The man had been grossly mistaken and I pitied him. I wondered what he would think of the influence of trade on red heathens at war when he regained his senses! Surely he would learn the torments of hell when he beheld his daughter a prisoner.
The cabin was like an oven and the sting of powder-smoke made our eyes water. Outside the birds were fluttering about their daily tasks. High among the fleecy cloud-bundles were dark specks which we knew to be turkey-buzzards, already attracted by the dead. For some time the only sign of the enemy's presence was when three horses galloped down the valley, running from the savages in the edge of the woods. As the animals drew near the cabins and showed an inclination to visit the lick-block a volley from the Indians sent one down. The other two dashed madly toward the Bluestone.
Cousin studied the ridge back of the cabin and failed to discover any suggestion of the hidden foe.
"Which ain't no token they ain't there," he muttered.
"If they hadn't scared the horses we could have caught a couple!" I lamented.
"We'd been shot off their backs afore we'd gone two rods," assured my companion. "Let me show you."
With that he took a big gourd from the corner and painted a face on it with a piece of charcoal found in the fireplace. To a few small wooden pegs stuck in the top he made fast some long strings of tow, shredded out to resemble hair. Then he placed my hat on top of the gourd and the effect was most grotesque. Yet from a distance it easily would be mistaken for a human face.
It was a vast improvement on the old trick of hoisting a hat on a stick. His next maneuver was to enlarge one of the holes I had made in the roof. When he thrust his hands through the hole, as if about to draw himself up, he focused every savage eye on the back of the cabin roof. Through the opening he slowly pushed the gourd, topped by the hat and having long hair hanging down the sides.
The decoy was barely in place before he was on the floor while a volley of lead and a flight of arrows rained against the roof.
"I 'low that they're still there," he said.
"They'll wait till dark and then rush us."
"They'll use fire-arrers first," he corrected. "The Hoof has a poor stomick for losin' more warriors. He'll need lots o' sculps an' prisoners to make up for the men he's lost. He'll take no more chances. When it gits dark they'll start a blaze on the roof. They'll creep mighty close without our seein' 'em. The minute we show ourselves they'll be ready to jump us. The chief is reckonin' to take us alive. The towns on the Scioto will need more'n one stake-fire to make 'em forgit what this trip to Virginia has cost 'em."
The business of waiting was most dreary. There was no water in the cabin, and the sweat from our hands would spoil a priming unless care was taken. At the end of this misery was almost certain captivity, ended by torture. Cousin had the same thought for he spoke up and said:
"I'll live s'long's there's any show to even up the score, but I ain't goin' to be kept alive no three days over a slow fire just to make some fun for them damn beggars."
I watched the bar of sunlight slowly move over the rough puncheon floor. The time passed infernally slowly for men waiting to test a hopeless hazard. By all logic the minutes should have been very precious and should have fairly flashed into eternity. The best we could reasonably wish for was death in combat, or self-inflicted. Yet we cursed the heat, the buzzing flies, the choking fumes of powder, the lack of water, and wished the time away.
I wanted to open the door a bit for a breath of outside air. Cousin objected, saying:
"We could do it, an' there ain't no Injuns near 'nough to play us any tricks. But they'd see the door was open, even if only a crack, and they'd know we was gittin' desperate, or sufferin' a heap, an' that would tickle 'em. I'm ag'in' givin' 'em even that bit of enjoyment. If we can make a break when it gits dark afore the fire-arrers begin lightin' things up we'll try for the Bluestone. If we could git clear o' this damn bottle we'd stand a chance o' makin' our hosses."
I glanced down at the floor, and my heart tightened a bit. The bar of sunlight had vanished.
"We've just 'bout come to it," gravely remarked Cousin. "I ain't no talkin' cuss, but I'll say right here that I sorter like you, Morris. If things could 'a' been different, an' I could be more like other folks, I 'low we'd been good friends."
"We're the best of friends, Shelby. As long as I can think I shall remember how you came with me into this trap to help rescue the girl."
"Shucks! Don't be a fool!" he growled. "That ain't nothin'. Once I bu'sted up a Mingo camp to git my dawg. They'd caught the critter an' was cal'latin' to sculp him alive. Got him free, too, an' the damn pup was that stirred up by his feelin's that he couldn't tell who was his friends, an' he chawed my thumb somethin' cruel."
He stepped to the loophole, and after peering out mumbled:
"Changin' mighty smart."
I glanced out and the ridges were losing their outlines and the valley was becoming blurred. Cousin mused.
"It'll be comin' right smart now. Don't overlook anything."
We made a last examination of flints and primings, and Cousin softly arranged the heavy door bar so it might be displaced with a single movement. He startled me by abruptly standing erect and cocking his head to one side and remaining motionless.
"The old Englishman!" he exclaimed. "He ain't fired a shot, or tried to talk with us for a long time."
I went to the front end of the cabin and put my eye to the peephole. The small window showed black. I called to him several times and received no answer. There was only one conclusion. A chance ball through a loophole or a window had killed the old fellow. Cousin agreed to this. A signal at the mouth of the valley brought us to our toes. It was about to begin. The signal was answered from the ridge behind us.
"They've put the stopper in the bottle," Cousin whispered. "But here's an idea. The upper cabin, where the Dales was, is empty. If we could sneak in there without bein' seen we'd have the slimmest sort of a chance to duck back to the ridge while they was shootin' their fire-arrers at this cabin. There would be a few minutes, when the first flames begin showin', when every eye would be on this place. If we could only reach the flank o' the ridge we'd be fools if we couldn't dodge 'em."
This appealed to me as being excellent strategy. Knowing the Dales' cabin was empty, the Indians would not think of paying it much attention at first. To leave our shelter and make the short distance would require darkness. Our greatest danger would be from the Indians on the ridge back of us. By this time they were lined up at the foot of the slope and were all ready to break from cover.
In our favor was the Granville cabin, which would shelter us from the ridge for a bit of the perilous way. Already it was possible, I decided, to crawl the distance without being detected by the enemy across the valley. Cousin refused to run the risk, and argued.
"Every minute gained now gives us that much more of a chance. The Injuns out front ain't all across the valley any more. They begun creepin' into the clearin' the minute it begun growin' dark. Reckon it's time they l'arned who's cooped up in here, so's they won't git too bold."
He removed the bar of the door and through the crevice sounded his terrible war-cry, the scream of a panther. It stabbed the dusk with ear-splitting intensity.
"There! They'll stop an' count a dozen afore gittin' too close," he muttered as he softly replaced the bar. "They'll lay mighty low an' won't bother to do much but watch the door. I 'low it'll be hard work to crawl out without they guessin' somethin's wrong."
"Then let's rip up the floor and dig a hole under the logs," I suggested.
"We'll do that," he quietly agreed.
As cautiously as possible we removed several of the puncheon slabs next to the wall. The base logs were huge fellows and held the floor several feet from the ground. To excavate a hole under either of the four would have required more time than we believed we had to spare. Our plan threatened to be hopeless until Cousin explored the length of the log with his fingers and gave a little cry of delight. He found a hole already dug near the front end of the cabin. It had been the work of the dog. Working with our hunting-knives we loosened the dirt and pawed it behind us and made it larger. At last Cousin pressed me back and ducked his head and shoulders into the hole. Then he drew back and whispered:
"I can git my head an' shoulders through. 'low I could squirm out o' hell if I could git my shoulders through. I'll go ahead an' you pass out the rifles. Ready?"
I pressed his hand. There followed a few moments of waiting, then a handful of dirt fell into the hole and informed me my companion had squeezed clear of the log and that the ultimate test was to be faced. I passed the rifles, butts first, and felt them gently removed from my grasp. Working noiselessly as possible I soon squirmed out into the refreshing evening air and lay motionless. Cousin was ahead and already worming his way toward the third cabin. My outstretched hand touched the butt of my rifle, and I began creeping after my friend.
I nearly suffocated in crawling by the opening between our cabin and the Granville cabin, for I scarcely ventured to breathe. It seemed as if any one within pistol-shot of me must hear the pounding of my heart. The silence continued, and at last I was hugging the ground at the end of the cabin and for the time sheltered from spying eyes at the foot of the ridge.
A quavering cry rang out at the mouth of the valley. This time it was answered from the clearing on our right as well as from the ridge. The Indians had crept closer, just as Cousin had predicted.
Half a minute passed, then the signal sounded directly ahead of us, or from beyond the Dales' cabin. The circle was completed. From the ridge soared a burning arrow. It fell short, landing behind the cabin we had vacated. As it gave off no light I surmised it went out on striking the ground.
Cousin drew away from the end of the Granville cabin and was risking the second and last gap. I hurried a bit, fearing more arrows. As I came abreast of the door I wondered what had become of the Englishman. Either the night was playing a trick, or else the door was partly open. I reached out my hand to learn the truth, and touched a cold hand hanging limply over the threshold.
