"Hang me, if I haven't floored you, any how," said he, exultingly, as he proceeded to reload his gun with as much expedition as possible. But the other wolves, so far from being alarmed at the fate of their comrade, seemed to quicken their pace towards the position of Joe. "Slash me, if there ain't too many of them!" ejaculated Joe, as he perceived several others, and all advancing upon him. "I'll settle your hash, by jing!" he continued, firing at the foremost one, which was not twenty paces distant. The leaden contents of the musket entered its breast, and it fell dead without a growl. Still the others advanced. Joe had no time to charge his gun again.
"I'll make tracks!" said he, starting toward the frozen channel that separated him from the island. But he had not gone ten paces before he discovered two enormous wolves approaching from that direction. "I'll cut dirt back again!" he continued, whirling suddenly around, and rushing back to his stand, where he stood not a moment, but sprang up in a tree, and after attaining a large limb that put out from the trunk, some fifteen feet above the snow, paused, and pantingly surveyed his assailants. There were now no less than twenty wolves in sight, and several were at the root of the tree yelping at him! "I'll be hanged if I half like this," said he. "Snap me, if I don't begin to believe that the asafoetida does charm them, after all. Confound Sneak! he's always getting me into some hobble or other! Now, if it wasn't for this tree, I'd be in a nice fix. Hang it! all the wolves in the world are broke loose to-day, surely—where the mischief could they all have come from? Just hear the men, how they are shooting! And they are killing the wild black dogs every crack—but still they won't back out! I'll blaze away at 'em again!" Saying this, he reloaded his musket as quickly as his peculiar position would allow, and, for the purpose of ridding himself as soon as possible of his disagreeable visitors, he poured in an additional charge of buckshot. "Now," he continued, "what if the gun should fly out of my hands? I'd be in a pretty condition then! I wouldn't mind the kick at all, if I was only on dry land—but if the gun should kick me over here, I'd tumble right down into their mouths! I wish I'd thought of that before I rammed down the wadding. I haven't got my screw along, or I might draw out the load again. I'll not shoot at all. I'll just watch till somebody comes and scares them away. Ugh! you black rascal! what're you staring up here for?" he continued, looking down at the largest wolf, which was standing upright against the tree, and tearing the bark away furiously with his long teeth. The number of Joe's enemies continued to increase. There were now perhaps twenty under the tree. And still the firing on the island was kept up, though not so incessantly as at first, which inspired Joe with a hope that they would either kill all the wolves in their vicinity very soon or force them to join his flock under the tree, when the men would surely come to his relief. Sneak's fire abated somewhat, likewise, and Joe's reliance upon having their aid in a very short time caused his fears to subside in a great measure.
"If you're so crazy after asafoetida," said he, looking down at the fiercely staring animals again, "I'll give you a taste, just to see what you'll do." He took a small portion of the gum which he had retained, and rubbed it over a piece of paper that he found in his pocket. He then dropped the paper in their midst. They sprang upon it simultaneously, and in an instant it vanished, Joe knew not whither. "Hang me, if I couldn't pepper a half-dozen at a shot when they all rush up together so close, if I wasn't afraid of being kicked down. I'll be teetotally smashed if I don't fix and try it, any how!" said he, pulling out a strong leather string from his pocket, one end of which he attached firmly to a small limb of the tree, and the other he tied as tightly round the wrist of his left arm. He then pulled out his bandanna, and likewise made his musket fast to a bough. "Now, my snapping beauties," he continued, "I'm mistaken if I don't give you a dose of blue pills that'll do your business in short order." Saying this, he tore off another piece of paper, and rubbing on the gum, dropped it down as near as possible to the spot where he wished the wolves to cluster together. No sooner did it fall than the whole gang sprang upon it, and he fired with precision in their midst. Joe did not look to see what execution was done. He was dangling in the air and whirling round and round at a rapid rate, like a malefactor suspended from the gallows, with the exception that his neck did not suffer, and he cried out most lustily for assistance. When the cloud of smoke that enveloped him cleared away a little, and he became better acquainted with his critical situation, his yells increased in rapidity and violence. His condition was truly perilous. The small bough to which he had attached himself had not sufficient strength to bear him up when his feet slipped from the larger one below, and it was now bent down a considerable distance, and that too in a divergent direction from his recent foothold, and unfortunately there was no limb of the tree of any strength within his reach. His legs hung within six feet of the surface of the snow. The discharge had killed four or five of the wolves, but, undismayed, the remainder assailed him the more furiously. The most active of them could easily spring as far up as his feet! Never was terror more strongly depicted in the human face than it was displayed in Joe's when he saw the whole pack rushing towards him! They sprang up with fearful snarls and yells. Joe yelled likewise, and doubled his knees up to his chin. They missed his feet by several inches, and were borne out fifteen or twenty feet to one side by the impetus of the leap. It was by a mighty effort that he thus avoided them, and no sooner had they passed under him than his legs again dangled downward. In a moment they whirled round and were again rushing at their victim. Once more Joe screamed, and drew up his legs while they passed under him. "Help! help! for God's sake!" cried he, when they whirled round again. His cry was heard. Several sharp reports resounded from the river bank, a few paces on the east. Three or four of the wolves howled and fell. The rest hesitated, their eyes glistening, and fixed on Joe's suspended boots. "Come quick! for Heaven's sake! I can't pull up my legs any more!" cried Joe. This was true, for his strength was fast failing. The guns were again discharged with deadly effect, and all but one of the largest of the wolves precipitately ran off, and disappeared among the bushes.
"Jerk up your leg! that feller's a going to take one of your feet along with him, if he kin!" cried Sneak. Joe saw the wolf charging upon him, but he was altogether unable to avoid it in the manner he had done before. It was now only a few feet distant, its mouth open, displaying a frightful set of teeth, and springing towards him. Finding it impossible to prevent a collision, Joe resolved to sell his foot as dearly as possible. As much as he was able, he bent up his knee-joints, and when his assailant came, he bestowed his heels upon his head with all his might. The wolf was stunned, and fell under the blow.
"Take that!" cried Sneak, running up and plunging his knife into the animal's side. The wolf groaned and died.
"Ha! ha! ha! you were born to be hanged," said Roughgrove, coming forward with Boone and Glenn, and laughing heartily.
"He has been hung," said Boone.
"And almost quartered," said Glenn.
"Oh, goodness! Jump up here, Sneak, and cut me loose," said Joe, beseechingly.
"There's no danger of you ever dying," said Sneak.
"Oh, please don't laugh at me, Sneak, but cut me down; that's a good fellow. The string is beginning to cut my wrist like fury!"
"How did you git in such a fix?" continued Sneak.
"Oh, hang it, Sneak, just get me out of the fix, and I'll tell you all about it."
"It's hung now—didn't you say 'hang it, Sneak?'" continued Sneak.
"Oh, come, now," continued Joe; "if you were in this way, don't you think I'd help you?"
"Cut him down, Sneak," said Boone; and in a twinkling Sneak was up in the tree, and the string was severed. Joe came down with great force, his feet foremost, and running through the snow-crust to a great depth.
"I wish some of you would help me out of this," said he, after struggling some time in vain to extricate himself.
"You'll want me to carry you home next, I s'pose," said Sneak, assisting him up. Joe made no reply; but as soon as he could cut the string away from his wrist, seized Sneak by the throat, hurled him on his back, and springing upon him, a violent struggle ensued for a few moments before they could be separated.
"What do you mean?" exclaimed Glenn, dragging Joe away from his prostrate victim.
"What did you do that for?" asked Sneak, rising up and brushing the snow from his head and face, his fall having broken the icy surface.
"You rascal, you! I'll show you what for!" cried Joe, endeavouring to get at him again.
"Joe!" said Glenn, "if you attempt any further violence, you shall not remain another day under my roof!"
"He boxed my ear like thunder!" said Sneak; "I didn't think the fellow had so much pluck in him! I like him better now than ever I did. Give us your paw, Joe." Joe shook hands with him reluctantly, and then wiped a flood of tears from his face.
"He told me to put some asafetida on my hoots, and said I could then kill more wolves," said Joe; "and it came within an ace of making them kill me."
"It was very wrong to do so, Sneak," said Boone, "and the boxing you got for it was not amiss."
"I believe I think so myself," said Sneak. "But it did make him kill more wolves after all—jest look at 'em all around here!"
Joe soon recovered entirely from the effects of his swing, his fright, and his anger, and looked with something like satisfaction on his many trophies lying round him; and when he disengaged his musket from the bough of the tree, he regarded it with affection.
They moved homeward, entirely content with the result of the excursion. Boone explained the reason why so many of the wolves were congregated about the island. He stated that the vines and bushes on which the deer feed in the winter were abundant and nutritious in the low lands along the river, and that great numbers of them repaired thither at that season of the year. The wolves of course followed them, and having now destroyed all the large deer in the vicinity of the island, and the small ones being enabled to run on the snow-crust, they found it necessary to muster in the chase as great a number as possible, and thus prevent their prey from escaping to the prairies. He said that the wolves preferred the timber, being enabled to make more comfortable lairs and dens among the fallen trees than out in the cold prairies. But their guns had wrought a fearful destruction among them. Perhaps three-fourths of them fell.
The party soon reached Glenn's house. As they entered the inclosure, they were surprised to see Ringwood running wildly about, whining and snarling and tearing the snow to pieces with his teeth. Jowler was more composed, but a low, mournful whine issued continuously from his mouth.
