. The Indians were very friendly with that rascal."
The youths had now come to the edge of the woods. Here was a well-defined trail, running from Will's Creek to a hamlet knows as Shadd's Run, named after an old Englishman who had settled there six years previous. Shadd and his family had been massacred by the Indians at the time of Braddock's defeat, and all that was left of his commodious log cabin was a heap of half-burnt logs.
Turning into the trail, the young hunters continued on their way to the Morris homestead. This itself was a new building, for the first cabin had also gone up in flames during the terrible uprising. On either side of the road were patches of woods, with here and there a cleared field. Soon they came in sight of a log cabin.
"Hullo, Neighbor Thompson!" sang out Henry, and in a moment a man appeared at the door of the house, musket in hand.
"So you've got back," said the man, and lowered his weapon. "What luck?"
"Two wild turkeys and seven rabbits," answered Henry. He reached into his game-bag. "Here are the two rabbits I promised you for the powder." And he handed over the game.
"Thank you, Henry, they'll make a fine pot-pie. Didn't see any deer?"
"Thought not. Will you come in and warm up?"
"I'm not cold."
"Nor am I," put in Dave.
Paul Thompson had been followed to the doorway by his wife Sarah, and the pair asked the two young hunters how matters were faring at home.
"We feel lonely here," said Mrs. Thompson. "In Philadelphia we had so much company."
"You must come over to our house more," answered Henry. "Mother, I know, will be glad to see you."
The Thompsons had come to that neighborhood the summer before, taking up a claim of land left by a near relative who had died. Both were young, and the husband had thought to improve his condition by turning farmer rather than by remaining a clerk in one of the Philadelphia shops. But the loneliness of the life was something neither had counted on, and both were glad enough to talk to a neighbor at every available opportunity.
"I am coming over in a week or two, to stay three days, if your folks will keep me," said Mrs. Thompson. "Paul is going over to Dennett's Mills on business."
"You'll be welcome," said Henry; and after a little more talk the young hunters went on their way.
"I'm anxious to see what sort of a farmer Thompson will make," said Dave as he strode along. "I don't believe he knows a thing about tilling the soil. He's as green as we should be behind the counter of a shop."
"He'll have to learn, the same as anybody else."
At last the youths came in sight of home. It was now dark, and through the living-room window they saw the gleam of a tallow candle which rested on the table.
A shout from Dave brought his father to the doorway. "Back again, eh?" exclaimed James Morris. "And tired as two dogs after the chase, I'll warrant."
"We are tired," answered the son. "But I reckon we could walk a few miles more if we had to."
"I see you didn't get a deer this time," came from Rodney Morris, as he, too, appeared at the doorway.
"Mercy on us, you can't expect them to get a deer every trip!" ejaculated Mrs. Morris, who was bustling around the big open fire-place preparing supper. "It's a wonder they start up anything at all around here, with all the hunting that's going on."
"We got two wild turkeys and seven rabbits," said Henry. "We left two rabbits at the Thompsons'. And, by the way, Mrs. Thompson is coming over in a week or two to stay three days. Paul is going to Dennett's on business."
"I'll be glad to have her here," was the mother's reply. "Poor dear, I know just how lonely she feels. Of course you said it would be all right."
"Yes, I said she'd be welcome."
"I'm so glad!" came from little Nell, as she brushed back the curls that were flying around her face. "Mrs. Thompson is so nice! She can tell the cutest stories!"
"A story-teller always makes a friend of Nell!" laughed her father. "Even White Buffalo can charm her with what he has to say when it comes to stories."
"White Buffalo is a nice Indian," answered the little miss promptly. "The next time he comes here he said he would make me a big, big wooden doll, with joints that would move, and glass beads for eyes."
"You won't fail to keep him busy, if he lets you," came from Dave, as he kicked the snow from his feet and came into the cabin. He threw his game on a bench and hung up his bag, musket, outer coat, and his hat. "Something smells good in here," he declared.
"You've walked yourselves into an appetite," said Rodney. He picked up the wild turkeys. "Good big fellows, aren't they? You've earned your supper."
The game was placed in a cold pantry, to be cleaned and dressed on the morrow, and then the inmates of the cabin gathered around the table to enjoy what Mrs. Morris had to offer.
It was a scene common in those days. The living-room floor was bare and so was the long table, but both were scrubbed to a whiteness and cleanliness that could not be excelled. On either side of the table were rude, but substantial benches, and at the ends were chairs which had been in use for several generations. In a corner of the room stood Mrs. Morris's spinning-wheel and behind this was a shelf containing the family Bible, half a dozen books, and a pile of newspapers which had been carefully preserved from time to time, including copies of the "Pennsylvania Gazette," edited by Benjamin Franklin, and also of the latter's publications known as "Poor Richard's Almanack," full of quaint sayings and maxims. Over the shelf were some deer's antlers and on these rested two muskets, with the powder horns and bullet pouches hanging beneath. Behind the door stood another musket, loaded and ready for use, should an enemy or a wild beast put in an unexpected appearance.
With no tablecloth, one could scarcely look for napkins, but a towel hung handy, upon which one might wipe his fingers after handling a bone. The dishes were far from plentiful and mostly of a sort to stand rough usage. Coffee and milk were drunk from bowls with narrow bottoms and wide tops, and sometimes these bowls served also for corn mush and similar dishes. Forks had been introduced and also regular eating knives, but old hunters and trappers like James Morris and Sam Barringford preferred to use their hunting knives with which to cut their food, and Barringford considered a fork rather superfluous and "dandified."
When all were assembled, Joseph Morris said grace, and then Mrs. Morris brought in what she had to offer—some fried bacon, a pot of baked beans, apple sauce made from several strings of dried apples brought from the loft of the cabin, and fresh bread, just from the hot stones of the fireplace. All fell to without delay, and while eating Dave and Henry told the particulars of the hunt just ended. It was not an elaborate meal, but it was much better than many of their neighbors could afford, and the Morrises were well content.
"I think you were wise to go out to-day," said James Morris, after the young hunters had told their story. "There is another storm in the air and it won't be long in settling down."
"It is going to be a long, hard winter, father," answered Dave.
"What makes you say that?"
"Henry said so. He found a squirrel's nest just loaded with nuts."
"Certainly a pretty good sign, for the squirrels know just about how long they have got to keep themselves in food before spring comes."
"I hope it stays clear for a day longer," put in Joseph Morris. "I am looking for Sam Barringford. He went to Bedford for me, and if it should snow, traveling for him will be bad."
"Sam won't mind a little snowstorm," came from Henry. "He has been out in the heaviest kind of a storm more than once."
After the evening meal, the whole family gathered around the open fire-place and an extra log was piled on the blaze. As nobody seemed to want to read, the tallow candle was extinguished and saved for another occasion, for candles were by no means as plentiful as some of my youthful readers may imagine. They were all of home manufacture and the making of them was no easy task.
BARRINGFORD'S STRANGE DISCOVERY
The new cabin of the Morrises, built after the burning of the old, was somewhat similar in shape to that which had been reduced to ashes. There was the same small bedroom at the north end, which, as before, had been turned over to Dave and Henry. But this room boasted of two windows instead of one, each fitted with a heavy wooden shutter, to be closed in winter or during an attack by the Indians.
The old four-post bedstead, of walnut and hickory, with its cords of rawhide, was gone, and in its stead the Morrises had built a wide bunk against the inner wall of the apartment, with a mattress of straw and a pillow of the same material, for feathers were just then impossible to obtain. Under the window was a wide bench made of a half log, commonly called a puncheon bench, and the flooring was likewise of puncheons, that is, split logs with the flat side smoothed down. Into the walls were driven pegs of wood, upon which the youths could hang their garments.
The room was cold, almost icy, and it did not take Dave and Henry long to get into bed after they had made up their minds to retire. Having said their prayers, they huddled close together for warmth, covering themselves with blankets and a fur robe James Morris had brought from his trading-post.
The wind had been gradually rising and by midnight it was blowing half a gale, whistling shrilly around the cabin and through the heavy boughs of the neighboring trees. The doors and shutters rattled and awakened Mrs. Morris, but the boys and men slept well, for the sounds were familiar ones.
