To his surprise he found that Daniel Boone was willing to talk more freely than he ever had known him to do before.
"Yes," Daniel Boone was saying, "my grandfather came from England and settled in Pennsylvania. He had nine sons and ten daughters. My father he called Squire. I do not know just why, unless it was because he was more active than his brothers. I was born on the right bank of the Delaware in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in 1734. Not long after my father married he moved to another part of the colony, and when I was a little lad he took us overland through Maryland and Virginia and settled at the headwaters of the Yadkin."
"A fine place, too, that is," said Peleg.
"Indeed it is," assented the scout, "but it was not for me. Somehow I seem destined to find the way for others rather than to be able to enjoy much of quiet and rest myself. It was on the first day of May, 1769, that I left my family in quest of the country of Kantuckee. Five men travelled with me, all of us relying upon the reports of John Finley, one of our number, who had been trading with the Indians there. He averred that he had found the most beautiful of all lands. I shall not soon forget the seventh day of June that year, when John Finley and I, from the top of an eminence, looked out upon the beautiful land of Kantuckee. Buffalo were more numerous than are cattle in the settlements. They fed upon the grass that grows marvellously on those plains. We saw hundreds in a drove, and the numbers about the salt springs were amazing. On the 22d of December, John Stuart and I were having a pleasing ramble. We had passed through a great forest and were amazed at the variety of the blossoms we saw. As for game, why it almost seemed to seek us out instead of making us the hunters. It was near sunset and we were near the Kantuckee River, when a number of Indians rushed out of a canebrake and made us their prisoners."
"How long did they keep you?"
"Seven days. We did our utmost not to show any uneasiness, and gradually they became less suspicious of us. But in the dead of the night of that seventh day, when we were lying by a large fire and all the others were asleep, I gently shook my companion, whispered my plan, and we left the camp without disturbing any one. My brother and another man, who had started after us to explore the country, found the camp of our party, but it had been plundered and the other men in our band had fled. Strangely enough, we soon came upon one another in the forest. You may be sure that this meeting with my brother was most welcome. The man who was with him, however, soon went on a private excursion and was attacked and killed by wolves. John Stuart was killed by the Indians. There we were in a howling wilderness, hundreds of miles from our families and surrounded by Indians who were determined to kill us. All through that winter we had no trouble, however, and on the first of the following May my brother went home for a new recruit of horses and ammunition, leaving me alone. I had been without bread for a year; I had no salt nor sugar, and not even a horse or a dog for company.
"I knew I must not lament, however, and accordingly I undertook a tour which I thought might be of benefit to others who, I had no doubt, soon would follow me. Often I heard the hideous yells of the savages searching for me. On the 27th of July my brother returned, and together we went as far as the Cumberland River, scouting through that part of the country and giving names to the different rivers. In the following March I went back to my family, determined to bring them as soon as possible, even at the risk of life and fortune, to make a home in Kantuckee, which I esteemed a second Paradise.
"You know, my lad, how I sold my land on the Yadkin and disposed of such goods as we could not carry with us, and how with five other families we started on the 25th of September to journey to Kantuckee. You were one of us at that time.
"You well remember also what occurred on the 10th of October, when our company was attacked by the Indians, how I lost my boy, and how we all journeyed back to the settlement on the Clinch River."
"And now?" queried Peleg.
"And now," answered Daniel Boone, "you and I are to journey to the Falls of the Ohio. Our surveyors there are in great peril from the Indians. We shall, without doubt, find ourselves often in danger, and I am selecting you to accompany me because already I have found that I could rely upon you. You have been quick to learn what I have taught you, and I do not believe you will easily be taken unawares, because you have already learned how to prepare yourself for any event. Any one who has not learned that lesson can never become a successful man, to say nothing of succeeding as a scout."
The following morning dawned clear and warm, and as no signs of Indians had been seen the two scouts renewed their journey with lighter hearts. At least a part of Peleg's fear was gone, though it was impossible for him to determine by anything his companion said whether or not he shared his feeling.
Without an open declaration of war, the Shawnees, Wyandottes, Cherokees, and Delawares were working more or less together at this time and were untiring in their determination to prevent the whites from entering and establishing homes in the region which the Indians believed was entirely their own.
The second day passed, and the progress of the two scouts was unbroken. Still Daniel Boone was using great caution, forbidding the discharge of guns except when food was required, and insisting upon the fire being extinguished as soon as the meals had been prepared.
On the fourth day of their journey the anxiety of the great scout became more manifest. "I have seen some things," he explained to his companion, "which are troubling me."
"Are the Indians near us?"
"I have been convinced that they have been near us all our journey, but I fear now they are approaching still nearer. My suggestion is that we separate, and I will go to the south and you to the north of the path we would have taken and meet again in our camp here a few hours from this time. We may throw them off our trail."
"Shall we start now?" inquired Peleg, rising at once as he spoke.
"'Twill be well to do so. The sun is now two hours high, and we must both be back here in camp by noon."
As he finished speaking, Daniel Boone departed silently into the forest and his example was promptly followed by the younger scout.
The young hunter had been gone almost an hour and as yet had discovered only a few signs of the presence of their enemies. He was near the bank of a stream some twenty feet or more in width when, glancing behind him, he saw two Indians swiftly approaching.
His first impulse was to fire upon them, but holding his rifle in readiness he waited for them to come nearer. Suddenly one of the red men raised his gun and fired at Peleg. The young scout heard the bullet whistling close to his head, and, instantly taking aim, returned the fire, causing one of the Indians to fall forward upon his face. The other warrior, however, was armed, and was swiftly approaching.
Peleg's first impulse to use his gun as a club and strive to defend himself was quickly abandoned when in some consternation he became aware of the size of the advancing red man. Never before had he seen an Indian so large as the one who was now approaching. Not merely was the man tall, but his breadth of shoulder and every movement alike showed the great strength which he possessed.
Thinking this was a case where discretion was the better part of valor, Peleg darted swiftly into the woods. As he did so his enemy fired at him, but fortunately the boy escaped unhurt. He ran at his utmost speed, but as he glanced over his shoulder he saw that his pursuer was speedily gaining upon him. Peleg Barnes was considered the best wrestler and the strongest of the younger men in the little settlement on the Clinch River. He now was more than six feet tall and the muscles in his arms and legs were marvellously developed. If the man behind him had not been of such gigantic and ferocious aspect, the young hunter would have ventured a single combat; but Peleg had decided that flight was the safer course.
For several hundred yards he ran at his utmost speed, but every glance backward showed him that, swiftly as he was running, his pursuer was steadily gaining upon him.
The woods through which they were speeding consisted almost entirely of small trees, few of which were large enough to provide protection or even shelter.
Peleg had passed a large walnut tree, which he had noticed standing like a patriarch among the surrounding saplings, and suddenly he paused in his flight and ran back ten steps to gain it. This action of the young scout plainly startled the Indian, who halted a moment, thereby giving his adversary the advantage of reaching the shelter he was seeking.
If Peleg's gun had been loaded the solution of his troubles would not have been difficult. As it was, the huge warrior resumed his rapid advance. Again Peleg fled, but he was well aware that sooner or later he must stop and strive to defend himself by using his rifle as a club.
The moment for such action soon came, and, abruptly halting, Peleg seized his rifle by the barrel and raised it above his head. The Indian dropped his empty gun and advanced upon his victim with his tomahawk.
Instead of waiting to receive the attack, Peleg suddenly leaped forward and struck with the stock of his gun. The warrior at the same moment whirled his tomahawk and threw it.
In a manner both blows took effect. The stock of the rifle was dislocated by the blow which Peleg struck the Indian's skull, and at the same time the vicious blow of the tomahawk was deflected by the barrel of the rifle, though it cut deeply into Peleg's hand between his thumb and forefinger as it glanced.
As the Indian attempted to draw his knife, Peleg seized him and together both fell to the ground.
For a time the efforts of the Indian were by no means violent, and Peleg was hopeful that the blow which the warrior had received had partly disabled him; but it was soon manifest that the Indian had recovered, for, wrapping his long arms around Peleg's body, he pressed him to his breast with well-nigh crushing force.
Peleg, powerful young scout that he was, had never felt an embrace like that of the huge warrior. Relaxing his efforts for a moment, he endeavoured to convince his enemy that his strength was well-nigh gone. The Indian apparently was deceived by his trick and made an attempt to reach for Peleg's gun, which had fallen on the ground nearby. The young hunter at the same moment made a sudden and desperate attempt to free himself from the arms of the giant.
Success crowned his efforts, but before he was able to escape from the place the Indian leaped to his feet, and, seizing Peleg with one hand and grasping the collar of his hunting shirt with the other, he drew his enemy steadily to his hip, and then by a sudden effort threw him at least ten feet into the air, much as he might have tossed a little child. Peleg fell upon his back at the edge of the stream, but before the savage could spring upon him, he was again upon his feet, and, stung with rage as well as desperation, instantly, and with a violence which for a time made up for his lack of strength, he renewed his attack upon his gigantic enemy.
