Quickly Captain Holder gathered a band of seventeen angry men and started in pursuit of the Indians. It was not long before he overtook them, but he and his men were driven back after more than half the party had fallen.
The alarm now became widespread. The success which had attended the plans of the Indians encouraged them to continue their efforts. Sometimes singly, frequently in small parties, they crept close to the settlements and by their stealthy attacks kept the people in continual alarm.
There was no one now to dispute the great scout's prophecy that more serious trouble was to come. Within a few weeks an army of Indians, made up of bands from many of the northwestern tribes and numbering nearly six hundred warriors, began its march from Chillicothe.
The renegade Girty was in command. The little army moved with great caution, and their approach was unsuspected by the whites. One August night they arrived at Bryant's Station, surrounded it, and prepared to dash upon the unsuspecting people the moment the gates should be opened the following morning.
A DECOY AND AN ATTACK
The fort at Bryant's Station was for the protection of forty cabins placed in parallel lines upon a little hill on the bank of the Elkhorn River.
All through the night the garrison had been preparing as soon as daylight came to depart from the fort to carry aid to the men at Hoy's Station. A messenger had brought word to Bryant's Station of the defeat which almost had overwhelmed Holder and his men. If Girty's band of six hundred Indians had arrived a few hours later they would have found in the fort only a few women and children, besides a small number of old men, unable to fight.
Afterward it was learned that the Indians were listening all through the night to the sounds of the activities within the fort, and when they saw the lights gleaming from the blockhouse and the cabins they must have suspected that news of their coming already had been received by the inmates.
However, they made no attempt to steal upon the fort in the darkness, although Girty and the Indian chiefs were planning and arranging their attack for the following day.
For some strange reason many of the forts on the border had been built at a considerable distance from the springs upon which the people depended for their water. The fort at Bryant's Station was no exception.
By Girty's direction many of the Indians placed themselves in hiding, within shot of the spring. One hundred selected warriors also were stationed at a distance from the spring. The latter were ordered to open a sharp fire and make their presence known to the garrison. Doubtless the hope of the red men was that the actions of this party would draw the white defenders from their place of safety.
If their plan succeeded Girty then expected that the other band of warriors instantly would rush upon the opposite gate of the fort and hew it down with their tomahawks while the men were chasing the little decoy force. In this manner all the leaders of the attacking force expected to make their way into the little cabins within the stockade.
When daybreak came the garrison was almost ready to open the gates and march to the assistance of their friends at Hoy's Station.
Suddenly there was a furious and continued discharge of rifles accompanied by such hideous yells and screams and whoops that they terrified not only the women and children of Bryant's Station, but alarmed even the men, accustomed though they were to the methods of Indian warfare.
Running to the stockade and peering out through the loopholes, the startled white men saw before them a small band of Indians. These warriors were plainly exposed, yelling and making the most insulting and furious gestures toward the fort.
All this was so different from their usual custom that some of the older men of the fort warned their comrades that a trick of some kind was being played upon them.
"It is a decoy party," said one of the men positively. "They will draw you out of the fort and before you know it you will find yourselves surrounded by more than a hundred of those howling savages."
"That is right" said another. "My suggestion is that we all make for the other side of the fort. I believe the Indians are trying to draw us out on this side and then attack us on the other."
The experiences which many already had had with the Indians of the border confirmed the impression made by the words of the last speaker. Even the younger men, who were eager to sally forth and attack the young warriors that were making such a commotion, were held back by the suggestion.
"We cannot protect ourselves very long in the fort," said one of the men when the defenders had been divided into two bands.
"Why not?" inquired another.
"Because we have no water. There is not enough water in the fort to last us thirty hours."
"What can we do?" inquired one of the older men after a tense silence had followed the statement of the speaker. "If we go down to the spring the Indians will pick us off, every one."
"Send the women," suggested another. "They go to the spring every morning. The Indians may not think we have any suspicion of what they are planning to do. If the women and girls go to the spring for water just as they usually do the Indians will not fire at them. They will want to save all their bullets for their attack on this side when our men have been drawn out to chase the savages who are yelling now on the other side."
"It seems cowardly," said another man "to ask the women to go down to the spring when we know it would be sure death for us to go."
"It will not be sure death for the women, and my opinion is that not one of them will be harmed," said the first speaker positively. "At all events we can ask them to go and let them say whether they will or not."
When the proposition was made to the women there were some who made replies not unlike those which their male defenders had suggested in the council. Some of them said: "If the men were afraid that they might be shot, why should they ask the women to go in their place?" Then it was explained just why the request was made. Immediately some of the bolder women and girls, taking their buckets, opened the gates and started toward the spring, which was only a short distance from the fort.
Frightened, the women undoubtedly were, and with good reason. But with unbroken lines they continued on their way to the spring. One by one they knelt and filled their buckets and then joined the line which was returning to the fort.
When the matrons and maids had arrived within a few yards of the open gate their terror became so overpowering that they all began to run for the shelter. Many a dusky face had been seen on the borders of the forest, but not a shot was fired at the bold girls and the women of Bryant's Station when they brought the water from the spring to the inmates of the fort.
"Now is our time," said one of the men, after the return of the women. "We ought to do two things: First we must get some one out of the fort to carry word to Boone of the trouble we are having."
"And second?" inquired one of the company.
"We must send out some of the younger men to attack that decoy party."
"That's right," suggested one of the young men eagerly. "We must go out and make all the noise we can. Then all the other men here in the fort can be ready for Girty when he comes, and I know he will come."
"I will carry the message to Boone," volunteered one of the younger men named Bell. It was arranged that he should depart with the young men who were to attack the decoy party, and then instead of returning to the fort he should make a dash into the forest and try to make his way to Boonesborough as speedily as possible.
The men in the fort were all serious when they saw thirteen of their younger companions depart from the fort through the gate which opened toward the place where the decoy party had been seen.
"Do not chase the varmints too far," charged one of the watching men.
No response was given to the warning, and as soon as the hardy, young settlers had departed the gate was closed and the remaining men, cocking their guns, took their positions to await the result of the expected attack as soon as it should be unmasked.
It was not long before the report of rifles was heard from the distant road, and gradually the sound indicated that the men were being decoyed farther and farther from the fort.
"Girty will order an attack on us soon, now that the boys have made so much noise," suggested one of the waiting defenders.
Scarcely had the man spoken when Simon Girty, springing from the forest at the head of five hundred of his painted warriors, rushed upon the western gate of the fort. It was plain that they were trying to force their way over the undefended palisade.
The men of the Station had been carefully arranged in small divisions; and at the word from their leaders they fired upon the approaching warriors. The determination of the white men and their anxiety for their wives and children served to steady the nerve of every man and make of him a sharpshooter.
The consternation of Girty's army cannot be described. Startled by the unexpected resistance and beholding their comrades falling on every side of them, with wild cries of anger and dismay the painted braves scattered, and in confusion all ran back into the sheltering forest.
Two minutes after the sally not an Indian was to be seen, and the party of thirteen young settlers returned to the shelter of the fort.
Every defender of Bryant's Station, however, was aware that this was but the beginning of the siege. The attack now was undertaken more in accordance with the usual methods of Indian warfare. From behind trees or protected by rocks the red men fired upon the defenders whenever any one showed himself. And the men of Bryant's Station were replying to the attack in kind. Not much time had elapsed before it was plain that this method of warfare was without marked effect on either party.
By the middle of the afternoon, however, a sudden change occurred which instantly altered the entire combat. The cause of this change was due to the messenger who had been sent from Bryant's Station as soon as the discovery of the Indians had been made. Upon the fleetest horse in the settlement young Bell had succeeded in making his way to Lexington, with news of the dire need of help at Bryant's Station.
The messenger, however, was keenly disappointed when he found only the women and children and a few old men in the place. He was informed that the able-bodied men had all marched to the rendezvous at Hoy's Station as soon as the knowledge of Holder's defeat had been received.
Following the direction in which he had been informed the fighting band had gone, it was not long before Bell overtook them and gave them his message.