In the early morning came a change. The wind went down and there was a heavy fall of snow which kept up steadily for many hours. By the time Dave and Henry arose the snow was several inches deep on the doorstep, where it had previously been swept clean.
"Traveling for Sam Barringford will certainly be bad," remarked Rodney, who was already at work, blowing up the fire for his mother. "If this keeps on, it will be a couple of feet deep by nightfall."
As there was but little to do that morning, Dave and Henry took their time in dressing. After breakfast they set about cleaning the wild turkeys and the rabbits. The feathers of the turkeys were saved and also the rabbits' skins, for all would come in useful, sooner or later, around the cabin home.
"The wind is rising once more," remarked Joseph Morris in the middle of the afternoon, after a trip to the cattle shed, to see that the stock were safe. "It is blowing the snow in all directions."
The boys had been out, trying to clean a path to the spring, but found their labors unavailing. So they filled a cask which stood in the pantry with water, that they might not fall short of this necessary commodity should they become completely snowed in.
Nightfall was at hand, and the wind was whistling more fiercely than ever, when Henry chanced to go to the door, to see if the snow was covering the cattle shed.
As he looked out he heard a faint cry. He listened intently and soon the cry was repeated.
"Somebody is calling for help!" he exclaimed to the others.
"Where?" asked Joseph Morris quickly, and reached for his hat and greatcoat.
"I think the call came from yonder," answered the son, pointing in the direction.
"Was it Sam Barringford's voice?"
"I couldn't make out."
"Perhaps some traveler has lost his way," put in Rodney.
"We can go out and see," said Joseph Morris. He went to the doorway. "This way!" he shouted. "This way!"
"Help!" came back faintly. "Help!"
Joseph Morris was soon out of the house, and James Morris followed him. Without delay Mrs. Morris lit the lantern and hung it outside of the doorway, that they might see their way back, and also placed a candle in the window. The fire was stirred up, so that the one in trouble might be warmed up and given something hot to drink.
With the snow swirling in all directions around them, it was no easy matter for Joseph Morris and his brother to move forward to the spot from whence the cry for help had proceeded. In spots the snow lay three and four feet deep, and to pass through some of the drifts was out of the question.
"Sam, is it you?" called out James Morris presently.
"Yes!" was the feeble answer.
"Where are you?"
"Here, by the old split hickory. Jest about lost my wind, too."
"We'll soon be with you," answered James Morris.
There was a row of brushwood to the south of the split hickory tree, and in the shelter of this the Morrises moved forward as rapidly as possible. The keen wind cut like a knife, and they knew that it was this which had exhausted the old frontiersman they were trying to succor.
Almost blinded, and nearly out of wind themselves, they at last reached the split tree, to find Sam Barringford crouched behind a mass of the snow-laden branches. He had a large pack on his back and also a bundle in his arms.
Sam Barringford was a backwoodsman of a type that has long since vanished from our midst. He was between fifty and sixty years of age, tall, thin, and as straight as an arrow. He wore his hair and his beard long, and his heavy eyebrows sheltered a pair of small black eyes that were as penetrating as those of any wild beast. He was a skilled marksman, and at following a trail had an instinct almost equal to that of the red men with whom he had so often come in contact. He was dressed in a long hunting shirt and furs, and wore a coonskin cap, with the tail of the animal hanging over his shoulder.
"Winded, eh?" remarked Joseph Morris laconically.
"Why didn't you throw down your packs and leave 'em?"
"Couldn't leave this 'ere pack nohow," returned Barringford, nodding at the bundle in his arms.
"Why not? Nobody is going to steal it tonight, I reckon."
"Taint that, Joe; the bundle's alive."
"Babies—two on 'em, too."
"I vow!" put in James Morris. "Babies! Give them to me and I'll carry 'em to the house. Joe, you give Sam a lift, if he needs it."
James Morris took the precious bundle, while his brother relieved the old frontiersman of the pack on his back and took the latter's arm. The return to the cabin was made without delay, James Morris getting there some minutes before Joseph managed to arrive with Barringford clinging to his arm.
"Sam has brought a couple of babies, Lucy!" said James Morris, as he rushed up to the fireside and proceeded to open the bundle in his arms.
"I do declare!" gasped Mrs. Morris. "Babies! Where did he get them?"
"I don't know, but—Oh!"
The bundle had burst open, and there to the astonished gaze of all gathered around were presented to view two little fat and chubby boy babies, each about a year of age.
"Oh, the dear little things!" cried Mrs. Morris, snatching up one of them and hugging it to her breast. "Are you alive?"
For answer the baby boy set up a faint cry and this was immediately answered by a similar cry from the other baby. Then arose a grand chorus which left no doubt of the facts that the babies were alive and that each possessed a good pair of lungs and full knowledge of how to use them.
"Warm them up, James, while I get them some pap," said Mrs. Morris.
"Oh, the nice little babies!" put in little Nell, crowding close to touch the soft and somewhat cold cheeks. "And such pretty eyes, too, and such soft hair! Mamma, I think they are just too beautiful for anything!"
While Mrs. Morris was preparing some pap and some warm milk Joseph Morris arrived with Sam Barringford, and proceeded to make the old frontiersman comfortable. The water was already boiling in the big iron pot, and Barringford was given a glass of hot liquor which soon made him feel like himself once more. Later still he was served with a hearty meal, which he ate as if famished.
"Great babies, ain't they?" he said. "Beats all creation how I found 'em, too."
"So you found them?" put in Rodney. "Where?"
"On the road about three miles from this place—close to where the Chelingworth cabin used to stand."
"Did you find them in the snow?" queried Dave, with deep interest.
"I did an' I didn't. Ye see, they was wrapped in the bundle an' the bundle was tied up to a tree limb."
"And left there all alone?" cried Mrs. Morris, who was busy feeding the little ones.
"It was a case of necessity, ma'am. The man who had had the children had done his best by 'em, an' he couldn't do no more," returned Sam Barringford gravely.
"Tell us the particulars, Sam," said James Morris.
"I will. I was coming along the trail, fightin' my way as best I could in the teeth of the wind, an' feelin' bitter cold a-doin' of it, when I came to a spot where there had been a fight between a man, a horse, and some wild beasts—wolves, most likely. I couldn't git the straight of it at fust, but at last I figured out that the horse had gone into a hole, broke his leg, and pitched the man out on his head on the rocks. The man had had the babies in a bundle, and to keep 'em from gettin' too cold had put 'em in the tree instead of on the ground, or else he did it to save the babies from the wild beasts.
"The wild beasts had done their bloody work well, and man an' horse had been torn limb from limb. The man's skull was crushed, and it and part of the horse lay in a nasty hole, an' that's what makes me think both had the accident. The man had emptied his two pistols and used his knife, but it wasn't no use. The fight was ag'in him from the start."
"Horrible!" murmured Mrs. Morris, while little Nell and some of the others shuddered.
"I didn't notice the bundle in the tree at fust, but while I was takin' in the awful sights afore me I heard a strange sound. 'Sam Barringford, thet's a wildcat,' sez I to myself and swung my gun around putty quick. But it wasn't no wildcat at all, but them babies beginning to set up a howl. Maybe I wasn't taken back. It war the greatest amazement ever overtook me, barrin' none!" added the old frontiersman emphatically.
"Was there anybody else around?" asked James Morris.
"Not a soul. I looked everywhere, an' tried to git a shot at some of the wild beasts, but they had gone clean an' clear. Then I made up my mind the best to do war to get them babies to some shelter, or they'd freeze to deth. I didn't know ef other folks around here war to hum, so I made for this place. When I got to the split hickory I war so tuckered out I set up the yell you heard."
"Did the man have anything with him besides the babies?" asked Rodney.
"No bundle. But he had his pistols, the knife, a gold watch, some gold and silver, and some other things which I didn't pick up because of the snow an' the wind. Here are the things I did bring along," and Sam Barringford brought them forth from a bag he had carried and laid them in a pile on the table.
SEARCHING FOR CLEWS
The others gathered around and surveyed the articles Barringford had brought along with keen interest. The money amounted to two pounds and six shillings, some in Spanish coin, but mostly in English. The pistols were English weapons, but the knife was such as could be bought at any frontier town in the colonies. The watch was a large, open-faced affair, and on the dial was marked, Richard Gardell, Maker, London, 1742.