The Indian, however, closed again with Peleg and hurled him to the ground, though the young hunter still doggedly clung to his foe. Together they rolled into the water, where the struggle continued unabated for a time, as each did his utmost to thrust and hold the head of his opponent beneath the surface.
It soon was plain that the Indian was unused to such long-continued and violent exertion, and Peleg felt sure that his enemy was weaker than when the struggle began.
Suddenly the young hunter by a supreme effort seized the warrior by his scalp-lock and thrust his head under the water, where he succeeded in holding it until the struggles of the Indian became faint and convinced Peleg that the contest was ended.
The cunning warrior, however, had been shamming, and as soon as Peleg released his hold he quickly regained his foothold and in turn forced Peleg under the water. In the struggle which followed both contestants were carried into the current of the stream beyond their depth, and were compelled to let go their hold and swim for their lives.
Peleg was the first to gain the shore. A low hill, partly wooded, was directly before him, and he ran as swiftly as his strength permitted up the long, sloping ridge. In a brief time he discovered that the Indian was gaining upon him so rapidly that all hope of escape departed.
At that moment the young scout saw at his side a large tree, which in some storm had been torn up by its roots and was lying prostrate on the ground.
Instantly he ran along the side of the tree, aware that his enemy was following upon the opposite side. Doubtless the red man expected to seize him when the huge roots of the tree had been gained.
On the warm ground at the roots of the tree, all unknown to the pursuer and the pursued, a huge she-bear was lying with her two cubs. The Indian was the first to arrive at the spot, and as he darted around the roots the savage animal with a snarl of rage instantly sprang upon him. The growls of the bear and the cries of the warrior instantly produced a deafening uproar.
The Indian had been able to draw his knife, and struck at her again and again while the bear held him in one of her most fervent hugs. Peleg, without waiting to learn the result of the startling and noisy contest, instantly turned and ran back over the way he had come.
AT THE SPRINGS
The young scout was breathless and exhausted when at last he arrived safely at the camp. His appearance was such that no explanation was required by Daniel Boone, who was already there. He instantly noticed the wound which Peleg had received on his hand and how blood-stained his clothing was. He asked no questions, however, and at once attended to the wants of his companion.
In a short time Peleg had recovered sufficiently to enable him to relate the story of the adventures which had befallen him.
"You have lost Singing Susan?" suggested Boone.
Peleg nodded in response, but did not speak.
"Can you find the place where you dropped her?"
"And the place where the Indian was hugged by the bear?"
Again Peleg nodded.
"If you will tell me where the places are I might go to both of them."
"Very well," said Peleg quickly, "but I shall go with you."
Boone said no more and busied himself in arranging the small packs which the two scouts were carrying. It was not long before Peleg declared he was ready to accompany his friend, and without a further word they departed from their camp.
It was not difficult for the young hunter to find his way to the place where the Indian had been seized by the angry mother-bear. Cautiously approaching, both men peered intently about them, but they were unable to discover any signs of either the warrior or the animal that had attacked him. When they advanced to the spot where the tree had been uptorn by the roots they found an abundance of footprints of the bear and also of the moccasined Indian, but that was all.
"They both got away," said Boone at last.
"Or ate each other up," suggested Peleg with a smile.
"We will look for Singing Susan. You lead the way, Peleg."
Wearied as Peleg was by his recent contest, he nevertheless responded promptly, and in a brief time the hunters arrived at the border of the stream near which Peleg had been compelled to drop his rifle. When he had cast it from him he had tossed it into the nearby bushes, dimly thinking that if by chance he should escape he might return and find the weapon which he prized so highly. A part of the scout's teachings already had taken effect in this forethought of his young comrade. To be prepared for any emergency was an essential part of life in the woods. As they drew near the spot, Peleg was thinking of the great lesson he had learned from Boone. He ran to the bushes, pushed aside the brush and drew forth his gun with some pride. A smile lighted the face of Boone as he nodded his head in approval of the forethought of his young friend, and advancing, he extended his hand to inspect the weapon.
"What happened to the gun?" he inquired, as he marked the condition of the stock.
"I struck the skull of the Indian."
"'Twas a hard blow, son, and I have slight doubt the Indian's head is aching."
"If it had not been for that, I should not be here to tell you about it now."
"No one can say about that. You are here, Peleg, and we must act upon that which is rather than upon what might have been. Indeed, I have long since learned to accept my life with that understanding. I had nothing to say about when I should come into the world, and I have as little to say about when I shall leave it. The only part I can guide is that which is in between. I can fix this stock," he added, "and soon we shall have Susan singing again. We will push forward a little farther and find some place where we can camp for the night. A good sleep will do you more good than anything else, though first I must attend again to that hand of yours."
Selecting a linen bandage, a small supply of which Boone always carried with him on his expeditions, he gathered some leaves of the witch-hazel plant and, pounding them to a pulp, spread them upon the cloth. Thoroughly washing the wounded hand of Peleg, he then bound the cloth and pulp of the leaves upon the wound, saying as he did so: "In a week you will be as good as new."
As soon as this task had been accomplished the journey was resumed, although only two miles was covered before Boone was convinced that his companion was too weary to proceed farther.
The following day, although Peleg's hand still was sore from his wound, he found little difficulty in carrying his rifle, for the great scout had been successful in restoring Singing Susan to her former efficient condition.
Increasing signs of the presence of the Indians were seen, and once Boone turned aside from his pathway when an old canoe was found, which with a little effort he was able to patch up.
"I am fearful of the water," he said, "for I cannot swim. Can you, son?"
"Yes, sir," replied Peleg, glancing up in astonishment at this acknowledgment of his friend's one weakness.
"It is well you can," said Boone with a smile. "I never was able to get the knack. You will have to be the leader now. We can go down this stream five or six miles, perhaps more, before we strike across the country again."
"How is it," inquired Peleg, "that you find your way through the forests? I am never afraid of being lost in any of the woods where I have been before, but I should not be sure of myself in trying to go to the Falls of the Ohio, although even now we must be within a few days of the place."
Boone smiled as he replied: "There are some things which a man can learn and some which must be born in him to help him in the forests. A man who can sing, if he will go to the singing schools faithfully, may become a better singer; but if he has no voice to begin with, there is little use in his saying do, ra, me, fa, so, la, si, do over and over again. So it is in the woods. I watch the birds, the trees, and the leaves, as well as the lay of the land, but beyond all that there is a part which I cannot explain. It must be my nature, just the same as it is for a fish to live in the water or a bee to seek the flowers."
"Do you think I ever can learn?"
"I do, son. I have marked you often and know that you have the ability as well as the will to learn."
Signs of the presence of Indians increased as the two scouts proceeded. It seemed to Boone that the Indians were moving eastward, a matter which promised ill for the scattered settlements on the border.
However, the days passed, and Boone and his companion evaded their foes, and on the twenty-ninth day arrived at the Falls of the Ohio, whither Governor Dunmore had directed them to go.
Only once had Daniel Boone referred to the purpose of his journey, and then he had explained to Peleg how the Governor had become exceedingly anxious concerning the safety of the surveyors. Cut off as they were in their faraway camp from the help of others, they also were unaware that the hunters were bringing word of the increasing restlessness among the Indians. Some of the scattered settlers recently had been killed by the angry tribes, and the rumours and reports all had it that the Shawnees, Delawares, and Wyandottes were becoming more and more savage in their attacks upon the whites, upon whom they now looked with deadly hatred because they were making homes in their land.
The coming of Daniel Boone and his young companion aroused much interest among the band of surveyors whose headquarters were at the Falls of the Ohio. Several log houses had been erected by them there, and the little settlement bore more evidences of refinement than one usually found on the frontier. There were many questions asked and a deep interest shown in the doings of the great world beyond, with which the lonely men had had nothing to do for many long months.
When, however, Daniel Boone explained the purpose of his coming, most of the men received his word with incredulity. They acknowledged that occasionally they had seen a few Indians, but not yet had they been molested, nor had any threats been made against their remaining where they were.
To such statements the great scout made no reply except to repeat the reason for his coming, and the anxiety of Governor Dunmore in their behalf.
"We will sleep over it and let you know to-morrow," declared one of the men laughingly. "You don't think anything will happen to-night, do you?"
"I am willing to wait until the morrow," said Boone quietly. "You must decide, however, within two days what you will do."
There was one young member of the surveyors' party who apparently had not been long in the new world. He explained to Peleg, to whom he was drawn because they were nearly of the same age, that he had come to America to make a fortune. "I am the youngest son of Earl Russell. In England the younger boys do not have many opportunities, because all the property is left to the oldest son, so I have come to America, and hope to secure for myself some great tracts of land over here. They may not be valuable to-day or in the near future, but some time, as surely as the sun rises, they will be of great worth. You must come with me," he continued, "early to-morrow morning to Fontainebleau."
"Where?" demanded Peleg.
"Where is that, and what is it?" demanded the young scout.
"It is a name we have given to a spring about a mile from here on the opposite side of the river. Five or six of us go there every morning and drink the waters. We have an idea that they are better than the waters of the real Fontainebleau."
"Where is that?"
The young Englishman laughed as he said: "'Tis plain that you have never travelled in France."