My nerves jumped, but I mastered them by reasoning that the Englishman had been shot by a chance ball and had attempted to leave the cabin, thinking to gain our shelter and to die there. Death had overtaken him as he was opening the door. That it was the Englishman's hand I had touched was evidenced by the shirt-sleeve, puckered in at the wrist.
I released the poor hand and was resuming my way when a slight sound caused me to hold my breath. Then a heavy weight landed on my back, knocking the breath from my lungs with an explosive grunt. Next, the night was ripped from horizon to horizon with a jagged streak of red.
When I recovered my senses I was being dragged over the ground by means of a cord around my chest and under my arms. My wrists were lashed together and my ankles were likewise secured. The first thing my eyes beheld were the red loopholes and window of the lower cabin, and the flames crawling through the two holes I had made in the roof.
My capture had revealed our desertion of the cabin, and the Indians had lost no time in entering and firing it. Smoke and flames were pouring from the end window of the Granville cabin also. As the red tongues licked across the top of the doorway they threw into relief the arm and hand of the old Englishman still hanging over the threshold.
My head felt as though it was cracked wide open and it throbbed most sickeningly. I managed to lift it a bit to escape further bruises as my captor roughly hauled me to the forest. The third cabin, the one occupied by the Dales, burst into flames as I was being yanked into the first fringe of bushes. The valley was now brightly lighted, and my last view of it included the lick-block. One phase of a successful Indian raid was missing; there were no warriors madly dancing about the burning homes. Far up the ridge rang out the infuriated cry of a panther, and I knew it was fear of young Cousin's deadly rifle that was keeping the savages under cover.
"Let me stand up and walk," I said in Shawnee.
"Alive are you?" growled a white man's voice in English.
"You'll be John Ward," I said as some one lifted me to my feet.
"I am Red Arrow, a Shawnee. And don't you forget it."
"Where are the Dales?" I asked.
"Keep your mouth shut!" he ordered.
They untied my hands only to fasten them behind me. They shifted the waist-cord to my neck, and then released my feet. Some one walked ahead, pulling on the cord, and I followed as best I could to escape being strangled. On each side of me walked a warrior, invisible except as when we crossed a glade where the starlight filtered down. Ward walked behind me, and warned:
"Any tricks and you'll get my ax."
"You were in the cabin with the dead Englishman?"
He chuckled softly and boasted:
"I killed him. When you two were fighting fire I got my chance to steal down to the Dale cabin. Then it was easy to make the Granville cabin. The old fool thought I was one of you when he heard my voice, and drew the bar. I was inside and had his life before he knew he had made a mistake. I waited. Then you crawled along. Curse that damned young devil who yells like a panther! He was the one I wanted. I'd give a thousand of such as you to get his hair! But he got by the door without my hearing him. A little more, and you'd have passed, too."
There was much crashing and running through the bushes behind us, and occasionally I could make out dark shapes hurrying by. These were the warriors who had fired the cabins, and now they were in haste to leave the spot. Owing to their fear of Cousin they dared not leave the valley except as they did so under cover. We made good time through the woods, however, although more than once my gasping cry warned Ward, or one of the savages at my side, that I was being choked to death.
As a premature demise was not on their program the cord was quickly loosened each time, and the man ahead warned to be more careful. These partial strangulations resulted from the fellow's anxiety to escape from the neighborhood of the double-barrel rifle. On reaching the Bluestone we halted while the savages collected their horses. From the few words exchanged I estimated that half the band was mounted. Without building a fire or eating we started up the Bluestone. Neither Black Hoof nor the Dales were with our party when we halted at daybreak. We paused only long enough to bolt some half-cooked deer-meat. I asked for the trader and his daughter, and Ward laughed and shook before my face the scalps he had taken in the Granville cabin. Two of them were pitiably small.
"You scalp other men's kills," I observed.
"You'll not say that when I scalp you."
"What does Dale now think of his Indian friends?"
This seemed to amuse him tremendously, and he laughed like a white man.
"He doesn't seem to know what has happened," he finally replied with much relish. "He stares at us, then at the girl, as if trying to understand."
"What about the girl?"
"That's enough. Keep still," he warned, and made a threatening gesture with his ax.
My hands, which had been released long enough for me to eat, were trussed up again. My rough usage and the travel had worn on me, but I had no desire to rest so long as Patricia Dale was to be found. My captors also had a definite plan—one that demanded haste. By daylight I perceived by the signs that the greater number of the band had gone ahead, probably under the lead of Black Hoof.
Unless the Dales had been butchered in the woods they must be with the chief; and I could not believe they were dead. They would be too valuable as hostages should the settlers gather in force to block the Shawnees' return to the Ohio. Those of the Indians who had horses, with the exception of two, rode off. One of the mounted men to remain was Ward, who came behind me. The other was the Indian holding the cord.
It was plain that every savage in the band was eager to advance with all possible haste, nor was it fear of Cousin that was now driving them. Finally my aching head understood it all; the Howard's Creek settlement was to be attacked and the savages afoot were afraid they would arrive too late to participate.
On our left rose the wall of Great Flat Top Mountain, a short chain, in reality a continuation of Tug Ridge. On the right rose ridge after ridge of the Alleghanies, punctuated by Peter's Mountain, where New River burst through the wall in its quest for the Ohio. A wild land, and yet birds, bees and deer were here, and the soil was ripe for happy homes.
I managed to keep up until after midday, when my legs suddenly refused to carry me farther. I told Ward to tomahawk me if he wished, but that I must rest before moving another step. There was no question as to his inclination, for his brown hand fondled his ax most longingly. He dismounted and boosted me on to his horse. The rest of the day was covered with me riding first Ward's and then the savage's animal.
We camped at dusk that night, and I was too exhausted to swallow more than a few mouthfuls of food before falling asleep. Before sunrise we were up and hurrying through the gray mists and reversing the route Cousin and I had followed on traveling to the valley. I recognized several of the camps where the Dales and Ward had halted when the brute was leading them into the death-trap.
"You nearly got me by dropping the girl's moccasin in the mountains," I informed him.
The abruptness of the accusation took him off his guard. With a wide grin he said:
"Stole it from her just before we entered the settlement. Saw Hughes striking into the hills and planned to catch him. But he got too far ahead for me to ride around him. Dogged him until he met you, then rode back and laid my trap. Hughes was the man I was after. His hair would count for a dozen scalps like yours."
"But you didn't care to try a shot unless it could be from behind and sure to kill," I taunted.
"You'll pay a high price for that," he quietly assured me. "The chief says you are to be brought in alive. We will soon see how brave you are with the girl looking on. Men should be very brave men when their squaws are watching."
I was afoot and walking at his side. I lowered my head and tried to butt him from the saddle. He kicked me in the chest and the warrior yanked on the cord and threw me down on my face and all but strangled me. After that Ward and I had no more words. He rode either ahead, or some distance behind, leaving one of the Indians to walk at my heels. I have no doubt he did this to avoid any temptation to brain me. I lost track of time, for we traveled far into the night when the footing was good. We snatched a few hours' sleep when absolutely necessary and fed indifferently. When I could walk no farther I was placed on one of the two horses. I hoped that Cousin in escaping from Abb's Valley had taken our horses with him; and I prayed he would reach Howard's Creek ahead of Black Hoof.
At last we came to the outskirts of an Indian camp, which I estimated to be within less than half a mile of the creek settlement. A dozen warriors swarmed forward to greet us, welcoming me with exaggerated courtesy. While they were thus mocking me Black Hoof appeared, moving with great dignity, and dispersing my tormentors with a gesture.
I was led into the camp and my cord made fast to a tree. There was no air of triumph about the place. A warrior reclining on a pile of boughs and nursing a shattered shoulder suggested a futile attack on the cabins. I glanced about for a display of fresh scalps and rejoiced at beholding none.
The Indians stared at me malevolently, but offered me no abuse. Ward proudly flourished the hair he had retrieved from the Granville cabin, and the trophies were soon fastened to a tall pole and paraded around the camp, after which demonstration the pole was stuck upright in the ground.
It required a second examination of the place to locate Dale. Like myself he was tied to a tree with sufficient length of cord to permit him to lie down. His face was heavy with unspeakable horror. When he met my gaze he did not seem to recognize me at first. Then he muttered:
My heart ached when I failed to discover any trace of Patricia. Before I could question the trader, Ward yanked me to my feet and turned me about, and I found myself looking into the eyes of Black Hoof.
"The young man made a very brave fight," he said.
"It is sad to know a skunk and not a Shawnee warrior captured me," I replied.
Ward glared murder at me. Black Hoof gave him a warning glance, and informed me:
"Red Arrow is a Shawnee warrior. Very brave. Very cunning. He will help us take the cabins on the creek."
"You have tried once?" I asked, glancing at the man with the broken shoulder.
The chief's brows contracted.
"Some of my young men were very foolish," he replied. "When Catahecassa tries, the first time will be the last."