"Hard to tell if he was an Englishman or a colonist," mused James Morris. "What of his clothing, Sam?"
"Almost torn to ribbons by the wild beasts."
"We'll have to go back to the spot as soon as the storm clears away," said Joseph Morris.
"You didn't find anything with the man's name on it?" came from Dave.
"Nary a thing, lad. But my search wasn't any too good, remember," answered Barringford.
"As soon as I saw the babies I started for here with 'em."
"Each has a locket around its neck," came from Mrs. Morris suddenly. "Perhaps they will give some clew."
"I trust they do," answered her husband. "That man may have been their father or otherwise only a servant sent to take them to some place. But, be that as it may, we must discover where the little ones belong."
"Oh, let us keep them!" burst in little Nell "I want some little brothers to play with!"
"Hush, dear!" came from the mother. "Mayhap the mother of these little ones is this moment mourning for them and wondering where they can be."
The lockets were small, oval affairs, rather hard to open until a thin knife blade was inserted between the two parts of each. One contained a miniature of an old lady in court dress and the other a portrait of an elderly gentleman, with powdered wig and gold-rimmed spectacles. The face of each was full of kindness and nobleness.
"Two fine old folks, I'll warrant," came from Joseph Morris.
"More than likely the grandparents of the little ones," returned his brother.
"The lockets seem new," said Rodney. "Perhaps they were christening presents, or given to the babies on their first birthday."
"The babies look very much alike and seem of an age," said Mrs. Morris, who had by this time fed them all they cared to eat. "I doubt not but that they are twins."
"Just what I was thinking," said Henry. "You had better remember which locket belongs to each, or you may get 'em mixed up."
"Mercy on us! I never thought of that!" exclaimed his mother. "Let me see,—yes, the first locket came from this one," and she hastened to replace it.
"There is a slight difference in their looks," said Dave, after a close survey of the two tiny faces. "One has a rounder chin than the other and a flatter nose."
"Dave is right," answered his aunt. "But the difference is not very great."
"Will you keep the babies for the present?" questioned Sam Barringford. "I don't know what to do with 'em, I'm sartin."
"To be sure we will," said Mrs. Morris. "Poor dears! if it was their father who was killed, it may go hard with them."
The matter was talked over during the meal and for two hours afterward, but none could reach any conclusion regarding the identity of the little strangers. All agreed that the best thing to do would be to look for more clews as soon as the weather permitted.
There was a large Indian basket in the cabin, in which Dave and Henry usually brought in kindling for the fire. This was emptied and cleaned and in it was made a comfortable bed for the babies to sleep on. Having satisfied their hunger and become thoroughly warm both slept soundly, nor did they awaken until early morning.
By sunrise the storm was practically over, although a few hard particles of snow still whirled down in the high wind. Joseph Morris said they had better wait an hour or two longer for the wind to go down, and this was done.
"Can I go along?" asked Dave eagerly. "I'm sure I won't mind the walk at all."
"I'd like to go, too," added Henry; and when the party started it consisted of the two youths, their fathers, and Sam Barringford.
The men took turns at leading the way and breaking open the trail, no mean task when in some spots the snow lay to a depth of four and five feet. They kept as much as possible in the shelter of the trees and bushes, where the drifts were not so high. The sun, shining clearly, made the scene on all sides a dazzling one. Not a sound broke the stillness, birds and beasts being equally silent.
It took over an hour to reach the ruins of the Chelingworth cabin—one of the first erected in that territory and burnt four times before it was finally abandoned. As they passed the ruins Sam Barringford came to a halt.
"Listen!" he said briefly.
All did so, and at a distance heard a sudden yelping, which gradually increased.
"Wolves!" cried Henry.
"You are right," answered the old frontiersman. "Reckon they have come back to finish their work."
"Let us drive them off," put in Dave, with a shudder. "If there is anything left of the man, we ought to give him a decent burial."
"Yes, lad, I agree; but there ain't much left but bones."
All pushed forward and soon reached the spot where Sam Barringford had made his strange discovery. Five wolves were close by, sniffing eagerly through the snow, and more were in the rear.
"I've my shot-gun," said Dave. "Shall I give 'em a dose?"
"Yes," answered Barringford, and taking aim at two of the foremost wolves, the youth pulled the trigger of his weapon. The report was followed by a mad yelp of pain, and both wolves went down, one dead and the other badly wounded. The other wolves then ran off with all possible speed.
"A fair shot, Dave!" cried the old frontiersman, and striding forward he dispatched the wounded wolf with his hunting knife. "Doin' almost as well as Henry now, ain't ye?"
"Not quite as well as that," was Dave's modest answer.
The new fall of snow had covered all traces of the tragedy recently enacted at the spot, but the Morrises had brought along a pair of shovels and a broom, and soon the party was at work, clearing away the snow as Sam Barringford directed.
The remains of man and horse were at last uncovered, and then began an earnest search for some clew which might lead to the identity of the unfortunate person.
"Here is a gold ring," said Henry presently, and held it up.
Joseph Morris took the ring and examined it with care. There was an inscription inside, but it was so worn he could not decipher it.
They also brought to light several pieces of clothing, torn to tatters as Barringford had said. The horse's saddle was likewise there and the reins and curb, but absolutely nothing which gave either name or address.
"This looks as if we were stumped," said Henry, pausing in his labor of digging away the snow.
"Right ye are," came from Barringford. "Too bad! I'd like to know who them twins belong to."
"Reckon they'll belong to you, Sam," said James Morris, with a faint smile.
"Me! Well, I vum! An old man like me, all alone in the world, with twins! What'll I do with 'em? Answered me thet, will ye?" And he scratched his head in perplexity.
"We can keep them for the present," answered Joseph Morris. "Indeed, I don't think my wife will care to give them up in a hurry. She said this morning the youngsters had taken a tight hold of her heart."
"Ef I had a hum of my own—" began Barringford. "But no, 'tain't right—I ought to find out whar they belong."
"Perhaps you can find out all about them at Bedford, or Fort Loudan, or Annapolis, or Philadelphia," put in James Morris. "Certain it is they belong somewhere."
They had now come to the end of their search and, as there seemed nothing more to do, prepared to return home. The ground was too hard to permit of the burial of the remains of the stranger, and they were placed between some rocks, with other rocks over them, to keep off the wild beasts. Then Joseph Morris marked the nearest tree with a large cross and a question mark—a common sign of those days, showing that somebody unknown had met death in that vicinity.
When the Morris cabin was again reached they found the babies wide awake and cooing contentedly. Mrs. Morris had dressed them up as best she could, and she was holding one while Rodney held the other. Little Nell was dancing around the floor in wild delight.
"Oh, I just love those babies so much!" cried the little miss. "I want mamma to keep them, if nobody comes to take them away."
"Don't want to send them to the poorhouse, then?" questioned her father quizzically.
"To the poorhouse?" she repeated scornfully. "No, indeed!"
"What a fate for such darlings!" murmured Mrs. Morris. "No, Joseph, hard as times may be, I cannot consent to send these little ones away to live on charity, even if the authorities were willing to take them—which I doubt."
"Never fear, Lucy, I do not intend to be hard on the twins. And you must remember, Sam here has a claim on them."
"Oh, Uncle Sam," began little Nell—she often called him uncle—"won't you please let me keep the babies?"
The question was so gravely put the old frontiersman had to laugh outright. "A great question truly," he made answer. "And I don't know if they are mine yet."
"But if nobody calls for them—"
Barringford scratched his head.
"In thet case, I reckon as how I'll have to adopt 'em. Don't see nuthin' else to do."
"One thing is certain, they shall stay here for the present," said Mrs. Morris, and that important question settled, she turned over the baby she held to Dave, while she bustled about to prepare a late dinner.
A LIVELY ELK HUNT
The storm just passed proved to be the last one for some time to come, and in a week the trails leading from Will's Creek to the eastward became more or less broken. The trail to Fort Bedford was likewise opened, and Sam Barringford made a journey hither and was gone eight days.