"I never did," acknowledged Peleg. "I have travelled in the woods, though, and before we get back to the settlement some of you may be glad that Daniel Boone and I have had that experience."
The young Englishman again laughed, but made no reply.
In the morning, however, he, together with six other men, stopped at the little cabin in which Daniel Boone and Peleg had been spending the night, and in response to his invitation the young scout joined the party when they explained that they were going to Fontainebleau to drink of its marvellous waters.
The carelessness and indifference of the men somewhat alarmed Peleg, who was still under the influence of his recent companion, the scout. Daniel Boone had impressed upon the boy the need of continual vigilance and silence. No one could say when danger might suddenly present itself. Frequently he recalled the escape he had had through the shot which James Boone in the preceding year had fired at the panther crouching above his head. This always impressed the young woodsman afresh with the need of continual care. Nevertheless he enjoyed the conversation of the men with whom he was walking, though he himself seldom spoke.
When the little party arrived at the spring the waters caused Peleg to express his disgust. Heavily charged with sulphur and various other chemicals, the taste was one that did not appeal to the young scout. His companions, however, professed to enjoy the water, which was marvellously clear and sparkling, and drank deeply, casting themselves prostrate upon the ground as they did so, and drinking from the spring.
Three of them were in this position and the other four were urging their companions to make haste, when suddenly wild yells arose that seemed to come from every direction at once. Before the startled men were fully aware of what was occurring a band of Indians rushed from the woods, some armed with rifles and others using their bows and arrows.
Only part of the little band of surveyors had been armed when they had started that morning from the settlement for the spring at Fontainebleau. The young scout, however, who was mindful of the teachings of his leader, had brought Singing Susan with him. As Peleg was about to fire, an arrow pierced the young Englishman between the shoulder blades, and with a loud cry he fell to the ground.
A TERRIFIED BAND
It was Peleg's first experience in taking command of a party. The helplessness of the surveyors, however, and the fact that they all turned to him for directions, at once decided the young scout to lead, and he well knew there was no time to be lost.
In his position he was aware also that the Englishman was in dire distress, and apparently he was the only one who could aid him. The decision to act had come to the young scout promptly, and he had almost instinctively raised Singing Susan to his shoulder and fired at the Indians, whom he could see darting from tree to tree and plainly trying to come nearer the spring.
Before he reloaded his gun Peleg turned to his companions, two of whom were already disappearing among the trees in the distance.
"Come here," he said in a low voice. "Help me with this man."
Two of the young surveyors obeyed his word, and with all speed the trio carried the body of their fallen comrade within the shelter of the forest. When Peleg looked down into the face of the suffering man he was convinced that his wound was fatal.
It would never do, however, to leave the man in his misery. Turning to his companions he called: "Retreat cautiously! Use the tree trunks for shelter! Take this man with you!"
While speaking, the young scout hastily reloaded his gun. This task completed, he turned once more to his companions and said: "Take the man now and go! Do as I tell you! I shall bring up the rear and do my best to stave off the Indians. They are sure to follow us, though I do not think there are more than eight or ten in the whole band."
Three of the men who were members of the party which had visited the spring had brought their guns with them. Two of these weapons were in the hands of the men who were to carry the young surveyor back to the settlement.
Seizing these weapons and making certain that all were loaded and primed, Peleg darted behind a huge maple, from which he was able to see that the Indians were stealthily approaching. No cry had been heard from them since the loud whoop they had given when first they had darted into the open space and fired upon the unsuspecting men.
Peleg waited until the men who were carrying the surveyor had had an opportunity to withdraw to a considerable distance among the trees, and as he saw the red men were coming nearer he abruptly fired upon them. He first discharged Singing Susan, and then, before the smoke had cleared, he fired the other two guns in quick succession.
A low exclamation of pleasure escaped his lips when he saw that his shots had taken sufficient effect to cause the Indians hastily to disappear from sight and to send forth several of their noisy challenges.
Taking advantage of the favouring opportunity, the young scout reloaded his own rifle and, casting the other two guns from him, ran at his utmost speed in the direction in which his recent companions had disappeared.
As soon as he had overtaken them he was aware that the Indians were again closing in upon the retreating band. He was startled to find that the red men were moving in the form of a semicircle. By this means they doubtless hoped to cut off the men before they could regain the safety of the settlement.
Bidding his friends make haste with their burden, Peleg once more fired upon the yelling Indians. His main purpose was to try to impress upon their minds the fact that the retreating band was armed and prepared to defend itself. He was more and more disturbed, however, by his increasing fear that their retreat would be cut off, and all three might fall into the hands of the yelling savages.
Several times the same maneuvers were followed, Peleg bidding his friends, who still were carrying the young surveyor, to precede him on their way back to the settlement, while he himself remained behind to fire Singing Susan at such of the Indians as exposed themselves. After each shot he hastily reloaded his rifle and withdrew to join his companions.
After his third shot Peleg was almost persuaded that escape was impossible. The semicircle had been extended until he was fearful that if the warriors should rush upon them they would enclose the three white men.
Still the boy was determined to do his utmost to help the fallen surveyor and protect the two men who were bearing their unconscious comrade through the forest. In his zeal the young scout had almost forgotten his own peril. His attention was divided between the retreating party and the Indians who were pressing so swiftly upon them.
Suddenly Peleg said to himself, as he heard the report of a rifle far away, "There is Daniel Boone! If he and the other surveyors have come out to help us we may stand a little better chance of getting out of this alive."
The report of the rifle which had been heard by Peleg was speedily followed by the sound of other guns. Convinced by what he had heard that help was at hand, Peleg regretted the loss of the guns which he had cast aside in his fear that they might hinder him and his friends in their efforts to withdraw from the spring. Soon the reports of the guns were repeated, and as Peleg sent forth his wild halloo he was answered by a cry which he recognized as coming from Daniel Boone himself.
It was not long before Peleg saw the scout approaching through the forest. The silent man was thoroughly aroused. Usually quiet in his manner and deliberate in his actions, it now seemed as if his every nerve was tingling in his excitement. Sheltered behind nearby trees, Peleg watched the approaching surveyors, some of whom were loading their rifles rapidly, while others were firing at the enemy.
It was soon evident that the Indians, disheartened by this fresh attack, were withdrawing into the forest.
As soon as Daniel Boone saw Peleg and the two men approaching with their burden, his plan instantly changed. Summoning the young scout, he said, "Send all the rest of them back to the settlement as fast as they can go. You and I, lad, are the only ones prepared, so we are the only ones who can protect these men."
"Will the Indians leave?" inquired Peleg in a low voice.
"For a time, yes," answered Daniel Boone. "If the surveyors make haste they will be able to get back to the settlement. You and I, lad, must try to hold these Indians off until our friends have had time to carry back the man who was shot. Was he killed?"
"No. He was alive when I saw him last, but I do not think he will live long."
"Was it an arrow?"
Daniel Boone nodded his head and made no further reply. Darting from tree to tree, the two scouts stealthily made their way through the forest in the direction in which their friends had gone.
Apparently there was no longer any peril of an immediate attack by the Indians. None of them appeared within sight, and the sound of their wild cries no longer was heard.
Alternately stopping and retreating, Daniel Boone and his young companion at last regained the shelter of the settlement at the Falls of the Ohio.
The little houses of logs were well protected, and as there was an abundance of ammunition as well as of food on hand, the great scout said to Peleg: "We could hold out here two months if it should be necessary."
"But we are not to stay here, are we?" inquired Peleg anxiously.
"No. We must leave just as soon as we can do so safely."
The conversation was interrupted by the entrance of the surveyors in a body. Fear, and even panic, was manifest in the face of every one. The unexpected attack upon their comrade had confirmed the warning which Governor Dunmore had sent by the two scouts, and not only did no one want to remain, but all were eager to be gone at once.
"We must start to-night," said MacHale, the oldest of the party. "We must not remain!"
"Not to-night," said Daniel Boone quietly.
"It is as necessary for us to know our way as it is for us to retreat."
"But you found your way here! Why can you not find it when you go back?"
"I can," replied Boone quietly. "It is not for myself I fear. I would not be the leader of a party unfamiliar with the woods and facing what we must if we leave here in the night. You must be prepared to start as soon as the gray of dawn appears."
"But we want to go before!" persisted the surveyor.
Boone quietly shook his head and gave no further explanation. The matter was decided, and plainly the scout thought there was nothing more to be said. Ignoring the anger as well as the alarm of the surveyors, the great scout at once busied himself in preparing for the departure which would not take place until the following morning. The services of Boone, however, were not required in caring for the wounded surveyor, because life had fled before the party regained the settlement.
There was a hasty burial in the dim light, and then Boone bade his companions obtain such sleep as they could, he himself preparing to serve as guard throughout the night.
At last, however, he consented to the pleadings of Peleg and permitted the lad to keep watch during the earlier hours. As soon as this had been decided Boone cast himself upon the ground and, apparently confiding in the ability of Peleg to protect the camp, was soon sleeping soundly.
Just before daybreak the entire band departed from the Falls of the Ohio. In advance went Daniel Boone as guide, while Peleg was to serve as the rear guard.
