Wild Western Scenes
by John Beauchamp Jones
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"Dod rot your cowardly skin!" said Sneak, after looking at the approaching form and turning to Joe, "how dare you to be frightened at sich a thing as that—a female woman!"

"It was not me—it was my pony, you great—"

"What?" asked Sneak, sharply, turning abruptly round, as they paused at the gate.

"You great long buffalo tapeworm!" said Joe, alighting on the side of the pony opposite to his quarrelsome companion, and then going forward and opening the gate in silence.

"What brings thee hither at this late hour, Mary?" inquired Glenn, on recognizing the ferryman's daughter.

"Nothing—only—I"—stammered the abashed girl, who had expected only to see our hero and his man.

"Speak out, lass, if you have any thing important to say," remarked Boone, when they entered the inclosure, placing his hand encouragingly on the girl's head.

Mary still hesitated, and Boone was no little puzzled to conjecture rightly what it was she intended to impart; but he was convinced it must be something of no ordinary nature that would induce a maiden of reputed timidity to leave her father's hut at a late hour of the night.

"Now tell me, Mary, what it was you wished to say," remarked Glenn, addressing her in a playful tone, when they were seated in the house, and a lamp suspended against the wall was lighted.

"I did not expect to find Mr. Boone and Sneak with you—and now—"

"What?" inquired Glenn, much moved by her paleness, and the throbbing of her breast, which now seemed to be gradually subsiding.

"Nothing—only you and Joe are both safe now," she replied, with her eyes cast down.

"Were we in danger? How are we safe?" inquired Glenn, regarding her words as highly mysterious.

"Everybody is safe where Mr. Boone is," replied Mary.

"But what was the danger, my pretty lass?" inquired Boone, playfully taking her hand.

"Why Posin, one of father's boatmen—"

"Speak on, lass—I know Posin to be an unfeeling wretch, and a half-blood Indian; but he is also known to be a great coward, and surely no harm could have been feared from him," said Boone.

"But I heard him speaking to himself when I was filling my pitcher at the spring, and he was standing behind some rocks, where he couldn't see me, and didn't think any one was within hearing."

"What said he?" inquired Glenn, impatiently, and much interested in the anticipated disclosure, for he had often remarked the satanic expression of Posin's features.

"These were his words: 'The Osages will be here before to-morrow morning. If Raven, the chief, will go halves with me, I'll tell him how much money the young men have, and help to get it!' Such were his very words!" continued Mary, her dark eyes assuming a brightness, and her voice a boldness unwonted on ordinary occasions, as she proceeded: "He then started off towards the prairie with his rifle, and nobody has seen him since. I told father about it but he wouldn't believe there was any danger; and when night came, he told me not to be uneasy, but to sleep like a good girl. I did lie down, for I never like to disobey my father; but I couldn't sleep, and so I got up and came here to wait till you returned, to tell you all about it."

"Thanks, Mary—I shall never forget your kindness," said Glenn, as much affected by her simplicity and gentleness as at the threatened danger.

"You're a sweet lass; God bless you, Mary!" said Boone, kissing her smooth forehead. "Now run home and go to sleep, child; we will be on our guard. As for you, your father is respected by all the Indians, and therefore your own safety will be best secured under his protection."

"I will accompany you to the hut," said Glenn, as the girl bid them good night, and was about departing.

"Oh no—I'm used to going alone," said Mary, promptly declining the proposition.

"She speaks truly, and it is unnecessary," said Boone, as the maiden bowed and disappeared.

The party then fastened the gate and secured themselves within the stone house. Joe petitioned Glenn to permit him to bring in the dogs, and Sneak seconded the motion, proposing to lie with them before the fire.

After a hearty repast, Boone and Glenn retired to their couches in quest of repose, so much needed after the exercises of the day. Nor was it long before they were steeped in that deep and solemn slumber which throws a mysterious veil over the senses, obscuring from the vision all objects of an unpleasant nature, relieving the mind of the cares that may have pressed heavily upon it during the day, and at the same time by the gentlest process refreshing and reinvigorating the weary faculties for renewed exertion.

Silence brooded over the fireside scene. The lamp threw a dim ray around its small flame unruffled by the confined and motionless air. The fawn was coiled in a sleeping posture under its master's bed, while the kitten purred upon its velvet back. On one side of the hearth lay Sneak, his head pillowed upon one of the hounds, while the other slept against his back. Joe was the only one present who had not fallen under the magic influence of slumber. Hitherto he had yielded to a more powerful impulse—that of the appetite—and he now sat upon a low stool on the corner of the hearth opposite to Sneak, his back leaning against the side of the fireplace, holding in his left hand a pewter platter, and in his right a rib of the deer he had killed, well cooked, which he raised to his mouth occasionally, and sometimes at very long intervals, between the approaches of the sleep which was gradually overpowering him. Once, when his eyelids sank heavily and closed, and the platter rested on his lap, and his right hand, still clenching the savoury bone, fell powerless at his side—Ringwood, in his hard breathing, chanced to snuff up some ashes that caused him to sneeze. Joe started at the sound, and after rolling his eyes round once or twice and finding all right, raised the bone once more to his mouth and set his jaws again in motion.

"Dod, man! are you going to chaw all night?" asked Sneak, awakened by the motion of Ringwood, and looking up at the face of Joe in astonishment.

"I had nothing to eat all day," replied Joe, fishing for a cracker floating in the greasy platter.

"But ain't you a-going to sleep some?" asked Sneak, half unconsciously, the final utterance smothered in a guttural rumble as he again sank back on his canine pillow.

"Yes, when I've got my supper," replied Joe lazily, and indistinctly, with one end of the bone in his mouth. But it was not long before he again nodded, and his hand with the bone in it was once more lowered softly down at his side. He was soon palpably fast asleep. And now the kitten, having finished its nap, came with a noiseless tread to the comfortable fire, humming its low unvaried song; and, rubbing its soft side against the head of Jowler, finally crouched down before the embers, with its feet drawn under it, and its eyes apparently watching the brilliant sparks that ever and anon flew up the chimney. But ere long it scented the well-flavoured viand that dangled in the vicinity, and after casting a glance at the face of Joe, and being satisfied that he was insensible to all external objects, stealthily began to gnaw the end of the bone that rested on the hearth. As long as it had in mind the fear of interruption, it was permitted to feast moderately; but when its ravenous propensity urged it to more active and vigorous operations, Joe once more opened his eyes, and after looking slowly around, but not down, again attempted to raise the rib to a is mouth.

"Hello!—augh! scat!" he cried, leaping up violently.

His first impression was that the Indians, about whom he had been dreaming, were upon him; his next that a rattlesnake clung to his finger; and finally, finding it to be the kitten bestowing some scratches on the hand that sought to bereave it of its prize, he uttered the latter exclamation, first in rage; but pleased that his condition was no worse, soon after called the poor frightened pet to him, and with one or two caresses gave it the bone, and then resigned himself to unrestrained slumber.

They were all aroused in the morning by the snorting of the horses without, and the growling and sharp yelping of the hounds within.

"What's the matter with the horses and dogs, Joe?" inquired Glenn, rising from his couch.

"I don't know what ails the foolish things. I know that I fed the horses; and as for Ringwood and Jowler, I'll soon kick them out. Let go my ankle!" exclaimed he, turning to Sneak, who caught hold of him as he rose to approach the door.

"Don't open the door yet," said Boone, who had been listening to the sounds outside, and then continued in an under tone, addressing Glenn: "They are certainly here; but whether or not with an evil intent I am unable to determine."

"Oh goodness! It's the Indians!" exclaimed Joe, yielding to sudden alarm, having momentarily forgotten the anticipated danger when he proposed opening the door.

"Keep your mouth shet!" said Sneak, listening with his ear placed near the floor behind the door.

"How many do you make them out to be?" inquired Boone, when Sneak had occupied his position a few minutes.

"It's all right!" replied Sneak, eagerly; "there is only two or three of 'em, and old Roughgrove's out there talking to 'em! How do you open the door? Let me out!"

The door was opened with reluctance and cautiously by Joe, and Sneak going foremost all the party sallied out into the fresh air. A snow of several inches in depth had fallen, and within the circle enclosed by the palisade not a single track was to be seen. But when the gate was drawn back, several Osage Indians were observed standing a few paces distant with their tomahawks hung in their belts and instead of exhibiting any symptoms of hostility, they approached smiling, and extended the hand of friendship to the whites.

"How do!" exclaimed the leader, in imperfect English, grasping the hands held out in salutation, while his actions were imitated by the others in silence.

"I'm very well, I thank you," said Joe, bowing and retreating backwards when they accosted him, unwilling to venture his hand within their reach, as Glenn and the rest did.

"Shake hands with them, you silly fellow," said Boone, "or they will think you are an enemy."