In the band were sixteen mounted men and more than twice that number of men on foot. As they set forth in response to Bell's appeal, their courage was strengthened by the report of the coming of a force of men from Boone's Station, among whom were Peleg, Israel, and the great scout himself.
A FIELD OF CORN
At a good pace the band was moving steadily over the rough roadway that led to Bryant's Station. The men were silent for the most part, for they had serious work before them. What a siege by five hundred Indians was likely to be, led by such a man as Simon Girty, required no description. The mounted men, however, preceding the men on foot, found little on their way to indicate the peril of their friends.
It was late summer now, and already some of the leaves of the forest were tinged with the colours of autumn. The song of a bird was seldom heard, although the locusts were noisily announcing their presence in the treetops.
As the advancing men came nearer the end of their journey their precautions increased. The men on horseback still led, but were closer to their comrades than in the earlier part of the journey. The information which the courier had brought had been so meagre that the exact location of Girty's band of warriors was not known. Bell had reported only that Bryant's Station was besieged and that Girty was the leader of the howling horde of savages.
Bryant's Station was less than a mile and a half distant. The advancing men were in a bend in the road, on one side of which stretched the primeval forest, while on the other one hundred or more acres had been cleared and planted to corn. The stalks of corn were higher than the head of the tallest man in the band.
"Come on!" called Peleg to Israel and his friends. "Let the men who are riding go around by the road and we'll cut across lots through this cornfield."
The suggestion at once was acted upon, and the men on foot, among whom were most of the boys and younger men in the rescuing party, ran into the cornfield where they were soon concealed from the sight of their companions. Around them the stalks were standing so high that it would have been an easy matter for one not accustomed to such places to lose his way.
Meanwhile, the mounted men continued on their way. It was unknown to them, as it was also to their companions in the cornfield, that the keen-eyed Indians had been aware of the departure of the courier from Bryant's Station. Indeed, it was suspected afterward that intentionally the red men had permitted him to proceed through their lines. All the warriors apparently were eager for the messenger to return and bring the men who doubtless would respond to his appeal.
Consequently, when the mounted men drew near the forest opposite the cornfield, they had no information or even suspicion that Girty's warriors, concealed behind the trunks of the great trees, were awaiting their coming. Steadily advancing, the horsemen soon were drawing near the place where the ambuscade had been formed.
Meanwhile, Peleg and Israel, in advance of their comrades, had been moving through the cornfield. They had arrived at a point which they thought must be midway in the great field, when at the sound of a gun both young pioneers stopped short, and Israel seized Peleg's arm as his face became pale and he said, "What has happened?"
There was slight need for Peleg to reply to the startling question. On the August air arose the reports of many rifles and the terrifying whoops of the Indians.
It was impossible for the men in the cornfield to see what was occurring in the road. They were aware of the attack, of course, and there was slight doubt in the mind of any that the entrance of the men on foot into the cornfield had been seen by their watching enemies.
"Keep close to me," said Peleg to his companion. "It is every man for himself, now, but I want you to stay by me. We will take our chances that way."
Peleg started when a whoop wilder and fiercer than any that had preceded it came from the bend in the road.
"I wonder if they got every man," whispered Israel, his voice trembling in his excitement. "I do not believe one of our men suspected there was any danger here. Not even my father spoke of it."
"Your father does not always speak of his fears. If it is possible for any one to get away I am sure your father will be safe."
"What's that?" whispered Israel sharply. From the sounds it was evident that some at least of the mounted men were fleeing from the place. The shots of the Indians were plainly heard, and it was clear that they were following the fugitives. Perhaps a few had contrived to force their way around the bend.
The two anxious young settlers, however, soon were recalled to the perils of their own position. Suddenly, not far to their right, they heard a rustling sound, as of the furtive approach of some one moving through the standing corn.
"Drop!" whispered Peleg. "Don't move! Do not say a word!"
The two boys cast themselves upon the ground, each holding his rifle in readiness for instant use. The sound of some one moving in the midst of the corn might indicate the presence of an enemy or of a friend, and until the anxious boys could determine which was near, they remained motionless.
All at once the silence which had continued for moments was broken by whoops nearby, and the reports of rifles from within the field. Both boys were startled when each looked into the other's face and found his suspicions confirmed. The Indians were aware of the presence of the settlers in the cornfield and were stealthily entering from every side of the field at the same time. Already some of the unfortunate settlers had been found and their fate had been sealed. The summer stillness was broken by the wild whoops which indicated the success of some warrior in bringing his victim to the ground. There were also calls and cries from the wounded, mingled with the frequent reports of the rifles.
The standing corn, a few yards in advance of the place where Peleg and Israel were lying, now suddenly was drawn apart and the boys saw three painted Shawnee warriors in single file stealthily making their way between the tall stalks.
They concluded that discovery was not to be avoided, and after Peleg had whispered to his companion to follow his example, one after the other the boys raised their rifles and fired upon their enemies.
Aware that one and perhaps two of the approaching red men had fallen and that the third warrior had darted rapidly away at the discharge of the guns, both boys sprang to their feet, and, crouching low, began to run through the corn.
Both were too experienced to lose their way easily, and not many minutes had elapsed before Peleg, without speaking, laid his hand warningly on his friend's shoulder. Instantly both stopped and listened.
Peleg believed that they had arrived near the border of the field. He was fearful now that reserves had been stationed so that from whatever side the unfortunate settlers might attempt to escape they would be met by the bullets of the watching warriors. Both boys listened intently until several minutes had elapsed.
"We had better separate here," whispered Israel. Peleg hesitated a moment and then quietly nodded his assent. The possibility of escape, slight as it was, would be increased if they proceeded singly rather than together.
"You know the way to the Station?" whispered Peleg. Israel nodded his head, and, moving to a place twenty feet to his left, turned, and in a course parallel to the one Peleg was following, cautiously continued on his way toward the border of the field.
When Peleg came near to the edge of the field he stopped once more and peered cautiously all about him, listening for sounds that might indicate the presence of his enemies. From behind him still were heard the shouts and shrieks that were mingled with the reports of the guns and the whoops of the excited Indians.
Somehow, in spite of his peril, the beat of the young settler's heart seemed to be almost normal. He watched a little field mouse that fearlessly peered up at him from the ground. He even counted the swings of a spider making her web between the swaying branches of an enormous stalk of corn.
Apparently the fighting was confined to the farther side of the field. Only infrequent sounds of the conflict were heard at his right and left, while from the region before him there had been almost no sounds of conflict at all.
Was the border in front of him unguarded? Or was it doubly dangerous because the Indians were attempting from the other three sides to drive the unfortunate men into a trap?
Stealthily Peleg still crept forward. After each step he paused and looked keenly about him as he listened for sounds which might indicate renewed peril. He had seen nothing of Israel since his friend had left him.
Suddenly he was startled to hear what evidently were the sounds of a struggle between two men nearby. The laboured breathing and an occasional exclamation which he heard alike convinced him of this. With increasing anxiety Peleg crept forward.
He was not molested when he came to the end of the row, but before him he saw a contest which threatened to terminate speedily as well as fatally for Israel Boone.
The son of the great scout was in the hands of a white man, and was struggling desperately. His contestant, however, plainly was much the stronger. Peleg saw the face of the man distinctly, and he assured himself that never before had he looked upon so villainous a countenance. The man's face was distorted and discoloured by his efforts, and the perspiration streamed down his cheeks leaving furrows behind it. In spite of his excitement, Peleg asked himself if the man's face had ever been washed. The necessity for quick action, if his friend was to be rescued, caused Peleg instantly to raise his rifle to his shoulder and fire.
Israel's contestant dropped to the ground as Peleg had seen an ox collapse from the blow of an axe.
Instantly darting to the side of his friend, Peleg whispered, "Come!"
"That is Simon Girty!" gasped Israel, looking down into the face of the fallen man before him.
Startled as Peleg was by the words of his companion, he did not wait to verify them, but turned back at once into the cornfield. As soon as he had gone a short distance, bidding Israel follow him, he turned to his left, and, still running swiftly and silently, the boys advanced a hundred yards; they then turned abruptly to their right in the direction of the side of the field where they had first entered. Although mystified by the action of his companion, Israel did not protest as he followed Peleg in his flight.