"Dod! what's the dogs been after?" ejaculated Sneak.
"Go in, Joe, and ask Mary what it means," said Rough grove.
"I'd rather not—the house may be full of Indians," replied Joe, relapsing into his natural cowardice.
"Mary," said Roughgrove, approaching the door and calling affectionately. Receiving no reply, the old man entered and called again. A silence succeeded. Roughgrove reappeared a moment after, with a changed countenance. Boone gazed at his pale features, and asked the cause of his distress by a look, not a word.
"She's gone! gone! gone!" exclaimed Roughgrove, covering his face with both hands.
Boone made no answer, but turning his face in the direction of the southern valley, he called upon the name of Mary three times, in clear and loud tones. He listened for her reply, in a motionless attitude, several minutes. But no reply came. Now a change came over his features. It was a ferocity from which even the blood-thirsty savages would have fled in horror!
"My eternal curse upon them! They have seized her! I have been deceived! I will have vengeance!" said he, in a low, determined tone.
"Will they kill her, or keep her for a ransom?" inquired Glenn, in extreme and painful excitement.
"A ransom," said Boone; "but they shall pay the weight of the silver they demand in blood!"
"May Heaven guard her!" said Roughgrove, in piteous agony.
"Cheer up—we will get her again," said Boone; and then giving some hasty directions, preparations were made for pursuit.
Mary—Her meditations—Her capture—Her sad condition—Her mental sufferings—Her escape—Her recapture.
When the men departed for the island in quest of the wolves, Mary was singing over her neglected flowers, at her father's house in the valley, and her clear ringing notes were distinctly heard by the whole party. After they were gone she continued her song, and lingered long over every faded leaf and withered blossom, with no thought of danger whatever, and none of pain, save the regret that her long cherished plants had been forgotten in the consternation of the previous day, and had fallen victims to the frost-king. But nothing had been touched by the savages. The domestic fowls clustered about her, and received their food from her hands as usual. The fawn was with her, and evinced the delight afforded by the occasional caress bestowed upon it, by frequently skipping sportively around her. Mary was happy. Her wants were few, and she knew not that there was such a thing as a malicious enemy in the world, save the wild savage. Her thoughts were as pure as the morning dew, and all her delights were the results of innocence. She had never harmed any one, and her guileless heart never conceived the possibility of suffering ill at the hands of others. She smiled when the beautiful fawn touched her hand with its velvet tongue, and a tear dimmed her eye for an instant when she looked upon her stricken rose.
While looking at one of the homely shelves in a corner of the deserted house, Mary accidentally espied a small volume of poems, the gift of Glenn, that had been neglected. She seized it eagerly, and after turning over the pages the fiftieth time, and humming over many of the songs, she paused suddenly, and lifting her eyes to the bright sun-beams that streamed through the window, long remained in a listless attitude. Something unusual had startled her simple meditations. At first a shade of painful concern seemed to pass across her brow, and then glancing quickly at the book she still held in her hand, a sweet smile animated her lips. But again and again, ever and anon, the abstracted gaze was repeated, and as often succeeded by the smile when her eyes fell upon the volume. Did her thoughts dwell upon the giver of that book? Undoubtedly. Did she love Glenn? This she knew not herself, but she would have died for him! She was ignorant of the terms courtship, love, and marriage. But nature had given her a heart abounding with noble and generous impulses.
At length she drew her shawl closely round her shoulders, and, closing the door of the hut, was in the act of returning up the hill, when she was startled by the furious and sudden barking of the hounds, which she had left confined in the inclosure on the cliff. She paused, and looked steadily in every direction, and was not able to discover, or even conjecture, what it was that had roused the hounds. Yet an undefinable fear seized upon her. The fawn at her side likewise partook of the agitation, for the hair stood upright on its back, and it often snuffed the air with great violence, producing, at each time, a shrill, unnatural sound.
Mary started briskly up the path, determined to shut herself up in Glenn's house until her father returned from the island. When she had proceeded about twenty paces, and was just passing a dense thicket of hazel that bordered the narrow path, she heard a slight rustling on the left, and the next moment she was clasped in the arms of a brawny savage!
"Oh me! who are you?" demanded she, struggling to disengage herself, and unable to see the swarthy features of her captor, who stood behind her. No answer being made, she cast her eyes downwards, and beheld the colour of the arms that encircled her. "Father! Mr. Glenn! Mr. Boone!" she exclaimed, struggling violently. Her efforts were unavailing, and, overcome with exhaustion and affright, she fainted on the Indian's breast. The savage then lifted her on his shoulder, ran down to the rivulet that flowed through the valley, and fled outwards to the prairie. When he reached the cave-spring, a confederate, who had been waiting for him, seized the burden and bore it onwards, in a westerly direction, with increased rapidity. Thus they continued the retreat, bearing the insensible maiden alternately, until they came to a small grove some distance out in the prairie, when they slackened their pace, and, after creeping a short time under the pendent boughs of the trees, halted in the camp of the war-party.
The Indians gathered round the pale captive, some with rage and deadly passions marked upon their faces, and others with expressions of triumph and satisfaction. They now made preparations for departing. Mary was wrapped in a large buffalo robe, enveloping her body and face, and placed in the snow-canoe. The party then deposited their tomahawks and other cumbersome articles at the feet of their captive, and, grasping the leather rope attached to the canoe, set off rapidly in a southerly direction.
Ere long, Mary partially awoke from her state of insensibility, when all was dark and strange to her confused senses. She pulled aside the long hair of the buffalo skin that obscured her face, and looked out from her narrow place of confinement. The blue heavens alone met her view above. The incident of the seizure was indistinct in her memory, and she could not surmise the nature of her present condition. She turned hastily on her side, and the occasional bush she espied in the vicinity indicated that she was rushing along by some means with an almost inconceivable rapidity. She could scarce believe it was reality. How she came thither, and how she was propelled over the snow, for several moments were matters of incomprehensible mystery to the trembling girl. At first, she endeavoured to persuade herself that it was a dream; but, having a consciousness that some terrible thing had actually occurred, all the painful fears of which the mind is capable were put in active operation. The suspense was soon dispelled. Hearing human voices ahead, and not readily comprehending the language, she hastily rose on her elbow. The party of Indians dragging her fleetly over the smooth prairie met her chilled view. But she was now comparatively collected and calm. Instantly her true condition was apparent. She watched the swarthy forms some moments in silence, meditating the means of escape. Presently one of the savages turned partly round, and she sank back to escape his observation. Again she rose up a few inches, and their faces were all turned away from her. She gradually acquired resolution to encounter any hardship or peril that might be the means of effecting her escape. But what plan was she to adopt? The almost interminable plain of which she was in the midst afforded no hiding-place. Then, the speed of the flying snow-canoe, were she to leap out, would not only produce a hurtful collision with the hard snow-crust, but certainly cause her detection. The poor girl's heart sank within her, and, for a time, she reclined submissively in the canoe, and gave way to a flood of tears. She thought of her gray-haired father, and a piercing agony thrilled through her breast. And she thought, too, of others—of Boone, of Glenn, and her pangs were hopelessly poignant. Thus she lay for several long hours, a prey to grief and despair. But some pitying angel hovered over her, and kindly lessened her sufferings. By degrees, her mind became possessed of the power of deliberate and rational reflection; and she was inspired with the belief that the savages only designed to exact a heavy contribution from the whites by her capture, and would then surrender her up without outrage or injury. Another hope, likewise, sprang up in her breast: it was, that the Indian she had been instrumental in releasing from captivity might protect her person, and, perhaps restore her to her father. She also felt convinced that Boone and Glenn would join her father in the pursuit, and she entertained a lively hope that they would overtake her. But, again, when she looked out on the surface of the snow, and beheld the rapidity of the savages' pace, this hope was entertained but for a moment. She then resolved to make an effort herself to escape. If she was not successful, it would, at all events, retard the progress of her captors, and she might also ascertain, with some degree of certainty, their purposes with regard to her fate. She rose as softly as possible and sprang upon the snow. The Indians, as she feared, instantly felt the diminution of weight, and halted so abruptly that every one of them was prostrated on the slippery snow-crust. Mary endeavoured to take advantage of this occurrence, and, springing quickly to her feet, fled rapidly in the opposite direction. But before she had run many minutes, she heard the savages in close pursuit and gaining upon her at every step. It was useless to fly. She turned her head, and beheld the whole party within a few paces of her. The foremost was a tall athletic savage, bearing in his hand a tomahawk he had snatched from the snow-canoe, and wearing a demoniac scowl on his lip. Mary scanned his face and then turned her eyes to heaven. She felt that her end was near, and she breathed a prayer taught her by her buried mother. The savage rushed upon her, entwining his left hand in her flowing hair, and waving his tomahawk aloft with the other, was in the act of sinking the steel in the fair forehead before him, when the blow was arrested by a mere stripling, who came up at the head of the rest of the Indians. The Herculean savage whirled round and scowled passionately at the youth. The young Indian (the chief just elected in the place of Raven) regarded him a moment with gleaming eyes, and a determined expression of feature, and then with much dignity motioned him away. The huge savage was strangely submissive in a moment, and obeyed without a murmur. Mary was conducted back to the snow-canoe by the young chief, who led her by the hand, while the rest walked behind. Once the young warrior turned and looked searchingly in the face of his fair prize, and she returned the gaze with an instantaneous conviction that no personal harm was intended her. The chief was not half so dark as the rest of his tribe, and his countenance was open, generous, and noble. (It may seem improbable to the unthinking reader that a timid and alarmed maiden should be able to read the character of a foe by his features under such circumstances. But those very circumstances tended to produce such acuteness. And this is not only the case with human beings, but even with dumb brutes—for, at the moment they are about to be assailed, they invariably and instinctively look the assailant in the eye, mercy being the only remaining hope.) Again the young warrior turned to behold his captive's face, and Mary was in tears. He paused abruptly, and, after gazing some moments in silence and deep thought, resumed his pace. When they reached the snow-canoe, and while in the act of lifting his captive into her couch, the young chief observed for the first time a massive ring of curious workmanship on her finger (the glove she had hitherto worn being partially torn from her hand in the recent struggle,) and seemed to regard it with much interest. Mary saw that his eyes were riveted on the jewel, and notwithstanding it possessed a hallowed value in having been worn by her mother, yet she felt that she could resign it to the one who had saved her life, and whose noble bearing, so different from that of the rest, promised to shield her from future harm. But he neither asked it as a gift nor tore it from her, but turned away in silence, and ordered the party to proceed. The command was instantly obeyed.