"It is a long race," the scout explained to his companions. "We have four hundred miles to cross before we arrive at the settlement on the Clinch River. Our safety depends largely upon the promptness with which you do my bidding. If there is one of you who is not willing to obey me in every particular I shall greatly prefer to have him go by himself."
Every member of the party, however, assured the scout that his word was to be law and that every one would implicitly follow his directions throughout the long journey. When daylight came it was manifest in the faces of the surveyors that the terror of the forest was still strong upon them. Every man was armed, and every one carried a small pack upon his back.
It was impossible to make as good time on the return as had been made by Boone and Peleg in the journey to the Falls. However, both hunters were urgent and seldom stopped even when heavy storms came upon them.
At last, when the long journey had been safely made, and the settlement on the Clinch River had been gained, the spirits of the surveyors revived, although they were free to declare that it was the care and wisdom of Boone and his young companion which had brought them safely through the wilderness.
Nearly eight hundred miles had been covered by the two scouts in their long journey, and only sixty-two days had been required to complete it.
Boone and his companion, however, were not to be permitted to rest long. Less than a week had elapsed after their return when Boone called Peleg aside one morning and explained to him that a new project, and one still more perilous than that through which they had safely come, was now to be undertaken.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE SCHOOLMASTER
"Peleg," said the great scout, "Governor Dunmore has sent another request to me."
"Has he?" inquired Peleg eagerly.
In spite of the perils and labours of the long journey which had been made to the Falls of the Ohio, Peleg was eager to be with Daniel Boone wherever he might be. The boy's admiration for his friend had increased with every passing day. The coolness and calmness of the great scout, his gentleness and consideration of others, his fearlessness in time of peril, the readiness with which he met every event, and above all the conviction which held him that he was divinely called to be a pathfinder for the coming generations, all had made a deep impression upon his young companion. Peleg was not without hope, too, that somehow he was coming to hold a place in the interest and affection of the man which once had been held by his son James.
"Yes," continued Boone thoughtfully, "the Governor has given me the command of three garrisons in the campaign which is to be made against the Shawnees."
"When do you go?" queried Peleg.
"Immediately—that is, if I can persuade you to look after my family while I am absent. Israel is beginning to feel that he is almost old enough to take the place of his brother James, but I shall feel very much more at ease if I can go with the assurance that you will be looking out for the welfare of my wife and children."
Striving to repress the disappointment which he felt at the words of his friend, Peleg said quietly, "You know, sir, that I shall be willing to do all in my power for you at any time. I do not know, but——"
The rare smile known only to his closest friends appeared for a moment on the strong face of the hunter as he shook his head and said: "Nay, Peleg, not this time. I fancy there will be other and perhaps greater work soon to be done, and in that you shall have your share. The time is coming when I hope to take my family again to that marvellous region I have found in Kantuckee. No land I have ever seen can compare with it. There I would live and there I would die. Meanwhile I must do my part in trying to make the lives of these hardly beset settlers a little safer."
"You may depend upon me to do my best," said Peleg cordially.
"That is all I need to know, lad, and I shall be at ease while I am gone."
The great scout immediately departed from the little shop which Peleg had built and in which he was accustomed to make or repair the various utensils used by the household of Daniel Boone. Here he had fashioned Singing Susan, and in this place he had rebuilt his gun after his return from the long journey he had made with the scout and in which, as we know, the rifle had suffered from the blow of the tomahawk which the huge Indian had hurled at him.
A moment Peleg stood in the doorway watching the scout as he departed. The expression of the lad's face plainly showed his love and admiration for the man. The calm courage of Boone, softened as it was by his gentleness and guided by his prudence, was crowned by a marvellous modesty. His robust, somewhat uncouth body showed the great strength of the hunter, while it concealed his quickness. His manner was dignified, almost cold, so silent and quiet was he under ordinary circumstances. His face, however, homely though it was, was at times lighted by an expression that was exceedingly kind and tender. He seldom spoke, and almost never of himself, except in reply to direct questions.
Several times during the months that followed Daniel Boone returned to the little settlement on the Clinch, to visit his family and make certain of their safety. On each occasion he was warm in his expressions of gratitude to Peleg for the care which he was taking of those who were in a measure dependent upon him.
There was work to be done every day, and the time passed rapidly for the young scout. One day, while he was busy in his little shop fashioning a new hunting knife, he was suddenly interrupted by the voice of Mrs. Boone. "Peleg! Peleg!" she called. "Come! Come!"
Instantly running toward the log house, Peleg was met by the frightened woman, who, touching him on the arm, said: "Do you hear that sound? What is it?"
Peleg turned abruptly toward the log schoolhouse and listened intently. From within the rude little building sounds such as he never before had heard were issuing. There seemed to be snarls and growls such as a wild beast might have emitted, and mingled with these were cries and screams as of some one in dire distress.
A moment served to convince the young scout that either Schoolmaster Hargrave was in trouble, or some of the school children were in peril; and he darted into his little shop, returning with Singing Susan in his hands.
Swiftly as he ran toward the little building, which was not more than two hundred and fifty feet away, when he arrived he discovered that already several of the women from the settlement were there in advance of him, and with terror-stricken faces were looking first within the schoolhouse, and then to the road for help.
"What is it?" demanded Peleg, as he ran to the door.
"We do not know. We cannot tell," answered one of the women. "It may be evil spirits." She was almost hysterical, and convinced that he could obtain no information from her, Peleg pushed back the door and entered the room.
The sight which greeted his eyes was more perplexing than startling. He saw Schoolmaster Hargrave leaning against one corner of the rude desk over which he presided, his face plainly expressing agony or fear; Peleg was unable to determine which feeling predominated.
"What is it, Master Hargrave?" called the boy anxiously.
In reply no articulate words were spoken; but a scream was followed by a groan, and in the midst of it all were also sounds like the gasping and snarling of some wild beast. The suffering of the man was manifest, but the cause was nowhere to be seen.
There flashed into the mind of the young hunter the suggestion which Mistress Horan had made that evil spirits were the cause of the commotion. Such beliefs were not uncommon at the time, and although Peleg had never shared in the superstitions of the more ignorant people, nevertheless the mystery of the terrifying sounds, as well as the expression of Schoolmaster Hargrave's face, caused even the young hunter to hesitate.
"What is it, Master Hargrave?" he shouted, for the uproar still continued.
"Oh-h-h-h! Help me! Help me!"
The cries of the schoolmaster were interrupted by strange noises, that still appeared to come from within the desk. Moans and cries and snarls, such as a wild beast might have emitted, were plainly to be distinguished in the midst of the uproar.
Peleg had stopped a few feet in front of the desk, and in amazement was watching the man before him. Apparently the schoolmaster was struggling and striving with some unseen body or person, and with intense effort he had grasped both sides of the desk and held it with all his strength, as if he was fearful it might escape. In one hand he also held a cylindrical ruler.
At this moment Mrs. Horan, who had gained sufficient courage to enter the building, advanced to Peleg's side. "I fear 'tis sick the man is," she said. Turning to the schoolmaster she suggested in a loud whisper: "If 'tis colic you are suffering from, Master Hargrave, I would recommend——"
Her recommendation, however, was interrupted by a terrible scream from the suffering man.
"'Tis good for you," said the kind-hearted woman once more. The schoolmaster, however, still writhed as if in great agony and looked at the woman with an expression that might have quieted the tongue of a less courageous woman than Mrs. Horan.
"Why do you cling to the desk in that manner?" demanded the woman.
The agony in the expression of the schoolmaster's face seemed to be deepened by the question, but he made no response.
"What's the matter, Master Hargrave?" demanded the woman once more. "'Tis Peleg and I who are here to help you."
Suddenly from the lips of the tormented man came the cry, "I have caught a cat!" Perspiration was streaming from his face, and his manner, expressive of fright, agony, and fatigue combined, made his words scarcely recognizable.
Peleg glanced behind him and saw that many more of the neighbours had arrived and were curiously standing within the room at a safe distance from the desk, watching the actions of the man, who still writhed and twisted as he clung to the desk in front of him.
The young hunter darted around the corner of the rude desk, to discover the cause of all the trouble. He first saw that a part of the clothing of the unfortunate man had been torn from his body, which was pressed against the edge of the desk. Closer inspection showed that the teeth of a huge "cat," or lynx, were fastened in the side of the schoolmaster. Bringing his gun to his shoulder the scout was about to fire, when the fear of Master Hargrave became stronger even than his sufferings.
"Don't shoot! Don't shoot! You will hit me! Oh-h-h-h!" he screamed, still striving to hold his adversary against the edge of the desk.
Disregarding the appeal, Peleg fired, and after a few confused struggles, the huge cat was lifeless.
Still the schoolmaster held the body in its place, however, and when his sympathetic friends drew him back they were horrified to discover that the jaws of the dead lynx were locked about one of his ribs. Several minutes elapsed before the man was freed from this death grip.
Meanwhile the assembly in the room had increased, and several children that had been brought by their mothers lifted up their voices to add to the general confusion.