THE WHITE SHAWNEE AGAIN
Again turning to his left, Peleg, still followed by his friend, ran swiftly toward the border of the cornfield.
The cries and whoops in a measure had died away, and from what he could hear Peleg concluded that some of his friends had escaped from the field and were being pursued in their flight toward the fort.
When Peleg and Israel found they were near the road, on the opposite side of which stood the forest where the Indians had made their ambuscade, they peered cautiously in all directions, but were unable to see any of their enemies. That another band of warriors had followed in pursuit of the men who had escaped from the first attack and from the fight in the cornfield was most likely, they concluded.
Peleg whispered: "The safest place for us is where the Indians were hidden. They have gone from there and will not come back to look for any of us."
Israel nodded his head in assent, and, firmly grasping their rifles, the boys darted across the road and gained the shelter of the trees. When the two young scouts were convinced that their immediate presence had not been discovered, Peleg said to Israel: "Are you sure you can find your way if we again separate?"
"Yes," answered Israel. "But the Indians are between us and the fort. Do you think we can ever get through?"
"We must," said Peleg. "The folk at Bryant's Station are in such danger that not one of us must fail them now."
The words hardly had been spoken when there was a sharp report of a rifle, and a bullet passed so near them that both boys heard it singing on its way.
Moved by a common impulse, they turned and dashed into the forest. Whether or no any of their enemies were hiding behind the trees toward which they were running neither knew.
They were chiefly intent upon speed now, and ran on for several minutes, well knowing that their lives depended upon the success of their efforts.
At last, breathless, both halted for a rest, and Peleg said to his companion, "I am sure it will be better for us to separate now. You know the way, and can look out for yourself. I shall come, too, and if we succeed In getting through, it had better be before night."
"Yes," assented Israel. "If we wait until dark and then creep up to the fort, the guards will be likely to fire upon us, mistaking us for Indians."
With these words Israel departed. Peleg watched his friend as long as he remained within sight, and then began with caution to retrace the way over which they had come. Keeping a firm grip upon Singing Susan, Peleg darted from tree to tree and did not venture from each refuge until he was convinced that no one was near him.
His attempt to proceed was interrupted, however, by the report of a rifle, and again a bullet whistled uncomfortably close to his head, tearing some splinters from the tree at his elbow. The young scout at his utmost speed darted into the wood at his right.
He was aware that a swift flight could not long be maintained because of his recent exertions. Where a refuge might be found he did not know. But just then he noticed the trunk of what appeared to be a huge hollow tree leaning over a shallow brook, across which he must leap if he continued his flight.
He entered the stream, ran swiftly a few steps with the current, and then retraced his way to the tree. It was but the work of a moment for him to climb to the broken top, and great was his relief when he saw that the tree indeed was hollow. Without thought of where he might fall he dropped into the welcome opening.
He fell several feet before the decayed wood provided a foothold strong enough to enable him to stand. Fortunately the hollow of the tree was larger than his body, and although he was cramped and almost blinded by the decayed mass, he nevertheless managed to reach his hunting-knife, and, making a small opening through the soft wood, peeped out to see if his enemies were within sight. As he did so his fears were aroused that the tree itself might fall. It was a mere shell and so decayed that he was surprised that his descent had not torn it asunder.
At that moment a wild cry, plainly from the road, came to his ears. Then shouts were followed by the reports of guns and answering whoops from the Indians.
Anxious for his friend Israel, Peleg turned once more to ascertain if any of his enemies were near his hiding-place. He was hopeful that his trail could not be followed farther than the bank of the little brook, although he was sufficiently familiar with Indian ways to know that the red men, if they really were pursuing him, would run in either direction along the banks until they found the place where he had left the water. He smiled as he recalled how he had been standing in the stream when he had thrown his arms around the trunk of the bending tree. Singing Susan was still held, but it would be impossible for him in his cramped position to make use of her musical voice.
Suddenly Peleg was startled to behold an Indian step forth from the forest and stand for a moment on the bank of the stream almost directly beneath him. His surprise increased when he recognized the warrior as Henry. He had believed that the white Shawnee, as Henry had loved to call himself, had been killed in the attack on Boonesborough. His brave deed in extinguishing the fire that had been kindled by the burning arrow had been followed, as Peleg and others had believed, by his death. At least every one had seen him fall from the roof and roll to the ground. It is true, his body had not been recovered, but there were other bodies which had similarly disappeared.
When his first feeling of astonishment had passed and Peleg was convinced that it indeed was Henry who was beneath him, a feeling of intense anger swept over the young settler. Henry was white, and yet had renounced his allegiance to his own people and gone back to the Shawnees, and with them he was now making war upon his own nation! There was little in his present appearance to distinguish him from other braves of the tribe. He wore the scalp-lock and was clad in the Indian garb.
Peleg's problem in part was solved when at that moment the rotten wood gave way beneath him, and the tree, unable longer to support the weight of the young scout, fell with a crash to the ground. As it struck the bank the tree was rent asunder, and to the white Shawnee's astonishment Peleg scrambled to his feet from out of the wreckage.
Before he could brush the dust from his eyes and bring Singing Susan to his shoulder Henry leaped forward and placed both hands upon the barrel of the rifle, saying, "No shoot broder."
"You are no brother of mine!" said Peleg. "You are a Shawnee and not a white Shawnee, either! You are fighting us!"
"No fight broder," repeated Henry. "Broder show way to fort."
For some strange reason which Peleg was unable to explain even to himself, he said abruptly: "Lead the way, then! If you can take me safely through the line of these savages, I shall never forget you."
The young scout was eager to inquire of his companion what had befallen him and why he had returned to the Shawnees. His present peril, however, was so great that he restrained his impulse, and in silence followed Henry as he led the way toward Bryant's Station.
Occasionally a halt was made when from some nearby place shots were heard indicating that the scattered settlers were being pursued either in small detachments or individually, for the terrified men had scattered when first the ambuscade had been discovered.
When Henry, who apparently was aware of the location of the besieging braves, drew near the fort he stopped and said: "Now go."
Peleg looked about him, and, unable to discover any of his enemies nearby, followed the advice which had been given him, and, placing his hat on the end of the barrel of Singing Susan as a token of his peaceful intentions, approached the gate.
He was at once admitted, and his relief was great when the first to greet him was Israel Boone.
"How many are here?" asked Peleg.
"I do not know," answered Israel. "I have heard that only six of our men were killed or wounded. When we all started toward Lexington they might have chased us all the way and taken the fort there, because there was nobody left to fight for it."
"How many Indians were in that ambuscade?" asked Peleg.
"I hear there were three hundred."
"How did you get to the fort?"
"I ran straight ahead for an hour," replied Israel with a smile. "How did you come?"
"Henry got me through the lines."
"Henry!" demanded Israel in surprise. "Henry! I thought he was dead."
"So did I, but he is very much alive. I had no time to ask him how he came to be here. I was thinking mostly of getting inside the fort."
"It is a comfort to know that at least Girty will not lead any more——"
Israel stopped speaking as a lusty shout was heard from a stump that stood near one of the bastions, and the two young defenders to their amazement beheld Simon Girty himself standing erect upon the stump and waving a cloth which at some time in its history may have been white.
In response to this hail every man ran to hear what the renegade leader of the Indians had to say.
They were soon to know the purpose for which Girty, on his hands and knees, had crept to the place where he now was standing.
"What do you want?" shouted one of the defenders.
"I have come," replied Girty in a loud voice, "to save your lives. We have more than six hundred warriors here, and by to-morrow we shall have more. Some of our friends will bring cannon, and when we have them we can blow every cabin in Bryant's Station into flinders. If we storm your fort, as we sure can do when we get our cannon, I will not promise that one life will be spared. You know the redskins well enough to understand how I shall not be able to hold them back. If you surrender now, I give you my word of honour that not a hair of the head of any one of you shall be hurt. I am Simon Girty, and you know you can rely upon every word I speak."