The others awaited his return with great interest, but one look at his face when he arrived convinced all that he had failed in his mission.
"Can't find out anything about them twins," he said, getting down to what was in their minds without delay. "The man was seen around Fort Bedford for two days, but he didn't tell his business, and nobody that I talked to had seen the babies nor had they seen him a-talkin' to any wimmen folks."
"Where did he stop overnight?"
"Thet's something I couldn't find out, nuther."
"He must have been an odd sort," observed James Morris.
"Perhaps the twins didn't belong to him at all," suggested Henry. "If they did, why was he ashamed to show 'em?"
Sam Barringford shrugged his shoulders and drew a long breath. "Don't ask me, Henry; it's a clar mystery, thet's wot it is."
Settling himself before the roaring fire, Barringford told his story in detail. He repeated all that the inhabitants at Bedford had told him, but this threw no light on the mystery. Nobody had seen the stranger come into the place and nobody had seen him depart.
"Wonder where he did come from," mused Dave. "He certainly must have come from somewhere."
After that the winter days passed slowly. Sam Barringford remained at the Morris home, occasionally going out alone or with some of the others in quest of game. He was always glad to have Dave and Henry with him, and they were likewise delighted to go, for, as my old readers will remember, Sam Barringford was a famous hunter and rarely came back empty-handed.
One day Henry, who had been out after wild turkeys, came back in a state of mild excitement. He had seen hoofprints which were strange to him, and he wanted Barringford's opinion on them.
"They looked something like a deer's," he said, "but were larger."
"Must have been an elk," answered the old frontiersman. "But I allow as how thar ain't many of them critters around this deestrict."
Henry had come back in the evening, so that the tracks he had discovered were not inspected by Sam Barringford until the following morning. The pair went out accompanied by Dave, and all were armed, and supplied with provisions enough to last two days, if necessary.
The way led up a small hill back of the house and then through a patch of scrub timber—the best having been cut away when the new cabin was built. Beyond the scrub timber was a small cliff of rocks and further still a dense forest, leading to the stream upon which the Morris boys had had such thrilling adventures in the past.
"Here are the tracks," said Henry, when the edge of the forest was gained. "And see, here is another trail made last night, I'll be bound!"
Barringford took his time at examining the hoof-prints in the snow, and at a spot where the sun came down warmly and made the ground slightly soft.
"Reckon I was right," he said. "Ef it ain't an elk, it ain't nuthin I ever seed afore."
"If it is an elk, let us try to bring him down by all means!" cried Henry. "I'd like a pair of elk horns very much."
"The trouble is, he may be miles an' miles away from here by this time," answered Barringford.
"Never mind, let us try it anyway," put in Dave.
All were on snow-shoes—Dave and Henry possessing pairs made for them by White Buffalo years before, and Barringford a pair he had traded in at one of the posts, giving some fox skins in exchange.
"I'm willing, lads," said the old frontiersman. "Even if we don't git the elk, we may stir up something else wuth knocking over."
He led the way directly into the forest, following the tracks of the game with ease. Dave came behind him, while Henry brought up the rear.
All was almost absolutely silent. Occasionally a winter bird circled through the air, or a frightened squirrel ran from a tree branch to his hollow, and twice they caught a fair view of a bunch of rabbits, nibbling at some tender shoots of brushwood. The young hunters could have shot the rabbits with ease, but now they were after larger game, and they knew better than to fire shots which would most likely drive the elk for miles, were the beast within hearing distance.
"How far do you calculate the elk is from here?" asked Dave, after a good mile had been covered.
"That's no easy question to answer, Dave," returned Sam Barringford. "He may have gone two miles and he may have gone ten. We'll have to trust to luck to catch up to him. I don't calkerlate he went far in this deep snow."
Another mile was covered, and they came to a spot where the snow was kicked up in several directions. A rough-barked tree was near by, and on this it was plain to see that the elk had rubbed himself vigorously.
"Thet proves he ain't gone far," said Barringford, almost in a whisper. "He stopped to scratch himself an' then dropped into a walk. Go slow now and keep quiet, an' we may come up to him before you know it."
The old frontiersman's advice was followed, and they turned along the newly-made trail, which now led up to the top of another hill. Here was a good-sized clearing, and Barringford motioned for the others to keep back until he could reconnoiter. They stepped behind some brushwood and each looked to the priming of his musket and to the flint.
Presently Barringford held up his hand and motioned for them to advance, but with caution.
"Reckon I've spotted him, but I ain't sartin," he whispered. "See thet hollow yonder? I think he's back of them bushes an' rocks. We had better spread out a bit."
The others understood, and while Dave went to the right, Henry moved to the left, leaving Barringford to advance as before. The hollow mentioned was nearly quarter of a mile away, yet so sharp were the old frontiersman's eyes that he had noted a peculiar moving of the upper branches of the brushwood before him, as if some large animal was tramping around, browsing on such tender shoots as the snow had not covered.
"If the elk don't go off like a streak, Henry shall have the first shot," Barringford had said, and it was arranged that, all things being favorable, Dave should shoot next, if a second bullet was required. Barringford would hold himself in readiness for the unexpected.
There was a cleared spot to cover, and at a signal from the old frontiersman they advanced across this, being all of a hundred yards from each other, and in something of a semicircle.
They made no noise, and the elk, for such it really was, did not notice them until they were within easy gunshot of where he was feeding. Then up went his head, to scent the air, and with a snort of sudden fear he started away, straight ahead of them.
Bang! it was Henry's weapon that spoke up, the instant he had the game out of range of the bushes. The bullet lodged in the elk's flank and he immediately began to limp. But he did not drop, and now it was Dave's turn to fire. Bang! went the second weapon, and the bullet lodged but a few inches below that sent in by Henry. On went the wounded creature, limping painfully, but still making good time, especially where the snow on the rocks was partly swept away.
"Come on after him!" yelled Henry, reloading with all speed. "I don't think he can get away!"
He had scarcely spoken when Barringford took aim and let drive. Strange as it may seem, the third bullet struck immediately between the other two. The frontiersman had aimed at the other flank, but the elk had jumped to one side, to avoid a hole, just as the hammer of the musket struck the flint.
Henry was running on as fast as his snow-shoes would permit, and having reloaded, Dave and Barringford followed. They were going downhill once more, but now the elk made a turn and darted into a belt of timber lining the river. Reaching the stream, he paused for a moment, looked despairingly at his wounded and bleeding flank, and then started across the ice.
When Henry reached the bank of the stream the elk was pulling himself up the steep bank on the other side. He now offered a fair shot once more and the youth was not slow to take advantage of it. Up came the gun, his gaze moved along the sights, and down came the trigger. But, alas! the flint was an old one and it failed to light the priming. Up came the hammer with an exclamation of impatience, but it was too late—the elk was once more out of sight.
"Why didn't you give him another shot?" demanded Dave, as he rushed up.
"The confounded flint wouldn't strike fire," growled Henry. "That's one of a lot I bought in New York when we were coming home, and they are no good."
"I'll see if I can't give him another," answered his cousin, and tumbled rather than climbed down to the river bank. Barringford came after him, and both crossed the stream and mounted the bank opposite. Here the snow was deep and both went into it headfirst, getting a liberal dose down their sleeves and collars.
"Oh, Columbus! but there's no fun in this!" cried Dave, as he brushed himself off. "Ugh! but that snow down my backbone isn't a bit pleasant!"
"Don't waste time hyer!" cried Barringford almost roughly. It made him angry to think that his first shot had not laid the elk low. "If you want to stay behind, why—"
"Not at all!" interrupted Dave. "I'm with you!" And away he went beside the old frontiersman. Henry had now adjusted a new flint to his musket-lock, and was following across the river as speedily as possible.
The forest was thick before them and they could hear the elk crashing along in a blind fashion, which indicated that he was speedily becoming exhausted. Once they heard him stop, but before they could reach the spot he was off again, at a still slower pace.
"We've got him now," said Barringford grimly. "Might as well slack up and wait for Henry."
He knew that Henry would be much disappointed if he was not in at the death. They slowed up and soon the young hunter came in sight.
"Did the elk get away?" he demanded.
