RODNEY, THE RANGER
WITH DANIEL MORGAN ON
TRAIL AND BATTLEFIELD
John V. Lane
Author of "Marching with Morgan," etc.
L. C. PAGE & COMPANY
BY L. C. PAGE & COMPANY
All rights reserved
Made in U. S. A.
New Edition, May, 1925
Electrotyped and Printed by
THE COLONIAL PRESS
C. H. Simonds & Co., Boston, U. S. A.
CHAPTER PAGE I. "You—You Simpleton!" 1 II. Several People Have Troubles 12 III. How Rodney and Angus Became Friends 19 IV. Rodney's Visit to Monticello 26 V. A Plunge Into the Forest 36 VI. A Wild Flight 48 VII. Lisbeth Writes from London 57 VIII. The Chief Who Demanded the Truth 64 IX. A White Boy Adopted by the Indians 74 X. Hating, but Waiting 80 XI. Father Mourning for Son 89 XII. In the Midst of Increasing Perils 95 XIII. The Beginning of War 104 XIV. Hornets With and Without Wings 112 XV. A Welcome Voice 119 XVI. Rodney Meets With Reverses 130 XVII. Somewhat of a Mystery 142 XVIII. Rodney Rides With Dispatches 153 XIX. Rodney to the Rescue 165 XX. Rallying Virginia's Minute Men 176 XXI. Virginians Learning to Shoot British Troops 184 XXII. Rodney's Sacrifice and His Mother's 195 XXIII. In the Thick of It 205 XXIV. The Rangers Sent Against Burgoyne 218 XXV. Put to the Test 228 XXVI. Tricked, and by His Friend 240 XXVII. A Blended Rose 249 XXVIII. New Ventures With Old Acquaintances 256 XXIX. What the Package Contained 271 XXX. Rodney Rides With the Dragoons 280 XXXI. Home Again 288 XXXII. A Reward Greater Than Promotion 294
PAGE "That morning, a canoe containing two savages came up past him." Frontispiece "He rolled the dazed man on to his face and bound his arms behind his back." 88 "He seized the money and threw it in the Chevalier's face." 140 "'Say, you fellers as hev breeches ought ter bring us in a bite ter eat.'" 244
RODNEY, THE RANGER
A sturdy boy in homespun, a lad of nearly fourteen years, whose eyes were clear and gray and whose face was resolute and honest, led his little sister by the hand, for she was small and the road was rough.
"We'll rest, 'Omi, when we come to the big tree. Are you cold?" he asked, for there was the chill of March in the wind, though the sun lay very warm in the sheltered places.
"No. Who?" she asked, pointing a tiny hand at two riders turning the corner, a youth of about seventeen and a young girl. Their horses were spirited and the black groom following urged his horse.
The youth was not attractive, though his riding habit was the fashionable product of a London tailor in the style of 1772. His hair was dark, his eyes steely blue and set close to a long nose; his mouth was ill adapted to a pleasant smile.
The girl was attractive, a fact people were quick to recognize, and she was so accustomed to seeing them turn and look after her that she would have been piqued had they not done so. Her ways were wilful but there was a grace in them all. Mischief lurked in the dark blue eyes, which now lighted with genuine pleasure. She fluttered from her horse as a bird alights and threw her arms around the child, exclaiming, "And how is little Naomi?" Then, holding the child from her, she looked in her face and said, "You are a dear. Aren't you proud of her, Rodney?"
"She's just as good as she looks," the boy replied, blushing with pleasure, and then glanced at the youth, who did not appear to notice him but slyly spurred his horse, so that the animal in swerving would have knocked Rodney into the ditch had the lad not been nimble.
"Nith; red," said the child, clutching the girl's scarlet cloak.
"Yes, and you like my poor, old red hat, too, don't you? though Cousin Mogridge says it ill becomes me."
"Eth, pretty too," and the child pouted her lips for a kiss.
Not one, but several, were most graciously given her with the admonition: "Next time you be sure and remember me and my name. Say Lisbeth Danesford."
"Lithbeth Danethford," repeated the child, looking up into the face of the girl, her big, brown eyes full of seriousness. "I like 'oo."
"Have a care, 'Omi, for once Lisbeth knows that she'll treat you as she does her other admirers."
This remark was surprisingly impolite for Master Rodney Allison, but he was offended that Lisbeth had not introduced him to her London cousin, whom he was itching to thump. Moreover he had experienced Lisbeth's fickleness.
She ignored him and said: "'Omi, where did you find such eyes? They are like stars with dew on them," but suddenly she broke off and, with a bound, snatched from her cousin's hand the whip with which he was about to lash Rodney.
The youth, evidently not liking the conversation, had again spurred his horse against young Allison, who without ceremony had seized the bit and set the animal on his haunches, nearly upsetting the rider.
Lisbeth had seen enough to know what had caused the trouble. "Boys are bullies," she cried. "Here's a test for your valour. Who'll rescue my abused hat from the dragon?" saying which she sent it spinning over the fence.
Now the dragon was nothing less than a full grown and surly bull grazing in the pasture.
Rodney, enraged at Mogridge's insolence and taunted by her words and the sight of the hat scaling like a low-flying swallow, yielded to the mad impulse to follow it. He would show the arrogant London youth what a Virginia boy dared do!
The bull had lifted his head in amazement, which gave place to rage at the red thing flashing before his sullen eyes. Snorting, he charged just as the lad snatched the hat from the ground and, turning, ran toward the fence.
It was a foolhardy deed, and the boy's chance of escape seemed hopeless,—when the unexpected happened.
A little figure climbed the fence and with a shrill cry ran to meet him, waving her red cloak to distract the brute's attention.
The boy started to run between the bull and the girl, but she shrieked, "I'm all right. Run for your life!"
Had not the beast hesitated, uncertain which of the two was his tormenter, this story would be brief indeed. Before Mogridge had dismounted the two had reached safety.
The girl, almost breathless, turned to Rodney, stamped her foot and between her gasps cried: "You—you—simpleton!"
Rodney Allison, being now in his right mind and a sensible lad, realized the merited rebuke, though scarcely from the girl who had dared him to make the venture.
"I fancy Squire Danesford will think you one too, Bess, when he hears of you facing charging bulls like a Spanish picador, all to save churlish fools from their folly," said her cousin, sneeringly.
"Don't you dare tell him! If you do I'll never speak to you again." There was a tearful note in the girl's voice and a disagreeable one in the youth's laugh.
Again he laughed and with flaming face she cried, "Perhaps you had better tell him all while you're about it; how you sat your horse like a pat of dough and watched me do it."
It was Rodney's turn to laugh, which he did most heartily, and Mogridge, his face redder than his fancy waistcoat, wheeled his horse and rode after the girl who was spurring ahead.
"I'd like to roll him in the mud and you'd like to have me do it, wouldn't you, 'Omi?"
Naomi, trudging confidingly by his side, looked inquiringly out of her big eyes, stars with plenty of dew on them now, for during the excitement she had lifted up her voice in wailing and the tears had flowed freely.
Not until the riders drew rein at "The Hall" did Henry Mogridge overtake his cousin in the headlong race home. As it was, she dismounted before he could offer assistance and ran up the steps and across the white pillared veranda into the great wainscoted hall. An instant she paused, looking up at the portrait of a beautiful woman hanging there, and then went to her room.
The flickering light from the logs in the big fireplace relieved the shadows on the face in the frame, a face so like that of the girl's as to leave no doubt whence she had inherited her charms.
The colour of hair and eyes, the poise of head, all were strikingly like, but in the girl's face was a wilful recklessness, perhaps due to lack of a mother's care, the mother she had never known, but more than probable an inheritance from her father, the reckless, hot-headed, sporting squire.
At table that evening the girl said little and made an excuse to leave before the last course.
Would her cousin tell her father? At the thought a look of defiance was in the girl's face, a look not pleasant to see there.
As for the youth with the long nose and the narrow eyes, he had other plans for the present. Just now he was making himself as companionable as possible to his uncle, and it must be admitted he knew somewhat of the ways in which to do this. He told of the latest plays and scandals, to all of which the squire listened with occasional interruptions and allusions to what he knew of the London of the Fifties.
"Jupiter!" cried Mogridge, "but I'd think you'd find the Old Dominion mighty tame after the pleasures and associations you enjoyed in that good old town."
"It's all in adapting one's self, my boy. I'm a bit old and Lisbeth is too young to show you what pleasures the Old Dominion really can afford. I'll have to turn you over to the Reverend Pothero. He's a rare blade and sure cure for ennui."
"We hear tales of some of your Virginia parsons, and the joke of it is the stories, many of them at least, come from churchmen."
"Oh, well, some things might be better, I suppose, but what can you expect when so few desire to take up the work in this country? To tell the truth, it sometimes was confoundly lonely at The Hall before Pothero came. But you haven't told me anything of the government's latest policy with respect to these colonies. Will Lord North's hand be strong on the helm and what have we to fear from that arch demagogue, Pitt?"
"North's hand will be as firm as the king's and no firmer. Pitt will be dead when he has ceased to be a demagogue. The king speaks of him as 'That Trumpet of Sedition,'" replied Mogridge with an air of sagacity.
"I fear you are right. His words have afforded the would-be traitors in this land their chief encouragement."
"And from what I hear they seem to be having their way in Virginia."