There was another Indian that had attracted the notice of Mary—one who studiously avoided her glance by constantly enveloping his face in his hairy robe whenever she turned towards him. This he continued to do until she was again seated in the snow-canoe, and the order was given to proceed on the journey. He then lingered behind the rest, and throwing aside his mask, she saw before her the savage that had been thrown within the inclosure by the explosion. He pointed to the north, the direction of her home, and, by sundry signs and grimaces, made Mary understand that he had not been a party to her capture, and that he would endeavour to effect her escape. He then joined the others, and the poor girl was once more coursing over the prairie more rapidly than ever.
There was now mingled with the captive maiden's thoughts another subject of contemplation. It was the young chief. His image seemed to be familiar to her dreamy visions, and she often thought that they had really met before. But when or where, her memory failed to designate. She was glad to find herself so unexpectedly under the protection of one so brave and generous, and she hoped when her father and his friends should overtake them, he might not be hurt in the conflict that must inevitably ensue.
The Indians long continued their flight in silence. Scarce a word was uttered, until the sun was sinking low in the west. And then Mary heard them speaking about the place of encampment; for her frequent intercourse With the savages, before the arrival of Glenn in the vicinity, had enabled her, as well as her father, to acquire an imperfect knowledge of their language. But they still swept onward, without any diminution of speed. The chief had probably objected to their making, a halt by a shake of the head, for Mary did not hear him reply to those who desired to stop.
When the shades of night fell around, and the broad red face of the moon peeped over the eastern horizon, the party still careered over the prairie. More than thirty miles had been traversed. The Indian is more distinguished for bottom than speed, and has been known to pursue a victim, or fly in the retreat, more than twenty-four hours without resting. But this band had suffered much from fatigue before they set out with their captive. The attempt to surprise the fort had cost them both blood and labour, and when the moon had risen midway up in the heavens, they again became clamorous for food and rest. The chief then told them to turn from their course, and in a few minutes Mary saw that they were approaching a grove of towering trees. Ere long they halted under an enormous beech, whose spreading and clustering branches not only greatly obscured the light from above, but had in a great measure prevented the snow from covering the earth at its roots. It was not long before a fire was struck, and the savages having scattered in every direction in quest of dry wood and bark, in a very short space of time a large bright blaze flashed up in their midst, around which they spread their buffalo robes and commenced preparing their venison. Each one cooked for himself, save the chief, who was provided proportionably by all. He offered Mary a part of his food, but she declined it. He then proffered to lift her from the snow-canoe, and place her nearer the fire. This too she declined, stating that she was warm enough. She was likewise influenced in this determination by the gestures of the Indian whom she had befriended the preceding night, who sat by in apparent unconcern, but at every opportunity, by looks and signs, endeavoured to cheer and encourage the captive maiden.
After a hearty repast the savages, with the exception of the chief, rolled themselves in their warm, hairy robes before the glowing fire, and were soon steeped in profound slumber. The chief long reclined in a half-recumbent attitude on the couch that had been prepared for him, and fixing his eyes on the glaring flame, and sometimes on the pale sad features of Mary, seemed to be under the influence of deep and painful meditations. At times his features assumed a ferocity that caused Mary to start and tremble; but at others they wore a mournful expression, and ever and anon a tear rose up and glistened in his eye. Thus he sat for more than an hour after all the rest were sunk in motionless slumber. Finally his bedecked head, adorned with a profusion of rich and rare feathers, sunk by degrees on the rude pillow, and he too was soon wandering in the land of dreams.
But sleep brooded not upon the watchful lids of Mary. She gazed in silence at the wild savage scene before her. The uncouth beings who had so recently hooted and yelled like sanguinary demons, with intent to slay and pillage, around her father, her friends and herself, now lay motionless, though free and still hostile, within a few feet of her, and she was their captive! She thought of her humble but peaceful home, and sighed bitterly. And she thought, too, of her distressed friends, and she was the more distressed from the consciousness that they sympathized with her sufferings. Poor girl! She looked at the dark brows and compressed lips of her captors as the fitful flashes of the flames threw a bright ray upon them, and, in despite of the many hopes she had entertained, she was horror-stricken to contemplate the reality of her sad predicament.
At a late and solemn hour, the Indian who had been the captive the night before, suddenly ceased his snoring, which had been heard without intermission for a great length of time; and when Mary instinctively cast her eyes towards him, she was surprised to see him gently and slowly raise his head. He enjoined silence by placing his hand upon his mouth. After carefully disengaging himself from his comrades, he crept quietly away, and soon vanished entirely from sight on the northern side of the spreading beech. Mary expected he would soon return and assist her to escape. Although she was aware of the hardships and perils that would attend her flight, yet the thought of again meeting her friends was enough to nerve her for the undertaking, and she waited with anxious impatience the coming of her rescuer. But he came not. She could attribute no other design in his conduct but that of effecting her escape, and yet he neither came for her nor beckoned her away. She had reposed confidence in his promise, for she knew that the Indian, savage as he was, rarely forfeited his word; but when gratitude inspired a pledge, she could not believe that he would use deceit. The fire was now burning quite low, and its waning light scarce cast a beam upon the branches over head. It was evidently not far from morning, and every hope of present escape entirely fled from her bosom. But just as she was yielding to despair, she saw the Indian returning in a stealthy pace, bearing some dark object in his arms. He glided to her side, and beckoned her to leave the snow-canoe, and also to take with her all the robes with which she had been enveloped. She did his bidding, and then he carefully deposited the burden he bore in the place she had just occupied. A portion of the object becoming unwrapped, Mary discovered it to be a huge mass of snow, resembling, in some respects, a human form, and the Indian's stratagem was at once apparent to her. Relinquishing herself to his guidance, she was led noiselessly through the bushes about a hundred paces distant from the fire, to a large fallen tree that had yielded to some furious storm, when her conductor paused. He pointed to a spot where a curve caused the huge trunk to rise about a foot from the present surface, under which was a round hole cut through the drifted snow down to the earth, and in which were deposited several buffalo robes, and so arranged that a person could repose within without coming in contact with the frozen element around. Mary looked down, and then at her companion, to ascertain his intentions. He spoke to her in a low tone, enough of which she comprehended to understand that he desired her to descend into the pit without delay. She obeyed, and when he had carefully folded the robes and divers furs about her body, he stepped a few paces to one side, and gently lifting up a round lid of snow-crust, placed it over the aperture. It had been so smoothly cut, and fitted with such precision when replaced, that no one would have been able to discover that an incision had been made. He then bade Mary a "Dud by" in bad English, and set off in a run in a northern direction for the purpose of joining the whites.
Long and interminable seemed Mary's confinement to her, but she was entirely comfortable in her hiding-place, as respected her body. Yet many dreadful apprehensions oppressed her still. She feared that the Indians would soon ascertain that she had left the canoe, and return and discover her place of concealment. At times she thought of the wild beasts prowling around, and feared they would devour her before assistance came. But the most harrowing fear was that the friendly Indian would abandon her to her fate or perhaps be killed, without making known her locality and helpless condition! Thus was she a prey to painful apprehensions and worrying reflections, until from exhaustion she sank into an unquiet and troubled slumber.
With the first light of morning, the war-party sprang to their feet, and hastily dispatching a slight repast, they set out on their journey with renewed animation and increased rapidity. Before starting, the chief called to Mary, and again offered some food; but no reply being returned, or motion discovered under the robe which he imagined enveloped her, he supposed she was sleeping, and directed the party to select the most even route when they emerged in the prairie, that she might as much as possible enjoy her repose.
The Indian who had planned and executed the escape of Mary, with the well-devised cunning for which the race is proverbial, had told his companions that he would rise before day and pursue the same direction they were going in advance of them, and endeavour to kill a deer for their next night's meal. Thus his absence created no suspicion, and the party continued their precipitate retreat.