In the midst of it all, Mrs. Horan was not to be denied the satisfaction of her curiosity. Pressing more closely upon the man who now had been placed on one of the rude benches almost in a fainting condition, she said: "I thought at first, Master Hargrave, that it was spirits, but now I see it was just a cat. Why did you fight the lynx in that way?"
Ignoring his suffering, the schoolmaster managed to gasp out a tolerably full explanation:
"What do you suppose? I was sitting alone at my desk, writing copy for the children to use on the morrow, when I heard a noise at the door and saw this enormous cat with her forefeet upon the step, every hair standing erect and her eyes shining as if they were on fire. My position behind the desk at first concealed me from her sight, but a slight motion of my chair revealed my presence, and in a moment the cat and I were each looking into the eyes of the other."
Master Hargrave stopped to recover his breath, and aware of the interest of his hearers, for all the visitors now had gathered about him, he resumed his story: "I had heard much from hunters concerning the power of the human eye to quell the fury of wild beasts. Accordingly, I frowned savagely at my visitor. Apparently, however, she was not alarmed. Her eyes flashed fire and she began to gnash her teeth, seemingly bent upon serious hostilities. Aware of my danger, I immediately made great haste and snatched this cylindrical ruler from the desk, but the wildcat was too quick for me."
"Why didn't you hit her?"
"I had nothing but the ruler with which to strike; besides, she was too quick. Springing upon me with all the proverbial ferocity and activity of her tribe, she fastened upon my side with her teeth and began to rend and tear with her claws like unto a fury. In vain did I strive to disengage her. Her teeth seemed to be fastened about my ribs, and all my efforts served but to enrage her the more.
"When I saw the blood flowing so copiously from my wounded side I became seriously alarmed, and as a last resort threw myself upon the edge of the desk and with the entire weight of my body pressed the animal against a sharp corner. It was at this moment that the cat began to utter the most discordant cries to which I ever listened, and as doubtless I was somewhat excited at the time and lost a measure of my self-control, I have no question that we engaged in a duet that must have resounded loudly throughout the settlement."
"That's enough of the story," said Peleg. "We have killed the cat and we shall now take you and put you in bed."
Several weeks elapsed before the schoolmaster recovered sufficiently from his wounds to enable him to resume his task.
It was now March, 1775, and Daniel Boone had returned to the settlement on the Clinch. The task which Governor Dunmore had assigned him had been accomplished. He found Peleg and the members of his family engaged in their preparations for the spring work.
At the close of the first day after his homecoming, the great scout once more had an interview with Peleg. "I have just come from Watage," he explained when no one was near, "where there has been an assembly of the Cherokees. I went at the request of a gentleman named Henderson, who is acting for several other men as well as for himself. He desired me to represent him in the purchase of land south of the river of Kantuckee. I did as he requested, and arrangements for the purchase of all the land as far as the Tennessee River were completed."
"Why did Mr. Henderson——"
"Colonel Henderson," broke in the scout; "Colonel Richard Henderson."
"Why did Colonel Richard Henderson," repeated Peleg, "and the other gentlemen wish to purchase so much land?"
"Because they had learned of the fertility of the soil through the reports which my brother and I had given them. In a way I am to be their agent."
"Did the Cherokees sell to him?"
"They did. I fancy they were glad to part with an empty title for a solid though moderate recompense. Trouble arose, though, when Colonel Henderson and his friends prepared to take possession, relying upon the validity of the deed which the Indians had given them. Unfortunately, the land lies within the limits of Virginia, according to the old charter which King James gave, and I understand that the Virginians are claiming for themselves the privilege of purchasing the title to all land which the Indians held within the limits of their state. Already the treaty of Colonel Henderson has been pronounced null and void as far as he is concerned, but the Virginians declare that the title given by the Cherokees is valid, and that they will assume the rights. That is a very peculiar method of dealing, according to my light. But 'tis not concerning that, lad, that I would speak to you to-day."
The scout was silent a moment, and Peleg, interested far more than his quiet manner betrayed, looked eagerly into the face of his friend, waiting for him to explain.
"I agreed," resumed Boone, "to take a band of men with me and mark out or clear a road to this region in Kantuckee."
"A road?" asked Peleg in surprise.
"Yes, a road over which packhorses and wagons can be driven. It will require patience and much labour, but the reward will be great. Whenever I think of that marvellous country and of the possibilities contained in it for families like my own, I am eager to open the way to it. I am authorized by Colonel Henderson to say that he will pay thirty-three cents per day to every man whom I may select to be of our company."
"When do we go?" inquired Peleg eagerly.
"On the day after to-morrow. How is Singing Susan?" inquired Boone with a smile.
"She is doing famously. I have gained a reputation in the settlement for being a better shot than I would be warranted in claiming to be, unless I had the song of Susan to help me."
"That is good," said Boone cordially. "Now if you can secure an axe that will render you as efficient service in its way as Singing Susan does in hers, you will be well equipped for our expedition. It is important that we make haste, if the way is to be opened in time for settlers to sow any crops this spring."
Hard as it was for Daniel Boone to leave his family again in charge of Israel and Samuel, nevertheless his strong feeling that he was simply an instrument being used to further the advance of the rapidly growing nation in the American colonies was sufficient to induce him to accept this task. In addition, his wife shared the same conviction. She, too, was eager for him to continue his labours, and in spite of the anxiety she would suffer during his absence, she urged him to accept the offer which Colonel Henderson had made.
At the appointed time a band of twenty-five men, every one fully armed and all equipped with axes, departed from the settlement on the Clinch. Confidence in their leader and the hope that not only would they be able to open a way into the marvellous land, but that their own families also might share in the reward, made all the men eager to go. It was not believed that the task would require many weeks, but the necessity of preparing the soil and planting some crops before the summer came was an inducement for haste.
There were places where trees had to be felled, and the ringing of the axes was heard all the day long. In other regions, however, very little labour was required, because the road, as it was selected, led in its winding course around many open ledges and through sparsely wooded passes of the hills and mountains.
Nearly three weeks passed and the hardy band of hunters and woodsmen was drawing near the region which they were seeking. They had not been molested by the Indians, and were beginning to congratulate themselves that they were to escape the perils which every day threatened them.
Without warning, one day, however, above the ringing of the axes were heard the wild cries of the red men. Darting from the woods, shouting and brandishing their guns and hatchets, the Indians suddenly appeared. Dodging from tree to tree and firing upon the startled white men, they seemed to be on all sides at once.
Instantly the coolness and courage of Daniel Boone became invaluable. Though many of his comrades had been surprised and terrified by the sudden onslaught, the great scout had held himself prepared for the present emergency.
"Run for the trees!" shouted Boone. "Run! Hold your fire until you gain cover and then give the rascals your best!" As Boone looked out from his own shelter after his rifle had been discharged, he saw several of his companions lying dead or wounded upon the ground.
Calmly yet swiftly Boone darted from the protection of the forest, and lifting one of the men in his arms bore him back within shelter.
The example of the leader, mindful of the needs of others in the hour of his own peril, inspired his companions to similar action, and, in the midst of all the turmoil and danger, the other wounded men were rescued. It soon was discovered, however, that three of the fallen men were already dead.
The temporary withdrawal of the warriors to the forest left the field free once more, and Boone turned to his companions and said, "Come with me, every one!"
Instantly his followers responded, and, dashing to the place where their companions had fallen, they bore the bodies back to a place of safety, thankful to find that they had not yet been mutilated.
There was no time for ceremony or for lamentations, and the three who had fallen to rise no more were hastily buried in one grave by their comrades.
The unexpected attack, following as it had the long days of quiet, was seriously disturbing to the roadmakers. That evening there were no camp-fires, and guards were established to watch through the night.
When morning came the alarm had not been repeated, and many were persuaded that the assault of the previous day was merely the act of a desperate band which had attacked the settlers without any preconceived plan. Nevertheless Daniel Boone declared that it was necessary to maintain a guard throughout the day.
The labour was entered into with zeal, and though a renewal of the attack was not made, thoughts of the new peril were in the minds of every man, and made all serious. At the request of his followers Boone devoted most of his time to scouting in the nearby region, a duty which he insisted upon sharing with his younger companion, Peleg.
The sun had dropped below the borders of the forest, and the men were congratulating themselves that the day had passed without a renewal of hostilities, when suddenly both scouts were seen running swiftly toward the place where the men had encamped for the night.
This startling sight was sufficient to arouse every member of the party. Every man seized his gun and ran for the shelter of some huge tree.
Boone was wildly gesticulating as he drew near, but his gestures were misunderstood by his friends. Before either scout was able to regain the place where the pioneers were hiding, there was another wild whoop and a band of Indians larger than that which had been seen the previous day darted from the woods in the rear of the settlers. Before they were able to return the unlooked-for fire, two of their number fell dead from the bullets of their enemies, while three more were wounded.
Like a flash the Indians were gone again. But Boone quickly rallied his startled followers and when the red men returned, as they did within a few minutes, appearing from another section of the forest, the hardy settlers were ready and awaiting their coming.
Once more had the careful preparation of Boone for what he thought was likely to occur saved his followers and himself from peril.