A derisive cry from several of the defenders greeted this assertion, but when Peleg and Israel looked about them they were aware that many of the men had been strongly moved by Girty's appeal.
THE STRUGGLE IN THE RAVINE
Before any conference of the defenders could be held, one of the younger men leaped to the wall to reply to Girty's plea.
"You know who I am, don't you?" called Girty.
"Indeed I do know!" shouted young Reynolds: "Everybody south of the Falls of Ohio knows that you are Simon Girty. I have a good-for-nothing cur dog which I have named Simon Girty, or Simon Dirty, he looks so much like you. If you have any reinforcements or artillery, bring them up! But let me warn you that if you or any of those naked rascals with you ever get into this fort we shall not use our guns upon them. We have no powder to waste on such wretches. We have cut some big bunches of birch switches and have scattered them all through the fort; and that is just what we cut them for—to thrash you and your rascally comrades. And let me tell you," he continued, "that you are not the only ones who are expecting reinforcements! We have received word that the whole country is aroused and marching to help us, Simon Girty!" he shouted. "If you and your gang of murderers stay twenty-four hours longer before the fort you will never be able to leave. Your scalps will be drying in the sun on the roofs of our cabins."
A loud laugh from his friends greeted the words of the young backwoods orator, and it was plain that the spirit which young Reynolds had displayed had aroused the drooping courage of his companions. Many of the men were aware that on more than one occasion the Indians had indeed brought cannon with them, and by their aid had succeeded in destroying two of the stations.
All became silent when Simon Girty once more stood up to reply. "It is too bad," began the renegade, "it's a pity that such people should be tomahawked and scalped! I can protect you now, if you will surrender, but I give you fair warning if you do not I shall not be able to hold back my warriors."
A derisive shout greeted this declaration, and in apparent sorrow Simon Girty at once withdrew.
It was not known within the fort that he instantly ordered preparations to be made for raising the siege. Throughout the night not a sound was heard, and when daylight came the Indian camp was deserted!
When Peleg and Israel sought the place where the warriors had encamped they found the fires still burning brightly and even pieces of meat left on the roasting-sticks.
"You see!" said Israel gleefully. "They left just a little while before daylight."
"Yes," said Peleg, "that is when they usually roast their meat. I wonder if they are all really gone?"
The rejoicing at Bryant's Station was great when it was known that the Indians had departed. Before noon the fighting force of white men was increased to one hundred and sixty-seven. Among those who entered came Daniel Boone, or Colonel Boone as some now called him, since he had received his commission from Colonel Clark.
"What does this mean?" demanded Israel when he saw his younger brother Daniel among the men in the assembly, "What are you doing here?"
"I think I have as good a right to come as you," retorted Boone's younger son. "I am almost seventeen."
"And old enough to know better," laughed Peleg, who was fond of the boy and many a time had taken him with him on his expeditions into the forest.
The officers, who had hastened to the place as soon as reports of its peril had been brought, now assembled, and at once called the men of Bryant's Station to a conference.
"It is known," explained Colonel Todd, "that Colonel Logan has collected a strong force in Lincoln and that it will be here within twenty-four hours. If we wait for his coming we shall be that much stronger when we start in pursuit of Girty and his savages. What do you think?" he asked, addressing Boone, who stood leaning upon his rifle in the rear of the assembly.
"It will be wise to wait," replied Boone quietly. "I have never found it to be a mistake to get ready before you attempt to do anything. Girty, according to his story, has treble our numbers. The trail which the Shawnees have left behind is so plain and so broad that I am suspicious that they have made signs which they hope will lead us to pursue them. My advice is to wait until Colonel Logan shall come with his men."
The younger members of the force, however, were unwilling to delay. To them appearances were convincing that the Indians had fled because they were alarmed. Now was the time, they declared, when the savages ought to be chased and taught a lesson! If there should be a delay even of a day in following them, the Indians would gain such an advance that they could not be overtaken and punished for their evil deeds.
The fiery zeal of the young men was not to be denied. Against the counsel of Boone and others of the older scouts, who had long experience in dealing with their Indian enemies, a swift pursuit instantly was begun. Many of the men were mounted on horses, but the entire mass, horse and foot, kept well together.
The eager party had not gone far from Bryant's Station before a halt was called, when it was discovered that the retiring Indians had turned into the buffalo road and, almost as if they were attempting to make their trail still more evident, it was noticed that they had chopped many of the trees, on either side with their hatchets.
Boone shook his head when he discovered these indications of apparent carelessness in the band they were following.
"My opinion is," he said soberly to Colonel Todd, "that Girty is trying to lead us on. Just as our men ran into their trap on the way to Bryant's Station, I am afraid now that they will be led into another."
"But it is too late to go back," said Colonel Todd.
"Yes, I am afraid our men will not go back now. My only word of advice to you is to go ahead cautiously."
"Will you be one of the advance guard?"
"If you so desire."
"At least you are not afraid, and you will not see what is not there."
"I shall do my best," said Boone quietly.
As Peleg, who was standing nearby and had heard the conversation, looked into the face of his friend he became aware that the years of anxiety had left their mark upon his rugged countenance. There was, however, a deeper expression of gentleness on the face of the great scout which in no way detracted from the impression of strength which his entire body still produced.
Orders were soon given to camp for the night in the forest, and on the following day the little army arrived at the Lower Blue Licks. Just as the force, proceeding without any form of order, arrived at the southern bank of the Licking, some of the men saw several Indians climbing the rocky ridge on the opposite side. The red men halted when the Kentuckians appeared, looked at them intently a few minutes in silence, and then, as calmly and leisurely as if no enemies were near, disappeared over the top of the hill.
A halt of the white men was made at once, and several of the officers held a consultation.
Apparently there were differences of opinion among the leaders, for after a few minutes had elapsed Colonel Todd summoned Daniel Boone and inquired his opinion as to what had best be done. All the officers were now very serious.
The great scout, leaning upon his rifle, spoke in the deep, quiet tones he usually used: "My opinion is that our situation is critical and difficult. The force before us without question is ready for battle and outnumbers us largely."
"Why do you think that?" inquired Colonel Todd.
"Because of the easy and slow retreat of the Indians who just went over the crest of yonder hill. I am familiar with all this region and I am fearful they are trying to draw us on. About a mile ahead of us there are two ravines, one on either side of the ridge. There the Indians can hide and attack us at the same time, both in front and on our flanks, almost before we could know they were there."
"What do you think is the best thing to do, then?" inquired Colonel Todd seriously.
"My advice," said Boone, "is to do one of two things: Either wait for the coming of Colonel Logan, who without doubt is on his way to join us; or, if it is decided to attack the Indians without waiting for him to come up, then my advice is that half our force ought to go up the river, cross the rapids, and fall upon the Indians from that side at the same time the others attack them from the front."
"I am afraid that cannot be done," said Colonel Todd, shaking his head.
"Whatever is done," said Boone quietly, "my advice to you is to go over the ground carefully before the men cross the river here. Send some scouts ahead. I have never found, Colonel Todd, that any man lost by being prepared for what might befall him."
Every man in the little assembly was listening with deep attention to the great scout who was a man of silence unless his advice was sought.
When he ceased some urged the adoption of his recommendation to wait for the coming of Colonel Logan and his men. There were others, however, who were strongly in favour of advancing at once.
In the midst of the warm discussion Major McGary, one of the young officers who was unable to endure the thought of being near an enemy and not fighting, let out a wild whoop. At the same moment he waved his hand over his head, spurred his horse into the river and then shouted in his loudest tone, "Let all who are not cowards follow me!"
Instantly the mounted men dashed into the river, every one apparently striving to be the first to gain the opposite shore. The men on foot also rushed into the stream, which for a time seemed to be a rolling mass of men and water. No order had been given and no order now was desired. Through the deep river horses and men staggered forward, with McGary still leading the way.