"Here, Mr. Osage!" said Joe, his teeth chattering as he extended his hand; and the Indian, perceiving his alarm, squeezed it so tightly for merriment that he was on the eve of crying out; and when liberated, he sprang violently back, much inclined to run away, to their great amusement.

"That is Raven, the chief," remarked Roughgrove to Glenn, pointing to the one that first addressed them, and who was now conversing with Boone, whom he seemed to know, or to have been familiar with his character, from his animated gestures and the excited expression of his features. Sneak stood in silence, a convenient distance apart, apparently gleaning intelligence from the conference. The chief (as are the members of this tribe generally) was extremely dark, tall, athletic, and wore a ferocious aspect, while the few followers with him manifested a curiosity to examine the apparel and accoutrements of the whites, but without betraying any signs of an evil disposition.

"Are there not more of them in the vicinity?" inquired Glenn.

"Yes—quite a large party," said Roughgrove; "but Raven said he did not wish to intimidate the whites by showing them, without first extending the hand of friendship himself. They profess to entertain the kindest feeling towards us, and propose through their chiefs to traffic their furs and moccasins for such goods as we may be disposed to give them in return."

"I do not see your oarsman, Posin," remarked Glenn, the disclosure of Mary occurring to him—and then accosted Mary herself, who now joined them with her eyes cast down in apparent bashfulness.

"His absence is a mystery to me," replied the old ferryman, "though I do not attach the same importance to it that Mary does."

"Father"—uttered his daughter, and pausing in mingled timidity and dread, as if some undefinable forebodings of harm oppressed her.

"I'll be shot if I understand all this to my liking," said Sneak, staring at the great number of moccasin tracks that had been made round the enclosure, which truly indicated that more than the four chiefs present had been prowling there before daylight.

"Hush, Mr. Sneak!" said Joe; "they hear every word you say."

"Jest let me alone a minute," replied Sneak, getting down on his knees and examining the various foot-prints with great minuteness. When he rose he made some signs to Boone, which the others did not comprehend.

At this juncture several other Indians were seen to approach from the valley above, where the party had encamped. These painted visitors likewise came forward with sundry nods and gesticulations of friendship, at the same time exhibiting several furred articles of curious workmanship, and a few precious stones, as samples of what they wished to barter. A short conference then ensued between them and the head chief, which terminated in a pressing invitation for the whites to accompany them to their encampment.

"You may all do as you like—I shall stay here," said Joe, stepping back towards the gate.

"You are a coward, Joe!" said Glenn; "you may remain, however, to prevent them from pilfering any thing while we are away," and he turned towards the Indians for the purpose of accompanying them.

"Stay!" said Mary, in a distinct and startling tone.

"Why should we not go? We are armed, and could as easily withstand an attack in their encampment as elsewhere. If it be their determination to do us harm, their numbers will enable them to accomplish their purpose notwithstanding all the opposition we can offer," said Glenn.

"There is no danger," said Roughgrove, endeavouring to extricate his arm from the grasp of Mary, who strenuously held him back.

"I have a secret for thee, child," said Boone, beckoning the trembling girl to him.

"Oh, what is it? You will not let him—I mean my father, go among them, will you? You know that Posin is away—perhaps in some ambush —"

"Hush child!" said Boone, in a low tone, and employing gestures that led the savages to believe he was quieting her fears, while he whispered a message in her ear that had a singular effect. Though very pale, the girl now smiled playfully, and returning to her father, said, in tones so low that no one else could hear, "Father, he says you must instantly cross the river for assistance—I will be safe, under his protection, till you return."

"I'll do it!" replied Roughgrove, setting off towards the ferry. But when he departed, the chief evinced much anger, and was only appeased by the assurance that the old ferryman was gone for some article desired by his child, and would return ere long.

The footprint which had so much attracted Sneak was recognized by some peculiar marks to be that of Posin, and when the discovery was communicated to Boone, he at once surmised that danger lurked in the vicinity; and the subsequent impatience on the part of the Indians to urge the whites to visit their camp, convinced him that some foul treachery had been concocted between the half-breed and the savages. He had also caught a glimpse of several armed Indians behind some bushes at no great distance from where he stood, notwithstanding Raven had asserted that the rest of his party were in their encampment; and when the chief grew angry, and almost menacing, on the withdrawal of the old ferryman, he resolved to adopt the surest means of safety without delay. No sooner was the ferry-boat seen to shoot out from the land than Boone motioned the whites to enter the inclosure. As they turned towards the gate, the chief made a movement to intercept them; but Boone drew forth a brace of pistols that had been concealed under his hunting-shirt, one of which he pointed at Raven, and with the other intimidated the rest who had advanced likewise, until his friends were all within the palisade.

Boone did not wish to be the first to shed blood, and in their own language asserted as much to the savages; but at the same time he warned them not to commit any violence in the settlement at their peril. The chief had not thought there would be any necessity for bloodshed so soon, and perhaps not at all, if Glenn could be enticed from his house, while Posin and his comrades might obtain his money.

Nor did he expect to meet with Boone, (renowned among all the tribes for his wisdom and prowess,) much less to be anticipated on the very threshold of the enterprise. His rage grew intense on finding himself outwitted and defied. He drew forth his tomahawk, and though not venturing to throw it, (for he perceived Glenn and Sneak behind, with their guns in readiness to fire,) he shook it threateningly at Boone as he closed the gate, and then strode away sulkily in the direction of the bushes, where some of his followers had been seen partially concealed.

When the gate was secured, the inmates of the little fort crowded about Boone and overwhelmed him with questions.

"Do you think they can get over the posts?" inquired Joe.

"Will they come before father returns?" asked Mary.

"Do you think they will attack us at all?" interrogated Glenn.

"There can be no doubt of it," replied Boone; "but if we do our duty, I think we shall be able to resist them. We must be ready to defend ourselves, at all events—and in the mean time we must watch through the loopholes on every side to prevent a surprise." This was hardly spoken before an arrow whizzed over their heads, and, striking against the stone wall of the house, fell at the feet of Joe.

"Ugh! look at that!" cried he, leaping some ten feet away.

"Go in, child—and the rest to their posts!" remarked Boone, first to Mary, and then addressing the men.

"Yes—do go in, Miss!" cried Joe, forcing Mary into the house, where he also seemed determined to remain himself.

"Come out here!" cried Sneak, going to the door.

"Wait till I screw a flint in my musket," said Joe.

"You can see better out here," replied Sneak.

"But I haven't found the flint yet," answered Joe.

"He's a coward!" said Sneak, turning away and going to his post, whence he could watch the valley below.

Boone's station was on the opposite side, in the direction of the supposed encampment of the Indians. But not a savage could now be seen, and the arrow that fell among them had evidently been discharged from a great distance above.

"Shall we fire if any of them come within the range of our guns?" inquired Glenn, from his position on the east, which overlooked the cliff.

"Certainly," replied Boone; "the arrow was their declaration of war, and if they are again seen, it will be in a hostile attitude. Watch close, Sneak!" he cried, as another shaft flew over the palisade from the valley below, and penetrated the wood but a few feet above his head.

"Come out to your post, Joe!" cried Glenn, impatiently.

"I will presently—as soon as I get my gun fixed," replied Joe.

"If you do not come forth instantly, I'll thrust you out of the inclosure!" continued Glenn, somewhat fiercely.

"Here I am," said Joe, coming out, and making an effort to assume a bold bearing: "I'm ready now—I only wanted to fix my gun—who's afraid?" saying which, he strode in a stooping posture to the loophole on the west of the inclosure.

While the whole male force of the garrison was required to act as sentinels, Mary, whose trepidation had been succeeded by deliberate resolution, was busily employed moulding bullets.

An hour passed, and no Indians had yet been seen, although an occasional arrow assured the besieged party that the enemy still remained in the immediate vicinity. They cleared away the snow at their posts, and placing dry straw to stand upon, prepared to continue the watch throughout the day and night. Nor were they to suffer for food; for Mary, though she had not been requested so to do, ere long, to their joyful surprise, came forth with a dinner handsomely provided, which she placed before them with a smile of satisfaction playing on her lips, and entirely unmindful of the shafts that continued to fly overhead, which either pierced the wood and remained stationary, or fell expended and harmless at her feet.

Affairs thus remained till night, when the arrows ceased to fly. There was not a cloud in the heavens, and the moon rose up in purest brightness. A breathless stillness pervaded the air, and no sound for a great length of time could be heard but the hooting of owls on the opposite side of the river, and the howling of wolves in the flats about a mile above.

"I'm not a bit cold—are you?" said Joe, addressing Sneak.

"Dad! keep an eye out!" replied Sneak, in a low tone.

"There's nothing out this way but a bush. But I declare it seems to be bigger and nigher than it was in the daytime," said Joe.

"Don't speak so loud," remarked Boone, crossing to where Joe stood, and looking through at the bush.