From the direction of the settlement came the scream of a panther, and at the sound the camp seemed to stir uneasily. With a fiery glance at the warriors Black Hoof gave an order, and a score of men glided into the forest. To me he quietly said:
"There was a panther's whelp in the little valley we did not get. The Shawnees would dance his scalp ahead of all the hair growing in any of these valleys. He rode to the settlement ahead of me. But we shall get them now. We shall get him. Then we will see if his war-cry is strong when he feels fire."
"Where is the white woman? Did you kill her?" I asked, and I had to fight myself to keep my voice from shaking.
Without deigning to answer he turned and walked over to Dale. At almost the same moment Patricia and Shelby Cousin's sister entered the camp. Patricia walked ahead, the Cousin girl a few feet behind her. I forgot the cord and eagerly started to join her.
Ward snarled like an animal and jerked on the cord and pulled me violently back. Patricia glanced in our direction, and I saw her hand fly to her heart as she stared at me with lips parted. Black Hoof noticed this bit of drama, and wheeling about, he harshly commanded:
"Let Red Arrow remember I am chief. If the white man would talk to the white woman do not stop him. See that his hands are well tied and put hobbles on his legs."
"If I had my way with you!" hissed Ward.
An Indian slipped the cord from the tree and with it trailing behind me I hurried to the girl. She dropped on a log, her face a white mask of terror. Cousin's sister remained a few paces behind her. Her face was expressionless, but she did not remove her gaze from Patricia. Perhaps Patsy was the first white woman she had seen whose freshness suggested her own youth. Recognizing my desire to talk with the prisoner she withdrew, keeping in sight but out of hearing.
"At least they have not tied you," I said.
"I go and come as I will," was the listless answer.
"With the woman to watch you?"
"Not if I want to be alone."
"You mean you are free to go and come unwatched?" I demanded.
She nodded her head.
"Then why haven't you tried to make the settlement? It is near. Listen. Shelby Cousin is here. The Indians can't afford the time it will take to capture the place. Walk along into the woods. Go due east. By God's grace I believe you can make it!"
"Basdel, you forget," she sorrowfully reproached. "You forget my father is here. That is why they give me my freedom."
"He would rejoice and thank God if you would do as I say."
"But the Indian woman with the blue eyes has told me in English that if I run away they will hurt him terribly."
Poor child! As if her presence could save Ericus Dale from dying the death once Black Hoof found time to indulge in his favorite pastime. I vehemently begged her to flee, promising all sorts of absurd things if she would but do so, even to assuring her I would effect her father's release.
She slowly shook her head, tempted not the least by my pleas.
"Even the Indians know me better than that. And to think we trusted them! Oh, Basdel, it doesn't seem possible! You were right. Father was wrong. God help him! And now they have taken you!"
"All will be well yet," I faltered.
"Yes, all will be well," she gently said. "All will be well, when we are dead and at peace."
"Patsy! Patsy!" I begged. "Don't give up hope. Don't lose your courage! Why, there's a dozen chances for us to fool these devils."
She patted my tied hands, and murmured:
"You're a good boy, Basdel. You were patient when I abused you. You told me the truth. I am out of place out here. If I were a pioneer woman I could help you plan to escape, but I am only a silly fool from over the mountains. I am absolutely helpless. But you've been good to me, Basdel. You followed me into that horrible valley. You were caught because you tried to help us. Oh, the shame of it! The hideous cruelty of it! That you were caught—Basdel, I pray my last thought will be about your goodness to me. Just that."
She was at the limit of her endurance and I backed away and Cousin's sister glided forward. I flogged my mind for a scheme of escape which would include her; her father, if possible. But it was as she had said; she was no pioneer woman, resourceful and daring. The Shawnees saw her helplessness, else they never would have allowed her the freedom of the camp and surrounding woods.
They knew she would never leave her father, and that she lacked the border woman's daring initiative so necessary in any attempt to free him. As I was casting about for some plan to save her Black Hoof glided to my side and took me by the arm and led me toward the tree where Dale was lying.
This closer inspection of the trader revealed how fearfully he had suffered in his mind. The flesh of his strong face hung in folds as if his skin had suddenly become many sizes too large for him. His eyes had retreated deeper into the sockets, and his thick lips, once so firm and domineering, were loose and flabby. Black Hoof stirred him contemptuously with his foot. Dale dragged himself to a sitting posture and began shivering as if suffering from ague.
"Oh, my God, Morris!" he groaned.
"The Pack-Horse-Man can save his life," sententiously began Black Hoof.
"My daughter?" gasped Dale, rising on his knees.
"He shall save his daughter's life," added the chief.
Dale moistened his lips and tried to recover some of his old spirit.
"Never mind, Morris. Give me a little time. I'll get us all out of this fix. They're angry now. When they've had time to think they'll be reasonable. If they kill me, they'll kill their trade with the whites." It was the first time I ever heard him pronounce the word without stressing it.
Black Hoof glowered at the miserable man ferociously and said:
"You will go to the edge of the clearing with my warriors. You will speak to the settlers and tell them they shall save their lives if they put down their guns. After they put down their guns you and your daughter shall go free."
The picture of Abb's Valley and the result of his trusting in the Shawnees' promises must have flashed across the unhappy man's mind. He sank, feebly moaning:
"No, no! Not that! The blood of the Granvilles—the little children—is on me. Kill me, but I'll lead no more into your trap."
These were brave words even if brokenly voiced. But Black Hoof heard with grim amusement in his small black eyes.
"You weak-hearted dog!" he hissed. "So you tell Catahecassa what he will and what he will not, do. Ho! You fat white man who always planned to cheat the Indians in a trade. You fill your ears against Catahecassa's words? Ho! Then you are a brave man. The Shawnees have been blind not to see your brave heart. Now, white trader, hear my talk. You will do as Catahecassa says, or you will be tied to a tree and your daughter shall be put to the torture before your eyes."
With a terrible cry Dale fell over on his side and remained unconscious. There was a second shriek, and the girl was pushing Black Hoof aside as she hastened to kneel by her father. The chief darted a glance of admiration at her for her display of courage. The girl was blind to our presence as she fondled and petted the stricken man until he opened his eyes. Black Hoof was pleased to have her there as a means of breaking down the trader's will. Leaning over her shoulder to stare down into the terrified eyes of his victim the chief warned:
"Unless the settlers give themselves up it shall be as I have said. It must be before the sun goes down. Tell her all I have said."
With that he dragged me back to my tree. For a few minutes the chief's horrible threat dulled my mind to the point of stupidity. He waited for me to collect my thoughts. At last I managed to ask:
"What you said back there was a trick of course? You would never torture the daughter of the Pack-Horse-Man?"
"Unless he does as told she must die," he calmly assured me. "She will die soon anyway. She is not strong enough to live our life, like the blue-eyed squaw over there." And he glanced toward Cousin's sister. "Her children would be neither red nor white. They would have squaw-hearts. If the trader does not speak words that will bring the settlers from their cabins with empty hands she shall be tortured until he does speak."
I do not remember falling, yet I found myself on the ground, and Black Hoof had departed. In his place stood Ward, staring at me curiously.
"You went down as if hit with an ax," he grunted.
"My legs are weak from hard travel and poor food," I said.
Patricia Dale passed quite close to us, a gourd of water in her hands. She was carrying it to her father. Ward exclaimed in English:
"What a woman!"
His brawny figure seemed to dilate and he made a queer hissing noise as he looked after her. Turning to me he hoarsely said:
"I was born white. It's her blood that calls me. When I saw her in Salem I said I would have her for my squaw if I could get her and her fool of a father into the mountains."
My mental paralysis lifted.
"Is she promised to you?" I asked.
"I am to have any two prisoners to do with as I like," he answered. "Catahecassa said that when I started to enter the villages beyond the mountains to get news. There was little chance of bringing any whites back, but if I did I was to have two of them."
"Then you had better remind your chief of his promise," I warned. "He says he will torture the girl before her father's eyes if the father does not help in betraying the settlers."
"Ugh! I have his promise. He dare not break it."
The girl would kill herself before submitting to Ward's savage caresses. She would go mad if forced to witness the torture of her father. I had seized upon Ward's passion as a means of gaining a bit more time. If he could successfully claim the girl then she must be rescued from him. But viewed from any angle I could find nothing but horrors.
Release by death would be very kind. If any harm were suffered by the girl I should lose my reason; my life, if God were merciful. No longer did our time of grace extend to the Scioto villages. At any moment our little destinies might come to a fearful ending. In my soul I railed at the curse of it. Such a little way to go, and so much pain and sorrow.
Ward left me and strode up to the chief. They talked rapidly, and I could read from Ward's mien that he was very angry. When he returned to me he was in a rare rage.
"Catahecassa dodges by saying you and the trader are the two prisoners I must take. He says he will burn the girl unless the trader makes the talk as told. If I can find a way of capturing the settlers the girl will be given to me in place of either you or her father."
"I don't want to be your prisoner," I said.
"I do not believe you do," he agreed. "But I would take you if I did not need the trader. If the girl refuses to become my squaw then I will build a little fire on Dale's back. That will make her accept my belts."