"Yes, there's the very old Harry to pay here. Men whose position and interests lie in retaining the old order of things are catering to the rabble for a little temporary advantage. You see, the past few years, the Scotch-Irish immigrants have been pouring into the northwestern part of the colony. By nature and education they are hostile to rightful authority, are Dissenters and opposed to contributing in the way of taxes for the support of the established order."
"I understand that the other side, the men who are using these ignorant people for their purposes, have control of the House of Burgesses."
"Fools! to think they can scare England by refusing to buy goods of her just because she wishes them to pay a small tax. I've just heard that Colonel Washington met Richard and Francis Lee at the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg the other night after the governor, God bless him! had dissolved the Burgesses; that with Tom Jefferson and Patrick Henry they laid their plans for uniting with the rebels in the other colonies. I can't understand of what such men as Washington are thinking. Treason, pur et simple, that's what 'twill come to."
"Henry is a wonderful orator, they say."
"Words, words, and more words. Where he learns 'em all is a mystery, for he'd much rather talk than study. He's infatuated young Jefferson, who's yeoman on his father's side, but who's as smart as he is conceited. What do you suppose that young scamp is trying to accomplish? Nothing less than the ruin of the old families of this Dominion, sir. He would so change our laws that, instead of our estates descending to the eldest son and thus being kept up, they would be divided among the children, as is done in Massachusetts. And he would disestablish the church, he would, by gad, sir!"
The squire's face, always florid from high living, was now so purple with passion that his wily nephew, fearing apoplexy, changed the subject.
"By the way, uncle, why don't you send Lisbeth to England to finish her education? She's growing to be a handsome woman and surely, if you'll pardon me, your broad acres can yield sufficient to fit her for the high position she'll be called to occupy."
"She's but a girl, all I have. She's like her dead mother and I—I can't let her go."
"But think what her mother would wish. Go over with her."
"I can't leave the estate. The slaves are only to be depended on when they have a capable overseer. Mine is not altogether trustworthy."
"Excuse me but I don't think it right for her to associate with servants and people like the Allisons. By the way, who are these Allisons? When riding this afternoon we met the boy and child, and Lisbeth made much of them. Surely they are not of our class."
"Allison is a Scotchman. I happened to be at Norfolk when he landed from the old country. The captain told me the fellow had been brought on board unconscious and with a bad wound in his head. I liked the man's face, and asked no questions. He never spoke of the matter. I paid the cost of his passage and let him work it out. He's a good accountant."
"An objectionable person, probably an escaped convict," remarked Mogridge with the air of a judge.
"On the contrary he seems a most respectable man. To be sure he's a Dissenter, but one has to expect that. I've always found him trustworthy. He has taught a field school for years and the children make good progress under his instruction."
"You can't mean that you allow Lisbeth to go to such a school?"
"Well, you see," replied the squire as if in excuse, "the school is a small one, confined to my neighbours' children, otherwise I wouldn't allow it."
"So she associates with such boys as that Allison."
"He's a fine lad. His mother was a Tawbee, old Squire Tawbee's daughter. She was a playmate of mine and lived at Greenwood till it had to be sold, after the squire's death, to pay the debts."
"But you don't know about the father?"
"I said," replied the squire, rather testily, "that he's a decent man except for his revolutionary notions. He wants to say 'amen' every time Patrick Henry opens his mouth. That, I have no patience with. England has helped us fight our foes. This hullabaloo about no taxation without representation fills the ears of the ignorant. Why, fifty years ago the chronic growlers opposed the establishment of a postal service because the government, without consulting the colonies, charged postage on the letters."
"It seems, however, that you are providing a living for a man who is a chronic growler and opposed to you." There was the evident suggestion of a sneer in Mogridge's voice.
"Well, I suppose I might look at it that way. I took him up when he hadn't a friend."
"Pardon me, but I do not see how one might look at it in any other way. A fellow who will do as you say he is doing, is an ingrate."
The squire frowned, but made no reply, and Henry Mogridge smiled unpleasantly, for he saw that his words were surely poisoning his uncle's thoughts respecting the Allisons.
SEVERAL PEOPLE HAVE TROUBLES
Mogridge's sneers went to bed with the squire and arose with him in the morning. The thought that a man whom he had befriended was opposing him rankled deeply. And while in this irritable condition one of the first persons the squire met was David Allison, who had come early to work on the accounts.
"Good morning, Allison," was the squire's greeting, spoken gruffly.
"Good morning, Squire Danesford," replied the Scotchman. "I thought I wad coom early an' ha' the work oot o' the way."
"So as to have time for carrying on your treasonable mischief, I suppose."
"Excuse me, Squire, but I dinna think I understand."
"D'ye think I don't know that you go about preaching the pernicious doctrines of Patrick Henry and Tom Jefferson, who sports on his seal that sentiment of the demagogue: 'Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.' Who's the tyrant? Why, our most gracious sovereign! That sort of talk is nothing short of treasonable. The purpose of it is revolution. Oh, I know!"
Allison looked at the squire in wonderment, which apparently served to further excite the squire's rage, for he, without waiting for reply, exclaimed: "There soon will come a time when the traitors will have to eat their words. When she was ready, England put her powerful hand on the Indies, and they became hers. She reached out into Canada and, taking France by the coat collar, marched her out. When she feels like it, she'll devote some spare half hour to knocking your heads together."
The bent figure of the Scotchman straightened as he looked full in the face of his employer. "You misunderstand me, Squire; I only ask that England shall treat the colonists as she would treat Englishmen, for that is what we are. But for us she wad na' found the task o' running France out of Canada an easy one. I fought for England in that war as surely as I did for the colonies an' I dinna intend to make talk that a self-respecting man should not."
"That sounds well, but it means treason; and I for one will not harbour or support traitors," was the angry response.
"And I," replied Allison, with dignity, "will permit no man to control my thoughts or call me a traitor to the country for which I fought."
Thus the kindly relations between the two men, who in their hearts held warm regard, each for the other, were abruptly ended in mutual ill will. At a window looking out stood Henry Mogridge, with the same disagreeable smile his face had worn the previous evening.
How like a chill fog stealing in and shutting down, shrouding a place, is trouble in a household!
The squire was uneasy all the morning and then, calling for his horse, mounted him and rode away. Elizabeth eluded her cousin, who, left to amuse himself, heartily wished himself back in London.
At the home of the Allisons the trouble was of a very serious nature. David's intention to keep from his wife and family what had occurred that morning, failed. Mrs. Allison knew that something serious had happened and, in her quiet way, finally learned what it was. Rodney, too, learned of it and that night went to his bed feeling that other boys fared better than he. There was his cousin, Dick Tawbee, with horses and dogs and servants to care for them, while he—well, there was no lad he knew who had so much of trouble.
It might have contributed to Rodney's peace of mind that evening could he have seen the predicament of a boy, about his own age, who, to escape abuse, had run from his cabin home and huddled down behind a stump in the clearing around the cabin. He lived on the frontier of the colony of Pennsylvania, and, though a rather uninteresting little fellow, had troubles of his own and was bearing them without a murmur, and, instead of thinking about them, was considering the pleasures the day had afforded him.
The Vuysens with whom he lived, because after the death of his parents he could not find a better home, had been abusing him for running away in the morning, leaving his duties because he had wished to see a beaver colony at work. He had not intended to do anything wrong, but the temptation had been too great. That morning the world seemed overflowing with the alluring promises of spring, and the birds were singing in the forest. He thought of the beaver colony he had discovered the winter before when it was locked in ice. The ice would now be gone. Surely here was his opportunity.
He had approached very cautiously so as not to alarm the little animals, and finally found a place where he had a good view of them at work, cutting down trees with their chisel-shaped teeth and building dams with a skill which causes men to wonder.
While trying to get into a comfortable position he had stepped on a dry twig that snapped under his feet. A big beaver slapped his broad tail on the water. Splash! and they disappeared in a twinkling. But Conrad, that was the boy's name, was a patient little fellow and after a time his patience was rewarded by seeing the beaver resume their tasks. Some cut down the trees, cutting them so they fell just where the beaver wanted them, woodsmen could have done no better. Some were piling brush among the branches of the trees while others brought earth to fill in the network of brush, patting it down with their broad tails, as masons would use their trowels; others were rolling a stone into the dam they were building. Seemingly they had the work as carefully planned as men could have done.
Conrad was fond of the woods and animals, his only friends, for the Vuysens looked upon him as a sort of slave and treated him unkindly. It was rare pleasure for the lad to watch the beaver colony, and, now that he had been turned out of the cabin supperless, he sat down by the stump to think over his pleasure, rather than his trouble, and soon fell fast asleep. While Conrad slept, a small band of Indians was approaching along a spotted trail leading through the forest.
When awakened, Conrad thought he was dreaming; but, after rubbing his eyes and collecting his senses, he realized that the yelling and commotion were being caused by savages. His instinct prompted him to steal away, but, when he saw them leading the horse from the stable shed and one Indian cruelly beat it, he forgot himself and rushed to interfere. The horse was the best friend Conrad had known since his mother died.
A half drunken savage seized the boy by the hair, but others interfered, and so it happened that, instead of being killed on the spot, he found himself, together with the horse, a prisoner and hurried along the trail in the forest.
Conrad made no complaint but quietly went with his captors. He recalled that Vuysen had said there was peace with the Indians but had added, in the words of an old chief, "The rogues on both sides always make trouble." Perhaps, after all, this was but a thieving expedition and they might adopt him as a member of the tribe, a thought which strangely enough brought comfort to the boy's heart. He loved the woods and did not love the Vuysens. The savages could not know this and so, though he had no thought of trying to escape, they bound him. Although his bonds were uncomfortable he slept soundly, while Rodney, down in Virginia in his comfortable bed, passed a restless night; all of which helps to prove that it does not always depend so much on what one has, as on what one thinks about it.