They gained the opposite shore where the unprotected nature of the ground seemed to forbid their advance. Trampled by the buffalo, every bush and low tree had been stripped bare. Multitudes of rocks blackened by the sunlight were to be seen on every side. No scouts were sent in advance and none acted on the flanks. The contagious example of Major McGary acted like magic, and men and horses went forward as if every one was doing his utmost to outstrip his neighbour.
Along with the others went Daniel Boone, his two boys, and Peleg. The expression of Boone's face had not changed since his sober advice had been disregarded by his impulsive comrades. But he was not one to draw back when his friends were rushing into action.
Suddenly the men in front halted. They had arrived at the place mentioned by the scout, where the two ravines met. A small body of Indians appeared for a moment and fired at the approaching settlers.
Instantly McGary and the men with him returned the fire, although they were at a great disadvantage because they were standing upon a bare and open ridge, while their enemies were in a ravine in which the bushes partly concealed the warriors.
As the reports of the guns were heard, the men in the rear rushed forward to assist their friends. But before they were able to gain the ridge they were stopped by a terrible fire from the ravine which was on their flank. They halted, and it was almost as if they had been shut in by the jaws of some enormous beast. There was no cover, and a terrible fire was being poured into them from front and side, while their enemies still were hidden from sight.
Gradually, however, the Indians pushed out from the ravine as the fire became fiercer. Indeed they were striving to extend their lines and turn the right of the Kentuckians so that their retreat would be cut off.
As soon as this was made clear by the increase of the firing from that quarter, the men in the rear attempted to fall back, and then by breaking through the attacking party, gain their only way of escape—to the river.
Their actions, in part misunderstood by their companions, created what was almost a panic. From the ravine to the river the sight was indescribable. Above the reports of the guns rose the shrieks and cries of the wounded and the wild and merciless whoops of the Indians.
Many of the mounted men escaped, but those who were fighting on foot were in deadly peril. Daniel Boone, in the thick of the fight, saw his boy, Israel, fall lifeless before the guns of the Indians. Even the death of his son, however, did not prevent the great scout from becoming aware that he himself was almost entirely surrounded by the frantic, howling, whooping mob of warriors.
AT THE LOWER BLUE LICKS
It was in such crises that the great scout best displayed the qualities which had made him a marked man among the pioneers. It had been impossible for him to rescue the body of his fallen son. Around him on every side were heard shouts and cries and the continual report of the rifles.
Whatever occurred, Daniel Boone was never long at a loss how to act. Controlling his feelings, he turned to the men who were near him and said quietly, "Come with me!"
As the men obediently followed, the scout, who was familiar with the entire region, instead of running toward the ford as most of the fugitives now were doing, dashed into the ravine where many of the Indians previously had been concealed. Apparently they had now left to join in the wild pursuit of the demoralized settlers.
Boone and his comrades were not to escape, however, without attracting the attention of some of the howling Indians. A half dozen or more discovered the fleeing settlers and with wild whoops started in swift pursuit.
It was here that Boone's knowledge of the region, as well as his coolness, came to his aid. Leading the way to a place in the ravine where there was a narrow passage between the rocks, he ordered his companions to precede him, while he himself raised his rifle with deliberation and fired at the approaching Indians.
The entire band halted, for their own rifles were not loaded at the time and they were depending upon a similar condition among the whites. The red men were now relying on their tomahawks.
As soon as the band halted, Boone waited a moment to assure himself that his companions were safe, and then, running swiftly, rejoined them. When the fleeing men came to the end of the ravine, once more they found a small band of their foes awaiting them, and with wild cries they started toward them. But the great scout, in spite of the need of haste, had bidden his companions to reload in preparation for this very emergency. After receiving the fire from their guns, the Indians dropped back, while the white men, quickly making use of the advantage thus afforded, were able to escape to the woods beyond.
"We shall now be able to make our way to Bryant's Station," said Boone. "There will be no Indians to interfere with us from this time on."
His words proved to be correct, and by the middle of the afternoon the half-dozen men with the great scout arrived safely at the fort.
Throughout the remainder of the day many of the men who had so confidently gone forth in the morning came straggling back to the fort.
Peleg, who had been among those who rushed to the ford, returned to Bryant's Station when it was nearly dusk. He had secured the aid of two others, and the three were carrying young Daniel Boone, who also had been shot in the fight at the Licks.
It was soon discovered that Boone's younger son was not seriously wounded. When the welcome information was received the face of the great scout remained unchanged in its expression, though the deathly pallor, that for a moment had spread over it when he had been informed of what had befallen his boy, disappeared.
"'Tis a wonder," said Peleg, "that any of us are left alive to tell the story. Some of us ran up the stream and swam across. Young Dan was as brave as any man in the crowd. Even after he had been shot in the shoulder he did not give up, but he swam across the stream, keeping up with the rest of us. The men who could not swim were the ones that were shot down or were made prisoners without being able to do anything to defend themselves."
"Were any shot after you had crossed the river?" inquired Boone.
"I do not know of any," replied Peleg. "But from the ravine clear down to the ford the loss was heavy. One of the bravest deeds I ever saw in my life was that of young Aaron Reynolds—he is the one who made us laugh when Simon Girty mounted the stump and gave us his speech. Reynolds was on horseback, and about halfway between the battle ground and the ford he found Captain Patterson completely worn out. The captain had dropped in his tracks, he was so exhausted, for you see he had been wounded three or four times in the fights we had with the Indians two or three years ago."
"I remember that he was," said Boone.
"The Indians were almost ready to close up on the captain, but just at that moment Reynolds saw what was going on. He jumped from his saddle, helped Captain Patterson to mount, and then turned and ran on foot as fast as he could go. He ran like a deer after he was out of the main road, then jumped into the river right where you said you crossed, and swam to the other side. There he had some serious trouble, though. He was wearing a pair of buckskin breeches and they became so heavy and full of water when he was in the river that he could not run very fast when he struck the shore. When he sat down and tried to get rid of a part of the water some of the Indians rushed up and before he knew it he was their prisoner."
"Did you say he is here now?" inquired Boone.
"Yes, sir. I was afraid the Indians would tomahawk him, but they kept to their regular plan of not putting any of their prisoners to death until they get back to their own country, so Reynolds wasn't troubled very much at the time. They left him in charge of three of the braves while the others started for some more of our men who were nearby. The three Indians were so excited when they saw our men that two of them left Reynolds in charge of the third while they ran to join in the chase with the others. Then the Indian that had Reynolds in his charge started for the woods."
"Were they both armed?" asked Boone.
"Reynolds had had his rifle taken away from him, but the Indian had a tomahawk and a rifle in his hands. After they had gone a little way the Indian stooped to tie the string of his moccasin and Aaron instantly jumped upon him, knocked him down with his fist and then ran for the woods. Captain Patterson has just come in and he says he is going to give Aaron two hundred acres of the best land he owns."
Such of the bodies as had been recovered were now being brought to the fort, and the fact that many of the men of Bryant's Station had been made prisoners by the attacking Indians increased the feeling of gloom that settled upon the place. Among the men who had fallen was Colonel Todd, who had sought the advice of the great scout and then did not follow it.
Long before nightfall Colonel Logan and his men arrived at Bryant's Station. In his force were no less than four hundred and fifty men. Upon their arrival they learned from the men who had succeeded in returning to the fort of the fate which had befallen the band which Colonel Todd had led against the Indians.
Waiting to hear no more, greatly alarmed for his friends and suspecting that only a part of the disaster had been reported, Colonel Logan at once led his men over the way by which the defenders of the fort had gone in their untimely pursuit of their wily foe.
With Colonel Logan went Daniel Boone and Peleg, as well as many others of the defenders. The great scout showed plainly the suffering through which he was passing. Two of his boys had been shot by the relentless Shawnees and his third son had received a severe wound. Apparently Boone did not believe that his sufferings were to be relieved by anything his friends could do to aid him. He had seldom spoken since the men had departed from the Station, but Peleg was confident that he understood the purpose which was urging the gentle-hearted hunter forward.