"It's nothing but a bush," said Joe.

"Do you wish to kill an Indian?" inquired Boone.

"I wish they were all worms, and I could get my heel on them!" said Joe.

"That would be cruel—but as any execution we may now do, is in our own defence, you may fire at that bush if you like," continued Boone.

"Well," said Joe; and taking deliberate aim, discharged his musket as directed, and was knocked down on his back in the snow by the rebound.

"Plague take the gun!" said he, recovering his feet; "but I remember it had two loads in—I forgot it was charged, and loaded it again. Ha! ha! ha! but what's become of the bush?" he continued jocularly, not thinking he had fired at an Indian.

"Look for yourself," replied Boone.

"Hang me if it ain't gone!" exclaimed Joe.

"Ay, truly it is; but had you hit the mark, it would have fallen. It was rather too far, however, even for your musket," said Boone, returning to his former position.

"You are the poorest marksman that ever I saw, or you'd 'ave killed that red rascal," said Sneak, coming up to Joe, and finding where the bush had been.

"I didn't know it was any thing but a bush—if I'd only known it was an Indian—"

"You be hanged!" replied Sneak, vexed that such a capital opportunity should be lost, and petulantly resuming his own station.

An intense silence succeeded the discharge of Joe's gun, after the tremendous report died away, in successive reverberations up and down the river, and over the low wood land opposite. The owls and wolves were hushed; and as the watchful sentinels cast their eyes over the snow, on which the calm rays of the moon rested in repose, there was not the least indication of the presence of a dangerous foe.

Joe leant against the palisade, holding with one hand the breech of his gun, while the barrel was thrust through the loophole, and seemed to be indulging in a peculiar train of reflections.

"Now, I'd much rather be in Philadelphia," said he, in a voice but little louder than a, whisper, and unconscious of giving utterance to his thoughts—"a great deal rather be there—in some comfortable oyster-cellar—than standing out here in the lone wilderness, up to my knees in snow, and expecting every minute to have a poisoned arrow shot through my head. Hang it all! I wonder what pleasure Mr. Glenn can enjoy here? Suppose, now, while I'm standing here thinking, an arrow should dart over the, other side, and stick five or six inches into me? I hope they keep a careful look-out. And that reminds me that I ought to keep an eye out myself, for fear some one may he pinked from my side." He applied his eye to the hole, and continued in the same strain: "I don't see a single living thing; maybe they've all gone off. If they have, I'll deserve all the credit, for I'm the only person that shot at them. And I don't think that long hatchet-face Sneak will think that I'm a coward any more. But these savages are strange beings; I had no more idea that the bush hid an Indian than that there's one not ten feet off now, under the snow. And if we hadn't found him out he might have crawled up and shot me in the eye through this hole. I won't hold my eye here all the time!" said he, rising, and to his astonishment Sneak stood at his elbow, whither he had glided softly, his quick ear having caught the hum of Joe's soliloquy, and his curiosity leading him to find out the meaning of the mysterious jargon of his companion-in-arms.

"Of all the men I ever saw you are the dod-rottedest!" exclaimed Sneak, after staring at him a few moments in silent wonderment, and then striding back to his post.

"I should like to hear that sentence parsed," said Joe, looking after him.

The hours wore on in peace, until midnight, when a low chattering, like that of a squirrel, was heard in the valley below; while a shrill whistling, resembling that of quails was distinguished above.

"Come hither!" exclaimed Boone in a whisper to Glenn.

"Do you see any of them?" inquired Glenn, joining his friend.

"Not yet—but we will see enough of them presently. The sounds in the valleys are signals, and they will attack us on these sides. You may abandon your watch on the east, and assist me here."

"And you may come and spell me," said Sneak to Joe.

"I must not desert my post," said Joe.

"If you stay there, you'll be dead sure to be shot!" replied Sneak.

"You don't think they're coming back, do you?" inquired Joe, gliding swiftly to Sneak's side.

"They'll be on us in no time. Is your gun loaded?

"I declare I have forgotten whether I loaded it again or not!" said Joe.

"You're, a purty feller, to watch with an empty gun, now ain't you? Never mind blowing in her—run down a cartridge as quick as you kin; it makes no odds how much you have in; a big noise will do as much good as any thing else," said Sneak, hurriedly, evidently expecting to see the savage enemy every moment, while Joe did his bidding, asserting all the time that he believed his musket was already loaded, and expressing a decided dislike to being kicked over every day from overcharging.

As Boone predicted, but a very short time elapsed before a series of startling and frightful yells were heard below, which were answered by similar horrid sounds above. Joe first ran towards Boone and Glenn, and then sprang back to his place at the side of Sneak, fully convinced there were no means of retreat, and, being effectually cornered, at length evinced an ardent desire to fire. When the yells died away in the distance, a flight of arrows from the north south poured upon the besieged party. Many of them pierced the outer side of the palisade, while others, flying over, penetrated the opposite timbers, and quivered above the heads of the men; and some rattled against the top of the house, (the snow having melted from the roof,) and fell harmless to the earth.

There having been no shot yet fired in the direction whence the arrows came, (for such was the order of Boone,) the savages, emboldened by the absence of any demonstrations of resistance, and thinking their foes were shut up in the house, or killed by their numberless shafts, charged upon the premises simultaneously from both sides, shooting their arrows and yelling as they came. When they had approached within a hundred paces of the inclosure, Boone and Sneak fired with deadly aim at the foremost of the party, and the next moment Glenn followed the example, while Boone reloaded his gun.

"Now fire!" exclaimed Sneak, shaking Joe by the shoulder, having seen the savages pause when one of their party uttered the death-howl and fell.

"Here goes!" said Joe, pulling the trigger and falling over on his back in the snow from the rebound, for the musket had been truly twice charged.

"Split me if you didn't accidentally throw a handful of bullets among their legs that crack!" said Sneak, observing the now discomfited and retreating Indians, as they endeavoured to bear off their wounded, and then firing on them again himself as they vanished down the valley. The like result was witnessed above, and again in a very short time there was not a savage to be seen.

"What's the matter? Why don't you get up?" asked Sneak turning to Joe, who still remained prostrate on the ground.

"My mouth's bleeding—I don't know but I'm wounded. Didn't an arrow come through the hole when I was shooting?" asked Joe, rising partially up and spitting out a quantity of blood on the snow.

"It was nothing but the gun kicking you like it did in the bear hunt. If it was an arrow you must have swallered it, for I don't see the shaft. But maybe you did—you're sech a gormandizer," said Sneak.

"Hang it all, I don't believe I'm much hurt!" exclaimed Joe, jumping up suddenly. "Get from before the hole!" he continued, ramming down a cartridge hastily, and thrusting out the muzzle of his gun.

"Why don't you blaze away?" asked Sneak, laughing, observing that he hesitated.

"Why, they're, all gone!" cried Joe, joyfully, "and it was my old cannon that swept them off, too."

Once more silence pervaded the scene. Boone, after the repeated solicitations of Mary, partook of another bountiful repast, and the others in turn likewise refreshed themselves, and then resumed the watch.

Nor was it long before the Osages were once more heard to howl like fiends, and the sound had hardly ceased to vibrate through the air before a singular and unexpected assault terrified the besieged party for a moment. This was a shower of blazing arrows coming from below, (where all the savages now seemed to be collected,) which ignited the palisade in many places where the snow had fallen off. But the fire was easily extinguished, and all, with the exception of Boone, were disposed to attach but little importance to any further device of the enemy. Boone, on the contrary, was unusually grave, and requested his companions to be on the alert, or they would yet be the victims of the savages.

"I like these kind of arrows the best," said Joe, "for I can see how to dodge them."

"But the wooden slabs can't dodge—dod! they're afire on the outside now!" cried Sneak, truly discovering a flame reaching above the inclosure from without.

"Watch well from the loopholes!" cried Boone, throwing open the gate and rushing out, and running round to where the fire was crackling. "Come, Sneak!—I want your assistance—quick!" he exclaimed, finding the flames making rapid progress.

"Keep your eye skinned now!" said Sneak, as he left Joe alone to watch for the Indians, and ran out to aid in subduing the fire.

The savages could evidently see what was transacting, although unseen themselves, for most of their arrows now seemed to be directed at those without.

"Look sharp!" said Boone to Joe, through the loophole.

"Let me assist!" cried Glenn, imprudently leaving his post in his eagerness to share the danger, and coming out with a spade.

"Go in, my friend—we are sufficient here," said Boone, addressing Glenn.

"Come in! come in! come in!" cried Joe.

"I see no Indians," remarked Boone.

"The house is on fire! Fire! fire! fire!" screamed Joe, falling into his old habit when in the city.

Glenn ran back in this emergency, but when he arrived within the inclosure, he found that this service had been anticipated by Mary, who had quietly thrust her hands into the snow, and with balls thus made, easily extinguished the fire on the roof.