"No, he is just ahead," answered Dave. "Don't you hear him?"
"Sure enough. So you waited for me? I'm glad you did."
Away they went in a bunch, until the elk could be heard less than five rods away. Then came a silence.
"He has turned and is going to fight," cried Barringford, and a moment later they came in sight of the elk, backed up against a clump of walnuts, standing at bay, with dilated nostrils and a gaze of mingled alarm and rage in his large, round eyes.
"He is your game, Henry," said Barringford, and Henry took aim promptly at one of those eyes. The elk made a rush, but he was too late. Bang! went Henry's gun. The game gave a wild leap,—and fell dead in his tracks.
SURRENDER OF FORT DETROIT
"A good shot!" cried Dave, as all of the party moved forward to inspect the dead elk.
"Couldn't have been better nohow," came from Sam Barringford. He looked the game over carefully. "About as large as I've seen in these parts," he added.
"He has got just the kind of horns I've been wanting to get," said Henry, with pardonable pride. "But I reckon either of you could have hit him in the eye, too," he added candidly.
"It is going to be no easy job getting him home," said Dave. "Shall we put him on a drag?"
"Yes, lad, an' I've a rope we can slip over those horns, an' all can take hold," said Barringford. "We can go as far as possible by the river; for that will be easier."
Barringford carried a sharp hatchet in his belt and with this he cut down a suitable tree branch and fashioned it into such a drag as was desired. Then the elk was lifted upon it and bound fast, and the rope was fastened to the horns.
Getting through the forest to the river was no mean task, but once on the ice progress was rapid, and long before nightfall they were within easy walking distance of home.
"Game here is not near as plentiful as it was three or four years ago," remarked Dave as they pushed on. "Don't you remember how we used to go out, Henry, and bring down all sorts of small animals?"
"Some day there won't be anything left," put in Barringford. "Time was when buffalo were plentiful, but now you've got to go a long distance to spot 'em. How this elk got here is a mystery to me. I thought they stayed up near the lakes."
"The heavy winter made him go a long distance for food, I reckon," answered Henry; and this was probably the correct explanation.
Little Nell was at the window, arranging a row of pegs Rodney had made for her in the form of a company of soldiers. The largest peg went for the captain, and this she called Washington, while another, which would not stand, but insisted upon falling over, she called General Braddock, for she had heard the older folks talk over Braddock's fearful defeat at Fort Duquesne and of what Washington had done to save what was left of the English troops from annihilation.
"Here they come!" shouted the little miss. "And, oh, such a big deer as they have!"
"An elk, as sure as fate!" ejaculated Rodney, looking over her shoulder. "Henry will have the horns he wanted now."
"And we need the meat," said James Morris, as he flung open the door and hurried outside. "Elk is pretty strong, I know, but it is better than no fresh meat at all. And I am tired of rabbit."
The party of hunters soon came up, and all of the others, including Mrs. Morris, surveyed the game with interest, while they listened to how the elk had been tracked and brought low.
"Certainly worth going many miles for," said James Morris. "The pelt is a fine one."
The elk was hung up out of the reach of any wild beasts that might be prowling around, and the next day Henry and Sam Barringford skinned the animal and cut up the meat as Mrs. Morris desired it. The tongue was smoked, a small part of the forequarter pickled, and the remainder kept fresh by being hung up where it was cold. That day they dined on elk steaks and all pronounced the fresh meat very acceptable.
Late in the afternoon Paul Thompson came to the cabin on horseback, bringing his wife with him.
"We were coming sooner," said the husband, "but my wife got a sore throat and I thought I had better wait until she was well again."
"I hope it is all right now," replied Mrs. Morris, as she escorted her visitors into the cabin.
"Quite well, but she mustn't expose herself too much. When I go to Dennett's I am going to get her a mixture from the doctor."
The Thompsons were astonished to see the babies and wanted at once to hear all about them.
"It certainly is a queer mix-up," said the man, later on. "I'll see if I can learn anything about them when I am away. Somebody ought to be able to place them,—although, to be sure, a great number of children have become hopelessly lost during the late war."
"We know that," answered Mrs. Morris with a shudder. "Wasn't little Nell stolen from us by the Indians and then held by that bad French trader, Jean Bevoir?"
"Didn't you say Bevoir was dead?" asked Paul Thompson.
"He is," answered James Morris, "and I must confess I am rather glad of it. He caused me a great deal of trouble, in one way and another."
"I have news that Fort Detroit has surrendered to us," went on Paul Thompson. "The surrender took place on November the twenty-ninth,"
"Is that so," cried Dave, with deep interest. "Was there any fighting?"
"I don't believe there was, but the French commander was very bitter over the surrender, and so was Pontiac, the chief of the Ottawas."
"Pontiac?" repeated Henry. "I don't know that I ever heard of him."
"I have," put in Dave. "Somebody told me he was with the Indians that attacked General Braddock, at the opening of the war."
"Yes, he was thar," came from Barringford. "An' I heard tell at thet hospital I was in up to Canada thet he was with Montcalm when the French fit General Wolfe. Montcalm give him a suit of French officer's clothes and the Injun was tickled to death over 'em."
The news that Fort Detroit had surrendered to the English was true. Immediately after the fall of Montreal, as already described in detail in this series, General Amherst ordered Major Robert Rogers, of Rogers' Rangers fame, to ascend the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes, and take possession of Detroit, Michillimackinac—now called Mackinaw—and other French strongholds which had not yet been turned over to the British.
The start was made on the twelfth of September, 1760, and the force under Rogers consisted of two hundred men, a mere handful as troops as reckoned to-day, but one which was considered amply large enough to accomplish its purpose. The journey was made in a dozen or more whaleboats, and Fort Niagara was reached on the first of October,—about the time Dave, Henry, and Barringford received their release from the army and prepared to start for the Morris home hundreds of miles away.
Moving up the Niagara River as far as the rapids, Rogers' force carried their boats with their loads around the Falls, and then embarked for the journey up Lake Erie, stopping at the fort at Presqu' Isle, and at several other points.
Winter was now on in all its fury, and a heavy rain made Rogers go into camp in the forest bordering the water. Hardly had this been done when a number of Indians put in an appearance and demanded to know where the English soldiers were going.
"This is French and Indian territory," said they. "You can advance no further."
Rogers tried to explain that the war was now over and that all the land belonged to England. But the Indians would not listen, and said he must wait until they had consulted the great chief Pontiac.
When Pontiac finally came, dressed as became a great warrior, he listened gravely to what Rogers had to say. He was much chagrined to learn that the French had capitulated and said that he must have the night in which to think it over. When he went away Rogers and his soldiers feared treachery, but it did not come.
The next day Pontiac came once more. He now said he was willing to let the English advance, provided they would do what was right by his followers and treat him as his rank deserved. Rogers said he would do the best he could; and both smoked the pipe of peace.
When the mouth of the Detroit River was gained word came in that a large body of Indians was hiding in the forest bordering the stream, waiting to slaughter the whites. At once the rangers were on the alert, but the threatened attack did not come, for Pontiac told the Indians that it would be useless to fight the English at present, that they might rather become friends with them and await the settlement of the war between England and France.
Captain Beletre was in command at Fort Detroit. When the news was first brought to him that the French at Montreal had surrendered he refused to believe it.
"I will fight!" he cried, and did his best to arouse the Indians to aid him in defeating the object of Rogers' mission. But when the Colonial commander sent him a copy of the terms of the capitulation Beletre was forced to submit, and did so with the best grace possible. Soon the fleur de lis of France was lowered and the cross of St. George of England floated proudly from the flagstaff.
This surrender without bloodshed caused great wonder among the red men, and their wonder increased when they saw the French made prisoners with no attempt on the part of the rangers to massacre them. They thought that the English must indeed be powerful, and were glad that they had taken Pontiac's advice and remained, for the time being, friendly.