When Rodney came down to breakfast the next morning he was resolved to urge his father to make a pioneer home in the wonderful West he had heard so many tales about, out where there was plenty of big game and where there were broad acres to be had for the taking.
Not until he had nearly finished his breakfast did he screw up his courage to the point of carrying out his resolve. Then he said: "Father, I've heard you say there is land out on the Ohio River which you can have because of your service in the last war. Why don't we settle on it? This place has nothing for us with the squire for an enemy, and not much at best."
"You little know of the perils, my lad. Surely ye wouldna' ha' the mother an' little one killed by the savages? But I'm minded to say that a venture into the western part o' this colony is much to my liking this morning. From all I can learn a poor man in those parts is not so hedged aboot as here."
Neither father nor son thought of the generally observed fact that when a poor man began to seek a home where land was cheap he usually became a pioneer with his face turned toward the West, the great longing for a better home luring him toward the richer lands said to lie beyond the mountains.
HOW RODNEY AND ANGUS BECAME FRIENDS
"Say, Sim, what's the story you's goin' to tell, the one yer cousin told ye?"
"Yes, tell us about it, Sim."
The pupils of the cabin school were having recess. A few weeks before David Allison had moved his family up to Charlottesville from the "tide-water country," and had opened this school.
"Well, ye see—" began Sim.
"Yes, we see all right, but thar ain't much fun lookin' at you gittin' ready to tell a story. You sure are slower'n our ol' nigger, Absalom."
"Give Sim a chance!"
Angus MacGregor spoke as one with authority and his stockily built body looked capable of enforcing the order. Sim proceeded.
"As I was sayin', Bill, that's my cousin, he lives over in the Shenandoah valley two looks and a yell from the Jumpin'-off Place, was out fishin' with another feller. When they was goin' home an' come out inter the clearin' roun' Fin Anderson's cabin, they see an ol' Injun, Bowlegs they call him, snoopin' roun'. They hid an' watched perceedin's. When ol' Bowlegs found no one was ter home what's he do but walk right in and bring out a jug o' corn liquor an' set right thar an' fill his gullet. Then the ol' varmint laid down fer a snooze."
"Oughter tarred an' feathered the ol' cuss," said Angus.
"That's jes' what Bill thought, but they didn't have no tar, let alone feathers. But Fin Anderson's a curis feller, an' Bill remembered that when he went out inter that country he toted along a feather bed; 'lowed he wanted somethin' different to sleep on ter home than he had in ther woods. When Bill thought o' that feather bed he jes' sithed fer tar, when he'd make a turkey gobbler outer Bowlegs. Well, while they's rummagin' roun' ther cabin they found some wild honey Fin had brought in, so they took that an' daubed ther ol' feller from head ter heel and then rolled him in the feathers."
"Kinder rough on Fin's feather bed."
"Oh, he'd sure enough lay it to the Injun. After they got back home an' told the story some o' the fellers 'lowed as how they'd go over an' give Bowlegs a lickin' ter boot. Well, when they got in sight o' the ol' rascal, he was jes' soberin' up, sittin' thar rubbin' his eyes. 'Bout that time he seen ther feathers stickin' out all over him an' he let out a whoop an' went tearin' off through the brush, sheddin' feathers at every jump like an ol' settin' hen scared off'n her nest."
"They oughter licked the ol' redskin; they're all thieves," said Angus with an important air.
"He stole the liquor but it looks like some one else stole the honey and feathers."
All eyes turned toward the speaker who had joined the group unobserved. He was Rodney Allison.
The face of Angus turned red as a beet. Here was this upstart new boy with an air of questioning his authority. By means of Angus' ability to give any boy in the neighbourhood a sound drubbing if necessary he had become the recognized leader. Evidently this new boy needed to be shown his proper place.
"Huh! Bill an' his friends ain't thieves, I can tell. An Injun is a born thief, so are most niggers, an' I've been told that, when England used to send her thieves to Virginny, some of 'em turned schoolmasters after they landed."
Sammy Dawson snickered and it was Rodney's turn to get red in the face.
"I know one schoolmaster," he said, "who is an honest man and always was, though thieving must be more fun than trying to teach some o' the lunkheads who go to his school."
Sammy didn't snicker this time, but his eyes grew big and round.
Angus began to swell with anger. He stepped forward and shook his fist under Rodney's nose. Then he found his speech. "I've known o' folks," he said, "who weren't wanted down in the tide-water country, comin' up this way an' bein' sent back with their hides tanned;" saying this, he tried to slap Rodney's face.
In all the house of MacGregor probably there never had been a more surprised member than was Angus five minutes later, for David Allison had taught his son other things than were found in books; but he also had taught that this knowledge was not to be used except rarely, and when absolutely necessary. Rodney uneasily recalled this part of the instruction after the fight was over, and he had time to reflect on his part in bringing it on. Evidently he wasn't doing anything to make the family popular with their new neighbours, whereas, if he'd kept his mouth shut instead of interrupting the conversation, all would have been well.
"Angus, let's shake hands. I didn't mean any offence and said more than I ought."
Angus took the proffered hand rather reluctantly, and on his face was a look of suspicion, visible along with a black eye and a bleeding nose. Then he said: "You don't come to school; got larnin' enough, I reckon."
"I have to work days, but study what I can nights," was the reply.
"I saw ye workin' with the nigger this mornin'. I 'lowed as how down in the tide-water country an' in most other places folks as 'sociate with niggers ain't much thought on. A slave has ter be kept in his place."
"The work has to be done and there are only Thello and I to do it. He is not a slave, nor is his wife. Mother granted 'em freedom after grandfather gave them to her. Father doesn't believe in slavery. But they would die before they'd leave us."
"I reckon they're niggers jes' the same."
"Yes, and I would trust 'em farther than I would most white folks."
"I got no use fer mixin' with niggers."
"Look here, Angus, I thought you and I shook hands."
"Well, I didn't like ter refuse to meet ye half way," replied the boy, sullenly, adding "My father says he allus 'spicions roosters as don't crow."
"What do you mean?"
"I 'low as how 'twould be like most fellers, as had licked another, to brag about it."
So Angus suspected the proffered friendship! "Well, you see, when I came to think it over, I saw that I was partly to blame," said Rodney. "I broke into the talk and invited trouble. I don't like to hear any one blamed because their skins happen to be black or red, but it wasn't exactly my business, as the talk wasn't addressed to me."
"I reckon you're all right," said Angus, holding out his hand, this time with a heartiness which was unmistakable. Then he said, "I'm glad you've come up inter this neck o' woods, but I'm sorry ye bought that place o' Denham, unless ye paid cash down an' mighty little at that. The land's worn out and the ol' skin-flint has stuck two or three others in the same way. Had a mortgage on it, an' then foreclosed."
"I don't know what arrangements father made," replied Rodney, uneasy in mind because of what MacGregor had told him. He knew his father was not considered a good business man, but always believed the other man as honest as himself. "Anyhow I'm much obliged to you, Angus, for the warning. Come over and see me, will you?"
"Thank ye, I'll do that," was the reply, and the boys parted friends.
While working in the field that afternoon, Rodney was so absorbed in assisting and giving Thello directions about the work they were doing, that he did not notice the approach of a tall man on horseback until a pleasant voice greeted him: "Is this David Allison's son?"
"Yes, sir," Rodney replied, recognizing Mr. Jefferson of Monticello.
"I overheard some of your directions about the work, and concluded you have a good understanding of it."
The boy flushed with pleasure. "Thank you, sir. Thello thinks I've a lot to learn."
"'Deed no, Marse Rodney. Yo' certain sho—"
"Modesty is a good quality, my boy. I had a long talk with your father the other day. He is anxious for you to have all possible advantages. Now I have books in my library which I'm sure would afford you both interest and profit. If you will come to Monticello soon we'll select some," saying which he rode away.
"'Scuse me, Marse Rodney, but dey'll sho' think yo's not one ob de quality ef yo' talks dat ar way 'bout what ol' Thello thinks."
Rodney made no reply. He stood looking after the man on horseback who had spoken so kindly and who had such pleasant eyes, clear hazel in colour, and which so invited one's confidence.
David Allison was an enthusiastic admirer of Thomas Jefferson, and, on coming to Charlottesville, had at his first opportunity called on him with a letter of introduction. At times he would speak so enthusiastically that Rodney would notice a smile on his mother's face as she said: "You should remember, David, that you often have too much confidence in men. There are those who say that he is striving to be popular and to win success, and, to please the rabble, would destroy laws and customs under which the Old Dominion has flourished."
"Aye, lass, that's true o' the part but not of all. Look ye at the lack o' schools. Teaching is honourable work in the old country and in New England. What is it here, an' what chance have the childer to ither teaching than I'm able to gie them? Thomas Jefferson is an inspiring leader under God's direction I do believe. He's surely a fine man to meet an' seems disposed to help our Rodney."
RODNEY'S VISIT TO MONTICELLO
One day there came to David Allison's house a stalwart young man clad in the typical garb of the hunter, fringed deerskin hunting shirt belted at the waist, and breeches and moccasins of the same material.