Several of the Indians fell under the deadly fire of the white men, and with loud cries and lamentations the warriors dragged their fallen comrades into the forest and once more disappeared.
"Never have I seen the Indians so savage as in these two attacks," said Boone soberly to Peleg, after guards had been established for the night and the men had stretched themselves on their blankets to obtain such sleep as was possible in the midst of the threatening dangers. "They seem almost beside themselves with rage."
"Do you still plan to go on?"
"I shall go on," said Boone simply. "The way must be opened for our people to gain some of the advantages of this wonderful region toward which we are moving. The tribes hereabout are a strange people. I have never known Indians more hospitable than are the Cherokees and Shawnees. If one brave enters the wigwam of another, even if it be that of a stranger, he is deeply offended if he is not given an invitation to eat, though he may just have had a meal at his own wigwam. Nor is it sufficient on these occasions that the ordinary food be offered him. You know the Indians live mostly on venison and hominy, but when a visitor comes, sugar, bear's oil, honey, and rum, if they have it, are to be set before him."
"Suppose they do not have anything in the house to eat?"
"Then the fact is stated quietly. It is at once accepted as sufficient. I was in a wigwam not long ago where the visitor thought the host was not as hospitable as he ought to be and he took him severely to task. He said: 'You have behaved just like a Dutchman. I shall excuse you this time, for you are young, and have been brought up close to the white people, but you must remember to behave like a warrior and never be caught in such little actions. Great actions alone can ever make a great man.' They are a strange people," added Boone thoughtfully. "I saw a white man some time ago trying to help in carrying some game which the warriors had shot. I shall never forget how the Indians laughed when, after the squaws and the boys had started to bring back the meat, this white man took a large piece of buffalo meat on his own back. After he had gone two or three miles he found it was becoming too heavy for him and he threw it down. Then I saw one of the squaws, laughing as if it was a huge joke, take the meat which the white man had dropped and put it on her own pack, which already was as large as that of the man, and carry the double burden back to camp."
"They are not as swift as our men, though," suggested Peleg.
"Not for a short distance," assented Boone, "but they can keep up a pace for an almost incredible length of time. I have known Indians who could run twelve or fourteen hours without a morsel of food, and then, after a light meal and a short rest, start again and go as far as they had before they stopped."
"They never do that in fighting, though."
"No, they may keep up a warfare for many years, but they never make a prolonged attack. They like a sudden dash such as they made upon us and in which those poor fellows were killed. Peleg, I fear the morrow. The Shawnees that are watching us see our axes, and they are sure now that we are trying to enter their hunting grounds and take away their lands. We shall have serious trouble, I fear."
And the following day Boone's fears were confirmed.
THE WHITE SHAWNEE
There was no open attack by the Indians such as had been made previously, though the yells of the warriors were frequently heard in the distance. It was plain that they were striving to terrorize the hardy settlers and make them turn back on their way.
One of the men who had been stationed as a guard was shot early in the morning and his mutilated body was not found until Daniel Boone, making a tour of the camp, discovered what had befallen his companion.
Returning to the camp, Boone summoned his men, and as soon as they were assembled, said to them: "We must stop our work on the road for a time and build a fort."
There was an expression of consternation on the faces of some of his comrades as they heard this quiet statement from the scout, and, aware of what was in their minds, though no one spoke, Daniel Boone continued; "It will not require many days. I think a fortnight will be sufficient for us to build such a fort as will protect us. We are now almost as far on our way as we wish to go. We will begin the work at once."
Whatever disappointment or fears may have been in the minds of his companions, no one made any open protest, and the task immediately was begun. Certain of the men were assigned to the felling of trees, others dug trenches and set the logs in the stockade, which was erected first.
When the stockade had been completed, various cabins were built wherein the men might live if they were compelled to seek the refuge of the fort.
The defences were erected near a spring of water that promised to be never-failing. Nearby was the river, so close to the fort as to enable the defenders to escape if flight became necessary. And yet the fort was sufficiently far from the banks to prevent an approach by their enemies without being discovered.
So steadily did the men labour that Boone's prophecy was fulfilled, and when fourteen days had elapsed the little fort was declared to be ready for occupancy. The stockade was strong and had been made of the stakes fashioned from the trees. One end of each log was sharpened and then all were driven into the ground side by side; portholes being provided at frequent intervals.
A feeling of intense relief came to the hardly beset men when the work was completed. The supreme thought, however, in the mind of the leader, was voiced when he explained to Peleg the following day: "It is now April, and I must go back to the settlement on the Clinch for my family."
"Alone?" inquired Peleg quickly.
"Yes, alone. I must not take one man away from the party here, and I shall be doubly anxious for you all while I am gone; but the time has come when I may think of my family and myself. In this wonderful land I, too, would make my home."
"But will you dare to come back with your family with only you and Israel to protect them?"
Boone's face lighted up with the rare smile which occasionally appeared upon it as he said: "There will be others, many others, I hope, who will join us on our way."
"I never knew the Indians to be so savage as they are now," suggested Peleg anxiously.
"That is true," said Boone, "and one cannot altogether blame them. They seem to be well-nigh mad in their hatred of us because we have begun to build our homes in the land which they planned to keep as their own. If it were not for their fear of the 'Long Knives,' as they term us, I fancy they would make a desperate assault very soon. As it is, however, they have a wholesome feeling of fear mingled with their anger, and although you will have to be continually on your guard, I do not believe they will venture to attack the fort while I am gone."
Peleg made no reply, and the scout, acting as if the last word had been spoken, soon after set forth on his long journey to the Clinch.
During the absence of their leader the men continued their labours, felling the trees and clearing the land, until in the immediate vicinity of the fort sufficient ground had been made tillable to enable them to plant the few seeds which Boone had insisted should be brought with them.
The days now were warm, and the delights of the marvellous climate were appreciated by all the men.
The only event of special interest that occurred during the absence of the scout was the coming of Sam Oliver. As unconcerned as if he had long been a member of the company and had earned his thirty-three cents per day for his labours, the hunter entered the fort one night and composedly received the warm greetings which were given him. It was well known that the newcomer was a famous shot, and the coming of even one man strengthened the little garrison not a little.
The general line of the defence of the fort was at once mapped out by Sam, who without a word assumed the position of leader. It was he who arranged the details and the nightly guards which were maintained, and it was his word which decided any dispute that arose among the men.
One day Peleg was on guard in the adjacent forest. His watch was almost ended and he was about to return to the fort, when he was startled to behold an Indian approaching with the palms of both hands extended.
Holding Singing Susan in readiness for instant use, and glancing keenly about him into the adjacent forest to make sure that his visitor was unaccompanied, Peleg waited patiently for the stranger to approach.
As the warrior drew near Peleg looked at him with increasing astonishment. Dressed in the Indian garb, the warrior, who seemed to be only about twenty years of age, nevertheless had no features like those of the neighbouring tribes. Tanned, the stranger undoubtedly was, but nevertheless his skin did not have the bronze colouring of the Indian. His figure and even his walk were more like the white man's. And yet in every other point the stranger apparently was of the Indian race.
As he drew near Peleg, his face was lighted by a smile as he said, "Me broder. Me white Shawnee."
Peleg did not respond, although his astonishment was increased by the speech of the approaching warrior.
"Me wan' go home. No fader. Me Shawnee fader. Me wan' white fader. White moder dead. White fader dead. No Shawnee fader some more."
The puzzling statements were followed by some words unintelligible to Peleg, though he concluded that they were spoken in the Shawnee tongue.
"Do you want to see Daniel Boone?" he inquired.
Gesticulating forcefully, the young man inquired, "He me fader?"
"White fader dead. White moder dead. Shawnee warriors kill me fader. Kill moder. Many moons ago."
A puzzled expression for a moment appeared on the stranger's face, and then, comprehending the meaning of the question, he opened and closed his hands so many times that, although Peleg was unable to count the number of moons indicated, he concluded that the Shawnee was approximately of his own age.
"Me live in Shawnee wigwam many moons. Me Shawnee. Me white Shawnee. Me have Shawnee fader and Shawnee broder," and he held up two fingers to indicate the number of his brothers.
"What are you doing here? What do you want?" demanded Peleg sharply. He was mystified by the statements which had been made and was fearful of some trap or treachery on the part of his visitor or his companions, who might even then be watching from the nearby forest.
"Me fader, me broder, me go," the visitor replied, pointing to himself. "All go trap many beaver, many mink, many muskrat," he added, making a circle with his hand to indicate his inability to count the pelts which had been taken. "Me broder he wan' go on warpath. He wan' help drive palefaces out Kantuckee. Me fader he say he go," nodding his head many times to emphasize his statement. "But one night many owls scream and cry. He say then no go. Me broder he say go. Me fader say yes."
"Where are they now?"
The young stranger gazed earnestly into the face of his questioner, and at last, apparently comprehending his question, turned and waved his hand toward the forest to indicate that the men to whom he had referred were far away.
"Why are you here? Why do you not go with them?"
"Me wan' see white faces some more. Me wan' find white broder. Me white Shawnee, where go? Must see paleface wigwam."