But, about noon, after casting many glances back at the supposed form of the captive reclining peacefully in the snow-canoe, the chief, with much excitement, betrayed by his looks, which seemed to be mingled with an apprehension that she was dead, abruptly ordered the party to halt. He sprang to the canoe, and convulsively tearing away the skins discovered only the roll of snow! He at first compressed his lips in momentary rage, and then burst into a fit of irrepressible laughter. But the rest raved and stamped, and uttered direful imprecations and threats of vengeance. Immediately they were aware of the treachery of the absent Indian, and resolved with one voice that his blood should be an atonement for the act. Their thoughts had dwelt too fondly on the shining gold they were to get in exchange for the maiden, for them ever to forgive the recreant brother who had snatched the prize from them. The chief soon recovered his usual grave expression, and partook in some measure the general disappointment and chagrin. His motives were not of the same mercenary cast which actuated his tribe, nor did he condemn the conduct of the one who had rescued the maid, being aware of the clemency extended him when in the power of the enemy; but the thought of being outwitted and thwarted roused his anger, and he determined to recover the lost captive, if possible.
The snow was quickly thrown out, and the war-party adjusted their weapon's, with the expectation of encountering the whites; and then whirling about they retraced their steps even more swiftly than they had been advancing. Just as the night was setting in, they came in sight of the grove where they had encamped. They slackened their pace, and looking eagerly forward, seemed to think it not improbable that the whites had arrived in the vicinity, and might be lying in ambush awaiting their return in search of the maid. They then abandoned the canoe, after having concealed it under some low bushes, and entered the grove in a stooping and watchful posture. Ere long the chief attained the immediate neighbourhood of the spreading tree, and with an arrow drawn to its head, crept within a few paces of the spot where he had lain the preceding night. His party were mostly a few feet in the rear, while a few were approaching in the same manner from the opposite direction. Hearing no sound whatever, he rose up slowly, and with an "Ugh" of disappointment, strode carelessly across the silent and untenanted place of encampment.
Vexation and anger were expressed by the savages in being thus disappointed. They hoped to wreak their vengeance on the whites, and had resolved to recapture the maiden. Where they expected to find them, the scene was silent and desolate. And they now sauntered about under the trees in the partial light of the moon that struggled through the matted branches, threatening in the most horrid manner the one who had thus baffled them. Some struck their tomahawks into the trunks of trees, while others brandished their knives, and uttered direful yells. The young chief stood in silence, with his arms folded on his breast. A small ray of light that fell upon his face exhibited a meditative brow, and features expressing both firmness and determination. He had said that the captive should be regained, and his followers ever and anon regarded his thoughtful attitude with the confidence that his decision would accelerate the accomplishment of their desires. Long he remained thus, motionless and dignified, and no one dared to address him. [He had been elected chief by acclamation, after the death of Raven. He was not an Osage by birth, but had been captured from one of the neighbouring tribes (the Pawnee) when only six years old. His bravery, as he grew up, had elicited the admiration of the whole tribe, and it had long been settled that he should succeed Raven. His complexion was many degrees lighter than that of the Osages, or even that of the Pawnees, and had it not been for the paint and stains with which the warriors decorate their faces, he might have passed, if properly attired, for an American. When taken in battle he was saved from the torture by a young Indian maiden. She procured his release and he refused to return to his own nation. He said that he was no Pawnee, and when asked to what nation he belonged, he either could not or would not reply, but said he was satisfied to hunt and fight with any tribe, and if the chief would give him his daughter (the one that saved his life,) he would be an Osage. It was done, and his brave exploits soon won for him the title of the "Young Eagle."]
The young chief called one of the oldest of the party, who was standing a few paces distant absorbed in thought, to his side, and after a short conference the old savage prostrated himself on the snow, and endeavoured like a hound to scent the tracks of his recreant brother. At first he met with no success, but when making a wide circuit round the premises, still applying his nose to the ground occasionally, and minutely examining the bushes, he paused abruptly, and announced to the party that he had found the precise direction taken by the maid and her deliverer. Instantly they all clustered round him, evincing the most intense interest. Some smelt the surface of the snow, and others examined the bushes. Small twigs, not larger than pins, were picked up and closely scrutinized. They well knew that any one passing through the frozen and clustered bushes must inevitably sever some of the twigs and buds. Their progress was slow, but unerring. The course they pursued was the direction taken by Mary and her rescuer. It was not long before they arrived within a few feet of the place of the maiden's concealment. But now they were at fault. There were no bushes immediately around the fallen tree. They paused, the chief in the van, with their bows and arrows and tomahawks in readiness for instant use. They knew that the maiden could not return to her friends on foot, or the treacherous savage be able to bear her far on his shoulder. They thought that one or both must be concealed somewhere in the neighbourhood, and the fallen tree, were it hollow, was the place most likely to be selected for that purpose. After scanning the fallen trunk a few minutes in silence, and discovering nothing to realize their hopes, they uttered a terrific yell, and commenced striking their tomahawks in the wood, and ripping up the bark in quest of some hiding-place. But their search was in vain. The fallen trunk was sound and solid throughout, and the young chief sat down on it within three paces of Mary! Others, in passing about, frequently trod on the very verge of the concealed pit.
Mary was awakened by the yell but knew not that the sound came from her enemies. The Indian had told her that he would soon return, and her heart now fluttered with the hope that her father and her friends were at hand. Yet she prudently determined not to rush from her concealment until she was better assured of the fact. She did not think the savages would suspect that she was hid under the snow, but yet she thought it very strange that her father did not come to her at once. Several minutes had elapsed since she had been startled by the sounds in the immediate vicinity. She heard the tramp of men almost directly over her head, and the strokes against the fallen trunk. She was several times on the eve of rising up, but was as often withheld by some mysterious impulse. She endeavoured to reflect calmly, but still she could not, by any mode of conjecture realize the probability of her foes having returned and traced her thither. Yet an undefinable fear still possessed her, and she endeavoured with patience to await the pleasure of her friends. But when the chief seated himself in her vicinity, and fell into one of his fits of abstraction, and the whole party became comparatively still and hushed, the poor girl's suspense was almost insufferable. She knew that human beings were all around her, and yet her situation was truly pitiable and lonely. She felt assured that if the war-party had returned in pursuit of her, the same means which enabled them to trace their victim to the fallen trunk would likewise have sufficed to indicate her hiding-place. Then why should she hesitate? The yells that awakened her had not been heard distinctly, and under the circumstances she could not believe that she was surrounded by savages. On the other hand, if they were her friends, why did they not relieve her? Now a sudden, but, alas! erroneous thought occurred to her. She was persuaded that they were her friends, but that the friendly Indian was not with them—he had perhaps directed them where she could be found, and then returned to his home. Might not her friends, at that moment, be anxiously searching for her? Would not one word suffice to dispel their solicitude, and restore the lost one to their arms? She resolved to speak. Bowing down her head slightly, so that her precise location might not instantly be ascertained, she uttered in a soft voice the word "FATHER!" The chief sprang from his seat, and the party was instantly in commotion. Some of the savages looked above, among the twining branches, and some shot their arrows in the snow, but fortunately not in the direction of Mary, while others ran about in every direction, examining all the large trees in the vicinity. The chief was amazed and utterly confounded. He drew not forth an arrow, nor brandished a tomahawk. While he thus stood, and the rest of the party were moving hurriedly about a few paces distant, Mary again repeated the word "FATHER!" As suddenly as if by enchantment every savage was paralyzed. Each stood as devoid of animation as a statue. For many moments an intense silence reigned, as if naught existed there but the cheerless forest trees. Slowly, at length, the tomahawk was returned to the belt, and the arrow to the quiver. No longer was a desire to spill blood manifested. The dusky children of the forest attributed to the mysterious sound a supernatural agency. They believed it was a voice from the perennial hunting-grounds. Humbly they bowed their heads, and whispered devotions to the Great Spirit. The young chief alone stood erect. He gazed at the round moon above him, and sighs burst from his breast, and burning tears ran down his stained cheek. Impatiently, by a motion of the hand, he directed the savages to leave him, and when they withdrew he resumed his seat on the fallen trunk, and reclined his brow upon his hand. One of the long feathers that decked his head waved forward, after he had been seated thus a few minutes, and when his eye rested upon it he started up wildly, and tearing it away, trampled it under his feet. At that instant the same "FATHER!" was again heard. The young chief fell upon his knees, and, while he panted convulsively, said, in ENGLISH, "Father! Mother! I'm your poor William—you loved me much—where are you? Oh tell me—I will come to you—I want to see you!" He then fell prostrate and groaned piteously. "Father! oh! where are you? Whose voice was that?" said Mary, breaking through the slight incrustation that obscured her, and leaping from her covert.
The young chief sprang from the earth—gazed a moment at the maid—spoke rapidly and loudly in the language of his tribe to his party, who were now at the place of encampment, seated by the fire they had kindled—and then, seizing his tomahawk, was in the act of hurling it at Mary, when the yells of the war-party and the ringing discharges of firearms arrested his steel when brandished in the air. The white men had arrived! The young, chief seized Mary by her long flowing hair—again prepared to level the fatal blow—when she turned her face upwards, and he again hesitated. Discharges in quick succession, and nearer than before, still rang in his ears. Mary strove not to escape. Nor did the Indian strike. The whites were heard rushing through the bushes—the chief seized the trembling girl in his arms—a bullet whizzed by his head—but, unmindful of danger, he vanished among the dark bushes with his burden.
Joe's indisposition—His cure—Sneak's reformation—The pursuit—The captive Indian—Approach to the encampment of the savages—Joe's illness again—The surprise—The terrific encounter—Rescue of Mary—Capture of the young chief—The return.