He left me with that thought in my mind. On the one hand the girl was to be utilized in forcing Dale to betray the settlement. On the other, the trader was to be used to make the girl submit to the renegade. I could not imagine a more horrible situation. I was still wallowing deep in my hell when the camp became very active. Dale was lifted to his feet and his cords were removed.
The time had come for Black Hoof to try him as a decoy. There remained a good hour of light. Patricia, not understanding, yet fearing the worst, hovered about her father, her eyes wildly staring and her whole appearance denoting a weakening of her reason. As they started to lead her father into the woods she attempted to follow him, and Black Hoof pushed her back. Cousin's sister spoke up, saying:
"I will keep her."
The warriors disappeared in the direction of the settlement. The two women left the camp on the opposite side. Ward went along with the Indians, and I knew this was my golden opportunity to escape. Before I could make a beginning at freeing my hands a noose fell over my head and clutched at my throat. The guards were taking no chances.
Great mental anguish is accompanied by no clarity of thought and graves no connected memories on the mind. I know I suffered, but there are only fragments of recollections covering that black period of waiting.
I have a clear picture of the warrior holding the end of the cord calling for some one to bring a gourd of water. I do not remember drinking, but as later I found the front of my shirt soaked I assume the water was for me. Coherent memory resumes with the noise the warriors made in returning to the camp. I shall never forget their appearance as they emerged from the undergrowth. Black Hoof walked ahead. Close behind him came two warriors dragging Dale.
I was amazed to behold Patricia in the procession. She was leaning on Lost Sister's arm, and there was a lump on her forehead as though she had been struck most brutally. Then came the warriors and Ward. Dale was roughly thrown to the ground. Several men began trimming the branches from a stout sapling. Others became busy searching the fallen timber for dry wood.
Ward walked over to me and kicked me in the side. I must have groaned aloud, for he commanded:
"Shut up! I'm ripe for a killing."
Matters had gone against his liking. He played with his ax nervously, his baleful gaze darting about the camp. I waited and at last his race heritage compelled him to talk, and he commenced:
"The old man was scared into doing what the chief told him to do. He would not at first, and the men were sent to bring the girl along. When he faced her he made a noise like a sheep bleating. Then he ran to the clearing and began his talk. The girl heard his words. She broke away and ran into sight of the cabins and screamed for them not to listen, that it was a trap. Black Hoof struck her with the flat of his ax. Now he swears he'll roast the fool."
"She is your prisoner!" I cried.
"He says she must burn."
"There must be some way, something you can do!" I wildly insisted, my only thought being to spare her the immediate danger.
"I want her for my squaw bad enough to get her if I can," he growled. "But if I'm to think of any plan I must be quick. They've got the stake nearly ready."
He walked to where the warriors were collecting small fuel from between the fallen trees. One of them hauled a hollow maple log out of the debris and threw it to one side as being too heavy for a quick fire. Ward halted and rested a foot on it and bowed his head. Next he began tapping it with his tomahawk. His actions attracted the attention of the men, and Black Hoof asked:
"What does Red Arrow think is in the log? A snake?"
Ward startled the savages, and also me, by curtly replying:
"He sees a white man's cannon in the log. The fort holds all the settlers on the creek. Its walls are stout. If they can be broken down the Shawnees will take many scalps and prisoners. It will be an easy victory. Black Hoof's name will be repeated far beyond Kaskaskia and the Great Lakes in the North. He will be given many new war-names."
Black Hoof's eyes glittered as he pictured the glory and prestige the hollow log might confer upon him. He examined the log carefully and perceived only that it was hollow.
"Have you medicine to make it into a cannon?" he asked.
"I have big medicine. Before it will work for me I must be given the white squaw. There must be no taking back of the gift. If the medicine-cannon does not give the settlers into our hands still the white squaw must be mine to do with as I will."
Black Hoof took some minutes to ponder over this proposition. He could only see a hollow log. Ward's intellect permitted him to see greater possibilities. While he waited for the chief to make a decision he examined the maple more thoroughly, and smiled quietly.
Black Hoof at last said:
"Catahecassa gives the white woman to the Red Arrow. Tell your medicine to make the big gun shoot."
Ward was exultant. To the wondering savages he explained:
"It must be bound tight with much rawhide. Small stones must be packed tight in the butt-end. I will make a hole for the priming. Then we will draw it to the clearing and load it with powder and rocks."
This simple expedient, superior to the best plans of the Indians, was greeted with yells of triumph. The chief said:
"Red Arrow is a medicine-man."
The wooden tube was reinforced under Ward's directions. This done, the savages danced and whooped about the grotesque cannon for some minutes. Ward stood with folded arms, his gaze gloating as it rested on the girl, and haughty with pride as he observed Black Hoof's respectful bearing. Coming back to me he said:
"You wanted that woman. You will die among the Shawnees. You showed you wanted her when you followed her into that valley. Her father spoke of you and by his words I knew you wanted her. Now I have her."
The girl came forward, attracted by Ward's speech to me, although she could understand none of it. She drew aside in passing the renegade and dropped on her knees at my side.
"What do they plan? What will they do with me?" her dry lips demanded.
Ward, enraged by her show of aversion, seized her by the shoulder, ripping the cloth, and dragged her to her feet, and informed her:
"Catahecassa ordered his men to burn you. I made him give you to me. You are my woman. You are lucky I am not a red man."
"No! No! I'll burn, you monster! I'll burn a hundred times," she panted. And she struck her hand into his face, whereat the savages shouted in merriment.
I believed he would kill her then and there, for he groaned aloud from rage and raised his ax over his head.
"Strike me!" she begged, facing the uplifted ax unflinchingly; and although not of the border she displayed the fine courage of the Widow McCabe and other frontier women.
With a whimpering, bestial note Ward managed to say:
"No! You shall live, and many times beg me to kill you. But you shall still live till I trade you to some red hunter."
"I will kill myself some way before you can harm me!" she defied.
Ward slowly lowered his ax and began chuckling. He told her, pointing to me:
"This man. He loved you. He was a fool. I say was because his life is behind him. It is something that is finished, a trace followed to the end. He is a dead man as he lies there. He loved you. I believe you loved him. He is my prisoner. Now you can guess why I know you will not harm yourself."
I knew. She was suffering too much to reason clearly. But he was eager to help her to understand He amplified by explaining:
"It will be for you to say if he is to be tortured. He is young and strong. We could keep him alive many days after the fire began to burn him. It will be a fine game to see whom you love the better, yourself or him. You will be free to go about the camp. But this man will be watched all the time. After we take the fort to-night you will come to me and ask to be my woman.
"I had planned to take your father for my second prisoner. My medicine tells me to take this man as he will live longer. Remember; you will ask to be my squaw. That sapling was trimmed for you; it will do for this man. You will come to me, or he goes to the stake. Now, go!"
And he reached out his hand and sent her spinning and reeling toward her father.
"You dog! Set me free, empty-handed, and you take a knife and ax, and I will show the Shawnees what a poor dog you are," I told him in Shawnee.
But he was not to be tempted into any violence just now. He mocked:
"You are something to be watched and guarded. When my new wife is ugly to me I will order you to the fire. Then she will be kind and you will be kept alive. Some time you will go to the fire. When I get tired of her and wish a new wife."
Patricia crawled to her father and laid her head on his breast. No one gave her any heed except as the Cousin girl walked by her several times, watching her with inscrutable eyes. The Shawnees were impatient to try their new cannon.
At Ward's suggestion Black Hoof sent some of his warriors to make a feint on the east side of the fort, so that the cannon could be hurried forward and mounted across a log while the garrison's attention was distracted. It was now dusk in the woods although the birds circling high above the glade caught the sunlight on their wings. The clearing would now be in the first twilight shadows, and Black Hoof gave his final orders.
Acting on Ward's command two warriors fell upon me and fastened cords to my wrists and ankles and staked me out in spread-eagle style, and then sat beside me, one on each side. Half a dozen of the older men remained in the camp. Dale was mumbling something to the girl and she rose as if at his bidding.
The Cousin girl glided forward and in English asked what she wanted. It was Dale who told her, asking for water in Shawnee. She motioned for Patricia to remain where she was and in a few minutes brought water in a gourd, and some venison. Patricia drank but would eat nothing.
The Cousin woman tried to feed Dale, and succeeded but poorly. I asked for food and water, and one of them brought a gourd and some meat. They lifted my head so I might drink and fed me strips of smoked meat, but they would not release my hands.
After a time we heard much shouting and the firing of many guns. This would be the mock attack, I judged. It increased in volume, this firing, until I feared that what had been started as a feint was being pushed forward to a victory.
Suddenly the firing dropped away and only the yelling continued. This would mean the savages had succeeded in rushing their wooden cannon close enough to do damage.
Every Indian left in the camp, including my two guards, were now standing listening eagerly for the voice of the cannon. It came, a loud explosion that dwarfed all rifle-fire any of us had ever heard. With screams of joy the guard began dancing about me and the older men danced around the Dales. They went through all the grotesque attitudes and steps which they use in their pantomimes of great victories.