For a moment Peleg was silent as he gazed earnestly into the face of the young man who had so strongly impressed him. He was convinced that he was indeed white, and he concluded that he must have been adopted by the Indians many years ago. As a consequence of his association with the Shawnees, doubtless he had almost forgotten the language of his own people.
In his statement words unknown to Peleg were spoken, but he had understood enough to convince him that either the white Shawnee was speaking the truth, or else was trying to set some trap into which the defenders of the fort might be drawn.
"Come with me," said the young scout finally. As they turned toward the fort they met Sam Oliver, who stopped and gazed in surprise at Peleg's companion, and laughed scornfully when he heard the story of the stranger.
"You say you and your Shawnee father and brother buried the canoe in which you came down the river?" demanded the hunter brutally as he turned upon the visitor.
"Then you take us straight to the place where it is. I know well enough you are trying to play some sneaking game on us, and if you are, you will be the first one to suffer for it. If you try to lead us into any trap, no matter what happens to us, I will put a bullet into you."
"No go," pleaded the young warrior.
"You must go!" retorted Sam Oliver harshly.
Peleg sympathized with the stranger. He understood, he thought, the desire of the returning white man to shield his foster-father and brother. The young hunter was now convinced that his visitor had spoken truthfully.
"Sam," he ventured to suggest, "this young brave was stolen when he was a little child, and he has lived with his Shawnee father ever since. He doesn't want to betray him. You cannot blame him for that, can you?"
"There is only one way to deal with the varmints!" retorted Sam hotly. "You might just as well try to make a pet out of a nest of rattlesnakes as to try to be friends with an Indian. No, sir! This—whatever he is, white man, or red man—he must prove what he has said, and the only way for him to do it is to take us to the place where he pretends that canoe is buried in the ground."
The brutal manner of the hunter apparently had made a deep impression upon the stranger. With manifest reluctance he finally consented to conduct the party to the place where the canoe was buried. It was well known among the settlers that the Indians, after their voyages on the river, buried their light canoes to prevent them from being warped by sun and rain.
"You go where owl cry. Owl scream, me fader—iron——" The stranger stopped as if he was unable to recollect the word he wished to use, making motions with his hands to describe what he wished to say.
Peleg suggested, "Was it an iron kettle?"
A vigorous nod from the stranger indicated that was the word he was trying to recall, and he continued, "Me fader hide iron kettle in hole in tree. Me show you."
"You wait here," ordered Sam, "while I get two or three more men and we will soon look up that kettle."
Peleg suspected that the white Shawnee, in order to delay the quest of the hidden canoe and thereby give his foster-father and brother an opportunity to escape from the region, had suggested a visit to the tree where the cry of the owl had alarmed his father.
In a brief time, however, Sam and his companions returned, and the hunter roughly ordered the stranger to lead the way.
THE HIDDEN CANOE
While Sam Oliver had been gone to the fort to secure a few of his comrades to accompany him, the young Indian, or white, or white Indian—Peleg was uncertain to which class his visitor really belonged—entered with apparent confidence into conversation with the young scout. In his broken English he related many things concerning the life which he had lived in the wigwam of his foster father.
Peleg was impressed by the increasing facility with which the white Shawnee, as the young brave preferred to call himself, was using the language of the whites.
It may have been that the words he now heard recalled to his mind expressions which had almost faded from his memory. At all events he talked more freely and with an increasing ability to express himself.
"Me fader hear owl cry. He know from strange cry that some die or be pris'ner. He old man. He 'fraid. He say go back up river. Me broder he say no. Me say no. Me fader still 'fraid, but he keep him promise."
"What was his promise?" inquired Peleg.
"He say he take us on warpath to help keep palefaces from going into Kantuckee. He no wan' go, but he say he go. We all lie down sleep. Pretty quick me fader wake up. Me fader wake me broder. Wake me, too."
"What was the trouble?" asked Peleg.
"Me fader have sleep and see——"
"What do you mean, he had a dream?"
"That so," replied the visitor, nodding his head. "Me fader have dream."
"What did he dream?"
"He say we go to Kantuckee, we die. Me fader cry. He no wan' go on warpath."
"But you came," suggested Peleg.
His visitor nodded and continued: "Me fader say he keep him promise. But he say more. He say we go back to wigwam. Go quick. He good man. Heap good man. He keep him promise. Me broder say me fader mus' keep him promise now."
"So you came?"
"We go on warpath. Me fader say he go quick. No stay any more where we sleep."
"So you started right away, did you?"
"We go on warpath all night. When light come we turn to place where white man build fort."
"Are there many Shawnees here?"
The young visitor, nodding, said: "Pretty quick, heap Shawnee come."
He held up three and then four fingers to express the idea that the Indian bands were advancing in parties of three or more, and at some prearranged place or by some well-known signals the scattered little parties would be brought together and one large band formed.
The information was startling to the young scout and seemed to him to be altogether probable. It was in accordance with the well-known methods of Indian fighting, and agreed with experiences which the young hunter already had had.
He deeply regretted the absence of the great leader. The gentleness and firmness, the courage and resource of Daniel Boone would be greatly needed if the Shawnees attacked the little fort. Boone, however, was not near and his help could not be relied upon.
Meanwhile Peleg was awaiting the return of Sam Oliver. He was well aware of the excellent qualities which the hunter possessed, and he was familiar also with the intense bitterness with which Sam looked upon the Indians. For him they possessed no good qualities. They were simply enemies of the whites and to be exterminated like the rattlesnake and the panther. He recognized no feeling of patriotism on their part, and, because the method of their warfare was cruel, he judged their motives accordingly.
"Me no wan' go where canoe is," said the young brave earnestly. "Me love Shawnee fader. Me no betray him. Him good man. Me fader kind to me. No wan' him lose scalp."
"It is too bad," acknowledged Peleg. He was distressed by the fear that Sam Oliver and his companions would have little mercy upon the Indian father to whom they were compelling the young man to conduct them. In his heart there was a desire to help the young stranger who had felt the call of his own people so strongly that he had even deserted the family which had cared for him since his early childhood.
Peleg's thoughts were interrupted by the return of the hunter and four of his comrades. It was evident that all five were suspicious of treachery, and also that they were determined to put the strange visitor's words to the test.
"Now, then!" ordered Sam, as he turned sharply upon the white Shawnee. "You take us straight to that place where you say your canoe was hid."
Apparently unmoved by the brutal demand, the young visitor answered, "Me no wan' you hurt me fader. Him good fader. Him take care me."
"Why didn't you stay with him then?" laughed Sam.
"Me wan' see white fader's people, too. Me wan' find white moder's people," said the visitor simply.
"You will have time enough to look them up after we have found out whether you are telling us the truth or not," declared Sam. "I have my suspicions that you are trying to get us into some trap, and as I told you before, if you are I shall fill you full of lead the first thing. If I find you are trying to trap us, you cannot complain if I do just what I tell you I shall do."
"Me no wan' go," repeated the young man.
"You are going whether you want to go or not," retorted Sam Oliver brutally. "Are you coming with us, Peleg?" he inquired, turning to the young scout.
"I am," said Peleg quietly. He had made his decision instantly in his desire to protect or help the young visitor, whose suffering in the prospect of being compelled to betray his father had deeply stirred the heart of the young hunter. Aware that there was no escape from the demand, the white Shawnee turned and led the way into the forest.
The men who were following him were continually alert, suspicious as they were of the treachery of their guide, and fearful of the presence of other Shawnees in the forest through which they were moving.
The confidence of Sam Oliver, who followed close upon the heels of the stranger, in a measure strengthened the courage of his followers.
Peleg, who was next behind the leader, was as observant of the hunter as he was of the signs in the woods. He was convinced, too, that the young stranger was using time either to delay his followers or to give them an opportunity to abandon their demand for him to be false to the foster-father who had cared for him since his childhood.
If such thoughts had been in the mind of the young white Shawnee they were not expressed and certainly were not fulfilled. There was no escaping the demands of Sam Oliver and his companions.
At last, when an hour or more had elapsed, the guide stopped and, raising his hand in token of silence, in a low voice explained that they were approaching the tree in which the iron kettle had been concealed.
Instantly the demeanour of the settlers changed and they began to creep forward more stealthily. Every man was alert to discover the presence of the Indian who still might be near the place where the kettle had been hidden.
After a few moments Peleg perceived two Indians not far before him. Both were seated before a fire cooking some venison. One of the warriors was an old man and his companion not much more than a boy.
The guide discovered the two Indians at the same time that Peleg did and instantly he became greatly agitated. Once more he turned to Sam Oliver and in low tones begged him not to kill the man who had been his foster-father nor the other who had been his foster-brother.
"Sam," whispered Peleg, "it will be better for us just to make prisoners of these two men. I think we ought to do this. The boy plainly has spoken the truth. He did not want to betray his father and his brother, and you and I cannot blame him. Take both the Indians prisoners, but do not fire upon them."
Aware that Sam was somewhat moved by his plea, Peleg repeated his request more urgently and was almost as relieved as the guide when at last Sam reluctantly consented.