When Boone and Sneak had effected their purpose, they repaired to their former positions, assured that the utmost caution must be observed to prevent a surprise from some unexpected quarter, while their attention was naturally directed to one particular point. But they had hardly resumed their stations before their ears were saluted by the joyful report of rifles in the valley. Relief was at hand. Roughgrove had recrossed the river, with a party of recruits, and fallen upon the rear of the savages, at a moment when success seemed to smile on their sanguinary purpose. Their shouts of exultation at the prospect of firing the premises were now changed to howls of despair, and they fled in all directions. But Roughgrove, aware of the impolicy of pursuit, led his men directly to the gallant little garrison; and the victorious huzzas of his band were answered in like manner by the besieged, who came forth and gave them a cordial welcome. Never, perhaps, when they met, did hand grasp hand more heartily. But Mary, who had hitherto cast aside all the weaker fears of the woman, no sooner beheld her aged father in safety than she rushed into arms and fainted on his breast.


A strange excursion—A fairy scene—Joe is puzzled and frightened—A wonderful discovery—Navigation of the upper regions—A crash—No bones broken.

Several weeks had elapsed since the incidents recorded in the last chapter. The repulse of the Osages was succeeded by the arrival of a war-party of Pawnees, and a deadly feud existing between these tribes, the latter readily joined the whites, and speedily chased the enemy far beyond the settlements. Boone had returned to his family on the other side of the river; and Sneak, having made peace with Joe, had likewise withdrawn to his own domicil, to pursue his avocations of hunting and trapping in solitude.

Glenn sat before a blazing fire in his little castle, his left hand clasping a closed book he had been reading, while his dextral elbow was resting on the rude arm of a chair which he had constructed and cushioned with furs, and his palm supported his chin. He thus sat silently, looking steadfastly through one of the little square windows at the snow-encrusted branches of the trees beyond the inclosure, and apparently indulging a pleasing train of reflections.

Joe, on the contrary, was engaged in boisterous and mirthful exercise on the deep and frozen snow without. He was playing with the kitten, the fawn, and the hounds, and occasionally ran into the stable to caress the horses.

At length, with no other object than a dreamy impulse to wander among the wild scenes in the vicinity, Glenn started up, and donning a warm overcoat and seizing his rifle, set out along the cliff up the river, (a direction which he had never yet traversed,) accompanied by Joe, who seemed to look upon his master's pale composed face, and determined though gentle motions, with curiosity, if not mystery.

"Why do you stare at me so often?" inquired Glenn, pausing, after they had walked some distance in silence.

"Because I don't know what you're after," replied Joe.

"You'll see what I'm after," said Glenn, setting forward, and continuing his course along the cliff.

A snow of several feet in depth rested on the earth, and the sun that shone forth at noon had melted the surface so frequently, that the freezing nights which had as often succeeded had formed an icy incrustation quite strong enough to bear the weight of a man. Though it was a dreary waste, yet Glenn gleaned a satisfaction in casting his eyes around where his glance beheld no one striving to oppress his fellow being that he might acquire riches and power, to be again snatched from his grasp by others, but a peaceful scene, fresh from the hand of God, and unmarred by the workmanship of meaner creatures. The broad river far below was covered with a massy plate of ice, and the snow that rested upon it gave it the appearance of an immense plain, rather than an incrusted surface of the most perturbed and erratic stream in the world. The geese and other fowl that wandered over the frozen surface in quest of their native element, from the great distance down, seemed to be no larger than sparrows.

Ere long, Glenn and his man reached the valley above, and commenced a descent through the timber in a diagonal direction, that would conduct them, after numerous windings, to the edge of the frozen stream, along which a narrow pathway ran northward about a mile. Glenn paused at an abrupt angle in his descent, after having proceeded a few paces through the undergrowth, and stood long in wonderment and admiration, gazing at the scene that suddenly burst in view. His towering position overlooked the whole valley. The ten thousand trees beneath, and their ten million branches and twigs all completely clothed in crystal—while not the slightest breeze was stirring—presented a view of fairyland, such as flits across the vision in dreams, that the memory fain would cling to, but which is lost in the real and conflicting transactions of returning day. The noonday sun was momentarily veiled by a listless cloud, which seemed to be stationary in the heavens, as if designed to enhance the effect of the beauty below, that outvied in brightness even the usual light above. Not a squirrel was seen to leap from bough to bough, nor a bird to flit across the opening between the lofty trees; but all was stillness, silence, and beauty. As Glenn stood entranced, Joe seemed to be more struck with the operation of the enchantment on his companion's features and attitude, than with any effect from the same source experienced on himself.

"Ain't you going down to the bottom of the valley?" asked Joe.

"It is a scene such as is beheld by infants in their slumbers, when they dream of paradise!" said Glenn, paying no attention to Joe, his eyes immovably riveted on the innumerable sprigs of alabaster which pointed out in every direction in profuse clusters, while his pale lips seemed to move mechanically, and his brow expressed a mournful serenity, as if entertaining a regret that he should ever be separated from the pearly labyrinths before him, amid which he would delight to wander forever.

"I think you must be dreaming yourself," said Joe, staring at him.

"How composed is every object!" continued Glenn; "such must be the abode of angels and departed spirits, who are not permitted longer to behold the strifes of earth and its contaminations, but rove continually with noiseless tread, or on self-poised wing, through devious and delightful paths, surrounded by sedges of silver embroidery, and shielded above by mazy fretwork spangled with diamonds, or gliding without effort through the pure and buoyant air, from bower to bower of crystal"

"Ugh—talking of the icy trees makes me chilly!" said Joe.

"With life everlasting and unchangeable!" continued Glenn, after a momentary pause from the interruption of his man, which he only noticed by a significant motion of the hand for him to be silent.

"But I wouldn't like the eternal frost-work," said Joe.

"Pshaw!" replied Glenn, pursuing his way downwards. When they reached the bottom of the valley, they were yet a hundred paces distant from its junction with the river, which was obscured by the many intervening trees that grew along the frozen rivulet. Here Glenn again paused to contemplate the scene. The hills that rose abruptly on either hand, and the thick intertwining branches above, combined to produce a dusky aspect scarce less dim than twilight. Glenn folded his arms composedly, and looked thoughtfully round, as if indulging the delightful fancies engendered when wandering forth on a summer's pleasant evening. "There seems to be a supernatural influence pervading the air to-day," he said, in a low-tone, "for I sometimes imagine that flitting spirits become partially visible. On the pendent icicles and jewelled twigs, me thinks I sometimes behold for an instant the prismatic rays of elfins' eyes—"

"Don't believe it," said Joe; "or if it is so, they are weeping at the cold, and will soon be frozen up."

"And at each sudden turn," continued Glenn, "they seem to linger an instant in view, and then vanish sportively, as if amused at the expense of impotent mortals."

"I can't hear 'em laugh," said Joe.

"And then," continued Glenn, "although beyond human consciousness, there may be heavenly sounds in the air—the melody of aerial harps and fairy voices—to which our ears may be sealed, when, perchance, our vicinity to their presence may inspire the peculiar sensation I now experience."

"I heard a heap of curious sounds one warm sunshiny morning," said Joe; "but when I asked an old fellow jogging along the same road what they meant, he said the day before had been so cold when the stage-driver went by that his wind froze as it came out of the bugle, and was just then thawing."

"If such beings do exist," continued Glenn, paying no attention to Joe, "it would delight me to commune with them face to face."

"I see a buck's head!" cried Joe, looking down the dell, where the object he mentioned was distinctly observable amid a cluster of spicewood bushes, whence a slight jingling sound proceeded as the animal plucked the nutritious buds bent down by the innumerable icicles.

"Why should not the sylvan gods"—continued Glenn.

"Hush! I'm going to fire!" said Joe.

"Why should they not resort hither," said Glenn, unmindful of Joe, "where no meaner beings abide?"

Joe fired, and Glenn started in astonishment, as if he had had no intimation of his companion's intention.

"Hang it all! Isn't he going to die, I wonder?" said Joe, after the buck had made one or two plunges in the snow, his sharp hoofs piercing through the crust on the surface, and with much struggling extricated himself and stood trembling, and looked imploringly at his foe.

"What in the world are you about?" exclaimed Glenn, casting a listless glance at the deer, and then staring his companion in the face.

"Whip me if there was any lead in the gun!" said Joe. "I drew the bullets out yesterday, and forgot to put them in again. But no matter—he can't run through the snow—I'll kill him with the butt of my musket."

"Move not, at your peril!" said Glenn, authoritatively, when Joe was about to rush on the defenceless buck.

"I do believe you are out of your head!" said Joe, staring Glenn in the face, and glancing at the tempting prize, alternately.

"At such an hour—in such an elysian place as this—no blood shall be spilled. It were profanity to discolor these pearly walks with clotted gore."