The second day the advancing soldiers came near to the place where the fight had occurred. Long before they had arrived, however, Peleg had shuddered when he discovered flocks of circling buzzards that were hovering over the battle ground. He glanced into the face of his companion when the discovery had been made, and knew that the scout also understood the meaning of their presence.
When the advancing band approached the bank of the river they discovered many of the bodies still floating near the shore. They were the unfortunate victims that had been shot by the Indians after they had rushed into the stream.
A silence, indescribable, intense, awful, settled over all the men. There were tears in the eyes of some of the hardiest of the settlers at the fearful sight upon which they looked. No man was able to recognize among the putrid bodies the face of his lost friend.
Silently the men crossed the ford and advanced toward the ravine. In the scene of the recent fight the sight was even more heartbreaking. Here, too, the bodies of the many who had fallen could no longer be distinguished one from another.
Daniel Boone, unmindful of the presence of his comrades, had been searching quietly among the bodies for that of his missing boy. Even the men who were most eager in their search for their friends stopped a moment as they watched the man in his agonizing and fruitless quest.
The great scout soon turned to Colonel Logan and said: "'Tis no use, Colonel. We must give the poor fellows decent burial here and now."
The men at once carried out the bidding which their leader gave. Silently the settlers, for the moment all thoughts of vengeance gone from their minds, dug trenches wherever the soil permitted, and in these the bodies of their dead and mutilated friends were buried.
There were many faces in the band down which the tears were rolling while this task was being accomplished. The manner of the great scout, however, was unchanged. Only the deepening of the lines in his face and his unusual pallor gave indications of the strain through which he was passing. His manner still was silent and self-controlled, as in the days when the joyous things of life had more often been his portion.
When the gruesome task at last was finished, it was Daniel Boone himself who said to Colonel Logan in reply to the latter's inquiries: "It is useless now to try to follow the Shawnees."
"Why do you say that?" inquired the colonel.
"Because by this time they are far beyond our reach. They have lost no time, you may be sure."
"How many captives do you think they have taken with them?"
"Not many," said Boone.
"But there are some sixty-seven of our men missing."
"Yes," assented Boone, "but we have accounted for nearly sixty this day."
"I am told," suggested the colonel, "that they will put every prisoner to death, or so many of them as may be required to make good any loss they themselves have had."
The great scout shook his head as he replied: "The Indians have not lost as many as we."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because the advantage was all with them. They greatly outnumbered us, and in a good part of the fight they were sheltered by the rocks while our men were fighting in the open. It was the bloodiest fight I was ever in."
"And to you one of the saddest," suggested the colonel.
Boone nodded his head but did not speak.
"I cannot understand," continued the colonel, "why it is that you take your own troubles so quietly. You certainly have suffered more than most men on the border, and yet I fancy the man has yet to be born who has heard you complain."
"And why should I complain?" inquired Boone, smiling as he looked into the face of his friend. "It does not make my own griefs less to try to have another share them. That is something no one can do. My heart, at least, must bear its own burden. If any one thinks that his troubles are less than those that come to his friends, he is probably mistaken. My experience has led me to believe that almost every one has about all he can bear. There are only two classes of people, at least as far as I have observed—and I am well aware how little I know in this particular—but as I said—there are only two classes of people that cry and laugh easily."
"Who are they?"
"Children and savages. Neither class has learned to control itself. A strong man shows his strength, at least in my humble judgment," Boone added modestly, "by being able to refrain from useless words, and by not whining over his troubles."
"I think you are correct," said Colonel Logan musingly. "Now, then," he continued after a moment, "is it your judgment that the best thing for us to do is to return to Bryant's Station?"
"Then if it is a good thing to do it will be well for us to do it quickly. I shall see that the order is given. We have some stirring days before us because I am sure it will never do to let the Shawnees believe for any length of time that they have been able to defeat the white men."
TO THE MEETING-PLACE
The judgment of Daniel Boone was accepted by all the men in the band. Indeed there were many now who were blaming others as well as themselves for not having listened to the word of the wise old scout before they had entered into the unequal struggle with the Indians at Blue Licks.
Swiftly and seriously the men retraced their way to Bryant's Station, where they were dismissed by Colonel Logan with the understanding that they would respond if he should call for their help in the near future. This he fully expected to do.
In a rude wagon Daniel Boone and Peleg carried the wounded boy back to his home. The wound itself was not believed to be serious, although naturally after the tragedies which had occurred in his family Daniel Boone was anxious for his son. Daniel Morgan Boone, or "young Dan," as he sometimes was called by the settlers, to distinguish him from his father, made light of his experiences and even declared that he was prepared to ride his horse back to Boonesborough instead of being carried in the jolting wagon. His protest, however, was not heeded, and in a short time the Boonesborough men were back in their settlement.
To all it now was evident that Daniel Boone held a place in the regard of the settlers such as he never before had won. His deep sorrow over the distressing tragedies which had resulted in the loss of two promising sons, and his willingness to do all in his power to aid his friends: these qualities won him sympathy and affection in addition to the respect in which he was held because of his excellent judgment. The simple manner of the great scout, his skill as a hunter, his knowledge of the Indians, and his enduring friendship, were more highly appreciated with every passing day.
Shortly after the return of Boone and his companions, the scout said to Peleg, "I have just received word from Colonel George Rogers Clark from the Falls of the Ohio."
"What does he want?" asked Peleg quickly. The sturdy colonel in control of the forces of the entire region was known to be a man of action, and one whose activities were familiar to all the settlers.
"He sends me word," said Boone quietly, "that he plans to raise a force of one thousand men to go against the Indian towns."
"Why does he do that?"
"He has two reasons: One is that the people are so discouraged and disappointed by the recent successes of the Indians that many are thinking of withdrawing from Kentucky. The other reason is that he thinks the Indians ought not to be permitted to rest upon the victories which they have won, and that the battle of Blue Licks and the fight at Bryant's Station must be avenged, or the Shawnees and the Wyandottes will soon be more active than they have been."
"What do you think?" inquired Peleg.
"It is not for me to say," replied Boone, his rare smile lighting his face for a moment as he spoke.
"But you think what you do not say," persisted Peleg.
"I think Colonel Clark is doing the only thing which will bring help to our stations. Either the Indians or we are to live in this country. It is a pity that we cannot say, the Indians and we; but from the feeling they have shown, and the way in which I know many of the whites look upon them, I am afraid such a plan will be impossible. There is then only one thing for us to do."
"What is that?"
"It must be decided once for all whether the country is to be occupied by the white men or by the red. There can be but one answer. However," continued Boone, "I have little time to discuss these matters with you, now. It is a time for action, and much as you and I may dislike to leave our homes, we cannot lightly regard such a summons as Colonel Clark has sent us."
"What is the plan?"
"He proposes to raise an army of one thousand men, as I said, and march to destroy the Indian villages."
"Where do we meet?"
"At the Falls of the Ohio. I have seen Colonel Logan, and he is to assemble his men and march in one body to the meeting-place. My own judgment is that it would be better for the force to split up into smaller parties, but that is not for me to say. I have, however, arranged with Colonel Logan for you and six other men to go as a band of scouts to the north of the route we are to take, and at the same time have several bands move to the south. I do not believe there will be any danger before we arrive at the meeting-place, but it is well to provide for what may happen before it comes to pass. As you know, that has always been my plan. I do not think I ever had a fight with an Indian that I did not try to think what he would do, or what I would do if I were in his place, before the real contest began."
"Are you to lead the scouts on the south?"
"That is for the King to say," replied Boone, smiling as he quoted the well-known saying of Sam Oliver.
The following morning Peleg, as leader of his little band of scouts, departed for the place of assembly. The advance to the Falls of the Ohio would require three days or more. It was not believed that there would be anything more than occasional attacks on the main body by small bands of Indians, for few braves would dare to oppose the coming of this great army.
In Peleg's little band was Sam Oliver, the hunter. Sam now was plainly showing the effects of the passing years. He was suffering from rheumatism acquired by exposure in the many winters during which he had been known throughout the settlements as a great hunter. His visits to the stations were more frequent than formerly, and he remained longer than in the preceding years. He was still sensitive, however, concerning his physical strength and skill, and refused to listen to any suggestion that he was not in condition to accompany the younger men on their way to the meeting-place of the army.