This savage play was quickly stilled, however, as groans of pain and shouts of furious anger came to us. Now the cheering was that of white voices only. There was the noise of many feet hurrying back to the camp. Black Hoof came through the bushes first, and only the dusk saved my head from being split, as with a howl he threw his ax at me. Then came Ward, staggering like a drunken man and clawing at his left shoulder.
The full force of the catastrophe was revealed when four broken forms of dead warriors were hurried into the little opening, followed by a dozen braves bearing wounds, which would appall a town-dweller. Ward's medicine had lied to them. The cannon had burst and had scattered its charge of stones among the Shawnees. One of the corpses had been beheaded by a piece of rock.
Several warriors rushed toward the Dales; others ran to me.
"Stop!" roared Black Hoof. "Do not touch the prisoners!"
Some one lighted a fire. Other fires sprang up until the glade was well illumined. Black Hoof sent some of the younger men to scout the creek so the camp might not be surprised by a sally. To the warriors remaining the chief announced:
"We must march for the Ohio. Bad medicine has dogged us for many sleeps. I will make a feast to my medicine and will tell you what it says shall be done with the prisoners."
"That man and that woman are my prisoners!" hoarsely cried Ward.
"They were your prisoners while we believed your medicine was strong. Now that we know your medicine is weak and foolish they belong to all the Shawnees. Red Arrow's medicine is bad at heart. It told him to make a big gun. Four of my warriors are dead. Many are hurt. It will take blood to cover the bodies of the dead. Red Arrow has no prisoners until he goes and catches them."
Ward pulled his ax and limped toward me. No warrior made an effort to stop him. But Black Hoof reminded:
"When the Red Arrow is no longer a Shawnee he will be tied and left at the edge of the settlement. The prisoners are not to be harmed until my medicine directs."
Ward halted. He was close enough for me to see that while he had escaped a wound from the flying stones his shoulder was blown full of powder. The sweat streamed down his face and intimated something of the agony he was suffering.
"Black Hoof is a great warrior and a mighty chief!" he said huskily. "But Red Arrow's medicine is weak because it has not been fed. Only blood will make it strong. Let this man die before we break our camp." And he stirred me with his foot.
"The prisoners belong to the Shawnees. My medicine may whisper to kill one of them, but the warriors in sound of my voice must decide. Those who would see one of the three die show the ax."
Almost as soon as he had spoken the air was filled with spinning axes, ascending to the boughs and then falling to be deftly caught, each ax by its owner.
"It is good," said the chief. "My medicine shall pick the prisoners to die."
The explosion of the wooden cannon and the chief's ruling that we were no longer Ward's prisoners appealed to me as a reprieve. At least the girl was snatched from Ward's clutches. But the unanimous vote that one of us must die threw me back on the rack.
It was inconceivable that Patricia Dale should thus die. And yet I had had an earnest of the devil's ferocity. East of the mountains I could not have imagined a hand ever being raised against her. And I had seen her buffeted and struck down this day. Therefore, I did comprehend the inconceivable.
I called out to the chief:
"Catahecassa, listen to a white medicine, for the red medicine is far away or else is asleep. If the white woman is harmed you will shed tears of blood before you reach your Scioto towns. The settlers are swarming in to head you off. You have no time to spend in torturing any prisoner.
"But had you many sleeps of time it would be bad for you to harm the white girl. If you harm her you will have nothing to trade for an open path to the river. If you are wise in war, as your enemies say you are, you will guard her carefully at least until you make your villages above the Ohio."
The chief's eyes shifted uneasily, but his voice was ominous as he tersely advised:
"The white man had better ask his strong medicine to keep him from the fire. One of the prisoners shall roast this night. I have said it."
He had not liked my words as they set his superstitions to working, but it would never do for him to bow before the threats of a white medicine. So he remained inexorable in his determination to cover his dead with a white victim.
His raid into Virginia had been disastrous even though he could count the four Grisdols, the seven men, women and children in Abb's Valley in his death score. And he had taken three prisoners. Doubtless there were other victims at the fire I had seen when on the Cheat. But the price he had paid for these various kills and us three prisoners was too heavy.
Every Indian slain had been a prime fighting man, one it would take years of training to replace. After counting his losses in the mountains about the Grisdol clearing, the warriors killed in Abb's Valley, and now his losses here at Howard's Creek, the score was distinctly against him. No matter how mighty and famous a chief may be, he will surely and quickly lose his following if disaster dogs his war-paths.
So I could understand Black Hoof's mental attitude. He attributed his misfortunes to his weakening medicine. Let the cost be ever so dear he must strengthen that medicine; and he firmly believed a human sacrifice would be the most acceptable offering he could make.
"Bring that man over to the fire," he directed, pointing to me.
My wrist-cords were loosed, my ankles were fastened only with a spancel, and strong hands jerked me to my feet. Taking short steps I advanced to where the girl lay with her head on her father's breast.
Black Hoof selected a charred stick from the fire and stood staring at us, his eyes blank as though he did not see us. His warriors watched him with much awe. His spirit was far away up in the mountains communing with his medicine. He was asking his manito which of the three victims would be most acceptable.
Ward stood behind him, his lean face working in helpless rage for fear the girl would be the choice, thereby costing him a new wife. I felt deathly sick, physically sick, fearing she was marked for death, fearing she was reserved for worse than death.
Suddenly Black Hoof began shivering, then threw back his head and for a moment stared about him as if to collect his scattered senses. Reaching down he pulled the girl from her father. She had swooned and was at least spared these few minutes of awful dread. The charred stick hovered over her white face, then was withdrawn and darted at mine.
Instinctively I closed my eyes, but as the stick failed to leave its mark I opened them and beheld Dale had been chosen: A black smooch extended from the tip of his nose to the roots of his hair, and was bisected by another mark across the bridge of his nose, and extending to his ears.
"Paint that man black," Black Hoof ordered.
Dale was very composed. He knew the worst. Perhaps he believed his death would save the girl. In a steady voice he said to me:
"Morris, I am sorry for you. Only God knows how I feel about Pat. I've been worse than a fool. Don't tell her when she wakes up. Get the Cousin woman to take her out of sight. It will be very hard but I will try to go through it like a man."
"If there is anything I could do!" I cried.
He shook his head and threw it back and his lips were drawn tight.
"I am to blame. It's best this way. You came after me to help me. That was good and foolish of you. Pray God she will be spared. Pray God you will be spared. They'll be satisfied with my death for a while. I think I shall go through it very well."
They pulled me away and fell to rubbing the unfortunate man's face and neck with charcoal. Cousin's sister with a magnificent show of strength gathered the unconscious girl in her arms and walked toward the woods. Ward would have stopped her, but she hissed like a snake in his face, and there was a hardness in the blue eyes he could not withstand.
As she disappeared with her burden Black Hoof said something to Lost Sister's red husband. This warrior, very loath to miss the spectacle of a burning, sullenly glided after the woman. I feared he was sent to bring them back, but as they did not return I knew he was ordered to stand guard over them.
Now the opening was filled with the Shawnees, word having passed that Black Hoof was about to appease his war-medicine. Only the scouts and Lost Sister's man remained out. Dale was stood on his feet and his upper garments were torn off from him. As they offered to lead him to the stake he struck their hands aside and with firm step walked inside the circle of brush which had been heaped up some five feet from the stake.
I closed my eyes and endeavored not to witness the scene but was unable to keep them closed. With a spancel rope fastened to his ankles Dale was further secured by a long cord tied around one wrist and fastened some fifteen feet up the trimmed sapling.
When the flames began to bite on one side he could hobble around the post to the opposite side. As the flames spread he would become very active, but each revolution around the post would shorten the slack of the wrist-cord. With the entire circle of fuel ablaze he would slowly roast. Black Hoof muttered some gibberish and applied the torch.
As the first billow of smoke rose and before the savages could commence their dancing and preliminary tortures, Ericus Dale threw back his head and loudly prayed:
"O God, protect my little girl! O God, have mercy upon me!"
Black Hoof jeered him, sardonically crying:
"The white man makes medicine to his white manito. Let Big Turtle try him with a mouthful of fire. We will see if the white manito is weak or afraid to help his child."
A burly warrior scooped up coals on a piece of bark and with a fiendish grin leaped through the smoke. Two rifle shots, so close together as to be almost one, shattered the tense silence as the savages held their breath to enjoy every symptom of the excruciating agony. Dale went down on his knees, a small blue hole showing where the bullet mercifully had struck his heart. Big Turtle leaped backward and fell into the burning brush. A warrior, acting mechanically, dragged the Turtle clear of the flames. He was stone-dead.
For several moments the Indians were incapable of motion, so astounding was this interference with their sport. It was the scream of a panther that awoke them to furious activity. Black Hoof shouted for his men to catch the white scout. Then he turned on me and raised his ax. The act was involuntary, for at once dropping his arm he ordered his men to extinguish the fire and to see I did not escape. Then he hurried into the forest.
