With Axe and Rifle; or The Western Pioneers, by W.H.G. Kingston.
With great skill and sincerity Kingston depicts many of the struggles and efforts that the would-be settlers in the West had to make. Constant harrying by Red Indians, the weather, nasty neighbours, illness, all made life difficult, indeed almost impossible.
The book is told through the eyes of a boy, as he grows to adulthood. His family, also Mr Tidey, who acted as family tutor, or Dominie, and Dio, a runaway slave to whom they give a home, form the principal actors in this tale, but there are many others, such as the wicked Bracher, and a mysterious hunter who appears several times in the book in the guise of a rescuer.
Well into the last chapter we are presented with all sorts of dreadful happenings, which the hero feels to be like the imagined happenings of a bad dream. But suddenly it all sorts out and we have an unexpectedly happy conclusion to the tale.
WITH AXE AND RIFLE; OR THE WESTERN PIONEERS, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
CAPTAIN LORAINE'S FARM IN THE FAR WEST—HOT-HEADED YOUNG MEN—OUR FAMILY—UNCLE DENIS TAKEN SICK—WE SET OUT TO VISIT HIM—THE CORDUROY ROAD—A WAYSIDE HOTEL—ROUGH COMPANY—APPEARANCE OF THE COUNTRY— CROSSING THE FORD AT GREEN RIVER—NEARLY LOST—A BRAVE NEGRO—GRATITUDE OF MY PARENTS—AT MR. SILAS BRACHER'S PLANTATION—DIOGENES—MAMMY COE— THE SLAVE-OWNER—MY FATHER ENDEAVOURS TO PURCHASE THE NEGRO—SLAVERY— UNEXPECTED RECOVERY OF DR. O'DOWD'S PATIENT—A SPORTSMAN'S AMBITION— TRAPPING—A RICH PRIZE—SOMETHING ABOUT TURKEYS—THE WONDERFUL CAVE OF KENTUCKY—OUR RETURN TO ILLINOIS.
Some time after the termination of the long war which England had waged in the cause of liberty when well-nigh all the world was up in arms against her, my father, Captain Patrick Loraine, having served for many years as a subaltern, believing that he should no longer find employment for his sword, sold out of the army, and with the proceeds of his commission in his pocket, quitting the old country, came to the United States in the hopes of making his fortune more rapidly than he could expect to do at home.
Finding that as a British officer he was looked upon with distrust in the Eastern States, he made his way westward until he finally located himself in Illinois on a fertile spot, sheltered on the north by a wide extent of forest, and overlooking that part of the river Ohio which separates the state from Kentucky. I remember even now the appearance of the country. On the eastern side was a range of hills of slight elevation, on one of which our house stood, while westward stretched away as far as the eye could reach, a vast plain, with the mighty Mississippi beyond. The scenery could boast of no great beauty except such as lofty trees, the prairie, with its varied tints of green and brown, yellow cornfields, rich meadows in the valleys, and the shining river in the distance, canopied by the blue vault of heaven, could give it. Still, it was my home, and as such I should have loved it, had it possessed even less pretensions to beauty.
So well satisfied was my father with the country that he returned to Ireland to bring back a young lady who had promised to become his wife. Two or three years afterwards I was born, and was succeeded by my brother Dan, and finally by my dear little sister Kathleen. My mother, whose maiden name was O'Dwyer, was, I should have said, accompanied by her two brothers, Michael and Denis, who came out with the intention of assisting my father, and ultimately settling near him, but they were hot-headed young men, and before even they reached the farm they had a quarrel which resulted in their separation. Denis finally settled in Kentucky, while Michael, with a rifle on his shoulder and axe in his belt, saying that he should turn trapper, pushed away further west, and from that day to the time I am about to describe we had received no tidings from him. Uncle Denis became a successful settler. He was soon reconciled to my father, and occasionally paid us a visit, but preferred remaining in the location he had chosen to coming near us, as he had originally intended. He had remained a bachelor, not a very usual state of life for an Irishman; but, somehow or other he had not met the girl he "wished to marry," as he used to say. He was, notwithstanding, a merry, good-natured, kind-hearted man, and I remember that we always enjoyed his brief visits whenever he rode over on his fast-trotting cob to see us. Uncle Denis had not come for some time, when my father received a message from a doctor who was attending him, stating that if his sister wished to see him alive, she must come over immediately. My mother did not hesitate a moment, and my father agreed to drive her over in the waggon. I was to accompany them. Preparations were at once made for our departure, and as the Shawanees, long the foes of the white man in those regions, had buried the war-hatchet, and were not likely to come that way, the rest of the children were left without any apprehensions of danger, under the charge of our old black nurse, Rose.
The waggon was a long, light vehicle, with little or no iron-work about it, having benches across, and rails on either side. It had four wheels of equal size, and was drawn by a couple of horses harnessed to a pole; owing to the height and position of the two front wheels, we could not turn without making a long sweep.
My father sat on the box to drive. My mother and I occupied the front bench, and behind was stowed our luggage, provisions for the journey, and various other articles, Although I was very young at the time, I have nevertheless a clear recollection of some of the incidents of the journey.
Descending by a thickly wooded valley to the level of the Ohio, we crossed that river in a large ferry-boat, which conveyed our horses and waggon at the same time, while my mother and I sat in the vehicle and my father stood at the head of the animals to keep them quiet. The stream carried us down for some distance, and I remember my mother holding me tight in her arms, and looking with terrified glances at the water as it whirled by, apparently about to sweep the lumbering boat far down below the point the rowers were endeavouring to gain. They exerted themselves, however, to the utmost. The boat's head was turned partly up the stream, and an eddy taking her, we at length reached the landing-place. My father then mounting the box, with voice and whip urged the horses up the steep bank, and once more the waggon rolled over tolerably even ground.
The country through which we passed was in those days almost in a state of nature, with the exception of the high road traversing the State from one end to the other. The first part lay across the "Barrens," a wild region, where the soil being inferior in fertility to that of the uplands, it was destitute of inhabitants. To the south extended a level prairie covered with long grass, with here and there groves of oak, chestnut, and elm. To the north the country appeared more undulating, clothed with a far greater variety of trees; hickory, black walnut, cherry, as well as magnificent oak and elm.
"I hope we shall not have another river to cross like that," observed my mother, after keeping silence for some time, while she was endeavouring to recover from her alarm.
"Not so broad a one, Kate," answered my father, "but there are several streams which we must manage to get over either by fords or ferry-boats, for I doubt whether we shall find any bridges as yet put up to drive over, though they will come in good time, I have no doubt. We run no danger just now, and I don't suppose that we shall have the least difficulty in crossing any stream in our way."
As we drove along we occasionally started a herd of deer feeding on the rich grass in the forest-glades. Hares in abundance crossed our path, and a fox slunk by, casting a suspicious glance at us, as he ran out of sight into a bush. Towards evening, as we were hoping soon to reach a log hut in which we could pass the night, our ears were assailed by a long, low howl.
"Where can that come from?" exclaimed my mother.
"Possibly from a wolf; but I'll give a good account of the brute if he makes his appearance," answered my father; "hand me out my rifle."
My mother gave him the weapon, and he placed it by his side ready for use. He had also a brace of pistols stuck in his belt, so that he was prepared for an encounter either with wolves, bears, or any hostile Indians who might have ventured thus far eastward.
At last we found ourselves rumbling over a corduroy road, a sign that we were approaching human habitations. It was composed of the trunks of large trees, placed close together across the path, over a swampy place into which the wheels of carriages would otherwise have been imbedded. The interstices had originally been filled in with earth, clay, or chips of wood, but in many parts the small stuff had sunk through, so that the waggon moved on over a succession of ridges, on which it seemed a wonder that the horses could keep their legs, and that we could escape being jerked out. Sometimes a trunk, rotted by the wet, had given way and left a gap, to avoid which it required my father's utmost skill in driving. Occasionally, with all his care, he could not find a space wide enough to enable the wheels to pass. On such occasions, lashing his horses into a gallop, he made the waggon bound over it, crying out, as he came to the spot—
"Hold fast, Kate; don't let Mike be hove overboard."
The waggon was strong, and stood the jolting better than my poor mother did. She, however, bore all the bumping, jolting, and rolling with perfect good humour, knowing well that my father would spare her as much of it as he possibly could.
Darkness found us still on the road, although my father could still see his way between the tall trees. Scarcely had the sun set than we again heard that ominous howl, followed by sharp yelps.
"Oh! the wolves, the wolves!" cried my mother.
"Never fear," said my father, "they are arrant cowards, and there are no large packs hereabouts to do us harm."
The thought, however, that they might follow us, alarmed my mother, and she kept me close to her side, looking out anxiously behind, expecting every instant to see a hungry pack coming up in chase of us. My father, perhaps, was not quite easy on the subject; he kept shouting out, and in spite of the roughness of the road, made the horses go at a faster pace than before.
"Hurrah! I see a light ahead," he shouted at last; "that's the log hut we were told of; and even if the wolves do come, we shall be safe from them in a few minutes, for they will not approach a human habitation."
On we jolted; I could distinguish a clearing on the side where the light appeared, it grew brighter and stronger, and presently my father pulled up in front of a good-sized building, composed of huge logs placed one above another, with the doors and windows sawn out of them, and roofed with shingles, which are thin broad slabs of wood, split from the trunks of large trees.
"Can you afford us shelter for the night, friend?" said my father to a man, who, hearing the sound of wheels, came outside the door.
"Ay, and a welcome too, such as we give to all strangers who have money or money's worth to pay for their lodging, and I guess you've got that."