"Peleg," said Sam Oliver, when the party, all mounted, had set forth on their expedition, "I know a little Indian town about seventy-five miles from here where we can get some horses."
"Is it on our way?"
"It is not far from the river. If we can get a dozen or more horses it will make the heart of Colonel Clark rejoice."
In explanation of the hunter's words, it may be said that stealing horses from the Indians was not looked upon as any crime by the early pioneers. Such a conviction may have been due in part to the fact that the tribes and white settlers were usually in a state of war with one another. The Indians' intense distrust of the early settlers had, as we know, long ago deepened into enduring hatred.
There were few who believed the Indians were governed by any other than treacherous, bloodthirsty motives. So intense had become this belief along the border that it was well-nigh impossible for the men of that time to look upon the simple questions of right and wrong in any way that might favour the red men or even do them simple justice. To them they simply were enemies that must be driven from the region or exterminated.
Late in the following afternoon Sam Oliver, when his friends halted, donned his Indian garb. In his disguise he was scarcely to be distinguished from one of the warriors.
"I have learned the lingo, too," he said laughingly. "A good many times I have gone right into their villages and no one has suspected that I was a white man. I want to get about fifteen horses," continued Sam, "and I want almost as much to get one of the Indians alive."
"What for?" demanded Peleg in surprise.
It was seldom that prisoners were made of the warriors at that time, because whenever a fight occurred it was usually a struggle to the death. The Indians, however, occasionally, as we know from the experiences of the great scout himself, not only made captives of their prisoners, but at times adopted them into their tribes in place of young braves that had been killed in battle.
"I want one for a pet," laughed Sam Oliver.
"I would sooner have a rattlesnake," declared one of the party.
"That is what I used to say," said Sam, "but then that was years ago when I was young and slender. I know more about them now, and if I can get one alive I am going to make a pet of him."
"You will be making a mistake," declared Schoolmaster Hargrave, who also was one of Peleg's band. It had been long since he had wielded the ferrule or had taught the boys and girls in Boonesborough. In recent years he had been toiling in the fields, as had the great scout and Peleg. He was, however, scarcely more successful in raising tobacco than he had been in training the children in his school. The title of "Schoolmaster" still clung to him, and when Sam Oliver laughed loudly and turned to answer his protest, he said, "Well, Schoolmaster, I can understand how you do not like the Indians. You had some pretty wild experiences yourself, in the schoolhouse. I understand that two or three of the boys disguised themselves the way I have and put you out through the window. Is that true?"
Whether the statement was true or not it was never explained, for the hunter suddenly warned his companions to become silent as they were approaching the village he was seeking.
Advancing with three of his companions and leaving Peleg and the remainder of the party behind to await their return, Sam stealthily began to make his way toward the little Indian village which he said was located only a few yards distant from the spot where a halt had been made.
Sam was absent only two hours. His approach was heard by his waiting companions long before the hunter could be seen. It was plain, too, that he had been successful. The noise of snapping branches and an occasional whinny indicated that Sam was not returning empty-handed.
"Did I not tell you what I would do?" boasted the hunter, when he returned. "I said I wanted a dozen horses. I have six, so that I am only half as happy as I ought to be."
"You are happier now than you soon will be," retorted Peleg, "unless we leave this part of the country right away."
The horses which had been secured were all young and only partly broken. It was impossible for the party to mount them, and there were times when it was difficult even to lead them by the leathern straps which were fastened about their necks.
Sam acknowledged the seriousness of the situation, and no urging was required to make the men push forward rapidly.
When night fell they selected for their camp a spot on the bend of a little stream. Two of the men were assigned positions in the rear of the camp to watch for any pursuing Indians. There was no fear of an attack from the opposite side of the stream.
At midnight the guard was relieved, and as it was Peleg's turn to take the position, he said quietly, "I can do this alone. All the rest of you turn in and get your sleep."
His directions were speedily followed. The night passed without alarm, and the young scout was beginning to think that either the warriors of the village were aware of the plan of Colonel Clark, and had departed to join their own bands, or that they were absent from the village at the time, and had not yet learned of Sam's theft.
The first faint streaks of the dawn had appeared, and Peleg, taking a little bucket, stepped to the brook to secure some running water. The fire which had been kept alive throughout the night was burning low. When Peleg returned to the camp he was startled when he discovered by the dim light that the water in his bucket was muddy. There could be but one explanation, and the young scout hastily aroused his companions.
"The brook was not muddy last night, but it is now," said the young leader. "To my mind that shows that we are being followed, and the Indians are coming down the stream to creep close to us."
Just then the schoolmaster was seized with sharp pains and began to groan and writhe in his suffering. No one understood the nature of the attack, and the simple remedies which were used apparently produced no relief. At last the suffering man was covered with a blanket and placed near the ashes of the fire. All the men except Peleg then lay down once more upon the ground. A strenuous day was awaiting them, and whether Master Hargrave was ill or not, they must get their necessary rest. They were inclined to believe, too, after their long wait, that no Indians were near them. The stream might have been muddied by any one of half a dozen other means. Probably a 'coon had been the guilty party.
And yet all unknown to the little body of settlers a band of twelve warriors had been furtively approaching them in the very manner Peleg had suspected. Their noiseless footsteps had even brought them within a few yards of the camp. Only the coming of the morning was required to enable them to attack.
The light of the rising sun had appeared when the crouching Indians together fired upon the silent little camp.
By some strange chance almost all the bullets took effect in the body of the suffering schoolmaster. There was not even a cry from the stricken man, and as the Indians sent forth a wild whoop every one in the camp leaped to his feet and fled from the spot.
There had been no time for plans to be made, and consequently every man fled by himself. They were followed by the shots and the cries of the pursuing Indians, but no one knew what had befallen his comrade.
Peleg, who was fully dressed and better equipped than his friends for flight, with Singing Susan in his hand, suddenly fell as he ran along the border of a swamp which he had not noticed before.
The warriors swept past him, all believing that the young scout had been shot, and that his scalp might be secured when they returned.
Waiting only until the howling band had passed him, Peleg made his escape. He sped swiftly back in the direction of the camp, hoping to secure one of the stolen horses. When he arrived, however, his disappointment was keen when he found that not one of the horses was still there.
Exerting himself to the utmost, and still gripping Singing Susan, Peleg ran swiftly into the forest in the direction of the meeting-place which Colonel Clark had selected.
Several hours elapsed before the young scout arrived at the rendezvous. Before night fell three of his recent companions also appeared, but Sam Oliver was not of their number, and in fact he was never heard of again.
Daniel Boone was now present, and when he and Peleg were together as darkness fell over the camp Boone said: "I am more hopeful now that we shall soon have peace than I have ever been before."
"Just now," suggested Peleg with a laugh, "I am thinking more of something good to eat than I am of getting into the Indian villages."
"That suggests the one mistake which I fear has been made. In his eagerness, the colonel has assembled his men before he has secured supplies. The result is that almost every man is hungry to-night."
"I think I can endure it if the rest of the men do not complain," said Peleg sturdily. "I have not been with you through all these years without learning that I must not cry if everything I want does not come to me just when I want it."
"That is well. I do not think we will remain here long. It may be that we shall start within a few hours. All the men are eager to be gone, and there is nothing to be gained by delay. Without sufficient supplies for our horses as well as our men, the sooner we start the better it will be for us all."
"Are all here who are expected?" inquired Peleg.
"There are about one thousand here now, including the regulars."
This conversation was interrupted by the announcement that they would depart at once. There was a sufficient number of horses in the camp to provide one for Peleg and for others who had come on foot.
Just previous to the start the great scout explained to Peleg, "We are not far from one of the largest villages of the Indians. It may be that we shall come to it before morning. That will depend upon the pace at which our men advance."
The morning dawned, and still no sign of the first of the Indian villages had been seen. Not a trace of a warrior had been discovered throughout the night, nor had any been seen when several hours of the new day had passed. Whether or not the Indians had been informed of the approach of their enemies was not known.
Steadily the hungry men pressed forward, their conviction that the time had arrived for them to obtain lasting relief from the attacks of the treacherous Shawnees being even stronger than their feeling of hunger.
Peleg and the great scout were in the front lines, if indeed the advancing body could be said to be moving with any appearance of order. It is true the men kept closely together, but the nature of the ground over which they were moving and the forests through which they passed made any approach to military order well-nigh impossible.
The men near Peleg abruptly halted when not far before them on the opposite shore of a large pond they spied a solitary Indian. The warrior was standing as motionless as the nearby trees as he gazed steadily at his approaching enemies.
Suddenly he turned and fled into the forest, disregarding the calls of the men and even unmindful of the few scattered shots which followed him.
"Who was that?" whispered Peleg to Daniel Boone.
"It was Henry."
"I believe it was," declared Peleg excitedly. "What will he do now?"
"He will give the alarm to the village. We are not more than a mile from it now, and he will be there long before our horses can carry us over such ground as we have had for the past few miles."
Just at that moment there was a sharp call for an advance. The entire body at once responded, although the hungry horses were in no condition for swift action.
The words of the great scout were fulfilled when the force drew near the Indian village. Not one of its people was to be seen. Fires were still smouldering and even the meat which was being roasted and the corn that was boiling in the kettles had been abandoned in the precipitate flight of the Indians.
The discovery of the food was perhaps more welcome to the hungry men than would have been the sight of their foes. At all events, a halt was made, and such food as could be obtained was speedily allotted.
At the right of the village a large field of corn was seen, and the discovery that the corn was in the ear and ripe for food was good news indeed. It was not long before the hunger of every man was appeased, in a measure at least, and the entire force was ready for the further commands of Colonel Clark.
The village was set on fire in several places, and flames were also kindled in the field. In less than an hour the men departed, leaving behind them only the smoking embers of what a short time before had been a prosperous village of the red men.
Colonel Clark now urged his men forward with increasing speed. At times the force divided and the task of burning certain villages was assigned to the different bands. At other times the entire force proceeded as one body. But their enemies still had not been seen. Occasionally a solitary Indian would crawl within gunshot when the camp was pitched, discharge his gun, and then instantly flee; and once a small party of warriors, mounted upon superb horses, advanced boldly within gunshot. The red men coolly surveyed the little army, but when a force was sent to attack them they rode away so swiftly that pursuit was useless.
Village after village was burned to the ground, and rich fields of corn were left in ruins. The pioneers were determined to rid themselves once and for all of further possibilities of attacks by the ferocious Shawnees.
The alarm over the advance of Colonel Clark had spread throughout the entire region, and with one accord the red men had abandoned their homes and fled into the wilderness beyond.
When the attacking forces at last disbanded and the men returned to their homes, Daniel Boone and Peleg Barnes went back with their friends into Kentucky. The warfare with the Indians was ended. The Kentucky homes were now free from the attacks of the Shawnees or Cherokees.
Peleg was no longer a boy. The years that had passed during these pioneer days had made of him a man. He now had his own home and a tract of land adjoining that of his great friend, Daniel Boone.
Not a word was heard concerning Henry. There were occasional vague reports of the presence of a white man among the Shawnees, but whether or not this referred to "the white Shawnee" was never known.
As for Daniel Boone, it seemed as if the days of his peril were ended. The region which he had opened up for the incoming people had now become well settled. The sound of the axe was heard more frequently than the rifle. Prosperity smiled upon the efforts of the sturdy settlers, and the steadily advancing civilization and the spread of education wrought wonders among the people.
In the diary of Daniel Boone there occurs the following:
"Two darling sons and a brother I have lost by savage hands which have also taken from me 40 valuable horses and abundance of cattle. Many dark and sleepless nights have I spent, separated from the cheerful society of man, scorched by the summer's sun, and pinched by the winter's cold, an instrument ordained to settle the wilderness."
Another writer has left the following:
"He (Boone) has left behind him a name strongly written in the annals of Kentucky, and a reputation for calm courage softened by humanity, conducted by prudence, and embellished by a singular modesty of deportment. His person was rough, robust, and indicating strength rather than activity; his manner was cold, grave, and taciturn; his countenance homely but kind; his conversation unadorned, unobtrusive, and touching only upon the needful. He never spoke of himself unless particularly questioned."
As the years passed he showed more and more the spirit which has been described by one of his admirers in the following words:
"There never beat in man a kindlier or more philanthropic heart. While he was a stranger to selfish and sordid impressions he was alike above mean actions; and he lived and toiled for others, amid hardships and sufferings that would have crushed thousands of hearts."
The simple-hearted scout, shrewd in his dealing with the Indians, was honest and straightforward with the men of his own race, and looked for similar treatment from them. One can therefore imagine his surprise and indignation when he was informed that he had no legal right to an acre of the land which he had discovered, and into which he had led many families that already were sharing in the steadily increasing prosperity. The clearing he had made, the acres he had cultivated, he was informed, were not his property now, but belonged to a man who had signed certain papers!
Boone intensely loved Kentucky. Its rocks and trees, its rivers, its forests, its very soil, were dear to his heart. In Kentucky he had experienced his deepest sorrows and many of his highest joys. Perplexed as well as disheartened, the great scout departed from the settlement which in a large measure was his own work. He was homeless in a land in which he had helped so many to secure homes for themselves.
Deep as was Boone's sorrow, he was, as we know, a man whose feeling did not find expression in useless words. Quietly he returned to the banks of the Delaware where he had been born, and then went on to Virginia. On the borders of the great Kanawha he dwelt for five years in the woods with his dogs and gun.
Meanwhile his son and a brother had gone out into the remote and almost unknown land beyond the Mississippi River. Their reports and appeals were so strong, that at last, when the great scout was sixty years of age, once more accompanied by his faithful wife, he journeyed away from civilization and went to join his sons in the faraway wilderness.
The name of the great scout was so well-known and his character was so much admired that the Spanish Governor at once made him a present of eighty-five hundred acres of land in what is now the State of Missouri.
Here the great scout in a measure renewed the experiences of his early life. By working steadily and saving the money which he received from his crops and his furs he acquired a considerable sum. He then returned to Kentucky and looked up every man to whom he owed any money through the loss that had come to him by his inability to retain his land in the region he had loved. It was not long, however, before "he went back to Missouri, his heart lighter and also his pocketbook."
When the scout was seventy-five years of age, he still was a great hunter. Friendly with the Indians in the region, he paddled in his light canoe over the creeks and the little streams in the new territory, and it is said that even along the banks of the great Missouri River he set many of his traps for the beaver.
As long as the Spanish and French were in control of the Missouri country, Boone continued to hold his land safely; but when Napoleon sold the vast territory to the United States Boone once more suffered a heavy loss, for his own government refused to recognize his claim to any part of the region. It seemed almost as if the closing days of the great scout were to end in darkness.
Through his friends, Daniel Boone now appealed to the legislature of Kentucky to see that justice was done him. Eager to recognize the services of the man who had done so much for their state, the legislature urged Congress to do justice to the white-haired old scout. After some delay the petition was granted, and a gift of eight hundred and fifty acres of land was voted Daniel Boone.
It was in December, 1813, when Daniel Boone received word of this gift, but his relief and pleasure were lessened by the death of his wife. Selecting a choice spot that overlooked the river for her grave, the old scout said that when he, too, should die he wished to be buried by her side.
Seven years later, when he was eighty-five years old, this last request of Daniel Boone was granted.
Missouri, however, was not to be the final resting-place of the famous old scout and his wife. A quarter of a century later the legislature of Kentucky requested the children of Boone to permit the people of the state for which he had done so much to bring the bodies of the great scout and his wife to Frankfort, Kentucky.
To-day, on a beautiful site overlooking the banks of the Kentucky River, looking down upon the city of Frankfort, a fitting monument marks the place where all that is mortal of Daniel Boone lies resting.
THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS GARDEN CITY, N. Y.