The fire was stamped out and Dale's body removed to one side. I asked them to cover the dead man with a blanket, which they readily did. Now Lost Sister returned, this time leading Patricia. I called to her in Shawnee:
"Bring the white girl here. Does she know her father is dead?"
"I told her. The men said he was killed by a white bullet," was the sullen reply.
"Leave her with me and wash the black from his face," I said.
She brought her charge to me. Patricia's eyes were hot as if with fever. She dropped beside me and stared wildly. Then she began to remember and said:
"My father is dead, they tell me."
"He is dead. He suffered none. It is as he wished. He could not escape. He is at peace."
"Life is so terrible," she mumbled. "Death is so peaceful. Death is so beautiful. Then one is so safe."
She gave a little scream and collapsed with her head resting on my bound hands. But although her slender frame shook convulsively she shed no tears.
I tried to talk to her as I would to a little child. After a while she rose and her composure frightened me. She walked to her father. Lost Sister had removed the tell-tale black. The girl kneeled and kissed him and patted his hair. Then returning to me, she quietly said:
"He looks very peaceful. Very happy. I am glad he did not have to suffer. The bullet that took his life was very kind. It must be very beautiful to be dead."
She ceased speaking and slowly began stretching her arms above her head, and with a long-drawn scream she fell over backward and I knew she had lost her reason.
 Also Daniel Boone's Shawnee name in later years.
OUR MEDICINE GROWS STRONGER
The Shawnees' anxiety to start for the Ohio almost became a panic. The tragic manner in which they had been robbed of their victim, the screaming defiance of young Cousin, together with their losses in warriors, convinced them something was radically wrong with their war-medicine. Outwardly Black Hoof remained calm but I knew he was greatly worried. His medicine had designated Dale for the torture, and then had permitted a bullet to release the man.
Nor was it any small influence which the girl's condition exerted in this desire to retreat. She seemed to be stunned. She walked about, but without appearing to hear or see her captors. There was none of the savages who did not believe her terrible scream prefaced her crossing the dividing-line between reason and insanity.
As an insane person she was under the special protection of the great manito, and black woe to him who interfered with her. The chief was eager to abandon her to be picked up by the settlers at Howard's Creek, but she clung tenaciously to Cousin's sister. The latter displayed no emotion over this preference, yet she did not repulse the girl. She even was gentle in caring for her.
Ward was for finishing me out of hand, but Black Hoof insisted I should carry packs and make myself useful before being dispensed with. Then again I would be something to display at the villages and something to dance about when it came to appeasing the ghosts of the slain warriors. We broke camp that night, and with malicious ingenuity Ward strapped packs on my shoulders until my back buckled. As he finished and was promising to thrust his knife into my legs if I displayed any weariness, Cousin's sister came up and sharply directed him to remove the packs as I was to serve as a litter-bearer.
"The white woman asks for him," she said. "Catahecassa gives him to me to help carry the medicine-woman."
Ward raged, but Black Hoof upheld the girl; and although I knew Patricia was too insensible of her surroundings to ask for any one, I was keen to serve her. Lost Sister had fashioned a rude litter out of rawhide and two saplings, slack between the poles so the girl could not roll out. To my surprise she stepped between the saplings at the forward end and called on me to pick up the other end and march. I considered it to be a man's work, but she made nothing of it, and never called a halt that she might rest.
In the morning the hunters brought in some deer-meat and turkeys, and we camped long enough to eat. Once more Ward endeavored to prevail upon the chief to put me out of the way. He played upon Black Hoof's superstitions very cunningly by declaring the war-medicine would be very weak until I was killed. The chief was impressed, else he never would have come to stare at me.
It happened, however, that Patricia was delirious, and it was my hand on her head that seemed to quiet her. Lost Sister told a noble lie by volunteering the information that it was my presence that kept the girl quiet. Black Hoof and his braves had a great fear of the girl when she began her rambling talk. They believed she was surrounded by ghosts and talking with them. So Ward's request was refused, and stern orders were given that I should not be harmed. When the home villages were reached, he added, I might be burned.
When we made our second camp on the Kanawha I called Black Hoof to me. I had been staked out in spread-eagle fashion and my guards had placed saplings across my body and were preparing to lie down on the ends at each side of me. I assured the chief there was no danger of my running away, as my medicine would wither and die, did I forsake the great manito's child; and I asked him to relieve me of the cords and saplings. He told the warriors to omit the cords.
The next time we halted to snatch a few hours' sleep he ordered that no more saplings be placed across me, that it would be sufficient to tie my ankles and wrists. This was a great relief. During this portion of the march the girl seemed oblivious to her surroundings, also to the fact that she was a captive. She showed a strong preference for Lost Sister's company, and would glance about worriedly if the young woman left her sight.
So it devolved on the two of us, both white, to care for her. There were times when she babbled of faraway scenes, of Williamsburg and her old home, of the streets of Norfolk and Richmond. She talked with those she had known as children. When in this condition the Indians were glad to keep away from us. Even Ward would not willingly remain within hearing of her sweet voice could he avoid so doing. And alas! There were other times when she was almost violent, when only Lost Sister could soothe and quiet her.
By the time we reached the mouth of the Great Kanawha no guard was kept over me that I could perceive; nor were my limbs any longer bound at night. At each camp Lost Sister ranged the woods and brought in roots and herbs and made strange-smelling messes in a camp kettle and assiduously dosed the girl.
Rafts were quickly knocked together and the crossing made to the Indian shore. I had expected the band to dig out hidden canoes and descend to the mouth of the Scioto. Instead we struck into a trail across-country. The path was well worn, and the fork we followed ended at the Scioto above Chillicothe, the principal Shawnee town.
Much of the distance Patricia walked, although the litter was taken along for her convenience. Lost Sister talked with me at times and I began to feel that the barrier between us was much lower. But she never spoke of the settlements or her brother. Her talk was always a red talk and she never addressed me except in Shawnee.
From her I learned we were making for Cornstalk's Town, some twenty-five miles above Chillicothe, located on Scippo Creek. Among border men this region was known as the Pickaway Plains. Near our destination was Grenadier Squaw's Town, named after Cornstalk's gigantic sister.
I suffered no incivility during the overland march. My status became that of an attendant on the great manito's medicine-child. Patricia continued in a dazed state of mind, but after two days of arduous travel I detected her weeping. Lost Sister enigmatically warned:
"She is another woman. She is more like the woman she once was. She must keep close to her manito."
I could interpret this only to mean that the girl was recovering from her mental shock and was recalling bits of the past, and that she was safe only so long as the savages believed her to be insane. At our last camp from Cornstalk's Town Patricia insisted on walking beside me when the trace would permit it and she startled me by saying:
"My father was good to me."
"Do you remember me?" I asked.
"Remember you, Basdel? Why, of course. What a queer question." Then with a little frown she sighed and complained. "But I don't understand why I am here with you and these Indians. I wonder if it is a bad dream, if I will soon wake up."
I blundered along the best I could, striving to say nothing which might upset her. She suddenly refused to talk and began displaying much physical nervousness. Lost Sister promptly took her in hand and led her some distance in advance of me. That was the day the band split up, the bulk of the warriors leaving to go to their different villages. Half a dozen remained to press on to Cornstalk's Town.
Ward was among those who left us and he was unwilling to go. His departure was a great relief to me. His presence frightened the girl, although she gave no sign of remembering him as having been a factor in her life. It was due entirely to Lost Sister's appeal to Black Hoof that the renegade was ordered to Chillicothe.
As he was leaving us he promised me:
"I'll yet see you eating fire. That white squaw will see me again."
"I'll dance your mangy scalp some time," I retorted.
Whereat he used terms of abuse he had picked up from traders, and I struck him with my fist. Black Hoof stopped him from killing me, and threatened me with torture if I offended again. Then he ordered Ward to go.
The chief continued with us to Cornstalk's Town, but Cornstalk was not there; so he went in search of him at Grenadier Squaw's Town. Before leaving he gave orders that I was not to be molested so long as I did not attempt to escape. The town was inhabited by women and children largely, with a dozen men left to act as hunters.
It was plain that the fighting men of the tribe were gathering somewhere, probably at Chillicothe. Patricia was believed to be in touch with the manito, and was feared and respected accordingly. The days that followed were not unhappy for me; and Patricia appeared to be contented in a numb sort of way.
My own reaction to the anxieties and fears of our captivity devitalized me to a certain degree, I believed; else, I would not have been contented to settle down to the drowsy existence of village life. I did no hunting. I was a companion to the girl when she wished for my company. Aside from that capacity the Indians looked on me as if I had been a tree.
I talked on general subjects with Lost Sister, always waiting for her to blaze the trace our words were to follow. Her red husband remained aloof from her from the day she took charge of Patricia. Whether he resented her companionship with us I do not know, and after our arrival he disappeared for a time.