In accordance with the directions of the hunter the band scattered to surround the place where the two unsuspecting Indians were cooking their dinner. When all the preliminaries had been completed, Sam Oliver stepped forward and in his loudest tones demanded the surrender of both men. At the same time his companions darted forward, making a rush upon the unarmed warriors.
To the surprise of every one, the old Indian made a desperate resistance. With an almost incredible quickness the Indian boy dodged his enemies and escaped to the forest. The old man, apparently striving to hold back the attacking party, resisted to the utmost of his strength until in his rage Sam Oliver raised his rifle to his shoulder and shot him.
The recent guide, when he saw his foster-father fall, instantly rushed to the spot where the old man was lying. The aged warrior was bleeding profusely, but he was still conscious. Flinging himself upon the ground beside the prostrate body, with the tears streaming down his cheeks and his voice broken by sobs, again and again the white Shawnee spoke to the aged warrior. Even Sam Oliver was silent as he saw the grief of their guide.
His companions indifferently watched the bereaved boy, but Peleg looked away when he saw the old man raise his hand feebly and place it upon the head of his adopted son. It was a token of his forgiveness, although his few words were not understood by the listening group. The meaning of the act, however, was clear to every one.
Soon the old warrior breathed his last, and as soon as Sam Oliver was aware that the end had come his sympathy speedily departed. Turning once more to the guide and ignoring the grief of the boy, he roughly said: "Now take us where that canoe is buried. The other Indian has got away from us, and he will probably make straight for the canoe. You lead us there about as fast as you can travel and we will try to head him off before he can go down the river!"
In broken utterances the young white Shawnee begged the hunter not to enforce this last demand. "Me show where me fader was. Me fader dead. Me no show where broder is. Me wan' broder escape. No go broder! No go broder!" he besought the hunter earnestly.
Sam Oliver, however, was not to be turned from his decision. "You go with us or I shall make you!" he said, and in spite of Peleg's protests he turned the young guide's face to the forest and with many threats compelled him to lead the way.
Two hours elapsed before they came near the place where the canoe had been buried. Creeping cautiously among the trees, the settlers came within rifle shot of the spot, and as they peered keenly about them no one at first was able to discover the presence of the young Indian.
By the direction of Oliver every man remained in his hiding-place waiting for the arrival of the Indian boy, who, Sam was convinced, would soon come to the place. This expectation was fulfilled, as in about ten minutes the young Indian appeared and started to the sandy shore of the river.
Without hesitation he proceeded to the spot where the canoe had been hidden and, as he began to dig the sand, the hunter ordered his companions to fire upon him. The reports of the five rifles rang out together.
The young Shawnee leaped high into the air and fell dead upon the sand. Doubtless he never knew of the unwilling treachery of his foster-brother by which he and his father had lost their lives.
The grief of the white Shawnee at the death of his foster-brother was pitiful to behold. Even Sam Oliver and his companions, who seldom showed any sympathy for the Indians, were not unmoved by his agonized cries of grief.
In the Shawnee tongue, some words of which all the white men present understood, the young stranger poured forth his sorrows. He called upon the spirits of his foster-father and brother to wait for him in their journey to the happy hunting-grounds. He explained that in no way had his treachery been of his own choosing. In spite of his protest, he explained, he had been compelled to direct the white men to the place where those who were nearest and dearest to him had fallen before their fire.
Several minutes elapsed and no one of the settlers spoke. Then Sam Oliver said sharply: "We have had enough of this! I feel just about as guilty as I do when I shoot a panther cub." Without a further word the hunter stepped to the place where the body of the young Indian was lying and scalped his victim. Even Peleg, hardened though he was to the scenes that were enacted upon the border, shuddered as he saw his companion perform this act.
At the urgent request of Peleg the white Shawnee was permitted to return with his newly found friend to bury the body of his foster-father, after his brother also had received decent burial at his hands.
When this act, in which Peleg had aided, was completed, the young hunter turned to his heartbroken companion and said, "You must come to the fort with me."
"No go! No go!" wailed the visitor.
"I do not blame you very much," acknowledged Peleg, "but you have no other home, and you might just as well come with me. I am sure you will be treated kindly, and as soon as Daniel Boone comes back you need have no further fears. If you go back to the Shawnees they will think you have betrayed your father and brother. Of course I understand that you did not do anything of the kind."
"Me do! Me false to me fader," interrupted the white Shawnee, his lamentations breaking forth afresh.
"What is your name?" abruptly demanded Peleg.
The reply of his companion sounded to him very like Tontileaugo, but although it was repeated several times Peleg was unable to pronounce it distinctly.
"I might call you Tonti, and I might call you Henry. Which do you like better?"
"No call Tonti."
"Then I will call you Henry. Don't you remember what your name was when you were a white boy?"
"Henry" shook his head, although plainly he was striving to recall the name which belonged to the years that were now dim in his memory.
"You come with me," said Peleg.
Together the two boys returned to the fort. Neither of them spoke until they entered within the stockade, where the men of the settlement were assembled listening to Sam Oliver's dramatic description of the events which had just taken place.
The sight of the hunter seemed to revive the sorrow of Henry, as Peleg henceforth called the young stranger, and bring back recollections of his own, unwilling treachery to the family which had been kind to him since the time of his adoption into the tribe.
However, Peleg did his utmost to shield his friend, to whom his heart went out in strong sympathy.
"What you goin' to do with your friend?" laughed Sam as he spoke to Peleg when the group at last scattered.
"I am going to take care of him," replied Peleg quietly.
"Make a pet of him, are you? The next rattler I find or the next wolf's cub I run across I will bring back to you, lad, and let you make a pet of that, too. The only trouble is that a rattlesnake is kinder at heart than an Indian."
Peleg shook his head but did not reply to this statement of the hunter.
"It is true, what I am tellin' you," continued Sam, as if somehow he was striving to justify himself. "It's got to be extermination. Either you kill the redskins or they will kill you. There isn't room for both in the same land. They are trying to kill us off, and I am not one to sit down quietly and invite them to bring their tomahawks and brain me. If I can get the drop on them before they can get it on me, that's all to my advantage."
"I think Henry feels——" began Peleg.
"Henry? Who's Henry?" broke in Sam Oliver.
"That's the name I have given this boy. He told me what his name was in Shawnee, but I could not quite get it. It sounded like Tontileaugo, and I offered to call him Tonti for short but he didn't like that."
"You will live to regret the day you ever took him in," warned Sam.
"But he is a white boy," persisted Peleg.
"Born white, but raised an Indian. It doesn't make much difference where a man is born. He grows to be like what he sees and is used to. He has been brought up to look at things through Indian eyes and he thinks Indian thoughts. You will find he will play you false before you are done with him."
"I shall have to take my chance as to that," said Peleg. "Daniel Boone has told me to try to do something to help somebody every day. He told me to start out with that in my mind the first thing every morning."
"You are makin' a mistake, lad," said Sam Oliver more quietly.
It was plain to Peleg that the old hunter was convinced that what he said was true, and there had been many experiences along the border to justify him in his conclusion. What Sam Oliver had been unable to comprehend was that, much as the methods of the Indians in their warfare were to be condemned, they still were fighting for the protection of the lands which they believed to be their own.
A few days afterward Daniel Boone and his family arrived with their little caravan, which included two milch cows and several pack-horses. The scout was hilariously greeted by the settlers, and without opposition at once resumed his position as leader of the little community.
Every one that could share in the labour was busily engaged now throughout the long hours of the day. The sound of the axe was continually heard, and the few crops which had been planted were carefully tended, and, what is more, were giving promise of an abounding harvest from the small sowing.
Peleg had related to the great scout the events which had been connected with the coming of Henry to the settlements. The young scout's heart was still sore for his friend, who now had little to say to any one except Peleg. Together the boys toiled in the field or hunted game in the forests; but Henry was never stationed as a guard.
"It is this way, lad," said Boone, after he had heard the entire story. "Sam Oliver means right, but he has no understanding of the feelings of any one else. Because I shoot an Indian and he shoots an Indian, he thinks we both act from the same motive. Never yet have I raised my rifle to fire at an Indian without feeling in my heart that perhaps he might be as fully entitled to the land for which he is struggling as I am. I should be glad to share with him. The trouble is he will not share with me. There ought to be room enough here for us both; but, now I am sure, lad, through the actions of the Indians themselves, it must be either white man or red man who will dwell in this wonderful country." As he spoke, Daniel Boone looked around him at the wonderful vision that spread before his eyes. It was a day late in the summer and a slight haze rested over the forests and the fields. The silence which enveloped all things was in itself impressive. The cloudless sky and the colours of the trees below the hill where the scout and his companion were standing combined to impress upon their minds the marvellous beauty of the region. "This is destined to be a great land, lad," Boone said simply. "It is a wonderful thing that you and I should have a little part in opening it up. When I close my eyes, almost I see the homes that will be built here, the men and women who will find resting-places here; even the voices of the little children who will be born two hundred years from now are sounding in my ears." Changing his tone, Boone said: "Have you seen anything in your friend to make you feel suspicious of him?"