Detroit taken,—it was at that time but a straggling village with a rude palisade,—a detachment was sent to the south, to occupy Fort Miami and Fort Ouatanon, places of lesser importance. Then Rogers himself set out up Lake Huron to take Michillimackinac. But winter was now on in all its severity, and his boats were driven back by the snow and floating ice, so that he had to abandon this portion of his task. But it may be mentioned here that during the following spring, now so close at hand, a body of Royal Americans journeyed to Michillimackinac and took possession. Thus was the surrender of the French in America made complete so far as it embraced the territory which had been in dispute for so many years. The English imagined that times of peace and plenty were to follow. But they had not reckoned with Pontiac or with the thousands of Indians who stood ready to dig up the war hatchet at the call of this daring and learned chief.
PREPARING FOR THE EXPEDITION WESTWARD
The winter had been a severe one, but early in March came a rapid change and in a few days the spring thaw began in earnest, flooding the banks of the creeks and rivers and causing not a little damage to such buildings as were located close to the water's edge. The forest in that vicinity was still heavy, so that the freshet was not as severe as it is in these days, when there remains but little timber to break the rush of snow and ice and water down the sides of hills and mountains.
With the coming of spring James Morris began to make his arrangements for visiting his trading-post on the Kinotah. In the meantime those at the cabin did their best to learn something concerning the two babies Sam Barringford had picked up. But the efforts in this direction were without success.
Nothing could be learned of the traveler who had the little children, although diligent inquiries were pursued at Fort Bedford, and many other points. Letters were sent to Annapolis and to Philadelphia concerning Barringford's discovery but brought no satisfaction. Once a party wrote that the children might belong to his dead brother, but this proved to be untrue.
"It's a complete mystery, that's what it is," declared Henry.
"And it looks to me as if it will never be solved," added Dave.
The children still remained at the Morris house and Mrs. Morris gave both the best of care. The kind woman felt positive that they were twins, and all who saw the children agreed that she was right. One was slightly darker than the other in eyes and hair, and one chin was rounder than the other, but otherwise it was next to impossible to tell them apart.
"Reckon I'll have to shoulder 'em as my own," remarked Sam Barringford one day. "I'd do it in a minit if it wasn't thet I haven't nary a home to take 'em to."
"You may leave them here," said Mrs. Morris promptly. "I have talked it over with Joseph and with James and it will be quite suitable."
"If you'll take 'em in charge I'll pay you for it, Mistress Morris," said the old frontiersman. "It will be a weight off my shoulders to have ye do it. I know as how the little chaps will get the best o' care."
And so it was arranged that the twins should remain with Mrs. Morris. Barringford named them Tom and Artie, after two uncles of his own, and these names clung to them as they grew older. Little did Barringford or the Morrises dream of what the finding of these twins was to lead to in years to come.
"Of one thing I am certain," said James Morris one day. "They are of good breeding. No common blood flows in their veins."
"I take it you are right," answered his brother. "And it may be that some day Sam will be well rewarded for saving them from death."
After a great deal of deliberation it had been decided that James Morris should start for the west about the first of May. Dave and Henry were to go with him, and likewise Sam Barringford and three other frontiersmen named Lukins, Sanderson, and Jadwin. The party was likewise to contain four Indians of the Delaware tribe under White Buffalo. The whites were all to go mounted and were to take six pack-horses in addition. At first James Morris thought to take a couple of wagons, at least as far as Fort Pitt, but this plan was at the last moment abandoned, for wagons were scarce and high in price, and there was no telling if they could be sold when the last fort on the frontier was gained, and further progress with anything on wheels became out of the question.
The coming of White Buffalo with his handful of trusted braves was an event for Dave and Henry. This chief had been their friend for many years and they felt that they could rely upon him, no matter how great the emergency. In the past the tribe to which White Buffalo belonged had been split, some fighting with the English and others with the French, but now some of the leaders, including Skunk Tail, were dead, and, the war being at an end, all were reunited under the leadership of White Buffalo and a young chief named Rain Cloud. But White Buffalo could not forgive some of the men of his tribe for taking up arms against the English and he was glad enough in consequence to get away with his few chosen ones.
"How? How?" said the Indian, meaning "How do you do?" as he took first Dave's hand and then Henry's and gave each a tight grip. "White Buffalo is glad to see his young friends looking so well. The war has not harmed them."
"No, White Buffalo, we are as well as ever," answered Dave. "And how have you been since last we saw you?"
"White Buffalo is not so young as he once was," answered the chief. "His step is not so light and his eye cannot see so far. Before many winters he will be gathered to his fathers."
"Nonsense!" put in Henry. "You can shoot as straight as any of us, and I know it, and walk just as far, too. Who told you that you couldn't?"
"The young braves at White Buffalo's village. They do not care for a chief who is old."
"They make a big mistake, and I'd tell them so if I had the chance," went on Henry earnestly. "You are all right, White Buffalo, and we'll be very glad to have you along, even if your tribe doesn't want you any longer."
At this the eyes of the old Delaware glistened. "Henry is my true friend," he murmured. "And David is my friend, too. White Buffalo shall never forget them."
"Are the men with you young men?" questioned Dave.
"No, they are almost as old as White Buffalo himself."
"That will suit father. He doesn't care for the young braves. They always want to do what pleases them and not what is ordered."
"They are like untrained dogs, who follow one trail and then another and hunt out nothing," was the old chief's comment.
True to his word, he had brought a new doll for little Nell, made by himself with no other tool than his hunting knife. It was of wood, with eyes of beads, and with joints fastened with deer thongs. It was wonderfully painted, and on the top of the head was a bit of fur for hair.
"White Buffalo bring the papoose he told of," he said, producing it from under his blanket. "Lady papoose, her name Minnehaha."
"Oh, what a beautiful, beautiful doll!" screamed little Nell, as she embraced it. "And her arms and legs move, too! And such a nice name, Minnehaha."
"What does Minnehaha mean?" asked Mrs. Morris, as she too surveyed the precious gift.
"Minnehaha means Laughing Water," answered the Indian chief. "Grand lady, like Queen."
"She is certainly a grand doll," put in Rodney. "Nell, you must take the best of care of it."
"I shall," answered the little miss; and she did.
James Morris had gone to Annapolis, accompanied by his brother, and at this important seaport purchased such things as were needed for the expedition, including some extra weapons, powder, ball and shot, a box of flints, some clothing, and many other things of more or less usefulness. To these were added, when Will's Creek was again reached, two casks of salt pork, two bags of beans, a sack of flour, a canister of coffee, others of sugar, salt, pepper, and various other articles meant for the table. No fresh meat was taken, the party depending upon their firearms to supply game and their lines and hooks to furnish fish. A small supply of feed was also taken for the horses, but this was to be used only when natural fodder could not be found.
And all this was for an expedition from Cumberland to the Ohio River, a distance of not much over a hundred miles, and which to-day can be made in the trains inside of three hours with ease! But the trail the party was to take was all of two hundred miles in length, and fifteen to twenty miles per day was considered good traveling. This shows well the progress made in our country in the past one hundred and forty odd years.
There were not sufficient accommodations at the Morris' cabin for all the whites of the party, and the frontiersmen who were to go with Barringford remained at the fort at Cumberland until the start, while the Indians made themselves at home in the woods. Once White Buffalo was invited to take dinner at the cabin, and did so with his usual reserve, eating the meal in almost total silence, and immediately following with a "smoke of peace" between himself and James and Joseph Morris.
"That Indian is one out of a hundred," remarked Joseph Morris to his brother afterward. "I don't believe in trusting them much, but I would trust White Buffalo."
"That is exactly how I feel about it," was the answer, "and why I was so anxious to have him along. He has proved himself our friend through thick and thin. It is too bad that there are not more of such."
"Perhaps there would be, James, had the Indians been treated fairly from the start. But you know as well as I how the traders have cheated them when driving bargains, and how some have given them too much rum and then literally robbed them."
"Yes, yes, I know, and it is the one black spot on our colonization. There should be a law against it. But even that does not warrant the red men in being so savage as they have at times proved themselves."
"True again; but both the English and the French have been almost equally brutal at times. Look at some of the old frontiersmen—those Barringford has often spoken about. They liked a slaughter as well as the Indians, and did not hesitate to scalp the enemy in the same way."
"Yes; but they learned that from the redskins in the first place."
"That is true, too; but they should not have taken up the custom, but instead they should have tried to teach the Indians to do better," concluded Joseph Morris; and there the unsatisfactory argument rested.