I discovered I was lacking in curiosity as to what each morrow had in store for us. It savored of the indifference of the fatalist. But I did come to the alert when I observed Patricia was rapidly returning to normal. I remembered Lost Sister's warning, "She must keep close to her manito." I was forced to repeat these words to her.
It was one of the hardest tasks I ever undertook. She suffered deeply when she began to grasp my meaning. She began to remember things concretely. Yet life was the stake, and the fact that my life was also involved helped her much. With the aid of Lost Sister I taught her how to be ever on her guard, how to carry herself when in the presence of the silent but ever watchful Indians.
Once the shock wore off somewhat she found it was not difficult to keep up her role. The most effective way to allay any suspicion was for her to talk aloud to herself. The savages believed she was holding conversation with inmates of the invisible world, and drew away from her. But while she improved, my lethargy continued. My physical and mental strength seemed to be sapped. I was content to lie on the bank of the creek, my mind idling with vagaries.
Some six weeks passed in this desultory fashion, then Cornstalk and Black Hoof returned to the village with three warriors and a negro woman. The woman had been captured at Sapling Grove within three hundred yards of Captain Evan Shelby's house, the woman told me. She also informed me that her captors were led by a very large man, much whiter than any of his companions, and that he talked good English.
This description fitted either John Logan or Will Emery, the Cherokee half-breed. I decided the man was Logan. The woman was treated kindly. Immediately on arrival the two chiefs retired to a wigwam for a long talk. Then Black Hoof sent for me and Patricia. I warned her to pay no attention to them, and to talk much to herself. She acted admirably and was kept in the wigwam only a few minutes.
Cornstalk had watched her closely, and both he and Black Hoof were uneasy and relieved when she departed. Toward me their manner was incisive, and they demanded certain information. As I knew conditions had changed vastly since I was captured I talked freely and improvised considerably. There was no military value whatever to the news that I imparted.
Cornstalk, who was a large man and of a commanding appearance, and possessing unusual intellectual powers, was keen to learn about individuals, especially about Daniel Boone. He asked how many men Boone could lead against the Shawnees. I told him all the border men would be glad to serve under him, that he was collecting fighting men when I was taken prisoner.
"Your tongue is split," Cornstalk warned. "Be careful, or we will say that young medicine-woman does not need a liar to care for her. Be careful, or your tongue will be pulled out. The Shawnees will be glad to warm themselves at your fire. That man was sent to the Falls of the Ohio. He has returned to the settlements. He commands three forts in the lower valleys. Will he head riflemen to battle, or stay at the forts?"
I truthfully answered that I believed he would be given an important command. And I explained how Colonel Lewis would be over him as he would be over many other brave leaders. They knew Lewis and feared him. Their faces were very glum until I repeated Connolly's message to Charles Lewis that peace with the tribes was very possible. Then they smiled grimly and Cornstalk informed me.
"Your Dunmore ordered his Long Knives to march against Shawnee towns ten sleeps after you were captured."
I was startled at the information and glanced through the opening of the wigwam as if expecting to see the lean militia men breaking from the woods. The chief added:
"But they seem to have trouble in starting. Perhaps they are very old men and can not walk fast. I shall send my young men across the Ohio to dig them out of the mud."
"The Cherokees will not join the Shawnees," I ventured.
Cornstalk eyed me menacingly.
"They will not because they have old women among them. They put their powder in bags, and put the bags in caves. Their powder is spoiled. After I whip your army the Cherokees will carry their axes into the Carolinas."
I believed the Cherokees would do this, if our army were whipped. Turning to Black Hoof, Cornstalk asked:
"How long before you roast this white man?"
"After we have whipped the army of Dunmore and Lewis and Boone. Now he waits on the medicine-woman. After the battle there will be many white women to wait on her."
I was dismissed and on reaching the open air I discovered I had left all my apathy behind me. The importance of time and the imperative need of immediate action was burned into my brain by Black Hoof's words. I sought Patricia and found her seated on the bank, staring into the sluggish waters.
"I was thinking of you, Basdel," she greeted, and she reached her hand to me. "I was remembering what I said in Salem about your rifle. I'm sorry. I did wrong."
"Heavens, child! Abuse the rifle all you will!"
"It was abuse of you and of all that your rifle stood for. I mocked you because you were from the border. Poor father! He knew many Indians, but he did not understand them. Town ways seem mighty small and of no account now."
"Patsy, you must get a grip on yourself. We must get clear of this village at once. We must get back to Virginia."
She shivered and her eyes dilated as she stared at me and she muttered:
"I dread the woods, the silence, the darkness. The wolves howling at night. Worst of all is the creeping horror of being chased. No! No! I can't stand any more, Basdel. The black horror comes over me when I let myself think of it. The dank woods—the silence—the awful stealth of night. No, no, Basdel. Let me die here."
"Patsy, grip yourself! You can't stay among these beggars. They think you are insane. That's why they've spared you. But there's going to be a battle soon. If they win they'll bring many prisoners here. You must not be here then."
She interrupted me with a little heart-broken cry and clapped her hands to her eyes to blot out some horrid picture. It was harsh, but the way she was inclining led to permanent madness.
"We will steal away and make the Ohio. The Indians are busy planning for the big battle. They'll not spare many men to seek us. I will take you back to Virginia and across the mountains."
"Or we will both die," she whispered. "That wouldn't be bad. To die and be out of it all—But I mustn't speak for you, Basdel."
"You speak for both of us," I comforted. "Death isn't terrible. This is." And I swept my hand in a half-circle at the Shawnee wigwams forming the village. "Say nothing to Cousin's sister. I will make my plans at once. A gun, some powder and lead, and then we will go."
"And never come back to them alive?" she insisted, and she leaned forward and stared intently into my eyes.
"Never alive, sweetheart."
"That is much better," she quietly remarked. "And here comes my sister. She has been very good to me. I wish we could take her with us. Over the mountains, or to death."
"She refused to go over the mountains with her brother. We must tell her nothing," I warned.
Lost Sister gave me a quick glance as she came up. She gazed at Patricia in silence for a moment, then warned:
"The white woman must keep close to her manito. The eyes of the eagle and the ears of the fox are in this village."
"She is having bad thoughts," I told her. "Lead her thoughts through new paths."
As I strolled away I heard her beginning a Shawnee myth, in which it was explained why the wet-hawk feeds while flying, and how the small turkey-buzzard got its tufted head.
According to the notches cut in my long stick it was the first day of September. Now that Cornstalk was back and in conference with Black Hoof the village became a center of importance. Notable chiefs and medicine-men of the northern tribes began to assemble. Lost Sister pointed out to me Puck-e-shin-wa, father of a six-year-old boy, who was to become one of the most remarkable Indian characters in our history, under the name of Tecumseh.
Young Ellinipsico, son of Cornstalk, was there, gay in his war-trappings and eager for the battle. Blue Jacket, another famous Shawnee chief and warrior, was in attendance. Of the allied tribes I saw Chiyawee the Wyandot, Scoppathus the Mingo, Redhawk the Delaware, and most interesting of all, John Logan, chief of the Mingos.
He was the son of a French man, who was adopted by the Oneidas, but he always claimed kin to the Cayuga, the term "Mingo" being loosely applied by our border men to any fragments of the Iroquois living outside the Long House in New York Province. Logan came and went inside an hour, spending all his time in a secret conference with Cornstalk.
I saw him as he strode through the little village, looking neither to right nor left, saturnine of countenance. He showed his white blood, being much lighter in complexion than the full-bloods. A warrior walked behind him, carrying his gun. The chief himself carried a long wand decorated with the ten or twelve scalps he had taken since Baker and Greathouse massacred his people at Baker's Bottom.
Young Cherokees, stolen away from their nation to be in at the death of the white race in Virginia, were present without leaders. Black Hoof's long absence from the villages was explained when a full score Ottawas filed into the opening and sang their war-song. Their spokesman loudly announced that they were but the advance of many of their tribe.
I feared I had waited too long, and was much relieved to learn from Lost Sister that warriors and chiefs were to move to Chillicothe at once and there await the coming of the western bands. Their going would leave our village practically deserted except for aged and broken men and the women and children.
Lost Sister said her husband was eager to take the path, and that it was Cornstalk's plan to cross the Ohio instead of waiting to be attacked in his own country. She was vague as to the chief's exact plans once he had crossed the river, but by joining her brief statements together I was led to believe Cornstalk had learned that the Virginia forces had been split into two armies, and that the masterly red strategist planned to surprise and annihilate one, and then attack the second. This information alone was of sufficient importance for me to risk my life many times in order to apprise my superiors of the trap being set for them.
By the time the sun was half-way down the afternoon sky all the chiefs were moving down the river bound for Chillicothe. Young Ellinipsico and a mixed band of warriors were left to arrange for guarding the girl. He would depart for Chillicothe on the morrow. I went in search of the girl and met Lost Sister standing by a big honey-tree. She asked me if I had seen her husband, and looked worried when I shook my head.
"He said he would not go without seeing me, and yet he is not here in the village. Your white woman—she walks far from her manito. It is bad for her."