We return to the white men. The grief of Roughgrove, and of all the party, when it was ascertained beyond a doubt that Mary had been carried off by the savages, was deep and poignant. The aged ferryman sat silent and alone, and would not be comforted, while the rest made the necessary arrangements to pursue the foe. The sled was so altered that blankets, buffalo robes, and a small quantity of food could be taken in it. Bullets were moulded and the guns put in order. Joe was ordered to give the horses water, and place a large quantity of provender within their reach. The hounds were fed and then led back to their kennel, and Glenn announced, after Roughgrove declared his determination to go along, that Ringwood and Jowler alone would be left to guard the premises.
"My goodness!" said Joe, when he understood that he was expected to make one of the pursuing party, "I can't go! My head's so sore, and aches so bad, I couldn't go ten miles before I'd have to give up. Let me stay, Mr. Glenn, and take care of the house."
"Do you forget that Mary is in the hands of the Indians? Would you hesitate even to die, while striving to rescue a poor, innocent, helpless maiden? For shame!" replied Glenn.
"I'd spill my heart's blood for her," said Joe, "if it would do any good. But you know how I was crippled last night, and I didn't sleep a bit afterwards, hardly."
"Joe," said Boone, "from the vigorous manner in which you fought the wolves, I am induced to believe that your present scruples are not well founded. We will need every man we can obtain."
"Oh, I wouldn't mind it at all," said Joe, "if it wasn't that you're a going to start right off now. If I only had a little sleep—"
"You shall have it," said Boone. Both Glenn and Roughgrove looked inquiringly at the speaker. "We will not start to-night," continued he. "It would be useless. We could not overtake them, and if we did, it would cause them to put Mary to death, that they might escape our vengeance the more easily. I have duly considered the matter. We must rest here to-night, and rise refreshed in the morning. We will then set out on their trail, and I solemnly pledge my word never to return without bringing the poor child back unharmed."
"I hope my head'll be well by morning," said Joe.
"I know it will be well enough," said Glenn; "so you need entertain no hope of being left behind."
"Now, Sneak, a word with you," said Boone. "I think you would do almost any thing for my sake—"
"If I wouldn't, I wish I may be dod—"
"Stop!" continued Boone, interrupting him.
"Jest ax me to cut off my little finger," said Sneak, "and if I don't do it, I wish I may be dod—"
"Stop!" again interposed Boone. "My first request is one that poor Mary asked me to make. I know it will be a severe trial."
"Name it," cried Sneak, "and if it's to job out one of my eyes, dod rot me if I don't do it!"
"Hear me," continued Boone; "she desired me to ask you not to use that ugly word dod-rot any more."
"Hay!" exclaimed Sneak, his eyes dilating, and his mouth falling wide open.
"I know it will be a hard matter," said Boone; "but Mary thinks you have a good and brave heart, and she says you are the only one among us that uses bad words."
"I'd go my death for that gal, or any other female woman in the settlement, any day of my life. And as she wants me to swaller them words, that was born with me, dod—I mean, I wish I may be—indeed, I'll be starved to death if I don't do it! only when I'm raven mad at something, and then I can't help it."
"Very well," said Boone. "Now I have a request of my own to make."
"Sing it out! dod—no—nothing! I didn't say it—but I'll do what you want me to," said Sneak.
"I think you will not suffer for the want of sleep," continued Boone; "and I wish you to go out and get as many of the neighbours to join us as possible. You can go to three or four houses by midnight, sleep a little, and meet us here, or in the prairie, in the morning."
"I shall cut stick—if I don't I wish I may be do—I—indeed I will!" and before he ceased speaking he was rushing through the gate.
The little party then took a hasty repast, and, throwing themselves on the couches, endeavoured to sleep. Boone and Joe were soon wrapped in slumber; but neither Roughgrove nor Glenn, for a great length of time, could find repose.
"Strive to be composed, my friend; all will be well," said Glenn, when the disconsolate old ferryman gave vent to numerous heart-rending sighs.
"If you only knew"—commenced Roughgrove, in reply, and the words he was about to utter died upon his lips.
"I can well imagine the extent of your bereavement," said Glenn; "but at the same time I am sure she will be returned to you unharmed."
"It was not Mary alone I alluded to," said Roughgrove; "but to lose two children—all that we had—so cruelly—Oh! may we all meet in heaven!"
"Then you had two children, and lost them both? I never heard the other mentioned," said Glenn, now evincing a most lively interest in the subject.
"No—it was my request that it should never be mentioned. Mary and he were twins—only six years old, when he was lost. I wished Mary to forget entirely that she ever had a brother—it could do no good for her to know it, and would distress her. But now, Heavenly Father! both are gone!" added the old man, in tears.
"Was he, too, taken by the Indians? the Osages?" inquired Glenn.
"No," said Roughgrove. "He had been playing on the margin of the river, and we were compelled to believe that he fell in the stream and was drowned—at a time when no eye was upon him. Mary was near at hand, but she did not see him fall, nor could she tell how he disappeared. His poor mother believed that an Indian stole him away. But the only Indians then in the neighbourhood were the Pawnees, and they were at that time friendly. He was surely drowned. If the Pawnees had taken him, they would soon have proposed a ransom. Yet his mother continually charged them with the deed. In her dreams she ever saw him among the savages. In all her thoughts it was the same. She pined away—she never knew a happy moment afterwards—and when she died, the same belief was uttered in her last words. I am now alone!" The old man covered his face with his hands, and sobbed audibly.
"Bear with patience and resignation," said Glenn, "the dispensations of an all-wise Providence. All may yet be well. The son, whom you thought lost forever, may be living, and possibly reclaimed, and Mary shall be restored, if human efforts can accomplish it. Cheer up. Many a happy day may still be reserved for you."
"Oh! my dear young friend! if you but knew all!" said Roughgrove.
"Do I not now know all?" asked Glenn.
"No," replied the old man; "but the rest must remain a secret—it should, perhaps, be buried in my breast forever! I will now strive to sleep." They ceased to speak, and silence reigned till morning.
Joe was roused from his couch in the morning by a tremendous "Ya-hoy!" outside of the inclosure.
"Run and open the gate," said Glenn.
"I'd rather not," said Joe, rubbing his eyes.
"Why?" asked Glenn.
"Hang it, it's the Indians again!" replied Joe, seizing his musket.
"It is Sneak and his men," observed Boone, when another shout was uttered.
"Hang me, if I don't have a peep at 'em first, anyhow," said Joe, approaching the gate cautiously, and peering through a small crevice.
"Ya-hoo!" repeated those without.
"Who are you? why don't you speak out?" said Joe, still unable to see their faces.
"Dod—I mean—plague take it! Joe, is Mr. Boone standing there with you?" asked Sneak.
"No," replied Joe, opening the gate.
"Then dod rot your hide! why didn't you let us in?" said Sneak, rushing through the gate, and followed by five of the neighbours.
"Why, Sneak, how could I tell that you wern't Indians?" said Joe.
"You be dod—never mind!" continued Sneak, shaking his head, and passing to where Boone stood, near the house.
"I am glad to see you all," said Boone, extending his hand to each of the hardy pioneers. "But let us not waste a moment's time. I see you are all armed. Seize hold of the sled-rope, and let us be off." The command was instantly obeyed, and the party were soon passing out of the inclosure. The gate was scarce fastened before another "Ya-hoo!" came from the valley below, and a moment after they were joined by Col. Cooper and Dan. The other oarsman had been sent up the river for reinforcements, and Col. Cooper and Dan having heard the great explosion, finally resolved to cross over the river, and not await the arrival of the trappers.
The party now amounted to twelve, and no time was lost in commencing the march, or rather the chase; for when they reached the prairie and found the trail of the snow-canoe, their progress equalled that of the savages. But they had not gone far before Joe was taken suddenly ill, and begged to be permitted to return.
"I declare I can hardly hold my head up!" said he still holding on to the rope, and keeping pace with the rest, though his head hung down.
"Possomin'—dod—I mean he's jest 'possomin'," said Sneak.
"No indeed I ain't—plague it, don't you say any thing, Sneak," Joe, added, in an undertone.
"I am something of a physician," said Boone, whose quick ear had caught the words addressed to Sneak. "Let me feel your pulse," he added, ordering the party to halt, and turning to Joe, whose wrist he seized.
"I feel something better," said Joe, alarmed at the mysterious and severe expression of Boone's face.
"I hope you will be entirely well in two minutes," said Boone; "and then it will not be necessary to apply my remedy."
"I'm about well now," said Joe: "I think I can go ahead."
"I believe your pulse is good now; and I think you will hardly have another attack to-day. If you do, just let me know it."
"Oh, now I feel perfectly well," responded Joe; and, seizing the rope, they were all soon again flying along on the trail of the savages.
A little before noon, while casting his eyes along the dim horizon in advance, Sneak abruptly paused, causing the rest to do likewise, and exclaimed, "Dod rot it."
"What's the matter, Sneak? Remember the promise you made," said Boone.
"Oh," replied Sneak, "in sich an extronary case as this, I can't help saying that word yet awhile. But look yander!" he continued, pointing to a slight eminence a great distance in advance.
"True!" said Boone, "that is an Indian—but it is the only one hereabouts."
"He is coming to meet us," said Glenn.
"Yes! my goodness! he's looking at us now," cried Joe, retreating a few steps.
"If there are more of them watching us," said Col. Cooper, "they are somewhere in our rear."