"The deuce take the pearls, say I!" said Joe.

"Perhaps," continued Glenn, "a god may have put on the semblance of a stag to tempt us."

"And hang me, if I wouldn't pretty soon spoil his physiognomy, if you would only say the word!" said Joe, shaking his head sullenly at the buck.

"Come," said Glenn, sternly; and, leading the way, he passed within a few feet of the terrified animal without turning his head aside, and directed his steps down the valley towards the river. Joe said nothing when opposite the buck, awed by the impressive tone and mysterious bearing of his master; but he grinned defiance at him, and resolved to embrace the first opportunity to steal out alone, and fully gratify his revenge; for such was the feeling he now harboured against the animal.

When they reached the margin of the river, they wandered along the narrow path that turned to the left, and continued up the stream, with the ice but a few feet distant on one hand, and the precipitous acclivity of rocks on the other. They maintained a brisk pace for about thirty minutes, when the range of cliffs terminating abruptly, they entered a low flat forest.

"Now, what do you say to my firing?" exclaimed Joe, staring at an enormous wolf, a short distance on the left, that seemed to be tearing the flesh from the carcass of a deer.

"You must not fire," replied Glenn, viewing the scene with no interest.

"Why not? If the deer's a sylvan god, the wolfs sure to be a black devil, and it's a duty to take the god's part," said Joe.

"No!" replied Glenn, still striding on.

"Where are you going to, I should like to know? I hope you haven't any idea of going closer to the haunted island!" said Joe, following reluctantly.

"What haunted island?" asked Glenn.

"Why that one right ahead of us!" replied Joe, pointing to a small island a few hundred paces distant.

"Who says it is haunted?" demanded Glenn.

"Why, everybody in the country knows it's haunted. Didn't you hear Miss Mary telling all about it?"

"What did she tell about it?"

"That several years ago a man flew up the river riding on a black cloud of smoke, and after scaring all the Indians and everybody else away, took up his abode in yonder island. Not a soul, from that day to this, has ever been nearer to it than we are now. But strange sights have been seen there. Once a great big swan, as large as our house, was seen to come out of the willows and leap into the water. After seeing it paddle about an hour or two in every direction, an old beaver trapper and deer hunter took it into his head that it was nothing more than a water-fowl of some large species; and resolving to have a crack at it anyhow, he crept behind the rocks at the end of the cliff, and blazed away when it swam past the next time. Mercy on us! when he fired, they say the thing turned his head towards him, and came at him in a straight line, and as fast as lightning, blowing sparks of fire out of its nostrils, while the poor man stood stock still, spell-bound, until it seized upon him, and he has never been heard of since."

"Nothing more?" asked Glenn, lightly, and smiling.

"Good gracious! what more would you want? But there was more; for the very next day, when the people were looking at the island from a distance, and wondering what had been the fate of old Odell, another large bird came out. But this was like an eagle, and instead of going into the water, it flew up into the air, and kept going higher and higher, until it was no bigger than a sparrow, and soon vanished altogether! I declare we are too near the island now, Mr. Glenn; let us go back; we have gone far enough!" said Joe, beseechingly, his own tale having roused all the terrors which his nature was capable of harboring.

Glenn seemed to pay no attention to what his companion was saying, but strode onward directly towards the island.

"Mr. Glenn!" continued Joe, stepping ahead, and facing him by turning round. "Oh, sir! you don't certainly intend to venture any closer to that fatal spot?"

"Pshaw!" replied Glenn, pushing him aside, and continuing on. When they were opposite the island, Joe, whose alarm had almost deprived him of the power of motion, was now struck with horror as he beheld his master pause, and then descend to the ice, and walk deliberately to the haunted ground! When Glenn reached the bank, he turned to his pale and shivering companion, and motioned him to follow.

"Oh, Heaven! we'll never be seen any more!" cried Joe, between his chattering teeth.

"Come on, Joe! I'll take care of you," said Glenn, encouragingly, as his man hesitated in doubt when midway on the ice.

"The holy saints preserve me!" said Joe, gliding over, quaking with fear, and clinging to Glenn's hand.

They walked up a gentle ascent from the water's edge, whence Glenn expected to see nothing more than a surface of snow, and the dense growth of young timber incident to such a place. But what was his surprise, on beholding, in the midst of the island, and obscured from view to the surrounding country by an almost impenetrable grove of young willows, a round chimney-top rising over a high circular granite wall! Nothing daunted, he continued his steps directly towards the mysterious dwelling, notwithstanding the protestations and prayers of Joe. When they drew near, a thin slightly coloured vapor could be distinguished ascending from the chimney, indicating that the tenement was certainly inhabited. When they reached the wall, they pursued their way round it until they found a small iron gate.

"Rap there, Joe," said Glenn. Joe only turned his head, and looked at him in silence.

"Knock," continued Glenn.

"Oh!" exclaimed Joe, falling on his knees. "If ever you were prevailed on not to do any thing you were doing, let me this one time persuade you to leave this place."

"Knock!" repeated Glenn, emphatically. Joe struck the gate several blows with his knuckles, but so gently that he could not hear them himself. Glenn seemed to grow angry, and seizing his man's musket, was in the act of applying the end of it violently, when the gate flew open at one spring, and a hoary porter stood bowing and beckoning before him.

"Do not enter!" cried Joe, throwing his arms around Glenn.

"It is too late, now—you have knocked, and it is opened unto you—your mission must be accomplished before you turn back. Mine is not yet effected—I am the one who dared to face the magic swan—and like me, all who come hither must remain until it shall be the pleasure of the fire-wizard to release them," said the old attendant.

"Lead me to this fire-wizard!" said Glenn, firmly, stepping into the inclosure. When they entered, the gate closed after them without any apparent agency of the old hunter, and with such force that Joe sprang several feet forward.

"Oh, goodness! we are nothing but poor rats in the trap, now!" exclaimed he.

"I pledged myself for your safety, and will keep my word," said Glenn.

"But what will the wizard care about your veracity?" asked Joe.

"Follow!" said the old porter, leading the way towards the house. After passing several small buildings, Glenn found himself in a spacious area, over which were scattered various and strange implements, and divers nondescript machines. Some half dozen men were also observed, their sleeves rolled up, and intently plying the chisel, the file and other tools. These men cast a momentary and sullen glance at the visitors, like convicts in the penitentiary, and resumed their labours in silence. The party soon arrived at the door of the main building, when the old porter entered alone, and after remaining a few moments within, came forth and announced his readiness to conduct our hero into the presence of the fire-wizard. Glenn motioned him to lead on, and after following through a short hall, and turning into a large chamber, the mysterious lord of the island was confronted, reclining before them on a couch of furs. He appeared to be an emaciated and decrepit old man, his long white beard extending down to his breast; and when he motioned our hero to a seat, his hand seemed to tremble with feebleness. Yet there was something in his eye that indicated no ordinary spirit, and instantly impressed Glenn with the respect that he conceived to be due to superior genius; for notwithstanding all the miraculous things told of the fire-wizard, he rightly conjectured the personage before him to be nothing more than a human being, a recluse, perhaps, and, like himself, seeking in solitude the enjoyments which (for peculiar reasons) could not be found among mankind.

"What brings thee hither?" demanded the aged man, after a few minutes' silence, during which his brilliant eyes were closely fixed upon the composed features of Glenn.

"That which induced thee to seek such a solitary abode," replied our hero.

"Have you no fears?" continued the old man.

"None!" replied Glenn, firmly.

"Give me your hand!" exclaimed the old man; "you are the only being that ever confronted the fire-wizard without feeling terror—and for those who know not fear there is no danger. Instead of a menial, or a victim, I will make you my companion."

"Thank him, Mr. Glenn," whispered Joe, "and perhaps he won't hurt us."

"I am seeking amusement," said Glenn; "and as long as I am pleased, it matters not with whom or where shall be my abode. But the moment I desire it, I will go hence."

The fire-wizard motioned the attendant to withdraw, who instantly obeyed, leading Joe out at the same time, the poor fellow evincing great reluctance to be separated from Glenn.

"Before exhibiting to you the mysterious objects which have acquired for me the name of magician," said the old man, "I will briefly give you my history. I was, in youth, they termed an idle dreamer—ever on the alert for new discoveries—and was more laughed at than encouraged in my pursuit of rare inventions. More than fifty years ago I ascertained that steam might be made to propel machinery. I attempted to explain the principles of this discovery to my fellow-men, and to convince them of the vast benefits that might result from it. I was not heeded—nay, I was insulted by their indifference—and made a solemn vow that its advantages should never be reaped through my instrumentality. In secret I constructed a small steamboat, and having placed on board such materials as might be required, and secured the assistance of a requisite number of artisans, I came hither, resolved to prosecute my experiments to my own satisfaction in solitude, where the taunts of skeptics could not reach me. Follow, and you shall behold what has been the result of my unrestrained researches." The old man arose, and conducted our hero across the yard to a curtained shelter on one side of the inclosure.