ON THE OLD BRADDOCK ROAD
As old readers of this series will remember, there were but two roads or trails leading from the eastward to Fort Pitt, at the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, where is to-day located the great manufacturing city of Pittsburg.
The southern road was that cut through at the time General Braddock made his unsuccessful attack on Fort Duquesne, as the stronghold was then named by the French. This ran through Great Meadows and then northward to Fort Pitt. It started at Fort Cumberland, and passed within short walking distance of where the Morris homestead was located.
The northern road was that cut through by General Forbes during the second campaign against Fort Duquesne, when the French had been driven from that territory by the English troops and Royal Americans. This started from Fort Bedford, about thirty miles north of Fort Cumberland, and ran over the Allegheny Mountains, and across Stony Creek, Bushy Run, and oilier streams. It was a considerably shorter route than the other, but the trail was, in certain spots, more difficult.
At first James Morris, had thought to use the upper and shorter route, but he was fairly well acquainted with the other, and at last decided to stick to that which he knew rather than experiment with the unknown.
"I know we can get through on General Braddock's road," he said. "It may take a few days longer, but time is of no immense value to us."
"You are quite sure the Indians on that road are at peace with us?" asked his brother's wife timidly, "I do not wish Henry to get into more fighting. He saw quite enough of that during the war."
"White Buffalo assures me that, for the present, the war hatchet has been buried everywhere, Lucy. To be sure, there is no telling when it will be dug up again. But I reckon we can take care of ourselves should trouble come."
The starting of the expedition proved quite an event at Will's Creek, and many neighbors living within a radius of two and three miles came to see them off. Among the number was Paul Thompson, who said he would do what he could for those left behind during the absence of James Morris, Dave, and Henry.
It was a perfect day, with a warm breeze blowing up from the Potomac River. Not a cloud ruffled the sky, and the spring birds filled the air with their melody.
"Puts me in mind of the time I went out to the trading-post with you," said Dave to Sam Barringford, as the two rode along side by side, "Don't you remember what a time we had getting through, and how I fell into the river and was afraid of being captured by the Indians?"
"Yes, lad, I remember it well," answered the old frontiersman. "But the trail ain't half as bad as it was then—Braddock's pioneers smoothed down the rough places putty well,—not but what some of the brushwood has grown up ag'in."
"Shall we stop again at the Indian village of Nancoke?"
"The village ain't thar no more, Dave; fire in the forest swept it away last year, so I heard tell some time ago. But I reckon we'll stop at some redskin village afore we git to the Kinotah."
The end of the first day's traveling found the party miles beyond the last plantation on the road. They stopped in the midst of a little clearing where there had once been a house, but this the Indians had burnt years before and the tall brushwood covered the half-burnt logs and choked up the neighboring spring.
"The trail is poor," observed James Morris. "Much poorer than I expected. We shall have our own troubles getting through."
"It is not as good as when Barringford and I marched under General Braddock," answered Dave. "Then the pioneer corps cut down every tree and bush that was in our way."
"And lost so much time our army was defeated," put in the old frontiersman grimly. "Braddock meant well, but he didn't know how to fight Indians."
Early in the morning the movement forward was resumed. There was a small stream to cross, and a long hill, and then they entered into the depths of a primeval forest, where the tops of the trees were a hundred feet and more overhead, and the great twisted roots lay sprawling in all directions, covered partly with moss and decayed leaves. The trail was still visible, but the branches of the trees on either side met overhead, cutting off the sunlight and making it uncomfortably dark excepting at midday.
James Morris and Sam Barringford led the way, with the frontiersmen, Lukins, Sanderson, and Jadwin, bringing up on either side. Back of these came the pack-horses with their loads, looked after by Dave and Henry, and further to the rear were the Indians under White Buffalo. All told the party made quite an imposing appearance, and if put to it could have offered considerable opposition to any enemy that might have appeared.
The route through the forest soon grew worse. The heavy frost of the past winter had upheaved many rocks and they lay scattered in all directions on the side of a hill up which they were climbing. Sometimes a horse would slip on them and go down, and once a pack animal rolled completely over, smashing flat what was on his back.
"There goes our beans!" cried Henry. "Oh, what luck!"
Dave gave a look, and then, regardless of the seriousness of the situation, burst into a laugh. The beans were rolling in all directions, under the rocks and the horses' feet. It took some time to rescue the fallen animal and gather up the best part of the beans.
"Never mind," said Barringford philosophically. "Those beans will grow, and when you come back this way ag'in ye can pick 'em, Henry."
"Thank you, but I shan't come back just for a quart or two of beans," was the youth's answer. If the silence was sometimes oppressive during the day it was doubly so at night. Occasionally some birds would break the stillness, or they would hear the croaking of frogs in the marshes, or the bark of a distant fox, but that was all. If any big game was at hand it took good care to keep its distance.
The party soon reached the river where Dave had had his stirring adventure on horseback, as already described in "With Washington in the West," and the youth pointed out to his cousin the spot where he had gone into the rapids.
"I'll never forget that event," said he, with something like a shudder. "It was what Barringford would call a close call."
Fortunately there was now a good fording place at hand, so the entire party crossed without difficulty. On the other shore the trail made a new turn, and now began the ascent of a long hill, up which the pack-horses moved with the pace of snails. Those in the saddle had often to dismount and lead their steeds, and at the end of each mile all stopped for a needed rest.
"Don't know as this 'ere trail is as good as tudder," remarked Sam Barringford. "But they tell me it knocks three miles out o' the bend, an' that's something'."
James Morris and the old frontiersman had imagined the weather would remain fair, but on the morning of the fourth day out a cold rain set in that chilled all to the bone. The Indians under White Buffalo wished to go into camp at once, but James Morris decided to keep on and did so until the middle of the afternoon, when, as the storm increased, the party halted beneath a large clump of trees and lost no time in getting out their shelters and putting them up. The Indians had a wigwam of skins and the whites two canvas coverings. These were placed close together, and a roaring camp fire was started near by, where all hands tried to dry themselves and get warm. A steaming hot meal was also served, which did much to make everybody feel comfortable.
"I do hate a cold rain on a march," grumbled Henry, as he crouched in the shelter beside Dave. "Makes me feel like a wet hen that can't get inside of the coop."
"If only one doesn't catch cold," replied Dave. "Don't you remember the cold I caught when we were up at Lake Ontario?"
"To be sure; and I had a cold myself." Henry paused for a moment. "Where has Barringford gone?"
"He said he was going to try to stir up some game. I don't know what he expects to get in this rain."
"He ought to know what he is doing. He is the best white hunter that I ever ran across."
An hour passed, and by that time it was dark. The Indians sat in their wigwam smoking and talking in low guttural tones. The white hunters were also telling yarns of the war and of the various Indian uprisings before that time. They were thrilling tales and the youths listened to them with deep interest. Both Dave and Henry had been through a great deal themselves, so they knew that the stories, though wild and wonderful, were probably based on facts. To-day, when we live in such security and comfort, we can hardly realize the dangers and privations those pioneers endured to make our glorious country so full of rich blessings to us.
Growing tired of sitting down, Henry had just arisen to stretch his limbs, when a sudden rushing sound through the forest reached his ears.
"What is that?" he questioned, and instinctively reached for his rifle.
"Some animal, I reckon," answered Dave.
A rifle shot rang out, and the sound came closer. Then, as Henry ran out of the shelter, he uttered a yell of alarm.
"A buffalo! Lookout!"
He was right, a magnificent specimen of the buffalo tribe was crashing along under the wet trees and among the bushes. He was alone and rushing along at his best speed. In a twinkling he struck the clump of trees, and, hitting the shelter of the whites, smashed it flat!
HENRY'S STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE
In days gone by the American buffalo, or bison, roamed nearly the entire length and breadth of North America. The Indians hunted the animal industriously, but their efforts with bow and spear were not sufficient to exterminate the species.
But with the coming of the white man to America matters took a different turn. The buffalo could not run away so easily from a rifle shot, and armed with the best weapons they could obtain, Indians and white hunters rounded up the buffaloes at every possible opportunity, in order to obtain the pelts. This soon caused the animals to thin out and flee to the westward, beyond the Mississippi, where they at last sought refuge in the Rocky Mountains. So fiercely have they been hunted during the past seventy-five years that to-day but a few herds remain and ere long these promise to be totally exterminated.