This was no less a person than George Rogers Clark, who was to bear such a conspicuous part in the Revolution, as a daring leader of the forces which saved the great territory north of the Ohio River to the United States. His little brother, then but two years old, was, thirty-six years later, with Captain Lewis, to conduct the Lewis and Clark expedition from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean and thus enable our government to secure the territory of the great Northwest.
"Cap'n George," as he was familiarly called, was now planning to establish a settlement near the Ohio River, and had called to interest David Allison in the project.
Rodney listened with open-eyed attention to Clark's glowing accounts of fertile lands apparently only waiting for a little enterprise to be developed into a perfect paradise.
The boy saw that his father was much interested, but hesitated, saying that circumstances were such that he must remain where he was for a few years. Rodney thought he knew the reason but said nothing.
"Perhaps you may yet see your way clear, Mr. Allison," said Clark on leaving. "I expect to pass this way again in a few days, and will call to see if you haven't changed your mind."
After the caller was gone Rodney said: "Father, I'll go to Monticello, to-morrow if I may. You know Mr. Jefferson invited me."
"Glad to have you, my boy."
The morning gave promise of a beautiful day. By the time Rodney came to the hill, up which the road led to Mr. Jefferson's residence, the sun shone hotly and the dust lay thick, but the boy's thoughts were on the visit, and his heart beat quickly.
The country round about is hilly, but "Little Mountain," as the hill was called before Jefferson gave it the Italian name, Monticello, was queen of them all, though Carter's Mountain, a short distance west, is somewhat larger.
Rodney always remembered that morning in May, when Nat "single-footed" the hill without stopping. No knight ever stormed a castle, no pilgrim ever approached a shrine with greater earnestness. So eager was he that he did not fully appreciate the glorious beauties of the landscape. The Rivanna River looked like a ribbon of silvery satin laid on green velvet, all in striking contrast with the red soil of the tilled fields. The Blue Ridge mountains, nearly fifty miles distant, were, in the clear air, a massive and misty blue background for the picturesque Ragged Mountains near at hand.
There was little about such small portion of the house as was then built to indicate to the boy what its future charms would be. Later, when Mr. Jefferson talked with him, and explained the plans he had made, Rodney understood and admired what, after thirty years in building, thousands have since admired, the beautiful "Monticello."
Mr. Jefferson was found in his garden, working among his early vegetables. His face was red from sunburn and he was dressed in a blue coat, gray waistcoat and green knee breeches. He recognized the lad at once, and greeted him pleasantly. He had been measuring the growth of various plants, during stated periods, and with different fertilizers, and was recording these facts in his neat handwriting, such as four years later was to appear on the famous Declaration of Independence.
"That's a fine colt you have there," he exclaimed with enthusiasm, as he noted the horse Rodney had ridden, and which was being held by a small black boy.
"Nat is a fine animal, sir."
"And well groomed."
"I care for him myself. He belongs to me, for father gave him to me when he was a little fellow. He has learned several tricks. Nat, do you want to go home?"
Nat pawed the ground twice and whinnied vigorously.
"That's his way of saying yes, isn't it, Nat, boy?"
The colt's answer was to thrust his velvety muzzle caressingly against the lad's cheek, blinking his large purplish eyes the while.
He was truly a fine animal with breeding in every line, dark bay in colour, with a black stripe running from mane to tail.
Seeing an opportunity, Rodney said: "Mr. Jefferson, may I ask your advice?"
"Certainly you may."
"I—I'm afraid father made a mistake when he bought our place of old—er Mr. Denham. I've been told two other men bought it and made a failure, having a mortgage on it. I don't know whether father gave Denham a mortgage, but I do know that, while he wants to go out on the Ohio and take up his soldier's claim to land, he doesn't think it wise to leave home, I suppose on account of debts. I feel sure he ought to go. I want to go with him, but if I can do more by staying at home I ought to. Don't you think he should go?"
"Was the boy seeking a loan?" thought Jefferson, but he said: "I would not like to advise. Your father doubtless knows better than we what is best. There is great eagerness on the part of many people to seek new homes in the great West, but many who go over the mountains will return poorer than they went, and many others will never return at all. That part of the country has a glorious future, and there's much excitement over the prospects. The pioneer spirit is resistless, but, were I your father, I should not wish to take my family. The Indians are troublesome and growing more restless."
"I would be willing to stay at home if I could earn some money to help along."
"You ought to be at your studies."
"I suppose so. I've had a pretty good training in the three Rs and am half way through Caesar. I can study a little in the evenings."
The boy noticed that the look the man gave him was one of warm good will.
"Indeed, you certainly haven't been idle. Don't give up. Labour and learn, that must every boy or man do to succeed, and if he learns thoroughly he'll see that good character is also essential to the success which endures. I rise at daylight, winter and summer. Yes, my boy, there is something I can get for you to do, though the recompense will not be large. I'm having some land surveyed and you could serve as an assistant and acquire some practical knowledge besides; that is, if your father will permit it."
"Thank you, sir. I'm sure he'll be proud to have me in your service."
"We'll now go to the library and see what we can find, for I'm of the opinion that what the Reverend Mr. Stith said about King James won't apply to you."
"What was that, sir?"
"In his History of Virginia he writes that King James' instructor had given him 'Greek and Latin in great waste and profusion, but it was not in his power to give him good sense.' By that don't think that Greek and Latin are not both excellent. I would advise every boy to study them if possible."
They were walking toward the house when they met Mrs. Jefferson. Rodney was introduced, and was received most graciously. He flushed with pleasure, and thought how gratified his father would be at the kind manner with which he was received.
"What book would you especially like, Rodney?"
"May I have 'Josephus?' I began that down at the old home but father loaned it, and the borrower never brought it back."
"Which assures me I'm perfectly safe in loaning to you. Yes, here's 'Josephus.' It's well to know history, especially these days when very important history is in the making."
When Rodney mounted his horse, Mr. Jefferson stood stroking the animal's nose, for he ever admired a fine horse, and he said: "If worse comes to worst this colt would help pay off the mortgage, and, should you decide to sell him, I would like to have a chance to buy him;" then, seeing that the lad's face had become very serious, he quickly added: "but there won't be any need of that yet awhile. By the way, why did you give him the name, 'Nat?'"
"I named him after Nathaniel Bacon. Father says he'd rather have had Bacon's fate and reputation than Lord Berkeley's."
"Berkeley didn't believe in encouraging boys in Virginia to read books, so he and I wouldn't have agreed," and as the boy rode away he said to himself, "and the Berkeleys in this generation think the good English blood of these colonies can be ruled like serfs!"
As for Rodney, the brightness somehow seemed to have departed from the bright day which had held such promise. His mind had been full of the importance and pleasure of his visit. Now, he could only think, "Must I sell Nat?" It had never occurred to him until suggested by Mr. Jefferson. Was it his duty to part with the colt? Well, if necessary he would do it, "But first I'll work my fingers off, Nat," and he patted the glossy, arching neck while Nat champed impatiently at the bit.
By the time they reached the cabin, the boy had recovered much of his cheerfulness, and entertained his father with a glowing account of his visit.
David Allison was busily engaged in cleaning the old rifle he had carried through the French and Indian war. It was apparent that he had not put away altogether his desire to join Clark's company.
When Rodney told of Mr. Jefferson's offer to give him work, his father, turning to his wife, said, "Harriet, I think I should go."
For some minutes nothing was said. Rodney noted the shadow on his mother's face. Finally she replied, "It does seem that the hand of Providence is shaping matters," and both father and son knew that the struggle was past; she would spare no effort to assist in her husband's departure.
The thought of what the wives and mothers endured, in the work of winning this mighty land, ought to bring the blush of shame to the face of every son of woman who does aught to sully its fair fame!
One week later David Allison left for the land "over the mountains," and disappeared into the great forest, which swallowed him as a huge cave the one who explores it. Both wife and son noticed that he did not seem bent and old as he had of late. He was the brave soldier going forth to battle again.
Before he left he arranged, if all went well and another party the following year should leave for the West to join them, that Rodney might go with them.
The next day the boy began his work at Monticello, but saw little of his employer, who was a very busy man. Though but twenty-nine years old, Jefferson was a leader in the colonial legislature, the House of Burgesses. He had been first among those who pledged themselves not to buy imports from England, he favoured better schools, and was known to admire the methods of government in New England, especially the town meetings.
These were not held in Virginia. There, the control of parish affairs was kept in the hands of a few leading families, and the large estates were handed down to the eldest son, and so kept entire; whereas, in New England property was divided among the children. This, Jefferson was trying to have changed, and consequently incurred the ill will of those who preferred the existing methods and laws.
The summer passed quickly with Rodney. The crops were scanty and his earnings meagre but enough to warrant his hope that it would be possible for him to join his father the following spring.
Angus was a frequent visitor at the Allison home. He was generous, impulsive and rough, and had not many home advantages, but his friendship for Rodney never wavered. Like all the boys, he disliked Denham, who was a fat little man with a greasy smile and eyes like a pig's. He was said to be a miser, and a cheat, and a coward, which, in the eyes of the boys, was an unforgivable weakness.
One night Rodney and Angus had been over to a quilting party at the Dawsons', or rather to the frolic which followed the quilting. There had been dancing to such music as the squeaky fiddle of Ander Byram could afford, also refreshments, in which a big ham and a roast of venison were two prominent features. The boys left early, Rodney because he had to rise by five o'clock the next morning, and Angus because he had quarrelled with Betty Saunders. They came out into the crisp December air singing, "Polly put the kettle on, we'll all take tea."
Rodney, being in a confidential mood, told his companion of his plans for joining his father in the spring, and then said: "Angus, I should feel a lot better about leaving mother if I knew there was some one like you to help her out of any trouble that might come up. She might be sick, you know, and old Denham might try to cheat her in some way."
"I'll shake hands on that, Rod. Don't you worry. Jimminy Jewsharp! but I wish I was goin' too."
A PLUNGE INTO THE FOREST
March fifteenth, 1773, Rodney Allison set out with a party of five men who were leaving to join Clark's party on the Ohio.
The task would be somewhat like finding the needle in the haystack, perhaps, but all were confident and went away in high spirits.
Mrs. Allison smiled bravely and Naomi called after him, "You bring back a little bear for me to play with," whereat they all laughed, but the laughter was very near tears. Indeed Mam threw her apron over her head and fled to the cook-house.
"You don't want ter look so blue, Rod," cried Angus, coming into the yard. "I only wish I was goin' along. Alec Stephens' father says thar's prairies out thar where buffalo hev wallered great traces through the grass, thet's higher'n yer head, an' the deer an' elk are thicker'n skeeters in the swamp. He 'lows as how them as gits the land will sure beat the tide-water gentry on ther home stretch."
Thus encouraged the boy turned his face westward. There were two pack horses in the party and they were heavily laden. The journey to the river was without special incident. Many were going over the trail, and scarcely a day passed that they did not fall in with others. On arrival at the river the horses were left and the goods were loaded into canoes.
It was April and the great stream was filled to its banks. At the start Rodney felt as though he were paddling their frail craft out to sea toward an unknown shore. There was something sullen and irresistible in the might of that dark, swollen river, and the craft was swept along like a twig on the great waters.
The red buds were showing on the trees, a sign of hope, thought the boy. On his calling attention to them one of the men remarked: "They ain't the only red thing that's out. We want to be on the lookout, fer the word from the posts is thet the redskins are gittin' sassy."
The third day Dominick Ferguson was Rodney's partner in the canoe. He was a vigilant and powerful man, speaking a rich brogue, and when he laughed all who heard him laughed with him. He had lived in this country for twenty years, coming here as a soldier, and had passed much of that time on the frontier. It appeared that he was a man of some education as well as valuable experience.
"I'm of the opeenion," he remarked, "that there'll be doin's out i' this country ere long. Virginny'll not yield her claims to the country wi'out speerin' the why, an' Pennsylvania Dutchmen will cling to what they ha' like dogs to a root. I've noticed aboot half the parties we've met are from that colony."
"Do you think there will be fighting?"
"Will there be fightin' at Donnybrook fair, do ye ask? Sure there will be fightin', an' while the two white clans are tryin' to eat each the ither, the red devils will be lookin' for a mouthful, I'm thinkin'."
"You talk as though 'twould have been better for us never to have left Virginia."
"I'm not sure but 'twould ha' been, but nothin' venture nothin' have is a sayin' as true now as iver. You don't want to turn back?"
"I surely do not."
"That's the Scotch in ye; an' 'twould ha' been the like if 'twere Irish. Now I ha' the advantage o' gittin' it both sides. Me mother's eyes were as blue as any colleen's in all Leinster, while the father o' me was from Argyll, which is sayin' muckle. The one was papist an' the father a Presbyterian. When they tell ye oil an' water'll not mix, look at me."
"I've heard they don't ask a man about his religion out in this country."
"Right, lad, but a mon ha' need o' all his religion, I'm thinkin'."
"Well, as for me, mother is of the established church an' father is a Dissenter."
"Either'll do an' the both ought. It'll be no fault of our forebears if we ha' not religion in plenty, an' some o' the gude as should gang wi' it."
Rodney thought of the morning prayers at home, his father kneeling by the old splint-bottomed chair. Tears came to his eyes, he knew not why, for was he not soon to see his father and were they not to prosper and go back in the fall for his mother and sister? Yet he looked out on the swirling water as through a mist.
"One of the men said you had seen long service as a soldier in the king's army, Mr. Ferguson."
"That's how I came to this country, an' when I laid by me red coat I thought this a bonny place to bide in. I got me a good team an' was makin' a tidy bit cartin' supplies ower the mountains when the war broke oot. I drove me team with Braddock's army an' afterward joined the militia."
"Father was a soldier under Braddock. I've heard him tell how brave some of the teamsters were in the midst of the panic and how cowardly were some of the others."
"Same old story; all kinds o' folks to make a world. I mind well the grit o' one o' them, Daniel Morgan was his name. We drove our teams ower Braddock's grave in the road so's to hide it from the redskins. Morgan's a mon as belongs at the head o' the column. He fears naught on the face o' the earth, an' such men lead oot in this country where courage an' skill at war are more account than any ither place i' all the world. Morgan an' I were teaming supplies to Fort Chiswell i' the summer of 1756. One o' the British officers got mad at him an' struck him wi' the flat o' his sword when Morgan he oop-ended the officer's person wi' a smart crack o' his feest. That was fat i' the fire you may be sure. Insubordination don't go i' the army an' they tied Morgan to his cart wheel an' laid five hundred lashes on his bare back. 'Twas a wicked sight, the flesh o' him hung i' strips, an' he as cool as a cowcumber an' countin' every stroke. He always declared they missed a stroke. A braw lad be that same Dan Morgan."
"I should have thought it would have killed him."
"Keel him! Lad, ye don't know the stuff o' which such men are made. Why, after he'd gone into the service he was ambushed by the savages an' was shot i' the neck, the bullet comin' oot the mouth an' takin' the teeth o' one side along wi' it."
"What became of him?"
"He settled doon i' Winchester, which was then weel nigh the jumpin' off place, licked every mon in town as wanted a fight, an' then married a fine woman an' bided there as respectable as ye please. I sure thought, tho', he would go to the dogs. I'm o' the opeenion that wife will be the makin' o' him. What the boats ahead doin', lad?"
"They are landing at the mouth of the little creek, there."
"I have it; 'tis nigh sundown an' I reckon they hope to shoot something fer supper," saying which he began to sing in a rollicking voice the following, which may be presumed to be of his own composition:
"Swate Widdy Hogan's married rich Flannagan To provide for Hogan's heirs; All tin twins o' thim great at shenannegan, An all o' thim born i' pairs.
"Pat an' Terry, Tom an' Tim, Peter, Mary Ann, Dinnis, Nora, Shaughn an' Fin, Wid Kathleen an' Dan,"
"Never mind the rest o' the family, Ferguson, come ashore an' help with the work."
"Help wi' the work, is it, Joseph, me boy? Joseph wore a coat o' many colours, ye know, but he was the same old Joe all the time. You'll niver improve, I'm thinkin'."
Rodney was left to build a fire and told to keep his eye "peeled," for a prowling savage might happen along any minute.
When he had a good blaze started, he sat down to wait. After a few minutes, hearing nothing, he decided to take his rifle and go up the creek a short distance in the hope of seeing game.
That those returning and finding him gone need not be alarmed, he cut a piece of bark from a young tree and with the point of his knife wrote on the inside: "Up creek, back soon."
The boy had not gone far when he came upon a path made by animals passing to and from the creek. He noticed no fresh tracks but concluded this as good a place as any where one might lie in wait for a sight of game.
He selected the trunk of a fallen tree which commanded a view of the path and where he would be screened from the observation of any animal passing.
It was near sunset and the rosy light shone through thin places in the foliage overhead. Not a sound could be heard save the murmur of the water in the creek. Rodney had paddled all day and was tired. He began to feel drowsy. That would not do and he shook his head vigorously, resolving to keep awake. He was fond of hunting and thought it would be very gratifying if he might return to the fire with something to show for his efforts.
Back in the woods a fine buck came walking along the narrow path. When fully six rods from the creek he suddenly stopped, and lifting his delicate muzzle snuffed the air inquiringly. The next instant his tail was lifted, showing the white of the under side, the "white flag," as the hunters term it, and with a bound he was off in the forest.
A few minutes later a dark form cautiously came along, careful not to break a twig beneath his moccasined feet. He was naked except for a breech-clout. The tuft of feathers fastened to his "top-knot" and the paint on his face indicated that he was on the warpath.
Turning, the Indian followed the narrow trail in the direction of the creek for a short distance and then, leaving the path, made a detour on the side where Rodney had taken his station.
The boy slept! The sun had gone down and only twilight remained. He dreamed that a huge bear appeared on the path, its shambling feet softly treading. He tried to raise his rifle but his arms were powerless, seemed paralyzed! The bear came on, now faster. Stopping before him it rose on its hind legs and hugged him with its fore paws, and he struggled to scream but could not utter a sound. He opened his eyes. A brawny hand was over his mouth, a powerful arm about his arms pinioned them to his side. The hand was red, and on the wrist was a copper bracelet!
A guttural voice spoke low but harshly in his ear: "Um no speak. Die!"
Then the boy felt his arms being bound with leather thongs and he looked into the face of the savage, saw the hideous paint on it, the bright, beady eyes, the whites of which looked yellow; noted the high cheekbones, the nose like an eagle's beak, the cruel mouth like a thin slit in the face, and fear was upon him, such, as he never had known.
Surely that was Ferguson's voice, and must be calling him.
The last call was from the other side and it was not Ferguson's voice.
The Indian lifted his tomahawk and the lad expected it to be buried in his head. Instead came the low-spoken word: "March!"
Guided by the savage from behind and stepping cautiously, as he believed should he break a twig or make other noise he would be struck down on the instant, Rodney went on into the forest.
They had thus advanced less than twenty rods when, through the trees and standing back to them, they saw a man. He appeared unconscious of their presence. Yes, that must be Ferguson! The thought flashed through the boy's mind and, unconscious of his own safety, his lips opened to cry the alarm, which would have sounded his own death knell, when he saw a tomahawk hurtle through the air and bury itself in the man's brain. He fell to his knees without a moan. The Indian, leaping to his side, had scalped him before Rodney realized what had happened. Then, seizing the lad by the shoulder, he ordered him to "Run."
When they stopped the boy was breathless, but the savage was as cool and snakelike in his movements as at the first. Soon they were joined by other Indians. The boy was bound to a tree and they left him.
"They've gone to ambush our party," thought the boy. What would become of him should the savages be driven off and he left tied to a tree in that wilderness?
A squirrel running behind him startled him so the perspiration stood in beads on his forehead. He tried to comfort himself with the reflection that it would be better to starve to death tied to a tree than to be burned to death tied to a stake.
He tugged at his bonds until the blood started on his wrists. A rattling fire of musketry was heard in the direction of the river. After a lull there were more shots followed by yells, which indicated that the savages had been successful in driving off the whites.
All was still for many minutes. Then he felt, rather than saw, that he was not alone. A heavy hand was laid on his wrists, untying the thongs, and his captor's voice again ordered him to "March."
The moon had risen and its light filtered through the tree-tops. Stumbling forward, and guided as before, he went on till they came up with the main party of Indians.
He looked to see if there were other scalps, shuddering as he did so; but, save that one at the belt of his captor, he saw none which had been freshly taken. He therefore concluded the others of his party had escaped in the boats, leaving him to his fate. There were other scalps, but they were not from white people. Evidently the Indians had been South and had battled with their hereditary enemies, the Cherokees.
For several miles the Indians continued their march. Rodney was faint from hunger and thirst when finally they camped for the night. Dried venison was eaten, the boy receiving his share with the others, also an opportunity to drink his fill at a cool spring. He then was stretched upon the ground and each wrist and ankle was tied to a separate sapling. The red men prepared for sleep and no one was assigned to guard. Little sleep came to him. Thoughts of home, of his father in the great wilderness, flitted through his mind all night and he rose unrefreshed and sore in every muscle.
The next day they continued their journey, from sunrise to sunset, stopping at noon for a hasty lunch. The second night he was treated as on the first, but slept soundly because of sheer exhaustion. The following day the party killed a deer. The Indians, as was their custom, gorged themselves on the meat, eating it half raw. They cut up some of the best of it to carry along with them.
That night, their heavy eating made the savages sleep soundly. Rodney, bound as on the previous nights, lay looking up through the trees at the moon, occasional glimpses of which it was possible to get through the branches.
For a time his thoughts were far away from his surroundings. Suddenly he became conscious of something cold and metallic under his right hand.
It was a knife!
Evidently one of the Indians, when cutting up the meat, had accidentally dropped it.
Somewhat awkwardly, for his hand was tightly bound, he managed to clutch the blade in such a manner that after persistent effort he succeeded in cutting his bonds.
His joy at the sense of freedom almost made him faint when he found himself clear. Quietly and slowly, it seemed as if the beating of his heart must waken the savages, he got possession of one of the rifles. He knew that a snapping twig would probably mean his destruction. He had heard of captives, who, in such straits as his, had slain their captors while they slept. The thought was revolting to him. Cautiously creeping away into the outer darkness, it seemed hours before he dared press forward without fear of making a noise.
A WILD FLIGHT
Many a time in his wild flight that memorable night the boy thought what good fortune it was that the sky was clear and the moon shining. By its light he was able to make good progress and avoid walking in a circle, as otherwise he doubtless would have done.
He directed his course toward the east, with the moon slightly on his right. Many a fall he had over slippery, moss-grown logs, and his face was bleeding from scratches received while rushing through the bushes. He could not conceal his trail, hoping to do that by daylight. During the night he must make every effort to travel as fast and as far as possible.
His nerves were at the utmost tension. He realized that any moment he might hear a yell or see some shadowy form glide alongside. The instant an Indian awoke and discovered his escape the chase would begin.
The picture of the poor fellow murdered back at the creek was before his eyes and the horror of it spurred him to his utmost. Just at dawn he arrived at a small stream so nearly exhausted that he stumbled and fell while crossing it, yet he dared not stop to rest. He must first conceal his trail, which up to this place the savages could easily follow.
After crossing he walked a short distance alongside on the bank down stream, leaving plain imprints of his feet in the soft soil. Then he again entered the water and turned up stream.
For nearly an hour he forced himself onward, stumbling over the slippery rocks and not once leaving the water. Finally he came to a bare ledge jutting into the brook. He stepped from the water to this, careful to leave no imprints of his feet. At the farther end was a fallen tree. Walking along the trunk of this as far as he could, he stooped to the ground and rejoiced to note that it was firm, so that his moccasins left no impress on it. One who has never tried the experiment cannot realize the care necessary in walking through the woods not to displace a leaf or break a twig, which would attract the attention of a wary savage.
Rodney succeeded so well that, after he had gone nearly half a mile and came to a dense clump of underbrush, he decided it would be safe to hide there and sleep. He believed the Indians would think he had fled in the direction of the Ohio River, and, seeing his footprints on the bank, would follow down stream. He could not remember when he had been so tired and soon was in a sound slumber, not waking till nearly noon. He was very hungry but found a spring of sweet water and some checkerberry leaves, and, thus refreshed, continued his flight.
He did not rest again till nightfall. He had seen no game save squirrels and, having but one load for his rifle, hesitated to waste that on small game. From the first he had thought his only chance of escape would be to follow some stream flowing in the direction of the Ohio. At dusk he came to one and concluded it now safe to follow it, but soon he must eat, for he was very weak.
Selecting a convenient place he sat down to wait for a chance glimpse of game. Possibly a deer might come that way to drink, and a deer would be worth his one bullet. Rodney by this time concluded his pursuers had lost his trail and he felt as though he were alone in the great forest. His eyelids were heavy, but, recalling what happened to him through falling asleep three days before, he rose to his feet the better to keep awake. As he did so he was startled by a shot, fired a little way down the stream.
The boy's eyelids were no longer heavy. He experienced something like a chill and he asked himself, "What if I had seen game and fired?" After waiting a few moments, it occurred to him that there was a possibility that the shot had been fired by white men. Of course it was improbable, but he must investigate. If they were Indians, they would gorge themselves with the meat and sleep soundly so that he ought to have no trouble in getting past them. Moreover, unless many were in the party, they would leave a portion of the carcass if it were a deer they had shot. Why might he not secure that? He was hungry enough to eat the flesh raw.
Cautiously approaching he finally saw the gleam of firelight among the trees and then shadows of men, and his heart sank. They were Indians! Two came up to the fire from the stream and the boy noted the direction whence they came. After the moon appeared he entered the brook to descend it and look about for signs of the place where the game was killed. At last he found it, and the carcass of a deer from which the hind quarters had been cut. Quick work with his knife secured him a goodly portion of what was left and with this he hurried on down the brook, on the slippery bed of which he kept his footing with difficulty. His hunger urged him so that after going about a mile he decided he was far enough away to risk a fire.
He gathered a lot of dried twigs and rubbed them between his palms, thus making a small powdery mass into which, after mixing with it a few grains of powder from the priming, he struck sparks from the flint and steel of his rifle. The smell of the cooking meat made him ravenous and, like an Indian, he ate it half raw. He then lost no time in extinguishing his fire and renewing his journey.
The good food and the reflection that so far he had outwitted the savages, put him in a very happy frame of mind. He was congratulating himself on his good luck when he heard a dry twig snap in the dense growth beside the brook. It was a moment of horror for the lad and he instantly crouched in the shadow of the bushes and cocked his rifle. The noise continued, a shuffling sound, and then his straining ears detected the snuffing of some animal. One may imagine his relief.
The animal soon emerged from the bushes, a black, shaggy bulk with muzzle uplifted, following the scent of the meat which Rodney carried.
Now, being followed by a hungry bear under such conditions would not be agreeable to most people, but the boy's courage was good and his relief at finding his pursuer not an Indian was so great that he felt like laughing; instead he hastened his pace.
The chase continued, mile after mile, though to the tired lad stumbling over the slippery stones it seemed league upon league. Occasionally he stepped in a hole to his waist, but he was too excited to heed the drenching or the fatigue.
An hour passed, and bruin yet followed. "Reckon he's hungry as I am," Rodney remarked to himself. Then came the thought, why not divide with the bear? Suiting action to word the lad quickly cut his meat in two pieces, flinging one behind. With a growl the brute savagely seized it and the boy hurried on. The respite was brief, however, for not many minutes passed before he heard his pursuer, appetite whetted by what he had eaten, following the trail.
Rodney was now more exasperated than frightened. The dangers through which he had passed seemed to embolden him, though he knew his plight would indeed be unpleasant should he attempt to shoot bruin and by some cause miss fire. The muskets sold to the Indians were usually of the cheapest quality, and the one he carried certainly appeared to be of that variety. He looked behind. The bear was gaining. Seeing this, the lad resolved on extreme measures. First, he would try the effect of a rock and he picked one up, about as large as his two fists.
Rodney had thrown many stones in his life and most of them had been well aimed. This was no exception and landed fairly on bruin's snout. The animal stood on the bank not twenty feet distant and he turned a somersault, in his pain and rage, landing in the water with a loud splash.
Young Allison did not stop to laugh, as he felt like doing, but put as much distance between himself and his pursuer as possible. After a time, hearing nothing of bruin, he concluded the old fellow had given up the chase and lay somewhere curled up and nursing his sore snout. Now that the excitement was past the boy began to be sensible of his fatigue. Nature was asserting herself and he must eat and sleep.
Just at dawn he noted a clear space among large trees on a knoll a little way from the brook, which now had grown to a considerable creek. He reconnoitred and, finding no trace of an enemy, built a fire. While broiling a piece of the venison it occurred to him that he should husband what was left of the meat as it might be a long time before he could find venison, killed and dressed by Indians, awaiting him along the route. Accordingly, after eating a hearty breakfast, he cut crotched sticks and drove them into the ground on either side of the fire and placed green poles across, over the fire. By hanging the meat on these he planned to smoke and dry what remained, after cutting it into strips. Rodney seemed to forget about both Indians and the bear and was whistling softly as he worked when a noise behind him caused him to turn.
Not over fifteen feet away was the bear! He smelled the cooking meat and evidently was in an ugly mood. Scarcely thinking what he did, the boy, snatching a brand from the fire, threw it full in the face of the brute and sprang for his rifle. The firebrand only seemed to infuriate the animal and he charged. Hastily Rodney fired.
A growl of rage and pain followed the report, and through the clearing smoke the boy saw the bear biting at the wound in his side. Round and round bruin whirled until he caught a glimpse of his assailant, when he rushed forward. As in a haze the boy saw the huge bulk almost upon him, the little fiery eyes gleaming like coals of fire, the open jaws flecked with bloody froth. The boy clubbed his rifle with no thought of running. The bear rose on his hind legs. One blow from his powerful paw, and all would be over. Rodney struck, shattering the stock of the gun, and sprang aside. He now was helpless!
The bear, full of fight, struck, his claws ripping the boy's sleeve. Crack! A well-aimed shot from behind brought bruin down with scarcely a struggle and the huge bulk lay stretched at Rodney's feet.
A child's scream of delight followed the shot. A white boy of about ten years, accompanied by an Indian, came out of the thick woods, the little fellow crying, "He's mine. I want him, Caughnega."
To this pleading the Indian paid no heed. Confronting Rodney he demanded, with a sweep of his arm: "Pale face no hunt; Indian country."
Rodney, by this time, was in a somewhat hysterical condition. The idea that he was there for the pleasure or profit of hunting bears struck him as so ludicrous that he laughed loudly, a performance that evidently puzzled the redskin not a little.
The little fellow here renewed his plea, saying: "I saw him first and I want him to play with; he's mine," and he stamped his foot like a petty tyrant and seized Rodney by the hand, saying, "You'll play with Louis?"
"I'll be very glad to do so," Rodney replied, looking at the Indian rather than at the boy who tugged at his hand.
"No hunt, what for here?" the Indian asked and his voice was stern.
Rodney hesitated a moment. The red man's beady eyes, noting this, glittered. "I'm lost," Rodney finally said, adding, "I want to get back to the river."
"Humph!" And, having thus expressed himself, Caughnega turned to the work of skinning and cutting up the bear, in which task Rodney endeavoured to assist, his efforts, however, being received quite ungraciously.
When all was done, the meat was tied into two bundles, one of which the Indian ordered Rodney to take and walk ahead. Now, walking ahead of a hostile savage is not a pleasant arrangement, but the boy tried to comfort himself with the thought that, so long as the Indian might wish the bundle carried, he would not kill the carrier. Then the little fellow ran alongside and took the older lad's hand, an act of confidence and friendship the latter never forgot.
They forded the creek and climbed the bank to a small plateau overlooking a meadow through which the creek wound its way. Here, on this high land, were clustered about twenty huts or wigwams, some covered with skins and others with bark. As no one expected them, their approach did not excite especial commotion, fortunately for Rodney, otherwise he might have been compelled to run a gauntlet.
Caughnega stopped in front of one of the wigwams and motioned Rodney to enter.
Louis protested, saying, "He is mine, I found him," but to no avail. Disappointed, he ran away, crying bitterly, while the scowling savage flung his prisoner into the hut, and indicated by word and gesture that the lad was not to leave it on peril of his life. Then he stalked away, and Rodney was left to the bitterness of his reflections.
LISBETH WRITES FROM LONDON
From the filthy wigwam, into which Rodney Allison had been thrust by his captor, to the little home in Charlottesville the distance was more than three hundred miles, as the crow flies, and much farther for those that travelled on foot and not by wing, threading the winding forest trails, wading and swimming the fords and climbing the mountains. Yet the lad's thoughts sped across like a flash of dawn.
He lifted his head—his surroundings had, for the moment, cast the spell of despair on him—and looked out. He seemed to see, not the woods that hemmed in the little Indian village, but his humble home in far away Virginia. Poor and shabby outside, inside, the "living" room was as neat as soap and water and sand and plenty of scrubbing could make it. The meagre furnishings were tidily arranged. He could see, "in his mind's eye," the faces of his mother, and Mam, and Thello; fancied he could hear the whinny with which Nat always greeted his entrance to the stable. He imagined just what familiar task each of them might be doing. He knew Thello's forehead was wrinkled, as always when working, that Mam was humming a melody, and his mother's face was anxious. He could not know that she stood by the west window looking out toward the mountains and thinking of him and his father; nor could he see black Sam stop at the door and with an air of importance give to the "Missus" a letter, dingy and worn by its long journey across the ocean, the negro scraping and bowing as he did so.
Sam was saying: "Squar, he says, 'Sam, you done tote dat yar letter right smart to Missus Allison wid my bes' respec's. She'll be wantin' ter read it.' Spec's it's from Lunnon. Squar, he jes' home from Willumsburg."
"Thank you, Sam. The squire is indeed kind, and you will say that Mrs. Allison thanks him for his kindness."
To most people the arrival of any letter was an important event in those days, especially one from "the old country," six long weeks by sailing vessel at best. Moreover, at that time, there was only a weekly mail between Philadelphia and Williamsburg, unless sent by special messenger, and then on to its destination by any chance carrier, each person along the route being helpful in forwarding it. So it was not surprising that Mrs. Allison eagerly opened the letter, breaking what she recognized as the Danesford seal.
The ink on that letter has dimmed with the long years, but time has not obliterated a certain daintiness in the writing, for Lisbeth's innate grace was somehow transmitted through the quill pen to the neat, clear characters fashioned by her hand. The reading of it, too, will assist the reader to a better understanding of the girl and the conditions surrounding her, and Lisbeth was a girl worth knowing, though she may yet need excuses, and those will be the more easily made after reading.
"DEAR AUNT HARRIET:—I know you keep promises and so I address you as 'aunt.' I'm sure you remember one day when I came to you in tears. I didn't often come that way, did I? I was so lonely, I'll never forget how lonely, just because it suddenly occurred to me that most little girls had mothers and aunts, and I had never seen one that belonged to me. You took me in your arms and said you would be my aunt, that you had been thinking how nice it would be to have a little girl for a niece, and I went home comforted and actually believing you had wanted me for a niece all the time.
"Well, I've got a real aunt now, Aunt Mogridge, and sometimes I think neither of us is real glad it is so. I'm a wicked girl for writing that, and would scratch it out only I somehow want you to know how I feel. She is just as kind as any aunt could be, but, well, she doesn't care for the things I do, and—vice versa, as the books say. Now, while I'm sighing for a glimpse of the Old Dominion, and papa, and you and—and all of them, Aunt Mogridge is sighing because she can't have a new dress for Lady D——'s to-morrow night, and worrying lest I say something I ought not to, because there is to be a real live duke there. I have met dukes before, and found them very uninteresting, although I suppose there are various kinds.
"What wouldn't I give, this dismal afternoon, to jump on the back of Moleskin and ride like the wind and hear solemn old Jeremiah clattering behind, his black face turned white with fear lest I fall off! Instead I've been listening to old Lady Brendon retail the latest gossip. She's a wheezy old lady, so fat her chairmen's faces always shine with perspiration, and all she cares about is the latest gossip: 'Lord So-and-So has wagered his last farthing at White's or the Chocolate House,' until I want to say, like black Susan, 'Jolly fuss!' You should have heard Aunt Mogridge tell Lady Brendon about what a rich man papa is. I used to think, to hear him talk, that if the crops failed he'd never be able to pay his debts.
"I saw the king at the theatre the other night. He looks just like some of the German farmers papa and I saw in Pennsylvania. They say he is very pious, and frowns on gambling, as well he might for the good of his kingdom, and that he is determined to do as his mother told him and be a real king. He doesn't look as though he'd exactly know how. You should have heard him laugh over a little silly joke, when one of the actors sat in a chair on a make-believe baby and a ventriloquist squalled just like a baby. But they says he's obstinate and the colonies can't make him yield to their demands.
"People here think just as dear papa does, that England has helped fight the battles of the colonies and protect them with the strong arm of England—I tell 'em there are strong arms in the colonies—and that they should help pay the taxes.
"It's all too profound for me, though I am sixteen and should be, they tell me, a dignified young lady. Indeed aunt is planning to have me introduced at court.
"I must tell you what a bore little Lord Nobury is getting to be. It's partly Aunt Mogridge's fault. Anything with a title she loves and, though she deplores the way young men gamble, and I think her beautiful son—he's yet in Virginia, thank Heaven—hasn't much money to squander, she boasts of his losses at 'hazard' to Lord Nobury.
"He was the first specimen, Nobury, I mean, that I met. I hadn't been at aunt's more than a day before he called. I'd been awfully seasick on the voyage and the sight of him nearly brought on another attack. It seemed that aunt had been singing my praises to him before I arrived. Well, he bowed very low and, had he remained in that posture, I might have liked him, for his clothes were gorgeous; a coat of creamy velvet, a wonderful waistcoat with gold embroidery, black velvet breeches, white silk stockings, shoes with gold buckles and the lace at his wrists and neck was so fine I was actually envious.
"He began to talk right away about the theatres. Of course I was so ignorant of it all that I could only listen. He said I must see Garrick at the Drury Lane and I hope I may.
"The little 'macaroni' is so short that he wears very high heels and has his hair done up high in front. You ought to see the wonderful and fearful things they do with their hair, both ladies and gentlemen.
"After learning I didn't know anything about the theatres, though of course I had read about them at home, he seemed at a loss what to talk about, and his face looked so blank and pasty I wished old Doctor Atterbury could have been there to prescribe for his liver.
"I turned the conversation to horses by telling him I thought those in the Old Dominion were much superior to those in England and then went on to tell him about the time I got on Moleskin's back against orders and how he ran away with me when he heard the baying of Squire Dupont's hounds. The little lord declared with a smirk that I must have looked like an aboriginal Indian princess. I asked him why not rather like an original one, and he stared and fingered his little sword; a sword on such as he makes me wonder how black Tom would look in the beadle's wig. But here am I running on about lords and ladies when I hate the sound of their names and am wishing I were back in Virginia where the sunshine isn't strained through fog and the logs burning in the big fireplaces, are fragrant and cheerful.
"I suppose Naomi is a big girl and so you won't feel the need of nieces to write long letters about nothing. Is Rodney talking war? Poor papa, he was worrying, when I left him in New York, about the talk being made against our rightful sovereign. Well, I now will write him a long, cheerful letter, so thank you for being an aunt to me once more.
"Your ob't and affectionate niece, "ELIZABETH DANESFORD."
Did she but know it, her father stood in need of cheerful letters, for the bitterness of the rising war spirit was daily making feuds between former friends, and all who talked loyalty to the king and condemned Henry, Jefferson and Washington soon discovered they were champions of an unpopular cause.
THE CHIEF WHO DEMANDED THE TRUTH
Four days of intense excitement, without proper food or sleep, subjected to peril of life, would test the hardiest person. Rodney Allison felt like breaking down and weeping hysterically. To add to his discomfort he believed the hut to be alive with vermin, not an uncommon condition in any Indian's wigwam, and this one looked filthy.
His unpleasant reflections were interrupted by the return of the little boy, Louis, who cried, "Ahneota, he say you come right away."
"The redskin who threw me in here said he would kill me if I left."
"Ce n'est rien, Ahneota says come."
Under the circumstances Rodney decided to run the risk, for evidently the little chap was the only friend he had found, so he said, "Well, you don't want me killed, do you?"
"Non. I will have you to play with me. Ahneota is my friend. He will give you to me."
They went to a wigwam at the farther end of the village and found awaiting them an old chief. He was tall and gaunt. His face was long, the nose sharply aquiline, and his eyes were as keen and bright as those of a youth. The chief's manner was very, dignified, even stern. Louis began his plea, but was ordered to call the Indian, Caughnega. Then, turning to Rodney, the chief asked: "Why come to Indian country and kill game? White man's game below big river."
Rodney hesitated. What could he say? He feared to confess that he already had escaped from Indians, it would not be a helpful introduction, to say the least; neither would he lie.
"I was lost and hungry. The bear was hungry, too. I had to shoot," he finally said.
The searching look of the Indian embarrassed him.
"The pigeon dropped by the eagle spoke not truth but said he fell."
Rodney flushed under the fierce gaze of the bright eyes of the aged chief. Then lifting his head he resolutely replied: "I have told you the truth, but not all of it. I am here through no fault of my own and am trying to get back to the big river and my people."
"The big river is many days' journey. There is blood on the pigeon," replied Ahneota, pointing to Rodney's wrists, which yet bore the marks of the thongs with which he had been bound.
"That is the work of Indians. I was on my way down the Ohio to meet my father near the Great Kanawha. The party I was with landed for supper and was attacked by Indians, who killed some and made me a prisoner. I escaped from them and am here. Neither I nor my father ever wronged an Indian."
"The land north of the big river belongs to the Indian. The Great Father gave it to the Indian and the palefaces smoked the pipe of peace with the red man. Now they would come and kill our game and the red man must die."
"Our party was not seeking land north of the river when the Indians cruelly attacked us."
"The Wyandottes are at peace with the Shawnees and do not take away their captives."
"You all are at peace with the whites and have no right to make me a prisoner," was Rodney's reply, so boldly spoken he feared its effect might be bad.
"Young braves will not always obey their chiefs," was the rather evasive reply of the old man, and the boy instinctively felt he had not displeased Ahneota by his bold speech.
"Ahneota has one brother. He left the palefaces and is an Indian."
The boy understood this to mean that he might, by forsaking his people, find safety as a member of the tribe. Every tie of affection bound him to his own people. He knew, moreover, that if an adopted member of the tribe ever deserted it the offence was regarded as a most serious one; that on the contrary he would be expected, if need be, to fight against his own people. He made no reply.
"Will paleface be Ahneota's brother?"
Thought of home almost brought tears to the boy's eyes. He gulped down his emotion, for he knew the Indians look with contempt on any display of one's feelings.
"It would be deserting my people," he finally replied. "My father and mother and sister are living. I thank you for the—the kindness. I hope you will permit me to go to them. My people are at peace with your people."
"The palefaces speak words of peace but their deeds are war."
There was silence for a few moments and then the old chief spoke with Rodney's captor. They talked in the Indian tongue. Little Louis, standing by, evidently knew what they were saying, for, as the Indian who claimed Rodney spoke more loudly, he interrupted, claiming, as afterward appeared, that the prisoner was his, that he had first seen him and wanted him for a playmate.
The old Indian did not speak for a time, evidently being puzzled what to do. Then, addressing Rodney, he said: "Young paleface will not be the Indian's brother; he cannot find his way to the big river. He may share the Indian's lodge and meat." Saying this he turned and entered his lodge.
It was Louis who spoke and, taking Rodney by the hand, he led him away, while Caughnega, with a sullen look on his face, went his way.
Louis was a handsome little fellow, affectionate in his manner and delighted with his success in obtaining a new playfellow. As they went along they met one that at first Rodney thought to be an Indian but on closer inspection decided was a white man; the fellow was, in fact, none other than Conrad, whose capture has already been related.
"Ah, Conrad! mon ami. I have a new friend," exclaimed Louis.
"I suppose you are one of his old ones," remarked Rodney with a smile. Conrad made no reply, but looked inquiringly while Louis rattled off an account of the events of the morning.
The news did not appear to be agreeable to Conrad, who walked away without comment; but the little fellow was too full of the novelty of his experiences to heed Conrad's manner, and they went on to a lodge on the edge of the village and Louis led his companion into where, seated on a bear skin, was a woman weaving mats out of rushes. She looked up quickly, and Rodney saw at a glance that she was superior to any Indian women he had ever seen, evidently a half-breed. The blanket she wore and her surroundings looked clean, and her face showed intelligence much beyond the ordinary; but there was something in the look she gave him that warned Rodney she would be his implacable enemy.
The little fellow's tongue ran on in a mingled jargon of French, Indian and English and Rodney comprehended, rather from the looks and gestures of the woman and child than from the words, that Louis was determined the newcomer should live with them, while she objected, whereat Louis began to wail imperiously, and the glance of dislike she gave Rodney was not reassuring.
"I will build a lodge, you can show me how to do it, and then you can have one more home to go to," said Rodney, trying to soothe the troubled feelings. This idea pleased Louis, who dried his eyes and was for beginning on it right away, but "Maman," as he called the half-breed woman, did not appear to like this plan any better than the first, and her beady eyes snapped ominously; but she said nothing. Rodney wished he might lie down on one of the clean mats before him and sleep, for he was so tired he scarcely could keep awake even while walking. He shrank from asking the woman for a place to sleep, but finally did so, and she grunted assent.
While Rodney slept the sleep of exhaustion, Louis went in search of Conrad, and asked him to build his new friend a wigwam.
Conrad scowled and replied that the new boy wouldn't live long enough to need it, and Louis cried, "They can't kill him, Ahneota won't let them."
"Vat for you vant him, yet? Conrad your friend is."
"I want him, too; he's white like Jules. Papa said: 'Jules is a good boy and you may play with him all day.' You don't play with me all the time, but go away hunting and will not let me go, too."
"He need will have to eat, und to hunt, I tink, alretty."
Louis was so insistent that Conrad finally assisted him in cutting poles for the proposed wigwam and setting them in place. By this time Rodney, who had been waked by the woman, joined them and worked as hard as his sore muscles would permit. By night he had a shelter of bark and boughs. Louis brought a mat and there the weary captive lay down for the night, hungry and sore. Later, the little fellow brought him some dried venison and showed him the spring that supplied the village with drinking water.