"La! if that ain't its foot!" exclaimed Joe, who joined our hero, and observing a large foot, resembling in shape that of the swan, under the folds of the curtain, while the old wizard paused a moment before unveiling the curious object. It was as Joe surmised: when the canvas was withdrawn, an artificial swan of monstrous dimensions, though perfect in all its proportions, was revealed to their wondering gaze. A little beyond, another curtain was drawn aside, and an eagle, holding in its beak a bloody crown, and in its talons a silken banner of stripes and stars, stood before them in the attitude of springing up in the air.

"Which will you try first?" demanded the fire-wizard, while a proud smile played on his lips.

"Can either of them be set in motion by your art?" asked Glenn.

"Both!" exclaimed the wizard. "If you will tarry till the ice is gone, the swan shall rush through the strongest current as swiftly as the wild horse careers over the prairie; or the eagle shall even now dart beyond the clouds, and transport you in a few brief hours to where you will see the briny waves rolling against the distant Atlantic coast!"

Glenn was incredulous, and his unbelief was betrayed by a smile, in spite of his efforts to the contrary.

"Bring hither a lamp!" said the wizard to the attendant and was quickly obeyed.

"Oh, don't make him mad! He's going to do something now!" whispered Joe to Glenn. The wizard touched a spring; the breast of the eagle flew open, and within could be seen polished wheels and other portions of a complicated machinery. The old man next applied the blaze of the lamp to some spirits within, and in a very few minutes particles of steam could be seen to escape from the eagle's nostrils. The wizard touched another spring, and the enormous bird strode out and paused in the centre of the area.

"If you would behold the home of your youth, be it whithersoever it may, so that you name it, follow me, and your eyes shall gaze upon that spot within a few hours," said the sage, as the wings of the stupendous eagle slowly unfolded, and rising to a horizontal position, uncovered a transparency in the side of the chest, through which could be seen a gorgeous couch within, sufficiently ample to contain two men, and separate from the fire and machinery by a partition of isinglass.

"Come!" exclaimed the sage, opening the tortoise-shell door under the wing, and stepping into the couch.

"Don't do any such thing!" said Joe.

"Ha! ha! ha! Do you think it can fly, Joe?" remarked Glenn, laughing.

"It will fly!" said the old man, emphatically; "and I charge you to be prepared to ascend beyond the clouds, if you have the courage to occupy a portion of my couch."

"Though I cannot believe it will rise at your bidding," replied Glenn, "yet, should it do so, I must be permitted to regard you as being only flesh and blood, and as such, I do not hesitate to venture as much as another mortal will;" Baying which, our hero seated himself beside the reputed fire-wizard.

The old man closed the door, and drawing forth a small compass (his companion intimating the course,) adjusted several screws within convenient reach, accordingly; he then pressed a small lever with his foot, and the wings, after quivering a moment, flapped quickly, and the great eagle darted almost perpendicularly up in the air, and was beyond the reach of vision in a very few seconds!

When a certain height was attained, the wizard turned the bird in the course indicated by his companion.

"What think you now of the fire-wizard!" demanded the sage, with an air of triumph.

"Still that he is a man—but a great one—and this, the perfection of his art, the greatest extent the Supreme Being has permitted the mind of a man to attain!" replied Glenn, gazing in admiration at the countries far below, which he was passing with the velocity of a hurricane.

"And still you fear not!" demanded the wizard.

"And shall not!" replied Glenn, "so long as your features are composed." The old man pressed his hand and smiled.

"Yonder is St. Louis!" cried Glenn, running his eye along the valley of the Missouri, down to its confluence with the Mississippi; and a short distance beyond, descried the town in question, though it did not seem to be larger than one ordinary mansion, with its garden and customary appendages.

"We are far above the reach of vision from the earth," said the wizard, bounding forward to endeavour to regulate a part of the machinery that had for some time attracted his attention, and which Glenn believed to be not altogether right, from the abrupt movement of his companion.

"How far above the earth are we?' asked Glenn.

"About twenty-five miles—but should this screw give way, it may be less very speedily!" exclaimed the old man, almost incoherently, and applying all his strength to the loosened screw to keep it in its place.

"Let me assist!" exclaimed Glenn, springing forward.

"It's gone!" cried the old man; "you have knocked it out! we are falling—crushed!"

* * * * *

"That's just what I expected," said Joe, addressing the fawn, which had been playing with the dogs, and at length ran against Glenn's chair so violently as to push it over.

"Oh! oh! oh!" exclaimed Glenn.

"Goodness! Are you hurt?" asked Joe.

"Is it possible? Am I alive, and here?" exclaimed Glenn, staring wildly round, and doubting his own identity.

"Well, I never heard a dead man talk, as I know of, before; and as to our being here, if your own eyes don't convince you, I'll swear to it," said Joe.

"Did I not go up to the island this morning?" inquired Glenn.

"No," said Joe.

"Did you not accompany me, and fire at the buck?" interrogated Glenn, resuming his seat.

"No—I'll be hanged if I did!" said Joe somewhat warmly.

"What have I been doing all day?"

"You've been sitting there fast asleep, and I presume you were dreaming."

"Thank Heaven, it was but a dream!" exclaimed Glenn, laughing.

"A dream?" responded Joe, sitting down on his stool, and soliciting Glenn to relate it to him. Glenn complied, and the narration was nothing more than what the incredulous reader has been staring at all this time. But we will make amends.


A hunt—A deer taken—The hounds—Joe makes a horrid discovery —Sneak—The exhumation.

"It beats all the dreams I ever heard," said Joe, feeling his right shoulder with his left hand..

"Why do you feel your shoulder, Joe?" asked Glenn, smiling, as he recollected the many times his man had suffered by the rebound of his musket, and diverted at the grave and thoughtful expression of his features.

"It was a dream, wasn't it?" asked Joe, with simplicity, still examining his shoulder.

"But you know there was no lead in the gun, and it could not rebound with much violence," said Glenn.

"I'll soon see all about it," exclaimed Joe, springing up and running to his gun. After a careful examination he returned to his stool beside the fire, and sat some minutes, with the musket lying across his knees, and his chin in his hand, plunged in profound meditation on the imaginary incidents which had just been related to him. Had the dream been an ordinary one, and he not an actor in it, it might have passed swiftly from his memory; but inasmuch as the conduct imputed to him was so natural, and the expressions he was made to utter so characteristic, he could not but regard it as a vision far more significant and important than a mere freak of the brain during a moment of slumber.

"What are you studying about?" interrogated Glenn.

"I can't understand it," replied Joe, shaking his head.

"Neither can the most renowned philosopher," said Glenn; "but you can tell whether your musket has been discharged."

"It hasn't been fired," said Joe. "But what distresses me is, that there should be only a charge of powder in it, just as you stated, and when I drew out the shot you were fast asleep. You must have heard me say I intended to do it."

"Not that I remember," said Glenn.

"Then there must be a wizard about, sure enough," said Joe, and he crossed himself.

"Suppose we take our guns and walk out in the direction mentioned?" said Glenn; "I feel the want of exercise after my sleep, and have some curiosity to test the accuracy of my dream by comparing the things described with the real objects on the island."

"Not for the world!" cried Joe, lifting both hands imploringly; "but I will gladly go anywhere else, just to see if the bushes are as beautiful as you thought they were, and if the deer can't run on the snow-crust as well as the dogs."

"Come on, then—I care not which course we go," said Glenn, taking up his gun, and leading the way out of the inclosure.

They pursued a westerly course until they reached nearly to the edge of the prairie, when they paused in the midst of a cluster of hazel bushes, to admire the beauty of the novel scene. The description had been perfect. Even Glenn surveyed the emblazenry of magic "frost work," around him with some misgivings as to the fallacy of his vision. Joe stared at his master with a curious and ludicrous expression.

"I am not dreaming now, Joe," said he, with a smile.

"How do you know?" asked Joe.

"That's well put," said Glenn; "indeed, I am very sure that many of my lively and spirited friends in Philadelphia and New York, could they but see me, would swear that I have been dreaming every day for the last three months. However, I have not now the same reverence for the sylvan gods I was so much inclined to worship in my last sleep; and, moreover, I am the first to see the deer this time. Yonder it stands. It is not a buck, though; capture it as soon as you please."

"Where is it?" exclaimed Joe, his superstition vanishing as he anticipated some sport; and, gliding quickly to Glenn's side, he beheld, under the branches of a low scrubby oak tree, the head and ears of a large doe. It was intently watching our pedestrians, and stood motionless in the ambush, on which it vainly relied to obscure it from the eyes of an enemy.

"You must not fire," said Glenn, placing his hand on the shoulder of Joe. Joe lowered his musket reluctantly, and turning his eyes to his master, seemed inclined to relapse into the belief that all was not right and natural in their proceedings.