Henry had never seen a buffalo so far to the eastward and he was therefore much astonished at the sudden appearance of the shaggy-headed beast. He gave a yell of alarm, which was followed by another yell from Dave, as the frail shelter bent beneath the weight of the buffalo.
"A bison!" shouted James Morris, and White Buffalo took up the cry of alarm. Then down went the canvas flat, and the buffalo made a plunge for the forest beyond. Henry heard a groan from Dave, as the youth was covered up. Not waiting longer, he raised his gun, took hasty aim at the animal and fired.
"Did ye git him?" The query came from Sam Barringford, as, bare-headed, he rushed into the little clearing back of the trees. "I give him one in the side but it didn't seem to stop him none."
"I don't know if I hit him or not," answered Henry. "He burst upon us so swiftly I hardly knew what to do."
While this talk was going on James Morris was crawling from under the wreck of the tent. Barringford reloaded and ran on after the buffalo and Henry did likewise. They could hear the great beast plunging headlong through the brush.
"He has got it putty bad," remarked Barringford. "If he hadn't he wouldn't ram into things so hard. Reckon he hardly knows what he is doin'."
"I hope we get him," answered Henry, his eyes filled with eager desire. "We would have fresh meat for a long time, and plenty of jerked beef, too."
More than half a mile was covered and still the buffalo kept on, much to the surprise of the young hunter and the pioneer.
"Not so badly hit as I reckoned on," panted Barringford.
"Perhaps I didn't hit him at all," was Henry's answer.
Soon they gained the top of a rise of ground. Here the rocks were smooth and slippery, and in a twinkling Henry went down and rolled over and over down a long hill.
"Hi! hi! stop yourself!" roared Barringford in quick alarm. "Stop, or ye'll go over the cliff!"
His alarm was justified, for the hill ended in a cliff all of thirty feet in height, below which were some jagged rocks and a small mountain torrent flowing into the upper Monongahela.
Henry heard the cry but did not understand the words. Yet he did not like the idea of rolling he knew not to where, and dropping his gun he caught at the wet rocks and bushes which came to hand. But his downward progress was not stayed, and in a few seconds he reached the edge of the cliff and rolled out of sight!
The incident happened so quickly that Barringford was almost stunned. He started to go down the hill after Henry but for fear of meeting a like fate, dropped on his breast in the wet and worked his way along from rock to bush with great caution. Twice he called Henry's name, but no answer came back.
"If he went over on them rocks it's likely he was smashed up," he groaned. "Why didn't I have sense enough to hold him back? I knew this dangerous spot was here."
Step by step he drew closer to the edge of the cliff. The snows of the past winter had washed away and loosened much of the ground, and once he felt as if everything was giving way and he was to share the fate of his companion.
At last he was within three feet of the edge of the cliff. He could look down into the gully beyond but not down on the side where he felt Henry must be resting.
"Henry!" he called loudly. "Henry!"
He waited for fully a minute, but no answer came back. His face grew more disturbed than ever.
"He is hurt, that's sartin," he muttered. "Like as not he broke his neck."
Barringford always carried a bit of rope with him and he now had the same piece used in dragging the elk to the Morris homestead. Taking this, he tied it to a stout bush, and by this means lowered himself to the very edge of the cliff.
Night was now approaching, and at the bottom of the gully all was so dark he could see only with the greatest of difficulty. The torrent ran among rough rocks and brushwood, with here and there a patch of long grass bent flat from the winter's snows.
"Henry! Where are you?"
Again there was no answer, and now Barringford was thoroughly alarmed. He remembered how Mrs. Morris had asked him to keep watch over her son.
"Got to git down to him somehow," he told himself. "I hope he's only stunned."
After a general survey of the situation, the old frontiersman decided that the cliff terminated at a point several hundred yards to the southward. Accordingly, he climbed up the hill with care and commenced to make a detour in that direction.
It was hard work to make any movement forward, for the rocks were unusually rough and between them were hollows filled with mud, dead leaves and water. Three times he fell and when he arose he was plastered with mud from head to feet. But he did not turn back, and every minute wasted only added to his alarm, for Sam Barringford, rough though he was in outward appearance, had a heart that at times could be as tender as that of a child.
"If the lad's dead I don't know how I'm a-goin' to break the news to his folks," he groaned, with a long sigh. "Joseph and his wife allers looked to me to keep an eye on him. They expect me to be keerful. 'Twasn't right at all fer me to take Henry so close to sech a dangerous spot. I ought to be licked fer it, an' licked hard, too."
It was a good half hour before he could get down to where the torrent flowed over the rocks. He was now a quarter of a mile from where Henry had taken the unexpected tumble, and working his way down the stream was no easy task.
It had set in to rain harder than ever, and the black clouds soon shut out what little was left of daylight. Wet to the skin, and shivering from the cold, he moved on as well as he was able. Again he called Henry's name, but only a dull echo came back, partly drowned by the rushing of the water.
When Barringford thought he had covered the proper distance he came to a halt. On his back he carried Henry's rifle as well as his own, having picked it up when leaving the top of the hill, but the owner of the firearm was nowhere visible.
"I'll have to make a light, no two ways on thet," he mused, and moved close up under the rocks to get some dry kindlings. But everything was thoroughly wet around him and though he set fire to the tinder in his box he could obtain nothing in the shape of a torch.
Again he stumbled on, soon getting into the water up to his waist. In fresh alarm he found his way out of the torrent and next encountered some thick, wiry bushes where further progress seemed out of the question.
"Beats all, how things are goin' crosswise," he muttered, as he paused to get his breath. "An' all along o' thet confounded buffalo, too. Reckon he's miles an' miles away by this time," and in this surmise the old frontiersman was correct.
An hour's search convinced him that Henry was no longer in that vicinity. But what had become of the youth was a mystery.
"He wouldn't walk away without lettin' me know," reasoned Barringford. "Must be he fell into the water and got drowned and somethin' is holdin' him under. One thing is sartin, if thet's so tain't no use to try to find him afore mornin'. Might as well go back to camp an' break the news."
But he was unwilling to go back, and again and again he called Henry's name, listening with all the acuteness of which his trained sense of hearing was capable. Only the rushing of the torrent and the dripping of the rain answered him.
"No use," he muttered. "He is gone an' thet is all there is to it. I've got to face the music and tell the others, though it's worse nor pullin' teeth to do it."
Getting out of the gully in the almost total darkness was now truly difficult, and had not Barringford been skilled in woodcraft he would certainly have been lost. But he had taken note of the way he had come and remembered every bush, tree, and rock, and now he returned by the same route. It was a tough climb back to the forest where the trail of the buffalo had been last seen and here he had to rest once more, before starting for the camp.
A WAIT IN CAMP
Let us go back to the time when the buffalo, in his mad eagerness to get away from the hunters, plunged headlong into the shelter of the whites and hurled it flat.
Under the canvas lay Dave, with the breath knocked completely out of him. He felt something heavy come down on his back and then for the moment knew no more.
When he opened his eyes he found that his father had hauled him from under the wreckage and was gazing earnestly into his face.
"Are you hurt, son?" demanded James Morris quickly.
"I—I—reckon not" was the slow answer. "But something hit me in the—the back. Whe—where is the buffalo?"
"Gone, and Barringford and Henry after him."
"Hope they lay him low."
"So do I. But are you quite sure you are not injured? I thought the animal stepped on you."
"Maybe he did, father. But I'm all right, thank goodness." And Dave stretched himself to prove his words.
The Indians had gathered around and were talking excitedly. Some wanted to join in the hunt, but the frontiersmen under Barringford held them back.
"You let Sam an' Henry go it alone," said Sanderson. "They know wot they are a-doin'."
"That is true," answered White Buffalo. "My white brothers can shoot well—I have seen it."
Soon the knocked-down tent was raised again, and the fire stirred up. Then, as the storm, increased, all crouched in the shelters they had erected and awaited the return of Henry and the old frontiersman.