"Oh! we're surrounded!" cried Joe, leaping forward again.
"Come on," said Boone; "we'll soon learn what he wants with us."
When they were within a few hundred yards of the solitary Indian, they again halted, and Joe ran to the sled and seized his musket, which he cocked and threw up to his shoulder.
"Take down your gun!" said Boone; "that is the Indian whose life we spared. I was not deceived in his integrity. He was not the one that stole away Mary. I doubt not he brings intelligence of her."
"God grant she may still be unharmed!" said Roughgrove, advancing to meet the Indian, who, being now within gunshot, raised his small white flag. "Tell me! tell me all about her!" exclaimed Roughgrove, in the Osage language, when he met the Indian. When the Indian informed him of the condition of Mary, the old man could not repress his raptures, his gratitude, or his tears. "She's safe! she's safe! Heaven be praised!" he exclaimed, turning to his companions, who now came up, and experienced almost as much joy at the announcement as himself.
"Hang me, if you ain't a right clever fellow," said Joe, shaking the Indian's hand quite heartily. "Now," he continued, when all the particulars of Mary's escape were made known, "there won't be any use in fighting; we can just get Miss Mary out of the snow, and then go home again."
"You don't know—keep your mouth shet—dod—," said Sneak, suppressing the last word.
"We are not sure of that," said Boone; "on the contrary, I think it is very probable we shall have fighting yet. When the war-party discover the deception, (as they must have done ere this,) they will retrace their steps. If it was early in the day when they ascertained that the captive had escaped, we may expect to see them very soon. If it was late, we will find them in the grove where they encamped. In either event we must expect to fight—and fight hard too—for they outnumber us considerably."
Joe sighed, but said nothing.
"Are you getting ill again?" inquired Boone.
"No—I was only blowing—I got a little tired," said Joe, in scarce articulate tones.
"And I feel weak—very weak—but it is with joy!" said Roughgrove.
"And I have observed it, too," said Boone. "Get in the sled; we will pull you along till your strength returns."
"I will be able to use my gun when I meet the foe," said the old man, getting into the sled.
The party set forward again, guided by the Indian, and in high spirits. The consciousness that Mary was in safety removed a weight from the breasts of all; and, as they ran along, many a light jest and pleasant repartee lessened the weariness of the march. Even Joe smiled once or twice when Boone, in a mock heroic manner alluded to his exploits among the wolves.
"Blast me," said Joe, when Sneak mentioned a few cases of equivocal courage as an offset to Boone's compliments, "blast me, if I haven't killed more Indians than any of you, since I have been in this plagued country."
"True—that is, your musket has," said Boone.
"Joe can fight sometimes," said Glenn, smiling.
"I'll be hanged if I haven't always fought, when there was any fighting going on," said Joe, reproachfully.
"Yes, and he'll fight again, as manfully as any of us," said Boone.
"Dod—why, what are you holding back for so hard?" said Sneak, remarking that Joe at that instant seemed to be much excited, and, instead of going forward, actually brought the whole party to a model ate walk by his counter exertion.
"What do you mean?" asked Glenn.
"Are you going to be ill?" asked Boone.
"No, goodness, no! Only listen to me a minute. An idea struck me, which I thought it was my duty to tell. I thought this Indian might be deceiving us. Suppose he leads us right into an ambush when we're talking and laughing, and thinking there's no danger.
"Dod—you're a cowardly fool!" said Sneak.
"I have likewise a remedy for interruptions—I advise rot to stop again," said Boone, when Joe once more started forward.
Just as night was setting in, the party came in sight of the grove where Mary was concealed. They slackened their pace and drew near the dark woods quite cautiously. When they entered the edge of the grove, they heard the war-party utter the yell which had awakened Mary. It was fully understood by Boone, and the friendly Indian assured them from the sound, that the Osages had just returned, and were at that moment leaving the encampment on his trail. But he stated that they could not find the pale-faced maiden. And he suggested to the whites a plan of attack, which was to station themselves near the place where he had emerged from the grove, after hiding Mary; so that when they followed on his trail they could thus be surprised without difficulty. This advice was adopted by Boone. The Indian then asked permission to depart, saying he had paid the white men for sparing his life.
"Oh no!" cried Joe, when Roughgrove interpreted the Indian's request, "keep him as a hostage—he may be cheating us."
"I do not see the impropriety of Joe's remark this time," said Glenn.
"Ask him where he will go, if we suffer him to depart," said Boone. To Roughgrove's interrogation, the Indian made a passionate reply. He said the white men were liars. They were now quits. Still the white men were not satisfied. He had risked his life (and would probably be tortured) to pay back the white men's kindness. But they would not believe his words. He was willing to die now. The white men might shoot him.. He would as willingly die as live. If suffered to depart, it was his intention to steal his squaw away from the tribe, and join the Pawnees. He would never be an Osage again.
"Go!" said Boone, perceiving by a ray of moonlight that reached the Indian's face through the clustering branches of the trees above, that he was in tears. The savage, without speaking another word, leaped out into the prairie, and from the circuitous direction he pursued, it was manifest that nothing could be further from his desire than to fall in with the war-party.
Boone directed the sled to be abandoned, and, obedient to his will, the party entered a small covert in the immediate vicinity of the spot where their guide said he had emerged from the grove on his return to meet the whites. Here the party long remained esconced, silent and listening, and expecting every moment to see the foe. At length Boone grew impatient, and concluding they would encamp that night under the spreading tree, (the locality of which he was familiar with,) he resolved to advance and surprise them. He was strengthened in this determination by the repeated and painful surmises of Roughgrove respecting Mary's piteous condition. Glenn, and the rest, with perhaps one or two exceptions, likewise seemed disposed to make an instantaneous termination of the torturing suspense respecting the fate of the poor girl.
Boone and Sneak led the way. The party were compelled to proceed with the utmost caution. Sometimes they were forced to crawl many paces on their hands and knees under the pendent snow-covered bushes. They drew near the spreading tree. A fire was burning under it, the flickering rays of which could be occasionally seen glimmering through the branches. A stick was heard to break a little distance on one side, and Boone and Sneak sank down on the snow, and whispered to the rest to follow their example. It was done without a repetition of the order. Joe was the hindmost of all, but after lying a few minutes in silence, he crept softly forward, trembling all the while. When he reached the side of Boone, the aged woodman did not chide him, but simply pointed his finger towards a small decayed log a few paces distant. Joe looked but a moment, and then pulling his hat over his eyes, laid down flat on his face, in silence and submission. An Indian was seated on the log, and very composedly cutting off the dry bark with his tomahawk. Once or twice he paused and remained a moment in a listening attitude. But probably thinking the sounds he heard (if he heard any) proceeded from some comrade like himself in quest of fuel, he continued to cut away, until an armful was obtained, and then very deliberately arose and walked with an almost noiseless step to the fire, which was not more than fifty yards distant. Boone rose softly and whispered the rest to follow. He was promptly obeyed by all except Joe.
"Come, sir! prepare your musket to fire," said Boone, stooping down to Joe, who still remained apparently frozen to the snow-crust.
"Oh! I'm so sick!" replied Joe.
"If you do not keep with us, you will lose your scalp to a certainty," said Boone. Joe was well in a second. The party were now about midway between the fallen trunk where Mary was concealed, and the great encampment-tree. Boone rose erect for an instant, and beheld the former, and the single Indian (the chief) who was there. One of the Indians again started out from the fire, in the direction of the whites for more fuel. Boone once more passed the word for his little band to lie down. The tall savage came within a few feet of them. His tomahawk accidentally fell from his hand, and in his endeavour to catch it, he knocked it within a few feet of Sneak's head. He stepped carelessly aside, and stooped down for it. A strangling and gushing sound was heard, and falling prostrate, he died without a groan. Sneak had nearly severed his head from his body at one blow with his hunting-knife.
At this juncture Mary sprang from her hiding-place. Her voice reached the ears of her father, but before he could run to her assistance, the chiefs loud tones rang through the forest. Boone and the rest sprang forward, and fired upon the savages under the spreading tree. At the second discharge the Indians gave way, and while Col. Cooper, the oarsmen, and the neighbours that had joined the party in the morning, pursued the flying foe, Boone and the remainder ran towards the fallen trunk where Mary had been concealed, but approaching in different directions. Glenn was the first to rush upon the chief, and it was his ball that whizzed so near the Indian's head when he bore away the shrieking maiden. The rest only fired in the direction of the log, not thinking that Mary had left her covert. They soon met at the fallen tree, under which was the pit, all except Glenn, who sprang forward in pursuit of the chief, and Sneak, who had made a wide circuit for the purpose of reaching the scene of action from an opposite direction, entirely regardless of the danger of being shot by his friends.
"She's gone! she's gone!" exclaimed Roughgrove, looking aghast at the vacated pit under the fallen trunk. "But we will have her yet," said Boone, as he heard Glenn discharge a pistol a few paces apart in the bushes. The report was followed by a yell, not from the chief, but Sneak, and the next moment the rifle of the latter was likewise heard. Still the Indian was not dispatched, for the instant afterwards his tomahawk, which was hurled without effect, came sailing over the bushes, and penetrated a tree hard by, some fifteen or twenty feet above the earth, where it entered the wood with such force that it remained firmly fixed. Now succeeded a struggle—a violent blow was heard—the fall of the Indian, and all was comparatively still. A minute afterwards, Sneak emerged from the thicket, bearing the inanimate body of Mary in his arms, and followed by Glenn.
"Is she dead? Oh, she's dead!" cried Roughgrove, snatching her from the arms of Sneak.
"She has only fainted!" exclaimed Glenn, examining the body of the pale girl, and finding no wounds.
"She is recovering!" said Boone, feeling her pulse.
"God be praised!" exclaimed Roughgrove, when returning animation was manifest.
"Oh! I know you won't kill me! For pity's sake spare me!" said Mary.
"It is your father, my poor child!" said Roughgrove, pressing the girl to his heart.
"It is! it is!" cried the happy girl, clinging rapturously to the old man's neck, and then, seizing the hands of the rest, she seemed to be half wild with delight.
"Dod—I—I mean that none of the black noctilerous savages shall ever hurt you as long as Sneak lives," said Sneak, looking down at his gun, which had been broken off at the breech.
"How did you break that?" asked Boone.
"I broke it over the yaller feller's head," said he, "and I'd do it agin, before he should hurt Miss Mary, if it is the only one I've got."
"I have an extra rifle at home," said Glenn, "which shall be yours, as a reward for your gallant conduct."
"Where is the chief? Is he dead?" asked Mary.
"If he ain't dead, his head's harder than my gun, that's all," said Sneak.
"Oh, I'm so sorry!" said Mary.
"Why, my child?" asked Roughgrove.
"Because," said Mary, "he's a good-hearted Indian, and never would have harmed me. When he heard you coming, and raised his tomahawk to kill me, I looked in his face, and he could not strike, for there were tears in his eyes! I know he never would have thought of killing me, when calm, for he treated me very kindly before I escaped."
"Maybe he ain't dead—I'll go and see," said Sneak, repairing to the late scene of conflict. When he arrived he found the young chief sitting upright, having been only stunned; a gold band that confined his head-dress prevented the blow from fracturing his skull. He was now unresisting and sullen. Sneak made him rise up, and after binding his hands behind him with a strong cord, led him forth.
"You did not intend to kill me, did you?" asked Mary, in soothing tones. The chief regarded her not, but looked steadfastly downwards.
"He don't understand you, Mary," said Boone.
"Oh, yes he does," continued Mary; "and he can speak our language, too, for I heard him talking, and thought it was you, and that was the reason why I came out of the pit." Roughgrove addressed him in his own language, but with no better success. The captured chief resolved not to plead for his life. He would make no reply whatever to their questions, but still gazed downwards in reckless sullenness.
"What shall we do with him?" asked Glenn, when the rest of the party, (with the exception of Joe,) who had chased the savages far away, came up and stared at the prisoner.
"Let us set him free!" said Roughgrove.
"Kill him!" cried several.
"No!" exclaimed Mary, "what do you say, Mr. Boone?"
"It would be useless to kill him," said Boone.
"Let him go, then," said Glenn.
"No!" said Boone.
"Why?" asked Glenn.
"Because," replied Boone, "he is a chief, and we may make him the means of securing the settlement against future attacks. We will confine him in your garrison as a hostage, and send some friendly Indian to the Osages announcing his capture, and informing them that his life will be spared provided they keep away from the settlement for a certain length of time, at the expiration of which he shall be restored to them."
"I am glad of that," said Mary, "for I don't believe he is a bad Indian. We will treat him kindly, and then I think he will always be our friend."
"Take him along, and bind him fast in the sled, Sneak," said Boone; "but see that you do not injure him in the least."
"I will. Oh, me and him are purty good friends now. Gee-whoa-haw," continued he, taking hold of the string behind, and endeavouring to drive the silent captive like an ox. The young chief whirled round indignantly, and with such force as to send Sneak sprawling several paces to one side. He rose amid the laughter that ensued, and remembering the words of Boone, conducted his prisoner away in a more respectful manner.
"Where's Joe?" at length inquired Glenn, seeing that he alone was missing.
"Oh! I'm afraid he's dead," said Mary.
"If he is, I shall mourn his loss many a day," said Glenn; "for with all his defects, I would not be without him for the world."
"Give yourself no uneasiness," said Boone; "for he is as well at this moment as you or I."
"I hope so," said Glenn; "but I have not seen him since we first fired at the Indians."
"Let us repair to that spot, and there we will find him, for I saw him fall down when he discharged his musket. I venture to say he has not moved an inch since."
The party repaired to the place mentioned, and there they found him, sure enough, lying quite still on his face beside the Indian that Sneak had killed.
"He is dead!" said Glenn, after calling to him and receiving no answer.
"We'll soon see," said Boone, turning him over on his back. "I will open a vein in his arm."
"Bring a torch from the fire," said Col. Cooper to one of the men.
"Oh!" sighed Joe, lifting his hands to his head.
"I thought he would soon come to life again," said Boone, examining his face with the torch that was brought, and then laughing outright. The spectacle was ludicrous in the extreme. Joe was besmeared with blood, and, when he opened his eyes and stared at the flaming light, he resembled some sanguinary demon.
"Where in the world did all this blood come from?" exclaimed Glenn.
"I'm recovered now," said Joe, rising up and assuming an air of importance.
"What have you been doing?" asked Glenn.
"I've been doing as much as any of you, I'll be bound," replied Joe, very gravely.
"Well, what have you done?" repeated Glenn.
"I've been fighting the last half hour, as hard as anybody ever fought in this world. Only look at the stabs in that Indian!" said he, pointing to the savage.
"Why, you scoundrel! Sneak killed this Indian," said Glenn.
"Sneak thought he did," replied Joe, "but he only wounded him. After a while he got up and clinched me by the throat, and we had it over and over on the snow, till we both got so exhausted we couldn't do any thing. When we rested, we went at it again, and it hasn't been five minutes since I stuck my knife in his breast. When he fell, I stuck him four or five times, and then fainted myself."
"Here is a wound in the savage's breast," said Glenn.
"But here's another in the throat," said Boone, showing where the arteries had been severed by Sneak.
"Joe," said Glenn, "you must abandon this habit of lying, if indeed it is not a portion of your nature."
"Hang it all, I ain't lying—I know Sneak did cut his throat, but he didn't cut it deep—I cut it deeper, myself, after the Indian got up again!" persisted he.
The party hastily glanced at the four or five dead savages under the trees, that had fallen victims to their fire, and then returned to the sled. Mary was placed beside the captive chief, and they set out on their return, well satisfied with the result of the expedition.
The return—The young chief in confinement—Joe's fun—His reward—The ring—A discovery—William's recognition—Memories of childhood—A scene—Roughgrove's history—The children's parentage.
The party on their return did not travel so rapidly as they had advanced. They moreover halted in a grove which they espied about midnight, and finding a spreading tree that had entirely shielded a small space of ground from the snow, they kindled a fire, arranged their robes, and reposed a few hours. The captive chief was still sullen and unresisting. He was suffered to recline in the sled enveloped in skins, with his hands and feet yet bound, and an extra cord passed round his body, the end of which Sneak held in his hand while he slept. When daylight appeared, they set forward again in a moderate pace, and arrived at Glenn's domicil at evening twilight. The neighbours that Sneak had enlisted departed for their homes, and Boone and Col. Cooper, after bidding our hero, Roughgrove, and Mary, a hearty adieu, without entering the inclosure, recrossed the river to their own settlement.
The remainder of the party, except the oarsmen, accepted Glenn's invitation to remain with him till morning. When the gate was thrown open, the faithful hounds manifested great delight to behold their master again, and also Mary, for they pranced so much in the path before them that it was almost impossible to walk. They barked in ecstasy. The poor fawn had been forgotten, neglected, and had suffered much for food. Mary placed her arm round its neck and wept. Glenn ordered Joe, who was in the stable caressing the horses, to feed the drooping pet instantly.
The party then entered the house, leading in the chief, and soon after Sneak had a bright fire blazing on the hearth.
The food that remained from the last repast amply sufficed, the captive refusing to partake with them, and Joe having dined during the last twelve miles of the journey on the way.
"How we'll be able to keep this Indian here, when we go out, I should like to know," said Joe, regarding the manly and symmetrical form of the young chief, who was now unbound, and sat silent and thoughtful by the fire.
"I think he ought to be killed," said Sneak.
"Oh, no!" said Mary; "he is not bad like the other Indians." The Indian, for the first time since his capture, raised his head while she spoke, and looked searchingly in her face. "Oh!" continued Mary, thinking of the horrors of savage warfare, and bursting into tears, "you will never attempt to kill any of us again, will you?"
"No!" said the chief, in a low but distinct tone. Every one in the house but Mary started.
"You understand our language, do you? Then why did you not answer my questions?" asked Roughgrove, turning to the captive. The young chief made no answer, but sat with his arms folded, and still regarding the features of Mary.
"He's a perfect fool!" said Sneak.
"He's a snake in the grass, and'll bite some of us some of these times, before we know any thing about it," said Joe.
"Be silent," said Glenn. "If the hope that fills my breast should be realized, the young chief will cause more rejoicing than sorrowing among us. The wisdom of Providence surpasses all human understanding. Events that bear a frightful import to the limited comprehensions of mortals, may nevertheless be fraught with inestimable blessings. Even the circumstance of your capture, Mary, however distressing at the time to yourself and to all your friends, may some day be looked upon as a happy and fortunate occurrence."
"I hope so," said Mary.
"God is great—is present everywhere, and governs every thing—let us always submit to his just decrees without murmuring," said the old ferryman, his eyes brightening with fervent devotion.
"They've a notion to preach a little, I believe," whispered Sneak to Joe.
"Let 'em go ahead, then," replied Joe, who was busily engaged with a long switch, that he occasionally thrust in the fire, and when the end was burnt to a coal, slyly applied it to the heel of the young chiefs moccasin.
"You'd better not let him ketch you at that," said Sneak.
"He'll think its a tick biting him—I want to see if the Indians scratch like other people," said Joe.
Mary, being so requested by her father, began to relate every thing that transpired up to her rescue, while she was in the possession of the savages. The Indian riveted his eyes upon her during the recital, and seemed to mark every word. Whether he understood all she said, or was enchanted with her soft and musical tones, could not be ascertained; but the listeners more than once observed with astonishment his gleaming eyes, his attentive attitude, and the intense interest exhibited in his face. It was during a moment when he was thus absorbed that he suddenly sprang erect. Joe threw down his switch, convulsed with internal laughter. Sneak leaned back against the wall, and while he grinned at the amusing scene, seemed curious to know what would be the result. Mary paused, and Glenn inquired the cause of the interruption.
"Its nothing, hardly," said Sneak: "only a spark of fire got agin the Indian's foot. He ain't as good pluck as the other one we had—he could stand burning at the stake without flinching."
"Did either of you place the fire against his foot?" demanded Glenn, in something like anger. But before he could receive an answer, the young chief, who had whirled round furiously, and cast a fierce look at his tormentor, relaxing his knit brows into an expression of contempt, very deliberately took hold of Joe's ear, and turning on his heel like a pivot, forced him to make many circles round him on the floor.
"Let go my ear!" roared Joe, pacing round in pain.
"Hold your holt, my snarvilerous yaller prairie dog!" cried Sneak, inexpressibly amused.
"Let go my ear, I say!" cried Joe, still trotting round, with both hands grasping the Indian's wrist. "Mr. Glenn! Mr. Glenn!" continued Joe, "he's pinching a hole through my ear! Shoot him down, shoot him down. There's my gun, standing against the wall—but its not loaded! Take my knife—oh, he's tearing my ear off!" When the Indian thought he was sufficiently punished, he led him back to his seat, and relinquished his hold. He then resumed his own seat, and composedly turning his eyes to Mary, seemed to desire her to proceed with the narration. She did so, but when she spoke of her attempt to escape in the prairie, of the young chief's noble conduct, and his admiration of her ring (and she pulled off her glove and exhibited it as she spoke,) he again rose from his seat, and walking, apparently unconsciously, to where she reclined upon her father's knees, fixed his eyes upon the jewel in a most mysterious manner. He no longer dwelt upon the maiden's sweet tones. He did nothing but gaze at the ring.
"He's got a notion to steal that ring!" said Joe, with a sneer.
"Shot your mouth!" said Sneak, observing that Mary looked reproachfully at Joe, and paused.
"Don't talk that way, Joe!" said the offended girl. "If he wanted it, why did he not take it when I was his prisoner? I will freely let him have it now," she continued, slipping it off from her finger.
"No! keep it, child—it is a family ring," said Roughgrove.
"I will lend it to him—I know he will give it me again," she continued, placing it in the extended hand of the young chief, who thanked her with his eyes, and resumed his seat. He now seemed to disregard every thing that was said or done, and only gazed at the ring, which he held first in one hand and then in the other, with the sparkling diamond uppermost. Sometimes he would press his forehead with his hand and cover his eyes, and then gaze at the ring again. Then staring wildly around, and slightly starting, he would bite his fingers to ascertain whether the scene was reality or a dream. Finally, giving vent to a piteous sigh, while a tear ran down his stained cheek, he placed his elbows upon his knees, and, bending forward, seemed to muse over some event of the past, which the jewel before him had called to remembrance.
Glenn narrowly watched every look and motion of the young chief, and when Mary finished the account of her capture, he introduced the subject of the lost child, Mary's brother, that Roughgrove had spoken about before starting in pursuit of the war-party.
"I can remember him!" said Mary, "and mother, too—they are both in heaven now—poor brother! poor mother!"
The young chief raised his head quickly, and staring at the maiden's face, seemed to regard her tears and her features with an interest similar to that of a child when it beholds a rare and curious toy.
"Has it not occurred to you," said Glenn, addressing Roughgrove, "that this young chief might possibly be your own son?"
"No!" replied the old man, promptly, and partially rising, "he my son—he Mary's brother—and once in the act of plunging the tomahawk—"
"But, father," interrupted Mary, "he would never have harmed me—I know he would not—for every time he looked me in the face he seemed to pity me, and sometimes he almost wept to think I was away from my friends, among savages, cold and distressed. But I don't think he can be my brother—my little brother I used to love so much—yet I could never think how he should have fallen in the river without my knowing it. Sometimes I remember it all as if it were yesterday. He was hunting wild violets—"
"Oh! oh!" screamed the young chief, springing from his seat towards Mary. Fear, pain, apprehension, joy and affection, all seemed to be mingled in his heaving breast.
"He's crazy, dod"—the word died upon Sneak's lip.
"I should like to know who burnt his foot then," said Joe.
"Silence! both of you," said Glenn.
"What does he mean?" at length asked Roughgrove, staring at the young chief.
"Let us be patient, and see," said Glenn.
Ere long the Indian turned his eyes slowly downward, and resumed his seat mournfully and in silence.
"Oh!" said Mary, "if he is my poor brother, my heart will burst to see him thus—a wild savage."
"How old are you, Mary?" asked Glenn.
"Nineteen," said she.
"Your brother, then, has been lost thirteen years. He may yet be restored to you—re-taught our manners and speech—bless his aged father's declining years, and merit sister's affection."
"Oh! Mr. Glenn! is he then alive? is this he?" cried Mary.
"No, child!" said Roughgrove, "do not think of such a thing, for you will be most bitterly disappointed. Your brother was white—look at this Indian's dark face!"
Glenn approached the chief, extending his hand in a friendly manner. It was frankly grasped. He then gently drew the furs aside and exposed the young man's shoulder. It was as white as his own! Roughgrove, Mary, and all, looked on in wonder. The young chief regarded it with singular emotions himself. He seemed to associate it in some manner with the ring he held, for he glanced from one to the other alternately.
"Did Mary wear that ring before the child was lost?" asked Glenn.
"No," replied Roughgrove, "but her mother did."
"I believe he is your son!" said Glenn. "Mary," he continued, "have you any trinkets or toys you used to play with?"
"Yes. Oh, let me get them!" she replied, and running to a corner of the room where her father's chests and trunks had been placed, she produced a small drum and a brass toy cannon. "He used to play with these from morning till night," she continued, placing them on the floor. She had not taken her hand away from them, before the young chief sprang to her side and cried out—
"They're mine! they're mine! they're William's!"
"What was the child's name?" asked Glenn, quickly.
"William! William!" cried Mary. "It is my brother! it is my poor brother William!" and without a moment's hesitation she threw her arms round his neck, and sobbed upon his breast!
"The poor, poor child!" said Roughgrove, in tremulous tones, embracing them both, his eyes filled with tears.
"Sister! sister!" said the youth, gazing in partial bewilderment at Mary.
"Brother, brother! I am your sister!" said Mary, in tones of thrilling tenderness.
"But mother! where's mother?" asked the youth. The father and sister bowed their heads in silence. The youth, after clinging fondly to Mary a few minutes, started up abruptly and looked amazed, as if waking from a sweet dream to the reality of his recent dreadful condition.
"Brother, why do you look so coldly at us? Why don't you press us to your heart?" said Mary, still clinging to him. The youth's features gradually assumed a grave and haughty cast, and, turning away, he walked to the stool he had occupied, and sat down in silence.
"I will win him from the Indians," said Mary, running after him, and sitting down at his side.
"Ugh!" exclaimed the youth in displeasure, and moved a short distance away.
"He's not true grit—I 'most wish I had killed him," said Sneak.
"Yes, and pinch me if I don't burn him again, if I get a chance," said Joe.
"Silence!" said Glenn, sternly. For many minutes not a word was spoken. At length Mary, who had been sobbing, raised her head and looked tenderly in the face of her brother. Still he regarded her with indifference. She then seized the toy-drum, which with the other articles had been thrust out of view, and placed them before him. When his eyes rested upon them; the severe and wild expressions of his features again relaxed. The young war-chief was a child again. He abandoned his seat and sat down on the floor beside his sister. Looking her guilelessly in the face, an innocent and boyish smile played upon his lips.
"You won't go away again and leave your poor sister; will you, William?" said Mary.
"No, indeed. And when the Indians come we'll run away and go to mother, won't we, Mary?" said the youth, in a complete abandonment of time and condition.
"He is restored—restored at last!" exclaimed Roughgrove, walking across the room to where the brother and sister sat. The youth sprang to his feet, and darted a look of defiance at him. "Oh! wretched man that I am! the murderous savages have converted the gentle lamb into a wolf!" Roughgrove then repeated his words to the youth in the Osage language. The youth replied in the same language, his eyes flashing indignantly. He said it was not true; that the red man was great and noble, and the pale face was a beast—and added that he had another tomahawk and bows and arrows in his own country, and might see the day when this insult would be terribly resented. The old man sank down on his rude seat, and gave way to excruciating grief.