"Now go to it," said Glenn, gently taking the gun from Joe.

"I'd rather not," said Joe.

"Why? A doe cannot hurt you—it has no horns."

"I don't fear it—I'm only afraid it will run away," said Joe, eager to secure the prize.

"Try it, at all events; if it should run very fast, I think I shall be able to arrest its career with the gun," said Glenn, who prepared to fire, provided the deer was likely to escape the clutches of Joe.

"Here goes!" cried Joe, leaping through the small bushes towards the covert. The deer moved not until Joe reached within a few feet of it, when, making a mighty spring, it bounded over the head of its assailant, and its sharp feet running through the icy surface of the snow, penetrated so far down, from the force of its weight, that it was unable to escape. It now lay quite still, with its large blue eyes turned imploringly to its foe. Joe seized it by the hind feet, and exultingly exclaimed that the prize was safely his own. The trembling and unresisting animal appeared to be as perfectly submissive as a sheep in the hands of the shearer.

"You have it, sure enough!" said Glenn, coming up and viewing the scene with interest.

"Lash me if I haven't!" said Joe, much excited. "Have you got any sort of a string about you?"


"Please cut down a hickory withe, and peel the bark off for me, while I hold its legs."

Glenn drew out his hunting knife, but paused when in the act of executing his man's request, and turning, with a smile playing upon his lip, said—

"Perhaps, Joe, this is but another dream; and if so, it is folly to give ourselves any unnecessary trouble."

"Lash me if it ain't reality!" replied Joe, as the deer at length began to struggle violently.

Extricating its feet from his grasp, the doe bestowed a well directed kick on its foe's head, which tumbled him over on his back. The animal then sprang up, but aware there was no chance of escape by running, faced about and plied its bony head so furiously against Joe's breast and sides that he was forced to scamper away with all possible expedition.

"Has it bruised you, Joe? If so, this is certainly no dream," remarked Glenn.

"Oh, goodness! I'm battered almost to a jelly. I'll take my oath there's no dreaming about this. Let me go after Ringwood and Jowler."

"It would be too cruel to let the hounds tear the poor thing," said Glenn; "but after you have bound its feet together, you may bring out one of the horses and a sled, and convey it home unhurt."

"The horses can't go in this deep snow," said Joe.

"True, I forgot that. Take your musket and shoot it," said Glenn, turning away, not wishing to witness the death of the deer.

"I'd rather take him prisoner," said Joe, lowering his musket after taking a long aim. "I can drag it on the sled myself."

"Then go for it," said Glenn; "and you may bring the hounds along; I will exercise them a little after that fox which keeps such a chattering in the next grove. But first let us secure the deer."

Joe charged upon the doe once more, and when it aimed another blow at him, he threw himself under its body, and the animal falling over on its side, the combined efforts of the men sufficed to bind its feet. Joe then went to the house for the hounds and the sled, and Glenn leant against the oak, awaiting his return. It was not long before the hounds arrived, which was soon succeeded by the approach of Joe with the sled. Ringwood and Jowler evinced palpable signs of delight on beholding the bound captive, but their training was so perfect that they showed no disposition to molest it without the orders of their master. One word from Glenn, and the deer would have been instantly torn in pieces; but it was exempt from danger as long as that word was withheld.

Joe soon came up, and in a very few minutes the doe was laid upon the sled. When he was in the act of starting homewards with his novel burden, the hounds, contrary to their usual practice, refused to accompany Glenn to the thicket north of their position, where the fox was still heard, and strangely seemed inclined to run in a contrary direction. And what was equally remarkable, while snuffing the air towards the south, they gave utterance to repeated fierce growls. Joe was utterly astonished, and Glenn was fast losing the equanimity of his temper.

"There's something more than common down there; see how Ringwood bristles up on the back," said Joe.

"Run there with the hounds, and see what it is," said Glenn.

"And I'll take my musket, too," said Joe, striding in the direction indicated, with the hounds at his heels and his musket on his shoulder.

When he reached a narrow rivulet about one hundred paces distant, that gradually widened and deepened until it formed the valley in which the ferry-house was situated a half mile below, he paused and suffered the hounds to lead the way. They ran a short distance up the ravine and halted at the edge of a small thicket, and commenced barking very fiercely as they scented the air under the bushes.

"I'll bet it's another bear," said Joe, putting a fresh priming in the pan of his musket, and proceeding after the hounds. "If it is a bear, ought I to fool with him by myself?" said he, pausing at the edge of the thicket. "I might get my other ear boxed," he continued, "and it's not such a pleasant thing to be knocked down by the heavy fist of a big black bear. If I don't trouble him, he'll be sure to let me alone. What if I call the dogs off, and go back? But what tale can I manufacture to tell Mr. Glenn? Pshaw! What should I fear, with such a musket as this in my hand? I can't help it. I really believe I am a little touched with cowardice! I'm sorry for it, but I can't help it. It was born with me, and it's not my fault. Confound it! I will screw up courage enough to see what it is, anyhow." Saying this, he strode forward desperately, and urging the hounds onward, followed closely in the rear in a stooping posture, under the hazel bushes.

In a very few moments Joe reached the head of the ravine, but to his astonishment and no little satisfaction, he beheld nothing but a shelving rock, from under which a spring of clear smoking water flowed, and a large bank of snow which had drifted around it, but through which the gurgling stream had forced its way. Yet the mystery was not solved. Ringwood and Jowler continued to growl and yelp still more furiously, running round the embankment of snow repeatedly, and ever and anon snuffing its icy surface.

"Whip me if I can figure out this," said Joe; "what in the world do the dogs keep sticking their noses in that snow for? There can't be a bear in it, surely. I've a notion to shoot into it. No I won't. I'll do this, though," and drawing out his long knife he thrust it up to the handle in the place which seemed the most to attract the hounds.

"Freeze me if it hasn't gone into something besides the snow!" exclaimed he, conscious that the steel had penetrated some firm substance below the frozen snow-crust. "What the deuce is it?" he continued, pulling out the knife and examining it. "Ha! blood, by jingo!" he cried, springing up; "but it can't be a living bear, or it would have moved; and if it had moved, the stab would have killed it. I won't be afraid!" said he, again plunging his knife into it, "It don't move yet—it must be dead—why, it's frozen. Pshaw! any thing would freeze here, in less than an hour. I'll soon see what it is." Saying this, he knelt down on the embankment, and commenced digging the snow away with all his might. The dogs crouched down beside him, growling and whining alternately, and otherwise exhibiting symptoms of restlessness and distress.

"Be still, poor Ringwood, I'm coming to him; I see something dark, but there's no hair on it. Ugh! hallo! Oh goodness! St. Peter! Ugh! ugh! ugh!" cried he, springing up, his face as pale as the snow, his hair standing upright, his chin fallen, and his eyes almost straining out of their sockets. Without taking his gun, or putting on his hat, he ran through the bushes like a frightened antelope, leaping over ditches like a fox-chaser, tearing through opposing grape vines, and not pausing until his course was suddenly arrested by Glenn, who seized him by the skirt of the coat, and hurled him on his back beside the sled on which the deer was bound.

"What is the matter?" demanded Glenn.

Joe panted painfully, and was unable to answer.

"What ails you, I say?" repeated Glenn in a loud voice.

"Peter"—panted Joe.

"Do you mean the pony?"

"St. Peter!" ejaculated Joe.

"Well, what of St. Peter?"

"Oh, let me be off!" cried he, endeavouring to scramble to his feet. But he was most effectually prevented. For no sooner had he turned over on his hands and knees, than Glenn leaped astride of him.

"Now, if you will go, you shall carry me on your back, and I will pelt the secret out of you with my heels, as we travel!"

"Just let me get in the house and fasten the door, and I will tell you every word," said Joe imploringly.

"Tell me now, or you shall remain in the snow all day long!" said Glenn, with a hand grasping each side of Joe's neck.

"Oh, what shall I do? I can't speak!" yelled Joe, trying outright, the large tear-drops falling from his nose and chin.

"You have not lost your voice, I should say, at all events," implied Glenn, somewhat touched with pity at his man's unequivocal distress, though he could scarce restrain his laughter when he viewed his grotesque posture. "What has become of your musket and hat?" he added.

"I left them both there," said Joe, gradually becoming composed under the weight of his master.

"Where?" asked Glenn.

"At the cave-spring."

"Well, what made you leave them there?"

"Just get off my back and I'll tell you. I'm getting over it now; I'm going to be mad instead of frightened," said Joe, with real composure.

"Get up, then; but I won't trust you yet. You must still suffer me to hold your collar," said Glenn.

"If you go to the cave-spring you will see a sight!"

"What kind of a sight?"

"Such a sight as I never dreamed of before!"

"Then it has been nothing but a dream this time, after all your foolery?"