"Yes, I am ready to pay for our board and lodging, but I could not tell in the dark whether or not this was a house of entertainment."
"I guess it's the finest hotel you'll find between the Ohio and Harrodsburg," answered the man.
"All right," said my father; "I'll see my wife and child, as well as our goods, safe inside; then we'll take the horses and waggon round to the stables."
Saying this he helped my mother and me to the ground. We entered a large room with a huge cooking-stove at one end, and a long table down the middle, flanked by benches. A middle-aged woman, with three strapping girls, her daughters, advanced to meet us, and conducted my mother and me up to the stove, that we might warm ourselves; for as it was early in the year, the evening had set in cold. Our hostess talked away at a rapid rate, giving us all the news of the country, and inquiring what information we could afford her in return.
We found that we were still nearly another day's journey from Green River, after crossing which it would take us the best part of a third day to get to my uncle's location. Three or four other travellers came in, armed with bowie-knives, and pistols in their belts, each carrying a long gun, which he placed against the wall. A black man and a girl appeared, to serve at table, and we heard several others chattering outside, reminding us that we were in a slave-state. On my father's return he took his seat by my mother's side, and talked away to prevent me hearing the conversation which was going on between the other travellers at the further end of the table, which showed they were as rough in their manners as in their appearance. However, they did not otherwise interfere with us.
At an early hour my father begged to be shown a room.
"I guess it's not a very big one," answered our hostess; "but you and your wife won't mind a trifle like that. There's a bunk in the corner, in which your young one can stow himself away."
I remember the dismay with which I saw the bunk spoken of. It was in reality a huge chest with the top propped up, but I tumbled into it notwithstanding, and was soon fast asleep. At daybreak the next morning, after a substantial breakfast, in which fried eggs and Johnny cake formed an important item, we again started off over the same sort of corduroy road as on the previous evening. On either side were numerous clearings with log huts, and here and there a more pretentious store, before each of which several persons were seen taking their morning drams. My father was an abstemious man, and although invited to stop and liquor, declined doing so. We drove on as fast as the horses could go, as he was anxious to cross the river early in the day. The weather had hitherto been fine, but it now looked threatening, though as the day advanced the clouds blew off. My father told my mother that he hoped we should escape the storm.
About mid-day we stopped at another log shanty, similar to the one at which we had rested for the night, in order to bate the horses. We afterwards passed through several forests of considerable size, with more open wild land covered with low bushes, where the rocky soil afforded no depth for larger vegetation.
The country improved as we approached Green River, growing tobacco, Indian corn, flax, and buck-wheat, while the numerous parties of blacks we saw at work on plantations showed that the country was more thickly populated than any we had hitherto passed through. From information my father gained, he understood that we should cross Green River by a ford without difficulty.
"The river is pretty broad about there, and the shallow is not very wide; so, stranger, you must keep direct for the landing-place, which you will see on the opposite side. Better drive up than down the stream, but better still to keep straight across," added his informant.
"Oh, Patrick, must you positively cross that wide extent of water?" exclaimed my mother as we reached the bank and she surveyed the broad river flowing by.
"There are marks of wheels on this side, and I make out an easy landing-place on the other," answered my father.
Having surveyed the ford, my father without hesitation drove in, telling my mother not to be afraid, as he did not suppose that the water would reach above the axles.
The stream as it flowed by, bubbled and hissed between the wheels, making me quite giddy to look at it. The water grew deeper and deeper until it reached the axles; then in a little time on looking down I saw it bubbling up through the bottom of the waggon.
My father did not turn his head, but keeping his eyes steadily fixed on the landing-place, urged on the horses. They had not got more than half-way over when they began to plunge in a manner which threatened to break the harness. Again my father shouted and applied his whip over their backs; the animals seemed every instant as if about to lose their legs, while the water not only bubbled up through the bottom, but completely flowed over it. To turn round was impossible, not only from the construction of the waggon, but from the pressure of water, and in all probability had the attempt been made an overturn would have been the consequence.
My mother suppressed her fears, but grasped me tighter than ever. Presently I heard a dull roar, and looking up the river I saw a white-crested wave—so it appeared—curling down upon us. My father saw it too. He leapt from the waggon into the water, which reached almost up to his shoulders, and seizing the horses' heads, endeavoured to drag them forward. Every instant the current became stronger and deeper and deeper. At last it seemed as if the waggon must inevitably be swept away down the stream. Just then I heard a shout from the shore, where I saw a black man running rapidly towards us. Without stopping a moment he rushed into the water, wading as far as the depth would allow him, then he struck out swimming, and quickly reached the horses' heads.
"Here, massa stranger, nebber fear, dis boy help you," he exclaimed, and seizing the bridle of one of the animals he pointed to a spot, a little lower down the bank. My father, being taller than the negro, was still able, though with difficulty, to keep his feet, and grasping the bridle of the other horse, he followed the advice he had received. Before, however, we had gone far, the wave was upon us. The next instant the waggon was lifted up and jerked violently round. I had until then been holding on, but how it happened I cannot tell, for I felt myself suddenly thrown into the water. I heard my mother's shriek of frantic despair, and my father shouted to her to hold on for her life, while he dragged forward the horses, whose feet almost the next moment must have touched the firm ground.
"Me save him!" cried the black, "go on, massa stranger, go on, all safe now," and the brave fellow, relinquishing his hold of the horse, which he left to my father's guidance, swam off to where I was struggling in the seething water. With one arm he seized me round the waist, and keeping my head above the surface, struck out once more towards the bank. His feet fortunately soon regained the ground, and wading on while he pressed with all his might against the current, he carried me safely in his arms to the bank. Having placed me on the grass, he hastened back to assist my father in dragging up the waggon.
My mother, as may be supposed, had all the time been watching me with unspeakable anxiety, forgetting the danger in which she herself was placed. As the banks sloped very gradually, the horses, by a slight effort, contrived to drag the waggon up to the level ground.
"Blessings rest on your head, my brave man!" exclaimed my mother, addressing the black who had saved me, as she got out of the waggon and rushed to where I lay; then kneeling down, she gazed anxiously into my face.
I had suffered less I believe from immersion than from fear, for I had not for a moment lost my consciousness, nor had I swallowed much water.
"Berry glad to save de little boy, him all right now," answered the black.
"Yes, I believe I'm all right now. Thank you, thank you," I said, getting up.
My mother threw her arms round my neck and burst into tears.
My father wrung the hand of the black, who had hurried back to help him rearrange the harness of the horses. "You have saved the lives of us all, my gallant friend; I thank you from my heart, and should wish to show you my gratitude by any means in my power."
"Oh, massa, him one poor black slave," answered the negro, astonished at being so spoken to by a white man; "him berry glad to save de little boy. Now, massa, you all berry wet, want get dry clo' or catch cold an' die ob de fever."
"Indeed I am most anxious to get my wife and child under the shelter of some roof;" answered my father. "Can you guide us to the nearest house where we can obtain what we require?"
The black thought a moment, and then answered—
"De plantation where I slave not far off; Massa Bracher not at home— better 'way perhaps, he not always in berry good temper, but de housekeeper, Mammy Coe, she take care ob de lady and de little boy. Yes, we will go dare dough de oberseer make me back feel de lash 'cos I go back without carry de message I was sent on. It can wait, no great ting."
I do not believe that my father heard the last remark of the black, as he was engaged in replacing some of the articles in the waggon which had escaped being washed out, for he answered—
"Yes, by all means, we will drive on to Mr Bracher's plantation. It's not very far off, I hope, for the sooner we can get on dry clothing the better."
My father, as he helped in my mother, and placed me in her arms, threw his own coat, wet as it was, over me, as it served to keep off the wind and was better than nothing.
"What's your name, my good fellow?" he asked of the black.
"Me Diogenes, massa, but de folks call me 'Dio'."
"Well, jump in, Dio, and tell me the way I am to drive."
"Straight on den, Massa," said Dio, climbing in at the hinder part of the waggon, "den turn to de right, and den to de lef', and we are at Massa Bracher's."
My father drove on as fast as the horses could go, for although the weather was tolerably warm, my teeth were chattering with cold and fright, and he was anxious, wet as we were, not to expose my mother and me to the night air. By following Dio's directions, in less than ten minutes we reached a house of more pretensions than any we had yet seen. It was of one story, and raised on a sort of platform above the ground with a broad veranda in front. Behind it was a kitchen-garden, and plantations of tobacco, and fields of corn on either side. Dio, jumping out, ran to the horses' heads, and advised my mother to go first, taking me with her, and to introduce herself to Mammy Coe.
"Yes, go, Kathleen," said my father, "the good woman will certainly not turn us away, although from what Dio says, she may not receive us very courteously."
The door stood open; as we ascended the wooden steps, two huge blood-hounds rushed out, barking furiously, but Dio's voice kept them from molesting us. The noise they made served to summon "Mammy Coe," a brown lady of mature age, a degree or two removed from a negress, dressed, as I thought, in very gay colours, with a handkerchief of bright hue bound round her head, forming a sort of turban.
"Who you strangers, whar you come from?" she asked in an authoritative tone, as if accustomed to command.
My mother, in a few words, explained what had happened. "We should be thankful to you to allow us to have our clothes dried," she added.
"Yas, strangers, me will gib you dat permission," answered Mammy Coe; "come 'long dis way. Your man too, him want change him clo'," she said, looking out and perceiving my father standing on the steps, still dripping wet. "Dio," she shouted, "take de horses round to de stable and bring in de strangers' tings."
Dio promptly obeyed, glad, I am very sure, that his kind intentions had thus far been successful.
"Come 'long, young woman, and bring de boy. You shall hab supper afterwards, den go to bed, you all right to-morrow."
She led the way to a bed-room on one side of the entrance-hall, where my mother quickly stripped off my wet clothes and wrapped me up in a blanket.
"Him better for some broth!" observed Mammy Coe in a kinder tone than she had yet used. "Now, young woman, you go to me room, and me give you some dry clothes, while your man, him go into Massa Bracher's room."
My father, however, first came and had a look at me and almost the minute afterwards I was fast asleep. When I awoke I saw a person standing near me, dressed so exactly like Mammy Coe, that at first I thought it was her, but I quickly discovered that she was my mother. She had brought me my clothes perfectly dry. I was very glad to put them on and accompany her to supper in the great hall, where several not very pleasant-looking personages were seated at a long table, with Mammy Coe at the head of it. The people appeared to me much alike, with sallow faces, long hair, untrimmed beards, and bowie-knives stuck in their belts. I remember remarking that they gobbled down their food voraciously, and put a number of questions to my father, which he answered in his usual calm way.
Supper was nearly over when the barking of dogs announced another arrival. Soon afterwards a tall man wearing a broad-brimmed hat entered the room, and nodding to the other persons, threw his whip into the corner and took the seat which Mammy Coe vacated. He stared at my mother and me. My father rose, concluding that he was the host, and explained how he happened to be his guest, while Mammy Coe stood by ready to answer any questions if required. My father narrated our adventures, stating that we were on our way to visit my mother's brother, who was supposed to be at the point of death.
"I know Denis O'Dwyer, I guess. He was down with the fever I heard, but whether he's gone or not I can't say. Some pull through and some don't. If you find him alive it's a wonder. However, make yourself at home here, and to-morrow you may start on your journey," observed our host.
My father thanked him, and remarked how much he was indebted to his slave Dio.
"The boy's good property, I guess," answered Mr Bracher, but not a word did he say of the black's gallant conduct, and only laughed scornfully when my father alluded to it.
Our host spoke but little during the remainder of the time we sat at table, being employed as zealously as his overseers and clerks had been in devouring his food. My father then again reverted to Dio, and observed that he was anxious to make a suitable return to the black for the brave way in which he had risked his life in preserving ours.
"He is my property and you may thank me, but I don't want thanks and I don't want a recompense, though I should have lost well-nigh five hundred dollars if he had been drowned."
"Will you take five hundred dollars for the boy?" asked my father feeling sure that unless he could obtain the slave, he should have no means of rewarding him.
"No, stranger, I guess I won't," answered Mr Bracher, putting a quid, which he had been working into form, into his mouth; "I don't want money, and I wouldn't take a thousand dollars for the black if I did: so you have your answer."
My father saw that it would not do farther to press the subject. As soon as he properly could, he begged that my mother and I might be allowed to retire.
"This is liberty hall, and your wife can do as she likes, and so can you. I shall turn in myself before long, as I have had a pretty smart ride."
On this my mother rose, and I had to return to my bunk, in which I was soon fast asleep. Next morning I remember looking out of the window just at daybreak and seeing a party of negroes mustered before being despatched to their respective labours. Two white overseers, dressed in broad-brimmed hats and gingham jackets, stood by with whips in their hands, giving directions to the slaves, and at the same time bestowing not a few lashes on their backs, if they did not at once comprehend what was said to them. Among them I caught sight of Dio. One of the overseers addressed him, and seemed to be putting questions to which satisfactory answers were not given. To my horror down came the lash on Dio's back, cut after cut being given with all the strength of the white man's arm.
"O father, father, they are beating Dio. Do go out and stop the cruel man," I exclaimed. My father looked on for a moment, and then hurried out to the front of the house. I followed him, but Dio had disappeared and the overseer was walking along whistling in the direction one party of the blacks had taken.
"The poor fellow would only be worse treated were I to speak for him," said my father stopping short; "but it is terrible that human beings should thus be tyrannised over by their fellow-creatures. It may not be against man's laws, but it is against God's law, I am very certain. The sooner we are away from this the better, but I should like to see poor Dio before we go, and again thank him for the service he has rendered us."
We went round to the stables, where we found Dio, who was grooming the horses. My father, finding that no one else was present, put several dollars into his hand.
"That's no return, my friend, for the brave way in which you risked your life to save ours," he said; "but I have nothing else except my bare thanks to give you. You must remember, however, that I wish always to remain your friend, and if I have the power, to repay you in a more substantial manner."
"Dis black boy no want any reward," answered Dio, offering to return the money.
My father, however, pressed it on him, and without much difficulty induced him to keep it. As soon as breakfast was over, the horses were brought round. I believe that my mother made a present to Mammy Coe of the gayest article of dress she possessed, which she guessed would be far more welcome than money.
Our host treated us with but scant courtesy as we took our departure.
"Just tell Denis O'Dwyer, if you find him alive, that you saw me, and that I hope to liquor up with him next time I go his way."
My father thanked him for his hospitality, but he made no reply, and turning on his heel, re-entered his house. We found Dio, who had run on, waiting for us out of sight of the house. He waved his hand, but said nothing.
Eager to reach Uncle Denis's farm, my father drove on as fast as the horses could trot over the rough track. We had to endure the same amount of bumping and jolting as on the previous day. My poor mother's anxiety increased as we approached my uncle's farm. We met with no one who could give us any information. Since the fearful danger we had been in, she had become much more nervous than was her wont, and consequently could not help expecting to hear the worst. Great was her joy, therefore, when, on driving up to the door, who should we see but Uncle Denis himself seated in the porch, smoking a cigar.
"I'm glad to see you, sister," he said, "but Doctor O'Dowd had no business to frighten you. He is always so accustomed to kill his patients that he fancies they are all going to die under his hand, and faith, it's no fault of his if they get well."
My uncle's appearance, however, showed that he had gone through a severe illness. He was still too weak to walk without assistance, but his indomitable spirit, my father observed, had done much to keep him up; our coming also was of great assistance, as my mother was able to nurse him more carefully than were his usual black attendants. We remained with him for several days, at the end of which time he was able to mount his horse and take a gallop with my father in the early morning. Uncle Denis was one of the kindest-hearted men I ever met, and generally one of the merriest; but a shade of melancholy came over him occasionally. It was when he thought of Uncle Michael, or of that "dear fellow, Mike," as he used to say. He believed himself to have been in the wrong, and to have been the cause of his brother's leaving him, without taking an opportunity of acknowledging that such was the case, and asking for his forgiveness.
My father and mother of course described to Uncle Denis the narrow escape we had had in crossing the river, and the somewhat doubtful style of hospitality with which we had been received by Mr Bracher.
"He knows you, Denis," said my father.
"And I know him," answered my uncle; "a more surly curmudgeon does not exist in these parts, or a harder master to his slaves. He is a man people wish to stand well with, not because they love him, but because they fear his vengeance should they offend him. I make a point of keeping out of his way, for fear that he should pick a quarrel with me, though he pretends to be friendly enough when we meet. The slaves hate him, as well they may, but the lash keeps them in order, and he has a set of fellows about him of his own kidney, who serve him because no one else would willingly employ them."
This no very flattering account of our late host made my father determine not to pay him another visit, if he could help it, on our return.
"I'll follow your example and keep out of his way," observed my father, "though I should have been glad to make another attempt to purchase his slave Dio, for the sake of getting the brave fellow out of his power."
"The more desirous you appear to obtain the slave the less likely will he be to part with him, so I would advise you not to allude again to the subject," said my uncle. "I'll keep an eye on his proceedings, and, should he at any time suffer losses and be obliged to sell up, I'll take means to buy Dio, not letting his master know that you want to become his owner."
With this arrangement my father was obliged to rest satisfied, as he saw that there was no other chance of getting Dio out of the power of his tyrannical master.
A few days after this conversation Uncle Denis was so far recovered, that my father announced his intention of returning home.
"Stay a few days longer; don't think of going yet," answered Uncle Denis; "it seems but yesterday that you came, and I shall feel more lonely than ever when you are gone; besides, you haven't seen the great wonder of our part of the country, nor have I forsooth, and I should like to pay it a visit with you."
"Of what wonder do you speak?" asked my father.
"Sure, of the big caves we have deep down in the earth, a few miles only from this. It is said there are mountains, rivers and lakes within them, and I don't know what besides."
"Oceans, forests, and valleys, perhaps," said my father, laughing, and scarcely crediting the account my uncle gave him; for at that time the wonderful Mammoth Caves of Kentucky were unknown to the world in general, although the native Indians might have been acquainted with them, and some time before, a mine of saltpetre at the entrance had been discovered. My mother, more to please Uncle Denis than from any expected pleasure to herself; agreed to accompany him, and to my great delight, they promised to take me.
We were to perform the trip in two or three days, and Uncle Denis said that in the meantime he would try and find means of amusing us. We went all over the farm, on which he grew tobacco, maize, and other cereals. He was a great sportsman, besides which he had a fancy for trapping birds and animals, and taming them, when he could. In this he was wonderfully successful; he had a large menagerie of the feathered tribe as well as numbers of four-footed beasts which he had trapped and contrived to domesticate. His ambition was to tame a panther, a bear, and a wolf; but as yet he had not succeeded in taking any of them young enough, as he said, to be taught good manners.
"Perhaps if you had a lady to help you, you would be more successful," observed my mother, "like Orpheus of old, who charmed the savage beasts. She would with her voice produce a greater effect on their wild natures than any man can do."
"I'll think about it," said Uncle Denis, looking up and laughing.
My mother's great wish was to see Uncle Denis married happily, though where to find a wife to suit him, or, as she would have said, "good enough for him," was the difficulty. There were no lack of excellent girls in Kentucky, daughters of settlers, but they could seldom boast of much education or refinement of manners, and Uncle Denis was a gentleman in every sense of the word; at the same time that he had as much spirit and daring as any Kentuckian born.
It must be understood of course, that at the time I speak of, I was too young to understand these matters, but I heard of them afterwards from my mother, and am thus able to introduce them in their proper place in my history.
Uncle Denis took great delight in showing us his various traps and snares, as well as other means he employed for capturing birds or animals.
The traps had been greatly neglected during his illness. I remember being especially delighted with what he called his "pens," which he had erected for the capture of wild turkeys, with which the neighbouring woods abounded. The two first we came to contained birds lately caught; the third was empty, and the fourth had been broken into by a hungry wolf, which had carried off the captive.
"There is another I built the day before I was taken ill, further away in the forest. No one but myself knows of it," observed Uncle Denis; "we'll pay a visit to it, though I am much afraid if a bird has been caught, it must have starved to death by this time."
The pens Uncle Denis was speaking of were simple structures formed like a huge cage by poles stuck in the ground sufficiently close together to prevent a bird from getting out. They were roofed over by boughs and leaves, and were without doors or windows. It will then be asked, how can a bird get in? The trap is entered in this way.
A passage or trench is cut in the ground twelve or fourteen feet in length, passing under the wall of the hut and rising again in its centre. Inside the wall and over the trench, a bridge is thrown. To induce the bird to enter, grain is strewn along the trench and scattered about its neighbourhood, while a larger quantity is placed on the floor inside the hut. The unwary turkey, on seeing the grains of corn, picks them up, and not suspecting treachery follows the train until it finds itself inside the pen; instead however of endeavouring to escape by the way it entered, it, like other wild birds, runs round and round the walls of the hut, peeping through the interstices and endeavouring to force its way out, each time crossing over the bridge without attempting to escape by the only practicable outlet. In this way Uncle Denis said that he had caught numbers of birds, one and all having acted in the same foolish manner.
"Hereabouts is my forest pen," he said. "Hark! I hear some curious clucking sounds. There's more than one bird there, or I am much mistaken." Stepping forward he peered over the branches, when he beckoned us to advance, and, he lifting me in his arms, I saw not only a hen turkey in the pen, but a brood of a dozen or more turkey poults running in and out among the bars, while the hen was evidently calling to them, suspecting that danger was near.
They were too young to fly up into the trees, which they do on being alarmed, when scarcely more than a fortnight old. Uncle Denis was highly pleased.
"I shall have a fine addition to the poultry-yard," he said, "for I shall tame all these young ones by cutting their wings, and they will not be able to follow their mother into the woods, so for their sake she will probably be content to share their captivity."
Peter, a black boy, had accompanied us, and Uncle Denis sent him back for a couple of baskets. The turkey hen, though much alarmed, having gathered her poults under her wings, stood ready to defend them bravely. Uncle Denis said that she had probably got into the pen directly after he had last seen it, and he recollected having left inside a quantity of corn, with which he was going to bait some other pens in the neighbourhood. This had served to keep her alive, unless perhaps her faithful mate had brought her food. If such was the case, the "gobbler," as the male bird is called, took good care to keep out of our way. Wild turkeys in those days abounded through the whole of the southern states. I have often seen—of course I speak of a subsequent time of my life—ten or a dozen hen turkeys, with their families amounting to eighty or a hundred head, on their annual migration, old and young moving in the same direction, making use of their legs in preference to their wings, unless when intercepted by a river, or frightened by the appearance of a hunter and his dogs. On reaching a river they climb to some neighbouring height, where they remain for a day or two to consult apparently as to the best means of getting across: on such occasions the males making a loud gobbling noise, strutting about looking very important, as if about to perform some heroic action. At last, when they have settled their plan, the birds of all ages mount to the tops of the highest trees bordering the stream. There they sit for a short time, when their leader gives a loud "cluck." It is the signal to commence the adventurous passage. Together they expand their wings and rise in the air; the stronger birds will thus cross a river a mile wide, but some of the younger ones find it impossible to sustain themselves so long in the air, and fall flop into the water. Serious as this misadventure may appear, being birds of spirit, they do not give up the attempt in despair. Closing their wings, they spread out their broad tails, and strike away with their feet towards the bank they desire to reach. Should they find, as is sometimes the case, that the bank is too steep for landing, they cease their exertions and allow themselves to float down the stream until they reach an accessible part, when by violent efforts they manage to scramble up the banks and regain the main body. On such occasions, should any of their human or other enemies be on the watch for them, they are easily taken, as they are too much exhausted to fly away and have not regained their shore legs. On landing also they do not appear at first to know what direction to take, and are seen rambling about, sometimes up the stream, sometimes down it, or making an uncertain run inland. Of all the birds of America, the turkey deserves the pre-eminence: the plumage, a golden bronze, banded with black, and shot with violet, green, and blue, is beautiful in the extreme. We had scarcely done admiring our captive, when Peter returned with two large baskets, into one of which the hen turkey was trundled in spite of the fierce use she made of her beak and claws, while her brood, who were too much bewildered to run away, were caught and secured in the other. We returned home with our unwilling captives. Uncle Denis at once had a pen put up, and in a few days the young turkeys appeared perfectly reconciled to their lot, and Uncle Denis succeeded in domesticating them: as for the old hen, one day early in the following spring, a loud "gobbling" being heard in the distance, she, leaping up on a pailing, spread her wings and flew away in the direction from whence the sounds came. Her brood, then more than half-grown, would have followed her example, but their wings were cut, and down they toppled on their backs, greatly to the amusement of Peter, as Uncle Denis afterwards told us.
The day for our excursion to the wonderful Cave arrived, and having breakfasted by candle-light, we set off before sunrise in a waggon, attended by Peter and Caesar, another black boy, on horseback. Uncle Denis drove, and it needed an expert whip to get along the rough road. On coming to the farm, we had been bumped and jolted enough to dislocate our limbs, had we not had some soft cushions to sit upon. We were now tumbled about in a fashion which threatened to upset the waggon. Uncle Denis shouted out—
"Never fear, the machine is accustomed to it, and will go over places ten times as bad as this is. Hold fast though, in case of accidents."
Sometimes we crossed what might have been called, in compliment, a piece of corduroy, though it looked more as if trees had been blown down by a hurricane in close ranks. On other occasions we had to twist and turn in and out among the stumps, and fly over big holes, the well-trained horses keeping their feet in the most wonderful manner. At last we reached a hut, where in subsequent years a fine hotel was built. As we pulled up before it, a tall Indian appeared and, asking if we wished to see the cavern, volunteered to act as our guide.
"You're the man we want," answered Uncle Denis.
On this the Indian, retiring to his hut, returned with a bundle of torches. We had brought a couple of lanterns and a supply of candles, so that there was no chance of our being left in darkness.
The two negro boys having taken charge of our horses, we proceeded on foot, followed by Peter and Caesar, to the mouth of the pit down which we were to descend into the cavern. This was like a large well into which a stream fell with a cheerful splash. I remember asking not unnaturally whether we should have to swim when we got to the bottom.
We made our way down a flight of wooden steps, when, passing under a high archway, we proceeded along a level road to what were called the "vats," where saltpetre was manufactured.
The torches lighted up the subterranean region in which we found ourselves. As to describing it exactly is more than I can pretend to do. From the large entrance-hall we made our way through a low narrow passage, which is known as the Valley of Humility, into another hall of enormous extent, the roof so lofty that our torches scarcely illuminated either the walls or roof. At our feet we could see the glitter of water extending far away into the interior, while a bright stream flowed over a rocky bed into it. Uncle Denis proposed that we should sit down and refresh ourselves preparatory to exploring the interior recesses of the cavern. No objection being made, Peter produced some provisions from a basket he had brought on his back. Having discussed them, we slaked our thirst from the pure water of the rivulet. Once more moving on, in a short time we reached Echo River, on the shore of which we found a boat. Our guide invited us to embark. Looking upwards it appeared as if a canopy of black clouds hung over our heads, while on every side we could see precipices and cliffs rising up, apparently into the sky; silence and darkness reigned around us, the smooth sluggish water alone reflecting the glare of our torches. Not a word was uttered by any of our party, until the Indian's voice suddenly burst forth into one of the melancholy chants of his race, echoed as it appeared by the spirit of his departed brethren. I clung to my father's arm, and asked where all those sounds came from.
"They are but the echoes of the Indian's voice," he answered. Now they rose, now they fell, as he gave forth the notes with the full force of his lungs, or warbled softly, sometimes finishing with a melancholy wail which produced the most mournful effect.
"Come, this is more than I bargained for," exclaimed Uncle Denis; "now stand by for a different kind of sound. Don't be alarmed, it's only the barrel of my pistol going to try what sort of noise it can make." He pulled the trigger, when there was a flash and then there came a succession of crashing, thundering sounds echoed from every angle in those enormous vaults. Backwards and forwards tore the sounds, rolling and reverberating from wall to wall with terrific crashes. Half a dozen pieces of artillery fired in the open air could not have produced a more tremendous uproar.
Scarcely had the sounds died away, when Peter and Caesar struck up a merry negro melody, contrasting curiously with the melancholy notes of the Indian's song; they made Uncle Denis and me, at all events, burst in to hearty fits of laughter.
"Come, I like that style of song far better than the music of our red-skin friend," exclaimed my uncle. The guide told us that although it was perfectly safe at most times of the year to traverse the cavern, there were occasions when the waters rising suddenly had prevented the return of explorers, but that a way had been discovered, through a narrow passage, the course evidently at one time of a stream, up which they could climb over the mud and save themselves from being either drowned or starved, should they have come without provisions. This passage has appropriately been called "Purgatory," but as we had not to take advantage of it, I cannot describe it more fully.
Leaving "Echo" River we entered another cavern named "Cleveland's Cabinet," when we found ourselves in what we might have taken for a fairy region.
Above our heads and on either side, the roof and walls were adorned with delicate flowers of snowy whiteness, and domes, and turrets, and spires, and shrubs, and trees, as well as the forms of birds and beasts of all descriptions; elephants and camels, eagles and turkeys and doves; indeed figures of every shape which imagination without any great exertion might please to picture. The representations of some indeed were so perfect that it was difficult to believe that they had not been carved by the hand of man, and yet one and all were produced by the dripping of water from the gypsum rock; the most delicate ice formations could not surpass them; indeed many equalled in form the choicest flowers growing in the most cultivated garden. As we proceeded on, we found that the cavern was not destitute of inhabitants. Huge crickets and spiders, almost of a white colour, crawled over the ground, the former not taking jumps, but moving steadily forward with their long legs. Rats too, Uncle Denis declared they were as big as leverets, ran by us, exhibiting their sharp teeth and extensive tails. When no other provisions are to be obtained, they live apparently on the spiders and crickets.
The next cavern we entered was called "Martha's Vineyard;" the trunk of a vine climbed up the sides, and spread its branches over the roof from which hung suspended what looked like clusters of delicious grapes. Seeing also several which appeared to have fallen on the ground, I ran forward to examine them, when what was my disappointment to find that they were of a stony nature, thus formed by the dropping of the water. In another cave our guide, having lighted two of the largest torches, waved them about, when we appeared to be standing in a wintry scene. Ice above us, ice on the ground, with here and there patches of snow.
We did not get nearly to the end of the cavern, and therefore missed seeing a beautiful grotto which our guide told us was called "Serena's Arbour," and that the walls are covered with a drapery resembling yellow satin falling in graceful folds, while through it murmurs a rivulet, falling into one of the many rivers running through the cavern, which is said to be nine miles in extent. It appeared to me that we had been walking all day amid vast towering rocks. Often the roof was so far above us that even the light of our torches failed to reach it. We now entered another hall, when our guide told us to seat ourselves on some rocks and to extinguish our lights.
"Don't be alarmed," he said; "I'm not going to be guilty of treachery."
My father and Uncle Denis agreed to his proposal, and there we sat far down in the depths of the earth, not a ray of light reaching us. I could feel my mother's hand, but although I placed it close to my eyes, I could not see it. After waiting some time I began to grow uneasy, when greatly to my relief the guide returned with a lantern in his hand.
"Look up!" he said, "see to what a region I have transported you."
On gazing upwards, we saw stars innumerable glittering in the sky, so it seemed, but in vain we looked for those to which our eyes were accustomed, though it was difficult to persuade ourselves that they were not veritable stars. The guide, holding a stone in his hand, threw it upwards, when it struck the roof above our heads, and we found that the seeming stars were produced by pieces of mica imbedded in the roof on which the light from the lantern, being thrown in a peculiar way, was brightly reflected.
Relighting our torches, we saw that the walls were of a yellow colour, while the ceiling appeared to be of a dark undefined blue, resembling the midnight sky. We visited several other caverns, some of which appeared to be of immense height, though the ceiling in most parts is not more than thirty feet from the ground.
One cavern had, what looked like a mountain in that subterranean region, rising from the ground, with a stream running at its base. We crossed several rivers; besides the "Echo," one called the "Styx," the other the "Lethe." Our guide had brought a net, with which he caught some fish and crawfish. On examining them we could discover no appearance of eyes, while, from being deprived of the warm rays of the sun, they were perfectly white. Uncle Denis remarked that as they had no lamps down there, eyes would have been useless, but their instinct, or probably their keen sense of feeling, told them when they were running into danger. The crickets which came hopping about around us, could however, we ascertained, see perfectly well, and appeared to be attracted by the light of our lanterns. They were not pleasant-looking creatures, and if the rats can find nothing else to eat, they must have an uncomfortable life of it. The guide told us that the cave was not known to white men until 1802, though he did not acknowledge that the natives were ignorant of its existence. For many years no one could advance beyond three miles from the entrance, further progress being stopped by a deep chasm called the "Bottomless Pit." At length, however, a daring guide threw a ladder over it, and thus getting across, he explored six more miles of this underground region. A bridge has now been constructed, by which people can pass over in perfect safety. He asserted that no dog would willingly enter the cavern, and that although he had made the attempt several times to induce his own faithful animal to follow him, the creature had always run back howling with dismay. We readily believed this, and for my part I felt oppressed with a sensation of awe I had never before experienced, and which I can to this day vividly recollect. I have since, more than once, visited that subterranean world, and though aware that its dimensions are not so great as I then imagined, and that there was no real danger to be apprehended, I have on each occasion felt awestruck, though in a less degree than formerly.
My father and mother acknowledged that they were thankful when we regained the upper world, and Uncle Denis gave a shout of satisfaction as he inhaled the fresh air of heaven, while the black boys leapt and laughed, and tumbled against each other, as they hurried off to harness the horses to the waggon.
"Fine place dat, Caesar, for niggar to hide away if de white massa not know it," observed Peter to his companion.
"Berry good for hide 'way, but bad for de food; nothing but rats and crickets to eat dare."
Uncle Denis, jumping up on the box, shouted "Erin-go-bragh," and away we dashed as fast as we had come. It was dark long before we reached the farm; my mother appeared pretty well tired out. We remained a couple of days more to recruit, and then set out on our return home. Uncle Denis accompanied us part of the first day's journey.
"Keep clear of Master Silas Bracher," he observed as we were about to part. "I have no wish to meet him again, for he is more likely to pick a quarrel and send a bullet through a man's body than to do him any good."
"I'll follow your advice," answered my father; "I wish from my heart, though, that I could get the black, Dio, out of his power. I really believe that he is jealous of the poor slave."
"You may as well try to draw sunbeams out of a cucumber, as to get him to agree to your offer; keep clear of him altogether, and should I have the chance, I will not forget your wish to obtain the black, whom, should I succeed, you can either set free or keep in bondage, as you may decide; probably, were you to give him his choice, he would prefer remaining your slave."
After an affectionate farewell, Uncle Denis turned his horse's head, and rode back, while we continued our journey to "Uphill," the name my father had given to his property. Avoiding Mr Bracher's location, we drove down to the ford, and as the water was much lower than when we before crossed it, we got over in safety, though my mother naturally felt very nervous as we were making the passage.
We found all going on well at home, Martin Prentis, the overseer, also giving a favourable account of affairs on the estate. It may seem strange that, young as I then was, I should be able to give so minute an account of some of the incidents of our journey: but in the first place they made a deep impression on me; in the second, my parents have since assisted me to brush up my recollections of those days.
LIFE AT UPHILL—OUR TUTOR—MR. MARK TIDEY'S FIRST LESSON IN HORSEMANSHIP—STUDIES FROM THE BOOK OF NATURE—OUR TRIPS WESTWARD—A STRANGE COMBAT—A HASTY SHOT—SOMETHING WORTH KNOWING ABOUT SNAKES— CAMPING OUT—THE BEAR'S VISIT AND ITS RESULT—WOLVES—DRAWING LOTS—A SLEEPLESS NIGHT—TIMELY ASSISTANCE—DYING FROM HUNGER—CONSEQUENCES OF SHELTERING A RUNAWAY SLAVE—OUR TUTOR TURNS NURSE—CHANCES OF DISCOVERY—WE PART COMPANY—A MID-DAY HALT—AN UNPLEASANT MEETING—THE BULLY RECEIVES A LESSON—OUR MARCH HOMEWARDS—THE WAY DAN KEPT WATCH—WE REACH THE FARM.
We had been living at Uphill for some years, the wilderness had been changed into a smiling garden, though I will not say a perfect paradise, for I am very sure that no such spot exists on earth. Our education had not been neglected, for my father had engaged a tutor for Dan and me, when we grew too old for the instruction our mother could give us. Our father was too much engaged to attend regularly to our studies, though very well able himself to teach us. Mr Mark Tidey, our tutor, was a character; he was fond of field-sports, but fonder still of books, and had an aptitude for teaching which many professed tutors do not possess. For the sake of indulging in both his fancies, he undertook to instruct us at a very moderate stipend. My father had found him during one of his journeys eastward at a wayside store—which he had visited for the purpose of obtaining a supply of powder and shot—without a cent in his pocket to pay for it. He had been endeavouring to persuade the storekeeper that he would return in the course of a week with a number of skins amply sufficient to pay his debts; but the wary trader, looking at his ungainly figure and discovering that he was a "Britisher," was unwilling to trust him. Finding that all his arguments were useless, taking a book from his pocket, he had sat down in a corner of the store, philosophically to console himself by its perusal. My father entering found him thus engaged, and glancing his eye on the book, his surprise was considerable to find that it was a copy of one of the Greek classics. My father addressed the stranger, and soon discovered that he was a well-informed man. After some further conversation, he was pretty well satisfied that he was also an honest one. Mr Tidey, finding a person who could sympathise with him, poured forth the history of his adventures and misfortunes. He had come over to America with the intention of establishing a school, but his slender means had been almost exhausted before he could obtain any pupils, his attainments indeed being at that time such as were not generally required in the States. Believing that he could replenish his exhausted exchequer more satisfactorily by means of his gun than in any other way, he had come westward; but the game of which he was in search he found had been driven further into the wilderness than he had expected, and an illness of some weeks' duration had entirely emptied his purse. He had notwithstanding, trudged boldly forward, though the game he killed had been barely sufficient to supply himself with the necessaries of life. From several letters and other documents which he exhibited, my father, being convinced that Mr Tidey had given a true account of himself, invited him to Uphill farm. The poor man jumped at the offer.
"With all the pleasure in the world, my dear sir," he answered, the tears starting to his eyes. "You have boys to teach, I'll teach them. If you've game to be shot, I'll shoot it. If you've accounts to be kept, I'll keep them. If you've any other work to be performed, which a gentleman and a man of honour can perform, I'll undertake it. You would not ask me, I am sure, to do anything derogatory to my character."
My father, however, did not accept his offer at once, wishing to see more of the stranger before he confided us to his care.
"I have a spare horse, and shall be happy if you will accompany me to Uphill," said my father.
"I am not much accustomed to equestrian exercise, but I'll try," answered Mr Tidey; "and unless you have five-bar gates to leap, and the boundless prairie to gallop over, I trust that I shall stick on the back of the animal. I don't like to be defeated, and I should not like to abandon the undertaking on account of my want of equestrian skill. Practice makes perfect; in the course of a few days I may perchance become an expert horseman."
As dinner was about to be served, my father invited Mr Tidey to join him, and from the voracious way in which he shovelled the food into his mouth, it was very evident that he had long been a stranger to a satisfactory meal.
The horses being rested, my father ordered Peter, who had left my Uncle's service, to bring out the steed he intended for his new acquaintance. Mr Tidey showed his ignorance of horsemanship by attempting, in the first instance, to mount from the wrong side, until a hint from Peter made him try the other, when, aided by the black, he scrambled up into the saddle. My father had advised him to let Peter carry his rifle and his slightly furnished knapsack, a fortunate circumstance, as was proved by the sequel. As long as the horse continued walking Mr Tidey kept his seat with becoming dignity, endeavouring to imitate the way my father held his rein, though he shoved his feet far into the stirrups. At length, coming to an even piece of road, my father put his horse into a trot. For some minutes Mr Tidey bore the jolting to which the movement subjected him with wonderful patience, until my father heard him shriek out—
"O captain, captain! for the love of heaven stop, or I shall be worn down to the bones."
My father accordingly drew up, to allow his companion to recover himself. After a time he again proposed moving forward.
"I'll try, captain, I'll try," was the answer, "fortes fortuna juvat; but I wish that my steed could manage to move forward in a fashion less calculated to stir up the bile in my system, than that he has hitherto adopted."
"A canter, or an easy gallop would suit you best," answered my father; "try him with a touch of your whip behind, and give a gentle jerk with your left rein. Now, away we go!" and both steeds broke into a canter, exchanging it in a short time for a gallop.
"Very pleasant, very pleasant; I only hope that my nag won't run away altogether," said Mr Tidey.
"No fear of that," answered my father; "keep a sufficiently tight hold on your rein, and he'll go on well enough."
As long as the ground was level his companion stuck on to admiration, but at length, coming to a rough part, his steed gave a bound over it, swerving on one side and shooting his rider, fortunately, into the middle of a bush, from which my father saw him struggling desperately to get free. Having caught the horse, my father pulled up.
"Nil desperandum! I'll try again," cried Mr Tidey; "but I should be obliged to the animal not to play me such another trick."
"You must be prepared for such tricks," answered my father, calling Peter to hold the horse.
The Dominie at once bravely remounted, and the party moved forward, but before long he was again pitched off into the bed of a stream which flowed by the road-side, happily without any other damage than a thorough wetting.
"It won't do, captain, it won't do!" he cried; "I must trust to my feet, and I may hope some day or other to reach your hospitable home. Give me directions how to find it, and let me have my gun and the ammunition you were kind enough to obtain for me, and I doubt not but that in due course I shall present myself at your gate; the exercise will dry my clothes, and my gun will afford me as much food as I require; I am accustomed to the vicissitudes of fortune."
My father being anxious to get home, and suspecting that Mr Tidey would still further delay him, somewhat reluctantly consented to his proposal, and slipping a couple of dollars into his hand, told Peter to give him back his rifle and knapsack, with his powder-horn and shot-belt.
"A thousand thanks, a thousand thanks!" exclaimed Mr Tidey; "I shall think better of the world in future than I have been inclined to do for some time past."
On leaving Mr Tidey my father had some doubts whether he should ever see him again. He had, however, thought on his way home of the conversation which had taken place between them, and came to the conclusion that he was honest. That he intended to fulfil his promise was proved by his appearance about ten days afterwards, with a load on his back.
"I've not been idle, captain, I was anxious to return your kindness," he said. "The country abounds with game, and I could live here in contentment for the rest of my days, provided I could occasionally indulge in a little literary recreation."
From that day Mr Tidey became domesticated in our family. My father being convinced that he was a man of sterling worth, we were duly placed under his care, and immediately he set to work to afford us the instruction which it must be confessed we at the time greatly needed. We made rapid progress, an evidence that he possessed the art of teaching; and, as Kathleen grew older, she also came in for her lessons.
Mr Tidey was of opinion, much to our satisfaction, that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy; and we consequently spent a portion of each day in shooting or trapping, often making excursions to a considerable distance from home. Sometimes in summer we camped out for several days together. On these occasions we gained a considerable amount of information from our worthy tutor on natural history.
"You shall have a lesson now from the book of nature," he used to say when we started. "It is a big book, and, if studied carefully, more knowledge can be gained from it than from any other source. It might not be of so much use in the great cities down east, but I opine that you are not likely to spend much of your time in that direction, and it is well worth obtaining for many reasons, besides the satisfaction knowledge always affords."
We used to start with our rifles in our hands and our knapsacks on our backs, making our beds at night on a heap of leaves, the blue vault of heaven for our only covering; or, when the sky looked threatening, we either built a hut of boughs or occasionally took shelter in the log hut of one of the pioneers of civilisation, as the hardy backwoodsmen are called, although, in most instances, but little civilised themselves. We preferred, however, taking up our abode at night in a bower of our own construction.
We met with many adventures, but, owing to Mr Tidey's caution and judgment—though sometimes we were exposed to dangers—we always escaped from them without any serious mishap.
We had had several encounters with bears and wolves, and now and then we met with more formidable enemies in the shape of a party of Shawanees who had ventured back to their old hunting-ground in search of game, or in the hopes of stealing the sheep or hogs of some solitary settler.
Our tutor always spoke them fair and showed them that he was not afraid, and if we had any game, presented it to them as a mark of his friendship. When we came across an Indian trail we took good care to keep a bright look-out on every side and a strict watch at night, so as to prevent being surprised, lest the Indians might be tempted to murder us for the sake of obtaining our arms and ammunition, unable to resist the desire of possessing what to them would be a rich prize.
I must not step to describe more minutely our adventures at that period, interesting as they were to us. I will however narrate the particulars of a curious incident which occurred during one of our excursions.
We had gone further west than usual, and were traversing a space of low-lying land through which a wide stream flowed onwards towards the Mississippi. We had expected to reach some higher ground where we could camp, when we found that the day was drawing to a close. We accordingly looked out for a dry spot, free from long grass, on which we could light our fire and spend the night. Some rocky ground just ahead, amid which grew a number of small trees and bushes, promised to offer us the sort of place we were looking for.
We had just reached it, when I, happening to be a little in advance of our Dominie and Dan, saw a squirrel running along the ground towards a tree, with the evident intention of ascending it. We had already as much game as we required, so I refrained from firing. Just as the little creature had gained the foot of the tree, the ominous sound produced by the tail of a rattle-snake reached my ear, and the next instant an unusually large reptile of that species, darting forward, seized the innocent squirrel by the head, and began to draw it down its throat, the hind-legs of the little animal still convulsively moving.
I beckoned to Mr Tidey and Dan, who ran forward to witness the operation, in which I knew they would be much interested. Of course we could quickly have put an end to the snake, though we could not have saved its victim. The reptile had got half the body of the squirrel down its throat, when I saw the long grass close at hand violently agitated, and caught sight of a large black snake moving rapidly through it. The two creatures were well matched as to size. It was the evident intention of the black snake to attack the other. Instead of attempting to escape with its prize, the rattle-snake, though it could not use its venomous fangs, which would have given it an advantage over its opponent, whose teeth were unprovided with a poison-bag, advanced to the encounter. In an instant the two creatures had flown at each other, forming a writhing mass of apparently inextricable coils. In vain the rattle-snake attempted to get down the squirrel so as to use its fangs, the animal sticking in its throat could neither be swallowed nor ejected. The struggle was truly fearful to look at. Round and round they twisted and turned their lithe bodies. In the excitement of the moment we cheered on the combatants, who appeared perfectly heedless of our cries. By the most wonderful movements the rattle-snake managed to prevent the black snake from seizing its neck with its sharp teeth, or coiling its lithe tail round the other.
Had the rattle-snake succeeded in swallowing the little squirrel, one bite with its venomous fangs would have gained it the victory. For some time the result of the combat appeared indecisive. In point of size the two creatures were tolerably well matched, both being upwards of six or seven feet long, with bodies of about equal thickness, but they differed greatly in the shape of their heads, and still more so in the form of their tails, that of the black snake being round and tapering to a fine point, while the thick rattle of the other was clearly discernible as they writhed and twisted round and round, its sound never ceasing while the deadly struggle continued; that and the angry hiss emitted by both alone broke the perfect silence which otherwise reigned around. At length the black snake succeeded in seizing the body of its antagonist at some distance from the head, when by a sudden whisk it encircled with its long tail the neck of the more venomous reptile. It then gradually drew the body of the latter within its coils until it had firmly secured its throat. In vain the rattle-snake attempted to free itself. At length, to our infinite satisfaction we saw the head of the venomous reptile drop towards the ground, and we no longer heard the rattle of its tail; still the black snake, which had from the first kept its sharp eyes intently fixed on those of the rattle-snake, did not appear satisfied that life was extinct, but held it in a fast embrace, carefully avoiding the risk of a puncture from its fangs.
"Hurrah!" shouted Dan when he saw the victory gained by the black snake. The reptile, the combat being now over, was startled by the sound of his voice. For an instant it looked at us with head erect, as if about to spring forward to the attack, when Dan, before Mr Tidey could stop him, lifted his rifle and fired. The big snake fell, and, after a few convulsive struggles, was dead beside its conquered foe.
"I wish that you had let the creature live," said Mr Tidey; "it would have done us no harm and deserved to go free; besides which it would probably have killed a number more rattlesnakes."
"Unless bitten itself," I remarked.
"It was too wary a creature and too rapid in its movements to be taken at a disadvantage," observed Mr Tidey. "It would have waited until it could catch another rattle-snake taking its dinner. However, as the creature is killed, we will examine it and see how it differs from the venomous reptile. To prevent the other from coming to life, we will make sure work by cutting off its head."
"Be careful," cried Dan, "I thought I saw its body move."
Taking his axe from his belt, our tutor, with one blow, severed the head from the body.
"Don't prick your finger with its sharp fangs," said Mr Tidey, "for, although the creature is dead, the poison may exude and perhaps produce death even now."
As he spoke he held up the head by the tail of the squirrel. The body of the little creature had begun to swell and filled the whole of the snake's mouth. Taking out a sharp knife and pressing the head of the snake with his axe, he cut open its jaws so as to expose both the upper and lower portions; by this means also he extracted the body of the squirrel. He then showed us its poison fangs, which, on removing the little animal, folded back into the upper jaw, on the sides of which they were placed. The points were as sharp and fine as needles. He then cut out from each side of the head, close to the root of the fangs, the venom-bags.
"You see that, to enable the head to contain these bags, it is very much broader than that of the harmless snake," he observed. "We shall find the same breadth of head in all the venomous species. The bags contain between them about eight drops of poison, one of which would be sufficient, introduced into the blood, to kill a man or a horse. You see round the base of each fang, a mass of muscular tissue. By its means the fang is elevated or depressed. When the snake opens its mouth to strike its victim, the depressing muscles are relaxed, and the opposite series become contracted, causing the fangs to rise up ready for action. Now look through my magnifying glass. You see that the fang is hollow from the base to the point, from the former the poison is pressed up out of the poison-bag and exudes through the fang point, which, as you see, is in the form of a narrow slit on its concave side."
"I don't see how any liquid could get through that," observed Dan.
"It does though, and quite sufficient comes through to produce a deadly effect. The other teeth enable the serpent to hold its prey, but are not in communication with the poison-bags. I'll now show you the poison, but we must be very cautious how we handle it," observed the Dominie.
On this he cut open the poison-bags and exhibited a small amount of pale-yellow oil-like substance. He afterwards cleaned his knife carefully, and observed, "So potent is the venom, that even should a small drop remain, and were I to cut my finger, after the lapse of many days, I might fatally poison my blood. And now, to prevent any accident, we will bury the poison-bags and fangs, where they are not likely to do any harm," he added.
Having dug a hole with his axe, he did as he proposed, covering it up with leaves.
"And now we will have an examination of the creature's tail, in which it differs from all other reptiles."
Having cut it off, he held it up, and counted the joints, of which the snake—one of the largest of its species—had twenty. Cutting them apart he showed us how the apparatus was arranged. I could best describe it by saying it looked as if a number of small cups were placed one within the other, flattened on both sides, with rings round the edges and slightly decreasing in size towards the end, the last joint being the smallest and forming a knob. These cups are horny and loosely joined, so as to produce the rattling sound for which the creature is noted. Every year of its life a new joint is supposed to be added, so that the reptile killed by the black snake, must have been twenty years old. Each joint was in form somewhat like the tip end of my thumb. I have often since seen rattlesnakes, though seldom one so large. Generally I have found them coiled up among the dry herbage, with the tip of the tail raised in the centre of the coil. On seeing me approach the creatures have instantly produced a quivering movement of their tails, which made the joints of the rattle shake against each other. I cannot find expressions to describe the sound, but having once heard it I never failed to approach with caution, or to keep out of the creatures' way.
"We will now have a look at the blue or black snake, or, as it is called here, 'the Racer,'" observed the Dominie, "and a 'racer' it is rightly called, for it moves along, as we saw this one do through the grass, at the speed of lightning. When I first saw one I fancied from the noise that it made rushing through the dried grass, that it was a rattle-snake and shot the creature before I discovered that it was of a non-venomous species. It can, however, bite very severely with its sharp teeth, and I once saw a poor man almost frightened to death, believing that he had been bitten by a rattle-snake. You see that the head is supplied with a formidable array of teeth, but its tail is much longer and finer than that of the rattle-snake. It can, however, open its jaws wide enough to gulp down a good-sized bird. It gains its name of the blue or black snake from the colour of its back, which is, as you see, blue-black; while the underside is of an ashen slate hue. The tints vary slightly, and hence the two names. Its tail is fine in the extreme, and enables it to steer its rapid course through the herbage."
We let our Dominie run on, though we were well acquainted with the black snake, for several had at different times come to the farm in search of rats, of which they kill a vast number. My father gave orders that they should not be molested; after remaining, however, for some time, they invariably took their departure, for, as it may be supposed, it is impossible to detain them against their will, as they can climb over high palings or walls and insinuate their bodies into very small holes.
The battle and the lecture occupied some time, when we had to hurry in order to get our camp ready for the night. Our first care was to cut a sufficient supply of fire-wood to keep up a good blaze during the night, and as the air in that low situation was somewhat damp, Mr Tidey advised that we should build a hut, which would serve the double purpose of sheltering us from the heavy mist, as well as afford a protection from any wild beasts which might be prowling about. We had killed a couple of turkeys, and as soon as we had got a good pile of hot embers we stuck up our game to roast, Dan having plucked them while I formed the uprights and spits, and Mr Tidey was engaged in erecting the hut. The odour from the roasting turkeys filled the air and was wafted by a light breeze into the recesses of the forest. Preparations for the night were made. We had taken our seats before the fire, with one of the turkeys already placed on a large leaf, which served as a dish, when a rustling sound, accompanied by that of the breaking of branches, reached our ears. Dan and I started to our feet.
"Stay quiet!" whispered Mr Tidey, lifting his rifle which lay by his side: "we will see what will happen, no red-skins make those sounds, they would approach far more cautiously." The sound of the snapping of the branches and underwood increased, and presently we saw a shaggy creature, which, by the light of the fire thrown upon it, we immediately recognised as a huge bear.
"What a monster!" cried Dan; "let me shoot it."
"No, no, you might miss; the creature would become dangerous if wounded," answered the Dominie.
We all three were at this time kneeling down with our rifles ready for action. The bear advanced cautiously, sniffing up the odours of the roast turkey, but not liking the glare in his eyes.
"Don't either of you fire until I tell you," whispered our tutor.
The next instant the bear, one of the brown species, raised itself on its hind-legs to look round. The Dominie pulled his trigger. So well aimed was his shot, that "bruin" rolled over, giving a few kicks with his thick legs.
"Stay, boys; don't go near his head until you're sure that he is dead," cried the Dominie, who was always very careful of us; and advancing axe in hand, he dealt the prostrate bear a blow, which effectually knocked any life it might have retained out of it.
"It's a pity we are not nearer home, or we might take the skin with us as a trophy," I observed.
"Oh, I'll carry it!" cried Dan, "provided that I have not to take the head."
"I'll help you," said I.
"And I'll relieve you when you get tired," observed the Dominie. "At all events we will have some bear-steaks for breakfast as a change from turkeys."
That bear, though easily gained, cost us a sleepless night. We had eaten our supper and had just thrown ourselves on our leafy couches, when a low howl was heard, followed by several yelps.
"Those are wolves!" cried Mr Tidey, starting up; "they'll eat the bear and then eat us, if we don't drive them off."
"They sha'n't have the bear!" cried Dan; "let's drag him up to the fire and fight over his body."
"It would be more prudent to skin him and cut off the steaks we may require," said the Dominie: "we will then drag the body to a distance and allow the wolves to fight over it, so that we can pick them off at our leisure or drive the survivors away when they have done their feast." Shouting and waving brands in our hands we drove the hungry pack to a distance, where they sat down howling with rage and disappointment while we, by the bright flames of the fire, succeeded in skinning the bear and cutting off the tit-bits; we then, as proposed, dragged the carcase to the borders of the forest-glade in which we were encamped, and returned to our fire with the skin and meat. No sooner had the flames produced by some fresh wood thrown on the fire decreased, than the howling pack drew near the carcase. Concealing ourselves behind our hut, we waited to watch what would next take place. It was evident that the brutes were still wary of the fire, for they approached cautiously: at last one bolder or more hungry than the rest, rushed forward and commenced gnawing at the carcase. His example was followed by his companions. We counted upwards of thirty of the savage creatures, a formidable pack had we been without arms, or a fire, but they caused us no anxiety about our safety. "Now, boys, wait until I give the word, and we'll fire together," whispered our Dominie. "I'll take the one to the right; and you, Mike, take a fellow in the centre; and you, Dan, knock over a third to the left. We may exterminate the whole pack, if we take good aim, as the survivors are sure to kill their wounded companions. Now, fire!"
Dan and I did as he desired, and three wolves rolled over. Notwithstanding this the greater part of the pack were too eager in devouring the bear to take much notice of what had occurred. A few, apparently young wolves, who stood at a distance, howling and yelping, afraid to approach while the elders were enjoying their feast, ran back alarmed at the shots. They, however, quickly returned. We immediately reloaded, and at another signal from Mr Tidey again fired. Two more wolves were killed, but Dan only slightly wounded an animal, which went howling away, creating a panic among the outsiders. The rest, still regardless of the death of so many of their number, continued gnawing away at the bear, snarling and yelping, and wrangling over their feast.
The third time we fired, with the same success as at first.
"We may let them alone for the present until they have eaten up the bear, as there is no chance of their molesting us," observed Mr Tidey; "and we shall expend too much of our ammunition, if we attempt to kill the whole pack. Let us make up the fire and they will not venture near us."
Although the flames burnt up brightly, the wolves did not appear to be scared by them, but continued as before tearing the carcase to pieces, presenting a surging mass of heads, tails, and bodies twisting and turning and struggling together, while they kept up an incessant chorus of snarls and yelps. The Dominie proposed that we should lie down while he kept watch.
"No, no, we will take it by turns to do that," I observed; "let us draw lots who shall take the first watch; we shall all of us then obtain some sleep and be ready to proceed in the morning."
My proposal was agreed to, three pieces of stick served our purpose held in Dan's hand. I drew the longest and had the first watch, promising to call the Dominie in a couple of hours. I took good care to keep up a blazing fire, while I paced backwards and forwards, between it and the hut. I had no fear of falling asleep, while the uproar continued, though scarcely had Dan stretched himself on the ground, than his eyes closed, while the snores which proceeded from the spot where the Dominie had thrown himself assured me that he too was in the land of dreams.
As the "patriarchs" of the pack had somewhat appeased their hunger, the younger members rushed, in uttering sharp yelps, to which the elders replied with still louder snarls, greatly increasing the horrible din. The Dominie and Dan started up, fancying that the wolves were upon us. Neither of them could after this go to sleep.
"Come, Mike, I'll take your place," said Mr Tidey. This I declined, for I knew it would be useless to lie down. We therefore all three sat round the fire, hoping that the wolves would at length leave us quiet. The savage brutes, however, having finished the bear began to tear up the bodies of their companions, wrangling over them as they had done over that of bruin.
At last the Dominie, losing patience, jumped up exclaiming, "We must drive these brutes off, though they are not worth any more of our powder and shot."
Each of us taking a burning brand, we advanced towards the wolves, and, waving our torches, raised a loud shout. The brutes hearing the noise and seeing us coming, took to flight, disappearing in the depths of the forest. Where the body of the bear had been, part of the skull, and a few of the larger bones alone remained, while most of the wolves had also been torn to pieces and the whole ground round was strewn with the fragments and moist with gore. Disgusted by the sight, we hurried back to our camp.
"We shall get some rest now, I hope, for I don't think the wolves will come near us," said Dan.
"Not so sure about that," observed the Dominie; "however, we will try and obtain some sleep."
Before our eyes were closed the horrible chorus of howls and yelps and barking recommenced, and continued apparently on every side of our camp; still, while the fire burned brightly, there was no fear of the brutes rushing in on us. To sleep, while those dismal howls broke the stillness of night, was simply impossible. Now the creatures appeared to be coming nearer, now they retreated, now they seemed on this side, now on that; their voices had summoned a fresh pack, who, rushing in, quickly devoured the remainder of the feast. All night long the tumult was kept up. Occasionally Mr Tidey or I rose to attend to the fire. Upon each occasion I caught sight of numerous glaring eyes staring out at us from amid the darkness. As morning approached the sounds gradually ceased, and we had the satisfaction of believing that the wolves had retreated to the recesses of the forest. I immediately fell asleep, and when Mr Tidey roused Dan and me, the sun was already several degrees above the horizon. We breakfasted on some bear-steak, which we had fortunately secured, then set to work to scrape the skin and to pack it up in a tight compass. As we had no wish to carry the skin further than we could help, we put about and steered a course for home, which we calculated it would take us four days to reach. Nothing occurred worth narrating for the next three days.
We had still a march of about twenty-five miles to accomplish, and were looking for a convenient spot to camp in near a stream bordered by a wood, when we heard a low moan, which seemed to proceed from no great distance off.
"That's a human voice," observed Mr Tidey; "some poor fellow wounded by the Indians, or who perhaps has been injured by some other means."
We hunted about, being still uncertain of the exact spot whence the sound proceeded. Again a moan reached our ears, and guided by it we hurried on, when behind a bush we found stretched on the ground, apparently at the last gasp, a negro dressed in the usual costume of the slaves, a rough shirt and loose trousers. His feet were cut and bleeding, probably from the sharp rocks and prickly bushes among which he had passed. He opened his languid eyes as the sound of our footsteps reached his ears, and pointing to his mouth murmured—
"Eat, eat,—massa, eat."
Having fortunately the remains of our last dinner in our knapsacks, we were at once able to give him some food, while Mr Tidey poured some rum and water down his throat. The effect was most satisfactory. In a few minutes he was able to sit up, when he gazed at us earnestly.
"Where were you wanting to go, my poor fellow?" asked the Dominie in a kind tone.
The black's eye brightened.
"Oh, massa, you kind to poor nigger," he said in a weak voice.
"White man or nigger, we are all of the same stock, whatever the philosophers may say to the contrary. I won't ask where you came from, except you wish to tell us; but perhaps we can help you on your way if you have friends you desire to reach."
I don't think the black quite understood the Dominie's remarks, but he comprehended enough to know that they were dictated by a kind spirit and that he might trust us.
"You no gib up de poor slave to his hard massa?" he said in a whisper, his voice trembling as if he was divulging a secret on which his life depended.
"No, that I'll not," said the Dominie; "I don't hold with those who think they have a right to buy and sell their fellow-creatures, and in my opinion those fellow-creatures are perfectly justified in endeavouring to get away from them, though if I was to say so down east, I might chance to be the victim of 'Lynch law.'"
The countenance of the negro brightened still more.
"Dis nigger go whar you go, massa," he said, attempting to rise. His strength, however, was insufficient for the exertion, and he sank back to the ground.
"You are not able to journey yet, and it will take you two or three days to regain your strength," observed the Dominie; "so we will camp here, boys, and as we are not expected home for a day or two, it will be no great loss to us. We have light enough yet to shoot our suppers, and I heard a turkey 'gobble' not far off. You stay by the black man, collect wood for a fire and boughs for a shanty, while I go and try my luck."
Saying this, our kind-hearted tutor took his rifle and soon disappeared in the forest. We, in the meantime, were too much occupied in obeying his directions to put any further questions to the negro, whose eyes, however, were turned towards us as we moved about. We had soon collected sufficient fuel to last us during the night, and then employed ourselves in cutting down some young trees and lopping off some boughs. While thus engaged we heard two shots. A short time afterwards the Dominie appeared, carrying a turkey in one hand and a small fawn over his shoulder.
"We've food here, boys, for ourselves and enough to set the negro on his legs again," he exclaimed as he approached us. "Well done, I see you haven't been idle; now kindle the fire while I fix up the shanty. I should like to get our poor friend here under cover as soon as possible, for more reasons than one, and he'll be the better for a mug of soup."
The Dominie, among other articles, had carried, I should have said, a small saucepan, which had served to fetch water, boil our tea, and was equally applicable for making a small quantity of soup. While I made up the fire, Dan, having filled the saucepan from the stream, plucked the turkey and cut up a part of it into small pieces. We then put it on to boil. The Dominie in the meantime had flayed the deer and spitted a couple of joints to roast, together with the remainder of the bird. This done, he finished the shanty, into which we lifted the black, and placed him on a bed of small twigs and leaves, a far more comfortable couch than from his appearance we suspected he had enjoyed for a long time. His looks, more than his words, expressed his gratitude, though he continued to murmur—
"Tankee, tankee, massa; God bless massa!" his vocabulary not enabling him to use any set phrases.
It was dark before the soup was ready. As soon as it was sufficiently cool, and I had added some pepper and salt, I took it to him.
"Oh, massa! dis too much good to poor nigger," he murmured as he supped it up; and almost immediately afterwards sinking back, he fell into a deep slumber.
"I don't care whether the black is a runaway slave or not, but I tell you what, boys, we must be cautious how we proceed with him, the chances are that he is pursued," said the Dominie as we were seated before the fire eating our ample supper. "If so, the fellows who come after him are likely to treat us with scant courtesy."
"I'm sure my father would wish to help the black, if he is a runaway slave, for he hates the system of slavery as much as any man," observed Dan.
"I tell you what we must do, then," continued the Dominie, "if any strangers appear, we must keep him inside the hut and cover him up with boughs and leaves. They will scarcely suspect he is with us, and you must leave me to answer any questions they put to us."
"Suppose they have blood-hounds with them, the brutes are sure to scent him out."
"If we see the dogs approaching, we must shoot them without ceremony, and take our chances of the consequences. I am only supposing what may not happen, but we must be prepared for contingencies."