"She must leave here," I boldly said. "I must take her away." I had had no intention of taking her into my confidence, but I realized it would be impossible to make a start without her missing the girl. So I took the desperate course and did what I had warned Patricia not to do.
She drew her knife and cut some straight marks on the honey-tree.
"You see those?" she asked.
I bowed my head. Without explaining the relevancy of her question, she turned and walked rapidly toward the village. I stared at the marks and they told me nothing. There was nothing pictorial about them. I followed her among the wigwams, and was in time to see her leading Patricia into her wigwam. I sauntered after them, obsessed by the notion that strange forces were at work. The village seemed to be quiet and sleepy and yet the air was surcharged with threats of things about to happen.
When the storm broke it was from a quarter entirely different from anything I could have imagined. My first intimation that something unusual was happening was when a Shawnee ran into the village and began talking to Ellinipsico, who was lounging sleepily on the grass before his father's wigwam. I heard Ellinipsico exclaim:
"He must not be hurt. He has felt the hand of the great manito on his head."
I looked about for a weapon, so that I might go down fighting, for I first thought the stranger Indians were demanding me for a plaything, not understanding my true status as servant to the medicine-woman. I knew this was not the solution of the affair when Ellinipsico jumped to his feet and ran to the edge of the village, at every bound shouting to the Ottawas to hurry back to the village.
A loud outcry answered him from the forest. To my amazement Ellinipsico slowed down his mad pace and appeared to be reluctant to enter the woods. The few Shawnees and Mingos in the village followed his example in timidity. Then above the war-cry of the Ottawas rose the roar of Baby Kirst, punctuated by the crack of a rifle and the death-yell of a savage.
Now I understood. The Ottawas, ignorant of Kirst's condition, had met him blundering through the woods and had essayed to halt his progress. He promptly had offered fight, and they were at it, with the odds greatly in favor of the Indians. In my excitement I ran to where Ellinipsico stood. He was dancing with rage and fright. Beholding me, he ordered me to dive into the growth and stop the fight.
I glanced back and saw Lost Sister and Patricia leaving the wigwam. Lost Sister began leading her charge toward the south end of the village and jerked her head at me as though calling on me to follow. It was driven into my mind that this was the time to escape with the girl. I plunged into the woods and no Indian cared to dog my steps.
I made as if to go to the scene of the fearful confusion, but once out of sight of Ellinipsico and his men I turned to intercept the course taken by Lost Sister and Patricia. I miscalculated the distance, or else the combatants made a rapid shift of ground, for before I knew it I was standing on the edge of a most ferocious struggle. Kirst was still mounted and bleeding from a dozen wounds. His long rifle was being swung for a club.
My first view of him was as he splintered the butt on an Ottawa head. He bawled in triumph. The Ottawas, expecting no diversion so near the village, were armed only with their knives and axes. A fellow leaped on to the horse and tried to stab him from behind, and one immense hand reached back and caught him by the neck and held him in midair, and squeezed the life from the painted body, and then hurled him among the remaining warriors.
The girl must come first, but it was not in my heart to pass without contributing something to Kirst's advantage. I snatched up a war-club, dropped by a slain savage, and hurled it into the thick of them, bowling over two. Kirst's horse went down, disemboweled. Now Kirst was at a great disadvantage, but his long arms gathered up two of the Ottawas, and I heard their ribs crack, as with a pleased grunt the simple fellow contracted his embrace.
But now they were piling upon him, striking and stabbing, a living mound which for the moment concealed the big fellow. Then the mass began to disintegrate, and savages staggered back and fell dead, or suffering from terrible wounds. Kirst rose to his feet only to fall on his face as if shot through the head, although he received no wound at the time that I could perceive.
My last glance was fleeting, but it sufficed to count six silent forms of Ottawas who would never cross the Ohio to attack Lord Dunmore's armies. One Indian, gasping with pain, with both arms hanging like rags, lurched by me but not seeing me, his gaping mouth trying to sound his death-song. Ellinipsico was calling on his men to follow him, and I sped away.
Baby Kirst had fulfilled his destiny and would babble his way through the forests no more. The force which had destroyed his reason had paid the full price the law of compensation had worked out.
Could I find the girl without returning to the village I hoped the confusion resulting from the bloody struggle would permit me to steal away with her. I swung back toward the opening and soon discovered Patricia and Lost Sister. The latter on beholding me called me by name, the first time she had ever done so. As I ran to them she fiercely said:
"Take your white woman and go! Cross the Ohio but do not go up the Kanawha. Follow the Guyandotte or Sandy, into the valley of the Clinch. You must hurry!"
As if the day had not been hideous enough a bepainted warrior burst through the undergrowth as she finished, with his bow raised and an arrow drawn to the head. Beneath the war vermilion, I recognized Lost Sister's husband. She threw out her arms and smiled scornfully and cried:
"You hide in the bushes to watch me? I thought so."
Then she was down with an arrow buried to the feathers.
I leaped into the bushes and grappled with the murderer before he could draw another arrow from his quiver. He dropped his bow and endeavored to hurl me to the ground. As we whirled about I saw Patricia kneeling beside Lost Sister and striving to pet her back to life. One glimpse, and then all my attention was needed for my adversary. He was quicker than I, and his freshly oiled body made him hard to hold; but I was far the stronger.
"His knife, Basdel; Look out;" screamed Patricia; and I was glad to note there was no madness in her voice.
I had him by his right wrist, my left arm shoved under his chin and into his red throat. The girl's gaze sent my gaze downward. He was trying to work the knife from its sheath before I could force him backward or break his neck. But the sheath was too long for the knife and he could not reach the handle with his fingers until he had forced the blade upward by pinching the tip of the sheath. I did not try to interfere with his maneuver, but settled myself solidly to hold him from escaping.
"The knife, Basdel!" she shrilly repeated. Then she nearly upset my calculations by trying to thrust a bough between my foe's feet. Only by a nimble maneuver did I escape being tripped; but it was heartening to know Patricia could respond to my needs.
"Stand clear!" I panted. "I have him!"
"But the knife!" she despairingly cried.
"He's getting it for me!" I replied.
Now he had managed to work the haft clear of the leather and his left hand was closing on it. His eyes told me that much. Instantly I changed my tactics. I dropped my left arm to seize his left wrist. I released his right wrist and with my free hand tore the weapon from his grasp. He struck me in the head with his free fist, but I felt it none as he did not have the white man's trick of delivering a buffet. We went down side by side, and by the time we had rolled over once he was dead by his own knife.
Retaining the weapon, I ran to Patricia as she collapsed by the side of the dying woman.
"I am all right! Get up!" I commanded.
Cousin's sister smiled grimly, and whispered:
"He has been watching us. He saw me come here when I scratched the tree. He has been hiding—The marks I made on the honey-tree—Look behind it—the pea-vines—. Tell Shelby I send him a little sister—" And she had solved all her problems, and had passed into the compassion of the manito whose gentleness and understanding surpass all comprehension.
Patricia was weeping softly, as one who sorrows with an aching heart, but not as one who is afraid. I gathered her up in my arms and made for the honey-tree close by. I stood her on her feet, and exhorted her to be brave as the time had come for us to take to flight. I plunged into the pea-vines behind the tree. A new thrill of life fired me as I fished out my own rifle, a powder-horn, shot-pouch and linen patches. Cousin's sister had even remembered to provide a roll of buckskin and an awl for mending our moccasins, and a small package of smoked meat.
Thus armed once more I took the girl's hand and stole through the woods, following the well-beaten path that led to Chillicothe, and planning to swing to the east and skirt the town under the cover of darkness. I desired to emerge on the Ohio at a point opposite the mouth of the Big Sandy. For some time we could hear the wailing and howling of the Shawnees in Cornstalk's Town as they mourned for the dead Ottawas, and Patricia was sadly frightened. My ears were tingling for fear they would catch the cry of discovery, but young Ellinipsico was there instead of Black Hoof, and our flight was undiscovered.
 Expedition against Indian towns ordered July 24th. Boone returned from Kentucky to the settlements August 27th.
BACK TO THE BLUE WALL
We reached the Ohio and I soon found a canoe. The trip down the Scioto had its danger thrills, and twice we narrowly escaped meeting bands of warriors on the main trace. I stuck to the path because of its advantages. None below us knew we had left the upper town, and would not be looking for us. In the beaten path there was much less chance of leaving signs for some scout to pick up and follow. I knew warriors would be scouring the country in all directions once the news of our escape was carried to Chillicothe, but the Scioto path was the last one they would expect us to take.
I had remembered Lost Sister's warning and planned to follow the Big Sandy until its head waters interlocked with those of the Clinch and Holston. It was nerve-wearing work, that crossing of the Ohio. With each dip of the paddle I expected rifles to crack behind me and canoes to poke their noses through the overhanging foliage and make after us. I could not see that the girl breathed during the crossing, and I kept her in front of me as her face was a mirror to reflect instantly any danger on the Indian shore.