"No, I'll be shot if there was any dreaming about it," replied Joe; and he related every thing up to the horrid discovery which caused him to retreat so precipitately, and then paused, as if dreading to revert to the subject.

"What did you find there? Was it any thing that could injure you?"

"No," said Joe, shaking his head solemnly.

"Why did you run, then?" demanded Glenn, impatiently.

"The truth is, I don't know myself, now I reflect about it. But I'd rather not tell what I saw just yet. I was pretty considerably alarmed, wasn't I?"

"Ridiculous! I will not be trifled with in this manner Tell me instantly what you saw!" said Glenn, his vexation and anger overcoming his usual indulgent nature.

"I'll tell you now—it was a—Didn't you see them bushes move?" asked Joe, staring wildly at a clump of sumach bushes a few paces distant.

"What was it you saw at the cave-spring!" shouted Glenn, his face turning red.

"I—I"—responded Joe, his eyes still fixed on the bushes. "It was a—Ugh!"—cried he, starting, as he beheld the little thicket open, and a tall man rise up, holding in his hand a bunch of dead muskrats.

"Dod speak on—I want to hear what it was—I've been laying here all this time waiting to know what great thing it was that skeered you so much. I never laughed so in all my life as I did when he got a-straddle of you. I was coming up to the sled, when I saw you streaking it through the vines and briers, and then I squatted down awhile to see what would turn up next."

"Ha! ha! ha! is it you, Sneak? I thought you was an Indian! Come on, I'll tell now. It was a man's moccasin!" said Joe, in a low, mysterious tone.

"And you ran in that manner from an old moccasin!" said Glenn, reproachfully.

"But there was a foot in it!" continued Joe.

"A he man's foot?" inquired Sneak, quickly turning to Joe.

"How could I tell whether it was a he man's foot, or a female woman's, as you call them?" replied Joe.

"Are you sure it was a human being's foot?" demanded Glenn.

"Well, I never saw any other animal but a man wear a buckskin moccasin!" replied Joe.

"An Irishman can't tell any thing right, nohow you can fix it," said Sneak.

"They can't tell how you make wooden nutmegs," retorted Joe.

"Come," said Glenn, "we will go and examine for ourselves."

The party set off in a brisk walk, and soon reached the scene of Joe's alarm. Sure enough, there was the moccasin, and a man's foot in it!

"It's somebody, after all," said Sneak, giving the frozen foot a kick.

"Ain't you ashamed to do that?" said Joe, knitting his brows.

"He's nothing more than a stone, now. Why didn't he holler when you stuck your knife into him?" replied Sneak.

"Dig him up, that we may see who he is," said Glenn.

"I'd rather not touch him," said Joe.

"You're a fool!" said Sneak. "Stand off, and let me at him—I'll soon see who he is." Sneak threw down his maskrats, and with his spear and knife soon extricated the body, which he handled as unceremoniously as he would have done a log of wood. "Dod rot your skin!" he exclaimed, when he brushed the snow from the man's face. He then threw down the body with great violence.

"Oh don't!" cried Joe, while the cold chills ran up his back.

"Who is it?" asked Glenn.

"It's that copper-snake, traitor, skunk, water-dog, lizard-hawk, horned frog—"

"Who do you mean?" interrupted Glenn.

"Posin, the maliverous rascal who collogued with the Injins to murder us all! I'm glad he got his dose—and if he was alive now, I'd make him swaller at least two foot of my spear," said Sneak.

"'Twas me—I killed him—look at the buck-shot holes in his back!" exclaimed Joe, now recovering from his excitement and affright.

"Yes, and you're a nice chap, ain't you, to run like flugins from a dead man that you killed yourself!" said Sneak.

"How did I know that I killed him?" retorted Joe.

"Any fool might know he was dead," replied Sneak.

"I'll pay you for this, some of these times," said Joe.

"How shall we bury him?" asked Glenn.

"That can be done real easy," said Sneak, taking hold of the dead man's leg and dragging him along on the snow like a sled.

"What are you going to do with him?" demanded Glenn.

"I'm a going to cut a hole in the ice on the river, and push him under," said Sneak.

"You shall do no such thing!" said Glenn, firmly; "he must be buried in the earth."

"Just as you say," said Sneak, submissively, throwing down the leg.

"Run home and bring the spades, Joe," said Glenn, "and call for the ferrymen to assist us."

"And I'll take the sled along and leave it in the yard," said Joe, starting in the direction of the deer and calling the hounds after him.

"Let the hounds remain," said Glenn. "I am resolved to have my fox-hunt." Joe soon disappeared.

"If you want to hunt, you can go on; Roughgrove and me will bury this robber," said Sneak.

"Be it so," said Glenn; "but remember that you are not to put him in the river, nor must you commit any indecent outrage upon his person. Let his body return to the earth—his soul is already in the hands of Him who created it."

"That's as true as gospel," said Sneak; "and I would rather be froze in this snow than to have his hot berth in the t'other world. I don't feel a bit mad at him now—he's paying for his black dagiverous conduct hard enough by this time, I'll be bound. I say, Mr. Glenn, it'll be rather late when we get through with this job—will there be any vacant room at your fireside to-night?"

"Certainly, and something to eat—you will be welcome, provided you don't quarrel too much with Joe," replied Glenn.

"Oh, Joe and me understand each other—the more we quarrel the more we love one another. We'll never fight—do you mind that—for he's a coward for one thing, and I won't corner him too close, because he's broad-shouldered enough to lick me, if he was to take it into his head to fight."

Glenn called the hounds after him and set out in quest of the fox, and Sneak turned to the dead body and mused in silence.


Boone—The interment—Startling intelligence—Indians about—A skunk—Thrilling fears—Boone's device.

Ere long Joe was on his way back to the cave-spring, with several spades on his shoulder, accompanied by Boone, (who had just crossed the river on a visit to Glenn,) and Roughgrove, with his two oarsmen.

"Is Glenn at the spring with Sneak?" asked Boone, in a very thoughtful and grave manner.

"Yes, sir, I left him there, and I now hear him with the hounds chasing a fox," replied Joe, in true native style.

"If he is with the hounds, he is certainly not at the spring," remarked Roughgrove.

"I meant that he was there, or thereabouts" replied Joe.

"Who found the dead man?" inquired Boone.

"I did—that is, when the dogs scented him—and it almost frightened me when I dug out his foot," said Joe.

"No doubt!" observed Boone.

The party now moved along in silence, still permitting Joe to lead the way, until they suddenly emerged from the thicket in the immediate vicinity of the spring, when an unexpected scene attracted their notice. Sneak was composedly seated on the body of the dead man, and very deliberately searching his pockets!

"Well! that beats all the mean actions I ever beheld before!" said Joe, pausing and staring indignantly at Sneak.

"You're a fool!" replied Sneak.

"What for? because I wouldn't rob the dead?" retorted Joe.

"Do you call this robbing the dead? Hain't this traitor stoled this lump of gold from the Injins?" said Sneak, displaying a rough piece of the precious metal about the size of a crow's egg.

"Is it gold?" asked Joe, with some anxiety.

"Sartainly it is," answered Sneak, handing it to him to be examined; "and what good could come of burying it agin? I'll leave it to Mr. Boone to say if I ain't right in taking it myself."

"Oh, any thing worth this much ought to be taken," said Joe, depositing the lump of gold in his pocket.

"See here, my chap," said Sneak, rising up and casting a furious glance at him, "if you don't mean to hand that out again, one or the t'other of us must be put in the ground with the traitorious Posin—and if it is to be you, it'll be a purty thing for it to be said that you brought a spade to bury yourself with."

"Didn't I find the body?" said Joe.

"But burn me if you found the gold," said Sneak.

"Shall I decide the matter?" interposed Roughgrove.

"I'm willing," said Sneak.

"And so am I," replied Joe.

"Then give it to me, and I'll cut it in two, and give a half to each of you," said Roughgrove.

The decision was final; and seizing the spades, Joe, Sneak, and the oarsmen began to prepare a resting-place for the dead body. Boone continued silent, with his eyes steadfastly gazing at the earth which the workmen began to throw up.

"Posin's done ferrying now," said Dan Rudder, one of the defunct's old companions in the service of Roughgrove.

"No he ain't," said Sneak, throwing up a spadeful of flint stones.

"I'll keep some of these for my musket," said Joe.

"Why ain't he?" demanded Dan.

"Because he's got to cross the river—the river—what do they call it?—the river Poles," said Sneak.

"Styx, you dunce," said Joe.

"Well, 'twas only a slip of the tongue—what's the difference between poles and sticks?"

"You never read any thing about it; you only heard somebody say so," said Joe, pausing to listen to the hounds that ever and anon yelped in the vicinity.

"If I didn't, I don't believe the man that wrote that book ever crossed, or even had a squint at the river himself," replied Sneak.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse